Posted by: gschloesser | July 29, 2011

Clash of the Light Sabers

Design by:  Craig Van Ness
Published by:  Hasbro
2 Players, 20 – 30 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser

Editor’s Note:  This review also appears in Counter magazine Issue # 7.

The box cries, “Recreate Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul’s Epic Duel to the Finish!”  Hey, I’m not even a Star Wars fan (in fact, I haven’t even seen Episode 1 yet), but thanks to the incredible media blitz surrounding the Episode 1 movie, even I know who these two guys are.  It comes to no surprise that there would be an avalanche of movie tie-in products, including several board and card games.  Almost without fail, movie tie-in games are incredibly lame and quickly fill the shelves of thrift and charity stores. 

Well, this trend has been interrupted.  Clash of the Lightsabers is actually an entertaining and reasonably engaging card game for two players.  What makes this all the more amazing is that it has been released by Hasbro, the toy and game giant from whom we’ve come to expect nothing but mindless drivel.  One can only hope that this is not merely an aberration, bur rather the first step in what could be a journey to more challenging and stimulating adult-oriented games.

Don’t get me wrong.  Clash of the Lightsabers is not the pinnacle of adult gaming.  It is, however, leaps and bounds beyond what we’ve come to expect from Hasbro (or just about any other mainstream American game company).  Kudos to game designer Craig Van Ness (who, by the way, is unfortunately NOT credited anywhere on the game box or rulebook) for a decent game … AND for convincing Hasbro to release it.

The game is very simple.  It does bear some similarities with Caesar & Cleopatra and Lost Cities, two other simple yet engaging two player card games.  One player represents Qui-Gon Ginn, the legendary Jedi Knight, while the other player represents Darth Maul, the epitome of evil.  The object of the game is to win four rounds of battle, successfully vanquishing your opponent.

Each player has an identical deck of battle cards.  Well, identical as to their strength and special abilities, but the wording has been changed on each deck to make it more appropriate to the particular character being played.   Cards consist of attack cards, which range in value from 1 – 5, and special action cards.  The special action cards allow a player to perform various special functions, including drawing extra cards into his hand, blocking a card played by your opponent, doubling the value of your cards played this round, etc.  The timing of when to play these cards is a major part of the strategy involved in the game.

At the beginning of each round, each player lays three cards face down, one for each of the three rounds of battle in a turn.  Each round is completed before progressing to the next round.  Players reveal the card laid for the first round and the player who has laid the lowest attack card then has the option of adding more cards to his attack in hopes of winning the battle.  If he opts to do so, he must play cards which then brings his total greater than that of his opponent, or play special action cards.  The opponent now has the opportunity to play cards.  This procedure continues until one player opts not to play any further cards, thereby conceding that round of combat.  Play then proceeds to the next round of combat and then to the third and final round.

If a player wins two of the three rounds in a battle, he moves his figure (there are two very detailed pewter figures included in the game) up one notch on the dueling track.  If he sweeps all three rounds of the battle, he advances his figure two spaces on the track.  One needs to advance four spaces to capture the victory.

Once one cycle of three battles is completed, a new round is begun.  Players receive seven new cards each round, so if they conserved a few from the previous battles, they will have a larger arsenal of cards for the upcoming conflicts.   Knowing when to concede a battle and conserve your remaining cards is an important element of play.

Proper card management is essential in the game.  One has seven cards to allocate over three rounds of battle.  Picking which round(s) to commit your cards and which to concede is an important decision.  The special action cards are also very important as they can give you new cards, nullify cards played by your opponent, double the value of your cards played, etc.  Timing the play of these is an essential key to victory.

As with any card game, luck of the draw can have an impact.  However, since each player has identical decks and the game will last a number of rounds, it has been my experience that the ‘luck of the draw’ evens out very nicely.  The loser of the match really can’t blame his loss on not getting the right cards!

A full game of Clash of the Lightsabers takes about 20 minutes.  It is an entertaining twenty minutes of matching wits with an opponent.  The release of such a game as this, plus the news of their plans for Avalon Hill, gives me hope that Hasbro may, indeed, be interested in the adult strategy game market.  Let’s hope that this isn’t too much to ask for.



  1. Played 2 times years ago. I agree with Greg. light fun that generally balanced out by the end of each game. (6/10)

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