Star Wars: Imperial Assault – A Single Player Review
Dr. Brian Fisk, PharmD, RPh
Star Wars: Imperial Assault is a board game for 1-5 players published by Fantasy Flight Games and originally released in 2014. Imperial Assault offers numerous play modes in the base game. Players are able to play head-to-head as Rebels against Imperials in a campaign mode, co-operatively against the AI in an app-assisted mode, or single player with the aid of a fan-made print and play expansion. A skirmish mode is also included that allows two players to pit their collections against each other in battles. Fantasy Flight Games has provided significant post-launch release content with the addition of numerous expansions, updates, and content updates.
The game is played on gird-based modular map tiles that are configured to specifications from the scenario book or from the skirmish map. Play takes place over a series of rounds where Rebel and Imperial players alternate turns until every character or character group have had a chance to activate. Once every character has activated, the round ends and a new round begins. Play continues until one side achieves the objective of the scenario.
Figure 1 - Start of a mission
Combat is resolved using custom dice – and these dice are used for everything from determining accuracy for ranged attacks, to the amount of damage your attack will do, to activation of special abilities.
This review is written from a single-player campaign game of Star Wars: Imperial Assault using the Tyrants of Lothal Mini-Campaign as well as the RedJak’s Automated Imperial Variant (RAIV) print-and-play expansion. Other components at the time of the review included the “large box” expansions Return to Hoth and Heart of the Empire, as well as the “small box” expansion Twin Shadows. The campaign was played over a series of game sessions. The reviewer controlled four rebel heroes, as well as following the instructions from the RAIV cards. The Tyrants of Lothal Mini-Campaign consisted of 4 story missions. The reviewer did not own the ally and villain packs necessary to expand the campaign to a total of 7 missions.
Figure 2 - The miniatures add a significant amount to the experience
The campaign played for this review concluded with a total rebel victory – each mission was successful for the rebels. The AI controlled Imperials did put up a fight – particularly in the first and last missions. The RAIV cards performed as expected – especially when used after learning the rules Legends of the Alliance application.
Imperial Assault is an amazing game straight out of the box. The “primary” method of play – the competitive mode where players control Imperial or Rebel characters - is fantastic. The Star Wars theme drips from the game and players are immersed in the fantasy of controlling Star Wars characters. The core campaigns feature branching storylines, thematic side missions, and the thrill of leveling up and unlocking new abilities as players progress through the campaign.
Figure 3 - RAIV Cards
The app-assisted campaigns, which were released after the original game was released, provided another layer of game to enjoy. Players still progress through a campaign, level up, and unlock additional abilities as the story continues, however the main difference is that app controls the Imperial characters and handles many of the bookkeeping aspects of the game. This app assistance leaves players free to enjoy the story and work together to defeat the Empire. The biggest problem with the app campaigns is simply that there aren’t enough of them – currently there are only 3 app campaigns. This lack of app content led this reviewer to seek alternative options to experience more Imperial Assault content.
Browsing the venerable BoardGameGeek website’s Imperial Assault page eventually led the reviewer to the discovery of a print-and-play variant called RedJak’s Automated Imperial (RAIV). RAIV combines the core experience of the game with elements of the app to enable solo play. Think of RAIV as a set of Automa cards to control the Imperial player – but with more. In addition to AI cards for Imperial units, RAIV also includes mission objective cards (one card specific for each campaign mission!) and round by round modifier cards. When combined with the base game campaign missions, RAIV enables players to get the full Imperial Assault experience as a solo player, or as cooperative players working against the AI.
And the full Imperial Assault experience is glorious. The branching missions with varied objectives, the tough choices when leveling up your characters, combined with the pure Star Wars theme make for a truly memorable experience.
Setting up the game and picking your Rebel operative is a great experience by itself. The core set includes a varied cast of characters, and that group of characters only gets more interesting as you add in the expansion content. For example – one of my favorite Rebel operatives is a powerful Wookie with a major destruction streak. His weapon creates rubble on the map, causing movement penalties to characters attempting to walk through it.
Each round of gameplay brings interesting decisions – do you go for the crate in the corner that might contain a healing item? Or do you charge in and hope for a big roll to take out a threatening Imperial Stormtrooper? Or do you ignore both and make a break for the mission objective? Each choice you make will have lasting consequences for the rest of the scenario.
Playing with the Automated Imperial variant definitely takes more effort than perhaps most players would care to expend on the game. The reviewer found that being familiar with how the app played was useful in learning how to run the Automa cards, as well as learning what priority Imperial units will place on accomplishing different tasks in the game. Playing as 4 unique Rebel operatives, controlling all the Imperial characters by following the AI cards, and tracking all the round effects creates a lot of bookkeeping. Bookkeeping that can and will detract from the experience of Imperial Assault. But is it worth it?
Figure 4 - A lot to keep track of!
Imperial Assault is fantastic. Imperial Assault using the app is beyond fantastic – until the content runs out. Imperial Assault using the RAIV is one step below fantastic. Still definitely excellent, but with some major caveats. This reviewer would recommend controlling only 2 rebel operatives when playing solo, as the sheer amount of bookkeeping will overwhelm even the most veteran gamers. Another potential drawback to RAIV is the amount of table space the game will take up - when playing I actually had to roll dice on top of other game components, which caused problems from time to time. Familiarity with the app will make learning to use RAIV significantly easier.
All those caveats aside though – if you want more content past what the app offers, and you struggle getting a consistent group together to play a core campaign, then a solo campaign utilizing the Automated Imperial Variant is the way to go. RAIV unlocks all the missions in the game and enables you to play them solo, or with friends against an AI controlled opponent. Just be ready to keep track of many different things as you go along.
This reviewer highly recommends Star Wars: Imperial Assault and recommends RAIV for experienced players looking for more ways to enjoy Imperial Assault.