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Imperial Assault Strategies: Empire

In All, Imperial Assault, Return to Hoth, Star Wars, Strategies by Zach Hillegas11 Comments

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It’s happened. The Force Awakens came out, and it was wonderful, and we all basked in the valhalla of Star Wars stuff that surrounds us everywhere, not unlike the Force itself. Only, there’s one problem–you’re still losing to that rebel scum in Imperial AssaultLast time in our Imperial Assault Strategies article, we focused on the Rebels. If your opponents’ rebel group has learned some new tricks, or has been squashing you from the beginning, here are some tips to bring out the Empire’s big guns and show them their true place in the galaxy.

Note: These strategies are meant for the campaign mode. The skirmish is another game entirely, and a highly competitive one. The campaign is more of an experience, and prone to certain balance issues. This article is primarily intended for players who get steamrolled by rebel players, though it can potentially help out any Imperial player who wants to up their game. Without further ado:

Focus Fire
focus fire

Don’t let the Wookiee win.

This is one of the most important and effective strategies, and it’s hard for me to see why any Imperial player would not do this, but here goes: you’ll want to systematically focus on wounding each hero, one by one.

Here’s the thing about the Rebels—they’re powerful. They can heal! They can attack twice! They can move farther! They have special abilities! I’ve found that, if you incur damage on the Rebels randomly and all over the place, they will usually find ways to keep on trucking. Whether it be through a rest action, some kind of special ability, or an item card, it’s not hard to recover small amounts of HP here and there as the Rebels. It’s necessary then, as an Imperial, to wipe them out before their abilities can save them.

I’m talking about concentrated focus fire. Choose a rebel unit, and put all of your guys on them until they are wounded. Got two Stormtrooper groups? Make every last one of them attack the same hero. Got Trandoshan Hunters waiting after that? Send ‘em in. Do everything you possibly can to waste heroes one by one, and they will stop dropping like flies. You can often dispatch heroes in one full round if you focus fire efficiently enough, and if not, sometimes a double rest is the only course of action that can save them, which is a colossal waste of would-be-useful actions.

Naturally, this isn’t always a viable option. Sometimes your units will be spread out, and other times it’s not worth the trouble of going out of your way to fire on somebody if they’re well-protected. You really just have to be smart here. The point is that you’ll want to systematically bring down Rebel heroes, instead of just sporadically firing upon whichever one is closest. If you can’t reach one that you’ve already been firing on, focus on another and make him/her your “secondary target.”  Whatever you do, just make sure that you’re shooting to kill.

Also, focusing on Rebels that are important to the mission is a good start when determining who to aim for. Objective heavy missions that require a lot of movement and technical attribute tests, for example, will be hindered if Jyn or Mak go down. Remember that wounded heroes have less movement, strain, and suck at passing attribute tests. It’s a good rule of thumb to look at whatever hero is most important to the mission, and bringing them down first.

Set blasters to stun (and make ‘em bleed)
stun bleed

“Let ’em go, Larry. Our work here is done.”

This was advice that I also put in the Rebels Imperial Assault strategy article, but I dare say that stun and bleed are even more effective if the Empire uses them. These effects are devastatingly more powerful against the Rebels for a couple of reasons. First of all, the rebels’ actions are simply more precious. While the Imperial has a variety of expendable troops, each Rebel player only gets two actions every round. Furthermore, Rebels are capable of resting and double-attacking, making their action economy all the more important; removing a rebel action is absolutely crippling in ANY context. If you’re playing to win, use stun every opportunity that you have.

Another oft-ignored element of stun is that it can impede interrupt actions and special abilities. For example, if you really want to shut down Jyn Odan’s Quick Draw (which will be a pain in your shiny Stormtrooper butt in the hands of a smart rebel players), just stun her before she gets a chance to use it. Being stunned means you can’t perform attacks, and that translates into special actions. If Jyn is stunned, no quick draw for her.  This would also be a killer for Gideon, whose Command/Masterstroke is incapacitated if the unit he wants to command is stunned. If he’s commanding double attacks from the wookiee every turn, just stun that Wookiee and laugh at the old man as he shoots you with his panzee starter gun.

Bleed is also just the worst for the Rebels, because of their ability to incur strain, another thing that Imperial units lack. Clever rebel players will make sure that they’re ALWAYS taking max advantage of strain-moving and special attacks, so bleed can ruin them. At worst (for you), they’ll remove the bleed the first chance they get, effectively wasting an action (and in that sense, functioning the same way as a stun). At best, they will keep the bleed, which will deprive them of two precious strain every round, which will convert into actual damage if they leave it on for too long. Given that most characters rock an endurance of 4, one full turn can fill up half of their strain. Brutal.

For stunning, Royal Guards (normal and elite) are your most reliable choice, but Elite Imperial Officers can also get the job done. These are the only units that can stun in the base game. As far as bleeding goes, Nexus and Trandoshan Hunters are your go-to guys. Nexus are particularly brutal for bleeding, as it’s a free effect that doesn’t even require a surge. Ouch. Trandos can also make it happen, but it’s often tempting to go for their other surges instead, so I’ll leave that one up to you.

Finally, Imperial Industry is a reward card you can get that’s just stupid powerful. It allows you to add various surge abilities to any unit, one of them being stun. If you can slap this on, say, Stormtroopers, then you’ll find that it’ll be pretty hard not to win any mission. There’s a reason why stun is only on two units, and if you unlock the ability to put it on anybody, it’ll pretty much break the game if abused. This one will definitely allow you to win, though it may come at the cost of your Rebels actually having fun, because being stunned every single turn is…not very pleasant.

Quantity over quality

“The next objective is around the corner! We’ve got this in the bag!”

No, but seriously, quantity does trump quality if you’re in command of the Imperial legions. I’ve found that, in almost every instance, it’s more advantageous to have lots of cheaper units as opposed to fewer expensive ones.

Here’s the problem: those dang heroes. They’re strong. Really strong. In fact, if they put their minds to it, they can bring just about any of your units down with deadly efficiency. This is one of the unfortunate drawbacks of powerful units–when you put them on the board, there’s a giant red target that appears over their heads. I don’t use the AT-ST very much, because it seems like every time it goes on the board, that rebel scum can bring it down in one round. Granted, this might not be the worst thing, as each of them will have wasted a turn to do so. However, I’ve found that it’s just more effective to rely on having an army of cheaper guys.

There’s a strange psychological effect that happens when you bring in lots of small guys. First off, the Rebels can never seem to agree on who to attack. Since the units are weak, the Rebels just kind of fire on whoever they can as they move along. While every group is different, I’ve consistently seen that the urge to focus-fire on a specific unit is largely dampened when none of your units are anything exceptional.

Group units, in addition, strangely seem to have a longer life than expensive guys. If your Rebel group is smart, they will keep a steady eye on your threat dial. I’ve found that many rebel players don’t focus very hard on killing your weaker units, because more often than not, they’re exceptionally easy to reinforce the turn right after. From a rebel standpoint, what’s the point of wiping a unit off the board if it’s just going to come right back? While, in my opinion, the best strategy is to strike a healthy balance between running and firing, many rebels don’t do this, and if not, your cheaper group units will begin to overwhelm them.

Remember that this is all coming from the context of the games I’ve played. I’ve played with many players, and it seems like, most of the time, they just can’t handle an army as well as a power unit, even if said army is full of expendable, easy-to-kill units.

Surpassing Their Activation Count

The other huge benefit of using cheaper units is that you may potentially exceed the Rebels in activations counts. In other words, you get more turns than them. This can be extremely helpful, especially if certain abilities depend on this. For example, take Jyn’s Quick Draw. You might notice that the player is eagerly waiting for you to activate the Trandoshan that Jyn has got her sights on. However, Jyn’s also gotta move because she’s got things to do in the mission. You’ll probably find yourself playing a game of chicken with said player, them waiting until the last possible moment to move Jyn so she can get that free attack in.

Well, if you have more activations, Jyn loses. Should you decide to move your Trandos last, she’ll eventually have to take her turn; if she really has to keep moving, she’ll have no choice but to move forward, likely losing her Quick Draw range if she has to turn a corner or move far away. It’s way too circumstantial to tell you how and where turn order will have a significant impact on the game, but it can, and it does, and look for opportunities to where you can gain the upper hand by taking more turns than them.

Call in the right reinforcements

You know those “open groups” you get to bring into every mission? Those are, well, they’re important, and choosing the wrong backup to bring into a mission is basically asking the Rebels to serve you a cold plate of galactic justice. Be wise with which cards you bring into battle. I could write a whole article on just this bullet-point, but I’ll try to spare everyone from that wall of text and I’ll condense it into a couple of points here:

Don’t buy what you can’t afford

little guy

Yes, the little guy on the right is often the better choice.

Shouldn’t this one be obvious? Well, if certain players I’ve observed are anything to go by, it’s not. This point is simple; if you can’t afford to pay for what you’ve brought in, your card will be useless. Take, for example, the AT-ST. This costs 14 points. If you’re gaining three threat per round in the opening missions, it’s going to take you five rounds to get this bad boy. Not only that, but you’re dead in the water if the Rebels focus-fire and bring ‘er down in one turn. You’ll want to bring in cards that scale well with the amount of threat you’ll have available. Instead of bringing in the AT-ST or Elite Royal Guards, consider bringing in, say, a Probe Droid; maybe a pack of cheap Stormtroopers. Maybe some normal Trandoshan Hunters. The Nexu can be pretty deadly, why not him?

The point is, cheap units are not bad, and you don’t always have to go elite. You’ll find yourself using elite cards more and more as the game goes on, but it’s not necessary in the beginning. It’s hard to narrow down exactly what are the best reinforcement choices, but at the very least, don’t choose something that will clearly and obviously take multiple rounds to afford. Not only does this give the Rebels tons of wiggle room, but it completely drains you once your threat has been spent on your mighty card. Sometimes expensive cards are good, but until you’re earning mad threat, it’s not bad to keep things conservative. UNLESS…

Keep an eye on starting threat, mission events, and potential Rebel allies

This is sort of the exception to the rule above, though they both work hand in hand. Your on-going threat level is not the only indication of threat you’ll have during the mission. Many missions start with the qualifier “Increase threat by twice the threat level and resolve an optional deployment.” This means that you’ll start with a boost of threat. By round two, you could be up to 9 threat. It might not be a bad idea to bring in a high level card that can capitalize on that starting boost.

Bringing in high level cards can be a viable option if you get enough bonus threat throughout the mission to justify it. In this case, it’s not a bad idea to bring in ONE expensive card that you can bust out relatively early from your bonuses, and then to have the rest of your cards be relatively cheap. This means that you can bring out a powerful card early, and then continue to reinforce with cheap units once you’re drained by the high cost.

There are other sources of bonus threat aside from the setup conditions. If the heroes bring in an ally, it can dramatically boost your starting threat amount. This one is tricky, however, because you have to choose your reserve cards before the heroes choose their ally. If you’re absolutely sure that they will bring someone in, you might be able to justify a higher level card. If, on the other hand, you pull an AT-ST and then they decide not to bring in Chewbacca, you may have just brought in a card that you’ll never get to play. Be careful.

Finally, mission events can modify your threat, so be prepared. This is mission-to-mission, so it’s hard to make a blanket statement, but take a look at what’s going to happen throughout, and if you get significant threat bonuses, you might be able to bring in some better cards. Overall, keeping an eye on any kind of threat bonus (influence cards can help you with this, too) will give you a better gauge of what to bring into battle.

Synergize with your class deck

This is a more important point that I’m going to explore in more detail just below, but long story short, make sure that your reinforcements jive with your Class Deck. The Endless Ranks Class Deck, for example, is clearly biased in favor of troopers. If, then, you’re loaded with trooper upgrades, what good is it to bring a bunch of Trandoshans into the mission? In a similar vein, Technological Superiority favors the use of Droids, and Inspiring Leadership (Twin Shadows) puts an emphasis on leaders. Don’t waste your class deck!

Choose units that will help with your specific mission objectives

The Royal Guards can wreak havoc with their stun if the Rebels need to move. If the Guards can’t keep up, throw an Officer in there to expedite their movement. Trandoshans deal devastating amounts of damage up close if you need to wipe someone out, and stormtroopers are good at blocking and dealing chip damage.

While there are unquestionably good units in this game, I don’t believe that there are units that are always more favorable than others to bring in. Every unit has its own pros and cons, and you’ll want to take a look at the mission conditions before you blindly bring random enemies into your hand.

Here are some scenarios to look for, and units you can use to supplement them:

Objective/Timed/Movement-heavy for Rebels: Royal Guards and Elite Officers all day. These are your only stun units, and as I’ve mentioned before, stunning is ridiculously effective. In any mission where the Rebels need to move, these guys can cause a thorn in their sides. Be aware—being melee units, Royal Guards can be easily dealt with if the Rebels just double-move, or if they stun you. Prepare for this. The Officer can help to close the distance gap by commanding moves, but you’ll want to supplement guards with ranged units in case you’re playing with clever rebels. Nexus can also screw things up, due to their blocking potential and easy bleed.

Combat/Escort missions: Trandoshan Hunters might as well be the spawn of Satan to Rebels when they’re trying to keep someone alive. At close range, I would argue that these are the most deadly units in the game. Elites can deal +2 shotgun damage, a strain, AND whatever they rolled, plus some nasty surges. Even with defense, I’ve seen Trando Hunters dish out 6-7 damage in one move before. If you need somebody dead, such as an important ally, send these jerks in; they’re a real pain if the Rebels don’t know how to deal with them. Stormtroopers are also a great choice when you need to dish out damage, since they come in threes. One group is good, but two is even better. Even a fully-nursed hero can fall from six to nine weak Stormtrooper hits.


This blockage is just downright mean. This mess can’t be bypassed by a double move, and should a hero move through the Nexu, they will be pummeled by the E-Web. If they don’t want to walk into that trap, they’ll have to use up additional actions to wipe out the Nexu. Nexus are usually better at being annoying distractions and blocking than they are at actually dealing damage.

Wide-open/spacious maps: Bring an AT-ST if you’re feeling bold. AT-STs are really easy for Rebels to deal with if there are hallways and corridors to hide in, but in maps where there’s lots of room, an AT-ST can fry anybody that’s trying to get by. E-Webs can also be good here, because they have exceptional range and they work best when they’re in a spot that Rebels have to be in.

Narrow corridors/long passes: E-Web Engineers and Nexus. If you slap an E-Web at the end of a hallway, Rebels will either have to send someone to sprint through, potentially leaving them alone and open to whatever lurks beyond, or they might try to go in together as a group and blast through. Even if your E-Web dies after one round, dealing two attacks worth of triple dice damage is nothing to scoff at. I’ve seen E-Webs bring heroes down 50% or more in one activation, but they’re only useful if they’re set up somewhere where they can’t be avoided.

A Nexu, on the other hand, is a wonderful blocker. If you really want to block a hallway, the AT-ST is your best choice, but that’s expensive, unwieldy, and quite often simply not a good choice. Nexus are cheap, extremely mobile, and can block four spaces at once. A common mistake I see people make with Nexus is trying to get raw attack power out of them. The Nexu seems really strong, but more often than not, I’ve seen it deal disappointing damage, only to die fairly quickly afterwards. As I see it, the Nexu works best as a distraction. Don’t expect much out of it, from an offensive standpoint. Just plop it down somewhere, let it block their path, and let it get some free bleeds in.

I mean, I could continue on this point and write an essay, but let’s get on with it and explore some other points.

Put the pressure on with Influence Missions

If the Rebels choose to challenge you on Imperial Industry, they’ll be missing out on two potentially awesome rewards.

Ah, Influence Missions. I love these. You can buy a side mission, and run it alongside the Rebel missions. These missions benefit you, so it’s in your best interest to play them, since you’ll get a sweet reward should you win. Here’s the thing, though: you don’t actually want to play these missions. Your imperial missions are offered alongside the two typical Rebel choices, and should the Rebels choose something that’s not your mission, you’ll get the reward for free.

Because of this, be wise with when you choose to “play” your side missions. In other words, lay them down when the other two choices for the Rebels are really tempting.

Some side mission rewards just kind of suck, and you’ll likely recognize them when you see them. Allies are also part of this. If the heroes have, say, Luke, and they get the option to recruit Chewie, it might not be worth their time since Luke is already doing what he does best for them. In this scenario, ally-side missions might not be enticing. If their missions suck, they might just choose your mission, and you’ll risk not getting your sweet card. This is what I did with Imperial Industry, and it was worth it a thousand times over. Be wise.

Relax, that threat isn’t going anywhere


“Alright, we’ll wait one turn longer…”

Yeah, I know those are First Order troopers, but just like them, sometimes your units might just have to wait. A common mistake I see Imperials play is using all of the threat, all of the time. Don’t do this; it’s unnecessary. You’ll always be gaining threat, and you don’t always have to use it right away. It’s hard to narrow this down, because it’s basically just a “be smart” point, but just don’t be overzealous. It’s okay to take a round or two of having less enemies on the board if it means you’ve got a nasty surprise in store later.

Look ahead at the mission events. This is the most important point here. If you see a good spawn point that’s about to open up, don’t waste your threat on the current round, wait until that spawn point opens up and bombard the rebel scum with your swift reinforcements. You’ve gotta be tactical with your threat, so just be reasonable. Don’t save it up excessively, but there’s also no need to bring it down to zero every round.

Figure out what you’re doing with your class deck
class decks

Each class deck has its own advantages; use them.

Seriously, these decks rock. One of the most common Imperial mistakes I see is when players just forget about their amazing class deck abilities. These are just like the Rebel class decks; each one serves a unique purpose, and if you harness its built in potential, you’ll do work. Get cards that complement each other, and for goodness’ sake, don’t forget to use them. I don’t know why this is such an easy thing to do, but it is. Here’s a small rundown of the class decks:

Military Might: Arguably the most all-around class deck, with an emphasis on combat buffs and Trooper optimization. Five out of the nine cards are exclusive to troopers. Play lots of Stormtroopers and E-Webs with this deck. I used this one in my first campaign, and by the end, my Elite Troopers were nightmares for the Rebels. With Twin Shadows out and Return to Hoth on its way, Heavy Troopers and Snow Troopers can also be buffed by this deck, which is something that’s truly terrifying to think about.

Technological Superiority: This deck is the “I want cool toys to play with” deck. There’s not one clear focus here, though it does give some extra power to droid units (which will also be scary if paired with Return to Hoth’s Assassin Droids). The main focus of technological superiority is attachments. Four out of nine cards are attachments, another one buffs cards if they have attachments, and one may as well be an attachment, being a universal buff to all droids. If you want to buff up your units in all kinds of ways, tech superiority is your deck.

Subversive Tactics: This may as well be the opposite of tech superiority, which is basically “I have a bunch of toys that make me better.” Instead, Subsersive Tactics focuses on making your enemies worse. Subversive Tactics deals heavy strain, and cripples the Rebels’ special abilities. Five out of nine cards deal strain in some capacity, while another one gives a bleed surge (which deals strain) to its attached unit. Two more of them give effects based upon how much strain rebels have.  The general consensus I’ve heard is that this is the most effective deck, but we’ve shied away with it because we feel like it’s just not as fun to play with.

Inspiring Leadership: This one is a newer class deck, available only with the Twin Shadows expansion. This deck focuses on action economy, and heavily favors Leader units. Three of the cards revolve around the “command” action (and two of them can grant that ability to other units), while two of them focus on readying exhausted units to get more use out of them. This is an interesting deck that I haven’t fully explored.

Spending your Influence

Don’t buy influence cards you won’t use.

Opinions will differ widely regarding the use of influence cards, so I’m not going to attempt to write some catch-all advice. I will say that I very much prefer buying “in your play area” influence cards, and side missions. Why do I like these? Well, to be honest, I think they just make the game more fun.

My issue with the “one and done” cards is that they add yet another element of randomness that’s in favor of the Empire, which can be pretty frustrating to rebel players. They’re already dealing with random mission events, random spawn points, and unknown Imperial reinforcements. It never felt right to me whipping out some Influence card and saying, “OH, by the way, all of my Trandoshan Hunters now get red dice! Too bad for you, sucker!” It’s just another unforeseen, un-preventable factor against the rebel, and I just found morale to be higher when everything was on the table. Not only that, but I feel like I got more out of my passive cards anyway.

Overall, there’s an absurd amount of tactical decisions to make as the Imperial player, and I hope that some of these strategies will help you out if you’re getting crushed by rebels. The thing is, there’s so much more, and I had the same problem writing this article as I did with the Rebels one–there are just so many, to the point where I can’t fit them all into one article. I’d love to revisit Rebel/Imperial strategy in future posts, but I hope that this has been a nice healthy strategic dose for anybody who’s been struggling in their game. Good luck out there, soldiers!

About the Author

Zach Hillegas

Zach is an avid tabletop gamer, and he created Board Game Resource out of his love for the hobby, and his desire to see more people come into it. When he's not writing for or managing BGR, Zach might be hanging out with cats, hiking a mountain, spending time with his lovely wife, or writing about video game stuff for Insert Gamer. Zach has also enjoys creating digital character art. You can check out his (long neglected) gallery here, or follow him on Instagram at @artworkbyzach!


  1. Great article, mate. I went with the “Military Might” pack for my Imperials and the troopers went from “general nuisance” to “the Rebels are panicking again mwahaha”.

    Your painted minis look awesome!

    1. Author

      Thanks! Military Might is fun. It’s definitely the most straightforward out of the starting three decks, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective! That’s the first one I played and it’s still one of the most powerful decks I’ve used.

  2. Sad thing though I really can’t choose when to play an agenda mission. If I buy it it is immediately played. Only thing I can do is not buy it and hope it comes around another time.

  3. I’d really like an updated one when Bespin Gambit comes out. Lots of nice crazy stuff coming out for both Rebels and Imperials.

    If you do Skirmish games, an article on that would be awesome too!

    1. Author

      I would love to write more about Imperial Assault! I’m actually thinking of starting a site strictly devoted to articles for the Star Wars board games. There’s demand for it and I like to write about it. 🙂 Unfortunately, I don’t play much skirmish because lately it’s been really hard to get Imperial Assault to the table. I’ve only been able to play Return to Hoth a couple of times and it’s really sad. I’m looking to form a IA group though, so that might help me to get more content out, especially since Bespin Gambit’s coming out soon.

  4. I would appreciate more articles. With your help I will maybe grow into a worthy opponent for my Rebel friends.

    1. Author

      Just finished writing a new IA article last night…unfortunately this one’s for the Rebels. :p I’ll be publishing it soon, but I’d like to work on a complementary Imperial article to go up next week.

  5. One consideration you didn’t mention was whether you actually want to win. The Imperials always have lots to do and if your troops get killed you just go on to the next mission pretty quickly but the Rebels can get pretty fed up if they are constantly getting mangled and failing.
    Good Imperial players should consider (and possibly discuss with their group) whether they really want to play to the best of their ability (you did allude to this with regard to Subversive Tactics and One-and-Done cards)

    The other problem this game appears to have (and I haven’t played enough to be sure) is the snowball effect: the winner gets more rewards from each mission so unless the subsequent story missions are heavily biased the other way you are liable to just keep winning more and more.

  6. Zach, just got the game for X-Mas and started to play last night with my wife and my cuz (who is a more experienced player) and it was a great night! Really still learning the ropes still but I will read again the Rebel strategies article you wrote. I would be interested to any article or reference you would propose to help me out to become a better player.

    As well, you painted your minis or purchased a special set? They look awesome!

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