How To Play Star Wars Unlimited: Rules, Deckbuilding, and Keywords

Photo of author

Star Wars Unlimited has arrived and is taking the world by storm. It’s the latest trading and collectible card game (TCG/CCG) from Fantasy Flight Games that’s based on the beloved sci-fi series and sees legendary heroes and villains duking out in epic battles, helped by the iconic Star Wars characters, droids, and events.

Want to learn how to play Star Wars Unlimited and build your first competitive deck? Read on, as we’ll walk you through all the rules, turn structure, and concepts that this game introduces to the genre.

Star Wars Unlimited Rules

Learning the ropes of Star Wars Unlimited is surprisingly quick, even if you haven’t previously played any TCG’s like Magic: The Gathering or Disney Lorcana. While the game shares many similarities with other titles in the genre and even some digital card games like Hearthstone, it has several unique elements that make it stand out.

In this section, we’ll guide you through setting up for a game of Star Wars Unlimited, how rounds work, different actions you can take on your turn, and, finally, what you need to do to win.

Game Setup

  1. Place your base in the center of your play area. Then, place your leader card beneath the base with its horizontal (non-unit) side up.
  2. Randomly choose which player will start the game and give them the initiative counter.
  3. Shuffle your deck and draw 6 cards. You may mulligan once by shuffling your hand back into the deck and drawing a new hand of 6 cards.
  4. Choose 2 cards from your hand to place facedown in front of you. These are your starting resources, cards that you’ll use to pay for playing other cards and abilities.

Once both players are set, you’re ready to start playing Star Wars Unlimited.

example setup for star wars unlimited

Action Phase

Rounds in Star Wars Unlimited are divided into actions. Players alternate playing exactly one action each until both decide to pass and end the current round.

On your turn, you can either

  • Play a card
  • Attack with a unit
  • Use an ability
  • Pass or take the initiative

Playing Cards

To play a card from your hand, you’ll need to pay its cost designated in the top-left corner by exhausting as many resources as the card costs. You exhaust a resource by turning it sideways (tapping as it’s called in Magic: The Gathering) and cannot use it until it’s readied.

Cards in Star Wars Unlimited can be units, upgrades, or events. Units enter the play exhausted unless their text says different. Upgrades are attached to a unit (slide the card underneath so only the text is visible), while events are immediately discarded after you play them.

Furthermore, units are divided into ground and space units, meaning you have to play them into the matching arena to the left or right of your base. The arenas are determined by the first unit played. After you play a unit, immediately resolve its “When played” ability if it has one.


Your units can attack only if they’re ready. To attack with a unit, exhaust it, and then designate its target – it can either be a unit in the same arena or the opponent’s base.

If you attack a base, deal damage to it equal to the attacking unit’s power. That’s the red number on your card. Since the goal is to destroy the opposing base, it’s always a good idea to make these attacks.

When attacking a unit, both your and the enemy’s unit deal damage to each other at the same time. The attacker first triggers its “On attack” ability before dealing any combat damage. If the damage on a unit equals or exceeds its HP (the blue number), then it’s defeated and goes into the player’s discard pile.

Use an Ability

Some units have Action abilities printed on them, including your leader. You can exhaust that unit, paying any costs, to trigger its ability. Obviously, that unit can’t attack if it has used its action.

Epic actions are unique to leaders and can be done once per game. Your leader’s Epic action allows them to enter the game as a unit if you control enough resources (you don’t pay resources to deploy your leader). Flip the card to its unit side and deploy it. Once a leader has been defeated, it flips back to its horizontal side.

star wars unlimited darth vader

Take the Initiative/Pass

Sometimes, you want to “do nothing” on your turn and see what your opponent does instead. You may, then, choose to pass a turn, letting your opponent take their turn, and then the play goes back to you.

Taking the Initiative grants you the Initiative token, allowing you to play first in the next round. But, this also makes you automatically pass your subsequent turns during this phase until the other player passes. You cannot take the Initiate if your opponent has already done this action in the same phase.

Regroup Phase

The moment both players pass, either by choosing the “pass” action or passing after one of them takes the Initiative token, the Action phase ends and the Regroup phase starts.

The Regroup phase has three steps that players complete in order:

  1. Draw cards
  2. Resource a card
  3. Ready cards

First, draw 2 cards from the top of your deck. In case you can’t draw a card, your base suffers 3 damage. You always have to draw cards at the start of this phase.

Resourcing a card is an optional step and involves placing one of the cards in your hand face down as a resource. While you may skip it, it’s highly recommended to resource a card until you can play your leader’s epic action.

To end your Regroup phase, ready all of your exhausted cards on the board: units, leaders, and resources. Once both players have readied their cards, the next Action phase starts and the player holding the Initiative token goes first.

Winning a Game of Star Wars Unlimited

Your goal in Star Wars Unlimited is simple – defeat the enemy base. Bases typically have 30 health points, but some rare bases come with just 25 HP.

Additionally, whenever a player would have to draw a card from their deck while it is empty, their base suffers 3 points of damage.

How to Make a Star Wars Unlimited Deck

Your deck in Star Wars Unlimited has to follow certain rules. For the standard game (Premier), a deck needs at least 50 cards, one leader, and a base card. The bases and leaders, as well as any token cards you bring into battle, do not count as part of your deck. Additionally, you may have up to three copies of each unique card in the deck. So, when you hear about deckbuilding in SWU, it’s actually about playing with a preconstructed deck.

star wars unlimited deckbuilding rules

The leader and the base you choose dictate the theme of your deck. They have three aspect icons on them in total, and you’ll want cards in your deck to match those aspects.

Aspects in Star Wars Unlimited are different colored icons representing the characteristics of its cards. There are currently six aspects:

  • Aggression (red)
  • Command (green)
  • Cunning (orange)
  • Heroism white)
  • Vigilance (blue)
  • Villainy (red)

A card in the game can have up to two aspects, printed on the top-left corner. On the other hand, bases and leaders have their aspects printed in the top-right corner.

While you can put mismatched cards in your deck (after all, the game is called Unlimited), playing these cards will cost you 2 more resources per aspect missing on your base and leader cards. This is called an “aspect penalty” and certain cards may help circumvent it.

As for the distribution of units, events, and upgrades, that’s up to you, including whether you’ll have an equal number of ground and space units or you’ll make your deck excel in one arena over the other. Publisher Fantasy Flight Games recommends putting at least 30 units in a deck, as the board control is very important in this game.

Alternatively, you can buy a 2-player starter set with two premade decks and all the materials you need for playing Star Wars Unlimited.

Star Wars Unlimited Card Keywords

Cards in Star Wars Unlimited may have keywords, special effects that change how the card works in different situations. This text is written in bold red and is often an ongoing effect while the card is in play.

These are the keywords used in Star Wars Unlimited:

  • Ambush: When played, the unit may immediately ready and attack an enemy unit.
  • Grit: The unit gets 1 additional power for each point of damage on it.
  • Overwhelm: When attacking a unit, all excess damage is dealt to the opponent’s base.
  • Raid X: When attacking, the unit gets X additional power.
  • Restore X: This unit heals your base for X whenever it attacks.
  • Saboteur: During its attack, the unit can ignore Sentinels and also defeat the defender’s shields.
  • Sentinel: While this is in play, opponent’s units in the same arena can’t attack other non-Sentinel units or your base.
  • Shielded: The unit gets a shield when it enters play. The shield token prevents one instance of damage.

Star Wars Unlimited in Action

Wondering how this all works? Check out our full game of Star Wars Unlimited where we’ll also guide you around these rules and remind you on how Leaders and other mechanics work:


What are the rules for Star Wars Unlimited Premier?

Premier is the competitive format of Star Wars Unlimited where each player brings a deck containing at least 50 card, exactly one leader and one base, and a 10-card sideboard. The matches are played as best-of-three with a 55-minute time limit

What are the rules for Star Wars Unlimited sideboards?

Players can bring a sideboard alonside their 50-card deck in a competitive match of Star Wars Unlimited. A sideboard is a set of any 10 cards (except leaders and bases) the players can use to replace cards in their decks between matches and round. Players still must not exceed a total of 3 copies of each card across their deck and a sideboard.

What is the ambush rule in Star Wars Unlimited?

A card with Ambush ability immediately readies and attacks an opponent unit when played. This only happens if there are enemy units in the same arena. If that isn’t the case, the unit enters the game exhausted, like every other unit in Star Wars Unlimited.