Since childhood, I have had a serious addiction to PC strategy games. I played consoles, too — I put in plenty of hours on my NES and Sega Genesis — but when I was asked to turn those off and eat dinner or get ready for bed, I was happy to put the controller down. With strategy games, you had to drag me away from that keyboard kicking and screaming.
It started with Lords of the Realm and its sequels, then transitioned into Age of Empires, and in recent years I've gotten hours of fun out of the Total War series. The addiction reached its apex, though, around 1998, when I opened a PC gaming magazine and saw an ad for something called Star Wars: Rebellion.
Finally, a game that combined my addiction to PC strategy gaming with my addiction to a galaxy far, far away.
Rebellion (which turns 20 this month) is a 4X real-time strategy game set immediately after The Battle of Yavin, so it begins between Star Wars Episodes IV and V. You choose the difficulty level, the size of the galaxy (10, 15, or 20 sectors each composed of 10 planetary systems), and whether you'd like to play as the Empire or the Rebel Alliance. Then you're off.
The objective is deceptively simple: capture two major heroes from your opponent's force (Vader and the Emperor if you're the Rebels, Luke and Mon Mothma if you're the Empire) and take their capital planet. To do this, you use your planetary resources to build ships, starfighters, units of troops, planetary guns, shield generators, and more. To do that, you have to build construction yards, shipyards, training facilities, mines, and refineries. If your forces are finally strong enough, you can go toe-to-toe with the enemy and crush them, either through planetary assault or fleet battles, which you can actually command through a tactical interface. Yes, the graphics are very late-'90s, but I promise it's fun.
Helping you on this mission are a variety of specialty units, from nameless spies and infiltrators to recon ships to Heroes. The Heroes are characters you'd expect to see (Luke, Han, Leia, Vader, Palpatine, Admiral Ackbar, and so on) and then a few you might not have seen coming (Thrawn, Borsk Fey-lya, and other original Expanded Universe creations). These heroes each have their own specialties, including Diplomacy, Espionage, and Leadership skills. You can give them command of a fleet, ask them to convince a planet to join your cause, and even send them to blow up a Star Destroyer if you feel like it. Of course, they don't always come back alive...
All of these combined to create a completely addictive game experience for me as a kid. It's very detail-oriented and its look is rather dated, but John Williams' iconic score and the iconic beeps of R2-D2 were running through the whole thing, and it was Star Wars. I was building Mon Calamari Cruisers and sending them into battle against Star Destroyers. I was telling Han and Chewie where to go. I was taking Kashyyyk back from Imperial hands and giving it to my Wookie Regiments.
A couple of years ago, vintage games retailer Good Old Games got a license to sell various LucasArts classics, including Rebellion. I snapped it up, and it's still got that same addictive feeling for me. I was playing it over the weekend, late into the night, giggling as more and more planets joined me and my supply of X-Wings got larger and larger. If you're a fan of '90s PC gaming, and Star Wars LucasArts games in general, it's still available (PC-only, sadly) for you to dig into. Go rule the galaxy.