Update: Available platforms added.
One thing you can always count on when you collect tabletop games – there will always be more games than time to play them. Such is the case with my painting column favorite, Imperial Assault. Sure, I’ve written over a dozen articles about painting the individual figures. I’ve even crafted a custom insert for the core game. But when it comes to game night, Imperial Assault is rarely at the top of the list. The Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Legends of the Alliance app changed that.
Would It Help If I Got Out And Pushed?
Part of the problem is that Fantasy Flight Games loves their convoluted rule books as much as they love their miniatures. Between the four (FOUR) rulebooks, plus the online errata that have been posted since the game was released, there is a lot of material to go through just to get a game set up.
The other part of the problem is that Imperial Assault is at least a three player game. You need a minimum of two Rebel heroes, plus another GM-type player running the Imperials. Most nights, we’re limited to two players at my house, so unless one of us runs double Rebels, it’s not going to happen.
There Has Been An Awakening…
That’s why I was beyond excited when FFG released the Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Legends of the Alliance app. Much like the Descent: Journeys in the Dark app does for Fantasy Flight’s dungeon crawler, this app fills the role of GM, running the Imperial characters and keeping track of campaign progress so that you can focus more on playing.
Starting a campaign is as simple as clicking the New Campaign button. You’re given a choice right away to either run through the tutorial or start the campaign proper. I’d recommend running through the tutorial, even if you’ve played before. You get used to how the app handles gameplay and deployment, and gain some XP and credits for your trouble (more on how to cash in on that later).
The app then finds out how many players are playing and lets you choose your heroes (or, in the case of the tutorial, assigns them). It’s likely because the way the game is balanced, but you can only choose a max squad of four. It’s a shame, because without the need for someone to run the Imperials, there’s the potential there for a five- or even six-player group. It’d be fun to see Fantasy Flight Games add the option for more players in a future app update.
You gather your Hero Cards, any starting items they have, and your minis. Then place the rest of your components nearby and start following the prompts in the app.
You’re My Only Hope
After placing your map tiles (which, if they’re a jumbled mess like mine, is always the worst part of setup), the tutorial walks you through movement, interacting with objects, basic and advanced combat, and touches on mission objectives and Fame (which will earn you better item rewards as you advance). The tutorial is broken up into three short chapters to teach you the basics, so you can take breaks when needed. If you skip the tutorial, you’re dumped right into the thick of things, a running firefight on the forest moon of Endor. Either way, it takes an hour or two to complete your first major campaign milestone and get rewarded.
After you’ve completed a mission, you can spend the credits you’ve earned in the game’s shop. There, you’ll find gear from the core game that you can purchase and equip on your characters for their next mission (items don’t have to be permanently assigned to heroes, though certain items obviously benefit specific heroes or types of heroes). You can also spend any earned XP to get new character abilities. It’s a much nicer system than keeping track of everything on spreadsheets or trying to keep all your character’s cards together in the box. It also makes setting up to play a new mission go much quicker. You earn new missions as you progress, gaining additional allies (which can also level up to their Elite status), and discover new paths to take from the main campaign screen.
As far as how Imperial Assault plays with the app, it’s fantastic. I played a couple of solo games and never felt overwhelmed. The app-controlled Imperial enemies have their own agendas (that change from round to round), so all you have to do is move and roll for the Empire. Then you switch off to your heroes, take your turn, marking enemies defeated as necessary in the app, rinse, and repeat. With the classic Star Wars sounds and effects the app uses to enhance gameplay, I was much more immersed. I’d love to see a sound board incorporated in future updates (ala Syrinscape), but I’ll take the ambient noise for now.
With the app to keep track of who’s taken a turn and who hasn’t, there’s no getting mixed up in the middle of long rounds (a nightmare when there are a dozen figures on the board). The app also keeps track of things like reinforcement (because there’s always another Stormtrooper somewhere), and environmental damage. It won’t do everything for you, you’re still going to do things like forget that you have special powers and abilities (even though the app does remind you) but you’re much more likely to play the game the way it’s meant to be played.
Curse My Metal Body!
The app also keeps track of your physical Imperial Assault collection. As you add expansions, allies, and enemies, they become available to play in the app…eventually. At this time only enemies and allies from the core game (or boxed expansion whose campaign you’re working through) will show up in random deployments. An update to include the additional figures you own is in the works. It would also be nice if the app could sync across all your devices. Whatever device you start your campaign on, that’s the one you’ll need to use to continue it. Hopefully a Skirmish mode is in the works too. This key offshoot of the core game is nowhere to be found in the app.
Of course, it wouldn’t be FFG without some required reading. The Rules button in the app will take you to the current PDF of the Legends of the Alliance rulebook. I’d recommend giving it a thorough read even after playing the tutorial. This book is different than the core rulebook that ships with the game and incorporates special instructions that only apply when playing campaigns with the app. For instance, when playing through the tutorial, it will make mention of the specially prepared Supply Cards deck. But there’s no mention of exactly what needs to be included (or eliminated from) the deck unless you check the online rulebook. It would be nice to include these kind of setup irregularities in the app itself.
A More Elegant Weapon
Minor complaints aside, the Legends of the Alliance app not only makes it easier for me to finally run through the core Imperal Assault campaign, it allows me to do it with a group or all on my own. Plus, if I want to start a new campaign with different heroes (or I find additional players who want to dive in), it’s as simple as selecting a new save slot and starting fresh. Your old campaign is still safe and sound.
If you own Imperial Assault, you need the app. It’s the best way to introduce new players to the game, rekindle interest, or simply make the game more accessible. If you’ve never played Imperial Assault, this makes it easier than ever to start. Grab a copy, download the Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Legends of the Alliance app for free from the iOS, Android, Steam, and Amazon app stores, and start your adventure on a tabletop far, far away.