The 8 Best Star Wars Board Games in This Galaxy
UPDATE 12/12/2016: It’s been a year since this list was published. Star Wars Rebellion has been moved from “honorary mention” to #2, now that it’s been released
The time is upon us. At the time of this post’s publishing,
The Force Awakens Rogue One is a week away. How on earth can we handle such anticipation?! By playing board games, of course. The Star Wars fever is about to hit us hard, and between Star Wars and holiday season, now is a better time than ever to invest in Star Wars games. Fortunately, Star Wars is represented very well in the board game world as of right now, and things are only looking to get better. There have never been better Star Wars games on the market, and anyone who’s a fan simply must check these out.
Note that this is a list of the best Star Wars games currently available. As such, almost every title is published by Fantasy Flight Games. I don’t want to appear biased, but it’s hard not to give emphasis to one company when they’re responsible for 90% of the products that you’re covering. Indeed, Fantasy Flight and Hasbro are the only players in the board gaming world that are currently representing Star Wars, so their games make up this list.
If you’re one of those crazy people (like me) that are going to go in the theater early and likely wait hours in a stationary line, what better thing to do than sit down and play an awesome Star Wars board game?! If you disagree or feel like I missed something, sound off in the comments and share your opinion! Let’s get on with it.
Honorary Mention: Loopin’ Chewie
Okay, so this isn’t a super serious addition, but it definitely earns the title of “Best Star Wars Re-Skinned Cash Grab” of 2015. And I say that in the best way, because Loopin’ Chewie is just hilarious. A re-skin of Hasbro’s “Loopin’ Louie” children’s game, it seems like somebody in charge had an epiphany where they realized that “Louie” rhymes with “Chewie,” and that was that.
Loopin’ Chewie is obviously not the prime choice for adult game night, but it’s a great choice for kids. I decided to add it to the list based on how wonderfully silly it is. I mean, one of the description points on its Amazon page is “Crazy Loopin’ Chewie character flies in his Millennium Falcon vehicle.” It’s apparently a game where “Crazy Loopin’ Chewie” flies around in the Falcon, trying to knock down stormtroopers. This, of course, made me think of what Chewie does in his spare time when he’s not hanging out with Han, and the idea of him going Stormtrooper-tipping is so delightful that it earned Loopin’ Chewie a spot on this list. You just keep doing what you’re doing, you crazy Wookiee.
8 – Star Wars: Empire vs. Rebellion
This is one of the lesser-known Star Wars games on the market right now, but it’s there nonetheless. Empire vs. Rebellion is a standalone, light-medium card game that can be played in twenty minutes or so. Like every other Star Wars game ever, one player controls the rebellion, and the other the Empire.
Empire vs. Rebellion is a relatively simple objective-based card game, where you’ll play certain cards that have specific values to win objective cards, and whoever does this the most effectively will ultimately win the game. Of course, there is more to consider, such as the fact that every card has a resource cost and power value, so players will have to make tactical decisions throughout.
Note that this is different from Star Wars: The Card Game (covered later on this list), which is a living card game, and a magnitude of order more complex than Empire vs. Rebellion. EvR is a standalone, singular experience that can be played over and over. If you want something light, easy, and cheap (it’s only $11 online), this might be a great game for you.
7 – Star Wars RPG System
The reason I put “Star Wars RPG System” instead of a specific name is because there are not one, not two, but three of them, all released by Fantasy Flight Games.
Edge of Empire, Force and Destiny, and Age of Rebellion are three different tabletop RPGs, in the same vein as Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder. You get the whole shebang here: thick, hardcover rulebooks, character sheets, dice, and so on. You’re probably confused as to why there are three of them. The answer is that it’s all basically one big game. Each one of the three choices is powered by the same fundamental system, and are more or less compatible with each other.
Every game explores a different era, along with its own unique character classes, races, and abilities. Edge of Empire and Force of Destiny take place shortly after the first Death Star’s destruction, while Age of Rebellion is roughly Empire Strikes Back era. The games allow you to play as fringe characters, the rebellion, or Jedi respectively, so it’s up to you to decide which one you want to go with. For newer players, the best bet would be choosing one and going with it, which will likely give you endless hours’ worth of content. If you want to go deeper, then you might perhaps consider diving into the other two. I just hope you don’t like having money.
The Star Wars RPG system is definitely the deepest and most involved out of all the games on this list, but it’s gotten great reception among tabletop RPG enthusiasts. And hey, if it’s popular enough to justify three different versions, then it’s gotta be doing something right.
6 – Star Wars: The Living Card Game
Star Wars: The Card Game is a perfect option for you if you want practically endless content to play with. It’s a living card game, meaning it follows an expansionary release model, with new decks being released all the time.
Also published by Fantasy Flight (see a trend here?), Star Wars: The Card Game isn’t quite as popular as their other hits, such as Android: Netrunner, the pinnacle of competitive LCGs, or Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, which offers a unique co-op experience. Many feared for the longevity of SW:TCG, but it seems that, in recent times, it’s found its niche.
SW:TCG had somewhat of a rough launch. There were criticisms about the balance of the base set, and many felt that it was just a little too slow and clunky. It seems like FFG stepped up their game since then, because popular consensus seems to be that, with proper expansions, the game redeems itself in full and becomes a highly enjoyable, tactical experience. The game is definitely growing in popularity, though it’s unlikely it will ever pick up the same speed as Netrunner. Regardless, SW:TCG has many loyal fans, and if you’re interested in the LCG model but don’t care much for Netrunner’s cyberpunk setting (and, of course, if you’re a Star Wars fan), SW:TCG won’t disappoint.
This does suffer from the problem of needing expansions to be at its best, but, I mean, it’s a living card game; the entire point of LCGs is to buy more content and expand them. So, for this title, it’s not such a grievous offense.
5 – Star Wars Risk (2015)
Ah, Risk. The game everyone loves to hate. You might have a love hate relationship with the game (loving the lamentation of your enemies as you wipe them off the face of the earth, and hating when it actually ends up happening to you), or you might just hate it because you feel like it has outdated, primitive mechanics and too much luck, as many seasoned gamers do. I personally love me a good game of Risk, though I can understand the criticism that gets fired its way.
Why, then, is Risk on this list, and in fourth place to boot? Well, it turns out that this game isn’t really Risk at all. If Loopin’ Chewie wins the title of funniest Star Wars re-skin, then Star Wars Risk can be called the most clever Star Wars re-skin. Mechanically, Star Wars Risk plays much more similarly to an Episode I game, Queen’s Gambit, that’s long-gone but not forgotten. Queen’s Gambit was released by Avalon Hill way back in the days of Episode I, and despite the unfortunate amount of fan vitriol that the movie receives, the game was very well-received. It was appreciated as a fun game, both strategically and tactically, and well-balanced. It was a conflict game without some of the more cumbersome or overly convoluted mechanics of its other contemporaries. Unfortunately, Queen’s Gambit didn’t stick around for forever, and now, copies are worth their weight in gold, selling on Amazon right now for more than six hundred dollars. Yeah, six hundred, no typo there.
Enter Star Wars Risk. While I haven’t played Queen’s Gambit, word on the street is that Star Wars Risk feels like its spiritual successor. regardless of how similar it is or isn’t to Queen’s Gambit, it’s definitely not very similar to traditional Risk. It’s clear that Hasbro slapped the Risk name to appeal to mass audiences, and hey, can you really blame them? This is a win-win for everyone, as the game is digestable for casual audiences, meaty enough for modern tabletop gamers, and a potential bridge for people to explore the hobby more.
As far as how it’s actually played, the game carries out three different battles at once, which happen to be the three climactic sequences in Return of the Jedi’s final act: the attack on the shield generator, the assault on the Death Star II, and the duel between Luke and Vader. While the space battle over the Death Star is the final determinant of the victor, success in the other two battles can greatly bolster your abilities.
In the end of the day, this is not the Risk you know and love (or hate), it’s something quite different, and far deeper than what you might expect to find on a Target shelf. Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars games are top of the line, but they are either expensive, mechanically heavy, or both. These aren’t bad things, but that might not be your style. If you’re looking for a fun, tactical game that is affordable and all-inclusive, Star Wars Risk is a great choice.
4 – Star Wars: Armada
Oh, Fantasy Flight, why must you make our wallets hurt? In 2012, they gave us X-Wing: The Miniatures Game. Still going strong today (stronger than ever, actually), X-Wing made the Star Wars nerd inside of all of us get giddy with excitement over the prospect of buying little miniature, pre-painted ships that we could play with. And then they decided to give us Imperial Assault a couple of years later, and how could any fan resist that game’s siren song? As if it weren’t enough, they had to go and reveal Star Wars: Armada almost immediately after. It hurts so bad, yet feels so good.
Armada is kind of like X-Wing on steroids. This is a miniatures game where players move around capital ships that are engaged in epic battle against each other. Unlike X-Wing, which focuses on quick zippy dogfights, Armada‘s battles are deep, prolonged, and highly strategic affairs. The game feels like a battle between capital ships, and the difference can really be felt from X-Wing, which definitely feels much lighter. Instead of pulling a sudden u-turn, you’ll have to order your ship to change direction several turns in advance. Instead of having one set of guns, you’ll have squads of fighters you can order around. Instead of having a base hit count, you’ll have to appropriate the strength of your shields to different parts of your ship. Everything about this space combat game is bigger, heavier, and deeper than X-Wing. If X-Wing is a highly tactical game, Armada is far more strategic; unwise players will feel their folly as their ships get demolished by the enemy forces.
It’s a hard choice deciding between this and X-Wing. They’re two sides of the same coin, after all. I love them both to death, but I decided to put this one just behind X-Wing, if not just for accessibility. Both games are phenomenal, but X-Wing is shorter, cheaper (arguably), and a little less heavy, making it an easier game to jump into. That’s not to say that Armada doesn’t do some things better. For example, Armada has an objective system that makes it so battles aren’t strictly “destroy the other player dead,” which can become tedious in X-Wing when each player is down to one ship each in a cat and mouse game.
Armada is fantastic. There’s not another game I’ve played that captures the feel of galactic naval battles, and it really is satisfying moving around capital ships and feeling their power. Buyer be warned: Armada is on the pricier side. At $100 MSRP and $65 online, it’s not exactly cheap. Unfortunately, you’ll have to invest in expansions as well to get the most out of the game, so this is something you’ll want to commit to should you choose to buy it.
3 – X-Wing: The Miniatures Game
What can I say about X-Wing, except that it’s wonderful, addicting, and incredibly easy to play? Don’t let appearances fool you: X-Wing IS a miniatures game, but it’s easier than pie to jump into–in fact, a new player can learn the game and start playing in as quickly as ten minutes. I want to make this abundantly clear to readers, because one of the main reasons it took me so long to invest in X-Wing is because I just assumed that it was overly deep. Not that I have a problem with that, but I had already invested in Imperial Assault, so I already had a good, meaty portion of Star Wars tactical goodness. Well, it turns out X-Wing is easy, so if you’re looking for something that’s easy and yet ludicrously fun (and quick), keep reading.
X-Wing, as I kind of gave away in Armada’s description, is a dogfighting miniatures game. It’s all quite simple–you choose your ships, put ’em on the table, and then take turns moving them around, trying to destroy them with hot fiery laser death. That’s what’s great about X-Wing though, that’s really all it is. Yes, there are rules and mechanics and complexity, but the game comes down to “move ship, take action, attack other ship, rinse and repeat.” Of course, there’s so much variety in the ships that you can use, their pilots’ abilities, and in various upgrade cards that the game can be profoundly complex despite its simple fundamental mechanics. I love that about X-Wing, it’s so simple, and yet so ripe with tactical possibility. It really strikes the perfect balance between the two, which is something that many of games struggle to do.
The beef with X-Wing is the necessity of investing in expansionary content. Yes, you can play the game as-is from the core set, and yes, there is variety to be had, but it most likely won’t be long before you’re craving additional content. Even most casual players would probably want to invest in at least a couple of ships. If you spend about $50-$60 total, you’ll have a small amount of variety. $80-$90 will give you a lot more, and $110-$120+ will give you so many options that you could play for months on end and still not have tried out everything you could do. These costs are assuming that you paid $25 online for the core set, which is included in the costs I mentioned.
Fortunately, should you choose to invest, X-Wing is absolutely ripe with content. Pretty much every qualifying ship from the movies (the originals, at least) is represented, as well as a heaping dose of ships from the Expanded Universe. In the upcoming release wave, we’ll also get our first helping of ships from Star Wars: Rebels, the animated show that’s currently on. Furthermore, all of the ships are pre-painted, so they’re fun to play with and look quite nice if you just want to put them on display somewhere.
There are currently two core sets available for X-Wing, and they are both compatible with each other, as well as with the rest of the expansionary content. The older set includes one X-Wing and two TIE Fighters in their classic style, and the newer version is based off The Force Awakens and is re-skinned with the aesthetics of the new movie. It’s not just a re-skin though, the newer X-Wing/TIEs are upgraded versions of the originals, and thus have different stats. For a more exhaustive look at X-Wing, click the links below to check out our comprehensive review, and a shot-for-shot comparison between the old core set and the new.
2 – Star Wars Rebellion
Star Wars Rebellion is one of the most recently released titles on this list, and to our metrics, the second best. Rebellion, of course, is made by Fantasy Flight Games, the same company that has made the majority of games on this list. The difference with Rebellion is that, rather than follow a collectible model like X-Wing or Armada, or a continuous campaign style like Imperial Assault or Star Wars RPG, it’s a traditional board game that you can set up, play, pack down, and fully conclude in one session, no add-ons necessary.
Rebellion, at its core, is kind of like a galactic-scale version of Risk on steroids in just about every way. Indeed, this is a game that pits the Empire vs. the Rebellion, each player controlling one side. The giant board features a huge collection of planets both from the movies and expanded universe, and players will move around armies, assign familiar heroes (such as Darth Vader, Luke, Boba Fett, Lando, etc) to missions, and try to fulfill special objectives that will bring their side to victory.
What makes Rebellion special is its ability to so magically capture the spirit of the original movies, while telling its own story. Every element of Rebellion‘s design is catered towards making the game feel like the movie, resulting in an asymmetrical experience that challenges both players. The Rebel player is tasked with keeping their base hidden to the Imperial player, while fulfilling special objectives can bring them closer to victory, such as dealing surprise crippling blows to the Empire, sabotaging their production, or even blowing up the Death Star! Meanwhile, the Empire’s sole goal is finding the rebel base, and destroying it. Every turn, they learn a few more systems where the Rebel Base is not hidden, and with their indomitable fleet, they can scour the galaxy through force until they find it.
Every game of Rebellion plays out like an alternate reality version of the original trilogy. In one of our games, Luke joined the Rebellion without Obi-Wan’s help, the Death Star was never blown up, Obi-Wan survived the whole thing, and Luke was captured by Boba Fett (not Han), and successfully converted to the Dark Side, leading to rebel defeat in the last turn! Anything can happen in Rebellion, and one of the best parts of the game is reminiscing about the crazy story you just told through your game. It’s a long game, but it’s absolutely worth it for any Star Wars fan.
1 – Imperial Assault
Okay, is anyone really surprised to see this at the top of the list? I’ve only mentioned it about 85 times in this article so far. Yes, Imperial Assault is the winner here. Out of any game that’s out right now (or that I’ve ever played) this one feels the most “Star Wars” out of all of them. The game simple oozes with Star Wars in every aspect; everthing, from the look-and-feel down to the gameplay itself is just spot on, and it honestly feels like something straight out of a Star Wars movie is playing out on your table. It is by far my favorite Star Wars game of all time. It might even be my favorite board game of all time.
But, let’s forget about that for a second. Let’s just focus on the fact that Imperial Assault has so much in the box that it’s one of the best values in gaming history. That sounds…extreme, but I’m not kidding. There is so much inside Imperial Assault’s box, and buying the core set alone is more than enough to keep you satisfied, practically indefinitely. The game is essentially two games in one–it has a massive campaign mode that’s packed to the brim with content, and a competitive skirmish mode that pits players against each other in a tactical, 1v1 duel.
The campaign makes up most of the meat of the core set, but the skirmish is there so that the game will never get old even if you get tired of the campaign, which, by the way, is really hard to do. The game comes packed with thirty different missions, where a team of up to four Rebel heroes are carrying out objectives against a single Imperial player. After each mission, your characters can be upgraded and enhanced, and whoever wins any given mission will get a slight edge in how much they can add. There are only ten missions in any given campaign, as certain events and conditions trigger specific missions. This means that you could play three whole campaigns before you even end up playing all of the missions. Given that each mission averages between one and three hours of playtime (sometimes more), this is a ridiculous amount of content, and that’s not even accounting for changes in characters and players. Campaigns can play out completely differently depending on who the Imperial player is, as well as the characters that the Rebel players choose.
If you do happen to play that much and finally get sick of it, the skirmish mode can keep you going. This is much more similar to X-Wing, where two players simply build up a squad and try to kill each other. There are three skirmish maps in the box, and six different missions, which each add their own spin into the skirmish match, giving players various ways to earn points and gain an advantage. Not only that, but the game is packed with a huge amount of minis, so it’s very much unlike X-Wing and Armada where you’re practically forced to buy expansions to get longevity out of the game. Not the case with Imperial Assault; the core box will last you for eons, and if you end up liking it enough to the point where you ACTUALLY exhaust everything you possibly could out of the game, you’ll probably have played enough to make expansionary content worth your while.
Imperial Assault is also surprisingly accessible. Yeah, it’s not Monopoly, but I found that it’s a game that’s easier to learn than you would think it is. That’s not to say that it’s simple, but it looks far heavier than it is. My campaign group ended up being my sister, her husband, and my dad. While they all enjoy good board games, none of them had ever played a miniatures game, or really even any game that’s like Imperial Assault, and they completely ate it up. We had a lot of fun playing, and I was pleased to see that you don’t need to be a super serious hardcore gamer to enjoy this one. It’s intimidating, but give it a chance and you’ll more than likely have a lot of fun with it. There are some flaws, such as luck swings from time to time, and you can read about those in my Imperial Assault Review, but overall, I would call this the de-facto Star Wars game of our time right now. Imperial Assault already has a sizable amount of expansionary content, so it’ll be around for a while.
The game can be found for around $65 online. While this is comparatively expensive compared to other games, I can vouch a thousand times over for the sheer amount of content that the game includes. If you’re a Star Wars fan and a board game fan, this one is a no-brainer. However, it might not appeal to you specifically, so make sure to check out the review to make sure it’s right for you and your group! May the Force be with you.