Without a new movie or major videogame on the horizon, and with Obi-Wan Kenobi still a few weeks out, a Star Wars board game is a great way to celebrate May the 4th this year. Here’s a look at Star Wars: Outer Rim from Fantasy Flight Games, which launched back in 2019 to much acclaim and can be played by up to four players but also offers a solo mode.
One thing we really like about this one is how the title works on many different levels. This isn’t a game that stars a Skywalker or features Storm Troopers, but once that takes place on the outer edges of the same galaxy. On a more literal, non-narrative level, the board design is brilliant, forming half a circle while leaving room in the middle for cards, tokens and dice, with navigation of this part of the galaxy taking place on your game table’s own outer rim.
And while this one may not be about light sabers and the force, it does feature familiar characters like Han Solo and Boba Fett, as Outer Rim is all about bounty hunting, smuggling and chasing after fame and fortune in the remote corners of the galaxy. A degree of familiarity with the source material helps, but “having seen the movies” suffices and the game’s mechanics even work without prior knowledge – though you’d probably be less drawn to the game that way.
We already mentioned the game board being shaped like an outer rim itself. This semi-circle features planets and shows connections between various destinations on the map, which is modular and can be configured in different ways. It has a very clean design, letting you configure the way that play unfolds through your own actions, placing cards and tokens to help shape the Rim for your session.
The materials supplied are all of good quality, with custom dice and reinforced cards and token to make sure they’re durable while giving them a solid feel as well. This was a pleasant surprise, because Fantasy Flight has put out a bunch of licensed Star Wars games and Outer Rim is one of the more affordable ones out there – though production costs are a bit lower because you won’t find any Rebellion-like miniatures in this box either. Instead, familiar faces (which also include Lando Calrissian and Jyn Erso) appear on cards – with great looking artwork and useful player mini-boards to help you track your achievements and social standing with the different factions without having to pen and paper it up during each turn.
You’ll use a similar mini board for your space ship, which has room for cargo, crew and modifications. It may take a bit of getting used to on your initial playthrough, but at times Outer Rim feels like a narrative-driven TTRPG but with a much easier visual overview of where everyone’s current allegiances and priorities lie. It’s easy to like this game as a Star Wars fan, but any board game fan will appreciate how well designed the gameplay experience is.
Gameplay centers around gaining fame (or infamy) in the Outer Rim, which you gain by completing objectives but also features an ever-developing narrative, as choices and dice rolls determine how you align with other players and factions in the game. This makes encounters feel dynamic, and every playthrough unique. You might join forces in one playthrough, only to see the other party turn rogue and attack you the next time you play. There’s a bit of (character) lore on the cards as well, which for some will feel like fan service while not getting in the way of the enjoyment of others.
Combat is handled through dice rolls and the outcome determined on your attack and defense ratings. You can affect these factors by purchasing upgrades on the interstellar trading market as well, adding another mechanic to an already engaging format while making combat feel like it doesn’t just rely on the luck of the dice roll.
Outer Rim scales well when you add more players, but scaling down to a single player experience does change the flow of the gameplay a little. The rules and how you set up a game are the same as in a multiplayer game, but you do get forced to simultaneously control another player’s actions in between your own turns. This is rather time-consuming, and playing as “the other player” isn’t nearly as fun as going through the experience with someone else. After, this is a game where a session can easily take two and often more than three hours to play, so our conclusion is that solo play is great for learning the ropes and maybe a refresher course, but you’ll enjoy Outer Rim a lot more with others. A multiplayer game still isn’t heavy on player to player interaction in-game, but a little banter about your individual moves and adventures goes a long way.
Since the release in 2019 there has also been an expansion for Outer Rim called Unfinished Business, and while we can’t wait to give that one a spin and integrate it into our games, the base game is already a fantastic Star Wars experience that offers evening-long sessions in a galaxy far, far away that we can see players bring out regularly – not just for May the 4th. Highly recommended for hardcore fans and casual fans alike.