Star Wars is about many things. It’s about galaxy-spanning civil war and the battle between good and evil. It’s also about individuals. Ordinary people do extraordinary things and see their legacy defined as Hero or Villain. Last year’s Star Wars: Rebellion gave us a phenomenal way to live that civil war on the tabletop but it also overshadowed an equally excellent game about those individuals. Star Wars: Destiny brings your favorite Star Wars characters to life in small scale battles with all the energy of a blaster duel.
The game revolves around those characters doing exactly what you’d expect them to do. Kylo Ren and Rey are the featured characters in Destiny’s starter sets and the battle between the two plays out just like the movie. Together with Finn, Rey begins the game unsteady. Her damage is inconsistent until you awaken her abilities with force powers and a lightsaber. If you can survive that long she’ll lay a Kyber crystal powered beat-down on her opponent. Kylo is the opposite. He can put out piles of damage from the get go so long as you can feed him resources. He’s a bit needy for attention.
Once you move past the starter sets into the collectible aspect of this game, the interplay between theme and setting doesn’t stop. Poe Dameron proves that he really can “fly anything” as his special ability allows him to flexibly bring any vehicle you can find to the battlefield. Finn’s ability breaks the deck building rules so you can pack your Hero deck with villainous weapons and ships like the First Order Tie Fighter. Pair these two together and suddenly Poe is flying everything from his own Black One to Tie Fighters and AT-STs. These two share an in-game bromance as strong as their on-screen one.
It’s not just the characters that drive this Star Wars feel. “Let the Wookie Win” is a card that calls back to A New Hope and puts your opponent into a lose-lose situation — just like dejarik with Chewbacca. The “Thermal Detonator” upgrade doesn’t necessarily have to blow up to pinch your opponent’s resources and cards. It’s diplomacy at bomb point, something Leia is familiar with. Back and forth you go in a game of rapid tactical turns in service of your deck’s long term strategy. Rey will fulfill her destiny and Captain Phasma will sacrifice her Stormtroopers as she blasts her way to victory.
By now you’ve likely noticed that Destiny features piles of thick chunky dice. I was initially skeptical of layering yet another random feature on top of cards; I still bear the emotional scars of one too many games on the wrong end of a mana curve. Fortunately, these two systems work to provide uncertainty rather than randomness. Decks are a lean 30 cards with a very generous mulligan rule. Any card can be pitched to reroll and there are a plethora of roll mitigation cards you can choose to include while deck building. Those cards you need are coming, you just don’t know exactly when. A game of Destiny feels less like Star Wars: Yahtzee and more like a tense game of navigating an asteroid field. With the smallest bit of luck-and the Force-you’ll get through.
This brings me to the Wampa in the room. Destiny is a collectible game. The starter boxes are a fixed and known quality, but after that you’re at the mercy of blind booster packs. This is a stark departure from FFG’s LCG (“Living Card Game”) line and it’s one I do struggle with. I don’t want to pull a C-3PO on anyone but the odds of drawing a specific legendary card, like Vader or Han, aren’t great. The overall card count in each set is a little smaller than Destiny’s biggest competitor but it’s still frustrating to those of us who prefer to build carefully tuned and optimized decks. My current Villain deck would kill for a Sith Holocron but I haven’t been lucky enough to pull one.
Luckily, no single dominant card has emerged to destroy the game’s balance. Jango Fett may be the closest, but even he is only a Rare and much easier to find than a Legendary Vader. It’s still early in the product life but I’m hopeful this pattern continues. The next set, Spirit of the Rebellion, has already been announced and is chock full of Rogue One goodies. Jyn Erso, Chirrut, Director Krennic have all already been spoiled and I’m sure FFG is holding a back a few surprises. Like the movies themselves, Common and Uncommon people and actions are as important as Legendary Characters. The rebellion would never have been successful without the lowly Ewoks after all.
Star Wars: Destiny is a game that brings small scale tactical battles to your table. The stakes are as high as the scope is small. You can hear the ffwoosh of a lightsaber in the clattering of the dice. With the entire franchise at their disposal, and a new movie every year, I’m confident that Destiny is a game I’m going to be playing for a while.
Have you played Star Wars: Destiny? What is your dream Star Wars character fight? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: Rafael Cordero, Fantasy Flight Games