A Dark Time is the third Force Pack in the Hoth Cycle for Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars: The Card Game LCG. It follows the standard model for LCG expansions – $15 for 60 cards, including a full playset of everything. I’m not sure how insightful my Search for Skywalker review was (brilliant observations include “I don’t see it lifting the Imperials out of their current small tournament showing”), but it at least prompted a healthy amount of discussion, and that seems worthwhile it and of itself, so here we go again …
1. The Force Struggle Heats Up
After taking a Force Pack off, the Jedi and Sith are back to squabble about the balance of the Force, with each faction picking up an objective set designed to win the Force struggle and profit from controlling the balance of the Force. The Sith’s Serve the Emperor objective has the same fantastic bonus as the Core Set Jedi objective Jedi Training – a freebie Force icon. They’d better control the Force though, since a lot of the rest of the cards in the set are pretty bad if the balance is not with the Dark Side (Prophet of the Dark Side, in particular, is catastrophically bad if you don’t get the card draw when you play it; Anger is at least two for the Edge battle if you can’t seem to control the Force). Add in the double Tactics + 1 damage capacity of Anzati Elite, and Serve the Emperor could be a bit boom-or-bust for my taste.
The Jedi’s Self Preservation objective set, on the other hand, looks to be a bit more consistent. The Jedi Training/Serve the Emperor free extra icon is probably better than Self Preservation’s bonus, but it all evens out once you’ve got someone committed to the Force. The increased consistency of this set is evident in the Gotal Outcast – like Prophet of the Dark Side, he’s painfully bad in combat if you don’t have the Force, but unlike the Prophet he’s got two Force icons to help you get the balance with the Light Side in the first place (and four of the five cards in the set have 2 icons to help win Edge battles). And the real gem of the Self Preservation objective set doesn’t care at all about the balance of the Force, but adds extra damage capacity and shielding to whatever beefy Force User you got out (or even that fragile Jedi in Hiding, if it comes to that). Combining this with Jedi Training eats up a lot of deck space, but should make it very difficult for the Dark Side to control the Force.
2. You Can Now Make “Edge of the Empire” Faction Decks – Should You?
With the release of a third objective set each for Smugglers & Spies and Scum & Villainy, it is now possible to toss all three of those in, round it out with something else, and call it a deck. Just because we can do a thing, however, does not mean that we must – or should – do that thing. And I think that’s definitely where the Scum & Villainy objectives are now. The Hunt for Solo objective set is, unsurprisingly, heavily focused on capturing – three of the six cards have abilities that trigger when you capture a card, and another two have abilities that can capture cards. Ugnaught (faction-aligned resource generation, hooray!) and the objective itself remove damage and focus tokens, respectively, whenever you capture a card, while the Z-95 might capture a unit whenever it strikes (random flavor whine: why, oh why, is a piddly little junker of a starfighter like the Z-95 depicted as a beefy 3-cost, 3-capacity unit?). Cloud City Incinerator, however, gets into a bit of negative synergy. One of the downsides of capturing cards is that your opponent might get them back, but you also have cards (the Weequay Elite from The Search for Skywalker) who get benefits from having captured cards sitting at your objectives. Setting that aside, the downfall of this deck is still likely to be consistency. Of the 18 cards in the three S&V objective sets, 7 of them need to capture cards – S&V just isn’t good if you can’t get captures. But the capture options are limited. Boba Fett is great, and consistent, but beyond that the in-faction options are the Z-95s (which can be played around) and Get Me Solo! (which requires another combo piece to be effective). Your out-of-faction options have to include Take Them Prisoner or Cruel Interrogations (I’d suggest Cruel Interrogations – Take Them Prisoner has a second capture card, but the rest of the objective set is trooper-focused and you have no synergy with that), and that helps, but the bonuses you get from capturing aren’t going to be good enough to offset the weakness of your cards when your captures don’t happen to come at just the right time.
The Smugglers & Spies seem to have more game at this point. Their existing objectives are the powerhouse Questionable Contacts and the pretty good Renegade Squadron Mobilization. A Dark Time adds a second Hoth objective to that in the form of Prepare for Evacuation. The fact that this is a second S&S Hoth objective opens up an obvious path for an S&S deck right now – combine with the best Rebel Hoth cards. The Renegade Squadron Hoth cards outside of Prepare for Evacuation itself don’t themselves care about being Hoth, but they’ll still power up cards from some of the other objective sets (and Prepare for Evacuation’s ability will win games if they don’t take it down first). And the 2-of card from Prepare for Evacuation – Renegade Squadron Escort – has Protect Vehicle, which goes very well with the vehicle-focused Speeder objective sets (Rebel and Neutral). And the Ion Cannon Burst in here can handy against those Imperial Star Destroyers decks (you know, assuming that the Star Destroyer’s they’re hitting you in the face with aren’t immune to events). I’m not saying that the best way to go about making a Hoth deck right now is to just load it up with six S&S objective sets (as strong as Han is, you’re probably better off dropping him and just splashing the S&S cards) but I do think that you can assemble a reasonably consistent and competitive S&S deck if that’s what you want.
3. A Dark Time For Those Already Experiencing A Dark Time
The final objective set features Imperials who aren’t in gigantic flying death machines – A Dark Time for the Rebellion – and brings a new twist for the Imperials in the form of a stack of cards that get powered-up when attacking damaged objectives. While the Star Destroyers can just deliver the hammer and wipe out objectives all at once, this objective set is about spreading the love. You can spread it out up front, picking off the first damage in an early wide attack, and then coming back and using Colonel Starck and the MTV-7 to finish the job. Or you can focus in early, leaving objectives moderately damaged, and then use cards like The Moorsh Moraine to make it easy to pick the stragglers off in a later wide attack. You could just swing in with concerted attack if necessary too – just use a “normal” unit to inflict a blast damage on the objective right away, which will turn on the Dark Time units. But where’s the fun in not getting to use Starck’s Tactics icon right away?
And, of course, your opponent might just shoot his own objective right away because of A Dark Time’s ability. And, unless Starck himself is out and there are no other undamaged objectives, there’s a reasonable chance that’s still the correct play. The MTV-7 is still only OK when attacking a damaged objective, and the Moorsh Moraine and Heavy Fire don’t need any help to be handy. Colonel Starck, on the other hand, is a serious house when being sent into already-damaged territory. What I probably like best about A Dark Time for the Rebellion, however, is that it seems to me that it helps most with deck types that aren’t getting as much play right now.