A long time ago, on a tabletop far, far away, there was a rather excellent board game based off a rather uneven prequel to a famous trilogy. Say what you will about the Star Wars prequels (and believe me, I could say a lot), Queen’s Gambit was one of the best, and remains one of the most sought-after, Star Wars tabletop games to hit the market (this is back before Fantasy Flight Games got their claws into the franchise). It recreated key scenes from the movie in a light strategy game that had a ton of moving parts and a lot of rolling of dice.
Hasbro has taken that classic game, rebranded it, updated the theme, and brought it back as Risk: Star Wars Edition. This time around, instead of fighting for equitable trade on Naboo (my eyes rolled up in my head just typing that), you’re recreating scenes from the infinitely better Return of the Jedi. The board itself is shaped like a TIE Advanced and has three separate areas of play: The Battle of Endor, The Battle for the Death Star, and Luke vs. Darth Vader. Each player selects Rebels or Empire, sets up their flotillas accordingly, then take turns facing off as the Rebels try to take down the deflector shields on Endor, destroy Darth Vader and the Emperor, and blow up the Death Star. I focus on the Rebels’ goals because the Empire’s goals are rather straightforward–stop the Rebels’ advance and kill them all.
There’s a bit of strategy as you zip your fighters and the Millennium Falcon or Executor (pronounced Ex-e-CU-tor, not Ex-EC-utor, as my son keeps on having to remind me–though I do find highly amusing the idea that the Imperial Army has an entire Super Star Destroyer of lawyers flying around trying to serve the Rebels with legal papers). The Rebels have to offload their squadrons from their capital ships before the Death Star turns them to space dust, then try to take out as many TIEs as they can (and hopefully the Super Star Destroyer as well) while waiting for their ground troops to finish off the deflector shields.
While the center section of the board is where all the main action takes place (there are a lot of small minis to shift about and troop placement choices to make), the literal side missions are equally important in the overall game. As I mentioned before, the Rebels have to take out the shields in order for the Death Star to become targetable by your fighters. It’s an inevitability, but the Empire can improve its odds by placing stormtroopers in your path, forcing you to have to roll one higher than the printed success number to advance. The Luke vs. Vader fight is critical to a successful win, as whoever wins that battle gets three-to-five additional orders for that round. You can also get extra orders for clearing sectors in the Battle for the Death Star. These extra orders get played at the end of your turn and, if your opponent hasn’t been as lucky, it means you essentially get an entire extra turn. All it takes is a few of these to cinch the win.
The game is well put together, easy to play, and generally a ton of fun. It’s a well-balanced 2-player game: something that doesn’t go unnoticed in my house. My son seems to think that the Empire is a bit hamstrung, since the Death Star has to keep taking out capital ships even after they’ve offloaded their squadrons. That’s when I point out that those are all the fighters I get for the game while he has a flotilla of TIEs at his disposal (this usually results in the board littered with TIEs one turn later).
Speaking of, the minis are really my only minor complaint. Given the amazing miniatures that publishers like Fantasy Flight Games are putting out, I’m used to seeing more hardy, more detailed ships. Of course, in order to utilize something like the FFG minis, the board would have to be much bigger and the cost would bump up from its $30 MSRP considerably. Pulling this out of the reach of casual gamers would be a shame, especially since there are plenty of premium Star Wars tabletop offerings already. So while the fanboy in me wants more, I totally understand Hasbro’s decision here. If you do want more from the standard game, there is also a Black Edition version that adds minis for the stormtroopers, Falcon, Executor, and the Death Star. You’ll have to decide if that’s worth the $20 premium.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll find a lot to love about Risk: Star Wars Edition. While it hews closer to Star Wars games of old than Risk, it’s a great light strategy game to bust out and relive the last, great movie from the original trilogy. Grab it on Amazon!
GeekDad received a copy of the game for this review. Opinions are my own.