Thursday, April 14, 2011

Overly Common Way To Get A Tough CCG To Play: Star Wars Premiere Booster Boxes!

The Good: Decent images, Seems thorough for a starting point
The Bad: No rulebook, Confusing rules when one does get them, Incredibly overproduced
The Basics: The starting point for the Star Wars Customizable Card Game, Premiere was overproduced as an Unlimited set and may be passed by.

Back in the day, I was not into customizable card games. The reason was pretty simple: from the outset, Decipher - which manufactured the Star Trek and Star Wars gaming cards which I might have otherwise been predisposed toward let fans know they were releasing identical products twice. With both the Star Trek and Star Wars premiere product, they released a black border limited product which was designed to be collectible and start players playing. Then, they went out and made "Unlimited," which was the same sets of cards with white borders around the outside of the face of each card. These were unlimited and whenever they needed filler for other sets, they threw in the White Border Premiere cards. From the outset, this seemed manipulative and annoying to me, so I avoided the products.

Years later, when I went into business selling trading cards, I noticed a number of potential customers passing my table by at conventions when they saw I did not have any gaming cards. So, I got in some of the Star Trek White Border Premiere cards and soon after, I found myself barraged by fans asking if I had any of the Star Wars ones. So, years late to the party, I got into the Star Wars gaming cards and it all started with Star Wars Premiere.

As I consider all of the criteria I use to evaluate gaming cards, I find myself very much split on the Star Wars Premiere cards, even in their economically responsible booster pack boxes. The reason for this is simple: the cards look good and they are collectible, but they are drastically overproduced and the game mechanic is complicated enough that when I have played, the rulebook is so unclear that it seems painfully simple, the game seems like it never last very long. That will become more clear under "Playability." Ultimately, I'm bumping this up to "Average" territory because even without a rulebook (which is not included in the booster pack boxes), the game is visually interesting, but I'm going with a "Not Recommend" because all of these cards have been reprinted and re-released in so many other sets that if one wants to collect products like "Reflections," it's better to assemble the Premiere set through "Reflections" packs than it is spending money on the full boxes.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Wars Customizable Card Game White Border Premiere was the second Decipher product - right after the Star Trek CCG - and the first gaming card set to focus on the Star Wars universe. The Unlimited Premiere were white border versions of all of the cards released in the Limited version. For those unfamiliar with the concept, CCGs are basically a late-teen oriented product designed to capitalize on the youthful desire to play with the acknowledged maturity of the target audience. The initial idea of the customizable card game was to allow young adults and adults to play in a way that was as free and imaginative as playing with action figures, but without the stigma of being a twenty-five year-old zapping a friend's toys with mouth-created sound effects. The result is something that is a midpoint between the freedom and creativity of action-figure free play and the structured rules and rigidity of a board game.

Players might prefer that I describe the game instead as a strategy game that is like a Role-playing game with cards. The break here is that the characters, vessels, and scenarios are all already conceived by others. The original concept was to find a way to make play socially acceptable for an older audience and it generally worked.

The Star Wars Premiere is a 326 card set focusing on characters, ships, alien races and scenarios presented in Star Wars, or more accurately, the first Star Wars film, A New Hope. Released in 1995 as enthusiasm for the prequels was growing, this card set utilizes material from A New Hope to recreate a broad sense of the Star Wars universe. The set consists of 163 Light Side and 163 Dark Side cards which form sets of 106 common cards, 106 uncommon cards and 108 rare cards, with the most popular characters and scenarios being given rare status and the background supernumeraries filling out the more common cards.

The 326 card set features 69 Characters (Droids, Rebels, Imperials and Aliens who make up the primary characters for playing with, like Grand Moff Tarkin and C-3P0), 17 Devices (Equipment for characters to use, like a Restraining Bolt or a Vaporator), 53 Effects (Changes to the situations which allow for movement during the game, like "A Tremor In The Force" or a "Tactical Recall"), 98 Interrupts (immediate changes to gaming conditions which may be played even by the player on the defensive, like getting a starship out of the way using "A Few Maneuvers" or experiencing a "Trooper Charge"), 10 system locations (star systems which form the "board" of the game, like Tatooine and Kessel), 27 Site locations (places on planets for characters to move around at, like "Tatooine: Lars Moisture Farm" or "Death Star: Trash Compactor"), 16 Ship (cards that transport characters from star system to star system and engage in space battles, like the Millennium Falcon or Darth Vader's TIE Fighter), 8 Vehicle (cards representing planetbound transports which move players from site to site, like Luke's X-34 Landspeeder or a Sandcrawler), and 25 Weapon cards (which feature equipment used to kill characters or destroy ships, like Obi-Wan's Lightsaber or a Turbolaser Battery) . This set, unlike A New Hope is evenly split between the Empire and the Rebellion, though the Rebellion has more recognizable characters in this set based on the bias from the film.

This set establishes a very basic and broad sense of the Star Wars universe, somewhat limited, as characterized by A New Hope. The starter deck box comes with forty packs of fifteen cards.


At its most basic level, this is a board game where one constructs the board and pieces out of a selection of cards. The starting purpose of the game is to drain your opponent of Force without depleting your own Force and to survive the trip around the Star Wars Universe with whatever your player throws at you. The basic idea is to assemble a sixty card deck (for beginners), lay out the board (spaceline) and play against an opponent. In laying out the board, players get the power from the Force they need to play other cards.

Locations form the board for the game and almost all of them have an indicator which puts into play Light Side and Dark Side Force points, which the player may then tap into to "buy" characters, ships, weapons and tactical cards to thwart their opponent. Events represent the obstacles that opponents can use to make the game more than just a basic search and kill game. The rulebook clearly defines what each deck must possess in terms of numbers of the card types. But basically, one starts by laying out a board, assembling a starship and its crew and traveling along the planets and through space to either crush the Empire or put down the Rebellion.

This is a very complex customizable card game, but it represents a level of gaming sophistication designed to appeal to younger adults and actually challenge them, which is a decent idea given the thematic complexity of the Star Wars universe. The problem, of course, is that most people who would be most stimulated by this game do not have the time or effort/interest to learn to play it. As a result, the late-teens that basically run the CCG players world seem to have had mixed impressions about this game.

It takes a great deal of time and energy to learn the game and the truth is, I've never mastered it. I've played a few times, I tap into my Force pretty quick, get a staffed ship up and running and the moment my opponent can afford to play their ship card, I blow it up. That was a lot of prep for about five minutes worth of gameplay.

Rules/Rule Changes

The original rulebook for this game was thirty-six pages long and as the game progressed, it only got longer. Much longer. It's not the function of a review to rehash all that as it is to evaluate it. The rules are incredibly unclear as written by Decipher and while it seems very complicated, some of the cards seem to make it possible to crush an opponent within the first minute of gameplay (i.e. I played a Location as a Dark Side character which had 2 Dark Side Force points and none for the Light Side player, tapped it to play a card for 1 of those Force Points which would drain the player of Force and given that they could not combat it, it seemed like the game was over). But, I've also talked to players who have played for years and they still find new things to enjoy about the game. My experience coming out of Premiere is that rules are not clear enough for players who are just starting or that the game mechanic is pretty flawed. Rather annoyingly, rulebooks are obtained in the Starter Decks for the Star Wars Premiere sets, not the booster box boxes.

Given that this was the first set, there were no rule changes when this was released.


Players, collectors and fans of Star Wars will appreciate the image quality of the characters and scenarios from A New Hope. The Premiere set features most of the heroes of the Rebellion, like Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. The set also features the Star Destroyer Devastator, Grand Moff Tarkin and characters like the Tonnika Sisters. This set powerfully establishes most of the biggest characters and scenarios from A New Hope. Despite how small the images are, they are likely to spark the imagination and appreciation of fans of Star Wars.

For a highlight, even as one who has not had much success in playing, the card to get seems to be Darth Vader. The most powerful, hard-to-kill character in the set, Darth Vader has decent proficiency and can hold his own even when wounded. His power boosts ships and he seems to be one of the cards which can take out others without any weapons, making him an asset without any assistance.


The white border set has absolutely terrible collectibility. So mass produced as to be a joke, dealers cannot give away this product, much less hope to sell it except to players who are looking for cards who do not want to go the random route of buying cases for next to nothing.

As far as the set itself, the Premiere set is plagued with problems that make it a tough sell to card collectors, as opposed to players. With so few character and ship cards, this appealed far more to gamers than general collectors.

The cards come in packs of 15 cards that feature one rare, four uncommon and ten common cards, usually split 7/8 between Light and Dark Side cards (packs tend to go either way). This means that even with a box of forty packs it is unlikely a collector will be able to assemble even a single common set and they will not be able to make an uncommon set. A full master set takes four boxes with ideal collation, though six-box cases often did not yield a complete master set (though it left one with enough duplicates to trade).

But it is the vast overproduction of this set that sinks it for collectors. Premiere cards were found in packs, starter decks, repack starter decks, repack expanded packs, Reflections products and virtually any boxed set that was an anthology of the Star Wars CCG product. This is the most common, easiest to obtain and therefore least valuable Star Wars Customizable Card Game product, despite having the foundations for the entire game.


This might be the logical starting point for players, but collectors are likely to be disappointed at how this set did not retain its value because it was so frequently reproduced. Even so, it strangely has cards fans still seem to want, so it's not all bad.

This set culls material from Star Wars: A New Hope, which is reviewed here!

This set was followed by the Star Wars CCG expansion "A New Hope," reviewed (pending!).

This is one of the CCGs I stock in my online store! Click here for my current inventory!

For other CCGs and games, please check out my reviews of:
The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game "The Fellowship Of The Ring"
The Lord Of The Rings RISK
The Lord Of The Rings pinball


For other card reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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