10 best Star Wars board games that aren’t scum or villainy
Yoda-n’t want to miss these.
Ah, Star Wars. That eternal bastion of sci-fi pop culture that capped off its third movie trilogy with The Rise of Skywalker. It continues to win hearts-and-minds with Disney+ TV shows The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and the highly-anticipated Obi-Wan Kenobi series. The iconic film franchise has a plethora of merchandise that includes several board games, with some of them dating all the way back to the original trilogy’s release in the late 1970s and 1980s!
Despite the inordinate amount of trash that populates the Star Wars board game galaxy like a drifting asteroid field, there are actually quite a few decent - nay! - even excellent examples of tabletop experiences set in the classic sci-fi universe. Whether you’re looking for a co-op board game filling in the gaps between Episode IV and V or a storytelling RPG where players can become powerful Jedi, here are the ten best Star Wars board games to play this Star Wars Day.
Best Star Wars board games
Of course, some of them are undeniably awful - Trivial Pursuit DVD: Star Wars Saga Edition has incredibly strong 2005 vibes, and 1977’s Escape from Death Star set a poor standard from the off. Others are simply straight-up copies of existing board games, such as the many, many versions of Star Wars Monopoly out there. However, some are prime examples of how to make excellent movie franchise board games to fill in gaps in the narrative or to let players live out their Jedi or Sith fantasies.
1. Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Good movie board games should be about skillfully recreating cinematic moments from the films they’re based on, which Star Wars: Imperial Assault accomplishes with absolute flourish. Set after the events seen in Episode IV: A New Hope, Imperial Assault has its players facing off against one another in an epic clash between the mighty Galactic Empire and scrappy Rebel Alliance.
Picture it: the Death Star has just exploded over the surface of Yavin 4 and the Empire is desperately seeking the Rebels responsible. Meanwhile, a team of courageous Rebel soldiers are currently infiltrating the Empire’s base in search of a way to further undermine their regime. It’s pretty gripping stuff. This translates into dungeon-crawling gameplay by having a group of players assume the roles of Rebel heroes as they attempt to complete a series of covert missions, before trying to flee the Empire base without being eliminated by enemy forces. An opposing player (unless you’re using the game’s companion app to make things fully co-op) controls the armies of the Empire in their quest for dominance and the destruction of the Rebellion - in other words, kill all the Rebel units before they escape.
As the game progresses both sides gain new skills to give their characters and further their individual objectives, eventually leading to some grand standoff between Rebels and Empire that you get to play out. These alternative story elements - as well as the strategic mechanics offered by the gameplay - are what make Imperial Assault one of the best Star Wars board games out there.
Buy Star Wars: Imperial Assault on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
2. Star Wars Roleplaying Game
How about taking your Star Wars immersion a little further by playing one the tabletop roleplaying games based on the franchise? There are a selection of Star Wars Roleplaying titles to choose from - including a The Force Awakens starter set designed for beginners - but our money is on the two RPGs that focus on the quintessential elements of the Star Wars experience: Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny.
Star Wars: Age of Rebellion is an TRPG in which players become Rebel soldiers fighting during the height of the Galactic Civil War. The roleplaying system allows players to really experience what being the underdog is like, as the Empire looms over the galaxy and the Rebel Alliance desperately attempt to pull-off missions to undermine their power.
Alternatively, you could play Star Wars: Force and Destiny, a roleplaying game more concerned with the struggle between the Sith and Jedi than the two major armies. In Force and Destiny, players can choose between following the dark or light side of the Force as they develop their very own Force-sensitive character. Join the Rebellion, become part of the Empire or ignore the conflict altogether and go your own way - Force and Destiny lets you decide.
Either Star Wars tabletop RPG should fulfill all your Star Wars roleplaying fantasies, to an extent. Although we can’t guarantee you’ll be able to actually use the Force and fly around in an X-Wing in real life.
Buy Star Wars: Force and Destiny on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
3. Star Wars: Rebellion
Talking of starship combat, it’s now time to talk about perhaps the greatest Star Wars board game in existence: Star Wars: Rebellion. Endorsed by Dicebreaker’s very own Wheels, Rebellion is an asymmetric board game featuring miniatures that allows players to experience the conflict between the Empire and Rebel forces in an incredibly well realised fashion.
As the two armies class against one another in the vastness of space, time gradually ticks down towards the conflict’s resolution - which could go either way. In Rebellion, up to two players can assume control of the Empire’s forces as they attempt to crush the Rebel Alliance with legions of stormtroopers, Star Destroyers, TIE Fighters and even the Death Star itself. Whilst up to two other players can command the armies controlled by the Rebels, whose drastically smaller might of troopers, Corellian Corvettes and fighter squadrons are no match for the Empire’s swarm. However, the Rebels aren’t looking to battle the Empire’s forces directly - instead, the Rebellion seeks to unite the sympathetic peoples of the galaxy and recruit them to their cause. Essentially, the Empire wins if they wipe out the Rebel forces, whilst the Rebels win if they survive long enough to successfully inspire the galaxy to full revolt.
What makes Rebellion so good is that it’s more than just a game about starship combat - although that element is certainly excellent enough. It’s also about depicting exactly what goes into fighting a war of this scale - from covert missions across the galaxy to searching for a hidden Rebel base.
Buy Star Wars: Rebellion on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
4. Star Wars: Destiny
Publisher Fantasy Flight Games just recently called an end to its Star Wars: Destiny line of products, just three years after the collectible dice game first launched. Which is a damn shame because Destiny is actually a rather remarkable entry in the genre, with some interesting mechanics that made it more than just a card and dice game featuring classic Star Wars characters.
Co-created by co-designer of horror board game Eldritch Horror, Corey Konieczka, Destiny sees two players facing off against one another as opposite sides of the Force, either Jedi or Sith. Both players are trying to whittle down the health of their opponent using the cards in their deck alongside a set of dice, with unique abilities and allies at each player’s disposal. There are pre-built starter decks available for players who just want to get straight to the gameplay, but there are plenty of options to construct and alter your own decks if you want to. Each deck is built around a central character, such as Rey or Kylo Ren, with the assorted cards designed to reflect their individual combat styles.
Destiny may no longer be actively supported by Fantasy Flight, but it’s liked enough that it could see a fan-supported afterlife similar to the one experienced by departed living card game Android: Netrunner. Regardless, there are still plenty of ways to get your hands on cards and dice for the time being, so Destiny isn’t quite dead and gone yet.
Buy Star Wars: Destiny on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
5. Star Wars: Dark Side Rising
You know what isn’t good? The Death Star. Especially not when it comes to being a free loving Rebel just trying to make a living. Star Wars: Dark Side Rising is a co-op board game that most certainly understands this perspective, as its entire premise is built around stopping the Death Star from being constructed.
In Dark Side Rising two to four players must work together to thwart the evil machinations of plastic Darth Vader - his disembodied torso perches in the middle of the game board - as he attempts to build his ultimate weapon. Each player assumes control over a different Rebel cell - intelligence, leadership, support or tactical - as well as their own base of operations: Tatooine, Alderaan, Yavin 4 or Lothal. With resources and allies at their disposal, these players must strategically coordinate their efforts to defeat enough Imperial agents before it’s too late. As new threats arise, players will also be able to call on iconic Rebel allies like Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker for help.
For a tabletop experience brimming with tension and fan service - in this case, the board game recreates a key element of A New Hope’s plot - then Star Wars fans could do a lot worse than giving Dark Side Rising a go.
Buy Star Wars: Dark Side Rising on Amazon UK.
6. Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game and Star Wars: Armada
Did someone ask for more board games about starship combat? You’ve certainly come to the right place because, unsurprisingly, the Star Wars universe lends itself rather well to great big battles in space - and publishers are more than happy to oblige. In this case, we’re going to talk about two of the most popular examples of ship-on-ship battle games: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game and Star Wars: Armada. Whilst both involve pitting miniatures against one another, X-Wing is more of an expandable series where players control only a single starship, whereas Armada is a larger-scale affair.
In X-Wing players can choose from a variety of Rebel and Imperial vessels, including X-Wings (obviously) and TIE Fighters, before engaging in a head-to-head dogfight with their opponent - apparently in the middle of an enormous space battle, according to the game’s description. Each turn players secretly select a speed and manoeuvre to perform, with the aim of catching their opponent’s ship off-guard and successfully landing a shot. Every ship’s piloting dial, which is what players use to determine speed and manoeuvre, is different, with unique advantages and disadvantages to each one.
Armada extends the scope of X-Wing to a larger scale, with players assuming command of an entire fleet of ships - either Rebel Alliance or Galactic Empire - in an epic starship battle. Using a manoeuvre tool, players can steer their ships through the battlefield and engage with enemy units with the hope of shooting them down. The manoeuvrability of each ship entirely depends upon its size, with larger vessels being slower and more unwieldy but ultimately chunkier.
Both these miniatures games do a fine job of allowing players to re-enact classic Star Wars space battles, whether you’re looking for something faster-paced like X-Wing or slow-burning like Armada.
Buy Star Wars: Armada on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
7. Star Wars: Outer Rim
Star Wars isn’t all about sweeping starship battles breaking out in the middle of nowhere; there are also the adventurers pursuing their own dreams and living their own lives on the edges of the galaxy far, far away. In Star Wars: Outer Rim, you and your friends get to embody these lone wolves as they roam the galaxy in search of their next paycheck - if you’re feeling dangerous, by tracking down a bounty or two.
An adventure board game for one to four players, Outer Rim takes place over a series of turns in which players select their missions, upgrade their ship and search for renown; the ultimate goal of the game is to gather enough fame to be remembered for centuries to come. Each player character has a unique personal goal they can fulfill, as well as general activities such as smuggling illegal goods and taking on jobs from warring factions that’ll increase your infamy. Every new job that players take on could mean more money and renown, but it could also mean an equal amount of danger and potential death.
A sandbox board game with dashes of story and dice-chucking to boot, Outer Rim is the perfect choice for any Star Wars fan who fancies themselves a bit of a Han Solo or Lando Calrissian.
Buy Star Wars: Outer Rim on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
8. Star Wars: Legion
The third miniatures game on this list is one that focuses more on ground combat than X-Wing and Armada’s starship warfare. Star Wars: Legion is a miniatures game in the vein of Warhammer 40,000 designed to recreate iconic battles from the original trilogy, from the standoff at Hoth to the scuffle at Endor, in impressive detail. Including classic Star Wars infantry like stormtrooper units and iconic characters such as - you guessed it - Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, Legion gives fans a lot to play around with.
A two-player miniatures game, Legion sees its players controlling forces in the Imperial and Rebel armies as they engage in full-on warfare. With mechanics designed simulate the ‘chaos of battle’ and a wide variety of units to choose from, Legion provides all the tools players need to re-enact whichever Star Wars skirmish they desire. You’ll also get a fine collection of miniatures to assemble and paint yourselves, which is great if you’re looking to get into the hobby or happen to already be a seasoned painting veteran.
With the option to command vehicle units like the AT-ST walkers and land speeders as well as standard foot soldiers, Star Wars fans will want for nothing if they get their hands on a copy of Legion and a good supply of paints - as well as a friend to play with, of course.
Buy Star Wars: Legion on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
9. Star Wars: Empire vs. Rebellion
As you can tell, the Galactic Civil War is a popular topic for Star Wars board games, possibly because many fans don’t have a huge amount of goodwill for the prequels and the latest trilogy has yet to receive its own decent dedicated board game. Star Wars: Empire vs. Rebellion is a card game that sees two players engage in a tense standoff as the respective Rebel and Empire forces. It might seem like a bold move to distill something as grand as the Galactic Civil War into a straightforward card game, but it actually does a surprisingly good job of recreating the feel of the original trilogy.
In Empire vs. Rebellion, players can choose to increase their individual faction’s presence in an currently active event - such as a particular battle or confrontation - using their cards and resources to overpower their opponent. See, the Empire may have the might of their tremendous military on its side, but the Rebels have their formidable allies and plenty of cunning to make up for it. Each turn players can choose to lay a card from the top of their facedown deck, in order to contribute more resources than their opponent. However, become too cocky and play cards with resource values above what the current event requires, and you’ll be forced to relinquish control of the event card to your opponent. Players will also be able to trigger any of their face-up resource cards and exhaust them to obtain the card’s power.
Empire vs. Rebellion really is as simple as that - it’s an intimate Mexican standoff of a card game that’s easy to learn and quick to play, which is more than you can say about some of the other Star Wars games on this list.
Buy Star Wars: Empire vs. Rebellion on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
10. Risk: Star Wars Edition
Let’s finish this list with a new take on an old classic, Risk: Star Wars Edition. You can’t really go wrong with Risk, it’s a classic beginner board game that’s a fantastic introduction to some pretty standard tabletop mechanics - area control, dice rolling and card playing, but to name a few. There’s a reason why the Risk series has remained such a staple of the board game industry in the over 50 years since the original released: it’s easy to learn and still (mostly) fun to play.
Classic Risk sees players deploying their forces to conquer different territories of the game board, rolling dice against their opponents whenever they engage in combat with their infantry and gaining control of that territory should they win. The Star Wars edition includes an unusual TIE Fighter-shaped game board featuring the different control points of the Empire and the Rebels, with players choosing to command the forces of either side. The board game plays much the same as the original Risk, but the novelty of controlling Star Wars soldiers and ships to either destroy or defend the Death Star makes the experience stand out enough on its own.
What’s more, it looks like this board game actually includes imagery from the new trilogy of Star Wars films - which makes a nice change from most of the other games on this list. (Not that the original trilogy of films is a bad source of inspiration to take from, of course.)
Buy Risk: Star Wars Edition on Amazon US and Amazon UK.