Imperial Assault: Class Decks that Keep Campaigns Fun
In the board game Imperial Assault, Rebel heroes campaign together against the might of the Imperium. As a veteran of 7 full Imperial Assault Campaigns as both Imperial baddie and Rebel hero – 3 Core, 2 Hoth, 2 Twin Shadows, a couple of Bespin missions – I know the class deck chosen by the Imperial games master (GM) shapes half or more of how the game is played, and this influence is magnified as Agenda cards make the class deck more potent.
Like it or not the Imperial player is the most influential at the table and like many GMs I chose the class deck blindly my first couple of times through. As I progressed I began choosing much more carefully. I think a GMs progression in awareness and focus is remarkably similar to that of a Team Leader or Classroom Teacher. It looks something like this:
- Rookie: Self and Survival Oriented Please, please let me get through this session without anybody getting hurt, angry, or storming out of the room. If someone did storm out you may not know why because you’re so busy trying to remember how things are supposed to work. You read the manual multiple times but contact time is different, really different. Oh, look at that, time’s up, gotta go. Er, can we finish this later…?
- Intermediate: Procedure Oriented OK, I got this. Not much downtime consulting the manual and basic decisions are automatic. Can provide a stream of challenges and, damn it, I know how to win! People may not always leave happy but no mid-session “How much longer will this run do you think?” and people come back for the next session. There might be a lot of clockwatching but sessions are predictable in length and offer a uniform experience.
- Veteran: People and Outcome Oriented The choices I make two days in advance can drastically improve the future experience for everyone once things get started so that I can enjoy the moment along with my people. I’m focussed on getting and then keeping everyone engaged, interested, and excited. This, in turn, makes my job meaningful and enjoyable. Sessions fly by and always seem to end early even if it’s late. People hang around to talk after. The Holy Grail of coop gaming.
The veteran GM knows players, win or lose, need enough positive reinforcement to make success feel attainable next time around. Defeats should feel like learning experiences, not the precursor to the next failure. It is a hobby about games after all.
That’s why I know now to avoid decks like Subversive Tactics, choosing any of the other ones instead.
I did not miss the strain you to death! Most character special abilities require strain so once you are strained out it is no fun at all. – Mark (AKA Davith “Hawkbat” Elso), Core & Hoth Veteran
This aptly named deck is a joy killer. It offers little to the Imperial GM except the constant opportunity to stifle their players. It focuses on taking away options and turns a lot of the Imperial decisions into the rote and automatic dishing out of strain, or the odd reaction after a hero rests. Putting Bleed on players with Savage Weaponry, this decks only attachment, just compounds the problem.
Weary Target = Weary Players When filled up with strain Heroes can’t do the things that make them heroic and fun to play. Heroes are forced to rest more often to clear the strain. In game terms I understand this deck represents an effective and valid strategy; however, I guarantee novice, intermediate, and most veteran players aren’t coming to your game sessions to use their actions to rest and clear strain while looking wistfully at their cool abilities. For me, this deck got old three missions into a full campaign and feedback from the players was pretty clear – Don’t play that class again!
This class deck will allow veteran players to avoid being wounded as soon and to show off how well they can shed strain with surges and other tricks, if they develop order-of-activation and player coordination into an art form. Executioner, Oppression, and No Quarter cards can present an interesting challenge for the Imperial player. In short, veteran players can beat this deck, but are they having fun doing it? I know that I don’t as the Imperial player.
Military Might is another base set class deck. Riot Grenades aside, this deck buffs Imperial troops by improving survivability and makes troops hit harder. It’s fun! Now, this deck will wound the heroes more quickly and frequently. What this deck doesn’t do, however, is nerf the heroes cool combos. And that’s a good thing.
The Stormtrooper buffs were annoying but nothing like the strain deck which really sucked a lot of the fun out. – Duncan (AKA Saska “Unstable” Teft), Core & Hoth Campaign Veteran
Yes, players will groan when faced with this near unkillable Snowtroopers combo built with the Military Might deck but they’ll still be able to outrun, out-activate, and in the later campaign, just plain kill what the Imperial player throws in their way.
The cards below are the starter cards from each Imperial class deck released before the Jabba’s Realm expansion. You can get an idea of the purpose of the decks from these. Edit: With Jabba’s Realm now in hand the focus of the two new class decks is on buffing Imperial villains and buffing Mercs with hero Loku-like powers. Both decks allow people who have bought deeply into the system (i.e. Me!) to get their figure packs into the game more often. Sweet!
One of these not like the others is. Strong the Dark Side is but hated it will make you. Choose wisely.