By Will Faust
I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
Everyone knows that Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian in a game of Sabacc. This game has become legend. And on May 25th, 2018 we will finally see the big game on the big screen in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Of course, with every new Star Wars movie comes an onslaught of licensed toys, clothes, games, edibles, home goods, and more. This review won’t be covering the Han Solo Spaghetti-O’s, but the equally cheesy and messy Han Solo Card Game.
In the Han Solo Card Game, the object is to score as close to zero as you can with your hand of cards in order to collect bounty tokens of assorted values ranging from blasters to vehicles to even the Millennium Falcon. The player whose bounty tokens add up to the highest value at the end of the game wins.
To play, every piece of scum is dealt 2 cards which can be a positive or negative number ranging from 1 to 10 (or a “0” of which there are just 2 in the deck). A number of random bounty tokens equal to the number of players is also revealed. These values can range from 1,000 for an Imperial Stormtrooper Helmet to 25,000 for the Falcon. Depending on which bounty tokens are revealed can heavily swing the game, to say the least. If you are lucky enough to snag 4 of the blue or red bounty tokens (which are worth far less than the plentiful green bounty tokens) you can “steal” the Falcon from another player. A nice bit of risk/reward which will definitely backfire depending on the number of players.
On your turn you may draw 1 card from the top of the draw pile, or you may draw the top visible card from the discard pile, or stand and essentially do nothing. If you decide to draw a card you may also discard a card of your choice but are not required to do so. After everyone has taken a turn the dealer rolls the pair of unimpressive custom Star Wars dice. If the dice symbols are different, nothing happens... which isn’t very exciting. However, if they do match, something less exciting happens - everyone discards their entire hand of cards and are dealt a brand new hand. Yes, your browser is functioning correctly, and you read that accurately. This completely negates any strategy, tactics, and math you previously worked out. All that counting while simultaneously silently mouthing numbers (probably without noticing) was a waste of time. Do this for two more turns around the table and the hand closest to zero wins a bounty token of their choice. Then rinse and repeat everything above until all 24 bounty tokens are gone or someone has smuggled the game from the table and made the Kessel Run in less than 12 seconds…never to be seen or played again.
To be honest, it truly feels like there is an actual game waiting to be discovered within the overproduced packaging and underproduced card quality. It appears Hasbro was counting on Disney to delay Solo: A Star Wars Story due to all the publicized production issues so they could develop this game further. Well, instead of releasing Solo in December, which has sort of become a modern-day tradition, it is actually hitting in May. C’mon Disney, if you’re going to release a Star Wars movie in May, you could have at least released it on May the 4th.
My biggest complaint about Han Solo Card Game is the dice mechanism. Well, that, and the fact that it is called “Han Solo Card Game.” It’s not even called Sabacc or “The Han Solo Card Game” which flows so much better. 10-year-old Billy Faust probably would enjoy the dice chucking and ridiculous random card swapping. Adulting William Faust thinks it’s a tired mechanism and could have been further explored and developed for increased tactics and even some minor bluffing - of which there is none in this game. Hard to believe a game played by smugglers, scum and villainy doesn’t have any bluffing at all, right? Perhaps a variant included in the back of the rules for adults could have been included. Just something with a little more Tauntaun meat on the bones.
I can easily see some house rules being implemented that add more flavor to the dice rolls, using the symbols in various ways. Larger starting hands could even make the game a bit more strategic. Unfortunately, this game has as much intelligent decision making as LCR and Admiral Motti combined.
Not to end this review on a completely negative vibe, I can say the angled card design is fun but makes shuffling a bit annoying. Good luck trying to sleeve match these cards from space! The packaging is top notch and looks great for a mass-product Hasbro game, but the contents could easily fit inside a box 1/3 the size. The rules are easy to read and understand, including the multiple examples of tiebreakers. Speaking of tie-breakers, they seem a bit convoluted at first, but ultimately, they make sense and work out fine...everything is fine here... (how are you?). If you are looking for a quick, cheap, nonsensical Star Wars game fix for your 10+-year-old child, this could serve in a pinch. Just don’t expect the cards to hold up over repeated playing... but that won’t be an issue I suspect.
If you are in the market for something deeper and more rewarding I would recommend almost anything from Fantasy Flight Games. Star Wars: Destiny, Star Wars: Rebellion, X-Wing or Armada, Star Wars: Imperial Assault, or even the Star Wars LCG are all amazing games. Each game offers a completely different experience in the Star Wars universe and I would highly recommend starting with one of these first, depending on your budget. Even Star Wars: Empire vs Rebellion is a small box with a lot of game within it – check that one out first for a quick fun experience. No matter what, I’m interested to see how the Han Solo Card Game compares to its big screen counterpart. How similar do you think it will be? How will the dice be used? Let us know your thoughts below.
See you at the theatre on May 25th!