Wargame Review: X-Wing


July 23, 2013 by Ish

Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational wargame!

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game was designed and produced by Fantasy Flight Games that was released at Gen Con in 2012, it has been building a nice little community around itself ever since. In a nutshell, the game is light war-game that focuses on dogfighting between fighter-craft from the Star Wars films and expanded universe novels, comics, video games, and flame throwers.

If you are familiar with the classic Wings of War tabletop game of WWI then you already know how this whole thing works. There are some not insignificant mechanical changes, but if you already know and like Wings of War and would like to play that game with TIE Fighters instead of Sopwith Camels you can skip this review and just go buy it. Go. Go now!

The heart of the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game is the boxed core set, which is required to play the game. This box retails for $39.95, and is a pretty decent value for the money. Although it includes only one X-wing and two TIE Fighter miniatures, they are prepainted and lovingly detailed, but you also get the rules pamphlet, a pile of cards, tokens, markers, dice, and other gubbins. If you’ve never played any other game from Fantasy Flight Games, let me tell you, this is a company that loves its cardboard tokens — but it makes them of such high quality that I swear they’ll outlast some pewter miniatures from other companies.

Fantasy Flight Games finds the lack of accessories in other games… disturbing.

The rule book is really more of a pamphlet, being less than thirty half-sized pages altogether… but its not like they needed to provide us with a detailed fluff chapter, right? The glossy pages are full color, the rules text is laid out well with zero filler. Charts, diagrams, and the sample turn sequences are all easy to read and understand. I didn’t find any typos or glaring editing mistakes. There is a “Quick Start” insert in the box, but I ignored it wholly… and my first three games were between my seven year-old daughter and myself within moments of unwrapping the box.

I’m a bit of a “fluff junkie” when it comes to my games, but other than a quick blurb on the back of the box or a sentence of flavor-text on some cards, there is no setting information or back-story to be found here. But that’s more than easy to overlook here, it’s Star Wars! There are isolated tribes in the deep Amazon that have never seen an electric light bulb, but will make ‘froom froom krish‘ noises when they pick up a stick on the ground and pretend it is a lightsaber.

    The Factions and the Miniatures

To date the game has focused only on the era shown in the classic trilogy and has only two sides: the noble and heroic Galactic Empire and the cowardly scum of the Rebel Alliance. (Yes, I have a favorite. Can you tell?) There are eight ships, total, available so far with another four due out in late Q3 2013. Half of which are Imperial, half rebel. These are the Imperial TIE Fighter, TIE Advanced (aka Vader’s custom TIE from the Trench Run), TIE Interceptor, and Firespray (aka Boba Fett’s Slave-I); and the Rebel’s X-Wing, Y-Wing, A-Wing, and YT-1300 Transport (aka the Millennium Falcon). Every ship is modeled in 1:270 scale and taken directly from the official computer models that LucasFilm has provided to Fantasy Flight Games for this purpose. Detail is excellent, the ships are all sized just right. You fit two decent-sized squadrons on the table without cramping, large ships can dominate the play area but don’t get int the way, and none of your ships are too small or fiddly.

“This is Red 5, I’m going in.”

Every individual ship miniature comes with a range of Pilots for it, being either unique named personalities from the film or EU, like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, and generic nameless pilots that range from lowly cannon fodder to more elite squadrons. Each ship is rated in terms of weapons, agility, hull points, and shields and will be identical no matter who flies it, but the different pilots will add special rules, a higher Pilot Skill stat (used for movement order and shooting), and may have a different set of upgrades that may be attached. Upgrades cover the gamut: missiles, torpedoes, droids, elite piloting tricks.

As a general rule-of-thumb, the Imperial faction favors swarms of cheap generic pilots backed up by one or two named Aces. The Rebels generally fair better with a smaller number of more elite generics or named Aces. But the forums are filled with sample squadron lists and tactical articles that demonstrate ways to flip this base on its head. So despite having only two factions to chose from players won’t be straitjacketed into any particular play style.

The core game comes with only the three ships, everything else is sold in single ship expansion packs which come bundled with one ship, four or so pilot cards, and a pile of extra tokens and other gubbins. All the smaller ships retail for $14.95 and the two larger ships $29.95. The previews for the upcoming Wave Three stick to this pricing model. Expansion Pack ships are sold in clear plastic blisters (or boxes for the two big ones) which means no random CCG gambling and never being stuck with a ship you don’t want. Heck, when I went to buy a second to add to my daughter’s Rebels I was able to see that the last X-Wing on the shelf had a bent laser cannon. I opted to buy her a Y-Wing instead.

    Game Mechanics

I can’t really do into too much detail about the game play mechanics, because, well, its so darn simple that I’d probably wind up plagiarizing the rulebook! Suffice it to say, the game play is classic Fantasy Flight Games in that it takes about a fifteen minutes to explain by talking or just three minutes to demonstrate by doing.

Each player gets a space fighter or two (more if you use the optional point-buy rule) with stats for Attack, Defense, Armor, and Shields. Each ship gets a little dial with various maneuvers on it (move forward, bank right/left, sharp turn, immelman turn, etc). Players select the maneuver in secret, then they reveal them one at a time. Moves are handled by matching templates to the base of the model, moving the mini, and that’s it. No fuss, no muss.

Shooting involves making sure the enemy is in your firing arc and in range. Then you chuck some dice, the defender rolls to dodge, and if you hit he takes a few damage cards out of the stack. Critical hits are handled elegantly, you just flip the damage card face up and read whatever was written there. It took me longer to type out how to handle a critical hit than to just show you. Its that simple.

I could teach this game to any gamer with a modicum of experience in anything more complex than Sorry! in about ten minutes. Like I said before, my seven year-old daughter picked it up in no time and she can’t quite read all the special rules the cards, has never played a tactical game, and didn’t even know what “firing arc” meant. She still managed to shoot down her father’s TIE Fighters, six kills and no losses over three games. (Pause for a moment of Nerd-Dad Pride.) Despite its simplicity, its still a full-on fun time.

I’d recommend it as a great “pizza break” game for all my nerds friends that want to kill a half-hour during a D&D game while so-and-so makes the pizza run. For beer-and-pretzels gaming, you could have fun with just the core box… maybe anther ship or two just for variety. More serious war-gaming, you’re going to want to pick up several more ships to build a proper squadron. Based on the forums on Fantasy Flight Games website, Boardgame Geek, and other places on the internet, the community seems to have adopted 100-Points as the standard. That’s going to be somewhere between 3-8 ships for most squadrons, keeping the costs for this game remarkably low.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go defend galactic civilization from an insurrectionist second-grader.

Visit your local recruiting office today!


6 thoughts on “Wargame Review: X-Wing

  1. Null says:

    Ah, it is nice to know you are a fellow Imperial! They had me at The Imperial March…

    Also, that TIE Fighter poster is awesome.

    • Ish says:

      They had me during that long, slow tracking shot of the Imperial Star Destroyer as it ran down the Tantive IV. As the years have gone by, I’ve never stopped liking the Empire more than the Rebel scum… the prequels have only given me new appreciation for the humble bravery of the Imperial soldiers. No magic powers, no coiners removing their fear en utero, no limitless platoons of combat robots. Just a SoroSuub E-11 Blaster Rifle with guts behind it.

      • Null says:

        Yeah, the Star Destroyer design is very effective since it gives all the turbolasers a clear shot at targets in front of the ship. And it’s much more beautiful than an ugly Mon Calamari cruiser. The stormtrooper armor is pretty awesome, too.

        Speaking of stormtroopers, have you read Star Wars: Allegiance? Much of the book is about a squad of stormtroopers who get in trouble with the Imperial Security Bureau and go on the run. They flirt dangerously close to treason against the Empire but they also help arrest actual Imperial traitors.

      • Ish says:

        I’m not really all that into Star Wars as a franchise, I enjoy the heck out of the movies (well, most of them), played the various RPGs, and some of the video games. But as far as the Expanded Universe of novels and whatnot go, I’ve only read… maybe six? The Thrawn Trilogy, Shadows of Empire, something fortgetable about a Hutt building Death Star shaped like a lightsaber… apart from those Timothy Zahn books it was all quite lackluster. Oh, and comic books by the Jawa Sandcrawler load, but again, mostly forgetable.

        God knows I spent most of my teens and preteens with my nose glued to a Dragonlance novel, and co-blogger Julia was addicted to The Vampire Diaries, so this ain’t about highbrow literary tastes… I just never cared for Star Wars EU stuff.

        But that’s a nice part of X-Wing Miniatures. Lots of appeal for the die-hard Fandalorian crowd without anything to chase off casual fans. I might not know who the hell Maarek Steele is but I don’t need to in order to understand the options he brings to the table if I field him.

  2. Jake says:

    Most of the rest of the Expanded Universe (the non-Zahn segment, I mean) can safely be ignored. So far as I’m aware, he’s the only one to -not- portray the Empire as mustache-twirling cartoon villains.

    • Ish says:

      Star Wars is a space opera, so I’m willing to accept a certain level of mustache-twirling villainy from the villains. I mean, c’mon, they built not one but two Death Stars over the course of three films. Subtle shades of grey and complex morality plays they ain’t. what I always found so gorram boring about the spin-off novels what how they just kept rehashing the plots of the films over and over and over.

      The X-Wing game, thankfully, doesn’t concern itself with any of that. It’s cool spaceships blowing each other out of the sky from top to bottom. Fast-paced, tactically intriguing, easy to learn, and cheap to collect. It’s Star Wars without any of the baggage of Star Wars.

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