Star Wars: Outer Rim

by Christopher Jarvis

Star Wars: Outer Rim
October 20, 2019 Parallel Worlds

I know and you know that there are a lot of Star Wars licensed games out there in the void. Some have become the stuff of legend, while others have had their light extinguished from the galaxy. It’s just like how some of the characters in the series are icons in the science fiction oeuvre, while others deserven to beesa forgot quickly, okiday? 

Star Wars: Outer Rim challenges you to make your character a legend. The aim of the game is to complete adventures, jobs, challenges, and space battles to increase your fame and be the most adored or vilified scoundrel in the universe.

And ‘scoundrel’ is the key word, as Star Wars: Outer Rim is firmly set in that part of the Star Wars mythos that deals with smuggling, bounty hunting, scams, and faction loyalties. There are no light side Luke or Leia figures here; your character choices are Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett, IG-88, Bossk, Doctor Aphra, Jyn Erso, and Ketsu Onyo. There’s a definite focus on the cooler elements of the franchise here.

How do you go about becoming a legend? It’s entirely up to you. That’s where Star Wars: Outer Rim is possibly the best Star Wars experience I’ve had as a tabletop gamer. It’s a complete sandbox. Travel where you like, pick up the jobs you want, hire the crew you want, take on bounties, smuggling or faction jobs — all while juggling a tense relationship with the Alliance, Hutts, Syndicate, and Empire.

The board and components are deceptively daunting. There’s a lot of stuff on the table, but play is incredibly smooth. Your turn consists of choosing to move or stay put to gain credits or repairs; then, if you’re at a planet, you can pick up a card from the choice of jobs/bounties/equipment/cargo/ships and, lastly, choose an encounter. Encounters come in the shape of: characters from the whole saga you can meet, either to recruit as crew or kill/capture for the bounty; story encounter decks for each planet; or simply taking out one of the faction’s patrolling ships to gain riches and fame, but earning you a negative reputation in the process.

It feels like an incredibly generous game, not only in the wealth of choice on every turn, but the sheer amount of brilliant Star Wars content. You can buy your way through a series of ships, each of which have their own quests to complete for fame. You might buy yourself a YT-1300 light freighter, but only completing a noteworthy mission will earn it the name of Millenium Falcon along with fame for its pilot.

While some of the jobs are standard courier jobs with a skill check, there are a number of multi-part jobs which are a steep challenge if you don’t have a crew with varied skills.

Remember seeing the Kessel Run play out in the movie Solo? No, I haven’t either. But I’m assured that the Kessel Run job in Star Wars: Outer Rim is very faithful to the events of the movie. Each part of the heist requires different skill checks, from piloting, to stealth, to knowledge.

Star Wars: Outer Rim races along from turn one with a definite sense of purpose. Some have compared it to the Fallout board game, but I disagree for this reason. I didn’t enjoy Fallout because there was a lot of stuff to interact with and keep you busy, but it was aimless and felt like wandering around until something interesting happened. However, in Star Wars: Outer Rim, your character begins with an individual job to complete. Immediately, you know where you are heading and why. Along the way, you will likely discover other opportunities and maybe choose a different direction, but there’s no point in the game where you aren’t clear on what you can do in order to make progress.

It’s not quite perfect. In a four-player game, the downtime between turns can be excruciating, especially when players have bigger encounters. It’s a game where players need to read every encounter out loud simply to keep the table involved in the evolving story. Also, the bounty-hunting is a bit of a crapshoot. As a Bounty Hunter character, your initial target is one of any number of face-down characters located anywhere across the board. In one game you might get lucky and find and capture your first target on your first turn. In another, you can spend hours trawling planets, to find that by the time you’ve located your target, the mission rewards are of a scale more like pocket change in comparison to your current status.

It’s also a long game. That’s neither criticism nor praise, as it’s never dull — it just takes a long time to play to completion, especially with more players, and that’s important to bear in mind. However, with fame points being fairly slow to acquire, it still feels fairly balanced if you decide to set a lower victory target. There’s also a very credible solo AI opponent should you have an afternoon free and want to play choose-your-own-adventure on an epic scale.

Between juggling alliances, dodging patrol ships, and mixing ship-to-ship and blaster-to-blaster combat, Star Wars: Outer Rim delivers one of the best Star Wars gaming experiences I’ve had. Even with its rough edges, it’s an incredibly satisfying game.