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Old 01-06-2018, 08:04 AM   #1
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Default Star Wars Rebellion (and addon Rise of the Empire)

I did a quick search and it does not look like there is a dedicated thread for this game. I hope it's okay for me to start this thread.

I got ahold of the base game in late 2016 (which focuses on Ep 4 through 6) and then got the expansion (with its heavy emphasis on R1 themes and characters) in 2017.

The game is by Fantasy Flight Games and involves a blend of missions, combat, and exploration of a 32-system galaxy. There are only two sides available (Rebels and Empire) and their general goals and strategies are asymmetric. Both sides use the same set of rules, however (so it's not quite as asymmetric as, say, Labyrinth War on Terror, where both sides use almost entirely different rules).

Dice, in keeping with FFG's mechanics, feature unorthodox faces. Also in keeping with FFG's boardgame design, there are several different decks of shuffled cards, many of which have randomized removals during setup before the game starts, which further masks possible assets and liabilities (and perhaps not coincidentally, obfuscating strategic analysis). Most cards allow the player to break a rule here or there (as is usual for boardgames), so even though the central set of rules is easy to grasp, there are a lot of "but wait!" style edge cases and exceptions.

I recently played through a string of back-to-back games over the winter break, using the expansion, and I'd be interested in seeing how the SJG hivemind of experienced gamers feels about this.
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Old 01-06-2018, 08:20 AM   #2
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Default Re: Star Wars Rebellion (and addon Rise of the Empire)

I find it is the best balanced asymmetrical game that I have played, the best licensed game I have ever played, and the best adaptation of a video game that I have ever played. I have played it dozens of times and find it exceptionally repayable.
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Old 01-08-2018, 08:17 AM   #3
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Default Re: Star Wars Rebellion (and addon Rise of the Empire)

I am still waiting for the expansion to come out in German, but the base game is one of my favorite big two players games. I am always fascinated how balanced it is - all the games I have played so far remained exciting to the very end. Also, as expected from FFG, the game material is absolutely gorgeous and the theme integrated perfectly.
No unconsenting english phrases were harmed during the writing of this post.
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Old 01-12-2018, 08:50 AM   #4
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Default Re: Star Wars Rebellion (and addon Rise of the Empire)

This question has been out there for a bit, so I thought I'd weigh in with my thoughts, especially on the issue of base game vs. expansion.


The base game is one of my favorite games, although I felt that combat was a bit too swingy (if you have a leader in the system, you can draw a number of randomized tactics cards if they have a battle score for the proper theater of war - so Vader could draw 2 cards for space combat and 3 cards for ground combat). These would introduce unpredictable elements into your battles.

The expansion makes combat a little different, as you look through a deck of exhaustible advanced tactics cards and choose one to play at the start of every combat turn (similar to the House member cards from Game of Thrones 2nd ed at the start of battle). Your leader can now reroll a number of dice equal to their battle score. Also, the crossed-saber die result now allows the rolling player to remove one damage of that color. The attacking side is somewhat disadvantaged in this iteration of the game, as the crossed-saber (1 in 6) is useless for them on the first turn of battle.

In the bigger picture strategy, this may make the Rebels' mid-game objectives harder, since they usually focus on guerrilla attacks ("destroy X hp of units in a combat you initiated"). In the late game, it will assuredly make the Imperials' final attack on the Rebel base harder.

This also makes a "turtle at the base" Rebel strategy even stronger, although it does theoretically weaken an opening strategy of "strike the Empire's fleet with all your units on the first action".

There is an Imperial tactic card that allows for automatic capture of a Rebel leader. There is also a Rebel tactic card that allows for outright elimination of an Imperial leader. I have learned from harsh experience that getting hit with the Rebel tactic card and losing one of your leaders even before your first turn (because you sent Tarkin to defend a fleet against a Rebel attack and then he died) is not a fun way to start the game. (But see missions below.)


The expansion comes with four more leaders per side, and the skills are a little different. The expansion's idiosyncratic die is a green die, which has two faces with a direct-hit ("exploding planet") symbol, and 4 blank faces. Thus, its leaders also have minor skills, which count as a full skill point when determining eligibility to initiate a mission, but which roll only the green dice per skill point, making for a lower likelihood of success compared to a major skill.

The expansion also codifies an explicit rule that neither player may ever have more than eight leaders in their leadership pool. If they exceed this number, they must discard leaders until they are at eight. The interesting corollary to this is that Han Solo's mission from the base deck (which automatically gains Chewbacca or Lando Calrissian, bringing the Rebel player's leader total to nine) is no longer so powerful, although it can be useful if the Empire knocks out a leader.

However, note that this limit of eight applies only to the leader pool. If the Rebels are down one leader, e.g. due to capture, carbonite, or Lure of the Dark Side, those leaders are NOT in their leader pool and thus can be ignored against the limit of eight. Also, the Empire gets one Action card that can be played by Motti or Jabba, and which allows them to have nine leaders.


The expansion comes with many more missions for both sides. However, one set of the missions is marked with a Darth Vader icon. Each player must choose a compiled mission deck that contains all leader-specific missions PLUS one of either (a) these Darth Vader expansion missions, or (b) the original game's missions.

In my experience, the Darth Vader expansion missions have a somewhat greater focus more on manipulating leaders - adding them early, taking them out, capturing or killing them, etc. It's possible that both sides could recruit replacement leaders to bring their total to eight even after they've lost some through death or capture.

There is one category of missions and objectives which deal with placing marker tokens on the board, with different effects if removed (usually by the enemy having a ground unit or units unopposed on that system). One Imperial mission will eliminate the Death Star's weakness temporarily - the Empire can Secure the Plans by putting a marker on a world. Unless the Rebels can remove the marker, the Death Star cannot be destroyed. The Rebels have Rebel Cells, an objective that places a marker on a Rebel loyal world and the Rebels gain one reputation per turn that it's still there.

I haven't played enough games to really get a sense of how this affects balance, although Rebel Cells has come up twice and proven pretty instrumental to either a decisive Rebel victory or a very narrow Rebel victory. (One game it was placed on Ryloth with the Imperials nowhere near it, and many turns later the game just fizzled out despite a heroic Veers mission that teleported AT-AT/AT-ST/stormtroopers in a desperate assault.)


The Rebels also have some new Objectives, although the Objectives deck is randomized in such a way that they still have only five per Stage (15 in total). In many ways, this is my least favorite strategic addition to the game - originally, the Empire and Rebels only had to account for the 15 objectives. Now, with the expansion, they have to account for the new missions, and also for the fact that not all the missions will even be present in the game due to initial setup randomization.

New units:

For the most part, these only use the green dice, but the three green dice can exceed the "roll five dice black, five dice red maximum" limitation of the base game. A player who wants to build up a truly overwhelming force can now put in 3 green, 5 red, 5 black. As mentioned above, the green dice only do "direct hit" damage, and there are two faces on the dice that feature this. They can therefore menace both the small units (black damage) and the large units (red damage). Rebels get a U Wing fighter which is like an X Wing that can carry 1 unit. They also get a structure (Golan Turret) which can inflict damage in ground combat. Finally, they get a Nebulon Frigate which takes 3 red damage and deals 2 green.

Imperials have an Assault Tank (take 1 red, deal 1 green), TIE Striker (take 1 black, deal 1 green), and Interdictor Cruiser (take 3 red, deal 2 green, prevent Rebels from retreating). They also get a Shield Bunker, which has no combat stats but which protects Death Star in orbit, and which can also allow deployment to remote systems, potentially removing a huge logistical bottleneck in the Imperial late game strategy ("now I've found the base, now how do I concentrate enough forces to capture the damn thing?")

DSUC starting variant:

The Imperials can also opt to start the game with a Death Star Under Construction (and a DS on Build step 3) plus a few additional units. At first blush, this would appear to remove most of the early game's "invincible Death Star" fleet movements for the Empire, as it would be built closer to the dangerous Phase 2 Objectives with the Death Star Plans. I've read some meta strategy that says this setup gives the Empire additional strength, by allowing them to build it in the Dagobah system, place troops there, and then move quickly to Utapau (which is otherwise a fairly safe Rebel haven for at least the first two turns of the game, ensuring that they can put a Mon Calamari Cruiser on the build queue).

Thrawn is not in this game expansion, although Interdictor Cruisers are.

Last edited by SolemnGolem; 01-12-2018 at 06:07 PM. Reason: Headings
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:57 AM   #5
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Default Re: Star Wars Rebellion (and addon Rise of the Empire)

I resisted getting the expansion because I felt like the base game was already fine and had plenty of options. But a friend really wanted the leader count fix and when looked more closely and saw the dedicated faction combat decks I decided to go ahead and get it. I'm glad I did, it turns out I like everything about the expansion.
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Old 02-01-2018, 02:56 AM   #6
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Default Re: Star Wars Rebellion (and addon Rise of the Empire)

Interestingly, one of the popular fanmakes on BBG (for the base game, before the expansion came out) also divided the combat tactics cards by faction. Apparently FFG saw this as a meritorious mechanic for their expansion.

Mechanically, I like several of the mechanics of the expansion, especially in how they give somewhat more choice to the players (choosing and playing tactics cards instead of randomly drawing). Stylistically, I'm not particularly interested in some of the things that the Rogue One movie introduced (TIE Strikers were an unnecessary addition given the wealth of prior EU TIE model fighters, for example) but I like the introduction of the green dice and the fact that some units make use of them.

I may get a second copy of the game and mod it, much as I did with Twilight Struggle. Additional advanced tactics cards for the Empire that showcases all the different models of TIEs could be fun. ("TIE Interceptor escort: must be played when a TIE Fighter squadron is present - reroll up to 3 black dice" etc.) Replacing the Striker and U-Wing (which I never liked) with Assault Gunboat and B-Wing could be a nice touch too. Assault Gunboat miniatures are available from the Shapeways 3D printing marketplace site, and they're roughly the right size for the Armada and Rebellion game scales.

There's also the possibility of replacing some of the R1 leaders (whose inclusion seems a bit suspect, given their generally brief screen time in the entire SW saga) with EU leaders, like Thrawn or Talon Karrde.

Interesting options - but before I go modding, I really should put in more games using this expansion, and really understanding it well. I have once again hit the unfortunate hurdles of "I'm starting to dislike this game, but it's very likely because I misread some of the rules and I am not playing it correctly". I had this same problem with Twilight Struggle and Labyrinth: War on Terror.

The game is playable on Tabletop Simulator, for those who have Steam. The automated setup and Refresh Phase commands are very nice, but you do have to watch out - for example, the game engine will still (incorrectly) count your systems as contributing to your build queue even if there is an enemy unit in it.

Last edited by SolemnGolem; 02-01-2018 at 03:00 AM. Reason: Shout-outs to TTS and Shapeways, for those thusly inclined.
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Old 04-30-2018, 08:59 PM   #7
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Default Re: Star Wars Rebellion (and addon Rise of the Empire)

The game is very complex, and there are numerous edge cases (often addressed properly if you read the rules in full, although there might not be a specific tidy paragraph that solves the issue head-on). There were many rules that I misunderstood when playing this game, and if you add them all up, it actually unbalanced the game a lot and my gaming group kept losing with the Empire.

So, to help out others who might be struggling to find the "balance" in the game, here are the things we messed up, and the correct rules that govern them.
  1. The Advanced Tactics Cards from the expansion ROTE are not drawn randomly at the start of each combat round. (That's what the normal Tactics Cards from the base game do.) Instead, with ATCs, you pick them all up and look at them and choose one to play at the start of each combat round, rather like the House Member cards in Game of Thrones 2nd ed. Once used, an ATC becomes discarded and cannot be used again until all of that side's ATCs have been used up, whereupon the whole deck is picked up again except for the card just played (which becomes the first card in the discard pile).
  2. The Rebels can reveal their base, but doing so does NOT make the planet automatically Rebel-loyal. (This misunderstanding caused one game with Rebel Cells objective to become grossly lopsided against the Empire.)
  3. In the ROTE expansion, the attacker MAY use the cross-saber die results to remove existing damage from the proper unit type. However, because of the way that combat turns work, units with 1 hp will not survive to the next round if they take any damage, so this de facto only works for units that have at least 2 hp. The defender does not have this limitation. (Note: damage inflicted before the attacker rolls dice, e.g. via card powers, can be healed.)
  4. You may send ANY leader to oppose a mission, even one who lacks the skill color necessary to roll dice. In that case, the leader rolls 0 dice, but it then forces the attacker to roll at least 1 success, since the defender wins ties.
  5. Ozzel's Action Card "Take Them By Surprise" functions during the Assignment phase, basically allowing the Empire an earlier-than-usual unit move order. This function is implied but not explicit on the card. The card does not give any other special powers, e.g. it does not allow movement out of a system that's been immobilized by a friendly leader.
  6. When calculating number of skill icons for dice rolls in opposed missions, you count the specified skill icon from ALL friendly leaders who are already present in the system (except those who are captured or frozen in carbonite) for each side. For special missions that target a specific leader (and usually say "count all skill icons for this attempt") you also total up all skill icons of friendly leaders regardless of skill color. This second scenario can rapidly reach the hard limit ceiling of 10 dice for both sides (or 13 dice if you're using the expansion), if there are a lot of leaders milling around in the system.
  7. You can activate a system with a leader (provided that they have combat ratings) and then do nothing with that leader. This is totally valid and is often a helpful operation, for example if you anticipate a mission in that system later on and you want that leader's skill icons to contribute to a later leader's total. (Imperials can send in Tagge with his one red skill first, then send in Vader with his three red for a total of four.)
  8. Rapid Mobilization is very complex and both players should read the rulebook for this, rather than rely on the mission card. The base relocation power of this card does not take place until the start of the refresh phase, so the Rebel player cannot safely wait until the Imperial fleet is adjacent to the Rebel base before playing the card. (The Empire will still get their full Command phase, which includes fleet actions.) The other power of this card, which is to move up to five units to the unrevealed Rebel Base space, ignoring adjacency restrictions, does NOT ignore transport restrictions or leader-presence "freezing units" restrictions. Therefore, in order to move ground units via this method, the Rebels must have some transport vessels ready and cannot have a leader in the system. (I had incorrectly assumed that Rebels could "teleport" up to five units without any transport restrictions to the RB.) Thus, Medium Transports are still useful for moving Rebel Troopers to the base in anticipation of a ground battle.
  9. Certain cards affect "ships", which in this boardgame includes starfighters and starships alike. This is especially important with the Nebulon-B advanced tactic card, which allows that unit to block hits inflicted on ships. During a DSP run, the Neb-B can block hits scored against X-Wing and Y-Wing units too, because they are counted as ships. (This may surprise other players like myself, who were raised on numerous Star Wars starfighter video games and the computer Rebellion game, all of which clearly differentiated between fighters and ships.)
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Old 05-11-2018, 06:53 PM   #8
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Default Re: Star Wars Rebellion (and addon Rise of the Empire)

Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
I find it is the best balanced asymmetrical game that I have played, the best licensed game I have ever played, and the best adaptation of a video game that I have ever played. I have played it dozens of times and find it exceptionally repayable.
I've never played the board game, but have enjoyed many hours with the PC version. As per my post in the off topic area, I'd pay money for the same game with updated graphics.

I tried playing some of the other Star Wars strategic games, but they really weren't that good. This one still holds up.
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Old 05-27-2018, 06:16 AM   #9
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Default Re: Star Wars Rebellion (and addon Rise of the Empire)

I have done the obsessive game-designer-wannabe thing, and I have bought a second copy of both the SWR base game, and its expansion ROTE. Also, 3 packs of FFG code-green card sleeves and 2 packs of FFG code-yellow card sleeves, all for around US$150.

Send help, this is serious.

Also, I have started making modded cards. A few modest examples can be found here.

Discussion: (disclaimer: no idea if any of this is balanced or even particularly fun)
  • Admiral Thrawn is intended to replace Director Krennick, Mara Jade is intended to replace Krennick's Finest.
  • Thrawn's space tactics score of 4 is intentionally the best in the game, but I do not recall his ground tactics to be nearly as consistently brilliant, so I gave him a score of 1. He pulls off a few fun gambits in the Marooned Castaway episode, but by and large most of his famous strategies are space combat.
  • Thrawn has 1 Diplomacy, as he is shown to engage in that during the books (but clearly slips up here and there). He has 2 major Intel and 1 minor Intel, so that he won't make Yularen obsolete (in the books he is clearly focused on intel, but he also makes a few key mistakes when going up against worthy opponents). He has 1 Logistics, which means he can do some research projects (in keeping with his performance in books and TIE Fighter - my exclusive Thrawn-favored mission below also requires 1 Logistics to initiate). I gave him 1 minor Special Ops so he can try to oppose or support, but ideally you'd keep him out of direct fights.
  • I've drafted up two Action Cards for Thrawn (one of which he shares with Mara Jade).
  • Thrawn's own exclusive Action Card (Artistic Insights) is played during the Assignment Phase, i.e. after the Rebel player has placed their missions, and either before or during the Imperial's mission placement response. It requires Thrawn to activate an Imperial system, meaning that he essentially loses his turn during the Command phase (he can't spend time moving fleets, as he's sequestered in his art gallery analyzing the psychology of his foes). This power allows Thrawn to reveal all Rebel assigned mission cards, meaning that for one turn, the Empire can predict the Rebel strategy with more or less 100% accuracy. (This card may be too powerful - future drafts may reduce this to let the Imperials select a limited number of Rebel missions, perhaps based on a number of dice rolls.)
  • Thrawn's shared mission with Mara Jade (Tantiss Trove Uncovered) also immobilizes the assigned leader for the turn. It basically functions as a second "Research and Design" card, so if the Imperial player wants to look at 2 cards and choose 1, and then repeat it (e.g. if they're trying to cycle through the Project deck looking for Superlaser Online or what have you) this gives them another chance.
  • Thrawn's favored mission is "Grav Well Gambit", and it showcases one of the tactics that first appeared in the Thrawn trilogy under his invention. An Interdictor Cruiser most obviously can force enemy ships out of hyperspace and into combat. But it can also force friendly ships out of hyperspace into combat. If the Interdictor's gravity wells are properly calibrated, it can pull an incoming friendly fleet out of hyperspace at a precise location and precise battle-ready formation, so that the friendly fleet can immediately engage the enemy. Mechanically, this card essentially allows the Empire one single exception to the "you can't move ships out of a system which has a friendly leader in it" rule - although any other leader except Thrawn must treat it as an attempt (incidentally, making it one of the only Logistics based mission that is NOT a resolve mission). It's not easy to pull off, because you need an Interdictor in the frozen system, and you need this card, and if you don't have Thrawn, you need to roll an attempt (using the Logistics skill, which no leader ever possesses at a level greater than 1). The Rebels can oppose this roll, and as with all opposed rolls, they can even assign an unskilled leader to oppose, which means the Rebels have 0 successes, but which still forces the Imperial player to actually roll at least 1 success. So although this does break the "Imperials are slow and can move their fleets only one system per turn" rule, it is highly circumstantial and basically relies on drawing a Mission card, Thrawn, and building an Interdictor (itself a Project card dependent on luck).
  • I don't have any Mara Jade missions or actions yet. I'm not sure how to both give her a bonus to fight against Luke, and also account for the fact that (in true Star Wars convoluted interpersonal relationships style) she ends up marrying him. It is conceivable that this could perhaps change her in-game loyalties. I may consider just kicking her out of the game and putting in Joruus C'boath instead.
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Old 06-11-2018, 10:13 PM   #10
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Default Re: Star Wars Rebellion (and addon Rise of the Empire)

I found a decent vendor on Etsy (boardgameboost) which sells acrylic protector stands for the character chips. Normally, for Rebellion and Arkham Horror (and a few other FFG games) you would need to mount the character's cardboard portrait on a plastic stand, which tends to cut up the base of the portrait. In Rebellion, sometimes leaders get affixed with "status rings" (such as Captured, Carbonite, etc.) around the base, which normally would require you to detach and reattach the portrait card with the base, thus increasing the wear and tear.

The BoardGameBoost custom stands fit around the cardboard portraits, and allow for easy attachment and detachment of the rings without damaging the portrait or the ring.

Coincidentally, these also allow for my own printed modded leader portraits. I've already placed print-out and cut-to-size leader portraits for Thrawn over Krennik, and Mara Jade over Krennik's Finest.

Thrawn is so powerful that I think I may need to rejig his availability in the game. I think it may need a bad condition precedent, such as any one of the following occurring:
  • Vader or the Emperor being eliminated due to the Rebel Advanced Tactic Card "Confrontation"
  • Vader or the Emperor being eliminated due to the Objective Card "Return of the Jedi"
  • "Death Star Plans" being successfully played to destroy the Death Star
  • "Heart of the Empire" being successfully played

After that happens, there could be some sort of mechanic with a chip (Krennik's "Secure the Plans" chip, which now has no leader to use it) to recruit Thrawn - potentially placing the chip in a Remote system and forcing the Imperials to assign a ground unit to explore it. The Imperials lose the ground unit that captures Thrawn, and they can then use him as a leader thereafter.
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