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Board Game Review

Star Wars Unlimited Review

Deck Star

It takes something truly special to get me to come out of my Sarlacc pit and actually want to play a new card game. Not for lack of trying or talent on anyone’s part, but as lockdown marched on and our lives were seemingly permanently upended, I pretty much had my fair share of tokens and cards and complex rule sets meant to emulate little cities and whatnot. I thought I was done, but if anything was going to pull me back to the light, it was Star Wars.

Star Wars Unlimited is the latest effort from Fantasy Flight Games, the long-running and adored game makers, who have sought to combine the iconography and trappings of that galaxy far, far away with an approachable and rewarding two-player* card-based game. Far from Fantasy Flight’s first major IP crossover, the team’s work on Marvel Champions being of particular note, Star Wars Unlimited is the beginning phases of what they’re hoping to be a multi-year project and having spent the past few weeks getting gangs of disparate 30-somethings together to check it out, it’s hard to not be excited about what Fantasy Flight have cooking.

Star Wars Unlimited’s Two-Player set gives you everything you need to jump right in

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be wanting someone to break down the basics of the game for you in leiaman’s terms. In Star Wars Unlimited, you and another player will face off in simulated battles between the heroes of the Rebellion and the villians of the Empire using approachable decks built from base sets and booster packs. There is a ruleset available to turn the game into a multiplayer version of itself but for now, and for my brain, it was easier to use the streamlined two player set up. Each player’s deck, beginning at 50 cards each, is comprised of various types of card unit including a Leader card, a Base card, and an assortment of upgrades and critters, all themed around familiar Star Wars imagery.

As you might expect, your Base and Leader cards form the backbone of both your deck and your playstyle. Both cards display three Aspects (one on the Base, two on the Leader) and these symbols indicate the types of cards you’ll want to build your deck from, as attempting to use cards from a different Aspect results in a higher cost of Resources to play on the field. Though it speaks to Star Wars Unlimited’s freeform approach that you can mix and match Aspects at your discretion, something I imagine will be even more fun as the game continues to expand its library of characters and cards inspired by the wider Star Wars series.

Moment-to-moment play is remarkably streamlined and approachable too, deploying an engaging mix of turn-based moves and more active combat engagement. Kicking things off, you’ll both draw six cards (which can be mulligan’d back into the deck for a fresh hand if you don’t like what you see) before flipping a coin to decide who goes first via the Initiative token. From here things progress along Action and Regroup phases, with Action allowing for an assortment of moves including Leader activation, basic attacks, and playing a new card.

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The card art found in Star Wars Unlimited perfectly captures the tone of the films and wider franchise

The Action phase enables some really responsive and enjoyable back and forth between players, perfectly balancing considered moves and reactionary strikes. For instance, when you attack the other player’s forces, you’ll enter what is effectively active combat, allowing your enemy to land a few hits on you as you move against them, resulting in persistent damage to both units and upping the ante on the risk/reward of aggressive play. Combat can be heightened even further with Leader cards moving onto the battlefield. These use Resource heavy attacks that deal big damage numbers and nicely capture the feeling of having Darth Vader himself stride into a Rebellion v Empire collision.

Star Wars Unlimited manages to feel both intuitive and stimulating with its card variety too. Across two distinct battlefield and card types, Ground and Space, units can engage other like units and attack the enemy Base at will, all of which are bolstered by your Leader unit once play conditions have been met. You can also use Upgrade and Event cards to further modify your basic cards, granting additional moves and altering play respectively. This unit distinction adds a nice layer of strategy to events, while small mercies like Resources being essentially any card you choose to lay face down on the playmat, make the use of various rules feels approachable to even the newest of players. Likewise, the including gameplay mats double as fantastic quick reference sheets for many of the game’s rules.

Once you and your opponent are done with the Action phase, the game moves into Regroup. As the name suggests, this is your strategic downtime between battles, allowing you two pull two new cards from your deck and ready up any Resources or units for the next Action phase. The current set, Spark of Rebellion, features a load of potential cards to play and given the relatively snappy nature of each match, you’ll get a good bit of replayability from base decks alone as you cycle through cards with unique abilities and play modifiers. From my early experiences with the game there are already units I would groan to see enter the field and others I’d quietly beam at when I drew from the deck, a sure sign these cards are keeping play adaptive and fun.

It all hangs together well, especially for more casual card game fans who might be coming to Star Wars Unlimited through the iconic branding alone (hello there). While the Spark of Rebellion two-player starter kit (set at a fairly reasonable $59.95) gives you everything you’ll need to enjoy the game, part of the joy of a deck-builder like this is, well, building your deck. Right now, there are booster packs available to bolster your numbers and playstyle, and Fantasy Flight have built a handy online tool to give players a look at the full available set as it exists now and give you a chance to build your ideal deck out before you start nabbing boosters and hoping for the best pulls.

Only time will tell how far Star Wars Unlimited will go, though Fantasy Flight’s five-year roadmap speaks to a game with an ideally long and bring future ahead of it. Later this year we’ll be treated to Shadows of the Galaxy (which is pulling from Solo, The Mandalorian, and The Clone Wars) and Twilight of the Republic sets, both of which will likely continue the already established trend in Spark of Rebellion of detailed and expressive card art and playstyles that manage to capture the magic of the Star Wars universe.

My biggest hope is that Star Wars Unlimited becomes truly that, expanding its references and lore pulls into eras like the Sequel Trilogy or even The Old Republic. The base game here is fun and engaging enough that I already desperately want to see my personal Glup Shittos on the battlefield against my friends.

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Review copy of Star Wars Unlimited Spark of Rebellion Two-Player Starter supplied by the publisher

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Star Wars Unlimited Review
Hyperspace, Hyperfun
Star Wars Unlimited manages to perfectly balance the feeling of that galaxy far, far away with a fun, layered, and approachable deck-builder
The Good
Approachable and fun gameplay
Well paced Action and Regroup phases
Diversity of cards and playstyles
Stylish and expressive card art
Deck-building support and roadmap
The Bad
Replayability can be limited by initial base decks

Star Wars Unlimited Review
Hyperspace, Hyperfun
Star Wars Unlimited manages to perfectly balance the feeling of that galaxy far, far away with a fun, layered, and approachable deck-builder
The Good
Approachable and fun gameplay
Well paced Action and Regroup phases
Diversity of cards and playstyles
Stylish and expressive card art
Deck-building support and roadmap
The Bad
Replayability can be limited by initial base decks
Written By James Wood

One part pretentious academic and one part goofy dickhead, James is often found defending strange games and frowning at the popular ones, but he's happy to play just about everything in between. An unbridled love for FromSoftware's pantheon, a keen eye for vibes first experiences, and an insistence on the Oxford comma have marked his time in the industry.

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