#14 – Star Wars: Imperial Assault

Star Wars

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.

Nasty Imperial Surprise Behind the Door…

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

Han & Chewie! (from expansion packs)


#42 – Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot

Rattle

At a Glance: Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot is surprisingly multi-layered in its mechanics. Components are excellent and it feels so cool to upgrade your galleon as you go on pirate-y adventures.

Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot is a nautical dice combat game for 2-5 swashbucklers. Designed by the great Polish designer Ignacy Trzewiczek, this is a multi-layered, quirky game that involves dropping dice into the game box itself, and upgrading your galleon as you go on adventures. Each player has dice in their color that represent their vessels that they can commit to adventure scenarios. Once the adventure begins, players drop their dice plus any enemy ships into the box, which is made to look like the sea. Depending on what symbols you roll and how close you are to other dice “ships”, the battle is resolved and players grab some loot. Then, once the battles and adventures are done, the players return to port and can purchase cool stuff, and upgrade their big galleon or hire helpful crew members. Throughout the game, Victory Points are earned and whoever has the most at the end is the winner.

This game has so much going on, from the spatial element of dropping the dice into the box and measuring range for attacks, to the various adventures, shopping at port, and of course, adding cool upgrades to your galleon. The upgrades aren’t just cards either, they’re actual components that you can place on your ship. They’re totally unnecessary, but make it so much cooler to distinguish your ship from everyone else’s. Which brings me to the coins, which are actually metal. Again, they did not need to be metal, but I love the sound of them clinking together when you take home the booty.

This game surprised me. You go in thinking it may just be a dice-chucking game, but then it has the interesting combat rules where proximity of where the dice fell is very important. Then, you see the components are excellent. What you get is a top quality game in every respect.

Amazing price for what’s inside: https://amzn.to/2PH12n7


#58 – Squirmish

Squirmish

At a Glance: Squirmish is a crazy card battle game with some humor and fun illustrations.

Society of Slime members

Squirmish is a game for 2-4 players that has a fairly simple idea. Battle your opponents’ creatures and be the first to knock out 3 of them. You start with a hand of cards with “beasties” on them, and you play them down on the board oriented toward yourself and adjacent to other cards. All creatures on the table are in the same big melee (aka Squirmish). Each creature card lists different types of attacks or actions depending on what you get on a single die roll. On your turn you pick one of your creatures to attack with and choose a target. Then roll the die and attack and depending on the roll, you generally deal damage (in the form of little googly eyes) to an opposing beastie. Many times, if you roll a very high number, this unlocks an ultra special move that can result in a lot of damage dealt or some other cool action. Each creature also has an extra special action or two that they can trigger, and some also belong to groups/clubs and if there are more than one of their group in the fight, a special ability is unlocked. Also, and I would be remiss to not mention this, but each creature has a goofy Battle Cry shown in quotes on the card. If you say the battle cry aloud the first time you use it to attack, you deal 1 extra damage. In summary, there are a lot of abilities, dice rolls, movement, and damage going around. If a creature’s damage equals its hit points, that creature is knocked out and claimed by the opponent who attacked. First person to knock out 3 beasties is the winner.

This is a fun, crazy, card battle game that exceeded my expectations. There are so many abilities on the various beasts on the board, especially in a 3-4 player game, it can get really crazy. I usually am not a big fan of games making you say things aloud, but I actually like the added flair of the battle cry bonus, only because I feel it fits the tone of this game 100%. You know, it is kinda funny and hard to explain, because there are aspects of the game that are normally potential detractions for me: cards are text-heavy, gameplay is luck-heavy, and saying a phrase or word aloud as an actual mechanic. However, for what it sets out to be, the formula comes together in an appealing way to equal FUN.

The Kitty Kat Club

Components are good, and there are 70 great, linen-finish cards. A BIG kudos goes out to the game designer Steven Stwalley, who also did all of the funny little illustrations of each creature. You hardly ever see that kind of care and involvement from start to finish. You won’t hear about this game much elsewhere, and it may never sell very much, but I love that I came across it and decided to try this goofy-looking game with googly eyes and silly battle cries. It’s just a really good time. If it looks like it’s up your alley, give it a chance!

Check it out: https://amzn.to/2RxA1zd

Some of my favorites