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Subject: Thoughts On Gameplay rss

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Patrick Brennan
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The following thoughts on Star Wars emerged whilst playing in our little group so there are some caveats re groupthink to be applied. It'll be interesting to see if and how the game plays differently across the wider audience. But for what it’s worth, here’s a bunch of thoughts on the gameplay that we found.

The game begins with the light side (LS) winning the Force struggle. To the dark side (DS) player, that, of course, is a disgrace. That’s the first thing you need to fix, so let’s get to it.

The Importance Of The Force Struggle
The game typically plays over 5 or 6 rounds, occasionally 7, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen more. With a perfect storm of cards and objective powers, it’s possible to win the game in the second round, or anywhere in between. So there can be shorter games, but let’s concentrate on the normal.

If the DS is winning the Force Struggle, the Death Star dial is advancing by 2 each turn – 1, 3, 5, etc. – and the onus is on the LS to destroy 3 objectives before that clock runs out. If the LS commits all their units to attacking on any given turn leaving no defense, and the DS has units with blast power, it’s generally an easy call to engage an LS objective and kill it off. That effectively reduces the game by 1 turn (ie on the turn that the dial would otherwise turn to 11, it’s now turning to 12). Each turn the LS leaves itself exposed, and the DS destroys an objective, that’s 1 less turn in the game (because the next kill advances the clock by 2, then 3, and so on).

So once the DS has a stranglehold on the Force struggle and control of the clock, the LS has some decisions to make. If they can muster up enough blast power to destroy 3 DS objectives within the doubled-pace clock, even with some further accelerations, then obviously you don’t care. If it’s going to be close because the cards you need haven’t come yet, you might wish to play some defense to give yourself an extra turn or two.

The best way to slow down the clock of course is to win back the Force struggle. Only three units on each side can ever be allocated, and once allocated they stay that way until they’re destroyed. Units average 2 force icons, and 3 is as good as it gets - with the notable exceptions of the uber-Force heroes in the Jedi and Sith decks, namely Obi-Wan and Darth Vader with 4, and Yoda and Palpatine with 5. As you’d expect, the units with more than 2 Force icons are typically great units which you may want to use for combat rather than tie down to the Force struggle – so there can be some hard decisions here along the way.

Units that are committed to the Force struggle can still be used in combat, but they receive an extra focus token – meaning they won’t count toward the Force struggle not just for this turn, but for next turn as well. You can only clear one focus token per turn. This is where the Elite keyword comes in handy. If you have an Elite unit committed to the Force that provides unit damage, it’s available to defend in your turn knowing that even if you lose the Force struggle as a result, both focus tokens will clear at the start of your following turn. At this point it’ll be counted towards the Force struggle again, hopefully limiting any clock acceleration.

If you’ve committed your maximum three units, and you want to free up a commitment slot to say replace a 1 force icon unit with a 3 force icon unit, it’ll cost a bit but it’s do-able. Either send it up as a solo defender against a DS attack that’ll do enough damage to guarantee destruction (the DS has no choice, he must inflict his damage) or send it out on a solo attack - if the DS doesn’t defend so as to leave you in the Force struggle hole, you’ll at least get an unopposed bonus blast damage as consolation.

If the DS cannot find a way to win the Force struggle, they need to go on the attack. No matter how well you defend, the LS will get blast damage through and onto your objectives. With the LS placing a free blast damage each round, you’ll find that by turn 5 or 6, they’ll get through the extra 10 or so they’ll need via combat and fate cards, if not earlier. In fact their job is made easier because if you’re attacking in order to accelerate the clock, you’ll have less defense available to stop the LS attacks. It’s a vicious circle, which stresses the importance of winning the Force struggle to the DS – and conversely how important it is to the LS to stop the DS winning it.

Running a DS attack-minded deck can be fun though because it can catch typical LS decks by surprise. The DS needs to destroy 3 objectives to accelerate the clock by 6. That can leave the game hanging either way by the 5th turn (you can see how it’s not going to go much longer than 6 turns). Killing a 4th objective and advancing the clock by another 4 is a DS win. The other upside of going on the attack is that it sucks LS units that are committed to the Force struggle into defending, which in turn can open up the Force Struggle to you to win for a turn or two, and that can accelerate the clock just enough so that you don’t need to get that 4th objective and you can still end it in 4 or 5 turns before the LS gets their third kill.

The best possible result for the DS occurs when the LS fails to get units out. If you’re winning the Force struggle AND destroying objectives, well … it’ll all be over quickly.

The Opening Hand
Given the importance of the Force struggle, and given the DS can’t attack on the first turn, the first thing the DS wants to do is get a unit out, commit it to the Force and flip the Balance of the Force to the dark side. Ideally you want to get out two units, one for the Force, and one that provides unit damage and has decent life for defense. If you can’t do both, at least get the defensive unit out and commit it to the Force. That’ll at least make the LS think before attacking.

The onus is now on the LS as to how the early game will play out. Obviously it depends on the cards he has, and what’s coming in his deck, but the LS then chooses:

a) To do similar - commit a unit or two to win back the Force and set up for defense. A cagey defensive start on both sides, followed by resource cards being played, tends to setup a game with lots of units out and big combats where winning the edge can result in key swings, especially if you have units with Tactics icons which can strike first and effectively remove units from a combat. The LS might go this cagey route if he’s tuned a deck towards winning the Force struggle, winning edge battles and Tactics icons.
b) To go on the attack – if the LS can get out two units and the DS only has one, and that one is committed to the Force, then you’re on the front foot. You know you need to inflict 15 blast damage to kill off three objectives to win the game, and each time you can attack an undefended objective, that’s a free blast damage via the unopposed bonus. If the DS defends the first one, then you have a choice with your second unit of committing to the Force struggle, winning it (because the DS unit is focused and no longer counts) but also being available to defend OR doing a second attack and getting that unopposed bonus. Which way you go depends on whether the unit provides blast damage (then you’d probably attack, make them count while you can) or is stronger in the Force.

If you can only get out 1 unit, then you’re faced with the same dilemma as the DS was – if you can win the Force struggle, it might be best to do that. If I had to choose between an offensive and a defensive unit, I’d generally opt for the attack minded one as the onus is on the LS to destroy 3 objectives before the clock runs out and you can’t stop the clock accelerating at this point, so you may as well get on with it. The DS can defend with his committed unit safely now to stop you getting unopposed bonus (except if you can kill it; then he won’t defend as the defense would be in vain, not being able to stop the unopposed bonus) but if he does, at least you’ve stopped it counting towards the next 3 Force struggles (this turn, next DS turn, next LS turn) until it clears both its focus tokens.

The early turns are more complicated versions of this decision tree – more units in play, more effects to take into account, more options. The Force struggle is generally effectively won by round 2 or 3 and attention for each side then focuses on to how to win the game given how the Force struggle has panned out. That’s not to say the Force struggle in set in stone – far from it if committed units are then used in combat. But of course, depending on your deck, you may not care so much - it may just be full out attack from the get-go.

To Mulligan Or Not To Mulligan
For all the reasons above, in your opening hand you’d ideally like to see two units that you can afford to play out on the first turn given the resources you’re going to have – hopefully defensive and/or Force minded. You’d also like to see a resource provider or two to help you play out more and bigger cards on future turns – they provide instant payback so you want to get them out asap.

At the least, you must have one unit you can play out. If you can get at least one out, it doesn’t matter too much if the rest of your hand is poor. You can send that unit into combat and all the cards that aren’t much use right now can be thrown out into the edge battle, allowing you to draw a new hand of cards next turn. Given you were unlucky and got a bunch of poor cards at the start, then all the good ones must be just about to come out, right? Right.

If you don’t draw a unit, you can discard one card at the start of your turn and draw one to replace it. If that’s not a unit, your opponent has a free hand to ride roughshod over your withering bones – Force struggle, unopposed bonuses, the lot. You’re in big trouble. If on your next turn you again don’t draw a unit with your single discard / draw, you’re 2 turns behind and if the game wasn’t already lost after the first turn, it is by now.

So what are the chances of it happening? Objective sets generally have 2 to 3 units each, so depending on how you build your deck, it’s going to be between 40% and 60% units. The chances of not drawing a unit in the first 7 cards of a 50 card deck are:
a) 40% units: 1 in 49
b) 50% units: 1 in 208
c) 60% units: 1 in 1288

In the core set, the pre-constructed 40 card decks run close to 50% units and the odds are:
a) Jedi, 18 units: 1 in 109
b) Rebel Alliance, 19 units: 1 in 160
c) Sith, 19 units: 1 in 160
d) Imperial Navy, 21 units: 1 in 370

Note that there are some units you won’t be able to afford (depending on what your opening objectives are) which makes deck failure slightly more likely.

It’s not a huge issue, but this also ain’t no Lord of the Rings: LCG where you auto-mulligan if you don’t draw the Steward of Gondor. If you don’t draw your favourite Darth Vader during setup but you did draw a playable unit, you may want to consider the potential repercussions of mulliganing if your deck has a low unit count, especially during tournament play.

There be the first lesson in deck construction – check your unit percentage.

Unit Assessment
The cost of a unit tends to first reflect its damage capacity (life) and then be adjusted for effects, keywords and combat icons (taking into account active vs edge-enabled). It also may be adjusted higher if it’s in a relatively “strong” objective set or lower if it’s in a “weaker” objective set, which is why you may occasionally see almost identical units with different costs.

Of the combat icons, tactics icons are the rarest and most prized – delivering one simple tactics icon first in combat brings the biggest, baddest unit to a shuddering full-stop and takes it out of play this turn. For the LS, the blast damage icon is the next most sought after because you can’t win without them. For the DS, it depends on your deck and how you’re planning to accelerate the clock. That dictates whether you value blast damage as highly as the LS (ie you’re planning to kill LS objectives) or less so. Without a healthy dose of unit damage icons you’ll struggle, but as they’re the most common, and they tend to come mixed in with the others anyway, you don’t tend to focus on them as much during your deck building. You may do more so with a DS deck that’s planning to defend though.

Of the keywords, Shielding is the most prized. One shield negates a Tactics icon (the best combat icon in the game), or cancels the first damage being placed, keeping your best units alive longer and allowing you to steadily accumulate an impressive force. Placing shields consistently on objectives means instead of the LS requiring 15 damage to win, it may require 20 or more. As such, an Imperial Navy shielding-based deck can be an awesome beast to behold. Mind you, it needs to be because the IN ain’t winning the Force struggle anytime soon without Grand Moff Tarkin in play!

The other big keyword is Protect, which is basically another form of shielding but will eventually kill off the unit that’s the protector. The others – Edge, Targeted Strike, Elite – are all handy. You’ll never say no.

As the cost of a unit goes up, the usefulness of a unit seems to increase exponentially, although it’s hard to quantify. A 2 cost unit seems more than double the usefulness of a 1 cost unit. A 3 cost may be double the usefulness of a 2 cost unit, even though the cost increase is only 1. 4 cost units might do the same again. After that, it starts tailing off because the added value, the extra icons for example, can often be overkill and aren’t always required.

The exponential effect occurs because units get a little bit more of everything.

A 1 cost will typically have 1 life, 1 combat icon and no effect. The combat icon will usually be edge-enabled, meaning you might have a 50/50 shot at it being able to be triggered before it dies.

A 2 cost unit will typically have 2 life, another combat icon (or a normal icon instead of edge-enabled), plus it might have an effect or a keyword. You expect it to get at least 1 shot off in combat, maybe more. Additionally, you’ll never play enhancements on 1 life units – it’s just money down the drain. But you will consider it on 2 life units because the chance of them hanging around and getting shots off is higher. Especially if you have shields or protect effects.

A 3 cost unit will typically have 3 life, multiple combat icons, a good effect, maybe a keyword – more of everything. You’ll expect it to get multiple shots off and you’ll definitely feel comfortable playing enhancements on these and building them into super units.

And so on with 4 and higher cost units. The one huge benefit in playing out a single big dog unit over multiple little Shih Tzu units is that you have more cards leftover in your hand to win edge battles that turn. Don’t underestimate how powerful this can be. Winning the edge, striking first and shooting off 4 combat icons might singlehandedly kill off a unit that hasn’t struck yet and place a focus token on another, negating the opponent’s forces and allowing your other units to strike with impunity. And your blast damage will always get through. If you play multiple units instead, you have less chance of winning the edge battle as you have fewer cards left in your hand. Then you’ll be experiencing the flip side; a higher risk of having units destroyed before they even get a chance to strike.

Having said that, it doesn’t always hold that building one 4 cost unit is better than building two 2 cost units. In the early game you might prefer to build the two units because they can cover multiple situations. Sending two units into a battle means at least one should get a shot off even if you lose the edge battle (unless their first unit has a Tactics icon). Once you’re into the mid-game though, the big units gain ascendency. As the Shih Tzu die off, the big dogs hang around, getting multiple shots off, creating headaches for your opponent – it can require a concerted effort to bring one down and cease the bleeding.

The other benefit in having multiple small units is that you can attack multiple objectives each turn, aiming to score multiple unopposed bonuses, plus maintaining some defense as well. But they do die easily without big dog support, so have a compensating plan if you’re building a Zerg rush deck (Edge keyword, shields, drawing card effects).

There be the second lesson in deck construction – unit balance is important. Big dogs are great and you’ll want them in your deck as it’s hard to win without them, but they can be negated, so ensure you have multiple mid-size units as well, not only for the early game but also as fodder for big battles and multiple strikes in the end game.

Enhancement Assessment
There’s little point playing enhancements on low-life units. They’ll die quickly and that enhancement will have leant its support maybe once if at all. But they do ramp up big dog units spectacularly. And here’s looking at you, Yoda!

(As an aside, in an early iteration of the game it was possible with the perfect combination of enhancements and events for Yoda to single-handedly win the game by the second turn by churning out 16 unit damage that could spread across any and all units, 16 blast damage, 4 tactics, plus he could attack several times in the same turn. That became affectionately known as the Yoda Single-handedly Blows Up The Galaxy iteration. Since then, Yoda and the Jedi enhancements have been, uhm, somewhat toned down a bit.)

Enhancements that provide combat icons are generally cheaper than units that provide the same. If faced with a decision between the two, I’ll probably tend towards the unit but it depends on whether I feel I have enough units out already, if I have a good candidate for the enhancement, and what else I might be able to play out if I go with the cheaper option.

Enhancements that remove focus tokens or increase your damage capacity are gold on the right units, as are enhancements that allow you to move combat icons around between units.

A word of caution. Decks that are enhancement-centric and which rely on fewer units being boosted by enhancements can be wampa fodder for decks centred around the capturing mechanic. All those enhancements just disappear like petals on the wind. You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of “cancel” effects to protect them. They’re also susceptible to “tactics icon” based decks, so ensure you have elite keywords - and “trust your feelings” that you’ll need to include enhancements that remove focus tokens.

There be the next lesson in deck construction – don’t chase enhancements without a supporting cast.

Event Assessment
Events come in two flavours:
a) always useful - love to have them in the deck, and
b) situational - only useful under certain conditions, nice when they come off, but they probably won’t.

The downside of events is that they stop you getting units out. The upside of Type A events is that they can be beautifully game-changing and are well worth the opportunity cost. You can’t win by events alone (although the Sith will give it a great shot given the effects it has that riff off event play), but they sure can help.

Unless you draw them at the perfect time, Type B events usually tend to get thrown into edge battles. The game only goes 5-6 turns, and winning an edge battle which will keep some units alive longer tends to be more important than keeping a card around which may or may not prove useful in 3 turns time, and which in the meantime clogs up my hand and limits my drawing-for-better-cards capability. I wouldn’t be building decks around these. I have been known to do it with Type A cards though.

Fate Assessment and Edge Battles
That brings us to fate cards, perhaps the most under-estimated cards in the game. There’s a reason why objective sets loaded up with these are limited to 1 per deck. And the Twist of Fate card (it cancels the edge battle and re-starts it afresh) is probably the one card that you really want to count down out of your opponent’s deck. The constructed decks in the core set have two each. For others, it might be the one card you’ll want to know which objective sets this resides in and see how many of those sets emerge in your opponent’s deck. I personally don’t worry about it too much, especially as it can be tricky determining if a set is doubled up or not, but if you’re emotionally invested in a tournament game, it’s probably worth the trouble.

While lots of edge battles won’t matter too much, by the mid-game the number of edge-enabled icons will be rising and the importance of having them all activate rises accordingly. The ability to strike first can make a huge difference to a combat - and if these huge differences start compounding, the game can slide towards one player as a result. That’s not always the case, because losing this edge battle in this combat may allow you to keep cards to play in the next edge battle in the next combat to even things up. But it’s an important part of the game.

Further, fate cards can provide you with a free one-off whack, be it unit damage or blast damage. That’s just as good as a unit giving it, but you get it for free PLUS you get the benefit of helping win the edge battle! Rolling in clover … who’s a good doggie, now!

When I first started playing, I disliked the edge battles and I suspect that will be common with many newbies, feeling like they’re just a random blind bid guess. With card familiarity however comes the bluff, and with the bluff comes the fun. It’s come to be a favourite part of the game.

If your opponent places a card into an edge battle, you can expect it to be 2 force icons - that’s the average. As the attacker, knowing this, you have options:
a) Place 1 force icon in there, then pass, hoping to drain cards out of your opponent to set up for the next battle.
b) Place 3 force icons, then pass, hoping that the defender will think you’ve played a Twist of Fate and will pass after playing just one card.
c) Play a Twist of Fate plus a 1 force icon, hoping to suck 2 or more cards from the defender, and then win the re-match.
d) Go all out.

As the defender, you just need to tie, so you’re trying to work out the likelihood of doing so:
a) The Twist of Fate is your friend, because you’ll generally get to suck two cards out of the attacker (he plays, you play ToF, he plays, you pass). After your pass, the fun begins as the attacker is scrutinising your face for tells, trying to work out if you’re bluffing or whether you really did play a Twist of Fate. Go on, give him a little smirk. More info that goes into this includes the importance of the battle, whether you’ve played a ToF recently and the like. Anyway it becomes delicious, especially because …
b) Sometimes you really are bluffing, either playing a 1 force icon card to suck cards out of the attacker or playing a 3 or more force icon card to sucker him into a pass and beat him on the tie.

Anyway, it becomes a fun part of the game. Hand management is also an important component. The decisions on what to play into edge battles, and the desperation that comes with really not wanting to throw that last card out into the edge battle because you really wanted to play it out next turn, but you really need to win this edge battle, but you really don’t know if your opponent has played a ToF … well, it’s a great feature of the game.

A couple of notes to end on. Hold back a high force icon card for a potential re-match in case a ToF gets played. And don’t be afraid in the end game to play a big dog unit to the edge battle instead of playing him out to the table. Winning an edge battle in the end-game can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing whereas getting him out might not make a material difference by then.

There be the next lesson in deck construction – either keep your edge-enabled icon count low so you have less dependence on winning the edge, or have a plan for winning edge battles, be it by high force icon counts or edge battle effects.

Objectives Assessment
Most objectives have 5 life and they either provide 1 resource and an effect, or 2 resources and no effect. At start-game, if you go with 3 of the former, you’ll get to spend 4 resources each turn (as you include the affiliation card). That’s ok, you’ll get to get out a couple of 2 cost units which will get you going.

If instead you go with one of the 2 resource objectives and two of the 1 resource objectives, you can spend 5 this turn and 3 the next. It may not sound much, but remember that the bigger 3-cost, 4-cost, 5-cost units are exponentially better. Getting a 5-cost big dog out early while your opponent is weak can be devastating. This is how you get that option.

Even if your deck is loaded with resource cards, going the all-1’s route is dangerous. Many is the game that’s been lost because a player only had 4 to spend for the first few turns, with big dogs hanging in their hands but no way to get them out as their resource cards were towards the bottom of the deck. For this reason I usually rate having the extra resource as better than having an effect.

Effects come in three forms: (from worst to best) one-offs, single ongoings and double-up ongoings.

Double-up ongoings are those where, if you have two of the same objective in play at the same time, they both give benefit - the benefit is doubled-up. Because these are constants and always in play, they can be the best and most powerful effects in the game. You can build great decks around them and they can easily rate higher than objectives which provide 2 resources in these situations.

Single ongoings provide a constant benefit, but if you have two of the same objective in play, you don’t get the benefit doubled-up. They’re less good obviously.

One-offs usually give one single benefit when it enters play, or is limited to providing a benefit if a specific conditions exists. These are the least exciting.

So the obvious call would be to fill your deck up with double-up ongoings, but of course it’s not that easy. They tend to have sets of weaker cards to balance the power of the objective and no extra resource cards. Objectives with one-off effects tend to have the strongest sets of cards plus extra resource cards. The challenge is to find combinations of strong objective powers with strong sets of cards in other objective sets that can riff off the objective’s powers. It’s a balancing act with a lot of exploration to be had.

On the flip side, you don’t want to rely on objective powers because they’re not a lock into making everything sweet and rosy. At start-game, you only draw 4 of your 10 objective cards – you may see 1 or 2 more through the game but if and when is outside your control. If your deck really sings when you get out a specific objective card into play, and you have two of them in your deck, there’s a 1 in 3 chance that you won’t draw either of them at start-game. On the other hand, there’s a 1 in 7.5 chance of drawing both – then you’ll be happy.

There be the next lesson in deck construction – keep objective effects in the forefront of your mind as they can be powerful, but don’t rely on them always being available.

Multi-Faction Deck Construction
This is an area you need to be careful in as there is a chance of deck failure (being defined here as the inability to play cards) if you’re not mindful.

Consider a deck made up equally of Jedi and Rebel Alliance pods, 5 of each, and say I choose Jedi as my affiliation card. If all 4 objectives I draw are Jedi, and there’s a 1 in 40 chance of that happening, then I cannot play any of my Rebel Alliance cards. Furthermore, if I draw no Jedi or neutral units in the first 7 cards, then we face the situation addressed earlier of not being able to clear the hand to seek better cards. Only here, the chances of it happening are greater because all the Rebel Alliance units are ruled out.

If you’re slightly luckier and you manage to draw and place out one RA objective, that objective immediately becomes the target of choice for your opponent. If they knock that over, there’s a decent chance that the objective you draw to replace it will be Jedi, and that makes the mid-game again very difficult, not being able to play out RA cards.

A 6/4 split is a bit safer, but building decks of 7/3 or 8/2 splits, with the affiliation card drawn from the minority faction, are least likely to go wrong. It allows the benefits of putting synergistic pods together while minimising the risk of deck failure. Sometimes it’s still not easy to get exactly the cards out when you want them as you may be limited to how much you can get out in one faction in one turn, but if you want the reward of extra synergy, that’s the risk that comes with it.

Mono-Faction Decks
In the core set, the Sith like to think they’re king of the heap. They have the most force icons (shared with Jedi), the most damage capacity, the most combat icons (especially tactics icons) and require the most resources. In short, they’re bigger and badder. Their affinity for events permeates and defines the faction. Their play style is designed around “control”. I found it to be the most reliable and consistent of the factions – you’ll always be in with a shot.

The Imperial Navy faction is defined by big units and resources – they get the most of each. They also get a lot of life - not as much as Sith but more than the LS factions. Their inability to match the Jedi in the Force struggle means they don’t often fare well against them (unless the Jedi don’t draw big dogs) but they match up nicely against the Rebel Alliance. Their motif is attack, attack, attack – their play style is designed around “rush”. Look out for Devastator (and the resources to deploy it) and Grand Moff Tarkin – getting these out early enhance your prospects considerably.

The Jedi is the noble hero deck. It’s great in force icons but has the fewest resources and the least number of units. Their big dog heroes are the best of the best but their other units aren’t much chop, so this is the most fragile of the factions. The Jedi’s play style is designed around being “big unit”. If Yoda, Luke, Obi-wan, Red Five and the like come out early, and you can boost them with some of the great enhancements that come with this deck, then you should be motoring home, winning the Force struggle easily. In fact, even if they don’t come out early, if you’re winning the Force struggle you may be able to hold on long enough for them to emerge. Enhancements define this faction in the way that events define the Sith - seek them out.

The Rebel Alliance gets a lot of units, almost the same as the Imperial Navy. It has the fewest force icons and the lowest overall life. It provides the double benefit however of costing the least to play out but getting a lot of resources - you’ll find it easy to get units out. With the highest proportion of normal combat icons to edge-enabled icons, the faction also has the least reliance on winning edge battles. Its play style is designed around “combo” play. Whilst Home One is your numero uno big dog unit, and you really want to see this one early, the charm of this faction is working out ways to get the beautifully thematic (and fun) combos going with cards like Leia Organa, Wookie Navigator and Trench Run. It also features perhaps the most useful event in the game for its cost, the Rebel Assault. It will be hard for the Rebel Alliance to win the Force struggle against the Sith so you need to outnumber him. It squares up nicely against the Imperial Navy though. This might be the weakest of the pre-constructed faction decks to begin with but don’t despayre, the Hoth cycle is coming!

Deck Building
As a wrap, I should confess that I’m not an avid deck-builder so this game’s mode of deck construction suits me down to ground. I’m just as happy pulling together a random collection of objectives and seeing how it goes, or pulling together 2 decks based on a location such as Tatooine and facing them off for a more thematic experience, as I am trying to find a pre-eminent deck.

As the objective sets are fairly balanced, randomly constructed decks can do surprisingly well, especially if you draw well early and your opponent doesn’t. This is great for the occasional player. But the rewards for watching a thoughtfully constructed deck weave its way faster are satisfying – it definitely puts the odds in your favour.

As the number of factions and objective sets has grown, the game has become a much richer and more interesting experience than the core set alone provides. Each faction has developed is its own personality and provides different challenges and experiences. The best decks in one faction can be beaten by the best in another, which can in turn be beaten by the best in a third, in turn beaten by the best in the fourth, which in turn can lose to the best of the first. There’s a pleasing circulatory nature where there isn’t one best solution - it can depend on the deck you’re facing. Not to mention the cards you draw. But most importantly, the decisions you make with them. To that end, may the force be with you.

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Phil Davies
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A fantastic article which gave me a much greater oversight of the gameplay than most of the reviews I've read.

Thank you.
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Tristan Hall
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Gloom of Kilforth reprint Kickstarter Sept 29-Oct 31
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Excellent article, Patrick - pretty much essential reading for anyone interested in the game I reckon. cool
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Dicky P
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Read once....read again... then printed off to read again later.

There is so much good stuff in this. Brilliant article! Thanks for putting this together.
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Andreas Vecstric
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PBrennan wrote:
The following thoughts on Star Wars emerged whilst playing in our little group so there are some caveats re groupthink to be applied. It'll be interesting to see if and how the game plays differently across the wider audience. But for what it’s worth, here’s a bunch of thoughts on the gameplay that we found.
[ cut ]
(As an aside, in an early iteration of the game it was possible with the perfect combination of enhancements and events for Yoda to single-handedly win the game by the second turn by churning out 16 unit damage that could spread across any and all units, 16 blast damage, 4 tactics, plus he could attack several times in the same turn. That became affectionately known as the Yoda Single-handedly Blows Up The Galaxy iteration. Since then, Yoda and the Jedi enhancements have been, uhm, somewhat toned down a bit.)

I guess your little group didn't start playing just now since you have information about earlier beta revisions of the game.
But your profile here on the Geek didn't give me any real hints to why you possess this knowledge about Yodas earlier version. surprise
(Or am I just not a good detective?)

Amazing read anyway. I first thought it would be a bashing of the balancing of the game, but reading the Yoda part gives that no bashing would probably occur. (Since the post is a bit in the corporate shill genre) whistle
 
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Matt Shinners
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PBrennan wrote:

a) To do similar - commit a unit or two to win back the Force and set up for defense. A cagey defensive start on both sides, followed by resource cards being played, tends to setup a game with lots of units out and big combats where winning the edge can result in key swings, especially if you have units with Tactics icons which can strike first and effectively remove units from a combat. The LS might go this cagey route if he’s tuned a deck towards winning the Force struggle, winning edge battles and Tactics icons.


Hey Patrick,

Awesome article. A few questions on this part:

Does the way the game flow have more to do with initial draw or deck setup? And can a defense-minded player force the game into a defense game despite the other player having an attack-focused deck?

Also, how often did you see big battles with lots of units? And what constitutes "lots"? From reading the rules and watching the videos around, my sense was this is much more of a 1-2 person battle game, but I haven't played.
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Jonathan Pickles
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Ezel wrote:

I guess your little group didn't start playing just now since you have information about earlier beta revisions of the game.
But your profile here on the Geek didn't give me any real hints to why you possess this knowledge about Yodas earlier version. surprise
(Or am I just not a good detective?)


No Wallander that's for sure - the clue is on the inside cover of the rule book
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Patrick Brennan
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MattShinners wrote:
Does the way the game flow have more to do with initial draw or deck setup?

The latter, but both are a factor. If the players spend the first few turns making the force struggle go back and forth (and this will be based on what they draw), then there won't be much combat and players then have a chance to let their decks start working for them.

If player A draws well and player B poorly, that might lead to player A going on the attack right from the start, even if that's not the thrust of his deck, taking opportunities while he can.

After that though, as the cards start to flow through your hand, the game flow is more based on the 2 decks and what the focus of each is.

MattShinners wrote:
And can a defense-minded player force the game into a defense game despite the other player having an attack-focused deck?


Not sure what you mean here. Whoever is losing the force struggle, if they can't win the force struggle back, has to go on the attack. If you're playing a defensive deck, you always have the choice on your next turn to stay on the defense and keep your units available for defense (by not attacking), or you can choose to switch things around and go on the attack (as you've just removed all those focus tokens) and see if the other player wants to go on the defensive. The decision each turn on whether to switch modes, or go half/half, is one of the keys to the game.

MattShinners wrote:
Also, how often did you see big battles with lots of units? And what constitutes "lots"? From reading the rules and watching the videos around, my sense was this is much more of a 1-2 person unit battle game, but I haven't played.

This is possibly one of our groupthink things. There are games where the Rebel Alliance will do 3 attacks a turn, 1 or 2 units to each attack, looking to stretch the DS defense and get unopposed bonus. Big combats can happen when your blast damage is spread across multiple units and you're trying to finish off one objective this turn. Then you might be sending in 4 or 5 units, and that's what I'd define as lots.

In the Rebel Alliance direct damage thread, I was chatting to the OP offline, and when he said one side lost 8 units to an event, that twigged me to a play style that was dis-similar to ours and maybe led to why that deck was showing dominance in his group. I've never seen the LS just storing up more and more units, ready for a cataclysmic finale. That's because eventually the LS have to attack. If the LS has lots of units, then the DS also is likely to have lots of units. If you attack with lots of units the defense has all the advantages - the defense can decide to defend with nothing, or they can work out exactly what they need to put in re Tactics and damage icons. So this is the worst possible case for the LS (the DS having a mass of units), so the LS needs to keep the attacks going and keep the DS unit count low - that way they have much more control over what the DS can defend with. (Control's not the right word, but I mean it's easier to work out what units to send on an attack and what it's chances of success are if the DS only has a few units at his disposal.)

If the DS is attack minded (or the LS is force struggle based and semi-defensive), then similarly, the DS don't want the LS storing up lots of units because then the LS gets the defensive benefit.
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Matt Shinners
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Cool, thanks for those thoughts, Patrick. It seems like there are plenty of ways the game can go, which is always a net positive.
 
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Ethien Simard
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Thanks four your thoughts, will be usefull for my first couple games
 
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Jake Fernandez
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Doesn't this make the game a bit narrow? Seems like the force struggle strategy is the central mechanic that affects all your strategies.
 
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Scott Egan
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dyeyk2000 wrote:
Doesn't this make the game a bit narrow? Seems like the force struggle strategy is the central mechanic that affects all your strategies.


Not really at all. The LS can just race the clock, its viable if your opponent over commit to the force among other situations. Also you can manipulate the force struggle through combat. A focused unit does not add to the force struggle so offensive tactics icon use can allow you to win the struggle even though your opponent is heavily committed.

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Matt
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For casual play, does going over 10 objectives make a big difference? I've played MtG a lot over the years. In that, you never want to exceed 60 cards (typically in casual play as well).
 
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Ryan Hanson
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madhatter wrote:
For casual play, does going over 10 objectives make a big difference? I've played MtG a lot over the years. In that, you never want to exceed 60 cards (typically in casual play as well).


Even though having an empty deck is a loss condition in the Star Wars LCG, the games are quite quick and so having a larger deck really doesn't benefit you at all. Generally you want to stick to the minimum deck size for the same reasons as Magic: consistency in your draws. This becomes even more important with obectives, as sometimes you are really counting on having 1-2 key objectives in play at the start of the game and having a larger objective deck can make that even less likely.
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Matt
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What are the thoughts on the stock faction decks going up against the two challenge scenarios with this expansion? I played a game the other night. I piloted the DS deck in Jerjerrod's Task and things didn't go so well for my two opponenents.
 
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Patrick Brennan
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The chances of starter decks winning against the challenge decks have been carefully calculated to be 0.00000425%. This incorporates the requirement of the player running the challenge deck having multiple massive brain explosions throughout.
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Matt
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Never tell me the odds. Sorry, couldn't help myself.

Was there a semi-serious message in there that stock decks don't stand a chance?
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Patrick Brennan
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Indeed
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