Star Wars: Rebellion is a board game of epic conflict between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. The game claims to be for 2-4 players, but I am of the opinion that the game shines with just 2 players. There’s something to be said about the tense atmosphere and deep strategy that a 1-on-1 encounter in this setting offers.
Rebellion is an asymmetric strategy game. This means that the two sides are purposefully imbalanced. Naturally, the Empire has its powerful fleets and legions of stormtroopers, AT-STs, and AT-ATs. The Rebels, with considerably less military strength, must undertake covert operations such as infiltration and gathering support, while also engaging in hit-and-run style military tactics against the far superior Imperial Navy.
Given the asymmetry of the two sides, there are two different win conditions. The Empire must find and destroy the secret Rebel base before the Rebels garner enough galaxy-wide support to initiate a full scale revolt. The Rebels must avoid the long arm of the Empire as they try to increase their reputation by fulfilling heroic and/or strategically important objectives.
Yet this game is no mere wargame. Integral to Rebellion is the heroic efforts of notable characters such as Leia Organa, Jan Dodonna, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Boba Fett in various missions that will further the Imperial or Rebel cause. In this sense, Rebellion is an acutely cinematic experience between larger-than-life characters in entanglements on missions across the Galaxy while civil war rages in the background.
Recently, I had the pleasure of playing a full 3-hour game of Rebellion. Here is how it played out, with a bit of cinematic flavour added to it:
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
At the beginning of the Rebellion only Ryloth, Kashyyyk and Bothawui pledged their allegiance to the Rebel cause. With the secret Rebel base established in Nal Hutta – safely away from the clutches of the Empire – the Rebels began to marshal what little strength they had to oppose the Imperial Navy. The fledgling Rebel fleet was evenly split – with half manning the defences of the hidden Rebel base, while the other half marshalled the support of Mon Calamari.
The Empire mobilised, and soon systems such as Ord Mantell, Cato Nemoidia, Alderaan, and Naboo fell under its dominion through the rule of fear by Emperor Palpatine. The Empire suffered an early political blow with an entire region – consisting of Mon Calamari, Felucia, and Saleucami – siding with the Rebellion thanks to Mon Mothma establishing diplomatic and trade relations with those systems. The Empire reacted appropriately by producing Imperial Star Destroyers out of Corellia, as well as beginning work on two key projects: a Super Star Destroyer and a second Death Star. Super Star Destroyers and Death Stars are represented on “special project” cards. This means that they require considerable effort to get started, but once they’re complete they can offer immense firepower for the Empire.
Little by little, the Rebels were gaining small but significant victories – performing a hit-and-run on the Super Star Destroyer and controlling six systems simultaneously – to bolster their reputation. The Empire responded by capturing Mon Mothma while she was on a diplomatic mission to Geonosis (moving her to Imperial Naboo). It was a risk to send Mon Mothma on a diplomatic mission to an Imperial-occupied system, and the Empire sent Darth Vader on a “capture Rebel operative” mission as soon as they found her location. Buoyed by the capture of Mon Mothma, the Empire launched a massive assault on Mon Calamari with AT-ATs, AT-STs, and a legion of Stormtroopers. The second Death Star was finally completed above Naboo, finalising the last of the Empire’s “special projects.”
It is your destiny…
A short time after Mon Mothma’s capture, Han Solo arrived on Naboo with his Millennium Falcon to undergo a rescue mission, thanks to the rescuing ability of the Falcon itself. Mon Mothma was rescued, but before Han Solo could make his escape, Darth Vader arrived on the scene and captured Han Solo instead. The Empire, keen to avoid losing another Rebel operative, wanted to ensure Han Solo’s capture was permanent. The only way to do that was to successfully play the “Lure of the Dark Side” card. Therefore, Emperor Palpatine capitalised on Han Solo’s capture by luring him to the Dark Side. Han Solo was gone… and the Rebellion’s loss was the Empire’s gain.
Mon Mothma and Princess Leia reacted to the loss of Han Solo by launching key diplomatic missions on Utapau, Geonosis, and Toydaria, while a Wookie revolt was initiated on Kashyyyk, destroying a number of Imperial units stationed there and turning the system Rebel once again.
Now, witness the power of this fully operational battle station.
The Empire, frustrated by the lack of real progress in finding the secret base despite the turning of Han Solo to the Dark Side, did the unthinkable: the Death Star moved away from Mandalore and into the Dathomir system. Admiral Piett authorised the use of the superlaser — another “special project” entitled “Superlaser Online” and Dathomir was annihilated. A million voices cried out and were suddenly silenced, but the Empire was no closer to finding the Rebel base.
Following Luke Skywalker’s training under Yoda at Dagobah, the fortunes of the Empire seemed to turn. First, Leia was captured by Boba Fett. Then, she was interrogated by Darth Vader, forcing the Rebellion to reveal the names of three systems – one of which would hold the Rebel base. The named systems were Kessel, Nal Hutta, and Ryloth. As a reward for revealing that information, the Imperial officers froze her in carbonite, damaging the reputation of the Rebels and setting their cause back somewhat.
All of a sudden, Imperial fleets on Sullust, Naboo, Rodia, and Mandalore changed their course for the region that held Kessel and Nal Hutta. It seems that of the three locations revealed under interrogation by Leia, the Empire had already ruled out Ryloth as a possible location. Only Kessel and Nal Hutta were possible options for the location of the hidden Rebel base. The Imperial fleets amalgamated into two truly massive armadas at Kashyyyk and Malastare.
With a sizeable Rebel fleet on Toydaria (though obviously significantly smaller than the Imperial forces in neighbouring Kashyyyk and Malastare), the premise was simple:
The Empire would reach Kessel and/or Nal Hutta within two turns.
The Rebels needed two more reputation points to clinch it by the end of next turn or else Imperial forces would arrive on Kessel and/or Nal Hutta and obliterate the Rebel base.
The moon with the rebel base will be in range in 30 minutes
After the Empire’s huge plays in the previous turn to capture Leia and narrow the location of the Rebel base to two systems, it was time for the Rebels to act.
Admiral Ackbar launched a crack squadron of X-Wings and Corellian Corvettes, against the Imperial fleet at Kashyyyk. In what proved to be another hit-and-run mission, the Rebels succeeded in destroying three TIE Fighters before retreating. Rebel casualties were grievous: all Corellian Corvettes were destroyed, but the destruction of the TIE Fighters gave another point of reputation to the Rebels through the playing of the Rebel objective card entitled “Major Victory.”
Luke Skywalker launched a daring rescue of the carbonite-frozen Leia. Luke was opposed by Boba Fett, but with Yoda’s Jedi training backing him up, the bounty hunter was no match for him, and Leia was rescued.
The rescue of Leia proved to be the final nail in the Imperial coffin, as by the end of the turn the Rebel player revealed the “Leave No-one Behind” objective card, giving the Rebels a point of reputation if no leaders were currently captured. That reputation point was enough to give the game to the Rebels, just one turn before the Imperial fleet would destroy the Rebel base on Nal Hutta.
The Empire had failed to destroy the secret Rebel base before the Rebels had garnered enough reputation they needed to launch a galaxy-wide revolt against the Empire. Not even the luring of Han Solo to the Dark Side or the destruction of Dathomir by the Death Star could save the Empire this time. Of course, Palpatine’s next reign of terror is only a short game set-up away…