Designer: Corey Konieczka, Tony Fanchi
Artist: According to BoardGameGeek, there are 49 artists…
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games (Asmodee North America)
Category: Space exploration and combat
Player Count: 1-4
Price: $64.99 MSRP
In 2012, Fantasy Flight Games kicked off their newly acquired Star Wars license with the X-Wing Miniatures Game. Most of their Star Wars stuff has been collectable, ongoing games, but a few individual, large board games have been released. Star Wars Rebellion, for example, is regarded by many (including myself) as one of the best board games ever made. It perfectly captures the epic struggle between the rebel and imperial forces. What else would you want to emulate from Star Wars? How about smuggling on the Outer Rim, with all the style and flair of Han Solo and his contemporaries? Great idea!
The artwork is standard Star Wars stuff, nothing really offensive, although there are weapons and “action shots” but no gore or blood or even people hurt that I can recall. Most of the market cards are plain, stoic pictures of the item in question.
The biggest issue with Outer Rim is that it extols and simulates an illegal, immoral lifestyle of smuggling and thieving. The gameplay simulates this on a fairly abstract level, with no real consequences to, or even acknowledgement of, those affected by these acts.
There’s a lot to like in Outer Rim. The game has great art and clear iconography. Nearly every mechanism has a strong thematic connection; you always feel like you’re “doing” something that a smuggler should do – delivering cargo, getting in dogfights, capturing bounties. It evokes this portion of Star Wars lore very well; it’s Solo or the latter half of Empire Strikes Back in board game form. The rules are relatively short, concise and clear, despite Fantasy Flight’s continued insistence on multiple rulebooks. It oozes style.
But there’s a problem. The game is boring most of the time. On your turn, it’s pretty awesome. You’re a legendary pirate! You just got the Millennium Falcon! You did the Kessel Run! Great job. Now, it’s two or three other players’ turns. And nothing they’re doing matters to you at all.
I played this game with both three and four players, and we had player-to-player combat, I think, once. We traded items once. What other players do so rarely affects what you’re doing that downtime is brought to ridiculous levels. PvP combat is usually not advantageous enough to pursue over other ways to score points. You have to be on the same space to trade with another player, which is rarely worth it. You might influence the market deck for other players, but sometimes that just reinfoces the idea to completely ignore the other players until it’s your turn. This is a 2-3 hour game that you play maybe 45 minutes of. By the end of the second game, we were taking our turns and then leaving the table to get food, use the bathroom, etc. while other players took their turns. A 10-second quick recap of each turn was all that was needed.
My other complaint about the game is that it feels incomplete. The rules and the game are tightly designed, but there’s not enough stuff. By my third play, it became easy to predict what kind of characters show up where, what kind of events can happen, what was in the market deck, and so on. The sense of exploration quickly disappeared. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but given Fantasy Flight’s penchant for selling expansions, it seems like this was somewhat intentional.
When it’s your turn, this game can be pretty cool. But I’m not a solo gamer (I’d rather play a video game), and with two players, I’d rather play, well, Star Wars Rebellion, or another game designed only for two players. With any more, the downtime ruins the experience. The feeling of incompleteness sure doesn’t help either.
Thank you to Asmodee North America for providing a review copy of Star Wars: Outer Rim.
The Bottom Line
Outer Rim brings a lot of Star Wars flavor to the table, but the downtime and lack of player interaction drag the game down too far.