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Star Wars: Imperial Assault Review

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11 Apr 2016 00:57 #225821 by Matt Thrower

The first edition of Warhammer 40k was perhaps the worst thing Games Workshop even made. Although it was stuffed full of interesting tidbits, they unwisely chose to just copy their fantasy battle system into the 41st millennium. Where, as a result, a crossbow had the exact same stat line as a bolt gun, planting a high-explosive round smack into the middle of your suspension of disbelief. Porting fantasy straight to sci-fi is rarely a good idea.

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13 Apr 2016 20:18 - 13 Apr 2016 20:25 #225822 by Feelitmon
I'm in the middle of a three-player campaign of this game, and so far we really like it. It's fun, the villains and heroes feel distinctive and powerful, each session has produced memorable moments, and the mechanics are easy to learn and fast to play with. I do indeed have a big but though.

BUT ... too many of the campaign scenarios are so carefully tuned that the heroes will fail if they spend any time at all trading shots with the baddies. My fellow Rebel player and I got our clocks cleaned in a couple of scenarios early on, and finally realized what the designers want us to do:

1. At the beginning of the scenario you need to count how many spaces away the objectives are from your starting area and figure out how many actions that will take you to get there. Then add in a certain number of actions for dealing with suddenly-closing doors, slicing consoles, etc. Take that action total and subtract it from the total number of actions that the time limit of the scenario will allow for. That is how many actions at best that you can use for healing and fighting. You need to figure this out in advance or else you will be late to the objective and lose. Unfortunately this is not fun. I never want to treat this type of run-and-gun, shoot-some-stormtroopers ameritrash game so clinically.

2. Rebel players need to ignore enemies as much as possible. If it's a choice between a move-and-attack or a double-move then the objective probably requires the latter. This means that many scenarios boil down to the Imperial player getting to take lots of shots at the heroes with his evergreen supply of troops while the heroes just move and/or heal their wounds. This must be a lot of fun for the Imperial player but it is not fun as a Rebel player. I want to achieve objectives, sure, but I also want to mix it up a bit.

3. Hope the Imperial player makes mistakes, at least on the first time through a campaign. Many scenarios involve plot twists and unforeseeable complications for the heroes. After a while you sort of get used to that as a Rebel player, but you just can't always predict what the twist will be. If your Imperial player is ruthless then they can use their knowledge advantage to crush you in certain scenarios. This is where a game publisher's QA process can really make or break a game, especially whether they use blind playtesting or not. This game feels like one where they had the same playtesters for the entire QA phase. The game itself is admirably tuned, but I get the strong sense that a number of the campaign missions were more evenly balanced for FFG's veteran playtesters than they are for new Rebel players.


I will say that the rich-get-richer aspect to it is not too brutal. We're nearing the end of the campaign and the Rebels are having problems, but if we can win that last mission then we'll win the campaign! The Imperial player has gotten some great upgrades, but so have we. And speaking of the campaign, I really like how it's structured. Certain missions are mandatory, but some are essentially chosen by the Rebels and some by the Imperial. Pretty neat.

We have yet to play a skirmish, but it sounds like that's the mode that will satisfy my desire to just blow some stuff up. In the meantime we're having a blast with the campaign and are looking forward to the expansions and even another main campaign play-through. It's a fun game, and since none of us has played Descent it's all new to us!
Last edit: 13 Apr 2016 20:25 by Feelitmon.
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13 Apr 2016 21:04 #225823 by Sevej
#1 & #2 That's a common complaint also with Descent, the game feel more like race. During playtesting I felt that it's somewhat worse in IA, since IA often have a hardcoded timer (the game has a freakin turn track). However, the ability to move through enemies does help a little. Or may be not, since it's because of this also they can put a much more precise time limit.

#3 This is very correct. While there seems plenty of dice rolling and randomness, it's actually a very skill-dependent, resource management game.
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13 Apr 2016 21:44 #225824 by ChristopherMD
I'd just like to point out, even though I'm sure you're aware, that Descent is in fact the scifi game DOOM with fantasy trappings added. So a shotgun became a fireball or whatever. If anything FFG has brought the design full circle back to its scifi roots that were always better anyways. This is why I think the Star Wars settings particular blend of scifi and fantasy works so good here. The game system was already a blend of the two genres as well.

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14 Apr 2016 14:39 #225860 by southernman
We found IA to be a slaughter for the Rebels when having a good gamer playing Imperial, OK maybe he is very good as he does quite well as the Overlord in Descent as well. But the bottomline is halfway through a campaign the imperials are just uber strong and the other two of us are cannon fodder.
We have decided to give it a miss, plenty of other games for us to get into.

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14 Apr 2016 15:56 #225867 by Varys
I played a whole campaign of IA and I did enjoy it, however, it was much harder for us (the Rebels). It's a good thing our Overlord had a bit of a brain fart and sort of forgot about some of his cards and abilities the last couple of missions. Otherwise, I think it was definitely going to become a runaway leader type of problem in the campaign. It's even worse when the runaway leader is the Overlord because then only one person is having fun. We ended up having 4 characters, but everyone didn't always come to the sessions. I wonder if things would have been different if it was going better for the Rebels. I was also fortunate enough to have played a copy of a friend who did buy several of the additional character packs. I think some of the character packs are pretty good and they do add some nice extra side missions. That would drive the price of the game up quite a bit though.

Overall, I don't think I'd get it. I think it plays best with 4 Rebel characters despite what they claim about it being balanced with lower counts. That means you need 5 people to play it every time and that's not always easy to do.
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14 Apr 2016 16:11 #225870 by ChristopherMD
I must really suck because I haven't been winning at all as the IA player. Rebels get stronger and stronger items while I get a card that lets me move a guy if I manage to wound one of the super-rebels.

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14 Apr 2016 16:16 #225871 by hotseatgames
I do find it really annoying when you can't feel like exploring in a dungeon crawl because if you hesitate for one second, you'll run out of time. You should get to search through dank dungeons, not always feeling like Indy's giant boulder is behind you.
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17 Apr 2016 20:55 #226020 by Sevej

Varys wrote: Overall, I don't think I'd get it. I think it plays best with 4 Rebel characters despite what they claim about it being balanced with lower counts. That means you need 5 people to play it every time and that's not always easy to do.


Not quite true. There is nothing stopping you from controlling 4 characters by yourself. That's what I did on all my Descent & IA playthroughs. And getting 2 people together to finish a campaign is infinitely easier than if it was with more people.

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20 Apr 2016 10:42 #226136 by san il defanso
I really like Imperial Assault for the most part. It's true that as a dungeon crawl it's not really much to look at, but I don't really think of it that way. It's much more tactical than that, and I really like the fast-paced nature of it. I mean it's not like Luke and Han could just kill everyone on the Deathstar, right?

I'm a lousy Imperial player too, because we're five missions into our campaign and I've only won the most recent one. This is against two rebel players.

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20 Apr 2016 10:51 #226137 by Michael Barnes

Sevej wrote:

Varys wrote: Overall, I don't think I'd get it. I think it plays best with 4 Rebel characters despite what they claim about it being balanced with lower counts. That means you need 5 people to play it every time and that's not always easy to do.


Not quite true. There is nothing stopping you from controlling 4 characters by yourself. That's what I did on all my Descent & IA playthroughs. And getting 2 people together to finish a campaign is infinitely easier than if it was with more people.


I've played it exclusively with three players, two Rebel players handling two characters each, and it's worked just fine.

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