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  • Scott Johnson

Star Wars Unlimited: Why I Will Likely Not Buy the Game & How It Could Be Improved to Make Me Buy It

In May of 2023 Fantasy Flight Games announced its new trading card game, titled “Star Wars Unlimited.”  The game, which has been reported to be in the works for several years, is the third true card game Fantasy Flight has released under its Star Wars license.  Unlimited will be the successor to the Expanded Universe-based Star Wars LCG, and the canon-based Star Wars Destiny.  While the prior two games included features not typical for a traditional trading card game such as lacking randomized cards in its product line in the former and including dice in the latter, Star Wars Unlimited goes back to basics of what people conventionally expect in a card game with players having to open packs and creating a 50 card deck to play with.  Star Wars Unlimited is scheduled for release March 8th with prelease events scheduled the week prior to the main release. 

The first expansion for the game will be called “Spark of Rebellion” and include characters and other elements from the films, television shows, comics, and video games.  The cards themselves will not feature any images from the films or original shows (likely due to Topps owning the licensing rights to those images for trading card products) but will instead feature original color sketch art. Images from most of the 252 cards in the set have been leaked on the Star Wars Unlimited website and include Thrawn, Rukh, Krell, Starvipers, Z-95 Headhunters, and a few other named capital ships which have their origins in the EU. Unfortunately, all indications are that those elements from outside of the films will be from the rebooted canon universe rather than the Expanded Universe.  While there are some obvious callbacks to cards from the WOTC Star Wars TCG and Decipher’s Star Wars CCG, the gameplay of Star Wars Unlimited is very different.

Deckbuilding appears to consist of including one “leader” card, one “base” card and then deploying cards to the field to fight similar to Magic: The Gathering and so far, I am not impressed.  With the continued popularity that Decipher’s 1995-2001 CCG still holds, its puzzling to me why they didn’t chose to incorporate the playstyle and feel of the CCG into Unlimited.  It’s always been important to me to have a Star Wars game that is true to its own universe and doesn’t have units from different factions fighting on the same side.  The CCG ensured this by having players stick to playing a deck of entirely dark side cards against a deck of entirely light side cards. The fact that Destiny can have a leader from any faction and units of different eras defending any random planet as its premise for gameplay appears lore-breaking to me. It should feel like the events of the game could realistically occur in the Star Wars universe and as far as I can tell this game misses the mark here.

I’m also appalled by some of the cartoony style artwork that looks like it belongs in Star Wars Tales rather than the cards of the premiere set of Unlimited. The visual element in a card game is very important for both players and collectors and if this game is going to stay around for long they should explore ways to get the rights to use live action artwork. In fact, because this lacks live action images, it does not appear to use anything from the recent Disney+ shows and instead has to fall back on lore elements from Rebels and Rogue One, both of which our quite old at this point. I’m not sure who the target audience for this game is because for collectors, the recent success Topps has had with their live action image cards has been from the Disney+ shows and players should expect the same from a Star Wars card game.  However, the Expanded Universe has a wealth of art and lore to draw from and if FFG cannot obtain the rights from the Disney+ material, the EU would be a great alternative to base their game around.  Factions could include the Yuuzhan Vong, Chiss, Hapans, Hutts, Black Sun, Galactic Alliance, Imperial Remnant, etc. and the game could be further broken out into different eras to keep the lore of the gameplay sound and consistent with the universe.

But since Unlimited is stuck using only limited canon material interest in the game seems to be suffering as a result.  In my local metro area there aren’t any prerelease events scheduled nearby, with the nearest being nearly 40 miles away.  In mentioning Unlimited to my local game store owner, he told me I was only one of a few people interested in it and he was unsure about ordering Unlimited products for the store.  Mind you, this game store has both a very active Star Wars fanbase on the miniatures front with X-Wing and Shatterpoint and a very active trading card game clientele. For a new card game to catch on there needs to be greater interest from the onset and although FFG has high hopes for this game including several sets already planned out, I’m not sure the interest is widespread enough.  The products available for purchase are comprised of $4.99 16-card booster packs and a 2-player starter set for $34.99 which includes two 50-card decks with 10 exclusive cards to the starter set. Individual prerelease play kits are $29.99 each and locations of stores holding events are available on the Star Wars Unlimited website.

At this point I don’t plan to drive 40 miles to find a game store holding a prerelease event.  If Star Wars Unlimited can’t draw in star wars fans who also happen to be trading card fans the game will not succeed. Time will tell if the game does well but I would urge those at FFG designing the game to look to the Expanded Universe and the Decipher Star Wars CCG for inspiration and a template for how a great card game is made.  Of course, card game design has come a long way in 29 years but the most important element is that the gameplay feels true to Star Wars. When West End Game’s first created their role-playing games it provided a style guide to players that laid the groundwork for what should and shouldn’t be allowed in gameplay. Decipher also used these principles for its game, and although some rules elements of the CCG are clunky it feels closer to playing out an authentic Star Wars adventure than playing a card game.  Star Wars Unlimited should take this to heart.



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