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Star Wars Rebellion: Rise of the Empire

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

From Fantasy Flight Games, Star Wars Rebellion was already a great asymmetric two-person contest: a cat and mouse tease and pursuit game between a mighty empire and a wily rebel alliance.

This was the first play incorporating the new Rise of the Empire expansion. This introduces new leaders, new missions, some new units and a whole new (replacement) combat system.

All our plays of Star Wars Rebellion have been knife-edge close. Perhaps it’s type-casting but I always seem to play the evil Empire hunting down the heroic rebels. So far, I’ve always won but, in every case, only a move ahead of the rebels: another turn and the timeline and the rebels’ reputation would meet and give them the win. This game played out the same way, but it was tense and exciting all the way through.

The new missions offer each player a choice of decks – adding to the variation and replayability of the game. The new units mostly provide an interesting tweak to the units in the base game, and they all roll the new green combat dice which have critical hits on two faces but blanks on the other four.

It’s combat though that is the biggest change. The expansion throws out the randomly drawn tactics cards in the base game and replaces them with a hand of tactics cards tailored for each player. At the start of combat, each player chooses to play one of their new tactics card. Combat then proceeds as before through dice rolls, but the leaders’ tactical abilities now give players rerolls rather than extra cards. The tactics cards go to a discard pile when used and only recycle when all the cards of that particular battle type (space or ground) are exhausted. This adds multiple layers of strategy over when and how best to make use of attacks.

The rules describe the new battle system as ‘cinematic combat’. I don’t know about that, but the game itself definitely produces cinematic moments. In today’s game, Darth Vader captured Luke Skywalker but, in a later turn, and at the site of a Death Star under construction, Luke, now a Jedi, successfully defeated Vader and eliminated him from the game. Toby’s rebels relished this success almost as much as they celebrated the two steps advance it gave them on the reputation track.

If you have Star Wars Rebellion, you’ll certainly want to add the Rise of the Empire expansion. The combat, in particular, makes it a worthwhile addition, and none of the add-on elements overcomplicate the game. As a result, I now wouldn’t play Star Wars Rebellion without the expansion.

(Review by Selwyn Ward)

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