#913 – Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace

Base price: $15.
2 – 6 players.
Play time: ~20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 2

Full disclosure: A review copy of Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace was provided by Z-Man Games.

I’ve been seeing a few Love Letter-adjacent titles starting to emerge, and as a Lost Legacy fan, I’m always keeping an eye out for that to come back (it’s not coming back). In the meantime, though, I still have Infinity Gauntlet to try, though I will say after a few plays it’s interesting! I just need to spend more time with it because there’s something to being Thanos and to not being Thanos, and all perspectives are worth exploring. Z-Man has come out with another Love Letter Game, this time taking place in the Star Wars universe. Let’s see what happens when we get into Jabba’s Palace!

In Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace, the Rebels have infiltrated the headquarters of the crime lord Jabba the Hutt, ostensibly to recover Han Solo, frozen in Carbonite. However, the Palace has many secrets and many dangers beyond just a singular Hutt. Keep an eye out for the ever-changing Agendas, stay hidden, and you might be able to do better than survive: you might come out on top! Will you be able to get what you want from the palace?

Contents

Setup

It’s a Love Letter game; nothing too bad, here. Set aside the tokens, for now:

Choose a random Agenda Card, placing it face-up:

Use “Exalted One” for your first game.

Shuffle up the cards:

Deal each player one card, and then set one card from the top of the deck face-down. You should be ready to start!

Gameplay

In Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace, players work to eliminate their rivals and rescue their friends over several rounds, earning tokens as they do so.

On your turn, you draw a card and play a card from your hand, face-up, resolving its effect. Various cards have various effects, but every card has an affiliation: either Rebel or Palace. Cards may eliminate other players, let you see their hands, let you trade hands, or even protect you from other players’ cards’ effects.

During the round, you might get knocked out. When that happens, discard your hand face-up. You’re out of the round and cannot play any more cards (or be affected by card effects). Your turn is skipped for the rest of the round.

When the deck runs out, determine a winner based on the current Agenda! If all players but one are eliminated before the deck runs out, that player wins the round! They gain a token and a new round starts. Play until any player has earned enough victory tokens to win:

  • 2 players: 6 tokens
  • 3 players: 5 tokens
  • 4 players: 4 tokens
  • 5 players: 3 tokens
  • 6 players: 3 tokens

Multiple players can win the game at the same time!

Player Count Differences

For most Love Letter games, I generally don’t recommend playing with just two players. It’s fine, but part of the fun is the high-chaos play that generally happens with three or more. Granted, a lot of games eventually get to two players, anyways, but starting there isn’t necessarily my favorite. Given that my favorite card in Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace is the multiple-player-eliminating Rancor, that still holds true, here. I think there’s a lot of fun in deciding which player to go after and who to mess with and how to use the information that other players have leaked as they play. You just don’t get as much of that in a two-player game; you kind of just get a good hit in and the round’s over. I will say that the entropy can often work against players, granted, but it’s fun to see who comes out ahead in all the chaos. To that end, I’d probably most enthusiastically recommend Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace with more than two players. It’s not bad at two; it’s just better with more.

Strategy

  • Keep in mind that Bib Fortuna doesn’t protect you against the Rancor. Bib’s ability prevents other players from targeting you specifically. If a card is played that targets all players indiscriminately, you can still be affected by that. The Rancor just eliminates the player with the lowest card in hand, which could very well be you. So watch out for that!
  • On the Rancor, also remember that you can eliminate yourself, if you’re not careful. This is pretty funny when it happens, but it’s possible. If you play the Rancor and you’ve got a 4 in hand, but the other players have 4 / 5 / 6, you and the player with a 4 are both losing. It’s embarrassing when it happens, so try to make sure that you don’t accidentally feed yourself to the Rancor.
  • Mercenary + Jabba the Hutt is an unbeatable hand, if you play the Mercenary, but be careful! If you play the Mercenary with Jabba, you instantly defeat whatever player you go up against. The problem is, if that player has Luke Skywalker (the 7) in hand, then you’ve just signaled to every player that you have a card that can beat a 7 (namely, the 8). Watch out for how much information you leak when you play the Mercenary.
  • Holding on to Han Solo is generally a not-bad idea, though you’ll get wrecked by the Mercenary. If you can survive until the end, fantastic! But if the Mercenary ever targets you, you’re out, no matter what card they have in hand. That said, most players don’t necessarily expect someone to be holding Han Solo, so, that might work in your favor?
  • Look for situations in which players accidentally leak information about the cards in their hand because of how they play. The thing I mentioned earlier about the Mercenary and Jabba is one thing, but for instance, a player playing Han Solo might mean that they drew the Mercenary and don’t want to lose. You can often identify (or at least narrow down) the cards that your opponent gets or draws if you watch what they play and how they play. That can work in your favor!
  • If you’re not sure who to pick on, pick on the player who goes before you; the other players will have the best opportunities to act on any information you collectively get before that player’s next turn. If you look at their hand or make them discard a card or something, it takes the longest for their turn to happen again, so you might be able to get your opponents to gang up on them. For instance, if you target them with the Guard, everyone knows they don’t have the card you indicated if you guess wrong. Other players might be able to succeed where you failed, since you provided a little information.
  • Look to cards that have already been played; that will help you decide what cards have the highest probability of being in your opponents’ hands. You absolutely should be counting cards that you see and checking their counts on your player reference. If you know a card has no chance of being in another player’s hand, don’t guess it! Use the information you have to your advantage.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • The Rancor is the best card. I won’t be taking questions at this time. I just like that you really have no idea who is safe when you play it. I think that’s delightful. Also, the slow upward creep of multiple people being nervous that their card is coming up and being able to eliminate multiple players at the same time? It’s all great. One of my favorite cards in any Love Letter-adjacent game.
  • The Agenda cards changing the end-of-round tiebreaker circumstances are great. I really like them! I think they work better with more players, since you’re more likely to actually hit the end of the round, but in the moment, it’s super fun to have to try and prioritize more than just having the highest card left in your hand at the end of the round. It makes how you play different than how you’d play Love Letter, and offers a nice distinction from the core game.
  • The art on the cards is fun. I like that everyone has their Bounty Hunter outfits on.
  • We all love the carbonite Han Solo is in this game. He’s just working really hard. Carbonite Han Solo is also just generally one of the funnier things in Star Wars, for me. Yeah, we just froze this guy in metal to make a point.
  • The tokens and bag are both pleasant. I always like the bags they use for the Love Letter games, and this one is also particularly nice in color and texture.
  • This game also plays very quickly. It’s a Love Letter game, so it moves fast. The entire game is “draw a card, play a card”, and once you’ve got the cards down (which, to be fair, can take a while), you can make it through the game pretty quickly.
  • Salacious Crumb being in this game is deeply stupid. I love it. A deeply unnecessary and silly addition to the game, but hey, everyone needs a muppet of some kind. I wonder if there’s a Muppet Love Letter? Worth considering. But yeah, there’s no point to Salacious Crumb, and I’m glad he’s getting a minor spotlight.
  • I really like how this feels both familiar to the Love Letter brand while still being a novel and clever game in its own right. They’ve been doing a lot of good work lately with changing up the Love Letter games so they’re not just straight art rethemes, and I’ve been loving that. The Marvel one was surprisingly good as well, with its many-versus-one gameplay. Just a lot of cool innovation happening in the space, and that’s nice to see.

Mehs

  • Having faction-specific elimination criteria makes the eliminations a bit more variable, which can lead to rounds where you get knocked out early and then don’t have much to do for a little while. It’s interesting to have faction-specific elimination criteria (knocking out a player if they have a Rebel / Palace card [or one above or below a certain value]), but the newer cards being fairly elimination-focused does mean that at higher player counts you might be sitting out for a little bit, which can be mildly annoying. Thankfully, it’s not too annoying; again, it’s a short game.

Cons

  • The one major issue with having two different factions is that it does make your first several games harder to learn. Even though the characters are intuitive, they’re slightly different, and you have to learn and internalize them all. There are essentially twice as many types of cards as there are in standard Love Letter, and they all have abilities and tweaks. My biggest issue is that they tend to use the Rebel / Palace icons (rather than using both, since they’re only one word), and that iconography can confuse some new players. Either way, you’re learning a lot more cards on the fly, which may slow down the first few plays.

Overall: 7.5 / 10

Overall, I think Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace is a solid, entertaining entry in the Love Letter franchise! I think that this feels a lot more directly combative and less secretive than Love Letter’s original game, which makes sense; you’re engaging in Jabba’s Palace and doing subterfuge and going between two warring factions, rather than just delivering a letter to a princess. Technically, you can play as a princess trying to rescue some nerf-herder, but that’s beside the point. I think that I’m really enjoying how inventive some of these games are getting inside of Love Letter’s framework. They’re both not betraying the core gameplay and also adding their own spin, which is nice. Particularly nice here are the Agenda cards, which change the end-of-round victory criteria for the entire game. This, in turn, incentivizes players to be thoughtful about their playstyles, which will adapt a bit to that Agenda. I think that’s neat. I’m not one hundred percent sold on the faction system, here, just because it makes the game a bit more complicated to learn, but I think that would be my main complaint about the game, which is otherwise pretty solidly entertaining. Plus, it’s a nice size and I think there are a lot of Star Wars fans who would like this sort of thing as a gift (or both Salacious Crumb fans out there). If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re a huge fan of Love Letter, or you just wanna watch a friend get eaten by a Rancor, you might enjoy Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace! I had fun with it.


If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

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