If you have listened to any of my podcasts or followed my writing for some time, you’ll know of my eternal struggle to get my family into some form of gaming. While I have little trouble getting my wife and kid to play games like Super Mario Party or Drawful 2, tabletop games (my first real love), have been more of a challenge. Even games based on IPs that my wife is into have not given me the extra push to keep anyone in the household engaged for more than the required playthroughs for reviews. However, Fantasy Flight Games has pulled off something pretty incredible with Star Wars: Destiny, a collectible card game (like Magic: the Gathering) that also utilizes dice.
Best Buy had a sale on the 2-player starter kit, so I picked up two to try it out. Shortly after, we purchased a booster box, sold the legendaries, purchased another booster box, then grabbed one more for good measure. Why would my wife willingly allow me to bring so many cards and dice into our house? Because she fell in love with the game, and it didn’t take me long to figure out why.
Star Wars: Destiny is a bit like any other card game on the market; Magic, Pokemon, Eternal, Hearthstone, etc. Though it is also something unique. Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic, has stated in the past that luck is key to allowing players to enjoy a game in ways that low-luck or variance games offer. That previous statement involves a lot of paraphrasing from a long video which discusses this concept. Essentially what he is saying is that if you win, you can say it was your skill that let you win the game but if you lose, it was bad luck. This makes it easier to go back for another game without dwelling on the previous loss.
There is a bit of a trap here, though. Only blaming bad luck can keep you from getting better at a game. Sometimes, you need to look at the choices you made at key points to try to figure out if you could have made a better decision, which could have lead to victory. That is what makes Star Wars: Destiny so unique and easy to play. Since the dice are what ultimately decides the winner and loser, it is easy to say that you just rolled poorly for a game. Conversely, you also naturally look at what cards you played, when you played them, and how they impacted your chances of winning.
This is partly due to the fact that you play a 30 card deck. It also has to do with the fact that you don’t have a health pool. Instead, you choose your favorite characters and they become your team. There is one restriction in place that keeps things balanced; a 30 point limit to spend on your characters. As you play, though, you start to see the different strengths and weaknesses of your team and deck.
To explain a bit further before I wrap up, there are two sides in the game; Heroes and Villians. There are also neutral cards that can fit in either deck, but don’t expect to see the Millenium Falcon supporting Kylo Ren or Boba Fett. Your deck is also restricted by the colors of your heroes; Blue (Jedi), Red (pilots and military), and Yellow (bounty hunters and scruffy looking nerf herders). This means that you can go all in on a blue deck with a ton of force powers and lightsabers, but you miss out on some of the trickery that yellow characters would bring.
Now the bad luck that you just had with your dice may be mitigated with some cards from the yellow faction, and that is where Destiny succeeds. It lets you blame luck, but it also gives you the tools to try to overcome that luck. Ultimately, luck will have an impact on any game. I could go to worlds with a sub-par deck, roll extremely well in the finals and win. I could also go in with a great deck, make bad calls, not know how to play the deck well enough, and make one mistake after another, leading to an early exit from the tournament.
There is so much more to the game and it is one that my wife and I have been playing almost nightly. She has even asked if we could spend an evening just playing the game in the next few days. That is something she has never, ever, said to me. So the game is not only deep enough for an old CCG vet like me; it is accessible enough for a player like her that has trudged through complicated games in the past and hated almost all of them. The fact that the art and the card names call back specific scenes from the movies and shows just adds to the fun. The art is fantastic almost across the board. It has a mix of realism and sci-fi book cover art on most pieces that fit the world and the game perfectly.
The problem, though, is that the game is not getting the support it deserves. I say you pick up a couple of 2-player starter sets, so you can play stronger versions of characters, and give the game a try. If you like it, pick up some additional product boxes or singles. Then just keep playing. Visit your local game store and try to drum up some excitement. Look for ways to get people together and start getting more people involved in the game.
Unfortunately, Fantasy Flight Games leaves a bit to be desired when it comes to competitive play support, but this game is a community-driven beast. We all need to introduce the game to other players. Star Wars is a fantastic universe and it finally has a game that captures the fun of all the late-night arguments about who would win in a duel, Old Man Vader or Rey, Luke, and Han or an army of Battle Droids, or Old Obi and Old Luke or Palpatine at the height of his power. You can answer those questions with this game and more people need to be introduced to it.
The next set comes out sometime in November or December and I will hopefully be able to do a review for the game at that point. By then, my wife and I will have tried out a number of strategies. I expect I’ll have some competitive play under my belt around that time, so expect more coverage of this game, as well as a few others worth watching in the coming weeks and months.