The is the first part of a new semi-regular series here on Robot Viking focused on games you can play when there’s no one else around. Some games work well solitaire with special rules or modifications, but lots of games are designed for solo play. Star Wars: Battle for Endor is one of those.
A few weeks ago when I wrote my Space Hulk: Death Angel review, a reader from io9.com asked me for suggestions for other good solitaire games. I started writing out some ideas in an email, then thought it would make for a good article, then decided there were too many good solo games for just one post. Thus, the Lonely Gamer series was born.
Star Wars: Battle for Endor was released in 1989, back when West End Games had the Star Wars license. The game shows its age in both the dated design and the rather shoddy components. I could forgive the paper minis inserted into plastic bases if not for the folded paper game board — the two elements combine to be a serious pain in the ass with so many units in play. The flimsy, perforated cards are flat out inexcusable. Notice how the Action cards show AT-ATs on Hoth — it’s recycled art from another game. This game doesn’t take place on Hoth or involve any AT-ATs whatsoever. Nice.
The game starts with your plucky Rebel heroes (Han Solo, Leia, Chewie and the droids) at the entrance to the Imperial bunker, surrounded by Imperial troops. There are storm troopers, generic security guards, AT-ST walkers and speeder bikes arrayed against you. Some Ewoks are hiding in the forest, ready to help out. A couple of “leader” Ewoks are included, like Wicket and Chief Chirpa. Your goal is to break into the bunker and shut down the shield generator before too many Rebel cruisers are destroyed in the space battle raging in orbit far above. Meanwhile, hordes of Imperials keep on coming, so you have to fend them off at the same time.
The game can be quite challenging since there’s a fair amount of randomness that can throw serious problems at you. For one, the rate of cruiser destruction is determined by the drawing of the “Cruiser Destroyed!” Event cards. If all five end up near the top of the deck, you can lose the battle before you really have a chance. Action orders are determined by the Action cards. For example, you can’t take actions with the Ewoks until the “Ewoks and Ewok Leaders Move” card comes up. If you draw a bunch of “Security Troops Fire” cards in a row, you’re in for a rough day. Event cards create other random events, such as Imperial or (sometimes) Rebel reinforcements. Chewbacca can even capture an AT-ST, like he did in the movie.
Imperial actions are determined by the Imperial Tactics chart. Event cards can shift Imperial Tactics throughout the game, so their attack priorities shift from time to time. They might walk right past some Rebel heroes to take out a few pesky Ewoks. When you finally get the bunker door open, they go into high alert and swarm the bunker entrance. The imperial tactics are actually your best advantage, since you can rig Imperial actions based on what they’re current tactic level is (while hoping it doesn’t change). Look closely at the tactics chart. See that one list called “Hunt Ewoks”? You can actually run groups of Ewoks into position specifically to be mowed down by storm troopers, which will leave your more valuable heroes and troops alone.
The difficulty of the game can be adjusted by adjusting the number of “Cruiser Destroyed!” cards needed to lose. The base level is five, but once you’ve mastered the art of Ewok sacrifice, four or even three can make things a bit more intense.
Despite the flawed components, this is a decent solitaire game. Not the best of the bunch, but if you see on the used game shelf for a few bucks, I’d grab it. Any game with an actual game state called “Hunt Ewoks” can’t be that bad.