Hope they don’t have blasters

If you’ve interacted with the Star Wars: Legion community, either on Reddit, Facebook, Discord, or even your local FLGS (friendly local game store), you might have encountered army lists that don’t match your expectations. They might seem boring, repetitive, unimaginative, or even dated. Inevitably you are likely to be a bystander or even a participant to an argument where passionate players accuse other players of not understanding the meta, the game, or sometimes even math.

Assume good intentions – i.e. that the arguments are not trolling or to cause drama (both of which unfortunately are common – particularly on the internet), often the most overlooked factor is that Star Wars: Legion is actually 3 (or 4) different games, and players, accidentally, are debating lists in the contexts of these different games. I’ll break down the different games, and some commonly neglected rationale for lists.

1. Relaxed Gaming

Borrowing some terminology from FFG (fantasy flight games), I use the term relaxed to describe games that are not using the complete rule-set, or are otherwise altering the rules in order to create a different experience – often where the players are “competing” in name only, favoring an interesting or thematic game.

Some examples of relaxed games:

Players enjoying a relaxed game are often using rules or units that have only a light connection to otherwise competitive games of Star Wars: Legion, so obviously comparing list builds between the two are not very useful.

2. Casual Gaming

Next, I use the term casual to describe games that are using the full set of rules but potentially not with a competitive terrain/map (i.e. “kitchen countertop”), with component limitations (“I only have 2 core sets and Leia”, “I want to try Krennic”) – in other words, without an attempt to create an universally competitive list or have too competitive of a game.

Some examples, including the above:

  • Thematic terrain or maps that are not necessarily balanced
  • Component limitations or lack to a competitive variety of units
  • Intentional limitations (a certain objective, certain units included/excluded)

A casual game is how I personally describe the majority of my games at an FLGS. Often if I’m expecting to practice for an event, or play a more competitive list, I’ll even ask/tell my opponent ahead of time so they know what to expect.

3. Competitive Gaming

Following casual games are competitive games, or games that are using both the full set of rules, the intended process for creating a balanced competitive board of terrain, selecting objectives/conditions/deployments with the full set of rules, and otherwise with the goal to create a competitive list (or “deck”, the similarity to deck building in card games) to be able to win (over potentially anything else).

Any standard 800 point game that is intended to reflect a competitive environment and rules, is a competitive game. Note that unlike the next category, games may not be timed, and you may know the board and opponent(s) ahead-of-time, and there is often confusion between these two game types.

4. Highly Competitive Tournament Gaming

The big leagues. Highly competitive/tournament gaming is meant to reflect playing anywhere between 3 and 12 opponents in between 1 and 3 days, with the same list, against normally unknown opponents, with little information about the boards. The following additional constraints are added to competitive gaming:

  • A timer – often with a “hard dice down” at 2 hours.
  • You will have played sometimes 10+ continuous hours, and will be tired
  • You will want to have practiced this list somewhere between 10 and 100 times
  • Opponents are extremely skilled and versed in these points

When playing at high profile events like GenCon, Adepticon, or practicing for those events (even at FLGS), you’ll be under much more strict conditions and assertions than even standard competitive games. Often if you lose a single one of these games, you are out of the tournament – so lists that have a hard counter or depend a lot on dice variance are a lot less appealing in this context.

For example, the X-34 Landspeeder is not a bad unit. It can throw a lot of dice, and at range, and has a lot of mobility around the battlefield. Unfortunately that forced mobility, and the relatively vulnerable chassis (usually Cover 2, Armor 2, White w/ Surge Defense) can also be practically one-shot by other popular characters – like Boba Fett or Bossk – so if even one of your opponents at this tournament has these characters you might immediately find yourself down 150+ points in an already very competitive game.

Instead of risking losing your X-34 to a savvy opponent, you might play it safer and bring 2 more Z6 Rebel Troopers with a medic. More boring? Sure. But it is likely a safer choice in this type of tournament setting – which also helps reflect why tournament lists tend to look boring, safer, or otherwise unimaginative (spamming lots of simple units).

So, the next time you see one of these debates crop up – consider whether the folks arguing are even talking about the same game. Playing a game with 6 Stormtroopers with the DLT and 3 Sniper Strike teams might seem boring, but consider they are playing a different game (with different objectives) than your local games where vehicles are popular, there is sparser terrain, or folks like challenging scenarios over tournament-replica play.