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Star Wars Shatterpoint: Fear and Dead Men Squad Pack Review


With Star Wars Shatterpoint about to enter into its second year post-release, Atomic Mass Games have begun the transition of their release slate away from the initial waves of Clone Wars and prequal trilogy content and into the iconic nostalgia of the original trilogy with the Empire, the Rebellion and Ewoks galore. As the inspiration for rules and models shifts focus, we get an interesting look at how different eras or factions differ from the early releases and Fear and Dead Men, Shatterpoint’s second outing for the man (well…part man) himself; Darth Vader is a good indication of how AMG are going to play around with the structure of the game’s mechanics and, in particular, what the themes are for the Empire affiliated characters.

What’s in the Box?

As with the majority of Shatterpoint’s sets, the box contains the miniatures for a full squad with a Primary, Secondary and Support option that usually synchronize well with each other on the table. Darth Vader (The Emperor’s Servant) is, naturally, the Primary option here, specifically this incarnation represents the dark lord during the Galactic Civil War when he is fully enmeshed as the leader of the Imperial military and the right hand of the Emperor. He’s served by a Stormtrooper Sergeant (Secondary) and a pair of classic Stormtroopers (Support), offering the traditional Empire experience from the dawn of the franchise. As per usual with the Squad Packs, the box contains all the cards necessary to incorporate the units within a game of Shatterpoint and a sheet with a link to AMG’s website for the assembly instructions. The original artwork on the cards is done in the standard comic-book style for Shatterpoint and is possibly some of the best AMG have done for the range; probably because every character is wearing a helmet and the artist isn’t having to try and marry the recognisable features of an actor or animation with the stylized visual identity of Shatterpoint, something that occasionally doesn’t always work and can lead to some…interesting versions of iconic characters (Mace Windu and the Grand Inquisitor spring to mind).

The Miniatures

Atomic Mass continue to impress with the sheer quality of their hard plastic kits, with crisp detail and a satisfying chunkiness to the models at this scale being the norm and Fear and Dead Men is no exception in that regard. Even better, other than Vader’s slender lightsaber blade (items that are an occupational hazard for any collector of Shatterpoint), these particular sculpts don’t have any obviously fragile components and the design impetus that has clearly gone into technical areas like undercuts and sprue ergonomics (things I’m not going to pretend to understand to any great degree…) means that these miniatures are very simple to assemble by today’s standards, with little to no gaps. All the components fit together snugly to be glued.

Vader is posed stamping forward, swinging his lightsaber in a forceful downward strike with both hands, evoking the ponderous weight he throws into his attacks. One neat detail of Vader’s miniature is that he’s posed in such a way that he directly complements the stance of Luke Skywalker in the Rebellion’s counterpart to this release (Fearless and Inventive) so that, when together, they form a natural duelling mini-diorama; not something that will be directly relevant all that often, but it speaks to the thought that goes into the design of these models and the general sense of fun that AMG typically try to foster in their output. The proportions and detail capture Vader’s armour incredibly well and it’s a standout model from the range (as it should be for such a prominent figure in the franchise).

If I had to give a negative it’s that Vader’s cloak is slightly unnatural in its shape. There’s a clear intent to have this thick, heavy cloth billowing up above his shoulders as the momentum of his swing carries his body forwards. Whether it’s a limitation of the production or a deliberate choice, I couldn’t say, but the general effect is a bit ‘off’ and the silhouette it produces makes the cloak seem almost detached from the rest of the model when it should probably be wrapping more around Vader’s shoulders and the ‘billowing’ happening further behind. Nevertheless, this is a minor gripe with what is otherwise an excellent model.

The Stormtroopers (and their Sergeant) are less dynamic but I surmise that is a deliberate choice; they are the nameless grunts of the Empire after all and having them posed more conservatively both reflects this and lets the Vader model be the obvious star of the show. Regardless, the troopers are no less technically great in their execution and AMG have nailed the helmet shape in particular.

What Does This Release Bring to the Game?

Fear and Dead Men (named for a particular dialogue-flex of Vader’s from the Marvel comic run) may not be the first Empire-themed release for Shatterpoint; the Inquisitors of the Jedi Hunters Squad Pack and the similarly named Vader variant from the Obi-Wan Kenobi series (and a hint of Rebels) have been in the game for some time but they were a fairly unique ‘bridge’ between the different eras of the franchise (and the game’s squad-building rules). With this release and others to soon follow, Shatterpoint is very much getting into the Galactic Civil War proper and this is the first real indication of how the Empire might operate. What all the units in the set have in common is a theme of suffering a negative (usually in the form of damage or a condition token) to boost offensive output.

The earlier Vader (Jedi Hunter), based around the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, represents a more direct, aggressive kill-borg of a Sith. This version however is the “thinking person’s” Vader; he’s less overtly powerful in terms of raw damage output with his abilities but offers more utility and with You Cannot Hide Forever, brings a very unique shift in the activation deck for his player. Essentially, Vader, unless he wounds an opponent on his turn (or is in Reserve), will have his card cycled back into the Order deck, generally meaning that Vader will be activating more than usual; an intimidating prospect given this version is still a powerhouse in combat. Vader isn’t necessarily quick but he’s relentless. The downside is that this delays the ‘refresh’ of Force Points, potentially limiting his player’s use of a lot of special abilities in quick succession (though Vader does refresh a single point whenever he activates so there’s some mitigation). Combined with his intimidating damage potential, Vader’s effectiveness (or lack of) is probably going to dominate the outcome of a fair few games he’s involved in and it’s a suitable expression of such a pivotal character.

Conversely, the Stormtroopers and their Sergeant are, perhaps, less commanding in their impact but are undoubtedly useful. They also represent an appropriate comparison to the Clones of previous releases; generally less impressive and reliant on numbers more than cohesion, all of which feels thematically suitable. This comparison is also present in their signature ability; Assault Tactics, which, like the Clones own Defensive Manoeuvres, allows them to spend a Force Point to make a dash move but, rather than hunkering down, the Stormtroopers may make a Focus action at the expense of a point of damage, boosting their own attacks. Like Vader, there’s some mitigation available as they have a heal as part on the second step of their combat tree so that damage is often going to be quickly removed.

The Stormtrooper Sergeant is probably going to be a nigh-on essential accompaniment to the troopers themselves; their abilities are built around boosting their output and, whilst not the most impressive unit in of itself, it keeps a Galactic Empire squad, particularly one with other Stormtroopers ticking over nicely with some potentially quite powerful effects if their player invests down that route. Coordinated Offensive in particular could prove to be a surprise for opponents not expecting it given the potential for bonus die to be added to a Stormtroopers’ attacks (which is more than likely already going to be boosted by Focus/Sharpshooter) if there a lot of them present. It’s a fairly elegant way of representing the crushing firepower Imperial-themed forces could throw out through sheer numbers in a game that doesn’t have the model-count to present this idea directly.


Fear and Dead Men, whilst in some ways echoing much of what players should come to expect in Shatterpoint in its first year, offers something tangibly ‘new’ in terms of theme and era. A shift to the Galactic Civil War and the nostalgic joy in getting models based on the original Star Wars trilogy is exciting in of itself and I’m very impressed (based on my impressions from this set) with how Atomic Mass have managed to blend some new concepts and identities for a faction into the game without having to introduce a raft of new keywords or rules interactions. Everything is seamlessly recognizable to someone familiar with the game without treading over old ground. If this is representative of the direction of the game going forward then I’m personally very excited by the prospect and I will never not enjoy getting such excellent, satisfying miniatures based on Star Wars and its iconic characters. Especially Vader. Always Vader.


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