Jabba’s Realm: Campaign Wrap Up
Four months ago the Thursday night game crew took a leap of faith and fired up the Imperial Assault: Jabba’s Realm campaign. With the echoes of the finale still in my games room here’s a summary – warts and all – of the Jabba’s Realm campaign complete with commentary and analysis by the players and yours truly, the Imperial GM.
In for the Long Haul
With a few cancellations due to real life events, we met every second Thursday night between September 14, 2017 to January 25, 2018 to play the next Imperial Assault mission. This was my seventh campaign as Imperial GM. I’ve also played three or four as a Rebel character. It was at least campaign number 4 for the players who were all adept gamers to begin with. While there were occasional mistakes in the heat of battle I’d say that everyone got the most out of their characters and class decks. The last few missions, in particular, were close fought affairs with terrific cut and thrust as the players put on a clinic, using their class cards to best advantage.
The Campaign Itself
The Jabba’s Realm story centered around keeping Rebel refugees out of the clutches of the Empire, and out of Jabba’s slave markets. By using all three heroes and an Imperial class deck from the JR expansion, and choosing side missions predominantly from the hero character missions, the story line felt much more focused than previous campaigns. Apart from a quick trip to Cloud City for Hawkbat’s mission to get the Radiant Holocron we stayed on Tatooine the whole time. As GM I limited my choices to Mercenary figures from the Twin Shadows and JR expansions. While this rigged the deck it didn’t interfere with the difficulty level. The campaign was much better off for the refined focus on Tatooine.
As well as these homegrown tweaks to improve the Imperial Assault system, the JR campaign got a few official adjustments from Fantasy Flight that enhanced game play. I applaud the new rule that allows GMs to have a maximum of four agenda cards active at any time. In previous campaigns I was guilty of hoarding agenda cards until the last few missions where it really counted. Duncan, Mark, Seth, and John noted the missions themselves got a tune up as well since the Hoth campaign.
What aspects of Jabba’s Realm improved upon previous campaigns?
- Smaller map size
- The missions were focussed and quicker
- We got through most missions in one and a half hours. This was much better than the three-hour slogs we used to have
As GM I think I can identify why brevity was thought to be the overarching improvement. First, the players really had the measure of their characters so there was little hesitation between activations. Second, facing a punishing Imperial class deck put a clock on mission length. Wounding a hero almost every round meant they had to hurry! Third, the missions were designed without some of the ‘open sandbox’ areas from the original and Hoth sets where Rebels could play hide-and-seek with the Imperials by continuously resting. There was nowhere to hide in Jabba’s Realm and, more than ever, these missions demanded quick action on limited map space.
Heroes and Class Decks
Davith “Hawkbat” Elso from the Bespin small box expansion was the favourite again. Once tooled up, Pierce 3, cheap extra movement, Hidden, and 3 attacks made him a killing machine who was also thematic and fun to play. I think it’s a given at this point that he’ll appear in each campaign until everyone’s had a shot at playing him. Seth thought:
Hawkbat was a one trick pony. If he could get to them he wiped out the enemy. I never opened a door and I think I interacted with one terminal. All in all, it was a pretty powerful trick!
Two of the new Heroes got excellent reviews and proved versatile when it came time to focus on mission objectives. Both John’s Vinto Hreeda and Duncan’s Shyla Varad split the “glad we weren’t playing against them” vote while Vinto was the character players would most like to run in a future campaign. Vinto really was a gunslinger splashing damage around with one big damage boost per round to KO any particularly nasty figure in line sight, or not. Other figures softened up and repositioned Imperial figures and then Vinto waded in and wiped them all out.
Shyla Varad‘s ‘Mandalorian whip’ (and associated jokes) were worth the price of admission. Duncan got really good at moving Imperial figures out of the way so they couldn’t put up a roadblock or meat shield on the path to Rebel objectives. With Responsiveness and Deadly Grace she really had a lot of movement and board control. Where Hawkbat and Vinto provided the muscle, Shyla was the objective getter. Even wounded, she was often responsible for meeting the mission objectives while the rest of the crew kept the Imperial horde at bay.
Onar Coma did not get the chance to shine he might have had in different circumstances. Where the white die of Hawkbat and Vinto saved the day several times Mark’s Onar with no defense at all, playing against a damage producing Imperial class deck, was predictably easy to wound. With the whip ability of Shyla moving figures up to three spaces Onar’s Power Through ability was not used on as often as it would have been in a different cast of heroes. Mark played Onar to best advantage and went on a few rampages but Onar had his strengths mitigated by the campaign and fellow heroes, and his weaknesses magnified by the rival Imperial class deck. He’s very similar to Biv Bhodrik who looks powerful on paper but lacked late campaign punch. Onar was unanimously voted the character least likely to be played again in future campaigns.
Imperial Class Deck
I enjoyed playing the Hutt Mercenaries Imperial class deck with the Bounty Token theme. It was a hoot to have access to all those cool Mercenary figures and to play in a setting that had Imperial influence but, really, was controlled by Jabba. Essentially, this deck puts additional time pressure on the Rebels as you can wound one hero each round if you focus attacks on them. It is not a tricksy deck and, frankly, I found the straight forward nature of hunting down heroes one at a time a welcome change to the stifling and knit picky decks of prior campaigns.
Guild Hunters and Nowhere to Hide combined with the starter card Wanted: Dead turned average Stormtroopers into shock troopers and elite Jet Troopers into killing machines. In the final few missions it was not uncommon for a unit of troopers to wound a Rebel hero in a single turn. With Mercenaries deployed hidden – and therefore getting a free surge when attacking – pierce 2 on every attack was almost a foregone conclusion. Three rebels were wounded by the end of most missions and what victories the Empire got were attained through wiping out the Rebel heroes entirely. The Rebels gave as good as they got though. The picture shows Imperial casualties stacked up like cord wood. In the finale we figured the Rebels chewed through at least 60 points worth of threat. Things ended with a massive fire fight in the hallways of Jabba’s palace! A fitting end to a hard-fought campaign.
We thoroughly enjoyed the new heroes, and unique twists on the game game system. With Return to Hoth as a close second we voted Jabba’s Realm the best campaign so far. On a personal note, I’m happy to put Imperial Assault away for a while. Playing the Imperial GM is always enjoyable but can be a lonely experience at times. I’m looking forward to taking a seat on the player’s side of the table for the foreseeable future. Will I play the Imperial GM again though? You bet!