Game Review: Star Wars Rivals from Funko Pits Adorable Versions of Light and Dark Side Characters Against Each Other

As I wrote about earlier today, last night I had the very fun opportunity to attend the launch event for Funko Games’ charming new miniatures title Star Wars Rivals in Hollywood, California.

With the event behind me, I thought now would be a good time to sit down and go through the game system itself. For the purposes of this review, I was given a “Premier Kit” (essentially the base game) of Star Wars Rebels, plus four booster packs– two light side and two dark side– by Funko representatives.

Star Wars Rivals is intended for two players, and is appropriate for ages seven and up. The Premiere Kit includes the characters of Asajj Ventress, Darth Vader, Clone Commander Cody, and Luke Skywalker, plus the cards, tokens, and a die that are necessary to play. As far as the booster packs go, these are also divided between light side and dark side, and the four characters I received in my blind boxes were Count Dooku, the tactical droid TX-20, C-3PO, and a hologram of Princess Leia Organa (hologram figures afford the player special advantages in gameplay). Additional characters available in the booster packs include Boba Fett, Captain Phasma, Emperor Palpatine, General Grievous, Grand Moff Tarkin, a Stormtrooper Commander, and Supreme Leader Snoke on the dark side and Ahsoka Tano, Chewbacca, Finn, General Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Rey, and Yoda on the light side. Once assembling their own collection, players will each choose any three characters from their respective side and go to battle, facing off to claim locations from the Star Wars galaxy like Yoda’s Hut, Darth Vader’s Meditation Chamber, and the Yavin 4 Rebel Base. Players decide which locations their characters will each get assigned to, then the die is rolled to determine which of those locations are considered “in play” for that round. Then one of the characters’ action cards can be played to either reassign a figure or to enhance certain abilities. At the end of each round, one or both players will claim location cards, and at the end of the game (basically when you run out of locations) the points on those cards are tallied to determine the winner.

The first thing that struck me about Star Wars Rivals as a fan of the franchise is that the game designers chose not to hew to any one time period, allowing characters and location from all Star Wars eras into the fray. That decision may bother some people, while others likely won’t care, as there have definitely been Star Wars games that have made this choice before. The other thing I would note right off the bat is that the theming is very light and surface-level, without really taking into account how these characters would actually interact in-universe or how the specifics of each location would factor in as well. Again, this may or may not be a concern to you, but if you’re a hardcore gamer who demands 100% thematic accuracy, this might not be the game for you. That having been said, Star Wars Rivals does offer up a fairly expansive number of possibilities when it comes to imaginary battles between some of the most well-known (and some lesser-known) Star Wars personalities. Want to see Yoda fight Grand Moff Tarkin over the Lars Homestead on Tatooine? That can be accomplished. One could also pit Captain Phasma against Ahsoka Tano for the Geonosis Execution Arena if they so choose. That’s the kind of flexibility that this game offers that you don’t often see elsewhere in the Star Wars storytelling universe.

The other thing that’s really fun about the game is the amount of strategizing that goes into each move. Determining on which location card to place each character is the first challenge, and then once the die is rolled there’s a whole additional scramble to get figures into a position where they’d be the most useful– avoiding the possibility that they may go to waste entirely. Plus characters may build up negative “influence points” on their cards, perhaps eventually necessitating a visit to the Bacta tank to recover for a round, temporarily eliminating them from play. There’s also the “High Ground” factor, which alternates each round and can influence the battle either way. The designs of the characters are cute– not in a recognizably Funko-style way (these figures have pupils, unlike Funko Pop! Vinyls), but in a way that’s undeniably divergent from the hyper-realistic likenesses of other Star Wars action figures. That’s another aspect of this game for which your mileage may vary, but those who enjoy collecting adorable miniature versions of their favorite characters might get a kick out of Star Wars Rivals for just that very reason. Otherwise I would say it’s a good, entertaining game for beginner-level players within the age range recommended by the company. It doesn’t take terribly long to learn and it can become fast-moving and even pretty exciting the better you get at it. I could see Star Wars Rivals becoming popular at conventions or other fan events, especially once more character possibilities are inevitably added into the mix, considering the collectible (and thus tradeable) nature of this type of thing. And for those who simply want a quite pleasantly diverting, not overly time-consuming way to set familiar Star Wars characters against each other, this might be right up your alley.

Star Wars Rivals is available now via Walmart.