Fantasy Flight Games seems to have hit it out of the park with the Star Wars IP, producing great games. Even their “worst” product received OK reviews and primarily petered out because of its limited play and support.
So, there was no question whether I would pick up FFG’s latest release: Star Wars: Outer Rim.
Where else can you play everybody’s favorite smugglers or bounty hunters in a galaxy far, far away? Put together your best Crew, stow that illegal Cargo, pick up the latest Job or Bounty; it’s time to see who’s the most famous outlaw in Star Wars.
Star Wars: Outer Rim is intimidating at first, with its unique map, cool player boards, and a multitude of tokens and cards. Despite this, the rulebook is only 16 pages, and the general mechanics and gameplay are relatively easy to learn.
The goal is to be the first to reach 10 Fame, which is earned through a multitude of activities. The easiest involves smuggling Cargo (especially illegal stuff), capturing Bounties, or completing various (criminal) Jobs; numerous Encounters may also lead to gaining Fame.
Players can choose from a variety of Canon Characters, each with abilities and Personal Goals. Complete your goal and you not only game Fame, but also the card flips over to provide even better capabilities as your Character becomes more experienced.
Each turn a player chooses a variety of options through the three steps: Planning, Action, and Encounter. Players use these steps to either set themselves up for the future, complete a current task, or even recuperate from the effects of a previous turn.
During the Planning Step, each player can choose one of three options: move, heal or earn money.
Movement is easy, as you move the rating on your current Ship (plus any modifiers) that many spaces. The only thing stopping you are Patrols (who might delay you) or a dangerous trip through the Maelstrom on the way to Kessel.
Recovering from wounds or damage to your Ship is chosen when you need to be in tip-top shape for what’s coming. Also, for those Defeated in a previous turn, losing some time in a bacta tank or at a repair yard is your only option.
If all else fails, you have nowhere to be, and no need to recuperate, you might as well take a side job. This choice is an excellent way to earn Credits to spend the next time you hit the Market or other activities.
The Action Step is when things get more involved, as you can do many things, although each option only once.
Buying from the Market happens if you’re on a planet – you choose which market deck you want: Bounties, Cargo, Gear/Mods, Jobs, Luxuries, or Ships. One tricky situation is that, whenever you buy a card, the next card revealed might cause the Patrols on the board to move closer toward you.
Delivering Cargo or Bounties also occurs during this phase, which is how you earn Credits or Fame. Trading cards with other players and using abilities marked “Action” are also possible during this Step.
The Encounter Step is when everything goes down, for good or ill. You must choose one of the options, encountering: A Patrol, your space (planet or the routes between), a Contact, or any other ability that says “Encounter.”
Encountering a Patrol leads to Combat and may be your only choice if you’ve ticked off that faction. Encounter Your Space means you’ll have a random encounter based on the Planet (or empty space) you currently occupy.
Encounter a Contact is when you decide to talk to a famous person on the Planet. Like your location, this could involve Skills or Combat and provide you with new Crew or other benefits.
Although Outer Rim’s Steps are simple, the dice complicate matters through Skills and Combat.
Skill checks come up in Encounters as well as trying to complete Jobs – the more Skills you (and your Crew) have that match, the easier it is to win. Each Character starts with Skills, but you can also gain them through Crew.
Most Encounters only require one check, but Jobs have multiple steps. Failing at a step may cause you to lose, or it may only make things harder (or cause damage).
Combat also uses dice, but the results are different, as both yourself and your opponent are rolling simultaneously. Everybody takes damage, but the winner is whoever dealt the most (or the attacker, in case of a tie).
Gear/Mods are your best bet for handling Combat, as they can give you more or more Health/Hull. Pick wisely, however, as you can only carry so much equipment.
Don’t worry about losing, however, as you’re never out of the game. Take too much damage and you’re Defeated for the round (losing Credits and Secrets), but next turn you’ll be able to heal to full and get back in the game.
In addition to providing boosts, there are a multitude of cards you can buy or earn to help you in your endeavors. Of course, your Character and Ship can only handle so many, so choose wisely.
Speaking of which, you can purchase new Ships to replace your current one, providing you with better stats and more slots. New Ships also have Ship Goals (like Personal Goals) that allow you to “level up” your Ship.
Altogether, there are over 140 cards to purchase or Encounter, and that doesn’t include the dozens of Databank cards that you resolve during Jobs or with Contacts.
One critical aspect of the game, as if there wasn’t enough to make your job tough: Reputation.
Outer Rim includes four factions, each with Patrols that move around the board, and each player has a Reputation marker for these factions. Positive Reputation helps you pass Patrols (and various Encounters) while negative Reputation may force you to fight that group.
Some Characters start with particular Reputation, such as Han Solo’s negative status with the Hutts or Boba Fett’s positive standing. Most of the time, Reputation changes during the game, through various activities like Encounters, Jobs, or Combats.
What I love about Outer Rim is how many routes to victory there are, from Cargo to Jobs to Bounties; you can even earn or purchase Fame through various Encounters. While the smugglers and bounty hunter Characters are geared toward specific routes, you may still find yourself picking up some easy side tasks.
We quickly learned, however, that smuggling seems to be the easier route as there’s less downtime; a fast Ship and smart choices nets you lots of Credits and keeps you away from the Patrols. Anything involving Combat often meant wasting downtime healing up, although some Bounties certainly paid far more in Credits and Fame.
Another significant aspect is the game variations, from a Solo option to increased difficulty.
Solo play becomes a 2-Player game, except the other player is an AI controlled by a unique deck of cards; the AI follows each card’s instructions in the order given. Several solo plays showed that the AI-player has a lot of advantages, as it never rolls dice (it auto-wins most tasks), although it never uses (or gains) abilities.
Outer Rim also has options for increasing difficulty, including raising the amount of Fame needed to win as well as changing the layout of the board. Neither of these seemed to matter much when we tried them, although anything for more replayability is good.
Star Wars: Outer Rim isn’t perfect, but the few critiques I’ve seen I rarely had trouble with, except for the extensive footprint of the game. Although the card text is small, it wasn’t unreadable or distracting, and I’ve seen Characters of all types pull off wins (even if certain ones are easier).
Overall, I think this product is an excellent addition to the FFG collection. It’s easy to learn, has some fun choices, and is excellent against friends or alone. While you might find more strategy in Rebellion or the various miniatures games, Outer Rim isn’t bad for a night in with friends.
Star Wars: Outer Rim is currently on shelves. 1-4 players, 120-180 minutes, Ages 14+.
I give Outer Rim a scruffy-looking 4 nerf herders out of 5.
(We’d like to thank Gamers-Corps in Ellicott City for providing us the space to playtest and demo this game!)