Star Wars: Unlimited blasts into the TCG space with confidence

Posted on March 19, 2024

It’s no secret that the TCG space has been competitive for a long time, with Magic: The Gathering and some others firmly dominating the space, with decades of legacy, and new collections and collaborations coming thick and fast. That’s what makes this new entry into the genre, Star Wars: Unlimited, so intriguing. With the foundation of a lot of lore, characters and artwork to draw from, it’s uniquely positioned to make an impact, bringing in newcomers and TCG fans alike. The question is whether or not is has enough twists to the formula to justify its existence.

The good news, at least in its infancy, is that Star Wars: Unlimited feels polished and exciting to play. Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the loved IP that it’s based on, it offers a faster pace than its competitors while maintaining a solid amount of tactics required to be victorious. It has some work to do to achieve greatness, but it makes a very positive first impression.

I’m certainly not a TCG aficionado by any means, but I’ve been sucked into the world of Magic: The Gathering in particular over the last couple of years due to their willingness to play with other universes. Coming into a game with almost 30 years of legacy is daunting, though, and that’s been my biggest challenge in giving it a crack at various game nights I’ve attended. There are just so many rules, and rules that change other rules, and then special rules for special sets, and beyond. While the core is still compelling, I’m constantly asking what certain terms on cards mean, or double-checking a rule.

Star Wars: Unlimited is brand new, so it offers someone like me an entry point along with everybody else so that we don’t get lost in the confusing shuffle. Its first set, Spark of Rebellion, offers a 250+ card set featuring characters from the Galactic Civil War era of Star Wars, with a focus on content from the original trilogy, the Rebels animated series and Rogue One. The two-player starter box is probably the best starting point for newbies, including everything needed to play, like quickstart rules, tokens, deck boxes and paper playmats, along with two 52-card decks that are ready-to-play out of the box.

“…the mechanics makes it easier to draw and play fun cards quickly…”

Visually, the artwork on each of the cards is colourful and pops off, looking more like comic-style versions of loved characters, enemies and locations. They’re very readable, with bold fonts and colours of cost, attack and defense a stand-out. Abilities are highlighted in red, and I found the legibility to be incredibly helpful when learning the game; there didn’t seem to be any surprises so far, in the sense of catching me off guard or stuffing up my strategy. The Hyperspace and Showcase frames add another nice touch to the more premium versions of cards you’ll find in boosters.

The core difference in actually playing Star Wars: Unlimited is in its more approachable turn-based approach to combat. For starters, every card can be flipped to turn into a resource, which is what you’ll use to activate cards. You start with two from the get-go, and the fact that at the beginning of each round, you’ll have the ability to add another resource means that you’ll never be waiting for a specific card type to come up before you can play it. This makes deck-building feel a bit simple compared with its counterparts, but it also makes it easier to draw and play fun cards quickly, improving the pace.

During the Action Phase, you’ll take actions one at a time, back and forth with your opponent, until you both pass. Then during the Regroup Phase, you’ll draw cards, put down a resource and ready up your cards for the next round. This taking-in-turns style means you aren’t waiting around for as long; in other TCG’s, you might be waiting a while for your opponent to trigger multiple cards and attacks. This makes Star Wars: Unlimited feel instantly more competitive, and like you have more control over each step of your action. For example, when you play a card, you usually play it tapped so that it can’t be used straight away. However, you may have another ability on a different card that allows a new card to be activated instantly. Of course, you may be attacked by your opponent in the meantime, so you have to make sure you are defending your base, which is a separate target (that you can’t just block easily).

This rhythm of playing cards, thinking about countering and defense and plotting my next move kept me on task much more than usual and meant less sitting around twiddling my thumbs while my competitor made stacked play decisions. Additionally, the battlefield is split into two: Ground and Space. Characters and land vehicles can only attack opposition in the same field, and the same goes for spaceships. Some particular cards can interact with the other zone, but not many. Paying attention to both sides of the battlefield is important because leaving one unattended results in all of those opposing cards having free reign to target your base. It works in gameplay, and it works within the lore of Star Wars itself.

You’ll also have your Leader, a sort of ultimate character that serves as your captain and can use a small ability throughout the game. Eventually, they’re activated, which puts them onto the battlefield and gives them powerful abilities that make them a formidable foe to deal with. Needless to say, once Darth or Luke hits the battlefield, shit gets real. There are also a bunch of other Leaders you’ll uncover as you collect more cards. Given how strong they are, games often don’t last long beyond that, with the average game going for about 30 minutes or so, which is just long enough to be satisfying without dragging on. In my matches with a far more experienced TCG opponent, it was close, giving me more confidence than I’d normally find in this space as a relative newcomer. The “pick up and play” appeal of Star Wars: Unlimited cannot be overstated.

While the first year of Star Wars: Unlimited will certainly lay the foundations for the future, they’ve already got a solid base game to begin with. There’s already a 5-year roadmap in place, with Fantasy Flight Games considering it “evergreen”, with the initial design already begun on set 7 (from Year 3), and concepts having begun through to Set 9. They also boast the largest dedicated staff of any game in their studio’s history.

With Shadows of the Galaxy set for release in July 2024, there’s no reason that Star Wars: Unlimited can’t become a juggernaut in this space. I’m excited to see where things go from here.

Star Wars: Unlimited is available now.

Star Wars: Unlimited packs were provided by Fantasy Flight Games for the purpose of this coverage.