Everything You Need to Know To Play Star Wars: Unlimited

Tabletop Gaming 4/26/2024

Written by Ross 'The Wossy' Gilbert

​​​​​​​A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Luke Skywalker defeated Darth Vader (or Vader defeated Luke, depending which film you watched) but now you can recreate that battle from the comfort of your own home, right now, with the new Star Wars:Unlimited Trading Card Game. But how do you play? That’s where we come in.

There are 2 key elements to every deck in Star Wars: Unlimited and that’s your leader and your base. Your leader will be the focus of your deck with skills that can be used every turn and a once per game Epic Action that allows your leader to actually join the fight as a unit. Your base is what determines the winner of the game, the first player to have their base defeated (lowered to 0 hit points) wins. Unlike most TCGs that is the win condition; defeat your opponent’s base before they defeat yours. There’s no deck out (though there are some creative rules for when your deck runs out of cards), no getting rid of all of your opponent’s characters, it’s all about the base ('bout that bass).


The Star Wars: Unlimited Starter Set for Spark of Rebellion, with Luke and Vader on the front
A great place to start is with the Star Wars: Unlimited: Spark of Rebellion Two Player Starter Set

Star Wars: Unlimited Deck-Building Rules

Before you start playing though you need to build a deck and there’s certain rules that must be followed when doing so. As mentioned, you need a leader and a base and only one of each can be in your deck. The rest of the deck consists of units, upgrades and events with a minimum of 50 cards and no more than three copies of each card in your deck.

One wrinkle however is that some units are unique. These are denoted by a diamond-like symbol to the left of the unit’s name and although you can have three copies of a unique unit in your deck, you can only have one on the field at any one time. To play a second you must defeat the first. Of course, this makes perfect sense thematically, it was hard enough for Luke to fight one Darth Vader, imagine if he had to fight three at the same time!

Star Wars: Unlimited Unit Card for Darth Vader, there is a diamond next to his name
Darth Vader is a unit you can only have one in play at any one time.

The other important deck-building rule concerns aspect icons. Your leader and base cards both have aspect icons on the top left of the card, leaders have two and bases have one. These essentially tell you which cards you’re allowed to play in your deck. In order to play a card without penalty you must match the icons on the card you’re playing to the icons on your leader and base. You can play any card you like in your deck but to play a card with icons that don’t match your Leader or Base you must pay an extra two resources per missing icon. Some cards will probably be worth it but it’s asking a lot.

Darth Vader's Leader card, which sits in landscape and shows two coloured icons in hexagons in red and black, representing Aggression and Villainy styles
Darth Vader's Leader Card, which offers aspects you can use in your card selection (Aggression and Villainy)

If we take the Darth Vader leader as an example, it has an Aggression and a Villainy icon. There are some popular characters you may wish to play with Vader such as the unit Darth Vader or Grand Moff Tarkin but both of these require one Villainy and one Command icon. So, you could pair your Vader leader with a Base like Echo Base which has the Command icon and play these units without penalty. If you wanted to play a Mace Windu though you would need an Aggression and a Heroism icon and with no Heroism icon on your leader or Base, that would turn Mace Windu from a 7-cost unit into a 9-cost unit, a pretty big difference.

How to Play Star Wars: Unlimited

When the game begins you put your leader and base into play and draw an opening hand of six cards. You are allowed a single mulligan whereby you shuffle and draw a new hand of six cards without penalty, but that second hand is the one with which you must begin the game. You then have to put two cards into play facedown as resources. These resources are what you will use to pay for the other cards you play during the game.

Your resources will increase by one every turn (more on that in a moment) and this will create dilemmas as cards you put down as resources won’t be available to use during the game. When deciding whether to take a mulligan or not you have to consider not just whether you want to play the cards in your hand, but also whether you have cards you’re willing to put down as resources. Let’s hope you don’t get several turns into the game only to realize the card that will win you the game is one of your resources and therefore not available.

You then finish the setup by randomly determining who has the initiative. The person with the initiative will take the first action during each action phase, though this can change from turn to turn.

Action Phase

One of the most fun wrinkles in Star Wars: Unlimited is that during the action phase players take it in turns to take actions. You may have a card you want to play and an attack you want to make but you need to find the best order in which to do so. Playing the card now could give your opponent a chance to play a card to nullify the impending attack (maybe an event which defeats your character for instance) but attacking early could leave you with regret as a better target emerges later in the action phase.

There are 5 options during the action phase: 1. Play a card, 2. Attack with a unit, 3. Use an action ability, 4. Take the initiative; or 5. Pass.

1. Playing a card

In order to play a card, you must pay (turn sideways) a number of resources equal to the cost of the card (7 for Darth Vader or Mace Windu for instance) and the unit comes into play exhausted, that is to say turned sideways and unable to attack. Events are resolved and discarded, and upgrades are attached to the chosen character.

The Star Wars: Unlimited Mace Windu card, with a gold hexagon in the top right showing the cost as 7
Mace Windu, a 7 cost card (top left)

Some units have “when played” abilities that will activate here like Viper Probe Droid which lets you look at your opponent’s hand, great for gathering intel to predict your opponent’s upcoming moves.

Viper Probe Droid card with an image of the droid, and in it's text box it says
Viper Probe Droid has actions that take place when it's played out

When playing units, it’s really important to note that there are two different arenas into which units can be played: Ground and space. All units are either ground or space units and are played into the relevant arena. The importance of this is that they can only attack, or be attacked by, other units in the same arena. Having all of your units in one arena can leave your opponent’s units in the other completely unchecked.

2. Attack with a unit

In order to attack with a unit you must exhaust them but it’s important to note that there are cards, like Mace Windu, with the keyword skill Ambush that can attack on the turn they’re played, otherwise you must wait for a turn.

In terms of what to attack you have 2 choices, either attack an enemy unit or attack their base. Attacking enemy units will hurt their board state, take away valuable skills and reduce the attacks they can throw your way, but you don’t win the game by attacking units, you win by attacking the base and reducing its hit points to 0. One of the most important aspects of gaining victory in Star Wars: Unlimited is knowing when to take out units and when to go after the base for the win.

When attacking the base it’s nice and simple, you deal damage to the base equal to the attacking unit’s power. Mace Windu and Darth Vader both have 5 power and will therefore deal 5 damage to an opposing base.

Bossk's Card demonstrates three hexagons, the top left shows his cost to play, then the red left shows how much attack he has (4) and the right blue shows how much health he has (5)
Bossk shows his attack damage (4, in Red), which attacking units face, and his HP (5 in Blue)

When attacking units, both units (the attacker and the attacked) deal damage simultaneously, and then you check to see if either unit has received damage equal to or higher than their HP and is therefore defeated. So, if Darth Vader attacks Mace Windu they both have 5 power and deal 5 damage but as they both have 7 HP they will each survive with 2 HP remaining. If either of them were to attack Bossk however they would take 4 damage from Bossk’s 4 power but deal 5 damage, enough to defeat the 5 HP unit. Of course, as noted above, a unit can only attack and be attacked by an opposing unit in the same arena (ground or space).

3. Use an Action Ability

Not every card has an action ability but the ones that do will tell you what you need to do to activate the ability and what happens when you do. Fett’s Firespray for instance requires you to pay 2 resources and then allows you to exhaust a non-unique unit, great for stopping units from attacking for example.

It’s not just regular actions though, we also have those epic actions that are present on all leaders and some bases. These are once per game and pretty powerful. Take the Darth Vader leader for instance. When you have 7 resources you can deploy the leader, flipping the card and bringing Darth Vader into play as a Unit that can attack and be attacked like any other unit, as well as having a pretty great ability that lets you deal 2 damage to a unit when you attack.

Darth Vader's Leader Card when deployed, showing him vertical and in play, allowing 2 extra damage to a unit with every attack
Darth Vader's Leader card can deploy to become an in play card once per game

Only 4 of the 12 bases in the first expansion Spark of Rebellion have an epic action and these all have 25 HP, rather than the 30 HP all vanilla bases have, to make up for this. These don’t deploy the base as a Unit (that would be weird!) but there are some excellent skills like Energy Conversion Lab’s epic action that allows you to play a 6-cost or lower character from your hand and give them Ambush so they can attack this turn. That can be a game-changing action for which it may well be worth giving up 5 HP.

Energy Conversion Lab base showing 25 HP, but it's text offers Ambush to a card played that costs less than 6 each time
Most bases have 30 HP, but a few give you extra bonuses if you forgo a few extra points

4. Take the initiative / pass

Having the initiative (usually marked with a physical token) in Star Wars: Unlimited can be a huge advantage as you get the first action during each action phase. At the beginning of the game, it’s determined randomly which player has the initiative but from then on you can take it whenever you like, though there is a catch. Taking the initiative can be done by either player at any point during the action phase on 2 conditions. Firstly, your opponent must not have already done so. Secondly, once you take the initiative you must pass for the rest of the action phase, no more actions can be taken. No units played, no attacks, no actions, nothing.

If you find yourself in the position of having played every card you want and having attacked with all of your characters and your opponent not having taken the initiative this is an easy decision. Much harder it is when you have one more attack you really want to fire off but you really want to go first during the next action phase, and you suspect your opponent will take the initiative as their next action. Are you willing to give up that attack to take the initiative?

Regroup Phase

Once both players have passed consecutively the action phase ends and we head to the regroup phase. Both players draw 2 cards to refill their hand a little, ready all of their exhausted cards in play and have the option of putting a card down as a resource. This will build up your pool of resources for the coming turns but remember, those cards are then gone from your hand, so the decision is a crucial one.

Winning the Game

The game continues with action and regroup phases until one player’s base is reduced to 0 HP, is defeated and that player loses the game. So, what if you run out of cards in your deck? In many TCGs this is the end of the game but Star Wars: Unlimited doesn’t tell you you’ve lost, it just really tells you to hurry up if you want to win.

A fan of Star Wars Unlimited Cards, seven including Luke, Leia, Darth Vader, Tarkin and more
Star Wars: Unlimited Trading Cards

Once you have no cards in your deck you continue playing with the cards in your hand but every time you would draw a card from your deck you deal 3 damage to your own base instead. If you would draw a card, that’s 3 damage but if you would draw 2 cards that’s 3 damage for each, 6 in total. Running out of cards doesn’t lose the game instantly but it does guarantee that the game will not be lasting much longer.

There are of course many more keyword skills and nuances but rules like taking it in turn to take actions during the action phase, the initiative mechanic, the resourcing decisions and having 2 arenas in which to fight give Star Wars: Unlimited players a lot of ways to gain the advantage over their competitors. Play it you should.

Types of cards in Star Wars: Unlimited


These are the characters and vehicles you use to fight and destroy your opponent’s base. Each unit is either ground or base and can only attack, or be attacked by, other units in the same arena. When attacking they deal damage to a base or unit equal to their power (units deal damage simultaneously when battling each other) and when they take damage equal to or higher than their HP they are defeated.

Grand Moff Tarkin, to show a unit card, with unit written on the top left
Grand Moff Tarkin is a unit, and found in the starter set.


These are cards that you attach to your units to give them buffs to their stats and extra skills to use. Take Vader’s Lightsaber for instance, you can attach it to any non-vehicle unit and it gives them +3 power and +1 HP. If attached to Darth Vader however you can deal 4 damage to a ground unit when it’s attached.

Vader's Lightsaber card, which has upgrade written in the top left
Vader's Lightsaber is an upgrade card so you can gain extra bonuses


Events are single-use cards that are resolved and then go to the discard. They could help your or hurt your opponent. Takedown for instance defeats a unit with 5 HP or less remaining, great for getting rid of your opponent’s pesky units. Repair however heals 3 damage from a unit or base, great for keeping your own units alive or stopping your opponent defeating your base. Of course, if you’re feeling spicy, you could play Superblast Laser which defeats ALL units and hurts everyone.

Superblast Laser card, which has Event written in the top left
It might have a high cost, but Super Laser Blast is well worth it if you can get it out

 Ready to get started?