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Shadows of the Force

TFN Card Games Reviews the Star Wars Trading Card Game expansion, Rogues and Scoundrels
By Aaron Brogdon (A.K.A. Bacabachaui)

In the Star Wars universe, the lines between light and dark do not perfectly meet on the battlefield. In the middle lies a neutral zone where some would say it was neither light nor dark, but a little of both. Dwelling in this spectrum are the beings who have no political agenda or affiliation except to save their own skin and make a quick credit by selling their skills and allegiance to the highest bidder.

In previous expansions of the SWTCG, neutral units have been in relatively short supply. With a few powerful exceptions, these have played mostly background or support roles. That all changes on April 2nd with the release of the seventh SWTCG expansion aptly named Rogues and Scoundrels. Based on characters and events from Episode IV and V, as well as the extremely popular Expanded Universe novel Shadows of the Empire, this expansion brings to the table a powerful new team of key neutral players. You?ll find plenty of solid characters previously found only in the seamiest Outer Rim taverns. Of the 105 cards that comprise the set, almost 70% are neutral including Bounty Hunters, Smugglers, Warriors, Assassins, Diplomats, Spies, Pirates, Creatures, Thieves, and just when you thought it was all covered, they threw in a Mad Scientist for good measure.

Show Me the Credits

It?s appropriate that an expansion based around an element which spends most of its time making and spending credits introduce the two new abilities called ?Bounty? and ?Upkeep?. These work together beautifully on many of the units mirroring their role in the Star Wars universe because many of the bounty hunters require a regular payment for their services, which can end up paying off quite handsomely with the bounty they bring in.

The ability ?Bounty? was first glimpsed in the Boba Fett (C) preview card inserted in random packs of the Empire Strikes Back expansion. This version of Boba gains a bounty in the form of valuable build points. Other bounty abilities allow a player to gain force, draw cards, put cards in an arena, discard cards, retreat units, untap or tap units, remove damage counters, and more. All very valuable skills. Bounty is gained at the players next build step after the unit with this ability damages another unit and that unit is discarded. The neutral Droid Bounty Hunter 4-Lom comes with the nice Bounty ability of allowing you to remove all damage counters from one of your units.

Upkeep is arguably not an ability in the traditional sense, but only if you view it with a ?glass is half full? mentality. Viewed in a positive light, upkeep is really just a payment for powerful services rendered. The upkeep costs found on many units are paid each turn at the beginning of a players build step and include paying build points, paying force, tapping units, discarding cards, putting damage on units, and even removing cards from the game entirely. Paying the upkeep costs of many units may be pricey, but it can be worth it for the powerful effects these cards bring. A good example of this is IG-2000, a neutral space unit costing 4 build points with 30 speed, 4 power and health, Armor, Critical Hit 2, and a free choose +20 speed or +2 power ability each turn. Normally a unit like this would have a much higher build cost or fewer abilities, however you can play this powerful little unit for the relatively low Upkeep cost of either discarding one card or tapping IG-2000.

No Disintegrations

More than anything else in this expansion, the Bounty Hunter theme stands out the most. There are plenty of new Bounty Hunters to add to the ones we already have. Any of the five new versions of Boba Fett, all neutral, can stand with or even against his father and all but one version gets a Bounty ability of some kind. In addition to the already mentioned 4-Lom and Boba Fett, you?ll find plenty more Bounty Hunters such as Dengar, Zuckuss, Bossk, Zutton, and the droid IG-88.

The Bounty Hunters would not be complete without their respective ships. Included in the set are IG-2000, Hounds Tooth, Mist Hunter, Punishing One, and 3 new versions of Slave 1, including one which gives each of your Bounty Hunters the ability to pay 2 force and retreat.

Bounty Hunter decks also get plenty of help from new support cards like the Mission card Call for Hunters. For 2 build points and tapping one of your untapped units in the Character arena you can retrieve 4 Bounty Hunter cards from your deck and put them in your hand. Mos Eisley Cantina is a neutral Character Location that makes it so you don?t have to pay a Character?s upkeep costs each turn. Ord Mantell System is a neutral Space Location that causes each of your Bounty Hunters to cost 1 fewer build counter to deploy.

Rogues and Scoundrels also brings with it new Bounty Hunter ammo in the form of cards such as No Good to Me Dead. This no cost battle card prevents your opponent?s Bounty Hunters from collecting Bounty for a turn. We may also see a revival of older cards to counter bounty hunter decks, such as Boba Fett A, who not only reduces all Bounty Hunters speed by 10, but also forces your opponent to contest him to play their more powerful version. Daniel Logan, the actor who played young Boba Fett in Episode 2 and who reportedly asked David Eckelberry at Celebration 2 ?Why does my card suck??, may be having sweet revenge.

The EU Strikes Back

Rogues and Scoundrels also arrives with plenty of new Expanded universe characters based mainly off Steven Perry?s best-selling novel Shadows of the Empire (which takes place between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi). Including these popular characters and their ships in powerful forms is sure to be a highlight of this expansion as we get versions of Dash Rendar, Leebo, Guri, and Prince Xizor-along with their ships Outrider, Stinger, and Virago.

For those of you that haven?t read the novel, Prince Xizor is the powerful crime lord of Black Sun, a vast criminal organization possessed of incredible power and influence. Xizor is a brilliant character and his card more than matches his strong presence in the Star Wars Universe, making it the best card in this set in my opinion. As long as Xizor is in the character arena, you do not have to pay the upkeep costs of your other neutral units, and each of those units gets plus 10 speed and plus 1 power. If you get both Xizor and Mos Eisley Cantina out on the table, you will not have to pay any upkeep costs on neutral units at all. Also, whenever Xizor is attacked, you prevent all but 2 of that damage, making him hard to get rid of since he has a whopping 9 health. He costs 9 build points and has an upkeep cost of 3 build points or tapping Xizor. This card is hot, and has an excellent computer generated image as do many of the expanded universe elements in this expansion.

Choosing Sides

Besides tons of great neutral cards, both the dark and light side get some great new units as well.

The Dark Side gains a new Mara Jade who has the Bounty ability of gaining 4 force. Two new versions of Darth Vader both now carry the title Dark Jedi Master, and one version of this Sith Lord has the advantage of making your Bounty Hunters cost 1 less build point as long as he is on the table. Other strong dark side units include a new version of Admiral Piett that gives all space units ?Pay 0 force-Intercept?, and a new Imperial Walker called AT-AT that deals damage which cannot be prevented.

The Light side gains 2 new versions of Chewbacca, both of which contain the ability to retaliate an amount equal to his power. New versions of Han, Leia, Luke, Yoda, C-3PO, R2-D2, and the EU character Kyle Katarn also arrive with a host of clever abilities. Luke Skywalker (I) with 5 power built in, gets plus 2 power for each other unique unit you have in any arena. C-3PO (G) can be tapped to pay the upkeep costs of one of your units.

The Rogues and Scoundrels expansion, like others before it, gives us more than just some new cards to build our decks with. It opens up new strategy options, introduces new themes, enhances old themes, and has plenty of stand alone tricks to make everyone happy no matter what level of player you are. You?ll do well to go and collect your bounty on April 2nd so you can become a crime lord at your nearest card table.

26 March 2004

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