by Bill Yankosky (aka Yodaman)
Living Card Games typically follow a release pattern based on cycles. For the Star Wars LCG, the cycles were structured in a very formulaic way. The Star Wars LCG released 6 packs for each cycle and the release schedule was intended to be roughly 1 pack each month, although as with many FFG games, delays were common, especially between cycles. Each pack typically included 10 objective sets total usually broken down into 2 copies of 5 different sets from 5 of the 6 available affiliations (Jedi, Rebel, Smugglers, Sith, Navy or Scum). This meant 1 affiliation was missing from every pack and thus decks based on that affiliation had a longer wait time before getting new cards that could be integrated into decks. Occasionally, sets which were “limit 1 per deck” would be included which meant that only copy of the objective could be included in the deck so only 1 copy appeared in the pack itself. Often these sets were actually neutral objective sets that were restricted to one side or the other, but didn’t include cards that required a specific affiliation match. Unlike the Core Set which required players to buy 2 copies in order to have the maximum number of sets that could be included in a deck, people only had to buy 1 copy of each pack to get all the cards needed to build a deck. For players with a budget, having to just spend about $15 per month on a game is certainly appealing.
The Star Wars LCG game designers and developers certainly had a variety of choices to explore for development after the release of the Core Set. The universe is filled with iconic moments and locations. Given the fact The Empire Strikes Back is often viewed as the most popular of all Star Wars films, it was not too surprising that the first cycle of the game focused on themes from events on Hoth. The Hoth Cycle packs started releasing in late 2012 and finished in mid-2013.
Many characters, vehicles, creatures and great moments from the time spent on Hoth were captured on cards released in the cycle. Several objectives released in the cycle had the Hoth trait which synergized well with other cards and objectives. A new fate card, Battle of Hoth, was introduced which allowed for damage to be dealt or removed from Hoth objectives when it resolved during an edge battle and also had 3 force icons. Many objective sets on both the light and dark side included this card and the limited card pool often meant it could be used offensively or defensively. A lot of sets and cards proved to be powerful at the time and even make an impact throughout the life of the game. Some notable cards and objectives sets from the Hoth cycle include:
This Sith objective set gives the dark side player the ability to sacrifice their own units in order to remove damage from a Hoth objective and therefore slow down progress the light side might make towards destroying dark side objectives. In decks which could swarm the board with cheap units and include enough Hoth objectives so that every dark side objective in play had the Hoth trait, this was a very powerful effect. The set also includes two copies of the Ice Tromper, a 2 cost creature that can be sacrificed to remove an enemy unit from an engagement and also slow down the light side’s progress, as well as the always powerful fate card, Twist of Fate.
Another powerful Sith objective that was introduced to the game in the last set of the Hoth cycle. While the objective itself had no game text, it did provide 2 resources. But the power of the set was in the cards themselves and the internal synergy that exists. This set contains the Executor, an 8 cost, 10 health capital ship with 6 combat icons, that cannot be targeted by enemy card effects when it’s undamaged and has an ability to deal 1 damage to an enemy unit or objective anytime either player sacrifices a card. The set’s 4 other cards contribute to the sacrifice mechanic. There are 2 copies of the ISB Liaison, a 1 cost chud that can be sacrificed to look at the top card of an objective deck or command deck, then also draw a card. It also includes the Sith event, Aggression, which requires both players to sacrifice a unit and can only be played during the dark side player’s turn. Timed right, the dark side player could sacrifice a meaningless unit and catch the light side player with only big units and really set the light side back. Finally, the set included the powerful Sith Holocron, a free enhancement, that can be sacrificed to reduce the cost of the next Sith card played by 3. Besides the internal synergy, this entire set paired well with the Killing Cold. The face the objective didn’t have the Hoth trait did keep it from being a completely busted combo, but it was still powerful. The set had such staying power that the final Star Wars LCG World Champion, Javier Maldonado included 2 copies of it his dark side deck in 2018. Considering how much power creep can enter into games, the fact this set was still so viable 5 years after its initial release shows how good it was.
A Navy set that really helped push aggressive Capital ship builds early on, this objective allowed the dark side player to damage the objective itself in order to reduce the cost of playing a capital ship. A dark side player willing to deal damage to their own objectives could get a big ramp going pretty quickly. The set includes 2 copies of the 6 cost Death Squadron Star Destroyer each of which has shielding and 3 black objective damage icons. It also includes the event Admiral’s Orders which reduces the cost of a capital ship by 2.
While Scum was still waiting for its big influx of cards that would come in a box set released later, this set released in the middle of the Hoth cycle ended up becoming a staple of early Scum decks. Like Killing Cold, it included ways to prevent the light side from making progress in destroying damage in the form of 2 copies of the unit Corrupt Official. When a scum objective was about to take any amount of damage, this unit could be discarded from hand to prevent all that damage. Being able to discard a card to prevent 3-4 points of objective damage in one fell swoop made Scum decks tougher to overcome. As with many notable sets that were released for the Star Wars LCG, this set also includes a copy of Twist of Fate.
Released in the very first force pack of the cycle, this objective set laid the foundation for speeder builds on the Light Side. Focusing on the Hoth theme, if the light side player has more Hoth traited objectives than the dark side, each speeder gets Edge  which helps the light side optimize and maximize attacks. The set also included the great combo of Wedge Antilles and Rogue Three. While on a Speeder as an enhancement, Wedge can be focused to remove a focus token from that speeder, giving it the ability to double strike. Rogue Three is a great 3 cost, 3 health, 3 force icon speeder which has 2 objective damage combat icons and gains both a black unit damage and black objective damage for each enhancement on it. Coupled with Wedge, Rogue 3 can do a lot of objective damage in one shot.
Found in the Renegade Squadron Mobilization objective set, this Smuggler’s enhancement was powerful from the start. For 2 cost, it can generate 1 resource, but was more often used for its ability to focus the enhancement to basically steal a combat icon from one unit and give it to another unit as long as they both share a trait. The versatility of this card is really amazing and great players certainly could manipulate it to their advantage. You can steal a combat icon from an enemy unit and give it to one of yours, you can move a combat icon from one of your own units which has already used its icons to another one of your units that still needs to strike. In a pinch, you could remove a combat icon from an enemy unit that’s about to strike to one that is already focused. It’s no wonder why, in 2013, 2 copies of this set found its way into the LS deck of the first ever Star Wars LCG World Champion, Dennis Harlien. Even though the objective set itself eventually got overshadowed by some very powerful Smuggler sets released shortly thereafter, Echo Caverns still is powerful.
Another Smugglers set that found its way into the first ever World Champion’s (Dennis Harlien) LS deck. The objective lets you return a target unit to its owner’s hand whenever a Hoth objective leaves play. This could allow the light side player to get a powerful dark side unit off the board after a successful attack and free up the path for an attack on another objective. But more importantly, this set includes 2 copies of Renegade Squadron Escort, a Smuggler’s vehicle that can Protect other vehicles from damage. Being able to keep stronger LS vehicles like Rogue 3 alive longer by having the vehicle protection ability, was crucial to early light side efforts. That being said some of the objectives sets and cards in the Hoth Cycle certainly missed the mark, came up a little short, or had some inherent weakness that prevented them from seeing a lot of play.
The first Navy objective set released during the Hoth cycle was Lord Vader’s Command. The set included a Navy version of Darth Vader that gave all units attacking with him an extra objective damage and also showed that for the game different characters might not just have multiple versions but also could appear in multiple affiliations. However, the objective itself was curiously missing the Hoth trait even though the image depicts a scene with Vader, Snowtroopers and AT-ATs on Hoth. The Navy Hoth traited sets featured thematic cards, but seemed to lack basic resources and that made the expensive units tougher to play and made it difficult to go all in on that theme.
The first Jedi set, A Message from Beyond, included 2 copies of Old Ben’s Spirit, a 1 cost enhancement which had a powerful effect of discarding it rather than a character that was about to be destroyed and fully healing the character in the process. The set didn’t include any units at all which could drastically lower the total unit count in any deck that included the set. This led to some of the earliest instances of players getting a dreaded “Jedi draw” where their hand was basically unplayable due to no units. Over the cycle was fun and many cards and sets saw play during the years FFG officially supported the game.
As mentioned in my previous article, there is a player-led committee, the Star Wars LCG Council, that has worked to keep the game alive for its small, but loyal community. There is a spring online tourney taking place right now that is almost finished and we plan to start the next one soon. If you’re interested in learning more about the game and what’s going on with it, you can check out these resources.
- Previous Enties into this series
- Star Wars LCG Council Facebook page – the official page of the Star Wars LCG Council.
- Star Wars (LCG) Facebook page – this community-led Facebook page has been around since the start.
- Cardgamedb SW LCG General Discussion Forum – This is where the community really started and the Star Wars LCG boards are still active, especially when things such as the online tourney are going on
- Yoda’s Hut Youtube Channel – As mentioned before, you can find literally hundreds of Star Wars LCG gameplay videos with recorded commentary on my Youtube Channel.
- Frozen In Carbonite – Another member of the Star Wars LCG Council, Darthbs, has had his Youtube channel around in various forms throughout the years.
- CoDameron, a long-time Star Wars LCG player, has been recording his matches in the top cut of the current online tourney and posting those games on his Youtube Channel.
- Former 2015 Star Wars LCG World Champion Tom Melucci aka Ozrix, also has recorded some of the top cut matches from the current online tourney. Those are on his Twitch Channel and include commentary from him and other members of the community.
- Many years ago Team Covenant did an introductory gameplay video and they have many older recorded games with commentary on their Youtube channel as well. They also recently revisited the game on one of their daily streams during the pandemic isolation period and it was great to see that.
Thanks to I Rebel for allowing me to contribute this second entry in a series of articles about one of my favorite games of all time, the Star Wars LCG. Thanks to everyone for reading.
Until the next issue, May the Force Be With You!