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Star Wars: The Card Game is a two-player card game that puts one player in control of the light side of the Force and the other in control of the dark side. Set within the time frame of the original Star Wars trilogy, the light side has three affiliated factions: Jedi, Rebel Alliance, & Smugglers and Spies, while the dark side controls the Sith, Imperial Navy, & Scum and Villainy affiliations. Additionally, each side has access to unaffiliated (neutral) cards, namely light side neutral and dark side neutral respectively.

Each player's deck is composed of objective cards (usually 10) representing missions, strategies, & other important story narratives, plus a deck of command cards (usually 50). Command cards are further broken down by type: unit cards, representing characters, groups, vehicles, droids, and creatures; enhancement cards, representing locations, items, skills, weapons, and conditions; event cards, representing maneuvers, tactics, special powers, traps, and other sudden effects; and fate cards, representing twists that swing the course of a battle. Each objective card is linked to five specific command cards, which taken together is an objective set (always 6 cards). Deck construction consists of choosing a side (light or dark) and then choosing objective sets (a minimum of 10) for that side. Any objective set may be included twice in a constructed deck unless its objective card specifically indicates that it is limited to one per objective deck. Constructed decks may consist of more than one affiliation.

Game play consists of playing cards to your tableau, attacking your opponent's objectives, defending your own objectives, and committing cards to the Force Struggle. The light side wins the game by destroying three dark side objectives. The dark side wins when the Death Star dial reaches 12. In addition to increasing by winning Force Struggles, destroying light side objectives, and via other card effects, the dial increases by one each turn, effectively putting a timer on the game.

Star Wars: The Card Game follows Fantasy Flight's Living Card Game (LCG) model, so that card distribution is fixed with no random element to purchasing cards. The core set has enough cards to build decks four slim decks (only 8 objective sets each) for the Jedi, Rebel Alliance, Sith, and Imperial Navy affiliations. "Force Packs" are expansions released regularly that contain 10 objective sets, usually two copies of each objective set, thereby providing new options for the various affiliations, including light side and/or dark side neutral objective sets.

A deluxe expansion, The Balance of the Force, expands the game by allowing for two different multiplayer formats. In one format, four players compete in a two-versus-two partner-based game. While in the other format, a single player plays a unique challenge deck against two or three opponents who are working together to overcome the challenge deck scenario.

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