Monday, January 8, 2024

Space Wars

So the Seahawks season is over and, despite yet another close win (against a 4-13 halfling team...big whoop), the orks are out of the playoffs (*sigh*). I may discuss that in later post (or the playoffs in general), but at the moment I'm not in the mood for Blood Bowl.

[not that Blood Bowl hasn't been on the mind a bit...the kids have been clamoring for it in recent days and are in the process of painting up a couple BB teams (wood elves and amazons; Christmas gifts from last year, if I remember correctly)]

It should come as little surprise that in MY household, there's been plenty of game playing that's been going the last couple weeks (during the holiday vacation season). What might be surprising is that almost none of it has been D&D related. Instead, it's been card games, board games, and war games...specifically a new war game that was on the boy's Christmas list: Star Wars Legion. Prior to New Year's eve (when we had to clean the table for a dinner party) our dining room was dominated by battlefield detritus and unpainted models. Now...well, the battlefield hasn't returned (yet) but the table is once again dominated by scores of miniatures...primed miniatures that are in the process of being painted.

Since it IS game related and it's been the main thing occupying my attention lately (at least, the bandwidth I reserve for gaming), I figured I might as well write something about it.

Under the tree this year.

Star Wars Legion
is a miniature war game; the core box set comes in two varieties Republic vs. Separatist or Empire vs. Rebels. The rules for both are the same, but the models included in the box are different. We, of course, have the latter set because...duh. 

I find the game VERY reminiscent of 2nd edition Warhammer 40,000. Not necessarily in game play (initiative and turn procedure is NOT 40K-esque, and the thing uses custom dice rather than standard d6s), but in terms of army construction and general paradigm. Each player picks up a faction. Unit types are given "rank" categories, which limits how many of each type can be included in the army list. There are normal generals and whatnot or "special" (Unique) figures based on film characters. There are "upgrade" cards that can purchased for specific points...very much like 40K's "war gear" and "psychic power" cards. And just like 2E 40K, the special characters, can punch above their point value, absolutely dominating the battlefield...something that the 40K designers endeavored to rectify between 2E and 3E.

[when it comes to 40K, I logged the most "game time" playing 2E, though I spent more years collecting & building 3E and/or 4E, before chucking the thing around the time of 5E]

Which is is very Star Wars. Luke Skywalker should be able to carve his way through a unit of stormtroopers. Vader should be a big, menacing presence on the moving (slowly) about the battlefield. Mandalorians with jetpacks should be highly mobile, elite units. Etc.

The game has a LOT of fiddle to it: a lot of special rules and spot mechanics and tokens, reminiscent of Magic cards...a fairly obvious influence on the design of Star Wars Legion. But I like the game...a lot. For a NUMBER of reasons:

1) Star Wars is fun. Star Wars as a war game (stormtroopers vs. rebels) is a blast. The models are all recognizable by anyone with even a passing knowledge of the films, and their capabilities are well-modeled by the game mechanics.

2) Really quality components (easily stored in a nice box) and fairly straightforward rules that, after a couple play-throughs, are fairly easy to grok. No issues for the 12 year old, despite being for ages 14+.

3) Dirt-cheap investment. Anyone familiar with GW stuff knows how much money can be spent on the miniatures hobby. I remember when a single rhino tank was $35 or a landraider was an "outrageous" $50ish. Just checking Amazon this morning, the prices on these are up to $89 and $140

Holy. Crap. 

Star Wars Legion, by contrast, are cheaper to buy BUT (more importantly) have an 800 point structure limit. The core box provides two forces of circa 500 can customize a legal army with the purchase of 2-3 extra units, probably with less than $70ish total in extra expenditure.  They're cheap enough you can outfit multiple "800 point armies" of the same faction for little money (the core box is currently available on-line for $ that to 40K!). I bought myself a late Christmas present of the "Blizzard" box: three snowtrooper units (21 models), 2 speeder bike units (4 models), another Vader, and an AT-ST (!!) all with associated cards, upgrades, and extra tokens. Total price: $105. Scheduled to arrive tomorrow. One of these days I'll throw down the extra $13 to buy General Veers, and my "Hoth assault" army will be complete. 

[never mind...just took 2 minutes to place the order. It's still only $15 with tax...arrives tomorrow, too]

Arriving tomorrow.
Back in 1996 I paid $18 a pop for each two-pack of space marine terminators. I got six (total), all with thunder hammers and painted them up to be Khorne berserkers. Less than a year later, they were outlawed by 40Ks new rule set and (so far as I know) have never since been a legal 40K unit. Screw you, Games Workshop.

4) Easy assembly. The kids have been doing (most of) the cutting and gluing...I just do all the priming, out in the garage (to save on their young lungs). Even the really fiddly models (the AT-RT, the Mandalorians)...the kid put them together no problem, without adult help.

5) Lego compatible. Over the years, my kids have acquired quite the collection of Lego sets, many of which are Star Wars themed. While these have been used for plenty of "Lego wars" in the past, they are pretty close to the same scale as Star Wars Legion...which means that we have ready-made "terrain" for our battlefield. Who needs plastic forests and spray-painted "hills" when you can battle in the Tattooine cantina? Plus, I just like repurposing toys...or ways that make it useful. 

6) Fast gameplay. The game plays quite fast...once you get a handle on how each unit's special rules and instructions work. That part is kind of a pain, as each unit generally has at least 1-2 special rules associated with it (even before adding various "upgrade" cards), and you're bound to make mistakes in the first battle or two (we did). However, the limited NUMBER of units (that 800 points is only enough for 6-7 groups), combined with fast turn sequence means you get ramped up pretty quick. The whole "issuing orders" phase (a card drawing mechanic that takes the place of initiative rolling) allows for interesting tactical maneuvering, and the quick attrition means game play speeds up substantially as the game goes. Six turns (again: memories of 2E 40K) goes VERY fast, but battles are tight right to the end. We dig it.

7) With regard to rules, I'm generally fine. Yes, Luke is a beast. He's also been shot to death in every battle we've played. Same with Vader. The only mechanical issue that bugs (or that I'm not used to) is that troop models cannot be screened by other troop models. So, even though the stormtroopers advance in front of DV (because Darth is Sooo Slooow), rebel forces can ignore the troopers, focusing fire on the commander behind. In practice it hasn't been a big deal...but it does feel odd.

Anyway. War gaming is fun. War gaming in spaaaace is also quite fun. Even the nine year old is into it (she's currently painting her Amazon team, but has a Chewbacca and Leia for SWL and plans to get in on the next battle). The kids are getting to an age when I can fo this kind of thing with age where I can unpack my old crates of 40K minis and not worry about them smashing them crazily, or pitching one in a tantrum of frustration (always a possibility with young or immature players). 

But I'm kind of over 40K. I mean, there's a lot of sly Star Wars references in the original 40K game (which I own, but have never played), and I'm tempted to run some first edition 40K using the SWL miniatures in place of GW stuff (now that would be a hoot!). I thought about introducing them to 40K proper, but even though I've got the stuff for it...what edition would I teach them? I many editions are there now? Eight? Nine? I've got rule books for the first four (five? Maybe) editions. But do I have a favorite? Not really. It's such a simple system, but there are changes to every version that changes the game in significant ways. 

Nah. I think I'll stick with the new Star Wars game for a bit. I'm sure 40K will still be around in ten a twelfth edition with $300 tank models...if the kids want to try it out.

*** EDIT: Sorry, almost forgot: Go Dawgs! ***


  1. I never got into the WH miniatures wargame, although I played with a friend once or twice. As you know I won't go along with the "new edition every three years, your old stuff is no good" crap. But were you aware of the ten-day window last October where you could pre-order a reprint of the original W40K Rogue Trader? I'm looking forward to the read when it arrives in a few months.

    1. I was not, but I own a first printing of the game. I remember when the 40K rules were first published (in the United States, anyway). Iwas in 8th grade and my buddy got the book. Delightful...but we both wished it was an RPG.

    2. I was well out of college when it first came out, and I looked it over in the store more than once. But as you say, I just wished it was an RPG, and always put it back. Now I'd like its glimpse of the early W40K setting. And who knows? Maybe I'll get around to playing it!

  2. " I remember when a single rhino tank was $35 or a landraider was an "outrageous" $50ish."

    I started in the Rogue Trader days where both kits were $20 - but you got three Rhino APCs and two Land Raiders in a box. The classic plastic "beakie" marines were $20 for thirty figs an a fair slew of leftover bits.

    Modern 40K sucks so bad on every level it's not even funny any more.

  3. star wars legion is probably the best tabletop wargame around at the moment (even if you do not like star wars). they streamlined and simplified most aspects of wargaming and the result works very well. all your points are well made and i have met very few people who've tried the game and did not like it.

    a little more faction-variety would be nice, but at least there are a few minor ones now.

    if you want to check out everything that's out there, look here:
    they have all available units/cards/missions with stats.

    as for your problems concering vader and luke getting shot to bits... there are ways around this problem, even with just the core box (expansion boxes add units and equipment to help with this as well. the squishier leaders need it.), but i won't spoil your fun, you'll find out on your own soon enough. ;)

    1. Just got a couple boxes from Amazon this afternoon, but haven’t had a chance to open ‘em…I’m so excited!
      ; )

    2. By the way: just checked out that link. Fantastic...thank you so much for the recommendation!

  4. The idea of painting and assembling minisis great. Having the time to do it. Not so much. Maybe once the kids are older, but by then I'll probably be able to 3d print a color mini.

    Also that loss vs the Steelers was brutal. Sure we gave up some other losses this season but just geting pounded by the run at home time after time. Felt like we were kids playing men.

    1. Very similar to watching UW vs. Michigan last night. Unfortunately.

  5. 40k is on its 10th edition now!

    Although the rules and unit stats are "free" at the moment, so worth a look if you have any interest in game design... it has changed quite a lot since 2nd and 3rd edition. (themselves very different)