At a Glance: Star Wars: Imperial Assault is pretty much Star Wars in a box. It captures the universe better than any other game I’ve played.
Star Wars: Imperial Assault is a tactical combat game for 2-5 players set in the Star Wars universe. The game system reimplements what was used in Descent: Journeys in the Dark, which is a sort of dungeon-crawling game with a fantasy theme also published by Fantasy Flight. Imperial Assault has 2 basic games—Campaign and Skirmish. Skirmish is a one-game head-to-head setup, while the Campaign is a multi-chapter adventure with 1 player as the Empire (kinda equivalent to a dungeon master) and the rest of the players as the scrappy Rebels. I’ll be mostly highlighting the Campaign mode, but I won’t try to recite the entire rulebook. Each episode takes place in an area that is represented by gridded terrain tiles that fit together like puzzle pieces. Players each have cards that represent “units”. These could be a single character (like Darth Vader), a Rebel, or a group of Stormtroopers. With each unit, you get 2 actions to do things like Move, Attack, Rest, or Interact with objects. There are also a ton of unique Special Abilities including cool card abilities that you acquire throughout the Campaign. Attacks are done with great custom dice, and you compare damage and defense and resolve it. There are also ranged attacks like shooting where you need to roll a number higher than the number of squares you are away from your opponent. Line of sight is needed for these range attacks and this works pretty well. You must be able to trace two lines from a corner of your square to 2 separate corners of the target’s square. It works well and there are clear examples in the rulebook. Depending on the scenario, the goals will be different, and many times the Imperial player is on the defense, trying to prevent the Rebels from breaking in somewhere or protecting terminals. But the Empire, who acts as a dungeon master, has knowledge of what comes next, so it provides an interesting balance, as the Rebels are scrappy but sometimes have to deal with surprises. Throughout the Campaign, you develop your characters and the Empire gains Influence and power, and the arc of the narrative makes some interesting turns. There are also great Side Missions that can involve characters from expansions like Han Solo. Whichever way it turns, it is always very immersive and the progression of the narrative is great, especially for your first play through.
This game really does feel like Star Wars. Aspects such as Imperial might, Rebellion desperation, and the power and influence of the Force, all mesh together well in the narrative. There are a ton of expansions released for this, so if you’re worried about replayability, those are literally game-changers and the skirmish mode for 2 players is always fresh. I really love the dice and how combat works, which is significant because I don’t always like that level of luck involved. The miniatures are great, and if I was any good at painting them, they would have been customized and painted a long time ago. This game just yearns to be invested in, especially if you are a big Star Wars fan. It might go without saying, but if you are not a fan already, this game may be hard to get into. Much of the appreciation comes from how much the Star Wars universe is incorporated into the feel of the game. The base game is not very Jedi-focused, but there are expansion packs that add pretty much any character you can ask for. (However no Yoda as of yet. Sad.) The modular boards that create different settings are great and plentiful too. There are a ton of tokens and cards in this game to keep track of, but once you get the hang of it, everything meshes together really well and makes sense, even if it does take some time to set the game up.
As I said, the miniatures are great, including the big AT-ST that comes in the base game! All the other components and tokens feel necessary and functional. Good-looking miniatures, variable settings for combat, fun dice, and a plethora of ability cards and overarching strategy options. Really excellent stuff here. If you’re a Star Wars fan who likes tactical games, check it out!
Unfortunately I believe it is out of print right now, hence the heftier price point: https://amzn.to/2LuLL3r