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Star Warriors (1987)

Star Warriors (1987) was part of the launch of the West End Games Star Wars RPG. It was intended to be both a stand alone tactics game and an extension for the RPG. The mechanics mesh pretty seamlessly with those of the RPG, so you could easily throw this on the table to play out your starfighter dog fights. A number of published Star Wars scenarios included counters for just that purpose.

It has been a long stretch of years since I’ve played, but I recall it having a pretty methodical pace that was a bit at odds with the cinematic vibe of the RPG, but that the action was ultimately satisfying despite not being able to model the wild 3D maneuvering of the films.

The game is the standard hex map and chits you’d expect from the period. Sheets provide the stats for ships and pilots, with each player plotting their maneuvers secretly, adding them up to a combined difficulty that must be overcome by rolling the pilot skill dice pool. Success is, well, success, and failure results in things going wrong. Combat is similar, and uses the starship gunnery skill. Ships are largely defined by the difficulty ratings of their maneuvers, which does a great job of making each ship feel distinct. That’s the basics, then there are additional rules for stuff like force points and asteroids and droids and on.

Oh, and it is definitely a skirmish game, designed for small groups of fighters. Despite the presence of the star destroyer counters, there is a reason they are included on the asteroid sheet – they’re very much treated as environmental hazards rather than ships to engage with. Basically, there is a tipping point in Star Warriors – too many ships, the game is going to bog down and break.

I’m not a huge fan of games of this sort, but flipping through the rules again I found myself pretty positively disposed to them. Yea, the game plays a bit stiffer than the RPG, but it is still way lighter than your average wargame. Plus, it’s got that sweet Ralph McQuarrie art on the box top – I don’t recall seeing that reproduced that often, and it is a shame.

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