Sunday, January 10, 2016
Playing the Top 100: Imperial Assault
Greetings all. So this resolution has sparked something that is unprecedented. I am writing twice in one week. New milestones and all that stuff. Alright, so I was able to play Star Wars: Imperial Assault this evening. It is #11 on the list for those playing at home. It was completely by accident, but since I would probably put the game on my top 10 favorites, I was happy to play it. I won't say that I play the game often, but I do own it. I am in the process (with the rest of the world) of attempting to keep up with FFG's frequent and somewhat expensive release schedule. Tonight I had some non-gamer friends over for a party and they said, "That looks fun." So I totally played it off, but I was screaming with excitement on the inside. One of my gamer buddies decided to watch, laughing and telling them that I was going to crush them mercilessly because that is how the Empire rolls. We had more than two, so we played the first Campaign mission, Aftermath.
So this game is cool because it is two games in one. My preference is the Campaign because I get to play through a story with my friends. There is a Skirmish which allows two parties to build armies from the minis for a head to head game. The game is based on the Descent rules and such, so in the campaign, one person takes the side of the DM (Imperials, I was called Darth Sidious all night) and up to four others play Rebels. Games, depending on familiarity take between 1 and 2 hours. I can crack out a 3 player game in about an hour with two experienced players. This was my first time as the Imperials, so I was super clumsy, but whatever. The Imperial player reads the story, has knowledge of what things come later, and knows where the Imperial units can pop out and such. The Rebels simply know their objective and are along for the ride.
There are basically two phases to the game, an activations phase and a clean up phase. In clean up, the Rebels flip their activation tokens back to ready. The Imperial player is able to obtain and roll out reinforcements, may have some story to read, and generally laughs maniacally to create tension. The laughing is key. In the activations phase, players (including the DM) take turns activating their characters. They receive two actions per activation. For the most part, the DM will have 4 active units and players will have one a piece, so with the Rebels activating first every round, the DM will generally activate his last character just a short turn after the rebels, which is nice.
Actions in the game are pretty limited: 1) Move - move a unit equal to speed, 2) Attack - roll some dice and hope the defender does not block it, 3) Interact - touch a thing, 4) Rest - recover strain (used for abilities or possibly health), 5) Use an ability - some can be used on other people's turns in reaction to things. Rebels can use both of their actions to attack, the Imperials usually cannot. It's cool, there are more stormtroopers where that one came from. I think that the game does a really good job of creating tension for both sides. The Imperial has perfect knowledge but should expect his troops to be slaughtered mercilessly.
Beware your Imperial player. If he or she is a person who does not just play to win, but plays to make to make the opponents suffer, Imperial Assault can be very unforgiving. The game is incredibly easy to teach and anyone can play. There was only one regular board gamer at the table in my playthrough today and everyone at the table understood what to do in about a turn. I like this game because it makes for a fun, thematic experience. If you are a Star Wars fan, you should own it because it is Star Wars. At the rate they're producing minis, I'm sure we'll see BB-8 in a few weeks (swoon from the crowd and I am totally exaggerating). I don't care if you don't like the movie, you like BB-8.
At the end of the mission in a campaign, both Rebels and Imperials are awarded experience type stuff and Rebels can purchase new equipment if they can afford it. At this point they are either prompted to choose their next mission or the DM chooses for them. To keep the campaign interesting for both sides, the Imperial player can at times spend influence to force the Rebels to choose a specific mission or suffer something bad. Generally these forced missions are pretty rough and can break up the pace of the normal game. Also there are missions that introduce famous heroes and villains such as: Luke, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, or even Boba Fett in the first expansion. The big boxes come with chits for these additional characters and their cards. The minis come later, but the players are not hamstrung if they have not picked up the miniatures for a specific character.
Overall, the game is easy to teach and really the daunting thing is keeping up with the release schedule of FFG. It's expensive to buy a game at $70-$100 and then have monthly or bi-monthly packs cost $10-$20 and then have big boxes come out once or twice a year for $40 to $60. But this is Star Wars, kid, are you a fan or not. Give them your money! So should you play this game? Yes at least once even if you fall on the Star Trek side of the fence. Should you buy it? Phone your friends first, if someone has it then just play theirs. If they are honest they probably do not get it to the table enough anyways. Thanks for reading, I'm going to try to get Orleans in at the Thursday game night.
See all of Nate's impressions on 2016's top 100 games here!