Tuesday again – it’s game day! Today here on spalanz.com, I’m trying something different again with my game day blogs, and taking a look at the X-Wing miniatures game from Fantasy Flight Games, but from a new player perspective. While I have actually played this game, it’s coming up on 2 years since I last played it, and my total number of plays is actually only 3, so I feel like I qualify as a new player! So I’m gonna look at the rules, see how it plays, and talk about some first impressions and stuff like that… So yeah!
I’ve talked about X-Wing on my blog previously, of course, such as when I took delivery of Wave Four, but almost all of my knowledge of this game is theoretical. When I played those three games back in the day, they were played using the quick-start rules and used very little of the full game experience. But let’s move on…
X-Wing is a tabletop wargame, and I’ve been surprised to see it talked of in the same breath as Warhammer and the like, but I suppose it is in a similar vein. Currently, players take the role of either the Empire or the Rebels, and duke it out in a space battle to the death (a third faction, Scum and Villainy, is set to release early next year). For those like me, who dislike simple “I have to kill all of your guys before you kill all of my guys” types of games, there are also rules for scenarios, but we’ll get to that shortly.
The starter set features just three ships – two TIE fighters and the eponymous X-Wing. There are a whole slew of cardboard tokens as well, which do all sorts of stuff, along with cards for the ships, upgrades etc. You play the game on a 3x3ft playing surface, rather than a board per se, which is another clue as to the wargame aspect. So.
Players control the faction, with all the ships under their command – and all the individual upgrades for said ships – having a points cost. This is where the squad building aspect comes in… If you field a solitary X-Wing, you have a choice of a number of different ship cards, from the rookie pilot to Luke Skywalker himself. The ship card shows which upgrades you can use – the row of icons along the bottom corresponds with the upgrade card backs (all upgrade cards are those mini cards). Everything has a points cost, as already said, and the limit is set before the game. The rulebook seems to favour 100-point squads, but I’m assuming you could theoretically have higher (or lower) if you want. Playing with just one core set, I think the points cost is in the 30s, for instance.
The ships all come pre-painted, and they all look absolutely great. They’re assembled along with a cardboard token that slots into the base to help identify the ship, as each ship card has a corresponding token. There are also number tokens that can also be slotted into the base, I assume if you want to field multiple generic ships (a whole fleet fresh out of the Academy, maybe?) Once they’re in, it’s action stations!
Another of the game’s cardboard accessories is the range ruler. Divided into three spaces, the ruler seems to be mainly used to determine range when fighting, but during setup, you use it to determine where you can place your ships on your side of the table. The other important piece of cardboard is the movement dial, which is used to move your ship during your turn.
So! The ship cards have a mass of information on them, such as hull value (hit points, I suppose), shield value, weapons stats, that sort of thing, and also a Pilot Skill value. This is used to determine in which order stuff happens – the lowest Pilot Skill ship activates first (quick off the trigger?), but the highest Pilot Skill shoots first, a nice bit of theme there, I thought! The ship cards also determine what upgrades that ship can take, be that none or a whole feast! Upgrades are usually weaponry, which replace the attack value on the ship card for something more fancy – and, potentially, devastating! There are also Astromechs, as well as unique ship names and pilots in the expansions. All these upgrades cost points, of course, which add to your total squad point cost.
So the rookies go first, letting the veterans see the lay of the land before they move. The activation dial is used to determine the manoeuvre your ship is going to execute, and is locked in before you actually start moving your ships. The strategy element comes in here, as you set your moves in secret so you have to estimate where your ships are going to end up – if your movement takes you off the battlefield, for instance, your ship is destroyed! Movement is determined by the dials, and effected by a series of movement templates, which correspond to all of the available movements to the ships.
Yes, this game is a veritable feast of cardboard!
Once all the ships have moved, each then has the option to perform one action. Available actions include evading, focusing, barrel-rolling, activating a target lock, activating the Action on an upgrade card, or passing. More cardboard! Evades, focuses and target locks are all cardboard tokens, which you add to your ship as you execute them. These are all things that will affect the combat phase, which comes next. You can only chose one, and the actions available to each ship are printed on that ship’s card.
So far, so good, anyway. Seems like a lot of cardboard, but then, this is a FFG game! The rules don’t seem to be massively complex, however – something that has really impressed me is how much stuff is contained on the ship cards. While there is a lot of iconography, the reference on the back of the rulebook is pretty good for explaining this stuff, so all in all it’s not like wading through treacle. Anyway, let’s take a look at combat…
The rulebook lists 7 steps to combat, which is a bit alarming, but on closer examination, it again seems pretty straightforward:
1: Declare target,
2: Roll attack dice,
3: Modify dice based on any abilities you have,
4: Roll defense dice,
5: Modify dice based on same principle as attack dice,
6: Compare results – any blasts left? if so,
7: Deal damage.
As said already, the ship with the highest Pilot Skill goes first. I think that’s Luke in the base game, but he may have been superseded since then. Anyhow. The cardboard token in the base of your ship shows an arc which defines your field of fire. Using this arc and the range ruler, you determine if your target is within range or not, as well as just how much within range it is. The numbers 1, 2 and 3 on the ruler interact with the various upgrades that are available, but also add dice if you’re attacking within range 1, or defending if you’re at range 3. I really liked that little rule!
The game uses a set of custom d8, with red for attack and green for defense. The attack dice have four unique sides: an eye (focus), a solid blast (hit), a blast outline (critical hit), and blank. Defense dice have three: an eye, an arrow (evade), and blank. If you have a target lock on your targeted ship, you can remove those tokens to reroll any of the dice. If you used your action during the movement step to place a focus token on your ship, and you then roll the eye symbol on the combat step, you can spend that token to change the eye result to a blast (if attacking) or evade (if defending). When it comes to step six, and comparing results, any evade results and tokens cancel out any hits scored – if there are any hits left, then you deal damage. If the evades cancelled all the hits, then the shots went wide!
Damage is something that I really like, as well. Ships have a shield value printed on the ship card, which denotes the amount of shield tokens it has. A shield token is removed for each hit scored, and once there are no tokens left, damage cards are dealt: face down if you score a hit, and face up if you score a critical hit. If your ship has a number of cards equal to its hull value, it is destroyed. However, for those flying around with critical hit cards (and tokens!) on them, all sorts of malfunctions will be happening for them. Wonderful!
When all ships have fired, in descending order of Pilot Skill, the next round begins, and play proceeds until one side has been wiped out.
Not that I like to brag, but I think of myself as a seasoned gamer – maybe not a seasoned wargamer, but a seasoned tabletop gamer nonetheless. As such, these rules sound laborious to explain, but they’re actually really very straightforward, I feel. Not sure if anyone would disagree? It’s certainly not a complicated game to get into – I feel sure when I say that you’d pick up the flow of the game once you’ve made your first attack, at any rate. As with a lot of these sorts of games, of course, there are bound to be little niggling things that come up every so often, conflicts and whatnot, but these are nicely resolved by the Initiative rule. In most games, the Imperial player has initiative (because the Empire is all-encompassing, I assume), though if you’re building your own squad, then the person with the lowest total points has Initiative (unless the points are equal, in which case, the Imperial player has it). For any conflict such as joint-highest/lowest Pilot Skill, the Initiative player goes first.
The way of resolving rules discrepancies is also quite civilised, I feel – each player rolls three dice, and the person who rolls the most eyes wins the dispute. However, an extremely important point is made here – the game is, overall, supposed to be fun!
I said at the top that I’m not a big fan of these sorts of ‘wipe them all out’ games, which is no problem here as the base game comes with three missions in the back of the rulebook, which come with special rules and victory conditions, as well as suggested squads. Naturally, they also feature tokens!! Further big-ship expansions have also included missions, adding to the variety of the game (I’d hope, as with Descent, we might sometime see a Missions Book for the game…)
Earlier this year, FFG released the first giant ships for the game: Tantive IV and the Rebel Transport. These behemoths feature some new rules (including what seems to be a new damage deck in the transport…), but most importantly, new missions. I seem to remember there being some hoopla about scenario play or somesuch, with these ships being more of a special-occasion model, rather than your run-of-the-mill stuff, but anyway, they look good, and they come with a slew of stuff!
It’s a really great-looking game, I have to say. It’s also FFG’s best-selling game of all time, apparently. It’s Star Wars, so naturally I’m interested, but the rules are pretty straightforward, and the whole adds up to what looks like it should be a really awesome experience. I’ve played three games, like I said, and while I don’t really remember much about the game from them, I seem to recall the experience being pretty good. The first game wasn’t a hell of rules-checking every turn, it was just a case of read then play! Of the three games FFG has so far released in the Star Wars universe, the LCG is probably still my favourite, if only because I like card games and get twitchy around so much plastic (will I break it?), but this game seems like a strong contender to take over my life. I currently have at least one of every ship so far released for it, after all, so am very much looking forward to playing with them all. At my local games shop, I’m intending to investigate the thriving X-Wing scene there soon, so I can finally get to play with more than just the base game ships – once I do, you can bet there’ll be blogs a-plenty about it!
So I hope you’ve enjoyed working through the rules of this game with me – come back soon for more awesome!
Buy it from amazon:
X-Wing starter set
TIE x1 Advanced
HWK-290 Light Freighter