Deckbuilding and Star Wars, yes please!
Step into a galaxy far, far away with Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game by Fantasy Flight Games, where iconic characters from the original movies, Star Wars: Rogue One, and the vast Star Wars lore come together in an epic card battle. The Star Wars Deckbuilding Game is a game for two players, with each game lasting about 30 minutes. I have been a fan of deckbuilding games since I first played Dominion many years ago (a game that I still hold as being the best of its type). So, for me, a Star Wars deckbuilding game sounded like a match made in heaven, or wherever the force ghosts are hanging out? Jedi heaven?
In this article, I will be sharing my impressions of the game and addressing whether I think it's worth your time.
This game comes with a nice assortment of cards, resource and damage counters.
Quality of Components
The Star Wars Deckbuilding Game is very much a card game. The box includes a nice stack of cards, some plastic damage and resource counters, a cardboard force track, and the rulebook. This is a Fantasy Flight game, so you know the components are good quality. The cards feel amazing in my hands, I would really hate to buy sleeves for them (though it's probably a good idea to do so). The counters are neat, but honestly, I rarely need the resource counters as I usually know how much I am spending (we're not dealing with a lot of resources here). The damage counters are also neat, but I would rather use dice. Dice would make counting damage a lot quicker and less to fiddle with. My cat jumped on the table and smacked these small cubes into the floor before I knew what was happening, so from here on, it's dice for me. Bad Lucy. Bad.
The artwork on these cards is fantastic, really gets me into the Star Wars spirit. I like that artwork was chosen instead of photography, simply because I've played so many games that utilize Star Wars movie stills that I welcome something more illustrative. Overall, I have nothing bad to say about the components, design, or artwork.
The rulebook is well written, but if I'm being truthful, I watched a video on how to play as it is much easier for me to learn from examples as compared to reading a manual. The diagrams and examples of play are well laid out and explained in the rulebook, and had it not been for my ADHD I'm sure I would have gotten all I needed from it. Thank goodness there's YouTube.
First Impressions: Star Realms, But Different
The Star Wars Deckbuilding game bears a striking resemblance to the renowned Star Realms Deckbuilding game. That's not necessarily a bad thing, given the popularity and universal love players have for that game. Star Wars Deckbuilding game copies many basic concepts from Star Realms, from setup to drafting, and most notably, the mechanics involved with attacking ships and bases. This is not a criticism, as Star Realms borrowed many concepts from other deckbuilders such as Ascension but built upon the idea in their own way. So this game feels like yet another evolution of this type of deckbuilder, which focuses on an ever-changing pool of cards. Star Wars The Deckbuilding Game adds its own flavor by dividing player's card options up, based on their faction. The dark side Empire player cannot draft the light side Rebel Alliance cards. Instead, players can attack each other's potential draft cards that are in the community pool, as explained in the next section.
There are cards available to both players as well, which represent the mercenaries for hire, who care about wealth over loyalty to either cause. This dynamic is interesting in that both players are working with mostly different cards with their own themes.
The game setup is strangely familiar, but it does have some standout elements.
Bounty Hunting and Sabotage
As mentioned above, players choose which side they will play, the Galactic Empire or the Rebellion. As an evil Empire player, you can "bounty hunt", which involves destroying cards from the community pool before your opponent can draft them. In the same way, the Rebel Alliance player can sabotage the Empire player's cards, so that players can strategically deny each other cards from the drafting pool. To bounty hunt or sabotage a card, players need to play character cards from their hand that provides a total attack value equal to or greater than the target card's defense characteristic. Destroying cards in this way also grants the player a bonus that is printed on the card. This dynamic mechanic injects an extra layer of strategy and interaction, keeping players engaged and ensuring each match feels distinct and captivating. This is perhaps my favorite part of the game.
A Universe of Characters
One of the highlights of the Star Wars Deckbuilding Game is its array of characters from a few Star Wars sources. From familiar faces like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader to Rogue One's Jyn Erso, and several, lesser-known characters from the extended lore, this game features more than the original movie's cast. This too is a welcome addition as I really enjoy the Star Wars: Rogue One movie, and also don't mind the additional characters from sources that I am unfamiliar with.
The artwork and graphic design for this game is beautiful.
The Force Track
Another fascinating aspect of the Star Wars Deckbuilding Game is the Force Track. Having "the Force be with you" not only bolsters the effects of numerous cards but also adds a thematic element to the gameplay. It creates a tug-of-war element to the game which is quite nice. It is certainly advantageous to have the Force be with you in this game, but by itself, this isn't going to win the game for you.
If the Force token is all of the way toward your side of the track, you gain an extra resource each turn, but the real power comes in the boosted effects of the cards you play. For example, playing Luke Skywalker on your turn produces 6 attack and pulls the force towards you by 2 spaces, which is pretty hefty. But, if "the Force is with you" (the token is on your side of the Force track), Luke also destroys a capital ship your opponent controls. This addition brings a unique flavor to the game, as it mirrors the ever-present battle between the light side and dark side in the Star Wars universe.
Chewbacca and Han Solo, scoundrels by trade, bros for life.
Ease of Learning
Despite the inclusion of various mechanics, the Star Wars Deckbuilding Game manages to strike an impressive balance, remaining accessible to newcomers while offering enough depth for seasoned gamers. The game's rules are straightforward, and players can quickly grasp the mechanics, making it perfect for casual gatherings or introducing newcomers to the world of deckbuilding games. Simultaneously, it's strategic elements and character interactions will appeal to seasoned board game enthusiasts, ensuring an engaging experience for everyone involved.
The cards may appear to be complex, with various numbers, game text, and icons, but in practice, the game is much easier to grasp than one would think, especially for players who are already familiar with other deckbuilders. I would say that this game is definitely "spouse friendly" (a game that your non-gamer spouse will still enjoy), especially if he or she is a Star Wars fan such as my wife is.
The Star Wars Deckbuilding Card Game cards look and play very similar to Star Realms. This isn't really a bad thing, however.
My initial impression of Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game is overwhelmingly positive. But there are some concerns that I have that warrant mention here. My main concern is the ever-changing pool of cards in the Galaxy area presents a moderately randomized set of options each turn. Not knowing what is coming up means you have to plan your deck on the fly, which for me, detracts from the deckbuilding aspect of the game. This is the same issue I have with Star Realms and Ascension deckbuilding games. The game is less about building around a strategic theme, and more about choosing the best options from the Galaxy row as they present themselves. The only constant option for drafting is the Outer Rim Pilots which is a nice thing to have available.
So as far as the actual deckbuilding strategy goes, I could see myself simply picking the best cards each turn instead of considering synergies between cards. I mean, if you know you have certain cards already in your deck, then you can pick from the galaxy pool to create synergies, but it's more of a spur-of-the-moment thing than a drawn-out strategy over the game. This is the main reason I still hold Dominion as the best deckbuilding game on the market because the options are laid out before everyone, and it's all about building the deck you want, instead of picking from what you have to pick from each turn. In Dominion, your deck can be crafted over the course of the game to be a well-oiled machine, doing exactly what you need it to do each turn to full efficiency, whereas in deckbuilders like Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game, your deck will often contain a few good combos, with some fat trimmed off, but otherwise a hodgepodge of cards doing random, yet often useful effects. This may sound like a big drawback, but it's not. It's just not ideal for what I enjoy in deckbuilding games. Overall, the other aspects of the game make up for this small drawback.
Gotta love Grand Moff Tarkin. What a prick.
Another potential drawback that I am not certain is a big problem is the assortment of cards themselves. I can't help but wonder if this game's fun factor will lose steam after several play sessions. The Galaxy deck is rather deep, but still, most of the cards in the deck are supporting cards, providing resource, attack or force bonuses, and maybe a simple ability such as repairing your base. I could see myself falling into a drafting routine based on cards that come up that have brought you victory before, which could make the game grow stale. The brilliant thing about Dominion is, given that the cards are all available from the beginning of the game, the card option interact dynamically with each other from game to game. So a card could be a great draft in one game because it goes well with another card that is available from the start, but then could be a bad choice in the next game where there are no other cards to support it.
In Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game, I suspect the more you play and become familiar with the cards, the less intriguing the drafting part of the game becomes, leaving the sabotage/bounty hunting element, and resource management aspects of the game being where the real intrigue remains. Is there enough intrigue there to keep this game fresh over time? Or will it be relegated to the "fun pickup game" status?
The Star Wars Deckbuilding Game by Fantasy Flight Games is a stellar addition to the world of deckbuilding games, combining the beloved Star Wars universe with innovative gameplay mechanics. The inclusion of characters from various sources and the ability to bounty hunt or sabotage cards makes for an interesting deckbuilding experience. The Force Track adds a thematic touch while enhancing strategic decisions. Yet, despite these engaging elements, the game remains easy to learn and quick to play.
I do question the longevity of the game, but Fantasy Flight Games is known for pumping out expansions so there may be a bunch of content available in the future? Whether you're a Star Wars fan, a casual gamer, or a board game hobbyist, this captivating and immersive card game is sure to transport you to a galaxy far, far away.
- Jay C. Shepherd
- Content Creator
- Jay is a graphic designer, board game enthusiast, and professional wrestling fan who loves all things 80's, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and of course, video games. He is one of the rare few that believes that one can be a Trekkie and Star Wars fan at the same time.