Publisher: Z-Man Games
Player Count: 1-5 Players
Game Length: 60 Minutes
Star Wars meets Pandemic in this interstellar, cooperative, mash-up where players take on the role of Jedi Knights from the Clone Wars saga seeking to rid the universe of droids, Dooku’s and other dastardly dirtbags.
In this card management and dice rolling game, players will attempt to fend off the continuous onslaught of droids as they infiltrate the universe, all the while working to fulfill missions and ultimately defeat a prime Star Wars villain all before the separatist’s threat becomes too much to bear. With a lot of Star Wars games available to choose from, is Star Wars: The Clone Wars right for you? Find out in our review below!
ON YOUR TURN
It’s critical I express my love for the Pandemic game series. It’s one of the games that really showed me that board games can be a truly thematic and immersive experience. I think it’s a brilliant concept and shines as brightly today as it did when it was first released. I’m always on the lookout for new games built around this system that seek to put their own spin on the tension-inducing concept while still maintaining the engagement and excitement it evokes.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is based on the Pandemic system, but it brings its own spin adding new strategies and of course, characters we know and love.
If you’re unfamiliar with Pandemic, the original is a fully cooperative game that centers around CDC professionals skating across the globe attempting to contain and eradicate a series of viruses that have run amok. Players each have a limited number of actions each turn and must carefully use their cards (or resources) to keep the diseases from spreading—but also collect the right amount of specific cards to find a cure for each disease.
In the Clone Wars, the Separatist droids replace the 4 viruses and city cards are now Squad Cards, each equipped with different actions.
Players take on the role of 7 different Jedi masters including Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Anakin Skywalker, Aayla Secura, Ahsoka Tano, Luminara Unduli and of course Yoda. Each game features one villain and you can choose between Asajj Ventress, General Grievous, Darth Maul and Count Dock.
On your turn, you take 4 actions from a series of choices. Move your character from one planet to an adjacent planet, draw an additional Squad Card, attack enemies on your planet and attempt a mission.
After each turn, players activate a card from the villain deck. Each villain has its own deck and these actions move the villain across the board, cause trouble for the heroes and present various other problems.
Finally, players draw invasion cards equal to the current invasion level. These cards introduce new droid units on planets. This simulates the infection rate from Pandemic. When a planet exceeds 3 droids, the universal threat level increases. If the threat level reaches stage 7 everyone loses. If the game’s droid reserve runs dry… everyone loses. These enemy actions take place after each player’s turn in an effort to ratchet up the tension.
You can adjust the game’s difficulty by adding additional missions. Each mission requires a certain number of specific Squad Cards to achieve their goal. If multiple players are sharing the same planet where a mission is taking place, they all can contribute to the mission’s success. To attempt a mission, players must roll the 12-sided die. This die will potentially contribute additional “attacks” for the mission as well as damage to the player.
When all the missions are completed, the final battle with the villain is activated and players must track down the baddie and spend the necessary squad cards to achieve victory all before the threat level reaches the end of the line.
ARTWORK & COMPONENTS
The production is really solid. Star Wars fans are going to love the 7 Jedi and 4 villain miniatures. They’re detailed and really add a lot of fun to the game. There are an additional 36 plastic droids and blockades that bring the game board to life.
The retail cost for this is pretty expensive, but when you look and feel all the components and cardboard, you don’t really feel cheated.
It’s a Star Wars game, so you’d expect the artwork to be awesome, and it’s pretty darn good. Quality-wise, there isn’t anything negative here at all.
The rulebook is fine to get you going, but I ran into a number of minor rule issues that weren’t addressed. I did my best to manage everything, but it was a little frustrating.
PROS & CONS
➕ Beautiful production with nice miniatures and artwork
➕ Easy to teach, making this great for younger Star Wars fans
➕ Multiple villains change up the game creating new challenges
➕ Asymmetrical Jedi characters increase overall replayability
➖ The game doesn’t provide the tension you’d expect from a Pandemic game
➖ While the difficulty can be adjusted, I never felt too challenged in either my victories or defeats.
➖ I didn’t like the Squad Cards. They were an attempt to simplify the Pandemic card system as well as introduce a more war-like experience, but it feels flat and overpowered.
➖ The dice again, works to bring more chance and uncertainty hoping to introduce a battle system, but the luck-factor was more disappointing than exciting.
WHY WOULD YOU LIKE THIS GAME?
Die-hard Star Wars fans are really going to enjoy the theme. The production is really great for a retail-only release, and seeing the heroes and villains move across the board is a lot of fun. The artwork on the character cards and Squad Cards are really well done. Everything looks right for this Star Wars experience.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS GAME?
The best thing about the game is the production. While the game is a little on the expensive side, I feel pretty good about the cost to value ratio and think everything in the box justifies the elevated cost. You won’t be disappointed in unboxing this one.
As I mentioned above, I’m a huge Pandemic fan and I usually love everything in the Pandemic universe… USUALLY.
Despite the game’s beautiful production, Star Wars: The Clone Wars left me a little empty. The overall process felt like I was going through the motions as I attempted to accomplish missions that provided little resistance. The game does offer some decent variation and you may face additional challenges, but they typically serve as just minor diversions. I never felt like I was struggling with my choices. The objective was always clear and I went straight for it.
I felt how the game managed Squad Cards took a lot of the risk out of making decisions. I could easily exhaust a card to knock out an enemy and then refresh that card on my next turn. It felt like there was not a true cost to using these cards. You must have the same type of squad cards to attack a blockade or primary villain, but that never seemed like a problem. Maybe if there were additional card types and requirements for each mission were a little more restrictive I would have felt more tension. The dice rolling seemed tacked on and never really added any excitement either.
Speaking of tension, Pandemic is all about it. It’s almost a slow burn as you feel the diseases in the original game closing in around you. Actions become the most valuable resource and you’re biting your fingernails as the game comes down to 2 or 3 turns. That doesn’t really exist here. Throughout the first 2/3rds of the game, there is practically no tension at all. The Invasion cards don’t cycle fast enough nor are there enough revealed each turn to grab your attention. Once the final battle hits the stage things begin to get a little more interesting, but the villain doesn’t pose much more of a problem than the missions we just previously breezed through. There is a point where the invasion cards become a little more relevant, but I was usually able to outrun them for the final confrontation before they caused any real damage.
The effort to bring a battle system to this particular Pandemic game feels like a huge missed opportunity. I think I would have preferred they take the original Pandemic game and reskinned it for Star Wars. It wouldn’t be thematic by any means, but I’d still get to enjoy Pandemic with the cool new miniatures.
Each villain does have its own deck bringing their own unique gameplay to the experience. I was hoping for something more along the lines of the monsters in Horrified, where they each bring a new puzzle to solve. Having different villains to battle does provide additional replayability, but they don’t differ enough from one another to really make a difference. For me, the only major change was having a different villain miniature on the board.
This is unfortunate considering how cool the production comes together. Z-Man Games makes fantastic games, but this is not one of them. I could possibly see this working for younger Star Wars fans who are still learning to make calculated decisions. I would say that it’s a good introduction to the Pandemic series since it’s a much easier overall experience, but I think you should just go with the original Pandemic. Star Wars: The Clone Wars feels a lot like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker… a disappointing mis-fire of style over substance.