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How To Play Star Wars Imperial Assault

Imperial Assault Cover

Having seen off the Imperials in a stunning victory during the opening round, we were ready to take on the first side mission of the Imperial Assault campaign. Actually, in truth, it was slightly more of a nail-biting finish. Two full squads of stormtroopers were bearing down on us, we were a handful of health points away from being wounded, and an officer was taking pot shots. But the final outcome was a win for the rebels and some new equipment that you can purchase with the credits you receive from winning. I bought a new gun from the randomly turned up selection of items.

Off To Tatooine

Now we were off to Tatooine to see Luke Skywalker. You never quite know until the Imperial player/DM reads out the mission details but either way it would involve sand. And, as it turns out, Darth Vader.

What Are All These Figures For?

The actual set-up of any mission for Imperial Assault is quite fun. Using the mission manual, the Imperial player slots a board together out of the handily numbered pieces. There is a specific deployment point that the rebels must place their figures next to, whilst the Imperials have designated starting positions, and then it’s game on.

The Imperial player will read out the mission parameters (some of which the rebels won’t know due to the very sensible fact that the Imperials don’t want to share that kind of intel). Rebel players get to do any two things of their choosing from attacking, moving, resting or using an action to perform a special ability. That may also include getting rid of a status effect (such as bleeding) or gaining one (usually becoming focussed which gives you more dice to roll when next attaching).

Each player/figure takes it in turns to use their two actions bouncing from Rebel to Imperial. Although the Imperial figures are generally banned from attacking twice. If there are fewer than 4 Rebel players, then each hero figure gets two activations and can ultimately take four actions per round. Should the Rebels want to take an ally (which you gain through side missions) on a mission then the Imperials get a hefty reinforcement bonus to offset the extra two actions they gain.

The Missions

The complexity and fun come from deciding which heroes to take, what upgrades to buy for your characters, which actions you should take each turn (trading off more attacks now for soaking up damage and risking a character becoming wounded - and thus less effective), and which way around the map/in what order your complete tasks.

The exact missions you have to attempt will depend on which expansions you own, which side missions are randomly selected (there are always two to choose from) and which you pick. The campaign manual tells you whether you should complete a main or side mission next, and to some extent whoever won the last mission determines what you do next.

Go Rescue Luke Skywalker

The mission itself plays out on a small board around which you need to hightail it to a console, open a door, get to a space cruiser, and most importantly, not let Luke die. Due to the confined nature of the board, it’s quite a fun mission because you have to balance the fact that the many, many stormtroopers will almost always have a line of sight to you. If you win, then the rebel players get to keep Luke as an additional character that they can choose to take on missions.

Although adding him to your team means that the Imperials get a hefty reinforcement bonus. It actually went rather smoothly until, as occasionally they are wont to do, the Imperials said, “hold up”. This kind of phrase is invariably followed by some kind of teeth clenching as they, probably deliberately slowly, read out the appropriate section of mission text. In this specific instance, for example: as the door opens in front of you, you see several stormtroopers and… Darth Vader!

The thing was that it actually wasn’t that hard to get Luke to the ship. We had a moment of indecision as to whether we could collect all of the crates before being butchered (we decided not to be greedy), and then valiantly threw ourselves in front of lightsabers, force-chokes and assorted blaster bolts whilst ‘Luke-hero-of-the-rebellion-Skywalker’ ran to a ship and left us to fend for ourselves…

Actually, at this stage, we did rather wonder if our heroes would have made it out of the garage alive, but since the mission automatically ended anyway, we chalked it up to luck and assumed that everyone went home for tea and crumpets.

Which led us nicely into buying equipment (we didn’t), buying new abilities (we did), and heading off to our next campaign mission where we decided to try taking Luke along with us.

Luke Isn’t That Useful

We landed on a planet, destroyed some probe droids, opened some doors, did some things to terminals, and discovered that having Luke along wasn’t as useful as we thought. He more or less ended up as probe droid and nasty beasties cannon-fodder, but it was fun for a while to control him. This mission proved challenging only so much as it had a strict time limit before we lost.

Anyway, the important issue is that at some unspecified point there was the usual “hang on” interjection which cued the arrival of the AT-ST. All of which was rather spoiled by the fact that it couldn’t actually turn the corner into the corridor we were racing down to reach the final terminal and win the mission. We were, by sheer luck, completely safe. Apart from Luke. We’d abandoned him to get variously stomped, shot and bitten whilst we cowardly ran in the other direction. It seemed somewhat fair since he’d abandoned us in his aunt’s garage facing his sith-powered dad.

For some slightly inexplicable reason, the AT-ST had been hiding in the forest all this time but not actually doing anything. The Imperial military academy clearly has a lot to do to up its game if this is how they run battle tactics. We escaped into the jungle, singing songs of Luke’s heroism, and telling of his noble sacrifice, just in time to buy more new equipment and decide that we needed more experience points.

Off To Buy A Lightsaber

So it was that we found ourselves on Yavin. We were in search of a special lightsaber for the Twi’lek. Another small board with two route options, one guarded by the bitey, jumpy animals; the other by what appear to be elite Imperial Guards. Who knows what they’re doing there?

There’s a cool mechanic whereby Twi’lek starts to go mad at the end of each round and if she runs out of prozac pills, you lose the mission. It involved tokens, dark-side temptation, having extra attacks and was a thoroughly enjoyable additional mechanic.

We faced an ever-diminishing supply of chill-pills, some Imperial Guards, and some steps. We charged left, Jedi in the lead with smuggler managing a somewhat impressive rear-guard defence. Cleared out most of the troops with relative ease. Apparently, we only had to open a door and inside would be the lightsaber.

Slightly disturbing was the fact that the Imperial player was holding back about six million reinforcement credits. But since the door opened with the usual “hang on” we had more important things to deal with, Darth Vader again.

Turns out that he has health equal to double the number of reinforcements points the Imperial player currently has (which made it about twelve million) and that the only way to win is to kill him. All of which might have been fine had the dice gods not chosen that moment to abandon us and transform our attack rolls into the equivalent of throwing small water balloons at enraged rancor.

Needless to say, we were about to lose until the Imperials took great pity on us and flooded the map with reinforcements. This meant that Darth Vader changed from being the world’s strongest man to roughly the same strength as your elderly grandmother struggling with a large Ikea parcel. It didn’t seem fair.

So now Twi’lek has a new lightsaber and we’re off to our next story mission. I might tell Luke just in case he’s available.

The Verdict

The campaign is certainly something that we’re quickly becoming addicted to and would happily have played late into the early hours of the morning except that, we’re getting old. Also, respective employers, wives, children and so on might have had something to say about it. I’ve reviewed Imperial Assault elsewhere on the site and I stand by the fact that you really should buy Star Wars Imperial Assault. The more I play the more I remember that actually, it’s brilliant.

I mean, it’s not a perfect game, it’s expensive, and there are a few rules that I still have to check every now and then. It’s a lot of fun to play and the theme is awesome. We’re itching to play again and I’m already sad about the fact that the campaign needs to end at some point. If I was looking for some kind of saccharin way to make myself feel better about that and a cheap pop as a finishing sentence, I might point out that you can console yourself with the notion that the force will be with you, always.