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Jedi Knights Trading Card Game

Decipher's third major Star Wars card game offers a new angle on the classic trilogy.

* Jedi Knights Trading Card Game
* By Decipher Inc.
* www.decipher.com
* MSRP $11.95 for Alliance or Empire starter decks (including play mat)
* MSRP $3.29 for 11-card booster packs

Review by Lee Bates

D ecipher Inc. entered George Lucas' universe in 1995 with its second card game, the aptly named Star Wars CCG, and introduced the Episode I-based Young Jedi CCG in 1999. After recently announcing that The Phantom Menace would also soon find its way into its original Star Wars card game, Decipher now offers its newest take on Lucas' classic trilogy of movies--the Jedi Knights trading card game.

Our Pick: A-

Jedi Knights borrows a few elements from Decipher's two earlier Star Wars games, but for the most part stands as a unique creation. Like SWCCG and YJCCG, Jedi Knights divides players into two sides--the forces of the Rebel Alliance and the dark might of the Galactic Empire (in multiplayer games, the table is divided between two opposing two-player teams). The destiny-draw mechanic also makes an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" return appearance. The game provides a cinematic feel by taking characters from planet to planet, where heroes and villains fight for control.

Players build decks around a particular thematic hero--in the initial release, the available theme characters are Luke, Han Solo, Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin--and add supporting characters, starships and events. Force cards provide the fuel for the game. By carefully choosing which Force card to play on a given turn, players decide the order of play, the amount of resources upon which they can rely, and the number of cards in their hands. The goal of the game is to win three of the four planets (represented by two-sided location cards). If one player takes control of three planets in a row, the game is over. If the score is two to one, both sides meet on the last planet for a Final Conflict round that goes on until only one side remains.

Aside from the fast-paced gameplay and multiplayer aspects, the big news in Jedi Knights is the all-new computer-generated art that adorns the cards. Decipher promises "Star Wars like you've never seen it before," and that promise is fulfilled. Familiar characters and situations are depicted from entirely new angles, and parts of the universe that once had to remain in the imagination--tiny Rebel soldiers based on Hoth, aliens sitting in dimly lit cantinas and hardworking but unsung stormtroopers, to name but a few--are allowed to step to the fore. Taking advantage of the CGI process, Decipher has also included many cards in both "left" and "right" versions that allow the image to be viewed in stereoscopic 3-D.

Knights of the four-sided table

It should be mentioned that this reviewer had access to only the recently approved rules for this game as well as a slew of card images still described as "preliminary" by Decipher. Even at this stage, however, Jedi Knights looks like a worthy addition to the Star Wars gaming universe.

One of the long-standing complaints about Decipher's earlier releases was that many found games too long to play. Jedi Knights moves along quickly by design (control of each planet is decided every two turns until a victory or the Final Conflict happens). Deck-building strategy, while greatly simplified thanks to the theme cards, becomes a challenge of not only balance but also anticipating the opponent's own deck structure. The multiplayer aspect is also a welcome addition. Some Decipher designers have spoken of plans to introduce an "Independent" allegiance to act as a third party, but at the moment this is still on the drawing board.

Collectors will find a lot to like about this new game. The card art is quite remarkable, and shows the talent of Decipher's art team to great effect, especially on starships and armored characters like Vader and the stormtroopers. The 3-D stereoscopic cards initially seem a bit gimmicky, but then again it's undeniably cool to see a stormtrooper riding a dewback off of a trading card. Each card also bears easy-to-decipher (so to speak) collectors' information relating rarity, card number and, in some cases, whether the card is the left or right half of a stereoscopic pair.

As a player of all three of Decipher's previously released SF games, I was initially skeptical about Jedi Knights. I needn't have worried--the designers show how much they've learned from earlier efforts and built a solid, refreshingly fast-paced system that looks great. -- LB

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