This article is a brief look at the new Special Operations, a new game mode for Star Wars Legion that was announced yesterday.
AMG made a surprise announcement with the concept of “game modes” for Star Wars Legion. In short, game modes will be special mini-games that you can play using the same models that you already own. This makes it easier to jump into an entirely different style of game without needing to buy any additional material. These are “Print and Play”, which means that you can just print out the cards necessary and use the minis you already own. The first of these is the Squad-based Special Operations, and even better it’s up for open beta testing right now!
What is Special Operations?
In a sentence, Special Operations is Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team using the Star Wars Legion ruleset and minis. Instead of activating units, you activate individual models. While this may immediately draw similarities to the upcoming Shatterpoint, Special Operations has no flashy heroes. Each model has a pretty mundane skill set, and the challenge will be in trying to make your Squad operate as a team and less on named Heroes being supported by their infantry.
Before we go forward outlining what makes this game mode unique, it should be emphasized that this is a beta, and it means it. The packets are very rough, mostly a plain text document filled with placeholder text and images. There is inevitably going to be some unbalanced rules in there and that’s the point! As of this writing, this is the first of two open beta tests, the second of which will open in April. We’ll come back then and see what the game looks like then, too.
Let’s begin with the pre-game stuff. Listbuilding mostly does not exist. There are no point values here. Instead, each of the four factions (sorry Shadow Collective, but you aren’t a “real” faction) is given two prescribed lists called “squads,” and you get to pick one of them to field. These are mostly odds and ends from various different infantry kits, so don’t go into this expecting it to be your main way of getting into the game on the cheap by picking up a box or two – This is intended for people who have a decent collection of models already ready to go.
There also aren’t any upgrades, instead your customization comes from 3 double-sided loadout cards (Each squad has a unique set). You don’t choose which ones to use at the list building phase, instead you reveal which side on each of the three you intend to use during deployment. Each loadout card offers a buff that applies to your army. For example the Rebel Troopers squad can choose to use 1A – Agility Training (spend dodge tokens on crits) or 1B – Calm and Collected (spend dodge tokens as if they were aim tokens) but not both. They then repeat this for the 2A/2B and 3A/3B cards. This grants some army customization, but not enough to overwhelm the player.
Command cards are also tossed out, instead each army has a total of 7 command cards – 3 generic ones per faction and 2 unique to whichever squad you picked out. This does remove part of the game of sussing out what your opponent has, but sometimes simplicity is its own fun.
Not surprisingly, missions are also unique in this. There are 4 missions, and no mission deck. Like many other wargames, players instead agree on a mission to play (or if you have a d4 handy, you could always roll for it). All missions are played on a 3′ x 3′ board, like Skirmish mode but are 4 rounds instead of 5. The missions are reasonably varied, all but one is asymmetrical, which means blue and red have different objectives to fulfill. Since points aren’t used, blue and red is determined by a dice roll.
Shifting Priorities is the only symmetrical mission, with 3 objects in the center and both players on either side of the board. Each round a die roll will make one of the objectives worth 2 points, and it becomes a race to score 7 VP (or the most after 4 rounds).
In Bring Down the Shields, the Blue Player must defend a shield generator console while red attempts to shut it down. Red only starts with part of their squad on the field and must call the rest in, meaning they can’t rush for the console to shut it down. They need to be smart and pick the opponent off gradually. There’s a fun mini-game involved of rolling dice on a “Transmitter card” grid to grab victory points by covering up squares, cover up 6 of the 8 squares and you get a VP, collect 3 and the attacker wins. Meanwhile, blue can encrypt the data to steal covered squares back!
For The Codes red has 3 models with a unique code (treated as an objective marker they carry with them). With one real code and 2 decoys, blue must figure out which is the real one and stop red before they can send the code through one of the three transmitters dotting the field.
Finally, possibly the most unique mission is The Ambush. The mission asks the red player to put down a vehicle appropriate for the faction in the center and hold their ground there while Blue comes in on all sides trying to throw thermal detonators at it to destroy it. The further away they throw it, the fewer dice the attack gets so they need to get as close as possible before throwing it!
Overall these are unique missions that take advantage of the scale of the game and make it feel like its own entity.
Once you get into the core gameplay, Special Operations is surprisingly similar to base Legion. You pick a command card, assign orders as appropriate and put the rest aside in a pile to draw from randomly. You then alternate activating units with your opponent until everything has activated. Most actions from movement, shooting and dodging all operate exactly the same, except done with one model at a time instead of units. Models have their own special stat cards to print out, and operate completely differently from their base incarnation. They have more dice on the attack, but also more wounds!
A list of notable differences:
- Models cannot Move twice like legion, instead there is a dash action to move Speed-1 instead.
- Range – Ranges are now in inches like many traditional wargames. This keeps battle at much close range than before, but also allows more variation in length.
- Commanders no longer share their courage, models must rely on their own bravery.
- On that note, Panic and Suppression are very different. When a unit is suppressed they do not lose an action, instead the target of your attacks can choose a dice to pull from your attack pool before you roll! Panicked units also no longer run, but roll dice equal to the difference from their panic and their courage, potentially taking unblockable damage as a result. Not a bad choice, very interesting.
- Cover now grants surge to block for 1 or 2 dice (depending on light or heavy, respectively) rather than negating hits. This makes damage a lot more frequent. Personally I think this may unfairly bias toward Imperial players, who have a lot of red dice, and hurt Rebels who rely on surges to save (they no longer have that!). Rebels do seem to have more ways to generate dodge tokens, so the overall effect remains to be seen.
How do I play?
If this seems to have caught your attention, you can grab the playtest documents here. If you enjoy it, or see some potential issues, definitely give your feedback! As of this writing, the beta test is only open for February! It will be taken back down again in March and brought back in April, hopefully with player feedback integrated. Don’t be afraid to give feedback, they’re asking for it!