Over the years, we’ve visited a galaxy far, far away many times. We’ve covered movie releases, video games, card games and board games. A few of us also happen to enjoy tabletop gaming though, so for May the 4th we’re checking out what happens when you combine their love of all things Warhammer with the lore and fandom that surrounds Star Wars. Here’s a look at Star Wars: Legion by Fantasy Flight Games.
With a group that was split between wargaming/tabletop fans and Star Wars fans, the setup process for Star Wars: Legion was an interesting one. The game consists of almost three dozen miniature figures from the Star Wars universe, and they require a bit of assembly before you can play. With four of us assembling, this was a pretty quick process, though it was also clear that those who are more into the hobbying process of tabletop gaming were more into this step than others.
The miniatures themselves are fantastic though, especially for fans of the original trilogy. While the bulk of the miniatures are stormtroopers and rebel soldiers, there’s a good amount of variety between them in terms of looks and poses, and you can add even more character to them by painting them. We played with the unpainted models first, but our two big Warhammer fans (who are merely casual Star Wars fans) couldn’t wait to take the models home and paint them.
The split was easy, because the 33 included miniatures are divided among a rebel and an imperial army. Our impressions are based on the core set, which also includes Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader as special characters who can lead their forces on the battlefield, which is a treat for longtime fans. Also included are two Stormtroopers on speeder bikes (think Return of the Jedi) and an AT-RT walker for the rebels. You can expand the experience with additional units as well, adding familiar names like Yoda, Boba Fett and Leia into the mix – or just adding more ‘regular’ troops to your army. For Star Wars fans with an affinity for the hobbyist/painting side of gaming, Legion certainly is a dream come true – the models look great and feature a good amount of detail, while the options to create your own scenery (and thus familiar setting) are virtually limitless. The base set includes barricades you can use for cover, but we’ve seen fantastic examples of buildings online that we can’t wait to replicate.
Also included in the box are tokens and cards you’ll need, tools that help you with movement and a set of fifteen dice – nothing that will surprise experienced tabletop players. You’ll also find a helpful Learn to Play book, which acts as a tutorial of sorts in guiding you through a bite-sized version of the actual game in a 4 vs 4 scenario. You won’t cover all the ins and outs of Legion during this intro battle, but there’s enough here to grasp the basics of movement, cover and combat – as well as the game’s method of alternating turns between players. Once you segue into a proper game, you’ll introduce special abilities and unit upgrades through cards, but these will be much easier to digest when you already have a basic understanding of the core rules.
To play a full game, you’ll need a decent size playing area – especially if you’re planning on expanding the game with bigger units with a large movement radius. The included speeders are a good indication of this, as you’ll want to have room for them to get around. More importantly, however, this is a game that’s predominantly about units shooting at each other – Luke and Vader facing off for some light saber combat is the exception rather than the rule.
You’ll start your games with them though, drawing Command Cards which add additional abilities and a small layer of extra strategy. Your commanders decide who moves and shoots based on the cards that are played, with a few objective cards to guide your gameplay decisions. These are quite limited in number when just using the base game, but for an accessible experience that also appeals to those who aren’t intimately familiar with tabletop gaming that’s probably not a bad thing.
Unit tokens and cards help you carry out orders and keep track of what’s happening, but movement is perhaps one of the more interesting elements of the game. It’s – depending on the units that are moving – handled by one of three hinged sticks that you have to follow along. This helps guide things for those not used to freeform tabletop movement, which is a welcome addition for those more used to boardgame mechanics even though it can feel restrictive to TTRPG veterans. They’ll feel right at home with the combat though, which factors in all the usual elements like line of sight, use of cover and dice rolls.
A game is divided up into six rounds and will take just about two hours to complete – perhaps a little more on your first playthrough when you’re getting accustomed to the rules and mechanics. They’re fairly easy to grasp for a TTRPG though, and videogamers will recognize the turn-based mechanics here as well – a typical turn (or ‘activation’) for a unit will consist of two ‘action points’, which you’ll often use to move and shoot. How effective an attack is gets determined by the aforementioned dice rolls, guiding how strong the attack and defense rating are for that turn. Other factors like environmental conditions (handled by cards) and terrain also matter, but by the second of third playthrough you’ll have pretty much mastered all the mechanics and you can switch to devising strategies.
While there’s a learning curve here, especially for newcomers to TTRPGs, it’s gentle enough for any Star Wars fan to get into – while offering a decent amount of depth as well. Hardcore tabletop players might find the rules for combat a tad too simplified, but expansions offer a chance to diversify and the accessible nature also makes this a great crossover production that can be enjoyed by a wide audience. Perhaps the most restrictive element is the hobbyist side, as all the miniatures come unpainted and that’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea as there are lots of them included in the box. At the same time, these (and especially the commanders) make this feel like a genuine Star Wars experience, since they’re all very well done. This is a game that unites the hobbyist side of tabletop gaming with accessible gameplay in the Star Wars universe, so on May the 4th, reach out to a friend who loves to paint miniatures and get ready for fun and engaging combat scenarios in a galaxy far, far away.