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Review of the Jedi!
TF.N Exclusive Review of Return of the Jedi
By Len "RedneckJedi" Fowler

By now, the on-line Star Wars Trading Card Game (SW:TCG) aficionados have absorbed the recent spoilers for the Return of the Jedi expansion. TheForce.Net is proud to present a few more, as well as give a little perspective on the set itself. Once again, let's follow along with the flow of the movie.

"If I told you half the things I've heard about this Jabba the Hutt, you'd probably short circuit."

The events on Tatooine were facilitated by the denizens of Jabba's court. Jabba's "primary facilitator" was Bib Fortuna. The major domo of the court oversaw the day-to-day running of Jabba's palace, and also had plans of his own to gain power, if not control, of Jabba's empire. To do that he'd need help from those within the organization, and, in the game, he gets just that.

Bib Fortuna (A) - #5 - RareIn an interesting twist of a rarely seen ability, Bib Fortuna (A) can quickly amass a great deal of power, at the cost of removing your Neutral units from play. By "absorbing" these Neutral units, he gains +20 speed, +2 power and +2 health for each of them placed underneath him. Cheap, or nearly dead Neutral units are great fodder for this ability. Just one Neutral unit placed beneath him puts this 6 build Tatooine Smuggler unit at 50 speed, 5 power and 6 health.

Jabba also had the aid of others from within and without his court. Jabba's Spies is a "collected" Character card meant to represent a number of members of his court. This 5 power, 6 health unit bears the Hidden Cost ability, and can be used to disrupt Battle cards. But one of the most powerful tools at Jabba's disposal was the Sarlacc creature in the Dune Sea. This unique Neutral unit allows you to keep an opponent's Character tapped indefinitely, while putting (not doing!) 2 damage on it per turn (slowly digesting its victim). Not only that, but it can be used on a Character in any arena or the build zone!

"...a strike team will land on the moon and deactivate the shield generator."

After rescuing Han and escaping Jabba, our heroes return to the Rebel fleet. A Rebel taskforce, led by General Solo, is assigned to infiltrate the forest moon of Endor, and shut down the Death Star's shield generator before the Rebel fleet arrives. Luke tags along to lend a helping hand, hopefully when the Empire least expects it.

Luke Skywalker (O) - #58 - UncommonLuke Skywalker (O) is your Light Side Jedi Knight of choice for taking care of business in Return of the Jedi. While a bit costly at 9 build for a 50 speed, 6 power and health unit, his Hidden Cost value helps offset that greatly. His Evade is on par with the majority of Jedi we've already received, but his built-in 2 Force power pump can really make him a powerhouse if fully stacked. (This ability also makes one take another look at using the Jedi Temple Location.) Just working the numbers, for a total of 12 build, Luke Skywalker (O) becomes an 80 speed, 13 power and 9 health behemoth when fully stacked and using his power boost.

Also tagging along is Chewbacca... a Rebel well-suited for combat in the forests of Endor. Like his previous versions, he bears his trademark Retaliate ability to make your opponent think twice about attacking him. Even better, one version reflects his famous moment in the movie when he commandeers an AT-ST. This Chewbacca is not only a Walker Pilot, but a Speeder Pilot as well, bestowing the piloted unit a speed and Accuracy boost, along with a Retaliate matching his own. You'll need this convenient ability when going up against the Endor Regiment. This Imperial Ground unit reflects the "legion of the Emperor's best troops" stationed on Endor. Boasting 8 power and health, it gets a +20 speed boost if a Ground Location is in play. It also gets +2 power when attacking a Rebel unit.

"Perhaps you refer to the eminent attack of your Rebel fleet?"

The Rebel fleet massed for a final assault on the Empire, hoping that the might of their fleet could destroy the second Death Star, and the Emperor along with it. In doing so, they'd ensure the freedom of the galaxy from the Emperor's tyranny. A large variety of ships comprised the Rebel fleet, and they managed to hold off the might of the Imperial Navy, and the Death Star.

Mixed Battlegroup - #27 - RareFitting right in with this eclectic mix of starships the Rebels used is the Mixed Battlegroup Space unit. In a way, it's a "mixed bag" of abilities all contained in one Space unit. Though a bit hefty on the 8 build side for a 40 speed, 5 power and health unit, its Accuracy 1, Critical Hit 1 and Lucky 1 values help to make it a powerful offensive unit against Imperial Star Destroyers and starfighters.

The backbone of the Rebel fleet was none other than Admiral Ackbar's flagship, Home One. This powerful Rebel Capital Ship with 7 power and health has Shields to help protect it from smaller starfighters, and also reduces the cost of your Battle cards during the Space battle step. It's a handy ability when using damage prevention and power boosting Battle cards. Unfortunately for the Rebels, the Imperials realized that small, one-man fighters have deadly offensive potential. To cope with this, the new Imperial-Class Star Destroyer has Shields and gains +1 power for each of your opponent's units in the Space arena. Commanding one of these Imperial Capital Ships is Captain Lennox (A). This Capital Ship Pilot, for a thrifty 3 build, pushes his ships past their limit to get results. The ship he pilots gains +30 speed and +1 power, however, it's at the cost of placing a damage counter on his piloted unit each attack.

It was unfortunate they had to leave a garrison there.

The Return of the Jedi set is rife with the new multi-arena Locations, and the TF.N spotlight falls on Bespin. Free Bespin and Occupied Bespin are, essentially, two sides of the same coin. "Free" is Light Side and "Occupied" is Dark Side. They both have equal build costs of 3, and both bestow their owners the ability to draw an extra card during their draw step. Card drawing is always powerful in the game, and it's costed as such to show its benefit, and make it more costly for your opponent to replace.

Free Bespin - #50 - Uncommon == Occupied Bespin - #60 - Uncommon

"Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen."

Without a doubt, the debut of Hidden Cost is going to be the hallmark of the set, and is arguably the biggest shake-up in mechanics since Armor. The versatility of the multi-arena Locations will also provide some interesting game-play as it eases the removal of an opponent's strategic Location with a worthwhile one of your own. The Dark Side has had a bad run of Ground and Space Locations from the beginning, but now it is has plenty worth building.

There are innovative new ideas for deck manipulation, such as the ability of Ephant Mon that was recently revealed in Wizard's RotJ Sixth Look. Jabba's court is generally well-covered, as are the Rebel and Imperial forces stationed on and over Endor. Of interesting note is the subtle use of Endor's indigenous people. The Ewoks don't play a huge part in the set, although they've been widely recognized (and jeered) for their role in defeating better equipped (again, "the best") Imperial troops.

One can't help but get the feeling that the set would play quite well on its own. It has excellent potential in pre-existing deck archetypes, but has very little in overtly dominating units, even with units like Emperor Palpatine and Death Star II. (It will be interesting to see if the corrupting power of Emperor Palpatine (E) can be exploited.) The set also lacks the unit synergy that made The Phantom Menace a popular release. Many may find that there were overlooked Characters and plot points from Return of the Jedi, but perhaps they can be used in a potential follow-up set. A final oddity of note is the card distribution. All previous SW:TCG releases were divisible by 3, but not this time. The 110-card set doesn't evenly split between the rarities of Rare, Uncommon and Common. Wizards' solution was to distribute them as 40 Rares, 30 Uncommon, and 40 Common. This will make the choice Rares highly collectable.

Make no mistake, the set allows you to relive the best moments from Return of the Jedi. From Jabba's Palace to the Battle of Endor, you get cards aplenty to relive the adventure. Numerous cards will quickly come to mind to fill in your current decks, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at some of the "tricks" you'll be able to pull off with some of the new cards. Wizards closes out the Original Trilogy with a set that provides a wide variety of potential. On November 5th, the Jedi return in a third and final battle to determine the fate of the galaxy... not unlike the other third and final event that brings the Emperor into power to begin with: 2005's Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.

28 October 2004

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