It’s happened to you. It’s happened to all of us at some point.
You only need to kill off that last figure with one health point left and you’ll win the match. Just one damage is all that needs to get through.
You roll. 5 damage and 2 surges. Yes.
The defender’s die bounces on the table. The white die clatters around for far too long. As it finally slows you see the blank side face the heavans and releif washes over you. But it’s not done rolling, it tips over one last time and staring straight into your soul is the DODGE symbol.
No damage. Sorry. Better luck next time.
Or maybe you where the defender in the above situation on the other side of that exchange. A wave of terror at the fact that your key figure was about to get destroyed. Fear turns into resignation which then gets replaced by overwhelping joy when you see that silly little X come up.
Some people think that the Dodge result is a broken game element or a negative play experience (these people continue nonetheless to keep playing Imperial Assault but whatever). That’s a fair argument as it has an incredible power to simply say “nah” to attack dice, which can feel unfair at times.
While strong, the Dodge is not unbalanced. You have to look at the other dice in the game, as well as the figures that get access to the white die and their stats. All of these things factor into why the Dodge isn’t broken. Most people know this. But this isn’t what makes the Dodge one of the most unique elements of Imperial Assault.
One of the most amazing properties of the Dodge result in Imperial Assault is that out of everything in the game, it seems to be the source of the most extreme emotions felt by players on both ends of the spectrum. Nothing else in the game can quite make you feel the broad range of emotions as the Dodge. That little X unleashes emotions every time it shows its face. The higher the stakes, the higher the emotional punch that 1 in 6 face packs.
That’s reason number one why the Dodge is a fantastic element to this incredible game. It injects much more emotion than the game would otherwise have. The Dodge creates memories. The stronger an emotion, the more it’ll stick in your brain after a game.But you’re not always on the positive end of the Dodge. How is it supposed to be good when you’re the one attacking? It’s only terrible if you neglect reason number 2 why the Dodge is a great element to Imperial Assault.
Reason number 2 is simply this: It’s unpredictable. It’s silly. It’s a wildcard. It’s outrageous. It can win you the game. It can lose you the game.
It’s like the Ewoks.
Like them or not, Ewoks are a part of Star Wars. They’re silly. No matter how seriously you take Star Wars, you have to remember it has some silly elements. It’s meant to be a bit whimsical at times. And that’s great. Same goes for Imperial Assault. If you’re taking the game incredibly seriously, you’re missing the point of it.
The Dodge is like Ewoks in that it’s silly. It’s a questionable design choice but in the end it works. It’s divided fans. Some love it, some hate it with little middle ground. It takes some seriousness away and adds some levity.
People are always going to be taking Star Wars seriously, and people will always be taking Imperial Assault seriously. And they should. I do. A lot of us do. But the Dodge, like Ewoks, is a reminder that even the things we take most seriously and are most passionate about have some silly elements that are just out of our control.
This lack of control is likely what irritates many players about the Dodge. But that same lack of control can be liberating and exciting if you let it be.
It’s on you whether you embrace those elements for what they are; an integral part of that thing you love, or spend time being hostile towards it.
When my opponent rolls a Dodge I’d rather laugh at his luck or my misfortune than let it ruin my experience. The Dodge result adds extra drama and suspense to the narrative of the game and that’s something I look forward to and dread each time I play. It’s fantastic.
X happens, and Imperial Assault is better for it.
P.S. After this article went up I got a reply on Twitter about it that I felt should be shared here:
@TheJodoCast Speaking as one of the designers, (and the one who suggested moving it from the attack die in Descent.) thank you for this!
— Jonathan Ying (@Fancymancer) September 14, 2016