I initially started playing Star Wars Miniatures in June. For a week or so a friend and I just played with the figures out of 3-4 Revenge of the Sith boosters. However, I soon found myself totally hooked and before long we were well into collecting complete sets. Now it's six months later and I consider myself quite knowledgable concerning the ins and outs of the game and the pros and cons of each expansion. I present my knowledge and opinions here in this review.
The game at its core is quite simple; a combination of effective squad design, strategy, and luck. The luck aspect is what might turn off many gamers, and I will be honest, pure luck has both won me some victories when the odds were against me as well as costing me games where odds were in my favor.
Game Mechanics Overview
Each character has four main attributes: Hit Points (HP), Defense (DEF), Attack (ATT), and Damage (DAM). Attacks are made by rolling a d20 and adding it to a characters ATT. Some characters can shoot, others can only attack those in adjacent spaces (Melee Fighters). Certain charactes have special abilities and Force Users have Force Points and Force Powers.
HP is your life, when this reaches zero, you're dead unless you have a few specific characters in your squad.
DEF is how hard you are to hit. When your opponent makes an attack roll and adds it to his attack rating, if the total is greater than or equal to your DEF, you're hit, and you take DAM as specified.
ATT is your attack value as described above. There are two major exceptions to standard attacks: (1)if you roll a 1, even if your total ATT is greater than opponents DEF, you miss; (2)if you roll a 20, no matter what your total ATT is, you hit and do DOUBLE your base damage.
DAM is how much base damage you do when you score a hit; the total damage can increase depending on special abilities or modifiers.
The most confusing intial rule for new players is COVER. Characters in cover get to add 4 to their DEF, making them harder to hit. When more than one character has cover, targeting rules change. In addition there are modifiers and abilities that make some characters with cover, untargetable. This however is explained clearly in the rules and becomes second hand with time and experience.
Squad design revolves around creating a squad that contains characters belonging to one specific faction or combination of one faction and fringe characters. There are special exceptions to this rule when certain characters are played though. Each character has a point total and matches (or "skirmishes" as Wizards call them) are based on an agreed upon point limit; most commonly 100, 150, or 200 points (although in my gaming circle, 300 points is becoming more popular).
A good squad will generally consist of a few Unique characters (i.e. Han Solo, Yoda, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, etc), preferibly at least one useful commander (a character having a Commander Effect, which provides a bonus to allies or followers). The rest of a squad is rounded out with "grunts" (i.e. Stormtroopers, Commandos, nameless Jedi, etc) or in some cases plain fodder (i.e. Ugnaughnts, Jawas, Stormtroopers, Clones, etc).
When it comes to tournament play, squad design is what wins matches; in most tournaments I've played in two squad designs rain supreme: Thrawn based and Superstealth. I won't get into the specifics here, but I'm pointing this out for people who might consider tournament play.
It's hard to discuss strategy in a review with out going too in depth so I will just touch on the finer points. You have to be able to adapt to both the map you're playing on, and the build of your opponents squad. You can't play your Jedi based Melee squad the same way against a superstealth squad as you would against a Sith based squad; you'll simply lose. You'll many times, especially in competitive play, have to resist the urge to go "gung-ho" and charge into battle; it doesn't work, period. In competitive play in this game, you must be conservative. I've played in many a round where after 30 mins, I may have won, but I won only by killing two of my oponents grunts. Long story short: adapt to the conditions, when playing competitively, relax and take it easy, but when you just want to have fun, then don't be afraid to pull a Han Solo and run into near annhiliation, head first.
There will be times when the roll of the die affect the out come of the match. For instance, 99% of the time, if the juggernaut himself, Darth Bane is left facing a Gotal Fringer, Bane will win. However, if the Gotal rolls a 20, he wins automatically because of a special ability that allows him instant defeat of a character on a natural roll of 20. Likewise, a high level character can lose to Emperor Palpatine, Sith Lord instantly if he/she rolls a 1, because Palpatines special ability makes that character instantly defect.
In matches where both characters have evenly balanced squads, often luck can decide vary close games.
To date, there have been 6 major expansions/sets for the game; each set consists of 60 characters. Each booster pack comes with 7 random figures (1 rare/very rare, 2 uncommon, and 4 common); the excpetion to this rule are the "huge" expansions, which I will mention on down. I will briefly touch on each expansion below, in chronological release order.
This was the set that started it all. It consisted soley of the Rebel, Imperial, and Fringe factions. It is a good starting point for many new players, if only for some of the "grunt" figures, mainly troopers of both Imperial and Rebel variety. The set also features the initial Boba Fett figure, which is to date one of the top 5 most sought after in all the sets. However, as time has passed, most of the unique figures have been replaced by better versions in later releases. Rebel Storm also featured a starter set (1 of 3 produced to date), which featured an exclusive Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader figure, along with 8 random commons and uncommons, as well as a map. The starter is recommended for the very useful Vader.
Long out of print until this past October, Clone Strike was one of the most sought-after sets because it featured two of the most sought-after pieces in the entire collection: Aurra Sing and Darth Maul. Since its release, an equivalent, if not better Darth Maul is avaliable and Aurra Sing has lost some of her impact. The set also introduced the Republic and Separatist factions. This set also featured a starter. In this starter there was one double-sided map, 8 random commons and uncommons, as well as an exclusive Obi-Wan Kenobia and Jango Fett figure. I don't recommend this starter at all, better versions of both figures are avaliable. I also don't recommend spending a lot of money going after Clone Strike in general. If anything, look at the figures your interested in, make sure better, more readily avaliable versions don't exist, and instead, buy the few figures that interest you separately, you'll save money in the long run.
This was the first of two, "huge" expanisions. In these expanisons, each booster contained 3 commons, 2 uncommon, 1 rare/very rare, and 1 huge figure. This set is well known for what some argue is the most crucial figure in the game, Grand Admiral Thrawn. I don't recommend buying too much from this set. It's far cheaper to buy what you want separately. This set introduced the New Republic and Yuzhan Vong factions.
Revenge of the Sith
This set featured the third, and to date, final starter set. The starter contained 3 super battle droids, 3 clone troopers, as well as 2 excellent uniques: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Gen. Greivious. The map in this set was on hard material, akin to most standard board games. I highly reccommend purchasing this starter. The rest of the set, on the other hand, is a major dissapointment. I recommend only buying what you want. Don't waste your time with this set, in my opinion, it was a major fault. It is currently out of print.
Champions of the Force
This set is notable for introducing the Old Republic and Sith factions. For my money, its the best overall expansion to date. I pretty much recommend all 60 of the figures featured. Some of the best versions of unique characters pop up in this set: Gen. Windu, Luke Skywalker (Young Jed), and Yoda of Dagobah to name a few. This set is still in print, but when it does go out of print, I predict many figures to jump in value and if you don't get them now, your wallet will hurt when you do want them.
This is the most recent expansion, and the second "huge" expansion. Some fans were critical because the vast majority of the set were Fringe characters; although the Mandalorian faction was introduced here as well. This is a very strong expansion though as the unique bounty hunter characters are some of the most powerful in the game: Jango and Boba alone are becoming the new focal points of squad design. I highly recommend this set as the abundance of fringe characters will always leave you with something to fill out your squads, no matter what the base faction is.
I highly reccommend this game to any Star Wars fan. It's great fun and the opportunity to recreate key ground battles can be a blast. Although I didn't mention them above, there were two scenario related releases: a standalone AT-ST figure with some imperial troopers thrown in, as well as a gigantic AT-AT perfect for reenacting the Battle of Hoth (made even more possible by the release of Snowspeeders in the Bounty Hunters expansion).
Devoted, long-time wargamers will most likely not enjoy this much as the overall strategy, while present, is a bit on the light side, and luck sometime plays a frustrating role in the outcomes.
The value for the money is quite good, with the exception of Clone Strike, nearly all of the figures have sported good paint jobs, and the quality seems to be increasing with each new expansion.
To wrap up, I'll some up The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
+Ability to recreate key film battles.
+Ability to see how the Rebels would have faired against clones.
+Light and overall fun strategy game.
+Custom game rules can make playing with more than 3 people a blast.
+The minis are great for use in RPGs.
+A pretty good game for kids just getting into stratgey.
+Large fanbase both offline and online (via Vassal).
+Paint jobs are getting to be great.
-Random chance can determine game outcomes.
-Its a collectibles game.
-Really geared towards Star Wars fans.
-The recent, unexplained price increase from Wizards (+$2 per booster)
*Some of the Clone Strike paint jobs.
*Jabba; he makes an apperance in Rebel Storm.
OVERALL SCORE: 8.5
This is an excellent review for several reasons:
The reviewer is thoroughly experienced with the game
The review covers gameplay mechanics briefly and clearly
The review analyzes the game - offering supported opinion on features about which readers are curious
Thanks for the great review, Nick!
Re: Star Wars Miniatures: Review of the mechanics and expans
If anyone is really interested, I'd be up for analyzing each expansion in depth, give my advice on which figures are essential and which to avoid.
I know one major problem is one of the Clone Strike very rares, Quinlan Vos, who sells for $20+ on the secondary market, was replaced by an uncommon figure called the Jedi Weapon Master in a recent expansion. The JWM is superiror in every way to Quinlan and can be purchased separately for $1.
There are other examples of this, and if people are interested, I'd be more than glad to offer some further input.
I've got to say your review was awesome.
I hope even more people get addicted to the greatness
that is SW-Minis.
Thrawn reigns supreme.
Re: Star Wars Miniatures: Review of the mechanics and expans
Great review. I picked up a few boosters this week and was a bit bewildered as to what differentiated the sets.
One nitpick, I assume when you mention that cover & targeting rule is "explained clearly in the rules and becomes second hand with time and experience," that you mean they become "second nature."
Member of the San Francisco Game Group since 2005
This is a customized Bane Tower from the game Man o' War
This was a nice review, thanks.
Can anyone recommend a place to go for the check lists of each set? I'd like to play, but am only interested in pieces from the second trilogy, IV, V and VI. Do the boosters / starters tend to cover all SW eras, or do they tend to focus on one or two? The author suggests the latter is the case, but it's not clear.
I don't see set check lists on wizards.com. They do have a database, but this is a bit more cumbersome to use than a simple check list.
Re: Star Wars Miniatures: Review of the mechanics and expans
I hate you...
There, I said it.
I was perfectly happy, NOT knowing anything about this game and now you've made me want to go and buy it... (as if I didn't have enough games I wanted to get).
Jokes aside, this was a great review, the kind I really want to read here. Not too heavy, yet detailed enough to give you all the important information. Great work!
I know this thread is long long extinct and the author may not even be around much anymore... It would be great to see another post by him, post MotF/V-Sets. He explained almost every aspect of the game to new players and veteran minis collectors alike. It would be nice to see an updated review of the sets released since Bounty Hunters. Especially since so many characters have been rebooted (i.e. Thrawn & Fett). This still takes the cake for summing up a great game that will (hopefully) last for decades to come!