I always told myself that I wasn’t going to get into miniature gaming. To be clear, this pledge wasn’t an elitist thing, but more of a “don’t have the space or money or want of another hobby” thing. Of course, my affirmation of miniatures abstinence flew out the window when I heard that Fantasy Flight Games was going to release the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a core set at PAX and after the first play, my son and I were hooked.
The components are top-notch, as we’ve grown to expect from Fantasy Flight. The cardboard is replete with high-quality printing and nice, sharp edges on the punchouts. The cards are gorgeous and well thought-out in their distribution of information. The dice are nice, but the ships … the ships are drool-worthy. The models have lots of detail for their size and arrive pre-painted, ready for you to control the rebellion’s (or empire’s) fleet.
So it looks good, but how does it play?
Gameplay is easy, especially if you follow the quick-start rules, which abbreviate the 21-page rulebook to just four simple pages of instruction. Whichever route you choose – starting easy or jumping in with both feet – each round of play follows the same four phases.
Rules of Engagement
In the first phase, each player uses a dial to secretly plan each of his ships’ maneuvers. This step is similar to how moves are planned in another Fantasy Flight game, Wings of War. While some might be quick to draw parallels between the two, there are plenty of differences that make Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures its own unique game.
The second phase is the activation phase where ships begin their maneuvers. This is dictated by a ascending order according to a skill value assigned to each pilot. It’s also during this phase that players can perform an action associated with each ship. Actions are dependent on each pilot’s ship card, as not all actions are available to every ship.
Depending on the assets in your fleet, you may be able to place one of several tokens during your second phase: an evade token allows the player to cancel one damage during the combat phase; a focus token that increases chances of hitting or decreases chances of getting hit during combat; a barrel rolls allows a lateral movement and is usually used to move a ship outside an opposing player’s attack range, and target lock gives a pilot the ability to mark his prey even if that ship is outside the traditional attack arc.
Next, during the third phase, players check to see if enemies are within range and inside his ship’s firing arc. If conditions provide, the attacker and defender roll dice to resolve combat. The number of both attack and combat dice are decided by weapon and hull values on each of the pilot cards, statistics which are replicated on the ship tokens that reside on each ship’s base.
Combat is the most complicated phase; there are several exceptions that apply to this phase. The focus tokens discussed earlier can be used to modify an attack or defensive roll. Attackers can apply target lock tokens to modify rolls and there are an equal number of defensive tokens, moves, and range rules that apply to a defensive roll.
Once all dice have been rolled (attacker goes first) and dice modified and resolved, the results are compared. For each hit, the defensive ship loses a shield token (if he has any) or receives a damage card, which counts against his hull total. Play continues until all attacks have been resolved.
Finally, during the fourth and final phase, aptly named the end phase, all unused evade and focus tokens are removed from play. As long as there is at least one ship on each side, play begins with another round and continues until one team’s ships have been eliminated.
There are some other rules that apply to the game. The dice deal two types of damage: standard damage (solid hit icon) and critical damage (outlined hit icon). When a player is dealt a critical damage hit, he not only receives a damage card, but must flip the card for additional damage effect. For instance, “Blinded Pilot” carries the additional handicap of not being allowed to roll attack dice on his next attack. “Direct Hit” counts as two damage against the hull value.
When choosing maneuvers, the player can choose between varying turns and distances. Each choice is color coded green, white, or red. White are normal maneuvers, red are difficult and give the player a stress token. After receiving a stress token, the player can’t execute another red maneuver or perform any actions until he has relieved the stress by performing a green maneuver.
There are also a series of advanced rules for players looking to increase the level of complexity and difficulty. First and foremost are the instructions for squad building or playing with more ships than the core set. Each pilot card carries a squad point value so fleets can be built with a somewhat equal strength of force. To help differentiate among ships, the game comes with ID tokens that mount on the ships’ bases.
Ships can be customized with upgrade cards that grant players special abilities like expert handling or markmanship. Further refitting includes astromechs that assist in maneuvering and combat, and secondary weapons. There are also a handful of asteroids and floating debris that can be added to the play area. The rules book also a few fun missions that can be played according to the rule book’s setup.
This is serious fun. Gameplay is easy to learn and moves very quickly. While the box advertises a 2-player game lasting about 20 minutes, there’s nothing to stop you from playing 10 players in a deep space battle that lasts an hour or more. Rounds tick off without a thought and – if you play in the suggested four square feet of play area – you’ll find that there’s no place to run. I have plans of printing out a big star field to play on … and then conquering a galaxy the size of our dining room table.
The core set comes with three ships, an X-Wing, two TIE Fighters, and all of the bits and pieces to play the game. Unfortunately, the set’s box has a big hole in the middle of the top to display these ships, so it is fairly worthless in practical use, unless you want to package the game up similar to the way it shipped after every single play. Alternate storage seems mandatory with this game. (See my storage solution of two base sets, a Y-Wing and a TIE Advanced in the pictures above. Storage is ArtBin 9101.)
Another small complaint is that the single X-Wing seems to be a little overmatched by the two TIE Fighters, even after trying different pilots and actions. It could’ve just been us learning the game or some other unexplained coincidence — but no need to worry, help is on the way. When core sets hit game stores at the end of last week, expansion sets also made their way to shelves. You can now pick up single X-Wings to help with the core set or Y-Wings, TIE Fighters and TIE Advanced ships.
What’s more, Fantasy Flight has announced that the Millennium Falcon, Slave I, an A-Wing and a TIE Advanced will be available before the end of the year. Rumors of a Star Destroyer have already started popping up, although I’m sure they’re not to be believed. All of the miniatures are created in 1:270 scale; in this scope, the Star Destroyer would be 19 feet long.
The detail is really very good and the pre-painted miniatures look fantastic. The core set retails for $39.99 and individual expansion ships (Y-Wings, TIE Advanced, X-Wings, TIE Fighters) are $14.99 each. If you’ve never played a miniatures game, now just might be the time to take the plunge.
Wired: Easy to learn, plays very quickly. Miniatures look great. Very, very fun.
Tired: George Lucas premium prices, desire and lust for more and more ships, and horrible packaging continues to prop up the plastic storage industry.