By: Kirk W Buckendorf
While I’m a little late to the party, this is going to be our Introductory article about the game for any readers who would also be new to the game. Then as we play more games and learn, we’ll move into strategy and deck breakdowns. There seems to be a pretty decent OP schedule for the game, so we’ll probably do a little traveling as well. If you’re not familiar with the game, here’s an idea of how it plays so you can decide if you’re interested.
I tried to avoid it. I knew it was going to be too tempting. I haven’t been into a Collectible Card game since the WoW TCG, and I’ve been so content not being beholden to the addiction of hunting down hard to find legendary cards to complete my decks. The other issue was the I.P. – Star Wars has been my top fandom since I saw the original in theaters in 1977. I was only 4 or so years old, but I remember the opening scene more clearly than any other memory from my childhood. Vader walked onto Leia’s ship, and I knew he was the biggest-bad in the galaxy…
About 40 years later, I’m writing this with a Darth Vader helmet watching over my shoulder from the shelf behind me. I went to Gencon last year and purposefully avoided the Fantasy Flight booth. I didn’t want to get sucked in, and I wanted the new Star Wars: Destiny card and dice game to be bad so I could write it off all together.
Fast forward to two weekends ago, and I’m at Darkside Games on Las Vegas blvd. playing some VS. when I see that they have some Starters and a Booster box at the counter. I had some store Credit built up and Ryan, who we were playing VS. with that day, knows how to play the game. I bought a Rey & Kylo starter and had him teach Eric and I how to play.
It’s good. It’s really good.
(Eric and I playing with the decks we were able to build from 2 starters and 18 boosters)
(Yes, we’re using the DMG VS. Mats, but I have some ideas for special SW: Destiny Mats… soon)
Fantasy Flight’s games appeal to players who enjoy a very deep gameplay with lots of complexity, and while that’s not my cup of tea, this game is just on the edge of that and keeps me very engaged. It’s pretty quick and easy to learn, and the depth is revealed as you play instead of in a lengthy rule book. The shared round between players taking turns to play single actions keeps the game moving fast with little down time. This is really going to favor good TCG players who shine at thinking 5-10 moves ahead in games like Old VS. and it isn’t my strongest trait in games, but I like it anyway. As long as it doesn’t get too crazy complicated like Old VS. did, I’m on board.
There are, of course, two opposing factions in the game, the Heroes and Villains (missed opportunity to call these Light Side and Dark Side?). Your deck can include cards from one of those factions along with any cards from the third Neutral faction, which can be used in any deck. Within all three of those factions there are 4 colors; Red is for Military or Command, Blue is for Force Users, Yellow is for Rogues and Gray is a neutral color, but it can still have the designations for Faction – Hero, Villain or Neutral. Which colors you can have in your deck is determined by which characters you build your deck around.
You start with a number of Characters in play, like Dooku here on the left. You can choose a number of characters whose point values that add up to 30. Dooku has two point values of 11 and 15. If you start the game using only one copy of his die, he is worth 11 points. If you choose to use two copies of his dice (making him “elite” Dooku), he is worth 15. So in either case, you could pair him with other Villains characters who are worth up to 19 points, or 15 points respectively.
If you pair him with other Blue characters, you can only include blue and gray cards in your deck. If you pair him with a Red character, then you can have Blue, Red and Gray cards in your deck. Same with Yellow, or you can go rainbow and find some assortment of characters that give you access to all colors while deck building.
This is probably my favorite aspect of the game, Like WoW tcg and VS 2PCG, we get to build decks around a character, but here we get to mix and match characters which also dictate which cards can go in your deck. You can choose to play Darth Vader and then decide if you want to pair him with a Blue, Red or Yellow character to play a Mono-Blue, Blue-Red or Blue-Yellow deck. Awesome design!
The dice that come with Character, Upgrade and some Support cards always have their 6 sides mapped out on the card for easy reference. Characters have their health printed at the top right, and when a character takes damage equal to its health, they are removed from play along with their dice and any upgrades attached to them. The dice symbols are shown at the left on the player help cards available in the Starter Sets (One built around Kylo and another built around Rey from The Force Awakens).
You can spend an Action (more on this later) to one or all of your dice that share a symbol. If you resolve your dice that have Ranged Damage showing, for example, you’d get to deal the value of that ranged damage to your opponent’s characters. Melee and Ranged damage are just different types of damage that can’t be resolved together and interact with other cards that look for their respective types. Otherwise, they both serve to just damage opposing characters.
Focus allows you to turn another die in your dice pool to any side. Disrupt will discard a number of your opponent’s resources from their resource pool (these resources, represented by tokens, are used to pay for other cards or powers). Shields will give you a number of Shield tokens to distribute on your characters, these are removed when they take damage to avoid that damage. Discard will make your opponent discard a number of cards from their hand, while Resources will ad a number of resource tokens to your pool.
The Special Symbol will refer to very specific powers that are defined on the card relating to that die. For example, the Special Symbol on a Light Saber will deal 2 unblockable damage to a character of your choice, getting around their shields.
Game play consists of shared Rounds, where players take turns executing Actions, one at a time in any order you choose. A game starts with players drawing 5 cards each from their decks and deciding to mulligan any number of them back into their deck, which is shuffled, and then drawing that many cards returning their hand to 5. You can mulligan your whole hand, a few cards from your hand, or no cards if you choose.
After you Mulligan, players role the dice from their characters and add the total values shown to determine who will get to choose which Battlefield to use and ultimately who will play the first action (or start with initiative, if you’re an old VS. player). Each deck is built including a Battlefield card that is not shuffled into your deck, and each player brings one to the game. I’ll explain more about the Battlefield and claiming it later.
The player whose Battlefield is chosen gets to act first, but the other player is awarded two Shield tokens that they can distribute any way they choose among their characters. Starting with the player who controls the Battlefield, players take turns playing Actions from among those shown on the card to the right. You can choose to do one of those actions or pass and when both players have passed, the round ends. If you pass your action, and your opponent plays an action you can choose to play an action when it’s your turn to do so. The Actions are as follows:
You can play a card from your hand, paying its resource cost (I’ll cover more about card types and costs later). You can activate a character or support card; when you activate a card you tap or exhaust it and roll any dice it has and do any powers it grants when activated. The dice and their resulting sides are added to your dice pool, but are not resolved immediately, that is done by taking another Action…
…You can Resolve dice from your dice pool; this is done by choosing which type of dice symbol you want to resolve. For example, if you have two dice showing Ranged damage and another showing a Resource symbol, you would have to choose one of those two symbol types to resolve. If you choose the Ranged dice, you may resolve both of them if you want, or just one, saving the other for a later turn (but you’d need a good reason to want to spend a later action on that). Each Ranged symbol will have a value next to it, and that is how much damage it will deal. You can choose a different target for each die, or direct them all to the same target. Some symbols will have a “+2” next to the ranged symbol. These are modifiers that can’t do Ranged Damage on their own, they only modify the amount of ranged damage showing on another die from your dice pool. If you don’t have another die showing ranged damage, you won’t be able to resolve the modifier without some other card or power using it in another way.
The same goes for other symbols, you can choose to resolve all your dice that give you resources as one Action; if they have modifiers, they will need to modify another die that is giving you a number of resources already. When you resolve a die, you move it from your Dice Pool back to the character it belongs to and get its effect.
Because dice can be finicky and sometimes refuse to bend to your will to land on the sides you want them to, you can spend an Action to discard a card from your hand to re-roll any number of dice in your dice pool. This along with the Focus symbol some dice have helps mitigate the randomness in the game, it presents an interesting choice of spending an Action and a card to try and “fix” the bad luck you’ve had.
Another Action you can take is to use a card action from a card in play. Cards will say if they have powers that can be used as an Action. Sometimes you can use them multiple times in a round and sometimes they will require you to Exhaust the card, which means you’ll only get to use it once a round.
The final Action available is claiming the Battlefield. Either player can take this Action, whether they currently control it or not. Once you Claim the Battlefield you can not take any further Actions in the round, essentially passing on all your Actions for the rest of the Round. Also, once you’ve claimed the Battlefield in a round, the other player can not claim it back. It stays under your control until the next round of which you will also have the initiative to take the first Action. When the other player finishes all the Actions they want to take and passes, the Round ends.
When you claim the Battlefield, you’ll also resolve its “Claim-” effect. The Separatist Base above has the simple ability of forcing your opponent to deal 1 unblockable damage to one of their characters.
When a round is over, there is an upkeep to begin the next round. Players ready (untap) all of their characters and support cards in play and return any dice from the dice pool to them. You may discard any number of cards from your hand that you don’t want and draw from your deck until you have 5 cards in hand again. Each player also gets 2 resources added to their resource pool; note that any resources you had left over from the previous round remain so you are able to carry them over from round to round.
I’ve covered Character cards and Battlefield cards, so now it’s time for the rest. To the left here, are two types of Upgrade cards. One is a Weapon and the other is an Ability. These are flavor types that also have interactions with other cards. A Sith Holocron for example, is a zero cost Equipment Upgrade that will “teach” one of your characters a new Ability for free, if you roll its special side.
Upgrades have a cost in the top left corner that you’ll need to pay in resource tokens when you play them. They basically attach to one of your characters, and add the dice that comes with them to that character. Now when you activate the character, you will roll their upgrade dice alongside their character dice that they started the game with.
You can only attach up to 3 upgrades to one character. At any time you can replace an already attached Upgrade with one from your hand with the chance to subtract the cost of the upgrade in play from the cost of the one you are playing. This allows you to upgrade an upgrade as the game progresses for more expensive ones. It puts the upgrade in… um, upgrade?
The other two types of cards are Events and Support cards. Both have a resource cost required to play in the top left corner. Events are one time use cards played from your hand and go to your discard pile after they are played. Support cards go into play and stay there giving you different sorts of effects and powers you’ll be used to from other card games.
Some support cards do have a die of their own, and you can activate them to roll those die into your die pool. The AT-ST at the end of this article shows an example of one of those Support cards.
As I said, I was hooked just playing the two Starter decks with some cards switched out from the 18 boosters I bought that day. In the following week, I’d find out that finding product in a store was nearly a fluke, as it’s been so popular that it’s sold out almost everywhere. This is a good problem to have in that at least we know that game is popular and should have legs, but bad in that it’s going to be hard to get cards to play with and even harder to recruit your friends into it. Hopefully, Fantasy Flight catches up to the demand and we’ll see a game that we can all enjoy for years to come.
For Eric, Dane and I, we are lucky to have a friend who’s been buying and selling cards since it was released and he was able to hook us up with enough cards to get something going. This last Wednesday we went and played in a small local 8 man tournament at Maximum Comics here in Las Vegas with some “real” decks for the first time. Since we were completely brand new to the game, and got our cards pretty much the same day, we searched around for some deck lists to play. I chose a Vader/Raider deck (click the link to check it out) that had won a recent tournament, and I’ll write about that experience and the deck later next week.
It was a blast, even being pretty green to the game and I learned more while playing there than reading the rule book. After playing I have an idea for a more original deck and as we all play more games and get better, we’ll write about more decks and experiences here. Stay Tuned!
(I will figure out how to get a 6 cost card to work… I promise!)