Somewhere in the galaxy a little girl was born. Nobody thought, that she could once become the hope of the whole universe. Our chance for peace. But there is one thing to learn from it: No matter if you are small, large, male or female. Everyone is equal in front of vastness of the universe. You either need the courage or have the Force on your side. Or both.
A good dose of this rare skill certainly also has designer Eric M. Lang, who has a magical touch on board games. A lot of the games he has created are big hits. Well, there’s also a similar chance for Star Wars: The Card Game to become such legend. He designed it for all fans of this universe in 2012, but it matured for some time, until it finally got to our table this year. Fantasy Flight Games is signed under it as publisher and there are many illustrators, that contribute to its form.
The box carries all the tracks of the space battle. It’s all black as our galaxy, but the longer you look, the more stars you will recognize. There are even some really big stars on the lid – famous characters of Star Wars movies. Similarly, their portraits will be scattered also inside the box in the card decks, where players receive 240 cards in the first place. Star Wars: The Card Game is a duel game, so there are only two true rivals – light and dark. But they are further divided in base set into three factions (Alliances, Jedi and Smugglers versus Imperial Fleet and Sith). Card assignment can be easily recognized by its icon.
At the beginning of the game (at least first match, but maybe even later), players must build their decks. This is preceded by the choice of the side between good and evil, as the classical film trilogy has already presented to us. And then players will choose their objective cards. They are not represented by stand-alone cards, but each of them also includes five action cards for their deck. And as a player chooses his set of ten objectives, he will therefore also receive main package of fifty cards. These will be used to play the game. Rules also come with some recommended sets, so you can jump straight into the game.
It is up to all players to shuffle their deck thoroughly and draw starting hand of six cards. In addition, both opponents choose three starting tasks from their dozen and reveal them both at the same time on the table. Then they have to place all tokens, Death Star counter (set to zero) and Force alignment indicator in easy reach.
Players alternate in their turns, in which they pass through six phases, before giving the counterparty a chance to respond. At the beginning of each such round, the preparatory phase comes. If evil player is active, he moves numeral pointer on Death Star by one number forwards. In this balancing phase, light or dark side can also gain an advantage, if it has its turn and alignment tokens shows its color (Force is on their side). And while the evil player can thanks to this bonus turn the circular Death Star pointer by one more space, player of the other side will use Force’s affection to damage one of the targets landed on the Darth Vader’s side (or whatever he calls himself in this match).
In the second part of turn, player can finally recover characters, that were used in the previous rounds. One concentration token is removed from each card. Only when the card is completely free, it can be used again in upcoming phase. But before that, player draws cards to his hand, so he has prescribed number again. At the same time, he also has the option to throw one unwanted card away and replace it with a new one.
Then the player will be able to play some of these cards from his hand on table. He has to pay their cost. Not only cards that were previously unloaded, but also objectives, can help him with that. Many cards contribute to the treasure chest with a bit, but it first has to be free of any concentration tokens. And in order to spend its finances, player needs to place one or more focus tokens on the card right now (based on how high income player needs from it). It will become exhausted. At the beginning of each round, only one token can be removed, so some cards may remain unusable even for more rounds to come.
But the aim of everything in the search for victory are conflicts. An active player can engage one or more of his (free, unexhausted) characters in the attack and place focus token on them as a result of this choice. This character can attack one of the goal cards, that lie ahead of the adversary. At the very beginning, however, it is always necessary to find out, who will have the edge in this current battle. For this purpose, players must sacrifice a few cards from their hand, trying to have the most symbols. The defending player then places damage token on the attacked card as a result of successful attack, that can be blocked.
At the end of his turn, player can leave some of his heroes to study Force. Whoever gets higher sum in this activity will gain propensity of the Force token. Then there is a shift to an opponent, who has chance to act in his six phases. Players alternate in turns, attacking each other’s goals, but also destroying units until one of the sides reaches its target. And while the good side needs three goals destroyed, the dark side always holds up and plays for time. If player on the evil side lasts for long engoung and pointer of Death Star reaches its maximum value of twelve, he can celebrate victory.
Star Wars: The Card Game may be a little overwhelming, but above all gives a really sophisticated impression. The game goes a little different, than we normally get used to in duel games of this type. But even this new box starts with deckbuilding itself, around which the entire LCG concept is built. Players get a lot of cards in the box, but sooner or later they will want new ones. And expansion packs have a clear composition, so they do not buy anything blindly like with other collectible card games.
But back to creating your own deck. You dont have the option of compiling a package just from any cards like in other games – you will be using sets determined by goal cards. They come inseparably with five action cards, that all have to be part of the player’s deck, but only if he uses goal card bound to them. And when the player is trying to fold well, all sets should go together well. In the game, they will be drawn randomly and definitely not at once.
But even the exhaustion of the cards after their usage is solved very ingeniously and originally. The card does not have simple two states, tired and ready, but certain levels of exhaustion. This is because lost energy here is marked with concentration tokens. And there may be more than one on a card at a time. But it is not easy to get rid of them quickly, so the player can easily block their cards, when they want to do many things during their turn. And you will have to wait several turn, until it becomes available. This is usually a sacrifice, if you need to play some valuable card from your hand, for example.
Cards themselves and their own abilities are great. Each card has its important place in the deck and there are no cards, that you will not want. In addition to the characters mentioned above, one-off events or enhancements may be part of the deck and when played, they attach to the revealed characters and leave the game later with them. Abilities of cards often include responses to some enemy activity, so you need to keep track of them even beyond your turn. That’s quite natural in a duel in fact.
Both players have a clear goal set. The game does not last for long, because both parties are rushing to do their best. The game will fill up over thirty minutes of your time, making it perfect for duelling.
Battling for advantage in turn is an opportunity to use cards, that you currently do not need, and you do not want to use in a classic way. Their dots in the upper left corner will surely help you to gain some edge. And this element adds another dimension for building the deck. The game is tactical thanks to all these possibilities.
So what would we criticise except financial burden for your purse? Here, unfortunately, we must mention balance, that plays clearly in favor of the dark side. For side of the force, it’s not so easy to win, because time on the death star dial is going up at a terrible pace. The rules are of course quite complex, and again there is a number of timing issues, that you will encounter later and you have to deal with them.
It is good that the designer has chosen this theme for his game. Processing and feeling is fantastic. And even though it would suit in virtually any other theme, being able to paste on this mechanic. The very connection between the mechanisms and the world of the game does not exist. This is a bit of a pity in a game, where you would expect some similar emphasis. But even so, experience is great.
Star Wars: The Card Game is a fantastic card game for two. Everything is thought out here, the game is dynamic, fun and full of uncompromising conflicts between a pair of opponents. Of course, it offers a lot of little rules you have to manage to get really good at it. This is especially true when teaching new players. But Star Wars: The Card Game rewards you with a great science fiction experience from a huge, popular and ever-expanding universe.
+ interesting twist on building your decks
+ asymmetric goals on both sides
+ tactical usage of cards
+ solid playing time
+ pile of options (even in the basic package with six factions)
+ you can use unnecessary cards for good things
- purchasing expansions
- balance is not perfect
- complicated rules (and hence steep learning curve)