By July 23, 2007

Star Wars PocketModel collectible card game

My body has built up a resistance to most things Star Wars over the years. I used to search out — and receive — all sorts of Star Wars stuff, from toys to Pez dispensers, to limited edition cels of the movie. After being disappointed in the new trilogy films and unimpressed with video game offerings such as Jedi Knight and the Lego Star Wars series, With the exception of the original Knights of the Republic game on the Xbox, I’ve been able to turn a blind eye to most of Lucas’ marketing attempts. I don’t read the books that are cranked out one after the other, nor do I pay much attention to the reissued toys that I owned as a child. However, I was unable to escape the Siren’s call of the Star Wars PocketModel collectible card game. Damn you for telling me about this, Bond. 🙂

SWPM is put out by WizKids Games, the same folks that brought you HeroClix and Pirates. SWPM is the most similar to Pirates, in that both games have model ships made out of polystyrene, a form of styrofoam. In Pirates, historical ships of the line do battle in custom-made fleets. In SWPM, you assemble TIE fighters, X-Wings, and ships from the new trilogy.

The game is simple. There are three zones: your home zone, your opponent’s home zone, and then the Contested Zone, the area in between. There is no actual game board, although some fans of the game are making custom battle mats. The object of the game is to either destroy all of your opponent’s ships or destroy the three objectives found in their home zone. Each player builds a deck of at least thirty cards and thirty “stars” worth of units. Twenty stars worth are deployed immediately; the remaining ships are left as reserves.

The guiding game mechanic behind SWPM is “The Rule of Five.” Each ship in the game has a value, denoted by stars. TIE fighters and simple ships have a value of one star. The Millennium Falcon has three stars, and a Star Destroyer has five. During your turn, you may move five stars worth of units, attack with five stars worth of units, or strike your opponent’s objectives with five stars worth of units. If I have five TIE fighters in play, I may attack with all five of them, since (one star x five = five stars worth of attacking units). If I choose to attack with the Millennium Falcon (three stars), I can attack with two one star units or one two star unit, such as an X-Wing.

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Five one-star TIE fighters square off against two X-Wings and a drone fighter totaling five points.

Every ship has four attributes: Attack, Damage, Defense, and Shields. Combat is resolved by rolling two six-sided dice and adding the Attack attribute. The result must be greater than or equal to the Defense rating of your target. If you hit, you apply the Damage attribute to your opponent’s Shields. Shields are like hit points — a ship is destroyed when it has zero remaining shields. Both ships in combat get to fire, so even if your ship gets blown up, you can pull a Churchill and take one with you. In the case of multiple ships attacking one target, combat is resolved one ship at a time. This is a subtle but important rule. If my five TIE fighters attack the Falcon, I go through five separate combat cycles (TIE #1 vs Falcon, TIE #2 vs Falcon, etc). I do not get to add up all five TIEs as some kind of “fighter blob” that attacks with cumulative strength. This gives more powerful ships a better chance against a swarm of smaller opponents.

I mentioned cards earlier. There are two types of cards: action cards and objectives. Objectives are places, like the Death Star Trench, or the Old Republic Council Chamber. Objectives have a high defense rating. After all, if your three objectives are destroyed, it’s GAME OVER, MAN. Action cards are effects, like instants and interrupts in Magic: The Gathering. You can use a combat card to strengthen your own troops or weaken your opponent’s troops.

From a collector’s standpoint, SWPM cards have a very nice feature: the rarity is listed right on the card. Like M:tG, there are Common, Uncommon, and Rare cards. I am not sure what the overall distribution in on the cards. There are also “foil” rares, which are printed on a special metallic background. While one might think these would be “rare Rares,” they are actually more commonly available. The ships have identification numbers on the bottom, which makes it easier to discuss the units, as sometimes ships will have similar names.

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Imperial Super Star Destroyer ready for battle.

The ships come unassembled and printed on a card. You punch out the ship pieces and assemble the models. Some of the designs are quite easy to build, and some of the designs are unfortunately fragile. I snapped a TIE fighter off at the wing, and Teach broke a V-Wing and a drone fighter. I believe Bond has also snapped a V-Wing. Superglue works wonders at repairing the ships, but now I am nervous about assembling the more rare boats.

I haven’t played many games so far, but I’ve enjoyed SWPM. The first game against Teach took about half an hour to complete, and that included a call to Bond to clarify a rules question. If both sides blitz for objectives, the game has been rumored to take as little as six minutes. There is going to be a lot of “tune-up” play, where I try to learn what strategies and fleet compositions fit my personality the best. I played a lot of weenie decks in Magic, such as a Goblin-only deck and the “Deck that Never Dies,” made up of regenerating, low-damage critters. I’m working on my TIE swarm fleet right now and trying to find the right balance of objective cards and action cards.

If you like Star Wars, or are looking for a relatively low-cost tactical tabletop game, check out SWPM. The boosters are about $4 to $5 a pack (cheaper at Walmart than Target), and you can buy a “Power Up Pack” with thirty cards, a buttnest of ships, and a Super Star Destroyer for $15.

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1 Comment on "Star Wars PocketModel collectible card game"

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  1. “There is going to be a lot of “tune-up” play, where I try to learn what strategies and fleet compositions fit my personality the best. I played a lot of weenie decks in Magic, such as a Goblin-only deck and the “Deck that Never Dies,” made up of regenerating, low-damage critters. I’m working on my TIE swarm fleet right now and trying to find the right balance of objective cards and action cards.”

    That sounds fun. I spent long hours tuning my Magic decks, sometimes for the win, sometimes just because I wanted to develop a fun theme deck.