For all you Imperial Assault players out there, we’ve just got a new treat in the form of Return to Hoth, Imperial Assault’s first big box expansion! Having just released in the last two weeks, Return to Hoth is somewhat of a hot commodity right now. More importantly, however, the expansion adds an absolute boatload of content to the game. While eventually we’d like to give Return to Hoth a proper review, for now we have a complete unboxing, as well as photos of all the cards. If you’re sitting on the fence as to whether or not you want the game, maybe this can help you decide!
The box is bigger than Twin Shadows, but smaller than Imperial Assault’s. Compared to Imperial Assault, it’s the same perimeter, but this box is not as tall. Return to Hoth’s box is the standard size that most designer games use.
The box, as usual per Fantasy Flight, has a gorgeous insert with horrible utility. It’s enough to fit the pieces and cards when they’re bagged and unpunched, but once you punch all of the cardboard, you can’t possibly fit everything in the box unless you remove the insert.
Return to Hoth features a full-sized rulebook, just about the same size as Imperial Assault’s campaign guide. Here is a list of all the included components.
Unlike Twin Shadows, this is a fat campaign book. It clocks in at 39 pages, and has a hefty weight to it. Return to Hoth includes a full-fledged campaign, so it’s no surprise that the rulebook is so thick.
The manual once again has a campaign tracker on the back, with a couple of notable differences from IA’s original campaign, such as the predefined interlude and finale missions.
Four Player Skirmish Map
This is what we’ve been waiting for! The four player skirmish map. I’m particularly excited for this; it will allow for group play outside of just the campaign. If your group loves Imperial Assault but feels frustrated by the swingy elements of its campaign mode, four player skirmish will be a godsend.
Regular Skirmish Map
Here’s the standard skirmish map we get. Always good to have more of those, right?
We get four skirmish missions here, two for four players, and two for the normal game. Four player skirmish is basically team deathmatch, with no type of objective play save for bonus points from terminals. The other two missions are just as creative as what we’re used to seeing from skirmish cards.
There are eight story missions to be found in Return to Hoth, and seven side missions. Three of these correspond to certain heroes, as we’re used to seeing, and four of them impart special “bane/boon” reward cards, as will be detailed more below. Overall, 15 new missions is nothing to scoff at, and will add ridiculous longevity to a game that’s already packed to the brim with content.
You get sixteen whopping miniatures here, about half of what you get in the core game. Not bad. Three new heroes are included, as well as four new unit types for the Imperial. We’ve got the tank, Wampas, HK Assassin Droids, and Snowtroopers. The latter three each have minis to accomodate both regular and elite versions.
Units and Their Abilities
SC2-M Repulsor Tank
The first new “massive” figure we’ve gotten since the AT-ST, the Repulsor Tank is a pretty mini indeed.
Like the AT-ST, the tank can be broken down into smaller pieces. I can’t think of many reasons why they would separate the base, aside from painting purposes.
This is a terrifying figure. It’s focus fire ability basically transforms it into an E-Web Engineer on steroids that can also move and shoot, should it choose. I imagine players will either have to run from this beast, or focus fire on it to bring it down quickly.
This is what everyone really wants, right? The Wampas are new large figures, and they’re expertly molded. I really like the way these guys turned out. Can’t wait to paint a blood soaked elite one!
Also scary. These guys can only come out in the snow in campaigns, but are terrifying nonetheless. They’ve got some seriously nasty surges, but luckily for Rebel players, might not be able to trigger them often because of their dice. Speaking of which, I believe this is the first double red figure we’ve gotten.
As usual, the troopers look great. No complaints here.
It’s almost hard to see why you would choose regular troopers over these guys! They are, of course, more expensive, and don’t have the reroll support ability that regular stormies have. That being said, Rebels will have to keep these guys on the move unless they want them to be healing all the time. Also, those Elites look preeeetty impressive, with their focus/weaken surge and Efficient Travel abilities.
HK Assassin Droids
HK Assassin Droids were a weird choice for a Hoth expansion, but I’m sure everyone’s happy to have some new droid figures. So many cards that use the “droid” keyword, and only Probes to use them on until now (for Imperials, at least). These guys should be fun.
Staying true to the spirit of droids, these guys look relatively easy to bring down, but incredibly dangerous while they’re alive. The elite figure in particular will shake things up, being able to hide behind crowds and snipe units from afar with its Priority Target ability and exceptional accuracy from blue dice. Yikes.
Verena is the postergirl of Return to Hoth, and very well designed from an aesthetic standpoint. It’s nice to get a standout female figure, aside from just Diala. Jyn’s crouched stance and Saska’s plain standing pose didn’t do much to pop out.
Verena’s hero card abilities are nothing to scoff at. She’s meant to be thrown into close quarters battle, and she will punish imperials hard if they allow her to get close. She can interrupt and attack as much as her strain allows, and is rewarded defensively for being up close. Imperials, you better bust out those elite HKs, or you might be in trouble.
Verena loses her defense bonus when wounded, and better not try any attribute tests. It’s also interesting to note that Verena is our first hero that doesn’t have a triple-die attribute check. She’s clearly meant for offensive play.
As if Verena didn’t seem awesome enough, her cards really seal the deal. For starters, she’s got two starting weapons (the single die knife is pretty interesting), but she really shines in her abilities. Master Operative can increase her endurance to 6 (a first for any hero), potentially allowing her three interrupt attacks before she strains herself out. Combat Momentum and K’tara Maneuver can keep her moving, and everything else gives her some kind of bonus for being adjacent. On paper, Verena sounds extremely powerful, but could potentially be badly crippled if the Imperial doesn’t allow her to get close at all. All her abilities focus on either rewarding her for being close, or moving her so that she can be close. Stormtrooper hoards will poop their pants if they see her running at them.
At last, we have a Mon Calamari unit! The mold quality is something Admiral Ackbar would be proud of. This is a nice looking model, and also pops out well, similar to Verena. His flowy trenchcoat is fun.
Loku is our first dedicated sniper unit! Return to Hoth is definitely experimenting with some interesting dynamics by combining several close combat bruisers (Verena, Wampas) with long range snipers (Loku, HK Assassins). Similar to Saska Taft from Twin Shadows, Loku has his own tokens to play with. These recon tokens allow him to “mark” certain enemies, which will give both him and friendly units passive attack bonuses. Cool. Finally, Loku is meant to be played from a distance, as evidenced by his weak health/defense, and passive accuracy bonus. Fortunately, he has high speed AND endurance (another first for heroes) to be able to get himself out of the action.
Another thing to note is that Loku also has changes to the attribute check formula. He has one strong trait, and two very weak ones. He’s clearly not good for much else than his giant, shiny eyes.
Loku’s starting weapon adds accuracy, which gives him an automatic +3 (when combined with the ability from his hero card) accuracy. I REALLY like the idea of Scouting Report, which makes opening crates a free action. With his high endurance and it costing 1 XP, this one’s a no-brainer for me. Overwatch also gives Loku the equivalent of Jyn’s Quick Draw ability, which is pretty cool. It seems like the challenge with Loku will be using those tokens wisely–after all, you only get two. To get max utility out of them, the players will have to work together to ensure that enemies are swiftly eliminated. Loku looks like a really interesting hero and I’m excited to see what he can do.
Our third and final hero, MHD-19. I never thought I’d see a Medical Droid as a playable hero, but I like the idea of it! I always thought Medical Droids looked much more sinister than they actually are, so it’ll be fun playing as one that isn’t afraid to spray some lasers blasts into his enemies.
MHD is, obviously, a healing support unit. I was wanting to see how Fantasy Flight would handle a unit like this, and I think it’s exceptionally clever that they chose a unit who could handily heal others, but not himself (out of virtue of being a droid). Additionally, we now have a droid hero! That’s fun. His ability to draw healing cards out of the supply deck is huge, and I’m wondering how powerful his auto-focus will be. It looks like he’s meant to hang around and support, but can blast enemies hard in a pinch if he needs to.
His wounded side. 3/3 endurance and speed is pretty ugly, and he loses auto-focus. He’s definitely a lot more useful healthy.
MHD’s deck is…interesting. Bacta Injector will be incredibly useful for stun-happy Imperials; it’s never a bad thing to have an ability that removes conditions, and at 1 XP, it definitely seems like one of his best cards. Fuel injection also looks really useful, both for the extra speed and free movement points, which are always more than welcome. For a unit that will often need to be adjacent to allies, he’ll have to have reliable means to keep up with them. Field surgeon also looks like a life-saver (literally) for heroes that are near death. I could see myself abusing that one when the Imperial player has brought me down to one healthy hero. Other than that, Bacta Radiator is an awesome 4XP card, because any chance to heal strain is worth its weight in gold.
Other Units/Skirmish Cards
Hero Skirmish Cards
As usual, our three heroes get their own skirmish cards, that all capture the basic essence of their campaign versions, albeit weaker. Verena is once again an offensive powerhouse, with the valuable ability to do two attacks, even if one is just a red die. Loku can do damage from faraway, and MHD can heal pretty effectively. It’s far too early to tell how these will perform in the long-term for skirmish.
As usual, Return to Hoth has a few “token” characters, released on the side as figure packs. The most notable is Princess Leia, who is following the trend that R2-D2 set of having both a skirmish and a campaign card. My first impression of Leia is that she looks really good. Battlefield leadership would be absolutely priceless in both campaign and skirmish, and “Aggressive Negotiations” could seriously nerf the Imperial player in a campaign. And then there’s Military Efficiency, which clever players could use to great effect if they build their Command Card pile well enough. Let’s not forget that she has passive surge cancel AND can heal. Wow. I’ll take her over Han and Luke any day. It makes me wonder if she’s been beefed up to actually be worth bringing in, especially when using Han, Luke, or Chewbacca is basically a death sentence in a campaign. However, this is all speculation; we’ll see how well she actually performs in reality.
When compared to Scum and the Empire, the Rebels could always use some more generic grunts. The Echo Base Troopers look pretty awesome for their price, if not just for their movement bonuses. Nothing super interesting to say about these guys, but they could definitely be worth their weight.
Dengar’s here! All we need is 4-LOM and Zuckuss, and we’ll have Empire’s bounty hunter lineup complete! That is, of course, if you’re willing to pretend one of the Trando Hunters is Bossk (but really, let’s just get a card for him too). Anyway, Dengar’s here, and he looks like a pain. This dude just walks around, giving out harmful conditions like they’re going out of style. The guy is literally built to inflict conditions. I don’t like the idea of playing against that. BUT, we’ll see how well it works in practice. Dengar’s someone that I feel like I’d have to play with before I can make any final judgments on how useful he is.
Following in the footsteps of General Weiss and Kayn Somos, Sorin is Imperial Assault’s new villain of the week. He doesn’t seem to be anything particularly remarkable, almost like a beefed up Elite Officer. The biggest problem I see with him is that he requires adjacency to use his effects. I guess we’ll see how useful he ends up being. Stun, of course, is always valuable.
Skirmish Upgrade Cards
Finally, we’ve got two new skirmish upgrades. Something look off to you? That’s because these two cards are new “neutral” skirmish upgrade cards that can be used by anyone.
In Return to Hoth, we get two targeting computers. We have a lot more skirmish upgrades now than we did with just the core set, and I like the idea of some of them being attachments. This is a small thing, but will help to add a little bit of variety into skirmish.
Imperial Class Decks
Return to Hoth includes not one, but two Imperial Class decks, both of which look pretty interesting. We’ve got “Precision Training” on the right, and “Armored Onslaught” on the left. I’m a bit more impressed with these than I was with Twin Shadows’ “Inspiring Leadership,” which I’m still not sold on.
Pretty much every single one of these cards deals with attacking, and I mean like, the actual rolling dice part of attacking. This deck seems like it’s all about ensuring your best odds when those dice hit the table. Many of them allow for rerolls, and then there are extra surges, and accuracy/pierce boosts. I suppose “precision training” is fitting, because this deck will ensure that none of your attacks miss. Overall, this looks like a pretty “safe” deck that will be easy for newer players to use. It doesn’t target any type of unit or playstyle, and will grant simple, easy-to-understand bonuses that will, aside from attachments, apply universally to your figures. I can dig it.Now, this one looks a lot more interesting. This is, without a doubt, a bruiser deck. Everything in this deck revolves around hitting hard and heavy. It seems tailored to Heavy Weapons, Droids, and Vehicles, but many of these cards could benefit all types of units. Mortar is devastating, basically giving the Imp a free frag grenade every turn. Heavy Firepower is also tempting, allowing you to get maximum use from your red die units. I shudder to think of what this card would do for Darth Vader. Automated Repairs is also a cheap card that will give a lot of longevity to your vehicles, weapons, and droids. With the new Repulsor Tank and HK Assassins, this is definitely the deck I’m most eager to experiment with.
Defensive Tactics is the first new agenda set. Looks interesting enough. I don’t really care for depleting cards and “one and done” cards, so this one doesn’t do much for me, but I’m sure plenty of people will get use out of it.
Natural Warfare is our second set, favoring creatures and terrain effects. Again, full of one-and-dones and depletes, so not really my style, but fun nonetheless.
Level 1 Items
That Under-Barrel looks a lot of fun, and could be pretty devastating when combined with Fenn’s Havoc Shot. Other than that, the other ones don’t stick out much to me. They could be as useful as their players want them to be.
I’m on the fence with the Cybernetic Arm. It’s original and creative, but the -2 health hurts. I could see this being great for a hero with great strain abilities, combined with something else that increases their health so the life loss doesn’t hurt too much. Either way, +1 endurance is huge. The Stun Baton looks nice on paper, but I worry about the surge frequency with a red/blue die, and I’m not sure I’d want to sacrifice valuable strain for its ability. It could certainly be useful though. The Hazard Suit is a creative spin on armor. I usually don’t go for depleting cards, but for players who use them, this could be really valuable.
The Valken looks alright, but I’ve never understood the “double action to focus” thing, which is also on one of the item cards in the core set if I remember correctly (as an attachment). To me, it would almost always make more sense to double attack. However, this one can shoot through figures, so that could be really useful against an Imperial who likes to block. The Vibrogenerator looks useful for red-die weapons. I wish you didn’t have to use it when you declare the attack, because it’d be a lot more useful if you could see the die results first. Still, this could be helpful in a desperate situation. The concussion grenade is nice, but given the amount of explosives you can get from crates or class deck abilities, I’d rather spend my credits on something that doesn’t deplete.
Here are the three hero-specific rewards, the ones that correspond to their respective missions. The increased health and once-per-mission free medical card is nice for MHD, but I’m much more intrigued by Iron Hand and Battle Vision. Iron Hand (for Verena) in particular is insane. That, combined with her interrupt ability, would make her near-unstoppable. Battle Vision is nice, and adds just a little more “oomph” to Loku’s recon action.
There are special campaign missions in Return to Hoth that will give these rewards, a new feature to Imperial Assault. Players of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Saga Expansions will have some familiarity with the banes/boons system. Should the player fail, they’ll get a permanent nerf on their potential, whereas a win will give them some kind of awesome ability. It’s odd to me that all the boons are one-use, whereas the banes are permanent. I don’t have experience with the new campaign, but I imagine that this was a carefully calculated balancing decision.
As usual, each unique unit has their own special command card. Also as usual, they each appeal to some special ability that they have. Not a lot to say here.
There are six new skirmish cards in Return to Hoth. There will be good ways to utilize all of these, so I’m sure skirmish players will be thrilled. As someone who doesn’t have competitive players to keep up with, I don’t really play skirmish much, and especially not on a competitive level so it’s hard to determine if any of these are particularly gamechanging.
The map is pretty self explanatory, so I didn’t feel the need for commentary under every image. We’ve got a lot of new pieces. I was surprised to find that almost all of the snow pieces simply had more snow on the back, albeit interior room. Either way, we’ve got lots of new possibilities here. It’s nice to see a change from the desert/forest/base tiles that we’re all used to seeing.
Well, that’s everything! Clearly, Return to Hoth is Imperial Assault’s biggest expansion yet. Did you like what you see? Then check it out! Return to Hoth can be found for $40 on Amazon on a good day, and around $50 otherwise. You don’t need me to tell you if you want Return to Hoth or not. If you like Imperial Assault, you’ll probably be able to tell from these photos, and if you’re not a fan of the game, I can’t see a reason why this one would suddenly change your mind. In any case, between all the new units, maps, and sixteen campaign missions that are included, Return to Hoth will guarantee hours upon hours of playtime. Have fun!