When Star Wars – The Clone Wars was released a few weeks ago, it instantly grabbed our attention with its subtitle – “a Pandemic System Game”. As massive fans of both Star Wars and the Pandemic board game, it was one of the most exciting prospects of the holiday season for us. And yes, it lived up to that promise – here’s our review of the game, which is being published by Asmodee.
You might already be familiar with Pandemic or one of its spin-offs (like Rapid Response), and although The Clone Wars is based on the same core mechanics that means you’ll also notice quite a few differences here. For instance, you’re not battling a pandemic in the traditional sense, but are playing a more mission-based game – something more closely related to the structure of a Star Wars story. As such, the droids that acts like “infections” don’t spread in the same way (to adjacent spots on the map) when they “saturate” a spot. And likewise, you’re not trying to battle infections and cure diseases with the cards that you’re holding, but they instead act in a more traditional way – supporting you in your offensive and defensive capabilities. In that sense it’s not too unlike the excellent Marvel Champions, which we recently covered – embarking on missions and enabling multiple cards to increase your chances of success in combat.
At this point, The Clone Wars probably doesn’t sound like a Pandemic kind of game at all, but you’ll feel a similar kind of pressure once too many battle droids start gathering on the map, resulting in battleship-shaped blockades and an ever-larger threat level. The spread of the enemy’s forces, in that sense, acts a bit like a virus spreading itself across the galaxy, but the delivery is done through stories, missions and hero vs villain dynamics – even resulting in an endgame confrontation in true “finale” style.
Inspecting the box and its contents, you’ll notice that not all of the planets on the game map will be familiar to you unless you’re watched the Clone Wars animated series. Fans of the films will recognize Alderaan, Naboo, Tatooine and the Wookiee planet Kashyyyk will instantly stand out though, and they’ll also notice that a lot of the character art resembles the movie characters – Count Dooku looks like Christopher Lee, Obi-Wan Kenobi like Ewan McGregor and Padmé looks like Natalie Portman. If your frame of reference lies mainly with the films, this is a major plus. Along with the many other references to the source material, this is a game that was designed with love and dedication for the IP.
It’s a shame these likenesses don’t carry over to the included miniatures for the heroes and villains – who look the part are unpainted and come in the usual monochromatic look and plastic feel. As miniature painters of zero to no talent, we would have loved to see these characters come to life fully painted, looking more like their iconic on-screen counterparts. Now, Darth Maul and General Grievous look great in terms of detail, but at the same time they’re just…. blue/purple. Maybe this would have driven the price up, but it still feels like a missed opportunity.
The more generic looking droids have been very well realized though. Because they’re generally not infused with as much character as the heroes and villains, they all look alike – but the designers made sure that they use different stances in order to mix things up a little, which breathes a lot of life into your little army of 36 droid minifigures.
If you enjoy Star Wars, then The Clone Wars should be a no-brainer if you’re planning on bringing your fondness of the IP over to the gaming table. The Pandemic structure has been very well adapted to the source material with the game’s use of heroes, villains and mission structures, and overcoming the final battle really feels like a heroic moment – especially if you’re invested it the Star Wars lore already. A great option for under a Star Wars fan’s Christmas tree this year.