Star Wars: Legion is Fantasy Flight Games latest game to be produced with its Star Wars license. Fantasy Flight has previously released Star Wars: The Card Game (a 2 player "living" card game where new packs of cards are released every month or so), Star Wars: Imperial Assault (a cooperative "dungeon crawl" RPG-light board game with a miniatures skirmish mode and regularly released character and mission expansions), Star Wars : The Role Playing Game (three different tabletop role playing game lines of products that can be combined), Star Wars: X-Wing (their first miniatures game with pre-painted fighter space ships), Star Wars: Armada (their second miniatures game with pre-painted capital space ships), and finally Star Wars: Rebellion (a regular board game).
The big question with Star Wars: Legion is if it is worth getting into yet another Star Wars game from Fantasy Flight, particularly with its similarity to Star Wars: Imperial Assault's skirmish mode. Imperial Assault has very nice miniatures compared to other board games so why not just stick with that? Well, there are quite a few differences between the two games. I believe there is enough of a difference between what they both offer that I collect both. So this review is going to cover Legion itself, as well as compare it a little to Imperial Assault to help prospective buyers decide if they want to just get one or the other game or go with both.
The Core Set Components
To get started with Legion you need to first buy the Core Set. This set includes a half size army for both the Rebels and the Imperials, dice, range rulers, movement templates, barricades (to act as simple 3D terrain), and a simplified rule book. With these components in the box 2 people are able to play a half size army game against each other. As is typical for Fantasy Flight they give you half the dice you would need in order to not have to reroll some dice sometimes. You can play the game just fine with the dice in the box but there are times you might use a weapon that requires 6 dice to roll and the core set only has three. So you end up rerolling the dice and adding up your results. Of course FFG is very happy to sell you an extra dice pack. Also, you only get one set of range ruler and movement templates. That means you will be handing the ruler and templates back and forth with your opponent throughout the game. This is perfectly doable, but once again FFG has a ruler and template pack ready to sell you as another add on...
As for the miniatures themselves, you get 2 7-man squads of Rebel troopers and 2 7-man squads of Stormtroopers. You also get an AT-RT for the Rebels (a 2-legged vehicle that one person can ride on) and a pair of Speeder Bikes for the Imperials. You also get Luke to command the Rebel forces and Darth Vader to command the Imperial forces. The miniatures themselves look cool if a bit odd. FFG used what is apparently called a "heroic" look on these miniatures. That means the heads, hands, and feet are slightly enlarged from what they would look like in real life. Imperial Assault on the other hand uses straight normal proportions.
The miniatures in Legion are slightly larger than Imperial Assault miniatures when comparing humanoid characters as you can see from the above picture. In this picture you see some example Legion units on the left with the Imperial Assault mirror units on the right. In the center of the field are three commanders from each game facing off (Vader, Luke, and Leia). By the way, Princess Leia, the Rebel Fleet troopers behind her, and the snowtroopers behind Vader come from expansion packs for Legion. Notice the Legion trooper units come with 7 unique miniatures in each unit. Imperial Assault comes with 3 identical miniatures in a unit. Finally you should be able to see the Legion miniatures are more detailed as well. I have primed the stormtroopers at the top and the Rebel Troopers at the bottom on the Legion side. I painted the Imperial Assault stormtroopers a couple of years ago. The Vader and Luke in Legion I painted recently. The mat these figures are on is one of the battle mats you can purchase for Legion.
The vehicle miniatures in Legion are much bigger than the Imperial Assault ones. The vehicles in Legion are much closer than Imperial Assault to being properly proportionally bigger than the humanoids. This is obviously because Legion is played on a 3 foot by 6 foot play area, whereas Imperial Assault is played on an area that is usually around 2 feet by 2 feet. There is no way the Legion vehicles would fit on an Imperial Assault map. In the above picture you see the Legion vehicles on the left and the Imperial Assault ones on the right. Notice how the Legion AT-ST towers over the Imperial Assault one. Notice how tiny the human driver is in the Imperial Assault hover vehicle. The Legion pilots of the speeder bikes and the AT-RT appear regular size. By the way the AT-ST and the T-47 Airspeeder are expansions for Legion and are not in the Core box.
The miniatures in Legion also come in pieces and have to be glued together with super glue. This is standard for miniatures war games, but is very different for people coming from the board game world such as myself. For the most part I enjoyed gluing them together as it reminded me of all the model building I did as a kid. It turned into a rather Zen activity after a bit. It probably took me about an hour and a half to get them all glued properly. The reason miniatures wargames come with their miniatures in pieces is so that the models can be put in more dynamic poses than could be achieved with a single piece cast mold. The miniatures are also all unpainted as regular miniatures games are. FFG's X-Wing and Armada miniatures games come pre-painted and have been out a few years. But I much prefer the fact that these are unpainted. For one, it obviously has to save on cost. But one of the great things to my mind (particularly as a teacher and a parent) about miniatures games is the creativity the players can express through painting their figures. There is a standard body of painting techniques to use when painting miniatures that is unique to them. Thankfully in the age of YouTube it is easy to quickly learn these techniques and then start practicing your newly learned skills without wasting time painting from a beginner state of complete ignorance and ending up with completely ugly results. I recommend watching Sorastro's Painting YouTube channel where he shows how to paint every model in the Core set. It really is an awesome art project to get your miniatures looking cool. My children have started painting miniatures as well and they also really enjoy it.
The game does not come with a board of course. You can simply play all over a table or map out an area on your floor. FFG sells a very nice pair of gaming mats that equal a regulation tournament size of 3 by 6 feet when combined. You can see one of them in the above pictures. I like the mats, but it is not necessary for the game. Imperial Assault, on the other hand comes with cardboard map tiles that can be combined together to produce different boards to play on. Legion is just too large a game for something like that to work. Plus, with a real miniatures game you want to add in 3D terrain anyway. You can buy terrain models or you can use anything around your house to stand in for it.
Finally you get a bunch of cards (for your units, their upgrades, issuing commands, and setting game objectives and parameters) and a lot of cardboard tokens (for tracking damage and status effects).
Legions rules are fairly easy to grok for anyone coming out of the board gaming world. They are also easy enough to explain to people who aren't regular gamers assuming they are interested enough in learning. I use the game in the after school gaming club I run for 3rd through 5th grade students at my school. They caught on very quick and enjoyed it. In the club I have each student control one unit for their team (Rebel or Imperial). I haven't played Warhammer (the juggernaut of all modern miniatures wargaming for decades now) but I have played with those who have played Warhammer for years and they all say that Legion is a much more streamlined game and easier to learn. That being said, there is a large Rules Reference Guide that you can download in PDF form from FFG's website for free that is extremely necessary to use if you want to really get into the game and maybe even compete in tournaments. Many rules situations are not covered in the smaller rules manual that is included in the Core box. Also, there are serious rules arguments and clarifications that happen on FFG's forums for the game. FFG is supposed to be putting out version two of the Rules Reference soon to answer many of these still existing questions. But even so, the rules are easy enough to play friendly games with people and just make up a few house rules to cover the novel situations that may arise. It's just that if you are competing in organized play tournaments it becomes very necessary to get all these rules questions answered definitively.
The basic rules are as follows. A game is played in 6 rounds. Each round every unit of each side will activate once. On an activation you can do two things. Only one of those two things can be an attack. Other things you can do are moving, aiming, dodging, standing by, or activating a special ability. You use the plastic movement templates to move your unit's leader around the battlefield and then you place the other miniatures in that unit around the leader's new position. So only the leader matters in terms of movement distances. You use the plastic range sticks to see if your opponent's units are within range of whatever weapon you have equipped to your unit. You can have miniatures with different weapons from each other within a given trooper unit. If all the miniatures in a unit are using the same weapon they all have to fire at the same enemy unit. If some miniatures are using different weapons within a unit then each different type of weapon is allowed to be fired at a different opponent unit. Like all miniatures wargames, Legion has rules for line of sight, cover, and elevation. This makes it possible to use 3D terrain in your 3 by 6 foot play area. I think that's another area where miniatures games get very fun. Including 3D terrain greatly adds to the "realism" of the experience over what you would see in a board game (like Imperial Assault). Besides health, trooper units (humanoids) have a courage rating. Every time they get fired on with a range weapon they gain "suppression" If they get as many (or more) suppression tokens as their courage rating is they lose an action on their turn. If they get twice as many suppression tokens as their courage can handle they will turn and run straight toward the nearest edge of the play area, instead of taking any actions on their turn. If they run out of the play area they are destroyed. For some reason it strikes me as hilarious every time that happens. Vehicles have a resilience rating instead of a courage rating. If they pass that rating with their damage then they have to roll a die to see how they get permanently damaged.
In order to activate these units the players have to select one command card from a hand of 7 cards in their hand to play face down before the turn starts. Once both players have placed a card face down they reveal and do whatever it says. Each commander in an army (Luke and Vader in the Core set) comes with 3 special command cards to replace three of the generic command cards out of the 7. In the full game you are allowed to have 2 commanders in your army, which would mean you would get to replace 6 of the 7 generic command cards with special cards. Each command card tells how many units your commander can issue orders to that turn. The units that are issued orders by the commander can be activated whenever you want on your turn during that round. The other units which haven't been issued an order in your army have their tokens placed in a face down shuffled pile. Then you can choose to draw from that face down pile one token on your turn and activate whatever unit it corresponds to. By the end of the round, every one of your units will have activated once. It's just that you can only know for sure when you are going to activate those units your commander issued orders to. The more units a command card allows you to issue orders to, the worse the initiative value the card will give you for that round. So if you choose a command card that allows you to issue orders to 2 units and your opponent chooses a card that only lets them issue orders to one unit, they are probably going to get better initiative and end up going first that round. The special commander cards also include some sort of special ability on them besides just issuing orders. To win the game you have to win the most victory points. You get victory points by completing objectives chosen by the players at the beginning of the game. There are a variety of objectives, set up positions, and environmental factors to choose from for a game. If you tie in victory points then the player that destroyed the most units of their opponent wins. Of course, you can always just play a straight ahead game of whoever destroys the most units wins without worrying about victory point conditions.
The game take about an hour and a half to play if you are using just the Core set half armies. If you buy expansion units for your armies and you have full armies then it takes at least 2 hours. In tournament play, full army games are limited to 2 hours.
I have played quite a few games of this now and competed in one organized play tournament at a friendly local game store. I have to say I absolutely love this game. It is a real blast to play and I would highly recommend it to anybody looking to dip a toe into the miniature wargaming world. When you finish a game you always feel like you have great cinematic stories to tell of what happened within the game. Force leaping up a cliff with Luke and whirling his lightsaber into a crowd of stormtroopers is awesome. Having Vader force choke someone and throw his lightsaber at them is also hilariously cinematic. The units really do behave in the highly individualized ways you would imagine they should and that just adds to the fun. I would say Legion definitely is the most cinematic and "realistically Star Warsy (made up word I know)" of all FFG's games. I like it better than Imperial Assault, X-Wing, Rebellion, and the Card Game (all of which I own and play). I would say I like it the same amount that I like the Star Wars RPGs from FFG, which were previously my favorite Star Wars games from FFG. That being said, it is not a game you can just quickly pull out and start playing like you can with a regular board game. If you want a board game experience then go with Rebellion. If you want an RPG-light board game with more than 2 players and characters that level up over time then pull out Imperial Assault. If you want to ponder over building a perfect deck of cards before you play a game then go with Star Wars: The Card Game. And finally if you want a full RPG experience then you have the 3 RPGs from FFG (Age of Rebellion, Edge of the Empire, and Force and Destiny) to play. If you can only choose one then base it on the experience that you want to have of course. However, if you can own more than one, it is definitely worth owning Legion along with Imperial Assault (it's closest brother) as they really do scratch different gaming itches.
Parent/ Teacher Considerations:
I highly recommend this game for parents of children age 9 and up. Miniatures games are great brain food for children. The kids not only get to practice a great deal of strategic, tactical, and mathematical thought, but they get to practice artistic creativity when painting the miniatures. As far as miniatures games go, this one is very streamlined in terms of rules which makes it a good candidate for children just starting into miniatures.
This would be a good game for after school game clubs that teachers might run. As I said I use it in mine. With the theme being Star Wars, I can't think of any parents having any problems with it like they might with some other games. The only issue is the amount of time it takes to play a game as well as set up and take down. So that is a real consideration. It's definitely not a regular classroom game, though.