As a member of several dozen SW or related geek groups on Facebook and a follower of news as well as many other pages and personalities involved with SW on various other forms of social media, one thing’s for sure: the unhappiness in the fandom isn’t dying down anytime soon.
Full disclosure: I am a TLJ hater myself. That’s just the way it was for me, and sadly I’m not liable to change my mind (possibly ever). I also have friends who loved it, liked it, or hated it, because Star Wars fans come in all shapes, sizes, trains of thought, and objectively wrong opinions.
And some of us also live to be sarcastic.
It seems to me that while IRL we can lightheartedly take jabs at each other for our opinions and still go out for beers afterwards, once you go online there’s a different tinge to it all… Everybody’s on edge, itching for a fight. You’ve got the fanboys singing the current direction’s praises from the mountaintops and the haters all but spamming vitriol and discontent. Either side (or rather the radicals therein) is alienating their opposers from the aforementioned pages, and seldom does a day go by without someone literally up and leaving (and making a big scene of it because apparently they’re all big man-babies who can’t just silently slip away because that would be subversive).
I personally enjoy some good banter, but some people may be tired of it all so I’m here to tell you that there are many sides of the IP you can delve into even with the current wave of discontent plaguing about a third of the fans these days (I will forever stand by that approximation). There are still areas you can enjoy and appreciate the quality and reverence to the IP of, items that hold something for everyone, and through which even the most ardent TLJ supporter and its most fired-up detractor can find common ground.
Bear in mind that this is just a taste of the greater SW universe that I personally feel is still going strong today, and I’m only covering this limited batch of examples because I myself have enough experience with them to recommend them wholeheartedly.
Board, Card, Miniature, and Roleplaying games
SW has always had a presence in the boardgaming hobby, but it wasn’t until Fantasy Flight Games picked up the license that things really started picking up. Sure, Wizards of the Coast kept things running through the 00s, but this is a Golden Age for cardboard, and FFG are milking every last drop of it…
Ever wanted to relive that epic, overarching conflict in SW on your tabletop? Ever felt like you could take on the logistic struggle of leading the Rebellion into an all-but-futile fight against the mighty Empire? Ever wanted to change the very course of Galactic history?
Then this one’s for you. More so if you like playing War of the Ring as it has that same sprawling, story-focused feel that the mechanisms only serve to enhance along the way.
Taking place just as the Death Star itself is starting to weave its way through the Galaxy, this is a 1v1 game pitting the Rebels against the Empire in a mad, asymmetric dash of resource management, planetary control, and military brilliance.
The objective? Either snuff out the Rebel base as the Imperials (something easier said than done since you have no idea where the base is in the first place) or outlive the odds and topple the evil rule engulfing it all as the scrappy Rebs.
With mainstay characters of the Original Trilogy and events from across it all (encasing people in carbonite included), this one is a heavy-hitting, infinitely replayable, highly enjoyable experience for the really enthusiastic fans. And with the Rise of the Empire expansion this only gives me, personally, more of what I feel like is solid SW content to be excited about...
Taking the complexity down a notch from the previous entry, we have a card-based battle for 2 players (with the possibility of multiplay, but I haven’t tried that one enough myself to form a proper opinion).
This one has an interesting deckbuilding system where you no longer add one card at a time to your deck but rather drop in several at once, based on specific rules, thus speeding the process up and (possibly) making it easier to keep it all thematic.
The LCG (Living Card Game) which just had its final expansion published lets you pit various factions within the Empire, Rebellion, or Scum and Villainy against each other in highly tense battles, with cards that serve multiple roles during the conflicts and enough cardboard tokens to choke a Sarlacc.
Bears mentioning that this might not be for everyone as you can encounter several instances where your suspension of disbelief may take a nosedive, with clever card play allowing R2 to bring down a Star Destroyer almost single-handedly, for example.
We’ve covered this one briefly in this article, but it bears repeating in the circumstances.
Destiny blends two of my favourite aspects of the boardgaming hobby: dice and cards.
From clashing factions to different timelines and even the possibility of different instances of the same character going up against each other (thus answering the age-old ‘Who would win, Anakin or Vader?’ question), there’s no limit to the shenanigans this game can bring to the table.
The gameplay itself is pretty straightforward, following an I-go-you-go sequence that can be broken or cheated through special actions or cards, but the more involved you are in it, the more you discover about the subtleties behind the various damage sources, damage/shield engines, deck types, faction strengths and weaknesses, and so on.
And with our most recent local competition featuring contestants with ages ranging from primary school to their father, you know this one’s fun for the whole family. So fun we’re actually prepping a more thorough look at it all, so standby...
Doubling back around into the high-end complexity side of the spectrum, we reach the only Star Wars Roleplaying Game that matters. And I will fight anyone who disagrees until I’m blue in the mouth over this.
The first, best, and only SW Roleplaying game you’ll ever need is currently available as a reprint of the old West End Games Revised Edition. But there’s a better deal out there giving more pages of (reviewed by the community) content for way less… Like… Nothing, actually. Still, I’ve got my eye on the reprint as it’s a beautiful bit of SW history and looks good on the shelf.
Don’t miss the chance to step into the shoes of Luke, Leia, Han, or any number of other characters from the OT, prequels, Legacy Era, and even ones of your own devising thanks to a versatile, free-flowing system that rewards story and theme above all else.
RPGs are more difficult to get a group together for, but there are plenty of communities and forums you can look for a group in, so don’t give up before even trying, probably even local stores and people running this without you even knowing - this is truly the best way to experience the Galaxy, more so when you only need some dice and paper to enjoy it.
Also, with decades’ worth of content for this particular system easily accessible over on the plains of the interweb, and Timothy Zahn himself being involved with its development way back when, you’ll believe me when I say it’s the end-all be-all of Star Wars, with the EU (and the IP itself) possibly never reaching the rebirth boom of the early 90s and 00s without the prior existence of West End Games, whose vast majority of rulebooks, minigames, and supplements you can find in readily available PDFs.
If old-school Roleplaying is not right up your alley and you’re trying to ease into the genre there’s no better starting point than IA.
A miniatures game that moonlights as a light roleplaying experience with a more action-focused view and less room for improvisation, it’s already a very successful product that has spawned many expansions and character packs, from big-name ones to troops and units that either the Empire, Bounty Hunters, or the Rebellion can use to best their opponents.
Where IA truly shines, though, is that it also features a secondary game mode: skirmish.
In it, 2 or more players take control of teams of units and characters and, unlike Campaign Mode where the Gamemaster goes up against the Heroes and the two camps have wildly varying playstyles and options, a mechanically similar playing-field is set here with equal army point costs and decks of powerful effects and abilities that may be triggered during the game.
If you’re looking for a 2-for-1 Star Wars experience, this is your go-to.
Until a few years ago, the top spot in the world of miniature wargames was held by Games Workshop’s behemoth, 40k. But not anymore.
In recent years, the X-Wing craze has swept the globe with its high-quality, prepainted miniatures, solid Organised Play, bustling communities and even multiple game variants (either official or community-made), topping the market with no hint at slowing down for the foreseeable future, more so with the recently-announced Second Edition.
At its core, X-Wing is a simple dogfight simulator not unlike others that have come before or since. But what it has going for it is a simpler core concept than other games. And the SW license.
X-Wings, TIEs, Y-Wings, YT freighters, U-Wings, Lambda-Class Shuttles and a myriad other ships and their variants from all across the timeline can be fielded and dog… fought against either similar or radically different squads of fighters as varied as the Empire is totalitarian.
You can even go a step further, into Epic Play, which allows you to field huge ships like Imperial Assault Carriers with their full complement of 4 TIE Fighters, and even the Tantive IV itself.
This is one for gamers as much as it is for collectors, with the miniatures bustling with detail and personality, and people actually repainting them into a wide variety of awesome schemes that are a joy to look at even if you’re not into pushing plastic and rolling polyhedrons with weird squiggles on them.
If there’s anything we like more than pretty, shiny, moving pictures it’s pretty, shiny, printed pictures. Luckily for us the SW comics have those in spades.
Things like the main run are a little hit/miss and suffer from various filler issues and material, and Dr. Aphra fell to the wayside after her solid (if a bit weird) introduction in Darth Vader (2015) but I feel like the following series (or single issues) are well worth checking out.
Look, everybody, it’s our favourite daddy-turned-Dark-Side! Yaaaay!
Following the heavy footsteps of ye olde Darth Vader, the runs (which in true SW fashion were published out of chronology, with the current run taking place before the 2015 one) take us through the Sith Lord’s highs and lows.
For instance, we see Vader building his lightsaber and making it “bleed”, a choice I’ll always stand by as a great lore call that’s infinitely better than the “synthetic crystals” take we had before.
We also see him being all badass-commander-dude and ordering everyone around leading several invasions/attacks, one of which is against Mon Cala (with Raddus and Ackbar featured in the storyline), and another which has giant space whales in it. I shit you not.
His 2015 run is also where we get our first glimpse at fresh, fan-favourite Disney-era characters like Dr. Aphra. Who, in my opinion, was only ever written well during this particular Vader run and devolved into the cringefest she was always meant as over her own comic run, but that’s just me.
I find the (ongoing) 2017 series much better than the 2015 one due to various reasons.
A very important one is the easily superior artwork and the distinct lack of traced drawings and janky facial features in the former, complete with a sensibly different take on Vader’s helmet and body type, for example. Personal preference notwithstanding, they are both solid entries and are easy recommendations for their entire length.
And don’t forget the Vader Down tie-in!
I remember seeing The Phantom Menace as a kid, and the wonder it brought after having already been hooked on the OT for several years. I actually saw Revenge of the Sith later on at a free screening taking place on a huge screen on a beach somewhere, and while that experience was probably the best SW movie experience I’ve ever had, TPM is still my unapologetic favourite prequel. And Maul is one of the most underrated and unceremoniously discarded villains in the entire SW canon.
So you’ll understand my glee when coming across this particular set of issues that not only do the character justice, but also further cement him as a fan favourite with solid sales across the entirety of this pre-TPM arc. Featuring Maul at his most violent, most angry, and most vengeful, this series establishes much-needed context for his actions during Episode I as well as further down his storyline.
The artwork is astounding, the whole thing flows and can be read easily, and the featured characters are fan favourites across the board, not only when it comes to the main cast. It also features a particular double-page spread that’s more diverse than the entirety of the current-era movies.
A balls-to-the-Maul comic and possibly the easiest recommendation next to the current Vader run.
Star Wars: Thrawn (ongoing)
This one’s being continuously covered by us (as you can see from issue #1 and issue #2), but we’ll restate that Jodie Houser & Co. are putting together a great story based on an even greater novel featuring a brilliant character created by a writing legend in the person of Timothy Zahn. Well, that escalated quickly.
The biggest drawback to this 6-issue series is that it follows the novel to the letter, so people who’ve already read it will have ruined their own surprise twists and turns in the story.
There’s also a niggling issue that’s become clearer to me once issue #3 came out (and we’re definitely covering that one as well, not to worry…) and stems from the “choppy” style in which the story takes place. Events and scenes seem more and more disjointed as time goes on, and there hasn’t been an issue yet that hasn’t featured either a weird interpretation of novel characters or moments, a reveal that takes the tension out of a scene, or an artwork choice that ended up being a bit of an eyesore.
Still, this is a must-read comic that’s good even when it’s at its worst!
*gasp* GHG recommending a TLJ-related product?!
Hold your horses. This has next to nothing to do with TLJ aside from the action taking place on Crait. It happens decades before Episode VIII, features “glory days” Luke, Leia, and Han, has awesome artwork (although Harrison Ford did turn into Kurt Russell at some point - you can thank the curse of traced art for that…) and it’s a one-shot, so it’s fast to start and quick to finish.
Solid story, decent payoff, better if you’re up to date with the main run, but that’s not required. And a good Marvel comic overall, to boot!
With Thrawn and Princess of Alderaan reviews already up on our website and more Star Wars novels to follow, you could say we’re completely taken with the new canon and what it has to offer when it comes to the books. This isn’t to say there are duds there, after all nothing is perfect (here’s lookin’ at you, Bloodline, Aftermath, even Phasma...), but there are plenty of different timelines and PoVs in here to satisfy even the most hellbent Disney hater.
For more in-depth looks at novels, you can go to the Reviews tab and check as we add more of them in the coming weeks, but there are plenty of recommendations aside from the ones mentioned above. Catalyst, Rebel Rising, Guardians of the Whills, Lords of the Sith are thoroughly enjoyable Disney-canon novels in our book.
Do or do not. But you’re probably better off doing anyway.
I’d like to book-end this with one more thing: Star Wars is so much more than the handful of movies we’ve had or will have going forward.
With videogames, books, board and card games, and the myriad comic runs we’ve had through the years (some of which are still going strong to this day), you are the one losing out if you’re embracing any of the #boycott or related movements out there.
Just be smart about your purchases, think twice before going all in on anything, and always go with what makes you happy. With a production output this constant and expansive, there’s absolutely, positively no way that Star Wars can’t still be there for you in a significant manner, just as it did in the days of yore.
And remember: #WarsNotOverYet