Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Cognitive Assault

After umming and ahhing for a number of weeks I finally caved in about a week ago and bought Star Wars: Imperial Assault. I knew it wasn't a game that would tick heaps of boxes for me, but I had two reasons for splurging anyway. One, Stanley is a Star Wars fan and I thought it'd be great to get a regular game going with him. He'd found the box in Area 51 and even badgered me to get it once or twice. Two, Joe (Berger) and I are still developing our online board game guide for the uninitiated, and I felt - or told myself I felt - we needed to cover the bases on these semi-RPG, semi-boardgame bad boys.

Having watched a couple of reviews we set up the learning game and dived in. Stan took the role of the rebels and I was the evil Empire. The box includes a built-in learning game with quick set-up (all things being relative...) and simple rules.

The nub of games like this is the rule-set: with X-Wing, we found the basic rules simplistic to the point of being slightly boring, and therefore never made it to the point of the (presumably more nuanced, and more rewarding) advanced rules. I was hoping for a different experience this time.

Wookiee in the sh*t

We began with me in control of a few Stormtroopers and an Imperial officer. Stanley controlled a wookiee (not Chewbacca) and another guy whose name now escapes me. Our board was a jaggedy circle with a crate nestling in a nook and we went to battle.

The game is like Star Wars themed boxing; if the boxers rolled dice instead of hit each other. I say this after only the introductory game and, as with X-Wing, I'm sure we were not garnering the full experience - and thus, rewards! (especially in the Morrison household, where it's convention to miss at least one key rule) ...but in essence you're taking it in turns to fire or swing weapons.

The weapon system is pretty neat once you get your head around it - dice are rolled for the attacker that decide accuracy and amount of hits (plus possible extras) and the defender also rolls a die or dice that can minimise damage or even negate the attack entirely. You take it in turns to activate your heroes (Rebels) or bad guys (bad guys).

I would have been quite happy to go through an hour or so of this if Stanley enjoyed it, but unfortunately - it's not a cheap game - he got bored quite quickly. Each character has a bunch of special moves they can employ but essentially it's variations on a theme, and we both found the re-reading of all possible special moves a bit tiring, especially as we could only find obtuse references to both Havoc and Focus.

I'm not writing it off as both Stan and I would be willing to give it another whirl with someone present who knows their Imperial Onions and is happy to bash through a skirmish with us - Matt? any chance? - but when the game ended (Stan won somewhat jadedly) I said "It's not Eclipse, is it?" and Stan said "No" with a kind of scoffing finality you rarely hear in one so young.


  1. Mm mm, Imperial Onions... I believe that was the original name for Mint Imperials but it didn't take. Brings to mind memories of Sals interpretation of Twilight Imperium . . .

  2. Sounds similar to descent. However we played 3 against 1 and the extra options that brings adds some more interest. Its better if there is more than one objective so that there is a level of puzzle solving too.

  3. Yeah, I got the drift that the game develops in campaign. I dunno if Stan would stay with it that long though. Maybe playing Luke and Darth would help...

  4. Ah, I do love Imperial Assault but I agree with your assessment. The intro mission is very basic, most of missions have a few different objectives and the threat ramps up as they are completed. I've not played with just 2 players but I also imagine it is more interesting with at least 2 players as the rebels so they can discuss/argue strategy and share in their defeat (common) or victory (rare but not as rare as in Descent so far).

    I think it is the roleplay element that is the game's strength rather then deep gameplay though, and it is definitely geared toward playing as a campaign so you level up your characters, getting additional weapons and allies etc. I don't see why you couldn't select a mission to play in isolation though. Maybe even assign some XP and credits to spend (I like the fact that in the campaign everyone goes shopping at the end of each mission, just like in A New Hope).

    It does take a while to get past the "let me just check something" problem though. Just a quick-reference list of what all the symbols mean would have been handy.

    I'd happily play a game with you. I have plenty of experience as the Empire and know enough of the Rebel side to clarify any rules. I've also dabbled in the Skirmish mode and it was okay but I'm sure, like X-Wing, it is better when you build your squads rather then just use the default ones in the introductory game.

  5. Hey Matt thanks that's great to get some more insight. We'd love it if you could come over one night (earlyish?) and start us on a campaign... whenever suits you really. We could be joined by non-Imperialists later in the evening perhaps... cheers!