The GM Awakens: Imperial Assault Core Game & Expansions Review

Since the acquisition of the Lucasfilm license by Fantasy Flight Games, FFG has made some incredible games about Star Wars.  X-Wing Miniatures is the flagship tabletop game.  I own at least one of every ship they’ve produced for the game.  Armada is the same.  I own everything.  I love playing those games and getting them on the table.  But I realized that my daughter, who was 10 at the time I started buying the games, wasn’t able to play as the game was too advanced in some respects.  That’s when I dove into a game that even late elementary school children can play, and one that is highly underrated in circles I run in: Imperial Assault.

Imperial Assault is a fantastic tabletop board game with two different play modes.  There is a story-driven campaign and a skirmish mode that allow you to simply put two sides against each other.  I own every expansion and character the game has produced for this game as well.  If you have not heard of this game, or if you just haven’t indulged, this is a game you should dive into.

The core set can be found today for anywhere from $70 to $100.  Imperial Assault takes design inspiration from the game Descent, also by FFG.  It allows for a different board every game with puzzle piece tiles that align differently to create new levels.  The campaign is the big, main part of the game and the real draw.  Each player (up to four) selects one of six heroes from the core set.  These characters will grow and gain XP and spend money for new weapons, gear, and abilities as the campaign goes on.  This is a great way to introduce mild roleplaying concepts in a tabletop game format for beginner players.  While the amount of choices that the heroes have is more narrow than in an RPG, they still get to grow their character and take things in the direction they like in the middle of a story.  There is also a sort of Game Master, in that one player is the Imperial side and will control the game, read the narrative, and challenge the players.  Again, another RPG tenet that is simulated to a degree in this game.

Aside from each board being unique, the game is also clever in its campaign story with its challenge and mission objectives.  One game you may be rescuing Rebel prisoners from a base, and the next trying to steal information off of a computer terminal.  Each one is unique and makes things fresh each time you sit down for a session.  The replay value of the game is immense.

The skirmish mode is worth a brief mention.  In it, you get to use any and all your characters, bad or good, and use them in an army vs. army game.  Each expansion comes with two more skirmish maps and missions.  This can spice things up if you just want to shoot it out for a moment on the table.

Image by Fantasy Flight Games

The real strength in this game, however, lies in its expansions.  Not just the new campaigns, missions, and tiles from a large box expansion, but also the characters that add heroes and villains to the game that you know and love.  I want to review them from a high level so you might know which things to choose to buy.  First, let’s start with the campaign expansions.  Currently, there are five: Twin Shadows, Return to Hoth, The Bespin Gambit, Jabba’s Realm, and Heart of the Empire.

Twin Shadows and the Bespin Gambit are both mini-expansions as I refer to them.  They include a four-mission mini-campaign or you can choose to slide those missions into your main campaign as side missions (a mission type in the game).  But the other three have full campaigns in them.  Each box has many tokens, map tiles, new enemies, and new heroes to be in the main campaign (sometimes they best reason to buy them).  Even the mini-expansions have a couple new heroes for the Rebels players.  The expansions also have a time frame attached to the side missions and main missions, dictating what characters you can use in the game.  For example, there are two Luke Skywalkers, one non-Jedi that is around for Episodes 4-5 and a Jedi Luke who is around for Episode 6.  You can purchase both depending on what era you’re playing in.  This allows expansions for the game to span any and all Star Wars eras and keep freshening up the game for you.

Each expansion brings to the table iconic villains for the era and setting to you.  So, Return to Hoth has Snowtroopers and Wampas, for example, and Jabba’s Realm has Gamorian guards and Jabba the Hutt.  They also have tokens in them that represent other characters pertinent to the missions in the expansions.  And that leads to the other type of expansion you can get for the game, the character expansions.

Image by Fantasy Flight Games

The Imperial Assault Core Set and each expansion, come with some plastic figures.  But also some circle, cardboard tokens to represent other heroes or villains, like Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, or the Emperor.  But, if you like, you can purchase those characters as expansions, and replace the little cardboard token with a plastic figure.  Not only does this look much cooler than the little token, but the pack comes with other things you’ll want.  It comes with cards to add the character to your campaign and skirmish mode.  It also contains new side missions for that character in your campaigns and two skirmish missions and maps you can use as well.

The characters are fantastic and really detailed.  The more you get, the more your skirmish games get interesting.  For how much you should buy to start out, I would say all you really need to get going is the Core Set.  However, to spice up your game early, you can purchase the character expansions for some of the ones in the core set.  The game will play perfectly without it, though.  More than Armada and X-Wing miniatures, this game does not require expansions early on just to have a full game.  When I bought X-Wing, the one X-Wing and two TIE Fighters were ok but, you really need more ships for a real game.  Armada was the same.  In this case, however, that is not true, and you can go through many sessions and the entire campaign with just the Core Set if you like.

I really love this game.  I loved it, personally, because my kids could really get introduced to tabletop gaming through it.  The rules, while normal in complexity, can be daunting for children.  But the fact that the game has a “GM” type role in the Imperial player, that person can interpret the rules, tell players what they can do, etc.  That idea really helps because while it is me vs. my kids to a point, it’s not like most games where if I say too much I give away my part of the battle.  In this game, I can completely help them and the game remains as competitive and fun as ever.

So while the game has been out for a while now, if you haven’t looked into it you should.  And if you have kids, ages 10+, you can likely get them into tabletop gaming with this title.  The fact they get to have characters grow and get cool stuff as the game progresses makes that a lot of fun.  So if this sounds good, perhaps Santa can leave a nice, cool Imperial Assault Core Set under the tree for your family this holiday season.

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Scott Alden

Scott Alden

Scott is a full-time IT Manager living in Lawrence, KS. (Rock Chalk, Jayhawk! Just outside Kansas City for those who don't know.) Scott is a veteran of several role playing, table top miniatures, video, and board games, starting with the Atari 2600 when he was 6, and the classic red box Dungeons and Dragons game when he was 12. After a long hiatus away from the hobby, Scott has recently picked up gaming once again, and is running two different campaigns in Fantasy Flight Games' Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion/Force and Destiny lines. He is an avid X-Wing miniatures player, as well as Armada, Imperial Assault, Space Hulk, and Rebellion. (His family is obviously a Star Wars family, right?) Scott is married to his high school sweetheart, and has 2 children in middle school, both Black Belts in Krav Maga martial arts.
Scott Alden

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