I hate hidden movement games. Me and a friend stranded on a desert island with nothing but a copy of Scotland Yard? My worst nightmare. Plaid Hat’s Specter Ops sprinkles a bit more gameplay and a splash of theme into its Scotland Yardness, but hidden movement is hidden movement. You’re still playing a fluid (i.e. drawn-out) version of Battleship. B4? Miss. C4? Miss. B3? Hit! You caught my specter op! Not even Fury of Dracula, spattered with its ropey entrails of viscous gameplay substitute — it’s offal, really — can obscure the fact that it’s just Scotland Yard stretched into an insufferable too-many-hour guessing game, pencil and paper not included.
My favorite thing about Rebellion is the way that the same map space is valuable to the Empire and Rebellion in entirely different ways; the Empire may a strike for a particular planet because it wants desperately to be able to produce another Star Destroyer with its capacity to act as a Stormtrooper taxi, but the Rebel player covets it for its location in a particular region, or distance from an Empire fleet.
It’s Whack-A-Mole writ large with lightsabers and TIE fighters, and the real gameplay takes place in the players’ mental games of feinting, bluffing, anticipation and misdirection - not in the results of the dice. And like the best asymmetrical games, it rewards experience and an understanding of both sides’ strategies. Throw on some John Williams and quote the night away!
Yeah a lot of the components really are clunky as hell. The game is fun but there’s quite a bit that needs ironing out. This feels like a Fantasy Flight game that’s destined to get a streamlined 2nd edition in five years. Whoever made a lot of the graphical design decisions should probably switch to a different job.
You have the Empire secret project cards, the backs of which look identical to the regular mission cards which makes sorting them out a pain. You have to flip them over and spot the tiny star in the corner to create the necessary separate decks. I guess they need to look alike so the Rebel player doesn’t know the mission you’re playing, so this is a minor complaint.
The action/leader card design is atrocious. They are the cards used to recruit leaders; you draw some, then recruit a leader pictured on them. You would figure the leader deck would have portraits of Star Wars characters on the back to easily identify it as the leader deck which you recruit Star Wars characters from. So what did they decide to make the back of leader cards? It looks like the inside view of a TIE fighter cockpit. Uhh…okay? It’s also the same TIE cockpit interior for both the Rebels and the Empire. The only difference you have to distinguish the two is the Empire cockpit is slightly blacker. So you have an empty cockpit for the LEADER deck, it is the cockpit of an Imperial ship for both sides, and there is only the slightest of color changes between the two to differentiate the sides.
The combat tactic card system is clunky and boring and needs replacing. We groan whenever someone rolls a bunch of sabers on the dice because it means we have to draw and sort through more clunky combat cards. The “saber threat” is there every combat round and it just gums up the experience. It would be one thing if the cards were interesting or thematic, but 95% of them are just generic stuff that fall under “inflict a damage”, “block a damage”, or “reroll” (We Only Need to Keep Them from Escaping to prevent a retreat seems like the only exception). I have yet to meet a single player who gets the rule right the first time on when the attacker/defender can play block damage cards. We’re tempted to start a house rule that completely scraps the tactics cards and replacing it with Leader bonuses simply giving you rerolls. Anything to break away from the clunky cards and fussy saber rolls.
Given the importance of the Empire player keeping track of possible Rebel base locations, it’s baffling how they omitted any sort of component for this. How hard would it have been to include 1’ x 1’ mat recreation of the galaxy map for him to track and place probe cards on? The same people who gave us the New Caprica side board failed to include a vital one? Does Fantasy Flight have a rule that side maps can only be included when they’re unwanted and part of an unnecessary expansion?
Mr. KSxPKBHcVL, you’re right on about the geography of the map and the required experience. At first, I found the map lacking geography for how the planets didn’t really provide any terrain. They were just a spread of planets without personality. But once you appreciate the regions, and each side’s various production setups, and the significance of planets like Kashyyyk and Dagobah for a couple of the cards, a sense of geography comes into play. For instance, one of the tactics lurking in the map is keeping the Empire from assault transports to make it hard for him to ferry around stormtroopers to subjugate planets. That bottleneck is a lesson you definitely have to learn the hard way!
And whereas a lot of Ameritrash games use all the detail and randomness to mitigate skill (War of the Ring, anyone?), at this point, Rebellion really relies on knowing the components and having some experience with how they work. The fifteen cards in the Rebel agenda deck are basically an outline for how a game progresses. Rebellion is the sort of game that a more experienced player will always win over a less experienced player.
You just made the Millennium Falcon cry. I agree they look similar, but I’m afraid I’m going to ask you to turn in your Star Wars nerd card if you can’t tell a YT-1300 Correllian freighter from a TIE Fighter. :) They’re completely different things! But, yeah, maybe they should have used an X-Wing cockpit to distinguish the cards. It’s not like they’re ever mixed together though, so I consider it a minor sorting problem if anything.
I don’t share your reservations about the combat, though. The sabers allow for things like a lucky X-wing taking out a Star Destroyer. It throws just enough of a gamble into battles to make some of the Rebel missions worthwhile. And the fact that the combat cards are “generic” is fine by me for how it streamlines combat. The last thing I want in a grand strategic game like Rebellion is a finicky tactical combat game!
I agree that there should be a way to track the occupied and probed planets, but it can’t be a standalone mat or something the Rebel player can see. What the Empire does and doesn’t know is necessarily hidden information. There are some really good templates on BGG, such as the one pictured in my review. I can’t imagine playing without something like that, but a lot of players won’t know any better. Woe to the poor Empire player sorting through his drawn probe cards every turn!
Inasmuch as I disagree with you on Scotland Yard (granted, it’s a questionable game with two players, but an awesome one with four players that deserves a better description than ‘more drawn out battleship’), I think I’d nevertheless also like Rebellion. Only problem is finding someone to play it with. My wife isn’t a fan of competitive board games, or really in-depth ones. Alas.
I found it to be the opposite. The General/Admiral split kind of gimps the experience in 3- 4-player. The order you do the missions is more important than in 2 player and you loose a lot of flexibility.
That said, this is one of my favorite games ever. It can’t hit the table enough for me.
Say this for FFG, when that make the effort they can make games mechanically evocative. Few companies can tailor mechanics to evoke a feeling or theme as richly. Of course they can also botch it, or add cruft, but that’s how it goes.
The asymetry you lay out is a perfect example. The idea that Vader,when deployed, can be a holy terror, that if the Empire ever catches the Rebel base flat footed it is game over, that the Rebels mostly want to fight delaying and rear guard actions instead of outright conquest, that you win the game not through military might but by discrediting the Empire. A marriage with themes and mechanics that elevates both.
It is why, despite the business models, I love many Fantasy Flight games. X-wing replaced Railroad Tycoon as my favorite for a reason. It is why Battlestar Galactica, despite being longer and more fiddly than the leaner Resistance, takes my third spot. Resistance may be leaner and faster, and fits a similar niche, but damn if I don’t love how the mechanics of BSG evoke a deeper thematic experience.
Incidentally, I’m curious as to how the LCG business model compromised Netrunner? I thought it was a great game but I bailed on it sometime around the second big boxed expansion due to cost, so I haven’t followed it at all in recent years. Have the corp and runner sides grown too similar? Or did they just run out of interesting ideas for cards?
(Also, I have no idea why I got randomly assigned the username disqus_KSxPKBHcVL20h when I initially commented. I’m just gonna chalk it up to a glitch in the NSA monitoring software.)
Netrunner turned into a CCG with the usual power creep that inevitably compromises any self-contained game driven by the need to keep adding content. All the extra cards also dilute the unique identity of some of the corps and runners.
For games like netrunner (I have only the game box, no expansion) I would love to know where do expansions stop adding good content and start diluting/power creeping.
I’m pretty sure the best version of netrunner is not just the basic vanilla game, and I would love to eventually expand to a great version of the game, but with this business model it’s really hard to figure out what the best stopping point is.
I fell out with Netrunner around the 2nd or 3rd mini expansion I think so it’s been a few years since I really “knew” what was going on with the game. That being said @Juan_Raigada your question really hinges on whether you want to play it competitively or just for fun. Like any other CCG/LCG if you’re looking to play in tournaments then you’re going to have to spend lots of money to keep up with the current meta. However if you just want to have fun and play with a few interesting decks then I would tell you to pick your favorite corp and runner factions and pick up the mini expansion for those. Those boxes have a few identities each and will give you plenty of variety.
I still consider Netrunner the finest 2 player card game I’ve ever played. I think the argument of power creep is a fascinating one too. I’ve heard opinions on both sides and I’d love to hear Tom face off with someone like say Quinns from Shut Up and Sit Down who would say power creep has not affected the game.
For what it’s worth, if you’re looking to play in tournaments you’ll spend more in train fares going to said tournaments than you ever will on cards. I wouldn’t describe it as a cheap hobby, but the expenses are not in the cardboard.
Haha I suppose that’s true. I was speaking more to the impetus I guess I always felt which was to “always have the best cards, because what if I ever wanted to play competitively?” Of course I only ever played in one local tournament (having fun but losing easily), so my point was you don’t really need to worry about power creep if you just want to play with friends for fun.
While I can’t speak to Netrunner, I can do so with other FFG properties. Being somewhat into the competitive scene in X-wing (don’t do tournaments myself, but do watch and track them, and play in a competitive league) I am acutely aware of balance changes. Largely I feel they do a good job of managing it, though with occasional missteps. Mostly their missteps involve overcosting cards, which is preferable to undercosting.
But I won’t go into too much detail there. I have a feeling that may become a major point of discussion on the podcast should I get the call ;)
Netrunner has also been depowering some of the more widely played cards, at least for tournament play, with its most wanted list. That’s a list of cards that each cost 1 additional influence to play, even within faction. So if you want to include Eli 1.0 (a very efficient HB ice card) in your HB deck, it’ll cost you 1 influence. If you want to play it in your Weyland deck, it’ll cost you 2 influence, it’s normal 1 influence cost + 1 extra for being on the list.
It’s a nice solution to cards that turn out to be too powerful - you can still play them, but at the expense of playing other powerful or out-of-faction cards. They did end up also restricting Astroscript Pilot Program to be max 1 per deck too, but you can’t complain too much about power creep there, it’s probably the strongest card in the game and definitely the best agenda, and it was in the Core Set!
That’s nice to know, and it seems they are taking the game balance seriously. I agre it seems an elegant solution.
However, I think the problem with collectible games balance it’s never about flat out better cards, but about old strategies decks not being competitive any longer. The question is not if newer cards are better, but if you can have a competitive deck using only the core cards.
That is, the limitation in options due to fewer cards/ships/whatever tends to keep legacy builds in collectible games unable to cope with advanced meta (lack of options to counter some strategies) rending those kind of decks useless even if the power of the cards is still equivalent.
Honestly, I don’t think it’s a solvable problem unless you predesign all cards/ships/whatever beforehand so that you give Vanilla users options to counter future releases.
I don’t play Netrunner anymore, but I think people having been having fun with a format called 1-1-1-1. That is, you build a deck using only 1 core set, 1 big box expansion of your choice, 1 datapack of your choice, and 1 other card of your choice. That again allows you to play your favourite cards but also allows newer players with less cards to play on a more even playing field.
I know when I did play Netrunner at a local games store every week there was a problem if someone brand new showed up with a core set deck and I only had my tournament practice decks to play against them. I could play with one of their decks since the game is asymmetric, but that’s not as fun for either of us as playing with our own decks. To be fair, the same problem occurred when I was playing someone who owned every card but wanted to play with a more casual less competitive deck. If I didn’t also bring a fun deck that week it wasn’t particularly fun for anyone. I think it’s a general problem with any deckbuilding game and has to be solved by the players not the game designer by agreeing on the type of game they want to play that week.
I think formats like 1-1-1-1 and the Most Wanted List, that encourage creativity rather than just being plain restrictive, are one of the best ways forward.