I originally posted this over on boardgamegeek.com, felt it was worthy of a repeat here...
Twin Shadows expansion
Fantasy Flight Games loves to make expansions, and Imperial Assault is no exception. While technically IA has already had expansions, those are miniature expansion, i.e. one or two figures in a box with a mission. That's not a real expansion.
Twin Shadows is the first 'box' expansion, the first real expansion FFG has made for this miniature/boardgame. And even though it's considered a 'small box', boy is it a doosey.
Now this is Star Wars
Twin Suns. Tattooine. Droids. Bounty Hunters. Boba Fett. Boba F*#!king Fett.
Twin Shadows expansion, all components laid out.
This entire expansion reeks of Star Wars, and that's a good thing. Yes, Imperial Assault is based on Star Wars, and yes FFG got a lot right in the core set to capture the atmoshphere of the original trilogy. However, there are times when I'm playing IA that I lose that Star Wars feeling, usually in some of the side missions that have a don't matter feel to them. It starts to play more like a game than an experience. Some of the epic grandiose space opera is lost in the minutae of the game. Not so with Twin Shadows!
First, just about everything inside the box screams Star Wars. The figures are iconic (Stormtroopers with DLT-19s, Sandpeople, no silly Nexus), the Heroes appropriately Star Wars (a rebel soldier with a strong punch, and a techie spy with a new mechanic), the allies and villains are iconic (R2-D2, C-3PO, Boba Fett, and Kayn Samos being the only 'made up' character), and the boards are amazing. They fit seamlessly with the core sets boards, and there is one board in particular that makes the inner geek in me cry with joy: The Cantina. And as a bonus, on the back side of the Cantina is the bridge of a Star Destroyer. A feckin' Star Destroyer!
Cantina on one side, Star Destroy on the other. *drool*
The overall theme of the expansion is very Tatooine centric, hence the name Twin Shadows, a 'dark' allusion to the Twin Suns of Tatooine. The boards are either interior boards of the same feel as the core set (i.e. the brownish buildings or the blueish Imperial buildings), or exterior boards but all of the exterior boards are desert based, emphasizing the Tatooine atmosphere. There's even a new mechanic to help drive this point home, called Habitat:
In addition to the Habitats, they classify all the tiles now as certain Tile Types. There's are only 3 types, Forest, Desert, and Interior (and no doubt the recently announced Return To Hoth will introduce Snow or Ice tiles). The only figures with this new mechanic are the Tuskan Raiders, with the Habitat: Desert[ keyword, but it makes the game feel very Tatooine-y from a mechanical perspective. And you know Ewoks with Habitat: Forest are coming
Heroes, Allies and Villains
Being a 'small box' expansion, there are only two heroes, but they both have unique twists on the archetype they represent. Biv seems like your usual 'ranged heavy hitter', as he carries a big gun, but his real damage comes from his Up Close And Personal ability, which is a melee attack followed by a free ranged attack on the same target. Basically, he runs up and punches the Stormtrooper, then shoots him in the face! It's a twist on the ranged combat used to seeing from Fenn or Jan.
Saska is a support character, but they've introduced a new mechanic for her support abilities. She has eight Device Tokens and she gives them to herself or other heroes. They can then be used in a variety of ways (damaging badguys, helping tests, added defense, even healing) depending on the skills Saska has earned. It's a jack of all trades support character that is a nice twist to the current other support characters, and still maintains the Star Wars feel. She's a techie tweaking devices and letting her rebellious friends use them to take down the evil galactic Empire!
For Allies, we gain two of the most iconic Star Wars heroes in the genre: R2-D2 and C-3PO! And they're very well done, with abilities that tie in thematically. R2 can do Tech tests on anything a Hero can do, as well as repair other droids. Threepio focuses other players and distracts villains (+1Evade to all friendly adjacents, similar to Han's ability). And, appropriately, he cannot attack
Villains, we have Tuskan Raiders, Heavy Stormtroopers, Kayn Samos (a Trooper Commander) and of course Boba Fett! Having played quite a few missions now, Heavy Stormtroopers are becoming my go-to troopers, more so than Stormtroopers now. And Boba Fett is a beast! Just look at his card, he gets an automatic +1 Block and +1 Evade, in addition to rolling a black defense die! I played a just-for-fun skirmish with Boba Fett, Han Solo and Chewbacca (legal with the Temporary Alliance card), and while I lost, the 3 beefy guys lasts a long time. And with his Battle Discipline, he packs a very strong punch. And in skirmish, his unique command card lets him use all the abilities of Battle Discipline in one attack. Very, very strong punch.
All of these villains really add to the Star Wars feel of this expansion. The core set's bad guys, some were great (Stormtroopers, Commanders, Vader), but some were just awkward and felt out of place (Nexus, E-Web gunned by a Scout Trooper, Trandoshan Hunters?). They weren't bad persay, they just didn't help with the overall Star Wars feel. These villains though, spot on! And they really drive home the Tatooine theme Twin Shadows is shooting for. Sandpeople? Sandtroopers? (basically, since the Heavys have the DLT-19s). About the only thing missing is Jawas. On, and Boba Fett?!? Yeah, this is awesome.
The Mini Campaign
Twin Shadows introduces a new concept, the Mini Campaign. While each of the missions can be integrated into other campaigns as Side Missions, you have the option of playing these missions as a stand alone mini campaign, that plays in less than half the time a full blown campaign would play. I love this! Just as in Descent, the full campaigns if IA take so feckin long that I rarely get all the way through them. My groups tend to fizzle out about 6 missions in. But a mini campign played over 4 missions? Hell, you could do that on a weekend! Plus, you get a much tighter narrative with the minin campaign. While I do like IA's campaign structure with Story missions intermixed with Side missions, the narrative can feel a little weak and even random stretched out like that. In this mini campaign, the story flows from one mission right into the next and creates a fantastic narrative. It also has a branching narrative, with 2 of the missions in the 4 mission arc being different, depending on if the Rebels or the Imperial won or lost.
But as with everything in this expansion, these missions are great and have such an incredible Star Wars feel! They use the new villain Boba Fett in perfect Star Wars fashion and combined with the boards to create very memorable experiences. For all you spoiler sensitive fans, the block below details some of the missions, so if you want to be surprised, don't read below:
The very first mission not only starts on Tatooine, arguably the most iconic planet in the Star Wars mythos, but it starts in the Cantina, arguably the most iconic set of the Star Wars movies (except maybe the Falcon)! And not only do you start in the Cantina, but you start with Han Solo as an ally! This just gets even better. And to put icing on the cake, part way through the mission, SURPRISE! Boba Fett shows up to rain on your parade. Holy Feckin Star Wars!
I really, really enjoyed the atmosphere of the missions. The other missions follow R2 and Threepio through the desert. One mission sends you to Beggar's Canyon. Let me say that again, the Beggar's Canyon, the one that Luke would bullseye womprats in his T-16 back home. And during this mission, Tuskan Raiders are pelting you from a distance. Great fun doing the Sandpeople Scream after every shot! Eventually, you end up infiltrating a Star Destroyer, with some great 'track back' play (go deep into the ship, then have to run back to the entrance to escape, unusual for an IA mission). I just love being on that Star Destroyer.
Just know that all of the missions are some of the best and most thematic missions in the series so far. They are very, very Star Wars. The overarching narrative that is the mini campaign is a great story centralized on Tatooine.
Find a Weakness?
It everything perfect in this expansion? Not quite. There are two things that are not so great in this expansion.
Same Old Imperial Assault: While the missions are dripping with Star Wars theme, the mechanics of the missions are very similar to the core set's missions. It's a bit "more of the same". The mini-campaign is different, but if you include these missions as Side Missions in the campaign, they won't seem innovative or special. They'll be cool for the narrative of your campaign, but similar to the other side missions.
Most IA players will feel that's a good thing. Nothing wrong with IA, don't fix what ain't broken. My group disagrees. IA encourages a run-to-objective style of play that my group never really liked (coming from its Descent roots). This comes from the never ending spawning that the overly generous Threat level, allowing the Imperial player to constantly spawn (especially if he has low cost Deployment cards). If the Rebels take time to 'clear' a room, they've wasted time they should have spent running past badguys to get to objectives, since the Imperial player can just respawn most of the badguys they just killed. So, if your group is like mine, you won't see Twin Shadows addressing this issue, at all.
Content only in Twin Shadows: The *biggest* problem with all the awesome goodness you have in Twin Shadows is that it's just in Twin Shadows. FFG does a good job at not using expansion components outside of that expansion, and what this means for this expansion is you won't see any other Boba Fett missions except the ones in Twin Shadows (and the Boba Fett expansion pack of course). Tuskan Raider missions? Nope. The Cantina? Only in the one mission! And the bridge of a Star Destroyer? So sad.
It's a minor gripe really, but a sad one too. I really wish half of the core set's content was taken out and all of Twin Shadows made part of the core set, so we could see much more use out of these parts!
R2-D2 basking in the rays of the Twin Suns, casting his own twin shadows.
The Twin Shadows expansion is an incredible addition to Imperial Assault, and I would argue that it feels more Star Wars than the core set does. Great tile pieces, missions, figures, heroes and villains, all integratable into the core set's campaign, or played as a mini campaign on Tatooine. Buy it now, it's just what the Jedi ordered.