Okay, I’ve got a hold full of illicit cargo that’s gonna make me the ‘man’ when it comes to The Rim. All I’ve got to do is a bit of bobbing and weaving to get past that Hutt patrol – we’ve never seen eye-to-eye – make my delivery, and that’s me; feet up and enjoy life. And the best bit? There’s not a damn thing anyone else out there can do to stop me!
- Designer: Corey Konieczka with Tony Fanchi
- Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
- Year Released: 2019
- Players: 1-4
- Playing Time: 2-3 Hrs
- Ages: 14+
Star Wars: Outer Rim takes a slightly different perspective of the Star Wars universe, concentrating on mercenaries, smuggling, and bounty hunting, rather than the direct confrontation between the Empire and Rebels that we’re used to seeing. Does it work? Let’s take a look.
What’s in the box?
- 4 Player boards
- 12 Ship sheets
- 16 Reputation tokens (4 per faction)
- 22 Contact tokens
- 16 Patrol tokens (4 per faction)
- 12 Goal tokens
- 8 Character standees
- 8 Plastic stands
- 40 Damage tokens
- 60 Credit tokens (10,000 x 4; 5,000 x 15; 1,000 x 40)
- 70 Encounter cards (10 per type)
- 70 Market cards (separated into 6 decks)
- 53 Databank cards
- 8 Character cards
- 4 Reference cards
- 10 AI cards
- 6 Map tiles
- 2 Map endcaps
- 6 Dice
- Rules reference
- Learn to play guide
How does it play?
If you’re familiar with how the game plays, then feel free to collect some illegal cargo and move stealthily ahead to, ‘So, what do I think?’
This is a quick overview of game play just to give you a feel for the game.
The aim of the game is to become a living legend; the most famous mercenary/trader/smuggler/bounty hunter… whatever, by accumulating fame.
You’ll accomplish this by travelling around the ‘Outer Rim’, trading, both legally and illegally, with various factions; hunting down wanted criminals for their bounty; or just simply carrying out a few risky, but rewarding tasks, to enhance your renown across the lands – first to 10 fame wins the game!
Each player takes on the role of an iconic (or maybe not) character from the Star Wars universe, and starts the game with a basic ship (choice of 2), a personal goal, and an amount of credits dependant upon player order.
The personal goal is written on the character card and may be something along the lines of: have a ship worth at least 15,000 credits, at which point you flip the card over and gain an additional special ability.
Also on the character cards you’ll find the characters ground combat value, a health value, special ability, skills, and a setup card number, which is drawn from the databank and gives the player their starting planet and an initial job.
Each player has a player board, which has spaces indicated for gear and jobs or bounties, as well as track to record their fame. The character’s faction reputation is also recorded on the board using sliders, which show a positive, neutral, or negative reputation.
During their turn a player carries out three steps:
- Planning step – where they can move, recover all damage, or gain 2,000 credits.
- Action step – there are four actions they can take, and they may take as many of them as they wish, but each action may only be taken once.
- Encounter step – resolve a single encounter.
During the planning step, if the player does not wish to collect 2,000 credits, recover the damage to their character and ship, then they may wish to move. Movement is along pathways containing navpoints, planets, and something called the Maelstrom space; the number of spaces that can be moved is indicated on their ship sheet, and may be modified by other cards they have in play.
A player cannot move through a faction’s patrol token unless they have a positive reputation with that faction, otherwise they must stop at the space containing the patrol. Likewise, they cannot move through the Maelstrom space, and have to stop their movement on that space. On their next turn the player can then move out of these spaces with no penalty.
Actions available to a player during the action step are:
- Trade – Exchange any number of cards with another player in their space.
- Market – If the player is on a planet then they may purchase a card from the market.
- Deliver – A player may drop of cargo or deliver bounties if they are on the planet indicated by the card.
- Resolve an action ability – Some cards have an indicated action associated with them, this can be carried out if the requirements are met.
The trade action is fairly self explanatory, but the market action requires some expanding on. Firstly, the player gets the option to remove the top card from one of the market decks and place it on the bottom, they may then, if they so wish, purchase a card from the top of any of the market decks (some cards cost nothing, such job cards). Finally, after purchasing a card from a deck, if the newly revealed top card contains a patrol movement icon, then that patrol must move the indicated number of spaces towards the current player by the shortest possible path.
When purchasing a card, the player may discard any of their current cargo, gear or mod cards to reduce the cost of the purchased card. When purchasing a new ship the old one is always traded in this way.
During the deliver action a player may deliver multiple cards to that location using a single action.
Once the player has carried out all the actions they wish to do they then go on to have an encounter. To do this they pick one of the following options:
- Encounter a patrol – if the player shares a space with a patrol token then they may wish to fight it (this option must be taken if their character has a negative reputation with the patrols faction).
- Encounter their space – draw an encounter card matching their space.
- Encounter a contact – reveal a contact token on their current planet and encounter it by drawing the indicated databank card.
- Resolve an encounter ability – some cards contain encounter actions; simply resolve the card.
Some encounter cards are secret and are usually kept by the player until they can be resolved.
Others may require a skill test to be carried out, and this is done in the following manner: Indicated on the bottom of character and crew cards are the skills that they are competent in, and when carrying out a skill test all of these are available to the player.
To test a skill two dice are rolled, with the result dependant upon the level of skill of the character and crew.
- Unskilled – none of the players cards have the skill – at least 1 critical required to pass the test.
- Skilled – the player has the required skill indicated once – at least 1 critical or a hit is required to pass the test.
- Highly skilled – the player has the required skill indicated more than once – at least 1 critical, hit, or focus is required to pass the test.
For example: you are asked to test influence and looking at your character and crew cards find that one crew member has that skill. Two dice are then rolled with the result being 1 focus and 1 hit, and as the player’s character and crew are skilled, they pass the test.
When combat occurs it is either ground combat, between characters or contacts, or ship to ship combat. The attacker rolls a number of dice equal to their combat value (as indicated on their character or they ship), which may be modified by other cards in their possession, with a hit counting as 1 damage and a critical as 2 damage – focus results may be used by some card abilities.
The defender then does the same with damage suffered simultaneously by placing damage tokens on their characters/ships. If a winner is required to be declared, it is the player that caused the most damage – if tied the attacker wins.
If a player is defeated, i.e. they have lost all their character’s/ship’s health, then the character standee is tipped on its side, the player loses 3,000 credits and discards all of their secrets. There turn is now over and they must choose to recover all health during their next planning step.
Other gameplay concepts
Jobs – Some jobs call for the player to draw a databank card. These are divided into steps that the player works their way through, top to bottom, carrying out skill tests as they go until they are either directed to stop, are defeated, or they complete the card and thus complete the job.
Bounties – Carrying out a bounty firstly entails finding the contact, usually by revealing contact tokens on planets, and then either drawing their databank card and maybe reneging on the bounty, eliminating the contact, or capturing them and returning them to a specific planet, which is done by carrying out a ground combat against the contact. However, occasionally the contact may be part of another players crew, which means you either have to come to some sort of agreement with that player!
So, What do I think?
Typical of Fantasy Flight Games, all the components are of a good to high standard. The box art being especially nice, though maybe a little misleading towards the actual action of the game!
The cards are all linen finished but artwork is in a very limited supply, but they are all easy to read with a nice sized font and clear graphics – they work well, but I didn’t think they were the most inspiring of cards!
Tokens are of an equally very good quality, and I especially like the standees – they’re a really nice size and display a good representation of the character – there also appears to be more than enough of each type of token.
Talking of the standees, the plastic bases for them are excellent; they grip the token really well and yet don’t ‘bite’ when pushing them on, so you don’t end up with delaminating character tokens – I would definitely use them to replace bases in other games.
The map tiles, with their arced set up, fit together quite nicely jig-saw style, and a random map set-up can be used rather than their pre-determined locations. Surprisingly, the arc works quite well, especially when four players are sat around a table, as it gives each player a good view of what’s going on. It also enables all the card decks to be laid out within its arc, so everything is within easy reach.
The artwork on the map is limited to the planets, but in this case it works well and doesn’t distract from the gameplay, though there are a couple of planets that look similar at a glance but they are all named.
The ship sheets feature the best bit of art within the game, and there are some nice depictions of the classic Star Wars ships, such as the Millennium Falcon. Again, all the information is clear and easy to understand, and I like the fact you can complete a ship goal to flip them over and become a ‘named’ ship with a few extras! They aren’t linen finish like the cards, but this matters not as they’re placed in front of you and rarely handled.
Now for the best bit, the player boards. These are nice and thick with cut-outs for the reputation sliders and the fame peg; there’s also a place for the character card, their gear, jobs, and bounties. They function really well and it looks good in front of you!
Finally the dice, and once again there aren’t enough, a common enough thing it would seem with a lot of todays games, and when you’re carrying out combat you will inevitably have to share with the defender.
Each player has the chance of creating their own story as they play, and the way the characters develop is very thematic.
For instance; you decide to take a certain Mr Solo as your character, but you have to start off with a pretty basic starter ship, maybe you decide upon the G9 Rigger because its quick. Solo already starts with a +2 to his ship movement, so you can be darting from one end of the rim to the other in short order. He also has a personal goal to gain a ship worth at least 15,000 credits.
So, with his eyes on gaining a YT-1300 light freighter (We could end up calling it the Millennium Falcon), he sets about collecting some illegal cargo to earn some ready money and, of course, a little fame on the side. he also modifies his ship with a smuggling compartment to decrease his chances of getting caught.
Whilst going about his business of a little light smuggling he manages to cross the Hutt, and has to take avoiding action to bypass their patrol, but help is on hand as he’s just come across a job that will put him back in their good books, but the contact he needs to eliminate just happens to be on another persons crew…
Yes, this game nails the theme of travelling the Rim in the Star Wars universe; the encounter steps are well joined with flavour text, and the way your crew assists you through your trials and tribulations builds an excellent story line.
As is the norm with Fantasy Flight’s games, you get two books, a ‘learn to play’ guide and a rules reference. The play guide is pretty much spot on and you can learn the game from this very quickly, but then there is nothing complicated about the game.
There are plenty of examples, and everything appears to be clear and concise – I had no issues with the rules whatsoever, so that’s a big plus.
The rules reference breaks away from the paragraph numbering system seen in the likes of Journeys in Middle Earth, and just has everything broken down under headings, but as I say, there’s nothing complicated about the game play at all, and to be honest, I’ve only needed to consult the reference a handful of times, if that!
A lot of what I’m going to say here is affected by player count, which I’ll go through when I cover scaling and balance.
As I’ve already alluded to, the actual game mechanisms are pretty straightforward; maybe too simple in some respects.
As a player I found I never got that ‘on the edge feeling’, the one that comes when you’ve taken a whole load of damage but need to take a risk, even though the next roll of the dice could put you in a world of pain.
The reason for this is because I know that, at the start of my next turn, I’ll be able to recover all damage and the payoff to do this is relatively minor – I won’t be able to move (doesn’t matter to much if I’m on a planet), or I won’t be able to gain 2,000 credits (which is also no great loss).
This lack of tension is also tied in with the skill testing, which I found too easy; a pity because it’s otherwise quite thematic. Other than right at the start of the game, when you’re operating with just your character, you’ll have enough buffs – armour, crew, and such like – to make completing jobs a doddle.
Rolling 2 dice, which does have the plus side of being quick and simple, gives you a good success rate if you are at least skilled (75% chance to pass), and with a few crew you probably will be.
Talking of buffs, I thought some of the cards you could gain were a little too powerful in respect to their cost – the smugglers compartment for example not only converts a mod slot to a cargo slot, but when you roll to deliver illegal cargo you can turn a blank die result to a hit, giving you an 86% chance, as opposed to the norm of 61%, of not getting caught – and the cost for this? A measly 2,000 credits!
This isn’t helped by the fact that you can ‘part exchange’ items when you buy new ones. Now I actually like the mechanism of part exchanging items, and think it’s a great idea, but I didn’t think it worked here because money is actually quite easy to come by.
On your first turn you can stay put and gain 2,000 credits in the planning step; then, if you’re lucky with the market action, you can pick up a cargo to haul somewhere close by, which will often net you in excess of 5,000 credits , and all within just a few turns!
There’s lots of other ways to make money – completing jobs, bounties, and encounters – it makes everything accessible quite quickly, but maybe that’s the intention. For me, it made things feel a little unrewarding – you don’t necessarily feel like you’ve earned it through good play.
Combat has its interesting foibles; on one hand I thought it was possibly the least thematic part of the game, having both parties rolling once to inflict damage on each other, and yet it is simple and quick. It’s also nice and easy to determine the risk of attacking, for example; a patrol in your space has a combat value of 5, thus will roll 5 dice in response to your attack. A quick glance at your ship’s combat value, plus any buffs, and you’ll have a fair idea whether it’s worth the risk or not. Overall, I though it worked well and kept the game flowing.
The random movement of the patrols, caused by revealing market cards, is also an interesting mechanism, one that offers up a degree of uncertainty into the play, especially when players have a negative reputation with a faction!
Encountering your space is right out of FF’s Arkham Files drawer, and works in pretty much the same manner – if there is an enemy on your space (think a patrol with negative reputation), then you must encounter it, otherwise you get to pick from a few limited choices, especially if you haven’t an encounter card.
Unless you’re looking to gain crew or are looking for a certain contact to bump off, then encountering a contact isn’t really worth your while, which then leaves you with encountering your space.
Many of the planet encounters begin with or contain the words ‘you may’, which is good because you get to make the decision, and offer up a reasonable cost/reward choice with some thematic flavour text. They are also simple to understand and quick to complete, much like all the other encounters.
Finally in this section, the market. I’ve already mentioned, I think money is too easy to come by, and you’ll pretty quickly be able to afford most things in the market.
Buying ships is a good way to get rid of that amassed fortune though, and it’s best to try and find one that suits your strategy, i.e. plenty of cargo and crew space, or one with room for lots of mods and firepower – having the right one can make all the difference. I thought the ship designs were really good and varied, as well as blending thematically in with the different play styles; being able to compete a ship goal, flip the card, and give your ship an identity, was also very thematic, but not always worth your while doing.
Cycling a card at the start of the market action has its pros and cons – it means you can discard a card in the hope something favourable, or affordable, will come up; you can discard a card to deny it to your opposition; it means you go through the market decks quite quickly.
It’s this last one that highlights an issue with the majority of the decks contained within the game – they don’t contain enough cards!
It is in the market that you will first notice this, especially in the cargo deck where the same cards will keep reappearing, either through completing deliveries or just cycling the cards, but it won’t take too long for it to start happening in other decks, and this spoils the thematics of the game, especially with the encounters.
This goes on to affect other parts of the game, as we shall see…
Scaling and balance
The game, from a player vs player perspective, appears to be really well balanced – all characters appear to have an equal chance of victory.
There are a few minor quibbles regarding the power of some of the cards though, especially in relation to their cost, as I mentioned elsewhere. There’s also the odd card or two that, if you’re lucky enough to come by them, will enhance you on the way to victory in no time at all – Crew members Sy Snootles and Maz Kanata are two of my favourites (Complete a job reduce reward to 0 and gain 1 additional fame; Once per turn you may reroll 1 die during a skill test).
When I was talking about the gameplay above, I mentioned that most of what I was about to say was affected by player count; let’s talk about scaling!
Play 2-players and the game really displays all its issues; 3 or 4-players and the game works so much better!
The 2-player game is somewhat dull and boring. You each go about your business like good little smugglers/bounty hunters etc. and rarely do you seem to conflict. It’s usually wise to play a different strategy to that of your opponent, even though, deep down, you know it will make for a rather mundane game.
One of you will end up pursing bounties and taking on the odd job or two, whilst the other will be trading cargo back and fore, and it will be a race to get to 10 fame, and of course the trader will inevitably win!
I also found that, at 2-players, money is so easy to accumulate, especially running cargo around; patrols are easy to predict and avoid, and because the market cycles through slower with 2, it’s easy enough to get cargo drops along the same path and often adjacent to where you already are – easy money and easy fame!
A lot of this is to do with player interaction; at 2-players there really isn’t much at all – you’re both busy doing what you want to do and that usually involves being where the other play isn’t!
As player count increases you start getting in each others way, and that’s good. You find that the contact your looking for belongs to another player, so you have to start negotiating. The patrols are constantly on the move because they head towards the player drawing the card, and end up heading this way and that rather than being being predictable and easily avoided.
Because the patrols are much more active, reputation takes on a bigger role, and if you have a player intent on taking patrols out, then the patrols become more powerful, so you’ll either have to ramp up your combat ability or just become teachers pet to all those factions!
You have to be a little more adaptable in terms of strategy as well; unlike the 2-player game you won’t find it so easy just to run illegal cargo around, though this is still a very viable tactic, and just delivering legal cargo is a good way to pull in quick cash. (Legal cargo earns you credits whilst Illegal deliveries earn you fame as well.)
It still has its issues though, in particular the size of the individual decks. With the increased player count you’ll definitely come across cards you’ve seen before, and I don’t mean in a previous game! Thematically it starts to fall down because of this; it’s not quite the same when you fly too close to an asteroid, ripping open your hull for the third time!
I’ve heard issues regarding the game length being rather extended with 4-players, but I never found this a problem – all the mechanisms of the game are geared towards quick play – skill tests, combat, encounters – and when cards present you with a decision to make it’s usually a pretty simple one with two choices. Analysis paralysis? Maybe, but to be honest working out the odds of a test or decision is pretty straight forward, and anyway, taking the thematic choice rather than playing the odds will net the most amount fun from the game!
There’s one thing that makes this a game I don’t really want to play again, at least at the moment, and that’s the repetitiveness of it all. There simply aren’t enough cards in each deck, and within a couple of plays and you’ll have explored everything. But then this is a Fantasy Flight Game, and they do like their expansions for which this is crying out, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing one pretty soon.
That isn’t the only thing that’s repetitive about the game though, and at 2-players I would be shaking my head saying ‘lets play something else instead!’ The repetitive nature of simple pick up and deliver dynamics, on which, at the end of the day, is quite a restrictive map, just isn’t for me.
Yes… and no!
looking for, and playing the best strategy, the one that propels you towards maximum fame in the shortest possible time, will turn the game into a dreary and boring slog, at least with 2-players. However, play the game for its story, immersing yourselves into its thematic, flavoursome world, doing just what you think your character would do, and you’ll be surprised just how much fun this game can be – with the proviso your playing with 3 or 4-players that is!
Can I play it… all on my own?
There’s a deck of AI cards included, so yes you can; would you want to? Not more than once!
The AI uses goal tokens to mark where it needs to be to complete a task, and will usually move towards the closest of these during the planning step.
During the action step they will carry out as many of the actions listed on the card as possible – this will often entail delivering cargo and purchasing something from the market.
The encounter step then sees the AI doing the first that applies, dependant on the card but usually something like: Encounter a patrol in their space if negative reputation, if at a job destination complete it, and the final choice often varies between gaining credits, revealing contacts, and spending credits to gain fame.
Okay, it works to an extent, and the AI does gain fame at a rate to keep you on your toes, but it’s all so boring!
The player pretty much goes about his business doing whatever he likes, there’s no real challenge, and credits are very easy to gain – during one game I managed to work my way through three different ships!
You can knock a game out in under half an hour, though it feels at lot longer, and when you’re finished you’ll probably pack the cards away never for them to see the light of day again!
I’ve played it several times – I’m a glutton for punishment – just to make sure I wasn’t missing something or my previous game was just a fluke. I won every game with room to spare but gained no sense of achievement in doing so, and this is vital to a solo game; when you win you need that sense of having overcome the game, beaten it, out though it, this is the reward a solo player expects, and that is sadly lacking here.
Okay, let’s see – Outer Rim has many positives – it is a very thematic game, it’s easy to learn – there are no complicated game mechanisms – it doesn’t take long to set-up, it has an interesting table presence, and it has many of the favourite characters in it
Unfortunately, it lets itself down in a few vital areas. It doesn’t play solo very well at all, and its not much better with 2. At 3 and 4 players, whilst the game does come alive and is actually quite entertaining, the sparse decks bring into question replayability, as you’ll have seen it all before!
Its main principles are pick up and deliver, and the map, although quite nice and a novel idea, is pretty limited, making the gameplay quite repetitive. The skill testing is maybe a little too easy, and not everyone will enjoy the combat resolution – maybe it would have been better taking a look at Arkham Horror 3rd Edition, and having locations to visit where health and damage could be restored?
The game time of 2-3 hours is about right for a 4-player game, though for a game that is quite simple at heart, this seems a little on the long side. However, as it plays quite thematically at full player count, the time does pass quickly.
So, can I recommend this game, as it stands at the moment?
If you’re after a 4-player game and like the sound of a thematic Star Wars game not based upon on the usual Empire vs. Rebels, then it’s worth taking a look at, but personally, I would hold fire to see if FF are going to support it and release an expansion or two; an influx of cards to extend the replayability of the game is all that is really required.
If 3 or 4 player games aren’t your thing, then I’d give this a miss.
Official site – Fantasy Flight Games
Recommended video review – Sam Healey
BoardGameGeek page – HERE