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Star Wars: Legion is a starter set, not a complete tabletop experience

To play the full game you’ll actually need a second starter set

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A miniature speeder bike from Star Wars: Legion by Fantasy Flight Games.
The vehicles in the Star Wars: Legion starter set are exceptional models. Two speeder bikes come in the box, each with a different scout trooper on board.
Charlie Hall/Polygon
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Star Wars: Legion, the latest game in the Star Wars line from Fantasy Flight Games, is not a complete experience. It’s not even a complete retail product. But it sure is pretty.

The miniatures game that stole the show at the country’s largest tabletop gaming convention last year is really just a starter set, equivalent to something similar from Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 universe. While Legion has a slightly more complex rule set, it also uses a bit more paperwork and a lot more dice. However, Fantasy Flight hasn’t actually included enough of either the dice or the documentation to really get you started.

First, the good news: The miniatures are drop-dead gorgeous.

The starter set comes with 33 unassembled plastic models divided between two factions, the Rebels and the Imperials. On the Rebel side, you get eight generic troopers, two trooper leaders and two pairs of heavy weapons. There’s also Luke Skywalker, clad in his Bespin fatigues, and a towering AT-RT walker with three optional weapons. The Imperials are led by Darth Vader, who is supported by eight generic stormtroopers, two stormtrooper leaders and two pairs of heavy weapon troopers. They, in turn, are supported by a pair of speeder bikes.

Star Wars: Legion - close-up of scout trooper commander aboard a speeder bike
Star Wars: Legion - Luke Skywalker, AT-RT, Rebel heavy weapons trooper, generic Rebel trooper Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon
Star Wars: Legion - stormtrooper, Darth Vader, anti-vehicle trooper assembled and photographed on a mirrored table.

A stormtrooper with a heavy blaster, Darth Vader and another trooper with an anti-vehicle weapon.

The vehicles in this set are extraordinary. The AT-RT is as tall as it is delicate, and the speeder bikes are near-perfect reproductions of the ones seen in Return of the Jedi. They also look like a breeze to paint, with generous poses that will easily allow you to reach all the nooks and crannies after they’re assembled.

All of the miniatures come pre-cut from their sprues and have a minimum of mold lines. The plastic itself is sturdy and likely to stand up well to wear and tear. Superglue is required, as is a hobby knife or mouldline remover, but overall, assembly was a breeze. The whole process took me just a few hours of work. Also included are a few segmented rulers for movement and range, a collection of cards, and over 100 die-cut counters.

After a few days assembling things on and off between other projects for work, things were looking good. Then I opened that manual, and things began to break down. The rule system is far more complex than the one you’ll get with your average Warhammer 40,000 starter set.

If you’ve played Star Wars: The X-Wing Miniatures Game, Star Wars: Armada or Star Wars: Imperial Assault, many of the methods and components inside the box will look familiar. The game simulates command and control, and each side plays cards from their hand to issue orders to their units each round. Players then take turns moving those units one at a time.

Each unit has its own descriptive card that sits at the side of the table, and those cards can be given upgrades. A single squad of stormtroopers, for instance, has one leader and three regular troopers. For a price you can add another trooper, giving the unit another hit point. Or, for just a little more, you can buy them a heavy weapon. A unit upgraded in this way would have three cards along the sideboard listing all the extra abilities it now has.

Gen Con 2017 - hands reach into a diorama of Tatooine from Star Wars: Legion
A diorama from Gen Con 2017. The learn-to-play book includes basic instructions for painting, but also for creating scenery exactly like this out of stuff you can find at the local hardware store.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

When units attack, each weapon type forms its own dice pool. All the regular stormtroopers with their E-11 blasters roll one type of dice, while the heavy weapon rolls another type of die. Each dice pool can also have its own target, so a single team of troopers can attack Luke Skywalker and the AT-RT standing next to him on their turn.

It is both more and less complicated than it sounds. While you don’t really have all that many units on the table at one time (a standard 1,000-point army only includes about eight units), each unit has its own set of skills, abilities and rules exceptions to contend with. Players will spend a lot of time mastering their own armies before heading into competitive battles.

However, as far as starter sets go, the learn-to-play document that’s included in the box isn’t as helpful as it could be. It’s written in the same complicated style as the one for Star Wars: Rebellion, a strategy board game from Fantasy Flight that we reviewed here in 2016. Just like its forebear, the learn-to-play guide for Legion starts with several exceptions to the overall game rules in place without properly explaining them. Then it proceeds to gather up additional exceptions as it goes along. By the time you get to the end of the introductory scenario, you have to unlearn some of the things that you have learned in order to actually play the game.

Making matters worse, clarifications to those exceptions are only available once you download a 50-page PDF from the developer’s website. That’s right. Fantasy Flight didn’t even include the bulk of the game’s instructions in the box.

More frustrating, there are about half as many dice inside Legion as the minimum number needed to play the game. For one player to attack with a single unit, they end up rolling the same three dice three or four times and adding up the totals. Then their opponent does the same thing for defense. That’s a lot of keeping track of numbers in your head, and even more handing the dice back and forth across the table. That slows down gameplay and adds unnecessary frustration when you’re trying to learn.

This is an instance where even including miniature dice would have been an acceptable compromise, had there simply been more of them. But, considering that Fantasy Flight is using multiple styles of custom dice in Legion, I’m not sure that would have saved the company any money.

What’s really bothersome, however, is the lack of any attempt at a campaign in this starter set. It’s is a skirmish game through and through. You’ll be picking random cards to create one-off scenarios, rather than taking a single force forward and trying to move a story along. In fact, there’s not even a single tournament-legal force inside this starter set. For a full-scale battle, you’ll need twice as many units from either side. That means investing in supplementary upgrade packs.

Considering that this base game only comes with half the number of dice needed by any one player at the table, a second starter set is probably the better purchase.

Star Wars: Legion will begin shipping to customers later this month. It’s currently available for pre-order on Amazon for about $80, or through your local retailer for just a bit more. Expansions, including the T-47 airspeeder from The Empire Strikes Back ($23.75 on Amazon) and the AT-ST “chicken walker” ($45.94 on Amazon), will be available at the same time.