Star Wars: Legion – A Review

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Writing this review was kind of weird for me. I felt a similar pressure starting as I did when I penned my highly opinionated – albeit heavily considered – reflective on The Last Jedi.

Star Wars has a tendency to polarise opinions one way or the other. The irony of that isn’t lost on me at all and I hope it isn’t for the super fans, although I suspect it is.

A double dose of irony, like a double espresso is enough to make anyone on edge.

The timing of Star Wars Legion couldn’t be more opportune for Fantasy Flight Games. It’s at a time when Star Wars has never generated so much money but has also never been more divisive.

With the early reviews of Solo: A Star Wars Story as mixed as a bag of liquorice all sorts we can expect the fanbase to get their collective panties in a wad things might start to rupture.

Use the Force(s)

So just as well then that a tapletop wargame should appear on the scene that allows fans to recreate battles for the Galactic Civil War. Or, as most people around my age will claim – the proper Star Wars.

It’s no accident that FFG have played it safe with the initial releases because they know that’s where the money is. But – in their defence – it’s also the part of the Star Wars universe that feels the richest.

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader leading Endor gear Rebel soldiers and classic Stormtroopers oozes broad appeal not to mention a strong awesome factor. I can’t think of a single wargamer I’ve met over the years who isn’t positively erect at the thought of getting to paint and game with 25mm versions of the most recognised hero and villain double act in modern history.

Of course what makes it an even easier sell is we’ve had over 40 years for the characters, weapons and vehicles to become iconic. I mean who wouldn’t want a T-47 or an AT-ST?

Plus the sheer deluge of – albeit defunct – books, comics and video games helped to make the Galactic Civil War and the core characters feel very real. Although Marvel certainly isn’t wasting any time churning out properties that fill in the gaps between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. So there’s that too.

For the fans that are still smarting from The Last Jedi and already deriding Solo it’s an opportunity to tell the story the way they want. To play out the civil war the way they want. And that’s fine.

For the rest of us we get to play at being Star Wars heroes and villains without resorting to shoddy cosplay outfits bought off eBay.

Although it goes without saying we’ll still make the appropriate sound effects whenever any of the models do anything.

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This is where the fun begins…

Speaking of which – the models are very nice.

The core set comes with Bespin Luke Skywalker, two units of Rebels, a Rebel AT-RT, Darth Vadar, two units of Stormtroopers and two speeder bikes which makes for pretty reasonable starting forces. Plus the deluge of counters, cards and other chuff FFG like to stuff their games with.

There’s no denying the boxset is incredible value when you consider individual unit prices. Two core sets between mates is the absolute best way to start collecting Legion.

I’ve always straddled the fence whenever it came to FFG playing pieces. Although X-Wing and Armada models were amazing, the Rebellion pieces were only okay. I understand the Imperial Assault was a big leap in quality but they are also the company who produced the Horus Heresy game. And those playing pieces were the poor side of average.

To be clear, this ins’t a criticism of any one particularly title more highlighting the inconsistency.

Star Wars Legion however has seen the love.

The models do have limitations however. For a start they aren’t posable. They’re multipart in the sense that you have to glue the arms on but there are 7 Rebel poses and 7 Stormtrooper poses and that’s it.

So if you buy more you’ll end up with an army of identically posed miniatures. This is rather disappointing and I”m not entirely sure what Fantasy Flight were thinking.

This is clearly their first proper foray in to the world of tabletop wargaming (the messy divorce with Games Workshop makes much more sense now) so I guess they’re testing the waters in terms of their capabilities verses expectations.

I suspect most fans are still so hyped up about the game existing at all that they’re willing to forgive a lot. Including the price tag. Those 7 plastic 25mm blokes with set you back £20 or more. That’s Games Workshop money and at least they’re properly multipart and 30mm.

However the level of detail is pretty good (not stonking but good enough) and the casting quality is excellent. I genuinely can’t fault that.

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I have the core set and an additional squad of Stormtroopers and Rebels and they’re all pretty much perfect. So props to FFG on that.

Ultimately though the lack of variety is going to sting the Rebel players the hardest. Stormtroopers are faceless instruments of the Emperor’s will so beyond the unit leader, ranks of identical soldiers isn’t an issue.

It doesn’t work quite so well for the Rebels and only gets worse when you add in models like the AT-RT as that only comes in one pose too.

Admittedly the are opportunities for conversions and that’s all fine but I’m of the opinion that a conversion should be a choice not a necessity to stop your army from looking like the Stepford Rebels.

It’s made worse by the key cut joints (I fucking hate that) so – again – short of carving up your very expensive models, there is no freedom with poses. I think this is a mistake on the part of Fantasy Flight. Aside from giving games more freedom, sculpting models with flat body and arm joins is both easier and cheaper to produce.

So they kinda screwed everyone with that decision. It feels like FFG thinks of the models more like playing pieces than scale miniatures so to them, lots of repetition isn’t an issue.

Of course it doesn’t impact of the playability of the game but to ensure longevity and engagement Fantasy Flight need to up their game.

Yes it’s Star Wars but they need to recognise they’re breaking into an incredibly saturated market and competing with their former business partner. Who do this sort of thing incredibly well. And has done for decades.

Control, control, you must learn control

Reading the rules I’ll admit to feeling a little frustrated. Fantasy Flight have a really annoying habit of assuming that everyone picking up the rules is – in some way – a moron.

I don’t necessarily think it’s ego because surely they know they’ve written a really straight forward – albeit poorly written – game. However, they felt the need to split the rules into a ‘learning battle’ section and ‘advanced rules’.

First of all – they’re not advanced rules. Advanced rules implies they are in some way optional. If you want to play the game correctly you need to read the whole thing. That’s a fact. Secondly it actually makes the game harder to understand by explaining the rules only to then discover an entire list of rules that tie in with them.

Except their not in a logical order. They did it with X-Wing and it was annoying as balls then too.

On the basis that the wargaming hobby is incredibly well established with millions of gamers around the world enjoying hundreds – if not thousands – of rules sets far more complex than Legion or X-Wing, it’s safe to assume that a traditional lay out works fine. That is to say all the movement rules in the movement section, all the shooting rules in the shooting section etc.

It’s not that the rules are overly complicated, it’s just easier to read all the related rules in one place. It also makes it much easier to find rules for reference.

I do understand then motive to make the game easy to learn but the assumption is that the game is hard to learn in the first place. Which it isn’t.

Although the annoyance goes deeper because there’s a 50 page PDF of complete rules which not only includes rules not in the core box rules – which means you have to read it – it’s better written. So having spent some time trying to fully understand certain sections of the rules I have, there was a better version on the internet.

I would have gladly paid slightly more money to get a book of the complete rules in with the box.

The game

Star Wars Legion works on alternating activations – which seems fairly common practise these days – activating a single squad, character or vehicle and carrying out two actions each.

Fairly predictably those actions are move, shoot, melee, dodge and a couple of others.

This is nothing particularly groundbreaking but that’s absolutely fine. FFG have a penchant for needlessly complicating things for no obvious reason so this is joyous.

Where it gets fruity is – unless a unit receives an order from a hero – the units activate in a random order. This may seem a bit mental but it actually keeps things really balanced. No army can steam roller another because there is an added layer of unpredictability.

It also forces you to keep your eye on achieving the objective because you can never fully rely on the combat effectiveness of your army. It also makes the inclusion and use of heroes significantly important – but more on that in a bit.

Set up

One of the coolest things about Legion is the set up rules. Much like 40k’s Open War deck, Legion uses deployment, objective and condition cards to keep the game interesting.

The nice thing is that these cards are always drawn after you’ve set up the board forcing you to to think on your feet. It also stops people from covertly setting up the board in a way that’ll favour them, because the deployment card could properly spoil your day.

The important thing to remember here is that Legion isn’t like 40k or – in fact – most other table top wargames. It isn’t about kick as much face as possible, it’s about achieving mission objectives.

After all the plucky Rebels lacked the military might to take the Empire head on. All of the engagements were chosen carefully…or reluctantly.

The emphasis on achieving your mission keeps players on their toes and encourages balanced force building.

Of course units and characters have various upgrades available to them to give that competitive edge. What’s cool is that some upgrades are only available to specific unit types which elegantly prevents units or models from becoming overpowered.

Command

Legion also has a command phase.

I’ll be honest, I’m guilty of skipping over phases like this in games because they usually add very little and slow down the rate of play.

However in Legion it’s actually pretty important and rather elegantly represents the chaos of war and the limited yet powerful influence a single hero can have on the outcome of the game.

In Star Wars victories have always been down to great leaders on both sides whether it’s General Veers on Hoth or Han on Endor. Okay, he had help from the Care Bears but you get my point.

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As such heroes play an important role in Star Wars Legion. They are unusually capable warriors but also bring with them skills to augment the soldiers around them.

More immediately they are able to issue orders to units within ranges 1-3. This is significant because any unit given an order by a hero can activate when you choose rather than in a random order as described earlier.

The dilemma then becomes about how to use them. It’s almost like fighting a war is hard or something…

Movement

The rules for moving are simple in so far as a model has a movement value and you can move that model or unit of models up to the stated value. This is groovy and fairly standard across most – if not all – games.

However rather than using good old reliable inches or centimetres, Legion uses a sodding measuring tool. This was fine in X-Wing and Armada because abstracting space combat is hard and generalising movements of either tiny tiny snubfighters or slightly less tiny warships in this way works.

For Legion it seems unnecessarily restrictive and awkward as balls on a busy tabletop. Hilariously FFG even acknowledge this by specifically stating that – when circumstances prevent players placing the movement tool on the board – it can be held over the model instead of in base contact. So why not use a sodding tape measure and make everything easier for everyone?

In fairness it does makes sense for the vehicles as some – such as walkers – are naturally clumsy and difficult to manoeuvre but it feels like the rules make a concession in the wrong direction in the interests of consistency.

The reality is that most of the time you won’t bother to use the movement tool properly – at least not for the infantry because there’s just no point.

Shooting and Melee

These rules are actually pretty cool as they’re simple and requires involvement from both players so between that an alternating activations, no one ever really gets the chance to be idle in the game.

The attacker simply rolls dice for every model firing which keeps shooting simple yet satisfying. Some weapons get more than one dice but as a base line you get a roll for every model on the board more or less.

You can buff this by spending an action aiming at your target or with upgrades. The right up grades and the right combination of actions can make units utterly savage in a fight.

The defender then rolls defence dice to discount hits. This can augmented by upgrades, character bestowed buffs and  cover. The cover rules aren’t brilliantly defined in the standard rules I’m pretty sure at one point they contradict the line of sight rules but hey-ho.

Any unsaved hits are translated to wounds and models are either removed as casualties or accumulate damage – such as vehicles.

Where it gets cool though is being shot at – even if no one dies – earns your unit a suppression token. Earn too many and you lose an action. This presents a really interesting tactical element – on top of all the others – as you’re constantly forced to choose between resting your models or pressing the attack.

Whilst resting for an action removes a suppression token, you can give your opponent room to breathe. It’s a simple yet highly effective way of adding in psychology without it being a massive faff.

Melee works more or less the same way. I’m giving it as much attention as the rules do purely because most thing are armed with blasters. Yes you can charge Luke or Darth into combat and when they do it’s hilarious but they are very much in the minority. This game is all about blaster death.

The mechanic makes the game feel very fast and doesn’t allow you to stop and think. Considering engagements in Legion are meant to be relatively small scale and objective based, this keeps the pressure on and gives the game a sense of authenticity when compared to the movies.

Shooting does, however, require a range ruler, much like moving. Again, I fail to see how a range ruler would be better than a tape measure and makes less and less sense as you work your way up the levels of destructive potential of the weapons you employ.

Whilst I accept that a laser bolt can be less effective over distance, the kind of distances we’re talking about in the average game of Legion doesn’t make any sense.

Especially when you consider that the laser cannons on a T-47 Airspeeder have a significantly longer range than any given hand held weapon. It could be argued that because of the speed they’re moving at – which isn’t that far because that’s limited too – that it can only effectively target units at close range.

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This is of course utter bollocks and limiting both movement and range will inevitably make certain units identical in all but name.

I’ve seen it happen before with games like Dystopian Wars. When the mechanic doesn’t have enough flex then inevitably points of difference become arbitrary in an effort to appear original.

When you consider how powerful the laser cannons are, limiting the range could be a way of preventing it from being overpowered but it still doesn’t make sense. There are more logical ways of making a unit balanced but the mechanic doesn’t allow for it.

However this a relatively minor bug bear when you consider the overall experience and the fact that Fantasy Flight aren’t intending this to be anything close the kind of games Warhammer 40,000 can support. At least not yet.

That doesn’t mean they’re not going to release all of the things – especially as the fans will want 25mm scale Y-Wings for bombing runs and T-16s to bullseye womp rats. They’re only human after all.

With this in mind the mechanic may have been better suited to a 15mm game instead of 25mm.

From a certain point of view

You’d be forgiven for thinking that I don’t like Legion very much.

There are things wrong with the game. Aside from a poorly laid out and written rule book, the movement and shooting distances are too limiting. This will undoubtedly cause problems with scalability in the medium to long term.

I can see what they were trying to do but if you want to keep things simple then actually keep them simple, abstracting an abstract is dumb.

There are also other ways you can prevent units from being overpowered.

In reality these rules don’t ruin the game but inevitably there will be balancing issues that will mean – like X-Wing – models coming with their own set of rules because they simply won’t work any other way.

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However, those grievances aside, Star Wars Legion is a very fun game.

It’s as expensive as balls but there’s no ignoring the fact that you get to field an army of Rebels against an army of Stormtroopers. That’s hella cool.

The mechanic itself, with the random activation element, the balanced importance of characters and the slick dicing make for a fast paced game that really makes you work hard.

The set up deck and the heavy emphasis on objectives over blasting everything you see actually makes you play for the win rather than resorting to overwhelming force.

This makes it a very difficult game to power game with. This is good news. Although the range is still evolving so that could change.

Of course blasting your opponent to oblivion is always an option but you won’t necessarily win the game in the process.

What would be cool is an expansion deck with objectives and mission types around certain formations and types of terrain. It’ll prolong the life expectancy of the game and incentivise Gale Force 9 and 4Ground to make Legion scenery other than rocks and the industrial stuff.

One of the great things about the Star Wars Universe is the sheer variety of alien environments so the hobby element from a scenery board making point of view is endless.

This is particularly good as a rule set needs to do more than be a great game. It needs to inspire great games to be played. Playing over a Tatooine settlement is one thing, busting stuff to look tough on Mustafar is quite another.

To get the most out of Star Wars Legion you have to accept its odd quirks and limitations and take it for what it is: a fast and fun objective driven Star Wars strategy game.

For those use to playing games with more depth this could be frustrating but equally its overarching simplicity means it won’t take you as long to learn, master or play. Once you’ve got the rules down you can play a decent sized game in just a couple of hours. Including all the time spent making ‘pew pew’ noises.

Why The Last Jedi is actually brilliant

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I had planned on writing a review after I saw The Last Jedi at the cinema. I thought it would be the review of the blockbuster that would kickstart my blogging again after far too many months (years) of absence.

Then I saw the film and to my horror I didn’t love it. In fact, I wasn’t sure I even liked it. Undeterred I did what I do best – I reflected on it and in the end I couldn’t decide one way or the other which would make for a pretty terrible review.

Plus I was genuinely shocked by the abuse Star Wars fans who loved the film were directing at those who didn’t – so much so it stopped me writing. Which is pretty terrible really. I’ve never been scared into silence before and I didn’t like it.

To all those people guilty of abusing their fellow fans, regardless of which camp you’re in – I remind you that fandom is subjective and we are all entitled to our preferences.

But moving on…

I felt so conflicted that I eventually went to see it again. This time with no expectations and able to focus on the story rather than the orgy of special effects and battles. Which are as splendid as one might think.

However, this isn’t a review. Those that care will have already seen it and they certainly would have bought the Blu-ray.

This instead is more about why The Last Jedi is the movie that ties all the various Star Wars elements together. It – weirdly – makes the prequels better and The Force Awakens, unfortunately, slightly worse.

To be clear, the movie isn’t perfect. A lot of people were rightly annoyed by the casual way in which much-loved characters were killed off.  They may have a point.

Personally I think there could have been a more elegant way of doing it but I suspect Rian Johnson was trying to make the point that even heroes can die lousy deaths.

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Dan Abnett does the same thing in many of his books. It’s a valid plot device but it doesn’t work as well in movies – usually because things move too quickly for the audience to process it. Or appreciate it.

Similarly the entire casino sequence tries to make an important point but it’s too obvious and exaggerated and rang a little too true to the naffer moments of the prequels. The daft thing was that the point Johnson was scrabbling around for was made just after the absurdity was over. But more on that later.

Breathe. Just breathe…

Star Wars has always been very much ‘of its time’. The original movies were made during a time when people were rebelling against the idea of ‘the man’ and big government.

The prequels were made at a time when governments were being corrupted by big business to allow them to do more or less what they please and – more significantly – profit from warfare. Thank goodness that isn’t a problem any more…

The Last Jedi was made at a point when – certainly in the UK and the US – there is a widening political divide, especially between the generations and something needs to change.

The vast majority of the Baby Boomers and Generation X are clinging bitterly to the I’m alright Jack, fatally flawed infinite growth model with a healthy dose of zero sum gain economics thrown in. Xennials, Millennials and Generation Y (presumably because they say why the fuck a lot) are sick of the corruption, the dodgy dealings and the post truth bullshit of a the Trumpian era we now find ourselves in.

We’re also tired of a system that gave the generations before us free university educations and salaries sufficient to become home owners. The generations after spend half their salaries on rent and are lucky to own a home before the age of 35.

Where lies are the norm and we regularly question the motives of our leaders and the mainstream media to keep us objectively informed, the system is broken.

This is not a brilliant situation by any measure.

[NB: If you disagree with my politics just stop reading. Our lives are too short for you to spend ages writing an angry comment only for me to waste a few seconds deleting it unread.]

Regardless of political leaning, the movie speaks to this need for a new beginning. The New Republic falls so easily in The Force Awakens because the lessons of the past weren’t learned. Complacency or just good old-fashioned bureaucracy blinded the Senate to the threat posed by The First Order.

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That face says it all.

Similarly The First Order – or the Empire 2.0 – is as hopelessly paranoid, inflexible and as arrogant as the Empire was, if not more so.

Neither system works. And when they collide it only goes one way. A cycle that has repeated in the Star Wars universe for thousands of years in one form or another and one that we see repeated in the real world too.

The Last Jedi challenges the audience with the idea that there needs to be a new way. It’s an uncomfortable thought for those who have grown up with the originals because they feel so just and true. Their motives so pure. More so for those who read the old books – willing the Rebellion ever onwards to turn into the New Republic.

Most of us aren’t politicians or powerful business types so it’s easy to identify with the Rebellion. It’s easy for us to see the Empire as evil because it’s immediately relatable to our world. The prequels were less relatable because the vast majority of people – until recently – were totally unaware just how toxically intertwined big business, special interest groups and politics have become.

Restoration of the Republic was always the ideal – the symbol of hope that drove the characters and the fans through the fighting.

The Last Jedi forces us to come to terms with the idea that we may have been wrong this entire time. And this is when the wheels come off the cart…

This is not going to go the way you think…

The prequels were heavily criticised for being over sanitised and kid friendly. I suspect – and admittedly I could be reading into things to prove my point – that this was deliberate.

In episode 1 the Republic was a shining beacon of democracy. The planets within its borders were shining utopias. Spaceships were new and shiny because it was a very prosperous place to be.

Although you stray outside of the Republic and everything becomes a lot darker. However the Republic leaves the Outer Rim to criminals and despots like the Hutts because it’s convenient to do so. Not so sanitised when you think about it.

But as the films move on and the Republic is not only torn apart by war but by bankruptcy too. By episode 3 we’re starting to get the ‘worn future’ look of the originals. The tone also darkens considerably. The mass execution of the Jedi and the mutilation of Anakin. Being the most obvious ones.

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Then there’s the millions upon millions of clone troopers who fought and died for absolutely no reason at all. If Star Wars was set in the 40k universe Khorne would be positively erect at that level of callous blood-letting.

For now we have to side step the debate surrounding the appalling acting by some of the cast and the equally dire dialogue (especially in Episode 2). As Harrison Ford once said to Lucas after a table read: You can read this shit George, but you can’t say it.

On that we can all agree.

But the Republic was a galaxy spanning organisation who were at their most powerful – and their most prideful. The Jedi Order served as peacekeepers to the Republic yet they were also an autonomous agency with near limitless resources and the ability to pursue their own agenda should the need arise.

Within the bounds of the Jedi code and Republic law of course.

For all of its assumptions of superiority, the Republic’s inner workings were snarled with infighting, territorial disputes, power grabs and jealousy exacerbated by special interests groups pushing their own agendas. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, the Jedi Order – so supremely confident in their powers and the extent of their reach – completely failed to uncover a plot by a single Sith to not only defeat them with their own army but seize complete control of the galaxy in the process. I think Luke sums it up rather well:

‘…at the height of their power, the Jedi allowed a Sith Lord to take over the Republic and turn it into an Empire.  That’s their legacy.  Hubris.’

Their arrogance was their undoing. Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure that leads to the dark side?

The Jedi Order, at it’s most powerful were at their weakest and the reason is really quite obvious.

Why on Earth would Luke – or any other Jedi – want to recreate that order, using the same teachings, with the same totally binary view of the force – the light vs the dark.

And I’m pretty sure that only a Sith deals in absolutes. I mean, I’m just throwing it out there.

The greatest teacher, failure is…

When you stop and think – and not even that hard – The Last Jedi is about balance.

The extremes of the Republic and First Order leave an incredibly large grey area for profiteering weapons dealer types to make oh so very much hay out of both sides.

Engineering increasingly more destructive weapons of war (heavy AT AT walkers or the comically named battering ram cannon anyone?) causing escalation and more fighting.

Which is exactly what happened in the Clone Wars. The pattern is repeating only each time the level of destruction increases and balance disappears.

In the absence of balance does Chaos reign.

This has never been more true when the same thinking is applied to the Force. When Rey stretches is out with her feelings everything in nature is balanced.

Luke says as much himself – On Ahch-to, in line with the source of light there is a source of great darkness. Balance.

Significantly Rey is drawn to both.

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And here is in lies the big reveal – the galaxy doesn’t need Luke Skywalker. As painful that is to accept, it is true – whether you agree with the ending of the movie or not.

At first I resisted the idea that Luke was redundant. I wanted him to fight but this Obi-wan quote from Star Wars Rebels sums it up rather elegantly:

‘If you define yourself by the power to take life, the desire to dominate, to possess…then you have nothing.’

…then you have nothing.

The galaxy has as little need for Luke and the old ways of the Jedi as it does broken governments.

A single Jedi cannot halt the advance of a galactic power and to believe different is that hubris we spoke of earlier. The call back to later line later in the film is brilliant and emphasises how absurd we all are for naturally assuming Luke could single-handedly save the galaxy.

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The Jedi cannot be rebuilt as they were because an absolute good only gives rise to an absolute evil and they are compelled to destroy each other.

Even as peacekeepers Jedi were often punitive in their rulings because their definition of fairness didn’t come from a place of balance, it came from a place of righteousness that no other being could hope to meet.

In many ways fighting the Clone Wars revealed the Jedi for what they had become – a self-righteous instrument of judgement. They weren’t soldiers, nor did they have any experience in large-scale warfare and yet they led the armies because they believed they were the superior choice…than the soldiers genetically engineered for that exact role.

But on a deeper level they were the light clashing against the dark. Jedi history is littered with bloody conflicts be it against the Sith, the Mandalorians or anyone else. Their righteousness in the light side drives them to conflict just as the dark side does the Sith.

Instead the Jedi need to occupy a place of balance. That middle ground – neither light nor dark – but fair…balanced. Truly just and therefore truly just if they take action.

Equally the people they serve need to find a new path away from the Republic and the First Order. Neither system works because there is no balance.

Ironically both systems benefit a tiny minority just through different methods. Something to do with power and corruption. But when systems exist to consolidate power and eliminate balance the effect is always the same.

Again, this is being echoed in chambers of government around the world right now.

In the absence of balance, the people in charge become only concerned with staying in charge because their way is the right way.

And there’s those absolutes again.

We are what they grow beyond…

The Last Jedi is brilliant becomes it turns everything we have accepted about the Star Wars universe on its head and it’s incredibly uncomfortable. So much so that some consider it to be the worst Star Wars film of the bunch.

Until I gave it some thought I would have agreed. I actually think it’s one the best. And not because of all the torch passing bollocks that most critics have spouted on about – of course new characters are picking up where the old ones left off.

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There was a transition between Episode 3 and Episode 4 so why did we expect this trilogy to be any different? We’re only grumpy because we wanted more of the same. The reality is had Star Wars been made today, with today’s budgets and special effects, it would have been a TV show and it would have blown people’s minds.

The Last Jedi is brilliant because it really is a Star Wars movie for Star Wars fans. Not fans of specific bits of Star Wars. The Force Awakens by comparison is a busted, plot holed homage to the originals in an effort to apologise for the prequels. An apology that no one needed. Apart from Jar Jar.

I originally thought that Johnson was the fan boy making the movie he always wanted. Now I think it may have been the other way round.

The Last Jedi owns the sins of the Force Awakens – like why did Han and Luke both bugger off when Kylo goes bad. Until the Last Jedi that goes painfully unexplained.

It also brings everything together. It gives the three acts of the story cohesion made all the richer if you’ve watched The Clone Wars and Rebels programmes as well.

It also directly challenges the notion that every problem can be solved by ‘jumping in a cockpit and blowing something up’. Again it’s an uncomfortable thought because the word Wars is in the title and X-wings are awesome.

But the point is that although there will be battles, the war won’t end at the end of a gun.

X-Wing Expansion: X-Wing – A Review

FFGSWXwinglogoFollowing on from Mat’s look at the TIE Fighter expansion, I’ve taken a look at the X-Wing fighter expansion pack. Because why have one X-Wing fighter when you can have two…or twelve?

So what’s in the pack? Well a lot of packaging. Unnecessary amounts of packaging but that tracks with the core box and, by the looks of things, all the other expansions including the up coming Corellian Corvette. And once you hack your way in you get the model itself which is the average painted scale X-Wing which looks like it was dipped in Army Painter but it’s passable and immediately identifiable as an X-Wing so that’s fair enough.

SWX02You also get the manoeuvre wheel, shield, lock-on, damage, stress and focus tokens, pilot cards, upgrade cards and the appropriate double-sided base markers for the pilots included.

Weirdly, for me, the exciting aspect of the X-Wing pack is the cards. And that’s a first. Because in the Expansion you get new pilots, upgrades and the like. Specifically you get Wedge Antilles. I didn’t realise this when I bought the pack (Mat I still owe you a tenner) and oh how I swooned when I looked through it all. Aside from Wedge being my absolute favourite Star Wars character – yes even over Han Solo and Boba Fett – he’s an absolute badass in the game. This has everything to do with his high initiative and special ability that reduces his targets agility by 1 which for a TIE fighter is incredibly bad news. Throw in the marksman upgrade for 3 points and it grants him the ability to turn focus results into hits. Every time he fires. That combination dramatically increases his lethality. And when you hit you hit big, as you’ll see in the upcoming battle report. He’s no more resilient or anything but he’s more likely to kill a TIE fighter in a single volley than even the likes Luke Skywalker.

The beauty of the expansion pack actually rests with the rules of the game itself as the profiles, upgrades and even the differences in turn wheel compared to other ship works so nicely. So when you’re bird-dogging TIE Fighters the sweep turns of the X-Wing are quite at odds with the sudden and aggressive turns made by their quarry. It really is an awesome game.

The rub is that for that single model you’ll be paying £10.79. And that’s more expensive than the Games Workshop. The new Witch Elves works out at £3.50 per model for more plastic. However remember two important things: 1) it’s a licensed Star Wars product which means Lucas Film/Disney want their taste and (2) A single X-Wing at £10.79 will make a much bigger difference to a game of X-Wing than the equivalent spend on most other models – not just Witch Elves – so it’s all relative I guess. Plus you don’t need to spend a butt load of money on X-Wing to enjoy it. And because you can play a good-sized game with just three models you can buy a model a month for a year, end up with a full squadron and not feel like you were robbed.

So, the X-Wing fighter expansion is brilliant because it makes the game better by owning it, which is a weird thing. The model is average and essentially what you’re paying for is bits of card with cool things printed on them, but that’s fine because average painted or not, there are few sights sweeter than forming up a combat flight of X-Wings on a board.

The X-Wing fighter expansion is available from Firestorm Games priced £10.79.