Star Wars: The Card Game – a renaissance

Hey everybody,
For game day today, I’m once more going to talk about the Star Wars LCG, my new-found obsession, something that I never thought I’d say again! I was really into this game back when it first came out, but despite forcing several different people to play it with me, nobody really wanted to play it much, so it ended up being shunted into the attic and just left there. However, after a passing comment to Jemma about it when we were re-watching the original trilogy over Easter, she’s proven to be more receptive than literally anybody else I’ve ever talked about it with! So we had a game last Saturday and, while it wasn’t exactly brilliant, it’s most definitely promising!

I’d already put together 6 decks, one for each faction, very much in the spirit of just mashing objective sets together and hoping for a good time. Well, I suppose some thought did go into them, but even so. Jemma decided she wanted to play as the Empire, so I decided I would stick to form and go with the Rebels, rather than either of the other two light-side factions.

Now, I’m going to say this right now: this game can be very confusing, even for seasoned card game players. For someone like my wife, who is not all that into Star Wars, and isn’t really a card gamer whatsoever, I think I lost her almost immediately with my explanation of how the game works. There is so much to think about, and there is a lot that is different from other games, that it can be quite a minefield to negotiate. She also insisted on playing it as normally as possible, so we had the whole Force Struggle thing, Edge Battles, no open hands, etc etc. I think she grew frustrated quite early on, and I began to feel like it was going to be a waste of time.

As the game went on, though, I think she got into things a little. The rules around paying for cards, and refreshing cards, all of that seemed to go quite smoothly after a while, and as so often happens with this game, it did come down to the wire. I think I made one mis-play that meant Jemma won on her next turn, rather than me dealing one additional point of damage to the third dark side objective to win (I’d played a card on it to allow me to draw cards when it produced resources, and so held back a bit as I wanted the card draw – but the Death Star dial was at 10 and was ticking on twice per turn, so…)

The bright spot on all of this is that Jemma has agreed that there is a pain barrier to go through in order to learn a new game, and just because you don’t enjoy the first run through doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever play it again. I’d thought that perhaps we should have played other card games first – even going back to Magic for a time – but anyway. I think we’re tentatively going to be playing the game every other week, in an effort for her to get into it (and for me to get back into it, I suppose!)

I can’t say that the Rebel Alliance is my favourite faction to play. That was in part due to the fact that I wasn’t drawing very many good cards, I suppose, but I have a feeling that the rebels play better with some of the fancier cards from later cycles, particularly when you bring in the Pilot mechanic. In an effort to keep things straightforward, though, I was trying to keep things fairly basic, with obvious plays that help to play off each other.

I think we had a couple of mistakes, namely that Jemma was focusing cards like Tarkin to generate resources, then also using him to attack me, but there was quite the situation set up whereby she was able to one-shot my objectives thanks to Tarkin making them -1 defence, and Orbital Bombardment giving every unit an additional blast icon, which made the Death Squadron Star Destroyer a beast. So between the good plays from across the table, and my own lacklustre cards being drawn from the Rebel deck, I think I was lucky to be able to do anything in the way of damage, really!

I am glad that Jemma has agreed to play it again, though – and she seems to want to get into it, I think, although that may be wishful thinking on my part! The fact that she won notwithstanding, I think when card plays like that come together, and it becomes quite clear what you need to do to play the game, it can be quite exciting. I’ve been re-examining my Rebel deck, and have yet to really come up with any combinations like that. Which might, of course, be the point. If I can get a number of fighters out, I should be able to deal a fair bit of blast damage, but on the whole I have a lot of pretty average stuff, and not a great deal of obvious plays. But then, I suppose that could be the idea of the Rebels being a rag-tag bunch, and it might be symbolic of the fact they aren’t able to bring overwhelming firepower to bear. I don’t have any of the capital ships included in the deck, but I do think that further down the line I might be switching out some objective sets. Not for the purposes of power-gaming, of course, but more for variety – I quite like the look of the Walex Blissex set, but I currently have no space for him.

On this note, I think the deckbuilding is one of the more fascinating aspects of this game, and I really enjoy the fact that you don’t just replace cards on a one-for-one basis. It really makes you think about how they’re going to work within the deck, even if you don’t have a plan for the deck as a whole just yet! It’s something that I particularly like in the Jedi deck that I’ve enjoyed playing with (when I had the opportunity!) Due to the way Edge Battles and Force struggles work, I think there’s always a use for a card, whether you throw away something you deem “worthless” for its pips in the Edge Battle, or whether that unit whose only worth comes from a “when played” trigger, commit him to the Force and leave him off to the side. It’s a really well-designed game, and I think this is really evident when it becomes difficult to build a deck due to the embarrassment of riches!

So, let’s talk about the decks for a minute. The Rebel Alliance deck doesn’t have any duplicated objective sets, which does mean that it lacks somewhat in consistency. Looking through the cards in the deck, there isn’t a lot in the way of duplication either – a couple of Twist of Fate cards, a couple of Hidden Outpost cards, and a couple of Rebel Assault cards. There are a lot of starfighters – a couple of X-Wings, some B-Wings, an A-Wing and a Y-Wing, and there are a lot of the kind of generic trooper types.

There is a slight theme that comes out from inclusion of several Yavin-IV cards, although it’s only slight, and I think it only really works off having General Dodonna out to draw cards off it. I think there are a total of six objective sets that form what I’m considering to be the core of this deck, with a myriad of starfighters and the like. The remaining four are all candidates that are, to some extent or another, ripe for swapping out – the Mon Mothma set, the Leia set, the General Madine set, and the Winter set. Leia and Mon Mothma however are there for their iconic status, and Madine is a very useful resource generator. Winter, however, is simply there because I love the character. So it’s a thematic deck from the point of view that it shows us a lot of the Rebellion, not because it will play the game necessarily well! I do want to play with it some more before I go changing too much up, as I think it will be instructional to see how things work out. However, I can see myself going much more heavily into the whole starfighter / Pilot thing, rather than having the mix of commandos and spies that is in there currently.

By contrast, while the Empire deck only has one duplicated objective set (the Tarkin set), there is a much more general feel of cross-pollination somehow, as themes like recurring troopers come out fairly well, and the aforementioned play with making that star destroyer into an objective-killer. It’s interesting because that combo wasn’t something that had occurred to me when building the deck, but clearly is something that comes out quite well.

Now, I mentioned in my previous blog about this game how I had stopped buying Force packs after the fourth cycle, so there are two cycles of cards that I never picked up back in the day. Well, as will come to a surprise to nobody, I’m sure, I have now started trying to find these packs, and have managed to get a hold of six, between the Opposition and the Alliances cycles. I think I might be struggling to get at least one of them, as there were a set of new affiliation cards that were seemingly snapped up and so have disappeared from the market, but I do have some hope that I’ll be able to get a decent number of these things before too long. It’s exciting to think that there are some cards in these packs featuring characters from Rogue One, and even the Rebels stuff, as I have recently started to watch that show again.

As I also mentioned last time, I do like the fact that the card pool is now a finite resource from which to draw, and so there is a real prospect that everything will see play, as decks are tweaked. Of course, it’s also possible that decks might stay the same forever, but even if Jemma has no inclination to deck-build, I think I’ll be tinkering for a long time to come, as I swap out the Leia objective set for something else, and so on.

Before I draw this to a close, I also wanted to briefly mention the fact that we currently don’t have any kind of Star Wars card game in general circulation. The situation with FFG at the moment is very odd, and I think I need to take a look into what’s going on there before I begin a massive speculation, however we have Legion (a tabletop miniatures game now outsourced), X-Wing (another miniatures game, also, I believe, outsourced), and the RPG (yet again, outsourced). I don’t really know if FFG have the licence to make Star Wars games anymore, but given how Asmodee seem to be trying to run the company into the ground, it wouldn’t surprise me. I have read that there are still plans for board and card games into 2023, but as that article went up around the same time as the world started locking down for Covid, I would imagine that such plans have been well and truly pushed back, as production schedules scramble to get back on track. Whether we will ever see another card game will remain to be seen, though it will be interesting to see how such a thing could be implemented, given the well-defined eras of Star Wars and so on. It strikes me as really weird, though, how there just isn’t a Star Wars card game being made anymore. I’ll need to take a better look into this kind of thing.

At any rate, I’m just really glad that I’ll be able to play the LCG once again!

9 thoughts on “Star Wars: The Card Game – a renaissance”

    1. Indeed it is not! It’s the third iteration, I believe, of a Star Wars card game. The CCG of the 90s, from Decipher, was followed by Wizards of the Coast and their TCG in the 00s, and finally we have the Living Card Game, from Fantasy Flight!

      Now that all three are defunct, I’m really keen to see if there will ever be a fourth attempt…

      1. FFG came up with the idea years back, either with Call of Cthulhu or A Game of Thrones, can’t remember which now. Basically, it’s a collectible card game but without the blind-buy booster format. You got a pack every month with 60 cards in it, and each pack had the same 60 cards. These packs formed cycles of six packs, which basically correlate to something a bit like a Block in Magic terms.

        The irony, of course, is that almost all of FFG’s living card games have now died, except for Arkham Horror and Marvel Champions (I don’t think they’re publishing any other LCGs right now).

        I wrote a blog about the Star Wars game 8 years ago, which can tell you more about the actual gameplay, etc!

        Star Wars gaming

  1. Pingback: Star Wars LCG!

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