Parenting Padawans: 5 Star Wars Gems for Family Game Night

When game night includes Star Wars storytelling from Fantasy Flight Games or Gamorrean Guard miniatures, it's going to be good.

To say there have been a lot of Star Wars games over the years is almost a laughable understatement. There have been dozens of tabletop games since the original movie came out. Some of them are basic roll-and-move games; some are incredibly complicated and take hours to play. Some are truly excellent games; others, not so much.

Over the years, especially during the ’80s and early ’90s, there was a glut of games with the Star Wars name attached that didn’t exactly inspire a lot of love among gamers. Many were either simple kids games or more familiar games that licensed the Star Wars brand and just slapped an image of Darth Vader on the packaging.

Recently, though, there have been a lot of incredible games hitting the market. It could even be called a golden age of Star Wars tabletop games. However, many of the most popular games — though amazing gaming experiences — aren’t exactly “kid friendly.”

Game night is pretty important in my house. I know I’m not alone when I say that board games have become one of our standard, go-to family activities. And as a family of die-hard Star Wars fans, we’re always on the lookout for great new games to play.

As a parent of two elementary-aged kids (4 and 7), the complex, “heavy” games currently on the market don’t make it to the table much. We play a lot of games that are appropriate for younger players. My guess is that one or two of you might relate.

With that in mind, here’s a roundup of some Star Wars-themed games that are excellent for younger Padawans. In an effort to narrow down the field, I’ve used the following criteria:

•    It’s appropriate for young players (i.e., elementary school age) who might not necessarily be experienced gamers
•    There’s not a huge barrier to entry — the rules aren’t incredibly complex, it’s playable in under an hour, and it doesn’t cost a fortune
•    Piggybacking on the above, it’s relatively easy to acquire. (In other words, even if it is out of print, it can still be found online at an affordable price. This unfortunately disqualified a few great older games.)
•    It’s not a licensed game with a Star Wars reskin

Without further ado, here are five games that rose to the top of the pack. Most of these are lesser-known games that may have escaped your radar. Nevertheless, they each deserve a spot on your game shelf and a play (or two or three) during your next Star Wars family game night!

When you get a chance, let us know what you think. Do you play these games with your own Padawans? Did we forget any? What are your favorite Star Wars tabletop games?

Empire vs. Rebellion

1. Empire vs. Rebellion (2014, 2 players)

If you’re looking for a fun game that’s both quick and strategic, look no further than Empire vs. Rebellion. This often-overlooked gem (from Fantasy Flight Games) unfortunately lives in the shadow of the publisher’s more well-known heavy hitters, but in terms of great kid-friendly games, it can’t be beat.

Often called “blackjack for two,” this game involves players drawing cards and using character skills and resources as they battle it out for victory points. The game has a tense and brisk back and forth that’s a perfect introduction to heavier games with far more options, rules, and strategy. The Star Wars theme sometimes feels unnecessary, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. This one’s a winner.

Young Jedi CCG

2. Young Jedi CCG (1999, 2 players)

I know what you’re probably thinking, but hear me out. In the mid ’90s, Decipher ruled the collectible card game (CCG) market, and their Star Wars CCG was king of the hill. Although that game was never simple, after 12 expansions, hundreds of different cards, several rules revisions, and countless other premium products that affected gameplay, the barrier to entry for new players was formidable. And younger players? Forget about it.

Then along came Young Jedi, which was a streamlined CCG based on The Phantom Menace. Gameplay is so simplified that it’s suitable for kids as young as 4 or 5 (depending on the kid, of course), but there’s a surprising strategic depth that still makes the game enjoyable for older kids and adults.

Battles are straightforward and games are short. And the cards are just downright gorgeous. Young Jedi is a fantastic introduction to the world of deckbuilding games and is a more realistic entryway than most of the other, more established games that have been on the market for years and involve thousands of cards.

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire - Far Horizons

3. Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPG system (2013, 3–5 players)

It began with Edge of the Empire and then expanded to include Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny (each of which takes place during a different period of Star Wars history). Gameplay is richly textured with a heavy focus on narrative construction, and it employs a unique (and uniquely fun) dice system. It’s a deep and incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s still accessible to new players and kids.

Each version is also available as a Beginner Box, which presents the game with modified rules to make it even easier to learn (ideal for kids and RPG newbies). Fantasy Flight has also announced its newest addition to the lineup — The Force Awakens Beginner Game — which uses the same mechanics and general gameplay of the three existing RPGs but exists as a standalone introductory game. It promises to be a perfect entry point from which players can dive into the current generation of Star Wars RPGs as you don’t need any previous knowledge of the genre to get started.

4. Star Wars: Return of the JediBattle at Sarlacc’s Pit (1983, 2–4 players)

This is the only vintage game included on the list. There’s a reason for that. Most Star Wars games produced between 1977 and 1987ish are incredibly simple and, frankly, more valuable as collector’s items. We recently took a look back at 9 of the most well-known vintage board games. By today’s standards, Battle at Sarlacc’s Pit isn’t much more complicated than the rest of the games from that era, but it has a nontraditional board that involves dropping Gamorrean Guards into the Great Pit of Carkoon. What’s not to love about that?

Essentially, this is a draw-a-card-and-move game, so it doesn’t demand an incredible amount of brainpower. However, the “board” is actually a cardboard re-creation of Jabba’s sail barge over the mighty Sarlacc. Before you can defeat Jabba, you have to make your way down the barge and literally flick miniature Gamorreans (and Nikto and Boba Fett) off the barge. This simple gimmick elevates this vintage game into one that’s absolutely worth hunting down and playing.

Star Wars Missions

5. Star Wars Missions (1997, 1 player)

Star Wars Missions was a book series published by Scholastic and primarily available through their in-school book fairs and mailers. The books were written by Star Wars veteran authors Ryder Windham and Dave Wolverton, and the game is a happy mashup of an RPG and a Choose Your Own Adventure-style gamebook. Each book is about 75 pages, so they’re relatively slim, and roughly half of that length is a straightforward narrative.

The second half of each book is the interactive portion, involving choices, dice rolls, character level ups, and the accrual or loss of mission points. A total of 20 books were written for the Missions system, and each book is somewhat self-contained. What makes them ideally suited to young players is that the stories involve a linear sequence of events, and the reader/player is inevitably guided to victory (in other words, there are no “wrong choices” that lead to an untimely demise). The object is to reach the end without running out of mission points.

Although they’re intended for solo play, they can still be a great introduction to RPGs and game books for younger players. Heck, they can even be used to support beginning readers. Alternatively, read them aloud to very young kids who can then make the pertinent decisions. Let your imagination roam free with this one; that’s kind of the whole point of game books anyway.

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He’s also a contributor to GeekDad and runs The Roarbots, where he focuses on awesome geeky stuff that happens to be kid-friendly. On top of that, he cohosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates geek culture by talking to people who create it. With two little ones and a vast Star Wars collection at home, he’s done the unthinkable: allowed them full access to most of his treasure from the past 30 years, opening and playing with whatever they want (pre-1983 items excluded).

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