Grabbing cargo and taking it across the map is typical “pick up and deliver,” which was perfected decades ago by Merchants of Venus. Even combat and skill tests use those dice we’ve rolled before in X-Wing. The only significant twist here is jettisoning the typical board and instead utilizing an odd cardboard arch.
There is some positive here in that the hyperspace lanes you move along are constricted to few branching vectors. This causes more congestion as you collide with NPC patrols, though it can also result in frustration as the only available jobs require you travel to the other side of the rim with no shortcut. More impactful is the claustrophobic atmosphere this board creates, which severely blunts the “vastness of space” feel.
Designer: Corey Konieczka, Tony Fanchi
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Playing time: 120-180 minutes
The goal here was obviously to streamline this type of game. Instead of each planet possessing its own teeming economy, we have a single central market. There are decks with bounties, jobs, modifications, and new ship models. Each offers a single top card which can be purchased, after which the reveal of new cards prompts ship movements from the AI-controlled patrols working for the Rebels, the Hutts, etc.
The philosophy here is ace. Letting players fly where they want and pursue their goals while minimizing upkeep is a worthy goal, and Outer Rim is a simple and straightforward design because of this. Unfortunately, it’s still a three-hour affair at higher player counts, and the experience offered is not nearly as rich or evocative as it needs to be. The game’s commitment to a middle ground would have benefited from a sharply reduced playing—or going the opposite direction and leaning into a much stronger narrative.
Star Wars as a property is often overshadowed by its big players and events. It would have been grand to see more compelling setting elements such as factions at war, the exploding of worlds by Death Star, or branching plot elements. Foregoing that for this sense of streamlining is fine, but not when the experience will consume most of the night anyway.
Additionally, the hard edges of the genre have all been sanded off here. You can’t directly fight another player unless they’ve employed a character you have a bounty for or you’ve acquired a rare event card that permits aggression. Paths to victory are similarly restricted compared to more sandbox designs such as the aforementioned Xia. Late in the game, you will often just take the path of least resistance, such as hunting the many patrols littered across the board.
This is Star Wars and Star Wars is not dull. Outer Rim loses sight of this.
That’s not to say that nothing inspires here. The personal goals for each character and ship are compelling. They offer alternate directions, such as winning combats or acquiring ship mods. Additionally, the numbered card library that originally appeared in Fallout: The Board Game returns. This is an enjoyable mechanism that injects surprising intermittent narrative twists. You will head to the deck when encountering contacts such as Greedo or when resolving a complicated job which requires multiple skill tests.
And those story-driven tests are the sweetest moments in the game. You will roll the dice and hope for success—with odds modified by your crew’s skills—before moving on to the next test. For instance, while attempting to hijack a cargo hauler, you first must board the vessel with a pilot check. Next you must rely on your technical acumen to slice the target’s terminal. Finally, you will get into a bloody shootout with the guards on board and either make it away with the goods or roar in anguish. Failure at each step leading to the climax usually results in damage to a ship or character. This is a neat and functional narrative system that conveys story in small and colorful chunks.
There is also a quaint joy in flying about the rim pursuing bounties in the Moldy Crow with 4-LOM riding shotgun. Star Wars has its own magical pull, and the designers have certainly peppered references and color throughout.
Perhaps the best thing found in this box is the included solo (as in solitaire, not Harrison Ford) mode. This makes great sense since the game does not hinge on player interaction; a simple automated opponent is handled via cards, and you can focus on your personal story with little downtime.
Alas, none of it is quite enough. It’s difficult to envisage a day when you’d be better off getting this to the table as opposed to its more significant peers. It cuts an hour or so off the length of Firefly, but it pales in comparison to the daring quality of Merchants & Marauders or Xia.
In a crowded market with a continual onslaught of new releases, you really have to offer something special, and Outer Rim feels content to parrot the success of others. This is ultimately Star Wars, quiet and tame.