Dale Yu: Review of Star Wars: Rivals  (Expandable Game System)

Star Wars: Rivals 

  • Designer: Prospero Hall
  • Publisher: Funko Games
  • Players: 2
  • Age: 7+
  • Time: 10-20 minutes per game
  • Played with preview Premier Set Series 1 and 4 Character Booster Packs provided by Funko Games

From the publisher:

Star Wars: Rivals is an expandable card game in which the light and dark sides of the Force face off, with each player building a squadron from characters throughout different eras of the Star Wars universe. This set is playable on its own, but players can also create larger squadrons, whether for the light or dark side, by using new characters present in character booster packs.

Star Wars: Rivals – Series 1 – Premier Set includes four characters — Luke Skywalker and Commander Cody vs. Darth Vader and Asajj Ventress — 14 action cards, 18 tokens and markers, 12 location cards, and a prism die. Each character has three unique action cards, and players use their characters to try to claim location cards.

OK, so this is a tactical dueling card game that pits the forces of the Light Side (nee Rebels) and the Dark Side against each other.  Interestingly, this game mashes together characters from the entire Timeline, so you can end up with characters who would otherwise not belong together.  If you only have the Premier base set, you have everything you need to play the game – a bunch of location cards, 2 figures and a character token for each side.  If you have some booster packs, there each include a character figure, a few more character tokens and all the cards that go with each.  Heck, if you have two booster packs, you have enough stuff to play a full game!

To start the game, each player chooses the side they want to play, and each chooses three characters from their side and takes all the action cards that go with that character (figurines come with 3 cards each while the cardboard character tokens each only have a single card associated with each).  The action cards for the 3 characters are shuffled to form a deck and each player draws the top 3 cards from their deck to form their starting hand.  A deck of 12 Location cards is made, the top 3 are revealed and marked with numbered location markers.  A start player is chosen and that player gets the High Ground marker.

The game is played in a number of rounds – until the deck of Location cards is exhausted.  In each round, there are four steps:

1] Deploy characters – starting with the High Ground player, deploy one character to a location – by placing the figure/token next to one of the three location cards or you can put them into the Bacta Tank.  (There isn’t a card or chit for the Bacta Tank, just put the character off to the side somewhere…)  Continue until all six characters are deployed

2] Roll the Die – there is a oddly shaped d6 which is now rolled.  The red numbers shown will tell you which locations will be scored this round – if you get the gold arrow, the highest valued location(s) will be scored.

3] Play an Action card – Each player chooses one action card from their hand; when chosen, the High Ground player resolves their card first, then the other player does their card.  Note that some cards also have Missions on them.  If the game state meets the criteria of the mission, you can immediately score that action card from your hand and place it into your scoring pile.  Scoring a card in this manner does NOT count as your play in this phase.

4] Score Locations – based on the die roll from Step 2, score the appointed locations by comparing the total influence that each side has there – calculated from the base influence on each character card, modified by any influence reduction markers on that card.  The influence amount can also be modified by special abilities of the location itself.  Ties are broken in favor of the High Ground card holder.  The winner takes the Location card and places it into their scoring pile.

At the end of the round, refill any location cards which were scored so that there are 3 on the table.  If you cannot refill all the spots, fill as many as you can.  In this case, the next round will be the last, and you will not roll the die in step 2 as you will simply score all locations remaining in that final round.  All players take their characters back.  If you take someone back from the Bacta Tank, you remove any Influence reduction markers from their character card.  Both players refill their hand to their limit (usually 3 cards, but 4 cards if you have a Hologram character).   

Continue to play rounds until you have exhausted the Location Deck and scored all the locations. After the final round, tally up the points in your scoring pile (from collected Location cards as well as any scored mission cards).  The player with the most points wins.  Ties broken in favor of the player who collected more Location cards.

My thoughts on the game

Gameplay – I like the way you can mix and match the different characters.  The figures come with more cards, but sometimes it’s nice to play with a character token that only comes with one card – this does make it more likely that you’ll get your main character cards more often…  So far, we have been playing mostly with three figures per side as 1) the figures look cooler than a simple cardboard chit, and 2) getting the 3 action cards (as opposed to 1) makes the game more interesting for us.

Mission cards give you an interesting choice; when you have them in your hand, do you hold on to them hoping to get a quick score from them – or do you use them for the action that also comes on it?  As you only use one card on most turns, you might not see a card again in your hand if you decide to use it for the action!

The game is admittedly pretty swingy.  First off, you’re placing your characters without even knowing which locations are going to score!  It all comes down to the die roll – after you place the figures.  Of course, you have a hand of action cards at your disposal, and you can plan accordingly based on what possible actions you have.  The actions on the cards can really quickly and surprisingly change the game situation.  It does make it a little harder to plan, but it also keeps the game very exciting and always leaves room for an unexpected comeback.

Components – the little figures are cool – but what else would you expect from Funko?!  The base set box comes with a non-standard cylindrical d6 – which looks neat, while the boosters come with a standard shaped d6 (but having the same markings on the sides).  The cards also are a non-standard egg shape.  Neither affects gameplay, but they are definitely shapes that stand out.

Rules – Rules are deceivingly easy. You can literally read the rules and get started in a few minutes.  Some of the actions on the cards take a bit to get used to, but within a few games, you’ll be pretty familiar   The developer in me can’t help but wonder why there isn’t an odd number of location cards in the rules.  Sure, 12 is a really nice number, but if the tiebreaker is determined by winner of the most location cards, it seems like any ambiguity or ties could have been easily knocked out by having the game go for 11 or 13 location cards.  Really no change to game length, but this would have easily fixed a possible loophole.

Expandability – in the starter kit that I have, for each side, I have 4 figures and a bunch of character tokens, and 20 total Location cards.  While it’s possible to play with only character tokens, I don’t think it would be very fun nor successful.  There simply isn’t enough influence on the tokens to make them worthwhile against the main characters.  But with this small set, each side has 6 possible sets of character figures, meaning that I have 36 different setups with just this small subset of pieces.  Based on the rulebook, there are 15 characters for each side – though you might have to buy more than 26 boosters as the packaging doesn’t give you any indication what you’ll get when you open it – so you’ll have to buy and hope that you get a new character or find someone to trade with!  The base set has an MSRP of $19.99 and the booster packs cost $4.99.  So, you could actually play the game for just $10 with one booster pack from each side.

For anyone who is a fan of the Star Wars franchise, this looks to be a fun way to immerse yourself in that universe for a short time and fight against another player.  Given the swinginess of play, it will probably never be more than a filler for me – but it’s definitely something (given the Star Wars theme) that I might be able to get a non-gamer to play with me.

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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