This article is a Rebel Alliance Retrospective, a look back at the faction as it has developed.
With the launch of the first major revised edition of Legion on the horizon, I thought it might be a good time to take a look back at the last 4 and a half years of Legion and take a look at what releases came out over time. Which ones got better as the game developed, and which ones have dropped off over time? Specifically I will look at the Rebel Alliance, because not only was it the faction that I am most familiar with, it’s one of the ones that has been there since the very beginning.
All dates will be using the American release schedule, just for the sake of consistency. If you live elsewhere in the world you might remember the timing a bit different.
March 2018 – Core Set, Airspeeder
What is there to say, other than this is where it all started. The core set launched with Commander Luke Skywalker, two squads of Rebel Troopers, and an AT-RT. For the next few months this is all you got, you could buy the rebel troopers and AT-RT separately if you needed to double up (and you did need to if you wanted to play the full game). The T-47 Airspeeder also released but we’ll… get to that.
Commander Luke Skywalker was fine for the time. As the only commander for the faction at launch, you had to use him but you really couldn’t complain too much about what you got. First time Rebel players often struggled against the Imperial half, because Luke just couldn’t hold up to Vader in 1 on 1 combat. He was however much faster, cheaper and more versatile than Vader. Smart players learned to use him to duck in and out of combat, rather than be a blunt instrument, and he became and remained one of the best units in the game for the first couple of years.
The core Rebel Troopers were a natural backbone of the army and remain so to this day. Of all the options for rebel corps, they are the most versatile and cheapest. At launch they only had the Z-6 and MPL-57, and the MPL wasn’t much of a gun at all. The Z-6 is a slot machine gun and back then there were not quite as many ways to easily gain aim tokens. Imperials had a comparable weapon, but whereas Imperials tended to focus on farming aim tokens, Rebels needed dodge tokens, which meant dividing your resources or trying to get lucky. They would be lifted up quite a few notches once the upgrade kit came out months later.
The AT-RT was suitable for the time, when there weren’t many other vehicles to compare it to. A weapons platform that could be equipped to deal with a range of threats, the AT-RT was decently armored for the faction. Not much to say about it nowadays, it’s simply been outclassed by more options that are either more powerful, more economic, or both.
Finally, alongside the core set was the Airspeeder and woof did it have a rough go at it at launch. Now, it’s a solid powerhouse in lists built around it, but at the time it was overcosted and underperformed. At 175 points before equipment, it didn’t have the damage output nor the resilience to stand up to its mirror, the AT-ST. This would later be fixed by making the harpoons free (so at least there was always a rear weapon available) and 2 crucial changes to the card: First, adding surge to crit significantly rose its damage potential, especially against armored or dodge token laden targets. Second, the Speeder keyword originally required you to move at the start of activation. This problem also affected the Imperial speeder bikes but while that was a fairly cheap disposable unit, this was almost a quarter of your army. Requiring a speed 3 move at the start of activation made maneuvering it into prime shooting position very difficult, and opponents could paradoxically hide from it by getting close enough to it that it would fly over them. By changing the movement to either the beginning or end of activation, it turned a flaw into a massive boon. Add in a price drop to 120 points and you have a solid heavy vehicle.
May 2018 – Leia and Fleet Troopers
It’d be about 2 months for the first post-launch release for rebels. Leia made a splash at launch, as one of only two commanders to pick from, she paired well with Luke. Luke was a great front line commander, while Leia could hang back and support the troops from there. She would mostly be eclipsed later by the Rebel Commander who does her job for much cheaper, but at the time “Wonder Twins” lists were pretty much the defacto design as both commanders were much cheaper than Vader and Veers over on the Imperial side (and with cheaper troops).
Fleet Troopers didn’t really leave their mark until much later. They didn’t change substantially, but costed a bit more than Rebel Troopers and had a niche role as close range shotgunners. Their cost came down and it became easier over time to put aim tokens on them so their general strategy of “stand behind a wall and wait” became more reliable. Nowadays they occupy a solid niche, usually filling 1-2 corps slots for guarding objectives.
August 2018 – Han Solo and Rebel Commandos
Han Solo could be argued as the first major disappointment. He would get better, but this was in an era when he didn’t have Chewbacca, didn’t have Steady and in sticking with the theme so far, costed a bit too much for what he did. Han was a close range shooting hero, who definitely filled a role that wasn’t filled yet, but even at the time Range 2 was basically considered the worst place to be. Too close for safety (especially with a white save) when most things shot at range 3, but too far to tie things up in melee. His cards were excellent (remember when Reckless Diversion was just eating DLT shots?), but he needed a bit of prodding to be viable on the table as more than a gimmick. Those changes would take a bit, but he would get there.
Also worth mentioning he was the first unit to have the valuable Training slot, which would go on to become one of the most valuable slots a unit could have. For now though, it had pretty modest beginnings with just Duck and Cover as an option.
However, Rebel Commandos became arguably the first real “meta” of the game. While the 5 man Commando teams and the Saboteurs failed to really make a splash, Strike teams – the two man teams – with a sniper rifle became a de facto choice for both sides. Any self respecting tournament list would need to include 3 squads (the maximum allowed) going forward, and that would remain the case for a pretty long time. They offered the cheapest option for extra activations, and around this time the community was beginning to understand that more activations had a huge advantage over fewer. At the time they also had no range restriction as well. While Range 5 certainly feels like a lot, it didn’t compare to being able to shoot absolutely anywhere (especially if you had the high ground). Nerfing the sniper rifles down to range 5 (range 5 did not previously exist before this errata; weapons were either Range 4 or less, or unlimited range) was one of the first major errata in the game, but the idea of including 3 sniper rifles as a standard part of list building would stick around for a long time until a stronger variety of units came in to diversify options. Even today, 2-3 Strike teams is still considered a solid strategy for padding out activations and laying down some easy suppression.
October 2018 – 1.4FD Laser Cannon Team
Not much to say here. It wasn’t bad, but also wasn’t good. The fact it was stationary was a big millstone around it’s neck and it still is. The range was increased from 4 to 5 when Range 5 was introduced to the game, which helped a little but not by enough. Its mirror the E-Web also wasn’t great, but at least you could push that up the field.
December 2018 – Chewbacca and Wookie Warriors
Chewbacca launched with little excitement. He was the first Operative expansion for Rebels (Imperials got Boba Fett back in August) and Operatives were a bit more experimental then. His command cards relied on one of the three commanders who had been released so far but none of them were very good. He played well with Han thanks to Teamwork but it would be a good 2 years before Han became consistently good. His later revision would compress Expert Climber and Unhindered into Scale, which did both things but better. With this change he became a very mobile melee threat, and an excellent companion for short range and melee heroes with Guardian.
Wookie Warriors became a bit of a sleeper hit. At this point in the game, there weren’t really any melee units in Legion. Vader and Luke existed, but not any dedicated units. Wookies (And the imperial guard across the way) were the attempt to include that but it was a bit of a rocky start. Their save was terrible but at 3 wounds a piece they soaked up shots like nothing else, once they got into combat most non-Jedi couldn’t really contend with them and would be torn to shreds. The problem was getting there. They would later see substantial improvement when like Chewbacca they gained Scale to give them more movement options, and Duelist to make them a stronger melee threat. Combined with needing to compete with the same slot as 3 Strike Teams, the accepted meta at the time, it would be a bit before they really got there. They did help introduce Tenacity to the training slot which quickly became one of the most popular options.
January 2019 – Rebel Specialist Personnel Expansion
This pack was most notable for the Rebel Officer – the first non-named character in the game. He basically was Budget Leia, with Inspire 1 and Take Cover 1 instead of 2 in both, and no command cards. Yet at half the cost he basically immediately made Leia obsolete. Her cards were fine sure but you hardly needed them. The Rebel officer could equip gear to make up the difference and still cost less than Leia did, allowing for more equipment on your troopers. He remains an extremely popular option to this day.
The rest of the pack was so-so. Sabotaged Communications would later need to be errata’d, as it originally only reduced the number of orders issued by 1 instead of to 1. Once that change happened it became a decent niche pick, though it often has to contend with better 1 pip character specific cards. The medical droid was a common take for a while, as there still weren’t many must-have equipment options. Over time it’d slowly be silo’d out, as it became better to avoid getting hit in the first place than to try and fix the problem after.
February 2019 – Jyn Erso and Rebel Pathfinders
Jyn suffers from her role not being very in demand in Legion. Like Han she needs to get uncomfortably close to the enemy and doesn’t always have a lot of great ways to get there. Situational Awareness was still a ways off, so she was vulnerable to critical fire, and her command cards were only so-so while her damage was also quite low. Not a bad hero, but struggled to stand out especially with the upcoming heroes the faction had.
Pathfinders were a huge dud at launch. Like most things they costed too much, didn’t have much damage output above Rebel Troopers and occupied the vital special forces slot. They would eventually see some niche play with Bistan once the price was slashed and their rifle was made a free equip rather than a necessary tax.
April 2019 – X-34 Landspeeder
Launched alongside the Imperial Transport, it was difficult to say who got the raw end of the deal here. The Landspeeder was incredibly fast, but only transported one model instead of one unit. The problem was that there weren’t really the heroes yet to take advantage of it yet. Operative Luke and R2 were still a few months off, so it would debut without much fanfare. It was an ok weapons platform but as a transport, it would take some time to get there.
June 2019 – Sabine Wren
Sabine did very well for herself at launch. After 2 duds in Chewbacca and Jyn, Sabine was a short-ranged and melee hero who actually could do the job well. She had Jump to get where she needed to, she had solid pistols with Gunslinger to combat multiple threads and she could equip the Darksaber and her own exclusive equipment to handle a variety of situations. With her Shield and Impervious she was durable too, particularly for Rebels. While she would later, be arguably overshadowed by Operative Luke she held a position in the meta for a decent period of time.
August 2019 – Rebel Veterans and Tauntaun Riders
Like Fleets, Rebel Veterans took a while to get there. They launched costing too much while being too vulnerable. Their special gun also wasn’t…anything special, at only range 3 the CM-093 was basically an overpriced Z-6. This would later be corrected, giving it range 4. Combined with a price drop and the combined fire from the included Medium Blaster Trooper they’d eventually see some consistent use.
Tauntauns Riders though…let’s talk about Tauns. Possibly the first real “problem” of the game (which mirrored the Shoretroopers, who also had their own exploit on the Imperial side) was a way that Creature Troopers were originally written. Creature Troopers could disengage from the enemy freely (at full speed), and Tauns not only had Relentless, they also had Agile. So players quickly figured out they could move in a sort of “figure 8” pattern, one move to leave combat, one move to come back in (gaining a Dodge token for each) and then attack with Relentless. This made them basically impossible to lock down, especially in an era where melee threats were fewer and far between. An errata came fairly quickly stating that Creature Troopers could no longer disengage for free, which put an end to that. Tauns are still decent in the right list but hardly the meta defining unit they were at release.
In October the Clone Wars set would come out, so things slowed down for rebels for the rest of the year while the new factions got more of a focus on unit releases to help bring them up to speed, so we won’t see anything new until next year.
January 2020 – Rebel Trooper Upgrade Expansion, Luke Skywalker (Operative) and R2-D2
This was…a big month for rebels. Every release would become a major staple of the game, and arguably still leaves an impact on the game today.
For Rebel Troopers, the DLT-20A is what we’re here for. A BBW Range 4 gun on basic troopers changed everything. All four factions got their own version as well but its possible nobody appreciated it more than Rebels. Finally, their troopers could hang back in safety and fire outside of range 3, where the majority of fire is occurring. Rebels, being much more delicate, needed this option and it did a lot to bring them back into parity with the other factions.
This upgrade kit also included Offensive Push for the training slot, which would become one of the most popular choices for the slot for a very long time.
Luke Skywalker got a second shot with his Return of the Jedi form and he did not disappoint. Finally, the Rebellion had a Force user with Master of the Force that could hold his own in combat against the likes of Vader and Dooku. The ability to use Commander Luke’s cards (which still held up even a year later) further augmented his power. He became the premiere scalpel, much more mobile than Vader and almost as deadly. He still sees a major role in rebel lists to this day.
R2-D2 was a bit of a sleeper hit. Thrown in as part of a terrain set, R2 was bucking the trend, too cheap at launch. He was the cheapest unit in the game, making him a no brainer. Not only was he a cheap activation, it was relatively easy to fulfill his Secret Mission for a free point with the right deployment deck. Many didn’t know how to play around him yet, which made the effect even worse as he’d slowly beep boop his way to victory. He would drop off later in popularity, as his price was slowly raised to make whether or not he was worth it quite a bit more questionable.
Unfortunately after this point, COVID-19 began to settle in. Competitive events would stop almost entirely and the meta slowed down – as did releases.
June 2020 – Cassian Andor
Cassian was a big deal at release, and he still holds his own. An extremely versatile shooter hero who could act as a fourth sniper (or, even better) infiltrate as a mid range shooter. Unlike Han, his shorter range could finally be realized, since he had a lot more ways to gain dodge and aim tokens and he could expand his range to 3 if he needed to. K2 made an excellent companion, able to soak up damage for Cassian and deal some on his own while generating tokens for both of them.
September 2020 – Clan Wren/Mandalorian Warriors
Mandos are a fan favorite but these never quite got there. After the Wookiee Warrior buff they couldn’t quite be as economical, they were more expensive and while they were more hardy on paper, at one wound a piece it meant that every hit that did connect was much more devastating to their damage output. One failed dice roll meant one dead Mando, but it required 3 successful hits to put down a Wookiee (even if those saves probably would fail). Nominally, Mandalorians were better at short range shooting than Wookiees, and their Jump did offer somewhat more maneuverability, but with Wookiees you might as well close the gap and engage in melee.
March 2021 – Lando Calrissian
Lando probably had more excitement leading up to his release than he actually got once he saw the table. His Contingency mechanic was hyped up, allowing one to ostensibly increase their hand size by another 3 cards. In reality this mechanic was a bit unwieldy to use, and didn’t actually increase the number of cards you could play. Lando himself also doesn’t quite perform on the table as well as one would help, in a faction where Cassian exists as a better mid to short range gunner. Han would finally get his upgrade a few months after this as well, which sort of secured him as the better scoundrel.
Also worth noting was that this was the introduction of Vigilance for the command slot and Seize the Initiative and Outmaneuver for the training slot. While Anakin had already come with Vigilance, this was the first time it came to the Rebels, and probably the faction that has benefitted from its inclusion the most. Rebels eat up dodge tokens like candy, due to their poor saves. Along the same lines, Outmaneuver was the exact right fix at the right time. Ways to spawn more crits had become increasingly more common over the game’s lifetime, and Outmaneuver saw a way to counter that problem. The card became so popular, people began taking Captains on their basic troopers just to get Outmaneuver. With the recent, rather hefty, price increase that likely is going to go away.
Finally, Seize the Initiative was a nice boon on Operatives, especially ones who tended to move away from the central army and fight on their own. Seize the Initiative gave them a chance to activate before they were hit, if they ended in a sticky situation.
May 2021 – A-A5 Speeder Truck
The A-A5 Speeder truck was a surprise hit, a reference to an old West End Games sourcebook, this boxy hunk of junk was pegged immediately as potentially meta defining by many players when it appeared. A transport worth a damn, this thing could transport an entire unit in a closed environment, where they could not be easily pegged by enemy fire. It also had Armor, and could get weapons on its hard points for frankly far too cheaply. You could move anything you wanted across the board that you wanted to get into close combat but previously might struggle to get there: Luke, a unit of Fleets, Wookiees. Safe and in style.
It was fixed pretty quickly, the cost went up and the most abused upgrades (looking at you Reckless Driver) also increased, but it still remains pretty reliable if you’re willing to lean on its tough exterior.
August 2022 – Echo Base Defenders
That’s right, over a year before the next actual rebel release. To be fair, Clone Wars factions still needed a lot more releases to catch up to the Imperial Civil War. In that time the game also transferred over to Atomic Mass Games and a whole new faction came out, the Shadow Collective. Rebels didn’t benefit from the release of Shadow Collective as much as some of the other factions, though they quickly worked Pykes into their dodge spam lists.
I’m including this here for consistency, even though it was nothing truly new. The Echo Base looked like it might be the darling of the four Battleforces released with a command card that could give every corps unit an aim token and every emplacement a standby token. It didn’t really pan out that way, because the units included are rather boring and inflexible (sorry FDs), especially compared to the much more terrifying Blizzard Force.
October 2022 – Din Djarin
With this we come to the most recent rebel release, Din Djarin aka The Mandalorian. It’s hard to say where he stands right now, there haven’t really been enough events with him to say for certain. He seems solid, particularly at mid to close range, but he’s in a faction with lots of Operatives also competing in that role. It’ll likely be a bit before we know for sure.
Going forward we know we’re getting old Boba Fett, Ahsoka, and Ewoks (and an Endor Battle Force to go with them). We’ve only caught small glimpses of these, aside from Boba Fett who was just released. After that it’s hard to tell. The faction doesn’t appear to be doing so hot right now, often completely missing or only appearing once in our own top 8s at recent events, and their primary gimmick (dodge spam) got hit really hard in the points update. But there’s a new year coming and a new season of events, alongside the new addition. What was your favorite release over the past three and a half years? What are you hoping to see going forward?