On Friday, I played my first game of Imperial Assault with four other players. We played the first mission of the campaign. It took approximately two and a half hours, including setup time.
I had posted earlier about my aversion to playing Imperial Assault due to the immense amount of pieces and the organization/upkeep that would go into having the game. Following that blog post, I was all but ready to sell or trade away the game, having decided I didn't want to go through that hassle.
After that single playthrough, however, I am changing my tune. I am definitely keeping Imperial Assault, and I look forward to playing it again!
Why the change of heart? Well as it turns out, Imperial Assault is really, really fun. It takes the "asymmetrical teamplay" formula of Descent and Mansions of Madness, streamlines some of the bookkeeping parts, and adds some more tactical gameplay parts, resulting in a game that's smarter and faster than its predecessors. I wouldn't go so far as to say it renders Descent or Mansions of Madness obsolete; rather it complements both of them. Descent still has its strong fantasy theme going for it, and Mansions still has its Lovecraftian theme, as well as its meticulously-crafted mysteries. With all three of these games, you could easily keep a group of gamers busy for an entire year or more!
For those of you considering Imperial Assault and about to play it or pick it up, here is one other thing to consider (minor spoilers and strategy talk about the first campaign mission ahead, skip the rest of this blog entry if you don't want to spoil it):
The first mission can be exceptionally difficult. Just outside the mission start area is a blast door. It opens without trouble initially, but after the round is over, it slams shut and an alarm goes off, summoning more bad guys and reinforcing the control terminals the Rebels have to destroy as their victory condition. If the players botch the timing on this, they can end up with one poor Rebel alone inside the base while the rest are frantically hacking at the blast door to open it up, all the while facing Imperial forces on either side, and a looming round limit and two or three terminals that will require at least two (and often three or more) good whacks to break. For an unsuspecting group of Rebels (i.e. first time players), this scenario seems almost completely unwinnable.
However (and this is a theory, I haven't tried this yet), if the Rebels simply time their movements right and step through the blast door the same round they open it, they should have plenty of time and firepower to get through the door and destroy the remaining terminals. It'll still be a tough fight (victory is definitely not guaranteed), but it won't feel as blatantly unfair as what happens when your "scout" character goes in alone!
Another thing to keep in mind from the beginning is that the campaign continues regardless of whether the Rebels win or lose. It's just a matter of what mission they take on next. I haven't played the next mission so I can't exactly say if the win mission or lose mission is better, but if you find yourself with a group of discouraged Rebels, remind them that the campaign continues either way and that the nearly two-dozen missions ahead of them can't possibly be this brutal...
...and now, some rules questions for any Imperial Assault veterans out there (so much as there are, considering how new the game is):
1. When counting distance, is the square your target is actually in count as one square? So if you have a melee weapon with reach, can you hit something that's two empty squares away from you, or just one, the second square being the square the defender's in?
2. When an entire unit is defeated, can the Imperial Player re-summon that unit with Threat? For example, in the first scenario, when all three stormtroopers get killed, can I bring the whole squad back with Threat?
3. Building on question two, does that mean I could field up to two entire squads of stormtroopers on that map, if I have sufficient Threat to bring back the first squad?
4. In the first scenario of the campaign, the Imperial Player doesn't really have any special abilities yet, right? Just the ability to use and reinforce the squads already on the map?
5. Diagonal movement: is it possible, and if so, is it two squares or one?