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The Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game designed by Jay Little, has already won a hatfull of awards (see below). It is published by FANTASY FLIGHT Games

 

There are  a lot of cardboard components, counters, markers, asteroids, dials, measuring stick, movement-angle templates etc plus a 4-page QuickStart rules booklet and a full coloured 20-page rules book that is for players who have already used the QuickStarter or who are familiar with 2-player strategy games that use miniatures, dice and card play. There are many aspects and mechanics from other games of this genre. The best part of this set, and the reason, in my opinion, why it has garnered so many awards and acclaims are the miniatures, well them and the Star Wars name. I doubt in all honesty if it would have won awards or possibly even have been published had it not had the Star Wars franchise behind it. This is me speculating of course and I am not saying that it isn't a good game, it actually is, but it is the beautifully detailed Star Wars minis that draw players to it. 

The starter set only has one X-Wing (the wings actually do open and close) which is unfortunate because it is such an X-Quisite model, but it is there to whet the appetite and promote interest and it does that perfectly; I'm hooked and looking for more. Of course it doesn't just have an X-Wing on its own, that would be silly (unless its adversaries were card pieces, but they aren't!) so there are two TIE Fighters to pit against it - one player controls the TIEs and the other has the X-Wing of either Luke Skywalker or Jek Porkins. I will say that the designer has at least delivered some Pilot cards that mean Luke or Jek aren't constantly fighting the same battle, although even with these cards the Star Wars Rebels are kinda still fighting the same battle.

 

I really think the design of the miniature X-Wing is superb, there is even a tiny silver dome (R2D2? perhaps, although I thought he/it was more white than silver) but then there is alot to work with. Sleek body, Colours, Computer Board style lines, Opening and Closing Wings etc, whereas the design of the TIE Fighters is pretty boring. Two six-sided panels (slightly expanded hexagons) with a small round Pod in between them, they have to be one of the worst ever designs of a spacecraft, talk about blinkered vision; they look good in the movies but as high visual models they are possibly not the most exciting.

The models themselves are quite sturdy but the bases and the height bars are of delicate plastic, easily broken, plastic (especially the connecting joints) and are not made for regular connecting and disconnecting - they come in three pieces, the base and two height bars - if you take the black blown-plastic insert out of the box the clear plastic section is large enough to keep the models safe without the need to break them down. The dice, asteroids and counters all fit neatly into one zip-loc bag (I used an extra-value easy-seal food bag), the cards go into 2 different sized zip-locs and sit in the designed insert space while the manoeuvre templates fit tidily in the box bottom underneath the plastic insert.

So there are my thoughts and opinions on the components and the awards, now let's look at the game itself. It is, as previously noted, a 3D tabletop miniatures battle or skirmish game. The Starter Set is definitely for skirmish and rules learning and in my opinion is not a particularly exciting start-up set with only three miniatures. I realise it is but a taster and designed to make you want more, which it surely does. Online I have seen it priced between £20.00 and £40.00, average store price just under £32.00. You can purchase a single X-Wing T-65 (same as the ship in the basic core starter set) for £16.00 so the £20.00 set price is really good value in comparison. Other solo ships can be found; A-Wing, Interceptor and B-Wing around £14.00 each, the K-Wing at £19.00,  Slave 1 at £17.00 right up to the Rebel Transport at £50.00. You should check out where your local store is and see how they compare pricewise.

Of course this is going to make a reasonably sized game playable by 3-4 players come out at well over £100.00 which to me, being old, seems a lot, but it also seems to be the norm for mini based tabletop games nowadays. Is it worth £100.00+ ? Well that depends on how often you play it, every game brings its comparative cost down until it is negligible. You also have to look at what you spend your money on in other ways. A capuccino in a coffee shop will set you back about £3.50, forego 4 of them and you have a Phantom II or any of the above mentioned £14.00 ships, only the coffee has gone forever while the ships remain with you ready to play again and again. Going to see a band in concert? average price £60.00 a ticket - there's your Rebel Transporter and enough change to buy a packet of dice (£7.50); it's all comparative.

Each character has a card and a maneuver dial as well as a miniature, plus there are upgrade cards to be added to the ships as customisations before the game begins. Players may build up their squads using a presetermined selection method or they might like to create their own using upgrade/squad points in a manner similar to some character creations from other games. There are also suggestions for taking the game even further, escalating it to a Quick Build where the Blue Squadron with either Jek Porkins or Luke Skywalker to begin with, whoever you do not start with can take over if the other falls, fights against the Imperial Academy Pilots backed up by either Iden Versio (a character unknown to Star Wars until the 2017 Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad) or Valen Rudor.

Whichever way you choose to play, the straight basics or any of the suggested escalations, the rules are generally the same with only the setup and Forces selection being of any consequential difference (in this I am including the availability and choice of upgrades for each side).

 

There is only one Action available per Perform Action phase for each player but like nearly all miniatures based games the idea is to move, fire and dodge, sometimes in that order if you are lucky or strategic enough (or have ships with linked actions); upgrades and abilities are there for such manoeuvres if used at the right time - there are limited/timed uses on most upgrade effects so wise players will wait for the exact right moment but clever players may just jump the gun to win the day. 

The designer has taken the best ideas from many aerial combat games, not just sci-fi actioners, and melded them together into a fairly complex system of actions, bonuses and effects. Direction of fire is by an Arc on a card on the mini's base, Range of fire is by a measuring stick with advantages for close (but not melee close) range for the attacker and also for the defender if they are at long range. Ships have Primary weapons that can be enhanced or replaced by the use of Special weapons, the latter often requiring an amount of energy (charge) or by using the Force. Everything other than the ships themselves are represented by the multitude of counters, each with a different colour and symbol for ease of recognition, though players should take a little time before their first full game to look at the list of Tokens/Counters on page 20 of the Rules booklet so they can quickly understand what effects they have available to them. 

My suggestion is to photocopy this back page (#20) a few times so that all players have a handy reference sheet available to them at all times.

 

What it all boils down to when the dust has settled and all special effects, movement, manoeuvres, markers and counters and tokens have been taken into account is a die roll. The symbols on the dice represent Hits, Critical Hits, Misses and Evade. Naturally if you are attacking you wish to see the majority of open (outlined) starbursts or at least closed starbursts rather than the Evade or Miss symbols. Within combat the closed starbursts are considered before the Critical hits and any effects may spin the target away before the Crit' actually hits. Counters are given to each ship when hit and if the number of hits on those counters adds up to or over the damage the ship can take then it is destroyed - remember that some upgrade cards may have added to this defence value and also that defence dice may deflect damage one for one in most cases. This is a tried and tested method that works particularly well in this game but will be almost second nature to regular tabletop miniature gamers (by this I mean players who use miniature models on a tabletop not players who are of reduced stature themselves, but I bet you knew that already!).

This game was first designed by Jay Little as already noted, though for its second edition Frank Brooks, Max Brooke and Alex Davy took the helm. Having not seen the first edition I do not know what they have added, but I would guess that much of this would be additional Tokens, Rules clarifications and Enhancement augmentation to the game play. I would like to give special mention to Jason Beaudoin and Benjamin Maillet who are credited as the sculptors, they have done a magnificent job on the miniatures, particularly, as I have said, the X-Wing. The design of the Manoeuvre Dials is also clever and like the models should not be unassembled once assembled, just make sure you put the two faces on the right way first time as there is likely to be damage to the central hole if you have to eake them apart. Similarly be careful when opening and closing the wings on the T-65. They are quite sturdy and although the different wing positions are meant to show Attack or fast flight mode it is best to set them how you want to view them and leave the game and your commonsense/imagination to deal with the aesthetic fallout.

To really get the best from this game you need to be a Star Wars fan and a regular player of tabletop miniatures games. I don't think the majority of players will find anything new or unusually different from most other games, so it is down to the energy of Star Wars itself to bring the necessary excitement to the table. If you are simply moving the Rebel ship to intercept Imperial ships and engage them in dice-determined combat then you are playing a game but you are not really playing Star Wars X-Wing per se. On the other hand if you think of the Luke Skywalker piloting the T-65 against evil (or even honest - depending on your viewpoint) Imperial pilots then the game takes on a new dimension. From the characters and spacecraft involved STAR WARS X-WING appears to be an amalgamation of the early stories that we first knew in "A New Hope" through to the adventures revealed on television and graphic novels 40 years (our time) later on.

 

For a game played on an average sized dining table - try to get hold of a black cloth or better still a sci-fi mat of reasonable proportions - the three craft in the Starter set are going to take a while before they get together in combat. Suggestion; use half the table, the game suggests a 3ft x 3ft area which is about right, and then expand it as you purchase more ships or sets. For the rules and tokens buying the core starter set is essential. When you are ready to proceed purchase the ships as required until you have two fairly equal forces capable of ensuring a challenging game for two Star Wars enthusiasts.

 

If you belong to a games club and are thinking of putting on a spectacular Star Wars X-Wing game at a game show, convention or even just at your own hall or meeting place then, and this is especially for my American readers, get yourselves down to Walmarts, Best Buy, or wherever they sell Hot Wheels. When I was Stateside a few months back now, I visited these stores and found a wealth of Star Wars Hot Wheels at prices around $0.99c.  I only bought one of each but there were boxes and boxes of them available. If you combine them with the rules for X-WING and some planetary terrain (most clubs have sci-fi cloths and can make the odd asteroid, meteor, rough ground, dust-dug landing strips etc) and you will have the most spectacular demo/display game for around $50.00 (depending on what/how many ships you buy - at 99c each $20.00 would buy you two amazing fleets - how you make your terrain and of course the necessary Star Wars X-Wing Core Starter Set).

 

The card decks in the X-WING game are each marked with a specific colour and design on their back/flip sides. Some of these 'decks' are just a single card, one of these is a double-sided card with flip-over advantages, while others are of 20-30 plus cards. One thing to note is that in the Quyick Rules it says for Setup simply place the Damage Deck in reach of both players. I assumed this deck should be shuffled first and indeed the main rules booklet proved my assumption correct, which was good because I had been idly shuffling the cards whilst reading the rules - a habit I really should get out of.

When moving your ships remember that all moves by both players are determined prior to anything occurring each round - this is what the dials are for. There are both Red, Blue and White numbers on the black face of the dial. These are turned so that your secretly chosen manoeuvre, by code, is the one at the top of the dial under the arrow. Certain manoeuvres cause stress to the ship (and in intense situations to the player/pilot but that's all in the mind if you are truly into your game) and this is shown by Stress Tokens placed on the ship when performing manoeuvres marked in Red. Stressed ships are not allowed to do anything complicated for fear of breaking up - sound logic there. The Blue codes are fairly tame movements and allow ships to calm down and remove stress tokens. White numbers are just the regular norm and should be adhered to as often as possible.

 

When moving remember, I say this again, that you choose your direction/flight path prior to the Turn beginning and you are stuck with the information logged in. Thus look carefully at the position of obstacles, other ships that may move before you etc, before deciding on your Dial selection. Measuring with a Template or fingers or piece of string (basically anything) before moving is not allowed - you are a Top Gun Rebel or a Military Trained Imperial Pilot and as such your eyes should be your guides. I have to say it's amazing how often players get their movement wrong and want to move the Asteroid a little to the left/right. The rules allow for Partial manoeuvres which let ships pass through spaces which house other ships or slightly overlap other ships, thus causing the moving ship to curtail its movement. The rules are there but once you have played a few times and know what you are doing then we suggest that a) you let the pilot fire at the Asteroid and either destroy it or send it spinning away (make up your own chart as we have) or b) have the ship hit the Asteroid/obstacle, take some damage (not too much just a crumpled fender ofor example) and then either bounce off one way or the other, stop dead (not literally 'dead') or push the Asteroid away. The latter may cause collisions along its path, domino style. It isn't in the rules but it adds some fun to the game and is well within the flippancy of Star Wars without ruining the essence of the battle royale.

 

So what do I finally think?
Construction of all components is excellent. No 'but' though I would urge a little carefulness when fitting the Dials together as they are a very tight fit and too much force could split the centre hole.
Game Rules. I would suggest bypassing the Quick Start rules and take the time to learn the core rules. You're are going to need to know them anyway. The most remembering has to be the Token's explanations. The Rules booklet is divided by headers and illustrations and boxed examples where the author thought necessary.
Purchasing New Models: As I said I think the 3 models are great but 3 models do not a Starter Set make in my opinion; I would have liked to see at least 5 or 6 even if the price had to rise to reflect this. I can see this as it stands going two ways; some folk are going to put the game aside and forget it at least until the price of the extra miniatures comes down, others are going to spend every bit of their pocket-money on it. We will see how it goes at future conventions when clubs and enthusiasts put on demo games.
The Cards are full of information around their edges with some nice flavour text to help set the scene, though I don't suggest reading each card aloud when you play it as that will kill the moment rather than enhance it; just occasionally bring forth a jot of wisdom.
The Gameplay: Fun. Gets faster each play as you learn the ships possibilities, the effects of each symbol and learn how to balance the building of your ship for each game. But for me there is not enough alternate game ideas or suggestions, not enough in the way of scenario or adventure ideas, which is another reason I don't think there are enough ships in the core set. More ships more options.
Star Wars and Tabletop Miniatures Fans will have great fun building up their forces and also making tabletop terrain for their demonstration and participation games. 
Great for  2 players with good imaginations and limited table space. Super rules for large scale club participation and interaction games at major conventions. 
Easily possible  to entertain more than just 2 players if expanded.
I like it however with all the complexities of the different card types, the different and multitude of Tokens, the rules etc it sometimes seems as if the models are an afterthought rather than being the focus.

 


 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015