Stats at a glance
Ages: 12 +
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Card games and famous IPs usually mix in the most expensive way possible, either as TCGs or CCGs. Many people like the commitment and long-term investment in such games, but for others, it can be a bit too much.
Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game offers a self-contained experience with everything you need in the box. You’ll choose your side — Empire or Rebels — and go head to head with another player in combat for interstellar domination!
Brief Overview of Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game
Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game (SW game from now on) is a 2-player versus match with a “hidden” 2v2 mode that requires an additional copy of the game.
Matches last around 30 minutes, and the game follows the “easy to learn, hard to master” idea, making it a practical experience for all Star Wars fans.
Speaking of Star Wars, the SW game is wholly centered around its universe, with all the characters, objectives, and even mechanics drawn from the setting.
I’ll cover the theme, mechanics, and components in detail, so rather than spend more time on the introduction, let’s get straight into the meat of it!
Unboxing Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game
The game components are:
- 1 Rulebook
- 10 Empire Starter Cards
- 10 Rebel Starter Cards
- 90 Galaxy Cards
- 10 Outer Rim Pilot Cards
- 20 Base Cards
- 2 Reference Cards
- 1 Force Tracker
- 50 Damage Counters
- 1 Force Marker
- 20 Resource Counters
Most of the SW game’s components are cards, so we’ll naturally focus on them the most. But before we get there, let’s gloss over the other components.
The glossy, full-color rulebook features many illustrations and examples to assist newcomers in learning the game more easily.
Nothing is notable about the damage and resource tokens, as they’re just colored cubes. The Force balance track features symbols of the Empire and Rebels on each end and is easily readable when placed in the middle of the table.
The cards are the obvious highlight of the game, and I’m happy to say that the designers have done a fantastic job! The decks have this dark/semi-realistic style to them — I’m not the best at describing art, but the deep colors and the way the light hits the characters really impressed me.
While I’m not against making new renditions of characters, I’m glad this game could fully utilize the license and embrace the likeness of the original cinematic cast. Seeing Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker just seems right — I’m sure you understand what I’m going for.
The three factions: Empire, Rebels, and neutral, are mostly color-coded to make it easier to distinguish them when they’re laid out in the middle of the table — Red for Rebels, blue for Empire, and black, or the absence of red/blue for neutral cards.
Due to the nature of the game, the two players will be sitting on opposite sides of the table, which can make reading card text difficult. This game has a simple yet effective solution. Relevant cards have a separate text box with text meant to be read from the opposite side.
Rebel cards are always turned towards the Rebel player, but the smaller portion of text faces the Empire’s player, who can use that information to act against said card (the same applies to Empire cards). Neutral cards are placed sideways, so both players have an equal view of them.
My overall impression of the components is very positive, and there’s nothing I can even nitpick. Even the box comes with an organizer to make storing and carrying that much easier.
How to Play Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game
Learning how to play this Star Wars game is not going to be difficult — this guide will provide most of the info, and you’ll just need to check the rulebook for the more specific rules. Keep in mind that this game has no solo mode, so you’ll have to play it with another person.
The first thing you need to do is decide who’s playing the Rebels and who will be on the side of the Empire. For the non-advanced game, players take 5 base cards and 10 starter cards for their faction. These will be placed near the players.
Dantooine and Lothal are the starting base cards for the two factions. They are placed face-up near the player, while the remaining base cards are placed face-down beneath them.
The remaining 90 galaxy cards are shuffled and placed in the middle of the table. Draw six cards from it and create the galaxy row. Your faction’s cards should face you, the opponent should be able to read theirs, and neutral cards should be readable by both players.
On the other side of the galaxy row, place the 10 Outer Rim pilot cards in a faceup stack. Set the Force balance track on the closest space to the Rebel player — the Force always favors the Rebels at the start of the game. Lastly, put the damage and resource tokens in the middle of the table.
You start the first round with 5 cards drawn from the starter deck. Throughout the game, you’ll purchase or sabotage cards from the main deck and thin your deck of starter cards to increase its quality.
When your turn starts, you’ll do a base and resource check. If you don’t have a base (it was destroyed last turn), you’ll put a new one into play, and depending on the Force tracker and certain cards you put in play, you can receive bonus resources.
The actions you can take are:
- Play a card
- Buy a card
- Use a card ability
- Commit to an attack
- Resolve an attack
- End turn
You can play any combination of actions and take the same action as many times as you’d like, provided you can meet the requirements.
To play a card, place it face up in front of you and resolve any effects it has, be it resources or a change to the Force tracker. You can use the card’s ability or commit it to an attack. Once your turn is over, units will go to the discard pile, but capital ships persist on the board.
You can buy a card that is neutral or your faction for the appropriate amount of resources. A new card takes its place on the galaxy track, while the newly bought card goes into your discard pile to be shuffled into your draw deck later on.
Card abilities can be used on the same turn they’ve been played but only activate any given card once per turn. Abilities can grant you resources, make the opponent discard, damage the opponent’s capital ships or base, and other things.
Attacks can target the enemy base or the capital ships that stand as their defense. You can also target the galaxy cards of the opponent’s faction, described as bounty hunting or sabotage, depending on the faction.
Battle resolution is straightforward — sum up the attack value of the committed units and subtract it from the target’s health. Destroyed capital ships are returned to the discard pile, but a destroyed base card is awarded to the attacker as a point reward.
At the end of the turn, most of your stuff will be reset. The capital ships and the base stay on the board, but all units are moved to the discard pile, as is your entire hand. The leftover resources are also returned to the pile. Lastly, you’ll draw 5 cards from the deck, shuffling in the discard pile when needed.
The game ends when one player loses their last base in combat, with the other player pronounced the winner. In this game mode, players have 3 bases each, but there are alternative modes that provide more bases per player.
Your First Game of Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game
The first time you play the game, use the default game mode, as it’s relatively short and won’t overwhelm you with the wealth of strategic paths. You can still do whatever you want, but long-term strategies are not suitable or needed for a 3-base game.
What you want to do is get some strong cards into your deck. The rule of thumb is that the more famous or important a character is, the better. The same rule applies to your opponent, so you want to sabotage their options and prevent them from getting strong options.
Don’t focus on bleeding your deck too much. If an easy opportunity appears, get rid of one of the starting cards, but otherwise, just keep adding to the deck, as it’s more efficient in a short game.
When you have a good combo, start damaging the enemy’s base. Your opponent may have ways to repair the base, but that shouldn’t bother you.
The balance of the Force has a significant impact on the game, with many units becoming stronger if the Force is in your favor. If you’re a Rebel, keep the balance on your side of the tracker, and if you’re Empire, try to at least bring it to neutral.
Pros & Cons
- All-in-One Game
- Easily Accessible
- Game Modes
With so many collectible card games on the market, it’s nice to find something that doesn’t require a long-term commitment and financial investment.
Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game does not require you to build the deck out of expansion or card packs. Instead, you only need one reasonably priced box, and you’ll get the complete experience.
The rulebook is quite lengthy at 30 or so pages, but it’s very easy to digest, and one readthrough will tell you the most you need to know to start playing. You can probably teach your opponent as you play, and by the time you start the 2nd session, they’ll be quite competent.
Allowing the players to extend the game by adding more bases is a simple but quite effective way of adding diversity and flexibility. When you’re in a hurry, you can play with 3 bases, but when you’ve got the time, crank that up to 5 bases, and the dynamics of the game change significantly.
- 2v2 Needs Another Game Copy
- Reused Star Wars Artwork
Having the ability to play a 1v1 game in a 2v2 mode is impressive, and it would be an exclusively positive thing if not for the fact that another copy of the game is needed to play it.
This con has nothing to do with the shortcomings of the 2v2 mode and is more of a heads-up to let you know that it’s probably not worth getting the 2nd copy to play it.
The second point was actually brought up to me by a friend, and I’m a bit embarrassed I didn’t notice it myself. Fantasy Flight Games — the publisher of this Star Wars game has released other Star Wars content before, with very similar artwork.
This is certainly not enough reason not to play this game, but if you’ve already experienced some of their SW titles, you might feel underwhelmed with the artwork.
Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game Review (TL;DR)
Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game is a self-contained deckbuilding experience that offers thematically rich gameplay and tons of replayability. It’s very easy to recommend to two Star Wars fans looking for an accessible and quick 1v1 versus game!
Despite knowing a lot about it, I’ve never been a massive fan of the Star Wars universe. Weirdly, I feel like this gives my review more credibility, as the theme does not sway me.
Looking at the game purely from the gameplay perspective, it has left a positive impression on me. I’ve enjoyed the deckbuilding aspect, especially as we increased the game length through more bases. I can really appreciate the Force tracker’s implementation and the universe’s different characters.
While I don’t think I’ll play much more of this deckbuilder, I was more of a Star Wars fan, and I’d make sure to keep it close by so I can get a game or two in whenever there’s time for it. That’s why I fully recommend Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game!
We hope you enjoyed our Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game review! Have you tried this game before? Are you a fan of Star Wars or deck-building games in general? If so, check out some of our other deckbuilder reviews and roundups!
- Best Deck-Building Board Games
- Dominion Review
- Best Dominion Expansions
- DC Comics Deck-Building Game Review
- Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game Review
Let us know in the comments below what you think! We’d love to hear from you.
When I first got into the hobby some 10 years ago, my friend circles didn’t know that board games went further than Monopoly and Risk. Now everyone I’m close with is into board gaming and my collection really has something for everyone.
My favorite games are Terraforming Mars and Lords of Waterdeep and I’m a fan of Euro, strategy, and engine-building games in general. I also enjoy the Warhammer 40,000 universe, which pulled me into the miniature painting hobby.