The second Star Wars Rebellion tournament at WBC (and the first as a Century event) drew 35 players, roughly the same number as last year. After two years, this game has retained its popularity. Every time I visited Open Gaming I saw at least one table with a Rebellion game in progress. The demo on Wednesday attracted ten or so players, several of whom then came to Round 1 a few hours later. Unlike last year, I only ran one demo instead of two, and I did have several people approach me before the mulligan round on the first Sunday asking why there was a round of the tournament before the first demo. Perhaps next year we will go back to having two demos, this game may just be new and complex enough to warrant it. Only one game required adjudication this year, down from four last year, so I am confident that the four-hour time limit is correct.
Before I get into the tournament report proper, I want to thank all of the players who came out and made this event such a success. Star Wars Rebellion is an awkward game to transport but we never had to turn any players away because we didn’t have enough copies of the game. I also have to thank my Assistant GMs Sean McCulloch, Alex Gregorio, and Tom Gregorio for all of their help verifying rules questions and holding down the fort when I needed to leave during this very long tournament. Thank you!
One change this year was to shift the tournament default to the more skill-testing Advanced setup. Only five games in the preliminary rounds used the Basic setup, usually because one of the players was very new to the game. In the two preliminary rounds, the Rebels won 13 games (including 4 after both players agreed to use the Basic setup) to the Empire’s 7. In the more advanced rounds, the Empire won 11 out of 17 games, bringing the faction win count roughly even: 18 Empire wins to 19 Rebel.
One question that came up during the tournament is that with the Advanced setup, should sides be selected before or after starting worlds are determined for each side? The tournament rules imply that bidding happens before starting world selection, but many players suggested that for next year, bidding should occur after selection. If you have an opinion on this, please let me know. I am inclined to shift to bidding after selecting worlds.
Before I get into the tournament report proper, here are few stats I collected on the games. In 37 games, the Rebel Base was only moved in 9 of them. Of those 9, the Rebels only won 2 games. 12 games featured systems destroyed with the Superlaser Online card. Kashyyk was once again the most popular target, with the Wookie homeworld vaporized 3 times. In an amusing twist, 3 games featured Imperial starting worlds getting destroyed: Saleucami, Mandalore, and Sullust. One game actually saw two systems destroyed: Kashyyk and Nal Hutta. Of the 12 games, only one ended with the Death Star destroying the Rebel Base, and that came after the Rebel player moved their base from Hoth to Kessel to evade an incoming Imperial fleet.
Speaking of Rebel bases, remote locations continue to be the more popular choices for starting rebel base locations. Out of 37 games, an astounding 9 players selected Endor as their starting base location. 5 chose Tatooine, and 4 more picked Ilum. Other popular choices included Ryloth (3), Yavin (3), Nal Hutta (2), and Kessel (2). A couple of bold players selected Utapau and Dagobah, which was exciting but did not end well for them.
The bidding for this year was fairly similar to last year, with most preliminary tables agreeing on sides instead of bidding. 15 games had a player who bid to play the Empire. Eight of those players made a final bid of 1 card, and four bid 0. Interestingly, one player bid 5 for the Empire in the semis, and 3 for the Empire in the Finals! Ultimately, the Empire won 8 of the 15 games where a player made any bid for that side. Players bid for the Rebels in only 11 games, and five of those were a final bid of 0. Four bid 1, and two bid 2. The Rebels lost 7 of those 11 games, but interestingly won both games where the player bid 2 cards. I believe that this data illustrates that while the game itself is fairly balanced between both sides, many players have specialized in one side or the other, and will bid aggressively to play their preferred side. Let the bidding metagame commence!
Finally, the data continues to show that longer games favor the Rebels. Of the Empire’s 18 wins, 12 came on turn 6 or before, and 8 on turn 6 specifically. The Rebels, meanwhile, earned 14 of their 19 wins on turns 7 or 8.
After the Mulligan and Round 1, 19 players advanced to Round 2 on Thursday morning. 17 of those players showed up, so we ended up with an awkward bracket for the next few rounds. Rather than issue byes, I located Eliminators to keep players playing. Round 2 proceeded without a hitch, but the eliminator failed to win against last year’s champion, Nick Page, leaving Round 3 with 9 players.
To keep the tournament moving (games can last up to 4 hours, though are often finished in 2), I set up the bracket in advance so that players could begin their next game as soon as their opponent is ready. One of the winners needed to leave, but said they would be back before the officially scheduled start for Round 3. When he returned, he informed me that he had to drop from the tournament. By that time, the player who had been randomly assigned the eliminator was over an hour into their game. Rather than abort a game in progress to adjust the pairings, my assistants and I agreed that best option would be for another eliminator to be added to the bracket. Thus, Round 3 featured 8 advancing players, but also 2 eliminators.
With the eliminators in play, Round 3 became a potential quarterfinal. Both eliminators won their games, leaving just the top six laurelists. At table 2, Ty Hansen bid 1 for the Rebels, and lost to Alex Gregorio’s Empire in a very close game on turn 8 with 10 influence. Table 3 saw Nicolas Chepaitis bid 1 for the Empire against Bronwyn Woods. Nicolas effectively swept through the galaxy, and located the Rebel base on Dantooine by turn 5 with the influence marker still at 12. Table 4 featured last year’s champion, Nick Page, as the rebels against WBC newcomer Adam Hoy. In a truly unusual game, Nick’s rebel base was revealed on Endor fairly early, but Nick was able to not only defend the base but actually push the Imperial army back beyond Bespin. By the time Adam was able to bring enough might to bear to punch through the Rebel lines and claim Endor, it was turn 9 with the Influence track on 10, giving Adam the victory literally at the last moment.
Thanks to the success of the eliminators, only three players advanced to the semifinals: Alex Gregorio, Adam Hoy, and Nicolas Chepaitis. Alex was randomly paired with an eliminator, while Adam and Nicolas played what could turn out to be a sudden Final. In a surprising turn of events, both games finished in just one hour. The eliminator bid 1 for the Rebels against Alex’s Empire, and Alex swiftly located the Rebel base on Kessel and destroyed it, with the influence marker actually pushed backwards to 15. Meanwhile, Adam and Nicolas both preferred the Empire and kept bidding each other up. Finally, Adam passed on Nicolas’ bid of 5 probe cards to play the empire. Despite this huge setback, Nicolas made heavy use of the Gather Intel mission to locate the Rebel base on Ilum by turn 4, with the influence marker still on 14.
The finals were now set. On one side: Nicolas Chepaitis, a returning player from last year’s tournament who learned the game at the demo, then proceeded to play a ton in the intervening year to become one of the top players in 2018. Across from him, last year’s runner-up Alex Gregorio, primed and ready to claim the top prize this year. You can read a detailed write up of the final game here: https://boardgamegeek.com/article/29851774.
The short version is that Alex had heard about Nicolas’ unusually high bid of 5 in the semis, so when Nicolas bid 1 for Empire, Alex raised to 2. Nicolas raised again to 3, and Alex passed, confident that this would be enough of an advantage. Alex used an aggressive Rebel strategy with most of his initial fleet deployed near two of the Empire’s starting worlds. His first action was to attack Corellia, and blockade it by winning the ground theatre in the ensuing combat. The Empire was not able to construct Star Destroyers for a long time, while Alex started producing Mon Calamari cruisers early thanks to Trade relations and an alliance with Utapau.
After several turns, the tension was high. Many of the laurelists had stayed to watch the finals, and both players were staring at the board. Without taking his eyes off, Nicolas said “It’s getting way too tense here.” Alex responded, “I could tell a joke, if you like.” “Yeah, that’d be great.” “Okay. What did the Wookie say when he entered a bar?” asked Alex. Nicolas looked up, “This is just going to end with someone’s arms torn off, isn’t it?” “No, he said ‘RAWRGWAWGGR!’” and the whole room exploded! Both players had to take a few minutes to collect themselves before they could resume, but it was a much-needed break in the tension for everyone.
Eventually, Nicolas located the Rebel base on Dagobah and used Planetary Conquest to send ground troops from the opposite end of the galaxy to supplement his space fleet, which included a Super Star Destroyer. Alex was defending with two Mon Calamari cruisers, and was confident that he would be able to win the space battle, even if he lost the ground fight. The Empire cannot win as long as there are Rebel troops anywhere in the Rebel Base system. Unfortunately for Alex, General Tagge was leading the attack, and Nicolas used his “More Dangerous than you Realize” action card to draw 3 additional space tactics cards. Between the added space combat flexibility and some truly unlucky dice rolls, Alex lost the combat and the game. The game ended on turn 6 with the influence tracker at 10. Had Alex won the space battle, it would have taken the empire at least two or three turns to move another fleet into position, giving him enough time to complete one or two more objectives. It was a close game, but Nicolas demonstrated his mastery of the Empire by winning two games after high bids for that side.
Once again, a huge thank you to all of the players who made this such a fun tournament this year! I hope to see all of you again for next year’s event. At every round, multiple people asked if the “Rise of the Empire” expansion would be used next year. The most relevant changes to the came are the added “Cinematic Combat” to make combat less random, and the changes to mission deck construction which, again, reduces variance. My concern with using the expansion is that Rebellion is already a complex, two-player game, so copies of the game are at a premium. I would consider making the expansion an option for the semi-finals and finals, for example, but I would want to keep the preliminary rounds base game. If you have thoughts about using the expansion vs. leaving it with just base game, please let me know!