In a previous post, I covered the tutorial for Star Wars: Imperial Assault. To summarize, I thought that the core aspects of the game’s mechanics, as portrayed in the tutorial, already made for a thrilling tactical combat experience. Now it’s time to ratchet up the complexity with the Skirmish mode, which is one of the two main ways to play.
The fundamental difference between Campaign and Skirmish is that the Campaign has been designed around a multi-mission story, while a Skirmish is a one-off mission. Another large difference is that this mode is only meant to be played with two players controlling opposing sides instead of 1-v-all in the Campaign. For players wanting the thrill of battle without the commitment of a story will want to spend their time here.
Before battle, players will agree on a map to play. The game comes with a total of three maps to choose from. I wish there were more, but extra maps do come with the expansions, and in theory, you could use all the pieces to make your own. I’ve only played on the map featuring the ship in the middle, which seemed to work perfectly fine.
Once the map is set up, it’s time to build an army. There are a few rules in place to keep things balanced. First of all, Rebel and Imperial armies are generally not meant to be mixed. Two, each army can cost a maximum total of 40 Deployment points. Each unit has its cost displayed on the top left hand side of its Deployment card. Card values vary based on how good they are. As an example, a group of three disposable Stormtroopers is fairly cheap, while Darth Vader himself is very expensive. In fact, Vader eats up 18 out of a possible 40 points!
Team-building is going to be key. While you know the map beforehand, you won’t know the mission until every unit is assigned to its respective starting zone. As such, you need to build a team that fits your play style, as well as one that could work well in either mission. Regardless of how you approach it, the process of building the right team is one that will come with lots of in-the-field practice.
Before each match, you’ll also get to build a small deck of Command cards. These cards give you bonuses, such as extra attack power, healing, or some other one-shot benefit. Like Deployment cards, there are some restrictions in place to keep things balanced. I like the added control that comes with building these decks while enjoying their in-game benefits throughout the course of a battle.
Finally, a mission card is randomly drawn. Each map comes with two different mission cards, detailing the special rules for each. In general, the first player to 40 points wins, though the ways in which you can score can vary. For instance, in the Get to the Ship mission, players get points for controlling launch pads. In this scenario, not only is it important to kill the enemy, but it’s also important to control the launch pads to score extra points.
With some slight tweaks to how the game is played, the core combat of Imperial Assault continues to shine through in its Skirmish mode. With so many different possibilities that come with the different actions you can take, I love making moves, seeing the end results and thinking about how to make it better. By playing both sides and noodling with things like Deployment cards, Command cards and staring locations, you can squeeze a ton of great play out of this secondary mode.
As a relatively low-commitment option for two players, the Skirmish mode in Star Wars: Imperial Assault is excellent. The dynamics of battle are so interesting that you could even play the exact same starting setup repeatedly in order to find new ways to approach the challenge. Adding the team-building aspects to the experience also give you something to think about before matches start and long after its over as you think about ways of optimizing your approach. Not sure when I’ll get a chance to try out the Campaign, but I’ll certainly make a point to introduce fellow players to this Skirmish mode.