For anyone who has never heard or played of Imperial Assault, IA is a table top RPG set in the Star Wars universe by Fantasy Flight. Anyone who has Descent: Journeys In The Dark will be very familiar with the concept, as Imperial Assault is basically a reskinned version of that game (by the same makers so we will let them off).
The story of the game takes place shortly after the events of Episode 4: A New Hope, and various expansions can be bought that add new characters and continue the story throughout the course of the original trilogy of Star Wars. Unlike traditional Roleplaying games, IA is much more board game based than most. Rather than Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder, where you have a character sheet and you write down your character’s abilities and new equipment you acquire, in this game you have a character card with pre-existing abilities outlined on, and as you play missions, you gain experience points for which you can spend to upgrade your character. These upgrades come in the form of cards, and you have these cards available to you to use for future missions. This is where the roleplaying element comes into play. It feels very much like a computer game, rather than a pen and paper table top RPG. Even health points are tokens that you add on your character card, and all combat is based on what weapon you are using (which comes in the form of a card with its attack information printed on it) and it tells you what dice to roll. Each weapon has a range on it and the dice faces feature the number of hits, as well as the distance the shot travelled.
The board is really cool as it is made up of various pieces of different terrain that is fits together based on the map of the mission. These are double sided as well giving each mission a completely different feel from the last one.
The characters you can select range from various Star Wars races (such as Wookie or Bothan), but there are loads more in the expansions, and have been created for the game. You can get classic Star Wars characters, such as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, or R2D2, but these come in the form of allies that can be acquired and accompany you on missions, or serve as special baddies to face (in the terms of villain characters like Dark Vader or Boba Fett). These allies come with their own special mission that can be added into the mission deck.
This is a really cool aspect of the game. You see depending if you win or lose the first mission, your story goes on a different path, and so on and so on depending if you are victorious or not on the missions there after. In between missions you are able to select one from a number of side missions that are drawn from the mission deck of cards. These are shorter than the story missions, but offer rewards to the players.
I will say that if you have never heard of it, then definitely check this game out as it is a lot of fun. The initial core game box is expensive, and there are loads of expansions to add to the game, but if you have a group of friends who are willing to play it, then it is totally worth it.
Now, one thing I have not mentioned is that like nearly every table top RPG, someone plays as the Dungeon Master/Game Master/Judge/etc, basically they control the enemies of the game. Someone always has to assume this role, and Imperial Assault is no different. The cool aspect of this is that rather than the DM playing in a way to make it as enjoyable for the players as possible, the DM is actually playing to win as well, which makes it incredibly challenging for the players, but so much more rewarding if they manage to complete the mission.
After each mission the DM gains experience points as well and can gain more units or special characters to deploy during the missions, as well as spend their experience points on special abilities that they can either use once per round, or maybe once per mission depending on how powerful the ability actually is. They can also add in side missions that basically give them a reward if the players do not choose it, forcing their hand.
Buying expansion packs and special characters (mainly villains) is good for the DM player to build their forces as well.
Now the only issue with this is that someone HAS to play as the DM. There is no way around it. And you need a minimum of two hero in play, so if there are only two players, then it will not work unless the hero player plays as two heroes, as the other always plays as the DM.
Now Fantasy Flight have just released the Legends of the Alliance Companion App. This effectively replaces the Imperial Player (aka the DM). Anyone who has the similar app for Descent will know how this works, but for the rest, let me explain.
The app does everything that the DM does. It chooses units to bring into missions to fight against you, it chooses when to deploy them mid-game, it chooses what side mission to throw into the mix as and when it deems appropriate, as well as when to play those all important trump cards.
It is effectively the third player that does all the hard work. Now, with this app, two people can just get together and begin or continue their Imperial Assault campaign. Technically one person could solo it if they weren’t that bothered about controlling two heroes, and for anyone who plays RPG computer games, this is not overly a big deal. It would be if it was a pen and paper based RPG game.
The app even records your your adventure as well as all your heroes abilities (such as weapon and skill cards they might have acquired during the course of the campaign), which is brilliant if you are playing multiple campaigns with different groups of friends, but only have the one IA box.
The app really makes the game cooperative and allows for friends to unite against the Galactic Empire, rather than making on person feel alienated as it can be 4 against 1 if you are playing with a full house.
It helps build the unknown of exploring an Imperial base, as you never know what is waiting for you behind the next door. Normally the DM would play all his units into play as soon as the game begins, but they would not be allowed to open doors, so the hero players would know what they are up against (unless some specific condition was met that cause the DM to unleash a surprise onto the other players, now that surprise is all the time), as the app tells you when you deploy enemy units as and when they come into play. This creates more tension for the hero players making them tread carefully, but, something I forgot to mention, is that most missions are timed, so they have to push forward into the unknown.
The app comes with a tutorial mission explaining the differences between the normal way to play the game, and the app version (as there are a few tweaks to the gameplay that mix it up slightly due to the absence of the DM). After that you are able to embark on a brand new 5 mission campaign (which is bulked out with side missions in-between) called; Flight of the Freedom Fighter, beginning after the destruction of the first Death Star. So it comes with new missions from what are available in the base game, giving veteran IA players something new to play using the core set they have probably used a hundred times before.
It is unknown if you can play the base game campaign, or if it will not work due to the differences between the normal way to play and the app version.
You do not need anything more than the core set to play with the app, but if you do have allies, Villains, or other add-ons or expansion packs, then you can add this to the apps collection and it will utilise these to feature these in your campaign.
The app is free and so any Imperial Assault player would have to be corrupted by the Dark Side of the Force not to download it and get involved. Now I just have to gather a group of rebels to join me in my next campaign to fight against the Emperor and save the galaxy far far away…