The Star Wars Customizable Card Game Part 4: Hoth & Dagobah Expansions
By Scott Johnson
November 1996 saw the release of the Hoth expansion followed by the April 1997 release of Dagobah. These two expansions were the first to feature cards from The Empire Strikes Back. To kick things off, Decipher partnered with Parker Brothers to distribute The Empire Strikes Back Introductory Two Player Game, which featured two ready-to-play Battle of Hoth themed decks and one Premiere booster pack to get new players acquainted. This Introductory Game came with a few exclusive cards and is still cheaply available on Ebay. I would recommend either this Introductory Game or the slightly more expensive Death Star II preconstructed starter decks for new players interested in getting a taste of the game in a very simplified format. Players were able to use either Rogue Squadron Snowspeeders or AT-AT vehicles to fight it out on Hoth which had special deployment rules so that the dark side player had to deploy its units outside the range of the shield generator location and move inward toward Echo Base where the light side generated certain bonus effects. The Hoth expansion added cards to enhance battles on Hoth such as the Epic Event “Target the Main Generator” card used to destroy the shield generator and played very similar to the light side “Attack Run” card from the prior expansion used to blow up the Death Star.
Some of the background characters that were first named in this set included Echo Base Chief Controller Toryn Farr, who is seen giving the orders to fire the ion cannon in the film, Lieutenant Romas 'Lock' Navander who identifies Vader’s fleet exiting hyperspace, Captain Wyron Serper, who first detects the probe droid, Tamizander Rey, who reports to Han that Luke hasn’t checked into base after their mission, and Tigran Jamiro, who tells Han his tauntaun will freeze before he reaches the first marker and has a later appearance as a general in The New Jedi order short story Ylesia, leading members of the Twin Suns Squadron against Thrackan Sal-Solo. Another character first named by the CCG is Shawn Valdez who is one of the Rebel leaders who coordinates the evacuation. He was given the name based on an actual 13 year-old boy from Jacksonville, FL named Shawn Valdez who was a huge Star Wars fan and an avid player of the Star Wars CCG. Shawn fought T-cell leukemia for nearly eight years eventually passing away from the disease the day after attending a Star Wars CCG tournament and leaving early due to feeling ill. Lucasfilm made the decision to name the character in his honor and the Star Wars CCG event committee held annual Shawn Valdez Memorial tournaments raising thousands of dollars for the CHILD Cancer Fund which was matched by Decipher Inc.’s CEO, Warren Holland.
Many more characters first named by the Star Wars CCG Hoth expansion would later show up in Star Wars Insider 74’s article entitled Who's Who in Echo Base, including Rogue squadron member Kesin Ommis, Sergeant Major Trey Callum, Lieutenant Cal Alder, Vildar Blin, Jeroen Webb, and Corman Quien. The set also features a card of Major Bren Derlin who is in Timothy Zahn’s The Last Command as well as many video games and West End Games guides. Derlin’s card lore wittily states: "At the Mos Eisley Cantina, everybody knows his name." The game was responsible for introducing the Tyrant as a named star destroyer from Vader’s Death Squadron fleet as well as naming two of its officers, Captain Lennox and Lieutenant Cabbel. The Tyrant became a mainstay in the EU and was featured in several novels including the X-Wing Series, The New Jedi Order, and The Courtship of Princess Leia as the Rebel Dream. Captain Lennox is featured in the Imperial Handbook and possibly appears in Crimson Empire III as a character strongly resembling him is present with Pellaeon at a council meeting. There is also a card of the star destroyer Stalker which was likely first named by West End Games and featured in the roleplaying adventure Operation: Elrood and novel Choices of One.
Dagobah introduced Yoda as the first Jedi Master character card as well as Jedi Tests, which was a new deck architype which involved having a force sensitive Jedi student train under the mentorship of a Jedi Master. The most common combination of this deck was with Yoda and the Son of Skywalker Luke persona or Yoda and the Daughter of Skywalker Leia persona which would later come in the Endor expansion. Dagobah featured many creature cards including the space slug, mynocks, and several more creatures from the swamp near Yoda’s hut like the Dragonsnake. According to an interview by Decipher designer Chuck Kallenbach, Decipher’s art design department was responsible for the first 3D depictions of many of the bounty hunter ships including the Hound’s Tooth, Mist Hunter, and Punishing One in the Dagobah set. The Hound’s Tooth was based on 2D renderings from the Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels and although Decipher created 3D models of the IG-2000, this ship was created by the design group of the Shadows of the Empire multimedia project. Dagobah also featured cards of many of the bounty hunter’s weapons such as IG-88’s Mennotor DAS-430 Neural Inhibitor first named in West End Game’s Galaxy Guide 10 and also appearing in Gundark's Fantastic Technology: Personal Gear.
Lastly, the Dagobah set also was responsible for naming several more background imperial characters, mostly consisting of crew members of the Executor including Warrant Officer M'Kae, Lieutenant Suba, Lieutenant Commander Ardan, Warrant Officer Bachenkall (based off an anagram of Decipher’s Chuck Kallenbach), Comm Chief Hurdiss, Commander Gherant, Commander Nemet, Corporal Derdram, and Corporal Vandolay. Commander Brandei, who was first featured in the Thrawn trilogy and the Adventure Journal as the Judicator’s captain, is also identified as a background crew in the film and given his own card in the game. Join me next time as I do a deep dive into the Cloud City and Jabba’s Palace Expansions.