Star Wars: Legion Getting Started: The Galactic Empire

What Is the Empire?

The Galactic Empire is a brutal dictatorship that replaced the Galactic Republic at the end of the Clone Wars. Led by Emperor Palpatine and his right hand, Darth Vader, the Empire rules through fear and violence, giving the entire galaxy the choice to join or die. The oppressive nature of the Empire would lead to the eventual deaths of Palpatine and Vader at the Battle of Endor and the Empire’s overthrow at the hands of the Rebel Alliance.

After Endor, what was left of the Empire would divide into splinter groups and petty kingdoms. One of the more notable examples was Moff Gideon’s Imperial Remnant, which controlled much of the Outer Rim from its base of operations on Mandalore. The Outer Rim’s distance from civilization allowed Gideon to escape the notice of the New Republic, the government formed by the successful Rebels, until he ran afoul of Din Djarin and Luke Skywalker. The Empire would rise and fall again years later, but that time period isn’t covered by Star Wars: Legion so finding out the details of that is left as an exercise to you, the reader.

Essential Media

The Original Trilogy – The oldest of old-school Star Wars, the original trilogy is still the best place to see the Empire in all its glory. Most of the units everyone knows and loves come from the OT, especially after the Special Editions added even more things like Dewback Riders in Tatooine.

Andor/Rogue One – The show Andor and movie Rogue One combine to show a different, more grounded version of the Empire. We get to see Imperial intelligence officers, riot police, and a whole lot of the Empire’s internal politics, giving us a reminder that while the Emperor himself may be the ultimate evil, a lot of the more common, everyday oppressive acts are performed by people just like you and me.

Rebels – A fun cartoon that deals with the fallout from the Prequel Trilogy, as the Empire attempts to consolidate their hold on the galaxy and hunt down any remnants of the Jedi order. Tons of cameos, a lot of fan favorites from the extended Star Wars universe appear here.

The Mandalorian – Check out The Mandalorian for what happens to the Empire after the Battle of Endor. The Imperial Remnant and Moff Gideon feature heavily in the show.

Star Wars Legion Empire Shoretroopers. Credit: Magos Sockbert
Star Wars Legion Empire Shoretroopers. Credit: Magos Sockbert

How Do They Play?

The “traditional” way to play Empire is by deploying a fairly static gunline consisting of models like Shoretroopers with their Mortar Emplacement, Stormtroopers and Scout sniper teams and using that line to control the battlefield. You can sit in heavy cover at range 3-4 and force your opponent to come to you while you shoot at them and rely on your good defensive saves to keep you safe. If you go this route make sure you pick objectives to match. Think Key Positions, Intercept the Transmissions and Hostage Exchange as opposed to Bombing Run or Breakthrough, which require a lot of movement. 

Another way to play Empire that’s pretty popular is to lean into their access to vehicles and units with armor. AT-STs, Dark Troopers, and even the occasional LAAT/LE transport can make life hard for opponents who aren’t prepared for it. Speeder Bikes are amazing units for Bombing Run and any other objectives that benefit from the ability to sneak onto a point at the last second.

Strengths

  • Relatively easy access to Range 4 shooting. The Empire has a ton of choices for Range 4+ shooting, including Shoretroopers w/Mortar, Stormtroopers with any number of heavy weapon upgrades, Bossk, Inferno Squad Members, Scout snipers, etc. You can always find a long range gun to fit whatever need you have for one.
  • Suppressive weapons. Suppressive weapons go hand-in-hand with the gunline focus of the Empire. Concentrating fire on one or two units can load them up with suppression tokens and leave them taking fewer actions or panicking entirely.
  • Good armored units. Some might say their armored units are TOO good, as Dark Troopers had to go through a round of nerfs to tune them down to merely good instead of game-breaking. Between AT-STs and Dark Troopers, the Empire has access to some of the best armored units in the game, in quantities no other faction can match.
  • Access to a huge range of units. From Dewback Riders to Death Troopers, the Empire has it all. You can run gunlines, Sith, Bounty Hunters, lists where your entire army is pushed forward across the table on turn two, pretty much whatever you want. Not all of these lists will be any good, but they exist!

Weaknesses

  • Expensive units. It’s pretty difficult for Empire players to play a lot of cheap, unupgraded units and stay effective. Most units need an additional weapon or other upgrades to do their job effectively, so getting past ten units is fairly difficult and the sweet spot is closer to nine, or maybe even eight.
  • Can get outshot by more efficient gunlines. The Empire is a “fair” army without any real army-wide special rules, so they can be outshot by armies that do have that extra boost. Clone armies with the ability to share a whole bunch of aim and dodge tokens can be particularly difficult to shift.
  • A fair amount of units that just aren’t great. Part of being around since the very beginning of the game is the fact that while the game evolves over time, specific units may not, and this has happened a bunch to the Empire. Units like the LAAT and Occupier tank never really found a niche to begin with, but there are units like Dewback Riders who were once staples in a particular type of aggressive Empire list that were just completely ruined by changes to the core rules of the game.

Boba Fett Credit: LunarNight

How Do I Get Into Them?

There are two discounted/value options for starting an Empire army: The Core Set, which is a 2-player starter set that has Empire, Rebels, and everything you need to play the game, and the Blizzard Force Battleforce box which contains a ton of models for playing the Blizzard Force Hoth-themed list and nothing else. The Battleforce box needs to be paired with the Essentials Kit and one or two packs of dice to have all the stuff you need to actually play the game. 

The Core Set contains 2 units of Stormtroopers, 1 unit of Speeder Bikes, and Commander Darth Vader. You also get 8 barricades, which will be useful both in general and if you play a game with the Fortified Positions condition, and a set of dice and measuring tools. I’d recommend buying the Core Set if you want more of a blank slate to build from, or the Blizzard Force box if you would like to play that theme force until you expand your collection. Keep in mind that you might end up buying the core set anyway if you start with Blizzard Force as it’s a cheap way to get Stormtroopers to use as your Heavy Response Units and another unit of Speeder Bikes.

In either case, consider purchasing the Vital Assets or Priority Supplies expansions to get more options for your battle deck after you’ve played with the initial batch of cards for a while.

What’s the Battleforce?

The Blizzard Force Battleforce is meant to represent the group that assaulted the Rebel base on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. The Battleforce roster consists of (models contained in the Battleforce box are italicized):

  • Commander: Darth Vader, General Veers, Imperial Officer
  • Troops: Snowtroopers, Stormtroopers, Stormtroopers (Heavy Response Unit)
  • Support: E-Web Heavy Blaster Team, 74-Z Speeder Bikes
  • Heavy: AT-ST

In the Blizzard Force box you get 3 units of Snowtroopers and 2 units of Speeder Bikes to go along with Vader and an AT-ST. If you load up every unit in the box with upgrades you can get really close to 800 points out of it, giving you a full roster. It won’t be a great army, but it will be more than enough to let you play full games and learn how everything works. You can also start with a 500 point skirmish army, but that’s a pretty different thing and will be covered in its own article. Here is a sample list using everything in the Blizzard Force box:

Blizzard Force Box Only

765/800

Darth Vader (220)

 – Improvised Orders (5)

 – Force Push (10)

 – Saber Throw (5)

 – Burst of Speed (10)

Snowtroopers (71)

 – Flametrooper (20)

 – Recon Intel (2)

 – Fragmentation Grenades (5)

Snowtroopers (73)

 – T-7 Ion Snowtrooper (18)

 – Electrobinoculars (8)

 – Smoke Grenades (3)

Snowtroopers (73)

 – T-7 Ion Snowtrooper (18)

 – Electrobinoculars (8)

 – Smoke Grenades (3)

74-Z Speeder Bikes (74)

 – Emergency Transponder (4)

74-Z Speeder Bikes (74)

 – Emergency Transponder (4)

AT-ST (180)

 – General Weiss (5)

 – 88 Twin Light Blaster Cannon (10)

 – AT-ST Mortar Launcher (5)

 – Linked Targeting Array (5)

Commands:

  • Implacable
  • Unrelenting Fire
  • •New Ways to Motivate Them
  • •Overwhelming Barrage
  • ••Master of Evil
  • ••Coordinated Fire
  • •••Standing Orders

Battle Deck

Objectives:

 – Breakthrough

 – Intercept the Transmissions

 – Key Positions

 – Recover the Supplies

Deployments:

 – Battle Lines

 – Disarray

 – The Long March

 – Major Offensive

Conditions:

 – Clear Conditions

 – Hostile Environment

 – Limited Visibility

 – Rapid Reinforcements

A thing I would ask you to consider when you want to expand this army is getting the models from the core set, either by splitting the set with a friend who wants to play rebels, getting them second hand, or buying the standalone releases. Right now in the USA you can get the models in their retail standalone release form for about 70 bucks, and it’s cheaper if you go one of the other routes. This purchase significantly improves your army options, letting you take advantage of the unique Stormtroopers in the battleforce and giving you another set of bikes.

Blizzard Force and Core Set

795/800

Stormtroopers (76)

 – DLT-19 Stormtrooper (20)

 – HH-12 Stormtrooper (16)

Stormtroopers (76)

 – DLT-19 Stormtrooper (20)

 – HH-12 Stormtrooper (16)

Darth Vader (223)

 – Aggressive Tactics (15)

 – Anger (3)

 – Saber Throw (5)

 – Force Push (10)

74-Z Speeder Bikes (70)

74-Z Speeder Bikes (70)

74-Z Speeder Bikes (70)

Snowtroopers (70)

 – T-7 Ion Snowtrooper (18)

 – Electrobinoculars (8)

Snowtroopers (70)

 – T-7 Ion Snowtrooper (18)

 – Electrobinoculars (8)

Snowtroopers (70)

 – T-7 Ion Snowtrooper (18)

 – Electrobinoculars (8)

Commands:

  • Implacable
  • Unrelenting Fire
  • •New Ways to Motivate Them
  • •Overwhelming Barrage
  • ••Master of Evil
  • ••Coordinated Fire
  • •••Standing Orders

Battle Deck

Objectives:

 – Breakthrough

 – Intercept the Transmissions

 – Key Positions

 – Recover the Supplies

Deployments:

 – Battle Lines

 – Disarray

 – The Long March

 – Major Offensive

Conditions:

 – Clear Conditions

 – Hostile Environment

 – Limited Visibility

 – Rapid Reinforcements

Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith Credit: LunarNight

What about other cool units?

The ‘Rogue One’ collection 

  • Shoretroopers: A staple corps unit for the Empire, Shoretroopers are a lot like Stormtroopers, but with a slightly different loadout. They don’t get as many heavy weapon upgrades but they have a better default gun, get aim tokens easily, and they give you access to the DF-90 Mortar Trooper which is one of the cheapest ways to get an activation in the faction.
  • Death Troopers: They’re a bit expensive so you don’t see them a whole lot, but they’re great accompanying Krennic or in an Imperial Remnant list where you need to take them for battleforce rule reasons. They get a free range 4 gun that can reconfigure into a pretty deadly range 2 gun, giving them some flexibility, and the precise and disciplined keywords make them powerful.
  • Director Orson Krennic: An underrated commander, Krennic brings some good support options to an Empire army. He can compel friendly models, giving you some good strategies for dealing with objectives like Hostage Exchange. He can always give a unit of Death Troopers a face up order, which will trigger their disciplined keyword and keep them unsuppressed. His command cards are pretty fun too, with effects you don’t see a ton of other places. Dropping 1-2 suppression on every trooper on the battlefield can be backbreaking if you’ve planned for it and your opponent hasn’t.

Bounty Hunters

  • Boba Fett: Boba Fett is a great model, and you can build an entire list around him and his command cards. He does a ton of damage, he’s survivable, super mobile, everything you want in a character model.His only real downside is that you have to buy a second version of him (a Book of Boba Fett version) that doesn’t work for the Empire to get access to all of his command cards.
  • Bossk: Bossk helps the empire dominate the ranged shooting game with his great range 4 gun and native surge to crit. He’s also got a fun command card that lets him shoot twice in a single activation, which is an extremely rare ability.
  • Cad Bane: Cad Bane is a fun, tricky piece with a unique deployment setup. Instead of choosing to deploy him normally, you can place three tokens on the battlefield. One is nothing, one is where Cad Bane will appear when an enemy gets close, and one is a fairly powerful bomb. After he pops up out of nowhere, Cad is a pretty powerful close range combatant, and he can really shut units down with his electro gauntlets upgrade.

The Emperor and Friends 

  • Palpatine: Palpatine is a very unique force user, hanging back and using force barrier and his Imperial Royal Guards to avoid taking damage until the turn you play And Now… You Will Die and he single-handedly takes out half of the enemy forces. While you’re preparing for that, he can use his Pulling the Strings ability to give someone a free move or attack action. Pair him with someone like Bossk and and that’s an incredibly powerful ability.
  • Imperial Royal Guards: The Royal Guards are here to do exactly one thing: keep your centerpiece model (probably Palpatine) alive.They have Guardian 2, which lets you cancel 2 hit results against another model that’s being attacked, and if you give them the Protector card they can also cancel critical results. They’re not going to kill anything, but that’s not their job.
  • Operative Vader: Take Commander Vader and make him faster and sleeker and you get Operative Vader. You lose out on some flexibility and support options, but in exchange he’s cheaper, moves further, and can take a different suite of upgrades that enhances his combat abilities. Proper use of his command cards and some upgrades like Into the Fray and Tenacity make him both durable and deadly, and ensure that you won’t miss the one extra red die Commander Vader has on his lightsaber attacks.

Star Wars Legion Palpatine and Imperial Guard. Credit: Magos Sockbert
Star Wars Legion Palpatine and Imperial Guard. Credit: Magos Sockbert

How About Some Sample Lists?

These are not meant to be competitive lists, just a variety of options to show off all the cool things you can do with the Empire in Legion. A lot of competitive lists involve running multiple copies of the same efficient units, so I’ve tried to avoid that here to some extent.

Of course, I say that I’m trying to avoid spam and then give you a Rogue One example list with three units of Shoretroopers. Nobody’s perfect. This list is just units that appeared in the Rogue One film, making it a heavy theme list. It aims to shoot everyone from afar while your Occupier tank attempts to draw fire.

Rogue One Units

794/800

Director Orson Krennic (95)

 – Aggressive Tactics (15)

 – Strict Orders (5)

Imperial Death Troopers (108)

 – DLT-19D Trooper (30)

 – Hunter (6)

 – E-11D Configuration (0)

Shoretroopers (84)

 – T-21B Trooper (32)

Shoretroopers (101)

 – T-21B Trooper (32)

 – Imperial Officer (17)

Shoretroopers (93)

 – T-21B Trooper (32)

 – R4 Astromech Droid (9)

DF-90 Mortar Trooper (45)

 – Linked Targeting Array (5)

DF-90 Mortar Trooper (45)

 – Linked Targeting Array (5)

DF-90 Mortar Trooper (45)

 – Linked Targeting Array (5)

Occupier Combat Assault Tank (178)

 – Imperial Hammers Elite Armor Pilot (10)

 – DLT-19 Rifle Pintle (18)

 – HQ Uplink (10)

Commands:

  • ••Annihilation Looms
  • ••Coordinated Fire
  • •Deploy the Garrison
  • •Push
  • Covert Observation
  • Ambush
  • •••Standing Orders

Battle Deck

Objectives:

 – Intercept the Transmissions

 – Key Positions

 – Hostage Exchange

 – Payload

Deployments:

 – Battle Lines

 – The Long March

 – Major Offensive

 – Advanced Positions

Conditions:

 – Fortified Positions

 – Supply Drop

 – Hostile Environment

 – Rapid Reinforcements

This is a take on the “double bounty” archetype, where you build a list around a pair of bounty hunters, mostly focusing on supporting them. It runs Boba Fett and Bossk, giving you a long range attacker and someone who can dominate the center of the table. Kallus as commander gives you the Contingency ability, which lets you leverage the gigantic number of command cards Bossk and Boba bring with them.

Boba/Bossk Double Bounty

798/800

Agent Kallus (90)

 – J-19 Bo-rifle Staff (5)

Imperial Officer (63)

 – Underworld Connections (5)

 – Electrobinoculars (8)

Boba Fett (148)

 – Up Close and Personal (8)

 – Hunter (6)

 – Targeting Scopes (4)

Bossk (115)

 – Hunter (6)

 – Targeting Scopes (4)

Stormtroopers (76)

 – RT-97C Stormtrooper (24)

 – Electrobinoculars (8)

Stormtroopers (76)

 – RT-97C Stormtrooper (24)

 – Electrobinoculars (8)

Shoretroopers (71)

 – FX-9 Medical Droid (19)

DF-90 Mortar Trooper (45)

 – Linked Targeting Array (5)

Imperial Special Forces (114)

 – Gideon Hask (29)

 – Offensive Push (6)

 – Hunter (6)

 – Prepared Supplies (5)

Commands:

  • Whipcord Launcher
  • •Reptilian Rampage
  • ••Z-6 Jetpack Rocket
  • ••Ruthless Tactics
  • A Simple Man
  • •Push
  • •••Standing Orders

Contingencies:

  • ••Lying In Wait
  • •ISB Investigation

Battle Deck

Objectives:

 – Intercept the Transmissions

 – Key Positions

 – Hostage Exchange

 – Payload

Deployments:

 – Battle Lines

 – The Long March

 – Major Offensive

 – Advanced Positions

Conditions:

 – Fortified Positions

 – Supply Drop

 – Hostile Environment

 – Rapid Reinforcements

Finally, we have a list built around Palpatine, because he’s pretty cool and gives you some fun tricks to play with. Use Palpatine to make Bossk twice as good on most turns until you suddenly rush him forward and drop the enemy team. Everyone else is here to play objectives and keep your focus pieces alive.

Palpatine and Bossk

795/800

Emperor Palpatine (213)

 – Anger (3)

 – Burst of Speed (10)

 – Force Barrier (10)

Bossk (111)

 – Hunter (6)

Stormtroopers (83)

 – DLT-19 Stormtrooper (20)

 – FX-9 Medical Droid (19)

Stormtroopers (83)

 – DLT-19 Stormtrooper (20)

 – FX-9 Medical Droid (19)

Imperial Royal Guards (74)

 – Protector (5)

Imperial Royal Guards (74)

 – Protector (5)

Shoretroopers (52)

DF-90 Mortar Trooper (45)

 – Linked Targeting Array (5)

Stormtroopers (60)

 – HH-12 Stormtrooper (16)

Commands:

  • And Now You Will Die
  • •Give In To Your Anger
  • ••An Entire Legion
  • ••Lying In Wait
  • •Reptilian Rampage
  • Ambush
  • •••Standing Orders

Battle Deck

Objectives:

 – Intercept the Transmissions

 – Key Positions

 – Hostage Exchange

 – Payload

Deployments:

 – Battle Lines

 – The Long March

 – Major Offensive

 – Advanced Positions

Conditions:

 – Fortified Positions

 – Supply Drop

 – Hostile Environment

 – Rapid Reinforcements