Star Wars Risk - A Public Service Announcement

Star Wars Risk - A Public Service Announcement Hot

Egg Shen     
 
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Star Wars is back! It's back in a big way. That means, for the foreseeable future, we're gonna be getting TONS of licensed Star Wars products. One of the first boardgames in the initial wave of licensed goodness was the curiously named, Star Wars Risk. Not exactly what people were expecting. Prior to its release, savvy internet folk determined that this was actually a refined version of the grail game, Star War's Queen's Gambit. Right then everybody should have perked up and taken note. Well, some of you are still not paying attention. Let me fix that for you.

First, let me ask you a straightforward question. Do you like Star Wars in any way, shape, or form? If you answered yes, then stop reading and go buy this game now. Do you like simple, thematic, and fun designs? You do? Stop reading and go buy this game…RIGHT NOW. 

In case I'm not being blunt enough, spoiler alert, Star Wars Risk ROCKS. I have no problem arguing that it was one of the best games to come out in 2015. This is not so much a review as it is a public service announcement. I'm writing this to make sure you don't have hole in your heart years from now.

The name "Star Wars Risk" is simply terrible branding from the marketing gurus at Hasbro. This game has almost nothing to do with the Risk brand. As previously mentioned it's essentially a reworking of Queen's Gambit. Except instead of taking place at the end of the Phantom Menace, the game now focuses on the three concurrent conflicts during the finale of Return of the Jedi. Gone is anything relating to Naboo and in its place are much more beloved Star Wars tropes. Don't worry; they left out any semblance of Ewoks you "Yub Nub" hating bastards.

In the game you play as either the Rebels or the Empire. There are three mini games each taking place on separate boards. There is the lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader, the fleet battle around the FULLY OPERATIONAL Death Star, and the shield generator mission on the forest moon of Endor. Your goal as the Rebels is to progress through a linear track on the Endor board to destroy the shield generator. Once the generator has been destroyed, Admiral Ackbar will get excited and tell you to blow up the Death Star. In game terms this means getting one of your squadrons adjacent to the Death Star and rolling a six. The Empire needs to delay the Rebels long enough to completely destroy their fleet. 

All of this is done with a intuitive, yet simple, card based order system. Players on each side will select cards to play and then take turns executing them in a specific order. Each card will have two or three symbols that allow you to carry out different actions. For example, the Empire might have a card that lets them attack with the Death Star or launch/attack TIE Fighters. I love this system, because it allows you to be flexible. You might plan your round as an all out attack against Luke, but you notice your opponent is racing up the Endor track. If you played cards that also had the Endor symbol you can react accordingly by mobilizing Storm Troopers in the forest instead. It's about playing the odds and striking where your opponent isn't expecting. It's very tactical and sometimes you have to be reactionary. However, I've seen folks commit to long term strategies from the word go as well. My favorite thing about the game is that no matter what you decide it's a fun/interesting turn. Each card you play is moving you closer towards your goal and I've witnessed multiple paths to victory. 

Almost everything you do in the game comes down to rolling five chunky, red, dice. If you execute a Vader order you roll four dice to attack. Roll higher than a four and you strike Luke. Do enough damage and you kill him. Simple, direct and fun. The Rebels NEED to destroy the shield generator and every time they use an Endor symbol they roll all five dice. To advance up the track you need to roll higher than their current numerical position on the board. It starts off easy with only rolled "ones" counting as failures. As you progress further towards your goal rolling fours, fives, or sixes will be needed to succeed. The fleet battle is handled with simple dice rolls too.  Roll equal to or higher than your target's defense and they blow up real good.  As the game starts winding down the stakes get higher and the drama of each roll is heightened. This is classic Ameritrash at its best.

Perhaps the most important mechanic in the game is that of earning bonus cards. There are a few ways to do this, but the most common is to completely wipe out a squadron in space. So after a battle if the space you just attack no longer has enemy ships you get to draw a card and put it under your orders pile without looking at it. Essentially this gives you free actions which should help turn the tide.  It's like the game's personal way of thanking you for kicking ass during your turn.  Earning bonus cards is a fantastic little rule that will sometimes weigh heavily upon your decisions. Great stuff.

The whole game breezes along and once you know what you're doing it can be finished in twenty or thirty minutes. As an added bonus you can play as teams which is just as much fun as the two player game. Some might be thinking that thirty minutes is too short to be satisfying, but I think it feels perfect.  There is something to be said for a rules light, thematically rich, game that can be cracked opened, taught, AND finished in less than sixty minutes. This is a tight design and any unnecessary chaff has been carefully excised from the game.  It's not cluttered with text heavy, special event cards, or seven different phases within a turn.   What you're left with is one of the greatest Star Wars board games ever made.

The highest compliment that I can pay this game is that it perfectly captures the GRAND FINALE of Jedi. Even if you dislike the film, it's hard to argue how cool the three battles are. Being able to replicate that in a fast playing boardgame is most impressive. Plus, the game has some little touches that make you realize the design team knew exactly what they were doing. In the lightsaber duel, if Luke gets Vader down to his final three health points, the Rebel player can play a card to redeem him. The only thing that doesn't really feel right is the Millennium Falcon. It's not that powerful and I think it should have had some bonus to blowing up the Death Star at the end. 

I mentioned that this was a public service announcement and less of a review and here's why; this game is going to go out of print at some point. Hasbro doesn't keep stuff like this on shelves forever. You know how Epic Duels and Queen's Gambit are expensive and highly sought after? Yeah, this is going to be EXACTLY like that. Buy it now so you won't regret it when when people are selling the Black Edition for $200 in about eight to ten years.  

2015 saw plenty of great games come out. However, there was only one game that I absolutely know I will never sell from my collection and that is Star Wars Risk. The standard edition is HANDS DOWN the greatest game you can buy for less than $20. The Amazon exclusive edition is a beautiful looking version that I'm happy to own as well. Please heed my warning...if you're a fan of either classic, mass market, style Ameritrash, or Star Wars (or both) this is a MUST OWN. If the game came out in the 1980s and was called, "Return of the Jedi: The Board Game" it would be a grail game. It didn't though. It came out in 2015 with the misfortune of being named Star Wars Risk. Don't let that hinder you from missing out on this incredibly well designed Star Wars game.

 

What does the Scale-o-matic 6500™ say?

On a scale of Jar Jar Binks to Boba Fett

Star Wars Risk rates as Bossk

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Designer:  Unknown Hasbro design monkeys

Publisher:  Hasbro

Year Published:  2015

Player Count:  2 or 4

Length:  25-45 minutes

Star Wars Risk - A Public Service Announcement There Will Be Games
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Posted: 17 May 2016 10:42 by bfkiller #227604
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I like Queen's Gambit quite a bit better. The options on each card in Star Wars Risk don't really feel like options because there's usually a very obvious way to play your hand. Queen's Gambit offers the players more tactical options to consider for playing out a dealt hand because the importance of each field of battle is better balanced.

I still assume the game's development must have been rushed to meet the Force Friday deadline. Either that or Rob Daviau's development chops were missed.
Posted: 17 May 2016 10:55 by JEM #227605
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From what I've experienced so far, what you go with depends on what the opponents choose to do, so in any given game one element or the other may come to the fore. I still see viable reasons to pursue the saber duel and/or the Endor track* it just depends on how the space battle is going.

*Endor is technically required for a Rebellion win, but if the board is wiped of Imperial ships and there are still many rebel craft, it's time to concede anyway.
Posted: 17 May 2016 10:57 by Colorcrayons #227606
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bfkiller wrote:
I like Queen's Gambit quite a bit better. The options on each card in Star Wars Risk don't really feel like options because there's usually a very obvious way to play your hand. Queen's Gambit offers the players more tactical options to consider for playing out a dealt hand because the importance of each field of battle is better balanced.

I still assume the game's development must have been rushed to meet the Force Friday deadline. Either that or Rob Daviau's development chops were missed.

Interesting.
Do you think it would be difficult for armchair hobbyist designers to tweak this satisfactorily?
Or would it be too difficult given what is contained in this version?
Posted: 17 May 2016 11:10 by bfkiller #227608
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Colorcrayons wrote:
bfkiller wrote:
I like Queen's Gambit quite a bit better. The options on each card in Star Wars Risk don't really feel like options because there's usually a very obvious way to play your hand. Queen's Gambit offers the players more tactical options to consider for playing out a dealt hand because the importance of each field of battle is better balanced.

I still assume the game's development must have been rushed to meet the Force Friday deadline. Either that or Rob Daviau's development chops were missed.

Interesting.
Do you think it would be difficult for armchair hobbyist designers to tweak this satisfactorily?
Or would it be too difficult given what is contained in this version?

No idea. I've never tried tweaking game rules for any game I've played.
Posted: 17 May 2016 11:14 by bfkiller #227610
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I should add that there are a few aspects of Star Wars Risk that I prefer. Return of the Jedi is much better source material for Star Wars fans, and the game ends pretty much at the right time (I've had games of Queen's Gambit that dragged on for too long, though I've had games of Star Wars Risk that ran too long as well).
Posted: 17 May 2016 11:37 by SuperflyTNT #227613
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I'm with you ^^^ on the Queen's Gambit slogfest. It's a fantastic game that has literally 1 extra hour tacked onto it for no real reason. This game is a hell of a compromise - 85% of the fun in 60% of the time. Like Dark Moon vs BSG.
Posted: 17 May 2016 11:45 by Egg Shen #227614
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I can't comment specifically on how it stacks up to Queen's Gambit since I've never had a chance to play that. I still think Star Wars Risk is a hell of a consolation prize. Make no mistake though, Star Wars Risk is NOT a hobby game. This is mass market gold that hearkens back to the glory days of the 80s/90s. The complexity level is below HeroQuest and is much closer to well...Risk. I'm a huge fan of these lighter simpler Ameritrash games...think Thunder Road or even Nexus Ops. This isn't Star Wars Rebellion. It's straightforward, in your face, and it's Star Wars. I love it.

Also it's $17.97 on amazon right now. I can't even order a large buffalo chicken pizza for that price. Fuck, the value of this game is tremendous!
Posted: 17 May 2016 11:58 by charlest #227616
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bfkiller - Rob Daviau had very little input on QG.

I agree though, QG is much better although you have to deal with that sluggish mid-game.
Posted: 17 May 2016 12:53 by Black Barney #227619
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This sounds infinitely better than Game of Thrones CLUE. Jeeeeesus does that look and sound terrible. It started as a April Fool's joke a year ago and then someone actually made it.

Why is Hizdahr Zo Loraq a character in this but Jon Snow and Arya aren't?!? Doesn't she kill people all the time?
Posted: 17 May 2016 15:39 by san il defanso #227630
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I really like this one too, but I think it only really starts to open up when both people have played it a bunch. That's not because the game is all that deep, but because both sides have kind of a bludgeoning strategy they can do quickly if the other person isn't paying attention. Being able to anticipate those strategies is a key part of playing effectively, and it's at that point that the card bonuses (especially those for the lightsaber battle) become really important.

The bludgeoning strategy for the Rebels is more obvious right off, which is to rush Endor. But if the Imperials create a meat shield between the Deathstar and the Rebel fleet, and keep pooping out TIE fighters, it's pretty effective at slowing them down. Any card advantage at that point is a big deal.

I do really like this game. I like that the rules are simple enough that my six-year-old can play it and enjoy it, and I like that it's proven to have more depth than its simplicity displays.
Posted: 17 May 2016 16:31 by Michael Barnes #227632
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This is a better game than Queen's Gambit across the board. It may not be a "hobby" game, but there aren't many designs that evoke their subject matter so well with so little. It really shows that games don't have to have 40 pages of rules, 2000 counters, reams of lame flavor text, multi-mechanic combat resolution and 8 hour play times to be narrative, impactful, and "epic".

I love Rebellion; but this is the one I'd save from a fire- even with it being exponentially less expensive.
Posted: 17 May 2016 17:59 by KingPut #227635
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One the Best Rating system ever:

What does the Scale-o-matic 6500™ say?
On a scale of Jar Jar Binks to Boba Fett
Star Wars Risk rates as Bossk
Posted: 18 May 2016 05:50 by Jarvis #227651
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Based on this review and the comments below, I just bought this. I can't wait to try it out.
Posted: 18 May 2016 05:52 by Black Barney #227652
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Ouf... the review is a Greedo at best.
Posted: 18 May 2016 06:59 by Josh Look #227655
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This game _IS_ awesome. No, it's not as well put together mechanically as QG, but it also doesn't fall into a slump like that game does and opens up way more with repeat plays between the same two players. It also does not feature Gungans or Battle Droids. For sheer fun, Star Wars Risks gets the clear edge for me. It's the new "test the waters" game for me. If you don't like it, I'm probably not going to be inclined to play anything with you.
Posted: 18 May 2016 07:30 by Columbob #227658
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I might get to play it for the first time this (long) weekend as I'm going to visit my nephews. Their coolest uncle got it for them for Xmas. I don't even know if they've played it yet or not, though they probably did.
Posted: 18 May 2016 08:23 by SuperflyTNT #227667
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To be fair, QG isn't a hobby game and was sold at Toys R Us. Same with a great many "hobby games" that people would sell a kidney to own.

"Hobby Game" is a bullshit term anyhow. The hobby is playing games, and if you're playing Space Hulk, Dungeon!, or Sorry Sliders, they're just games.

I have been waiting for the Rebellion people to dump this like chaff, hoping to get a deal. Seems like I miscalculated peoples' need to hoard all things Star Wars!
Posted: 18 May 2016 08:49 by Msample #227669
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I do think REBELLION has now somewhat fired QUEENS GAMBIT as THE heavy AT game. But I'm still keeping my copy of QG.

Where did they settle out on the rules questions for SW:Risk ? There was a LOOOOOONG debate about some rules questions, such as:

- does the Empire get a bonus card for killing an off board Rebel ship marker

- can TIE fighters kill an off board Rebel ship

- can the Executor spit out TIE fighters who can also attack the same turn they deploy ?
Posted: 18 May 2016 09:06 by charlest #227672
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Msample wrote:
I do think REBELLION has now somewhat fired QUEENS GAMBIT as THE heavy AT game. But I'm still keeping my copy of QG.

Where did they settle out on the rules questions for SW:Risk ? There was a LOOOOOONG debate about some rules questions, such as:

- does the Empire get a bonus card for killing an off board Rebel ship marker

- can TIE fighters kill an off board Rebel ship

- can the Executor spit out TIE fighters who can also attack the same turn they deploy ?

Yes on all three of those. The last one is the most powerful as you should really just move the Executor up and spam.
Posted: 18 May 2016 09:15 by JEM #227675
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In our last game we crushed the Empire because they brought the Executor up to spawn tie fighters to strike with. We killed it with half of their Ties never getting on the board.
Posted: 18 May 2016 09:16 by Msample #227676
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And I think in the end that is why this game falls a bit flat. There is not that much variety in game play, esp for the Empire.
Posted: 18 May 2016 09:21 by JEM #227679
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I think it's more that the current "meta" has rushed to some facile conclusions.
Posted: 18 May 2016 09:49 by Josh Look #227681
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SuperflyTNT wrote:
To be fair, QG isn't a hobby game and was sold at Toys R Us. Same with a great many "hobby games" that people would sell a kidney to own.

"Hobby Game" is a bullshit term anyhow. The hobby is playing games, and if you're playing Space Hulk, Dungeon!, or Sorry Sliders, they're just games.

I have been waiting for the Rebellion people to dump this like chaff, hoping to get a deal. Seems like I miscalculated peoples' need to hoard all things Star Wars!

Yeah, I mean they're two entirely different beasts. Owning one has not stopped the play of the other.

I'm not calling this out as jab at you, Pete, so please don't take this way, but the hobby in general could really afford to look past the window dressing. If I got all hung up on that shit with all the space games I own, I'd own like 2 games (and I'm not the kind of guy who gets off on that).
Posted: 18 May 2016 10:11 by charlest #227683
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JEM wrote:
In our last game we crushed the Empire because they brought the Executor up to spawn tie fighters to strike with. We killed it with half of their Ties never getting on the board.

That's interesting. I've played this strategy 6 or 7 times awhile ago, always moving the Executor up and spamming TIEs, and have tried focusing entirely on space with the Rebels to destroy the Executor.

It's been awhile since I've played so my math/numbers may be off.

The issue is that the Executor can take 8 hits I believe and only takes them on a 5-6. The Empire can easily play 3 TIE deploy cards each round as those cards are a huge portion of their deck. After the first, they are attacking with maximum dice.

The Rebels can certainly destroy the Executor in this strategy but I've never seen it done before half the TIEs were deployed. That's about the earliest it can happen with luck. Even if that happens, having that huge ball of TIE death is ridiculous. The Empire should be able to clear spaces and get tons of bonus cards which just spirals.

Lets do some math, say the Rebels are able to attack it with 4 dice every time which would be maybe normal but I think slightly giving the Rebs an edge compared to reality, that would take 6 actions of attacking straight. You can get lucky sure.

6 actions meanwhile of deploying TIEs would give you 24 I believe. Plus bonus cards.

The meta may be rushing (although it's been months since this game was released now), but even with concentrating on thwarting the strategy hasn't resulted well for me.

The TIE deploy + shoot comboing with Bonus cards from clearing spaces is the main thing that makes this so ridiculous. Meanwhile the Rebel player is getting no bonus cards. Bonus cards lead to more TIEs which lead to more bonus cards.
Posted: 19 May 2016 06:50 by Chaz #227766
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What was the final verdict on normal edition vs black edition? It's over a $30 difference right now. I'm guessing black edition isn't worth the premium?
Posted: 19 May 2016 07:10 by JEM #227768
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That's a personal choice. I don't see the need to spend so much on bling when you can get the basic version for $15.
Posted: 19 May 2016 08:28 by Egg Shen #227771
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Chaz wrote:
What was the final verdict on normal edition vs black edition? It's over a $30 difference right now. I'm guessing black edition isn't worth the premium?

At $50 it's like just outside of the price range of where it should be. It probably should retail for like $35. Amazon used to blow it out and you could get it for $30 shipped every now and then. That is the price that I picked it up at. I haven't seen it at that price in a very long time now. The component quality is quite a bit nicer...thicker board, more minis, better box, cards stock is improved etc... However, I've gone even further and tricked out my copy with micro machines and other stuff. It looks really awesome now.

Also, I wasn't kidding when I said this was a public service announcement. Sure the Black Edition is $50 now, but when it goes out of print it could quickly double in price. The regular edition is an AMAZING value for about $20, but I'm really glad to have the Black Edition. Honestly, within a few years I expect both editions of the game to be gone and replaced by something new that Hasbro is pairing with a SW movie release. I could be wrong, but historically speaking Hasbro doesn't keep this stuff in print forever. It's basically treated like a toy. They get rid of the old model and try to come up with something new and better for the toy shelves next year.
Posted: 19 May 2016 21:55 by MattLoter #227829
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Love this game. Easily one of the most played games at the cafe. Empire doesn't seem to win much in our experience.
Posted: 20 May 2016 07:31 by Josh Look #227849
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If you're mathing out a game with the word "Risk" in the title, I think you've missed something.
Posted: 20 May 2016 07:35 by Josh Look #227850
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MattLoter wrote:
Love this game. Easily one of the most played games at the cafe. Empire doesn't seem to win much in our experience.

I know everyone says, but using the errata online is crucial. I don't think it makes it even, but it's close. Remebering to get a bonus card on a successful Death Star attack and that TIEs can attack in the same action they're deployed helps out a ton.
Posted: 23 May 2016 06:58 by charlest #227949
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Josh Look wrote:
If you're mathing out a game with the word "Risk" in the title, I think you've missed something.

Just because a game has the word "Risk" in the title doesn't mean it can't be balanced.
Posted: 24 May 2016 12:02 by Southernman #228030
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... with guitars !

(Sorry, I've staring at this thread title for a while now and I finally couldn't resist)