A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to take an early look at the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game from Fantasy Flight Games. I sat down with Evan and Zach to put the core set and several of the expansion ships through their paces. Now that X-Wing is out in the wild, we’d like to give you our impressions from the first few games we played. Also, sorry for the poor quality on these pictures. The lighting in Evan’s dining room was not ideal.
The first thing you will notice when opening the box is just how beautiful the models look. FFG has managed to cram a whole lot of detail into these tiny ships. They previously stated that they were trying to make their ships as accurate as possible, even going so far as to visit Lucasfilm and examine the original models used in the films, and it really shows. If you played Wizards of the Coast’s old Starship Battles game, be prepared to be blown away by the quality of FFG’s ships when you compare them to your WotC ones. Even the quality of the (many, many, many) tokens and dials that come with the game are superior to many other games I own.
After an hour or so of admiring our new ships and going through all the pilots and upgrades to choose our squadrons we finally were able to play. And man, do you need a big table to play this game. The game only requires a 3’x3′ playing area to move your ships around in, but you still need plenty of room outside the play area to set all your pilots, upgrades, damage cards, the movement tracks, movement dials, dice, and all your action tokens. We ended up setting bar stools beside the table for each player to keep all their extra bits on because our table wasn’t quite large enough to hold everything. But eventually we had all the Rebels lined up at one end of the table, and all the Imperials at the other and could start.
The first couple turns of any game are not going to be very exciting as it will take at least two moves for ships to get into firing range at the beginning of the game. Once you are in range, however, things get really fun really fast. The movement dials serve to insert uncertainty into every turn as you’re not sure what your opponent is going to do before you plan your move. Part of the fun comes from trying to get into your opponent’s head to guess what he’s going to do and plan accordingly while he is doing the same thing to you. It’s a bit like playing chess if both players moved every piece on the board at the exact same time.
Doing the actual movement is incredibly easy thanks to the movement tracks provided by the game. Well, at least until you get several ships bunched together in a big dogfight. Then, as you’re trying to move, every other ship in the game is in the way of your movement track. We ended up often marking the locations of ships and pulling them off the board to make room for another ship to move. Of course, you never manage to quite get those ships exactly in the same place they were at and in a game where turning just a few degrees one way or the other can mean the difference between having a shot and not, this is a very big deal. I would have liked to have seen the movement tracks made out of something a little more flexible than the rigid cardboard to make it easier to thread the tracks in between ships. Same thing with the range finder you use to measure attacking distance.
The dice you have when attacking are a heck of a lot like the custom dice used in the roleplaying game that FFG is also making. The attackers have dice with hits, crits, focuses, and blanks on them while the defenders dice have evades, focuses, and blanks. Evades cancel out hits and crits, and both players can convert their focuses into hits/evades provided they used the “Focus” action this turn. The amount of damage the defender takes is determined by how may hits and crits (if any) were not canceled out. Crits can have some really powerful effects that can badly cripple an enemy ship even if it’s the first point of damage they have taken. In one game we played, the Rebels lost purely because Luke got critted and wasn’t able to fire his weapons for a turn. And yet, there are also crits that are only useful in the right situation, such as one that forces you to discard your secondary weapons. Well, if you don’t have a secondary weapon on your ship then it is effectively just a normal hit.
As a whole, X-Wing provides a fun, fast paced dogfighting game that is my favorite miniature game to date. My biggest gripe with the game is a problem that every FFG game suffers from, and that’s copious amounts of tokens, dials, and other doodads. This means that whenever I want to go play somewhere, I’m carrying around more spare cardboard than I am actual minis. However, I do love the card system for pilot stats and upgrades. Much nicer and more efficient than a giant 400-some page rulebook like you get with games like Warhammer 40k.