Last weekend, GamesQuest were at Insomnia53 at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry. There was a stall full of collectibles and board games manned by GamesQuest staff and a tremendous board game demonstration area run by Mike Budd of Esdevium games. Luckily for me, Nigel had given me the heads up that the Esdevium team would be bringing along a copy of the, soon to be released, Star Wars – Imperial Assault game!
Imperial Assault should be hitting the shelves in the next few weeks which seems like perfect timing for everyone – a new Star Wars movie trailer and the Christmas rush will serve as a massive boost for such an interesting title! Also, let’s face it, Star Wars is already one of the hottest properties on the market at the moment! What with Fantasy Flight Games have the X-Wing miniatures range the living card game, the Age of Rebellion RPG, the Edge of the Empire RPG and the 2015 mega release of Armada too!
Announced at GenCon 2014, there’s been lots of Imperial Assault news pouring out of Fantasy Flight Games recently – with loads of articles appearing on their site about the gameplay, expansions and skirmishes that gamers can look forward to. Suffice to say, I was very eager to see and play this fantastic looking title!
Star Wars Imperial Assault… Is it Sci-Fi Descent!!!
When we arrived at Insomnia53 Nigel introduced us to Mike and we had a good chat about board gaming and the industry in general. He even managed to clear up a question I had about Esdevium – How do you pronounce its name? I’ve heard it pronounced in two ways – Es-Dev-Ium and Es-De-Vi-Um. It turns out it’s the latter- and in actual fact it’s based on a set of initials – S D V M Games which later became known as Esdevium Games!
I was also able to get an answer to the obvious Imperial Assault question – Is Imperial Assault a Sci-Fi version of Descent?
For those who have paid any attention to the Fantasy Flight announcements or the post I put up when it was first announced, you’ll probably have noticed that the game looks to be very much a Star Wars version of Fantasy Flights Descent Journeys in the Dark. Having actually sat with the rules and campaign book, seen the miniatures and witnessed the gameplay I can safely say that Imperial Assault is what I consider to be an excellent reimplementation of Descent – in the Star Wars universe!
Get On With It!!! Imperial Assault the Overview!!!
When Mike went and got the demo copy of Imperial Assault, the first thing that struck me was the size of the box! This is not your normal Fantasy Flight Games box, it’s got the same table footprint as the Descent Second Edition base set, but the depth of the box is half as deep again.
As Mike unpacked the contents I was pleasantly surprised at the sheer quantity of “stuff” you get in the box, it’s not just a box of air! There’s loads of map tiles for creating some exciting scenario environments, interesting hero figures and a shed-load of villain figures including one massive AT-ST figure with moving parts! As Mike lifted this last figure out of the box I couldn’t believe how amazing the game was looking.
Following the incredible pile of card and plastic, came the heart of the game, the rules, campaign, and skirmish books. Mike set up a skirmish game for us to play and called Robb, another Esdevium games demonstrator, over to teach us how it all works.
Skirmish Play… Imperial Assault One on One!
I thought I’d take a look at the Imperial Assault Skirmish mode before I discuss the Campaign mode. It’s the Skirmish that was played at Insomnia so it seems fitting that it’s the one that I focus on first.
This is the mode that sets Imperial Assault aside from Descent, in this mode two players go head to head to fight it out. One player takes the Rebellion characters, the other, the Empire.
Each player then selects a number of characters and then does battle with their opponent!
There’s several different goals for skirmish mode, you might have to eliminate your opponent, or you might have to control certain areas to gain a set number of points. Whatever the goal, the players decide this before they start play.
The very interesting thing about Imperial Assaults Skirmish mode is that players create their teams blind. They go away, choose their characters and throw them into the arena! Once you’re in there, there’s no concept of team cohesion, so each figure can move away from the group and do battle as and where you please.
Facing off against Robb, Nikki took on the role of the Empire fielding Darth Vader and a variety of storm troopers and imperial guards. On the other side of the map, Robb fielded Luke Skywalker and a host of his rebel allies!
I’m not going to go into the nuts and bolts of the rules in this overview post but as a quick summary, here’s how it plays –
Each player gets a series of command cards that they play at a point determined by the individual card. On a players turn they make moves and activate character abilities in an effort to overcome, or out control, their opponent.
I sat to the side and watched as Nikki’s Imperial squad hunted down the Rebel forces – Lord Vader stalked the corridors as Jedi launched themselves at their Imperial targets. At one point a Wookie smashed through a door and lurched into the awaiting storm troopers. The imperial forces unleashed multiple shots from their blasters but hardly scratched the rampaging Wookie. With a look of terror in their eyes the troopers fled, but with the play of a command card the Wookie charged them down and brought them to an end.
In the mean-time, on the other side of the map, a lone-rebel came face to face with the dark lord himself, peering around a corner he unleashed shot after shot at the black-cloaked Sith only to be brought to his knees with little mercy. Unfortunately for Lord Vader this was his last victory as he, himself, was brought down by Jyn Odan shortly afterwards.
All That from Just One Game??? Hell Yes!!!
As you probably already know, I’m all about the stories when it comes to games and I’ll admit Star Wars has always been one of my favourite Sci Fi settings – so that’s a big win up front! However, as you play through a single skirmish, so many little stories unfold that you’ll be talking about them for hours afterwards!
The game between Nikki and Robb was just one skirmish match between a demonstrator and someone with no experience of the game. It managed to win Nikki over completely and from my position, as a spectator, there wasn’t a single thing that happened during play that I didn’t like the look of! Play flowed smoothly, the mechanics made sense and there were plenty of tense moments as blaster fire ricocheted off walls.
After the demo was over I walked away from the table with one thought on my mind. I’ve invested a lot of money into my Descent set and I don’t really want to give up on that to take on another, albeit awesome, growing game line. I considered selling my Descent set and getting my pre-order in for Imperial Assault. Thankfully I didn’t have to worry about this issue for long because Nikki had enjoyed the demonstration game so much she’d already decided that she’s going to get the game when it releases – come hell or high water!
The Skirmish mode alone had won over both Nikki and I, and I can only imagine what stories the campaign will bring to the table! It’s an exciting game that pulls together elements of well-known and well-loved board games such as Descent and adds a splash of customisability that you more often find in miniature/war games such as Malifaux.
There’s also a whole host of expansions in production with character packs due to release early 2015 including:
- Chewbacca Ally Pack
- General Weiss Villain Pack
- Han Solo Ally Pack
- IG-88 Villain Pack
- Rebel Saboteurs Ally Pack
- Royal Guard Champion Villain Pack
If I had to call it right now, I’d be willing to bet that Imperial Assault will sell out extremely fast. It’s a hot property, with incredible gameplay and models that I’ve not seen rivalled in any other board game. I think it only fair that I warn our readers that this game will be VERY popular, you should get hold of it whilst you can. Nikki certainly will be and I’d hate for people to have to wait for a reprint!
Aren’t You Forgetting Something??? The Campaign Mode!!!
OK, so the Skirmish mode is great, but Skirmish is only part of the joy that the box contains! The true guts and value to the game comes in the form of the Campaign.
Just like Descent there’s an overlord-like player, or games master – who takes sole control of the imperial forces. Every other player takes on the role of a rebel character and fights against this lone imperial player.
Like many other campaign-based games, characters can grow and expand as the campaign progresses. During a mission, the overlord player gains threat tokens that they spend to bring new characters to the board or interact with the other players.
On a flick through of the 30 mission campaign book, it looks like there’s some great story moments in store for players and each mission has some great fluff to bring you into the game and immerse you in the experience.
Arriving at the outpost, you immediately open fire upon the troops standing guard. You suspect they knew you were coming and that you’re likely walking into an ambush. All the same, with the signal continuing to broadcast, there just isn’t time for a more subtle approach.
What Makes a Scenario??? The Anatomy of a Mission!!!
I won’t go into any detail about the scenarios in the book because that would just spoil them, but what I will do is very briefly talk about the structure of each scenario. The following list details the different elements that make up a scenario and gives a brief idea of what each represents:
Deployment and Setup – This section of a scenario includes any special setup rules for the scenario, the initial groups, reserved groups, open groups and any other scenario specific setup instructions.
Event Summary – This section provides a brief overview of the important events that take place during the scenario.
Mission Events – This is the detailed list of the mission’s events. It provides a mission briefing, the details for each of the core events and how they trigger, the hero and the villain win conditions.
Map Diagram – A detailed map diagram that shows you exactly how to set up the scenario and where to place the different game elements.
So there you have it, the anatomy of a scenario. Once you’ve got a few plays under your belt, setting up the missions will become second nature and you’ll be battling against the Imperial forces in no time at all!
Final Thoughts… What Are You Waiting For???
As I said earlier, Imperial Assault has so much going for it. It will appeal to so many different people and will undoubtedly go out of stock faster than the Millenium Falcon can make the Kessel Run!
Let’s recap all of the reasons I’m betting on this being a Christmas board game number one!
- Star Wars is a hot property.
- The miniatures are fantastic.
- There’s thirty missions in the campaign.
- There’s a great Skirmish mode.
- There’s loads of character packs in the pipeline.
- Did I mention the fantastic miniatures???
Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this overview for Imperial Assault! It looks amazing and I really do hope that you heed my warning about the popularity of this title! Get your pre-order in before you miss out!
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Driven Instructional Designer by day, board game fanatic by night! Tom has a long background in eLearning design and is a strong believer that story and narrative are crucial to creating excellent learning and gaming experiences. A passionate blogger, game reviewer and play tester, he enjoys spending his time playing games of all genres.