Review – Star Wars: Legion – The Clone Wars Core Set

Begun, the Clone War has... on your tabletop.

SWLCW

 

Designer Alex Davy, Luke Eddy

Artist Henning Ludvigsen

Publisher Fantasy Flight Games

Category Miniatures Wargame

Length 60-180min

Release Date 2019

Player Count 2

If you’ve ever wished for a wargame set in the Star Wars universe, Star Wars: Legion is the game you’re looking for. Fantasy Flight Games advertises streamlined rules, tactical gameplay, diverse army-building, and excellent miniatures. Does Star Wars: Legion deliver in a galaxy far, far away? 

Note: This review is for The Clone Wars Core Set, but there’s another core set that’s based on the original trilogy. 

A Word about Miniatures

The minis in Legion are unpainted, unassembled, and, in the case of The Clone Wars Core Set, unseparated from their mold rack. I had to cut the pieces out and use superglue for the clone troopers and plastic glue for the BARC speeder and all the separatists. Fantasy Flight recommends plastic glue for the Separatists and BARC speeder because they used a harder plastic with more details, and plastic glue actually melts the plastic together (which is super cool to watch). This assembly was not an easy process, and it took me more than 8 hours, so don’t expect to play Legion right out of the box. 

However, that’s not to say it wasn’t fun. It was fun, for the most part. Even when it wasn’t fun, even when the battle droid arms didn’t stay in the position I wanted them to, even when I was assembling the 4th module of the same 9-piece battle droid, it was still incredibly fun and satisfying at the end, knowing that I had built (though imperfectly) all 39 figures. There’s a greater sense of ownership here than with even my beloved Imperial Assault miniatures, many of which I’ve painted. 

All 35 miniature sculpts… and you need assemble every one of them!

On that note, let’s get into the gameplay, and I will try not to let my feelings towards my plastic babies interfere with my judgment as a board gamer. 

Review

To begin, the 2 opposing players will build their army for the battle. The Clone Wars Core Set includes a super-basic intro battle (highly recommended as your first play), and enough points for each player to build a 425-ish force. For reference, Legion suggests 2 official battle types: skirmish (500-point armies, played on a 3x3ft map where roughly a third of the map is covered in terrain) and standard (800-point armies, played on a 3x6ft map where roughly a quarter of the map is covered in terrain). 

There’s a lot that can go into army-building, but here are a few basics: every card has a point value, which counts towards the point total (higher point cards are more valuable, etc.); unit cards will specify how many miniatures there are per unit, what special abilities the unit has, and what upgrades the unit can take; upgrade cards can come in the form of abilities, weapons, or traits.

Once each player has assembled their army, players will take turns eliminating certain cards that determine their army’s starting points, the weather, and the objectives. Objectives can range from controlling certain buildings or areas to uploading intel at communication points. Finally, players will set up the terrain cooperatively. The core set includes 8 barricades and a suggested setup for them. Legion is meant to be a sandbox, so custom terrain is not only welcome; it’s recommended. Players will just need to decide what cover bonus, movement hindrance, and elevation each terrain type is. 

The battle can now begin! There are 3 phases to each round, and a game of Legion will last between 5 and 6 rounds (unless an army loses all its units). The 3 phases are: Command Phase, Activation Phase, and End Phase. In Command Phase, players will select and simultaneously reveal command cards, which determine who goes first and how many units each player can issue orders to. Each unit has an order token associated with it, and when a player issues an order to that unit, they place the token face-up next to that unit. All other tokens are shuffled and placed in a face-down stack. During the Activation Phase, players will take turns activating units. A player can choose to activate a unit with a face-up command token, or they can draw a token from their face-down pile, thus activating a random unit. When a unit is activated, they can perform 4 actions (usually move and attack), and once that unit has been activated, their command token is placed near them face-down so everyone knows who has already been activated. The End Phase is essentially a clean-up face for tokens, etc. 

I really like the way unit activation works. If you play a card that says you can issue orders to 3 units, you’ll have more control over which units activate when, but you’ll also likely end up going last because the more units a command card lets you activate, the further back it is in priority, which determines who gets to activate first. Activation timing is key. If you have a unit in a tough spot, you’ll want to activate them quickly to get them out of danger. Unit activation is also very straightforward. Perform 2 actions. Done. 

Let’s look at the 2 most common actions: move and attack. For moving, only a unit’s leader will move, and they’ll move using the appropriate speed piece (1, 2, or 3). Once they’ve moved, all other miniatures in that unit will be placed with movement piece 1 of their unit leader. This streamlined movement is incredibly helpful for keeping the game moving. For attacking, first determine that the target is in range (range is between 1 and 4, but each unit has a specific range the target must be in), then assign each miniature in the unit a target. So 1 unit could attack multiple units (a rocket battle droid in the activated unit could attack the BARC Speeder unit and the other 4 battle droids in the activated unit could attack a clone trooper unit). Roll the specified number of attack dice, count up the hits (we’ll say it’s 3). Then, the defender rolls defense dice equal to the number of hits (3) and determines blocks. The defender rolls 1 block, so they take 2 hits. There’s more nuance than all that, but that’s the general idea. 

All of that works really well and makes for an exciting, fast-paced game. I felt like I was commanding a large army, and I even got some nostalgic Battlefront II on the Xbox-vibes. In the 425-point battles you can do with the core set, there are times where dice rolls can kill you, and sometimes there’s not enough battle to help even out the luck, but The Clone Wars Core Set is meant to be an introduction to Legion, not the full experience, so it’s forgivable. Moreover, luck is a part of battle anyways. 

Legion does a good job of manifesting theme into gameplay. Battle droids and droidekas have to attack if able because they’re AI, General Grievous can run away from combat quickly, clone troopers can provide cover fire, and the BARC speeder has to take a forced move at the beginning of its activation (simulating the zooming around). These nuances are occasionally a handful to remember your first time around, but they become integral parts of each player’s strategy while also making each unit play (not just look) like it does in the Star Wars universe. 

The components are excellent, as per the usual with Fantasy Flight Games. Specific to the Clone Wars Core Set is the harder plastic for the Separatists and the BARC Speeder, which add some really cool details. The tokens, range finder, movement pieces, and dice all work great, though buying some extra dice for Legion will save some time (only 3 of each die are included in the core set, even though some units require up to 6 or 7 of a dice color). The art, though sparse, is good, and it’s nice to see some new prequels art instead of some of the same old original trilogy art that Fantasy Flight has been reusing for 5+ years. 

I do wish that Fantasy Flight would have included enough Separatist bonus cards, etc. to play an official 500-point skirmish on a 3×3 map. You can easily play a 400-point skirmish, but it’s unfortunate you can’t even do an official skirmish with the core set. Legion is designed as an army-builder, and I appreciate the introduction a core set offers so interested players aren’t spending $300+ on 2 full-size, 800-point armies, but not even including enough in the core set for a 500-point skirmish feels like a miss. Other misses: not enough dice, which is expected but not appreciated, and the rolling version of the droideka miniatures are very difficult to glue on straight up and down because the miniatures’ contact points with the base are so skinny. This is fixable by tilting the droideka sideways a bit. I left my 2 droidekas to dry overnight wedged upright between solid objects, and the next morning, 20 minutes after I removed them from their wedges, both had tilted to a certain side. 

I was incredibly pleased at how streamlined Legion is after reading the rules for the first time. It’s still a miniatures war game of epic battles, so there’s going to be moments of flipping through the rules for specifics on a certain ability, but the basic gameplay of issuing orders, moving, and attacking works really well. It’s tactical, it’s streamlined, and it’s timely. The intro battle was around an hour, and I have not had a game begin to approach 2 hours yet (90 minutes was the longest). I haven’t played the full standard battle, but I hope to soon. 

If you’re looking for a very good and accessible miniatures wargame, and you like Star Wars (and you’re cool with assembling miniatures), Star Wars: Legion is what you want. Legion provides exciting, tactical gameplay unbogged by tacky rules or confusing activation sequences with familiar characters and cool minis. The only downside is you’ll need to make additional purchases to play the 500-point skirmish, and you’ll likely want to pick up a 3×3 game mat and some terrain as well (or you can use LEGOs for your terrain, as I did). 

The Bottom Line

A streamlined, accessible, tactically deep wargame set in the beloved Star Wars universe.

 

8.5

Spencer Patterson

I'm a teacher, writer, and board game reviewer. I especially love board games that pull me in like a good book. My wife is my favorite gaming partner.