Over the past few weeks, I’ve been gradually getting acclimated to Star Wars: Imperial Assault. In my first post, I covered my time with the tutorial. Next, I wrote about my experience playing Skirmish matches. Today, I’ll cover the little bit I’ve experienced with the Campaign. For players curious about diving deep into the lore and ground-based combat of Star Wars, maybe these impressions will sway you on a purchase of this game.
The Campaign is designed to chronicle a series of battles between the Rebel Alliance and the Imperial army. While all Campaigns will start with the same mission, where they go from there can change dramatically based on the outcomes of battle and the decisions made by the players. Combine that with the fact that a full campaign only covers about 1/3 of the missions that come with it, and you have a game that has been built with replayability in mind.
Up to five players can partake in this adventure, with four taking on the roles of the Heroes, while one evil mastermind will act as the Imperial forces. The game was mainly designed to accommodate four people playing as Heroes. If you have three or fewer players, the game grants Rebel players with special bonuses to balance the scale. While the Imperial player may not have quite the same level of responsibility as a Dungeon Master in a game like Dungeons & Dragons, it is an intensive role that is best suited for experienced players. During my time playing the Campaign, I acted as the Imperial army, while my friend played as the Rebels.
Before the Campaign begins, there’s a bunch of setup that needs to happen, including tasks that are unique to this phase of the experience. One, each Rebel player needs to pick a Hero card and their starting Class card. This is simple enough, as the game teaches you how to do this in the Tutorial. Just keep in mind that you’ll probably want to stick with the same crew for the duration of the game. Then, the Imperial player must choose a Class and take the class card that costs 0 XP. This confused me at first, as there has never been mention of Imperials having different Classes. In actuality, the game comes with three different Imperial classes to choose from, each with its unique benefits. I chose the Class with the Stormtrooper cards, simply because they were the ones on top.
Then, as an Imperial player, you have to build an Agenda deck, another completely new concept. Agenda cards give the Imperial player big boosts and can even throw a monkey wrench into what side missions are played. These cards come in sets of threes based on their titles. You’ll take six sets of Agenda cards and shuffle them up to create an 18-card Agenda deck that will be used over the course of the game. These are then left alone till the end of the first mission.
There’s also a Side Mission deck that must be created, which is used to determine which Side Missions are available for play at key points in the story. The rules for creating this and the Agenda deck are fairly straightforward, though some more upfront context as to why they exist would greatly ease my anxiety.
Now it’s time to set up the mission. Building the map should be straightforward enough, as they teach you how to do that in the tutorial. However, it also introduces some new concepts that may take some time to figure out. For example, certain missions will introduce new concepts or level-specific rules that you’ll need to understand and then explain to the Heroes.
As the Imperial player, you’ll also have to wrap your head around new concepts that power your Deployment groups. At the start of each mission, the Imperial player has a starting group of troops available to them. However, more enemies can be triggered by certain events happening in the game, such as the opening of a door. Also, as rounds progress, Threat points are increased, which the Imperial player can use to deploy or recruit even more enemies.
With this being my first go-around as a dungeon master in any game, I slowly fumbled through a lot of the setup, while getting an assortment of rules wrong. Part of it comes from my inexperience, though I also put some of the blame in the way instructions for the Campaign are doled out. In many cases, certain concepts won’t be explained in full with just one of the manuals the game comes with. Instead, it’s your responsibility to cross-reference the Reference Guide, Learn to Play Guide and the Campaign Guide to fully understand numerous aspects of the experience. To say that this is cumbersome is a bit of an understatement.
Finally, we get to play some missions. All of the great aspects about the game that we got a taste of in the Tutorial are only amplified here. The maps are more elaborate, as are the mission objectives. The Imperial player has a lot of options in terms of how they manage all of the different enemy groups in their possession, while it’s a blast for Rebels to try and cut them all down. Maybe once I work out my setup kinks, we’ll get to focus more on the fighting and less on fumbling with instruction manuals.
When a match ends, there’s more administrative work to be done. Depending on the outcome of the mission, the game will give you instructions on which story mission is up next. This part was kind of confusing, as the manual isn’t clear enough to explain exactly how your move from one mission to the next. In particular, the game comes with a mission guide for you to fill out, but doesn’t explicitly state that side missions are mandatory, which I hand to find out on a message board. Some clarification here would have been greatly appreciated. Finally, all players get resources, such as XP, Credits and Influence to spend on an assortment of upgrades that will persist for the duration of the campaign.
I wish my first Campaign experience had gone smoother, or at least as smooth as the Tutorial or Skirmish. The learning curve for setup as the dungeon master is steep, especially for a newbie like me. That said, the combat is still fantastic, and I played just enough to see how much better this experience will be when it reaches its full potential. When you add in the branching mission paths, exciting missions that contain special events that are triggered throughout and the opportunity for both sides to strengthen their rosters as the game progresses, it’s easy to see how players can get fully-engrossed in this game for a very long time.
In the coming days and weeks, I’ll try and summarize all three of my Imperial Assault posts into one tight review. Look out for that in the near future!