Among other things, 2020 has brought us many interesting twists about the future of Fantasy Flight Games’ Imperial Assault. Some things we learned directly from an official of Asmodee, FFG’s parent company. Other announcements and releases from Asmodee and Disney can lead us to speculate what the next steps will be for IA, and what that could mean for IACP.
TVBoy’s great year-in-review video touches on a few of these announcements. If you haven’t seen it already — and not yet heard TVBaby! — take a few minutes to do so:
In this article, I’m sharing my own speculation & opinions on the immediate & distant future to inspire conversation from the IACP Community on the same. In fact, I should probably issue a proper disclaimer: This article reflects my own personal views and does not represent the Steering Committee or any future direction of IACP.
A Surprising Proclamation
Back in December 2019, I felt like the future of our Imperial Assault was pretty bright, even as the product was reaching its official sunset. The IA Skirmish community was planning to attend what was being considered the last Imperial Assault World Championship run by FFG at Adepticon 2020. We had known since April 2019 that FFG was no longer making new content for IA; then in a live-streamed Q&A in August 2019, Andrew Navaro, then creative director for FFG, said that due to “business reasons” FFG could not release any more content for Imperial Assault. (Though it was not officially confirmed, the IA community concluded this was due a lawsuit settlement in favor of Hasbro.) I expected that FFG and Asmodee would put the IA game product in carbonite, like they were doing with the Star Wars: Destiny card & dice game. And if our IACP Community was lucky, FFG and Asmodee would overlook our little world for a while.
In March of 2020, I was shocked when Steve Horvath, Asmodee’s North American Head of Publishing, said in an interview that the tale of Imperial Assault was not done. Mr. Horvath also went on to say that new Imperial Assault is “way, way in the future”, but Asmodee is still printing IA Core Sets and supporting the game. We were never told how the “business reasons” for not continuing IA in 2019 changed. We do know that Mr. Horvath mentioned in the interview that Asmodee submitted a product plan for their Star Wars miniatures games (X-Wing, Legion and Armada) that lasted until at least 2023. Personally I think it may have something to do with Disney’s new toy master licensing deal with Hasbro announced in February 2020.
For the rest of 2020, we haven’t gotten any more information from Asmodee or FFG about how IA’s tale will be continued. However we have gotten several glimpses into Asmodee’s & Disney’s future with Star Wars that might give us some insight.
A Legendary Revival
Most of y’all know that Imperial Assault was built on the same game system used in FFG’s Descent: Journeys in the Dark. Like IA, Journeys in the Dark campaign featured 1-4 heroes competing against another “overlord” player who runs the “bad guys”. After teasing a new Descent box in a livestream earlier in the year, FFG announced Descent: Legends of the Dark in October 2020. FFG specifically states that Legends of the Dark is not the third edition of Journeys of the Dark: “Although Journeys in the Dark featured the Road to Legend companion app, that game was always designed as a competitive experience, pitting one to four hero players against a single overlord player. Legends of the Dark harnesses its integrated companion app to deliver a cooperative game from the very beginning, freeing you and your friends to fully focus on becoming the heroes of Terrinoth.” (Emphasis theirs.)
The materials previewed in Legends of the Dark’s article linked above look very similar to the map tiles, campaign hero sheets & campaign hero item cards used in the current Imperial Assault. It seems enemy statistics & movements will be directed by Legends’ companion app that replaces the human “overlord” player. There could be rules & cards for the players to manage enemy actions similar to games like Gloomhaven, but those materials have not been revealed. Also there are no indications so far that Legends of the Dark will support a 1 vs. 1 skirmish game mode.
A Massive Transfer
In November 2020, FFG and Asmodee announced that all existing Star Wars miniature games were being moved to another Asmodee company, Atomic Mass Games. These three Star Wars miniature games (X-Wing, Legion & Armada) have active organized play communities that favor highly-competitive 1v1 formats. From what I understand, most of AMG’s Organized Play events have focused on narrative-based events for its current product, Marvel Crisis Protocol. These events provide a more casual play experience than the standard competitive tournament structure and are well-liked by the MCP community. Since the initial announcement, Atomic Mass Games has stated that it will be expanding in-person Organized Play events while still supporting competitive formats favored by the games’ communities.
Noticeably absent in AMG’s takeover of Star Wars miniature games is Imperial Assault. It seems Fantasy Flight Games will be keeping IA, along with the other Star Wars board games they’re still supporting and printing: Rebellion and Outer Rim. Also seems that FFG is not transferring any competitive-focused cards game to Atomic Mass Games at this time. In the March 2020 interview, Steve Horvath indicated that there was a new Star Wars card game being developed, though he did not indicate it if would be supporting a competitive play scene or not.
It seems to me FFG will still be running Organized Play events for the competitive games they still have (like Legends of the Five Rings). FFG OP has created some more casual-oriented events to support in-store play in the past, and I can reasonably assume they’d do the same for Descent: Legends in the Dark. It is still unclear if FFG OP would support a 1 vs. 1 competitive skirmish scene for Legends in the Dark (if a skirmish game mode is implemented in the game).
A Fresh Start
The final Star Wars sequel trilogy film, Rise of Skywalker, was released Christmas of 2019. The response of the IACP Community to the movie and the sequel trilogy films has been — how to put it nicely? — mixed: From the IACP Season Votes over 2020, our community has not shown much interest in adding characters from these movies. Again, putting it nicely — in 2020 there has been some open concern about Disney’s direction with the Star Wars franchise, not just among our community but within Star Wars fandom itself. One of the questions asked in Steve Horvath’s March 2020 interview was his opinion if the Star Wars franchise might not have the strength it once did. (He disagreed with that assessment.)
In November & December 2020, Star Wars fans got a glimpse of what Disney has planned for the next several years and I believe it was a breath of fresh air. Without getting into spoilers for those who haven’t watched it yet, Season 2 of The Mandalorian brought back some old favorites & created new storytelling opportunities in the New Republic era. During Disney’s Investor Day event in December, NINE new Star Wars projects were announced that appear to add lots of interesting content for not just the future FFG Imperial Assault game, but also for IACP. I am very excited for the Cassian Andor, Ahsoka & Rangers of the New Republic shows, along with Mandalorian Season 3 and that new show that was teased at the end of Mandalorian Season 2.
With no further IA-specific announcements, it’s difficult to know when and where FFG’s new Imperial Assault will be set in this newly-expanded Star Wars universe. The current IA is set during the Galactic Civil War, which allowed us to interact within the margins of the original movies. I predict FFG will elect to set the new IA in the New Republic era, where the titular “Imperial Assault” is from a broken Imperial machine and the players run into characters from both the original movies and build off the success of shows like The Mandalorian.
A Proprietary Problem
Given what we’ve learned so far, I feel confident predicting that the new Official IA will not have a competitive 1 vs. 1 skirmish mode. That saddens me, but if Asmodee & FFG would rather them build the new IA around a cooperative play experience, I would rather them perfect that system than try to shoehorn a 1 vs. 1 game mode. I am very much looking forward to this New Official IA and the organized play events they create to support the game; I’ll be buying it day one!
Knowing that Asmodee and Fantasy Flight Games has more IA content on the way, they will want to maintain control of Imperial Assault, their intellectual property. Our project attempts to continue skirmish play with changed and new content in Imperial Assault, their intellectual property. You can see where this is going: Eventually the IACP Steering Committee will be asked to shut the project down by Asmodee & FFG.
But I don’t think we’ll be asked to stop anytime soon.
How much time we have? If the new IA is based off the new Descent: Legends of the Dark (which is my best guess), Asmodee will likely give the new Descent game a few years to be in the spotlight as the tactical cooperative dungeon crawling game. From what we can tell, FFG has no tactical 1 vs. 1 skirmish games in development that might be similar to Imperial Assault’s skirmish mode. So long as we respect them and their IP, I think Asmodee & FFG will let us play in their sandbox for a long while.
So while we have time, I hope you join IACP in taking the next chance until the chances are spent. We’re revealing Season 5 and y’all are gonna love what we have coming up. I’m looking forward to seeing your thoughts and speculation in the comments about how you see Imperial Assault & IACP going forward. You can comment on this post, jump over to our Discord, Reddit or Zion’s Finest Slack.