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How to play Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game: board game’s rules, setup and scoring explained

Join the Rebels or the Empire.

Cards from the Star Wars deckbuilding game
Image credit: Fantasy Flight Games

In Star Wars: The Deckbuilding game, each player takes a side in the battle between the Empire and the Rebels is an important part of the Star Wars universe. While as the latter you can use Luke Skywalker, Rebel soldiers, and the famous X-Wing to attack the opponent’s base, playing as the former allows you to build a small army of Stormtroopers, have Darth Vader on your side and use the Death Star as your base. The core experience in Star Wars: The Deckbuilding game is to strategically use all these elements to end the opponent’s forces.

This is a game that is played over a series of turns, with players needing to attack their opponent’s base whilst managing the resources they earn. As the game goes on, players can recruit more iconic characters, such as Han Solo and Boba Fett to their side as well as use the Force to expand their troops. This is a game in which players must think carefully about their actions and plan ahead.

How to play Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game

We’ll be covering the rules for what the official Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game rulebook considers a beginner game. If you want to read a full explanation on how to play the advanced mode of the game or are looking for optional rules, you should check the game’s official rulebook available at Fantasy Flight’s official site.

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Player count, game length and overview

Star Wars: The Deckbuilding game is meant to be played by two players and each match can last around 30 minutes or more. In this game, players represent one faction each - the Empire or the Rebels. Their mission is to strategically utilise cards featuring characters and spaceships to destroy the opponent’s bases. While managing their resources, players must figure out the most efficient way of taking their opponent’s forces down.

How to set up Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game

Setting up Star Wars: The Deckbuilding game is a simple process with a few steps, but first you must be sure that all the initial components meant for the beginner mode of the game are present on the table. Here are the components you should have with you:

  • 10 Empire Starter Cards: Seven Imperial Shuttle, Two Stormtrooper and One Inquisitor.
  • 10 Rebel Starter Cards: Seven Alliance Shuttle, Two Rebel Trooper and One Temple Guardian.
  • 90 Galaxy Cards.
  • 10 Outer Rim Pilot Cards.
  • Five Rebel Base Cards: Dantooine (starting base), Hoth, Mon Cala, Sullust and Yavin IV.
  • Five Empire Base Cards: Lothal (starting base), Corellia, Coruscant, Death Star and Endor.
  • The Balance of the Force Track.
  • 50 Damage Counters (Purple).
  • 20 Resource Counters (Yellow).
  • One Force Marker.

While the game has more base cards than the five listed, they are only going to be used once you have become more familiar with the game. Including them helps to extend the match’s duration or to have more options when making plays. For your first time playing the game, you don’t need to worry about the advanced options. Once you have all components, it’s time to work on the setup.

First, each player must decide which faction they are playing with. While mechanically playing as the Rebels or the Empire has very little impact, the faction you play with determines the cards you can buy during the game from the galaxy row, so take this into consideration in case you would like to play using some of your favorite characters.

Now prepare all the important cards and place them as instructed below.

Prepare each player’s base cards pile with the five cards, placing the starting one at the top faceup while the others you can keep facedown.

A layout image for Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game.
Players will only be able to buy cards from their chosen faction or from the neutral catergory.

Build the player’s decks with the 10 starter cards and place them near their base card.

Shuffle the 90 galaxy cards and place the pile in the middle of the table. Then, draw six cards from the top of this pile, creating a row in between the players. The cards must be placed facing the player who represents the faction they are part of. Neutral cards are placed horizontally.

Put the outer rim pilot deck at the end of the galaxy row face up.

Place the resource and the damage counters close to both of you.

Unfold the balance of the force track and place it with the factions facing their corresponding players. Take the Force marker and put it in the further space towards the Rebel side of the Force board.

Once all the pieces and decks are prepared, each player must draw five cards from their decks.

How to play Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game

With everything set, it’s time to start the battle between the Rebels and the Empire. During the game, players take turns that can be split into two phases and whenever a new game begins, the Empire has the first turn.

In Star Wars: The Deckbuilding game, you can use three types of cards: units, bases and capital ships. Each of them has pieces of information and values that are important when you’re resolving certain actions during your turn. For a visual representation of them, be sure to check the official rulebook. Some of the most important pieces of information portrayed in the cards are:

  • Cost (units and capital ships): This specifies the number of resources you need to spend to buy that specific card from the galaxy row.
  • Attack (units and capital ships): This indicates the amount of damage the card causes to units, bases or capital ships.
  • Force (units): Indicates how much force that card generates which means how many steps the force marker goes in your direction.
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  • Target Value (units): This number indicates how much damage the cards need to receive to be defeated in the galaxy row
  • Ability (units, capital ships and bases): A special effect that players may or may not choose to perform during their turns.
  • Hit Points (capital ships and bases): This value represents the amount of damage required to destroy a base or a ship

Phase one

This phase actually only happens after each player has already had one turn. If you’re just starting the game and none of the players had one turn, then go to phase one instead of checking this one. From now on, at the beginning of a turn, you must go through this phase which consists of:

Picking a new base from the ones left in case yours had been destroyed the last turn.

Getting one resource counter if the force marker is all the way up to your side on the balance of the force track.

Receiving one resource marker for each capital ship you have in play.

Phase two

This is the main phase of your turn when you can perform different actions by using your cards. You don’t have to follow the order they are presented here and you don’t need to do all of them either.

Play a Card: In this phase, you can choose to play as many cards from your hand as you would like to. When a card is played, you collect the number of resource counters based on how much resource each card generates. You must also move the force marker in your direction based on the force value of the cards.

The force board for Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game.
Having the force on your side is definitely advantageous in Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game.

Purchase a Card: With the resources you earned either from the cards you played this turn or from other sources, such as abilities or for having the force on your side, you can purchase cards from the galaxy row or the outer rim pilot deck. Players can only buy cards that are neutral or that belong to their faction. When a card is bought, it goes to that player’s discard pile beside their deck. The resource counters used to purchase a card go back to the resource supply. When a card is taken from the galaxy row, draw another one from the top of the galaxy deck to replace it.

Use a Card Ability: Card abilities can be used only once every turn and even cards that have just been played can have their abilities activated. In order to inform which cards are having their abilities used, players must tilt them. Only then an ability is resolved. Keep in mind that you don’t have to use an ability.

Attack: During this phase of your turn, you can choose to attack either the opponent’s base or cards at the galaxy row. To declare who your targets are, put the cards you’re using to attack in front of them. When attacking a base, you can use units as well as capital ships, but if you’re attacking a card at the galaxy row you can only use unit cards to do so. In both cases, you can assign more than one card to attack each target.

Resolving Attacks: When it comes to resolving an attack, the process differs depending on the target. If it was a unit or capital ship at the galaxy row and if your damage was equal or higher to their target value or hit points, then they are destroyed and you can receive the rewards described in the card for doing so. On the other hand, if your target was the opponent’s base, there are two possible situations. First, they don’t have a capital ship so all your units and ships can attack the base directly. In case the damage was equal or higher to the base’s hit point, then it’s destroyed and placed on your side at the balance of the force track. But if the damage value was not enough, then, you place damage counters equal to the damage caused to the base. These counters must stay on the base until it’s destroyed or repaired by an ability. However, if your opponent has at least one capital ship, then it serves as a shield. If, after deducting all the damage caused by your cards from the ship’s hit points - which are destroyed in case the total was equal or higher to the ship’s hit points - there are exceeding points, then they hit the base, either destroying it or staying on it until it’s repaired or destroyed as damage counters.

After you have performed any number of these actions, it’s time to end your turn. At the end of each turn, you must discard the unit cards you have played as well as the remaining cards in your hand, put all the cards back to their original positions, return resource counters to the supply and draw five cards from your deck. In case you don’t have enough cards to complete the five, you can shuffle your discard pile back to get the rest you need.

Final Scoring and ending the game

A player wins a game of Star Wars: The deckbuilding game after destroying a total of three opposing bases. The game suggests that, if players want longer sessions, they can raise the number of bases that must be destroyed.

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