As a huge fan of Star Wars whenever I see a Star Wars themed board game I am always at least somewhat intrigued. As the franchise is arguably the king of merchandising it has not surprisingly led to a lot of Star Wars board games. At this point there are well over a 100 different board games/expansions based on the franchise. While I like Star Wars I am skeptical about most games from the franchise as it doesn’t have the best track record in this area. Especially in the early days most Star Wars board games were really bad even though that has turned around a little in recent years. One of the few Star Wars games that defied your typical expectations was Star Wars: Epic Duels which was released back in 2002. Unlike many Star Wars games from that time period it is actually regarded as a good game as it is rated around the 1,000th best game of all time. I remember picking up the game when it first came out and really enjoying it. The premise of the game is the dream for many Star Wars fans as you finally have the opportunity to see who would win in epic battles that you never got to see. Want to see who would win in a fight between Luke and Han Solo or Obi Wan and the Emperor? Well all this was possible in Star Wars: Epic Duels as the game’s whole premise was giving you your dream matchups. Star Wars: Epic Duels creates a surprisingly easy and fun miniatures game that the whole family can enjoy even if it is a little too simple and relies on too much luck.
How to Play Star Wars Epic Duels Game
These are the rules for the two player game. For more players or tweaks to the main rules also check out the variant rules.
- Each player will choose if they will play as a character from the light or dark side. The game recommends one player play as a character from both sides.
- The players will choose which character they would like to play as. They will take the corresponding chart, pawn, minor character pawn(s) and the deck of cards. If you have two of the same minor characters each will be distinguished based on the notches on the base for the rest of the game.
- Each player shuffles their deck of cards and places them face down in front of themselves.
- The players will decide on which gameboard they would like to play on. The corresponding board will be placed face up on the table.
- Each player will place their main character on the space with their name on it.
- The players will roll the die. The player who rolls the highest number will start the game. This player will also be the first to place their minor characters. Minor characters can be placed on any space adjacent to their main character as long as it is a valid space.
- Each player will take a wound marker for each of the characters that they control. The markers will be placed on the blue circles on the track for each of the characters.
- Each player will draw the top four cards from their deck and look at them.
Playing the Game
A player’s turn consists of two steps.
- Roll the die and move characters.
- Take two actions.
After a player takes both actions play will pass to the next player clockwise.
Each player begins their turn by rolling the die. The number they roll will determine which character(s) will move and how far they can move. If you roll just a number you will only be able to move one of your characters (your choice). If you roll a side that has “all” and then a number you can move all of your characters up to the number rolled.
When moving characters you must follow these rules:
- You may move a character forward, backward, or side to side. You may never move a character sideways.
- The number you roll is the maximum number of spaces you can move. You can choose to move less spaces or no spaces at all.
- A character may never move through or land on fallen pillars, starships, water or mist.
- You may never move through an enemy character. You may move through a friendly character though but may not land on the same space as a friendly character.
After moving their character(s) the player will be able to take two actions. There are three different actions that a player can perform.
- Draw a Card
- Play a Card
- Heal a Character
For your two actions you may perform the same action twice or you may perform two different actions.
Drawing A Card
If you choose to draw a card you will take the top card from your deck and add it to your hand. Each card you draw will count as one action. For example if you draw two cards it will count as two actions.
A player may only have ten cards in their hand at a time. If a player wants to draw a card and they already have ten cards in their hand, they must first discard a card before they draw a new card.
If a player goes through their entire deck of cards they will reshuffle their discard pile to form a new draw deck. If a player goes through their deck a second time the game will immediately end. The players will compare the health of their main characters. The player whose main character has taken less damage will win the game.
Playing A Card
Each card that a player chooses to play will count as one action (unless the card says that it doesn’t count as an action).
There are three types of cards in the game. For more information about combat and power combat cards see the “Combat” section below.
The third type of cards are special cards. These cards will allow you to take special actions. When you play one of these cards you will read the card and take the corresponding action. Once the action has been taken the card will be discarded.
In Star Wars Epic Duels there are two types of combat.
For melee combat the attacking player must be on a space adjacent to the character they are fighting.
Characters with a blaster next to their picture on the character chart also have access to ranged combat. A character can attack with a ranged attack if you can draw a straight line (in any direction including diagonal) between their position and the position of their target. This line between the two characters cannot be interrupted by obstacles (fallen pillars, starship) or other characters.
When a player wants to initiate melee or ranged combat they will have to play a combat or power combat card. To attack with a character you must play a combat card featuring the same character. Each combat card will feature an attack and a defend number. The attack number is how much damage the card can do. The defense number is how much protection the card offers. When you want to attack you will announce which character is attacking and which character they are targeting. The attacking player will then place a combat card face down on the table.
The player that is being attacked then has the option of defending. To play a defense card the player must play a card with a picture matching the character being attacked. They can either play a combat or a power combat card for the defensive value. Playing a card defensively is optional as the player can choose not to play a card.
Once both players have had the option of playing a card they will reveal the cards that they have played. If the defend value is higher or equal to the attack value nothing happens. If the attack value is higher than the defend value though the attacking character will do damage to the other character equal to the difference between the attack and defend numbers. The attacked character will move the marker on their character chart one space towards the red circle for each point of damage taken. In either case all played cards will be discarded.
Power combat cards are basically the same as combat cards except they don’t always have both an attack and defend number. The cards have a special effect printed on the bottom of the cards which will go into effect after determining damage. If both the attacker and defender use power combat cards the attacker’s effects will apply first.
Healing A Character
The final action that a player can take is healing your main character. Once you have lost your minor character(s) you can use their cards in order to heal your main character. A character that has been destroyed cannot be healed. For each minor character card that you discard you will heal your main character of one point of damage by moving the marker one space towards the blue circle. Each card that is discarded will count as one action.
When a character’s damage marker moves to the red circle the character is destroyed/killed. The character’s pawn will be removed from the gameboard and cannot return to the game.
End of Game
When a player loses their main character they are eliminated from the game. The other player will win the game.
Star Wars Epic Duels has a set of various variant rules that you can use in order to spice up the game.
Four and Six Player Team Games
The rules for the four and six player team games will follow all of the rules above. There are a couple small tweaks to the rules though:
- The player will divide into teams. Players on a team should alternate positions around the table so the teams will alternate turns.
- Each player will choose their own main/minor character.
- The game ends when one team loses all of their main characters. The other team wins the game.
- A player that has lost their main character has not been eliminated from the game. They will still be able to use their minor character(s). In this case the player can use cards from their main character to heal their minor character(s).
- Players on the same team can discuss strategy but they can’t tell or show one another what cards they have in their hand.
- If a player rolls an “all” they may move all of their own characters but they may not move any of their teammates characters.
Two to Six Player Free-For-All
This variant follows all of the main rules. In a free-for-all all of the players are playing by themselves. This variant has the following changes to the normal game:
- Each player may choose whichever character they want.
- As soon as a player loses their main character they will be eliminated from the game. Any minor character(s) still on the board are removed.
- The last player to still have their main character will win the game.
Two to Six Player Free-For-All (Random Draw)
This mode is the same as the standard free-for-all with one change. Each player will randomly draw one of the character cards to determine who they will play as during the fight.
Master Play (2 or 4 players)
Master play will use the same rules as the main game with a few tweaks:
- Each player will control two pairs of main characters/minor characters. You can choose your characters or randomly select them. You can choose two characters from the same side of the force or from different sides of the force.
- Each player will draw two cards from each of their decks to start the game.
- When choosing to draw a card you will draw a card from one of the two decks.
- If a player rolls “all” they may move all of their characters from both pairs.
- If you are playing with four players you will play in teams. You will follow the same rules from the team game. When one player loses both of their main characters the game ends with the other team winning.
- For a card that allow a player to randomly pick a card from another player they can choose a card from whichever deck they prefer.
- For the Emperor’s “Future Foreseen” card they can only look through the Emperor’s deck.
My Thoughts on Star Wars Epic Duels Game
While the miniatures genre is quite popular in the board game industry I probably wouldn’t consider it to be one of my favorites. One thing that has always kept me away from the genre is that most games in the genre are on the more difficult end of the spectrum. Most miniatures games revolve around some type of combat where players move characters around and attack one another. This usually involves quite a few different mechanics that you have to remember which usually adds a learning curve to the game. Thus they are the type of game that you have to play a bunch before you get a full grasp of them.
This is one of the reasons that I was kind of surprised when I saw that the age recommendation for Star Wars: Epic Duels was 8+. Rarely do you see a miniatures game with a recommendation below 13+ or even higher. While I remember enjoying the game when I was a teenager, I thought the game was still going to be more difficult than a lot of games. I have to say that I was honestly surprised by the game being considerably easier than I expected. I honestly think Star Wars: Epic Duels is the simplest miniatures game that I have ever played.
The game is so simple because it basically has two mechanics. You begin each turn by rolling the die. The number you roll will determine up to how many spaces you can move and whether you can move just one or all of your characters. After moving your character(s) you then get to take two actions. Pretty much all of these actions revolve around drawing and playing cards. The cards themselves are really straightforward. Most just feature an attack and defense number. Others feature a special ability which is short and to the point. The one area where the game could have become complicated was the combat which is really simple. To initiate combat you need to be next to the character you are attacking if performing a melee attack or in a straight line from your target if you are using a ranged attack. Both players then have the opportunity to play a card. If the attacking player plays a higher attack card than the defender plays a defensive card damage will be dealt. When a character loses all of their health they will be eliminated from the game.
That is basically all there is to the gameplay. I was genuinely surprised by how simple the game was to play. You could honestly teach the game to new players within five or so minutes. The recommended age of 8+ is perfect as well. The game is simple enough that basically the entire family can enjoy it. While there are a lot of things that I liked about Star Wars: Epic Duels this has to be the game’s greatest asset. One of the biggest problems with a lot of miniatures games is that they can be kind of intimidating with all of the different pieces and rules. None of that is present in this game. Basically all you do in the game is try to use your 2-3 characters to defeat the other player(s) characters. This simplicity makes the game shine as you can focus more on having fun recreating epic Star Wars battles instead of worrying about a bunch of different rules.
This simplicity leads to another benefit for the game. In addition to being pretty difficult many miniatures games are quite long. That is not the case for Star Wars: Epic Duels. Due to the game’s simplicity you aren’t going to have to spend a lot of time waiting for a game’s conclusion. I can see most games ending in 20-30 minutes. I attribute this fact to a couple things. First with how simple the game is there isn’t too much to think about which means that each turn moves quickly. You won’t get bogged down in rules so you can focus on just making your moves. There is also the fact that you only control a few characters. Therefore there is no need to defeat a large army in order to win the game. Defeat just a couple characters and the game is over. Finally the gameboards are quite small. I wish they were a little larger but the smaller boards force players to engage in combat instead of just running away. This means you will attack one another instead of just sitting back and trying to heal up. Players have to take chances which speeds up the game.
Another strength for the game is that it has immense replay value. While the battles will feel a little samey after a while, there is no limit to how many different battles you can play in the game. Between the four different boards and the twelve different groups of characters there are a bunch of different combinations that you can play. You can recreate epic battles from the movies or create your own featuring characters that never actually fought one another. On top of all of this the game has developed a fanbase online. This has lead to a lot of fan made content tweaking existing characters and even adding more characters to the game. I think this is due to the game being so simple where it is easy to make your own cards. If the gameplay keeps you interested the game almost offers unlimited gameplay.
All of this leads to a game that is much more enjoyable than you would expect from an early 2000s Star Wars game made by Milton Bradley. The game does a good job finding a balance between being accessible and still giving players strategic options. The game recreates Star Wars duels about the best you could in a board game. The game has some problems which I will get to shortly but I had fun with the game. There are better Star Wars games out there but most are much worse. Fans of Star Wars should have a lot of fun with Star Wars: Epic Duels.
There are a lot of things to like about Star Wars: Epic Duels, but it does have a couple issues that prevent it from being as good as it could have.
For a lot of reasons I really liked how Star Wars: Epic Duels simplified the gameplay from your typical miniatures game. Probably the biggest problem with the game though comes from the fact that the game goes a little too far in this direction. I applaud the game for being simple enough that everyone can play it but it ended up making the game a little too simple. As I said before you basically just roll a die and draw/play cards. That is all there is to the game. There is some strategy to the game, but it also feels like there is something missing. The battles aren’t particularly deep. Positioning doesn’t really matter that much outside of avoiding enemies or getting into a position to be able to attack. If you are looking for a deep game you will likely be disappointed by Star Wars: Epic Duels.
This simplicity also leads to the game relying on a lot of luck. There are decisions to make in the game but they are usually pretty obvious. Most of the strategy comes from being able to read your opponent. Since there isn’t a ton of strategy it means that luck plays a pretty big role in the game. Getting the right die role is important so you can attack another character or retreat. Luck plays a much bigger role with regards to the cards that you draw. All of the cards in the decks are not equal. Each deck has some cards that are really powerful and others that are nothing special. For example some have cards that are basically instakills if you don’t do a good enough job defending yourself. The player that draws most of their best cards early in the game is going to have a big advantage in the game.
In addition to drawing good cards you also need to draw the cards for the right character. Each pair in the game has a different power breakdown between the main character and the minor character(s). Some have a really powerful main character with a really weak minor character(s). Others are more balanced where the main character is weaker but the minor character is stronger. What cards you draw is important because you need to draw cards for the character that you want to attack or defend with. If you keep drawing cards for a character you don’t want to use you will end up wasting a lot of actions. This is particularly bad if you keep drawing cards for a minor character(s) that has already been killed. All you can do with these cards is discard them to heal one health point. When you are forced to do this you are basically wasting two actions for one health point. If you get stuck doing this too often you will have no chance of winning the game.
The final issue with the game is that all of the characters are not balanced. There are characters in the game that are considerably better than others. The player that gets the better character is going to have a distinct advantage in the game. This comes from the distribution of the cards and the special abilities found on the cards. Some of the characters are so powerful that it will be hard to beat them unless you pick another of the powerful characters. There are some character matchups that greatly favor one of the characters as well. You will eventually figure out which characters are the best, but before that time you will play games where one of the players will have a distinct advantage. This can be frustrating and takes away some of your enjoyment. This could have been a much bigger issue except that the game plays quickly and it is simple enough that you won’t take the game too seriously.
For a game that is 18 years old at this point I would say that the components are better than I expected. This is especially true when you consider that the game was made by Milton Bradley and retailed for considerably cheaper than the Star Wars games with really nice components. I applaud the game for including 31 painted figures. This means that each unique character has their own miniature that shows a decent amount of detail. The painting is not great but it is about the best you could expect for a game made by Milton Bradley. You will find better miniatures in other games, but they also originally retailed for considerably higher prices. The game also includes twelve 31 card decks with each deck having cards unique to each character. The card art is solid and designed in a way that it is easy to find the information that you need. The gameboards are a little small and are your typical cardboard. The components won’t blow you away but you couldn’t ask for much more from an early 2000s Milton Bradley game.
Should You Buy Star Wars: Epic Duels Game?
Ultimately I had fun with Star Wars: Epic Duels. The game is quite simple to learn and play where pretty much anyone can play it. You don’t have to waste a bunch of time learning rules and can instead focus on having fun. The game is simple enough that the whole family can enjoy it. This simplicity leads to the game playing pretty quickly as most games can be completed in 20-30 minutes. With the number of characters the game also has a lot of replayability. While I liked that the game was easy to play I think it goes a little too far where there isn’t enough strategy to the game. This means the game will rely on quite a bit of luck which isn’t helped by some characters being considerably better than others. I enjoyed Star Wars: Epic Duels but I think it is a little overrated.
If you aren’t much of a fan of Star Wars or aren’t into simple miniatures games I don’t think Star Wars: Epic Duels will be for you. Fans of Star Wars or more accessible miniatures games though should enjoy the game. I would normally recommend picking up the game. The problem is that the game has become pretty rare at this point mostly because Milton Bradley lost the rights to Star Wars and thus the game was never reprinted. With how many people that want the game it regularly sells for $100-150. I don’t think Star Wars: Epic Duels is worth that much. If you can get a good deal on the game though I would recommend picking it up.