A Long Weekend of Board Games: Star Wars Imperial Assault, El Grande, and 7 Wonders Duel

I’ve had Star Wars Imperial Assault for awhile now. Ever since I got it on the cusp of the New Year, it’s sat in the corner of my gaming room unplayed. But not untouched. I’d looked at the rulebook, gazed longingly at the plastic minis (especially that formidable AT-ST), and dreamed of epic Empire-Rebel clashes. You know, the stuff Original Trilogies are made of!

It wouldn’t stay in its unplayed state forever though. This past Sunday, me and 4 friends sat down for a game afternoon/evening with the expectation that Imperial Assault was going to be on the menu. When we unboxed the game, punched out all the pieces, and set up the board, we headed into Imperial Assault knowing that we’d have some rules hiccups and stumbles because the game comes with, in effect, 3 rulebooks to page through. But after going through the tutorial mission and the very first campaign mission, it was totally worth it.

1. Star Wars Imperial Assault

The Setup: It really helped that the tutorial mission gave us a nice overview of how Imperial Assault works. We decided that, instead of adhering strictly to the layout, that we’d go ahead and have the Rebels choose their characters. One person chose the melee Wookie, another took a purple-skinned Rey, another went with female Han, and the last person picked the sniper. I would play as the malevolent Galactic Empire. With that, the battle got underway!

What Happened: In the tutorial, the Imperial troops needed to access a computer terminal. Naturally, the Rebels had to stop that from happening at all costs. As the Imperial player, I decided to feint by having the stormtroopers charge the nearest computer terminal. The hope was that I’d be able to open the door and cause enough of a distraction that all of the Rebels would be occupied with defending that spot while leaving the other side vulnerable.

And that almost looked like it would work with the stormtroopers clustered around the door until the Wookie decided to open the door and charge into battle while the Sniper started picking away at the troopers. The troopers hung on, as did the Imperial Officer, who all got some shots off, but all eventually succumbed to the Wookie’s righteous fury and some crack shots by the sniper. On the other side, the Probe droid and E-web engineer tried to pull up to the other door to access the terminal, but were met by purple Rey and female Han who, with help from an item in a crate, were able to disable the E-web engineer and take down the Probe droid, especially when female Han shot first.

Fresh from their victory, the Rebels, in their infinite cockiness, decided that it was time to try out the campaign mission. They arrived at the scene with the goal of destroying some beacons sending out a signal, but were met by another group of stormtroopers, a probe droid, and an Imperial Officer. The battle was fierce and purple Rey was pretty hurt, but otherwise, everyone else was doing OK. Entering the compound housing the remaining beacons proved to be a more difficult affair and the Imperial troops’ backup units didn’t help events either. The Rebels won, but only by the skin of their teeth by destroying the last beacon on the very last round. When the dust had settled, one of the heroes was wounded and another was pretty close to being wounded.

Final Thoughts: It was an amazing nailbiter from beginning to end. I was thrilled at how cinematic the whole experience was. The stories that happened during the course of the game will become a part of the shared experience and, most importantly, the excitement. Whether it was seeing the Rebels pulling a last-minute stunt to complete the objective in the nick of time or going up against an insanely stubborn door (it will forever live on in infamy), Star Wars Imperial Assault creates memorable moments. It was hard to call it a day and not go on to play another mission.

Seven Wonders Duel MLK

2. 7 Wonders Duel

The Setup: But even before we got around to playing Star Wars Imperial Assault, I decided to teach two of my friends 7 Wonders Duel. Both of them enjoyed the original 7 Wonders and I was hoping that they would enjoy 7 Wonders Duel as much as I did.

What Happened: Having 4 Wonders at your disposal to build makes for a different approach to building wonders. And because it was their first time with the game’s economics system, it’s harder to figure out which cards to prioritize or whether progress tokens are all that beneficial. I think the game-changing moment was when one of the players managed to get his hands on the Military progress token and used that advantage to push the token to the 10VP side of his opponent’s board, effectively doing him in. As someone who has experienced that same thing from another player, I can say that token can really force you to shift your priorities when playing the game.

Final Thoughts: Based on the feedback I got, both players seemed to enjoy the game, saying that it’s easier to learn than the original and that it’s definitely better than the 2-player variant found in the original.

El Grande MLK

3. El Grande

The Setup: It’s probably an odd way to end the night but an enjoyable one nonetheless. After that Imperial Assault game, we all settled on El Grande. If you’ve read my other game session post about my first time playing El Grande, you will have known how excited I was by the game’s mechanics, particularly in the way the secret territory dial works. And since this particular group is games savvy, I figured they’d like it as well.

What Happened: The rules explanation went over very well and pretty much everyone got a kick out of some of the intrigue cards or cards that relied upon the use of the secret territory wheel to really bring out El Grande’s mind-gamey antics. One player sprang to an early lead because of the sheer number of caballeros he was able to unleash on the board, but everyone quickly ganged up on him and also scored territories he had no influence in to catch up. Eventually, I was able to pull in the lead, but then got hampered, losing control of my Home territory in the process. The game was in doubt all the way to the end where the game ended in a tie for first between me and the person who was in first for most of the game.

Final Thoughts: I originally advertised El Grande as a less violent, more mind-gamey version of Small World and I liked to think the game lived up to that promise. The player who was in the lead for a good part of the game was very obviously delighted by its mechanics and loved how fun some of the cards were. Again, I think this game worked really well with the crowd and I hope it hits the table more often!

Although Imperial Assault was the big winner of the night, what with its cinematic displays and offerings of a tantalizing campaign, El Grande fared well as did 7 Wonders Duel. The only thing I can hope for is that Imperial Assault sticks and that we can approach it as a fully-fledged campaign that will have the Rebels reaping huge rewards or encountering some of the colorful heroes and villains that populate the Star Wars universe!

Tell us what you think about the game!