A Luke Skywalker miniature from a Star Wars game.
George Lucas’ Star Wars saga—both the three great films and three really bad ones—hit Blu-Ray this past week, shattering sales records. There are few media brands as perennial and lasting as Star Wars and its licensing continues to rake in astronomical profits for Lucasfilm year in, year out. Among the slew of Star Wars memorabilia and merchandise that has been available since “Episode IV: A New Hope” released in 1977 are, of course, the many board games and card games, ranging from mass-market, cash-in items that amount to little more than simple card games with pictures of Han and Chewie slapped on them to exquisitely designed hobby market games with complex rules and challenging gameplay.
The most common Star Wars games, to be frank, really aren’t very good in terms of actual play value. When I was a kid, I loved the simple, mass-market games like the great Escape from the Death Star game I got for Christmas sometime around 1980. But as an adult gamer, the appeal of these games—beyond nostalgic memorabilia—has faded. Although some of the older Star Wars board games made in the late 1970s and 1980s have some value due to their relative scarcity and the fact that there is always a Star Wars collector around the corner somewhere, most have neither held their practical or monetary value.
However, due to the nature of licensing and the relatively limited window of availability of some of the Star Wars board games, there are a few titles that have become highly sought after and quite valuable. It’s important to note that these games also will likely never be reprinted, again due to the strictures of licensing. With that said, here is a brief tour of some of the more recent Star Wars games—mostly published with the hobby market in mind—that have not only offered enthusiasts great gameplay but that have also proven to be great investments for the value-minded collector.
Star Wars Episode I: The Queen’s Gambit
Star Wars Episode I: The Queen’s Gambit. “Better than the film- and less Jar Jar Binks.”
Published in 2000 by Avalon Hill/Hasbro, this big-box game immediately dazzles with its wealth of detailed plastic figures and a huge cardboard and plastic structure that recreates the Theed Palace from “The Phantom Menace.” Gameplay takes place across several different boards, each representing a different conflict occurring simultaneously. So you’ve got the Gungans versus the Battledroids at one level; Queen Amidala’s escape from invading forces on another; Obi-Wan and Qui-Gonn squaring off against Darth Maul in a different area; and the space battle between Trade Federation ships and Anakin’s Naboo fighter. It sounds complex, but gameplay is card- and dice-driven with fairly simple rules.
This game released at a price point of $60, which was expensive for its time, but values these days for sealed or near mint copies regularly approach $300. Even copies with lower conditional appraisals might sell for $100 or more, as many game players are more concerned with completeness and playability than the condition of the box or components. This is a high-demand title that seems to grow in stature—and value—every year.
Star Wars: Epic Duels
Star Wars: Epic Duels. “Relieve the thrilling duel between Princess Leia and Boba Fett.”
This 2002, game was widely available at mass-market retailers for around $30 when “Episode II: Attack of the Clones” was in theaters. Published by Hasbro (as most recent Star Wars games are), the game featured 31 painted miniatures representing characters both from the Prequel trilogy as well as the Original Trilogy. The game is a simple miniatures game pitting players’ teams of characters against each other in various shoot-’em-up scenarios. It’s not very canonical—Yoda versus Luke doesn’t make a whole lot of sense—but many fans loved the infinite match-ups and a rather large Internet fan community has made unofficial expansions, add-ons and extra materials for the game.
I bought a small pile of these games on clearance for five dollars a piece on clearance and I felt like I had made out like a Tusken Raider when I resold them for $50 apiece at my game shop in 2005. These days, sealed copies can fetch anywhere from $100 to $150, with $60-$75 opened and played copies not uncommon.
Star Wars Risk: Original Trilogy Edition
Star Wars Risk: Original Trilogy Edition. “Australia to Tatooine for the win.”
I reviewed Star Wars Risk: Original Trilogy Edition back in 2006 and I declared the best version of Risk I had ever played. Indeed, the game brings forward the classic game of world conquest but adds some terrific Star Wars content, including special action cards and unique victory conditions for each of the factions (Rebel Alliance, Empire and the Hutts). It’s also a rare “dudes on a map” game that plays best with three players and within a very reasonable 60-75 minute timeframe. It’s rare that one of these very mainstream, mass-market games with a license attached to it excels, but the involvement of Hasbro’s ace designer Rob Daviau (also credited with both The Queen’s Gambit and Epic Duels) ensured a well-designed, highly thematic version of the classic game.
Aftermarket sales for new copies have gone as high as $140—not a bad five year appreciation for a game that was about $30 off the shelf. Used copies seem to have a $50 floor and only go up from there. There is also an earlier Clone Wars edition of Risk, and it too fetches prices in the $100 range.
While it may take some hunting, these came can be found much more easily than finding a working Dejarik game and board [those in the know will know – Editor].
Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.
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