A Review of Star Wars: X-Wing — Conjure Your Inner General Dodonna

x-wingI used to run around the house in my Spider Man Underoos, TIE fighter in one hand, X-Wing in the other, until my wife told me to find something better to do with my time. Well, I found something better to do. I bought the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game from Fantasy Flight Games.

X-Wing allows you to replicate Star Wars star fighter battles on the tabletop. There’s no game board here. A table is all you need. In fact, a mere 3’x3’ area is recommended as a minimum, but you can blow this thing up as large as you want. Oh, and I do.

The Base Game
The base game comes with two TIE fighters and a single X-Wing miniature. Each is roughly a couple of inches long, painted (quite well I might add) and mountable on a square base stand for game purposes. Once assembled, your ships hover about three inches above the table, ready for combat. The ship models look like they came directly from the Lucasfilm archives, and there’s a reason for that. Lucasfilm allowed Fantasy Flight direct behind-the-scenes access to material and dimensional data from the original trilogy.

In the production notes at the end of the rulebook, Fantasy Flight says, “Based on the assets from the classic films, we created a detailed CAD 3D model for each ship, which is required for precise tooling of the steel molds needed to manufacture the plastic X-Wing ships. Since we had the luxury of building these models from scratch, we were able to accurately control the scales, proportions, and minute details needed to optimize the look of each ship for this style of manufacturing.”

An X-Wing is an X-Wing
Since structurally an X-Wing is an X-Wing and a TIE fighter is a TIE fighter, each ship type’s fire power, agility, hull and shields are the same. It doesn’t matter if you are Luke Skywalker or not, the structure of your X-Wing itself is just as vulnerable as the next guys. It’s recognition of this fact that makes this game rise above, because it’s the pilots, droids, skills and special weapons you add to each fighter that adds infinite variety to this game. An otherwise mundane ship can become an instrument of The Force in the hands of a skilled pilot.

Start playing as Luke Skywalker, and you now have a better chance of dodging your opponent’s laser fire. You’ll also be firing first, or nearly first in each combat phase. Add in the R2-D2 upgrade to Luke’s X-Wing, and you have the capability of repairing a lost shield. Attach a proton torpedoes upgrade and the marksmanship upgrade, and you have an X-Wing that will be a tough match for anything less than a swarm of newbie TIE fighter pilots straight out of the Academy.

Stock Your Rebel Base
The game system handles all this variability with a simple point-buy system for ships and upgrades. A 100-point build is typical. You can load up on ships with expert pilots, or go for numbers, with lots of ships with fewer perks, or you can find a nice balance.

And there seems to be no shortage of extra ships you can buy for this game now and in the future. Already you have X-Wings, TIE fighters, Y-Wings, TIE Advanced, and the soon-to-be-released A-Wing, TIE Interceptor, the Millennium Falcon and Slave 1.

How Does This Game Play?
If you’ve played Wings of War (now Wings of Glory), some of the mechanics will be familiar to you. With the ships placed on opposite ends of the table, players secretly dial up a movement orders for each ship using ship-specific maneuver dials. The moves each ship can make are tied to a ship’s fictional-world capabilities. TIE fighters are faster and can make tighter turns than X-Wings, so these movements don’t show up on an X-Wing’s maneuver dial.

Planning your moves is a big part of the game. When you’re dog fighting, you obviously want to minimize (or eliminate) your opponent’s ability to get behind you, while optimizing your firepower against your opponent. As plans are made, maneuver dials are placed face down next to each ship.

Now it’s time to move ships. In order of pilot skill (lowest skills going first), ship dials are turned over and a template is used that matches the maneuver that was dialed. There are 11 different maneuver templates (basically curved and straight pieces of cardboard), including three turns, three banks and five straights. Some of the straights can be used to execute a reverse maneuver in which a ship makes a 180 turn at the end. Moves like this can add a stress token to your ship. That’s bad because as each ship completes a move, each has an opportunity to take an action. If you’re stressed, you can forget about that.

As for actions you can take, those playing TIE fighters can choose an evade action (increasing a ship’s chances of avoiding a hit during combat), a focus action (increasing a ship’s chances of hitting an opponent or avoiding hits – though not as powerfully as an evade) or a barrel roll action (a great way to reposition a tie fighter slightly more to the right or the left). X-Wings may also focus, but also have the option to target lock, a powerful action that can allow combat dice to be re-rolled.

Whatever your choice, most actions have you placing the corresponding token near you ship as a reminder during combat. The other actions you can take are actions listed on upgrades you may have attached to your ships. For example, the R5 D8 droid upgrade allows you to take an action that has a chance of removing damage from your ship, while Marksmanship increases the chances of scoring a hit on your opponent during combat.

Use The Force
Once everyone has moved, it’s time to tap into that binding, metaphysical, and ubiquitous power. Now, in reverse pilot skill order (that is the most skilled going first), you may fire at anyone within your arc of fire, which for most ships is a slightly less than a 90-degree angle in the front of the ship. Select your target, and verify if they are in range using the range ruler.

Short range is 4 inches, medium is 4-8 inches and 8-12 inches is long range.

You roll a number of red attack dice based on your ship’s Primary Weapon Value, plus one die if you are at short range. The dice are 8-sided. Meanwhile, the defender rolls its Agility value in green dice in hopes of evading any hits, adding a die if he’s being attacked at long range. Everyone rolls, and this is where any earlier actions can come into play. I won’t bore you with a laundry list of the details, but all you need to know is that the actions taken can help the attacker or defender in various ways.

Blowing Up
Any hits taken go against a ship’s remaining shields first, and then go toward the hull after that. You blow the ship up if you meet or exceed the hull points in damage. Damage can be rough. One side of each d8 sports a critical hit. If you take a critical hit, draw a card and read what it says. Bad stuff happens. Perhaps there’s a console fire, which has the potential of damaging you each turn, or structural damage, reducing your agility by 1. There are many more, and the criticals add a nice cinematic component to this game.

Nerd Love
I pretty much love everything about Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game, and after playing it a few times, you can start playing scenarios that take you beyond the kill-everything-in-sight genre, such as escort missions, or you can make up your own. There are also rules for adding asteroids to make your space battles even more treacherous.

Like many miniatures games X-Wing can get expensive if you wish to continually expand your collection beyond the base. Extra ships at your local game shop are $15 each, and that’s for the small ships. The falcon will retail at $30. Online prices, as always, knock 20 to 30 percent off those prices, but add shipping. And so it goes with any cool game that becomes an obsession.

You might as well take out a second mortgage, and turn your garage into Massassi Outpost and conduct the Death Star Battle in full General Dodonna attire. Come to think of it, that just makes so much more sense than Spider Man Underoos.

— Scott Bogen
The Board Game Show

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Categories: Reviews, Warfare

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