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Review of Star Wars Rebellion: Star Wars in a Big Cardboard Box

I’ll be Han.

Star Wars Rebellion is the Keanu Reeves of board gaming. When you open the box, literally all you can do is utter an amazed “whoa.”

The first thing I realized is the fold-out game board is HUGE and is beautifully designed to illustrate all the Star Wars planets us nerds love, like Endor, Hoth, Dagobah, and Tatooine. Then I realized there is a second game board that effectively doubles the play space!

I literally let out an audible “whoa.” The entire play space is approximately 2 feet by 4 feet, and that doesn’t include the space you’ll need around the edges for the tracker sheets and 6-8 decks of game cards, depending upon how you cut them. I immediately emailed my contractor to explore the possibilities of building a new game room over my garage.

Uh, there are a couple few minis that come with this game. And they’re awesome.

I let out a second audible whoa when my eyes feasted upon the miniatures that are included. There must be over 100 of them! (Editor’s Note: Um, actually, there are over 150 minis.) Miniatures include X-Wings, AT-ATs, Rebel Troopers, Tie Fighters, and not one, but three Death Star miniatures.

The miniatures are scaled small (they are incompatible with Imperial Assault, for example), but they are beautifully detailed. They are an absolute delight to fiddle with. When I was setting up my first play through, I felt like I was an 8-year-old kid again, watching Empire Strikes Back in the theater for the first time.

Indeed, any Star Wars fan, particularly those from the New Hope / Empire era, will have an emotional response to this game. Pardon the hysterics, but Star Wars Rebellion really is the closest thing you’ll get to recreating the movies in a cardboard box.

Star Wars Rebellion: Star Wars in a Big Cardboard Box

Us nerds love to chuck dice.

Gameplay isn’t a lightweight by any means. Included are two rule books:

  1. The “Learn to Play” guide comes in at 20 pages. In addition to a full component list, it includes a 10 step setup walkthrough. Thankfully, there is a visual guide to help you with your first game set up and the guide is very clearly written.
  2. The “Rules Reference” guide comes in at 16 pages. After you learn to play, you’ll refer to this booklet often for those precision rules or situations that only come up a time or two per game. Luckily, there is an index on the back to help you pinpoint what you need quickly.

You play the game in three primary phases: Assignment, Command, and Refresh. But those are the details of the how. I’m sure you are wondering about the big picture.

Sign me up for these missions.

Star Wars Rebellion is what is called an asymmetrical strategy game. One player is the Empire, while the other player is the Rebellion. The two players don’t tactically play the same. While the Empire relies on brute shock-and-awe military strength, the Rebellion relies on guerrilla tactics. See, asymmetrical.

The game is meticulously balanced. While the win conditions are different for the Empire and Rebellion, I felt like either side could legitimately come away with the W in every play through I did.

And it’s fun. So fun. I realize this might sound like exaggerated hyped-up unicorn smoke, but I can confidently claim that Star Wars Rebellion is one of the absolute top board games ever created. Kudos to Cory Konieczka of Fantasy Flight Games who did the game design.

So much awesomeness in one cardboard box.

Deploying cardboard standees like Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia from planet to planet is an absolute joy. I’m not trying to imply that the intention of Star Wars Rebellion is to recreate the movies scene-by-scene, I’m just saying that this game feels like Star Wars and it’s impossible not to have movie memories flood over you during game play.

But Star Wars Rebellion isn’t for everyone. Those who are brand new to board gaming might freeze up at the sheer magnitude of what is presented to them. This is not a game that one just casually learns in a minute.

Star Wars Rebellion is the kind of game that you set up in the corner of your garage or basement. Then you plan to leave it set up there, knowing that it might take you and your buddy a couple Saturdays to get fully through the game. Indeed, the play time on this game is several hours, longer on your first couple of plays.

But even though this is a game that might only get to the table over a long holiday break, it is a game that every single Star Wars fan should own. It captures Star Wars better than pretty much any licensed product this long-time Star Wars fan has ever encountered. Not only that, but it is brilliantly and cleverly designed, easily standing among the hobby’s greatest games, regardless of genre.

The game is the perfect gift, but if you are a Star Wars fan, you’ll likely not be able to wait and you’ll simply buy it for yourself. Star Wars Rebellion is a magnum opus, a feather-in-the-cap for Fantasy Flight Games.

I leave you with an unboxing video so you can see for yourself.

[Disclosure: Fantasy Flight Games provided Nerds on Earth a complimentary copy of Star Wars Rebellion for review.]

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