One of my favourite RTSs is a little known title called “Star Wars: Rebellion”. It picks up the struggle immediately after the Battle of Yavin, with many of the Rebellion’s greatest heroes out on the rim at Yavin and the Imperials spread out throughout the galaxy. You played as either the Rebellion or the Empire, and you usually had two sets of goals: capture or destroy the other side’s main headquarters (Coruscant for the Empire, a mobile HQ for the Rebels) and capture two important characters from the other side (the Emperor and Vader for the Empire, and Mon Mothma and Luke Skywalker for the Rebels). To aid in this, you had a plethora of characters, ships and units from the movies and from the EU, most of which you had to recruit or research before you could build or use them. Ultimately, success was measured by how much of the galaxy you controlled, but each planet had an approval rating that said whether they supported the Empire or the Rebellion. If you held a planet that didn’t care for your side, they would rise up against you, costing your their resources and potentially the use of their facilities, and requiring a large garrison to maintain order. They might even flip to the other side if you weren’t careful.
The characters you gained had four main abilities. They had Diplomacy, to sway popular support to your side, Combat, to let them fight for your cause, Leadership, to command troops, and Espionage, to snoop out what the other side was doing, see where they were vulnerable, and even to sabotage their troops and vessels. But importantly, these characters were characters. They were more than just stats. Sure, the stats were important, but what was really interesting was the ability to put Grand Admiral Thrawn or Garm Bel Iblis in charge of one of your main battle fleets, or send Leia or Darth Vader out to woo a planet to your side. There were even special events for some of the characters. Han Solo occasionally had a run in with bounty hunters, and if they ever captured him the main characters would run off to rescue him. Characters traveling with Han Solo moved twice as fast. Luke ran off to Dagobah to train at one point in the game. In general, it really did capture at least some of the feel of the movies like no other Star Wars game has, in my opinion … and the only real criticism I have of it is that it could have done so much more.
In one Rebellion session, I ended up looking up at about 3 pm or so, and thinking that I needed to start thinking about eating soon. The next time I looked up, it was about 9 pm, and I realized that I never had actually eaten, which makes this one of the only games to make me lose track of time and I think the only one to make me lose track of time that badly. This is because there was always lots to keep you occupied. You wanted to see if that planet would join you, and when you saw that you wanted to get your Star Destroyer and move it into your fleet, and then move that fleet to attack a planet and see how that turned out, and so on and so forth. You had to wait for things to happen, but you were always waiting, things were always happening, and you could increase the speed if nothing was happening so that you never got bored. This made the game very addictive. Even the end game was fun, as you hunted down the last few planets of your enemy on the Rim and sent a massive fleet to crush them.
Star Wars: Empire at War attempted to combine that feel with the feel of Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, but without popular support it seemed a bit hollow to me. In my opinion, an expanded Rebellion was what was needed, and what we didn’t get.