Growing to War: Star Wars Legion

Long ago (actually, last spring), in a galaxy far, far away (or rather, on a tabletop near you)…

Star Wars makes a triumphant venture into the non-collectible miniatures wargames arena with Star Wars: Legion. Published by Fantasy Flight Games, Legion is an easily accessible, fast playing game that lets you embrace your inner Emperor or your Rebellious side and take control of the military forces of the Star Wars Universe.

Game publisher, Fantasy Flight, boasts a substantial pedigree as one of the top names in the board gaming world. Responsible for miniatures-centric games like Descent, and a double handful of licensed products, like Doom, Fantasy Flight has made a name for themselves as a quality developer of licensed product. This achievement afforded them the opportunity to develop games in the legendary Star Wars universe and they came out of the gate swinging. Huge hits have been released with Armada, a fleet level strategic battles game, and X-Wing, a fast and frenetic game of Starfighter scale combat. Legion is the newest title among the properties and deals with tactical trooper warfare.

Getting Started

The Legion starter box is jam-packed with content. You get over thirty miniatures, including Hero Characters Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, plus all the dice, tokens, and measuring tools you need to play. You also get a selection of small obstacle terrain pieces to utilize for cover during your games. The miniatures are well sculpted, iconic characters straight from the Star Wars screen, with an impressive attention to detail that will please the most fastidious of fans. The box contains rules for quick play in a stage by stage learning game, but one of the best things about Legion is that the full play rules are available completely for free download from Fantasy Flight’s website here. You can peruse the rules, and play some practice games before taking the plunge and picking up the Starter.

The game itself plays very quickly and, once both players have the rules well under their belts, games should take under two hours, just enough time to put on your favorite Star Wars movie while you play. Players decide who will command the forces of the Galactic Empire and who will lead the band of the Rebel Alliance. Characters and units are customizable, with unique weapon upgrades, Force Powers, and special tactics, to suit your play style and strategies. Army deployment alternates between players one unit at a time, and with a careful eye towards making the most of the game’s all-important cover system. Combat initiative in Legion is determined through a unique secret bidding system: Each player has a selection of Orders cards with a value of 1-6, some of which are reusable and the rest of which are one-use only. Players choose from their remaining selection, with the player who bid the lowest activating their models first. Also, each Orders card lists how many of that player’s units may be placed “Under Orders.” Models that are “Under Orders” can be chosen directly for activation, otherwise, models are activated randomly by turning over face down unit tokens, meaning you can never be certain how the flow of battle may go. Turns take place over alternating activations as well, until each player has activated all their units.

Combat actions are resolved using sets of custom dice, which generate hits, critical hits, surges, and blocks. Each unit has an easy to understand card listing its abilities and which dice and rules it applies when making attack and defense rolls. The card also lists which of the movement and combat tools the unit uses when it moves and makes its attacks. The movement tools themselves are innovative devices of three different lengths that can adjust their arc and angle for unit movement. Trooper models can place the tools anywhere on their base, but vehicles, like Imperial Speeder Bikes, must place their movement tool against a special notch on the front of their base. While this limits the vehicles’ maneuverability, vehicles usually have access to larger movement increments than foot mobile infantry. Gameplay is very balanced between factions, while still allowing each army to maintain a unique flavor and play style that’s very true to their spirit.

The game’s extremely important cover system is very simple in its application: depending on the degree of cover, either light or heavy, successful hits are removed from opposing attack rolls before defense rolls are made. Each ranged attack on an infantry unit generates a suppression token. Build up enough suppression tokens and the unit loses its combat effectiveness, eventually panicking off the board if they can’t shrug it off. However, each turn a unit gets a chance to shake off each of their tokens, meaning that no unit is completely out of the fight.

Heroes like Luke and Vader are super effective, just like their on film counterparts. Wielding advanced special rules and higher end weapons and equipment, they can lay waste to the average infantry unit. They also bring special strategies, Orders, and, quite often, a selection of powerful Force Powers to the fray. Losing your hero, though, can cause the tides of battle to swiftly turn against you, but victory never feels truly out of reach until the last trooper falls. Lastly, as most games can be completed in less than two hours, a Saturday afternoon of gaming leaves open the opportunity to switch armies and see if you could have done better in your opponent’s shoes.

Making Good on Your Investment

Fantasy Flight has robust plans for all of their Star Wars properties, Legion included. New models and rules are consistently added to the range of Legion miniatures, like Han Solo, and the impressive (Truescale! It’s HUGE!) Imperial AT-ST Walker, which positively DOMINATES the landscape of a battle. New characters like Rogue One’s Jyn Erso keep adding refreshing new revisions and possibilities to your battles. The range is very affordable, with few units breaching the $50 mark, and the starter box (which comes in under $100) is packed with enough value and options that it will be a while before you feel the need to expand beyond its contents, though, like any good miniature game, the need is indeed there. Being a Fantasy Flight game, it is strongly recommended that you purchase additional game dice and measuring tools to make it easier to facilitate quicker play, and Fantasy Flight makes it easy and affordable to do so by offering them as expansion packs. Of course, ABU is here to fulfill all of your Legion needs! Fantasy Flight also maintains a table-top roleplaying Star Wars game, and all the models in the starter box are super useful in that game as well.

Legion is fairly young as a war game in a fiercely competitive market, and Fantasy Flight is fighting to make sure it becomes a mainstay of gaming tables for years to come. Since the Core Rules are an online-only resource the rule set can be revised frequently, and for free at that! Even veterans in the community at large are on nearly the same footing as a newbie who just got their starter box, so there’s no entrenched mindset or old guard to penetrate. The community is eager for new players and happy to teach. If you’re looking to learn a new game or scratch your Star Wars itch, I highly recommend Star Wars: Legion as a great game for veterans and beginners. If you’re a local, or visiting our fair state, ABU has plenty of dedicated space for miniatures games of all types! Any of our retail associates would love to show you around our building and help get you started with your Star Wars Legion collection!