I'm posting as an avid fan of this game who has easily played close to 100 times total or more (roughly 50% per side but not exactly). I consider myself a pretty good player. I've won most of the games I've played against people of various experience levels. I've played a lot of the base game, and I've played more with the expansion. In this thread, I want to talk about and go over the things I want to see in the second edition of this game. I think the second edition should include elements of both the base game and ROTE. I don't think there should be another expansion because I think that:
1. there are too many game elements as it is
2. there are some things I think they really missed the mark on,
3. the game is already kind of cost prohibitive and takes a really long time to set up and clean up, as well as purchase
4. there's an incredibly steep learning curve for this game which can make it daunting for new players, and
5. there aren't really new canonical content for Star Wars that really fits what the game is about.
As such, I am going to hope that FFS employees read through the forums and stumble on my post to look at some of the suggestions and ideas for re-printing this game in a second edition in a way that will be great for both veterans and new players alike.
What Went Well
First, let's talk about the things the ROTE expansion of the game did right to improve upon the base game.
1. COMBAT. I think we can all agree that the combat improved dramatically and feels more interesting with the addition of Advanced Tactics Cards, green dice, and re-rolls. I definitely think this made the game more interesting.
2. The addition of new leaders with "minor skills." I like the idea of having leaders who are eligible to be assigned to missions by themselves but not necessarily be good at carrying them out. That's what the minor skills enable. The new leaders added a lot of new and familiar faces to the game. They also provided their respective sides more skill variety that they were particularly lacking. Jabba and Krennic were great additions to the Empire. Chirrut Imwe and Jyn Erso were great additions to the Rebellion.
3. Variable Rebel Objective Deck. I think the idea that the Rebel Objective deck is different every game is a great change and adds a lot of variability to each game. It also makes it so that the player who simply memorized all the objective cards doesn't just have a strict advantage over the player who did not.
4. New Missions (for Empire). The Empire's new expansion mission deck is amazing. I think it's fair and a strict improvement over the Empire base mission deck. I also like the inclusion of the "Subversion" mission to both sides that can be played with either mission deck. This card is awesome!
5. New Units. I think a number of newly introduced units are great and makes a lot of sense. The shield bunker for the Empire is super thematic and adds an additional layer of strategy. The assault tank is also really cool. The Vanguard for the Rebels provides a way to at least attempt to combat the Empire's daunting army of red-health units using triangle ground units. The Nebulon-B Frigate is also very thematic and is an interesting unit for the Rebels.
What Didn't Go So Well
There are some things that the expansion made worse about the game, but also some weaknesses that the base game always had and never really got addressed by the ROTE expansion.
1. COMBAT. Yes, the new combat is nice and all but it comes with a HUGE double-edged sword, and that is defender's advantage. Defenders have a MASSIVE advantage in combat now. What do I mean by that? Well, the player who rolls first is in a **** situation because rolling cross sabers is almost always useless / as bad as a blank. It used to be that rolling cross sabers was great, now it sucks as the first player to roll. It also means if you want to kill anything, you have to preemptively over-damage everything because the opponent might heal. At the same time, defenders don't have to over-damage at all! Now, this is good for the "final combat" in which Rebels are defending their base from Imperial attack. However, it's not good in every other situation. In most other situations, the combats are either a) the Empire landing on a planet with a much-larger-force and killing one unit, or b) the Rebels attacking the Empire in a swift but likely suicidal strike to accomplish some objective or whatever. The the former case, defender's advantage doesn't really matter. In the latter case, the Rebels are almost always ****** or in a terrible positions, but they need these attacks and strikes to work out because they are limited in numbers so whatever units they DO have they need to make count.
2. Too many leaders. This is also a double-edged sword. While I think some leaders for Empire like Krennic and Jabba were good editions, others like Admiral Motti and Krennic's Finest were really "???." It seems like they were added just to be added, like they didn't really have any other ideas. I can't remember a single time when I recruited Admiral Motti. Krennic's Finest is fine, just feels unnecessary. A leader with 3 tactics ground values? I guess that's fine, but you already have Vader and Veers. And "Krennic's Finest" isn't really a character, and not really one that people care about or remember all that well from the movies. Also, yet ANOTHER imperial leader good at spec ops? Seems kind of redundant, Empire has enough spec ops as it is. Despite Krennic's Finest's good action cards, I don't think this is a good addition to the game. Having too many leaders also dilutes the leaders you want to recruit. Empire wants to recruit Boba Fett, Motti and Krennic's Finest get in the way of this, for example. I think removing those two and keeping Jabba+Krennic is the best way to go. They are very thematic and memorable, also their skills are just great. On the Rebel side, I honestly never recruited Saw Gerrera in any games. His action cards are terrible and his skills aren't very impressive either. Kassian Andor would be better, but I think both his action cards are bad. I also think the Rebels have too many intel skills as it is. Similar argument as with Empire. Too many leaders dilutes the cards and prevents Rebels from getting great cards and recruits like "An Old Friend" or "Wookie Guardian" or "One in a Million." To be fair to both sides, I would also remove two leaders from the Rebels. Take out Saw and Kassian but keep Chirrut and Jyn. Those latter two are more memorable and they have better skills and action cards that the Rebels need.
3. Really Terrible Rebel Objectives. I think some of the Rebel Objectives are so bad that they kind of poison the game for the Rebels when they show up. They're also super noob traps. Some of the biggest culprits of this are "Defend the People", "Inspire Sympathy", "Defensive Position", and "A Time for Peace." I really dislike these objectives and almost never score them or go for them. I think either replace them with better, more useful ones, or just remove them altogether. The remaining rebel objectives are solid enough that simply removing would be a huge improvement.
4. New Missions (for Rebels). I think the Rebels definitely got the short end of the stick on the ROTE expansion when it comes to missions. The Empire's new ROTE mission deck is so much better than the base deck, and more balanced. On the other hand, I almost always play with the Rebel base deck because I think it's better than the ROTE Rebel mission deck. Overall ROTE was a buff for Empire, which makes sense thematically (ROTE=Rise of the Empire) but I think it unbalanced the game way too much.
5. New Units. I think there are too many units added by ROTE. The unique units in the base game is a good number, but I think adding four unique units per side was overkill for ROTE. Specifically, I would suggest keeping two per side and removing two. The two I would keep are Vanguard and Nebulon-B Frigate for Rebels, and The Shield Bunker and Assault Tank for Empire. The Shield Bunker is thematic, has more interaction outside of combat, and is the Empire's only structure unit not counting DSUC (which I don't really). The assault tank solidifies the Empire's dominance in the ground. I think the TIE Intercept and Interdictor are a bit overkill. The Intercept is too good for the Empire and honestly I've never really built an Interdictor. Most cases if I'm drawing from the Imperial Project deck I'd rather get a Super Star Destroyer. The interdictor card dilutes the project deck. Both units are not super thematic and don't show up much in the main movies.
Weird Balance Issues
There are a number of weird balance issues that got introduced perhaps unintentionally by the design team. These are things that you only really notice if you play the game a lot. Basically these are things where there are no easy fixes for and I'll suggest some ideas, but the developers can probably come up with something smarter. Rebels vs Empire balance. Overall, I'd say that with the ROTE expansion, the game is heavily skewed towards Empire now. In the base game, the two sides were pretty balanced but ROTE really buffed the **** out of Empire. I noticed playing with my friend of similar skill that Empire almost always wins. When Empire DOES win, it's either a close game or a stomp. When Rebels win now, it's almost always a close game. Even in game where Rebels gets lucky and gets 3x Mon Cal Cruisers on the build queue in turn 1 (I can recall a few of these games) they might just barely win by the skin of their teeth. Now, there's a few factors that contributed to this and some of them have already been outlined in previous sections. I will outline a few more that kind of broke the game.
1. Starting Death Star Under Construction (DSUC). The fact that Empire now gets to choose where to place their starting DSUC on any remote planet of their choosing is incredibly strong. This allows the Empire to adapt to the random planets it was given at the initial draw, something Rebels don't have the privilege to. This is really powerful because it means that you can either make up for lack of area presence or map coverage. Like, if one side of the map has low empire presence, just drop your DSUC on that part. This makes it harder for Rebels to pick their starting base but also gives Empire too comfortable of a start for getting good map coverage. This additional placement also removes one additional probe card from the game, and a remote planet card which is important for Rebels. Alternatively, there's also the always-DSUC-on-Dagobah meta that developed in high levels of play where Empire ALWAYS starts on Dagobah. There are two massive advantages for that. First, it gives Empire a guaranteed turn-1 access to Utapau which is great for Empire because 1. Rebels used to like building alliance there on first turn to get MonCal cruiser and 2. the only way the Empire stopped this before is by rolling to oppose the mission, now they can just subjugate Utapau AND get an assault carrier production. Second, once the Death Star is completed on Dagobah, it is in a prime position to go down towards Endor (a great Rebel base location). That is terrible for Rebels who can't successfully pull off the Death Star plans and destroy the Death Star. What's the solution here? Remove this starting DSUC and go back to the original setup for Rebels and Empire. I suppose you can house-rule this, but I think this was a poor change to the game that should never be played with.
2. Unintentional Leader Nerfs. Some leaders in the expansion and their action cards got perhaps unintentionally nerfed. General Tagge is a great example. His starting action card use to be amazing (for what a scrub he is) in the base game. Now, it's mediocre at best, terrible at worst. This change happened because of the way tactics cards changed. Admiral Akbar and his "It's a Trap" card got super nerfed. Before, it used to matter a lot to not play tactics cards on the first round of combat. Now, it doesn't really matter. There's defenders' advantage, and often times the opposing player might not even really have that good of a tactics card to play in the first place. It also used to be that tactics were tied to leaders' tactics values so this Akbar card would cancel a leader advantage, now not really. It's a very **** card for what a great recruit Akbar is for the Rebels. Akbar's other action card has always been barely decent, and it was paired with another leader (General Madine) with more useful skills. The Soontir Fel and Yularen's card got nerfed too. It used to be decent, now it's straight up the worst action card in the game I think. If both players memorized all or most of the advanced tactics cards, it basically does nothing. Han's "An Old Friend" got nerfed. It's still a great card, but now that there's a leader limit of 8 and Rebels cannot go over this limit, it's a lot less good. There may be more than these, but you get the idea. Fix? Either fix the way combat works or buff these action cards.
3. Unintentional Leader Buffs. There were a few buffs to leaders due to the expansion changes. The biggest one I can think of is General Veers. Because of the new advanced tactic cards, if you attack the Rebel base with Veers and at least one AT-AT. Play his card with the AT-AT advanced tactic and you can literally destroy TWO shield generators on the Rebel side right off the bat, before any dice are rolled. This is crazy! Rebels can only cancel ground tactics cards if they retreat, which they won't if it's the Rebel base that's being attacked. Fixes for this are similar to above, nerf his card or change combat somehow.
4. Leader Pool Limit. I think this was one of the biggest mistakes they made with the expansion. Adding a limit of 8 to the leader pools really hurt the Rebels a LOT. Rebels thrive on having leaders to go on missions. Not to mention Empire can 1. capture a leader, 2. Dark-Side a leader, and 3. Now straight up eliminate a leader. Like, maybe this change was intended to nerf Empire, but because of Jabba's "Ambitions of Power" card and the fact that many Imperial leaders are scrubs that can be easily replaced by a dark-sided Rebel leader, I think this hurts Rebels way more than it hurt Empire. I already mentioned how this is a nerf to "An Old Friend." It also makes the whole capture leader / rescue leader dynamic really bizarre. Say that Rebels have 9 leaders because of "An Old Friend", but one of those leaders is captured. Rebels are discouraged from rescuing that leader because it means they will have to retire someone and also gives the chance for empire to capture someone again and put them down to 7 leaders. At the same time, Rebels are encouraged to rescue because there's an objective that scores if there are no captured leaders, but also you don't want the Empire to get free interrogations (which, by the way, are much more powerful in the ROTE expansion). It feels like a lose-lose situation for Rebels here. I think the fix here is to remove the leader pool limit. I know it would be a huge buff to cards like "hire mercenaries" or "promotion" and other cards that recruit leaders, but maybe remove these cards or change it so if you play them, you must retire one of your other leaders during that turn's refresh phase.
5. Mistakes are More forgiving to Empire and more punishing to Rebels. It feels like it used to be that Rebels could easily focus their resources on doing one job really well to slow down the Empire and if they pull it off, Empire can bounce back from it more easily. If rebels score a major victory in battle on one part of the map, Empire can play "Imperial Might" to catch up on unit production and reinforce a part of the map quickly. If Rebels want to destroy the death star, they now have to worry about taking out a shield bunker that protects the death star first. The updated cards in the imperial projects deck (construct super star destroyer or interdictor development) means empire can potentially build large capital ships on space 2 or 1 of the build queue, and deploy them faster. So if Rebels were doing a good job in preventing Empire production or destroying things on the imperial build queue, these project cards are stronger than before so that matters less. If Rebels sabotage a bunch of stuff on the Empire side, Empire now has "discredit rebellion" to undo ALL sabotages. Well, Rebels might take the dice roll risk but is losing a reputation REALLY worth the risk? Personally I don't think so, that can be life or death. Empire now has stronger interrogation cards so Rebels have to reserve leaders to opposing like all the time now. Additionally, "Break Their Will" is an interrogation card Empire recycles back into their hand if it fails. Because of defenders' advantage in combat, Rebel strikes or attacks are a lot weaker and more likely to fail, which is super punishing to Rebels. There's no easy fix for these. Either remove some of those cards, or nerf them, or change combat. Something has to change here. It really feels now with the ROTE expansion more than the base game that Rebels can't afford to make any mistakes.
6. Starting Planets. This issue applies not only to ROTE but also to the base game. I touched on this briefly when talking about the starting DSUC, but in general the starting planets often times make-or-break the game and getting the right starting planets (or with the right loyalty for Empire) can really set the tone of how the game plays out. I agree there should be some variance with the game and the start, but I think the variance is too large right now with the current starting planets. I legitimately believe that Mandalore is the worst starting planet in the game for Empire. I never really see an advantage in starting in Mandalore. Ryloth for Rebels is nice because it's out of the way, but it also attracts Imperial attention towards a good planet for the rebel base and also Tatooine. Mon Calamari is a great planet for Rebels, but if Empire gets Saleucami (5/7 chance) then it's immediately shut down / nullified. Subjugated Rodia is great for Empire but loyal Rodia feelsreallybadman. I'm not sure what a fix for this should be. Some sort of re-balance with the starting planets?
Conclusion and Moving Forward
Where do we go from here? I think with a second edition of the game, many of these problems can be addressed. Take what works with the base game and with the ROTE expansion and make it into the base version of the second edition. The I think the second edition should completely revamp the combat system. The ROTE was a good improvement, but it introduced a score of new problems I touched on previously. I also don't like how the dice work. Maybe two blank sides is one too many. Maybe combat is too long and too clunky. Maybe there should be fewer overall missions so there's less for newer players to memorize? Maybe there should be a new way to determine starting planets? I hope someone who works at Fantasy Flight sees this and gets someone to work on this game. It's an amazing game with the potential to be the GOAT, with the right changes. Until then, maybe there can be some kind of community-driven unofficial house-rules update to address some of these issues?