A few months ago, publisher Fantasy Flight Games surprised everyone with the announcement of a new game set in a galaxy far, far away. And, of course, as a lover of all things Star Wars, I couldn’t wait to check it out. Fast forward to now, and the brand new Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game has arrived… although no points for creativity on the title.
Deck-building games are not anything new, ever since Dominion paved the way for this genre, we’ve seen countless offshoots and reimplementations. However, this is the first deck-building game to sport a Star Wars skin. Was it worth the wait? Let’s find out!
If you’ve played a single row deck building game before, a lot with Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game will feel familiar. One player will control the Empire, while the other controls the Rebel Alliance. Each player starts with a 10-card starter deck (That only differs thematically). The three basic currencies of the game are Attack Power, Resources, and Force. On a player’s turn, they can play any cards from their hand (5 cards) for free.
Unit cards are played for their benefit, and then discarded at the end of the turn. Any capital ships stay in play, turn after turn, until destroyed by your enemy. Any resources generated can be used to purchase cards from the galaxy row, which go to your discard pile. Force points will move the force marker in your direction on the force track. Some cards will have benefits if the “force is with you”.
Finally, there is attack power. Attack power from units and capital ships can be used to attack your opponent’s capital ships and bases. The ships will defend the base until destroyed. If you don’t want to attack your opponent’s base, you can instead use your attack power to attack your opponent’s cards in the galaxy row. This not only sends them out of the market but earns you a nice little bonus. However only Units can attack the galaxy row (not capital ships).
Once you’ve done enough damage to destroy an opponent’s base, it’s replaced with a new one (that comes with a handy special power). There are 10 in total, but the first player to destroy 3 of their opponent’s bases wins.
If you are a veteran of deck-building games, a lot will feel familiar with Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game. Star/Hero/Cthulhu Realms fans will probably be nodding their heads with a “yup, this sounds familiar” look. And for the most part, that comparison is not far off the mark. While this isn’t Star Realms with a Star Wars skin, there is definitely enough similarities here to make one question if they need to own both.
That being said, Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game does branch off in its own direction in a few areas. Notably being able to bounty hunt the galaxy row and with the force track. I thought that being able to attack the galaxy row was a great addition. Single row deck builders can be inherently swingy, just by the randomness of which cards come up. Doubly so in Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game because you can only buy your faction or neutral cards. If you are playing the Empire and the row is filled with Rebel cards, you’d be at a huge disadvantage. So being able to attack them, not only to clear them out, but also to earn a bonus was a great idea. In one game, I really had my eye on recruiting Han Solo, but the nasty Empire player killed him before I even had a chance to draft him.
Then there is the force track, which is probably the most Star Wars feeling part of the game. Certain cards will help slide the force marker in your direction. Many cards will also give you a bonus if you have the force marker on your side when you play them. And if you can get the force marker all the way to the end of your side of the track, you’ll generate an additional resource each round. This is a nice balancing mechanic for stronger cards to give your opponent a way to counteract those extra powers. My only complaint is that the force track feels a bit underutilized. There are only about 20 cards (out of 90) that trigger off the Force track, and not all of those are unique. So, this is an area that would be ripe to be improved in the future with expansions.
I did like how there are 10 different bases for you to choose from when your base is destroyed. While everyone starts with a default base with no power, once that is gone, you can choose your next one and hopefully pick a power to synergize with the game state. The rulebook has a suggestion for 4 to use in the game for new players, but by the end, we just put all 10 in our stack and picked the one we wanted as needed. I liked how while some were copies of each other, both sides also had their own share of unique bases.
Overall, the game has been a fun, back-and-forth slug fest between two players. This is definitely an in-your-face game that with lots of player interaction. You’ll be attacking your opponent pretty much every turn, so Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game is not for players who prefer multiplayer solitaire deck-building games. Speaking of attacking, I do think that the game is a tad swingy. Depending on which cards come up in the galaxy row can alter how well you are doing. Capitol ships are a must if you want to stop your bases from turning into Alderaan chunks in a turn or two. But if you don’t get the option to buy any of those, it’s going to be a quick demise. Our first game had hardly any capital ships turn up and it was over in 10-15 mins. We reset and played again, this time a lot more ships appeared and the game almost dragged on too long (45 minutes).
Overall, I enjoyed Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game, as have all of my fellow players. I like how the two factions aren’t just cookie-cutters of each other but tend to have their own feel. The rebels are a bit more slippery and can force discards on the Empire. While the Empire is definitely stronger and can bring its might to bear on the rebels with lots of attack power. If you like the back-and-forth conflict-oriented deck-building games, then Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game is an easy choice, especially for fans of the IP. While the game can be a little swingy, and the damage/resource cube tokens seem like a cheap out, overall, it’s a solid game that’s ripe for future expansions.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A fun deck-building game that should appeal to players who love conflict and fans of Star Wars.
• Can be a bit swingy
• Force power feels underutilized
• Components for damage/resources feel lazy