The Good: Decent images, Fills in gaps, Rule page is limited
The Bad: Confusing rules when one does get them, Somewhat overproduced
The Basics: Despite the difficulty in learning the game for players who pick up only this set, "Hoth" remains one of the stronger Star Wars CCG sets, especially for Imperial-affiliation players!
In the realm of Star Wars gaming cards, there are very few of the early releases that I actually like. The reasons for this are twofold. First, most of the early Decipher Star Wars CCG products were released in Limited (black border) and Unlimited (white border) forms. This was annoying to collectors as the die-hards came to feel like they were being milked for the same product twice and it was hardly fun to collect. Second, the first two sets focused on A New Hope, which was not my favorite installment in the Star Wars Saga, not by any means. So, when "Hoth" came along, my enthusiasm jumped, despite the fact that Decipher was once more presenting the same product in black and white border versions. Interestingly enough, "Hoth" never became so overprinted as "Premiere" and it maintained its value in the secondary market well.
The Star Wars Customizable Card Game “Hoth” set was the second Star Wars expansion set and it began the presentation of the second Star Wars film in the card game form. The "Hoth” set is a 160 card set focusing on characters, ships, alien races and scenarios presented in "Hoth," mostly the latter half. This set begins with the opening of The Empire Strikes Back through the escape from Hoth whereby Luke Skywalker was separated from Han Solo and Princess Leia. The set consists of 80 Light Side and 80 Dark Side cards which form sets of 54 common cards, 54 uncommon cards and 52 rare cards, with the most popular characters and vehicles being given rare status and the background supernumeraries filling out the more common cards. Unlike the first two sets, this is mostly packed with obscure characters and none of the big names, save a single card of Luke Skywalker.
The 160 card set features 36 Characters (Droids, Rebels, Imperials and Aliens who make up the primary characters for playing with, like Commander Luke Skywalker and Probe Droid), 1 Creature (in this case the Wampa who assaulted Luke!), 8 Devices (Equipment for characters to use, like the Echo Trooper Backpack or a Electro-Rangefinder), 1 Epic Effect (longterm changes for the game which make primary missions, in this case the Imperial attempt to Target The Main Generator), 25 Effects (Changes to the situations which allow for movement during the game, like getting healed in a Bacta Tank or succumbing to Frostbite), 42 Interrupts (immediate changes to gaming conditions which may be played even by the player on the defensive, like a Crash Landing or having to Fall Back!), 4 system locations (star systems which form the “board” of the game, like Hoth or Ord Mandell), 15 Site locations (places on the planet Hoth for characters to move around at, like the Echo Med Lab or the Wampa Cave), 2 Ship (cards that transport characters from star system to star system and engage in space battles, like the the Star Destroyer Tyrant or a Rebel Medium Transport), 9 Vehicle (cards representing planetbound transports which move players from site to site, like a Snowspeeder or Blizzard Walker), and 16 Weapon cards (which feature equipment used to kill characters or destroy ships, like a Surface Defense Cannon or a Probe Droid Laser) . This set, unlike The Empire Strikes Back 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.
The booster pack 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. With "Hoth," I have had similar luck in mauling my opponent through a series of quick reversals which allow powerful cards to enter the game quickly and then stomp the few characters my opponent can afford to bring out (there's something gratifying about landing an AT-AT right near the front door to the Rebel base and just shooting the opponent before they can get off the ground.
There is no rulebook in this set of cards. Instead, one has to get a rulebook from the Premiere set (reviewed here!). In this set, there were no additional card types or rules. Each box comes with a play sheet which describes the physical layout of the Hoth cards for laying out the Location cards. That sheet also has a few clarifications as well, but otherwise, players are expected to know how to play the game by this point.
Players, collectors and fans of Star Wars will appreciate the image quality of the situations from "Hoth," even if it is not the most character-rich expansion set. The “Hoth” set fleshes out the game with some impressive Imperial officers, like Admiral Ozzel and General Veers, as well as a few good Rebel characters. But mostly, this is a way to establish a base on Hoth and try to fend off the Empire once they invade.
For a highlight, my choice is simple: the Blizzard 1 card. Blizzard 1 is an AT-AT (the Imperial Walker vehicles which crushed the Rebellion on Hoth) and this is the most powerful one in this deck. It may take six Force just to bring it into play, but once it is there, it stomps everything with its 7 power and can defend itself well with its 7 points of Armor. Outfitted with an AT-AT Cannon, it becomes even more powerful and should it be destroyed, the loss is significant. This is a great card for players and fans alike as it has an awesome image and is powerful for players.
The white border set has only fair collectability, but the black border version was sufficiently uncommon so it maintained its value for years. Either way, the “Hoth” set seems to be one of the earliest sets which was rare enough to retain its value, so most fans are likely to be pleased with it.
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 a few common sets and at least one uncommon set. A full master set takes two boxes with ideal collation.
“Hoth” cards were found in packs as well as packs of Reflections products and the Anthology boxed set, so they are strangely common to have remained as valuable as they have.
The "Hoth" CCG is a set I still enjoy, mostly because I love the source material. The game is still complex, but this was never so overproduced as to be problematic. Instead, this is a relatively fun trading card game which most Star Wars fans are likely to enjoy.
This set culls material from The Empire Strikes Back, which is reviewed here!
This set was preceded by “A New Hope” (reviewed here!) and followed by the Star Wars CCG expansion "Dagobah," reviewed here!
This is a set of gaming cards that I proudly sell! Check out my current inventory of them in my online store by clicking here or here!
For other card reviews, please be sure to check out my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.