October 14, 2014 by crew
As we continue our series on “Make the Game Your Own: Star Wars Ground Minis,” we’re exploring still more options for converting the old Star Wars PocketModels TCG into a miniatures wargame. So far we’ve outlined a basic conversion, faced down Imperial Walkers in the Battle of Hoth, and burned down hordes of Separatist “clankers” at the Battle of Geonosis. In this article, we return to a classic confrontation of the original trilogy, the Battle of Endor at the end of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
Taking To The Trees
When we started imagining how to recreate the Battle of Endor, however, we ran into an immediate problem. This was almost entirely an infantry battle, especially on the Rebel side, and PocketModels has no real infantry units. As readers may be aware, we’ve had a side thread going in the forums about Experimental Infantry Pieces, and although we’ve had a lot of great input from Star Wars fans throughout Beasts of War, this was the first real playtest for our infantry units in Star Wars PocketModels.
As we did with our Battle of Hoth, our first Battle of Endor would be set up much like the “historical” scene in the movie. A strike team of Rebel commandos has broken into the back door of the Imperial bunker on Endor. Their mission is to blow the whole complex sky-high in order to disable the massive deflector shield protecting the Death Star still under construction in orbit. The Rebels, however, have walked into an Imperial trap. Captured, they’ve been taken out to a clearing packed with stormtroopers, biker scouts, and AT-STs. Of course, the Imperials are themselves surrounded by hidden Rebel forces about to spring a “rescue trap” of their own, and a wild woodland battle is only heartbeats away. In the balance is the fate of the Death Star’s defector shield, the Rebel Alliance, and the cause of freedom throughout the galaxy.
For our Battle of Endor, however, we’d be making a few changes.
Battle One: An Endor Without Ewoks
While this may be a matter of opinion, the Ewoks have to be one of the silliest ideas ever presented in Star Wars (well, besides Jar Jar Binks and midi-chlorians). The idea of sentient teddy bears defeating what the Emperor calls “an entire legion of my best troops” – complete with mechanized and armoured support – has never worked for most die-hard fans, much less wargamers. Thus, our battle would make do without Ewoks, replacing their shrieking, furred, half-sized multitudes with a smaller number of additional Rebel commandos. This isn’t to say that the battle would be entirely without their presence, as many of the more powerful combat cards in our Rebel deck are themed around characters like Wicket, Logray, and Chief Chirpa. We just wouldn’t have any tiny Ewok miniatures scampering around our board.
The Rebels would also have some additional hardware. Two AT-STs were already in their possession, along with a handful of speeder bikes. Perhaps most importantly, the Shuttle Tydirium (in which they first arrived on Endor) was once again airborne, her guns charged up for some Rebel air support. Fair is fair, however, and the Imperials were also bringing in reinforcements from the shield generator bunker, including additional AT-STs, speeder bikes, and even the AT-AT that brought in Luke Skywalker when he surrendered to Vader earlier in the movie.
The battle started with a Rebel initiative. From the woods around the clearing, Rebel commandos immediately started taking out Imperial AT-STs and speeder bikes. At first, I thought my Rebel opponent was just going for the easier targets (infantry in this game are actually pretty tough to kill since each piece represents 8-10 men who can take cover in woods and buildings). But there was a more insidious strategy at play.
If you’ve been reading these articles you may be aware that each initiative (pulling poker chips from a bag “Bolt Action” style) allows the player to activate five “build stars” worth of units. Well, in an effort to faithfully recreate movie stormtroopers, my Imperial infantry squads all had +0 to hit (outside of ARC troopers or the 501st, no army in movie history has poorer marksmanship training than Imperial stormtroopers). This means that these two-star squads had to combine activations with speeder bikes or AT-STs to get any bonuses to hit. By carefully clipping these more accurate units, my opponent was leaving me with large numbers of Imperial infantry which, although tough and packing a powerful punch, couldn’t actually HIT anything . . . in true stormtrooper style.
Not everything went the Rebels’ way, of course. The commandos right at the bunker were soon killed or chased off, and I collapsed my remaining stormtroopers into a perimeter around the bunker entrance and held on for the AT-AT and AT-ST reinforcements (whoever held the bunker doors at the end of Turn 8 was considered the winner). By the beginning of Turn 4 the game resembled an Imperial version of “Blackhawk Down,” with infantry in a building, fighting off insurgents and hoping that a reinforcement convoy reached them in time. Then Rebels tried landing their “Shuttle Tydirium” ON the bunker. But when the shuttle was blown out of the sky, it looked like my dogged stormtroopers might actually hold on until Turn 8 to win the game.
Sadly for the Empire, however, I didn’t count on several factors. One was the murderous accuracy of Rebel commandos, who could hit and kill my stormtroopers even with the +1 defence bonus we were giving for units in woods and buildings. Some of the “Rebel Infiltrator” speeder bikes that come with PocketModels have a +3 to hit, making them positively lethal when combined with high-firepower units like commandos or “Chewbacca’s AT-ST.” Speaking of Chewbacca, my opponent finally got to play the Chewbacca card on Turn 6, using it with Chewbacca’s AT-ST no less, to destroy one of my reinforcing AT-STs. And of course there were the Ewok combat cards. Have I mentioned that I really hate Ewoks?
In the end, the Rebels won the day, my AT-STs and even the mighty AT-AT picked apart and eventually destroyed in those dense woods and narrow defiles. At least the margin was satisfyingly narrow, my very last biker scout team holding out at the bunker until the beginning of Turn 8. If they’d survived two more activations, they would have turned the day and perhaps been promoted to the 501st or even the Imperial Guard. But such are the fortunes of war.
Battle Two: Han Solo is Dead!
For our second battle on Endor, we imagined an “alternative ending” to this climactic engagement. While they naturally never said anything in the movie, what if Admiral Ackbar and General Madine had a backup plan in case Solo’s mission to Endor truly failed? Sure, the original plan was to have the Death Star shield generator down just as the Rebel fleet was arriving, but if it wasn’t, maybe a more conventional Rebel strike force was ready to land on Endor and directly attack the shield generator on the surface. Naturally, there would be no surprise or stealth since the Rebel fleet would already be engaged in orbit. This would be a desperate, last-ditch assault to save the fleet rather than a covert commando raid. Perhaps the Rebel ground force would be equipped with vehicles left over from the Clone Wars, supported by an elite wing of B-wing heavy assault starfighters.
This time taking the role of the Rebels, I set down my AT-PTs, speeder bikes, and commandos a short distance from the shield generator. Things started off badly when my Imperial opponent scrambled a wing of TIE bombers to take out my first company, but these bombers were quickly shot to ribbons by my vengeful B-wings. Another nasty moment came when the Imperials (who had some better stormtroopers from the 501st this time) actually got a “sniper team” into the high buildings of the shield generator and started taking out my speeder bike riders. I also lost two B-wings to the AT-AT and AT-STs, but in the end the other two B-wings hammered the bulk of the Imperial garrison into flaming wreckage. In the end I had more units in the bunker than my opponent, giving me the win.
In the end, our new infantry rules seemed to work well, especially in heavy forests, buildings, and other obstacles that mitigate traditional infantry weaknesses like slow movement and limited weapons range. Also, the difference in “prices” and combat statistics seemed to work well for the different levels of infantry (e.g., standard Imperial stormtroopers vs. elite infantry like Rebel commandos and the 501st Legion), providing better abilities balanced against fewer units. Naturally, we have some additional testing to do, such as Jedi commanders and still more elite infantry like the famous “ARC” troopers, destroyer and commando droids, and maybe even Mandalorian mercenaries?
So stay tuned, fellow Star Wars commanders. As always, this remains a playtesting work in progress, so any questions, ideas, or comments are more than welcome.
Check out oriskany’s rules and print outs for infantry in your games of Star Wars Pocket Models!
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"We just wouldn’t have any tiny Ewok miniatures scampering around our board..."
"Naturally, we have some additional testing to do, such as Jedi commanders..."