Francois Fressin
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I consider Star Wars Rebellion as the very best board game box ever.
Simply. The perfect blend of theme and smart mechanics. And a reasonable playing time for such an epic experience.
Every time I have a 1-on-1 game night, I have a hard time thinking about anything else I'd like to play more.

There are good things in this expansion - in particular more units, and I guess a little more diversity in leaders does not hurt.

But I am quite worried that the balance could have shifted too much in favor of the Empire.

Note that I am talking about expert-level play (games between seasoned international board-game tournament competitors with dozens of games of experience on Star Wars Rebellion)

Introduction

My feeling was that the Empire had the edge with the base game between expert players.

I'd place the win/loss ratio between two top level players with the base at something like ~60% in favor of the empire. A little edge, but perfectly healthy.

Here, I am listing the significant factors that I think might have broken this fairly healthy balance :

1- Death Star on Dagobah

This is the biggest factor. An immediate threat on Utapau is switching things so much in favor of the empire.

In 33% of base games (i.e. the ones when you draw temporary alliance), the optimal rebel start is Temporary alliance on Utapau + Leia building an alliance there - that's 5 dices making the emperor's opposition unlikely.
Then you play the game with two cruisers and two corvettes. Careful threatening play with that fleet and a timely rapid mobilization of it to the rebel base was the key to a large number of rebel victories.

Even without Temporary alliance, a hard to reach Utapau was arguably the best rebel resource on the map.

2- The death star is not a liability anymore

The death star in the base game was really a double-edged sword. Many rebel wins were pushed by 'death star plans' being hard to prevent if the rebel invested into it and played his fighters carefully.

A careful Empire will have the small investment of a shield bunker making this assault much harder to set-up. It also makes easier to use the superlaser by doing a two-step move (first destroy the rebel fighters with conventional ships, then move the death star out of its shield zone for the superlaser blow.

3- The rebel starting space force is significantly weaker.

A single U-wing replaced one X-wing and one Y-wing. It does not sound much to unseasoned players, but it means a lot in terms of what's needed for defense in the initial empire spread of forces. Especially considering the following factor:

4- The new combat deck

assuming cards are fairly equal between each side, there are still two seemingly balanced factors that actually strongly contribute to the empire advantage :

4-1 combats are more bloody : an average Rise-of-the-Empire round of combat sees more damages than a base game one. It's fine in terms of game length perspective, but does not help the rebels who rely much more on the escape mechanism to save their precious units and do more harassing later. With the base deck of cards, the 'save cards' you could get with a good admiral could make a rebel capital ship last much more than in expansion games. You 'knew' what it could handle before fleeing. Not anymore.

4-2 combats advantage the defender instead of the attacker (as it was in the base game). Most of the battles in Rebellion are either 'tight battles' initiated by the rebels, or very favorable battles initiated by the empire. Favoring the defender is thus in the large majority of cases very favorable to the Empire, for example for the first assault of the game.


5- The new objective deck makes it less predictable for the rebels to plan and score.


In the base game, the rebel knew exactly what was to come in the deck. For example, you knew that achieving 'infiltration' was strongly recommended on a turn you could draw the very-hard-to-achieve 'Regional support'. The rebel player had a very good knowledge of what would be coming. And some of these objectives benefit from anticipation (saving units, action cards, etc.)

6- The Rise of the Empire mission card replacements advantage the empire

First, I like the mission cards replacement, because some actions were barely playable in the base game for being too weak. Yet, I think the empire replacement makes their deck slightly stronger : trade negotiations and display of power were the killer cards, but they have been replaced by almost equivalent cards. The rest of the deck (mainly made of 'barely playable cards' has been replaced by more playable versions. But on the rebel side, the very strong 'hit and run', 'incite rebellion' and 'public uprising' have been replaced by much weaker equivalents. This might balance cards when compared one-on-one, which is all good ... yet it also disfavors the rebels. 'Incite rebellion' especially hurts as it was a good target for Leia's action card.

I am not sure if any other change in the expansion also significantly impact the balance (combat cards, new leaders, etc.)

Conclusion

I feel the Empire's advantage might have become borderline unhealthy.
Losing with the empire has become a too rare thing for experienced players.

I hate 'home-rulings' things, especially for a game that I consider(ed) being a gem of design. But I think I might be selective with the parts of the expansion I play with, which I did not want to do initially.

Anyone else in the same feeling boat or who still holds a greater hope for a solid reason ?


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Witold G
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Nice write-up, although I consider myself an open-minded sceptic when it comes to things like this.

How much success as the Rebels do you have with the "perfect probe knowledge" strategy (more emphasis on planned base relocation based on repeated RM play, slightly less emphasis on chasing objectives) or turtling (thanks to "defender's advantage", Airspeeder + Generator tactics, stronger ground unit destruction missions)?
 
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Francois Fressin
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I think you are right to approach this kind of topic with a skeptic mind.
I rarely post on forums, just when I wish to highlight an issue that I consider harming a game I love.

I consider both these literal strategies as sub-optimal. These are two winning moves that both players should be aware of, of course. But I think the right rebel strategy should be a blend and compromise with the wiggle room he has.

All the advantages I highlighted help the empire's aggressive approach to deplete rebel's solid reinforcement spots fast. The perfect probe knowledge does not help much if the empire gets enough time to have a consistent solid spread and rebel only has access to meager forces.

For the generator tactics ... I think it's hard for the rebel to consistently get 2 generators unless the empire kind of lets it happen. The AT-AT combat card shuts down the first generator. Veers' action card too. I think a right strategy for the empire is holding off a few big units like AT-ATs before putting them on table where it matters. I feel the empire can afford to support its ground-tricks better than in the base game due to the wipe out of what used to be the best rebel space spot (Utapau).

The beauty of this game is that everything is intricately linked to figure the forces in presence for the final battle(s).

And I feel the 6 points I highlighted all make it easier for the empire to gain more time by making objectives tougher to plan for or actually achieve on the rebel side, and by reducing the rebel big unit production.
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Robb Minneman
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I had been considering writing up my thoughts on the expansion in much the same way. And my thoughts mirror yours very well: I feel like the expansion makes a number of small tilts in favor of the Empire, and it adds up to a large Imperial advantage.

Particularly, I think the new combat system advantages the Empire and makes Rebel hit-and-run tactics more difficult. That's a core of the game to me: I like using the Rebels' troops to pick my spots and move my army around to where it's most useful.

Combine the combat system with the new setup, and I find the Rebels' advantages melt away. Additionally, it's just less fun to play them.

There's one more bit here that I've found important with the expansion: Leaders are far less valuable in combat. You get an advanced tactic card no matter what during combat. Part of what I liked to do as a Rebel player was to launch attacks and force the Empire to either (a) respond with a leader (and lock that force in place for a turn) or (b) take substantial casualties (without the prospect of a saving retreat.) I find that the expansion mutes this tactic for the Rebels.

I'll keep the extra units and projects, and the new leaders, but I think I'll return to playing with the core combat cards, mission deck, and setup rules.
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Francois Fressin
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robbbbbb wrote:

There's one more bit here that I've found important with the expansion: Leaders are far less valuable in combat. You get an advanced tactic card no matter what during combat. Part of what I liked to do as a Rebel player was to launch attacks and force the Empire to either (a) respond with a leader (and lock that force in place for a turn) or (b) take substantial casualties (without the prospect of a saving retreat.) I find that the expansion mutes this tactic for the Rebels.


You're perfectly right on that one, and I think it deserves a spot on the list as it's as important as the other 6 points.

A good example was on turn 1: the empire was forced to go with overwhelming forces on Saleucami to threaten Mon Calamari, otherwise, the rebel force with the 2 cards from Rieekan could be dangerous to an otherwise solid force like 1 Destroyer + 3 ties if they are un-commanded. By not playing a leader there (and thus not being able to flee), the empire could risk a destroyer, maybe allowing an objective to fill, and probably letting Mon Calamari unchecked for several turns to produce two cruisers.

And if you put the leader, then you could not threaten Mon Calamari. The only solution was an overwhelming presence there.

I have not figured what the optimal set-up for me will be, but I feel the recommended one for expansion play does not do it.
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Dustin Crenshaw
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Rebels have won the majority of my plays, but the last two did come down to the final play of the game. I do thing it slightly skewed it empire. But we skewed it right back by having the thematic rule tie fighters can't be left alone or deployed alone.
 
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I think this is a fine theory, but one that needs empirical verification. That also means more than just the same two players, as we can see there is a strong meta in this game, where discrete sets of two players believe the game to be unbalanced towards the empire or the rebellion, or just balanced well.

Some things to think about:

I don’t think the combat decks are equal. I think the Rebel deck has more truly amazing cards, and the Shield Generator allows you to re-use them more.

Structures, particularly the Shield Generator, are much more powerful than before.

The defender advantage is real, but can be affected by combat cards reversing the order of play. However, the most important battle of the game is almost always defending the base, and some people have struggled to overcome the now-improved Rebel defences.

The Death Star is vulnerable at first, and cannot move for a few turns. That makes it less able to cover the board, and allows the Rebels to go for a base defence strategy.

The new Objective deck does make it harder for the Rebels to strategize, but it makes it even harder for the Imperials to block. I’ve found the Empire wasting a lot of resources blocking Objective cards I didn’t have, allowing me to score others.

Anyway, we know FFG have playtested this. I wouldn’t want to houserule the game without plenty of data of my own.
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Kevin Ruhland
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After teaching and playing the game to friends and at a con I added one additional level one objective card for the rebels and had the rebels start with an objective card (original game the rebels started with the card that let them draw an objective as the base as one they always started with). It helps new players have a strategy,and the empire was winning when both sides were experienced. Of course your group and play style may vary, but I've heard from local players that the expansion favored the empire as well.
 
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kruhland wrote:
After teaching and playing the game to friends and at a con I added one additional level one objective card for the rebels and had the rebels start with an objective card (original game the rebels started with the card that let them draw an objective as the base as one they always started with). It helps new players have a strategy,and the empire was winning when both sides were experienced. Of course your group and play style may vary, but I've heard from local players that the expansion favored the empire as well.


In the expansion you draw 1 to start the game too. It was a rules oversight.
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Witold G
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Fanfan wrote:
I think you are right to approach this kind of topic with a skeptic mind.
I rarely post on forums, just when I wish to highlight an issue that I consider harming a game I love.

I'm spectical on general principle, not because you rarely post here.

The "problem" with Rebellion is that there's no competitive "scene" (or whatever we call it) to speak of, so... who do I trust when they say they're "experienced" or "expert"?

Discussion is certainly interesting, but the ultimate test would be to try and reach outside your gaming group, preferably to one that has opposite experience to yours (for example, one saying "Not sure how the Rebels lose the base game between experienced players" while claiming similar experience to yours: tournament winners, experienced etc.) and preferably record for all to see, so PBFs, YouTube video, detailed session reports...

I certainly speak from the same position as yours when you say...

Fanfan wrote:
I consider Star Wars Rebellion as the very best board game box ever.



But to address some of your original points...

Fanfan wrote:
1- Death Star on Dagobah

This is the biggest factor.

Fanfan wrote:
3- The rebel starting space force is significantly weaker.

Rulebook already contains a stipulation that players have to agree on what setup they use: base or expansion. Although unfortunately it doesn't provide a method of deciding when players do not agree (which perhaps wouldn't be a problem, if not for the fact that this decision comes mid-setup - one of the many shortcomings of expansion rulebook), but I guess if you decide to always use base setup, it's only kind of "soft" house rule, and takes care of both concerns you list above, including one you describe as the biggest factor.


Fanfan wrote:
6- The Rise of the Empire mission card replacements advantage the empire

Same here - any Rebel player who feels base mission deck is better, is free to choose it, no need for house rules, soft or otherwise.
 
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SeerMagic wrote:
Rebels have won the majority of my plays, but the last two did come down to the final play of the game. I do thing it slightly skewed it empire. But we skewed it right back by having the thematic rule tie fighters can't be left alone or deployed alone.

What about leaving 1 Stormtrooper behind (instead of 1 TIE Fighter), do you find it not to be a problem in your group?

How do you decide cases like "Assault Carrier + 5 TIEs in the system"? Is it able to move but needs to take as many TIEs as it can or...?


And how would you rule "Assault Carrier + 4 TIEs + 4 AT-STs next to the Rebel base" situation?

"Admiral, commence the attack on the Rebel base, they have no ships in the system, we will easily crush their meager ground forces."

"I'm sorry, my lord, we cannot move our AT-STs, we have to take our TIEs."




edit:

Oh, and what about Scouting Mission (Fel's action card)? This rule completely eliminates the "scouting" part here...
 
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Perf wrote:
SeerMagic wrote:
Rebels have won the majority of my plays, but the last two did come down to the final play of the game. I do thing it slightly skewed it empire. But we skewed it right back by having the thematic rule tie fighters can't be left alone or deployed alone.

What about leaving 1 Stormtrooper behind (instead of 1 TIE Fighter), do you find it not to be a problem in your group?

How do you decide cases like "Assault Carrier + 5 TIEs in the system"? Is it able to move but needs to take as many TIEs as it can or...?


And how would you rule "Assault Carrier + 4 TIEs + 4 AT-STs next to the Rebel base" situation?

"Admiral, commence the attack on the Rebel base, they have no ships in the system, we will easily crush their meager ground forces."

"I'm sorry, my lord, we cannot move our AT-STs, we have to take our TIEs."




edit:

Oh, and what about Scouting Mission (Fel's action card)? This rule completely eliminates the "scouting" part here...


Great questions. They have not come up in our plays.
 
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SeerMagic wrote:
I do thing it slightly skewed it empire. But we skewed it right back by having the thematic rule tie fighters can't be left alone or deployed alone.


I'm curious- why do you think of the rule as thematic? I've always understood that solitary TIEs represent the garrisons of small space stations as well as whatever strike craft the planet holds on the surface. I feel like the encumbrance of needing transport to move already perfectly captures the TIE's lack of a hyperdrive, but it's not as if they needed Star Destroyers or other transports to function at all?

(Not that I'm saying you shouldn't use this house rule- if it makes your games more interesting, that's great!)
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Garriath wrote:
SeerMagic wrote:
I do thing it slightly skewed it empire. But we skewed it right back by having the thematic rule tie fighters can't be left alone or deployed alone.


I'm curious- why do you think of the rule as thematic? I've always understood that solitary TIEs represent the garrisons of small space stations as well as whatever strike craft the planet holds on the surface. I feel like the encumbrance of needing transport to move already perfectly captures the TIE's lack of a hyperdrive, but it's not as if they needed Star Destroyers or other transports to function at all?

(Not that I'm saying you shouldn't use this house rule- if it makes your games more interesting, that's great!)


They can't function well on their own. This is even brought up in the new movie.
 
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Derry Salewski
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SeerMagic wrote:
Garriath wrote:
SeerMagic wrote:
I do thing it slightly skewed it empire. But we skewed it right back by having the thematic rule tie fighters can't be left alone or deployed alone.


I'm curious- why do you think of the rule as thematic? I've always understood that solitary TIEs represent the garrisons of small space stations as well as whatever strike craft the planet holds on the surface. I feel like the encumbrance of needing transport to move already perfectly captures the TIE's lack of a hyperdrive, but it's not as if they needed Star Destroyers or other transports to function at all?

(Not that I'm saying you shouldn't use this house rule- if it makes your games more interesting, that's great!)


They can't function well on their own. This is even brought up in the new movie.


They function fine. They're not on their own. They're at a base.

In the new movie they tell Kylo to quit dicking around because he's far from support as far as combat goes. (Those star destroyers could have just launched hundreds of ties and shredded the cruiser but . . . ignoring actual military sci fi for made up shitty plots just 'cause . . . New star wars!)
 
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Stephane Smith
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Balance again...

I think im actually near 100 games, won more than 80 percent. If you want to play some pros, there s a community on discord playing online with tabletop simulator. 20$ on steam, you can find the community address on tebletop steam under sw rebellion in the workshop.

Really the mod is awesome and scripted... so a game can be done faster.

For your points :

1- as said by another, rules specify you choose starting units setup and mission deck, so no imbalance there. But... the new mission deck is little better for the Empire.

For the objectives, there s analyses but after so many games on core and rote i think it s favor the rebels by a really small margin. But yhat change nothing at all what you think, see point 4

2- the new battle system is different but involve a little less luck than before, don t favor any side but it change things... for example it s harder to kill a SD for the objective before he can retreat, but defense is now better overall.

Most think that the new battle system give a little edge to the rebels, but it remove the multi shield generator turtling abuse from the core game.

3- and yes, i feel like you, this game is so great ! I play many board games in my life but yhat one is awesome, the best of the best.

4- Bid system is your answer. Starting random system distribution have more impact on the game than the changes from core to rote.

Pro player s usually use the bid system. For example, starting without saleucami have a solid impact on the game.

I have post the bid system on the forum, it s really easy.

And you can be surprise how ppl bid really low on a side or the other,

After so many game with really low bid, i can see this game is perfectly balanced.

Have fun
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Robb Minneman
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Perf wrote:
The "problem" with Rebellion is that there's no competitive "scene" (or whatever we call it) to speak of, so... who do I trust when they say they're "experienced" or "expert"?

Discussion is certainly interesting, but the ultimate test would be to try and reach outside your gaming group, preferably to one that has opposite experience to yours (for example, one saying "Not sure how the Rebels lose the base game between experienced players" while claiming similar experience to yours: tournament winners, experienced etc.) and preferably record for all to see, so PBFs, YouTube video, detailed session reports...


So, hey, I do have some data from the PBF games. Since I keep track of winners for the PBF ELO thread, I have some data on expansion vs. base game.

WARNING: Small sample sizes. Don't draw too many conclusions from this data. Let me get back to you in a year or so when there's been another hundred games played.

Base game, no expansion, we have 45 finished games. 22 Rebel victories and 23 Imperial victories. That's enough data for me to be fairly confident that the game is well-balanced. If there's a bias to one side or another I'd be confident in saying that it's no more than about 60-40 in favor of one side or another.

For expansion games, we have seven completed games with six Imperial victories. That's not enough data to draw any firm conclusions from, but I'd be concerned about play balance from that data.

Like I said, I'd like to see a lot more data before I commit to anything here.
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Dan P
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robbbbbb wrote:
For expansion games, we have seven completed games with six Imperial victories. That's not enough data to draw any firm conclusions from, but I'd be concerned about play balance from that data.

Like I said, I'd like to see a lot more data before I commit to anything here.
Yeah, I think the main conclusion I'd draw from the PBF games so far is that the expansion plays much more different for the Rebels than for the Imperials, and often requires different strategy and tactics than what worked in the base game. The Imperials can use basically the same playbook that always worked (with the exception of having to watch out for Confrontation early), while even experienced Rebels have to come up with new setups and strategies on the fly.

So far in my in-person games with the expansion, it's 6-5 Imperials (and the extra Imperial win was a game where the Rebels attempted a really bold and unconventional strategy that blew up in their face). Now, my friend and I are definitely not "expert level," but we're pretty experienced with the game. I think there's always been a slight advantage to a really good Imperial player, but I've always had more fun as the Rebels, and never felt like a game was unwinnable from the start. That's balanced enough for me, and if we ever get to the point of Imperials winning too much, we'll figure out a way to balance it for us that keeps the game as fun as possible.
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Paul Paella
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In all the games I've played in with the expansion, using only the new missions, the Rebels have won every game. The Rebels won most of our games without the expansion too.

It seems to us that the Rebels still have a significant advantage, unless the Empire draws what we feel are key early draws and/or initial system placements.

With the expansion:
- If the Empire spreads out to nullify Rapid Mobilization redeployment, the Rebels can now easily turtle and destroy any Empire attack on a base not near a Deathstar.

- If the Empire Focuses on a few large fleets our Rebels simply use Rapid Mobilization redeployment and pick a system far away from the Empire's large fleets.

It's rare when the Rebel player chooses the base near the initial DSUC placement so it's rarely a factor in defending a rebel base attack.

These are how almost all of games play out in Rebel victories, with and without the expansion.
 
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Ghorro wrote:

- If the Empire Focuses on a few large fleets our Rebels simply use Rapid Mobilization redeployment and pick a system far away from the Empire's large fleets.

I've only had one game of the expansion (Imperial) so I'm curious, how easy/difficult is redeployment without those hidden fleet cards? or do you play with the base card set?

edited for reading issues
 
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JohnnyRedRedburn wrote:
Ghorro wrote:

- If the Empire Focuses on a few large fleets our Rebels simply use Rapid Mobilization redeployment and pick a system far away from the Empire's large fleets.

I've only had one game of the expansion (Imperial) so I'm curious, how easy/difficult is redeployment without those hidden fleet cards? or do you play with the base card set?

edited for reading issues


this is amazingly difficult to accomplish even in the base game.

Hidden fleeting to where your base is moving requires a lot of advanced knowledge of the probes.
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I think a lot of the points raised in this post are fairly sweeping statements taken at a high level overview with a frame of reference being the Base Game with no expansion material. Not to say any of the points are wrong (Death Star being harder to kill is a fairly straightforward negative for the rebels), just that there is a lot of nuance that can be missed that might actually not be as bad, or even a negative.

For example the starting unit argument, I disagree with this one. I think trading 1 X-Wing and 1 Y-Wing for a starting U-Wing is a fair trade because of what the advanced tactic deck can do. With a U-Wing you can transport 1 Rebel Trooper, use the U-Wing advanced tactic, create another unit, then play the kill 1 triangle unit card to take out a lone stormtrooper with basically nothing the Empire can do about it (TS would be needed, and that's arguably one of their best cards they have to use). So with a single U-Wing and RT, you threaten to blockade any single ST system at very little commitment. Can't do that with an X-Wing and Y-Wing instead, and it causes the Empire to not consolidate as much if they are concerned about giving an easy win to the rebels.
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