Trying Star Wars: Legion As A Tabletop Skirmish Game

Since I posted about my first match of Warhammer 40k a few months ago, I felt it was fitting to do the same for the next tabletop skirmish game that I found myself playing. This turned out to be Star Wars: Legion

Initial interest in Star Wars: Legion

Much like Warhammer 40k, I actually don’t remember what first interested me in Star Wars: Legion. I remember purchasing my first minis from someone at my local store in April of 2021. It included two halves of the Rebel core set, along with quite a few extras. I started playing 40k in January of that year. Something must have driven me to play yet another skirmish game. I vaguely remember seeing someone play it in the store once, but I really didn’t pay attention to it.

I have pictures dated in the summer of 2021 of me painting my SW: Legion minis. I was taking my time with these, having decided to try out oil paints with them. By September, I had finished painting enough of them for a 500 point Skirmish size match. Deciding to put a few other priorities first, I set aside my minis for a few months and I didn’t paint or play with them. We were doing a flooring project, I was studying for a networking certification, and our first baby was due in January of 2022.

My army ready for a Skirmish battle.

In the final days of winter in 2021, a few weeks before my wife was due to give birth, I decided to try and get in one match of Star Wars: Legion before my hobby schedule became strained. Unlike with 40k, where I could find someone to play a match with me any weekend of the year, finding someone who played SW: Legion in my area was quite a bit more difficult. The closest store to me sold Legion stuff, but the player base was nonexistent. The store 40 miles away had a small player base, but 40 miles was simply too far to drive. I was finally able to find a tiny, 3rd store that had an active SW Legion community. I joined their group and found a match a few days after Christmas.

My first few games of Star Wars: Legion

My opponent was a veteran player of the game, having played since it started 4 years prior and owning all 4 armies. Since I was new, we decided to do a Skirmish size game, which was about half the army size of the standard game. The battle size was 3×3 feet, which was a good size for the point level at which we were playing. Below you can see a photo of the start of the match. Luke, with a few squads of troopers, some Wookies, and an AT-RT are facing off against the Empire’s Darth Vader, stormtroopers, dewback lizard rider, and some sort of transport ship. The cards for the units I have are shown below, giving them easy access during the game.

My opponent was a fantastic learning resource for the game. I had read the rules and watched several battle reports, but I still had a few rules I didn’t quite understand. We played a basic mission, Elimination, where the goal was to eliminate as many units as possible in 5 rounds. Some stormtroopers managed to land a couple critical hits on my sniper squad, eliminating them in round 1. The transport, with Vader tagging along, and the dewback riders all charged my side of the board as soon as possible. Vader and Luke had an epic duel, both falling at the end. The Wookies and dewback rider had a nasty fight, with both falling too. I managed to eek out a victory.

We played a slightly more competitive Skirmish match next. It came down to a few fights, but the final nail in the coffin was the bounty hunter Boba Fett getting the finishing hit on Luke Skywalker, giving the Empire an extra victory point. Shown below is Luke and the Wookies busy fighting the Dewbacks.

After the two Skirmish matches, I did eventually want to play some more. My son was born in January, and I managed to barely find a match in the beginning of February. Being overly optimistic, my opponent and I tried to play a full size, 800 point match. We were both fairly new. We weren’t able to finish and had to call it at turn 3, but we still had lots of fun. At 800 points, both sides usually have 10 to 11 units, which felt just right for a medium scale Star Wars battle. The game mat size also increased to 6×3 feet. I faced off against some droids, who had plenty of command card shenanigans to mix things up. The Rebels managed to pull off a victory here, keeping the droids from sabotaging too many moisture vaporators. The mission objectives felt a bit one-sided towards the defending player here.

Start of game. Rebels are on the right, CIS on the left.
Luke fighting, and mostly missing, some droids. Two remaining droids retreat after the wookies easily knocked down 5 of them with one attack.

Thoughts after a few games

If I had to summarize the gameplay, I’d say it was interactive and fun, without being overly complex. Having each player take turns selecting one unit at a time was a fantastic design choice. Having each unit card right in front of you provided quick access to the abilities, dice needed, and unit stats. Every type of buff, debuff, or other bonus your units could benefit from had tokens that you can place next to the unit. You usually didn’t roll more than 5 or 6 dice at a time. In addition to different missions and deployment zones, each match also had a unique battle condition that changes the environment, such as heavy fog or minefields. 

Key fun points of Star Wars Legion

  • Each player takes turns selecting a single unit to perform up to 2 actions. The entire match keeps both players engaged, never having more than a minute or two where it isn’t their turn to make tactical decisions
  • Unit and upgrade cards that come with the units you purchase. You put them all right in front of you when you play, having easy access to abilities, dice needed, and unit statistics. There isn’t a need to purchase additional rulebooks for your armies
  • Buff and debuff tokens. Any tokens that your units could possibly need also come with the game. They serve as visual reminders of the abilities you have in your possession
  • Unique objectives, deployment zones, and environment cards that make no single match the same
  • Unique miniature sculpts that are simple to paint and aren’t over sculpted with too many details
  • Rules that are clearly meant to speed up gameplay, such as moving trooper squads and measuring distance for weapons
  • Shared keywords between armies. Any weapon with the “pierce” keyword functions the same, no matter which army the unit belongs to
  • Upgrade or weapon cards that you can choose for each unit, no matter which weapon the miniature actually has modeled. Do you want to build the tank with the rocket launcher because it looks the coolest, but you think you’ll be using the machine gun most of the time instead? No need for magnets to switch between weapons or no need to build and buy separate versions of the vehicle. Just equip the tank with the machine gun upgrade card and that’s all you need for that match.

Criticisms of Warhammer 40k

Here is where I can’t help but compare Star Wars: Legion to Warhammer 40k. At this point, near the end of 2021, I had been playing matches of Warhammer 40k for about a year. Only owning one 40k army. That’s still pretty new for the world of 40k, but I felt like I had a decent feel for the game. The rules for 40k are dense and complex. There are over a dozen armies to field, each with unique abilities and unit rules. Each army has a codex, or rulebook, required to play the army on the table. 40k rules have their fair share of criticisms:

  • Napoleonic turn style, where each player has the opportunity to do all of their phases while the opponent is mostly forced to stand by and watch. A case of poor positioning and improper terrain placement can lead to very one-sided matches, where most of the match is decided during deployment instead of turn-based tactical decision making
  • Rule bloat. There’s simply a baffling amount of rules, unique wording, and unit stats that are necessary to learn to be functional at the game and your chosen army. Add a dozen or more armies to the mix, each with different codexes, and it is a lot keep in your head
  • Codex rollout, where each army has their rulebook released as time progresses. This can lead to each new codex being the most powerful, and some armies wait multiple years while their competitive edge slowly disappears
  • At times, an absurd amount of weapon options can exist for a unit loadout. Most of these options don’t even come in the box for the unit, requiring you to scrounge for bits or 3d print them
  • What you see is what you get (WYSIWYG). You are usually expected to (and required in tournaments) to use the weapons or gear your unit is equipped with. This means that even though your terminator squad probably has a dozen ways it can be equipped, you will be playing it the one specific way you equipped it. This can lead to disappointment when the new codex comes out and your weapon is no longer the desired choice

Star Wars Legion in comparison to 40k

I feel that Star Wars: Legion addressed many of these concerns by largely eliminating them from the game. The most significant difference is the way turns are played. Instead of sitting back and watching the opponent move their entire army, shoot you, charge you, whack you, and wonder what you are going to have left after the dust settles, Star Wars: Legion feels more like a chess game. Each player only gets to move one piece at a time. With only 4 factions, the creators of Star Wars: Legion can easily release balance updates for all 4 factions at once. All the weapon modeling options (and upgrade cards) come with the units you purchase, with the exception of a core trooper upgrade box for each faction. You can model your units with whatever you think looks coolest. The weapon or upgrade card determines the rules for a specific card during a match, not what is modeled on the miniature.

To compare the amount of books you typically purchase between Warhammer 40k and Star Wars: Legion, below is a photo of the core 40k book and a Necron codex, followed by the tiny learn to play booklet and unit cards of my Rebels army for Star Wars. The Warhammer books have a total MSRP of $110, while the Star Wars unit cards came free with the units I purchased. Also note the size difference. Now a good chunk of those Warhammer books are lore and artwork, but the Star Wars stuff is by far an easier introduction.

Full disclosure: Star Wars: Legion does have a complete rules reference, published online in PDF form, that is 89 pages. You don’t need to read it all to play, as it is mostly a reference for all of the shared keywords and possible interactions the game has. Some of it is also a repeat of the learn to play booklet.

I did learn that Warhammer 40k published it’s core rules online in pdf form, being only 26 pages long. However, it leaves out any mention of terrain rules, which are an important part of playing the game, and are only available in the core book shown below.

Final Thoughts

Yes, you should play Star Wars: Legion! Compared to some other miniature games, the price is affordable. The gameplay is fun, engaging, and just complex enough to present a challenge. The miniatures are nostalgic, yet simple enough to paint for a beginner in the hobby. Make lightsaber and blaster noises in your head, or out loud, as you engage in mock battles with your buddies. Cower in fear from the Imperial AT-ST or a Jedi with a lightsaber! Disrupt your opponent’s plan with the perfectly timed command card!

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]


I live in rural New Hampshire with my wife, our son, two cats, two dogs, no more chickens because they all got eaten, too many fantasy books, some miniature models, and my wife says I have too many keyboards (only three). Small and steady hobby progress wins the race when you have a toddler.

Clay’s contributions