Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Problem With Imperial Assault

We've had Imperial Assault for about a year now and we've played it ... once. I was discussing it with Apprentice Blaster last night and he came to the same conclusion I had without any prompting. It starts with this:

Learn to Play Guide, Rules Reference Guide, Campaign Guide, Skirmish Guide
Rules - gotta have the rules!

34 plastic figures
6 Heroes
9 Stormtroopers
4 Trandoshan Hunters
3 Probe Droids
2 Nexu
3 Imperial Officers
4 Royal Guards
2 E-Web Engineers
Mini's - welcome enough!

6 Hero Sheets
Sorta like character sheets ...

59 double-sided map tiles
Map tiles are cool and might have uses in other games

11 custom dice
Kind of a thing with FFG now

Large Cards (FFG Green Sleeves)
39 Deployment Cards (3 decks)
2 Skirmish Mission Cards
10 Story Missions
14 Side Missions
18 Agenda Cards
5 Reference Cards

Small Cards (FFG Yellow Sleeves)
54 Hero Class Cards (6 decks, 9 cards each)
27 Imperial Class Cards (3 decks, 12 cards each)
36 Item Cards (3 decks, 12 cards each)
12 Supply Cards
18 Reward Cards
12 Condition Cards (3 decks, 4 cards each)
42 Command Cards
This is where the trouble starts - there are typically 5 or more decks of cards involved in play all in very similar sizes, plus the one-off cards for the  mission and each character . It's tricky to keep up with which deck means what, especially with new players.

1 Initiative Token
1 Entrance Token
4 Activation Tokens
20 Mission Tokens (8 Rebel/Imperial, 12 Neutral)
8 Terminal Tokens
8 Crate Tokens
15 Condition Tokens (3 types, 5 of each)
12 Ally and Villain Token
45 Damage Tokens (35 1's, 10 5's)
35 Strain Tokens
20 ID Tokens and 60 ID Stickers
There are a lot of tokens in play too. This does not help with the visual complexity.

Luke Skywalker Ally Pack
Darth Vader Villain Pack
A nice little bonus for getting in early.

By the time you get it all set up, the playing area is littered with cards, tokens, tiles, and miniatures.

That is not a real example of play as even our first play-through involved more than what is shown there.

The problem we both see is that if I am going to go to the trouble of picking up a $60-100$ boardgame I'd like it to be something different, yet this has all of the complexity, style, time-to-play requirement, and expense, of this:

So if I am going to have individual characters running around with individual actions,abilities, equipment, and damage tracking, and where one player runs all of the bad guys and events while the other players run individual characters, why not just play the RPG? The boardgame even comes with a campaign of linked missions where the characters are awarded XP and credits! If I'm going to do all of that and put up with all of the cards and tokens and funky dice why not run my own adventures with a party of characters that the players made themselves?

This is our dilemma.

Also, there are expansions - just like an RPG. They're boxes instead of books, but you get the idea.

Not everything is negative. The game also has a set of skirmish rules of pointing up your own small rebel or imperial force and duking it out like a traditional miniatures battle game. This of course leads people to do things like this:

Now I already have a big box of pre-painted plastic star wars minis from the WOTC stuff a few years back, so the last thing I am looking for is a set of star wars mini's to paint, but the rules for this part of the game are a nice bonus.

In the end, we are going to try one more game and see how it goes but I suspect I already know the answer. If it takes the time an RPG session would take, has a similar learning curve, and feels a lot like an RPG but with less freedom, is that a better option for us than just playing the RPG?


Kelvin Green said...

This is the exact issue I had with FFG's Mansions of Madness; it seems an awful lot of trouble to go to when Call of Cthulhu does it better (and doesn't suffer from the infamous setup flaw that can render the game unplayable).

Greg Johnston said...

Wow. It's almost like they cram the box full of stuff to justify the cost of the game.

Blacksteel said...

KG - I haven't played Mansions but I have a similar problem with Descent: It's so close to D&D (of any flavor) that we could just play D&D! If you play it as a seriously competitive game that's cool but for me with fantasy dungeon crawls I tend to drop back into DM mode regardless.

This has me steering away from any boardgames where one player runs all of the bad guys and the rest of the players run one character each.

Right now I'm enjoying the co-op games quite a bit as it lets me and the kids and the wife all be on the same side for a change.

GJ - Is there a point to your comment? I'm not complaining about the value in the box. I'm saying that if you make a boardgame with most of the hallmarks of an RPG, from rules to setup time to playing time, at some point it becomes easier to just run the RPG, especially for those of us who have a bunch of that stuff already.

Example of a boardgame that stays on the lighter side of this: Zombicide. You still have a character running around the board trying to accomplish something but it doesn't take a great deal of time to set it up or play it out from what I have seen.

Miguel de Rojas said...

Masions of Madness and Descent certainly sit in the same spot. And I have a problem with all the counters, it always seems to me that a simple sheet of paper would be more efficient. In the end, I feel that those boardgames are designed for a different type of player than me, people who enjoy the themes but need all the visual support and straightforward rules instead of the more freeform style of a true roleplaying game.

Greg Johnston said...

@Blacksteel, You were pointing out all the stuff in the game and all the things you need to keep track of. I just seems to me that all that seems like bloated game design. Which drives up the cost of the game, so you feel that you are getting value. I know that wasn't your complaint, just something I'm observing. Looking at the image of the game set up, my eyes just glaze over and yes, I could see a reason why one would rather just play the RPG than deal with all those components.