23 November 2019
A war in a galaxy far, far away remains fun to play
Lasers spit from blasters, speeders zoom and lightsabers slash in this latest outing of Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars wargame. Will you stand with the Jedi, or heed the call of the Dark Side? The new Star Wars Legion: Clone Wars box set brings the action to the prequel trilogy, pitting Obi-Wan Kenobi and Republic Clone Troopers against the devious General Grievous and his army of droids.
In expanding the game along the timeline Clone Wars doesn’t change any of the existing mechanics, so the biggest draw in gameplay terms remains its distinct approach to activating an army’s units. Each player has a set of command cards which contain a number of pips and information about how many orders that card confers. It’s these command cards that give Star Wars Legion a lot of its depth. At the start of a round both players essentially have to make a blind bid; each selects a command card and places it facedown, then simultaneously reveals it. The player with the fewest number of pips gains priority and gets to go first. The hook comes with the number of orders that card confers, which are are issued by an army’s leader to ensure a unit activates. Units not issued orders have to rely on randomly drawn tokens to activate. These tokens designate unit types (commander, support, heavy and so forth), and a token will have to correspond with that unit’s type in order to be successfully used.
In practice, this forces players to prioritise which units they want to use most on a given turn, and leave the rest to chance. Command cards with fewer pips have fewer orders, creating a trade off between gaining priority and making sure enough units do what they’re supposed to at the crucial moment. It’s a fun minigame that adds both strategy and uncertainty to the proceedings, reflecting the on-the-fly nature of making decisions in the heat of battle. The rest of the game is fairly par for the course for a wargame; units perform two actions (move, shoot and so forth) and a true line of sight rather than theoretical system determines whether units can see one another when shooting. Overall, the action is fast and keeps bookkeeping to a minimum.
The main focus for the box set are the new miniatures. The Republic Clone Troopers are made in the same PVC semi-flexible plastic that most Star Wars Legion miniatures are made of, and – for the foot soldiers at least – go together well enough (if you’re planning to paint them it’s highly recommended that you keep the arms separate when doing so). The PVC minis have some mold lines, but they’re not too offensive and can be fled away without much hassle. The real news is the Separatist Alliance faction. The new models are all hard plastic and come on frames. Sadly, there’s no getting around the fact that they’re finicky as all hell to put together. Admittedly, the idea of recreating spindly droids in miniature was always likely to create problems, and it’s a neat feature that the scorpion-like droidekas can be assembled in either
fighting mode or as a rolling hamster wheel of doom, but the number of small fiddly parts makes assembly a chore.
In swapping out the contents of the original starter set, the box comes with all the attendant limitations the first set came with. Something that seems to have become endemic with wargames generally is the tendency to treat starter sets as teases for the wider experience, rather than a really meaty out-of-the-box experience, and that remains true here. Like the first box, the number of special dice included just aren’t enough and, more importantly, the lack of units means that most of the game’s mechanics lose their lustre at that level, in particular the command system. Each side only has four units, and the uncertainty factor generated by non-ordered units only really works at the standard army size of around double that number.
Despite these shortcomings as a box set, Star Wars Legion remains an engrossing and fluid experience, whether you’re a fan of the films or a wargamer interested in different approaches to the genre.
PLAY IT? YES
Designer: Alex Davy
Artist: Alex Kim
This review originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.