When Fantasy Flight Games acquired the rights to Star Wars, pretty much anyone knew we were in for a ride – and a wild ride we got. Now, with the newest product in the Star Wars line, FFG went places nobody expected them to go.
Entering the blind purchase market seems a bit crazy these days. Magic: The Gathering, the game that was supposed to have been dethroned multiple times by challengers now all dead and buried keeps a firm grasp on many wallets, while many others also open up to Heroclix and Dice Masters.
Finding some breathing room in a market so tight and so competitive brought many publishers to or over the edge of bankruptcy. However, if life teaches a Star Wars fan anything, it’s that “The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant, next to the power of the Force”, and that one of the hottest properties in the world can open many doors.
So, here we are, with a new collectible game, carving its place in the market, presumably with a purple lightsaber, and looking very much like another opportunity for FFG to almost literally print money. Yet, if there is another thing that life has taught Star Wars fans, it is that their favourite franchise has been slapped over the years on many underdeveloped, mediocre or straight up horrible products, so even with FFG’s impeccable Star Wars, record the name could carry their game only so far.
Rest easy, the game seems brilliant, at least at first glance. Stealing a page from Hearthstone, it uses a thirty-card deck, pre-built using blind-bought cards before sitting down to play. Star Wars: Destiny has simple rules, gets you into the game within minutes after opening a starter set, and turns out to be a truly fast and furious experience. Plus, you get to roll some really cool dice.
Dice? Yes. If you’ve heard anything about Destiny, than you know that it’s a game that makes you struggle against “double” RNG. There’s your random card draw, and there’s the roll of your beautiful, insanely big and ecstatically chunky custom dice.
A dice-based collectible game is not unheard of in this day and age (and, if you’re old enough to remember Chaos Progenitus, in an age long gone as well). Dice Masters made quite a splash when blind purchase was fused with custom dice, and the Marvel licence. Still, nobody expected Fantasy Flight Games, comfortably sitting in their own Living Card Game territory, to change their heading and go back into what it seemed to have grown out of years ago. And making a really big step in an interesting direction.
Last year I wrote about Imperial Assault and dice that, despite similar in principle to those used in Descent, were also very different in one respect: they severely restricted a “blank” outcome. In Star Wars: Destiny almost every die comes with at least one blank side. That is also one of two key differences between Destiny, and the Dice Masters system.
Compared to any competitor, Destiny is a much more unpredictable game. It’s a game where you can be blocked by rolling more blanks than your opponent, or be severely hampered by unlucky draw. Alternatively, you may get the short end of not one, but two sticks at roughly the same time. That is a problem, that seems like a step back when it comes to smart design philosophy, and that may yet be the gamble with the highest possible payoff.
From where we are now, it seems that the extra level of randomness can even out the playing field between players of different skill – and even between regular mortals, and the fabled Mister Suitcase. This makes Destiny much more inviting and more open to new players, allowing the more casual ones to compete with some hard core elite. It’s a design decision that just may be one of the most brilliant ones we’ve seen in years. It can also be the one that ultimately buries the game.
All in all, while the more experienced player with a better deck (which often reads: “the more expensive deck”) should win much more often, Star Wars: Destiny is a game in which a player may simply lose by rolling way more blanks than their opponents. For every stand-up-and-cheer winning roll, there will be one that loses you the game, although it really should have not.
A luckier newbie can beat a champion more easily here, than when playing Magic or any of the Dice Masters games, but whether this is good for Star Wars: Destiny in the long run remains to be seen. For now, only one thing is certain: we are once again in for a ride.