Kriegspiel: Brutally Honest Wargame Reviews

So Many Games ... So Little Time
 Thumb up

Star Wars: Rebellion – Freedom In the Galaxy Too

John Goode
Falkland Islands
flag msg tools
Microbadge: ReviewerMicrobadge: Microbadge: Wargamer of 40+ yearsMicrobadge: This place intentionally left blank.Microbadge: Brutal Reviewer
Board Game: Star Wars: Rebellion

Board Game: Freedom in the Galaxy: The Star Rebellions, 5764 AD

I’ve always had a soft spot for Freedom in the Galaxy, SPI’s 1979 blatant rip-off of the Star Wars franchise. Rumor has it that SPI produced the game first and sought the Star Wars license second. Maybe not the best idea to come out of that meeting.

The license was either denied or too pricey. SPI then seemingly spent about 15 minutes filing off the serial numbers and presto … Freedom in the Galaxy. You can see it’s so not Star Wars as the main protagonists are Adam Starlight and a princess named Leia, I mean Zina. Though Han Solo seems to have morphed from lech to lizardman, at least on the box cover.

There’s no Death Star but instead a more realistically named—in a government propaganda sense—Planetary Stabilizer (it strips the crust off planets it targets). The bad guys are led by Emperor Coreguya whose right-hand man is an armor-wearing baddie named Redjac. The victory conditions are for the Empire to find a secret rebel base or the Rebels to ignite a galactic revolt. Obviously similarities to films made or imagined are purely coincidental.

Try such a blatant knock-off today though and the Stormlawyers from Lucas (now Disney) would shut you down before you could say “This is not the game you are looking for.” SPI went belly-up a couple years later but before then they sold five of their games to Avalon Hill. FitG was one of these and A-H re-issued it in 1981 with a mounted map but no other changes.

Freedom in the Galaxy was essentially Star Wars interpreted through Wacht Am Rhein and clunky even by 1979 standards. There are 51 planets to search. Each one has a loyalty level, a potential secret, military units, a planetary defense base of varying level, resource level, atmosphere type, development level, etc. … whew. Playing the campaign is a take-a-week-off type endeavor, ideally with constipation and no sit-down meals.

In FitG each side has a cast of cliched characters (the frog alien, the dog alien, the cat/lion alien ... ) and you basically choose a mission, travel to a planet and then flip cards attempting to get a certain number of successes. Along with your character missions there’s also a very basic military game where your ground units invade/defend worlds in order to gain resources and affect loyalty. That is it. Everything else is chrome. And there’s a blinding amount of it, so much in fact you have to learn the game in steps: first play on a planet, then in a system, then in a province, then you can finally go galactic. It gets tedious long before it gets finished.

Star Wars: Rebellion is essentially the same game at its core but much streamlined for modern sensibilities. The game’s engine uses characters to go on missions that if successful affect board position, production and even the turn track. Along with this is a military game of space and planetary battles and maneuver. Instead of drawing cards for successes you roll special dice based on how skilled your character is at the type of missions being attempted. But where FitG is every bit a wargame with the theme grafted on, Rebellion is more roleplaying experience with a wargame grafted on. And though not technically asymmetrical rules wise, in practice the Imperial and Rebels play very differently.

It’s not Freedom in the Galaxy 2 but it has a very similar feel, definitely a fitting evolution for current attention-span challenged times. From my experience Fantasy Flight often calls a game done as soon as the plastic bits are finished, but SW:R seems to have seen some development and playtesting. Always a good thing and a reason it succeeds along with:

1. It’s actually Star Wars. Obviously they landed the license, thereby increasing sales by a factor of at least 1000 (though it probably added 25% to the price).

2. It plays fast. There's one scenario and it can be finished in an afternoon, though length varies a fair bit depending on how quickly the Imperials find the rebel base.

3. Big balls of plastic. There are enough plastic minis here to gag a clutch of Bantas. Current game buyers seemingly can’t get enough plastic fiddlefaddle. Minis are not a plus in my book as they increase price, box size, clutter the map and aren’t as efficient in game terms—requiring a separate card to tell you what each piece's stats are. Admittedly, they add to the spectacle and the Death Stars look impressively menacing.

4. First–rate componentry all around.
Where FitG’s map looks like a mad scientist's diagram of string theory, SW:R’s map is a work of art, huge and populated with the planets even us non-Warsies recognize. Tatooine, Dagobah, Hoth have entered the popular culture: Ryloth, Ilum, Mygeeto not so much, but everything is functionally rendered and integrated. I was immersed I was. All depictions are artwork, there are no stills from the films.

5. The game works both thematically and mechanically. You feel like you’re playing out the events from episodes 4-6, though with plenty of leeway to change “history.” And it’s a fun game with both a Clue-like mystery solving mechanic, the standard sci-fi 4X elements – explore, expand, exploit and exterminate – and even a tactical dimension during the space and land battles.

It adds up to a high quality package, but be aware that behind all the fiddly bits and theme it's really a wargame—life forms are killed, Ewoks are violated, Mon Calamari are deep-fried, shit blows up.This may not be for the farm-gaming and choo-choo crowd. Also, behind the eye candy is a strategically complex game requiring many decisions. Lite-gamers often don’t like thinking to the degree this game will require so it’s not a good ‘starter’ or family game.

And unfortunately it costs a ridiculous $100 (street price is closer to $75 delivered). That’s really a stunning amount for a box of paper and plastic. To keep that in perspective you probably paid half that amount to see "The Force Awakens," assuming you went with a GF/spouse or offspring. SW:R definitely provides more entertainment bang for the buck than the film.

Replay value looks to be middling. After three games I’m still looking forward to next time but I can see this getting routine and prone to linear play once the killer moves/combos are discovered. The design also can’t be called elegant. There’s a kitchen-sink aspect to it, what with the custom dice, counters, minis, action cards, tactical cards, mission cards, objective cards, project cards … Thankfully there is no spinner.

I’m an old-school wargamer but I gotta say the force is strong with this one. Ultimately the extortionary price means it's not for everyone. There’s a lot of gaming goodness in this box, but if it's worth $75-100 will depend on what you're giving up to transfer that many credits to Fantasy Flight. If that's food or the attentions of the opposite sex you may need to look into a way to earn extra money to buy it.

I hear smuggling is lucrative.

From gallery of FinalWord

Star Wars: Rebellion
Freedom in the Galaxy: The Star Rebellions, 5764 AD
Twitter Facebook
Subscribe sub options Wed May 4, 2016 1:48 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}