Fantasy Flight Games is stepping into the ring with a new Star Wars-themed trading card game to go up against Magic: The Gathering and Disney Lorcana. Called Star Wars: Unlimited, it will launch in 2024 with a full, 200-plus card set and all-new art based on the original trilogy — alongside a full slate of organized play events. Speaking with Polygon ahead of Tuesday’s reveal, co-designer Jim Cartwright readily acknowledged that he and his team would be fighting an uphill battle to earn the hearts of potential players, especially those burned by past experiences with Fantasy Flight’s card game franchises.
Fantasy Flight’s reputation as a publisher of card games is a bit rocky following a series of high-profile cancellations — including Netrunner, Legend of the Five Rings, and Star Wars: Destiny. The most recent failure, however, was the mysterious technical mishap that derailed KeyForge, the popular procedurally-generated card game that launched in 2018. Early interest was high, but an unknown issue stopped production in its tracks. The game is now owned and produced by a different company entirely.
Cartwright said that, this time around, Fantasy Flight is moving all necessary resources into position to put its best foot forward for Star Wars: Unlimited.
“This is a game in which we have dedicated more resources than any other game in FFG’s history,” Cartwright said. “In the past for these kinds of games [...] we had difficulty hitting those kind of regular [release] cadences. Anyone who’s played an FFG game like that knows that. [It’s] something that we’ve struggled with, and we are committed to putting this game out on time. It’s the way the industry works, now. If you want to do a TCG you have to be able to be committed to hit those dates.”
Cartwright describes Star Wars: Unlimited as a traditional TCG experience — a departure for a company known for its Living Card Game lines, and novel experiences like the Star Wars: Destiny, which used custom dice.
“We’re not trying to get into anything crazy or fancy,” Cartwright said. “We wanted to focus all of our design on how do we make the best card game, specifically, and the focus on cards, and the focus on the interaction of those cards and the kind of unlimited possibilities you get from being able to play with all of the Star Wars toys. So it is a non-gimmicky TCG.”
Cartwright described the game as fast-moving, with lots of back and forth between players in a given round.
“It means that you’re not waiting for me to think about all of the different things I have to do, play out my whole turn, maybe ruin the experience for you in a short burst of time,” Cartwright said. “It really is about this constant engagement of I do a thing, you do a thing, that keep[s] everyone simultaneously focused on what’s going on.”
Additionally, and just like Disney Lorcana, Star Wars: Unlimited has been designed for multiplayer from the ground up. That means players will likely be able to use the very same decks they play competitively for more casual games.
“This was created as a very much a sandbox-style game,” Cartwright said. “We want you to play with your toys. That was actually a very big part of [what] the original pitch was, and part of [the] reason why Unlimited works so perfectly as a title. It’s the idea of unlimited possibilities that you can bring to your Star Wars experience.”
Of course, the landscape for trading card games has changed dramatically in the three years since Cartwright’s team began working on Star Wars: Unlimited. Even as the pandemic pushed TCG card prices on the secondary market through the stratosphere, Magic: The Gathering has moved quickly from one best-selling set to the next. While upstart Flesh & Blood keeps chugging along, Ravensburger’s Disney Lorcana seems poised to suck all of the oxygen out of the room when it launches in just a few months.
That sets the table nicely for a 2024 release of Star Wars: Unlimited, but it also raises the stakes. To hear Cartwright tell it, Fantasy Flight’s leadership is going all in.
“We have some of our most veteran card game designers working on this product,” Cartwright said. “Daniel Schaefer, who used to lead the [A Game of Thrones: The Card Game] and KeyForge teams. We have Jeremy Zwirn, of course, from Star Wars: Destiny. We have Tyler Parrott, who ran the [Legend of the Five Rings]. We took some of our most veteran designers in the card game space, and they are the ones putting this together, [and] we made sure that we were going to be ready to hit the dates that we need consistently by building up the resources that we needed to do it.”
Expect to hear more about Star Wars: Unlimited all throughout the busy summer tabletop gaming convention circuit, with more specific details later in the year ahead of its 2024 release.