‘Tis the season for an epic space adventure! With The Last Jedi only days away, we continue to enjoy all things Star Wars.
More specifically, however, we’re focusing on IA’s recent companion app: Legends of the Alliance.
Companion apps are the new thing in tabletop gaming, allowing a computer to take over roles or aspects of the game. Although apps have existed before, such as point trackers and die rollers, proprietary or game-specific apps are a more recent innovation.
The great thing about these apps is they allow you to play complex games far easier. From helping set up and book-keeping to providing AI opponents, so you don’t need as many (or even any) people, companion apps are a great boon to the tabletop industry.
FFG’s app for IA continues this trend, providing not only a brand-new campaign for players but also taking over the Empire role and a lot of book-keeping.
My favorite aspect is how the app controls the Empire role, making the game entirely co-op (or even solo). As a gamer with a full-time job and parent duties, finding someone to play games like IA was nearly impossible. Now I can wait until the kids are asleep and play a mission or two by myself!
The AI in LotA is fantastic, providing a list of actions in priority order that help mirror the role of the unit. E-web engineers open fire, only moving to a new position when there’s no target, while Imperial Officers direct attacks and hide behind their troops.
These prioritized actions even change based on the scenario; Imperials may target specific characters in on mission while focusing on escaping prisoners in another. When there’s a conflict in priorities, designers included the “Imperial Rule” – players choose whatever action hurts themselves the most.
LotA also provides in-app changes to many cards, telling you to ignore specific rules on them while adding different bonuses. Movement is the most notable change (just ignore Speed listed on an enemy card), but you’ll also discover bonuses that may alternate through the course of a mission.
In addition to controlling the Empire, LotA provides book-keeping and story information.
As you complete each mission, the game records killed enemies and achieved objectives. Fame, credits, equipment, etc. are all available in a menu, as are Class cards earned. Like the enemy card changes, there are some changes on what you gain and how, but the overall play remains the same.
The storytelling aspect is one area where LotA shines, as it provides both flavor text and in-game events. You really get into the campaign, from a Rebel commander leading you on a training expedition to suffering Stress from fighting too long in a toxic garbage dump.
Despite this praise, there are several downsides to this app that tarnish an otherwise great experience.
First, there is only the one campaign (and thus story): Legends of the Alliance. FFG has made it clear this is a companion to the game’s traditional campaigns and skirmish mode, not a replacement.
I was disappointed as I wanted to solo-play the core and expansion campaigns, which have fantastic tales and missions. After playing through LotA once or twice, replayability decreases – although you can try new characters and there is some randomization, the missions and story remain the same.
FFG has said they will include new campaigns in future updates, including ones that draw on the other expansions. Still, I hope they will consider adapting their traditional campaigns for the app, allowing us to experience those stories with the Imperial AI.
Second, LotA provides a record of what expansions and characters you own, but doesn’t use them. We’ve already mentioned the lack of other campaigns, but Allies and Villains, new conditions (like Weakened), special rules (like Power tokens), etc. are all absent.
To be fair, these missing aspects make sense; the app hopes to draw new IA players in, and that wouldn’t work if the campaign required you to purchase more than the core set. Also, the program notes that many of these are “Coming Soon” and, as mentioned, FFG is planning to incorporate these with future updates.
Third, although LotA contains a tutorial, players new to IA may still struggle with all the rules. The game explains the basics (as well as some changes it makes), but I ended up looking in my rulebooks regularly anyway.
Not to mention, the app has its own rules, in a separate PDF, that provides essential instructions on setup and play that all players need to know. I wasn’t aware of this until mid-tutorial – luckily, you can find these rules on FFG’s website (which is reachable through an in-app option).
People who have never played IA before may be a bit overwhelmed by the number of rules, even with the tutorial. Especially when the app starts changing them on you!
Finally, there are many known bugs, errors, and questionable decisions in LotA. As usual, the app can freeze or crash and some cards have the wrong name on them. More importantly, there are complaints that the book-keeping AI doesn’t consider player preferences or individual choices.
For example, many players enjoy having melee and ranged weapons, yet the program may provide none if all the characters favor “ranged” attacks. Manual adjustments for credits or other factors is also missing; you’re limited solely to what the app provides.
On a side note, LotA is available in both mobile and PC version. I note this because you may want to decide how you’re going to use the app, as you can’t carry save files between the versions.
A phone is the most mobile (and likely to be owned), but fat fingers like mine often had problems pushing the right control. Not to mention, the smaller the screen, the harder it is to see, especially if you have a vision problem.
Tablet is also mobile, and you have a larger screen to help with controlling the app and seeing it. Battery life is a problem for tablet (and phone), however, as LotA is a bit of a power hog. My phone dropped 20% over an hour of play, so you might want to bring portable chargers or adapters.
The laptop is probably the superior visual and control experience; also, you’ll either have fewer battery issues or a better cord to reach a wall socket. You’ll sacrifice mobility and tablespace, however, depending on the type of machine you use.
Overall, Imperial Assault: Legends of the Alliance is a resounding success. I dusted off what I owned from IA immediately and had a blast playing through the tutorial and first mission.
The ability to play solo and save your progress motivated me; the great AI and enhanced story experience sold the rest. I’ll even admit, I went and bought every character and expansion I could afford afterward.
Still, when I discovered there was only the single campaign and many of the expansions hadn’t been implemented, I was disappointed. I’m hopeful for this program, however, especially as FFG has stated their intent to include more campaigns and expansions.
If you’re an experienced IA player, get this app. If you’re new to IA, get this app.
Whatever you do, get this app, as it’s the first step toward the dark si… I mean “FFG’s amazing gaming products.”
Star Wars: Imperial Assault is on shelves now. 2-5 players, 60-120 minutes, Ages 14+.
Legends of the Alliance is free and available for download on Android, iOS, and Steam.
I give Imperial Assault: Legends of the Alliance 4 pouncing nexu out of 5.