Games for Two: Star Wars The Card Game

I recently allowed myself to pick up a copy of Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars The Card Game. I’ve had a minor love of trading card games since junior high when I discovered Magic: The Gathering. While I didn’t play it for long, it was considered uncool at the time, I did like the design. Later, I discovered the TCG that was added to Star Wars Galaxies, which worked in a similar way to Magic.

One of the things I like about these kinds of games is the two levels to the design. The first, strategic level, involved setting up your deck. You needed to find cards that complimented each other and avoid having too many cards in your deck. Otherwise, you’d never get to anything useful due to all the clutter. The second, tactical level, dealt with how you used the cards you drew and responded to the game itself. You may have an awesome card in your deck, but if you never draw it, it doesn’t mean much.

What eventually turned me off of both of those TCG’s was the Trading aspect of the game. The game’s producers made their money by selling random packs of cards, each of which likely only contained one useful card. They were randomly packaged so you never knew what you would get. While this held some appeal – it was fun opening a pack and seeing what you got – it was inherently unbalanced. Those who could afford to buy lots and lots of packs were the ones with the most useful cards. This could lead to situations where they were impossible to beat.

Fortunately, the new card game from FFG does away with the Trading aspect of the design, instead calling it a Living Card Game. The decks can still be custom built, keeping that strategic level, but when you buy new cards, you know exactly what you’re going to get. The starter game comes with lots of cards to choose from when designing decks. It even makes things easier by grouping cards into “Objective Sets”, linking cards that compliment each other together.

The basic game concept has many similarities to something like Magic. You have unit cards for attack and defense, resource cards to determine what you can play each turn, and hands are drawn so each game is different. Each player, Dark side and Light side, take turns trying to do battle, each with their own objectives.

At first glance the win conditions for the two sides seems reversed. The Light Sides goal is to capture/destroy three of the Dark Sides Objective Cards. The DS player merely has to get the the Death Star dial to 12 points. He automatically gets one point on every one of his turns and  two if he controls the balance of the Force. So the DS player is encouraged to play defensively, while the LS must be aggressive. That seems backwards at first but when you think about it, it makes sense. The Dark Side is tempting and the easy path. The Empire is in control. The Light has a great challenge ahead of it.

Yet despite this, the game is very well balanced. During the first game my wife and I played, the game was decided in one final fight. Whomever won would win the game. This came after a point part way through where it looked like I, as the DS player, would be unstoppable, having both the Emperor and Darth Vader out as characters AND having killed Yoda. But then Luke killed Darth Vader and the Emperor. Very sad.

That’s one of the fun selling points of this game for Star Wars fans. Because the unit cards are based off familiar characters, you can have fun seeing how the game plays out. I highly recommend this game to any Star Wars fan or TCG fan. It’s relatively inexpensive (~$25) and has a lot of replayability. The base game comes with sets of cards for Jedi, Rebel, Sith and Imperial. These can be mixed or used as the recommended starting sets. There are also expansions coming which will add Smugglers and Scum.

May the Force be with you.

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