I TRIED. FOUR TIMES I TRIED.
Four times is the number of sessions of Star Wars: Outer Rim (Fantasy Flight Games, 2019) that I played since the game arrived just three weeks ago. It’s enough. I’m giving up.
I wrote in my First Impressions post how I quickly had doubts about the game. From the too small text to the long playtime to the less-than-satisfying game ending. After four plays it’s not getting any better.
This past weekend I tried. Once again we pulled out Outer Rim for the Weekend Family Game Night; a rare repeat performance after playing just last week. This time we mixed up the turn order. This time we arranged the board on the table differently. This time we were more careful picking our characters.
I still can’t read the cards. The game still took nearly 2 hours. The end was still (even more?) unsatisfying.
Junior played Lando. He went whole-hog into the thematics of being a Smuggler by purchasing the Millennium Falcon, Extravagant Wardrobe, and taking Lobot for crew. Putting all that together he built a powerful, near unstoppable game engine. He won easily.
Middle RMN Boy was IG-88. He never found enough droid crew to get that bonus ability for Bounty Hunting. Not getting helpful crew meant he was more dependent on luck than skill; and Lady Luck was a b*tch to him that night. He upgraded to an Aggressor but never got his game engine really going. He ended the game far behind.
I took Kenso Onyo. I don’t know anything about the character. After playing hte character I still don’t. In Outer Rim not having sufficient metagame knowledge is a major disadvantage because you have to figure out if you are going to use a Smuggler or Bounty Hunter or Mercenary/Marauder-first strategy. Lando is a Smuggler; IG-88 a Bounty Hunter. What is Kenso?* I adopted a Bounty Hunter strategy that nearly paid off (I had 8 fame at end game) but the early struggles with figuring out what engine to go with put me just enough behind to lose.
There was certainly much more player-to-player interaction in this game. Several combats were fought against fellow players, or there was gambling on whatever-the-casino-planet-named. There were some great thematic moments, like when Lando cheated at Sabacc (taking IG-88’s money in the process).
In addition to my First Impression thoughts, here are a few others that crossed my mind during our last play:
- Three players is good for this game. Less makes it multi-player solitaire; more will have too much downtime.
- Some suggested passing the Market Cards amongst players during their in-between turns to read. Something has to be done because the cards are too hard to read on the table.
- The only real variety in set up is in the location of Character Encounter tokens. The Encounter Decks are not very deep and after even our few games I feel they are too predictable. The same goes for the Market Deck. Character encounters are invariable. There is actually little variety from game-to-game making replay attraction diminish very quickly.
- The end game is so unsatisfying. “I got 10 fame, yeah! Now let’s pack up the game…” Some good enterprising fan fiction writers need to write a collection of short, paragraph-long coda, each based on the Character + Ship + Reputation standings (ok, that’s around 1000 paragraphs so we need several of those Star Wars fanatics). Of course, this can never happen because Di$ney certainly won’t allow anything to be published that might be mistaken for canon. Not unless they can monetize it…like charging players several dollars on an app they overpaid for to download the possible ending….
During and after the game I could see that Middle RMN, my Autism Angle, was getting frustrated. That great thematic moment with Lando cheating at Sabacc was not enjoyable; it was simply another roll of the dice that punished rather than rewarded. More than anything else, his body language convinced me that Outer Rim was not fun. Thinking back, I have to say that about half-way through the game I was already looking at the clock and thinking about the after-game. Although there are moments of fun, the overall experience of playing Outer Rim is not very enjoyable for either of us.
As I write this post I see on BoardGameGeek that Outer Rim has a rating of 8.0 (Very Good – Enjoy playing and would suggest it) based on 805 ratings with 208 comments. I see that 12% of the ratings are a 10 (Outstanding – Will always enjoy playing). This is the same percentage of ratings that cover from 6 (OK – Will play if in the mood) down to 1 (Awful – Defies game description). I actually took a little time and looked at the people who rate Outer Rim a 10. I looked at their collections (or lack of collection in more-than-a-few cases) and what they play. Suffice it to say that my already low-faith in the BGG ratings system reached new depths….
RMN Jr. was responsible for set-up this last time so I think he wants to play Outer Rim with the Neighborhood Gaming Gang. He seemingly loves the game, as evidenced by the highly thematic game play he brings to the table. Maybe his play style is the key; I am trying to play a game about Star Wars in a sandbox universe rather than know and follow canon and divine the official Di$ney strategy.
No thanks, you rats.
*Sure, I know I can google it. But should I? I mean, do I really need to goggle a character in Outer Rim to effectively play the game. If the answer is “yes” the game is flawed. FULL STOP.