Monday 3 July 2017

Cardboard - Star Wars: Destiny dice game review

A long time ago, in a living room far, far away...

Star Wars Destiny - Random Nerdery review

This week I'm taking a look at the Rey and Kylo Ren starter sets for Star Wars: Destiny, a collectible card and dice game from Fantasy Flight Games. Each player brings their own deck to the table, centred around a character (or characters) from the Star Wars universe and packed with weapons, equipment, events and support characters that will hopefully leave them as the last team standing.

The Star Wars license has the potential to make a game an auto-buy in our house, so I was very interested to try this out. Having announced that I was definitely going to need to play the Rey set because it contained a BB8 die, it was time to crack open the boxes and fight to the death.

Each starter set contains everything you need to start playing, with a deck, tokens, dice and rules summary. The starter decks are slightly cut down versions of what you'd play in a standard game, using 20 cards instead of 30, but there's plenty there to get you learning the game and how a deck should work together.

You get 30 points to spend on characters for your deck, with a card's points cost differing if you bring one or two of their dice to the table. In the starter sets you get a combination of Rey and Finn or Kylo Ren and a random storm trooper. I can't help but feel that Kylo got short-changed somewhere there, but otherwise these seem like great choices to appeal to fans of The Force Awakens. These combos don't quite use the full points allocation, but again, this is a starter deck to give you a feel for how things work.

The rest of the deck is made up of a mixture of different types of cards, some of which come with dice and some which don't; you can see when they do by checking the left-hand side of the card where you'll see a list of die faces. Cards fall into the following groups:


Event cards have an immediate effect on the game and do lots of fun things like messing with your opponent's dice or cards, or improving your own. They'll normally have a resource cost, shown on the top left of the card.


Each character can have up to three upgrades, which could be a shiny new lightsaber or force power. These cards get placed under the relevant character card and often add an extra die to that character's dice pool.


These cards remain on the table once played and have repeatable effects that you can use on your turn, for instance this BB8 card adds a helpful extra die to the mix.

Each card also has a colour, which you have to bear in mind when building a deck. A colour can usually only be included if you're also running a hero or villain of that colour. Sometimes there are exceptions, though, so you have to pay attention to the card text!

The objective of the game is to use your deck to wipe out all the hit points of the opposing team before they can do the same to you. You also win if your opponent runs out of cards in their deck.

To kick off the game, both players roll all of their dice and total up the points shown. The player with the highest points total gets to choose a battlefield for the game and gets to go first. Each player brings one battlefield to the table; you'll have a chance to take control of the battlefield during each round, giving you access to its useful effect (such as removing some of your opponent's dice) until the other player takes it from you.

Destiny takes place over a number of rounds until the victory conditions can be met. Players take alternating turns to take one action each until a player passes. The other player then takes as many actions as they want to/are able to before also passing, which ends the round. Players then refresh their characters, gain two resources, and start a new round.

Actions you could take on your turn include:
  • Playing a card from your hand
  • Activating a character or support (i.e. roll the dice associated with that card)
  • Resolving your dice
  • Discarding a card to reroll dice
  • Using a card action
  • Claiming the battlefield (which automatically makes you pass, but you get to go first next round)

Symbols on the dice can do a range of things, including range and melee damage, placing shields on your characters, gaining resources, making your opponent discard cards or resources, special attacks, or (as I'm very good at rolling) absolutely nothing at all. The powers are all nicely described on the handy reference card:

Some sides of your dice may have '+' symbols on a blue background to mark that are only modifiers, and need to be resolved other matching non-'+' dice to have any effect. I may have accidentally skipped over this rule for part of our first game... slightly overpowered! Other faces may require you to spend more resources in order to use them (but they tend to do something cool!)

Each turn you're looking to make the best combination of dice and card powers to whittle down your opponent's hit points as quickly as possible whilst safeguarding your own.

The game plays relatively quickly; the short downtime between actions means the game never feels like it's dragging - you'll have taken out your opponent before you know it! If you get stuck along the way, each starter pack includes a great rules summary and there are expanded rules online for when things get more technical (I found the latest copy with errata here).

Overall, I really enjoy the game. I love the speedy pace of the back-and-forth 'you go, I go' turn structure. Every action gives you an interesting decision to make. The chunky, colourful dice are great (despite some misgivings on first sight, thinking they were covered in stickers - they're not). The artwork is beautiful. It's Star Wars. I now own BB8 on a die. All of these are brilliant things.

What I don't love, unfortunately, is the Collectible Card Game release model. Having sunk a lot of cash into games like Magic: The Gathering, Dice Masters and even digital games like Hearthstone in the past, the absolute last thing I need in my gaming life right now is another set of blind boosters.

Don't get me wrong: I love opening mystery booster packs as much as the next person, but with Destiny it doesn't feel like you can make enough of a difference to your base game without buying heaps of them, especially when if you want to use two dice on a new character you need to come across that card *twice*. The two starter sets, whilst playable in their own right, are 10 cards short of a full deck, which means you'll need at a few five-card booster packs to top up your deck with anything useful. I opened four packs, but didn't get anything that seemed to fit better than what I already had, suggesting a significant extra outlay would be needed to get creative with deck-building. It didn't help that this was also the point when I realised they'd gone all the way back to the prequels for characters to include, which dampened my enthusiasm slightly!

I know a lot of people will have bought the big bulk boxes of boosters and will be having tons of fun with them, but I'm afraid I'm just not able to make that kind of investment any more, which is a shame as I really thought the game was clever, engaging and full of great choices. Sadly I think my CCG days are over; there are just too many other fun games out there for me to justify pouring more money into one gaming system on a random basis or trawling eBay for over-priced singles.

If you have the cash to splash, I think this would be an amazing system to explore some more. If not, the starter decks still provide a great insight into the game and will be good fun to play until the cards start to become familiar and replayability begins to wane.

Maybe there's more to come in terms of 'predictable' expansions for the base set, but for now it feels like Fantasy Flight have missed an opportunity to relieve me of my hard-earned cash. I'm not sure they'll be too worried, though, as the Star Wars license carries enough clout to ensure that my contribution won't be missed amidst that of the hordes of fans desperate for Darth Vader dice!

As great as it is, I'm afraid I don't love the game enough to commit. I'm sorry Destiny; it's not you, it's me...

Star Wars: Destiny

Designer: Corey Konieczka, Lukas Litzsinger
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Players: 2
Age: 10+
Cost: RRP £13.99 per starter set, £2.99 for booster packs [Find your friendly local brick-and-mortar retailer in Europe]

Thanks to Esdevium for sending me the starter sets and boosters to try out. If you enjoyed this post perhaps you could take a look at my Facebook page and leave a like or come and say hello on my Twitter or Instagram feeds!