Yesterday my Imperial Assault group wrapped up our first campaign. This is good, as the Imperial player leaves for China in a week.
A Short Story Drawn Out
It seems somewhat heretical reviewing a miniatures game based on the story it tells but there is a heavy narrative in Imperial Assault. The story is spread across six story missions – an intro every group plays followed by four story missions that vary based on mission outcomes and one of two finale missions. Interspersed between the story missions are side missions that allow the Rebel players to explore their personal stories, collect allies, and gain unique equipment rewards.
This makes for an interesting dynamic. Since only every other (or so) mission was relevant to the story, it was sometimes hard to keep track of the actual events that led from one story mission to another. Notably, near the end is a point where the Rebels go on two side missions in a row. That meant we actually went two weeks between story missions. Details can get a bit fuzzy unless (like an RPG) someone is writing some AP reports or taking notes on the game.
The basic story the campaign in the core set is that the Rebels are fleeing after the Battle of Yavin but stumble upon what appears to be a secret Imperial weapons project with devastating power. The Rebels investigate this project, run afoul of General Weiss – the director of said superweapon project – and have a climactic showdown in the finale.
While the story is short and to the point, it has a very Star Wars feel to it. A band of scrappy Rebels are fighting against the infinite resources of the implacable Empire.
Side Missions – Fun Detours
Side missions are little asides that don’t directly affect the direction of the campaign. These missions are all about the special rewards they grant: you can recruit Han, Luke, and Chewie as allies, get unique upgrades for each Rebel hero, or even get unique gear not otherwise available.
Two side missions are drawn after the intro mission. After a side mission is resolved the Rebels draw a new side mission to replace it. While the Rebel players always get to pick which side mission to go on, the Imperial player can spend influence to put an Agenda mission on the table. An Agenda mission counts as a third side mission with a reward for the Imperial player if it ends in an Imperial win. If the Rebels ignore it the Imperial automatically gets the reward – which can include the ability to deploy Darth Vader as an optional unit in any mission going forward so the Rebels better weigh their options carefully.
Some of my favorite missions were side missions. There’s one that just gives a boatload of credits to the Rebels if they earn them. That was an incredibly fun, manic, and chaotic mission to play through. We earned an obscene amount of credits that game, something on the order 1,750 after all our crates were redeemed at the end, and denied the Imperial player any extra Influence through some really clever play in the last turn.
The Imperial player spent Influence on two Agenda missions and a forced mission. As a group, we didn’t like our options for side missions that much so we went on both Agenda missions to deny the Imperial player a reward. The forced mission was such a great experience, too. It really highlighted that the Empire is in control of so much of the galaxy that it just can’t be avoided. I really liked that the forced mission didn’t give us any reward other than denying some benefit to the Imperial player when we won – no XP, no credits.
Most importantly, the side missions are a pacing mechanic. They stretch the campaign out so that the Rebels get the credits and XP necessary to tackle the later story missions with a reasonable chance of success. Improved weapons, armament, and hero abilities are crucial when facing the last few missions.
Imperial Assault is a really well designed and produced game. The mechanics are solid and the missions thoughtfully assembled. Every Rebel hero can contribute meaningfully to the game and each has a unique form of being a complete badass. The game components are very high quality and I can’t wait to paint my minis, even though I’m a terrible painter. The story is satisfyingly Star Wars-esque and the campaign’s branching structure offers enough replay value that I’m looking forward to a second campaign of the core box while eagerly awaiting a campaign boxed set that includes new heroes and missions. (Please, please, please release a Star Wars Rebels campaign box with the crew of the Ghost facing off against Agent Kallus and the Inquisitor!)
Assembling a map can be a tedious affair. It works in the more relaxed atmosphere of campaign play but I shudder to think the nightmare it will create when running skirmish tournaments. Hopefully FFG releases some quick setup solution.
Imperial Assault may well be my game of the year unless something really amazing pops up in 2015.