Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game is What I’ve Been Waiting For | Review

Next month, Fantasy Flight is launching Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game offering newcomers and old gamers alike something new to enjoy.

Star Wars fans and card game enthusiasts have something new to look forward to this March, with the arrival of the franchise’s first ever deckbuilding game (appropriately titled Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game). My love for Star Wars and card games, specifically Star Wars card games, has been well documented over the years, and the resurgence we’ve seen since the Disney purchase has been pretty great.

Just within Fantasy Flight itself we got Star Wars: The Card Game, Empire vs. Rebellion, Outer Rim, and even Destiny. Recently there’ve been some other “card game adjacent” titles that are adaptations of already existing games. All around, it’s been a pretty solid period of time for tabletop Star Wars fans.

For all that, however, I feel like something has been missing. Nothing has quite scratched the same itch as the older Star Wars Collectible and Trading Card Games. The thrill of “duking it out” merely with the strength of your cards and strategy. Some of have gotten really close to that feel, but whether it’s more complicated—or too simplistic—mechanics, or incorporated to much other stuff (dice, boards, etc)…they weren’t exactly what I was wanting.

Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game is here to save the day. I’m more recently a deckbuilding convert, and love the genre. Deckbuilders manage to incorporate the feel of those 90s/early 00s CCGs in terms of gameplay and strategy, but without the need for constantly tracking down new cards/rulesets to keep playing. It’s a great hybrid, scratching that very specific itch for me, while keeping games moving at a relatively quick pace. I’m older, with kids…sitting down for several hours-long matches just isn’t feasible anymore.

As such, I was thrilled when Fantasy Flight announced they were giving Star Wars the deckbuilding treatment, I was thrilled. They were kind enough to give me the chance to check it out early, and after plenty of hands-on time and hard fought matches, it’s safe to say it rules incredibly hard.

All in all, it’s not a drastic departure from any other deckbuilding game. So if you’re familiar with the genre, you’ll have no time adjusting to this one. What’s great, however, is that even if this is your first card game, the basics are relatively simple to get a grasp on.

You choose to fight as either the Empire or Rebellion, and both players use the same 152 cards that are included in the box. I was a bit worried they were returning to this well-trod period of time, but they include enough characters/vehicles from the other movies and even animated series, that it feels far more fleshed out.

You start off with a tiny personal deck of only 10 cards and must then “build up” your deck using the shared “galaxy deck” that sits in the center between players. There are Empire and Rebel cards (you can only use the ones assigned to your faction), as well as neutral cards who can be used on either side. The goal of the game is relatively simple: destroy three of your opponent’s bases and you win.

That’s it. Getting to that victory, however, is where the fun comes in.

Spread between you and the other player, is the “galaxy row,” a set of six cards pulled from the galaxy deck. This, and the bases you and your opponent are defending is where the main action happens. In each turn, you can purchase cards from the Galaxy Row, where you’ll immediately set them aside in your discard pile to potentially be used in your main hand later on in the game. Each card has its own uses, whether it’s for defense, attack, or simply garnering more resources you can use to acquire a better deck.

Each card does something, and it’s laid out very simply on the card itself. You won’t have to do a bunch of double checking the rulebook to try and remember what’s what (a definite plus). When you’re ready to use a card, simply do what it says! Using the unique powers of different cards and amassing the right amount of forces, you can start whittling down the health of your opponent’s Bases.

But of course, it’s not just YOUR deck you have to worry about in this game. Managing your own deck, while trying to limit your opponent’s ability is a major part of the strategy involved and takes the experience to another level.

Your opponent has access to the same pile and can see exactly what you see. If there’s a great card in the Row that could provide a distinct advantage, it might be worth your time and resources to “sabotage” (for the Rebellion) or “bounty hunt” (for the Empire) those cards within the Galaxy Row. For instance, during one of my playthroughs as a Rebel, a major vehicle card for the Empire came up on the Row…one that would certainly tip the balance if my opponent was able to get it.

Though my deck was still meager at the time, I through everything I had at the card and was able to successfully defeat it. This allowed me to take the card out of play for the remainder of the game, leaving my opponent without access to it early on in the match. While it left my bases with far fewer defenses for a few rounds, it kept my forces from being overwhelmed early on as well.

It’s just cool to see that kind of risk/reward strategy in a card game. It’s an aspect of the gameplay that makes each match feel different, with no battle playing out the same way…even though you’re using the same cards every time.

But that’s not the only unique factor this game brings to the proverbial table. There’s also a Force mechanic that comes into play. Some cards will say something to the effect of “if the Force is with you” which means you’ll get a bonus to whatever it is you’re using. This is tracked using the “Balance of the Force Track,” which can be influenced by the cards in you play, or even the locations you can engage with along the way.

Doing certain actions will put the Force on either the Light or Dark side, which can then impact the way certain cards function. Say you’re playing as the Empire and you go to attack a player’s base. The card you’re using might grant you additional damage points if the Force is skewed towards your side. If the Force is balanced or in favor of your opponent, you don’t get the extra damage.

It’s another layer of strategy to consider as you build up your forces and plan out how you want to attack your opponent. There’s a lot to keep in mind, but the way the game plays out, as you slowly build up your deck turn after turn, none of the elements feel overwhelming either. It’s another reason I love these deckbuilding games.

I tested out the game with my 14 year old. While he’s definitely a nerd, like myself, he hasn’t played many cards games. Even so, he had no trouble picking up the rules of the game with me. In just a couple matches (games can be as short as 30 minutes), he was planning out attacks/strategies like he’s been playing these kinds of games forever.

It’s so easy to pick up, and the instruction manual lays everything out in a simple, easy to understand way. Best of all, however, is it offers up alternate rules to play by, allowing for some deeper mechanics that will give more experienced players more of a challenge. It really strikes an excellent balance between being accessible for newcomers and offering depth to veteran card gamers.

Personally speaking, I loved all the ways the game uses in-universe references. From simple things like using Sabotage or Bounty Hunting when referring to player actions, to the impressive artwork and descriptions on the cards, it all flows together to make you feel like you’re fighting it out withing Star Wars. It’s easy to get immersed into it.

Between the fun gameplay, the Star Wars aesthetics/impressive art, ease of access, and quick play time, there’s a lot to love about Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game. It’s an addictive blast for players of all skill levels and fills the Star Wars card game void I’ve been looking for all these years.

Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game is set to launch online and in select retailers on March 3, 2023. If you like card games and Star Wars, might as well get that pre-order in now.

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Jordan Maison
Editor-in-Chief: Writer and cartoonist who went to college for post-production, he now applies his love of drawing, movie analysis, filmmaking, video games, and martial arts into writing.