It Is the Future You See
Designer Alex Davy on Star Wars™: Legion
“You must unlearn what you have learned.”
–Yoda, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
From flashes of blaster fire in a pristine hallway or a verdant forest to the unmistakable sound of a lightsaber igniting, the battles of the Star Wars saga are one of the most iconic parts of the series. Now, Star Wars™: Legion invites you to bring the infantry battles and unseen skirmishes of the classic trilogy to your tabletop in a miniatures game. More than any other game, Star Wars: Legion invites you to get your boots on the ground in the Galactic Civil War, commanding your troops alongside your favorite heroes and villains.
We’ll have a comprehensive series of previews exploring every aspect of the game in coming weeks, but today, we begin our previews by talking to Alex Davy—the designer of Star Wars: Legion. You can pre-order your own copy of Star Wars: Legion at your local retailer or online through our website today!
Designer Alex Davy on Star Wars: Legion
FFG: How long have you been a fan of Star Wars? What brought you into that universe?
Alex Davy: Like many kids born in the ‘80s, my first exposure to Star Wars was a battered VHS copy of A New Hope. I was hooked, instantly, and could hardly believe my good fortune when I found out there were two more movies. From there, I acquired the typical pile of action figures, well-thumbed novels, and playsets. When the old Decipher collectible card game came out, I was all in on that, too.
FFG: How about miniatures games? What’s your involvement in that genre of games?
AD: I got into miniatures fairly early on, too. Actually, really early on. When I was around five or six I invented a game that used a six-sided die and LEGO knights. Each knight could move a certain number of “bumps” per turn and attack once, rolling the die to determine what body part was hit! The rules fit on half a sheet of paper and the game resulted in maximum dismemberment. Clean-up was labor intensive, to say the least.
Alongside LEGOs, I also collected a lot of plastic and pewter minis, and at around thirteen or fourteen, I stumbled across a miniatures game called Chronopia. I got my brother and a few friends into it, and we played on the dining room table, using wooden building blocks, books, and random household items for terrain. In college, I wandered into a local game store and witnessed an epic Warhammer Fantasy battle in progress, featuring a massive castle and hundreds of gorgeously-painted minis. As it turns out, the long, cold Minnesota winters lead to some very accomplished hobbyists! The sheer spectacle pulled me in, and soon I was playing.
All of this ultimately led to a job in the miniatures department at Fantasy Flight Games, where I’ve been lucky enough to work on all of our miniatures games, though I’ve been most heavily involved in X-Wing™, Star Wars™: Armada, and of course, Star Wars: Legion. In my spare time, I also now play Infinity and Guild Ball.
FFG: For you, how does Star Wars: Legion evoke the Star Wars universe?
AD: The battles you see onscreen in the Star Wars films are tense, dramatic skirmishes, driven by compelling characters attempting to complete a desperate mission at any cost. Above all, I wanted to create a game that evokes that same cinematic, character-driven excitement. Two key elements of Star Wars: Legion play directly into that—armies led by potent commanders and games won by completing objectives rather than by eliminating the enemy forces.
FFG: In the past, you were perhaps best known for your work on X-Wing, another miniatures game in the Star Wars universe. What lessons did you take to Star Wars: Legion from X-Wing?
AD: X-Wing taught me that a game doesn’t have to be complicated to have incredible strategic and tactical depth. Because of the sheer number of miniatures involved, the fact that it can be played on any kind of terrain, and its inherent nature as a larger-scale skirmish game, Star Wars: Legion can’t be as simple as X-Wing. That said, I’ve taken the mantra of simplicity and accessibility to heart and that’s helped keep the game approachable. We’ve also borrowed tried-and-true ideas like swappable upgrade cards, unit cards that display information in an easily digestible format, and dice with a simple system of symbols. Finally, the game employs a movement tool system that emphasizes tactical positioning and planning ahead—true hallmarks of X-Wing’s design.
FFG: What are some of the key things that set Star Wars: Legion apart from other miniatures games?
AD: Every game of Star Wars: Legion evolves in a different way, starting with setup. Before each game, players collaborate to define the battlefield and both players’ mission by dealing out and eliminating deployment, objective, and condition cards until the state of the battlefield and the parameters for victory have been established. There’s a lot of fun strategy to this phase.
The command system is also quite unique. During the Command Phase, a player’s commander issues orders to the units in their army using a command card. You’ll have direct control over when your ordered units activate, but your other order tokens are randomized, so you aren’t exactly sure when those units will activate (although every unit will still activate every round). Choosing what command card to play and which units to give orders to is a big part of the strategy of each round.
FFG: Let’s talk some more about the command system for Star Wars: Legion. In your opinion, why did you choose this way to simulate command and control?
AD: I think the command system really simulates the tumult of battle in an interesting and elementary way. During the Command Phase, players attempt to impose order on the chaos of war, using their commanders to issue orders and direct nearby units.
Commanders issue orders by playing command cards, and since each commander has a unique set of three thematic command cards, the strategies an army can employ are unique and varied based on the army’s composition and its commander.
With their command cards, players typically face a choice between issuing fewer orders and seizing the initiative or giving more orders and gaining more control. Activations in the game are interpolating; that is, you could choose and activate one of your units, then your opponent does the same, back and forth each round until all units have activated. Grabbing the first activation can offer a truly crucial advantage—eliminating an enemy unit before it opens fire or taking the chance to seize an objective—but that advantage comes at the price of a more chaotic, disorganized round. Because these command cards are selected and played in secret, there’s also a bluffing element, as both players try to anticipate their opponent’s actions.
FFG: Have you chosen a side in the Star Wars: Legion Core Set? Rebellion or Empire?
AD: I have to go with the Empire. I still get a little thrill every time the Imperial March kicks in. Maybe the appeal is that the Galactic Empire is antithetical to everything I personally believe in; it’s just so much more fun to play as something you’re not. Plus they have the hottest looks in the galaxy.
FFG: What’s your favorite unit out of the Core Set, both in the game and in the miniature sculpt?
AD: Are you really going to make me choose between Darth Vader and Scout troopers on speeder bikes? Playing hardball, I see. I think the Darth Vader sculpt is pure perfection and he’s an absolute menace on the tabletop, but since you’re twisting my arm I’m going to go with the speeder bikes. They look fantastic and they have a fast, fun, and challenging hit-and-run playstyle that requires planning ahead and working the angles to deny enemy squads the benefits of cover.
FFG: Do you have anything else you’d like to tell all the people (like me) impatiently waiting for Star Wars: Legion?
AD: It’ll be worth the wait for the sculpts alone. To my mind, these are the coolest miniatures Fantasy Flight Games has ever produced, and we have big plans for the future of Star Wars: Legion.
Keep watching our website for more previews, and pre-order Star Wars: Legion (SWL01) at your local retailer or online here!