Thursday, 22 August 2013

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game, Part 1: Box Contents

Today on Games & Tea we're going to look at something a little different.  We want to keep our little review blog centred around board and card games, and have no intention of changing this, so it may surprise you to see that our latest review is of the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game from Fantasy Flight, designed by Jay Little.
 
 
Now many specialist games are catered towards a more geeky audience, and in any geeky audience you'll be sure to find a large number of Star Wars fans, and it's for this reason that we were very excited to pick up a starter box and see if joining the Empire was everything it was cracked up to be.  But more to the point, we wanted to see how it works as a standalone game.  Obviously as a tabletop system, a new player's X-Wing force is supposed to built upon over time, but from a board gamer's perspective we wanted to see if this would work straight out of the box with no additions at all.  Just two players, two TIE Fighters, one X-Wing, and a plethora of cards and tokens.
Regular readers of our blog will know we cast a similarly critical eye over Wyrd Miniatures' Puppet Wars, which came away as an excellent mini-tabletop system, but a deeply flawed board game.  Will Fantasy Flight's efforts with X-Wing fare any better?  Read on to find out!
 
As usual we'll start with the box contents, and boy does this box have a lot of content!  To the uninitiated this can be quite daunting, and as a reviewer I personally was guilty of the worst cardinal sin a gamer can commit - the first time I saw a game in action I thought it looked too complicated, and walked straight past, having no interest in learning.  We hope that the long list of items below doesn't put off our readers in the same way, as they are all very easy to pick up, and will quickly become second nature to players after a couple of games.
 
 
We might as well start with the most fun element.  If you're going to join the Alliance/Empire then you're going to need ships!  X-Wing comes with a pair of TIE Fighters and a single X-Wing to give two players a nice balanced encounter (yes the X-Wing is outnumbered, but it has shields which balances things out).  These come pre-painted, so as with any mass-produced miniatures there will be varying quality from one model to the next.  If your gaming store has several copies in stock then don't feel embarrassed about comparing the various sets until you find the one with the better miniatures.  We did the same with our review copy, and feel very pleased with the outcome!
Obviously this ships need to hover over the gaming area, so the box also contains three easy to assemble/disassemble bases for the fighters to slot onto.
 
That's right, we did say "gaming area", for there is no board in X-Wing.  However the nice thing about the game vs other tabletop systems (and one that helps its standalone case) is that it requires very little room to play.  Any flat tabletop measuring 3'x3' is enough to play on, and being a game of outer-space dogfighting there's no scenery required.  Some actual board games require more space than this to set up (we're looking at you, Zombicide), so in our book this doesn't cost X-Wing any points.
 
 
Next, Maneuver Templates.  This is another innovation which helps X-Wing's standalone case, as it doesn't require the tape measure typical to most tabletop systems.  Each ship's course of movement is decided at the beginning of the turn, and the ship simply travels along the length of the appropriate template.
 
 
Now for the dice, and once again X-Wing is really selling itself in this respect.  You'll find no standard D6's here, which would lead to cases of "I've rolled a 5, you've rolled a 4... let's pause the game while we check the rulebook to see what this means."  Instead there are three green 8-sided defence dice, and 3 red 8-sided attack dice.  The defence dice have two symbols; evade and focus, and blank sides.  The attack dice have 3 symbols; hit, critical hit, and focus, and once again blank sides.  Each time one ship opens fire upon another, both players roll off against eachother.  If the attacker rolls more hits than the defender does evades, then the defending ship is hit!  Simple as!  Critical hits cause more damage than regular hits, and focus symbols can allow players to convert their misses into hits/evades at essential moments.
 
 
Once a ship's shields have been depleted (or if they had none to begin with), they start to take hull damage.  In the case of regular hits a damage card is placed face-down beside the pilot card (see below), and in the case of a critical hit the damage card is placed face-up, and its text takes effect.  These critical hits can often nullify ship upgrades, disable weapons or navigation for a single turn, or (as in the case above) simply cause extra damage in the long-run.
 
 
A ship is only as good as its pilot, so X-Wing features a set of pilot cards to determine the stats on each ship in the game.  The cards dictate the ship's pilot skill, the number of attack and defence dice rolled, the amount of hull damage the ship can sustain before being destroyed, it's shield levels, the number and type of available upgrades, any special abilities, the ship's available actions, and the number of points the ship is worth.  This may sound like an overwhelming amount of information, but it's clearly laid out and doesn't take too long to get your head around, especially in a small-scale game such as this.
 
 
Each pilot card comes with a corresponding base-insert.  These slot into the miniatures' bases and allow the players to keep track of which ship belongs to which pilot, as well as giving them a quick summary of the ship's stats.
 
 
As we mentioned above, ships can receive upgrades.  These add to the ship's points value but bestow extra abilities upon it, and can often be cards which make-or-break a game!
 
 
In space, no one can hear you stop!  In X-Wing your starfighters are in a constantly moving dogfight, and so stopping to get a better shot at your enemy simply isn't an option.  Ships have to move each turn, and the players decide the distance and direction at the start of the turn by setting their maneuver dials.
 
 
The odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field...  As mentioned, there's no fancy scenery required for X-Wing, but it does come with a selection of asteroids.  These can be cast haphazardly across the table, giving players a bit more of a challenge as they're forced to plot their course around these obstacles, or even use them as cover against an enemy ship.
 
 
Again, X-Wing excels at finding ways around typical tabletop systems.  To see whether an enemy ship is within weapons range, players simply measure the distance with the range ruler.  If with range 1, the attacker gains an extra dice, at range 3 the defender gains an extra dice, and at range 2 both players roll off with their pilots' face values.
 
 
Time to start with the tokens, and if there's one thing X-Wing isn't short of, it's tokens!  Starting from the left we have evade tokens.  A pilot with an evade token may add it to their defence roll to avoid that game-changing hit.  Next up, focus.  A focus token can be discarded to change all focus symbols on an the pilot's dice to hits/evades.  In the middle we have stress tokens, which are gained from certain maneuvers.  These limit pilots' abilities until the player carries out a basic maneuver to remove them.  Then we have critical hit tokens, which just help players to keep track of which ships have received critical hits.  And finally we have shield tokens, which simply keep track of each ship's shield levels.
 
 
Next up, target locks!  These come in matching pairs, with the red counter attaching to the targeted ship, and the blue attached to the targeting ship.  If a player has a target lock on an enemy, they may discard the lock to re-roll their attack dice.
 
 
The identifier tokens are nice and simple.  If you have a pair of Academy Pilots then these slot into the ships' bases to let you keep track of which one's which.
 
 
The X-Wing rulebook contains a selection of missions to play through, and some contain mission objectives.  These are represented in the game by more tokens, rather than extra miniatures.
 
 
And finally we have the rulebooks.  Once again, Fantasy Flight seem to be doing everything right with X-Wing in this respect.  There is a full detailed rulebook, which contains the full range of scenarios, rules for upgrades etc, but there's also a Quick-Start rulebook.  This is a board gamers dream, as it contains a walkthrough of a basic game, making X-Wing accessible straight out of the box.
 
So there's the box contents.  You certainly get your money's worth in this set, and as we've made clear, Fantasy Flight have made some serious effort to make a tabletop system which is instantly accessible to non-tabletop gamers.  The big question remains, does it actually play well straight out of the box, or is this a system which will require time and investment?  Come back for Part 2, where we'll run through that Quick-Start game, and give X-Wing its Games & Tea score.
 
 
 

 

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