A long time ago…
In order to appreciate this game you really need the proper historical context. After the release of Star Wars and its tons of merchandise there were plenty of Star Wars-themed board games released. However, these were exclusive marketed toward children (such as myself back then). They included the following gem, Escape from Death Star, one of the first Star Wars board games:
Not only does this game share the same name as West End’s 1990 release, it has an eerily similar appearance and game mechanics. Still, West End can be credited with bringing Star Wars themed board games out of the realm of 8 to 10 year olds and into the realm of a more mature audience…well, at least teenagers. And for this, I think this game deserves some credit. EsDS was the last box game West End produced. Not until “The Queen’s Gambit” ten years later did another mature Star Wars board game hit the scene. And now all we have are Risk clones (literally and figuratively).
What were they thinking?
EsDS is, or at least tries to be, a light role playing board game (rpbg)…more in the spirit of Talisman or Runebound. Each of the four major characters has their own character sheet complete with “stats” (agility, perception, technical, con, etc), stamina points, and differing levels of force use (as gauged by their force points). This aspect definitely brings it a step up from the 1977 kiddie version by the same name. Of course the goal is the same as the ’77 classic…move the players through a grid-like Death Star floor plan and get them to the Falcon and escape. As you land on a space you draw a card and it’s either good or bad. Oh, and along the way, the tractor beam needs to be shut off, otherwise, there will be no escaping.
However, for all of its appearances as an rpbg, there’s a serious flaw…lack of choices. Oh, there are plenty of options for a character on a turn. There’s force points that can be spent to modify skill roles, droids can be called upon to help move or succeed a skills tests (at the cost of “droid points”), and there’s always Obi-Wan to help you get out a mess. However, you never really seem in control of your own fate. Movement choices can be very limited, and usually boil down to a choice like moving 5 spaces back, or 2 spaces to the left. And the dice…man, there is a LOT of dice rolling. Every turn you fight a pack of stormtroopers on your tail and your success depends on…dice. Most encounters automatically do something bad like dumping extra stormtroopers on your tail and when you do get a choice (called a Risk) your fate is determined by a skill check which uses…dice. Any good rpbg will end up making you feel like you’re in a good story, but the story EsDS tells is more like an incoherent rambling story. Events are about as random and disconnected as they can get.
Still, there is some strategy involved. Players can pass off stormtroopers to other players if they occupy the same sector. One must keep a constant eye on the “Vader track”, which increases throughout the game as one fails skill checks, uses the force, or calls on Obi-Wan. Hangers offer awesome movement (5 sectors in any combo of directions), but you run the risk of running into Vader if you use them. Vader sectors can be used to decrease the Vader track level (although your fate is again determined by a die roll…and you can also end up meeting Vader). Indeed, one of the highlights of the game is when a character runs into Vader, although the only way to escape him is to call on Obi-Wan.
Is it fun?
Well, I think there’s a reason that West End made this a cooperative game with the potential for solitaire play. This game WILL be fun, for the right geek. You’ve got to like Star Wars…period. You’ve got to like rolling dice…period. You’ve got to be willing to put your fate in the hands of the gaming gods (for the most part). I think West End was sort of ahead of its time in this respect. They recognized that this game isn’t for everyone, but as long as there’s that one person out there, they can play by themselves and get as much enjoyment, if not more, then if they played with others who were less inclined to the theme.
As for comparisons to Knizia’s Lord of the Rings, I don’t buy it. This is pure Ameritrash baby…Knizia wouldn’t be caught dead near this thing. Yes, they are both cooperative, but not for the same reasons. I think EsDS is cooperative so that it allows solo play; LoTR is cooperative because it is a good way to get gamers together. Yes they both have “tracks”, but the Vader track is purely a way to impose a time limit (and restrict force and Obi-Wan use) while the Corruption track in LoTR IS the game. I would say that the game most like EsDS that I have played is Talisman. When I play Talisman I feel like my choices are similarly restricted and that whether I win or lose is up to the roll of a die.
- Last edited Mon Jun 11, 2007 3:24 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Sun Jun 10, 2007 7:38 pm
nothing to see here, move along
It is a largely luck driven game, but still fun to play now and again. As it says in the rules the strategy is about knowing the odds; certain actions and choices will give you more chance of winning. However you can play well but still lose, due to card draws and dice rolls.
Knizia's Lord of the Rings is a far better solitaire (and group) game but now and again I choose this for a change, as it's quick to set up and easier to play. You can play several games of this in an evening and after the first game no need to look at the rules again.
I find I win about 1 in 3 games.