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Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit

Reviewed by Nigel Buckle, Copyright ©2001

Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion

This game recreates the climatic end of the film Star Wars - Episode 1: The Phantom Menace and gives you the chance to change it. Can the Trade Federation be victorious? Can Darth Maul defeat the Jedi?

In the box:
155 "soft" plastic figures
2 game boards
3-D Palace
16 Dice
4 Reference Cards
90 Battlefield Cards
90 Threed Palace Cards

There are four areas of action, all occurring simultaneously, and all requiring your attention:
The battle on the plains of Naboo between the Gungan army and the Droid army.
The duel between Darth Maul and the Jedi (Qui-Gon & Obi-Wan).
The battle at the palace between the Queen with her guards and the Droids.
The attack on the Droid Control Ship by Anakin.

This is really a two-player game (although there is a 4 player version, with players sharing the action on each side) and the rules are fairly simple - after a couple of games you can play by just referring to the reference charts. At the heart of the game are the Battlefield and Palace cards; both sides have a deck of 45 cards of each. You start the game with 10 cards, 5 from each deck, and you have to pick 4 cards and then decide the order you want to play them, each turn. Four replacements are drawn at the end of each turn, 2 from each deck. These cards allow you to move/attack with certain forces in one of the four areas (battlefield, duel, palace and space).

You have to decide which cards to play. Do you concentrate on one area? Can you afford to ignore any? The Naboo player wins if they can get at least 3 characters into the throne room of the palace after Anakin destroys the Droid Control Ship. The Trade Federation Player wins by eliminating enough characters in the palace to stop this happening. Once the Control Ship is destroyed all the droids are removed from the game, leaving the Trade Federation with just Darth Maul.

Why bother with the duel, battlefield or space battle if the palace is so crucial to win the game? The Naboo player has to move Anakin through 5 grids of starfighters to reach and destroy the Control Ship, and the Trade Federation player can slow Anakin down by playing additional starfighter cards. Once the Sith/Jedi duel is resolved the survivor(s) can move into the palace, and these characters are very effective fighters (destroying up to three opponents a turn). Finally advances on the battlefield give you bonus cards to play in the following turn, which can prove crucial.

The longer the game lasts the more the advantage swings to the Trade Federation. Eliminated droids can be reused, and surviving droids on the battlefield can be moved to the palace to reinforce the defenders there, but losses the Naboo player takes are permanent.

Is the game worth the high price tag? I think so; it is very attractive with the plastic pieces and the 3 tier (3-D) palace (see the pictures on Avalon Hill's web site www.avalonhill.com), it is playable in around two hours, quite balanced (I've played 7 games and the Trade Federation have won 4 times) and fans of Star Wars will love it. There is a nice mix of luck and strategy, with the depth being the choice and play of the cards. However this mechanic makes the game less suitable for younger players (under 10) unless they are playing the four-player game with adult help.

If you like relatively simple war games with lots of plastic figures and rolling buckets of dice, such as Axis & Allies, or you are a Star Wars fan you will want this game otherwise I suggest you try before you buy.

Cost (UK) around 50. USD equivalent is roughly $75.

Editor's Note:

Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit is published by Avalon Hill (a Hasbro affiliate) who can be reached at http://www.avalonhill.com.

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