Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports
No. of players: 2 or 4
Amount of time to play: 30-60 min
Age requirements: 10+
Set-up time: 5 min
Star Wars RISK reenacts the final part of Return of the Jedi. The light side must disable the shield on Endor and hit the Death Star. The dark side must eliminate the rebel fleet. But who will reach their goal first and win?
I want to start off by saying this game has very little to do with the RISK franchise. It doesn’t play the same and really is only similar in that both use dice. So if you are not a fan of RISK read on and see what this game is about. Even if you are a RISK fan read on and see how this game plays you might still like it.
On your turn you have a hand of six order cards. You choose three of them you want to play and place them in a pile. The light side resolves their first card and then the dark side resolves their top card. Play continues back and forth until both players have resolved their pile of cards. Each card has two or three symbols on it. When you resolve a card you choose to use one of the symbols.
Some game conditions grant you bonus orders. When you gain bonus orders you take the top card off your draw deck and slip it under your bottom order card.
There are three main areas where you play out the cinematic events in this game. On one side of the board is the Endor track. When you use the rebel symbol as the light side you roll five dice. For each result that is equal to or greater than the number on the next space on the track you advance. The numbers start a two and go up to five. The Imperial symbol allows the dark side player to put three stormtrooper tokens on each of the three spaces in front token tracking the light side player’s progress. This adds one to the result needed for the light side to advance up the track.
On the other side of the board Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and the Emperor battle it out. Here you use lightsaber symbols to roll four dice and hit the other jedi on results greater than three. The dark side player also has force lightning cards that automatically hit Luke. If a jedi’s health is reduced to zero they die. If Vader is reduced to three health but not killed the light side player may play a card that redeems him. Killing either jedi gets you bonus orders and redeeming Vader gets you even more.
In the center section of the board the epic space battle takes place between the Millennium Falcon and rebel starfighters and the Executor and tie fighters. The rebels have B-Wings, Y-Wings, and X-Wings and each type has a different symbol that is used to activate them. When activated they may move one space on the board and attack. You roll a number of dice equal to the number of fighters that you activated (up to five). Tie fighter symbols let you activate them in a similar manner or spawn four of them at the location of the Executor and attack. Both the Executor and Millennium Falcon have health tracks and may move two spaces and then attack. They are also activated by unique symbols on the order cards. Different ships require different results to hit. The Executor, Millennium Falcon and B-Wings are hit or a result of five or six. Y-wings require a four or better to hit. And X-Wings and tie fighters are hit on threes or better. If you eliminate all enemy units from a space you gain a bonus card.
All starfighters and tie fighters are limited to the number in the game. Some of the light side starfighters start on spaces with the rebel fleet. The dark side player has a symbol of the Death Star on some order cards. When used it lets the dark side player roll two dice. On a result of five or six one of the six fleet tokens is removed and if any Starfighters are present they are destroyed too. This also gets the dark side player a bonus order. Once all six fleet tokens are destroyed the Death Star may target any space on the board. Again on a result of five or six all ships in the targeted space are eliminated.
If the dark side player eliminates all the light side ships, they win. But if the light side player gets to the end of the Endor track and hits the Death Star (on a result of six), they win.
Star Wars RISK is a fun game and is very good for kids and families. There is a four player team mode but it plays better with just two. It is a race to the finish and can be tense and exciting.
The components are a mixed bag. The miniatures are cute and cool on the board. But the board is a bit flimsy and the cards are thin. I sleeved mine so my son wouldn’t maul them. Then there is the rulebook. It is kind of disorganized and some rules are even left out or glazed over. Hasbro has since clarified a couple things that are important for game balance. These new rules include getting a bonus order when the Death Star destroys a fleet token, tie fighters being able to attack with the spawn action and that you can attack fleet tokens with ships in adjacent spaces. Without these rules it is a walk in the park for the light side.
Star Wars RISK does a good job capturing the theme and feel of the end of the Return of the Jedi. Just looking at the board (which is shaped like Vader’s tie fighter) reminds you of the movie.
I like how the order cards work and the way the game flows. It is quick-paced and being able to gain extra orders can influence your decisions. You might try to take out one or two remaining starfighers in a sector that is not important for positioning just to get an extra order card.
The bonus cards can be really great because not only are you getting extra actions on the board; you are usually getting uncontested extra actions. These extra actions can help you get out of a bad situation or better and already good one.
How you roll can determine your fate. But there are still enough tactical decisions that matter. Where you move and when you play your orders can put you in a better or worse situation to win.
One thing to realize is that the strategies in this game are pretty straightforward, especially for the dark side. That is what makes it great for kids, but gamers might not like. As the light side you try to clear the starfighters off your fleet tokens early and then defend while you run up the Endor track. And the dark side just mostly attacks and spawns as many tie fighters close to the fleet tokens as they can.
So I mentioned above how much the theme and three sections of the board evoke memories of Return of the Jedi. Unfortunately one section is less useful than the others. Given the investment of cards and the pay out you get, the duel is usually not very relevant. The bonus orders can be a boon especially for the light side if they redeem Vader. But when you are fighting there you are not moving up the Endor track or defending against the swarms of tie fighters you are sure to see.
Star Wars RISK is a well-designed game. Its theme really comes through and you feel the race to get your win condition no matter which side you play. It is fun for gamers and adults but even more fun for kids. I have played this a ton with my son and he loves it. Make sure you read the rules clarifications or you will be disappointed.
Score and synopsis: (Click here for an explanation of these review categories.)
Strategy 3 out of 6
Luck 5 out of 6
Player Interaction 5 out of 6
Replay Value 5 out of 6
Complexity 3 out of 6
Fun 4 out of 6
Overall 4 out of 6