Prepare for Ground Assault
A Look at the Combats of Star Wars™: Rebellion
“Make ready to land our troops beyond their energy shield and deploy the fleet so that nothing gets off that system.”
Yesterday's preview of Star Wars™: Rebellion explored the various ways that you can make use of your heroes in the game's Command Phase. We learned how you can use them to attempt missions, oppose your enemy's missions, and activate systems to move your starships and ground troops.
We also learned that whenever you activate a system to maneuver ships into a region of space occupied by enemy ships, or to land ground troops on a planet already occupied by enemy ground troops, the result is the immediate instigation of combat. Today, we look at the rules for combat in Star Wars: Rebellion and the ways that the game's battles might play a part in your larger strategy.
Theaters of War
“Everybody to your stations. Let’s go!”
–Major Bren Derlin
Every battle in Star Wars: Rebellion features two theaters—space and ground—and combat only initiates when both sides have units in the same system if those units also occupy the same theater. Then, the opposing units within each theater battle each other independently of the other theater; starships only battle enemy starships, and ground units only battle enemy ground units.
If either theater is occupied by only one side, the combat within it is ended, even if the other theater is still contested. Among other things, this means it is possible win a ground battle, even as you lose your starships to the battle in space.
In most cases combat begins when a player uses a leader to establish a military presence in a system that already contains enemy units. For example, after the Rebel player, Elaine, unsuccessfully attempted to have Mon Mothma establish an alliance with Mon Calamari, Karl decides to activate Kashyyk with Grand Moff Tarkin. From the adjacent Malastare, he moves one Star Destroyer, one TIE fighter, one AT-ST Walker, and two Troopers. Because Elaine has an X-wing and two T-47 Airspeeders at Kashyyk, the players enter combat.
Immediately after combat begins, if a player does not have a leader with tactic values in the system, that player may take one leader from the leader pool and place it in the system. In the case of our example, Karl cannot add a leader because he already has Grand Moff Tarkin in the system, having placed him there to activate it. Elaine, however, has no leader on Kashyyk and two in her leader pool, Princess Leia and General Rieekan. She decides to add General Rieekan to the battle, hoping that his leadership may inspire the Wookiees who had just committed to the Rebel Alliance.
After players have had a chance to add leaders with tactic values to the embattled system, you draw tactic cards. The tactic cards you draw are based on your leader in the system. If you don't have a leader in the system, or that leader has no tactic values, you draw no tactic cards. Otherwise, you draw space tactic cards equal to your leader’s blue space tactic value and ground tactic cards equal to your leader’s orange ground tactic value.
If you have multiple leaders in the system, such as you might if you use one leader to activate a system where another leader had previously attempted a mission, you use only the highest space and ground tactic values. You do not add your leader's tactic values together.
The tactic cards you draw can potentially have massive impact on your battles, so it typically pays to enter combats with your leaders with the highest available tactic values. However, fate also plays a part, and you may not always be able to make use of your tactic cards. In fact, to play some of the most powerful tactic cards, you need to roll a result of during battle. When you do, though, you can often emerge victorious from a battle in which the odds were otherwise a million to one.
In our example combat, Grand Moff Tarkin has a space tactic value of two and a ground tactic value of one, so Karl draws two space tactic cards and one ground tactic card. He enters combat with a hand consisting of the tactic cards, Unstoppable Assault, No Escape, and Take It Down. Elaine's General Rieekan, meanwhile, features a space tactic value of one and ground tactic value of two, so she draws one space tactic card and two ground tactic cards. She enters combat with Defensive Formation, Brilliant Strategy, and Dig In.
After you and your opponent have drawn your tactic cards, which you draw only once per combat, you then enter a series of combat steps that repeat until one side either retreats or completely destroys all enemy units.
First, you resolve the space battle. The active player creates a pool of dice and rolls them. To create your pool of dice, you consult your faction sheet and add the appropriate number and color of dice for each of your units, adding them all together.
In our example, Karl assembles his dice pool first, adding two red dice and one black die for his Star Destroyer, and one more black die for his TIE fighter. He rolls them all and gets a result of two results from his red dice and and a blank result on his black dice.
After rolling dice, the active player has a chance to take combat actions. These include playing a tactic card or spending a result from the dice pool to draw a tactic card. Some tactic cards require you to spend a result to play them, but since Karl's dice did not yield a result he cannot spend one. Accordingly, he cannot play his Unstoppable Assault. Likewise, he cannot spend his result to draw a tactic card. He can, however, play his No Escape and does so, ensuring that even if it survives the first volley, Elaine's X-wing will not be able to retreat.
Next, Karl assigns his damage. Each counts as one damage that you can assign against a unit with a health value of the matching color. Each counts as one point of damage that you can assign against any unit, regardless of the color of its health value. In this way, you find that capital ships have an easier time attacking other capital ships, while starfighters have an easier time penetrating the shields and hulls of opposing starfighters. Each unit is capable of attacking other foes, but not as efficient as when it can apply its damage toward the type of foe it was meant to combat.
In our example, Karl's dice allow him to assign only a single point of damage to Elaine's X-wing – from the black result. We imagine, here, that his red results originated from a pair of turbolaser batteries that were too slow to catch the X-wing on its attack run.
Now, before Elaine's X-wing is removed, she has the opportunity to do two things. First, she can use any tactic cards in her hand that would allow her to block the damage her ship is being dealt. Accordingly, she plays her Defensive Formation to block the point of damage her X-wing has been assigned. Next, she has an opportunity to fire back, which is the second thing she can do after her opponent assigns damage and before her ship is removed.
Elaine's X-wing contributes a solitary black die to her dice pool, and it comes up , which she can apply either against the Star Destroyer or the TIE fighter. Since the single point of damage would only scratch the Star Destroyer, she applies it to the TIE fighter, which will be destroyed unless Karl can block the damage. As he does not have a card that would block the damage, his TIE fighter is destroyed at the end of the first space combat step.
After the players resolve the first combat step in space, they turn their attention toward the ground and resolve the first ground attacks. Again, as the aggressor, Karl goes first. Altogether, his Imperial AT-ST Walker and two Stormrooper units generate a dice pool of three black dice and one red die. His black dice come up , , and blank. His red die comes up .
Since Karl has now rolled a result on his black die, he decides to spend it to trigger Take It Down. Furthermore, after he saw Elaine block his damage in the space combat step, he focuses on a single T-47 Airspeeder, assigning it both the two damage from Take It Down and the point of damage from his red result.
Nonetheless, Elaine is able to prevent two of the damage with Dig In, discarding her Brilliant Strategy to do so. This ensures that her Airspeeders with both survive the first combat step. Then she retaliates, rolling two black dice and two red dice. The black and , along with the red and are enough to take down both Stormtrooper units or one Stormtrooper unit and the AT-ST Walker. She opts to assign the damage to the AT-ST Walker and one Stormtrooper unit. Moreover, she spends her result to draw another tactic card and finds Defensive Formation.
After both the space and ground combat steps have resolved, the players can decide whether or not they would like to retreat.
To retreat from combat, a player moves his leader and all of his units from that system to an adjacent system, following normal movement and transport rules. If you do not have a leader in the system, you cannot retreat. If you do not have a way transport your ground troops, they cannot retreat. Furthermore, if you are able to do so, you must retreat to a system that either contains some of your units or has one of your loyalty markers. You cannot retreat units to a system that contains your opponent’s units nor to a system from which your opponent moved units to initiate the combat.
Up in space, Elaine knows she would like her X-wing to retreat, but as Karl's tactic card, No Escape, removed that option, she resolves herself to the task of surviving another of the Star Destroyer's volleys. Meanwhile, Karl's ground assault appears to have backfired, and he has to decide whether or not he would like to retreat.
Unfortunately, in order to retreat his remaining Stormtrooper unit, Karl would need to provide them transport, meaning he would have to retreat his Star Destroyer. As that would concede the system to Elaine's X-wing, he decides not to retreat, abandoning his Stormtroopers to their fate.
After both players have had the opportunity to retreat, they proceed to another combat round, starting with the space combat, then going through the ground combat, and again to the chance to retreat. The combat will continue to pass through the various steps in each of the two theaters until their are no opposing units in the same theater.
Using Battles to Reshape the Galaxy
"Fear will keep the local systems in line."
–Grand Moff Tarkin
The battles of Star Wars: Rebellion reshape the galaxy and the course of your Galactic Civil War in a number of different ways.
First of all, they can bring about an Imperial victory. As we mentioned earlier, the Galactic Empire needs to find the Rebel base in order to win, but more than just find the base, it needs to eliminate it. This means that the Imperials need to destroy all the Rebel Alliance's ground units at the Rebel base, and that means they need to win one ultimate, decisive ground battle.
However, even before they move in for the kill, the Imperials can use battles to good effect to conquer and subjugate planets. Whenever the Imperials establish an uncontested ground presence on a populous planet, that planet is subjugated – even if it was previously loyal to the Rebel Alliance—and it contributes the first of its two resource icons to the Empire during the build step of the Refresh phase. (We will explore the Refresh phase and build step in more detail in tomorrow's preview.)
Of course, since combats typically result in the destruction of units, either side can initiate combats strictly to limit the opponent's available units.
For example, the Rebel alliance begins the game with only two ships capable of transporting ground units—one Corellian corvette and one Rebel transport. If the Imperial Navy is able to eliminate either of those vessels before the Rebel Alliance can build more capital ships, the Rebels will be hard-pressed to oppose the Empire in battles at distant planets.
Conversely, the Rebel Alliance may initiate a combat to prevent the Empire from moving units toward the Rebel base. If the Rebel base is secretly on Mon Calamari, the Rebel Alliance might launch ships from Mon Calamari and Yavin to intercept an Imperial Star Destroyer and its TIE fighter escorts when they move to Felucia.
And there's at least one Imperial unit that can never be ignored. Since the Death Star is capable of blowing up whole planets in a single shot, you cannot allow it to draw too close to your Rebel base. Otherwise, there may not be a combat on your Rebel base—simply a bright spark and millions of voices crying out at once… and then nothing.
With its health value of "–" the Death Star is impervious to normal attacks, so any attack your Rebel forces launch against it is only a desperate gamble that you will be able to get a single fighter through the space combat step and can reveal the Death Star Plans objective to roll three dice in search of a result.
The effort is likely to cost you a number of starships, but if you succeed, not only do you spare your base from the threat of immediate obliteration, you can earn the respect of countless civilians through the galaxy—moving your reputation tracker two spaces toward victory.
“This bickering is pointless. Lord Vader will provide us with the location of the Rebel fortress by the time this station is operational. We will then crush the Rebellion with one swift stroke.”
–Grand Moff Tarkin
Because combats are immediately initiated whenever a player activates a system to move his military units to oppose enemy units, they can resolve before or after the missions that your leaders attempt during the Command phase. In many respects, the threat of combat can make it difficult to decide whether you should use a leader to activate a system or oppose an enemy mission, or if you should hold that leader in reserve to oppose your rival in battle, should one erupt.
Even when you gain more leaders, the question is never easily resolved, especially since your opponent also gains more leaders.
Tomorrow, we will look at how you gain additional leaders and how you add to your fleets and ground units during our review of the Refresh phase!