A Brief Review of Star Wars: Shatterpoint
This is cross-posted from a post I made over on reddit/r/shatterpoint. I was lucky enough to get early access to this board game, and wanted to share my thoughts with others.
First my history with miniatures games – I got seriously into 3D printing for tabletop games 8 years ago, which led me from my core hobby of RPGs into war gaming. I’ve since played many games of everything rom Warhammer to Warcry to Frostgrave and Stargrave and many other games in-between including Malifaux. And of course, I’m a life-long Star Wars fan. I’ve played large amounts of X-Wing and Assault, but never did get into Legion. I’ve played a couple of games of Marvel Crisis Protocol, but not enough to be an expert and make strong comparisons. I’m also not a huge Marvel fan, so I didn’t like it as much as I like this.
My FLGS owner asked me to assemble and paint their core box, and starting last Tuesday, I put all my spare time into putting it together. Assembly was very easy (especially compared to some of the smaller Malifaux models) except for the very finicky Battle Droids. Painting, however, was easy all around. I mostly use speed and contrast paints and aim for table ready at best. I wanted to get these all painted on the table as quickly as I could for demo games.
I finished painting up Thursday and sat down for my first few games that night. I have played twice using the standard compliment of Separatists/Dark Side and once as the Galactic Republic/Light Side folks. I’ve lost two games, and won one (as the good guys). Since my games, others have used our store demo copy to play, and we’re currently sitting at about 50/50 wins from the two core box teams. I don’t think we’ve tried squad building at all yet, but there are a lot of plans for such when the official release arrives.
Our first game took about 3 hours, with a lot of paging back and forth in the rules. We definitely got a few things wrong. If I have a single major criticism of the game, it is that the rule book doesn’t seem to have a good organizational structure for reference while learning/playing those first games. There are a lot of tiny little edge case rules (some that you find in Asoka speech bubbles) that are easily missable. After our first couple of games, some of us spent more time at home reading the rules and identifying what we did wrong. The next batch of games went more smoothly. Our biggest mistake was allowing double-attacks or double-moves. It made things like focus and hunker actions less used, but later games actually implementing the action economy made much more use of these actions. Not the game’s fault, but ours. Even playing it wrong, we had an absolute blast.
I’ll start with my praise; I’ve read that the designers were aiming for a Saturday morning cartoon vibe with this, and I would say that they have hit it out of the park there. The struggle tracker results in this great “back and forth” feeling and movement and number of figures vs active objectives makes it feel like there’s always something that you can do to turn the tide, even if it might be a bit of a gamble.
Thanks to the combat trees on the stance cards, the ability to put characters in reserve when drawing from your deck, and more, everything in this game seems to be about giving you a rich variety of tactical choices in the moment (also reinforced by the design of the one mission in the core box). Does it make more sense here to lay on thick damage and try to wound your opponent vying for that objective marker, or should you load them up on statuses and shove them around? Does it make sense to use these force points and abilities now, or will you need them later? I feel like in some games, I make choices, but there are fewer meaningful ones.
I loved my choices I got to make here. The decision space is rich, and I can only imagine that will improve with yet more figures and missions being released in the future.
In our games, which settled into about an hour and a half to two hours after the first one, we only ever had one character (Bo Katan) removed from the table entirely. I very much like this, actually, as it kept the tactical environment complex and it always feels kind of crappy to lose figures in a squad game like this. I imagine if it ever made sense to focus on eliminating a figure, we would have, and wounding them certainly is a good tactic due to the momentum tokens you earn, we didn’t find a strong incentive to drive characters off the board over capturing points (at least so far). This also lends to that “cartoon” vibe.
The other thing I absolutely love about this game is the way the struggle tracker works. Earning momentum when you wound opponents makes combat feel consequential and important. And the catch up mechanic of earning momentum on your side if you fail to bring the transparent cube back to your side after scoring makes it feel like there’s always a chance things might swing back in your favor. This feels, for lack of a better term, very “Star Wars.”
I’m fairly critical of games I play, and I do have some minor complaints about the game, but not as many as I would have expected. Like I mentioned before, I think the rule book does a poor job of condensing things for easy reference during play. This will be solved and has been already on the Facebook group with some cheat sheets that make it easier to reference token and symbol definitions all in one place. I have some quibbles with icon design – I find it easy to confuse the shove and the dash icon with my aging eyes so I have to double-check myself for those.
But really, not much else at this point. I cannot wait to get more characters on the table. I can’t wait to see what squad building brings to the game, and I look forward to exploring all the cool new decisions the game gives me in the future. The designers of this seem to really get Star Wars in a way I agree with. Character mechanics design felt very thematic, from Rex’s hunker powers and Ashoka’s fighting styles, to how Lord Maul seems built to destroy people and die quickly like a beautiful firework. And Anakin – Anakin is a beast. When Anakin comes running at you, you feel exactly like a Battle Droid would at that sight. Oh no…
I think for me at least, the future for Shatterpoint is bright. I am even more excited for the game now that I’ve played it. I wanted to share my experiences for those of you who haven’t had a chance yet, and start a discussion of the overall experience for others.