While waiting in line at the Smuggler’s Run ride in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland, we saw a display for the card game from Star Wars where Han Solo won his Millenium Falcon from Lando Calrissian. We thought it would be really cool if Disney sold an official version of the game. Luckily for us, as we were strolling through the market in Black Spire Outpost, we ran across a copy at the Toydarian Toymaker. Below is our review of Sabacc as well as our interpretations of the vaguer parts of the rules.
Sabacc is effectively a mix between Poker and Blackjack with a little bit of Set thrown in. Unlike the Hasbro version, “Han Solo Card Game”, sold in 2018 as part of merchandising for Solo: A Star Wars Story, this version of the game uses the actual name, “Sabacc”, and also has very different rules. In this game, the goal is to collect cards to get as close to zero as possible. There are 3 suits (circles, triangles, squares) with values from 1-10 as well as positive (green) and negative (red) versions of each card. Each player gets handed two cards to start with and on their turn, they can either Gain a new card, Swap a card they have, Stand for their turn, or Junk their hand (aka Fold). The rules don’t cover betting probably because this is being sold at Disneyland, but we’ve added the betting rules we played with down below. After 3 rounds, players reveal their hands and the closest to zero wins. If there are any ties, there is a list of tiebreakers in the rulebook based on the patterns in the hand similar to Poker.
Being from the Star Wars universe, this game is oozing with theme. The color scheme matches Black Spire Outpost and makes you feel like you’re in a dingy hangar waiting for your next smuggling run. The cards feel sturdy and the hexagonal cut, while different, feels natural to hold. The simplicity of having two dice to double as marking the dealer as well as adding some luck in between rounds works really well for the game. Overall, the only thing missing from the game in terms of theme is being able to always play it in a Star Wars setting such as Black Spire.
The rules are fairly easy to pick up except for one of the key actions. Each player is given two cards to start with and the top card of the draw pile is discarded face up. A player can either Gain, Swap, Stand, or Junk. Junking is effectively folding where the player discards their hand face up (unlike Poker which is face down). Standing allows a player to pass their turn if they like what they have. Swapping allows a player to exchange a card in their hand with the top card in the discard pile. Gaining a card is where the most confusion is. This is what the rulebook states:
“Gain - take the top card from the Draw Pile. You may keep the card or you may discard. If you pick the option of discarding, you must discard before you draw.”
This didn’t make a lot of sense to us because how can you discard a card that you will draw if you haven’t drawn it yet? The way this is written makes it sound like you first draw a card, then decide whether to keep it or discard it. However, the last line seems to contradict this. We tried a few different variants and settled on the following:
“Gain - take the top card from the Draw Pile. You may keep the card or discard any one card in your hand including the card just drawn. If discarding a card, draw another card from the top of the Draw Pile. You should have gained one card into your hand this turn.”
We tried a variant where you could only discard the card that you just drew instead of any card in your hand, but we didn’t feel like there was much opportunity to drop cards in your hand as the only other method was the Swap action.
After making this change, it was easier to focus on actually playing the game rather than the rules. It was also easy to remember for the next few times we played so we didn’t have to refer back to the rulebook.
Once you get the hang of the basic game, you can then start to strategize for better hands. Ties are broken by the quality of the hand. For example, if two players get to zero exactly, the player with more cards in their hand wins because it is harder to get to zero with more cards. Another example is where you get a zero card (special card with no suit), two +10 cards, and two -10 cards which is among the highest value hands you can get. Getting these patterns is difficult so a normal play through may not provide enough incentive to go after these patterns. However, this is where betting comes in.
Betting is what we think will keep people coming back to playing the game. Imagine playing Texas Hold ‘Em without any betting rounds? It would get redundant very quickly. It also would defeat the purpose of having a Fold (or Junk) option as there is no incentive to tap out with nothing at stake throughout the rounds. Even in the movies, betting is the central part of a game of Sabacc. It is understandable why Disney would not add betting rules into the official rulebook, so here are the rules we decided to follow for betting:
“During setup, the player to the left of the dealer blindly bets half of the minimum bet decided by the players. The player two to the left of the dealer bets the minimum bet. After the initial two cards for each player are dealt and before the top card of the Draw Pile is discarded face up, a round of betting occurs with the player three to the left of the dealer starting by matching (calling) the minimum bet, raising, or Junking. This continues clockwise around the table until the player to the left of the dealer matches, raises, or junks. After this, the top card of the Draw Pile is discarded face up and the first round begins with the player to the left of the dealer. Further betting rounds occur after the Sabacc dice are thrown by the dealer at the end of each round. Overall, four rounds of betting should have occurred including the initial round.”
After adding these betting rules and modifying the Gain rule, the game became very replayable and easy to pick up. The box it comes in is very portable and sturdy so it is one that we’ve added to our travel bag (along with Trinity of course) when traveling with friends.
Sabacc is a wonderful piece of Star Wars culture and this version of the game found in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge delivered on providing an engaging experience that transported you to a hangar bay in the Star Wars universe. The rulebook is a little vague in some areas so with some modification and the addition of betting rules, the game becomes more intriguing and strategic. This is a game we highly recommend for any Star Wars fan and even recommend for anyone wanting to try something different than Poker and Blackjack at their next game night.