Star Wars: Imperial Assault is best thought of as a series of games, where one leads on from the other. That’s not to say it can’t be played as a one-off – it can – but if you’re investing the financial outlay on one of the more expensive (and expansive) games out there, you probably want to get your money’s worth and embark on the campaign game that it offers.
One player takes on the role of the evil Empire, whilst the others play the heroic Rebels. The ‘board’ is constructed of many modular pieces that can be set up in a variety of ways – they all have a grid imprinted on them, and it’s this grid that your pieces – actual miniatures – move around.
The overarching idea of Imperial Assault is the Rebels are undertaking a series of missions to sabotage the Empire. On a game by game basis, it’s a battle, as you have different objectives in each game (often more than one). You’ll have two actions to use on your turn, and these can be move, attack, interact, or recover.
Characters can move different amounts that depends on their speed, they can interact by grabbing stuff from crates, opening and closing doors etc, and attack using both weapons and a special deck of cards (each character has their own custom deck). The heart of the game is the combat – depending on what weapons you use, dice are rolled that decides three things: whether the attack was accurate, how many hits it inflicted, and whether a surge move was instigated, allowing the attacker to implement a particularly destructive move.
At the same time, however, the defender will also be rolling a die that can minimise the damage taken or possibly negate it entirely. This combat system is nuanced enough that, although luck is certainly a factor, you can play Imperial Assault with a fair degree of strategy: some characters are more destructive at close quarters, for instance, but that means probably taking more damage. If you hang back you’ll take less hits but equally, you may be contributing less to the cause. How the Rebel players work together is key.
Overall the game’s play and ongoing campaign offerings (where results of one mission affect the next) would suit gamers who are happy to while away a few hours of their weekend (or late into the night) pushing forward the Rebels objectives, and taking a battering whilst doing so!
If Imperial Assault really floats your boat (or the idea of a campaign does, but you’re not a fan of Star Wars) then there are other games out there that function in a similar board game/roleplay fashion: Descent, Mage Knight and Shadows of Brimstone to name but three, and of course there are other Star Wars themed games too; the most popular being Star Wars: Armada and X-Wing.
If you’re coming back to games after an extended hiatus Star Wars: Imperial Assault isn’t the one to start with, unless you’re feeling particularly ambitious or want something ongoing and immersive. It’s a different gaming experience to most games on GNG as it demands a good deal of time – and not just over one evening either. For me personally, the basic concept of a ongoing fight that is perpetually tweaked by exceptions and exclusions isn’t something I hugely enjoy – but for some it’s a go-to game.
High. The whole game is essentially a protracted battle, although the only player who could possibly feel picked on would be the player representing the Empire.
It obviously depends on the players, but familiarity with the rules should bring a fast-moving experience.
There are moments when you may want to think strategically and Rebel players can converse over this. But the combat is - again, familiarity assumed - slick.
Well, you shouldn't be diving into Imperial Assault unless you have clear intentions to play again, again! There is a basic 'Skirmish' game that can be played as a one-off, but the thrust of the design is that overarching narrative. If you want a game that echoes the simplistic boardgames of yore, this probably isn't it. If the idea of embarking on a quest excites you, then Imperial Assault could well float your astronomical boat.