Star Wars CCG: The Next Generation

For the most part, all of us started playing Star Wars CCG as kids.  Playing the game today brings back wonderful memories of friends, the local hobby shop, opening new packs, etc.  Now we’re all old…and Star Wars CCG is entering its third decade of existence…and it can be hard to find others to play with.  Except in Minnesota, where guest Mark Walseth runs a school program introducing his students to the game.

“Paying it forward” and introducing others to the game is a great way to support the Star Wars CCG community.  With the continued release of Star Wars movies everyone is aware of the franchise, whether or not people have ever heard of Decipher.  We’re going to get to know more about Walseth today and in the future will come back with some of the tools and strategies he used to introduce others to the game and grow the community.

Notes:

Interview:

Clone1: Walseth, it’s great to be able to chat with you.  Before we chat about your program let’s start with you.  When did you first start playing Star Wars CCG and what brought you to the game?

Walseth: I started playing the game right after the release back in 1995.  Four of us made a big day of it – we got a hotel room at the local casino, opened a bunch of packs, built some decks, and attempted to read the directions that came in the 60 card Starter Decks from Premiere.  For those who didn’t have to learn how to play SWCCG this way it may be tough to understand, but that thing (the instruction manual) was IMPOSSIBLE to figure out.  We still make jokes about it to this day.  We would deploy, pay 1 to battle, then say “I have 7 power, you have none, lose 7 cards.”  At the time, according to the directions, or so we thought, you could initiate battles even when there was no one there…

When A New Hope, the first expansion, was released it caught us all by surprise.  At the time a friend and I were living away from home for the summer and a bunch of guys came to visit us.  For fun we stopped by the local card store to see what they had.  All of a sudden, one of us noticed that A New Hope was released.  The first guy says, “I’ll take 4.” Guy #2, “I’ll take 6!” Guy #3, “I’ll take 7!”  You get the point.  Eventually the first guy who started the waterfall double dipped and bought even more. This went on until the 6 of us bought the store out of their supply – not an exaggeration!

Clone1: Haha incredible.  I always ran out of funds prior to the store running out of supply.  So, after you got the rules down, how competitive were you when you started?  Were you participating in any tournaments at a local/regional/national level? 

Walseth: I was very competitive.  I played all the time.  I was actually the official Decipher representative for the Duluth (MN) area.  I still have, use, and treasure  my “Gold Squadron” tote bag.  I was running tournaments all the time and a former World Champion, “Matt Potter,” actually came through my area.

Clone1: And did you ever take any time off as most of us did?  If so, what brought you back?

Walseth:  I did. I can’t remember when, maybe around Cloud City…I actually sold my entire collection to a store.  MISTAKE!  I think what brought me back was I eventually ended up working in the same store I sold my collection to.

Clone1: Brutal!  It’s always painful to hear when people sold their collections prematurely.  Hopefully the store cut you a deal on building a new collection!  Anyway, you remember all the fun times you had, get back into the game, then what was the inspiration to get your students involved?

Walseth:  My first year teaching I knew I would be a bad sports coach because I was too competitive (in sports).  I would want to win, even if that meant not everyone would get playing time.  That’s not the right attitude to have for middle school.  So I instead thought about teaching SWCCG – that way my students could be competitive and I wouldn’t have to worry about equal time. This was back in 2000.

Clone1:  Brilliant strategy.  Also, no crazy parents screaming at you from the sidelines (hopefully).  What was the process to get the program off the ground?  Did you need approvals, sign-ups, etc. to offer this at your school?

Walseth:  So, at the time our school had funding for what was known as “Extended Day.” It was only used for students who needed extra help/time to get caught up on school work.  I prepared a short presentation for my administration and presented my idea as a way to have students practice reading and algebra skills.  And yes, during the presentation I did “puff my chest out” and used Brainiac and Attack Run (Epic Event) as examples in my presentation so they could see what I was referring to.  It worked, they approved and I had my after school program.

Clone1: I’ve never thought about the game in this way before, but the reading and math make sense.  The game is incredibly complex though, I’m assuming it went beyond this basic level pretty quickly? 

Walseth:  At first it was about reading and math, but over the course of time it developed into so much more.  Over the next couple years I started to think about what exactly the program was trying to accomplish.  Sure, it had math and reading skills, but it was also about giving students who may not be interested in sports a chance to participate in a competitive arena.  Then I added a 3rd goal which was to improve social skills.  I noticed many of students struggled with their social skills.  We focused on learning how to make friends, expressing frustration (when losing), being a gracious winner, cheering on or helping their fellow classmates while balancing their own desire to excel, etc.  Finally, I started promoting a “Growth Mindset.”  This is about having kids understand that the only way to improve is to learn from your mistakes.  We show them they won’t be “masters” right away at any craft and that it takes time and effort over an extended period of time to achieve and reach a truly competitive standing.  That winning…is not the most important thing. 

Clone1:  It’s very intuitive that there is a lot to be gained from learning and playing the game.  It sounds more like a club focused on life lessons as opposed to simply improving math or reading.

Walseth: 20 years later, without a doubt, this after school activity has become just an extension of what I want them to take out of my Social Studies class. Mainly that kindness, empathy, hard work, and self-reflection should be what we all strive for.

Clone1: So what was the first meetup like?  Any growing pains after getting approval from the school?

Walseth:  The first year, I was terrible. It was like throwing kids into the deep end of the pool and saying “Swim!”  I’ve got it down to an art form now, where kids all start with basically the same cards and we slowly progress over the whole year.

Clone1: So, describe the art form.  Anyone who has tried to explain the rules to a friend understands that it’s not easy…

Walseth:  My process is very slow and deliberate.  Students have to first memorize the 7 phases, which means simply know what to do in each phase.  Which is NOT the same as how to use each phase.  For example, in the Draw phase they need to know this is the phase where you draw cards from the Force Pile to your Hand.  Teaching them how many to draw or when to stop is a whole other set of skills.  For about 15 school days they learn and practice the 7 Phases, using 20 card decks that only have Locations, Characters, and Starships.  Also, the Battle Phase does NOT implement Attrition.  After this time period I let them know if they’re interested in continuing their training they can sign up for my after school program.  Roughly half of the students typically sign up, then over the course of the school year they learn more rules, card types, and strategies as time allows.

Clone1: I’m assuming it wasn’t easy to refine the teaching process!  When I think back to playing with my brother, I’m not sure we ever completed a game and also followed all the rules.  In fact, we probably fought about the rules during every game.  Anyway, were there any bumps in the road along the way?

Walseth:  There was a moment about 10 years ago when the school could no longer pay me for my time and it became 100% volunteer.  For a fleeting moment I considered whether or not the program should continue, but that thought went away in a blink of an eye.  The amount of positive feedback from parents has been priceless.  They often thank me for giving their kids this opportunity.  Or, whether it’s things like Mitch Nieland from my first group back in 2000 eventually inviting me to his wedding, or Justine (a current 8th grader) saying to me last October, “This is the first after school activity I’ve ever been a part of” I know this activity is accomplishing exactly what I want it to.

Clone1:  That’s amazing, and thank you for continuing the program.  We certainly need more people like you in the world, willing to volunteer simply because it improves the world.  Were there other issues you experienced early on, prior to when you realized the program would be a success?  

Walseth:  Initially finding enough cards was hard, but over time word started to spread and countless people from around the world have donated their collections to our program.  Whether or not students stick with the program is not considered a challenge because whether it’s 5 or 15 kids, or whether they quit after a month or stick with it their whole life, I’m just glad they had the opportunity to be part of something that isn’t usually offered.

Clone1: And what surprised you most when you were starting the program?  

Walseth:  Hmmm… what surprised me the most… I guess it would be how much support my administration here at Rosemount Middle School provided the program and what I was trying to accomplish. 

Clone1: Finally, tell us about where the program is at today.

Walseth:  Well, here we are in our 20th year, and I’ve taught this game to roughly 250 students.  I’m always trying new things to see what works the best.  This year I’ve implemented a new strategy where I’m teaching them by the set release dates just like how Decipher released the cards instead of starting with all the Tier 1 decks.  I’m also taking a larger role in the Minnesota Community and bringing new / returning players back to the fold. Check out my latest tournament post (https://www.starwarsccg.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=494&t=71626)

Clone1: That is excellent.  250 students is pretty incredible.  It’s such a great story to hear that people are still being introduced to Star Wars CCG and that there will be a new generation interested in the game!  

 

“Target The Main Generator”

Target

Everyone loves the Empire Strikes Back.  But when trying to explain to others why it’s the best Star Wars movie you inevitably sound like you love soap operas.  Luke learns who his father is, but he doesn’t know who his sister is, and the man his sister loves is frozen in carbonite.  Basically every Telemundo story line.

My favorite Star Wars scene, and potentially favorite scene from any movie, is the opening battle on Hoth.  Replaying this battle via SWCCG is basically a dream come true and highlights both the incredible gameplay of SWCCG and the drama of Empire’s introductory sequence.

Hoth is a planet where I would like to live.  I love the winter – on Hoth no one questions why you’ve been playing SWCCG for six hours straight on a Tuesday.  You’re playing because if you go outside you’ll die of frostbite and exhaustion.  What an amazing life.

As a quick recap, the Imperials find the secret Hoth base, AT-AT walkers arrive (what a vehicle!), an epic battle ensures with the full might of the Imperial navy trying to eradicate a secret rebel base, and the rebels are lucky to escape at all.  This battle is a true representation of the rebellion – outgunned, outmanned, under supplied, relying on courage and ingenuity to persevere.  [Don’t get me started on any recent films where the Dark Side appears to be the underdog and sustains incredible amounts of damage from lone star fighters or untrained peasants]

“Target the Main Generator” – a terrifying order from a supremely confident General preparing to complete his mission.  As he should, given his supreme firepower, Veers succeeds in destroying the generators.  The rebel cause is lost, aside from the hasty escape of a few Medium Transport vessels.

At SWCCGStore.com We’ve put together a deck to specifically recreate this battle.  The primary difference between the deck and the movie is that the rebels have no Medium Transports.  There is no escape, which only adds drama to the battle!

Here is the decklist in PDF form: Target The Main Generator Hoth Deck List

The deck can be purchased here: Hoth “Target The Main Generator” Deck

And an image:

Hoth Image

Unlike the “Attack Run / Commence Primary Ignition” deck, the rebels don’t have an Epic Event to pursue.  The Imperials bring the battle to the Rebels, and the Rebel strategy is to survive.  I’d recommend playing both sides with your opponent, and if both people lose as the Rebels the true winner is the person who lost the least amount of life force.

Make sure to review the “Blown Away” rules.  Specifically, the Light Side loses 8 force if the Imperials succeeds in destroying the Main Generators.

Blown Away Rules (PDF): Blown Away Rules – Hoth

Blown Away Rules - Hoth Image

Given the significant impact of losing 8 life force, the Rebel strategy should be to attempt to engage the Imperials, knock out as many AT-ATs as possible (specifically Blizzard 1), and just limit battle damage sustained.  With 6 AT-AT Walkers in the deck the Imperials will keep coming, but the Rebels have a bit of an advantage with Commander Luke.  He’s the most powerful character in both decks and can be used to wreak havoc on the AT-ATs.  Luke with a Lightsaber can use Under Attack to target AT-ATs during the Control phase.  In addition, Luke in Rogue 1 with a power harpoon (as well as Lucky Shot) is generally good for an AT-AT per battle as well.

On the Imperial side, focusing on Target the Main Generators is the most fun way to go.  Veers in Blizzard 1 is the obvious choice for taking the shot.  The tricky part about the deck is that the Imperials will also want to control a couple Hoth sites to add to the destiny.  This creates a problem of spreading out the AT-ATs at risk of Luke eliminating Blizzard 1 or picking off AT-ATs one at a time (particularly with Under Attack as losing an AT-AT in the Control phase can then lead to an ugly battle).  A plethora of Snowtroopers helps to control different sites though, and the sheer number of AT-ATs and Snowtroopers can also be enough to overwhelm the Rebels even if “Target” isn’t successful.  Oh, and don’t forget to unlease your Wampa if the Rebels start force draining at the outer perimeter.

We’re early on in testing this deck so let us know if you have any suggestions or different strategies!

Last Place Finisher Interview: Dagobah Regionals

Clone1: Dagobah Regionals were on Saturday, September 26th, and Georgia States were on Sunday, September 27th.  Today we’re catching up with the organizer of the events.  Not only did he organize the tournament…he also finished in last place!  Brandon – welcome to the blog!

Brandon: I guess…thanks for that introduction.  Yes, I helped organize the Dagobah Regionals and Georgia State tournament this year, with help from Phillip Gladney and Jonathon Murray.  And yes, I finished in last place in Regionals – thanks for reminding me.

Clone1: Both the Dagobah Regionals and Georgia State tournaments consisted of 8 players. So how competitive are these tournaments?

Brandon: The tournament was competitive yet laid back at the same time.  Everyone wanted to win, but all players were patient and helped explain rules or consequences of actions (or non-actions) that weren’t optimal.

Clone1: That’s great to hear.  In general, how do people sign up for these tournaments?  Now that I know I don’t have to be super competitive this sounds more interesting.

Brandon: We have a regional Star Wars CCG Facebook Group that messages each other about upcoming events and tournaments.  I would urge any new or ex-player considering jumping into the game again to search for a regional Star Wars CCG group as there are a lot of them out there.

In fact, our regional Facebook group is the reason why I actually got back into the game 6 months ago after being out of it for 15+ years.  Big shout out to Phillip Gladney, he’s the key organizer for our group, and if it wasn’t for his work, and the encouragement of some folks in our group, I wouldn’t be playing Star Wars CCG right now and would be missing out on some amazing people and events.

Clone1: That’s great to hear.  I’ve seen the general SWCCG Facebook group but didn’t know about all the regional sub-groups.  Back to the tournament, what do the prizes consist of for a Regional/State level tournament?

Brandon: For Dagobah Regionals, 1st and 2nd place received tournament foils as well as travel vouchers to Worlds.  We all also each opened one pack of Dagobah Limited packs and received a few random rares and foils!  For States, 1st place received a travel voucher to World’s and we each opened up a pack of Jabba’s Palace.

Clone1: Anybody pull a good rare from the packs?

Brandon: Haha, unfortunately not.  Still, it feels great opening packs of Star Wars cards again!

Clone1: Okay, and last thing about the tournament – what’s the scoring system?  Is it just whoever has the most game wins that wins the tournament?

Brandon: These two tournaments were set up were based on differentials between you and your opponent’s life force at the end of the game or end of the time limit. So not only do you need to win, you want to win big.  Jonathon Murray and Mike Kessling took the 1st and 2nd spot in the Regionals, Brad Kippel won Georgia States (for the 6th year in a row!!!).  Congrats to them!

Clone1:  Six years in a row, what a streak!  So what deck did you bring when you lost every game at Regionals?

Brandon: I’m a sucker for main characters and lightsabers, so I tried to customize Hunt Down and Throne Room decks but learned how difficult it is for a new player to build a deck that stands up to a wide range of tournament decks.

Clone 1: What sort of customizing did you do?  Was this a complete rework of the decks or were you just tweaking cards here and there?

Brandon: I started with a pretty standard decklist for both, and playtested (or playfailed?) them on GEMP over the past few weeks.  It started with a few minor tweaks here or there, but before long those minor tweaks ended up changing a good portion of the deck strategy… which in retrospect wasn’t a great idea.  When you make big changes to decks you need a lot of time to test them to see if you’ve thrown off some of the balance accidentally.  This caught up with me on Saturday at Regionals.

Clone1: Even though you didn’t fare well it’s still fun to know that you can still get creative on deck construction, even at these tournaments.  Give us an example from Regionals about a game that didn’t go so well – you have all of them to choose from.

Brandon: Yeah, lots to choose from, that’s for sure.  I didn’t have any particularly large loss, but I was constantly wishing that I hadn’t made so many customizations.  For example, while Maul with Stick is customary in a Hunt Down deck, my deck design ended up being almost an equal split of cards dedicated to empowering Maul versus cards dedicated to beefing up Vader.  This was a great learning lesson

Clone1: Well, lessons, since you lost 4 straight…

Brandon: Haha.  For me, I came away with a new appreciation for sticking with a single goal or focus for the deck and working to truly dominate that goal.  Playing against competitive decks combined with great players (which there are many of in Georgia and the surrounding area) made me come away with a newfound appreciation of the current meta, and made me realize how arrogant (or ignorant) I was to think that I could build my own decks after being away from the game for the past 15 years.

Clone1: It’s probably a great exercise to change the decks up and then see how they perform – you now have better insight into the original deck construction.  In terms of the current meta, what decks did you see the most of at the tournament?  Any that stand out as good tournament decks to start analyzing for a beginner? Any advice for beginners in general?

Brandon:  I saw a lot of YBO (Yavin 4 Base Operations) which seemed to be quite effective.  The Dark side decks were a little bit of everything.  After getting crushed at Regionals I changed away from my custom decks to a standard AOBS (Agents of the Black Sun) and YBO deck for States on Day 2.  I ended up performing much better on the second day.  My advice to beginners would be to utilize standard meta decks first, get an understanding of the strategy as well as what to look out for from your opponent, and make small tweaks that match your play style.

Clone1: Was there a pivotal moment in any of the games that stands out to you?

Brandon: Yeah.  So, on Sunday at States I had a particularly devastating battle.  I had Green Leader in Green 1 on his own at a system.  I knew this was a risk but thought I had myself protected.  I was holding both Hyper Escape and Houjix, so I was double covered, and I had one force in my force pile at the end of my turn.

My opponent dropped the Finalizer with essentially every character that adds a destiny on board.  Again, I thought I was okay…until my opponent played First Strike and initiated battle. First Strike makes you pay 1 force to play an interrupt during battle – so Hyper Escape cost me my force, but I had planned for this.  Then, he Sensed my Hyper Escape.  I still had my Houjix though, but it turns out Houjix is also an interrupt and my opponent politely reminded me that I didn’t have any force to pay for it.

Clone1: Brutal.  These are the types of plays I would expect at a tournament level – you thought you were twice protected, but you opponent still managed to negotiate around your Hyper Escape and Houjix to destroy you.  Out of curiosity, what was the damage differential?

Brandon: 27….

Clone1: Wow.  Half of your life force in one battle.  That is a tough game.  So how did you end up on Sunday even with that devastating loss?

Brandon: I finished 4th out of 8 on the second day.  I was much happier with my results!

Clone1: Happy with 4th place? I guess compared to Regionals this was a much better finish for you.  If you hadn’t lost 27 life force on a single battle you may have even done better!

Brandon: Thanks…I’ve noted that.

Clone1: Excellent.  Well, if you can, try to put us in touch with one of the winners.  You gave us plenty of stories on losses, so maybe we can get the other side next time!

The Voice of the Force: Interview with SWCCG Documentary Directors

“This is about players who have dedicated a large portion of their lives to a community and showing what it means to them.”

This is the purpose of the upcoming documentary “One With The Force: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of the Star Wars CCG”.  The documentary will unpack the rich history of the game across a number of different dimensions including interviews with former players, Decipher employees, Players Committee representatives, etc.

We’re super excited to be able to chat with the producers/directors/writers and everything else behind “One With the Force.”  Continue on for our interview with Brandon Baity and Brian “Twigg” Terwilliger!

Resources for the post:

Clone 1: Guys, thanks to you the Circle is Now Complete.  The game, based on a movie, will now have a movie based on the game.  Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us about the documentary.  We have a million questions, but we know you guys are super busy right now.  Tell us where in the world you’re at and what you’re currently working on the doc.

Brandon: Thank you for the interest in this film and the opportunity to discuss it. This is a passion project and we are happy to answer whatever questions we can. Currently, I’m at home in Portland, Oregon. I just got back from Atlanta, GA where the US Nationals tournament took place. In a couple weeks I will be heading to Bochum, Germany to attend the European Championships and then it is off to the World Championships in Morristown, NJ. Multiple interviews will be conducted at both events.

Brian: Thanks for having us! I am based in Fairfield, CT and will be joining up with Brandon in New Jersey for the World Championships this October. Currently, and always, working on the overall (and expanding) narrative of the doc. Every time Brandon sits down with a player/luminary from the SWCCG community it unlocks an ocean of thoughts and emotions from others just like them…we are seeing quite the domino effect.

Clone 1: Excellent to hear and no surprise that the SWCCG community is being supportive!  Just to get this out up front, tell us when we can hope to see the documentary and how we should gain access.

Brandon: I would love to tell you when it will be done, but we are in the heart of doing interviews so it would be difficult to set some sort of date. In my mind, the best case scenario is May 2019, but that is probably unrealistic considering the way films go. The goal is to have an actual premiere at a theater in Portland and eventually have it released on Netflix or other streaming services. Other than that the best way to get a copy is to donate at least $15 to the GoFundMe campaign.

Brian: Brandon is in charge… so I would listen to him. And YES, everyone reading this should donate to the campaign to allow us to keep on working on this passion project!!

Clone 1: Calendar marked – either a Portland trip or SWCCG watch party will be on the docket for 2019! As of today you’re 70% towards your fundraising goal; hopefully this post will be helpful to achieving the last 30%!  Let’s shift gears to you guys.  How did you first get into the game and why did the game resonate with you?

Brandon: I grew up in Florida as a huge Star Wars (and Star Trek) fan in the 80s/90s. Like many other SWCCG players, I watched the movies a countless number of times. I remember my friend, Tyler, showing me the cards in 6th or 7th Grade. I was so excited that Decipher had created cool looking cards for both Star Wars and Star Trek and immediately had to start buying them. After the initial purchases, it sunk in that this “kids” Star Wars game was really complicated, and as someone who loves Chess, it all just felt made for me.

Brian: My dad bought my brother (Chris) and I our first packs of card in 1997. We kinda liked the movies but really fell in love with the mechanics of the game and then, like all of you, couldn’t get enough. Things shifted into overdrive once we found a solid competitive scene. We were in the midst of moving to the Albany NY region. We randomly stumbled upon a shop in a dingy mall and met a guy name Johnny Chu (he traded me an IG-2000 for my Avenger; lol). He told us about a group of players who had events weekly. A few months later we moved to the Capital Region and joined the likes of Matt Sokol, Aaron Kingery and Mike D’amboise… “Team Albany” was born.

Clone 1: And Brian, you had a lot of early success in competitive play.  World Team Champion in 2000, 2x New York State Champion, Boston Grand Slam Champion.  Tell us about those days – what decks were you running, how did you come up with them, and what drove you competitive success?

Brian: Even though 2014 Worlds runner up is my “best” solo achievement, the 2000 team title will always be my favorite.  Long before there were regular “factions” of players in the game, the 2000 DecipherCon was a changing of the guard. A shift in player power to a much younger group (as proof by the subsequent world championships that followed).

I am quite fond of those days. As a 16/17 year old, my room was never not scattered with thousands of cards.  Every night was spent play testing until 4am with my brother Chris. In addition, we had weekly “local” tournaments with national level competition against Johnny Chu, my brother Chris, Matt Sokol, Aaron Kingery…at one time we had 5 of the top 20 world ranked players in our local store.

As far as decks, “Albany” Yavin 4 mains and Hunt Down were staples that Albany/Coruscant really helped solidify and popularize within the meta. I usually liked turning the decks on their sides so to speak and throw in surprises. For example my Boston Grand Slam light deco was Y4 mains…with a handful of high Destiny droids and inserts. Definitely caught players off guard. And I would be remiss to not mention Scum And Villainy/alien combo decks. Anything off the beaten path…that was my personal bread and butter.

Clone 1: Wow that is nuts.  Playing weekly against 5 of the top 20 world ranked players is obviously a great way to keep your skills sharp.  So obviously you’re both lifelong fans of the game.  Was there a time that you left the game (like almost everyone did) and what brought you back?

Brandon: With SWCCG, you can never really leave because the Force is always with you. Haha, is that too corny?

Clone 1: Haha right on.  The game is always around us.

Brandon: In all seriousness, after Decipher lost the license, I slowly stopped playing the game by 2003. This was also around the time I went to film school.  I would occasionally keep an eye on what the PC was doing over the years as a lurker, but it wasn’t until 2015 that I came back to truly wanting to play.  When I moved to Portland, I had to clean out my storage unit and I found a bunch of my SWCCG cards.  That got me wondering what the status of the game was. I checked the forums at starwarsccg.org and saw that this major reset had taken place. It was a perfect time to reconnect with a lost love.

Brian: Like Brandon 2002 was rough for me.  I remember waking up in my college dorm to see the headline the game was dead. After throwing my cards across the room as there was much anger in me, I slowly faded away, only to come back a year or two later thanks to the never ending connection with my brother and the rest of Team Albany.

Clone 1: Okay and now the obvious question, what was the inspiration for the documentary.  So you get back into the game, see all these passionate fans and realize that the game never left…but what caused the light bulb to go off that ‘this is a documentary that should be made?’

Brandon:  I suppose if I break it down to a light bulb moment, it probably came in May of 2016. I had decided to play in my first SWCCG tournament in many, many years.  I went to Seattle and participated in the Endor Grand Prix that year.  While I was there I had a game against Matt Sokol (2000 SWCCG World Champion) and I remarked to him about how I had met him 16 years ago at the 2000 World Championships in Florida when I was just 17.  This second meeting felt very cyclical and after thinking about it I wanted to dive deeper into the community, stories, and history of the game.  Having a film background, it was only natural for me to decide to combine these concepts into a sort of love letter to the SWCCG.

Brian:  I tried making this documentary roughly 11 years ago. For a number of reasons my efforts kept getting snagged (resources, participation from others). Ultimately I decided it was more than any 1 person could do and it fell on my mental back burner for years… that is until Brandon posted his footage from the Endor Grand Prix and we connected on the message boards. Brandon was kind enough to let me support him on the project.

Clone 1: So the documentary is over a decade in the making!  It’s great timing now as the game and community appears to be seeing a resurgence.  Tell us some more about the documentary.  I know you can’t disclose too much as we need the suspense to build, but what should we expect to learn about?

Brandon:  As was mentioned, the primary story is about the people who have been involved with this game, whether that is players, Decipher employees, or volunteers of the Players Committee. We think people will be excited to learn about what went on behind the scenes during the Decipher era and the struggles to keep the game going during the PC (Players Committee) era.

Brian: The great thing about this documentary, as Brandon mentioned, is it will cover everything! From your favorite players, unearthed moments from DecipherCon, to hearing about the decisions made behind closed doors in Virginia.

Clone 1: So how has the story evolved as you’ve gotten deeper into the history, players, etc.?

Brandon: As each new interview has been conducted it feels like another puzzle piece has fallen into place. While one person might have a unique recollection of a specific event, another person has a different perspective to add context to that same event. This shapes the way I approach the next interview because then I am able to ask a new set of questions.

Brian: Everyone has a story. And our focus on the SWCCG community is no different. The reason it has been going strong for so long is the fact that the community is far greater (and powerful) than the sum of its parts.

Clone 1: So the story has evolved far beyond your initial expectations.  I’m sure this project hasn’t been a cakewalk though – have you had any setbacks?  Any issues that you didn’t expect?

Brandon:  No, it hasn’t been a cakewalk.  Having the right equipment for a portable travel setup has been difficult at times, but I think I’ve got the proper gear checklist down now.  Other than that, it has been fairly easy to accomplish most of the early goals in terms of interviews.  The incredible donations we’ve received so far have been a key to that success. The biggest issue going forward will be editing.  I love editing, but I’m kind of dreading next year’s post-production phase knowing we have over 30 hours of footage so far, haha.

Brian:  Brandon is right… the editing/post-production of this film is going to be a monumental burden all onto itself. However, that is also my favorite part of the process. Brandon has already been leaking some teaser clips to the internet and we can pretty much guarantee we will have no shortage of footage.

Clone 1 [Follow on Facebook for some of this leaked footage]:  Wow, 30 hours of footage…the community has been supportive!  Enough about setbacks.  What has been the highlight of film?  I know you’re just halfway through, but what has surprised you in a great way?

Brandon:  One of the major highlights of this whole project was when we received a whole box of old tapes from Derek “Gold 46” Brooks. It was shocking that someone had saved all of this old footage from the Decipher days and was willing to share it with us for the film.  It is a real treasure trove for sure.  Another thing that has been a big surprise is how willing everyone has been to cooperate and be a part of the film.  I guess I should have expected that with how this community is, but it is still a great feeling to see that desire to help.

Brian: Derek is the MAN! That footage is crazy. It even contains tournament footage of Brandon and I competing in the World Championships sitting just a few seats from one another!

Clone 1:  This footage will be excellent for the newbs like me who weren’t competing at the national level back in the day.  I’ll be looking to see if I can recognize you guys as teenagers when the doc comes out!  What about something you didn’t expect that changed your view on the game?  Any enlightening discussions?

Brandon: I think the discussion with Scott Gaeta (former Senior VP of Decipher and founder of Renegade Game Studios) was quite eye opening.  Honestly, I did not know Scott’s name or role at Decipher until about a few days prior to interviewing him.  The opportunity to sit down with him came out of the blue and coincided perfectly with other interviews that were already planned.  I don’t think we knew too much about the inner workings of Decipher going into this project, but to hear someone give details about the people, logistics, projects, and goals that made up who Decipher was proved very informative.  Many revelations came out during that meeting and I left with a new perspective on Decipher and the SWCCG.

Brian: Hearing about the secret sauce back at Decipher, especially how the game was initially created and how it evolved. You won’t believe how such basic things like battles and force drain started out…

Clone 1: This kind of behind the scenes access is fascinating.  Alright, the suspense is building for sure.  I know you guys are crazy busy with World’s approaching.  Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us and we’re looking forward to the release!  I encourage everyone to get to the Go Fund Me site to donate and make sure they secure a copy.  Let’s make sure to catch up again when you guys are back from World’s!

Brandon: For sure! We’d be happy to update you as the film comes along. Thanks again for the chance to talk about this project. We hope the final product lives up to everyone’s expectations and is a great representation of this incredible community.

Brian: May The Force Be With you!

Quick Game / Training Decks

As someone who is craving gameplay I’ve found “Training Decks” to be surprisingly appealing.  These decks contain only 30 cards per side and include simple, easy to use cards/combos.  While at first glance these simple decks may seem boring, I’ve found them to be a blast.  The best part may be their portability.  Never thought you’d play SWCCG on an airplane?  Read on!

We stumbled across these legacy deck designs by “C Mike Hardy” (if anyone can put us in touch with him please let us know at bobafett@swccgstore.com).

Why would I want to own these 30-card “Training Decks?”

  • Lightning fast gameplay: keep on-hand for when you have less than 30 minutes
    • In between games at a tournament
    • Card shop closing in 25 minutes
    • Have to go to work tomorrow and don’t want to start a 60 minutes match
  • Educational tool: given the simplicity of these decks you can teach someone to play against you in less than an hour
    • Use for family holidays instead of Monopoly
    • Get your kids involved in your hobby
  • Testing ground: refine your gameplay by experimenting with new combos
    • The speed of gameplay allows for a lot of quick attempts and refinement
  • Gift giving: at $10 each these are an awesome way to introduce people to the game
    • Challenge someone playing Magic to a SWCCG game…winner keeps the cards

The best part about having these decks in your bag are the opportunities that you never expected.  All of a sudden you’re playing SWCCG during your lunch break with co-workers or at the mall food court while your significant other shops.  You can literally grab people who have never seen the cards and be up and running for a game in 30 minutes.

My favorite use case is on airplanes.  Not only does the time fly, but in periods of turbulence you’re in the mood to put John Williams’ score on your headphones, close your eyes, and envision piloting a starfighter with concussion missiles exploding all around you…

How To Play SWCCG on an Airplane:

  • Grab any of the trainer decks
  • Use a magazine to bridge two tray tables
  • Sites and systems go on the magazine -> there are only 5 sites/systems in each trainer and some overlap
    • Sites without any presence can be stacked to overlap and save space
  • Each person keeps their reserve deck and force pile on their remaining tray table space
  • Lost cards go into the seat back pocket (there is no retrieval so you don’t need access; also, your cards are protected right?)
  • Used pile is immediately moved into Reserve deck (given the limited number of cards this allows for battle destinies to be drawn late in the game as well)
  • The games are quick so you can finish before the drink cart arrives

How simple are the trainer decks?  Very, very simple.  See below for the decks as designed by C Mike Hardy.

Cloud City Training Deck: preferred deck for teaching someone new as everyone loves Cloud City

Cloud City Training Deck

Space Training Deck: preferred deck for air travel if you don’t mind blowing up flying machines while on a flying machine

Space Training Deck

Tattoine Training Deck: preferred deck for hiking and camping under the Tattoine moons (or in our case, sadly, a single moon…why is earth so boring?)

Tattoine Training Deck

Card of the Week: Boba Fett, Bounty Hunter

Boba Fett, Bounty Hunter.png

Strengths

  • 7:5 power-to-deploy cost ratio
  • Easy requirements to gain an extra battle destiny
  • Easy requirements to gain two battle destinies in heavy Vader and/or Bounty Hunter decks
  • High immunity to attrition
  • Powerful for both Space & Ground

Weaknesses

  • Game text as well as ability of 3 is weak when battling alone; limits Boba to a powerful support character
  • Costly end-of-turn requirements (use 2 force to keep on table, lose 2 force and place in used pile, or place in lost pile)

Great for… 

  • Decks centered around Vader or Bounty Hunters
  • High force generation decks

How to Use Effectively… 

  • Most powerful when deployed into an existing battle area where the Dark Side \has Vader and/or Bounty Hunters deployed
    • Due to deploy cost it is deploy simultaneously with other characters during same turn
  • Consider using as a “kamikaze card” by adding two additional battle destiny to clear the board and forfeiting Boba in order to alleviate attrition and negate the costly card upkeep

History, Trivia, Fun Facts 

  • After being swallowed by the Sarlaac in the Pit of Carkoon, Boba Fett escaped by killing the Sarlaac with a thermal detonator
  • Helmet gives full 360-degree vision as a result of advanced HUD and information readout
  • His father, Jango Fett,  donated sperm allowed the Kamino cloning operations to use his DNA to build the Republic’s clone army
  • Prefers disintegrations, but deferred to Vader’s wishes while pursuing Luke Skywalker

Dueling Mains & Toys Deck

The best part about returning to Star Wars CCG is simply playing the game.  After a 20-year hiatus I am craving game play, particularly in-person games (where I can have numerous mulligans or take the time to look up rules).

A significant hurdle to playing games is crafting fun decks that are actually balanced.  I’m trying to improve my in-game decision making, but it’s difficult to evaluate progress if my decks are simply under matched vs. opponents.  Fortunately Reinhart has done the work for us Newbs with his awesome “Dueling Mains & Toys” deck.  You’ll notice that this deck spares no expense on cards and also enables scenarios across all movies/storylines.  Not only has Reinhart provided us with the deck list and strategy, we also got an interview with him to understand his inspiration and game play tips!

Read on for our interview with Reinhart!

Clone 1: To kick things off, tell us a little about your SWCCG background.  When did you start playing and how competitive did you play?

Reinhart: I started playing with Hoth because I was much more into Magic at the time. I started reading Star Wars novels and getting into the films so the card game seemed like an incredible idea. I mostly played with friends but we had a dedicated group of guys in the Tri-Cities, WA that held tournaments every week so I had a lot of opportunity to start earning tournament points. I was usually 1st or 2nd each tournament and ended up qualifying for an Endor regional event where I made it to the final four with a Mains and Toys deck (not unlike the spirit of this deck here) that kind of took people by surprise.

Clone 1: Rumor has it your “Mains & Toys” deck wreaked havoc at your regional tournament.  How was it so successful?

Reinhart: I stuck to the “Mains & Toys” deck even though others were rolling these complicated combo decks. I beat some of the better players because I put some cards in to foil the decks of the time (I think it was ISB Operations (dark) vs Harvest (light) all day). Plus Sense/Alter counter-spam is always fun when most pro players don’t bother.

Clone 1:  After taking some time off what brought you back to the game?

Reinhart: I got back into collecting as the new movies were about to premiere.  I thought Star Wars might have a renaissance and wanted to have a master set for myself. Got that together over a couple of years and wanted to play again so I made these decks.

Clone 1: The first thing I noticed about this deck is that it has all of the heavy hitting characters, starships, etc.  Tell us a bit about your collection – what did you have from your playing days and where does your collection stand today?

Reinhart: I’m one of those fools that sold their cards before the crash out of frustration with Decipher going away, so I only had a few favorites like Luke Skywalker Jedi Knight and a couple of signed cards from my youth.  I now have a master set in place (minus the Japanese sets) and am now looking to build and test more decks in the future.

Clone 1: Alright, let’s just into the deck itself.  What was the inspiration for this deck?

Reinhart: It was the type of deck I liked to play back in the day.

Clone 1: Makes a lot of sense, particularly given that it was a successful tournament deck at one time as well.  Talk about how you built the deck.  When I try to build decks I seem to run into writer’s block – what are some tips for building decks?

Reinhart: The greatest teacher is experience so you have to play games with cards to see if they work. I like to put cards into decks that are ALWAYS useful, whenever possible. So that you have 7 threats that you’re excited to play in your hand, ya know? So if something says “only play when X” I try to steer clear of putting too many of those in. If I play a couple of games where I had a card and couldn’t play it I consider taking it out.

Clone 1:  I like the idea of constantly iterating on the decks.  You’ve got these decks honed-in now after playing 20 games – tell us about the goals of the decks.

Reinhart: Light side has all of the powerful main characters who use their combining abilities to do incredible things in battle on the ground. They have a distinct advantage there so be aggressive and know that dark doesn’t have as much ground power to throw at you. Use your landing claw and starfighters to block force drains and pick off starships that were left alone at a system.

Clone 1:  Nice – to be honest I never expected to see “Landing Claw” in a legit deck…shows what I know.  What about the dark side?

Reinhart: Dark side has the advantage in space with their huge navy of ships. Establish a force drain in space as early as possible and surprise the light side with Maul, Vader or an AT-AT when they spread out too thin on the ground.

Clone 1: Okay, let’s talk more about the gameplay.  What are some of the decisive moves or tactics that have led to victory for each side?

Reinhart: My favorite games are when there are real battles where you don’t actually know what’s going to happen on both the ground and in space.  These decks are very flexible, but here are a few moves to keep in the back of your mind:

  • Maul with his lightsaber can be REALLY powerful with ‘The Phantom Menace’. ‘The Phantom Menace’ can literally decided a game. Luke Skywalker Jedi Knight with matching lightsaber is a good counter but even then… yeesh.
  • The Executor doesn’t leave the table once it hits. Save up for it! Probably worth it. Fondor lets you deploy it -5!
  • Watch your system parsecs and move the Death Star closer if you have a ton of force to waste. Lost a game once by stranding the fleet at parsec 8 while there were several other systems at parsec 0, 2, and 4. Some ships can’t make the jump.
  • Imperial spies (Mara and 3P0) are super important. Lightside should consider saving Corran Horn and their Sorry About the Mess to nail them. Dark side has to remember to save a force to “follow” them on their turn, if they move away.

Clone 1: In the 20 games you’ve played with the decks what cards/plays have surprised you or your opponent?

Reinhart:  You Are Beaten and Clash of Sabers can be huge. Hang on to your Sense to protect yourself! These cards can really wrack up the battle damage if you exclude a Jedi and just rain damage onto a support character.  Nothing like Maul in a 1×1 battle against Padme without the protection of a Jedi…

Clone 1: What else should we know to play these decks effectively?

Reinhart:  I like to draw for locations. There are a few “force accelerator” locations in there for each side that are mostly there to generate force (not battle). So get those out so that you can play cards, and DRAW EVEN MORE.  In addition, sometimes it’s hard to remember when Battle Plan is out on either side. Keep in mind that battles are free and interrupts cost +1.

Clone 1: Finally, what are some house rules we should consider for those of us playing for fun?

Reinhart: Here are a few I play with for these decks:

  • Opening hands: mulligan until you have a location or consider multiple mulligans so both sides can start quickly
  • Dark side starts first even with Death Star as their starting location because light side is generating 3 force with the Jedi Council starting location; this ignores games text but prevents light side from getting both force generation and starting turn
  • These decks only have one copy of each card which keeps the games fresh.  I’d recommend keeping this rule with any changes
  • I’d say the dark side has a slight edge due to The Phantom Menace and If Bad Feeling Have I.  If you see this consistently take out The Phantom Menace

Clone 1: Awesome.  Well thank you for sharing your deck list, strategy, and tips with us.  If our readers have other questions or deck comments where should they find you?

Reinhart:  You can find the thread for this deck here – feel free to join the discussion and let me know how the deck treats you.  I’m also kleinja on twitter, run a website called ChampionTraveler.com and if you’re in Spokane, WA I’d love to Epic Duel you anytime!