Star Wars: Rebellion kicked off its first year at WBC with a smashing success. 37 competitors battled for control of the galaxy over the course of the tournament, which began with a mulligan round on the first Sunday afternoon, followed by elimination rounds Wednesday and Thursday. Based on an informal poll of attendees, roughly 25% of all of the competitors attended one of the two demos. I have to give a huge shout-out to assistant GM Jeromey Martin for running the second demo on Wednesday. We had 11 games on Sunday and 8 more on Wednesday, for a total of 19 winners going into the second elimination round on Thursday morning. Sixteen showed up, giving us a perfect four-round bracket for the finale.
Before I get into the meat of the event, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Andrew Drummond, of Dice-Loving Canuck fame, for his generous support for this event. Despite not being able to compete in the mulligan round, he loaned me his copy of the game to let competitors use in case we were short copies. Then when he showed up on Wednesday, he borrowed another copy from a friend who wasn’t planning to play so we could still use his extra copy. Unfortunately, we ended up with 8 copies of the game, and 17 players on Wednesday. Rather than have me turn away the last entrant, Andrew graciously decided to step aside and let the last player take his spot. I cannot thank him enough for helping to make this tournament a success this year, and I hope we can get the schedule worked out so he can compete next year.
For this year’s tournament, players were given two choices to make before the game even began. First, they had to decide between using the Basic Setup, the tournament default, or the Advanced Setup. My expectation was that the Basic Setup would help newer players get the board ready faster and reduce the number of games that went long. Experienced players would opt for the Advanced Setup as it provides for more interesting decisions and enables a greater variety of strategies for both sides. Rebellion is an asymmetrical game, so the tournament used a bidding system to determine sides. The winner of a die roll would bid a number of probe cards to play a certain side and then players would alternate bidding until one player passed.
In the preliminary rounds, the mulligan on Sunday and the first elimination round on Wednesday, 16 tables opted for the basic setup, while 3 opted for the advanced. Of those 16 basic games, 7 tables opted not to bid for sides. Instead, sides were determined randomly or by mutual agreement. 9 tables used the bidding system. The Empire was the most popular side with 7 players bidding 0-2 probe cards for the honor. However, the Rebels earned the distinction for highest bid as Jack Wolff offered 3 probe cards to Ty Hansen to play as the plucky upstarts. Among the advanced setup tables, two featured Empire players who bid 0 cards for their side and one featured a Rebel player who bid 1 card. Only one player who lost in the mulligan round returned for Round 1 on Wednesday, Nicholas Chepaitis. He was rewarded for his persistence with a win in his second game.
After the preliminary rounds, the two sides were quite even. The Empire crushed the Rebels in 9 games, while the Rebels liberated the galaxy in 10.
Unfortunately, as I anticipated in the event preview, multiple games ran long and had to be adjudicated. In all cases, these were games with either one or two new players. Adjudicating is never pleasant, but in nearly every circumstance I found a clear path to victory for one side or the other. Most games played ended in about 3 hours, so I feel that 4 hours is the correct length, and adjudication is simply a necessary evil.
As mentioned above, 16 winners arrived for the second elimination round, erasing the need for byes or eliminators. 5 of the 8 games opted out of the bidding system, instead mutually selecting sides. At two tables, the Empire player picked their side with a bid of 0 probe cards, and on the remainder, the Rebel bid 0 cards for their side. Thus, a grand total of 0 cards were bid in the second round. In addition, 7 of the 8 games used the basic setup, and only 1 used the advanced. None of the tables had to be adjudicated. Of the eight tables, the rebels won 6 and the empire only won 2.
This brought us to the quarterfinals. The first table featured assistant GM Jeromey Martin playing Alfred Schnaber. They decided to use the basic setup and Alfred bid 1 card to play as the Rebels. Jeromey ended up securing a win, in large part thanks to a brutal sequence on the fourth turn. Using Boba Fett? Where?, Jeromey sent Fett to Mon Calamari, where Mon Mothma had been captured on a previous turn. With Fett preventing Rebel interference, Darth Vader froze her in Carbonite, removing 1 Rebel influence, and then Palpatine Lured her to the Dark Side. At the next table, the GM bid 1 card to play the Rebels against Alex Gregorio on the Advanced setup. Alex was able to effectively block Rebel objectives throughout the game and when the Rebel base on Endor was destroyed on Turn 6, the Rebel Influence had merely reached 13.
The third table featured an advanced setup game between assistant GM Sean McCulloch’s Empire and Tom Gregorio’s rebels. Tom bid 0 cards for the privilege of rebelling and made the bold decision to hide his base on Ilum, a mere two systems away from a large Imperial fleet. Sean moved that fleet closer to Ilum early on, then left it next to Ilum for four turns. Tom decided to leave it where it was without revealing it but finally Sean made the decision to invade and Tom was unable to withstand the assault. The game ended on Turn 6, with the Rebel Influence on space 10. The last table was a battle for Canadian dominance between Nick Page and Jonathan Cotton using the basic setup. Jonathan bid 0 cards to play as the Rebels and Nick immediately set to work denying Rebel objectives. The game ended on Turn 5 with the Rebel influence marker on space 15 when Nick’s fleet destroyed the newly relocated Rebel base on Ord Mantell.
For those keeping score at home, the quarterfinals featured four games where players bid 0 or 1 cards to play the Rebels and then all four ended with an Empire victory. As imbalanced as this sounds, the overall record for the two sides at this point in the tournament was Empire 15, Rebel 16.
Having dispatched the elder Gregorio, Sean turned his attention to the next generation. Given his success in the previous round as the Empire, Sean bid 0 cards to play as the Empire on the Advanced setup. Alex’s rebels proved their determination by standing up to the Empire at every turn. At the end of the game, Sean found Alex’s base on Dagobah and launched a massive assault with a number of troops, including the Death Star. Alex sent Wedge Antilles to defend the attack and thanks to a One in a Million shot, he was able to destroy the Death Star for the last 2 reputation he needed to earn a win. Had Wedge’s fighters not managed to survive, the Death Star’s superlasers were charging up to end the game.
Meanwhile, Nick Page took on Jeromey Martin at the other semifinal table on the beginner setup. Jeromey bid 0 cards to play as the rebels and hid his rebel base on Endor. Nick proceeded to deny Rebel objectives the same way he had in the previous rounds. Jeromey valiantly fought back and the game ended up lasting 9 turns, one of only 4 games in the entire tournament that took that many turns to complete. When the Empire finally found and destroyed the rebel base, the Rebel Influence Marker was still at its starting position, space 14.
This set the stage for the final match between Alex Gregorio and Nick Page. Throughout the tournament, Alex was a flexible player. He alternated sides each round and used the Advanced setup in every game. With the advanced setup’s variable starting positions, Alex had to adapt his strategy on the fly each game. Afterwards, he revealed to me that he had played the game dozens of times since it was released, making him one of the most experienced competitors in the field. His opponent, though, had taken a different path through the tournament. Nick exclusively played as the Empire in every game and had played on the basic setup each time. Nick explained to me later that after seeing that the basic game was the default in the event preview, he had resolved to make sure he was prepared for that sort of game and had played exclusively basic setup games in the previous four months.
The final began with Nick asking to play on the basic setup which took Alex by surprise. After four games on the advanced setup, Alex had assumed any player experienced enough to make the final would want to use the advanced setup. Alex had won the roll to bid and bid 0 cards to play as the Empire. Nick raised, offering 1 card for the Empire and Alex accepted. You can read a full blow-by-blow account of the final here. Nick’s objective denial strategy immediately took shape and Alex was stymied at every turn. Alex fought back valiantly, but found himself off-balance when Nick gained Imperial loyalty on Ryloth and revealed the Rebel Base on Turn 4. Alex was able to relocate the base and Nick continued to deny Rebel objectives. On Turn 7, Admiral Ozzel Took Them by Surprise and assaulted the rebel fleet on Cato Neimoidia, which turned out to be the new Rebel base. While the Rebel fleet put up a valiant fight, the war was lost on the ground when Nick’s army destroyed the meager Rebel forces. The Rebel influence marker was only on space 13 at the time. And so, the first Star Wars Rebellion tournament came to a close. As a trial event, only Nick walked away with a plaque. The final win count for the two sides was 17 for the Empire and 17 for the Rebels.
I want to think my two Assistant GMs for all their help getting this tournament organized and running, and all the competitors for making this first year of competition such a success. I’ve received some very positive feedback and suggestions for next year. I want to address a few of those here.
First, the Basic setup does appear to have some minor balance issues. In particular, an experienced Empire player can deny Rebel production extremely quickly and put the Rebels in a tough position to achieve any of their objectives. This strategy can also work on the advanced setup but not nearly as reliably. For next year, I intend to make the advanced setup the default for all rounds except the round immediately following the demo. The tournament will remain a Class B: Beginner tournament next year.
Second, the number one complaint all week was that there weren’t enough opportunities to play the game with the current tournament format. Several people suggested switching to a swiss-elimination format, with 3 or 4 rounds of Swiss then a cut to top-4. Others suggested having multiple heats, then cutting to an 8 player quarterfinal. While there is merit to both of these suggestions, the end result is that they make this event much more difficult to run. Both would require developing a system of tiebreakers to differentiate between players with identical records. Frankly, these are not suggestions I’m prepared to entertain. I like the way that single-elimination tournaments work out and I intend to keep that element of the format the same in the future.
In closing, I thought I would share a few interesting statistics from the games. In 22 of the 34 games, the Rebel Base was not moved. In these games, the most popular Hidden base locations were Ryloth (4), Dantooine (3), and Endor (3). The balance were made up of Alderaan, Dagobah, Hoth, Ilum, Ord Mantell, Tatooine, and Yavin. Unpopulated systems made up a huge majority, but there was some love for the cheeky rebel strategy of setting up a base right next to Coruscant. In the remaining 12, players had fewer options and 7 of these games ended with an Empire victory. Cato Neimoidia, Rodia, and Ryloth were the most popular relocation choices with 2 games each.
Only two games ended with a Death Star superlaser victory, both in the Mulligan round. That being said, the Empire was happy to wield its most powerful weapon as it made an appearance in 12 games. Alderaan, Hoth, Naboo, Nal Hutta, Ryloth, Toydaria, and Yavin all felt the wrath of the mighty battle station once or twice, but the poor Wookies on Kashyyk had it the worst with their system destroyed 4 times during the tournament. In the 12 games featuring system destruction, the Empire won 8 of them.
In general, the Empire won its games quickly. Two Empire wins occurred on turn 5, and seven on turn 6. Of the four games that lasted until turn 9, the Empire only won once, and that was the one the eventual champion Nick Page won in the semifinals. The Rebels seemed to have more of an advantage if the game dragged on longer, with 9 of their wins occurring in turns 8 or 9. Additionally, the earliest Rebel victories occurred on Turn 6.
Many thanks once again to everyone who helped make this tournament possible and I look forward to seeing you all next year. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to send it my way!