If you love games and you love Star Wars, you’re probably already aware of this—but just in case you’ve been off training on Dagobah or something, local publisher Fantasy Flight Games holds the license to publish Star Wars tabletop products. Since obtaining the license in the summer of 2011, they have released a variety of games set in the galaxy far, far away, and at this point there are so many Star Wars games to choose from that it can be almost daunting to find the right one to suit your tastes and preferences as a gamer.
While the best way to decide whether you like any game is to play it with a friend who already has it, this guide to some of the most popular Star Wars games currently in Fantasy Flight’s library may help you in your quest. Pick one that sounds like you, and head over to the Fantasy Flight Games Center in Roseville to give it a free test run. Note: While many of these games are two-player head-to-head experiences by default, they can all extend to multiplayer through the use of expansions and variant formats.
Star Wars: Destiny
Default Players: 2
Play Time: 30 minutes
Star Wars: Destiny (which I’ve written about before) is a dice and card game in which players take turns rolling specialized dice and executing their effects, in a style of strategic play that evokes the more tense moments of Star Wars when the saga’s larger-than-life scope is distilled down into personal duels between two or three central combatants. The game is unique among those mentioned in this article for two reasons. First, it is the only collectible game Fantasy Flight currently publishes; their other games, while often expandable, all contain fixed, nonrandom product. Second, most of the other games focus on the Galactic Civil War, the Rebellion–Empire conflict depicted in the classic trilogy, whereas Star Wars: Destiny includes content spanning the canon in its entirety, from The Phantom Menace to The Force Awakens and beyond.
Star Wars: The Card Game
Default Players: 2
Play Time: 30–60 minutes
Premise: Cinematic Star Wars action
While collectible games like Star Wars: Destiny enjoy widespread appeal, some gamers prefer the fixed model embodied by Fantasy Flight Games’ Living Card Game (LCG) lineup. Star Wars: The Card Game is one of these, with a Core Set that offers out-of-box play that you can enhance through the addition of monthly Force Packs as well as larger and less frequent Deluxe Expansions, which all contain a nonrandom assortment of cards. The game itself offers an abstract, cinematic look at the Star Wars universe, with quick, tactical play that rewards careful planning and risk-taking alike.
One of the most unique features of Star Wars: The Card Game is the way in which it handles deck building. Players who wish to customize their decks beyond the four specialized ones available in the Core Set must do so by adhering to the game’s objective set system. The objective cards, which are distinct from players’ decks, are each linked with five cards which must be included together in a deck if a player wishes to use them. This means that powerful cards are sometimes tied to weaker cards, giving players a reason to run a group of can’t-hit-anything Stormtroopers alongside the audacious yet surprisingly useful Admiral Motti, of “I find your lack of faith disturbing” fame. The system thus streamlines deck building for more casual players while at the same time offering weighty decisions players won’t find in any other customizable card game.
Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game
Default Players: 2
Play Time: 30–45 minutes
Premise: Starfighter dogfights
One of the most memorable scenes in cinematic history is the Death Star battle at the end of A New Hope, which introduced the classic rivalry between X-Wings and TIE fighters. In the X-Wing Miniatures Game, you can build a squadron of either of these ships or many others, which are sold individually, allowing players to collect them all or select their favorites. The game uses a gridless maneuvering system in which each ship’s pilot selects a maneuver in secret before revealing it to the other player(s), then takes a cardboard template corresponding to that maneuver in order to move the ship. Players must be cunning, able to out-think their foes and position themselves in the ideal place for blasting them into space dust. X-Wing was featured in an episode of Tabletop, in which Wil Wheaton suffered his usual run of misfortune as the hapless pilot of one of the expendable, mass-produced TIEs.
Star Wars: Armada
Default Players: 2
Play Time: 2 hours
Premise: Fleet battles
On the surface, Star Wars: Armada shares many similarities with X-Wing Miniatures, but while that game is about squadron battles, Armada has players directing entire fleets. Navigating nimble starfighters through the thick of battle is a very different experience than that of controlling the slower, more imposing capital ships. It’s a subjective matter: some Star Wars fans enjoy overwhelming their opponents with a vast array of cheap, maneuverable TIE fighters and favor X-Wing as a result, while others love commanding the awesome firepower of a Star Destroyer and prefer Armada.
Star Wars Imperial Assault
Default Players: 2–5
Play Time: 1–2 hours
Premise: Ground skirmishes
The Star Wars films, books, and shows typically center on a cast of a few remarkable heroes facing impossible odds with nothing but their mutual trust and teamwork to save them. The friendship that the main characters build through their shared confrontations with the Empire takes center stage in the classic trilogy. Star Wars: Imperial Assault fosters a similar mentality between Rebel players, who must work together against a single, deadly Imperial opponent to fulfill mission objectives in the context of a campaign narrative that persists over the course of many skirmishes. The Imperial player commands powerful adversaries, from the rank-and-file Stormtroopers to imposing AT-STs to the fearsome Darth Vader himself, and the Rebel players must use their characters’ unique skills to gain a tactical advantage. The game can also be played as a more traditional war game, with each player controlling a roughly equal complement of Rebel or Imperial forces.
Star Wars: Rebellion
Default Players: 2 or 4
Play Time: 3–4 hours
Premise: Galaxywide conflict
Though the Star Wars films focus on iconic heroes and villains leading a galactic war effort, the full scale of the war itself is only implied, rather than directly shown. Star Wars: Rebellion strikes a clever balance, by presenting the galaxy in its entirety, with the forces of the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance populating various planets, while all of the action is driven by characters that deploy to these worlds and execute various actions that dictate play. The Empire brings its massive fleets and armies to bear against the Rebellion, deploying probe droids and subjugating worlds in an effort to locate and crush the hidden Rebel base, while the Rebellion navigates to avoid the Empire’s grip, performing surgical strikes and inciting uprisings where the Empire has left itself vulnerable in the hopes of inspiring the citizens of the galaxy to take action and overthrow the oppressive regime. The game can either be played head to head, or as a four-player team game with two players sharing each side.
Having played all of these games, I believe each has its merits and drawbacks, as no one game can fully encompass the mythology of Star Wars. There are so many things to love about this universe, from lightsaber duels (Destiny) to ferocious space and ground battles (X-Wing, Armada, Imperial Assault) to the overarching theme of the light and dark sides vying for supremacy in a galaxywide struggle (Star Wars: The Card Game, Rebellion). With that in mind, I hope these descriptions are helpful, and can guide you in the direction of the Star Wars game that best fits your unique play style.