X-Wing Miniatures Game in Review

The highest praise that I can give to Fantasy Flight Games’ new X-Wing miniatures game is that it makes Star Wars awesome again. It sloughs off decades of garbage with the Star Wars brand slapped on it. This is a game where Jar-Jar Binks never existed and the Clone Wars are just a cryptic reference. X-Wing, as the title suggests, gets back specifically to the really awesome faux-World War II fighter jockey stuff that I particularly loved when I was a kid. It is the spaceship dogfight game that I have wanted my whole life, writ in a modern, masterfully streamlined set of rules that all but step politely out of the way of the fun and cinematic action.

It is not a Wings of War ripoff. It uses some of the great design from that game along with ideas from the old Crimson Skies game, an obscure Euro called Techno Witches, and other games in its genre as a jump-off point to arrive at one of the least fussy, least messy tabletop miniatures games that I’ve ever played. The commitment level is low, requiring no paint, no assembly, and only a couple of ships to get going. Anyone can jump right in and pilot a flight of TIEs, barrel-rolling and blasting through asteroid fields and trying to get an angle on an enemy Y-Wing.

Any reviewer of X-Wing that attempts to rewrite the rulebook to explain the game is missing the point. This isn’t a game about which rules simulate which aspects of a subject matter that is essentially farcical to begin with. It’s not about how accurately it models or represents anything, and it’s not about the kinds of minutiae and millimeters that bog down other miniatures games. It’s a game about feeling. As soft-headed as that may sound, what works about this game above all else is how it feels to play- and how it captures the essence of the timeless, Manichean duel between X-Wing and TIE fighter, Rebel and Empire.

You don’t get to premeasure your programmed, dial-selected movement, so the maneuver you pick may cause you to bank right into an asteroid or wind up going over or under another craft in a very subtle abstraction of 3D space. There is a sense of movement and momentum. You have to be able to anticipate, know your ship’s limitations, and know when to risk making a difficult maneuver that incurs a stress token, thereby cancelling your ability to do a barrel roll or acquire a target lock-on for that turn until you recover. You’ve got to use the Force.

Combat is a straight-up shoot-out. I love a contested die roll. Red attack number indicates how many dice you throw, green is what the defender rolls.  In one roll you’ve got concussion missiles streaming toward a target while it desperately tries to evade. Pick a focus action for the round and you can use the special eye icon as an extra hit or evasion. If a hit is scored, either shields are reduced or the damaged ship takes a card to count against its hull. Critical hits require that the damage card be played face-up, providing a sense of narrative told by ammo explosions, blinded pilots, or other impairments.

As in most miniatures games, building a force is part of the game. It’s point-based, with 100 point games representing a tournament-class battle. By using a system that puts the pilots and ship stats on cards and identifying tokens separate from the miniatures, each miniatures can represent anything from a Rookie X-wing jock to Wedge Antilles. Ships can also take on secondary weapons and skill cards including proton torpedoes, droids, and special tactics that modify actions or provide unique abilities.

The miniatures are awesome. One of the important things about this game to me is that it crosses that gap between game and toy and speaks to that part of me that still wants to play with toy X-Wings and TIE fighters. The implementation across the board is fantastic, with ship-specific dials for selecting movement and standardized information presentation throughout the game. The rules take about five minutes to explain to a new player before a first game and they’re memorized by the second. One odd component note- there are no pictures of any characters in the game barring one close-up of Darth Vader. FFG’s licensing arrangement with Lucasfilm may not allow them to show Biggs, Luke, and other characters, but at least it’s an opportunity for the publisher to showcase some exciting, all-new Star Wars artwork that’s exclusive to the game. No movie stills, not really a problem.

There is, unfortunately, a two ton Hutt in the room and that is the cost of the game.  The core set ships with two TIEs, an X-Wing and all of the maneuver templates, dice, and markers you need and it retails at $40. I think this is a ludicrous price point for a starter, especially since it doesn’t even contain a paper map to use as a play surface. Online it can be had for $25, which is much more reasonable but it makes me question whether or not FFG is setting its retail prices intentionally higher than they should be to accommodate the deep discounters. Expansion ships retail at $15 each and come with a dial, tokens, pilot cards, and a base. These can be had for $10 online.

The game is completely playable for two out of a core set, but anyone that gets into the game should expect to immediately want to spend $100 or more on expansion ships or additional core sets. This isn’t entirely out of line with common market prices for miniatures games- but there is definitely a sense of sticker shock in the board gaming community. With more ships already inbound including the first medium-sized ones, this is a game where the sky is the limit as to how much you can spend on it.

But it’s also one where the sky’s the limit on where it can go. Scenario design, further development, fan add-ons, and competitive play are going to happen and are happening right now. It has the makings of a blockbuster, and between the FFG and Star Wars brands it’s definitely finding a player base regardless of the price. This is a Cadillac game and you can really get what you pay for out of it. I can attest that I’ve already played it more than any other game I’ve purchased this year, and I’m already certain that it will be played frequently on my tables for some time to come.

It’s the game to beat in 2012, the best thing I’ve played all year.

19 Responses to “X-Wing Miniatures Game in Review”

  1. jpinard September 27, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    Would a smart 10-year old be able to play & enjoy this game?

    • Michael Barnes September 27, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

      Absolutely, I would whole-heartedly recommend it for a 10 year old, no exception. Would be a GREAT father/son activity!

      • Bill Abner September 27, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

        Or in my case father/daughter.

        Sexist asshole.

        (Sorry that Borderlands thread…far too civil)

        • Michael Barnes September 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

          Yeah, what’s up with that? Nobody’s called me a troll yet. I must be losing my touch. It’s even linked on Ben Kuchera’s The Cut, that usually brings out at least a couple of hoodlums. Won’t _somebody_ tell me to go back to playing Call of Duty?

      • Matt Thrower September 28, 2012 at 4:19 am #

        How about six? I imagine that would be pushing it, but I can’t be arsed to download the rules and judge for myself.

        • Dan Spezzano September 28, 2012 at 11:46 am #

          I play it with my 9 year old, 6 might be pushing it

          • Michael Barnes September 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

            I think you could with the starter rules, no equipment/pilot abilities, and maybe do away with the actions. Just moving and shooting, no collisions or any of that mess. Could be fun with a little one.

        • Mark Guckeyson October 2, 2012 at 7:56 am #

          I play with my seven year old, with a modified set of advanced rules. His five year old brother also plays, but basically he’s just moving the minis around and is more like a force of nature than a flight of TIE/F’s. Which makes it more interesting for me and levels the playing field. And they love to play with me, which I love to encourage!

  2. coyote_blue September 27, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Dammit. I already have WIngs of Glory, but this sounds really cool, too. Sweet, sweet cash…How I will miss you…

  3. jpinard September 27, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    Where’s the best place to buy this stuff on-line?

    • timmie September 27, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

      It’s extremely rare for a discount retailer not to have an ebay presence, and I would say it’s basically an industry standard for discount game sales. Watch yourself on shipping and customs though. Looks like 30 bucks all in is realistic, but not garunteed.

      Alternately, Amazon has it direct for 30 bucks, and then you can get free shipping. Really, getting less than 5 or 6 bucks for shipping any cardboard box via ebay is likely optimistic.

    • Michael Barnes September 28, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

      I like Coolstuffinc.com, but part of that is because they’re a 1 day ship to my place. But they have good prices and service, they’re doing the core at $25.99 and the additional ships at $9.99. Order $100 and it ships free.

      Other retailers like Miniatures Market and so forth are probably priced around the same.

      • Bill Abner September 28, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

        CoolStuff service is great but hoo boy they charge a LOT for shipping

        • Michael Barnes September 28, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

          Of course they do when they have to send your stuff via Pony Express to rural Ohio.

          I’m about eight or nine hours up the road from them. Shipping is usually $10. It does REALLY suck if you just want like a $15 expansion.

          • Bill Abner October 2, 2012 at 8:20 am #

            Coolstuff charges more for shipping than any place I deal with. Thought Hammer (in TX) is cheaper. Funagain is cheaper. Hell Amazon is cheaper.

  4. Dan Spezzano September 28, 2012 at 12:58 am #

    If anyone is interested in the fan made campaign I am making around this game you can check out this thread at BGG. Bill and Mike I hope you don’t mind me posting this but I am going to need play testers.

    http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/862017/rogue-squadron-campaign-one-escape-from-yavin-4

  5. Aerothorn September 29, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    As far as the price goes, FFG actually has one of the smallest profit margins on the starter set of any product they’ve ever released, mostly due to the rising cost of skilled labor for pre-painted minatures.

    http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/857310/falconslave1-prices/page/2

    • timmie September 30, 2012 at 2:08 am #

      That’s a somewhat false comparison though. It’s explaining why it costs them a lot of money, not why it provides a lot of value to the consumer.

      I am sure a lot of people are overjoyed to pay quadruple the price for painted figures (as the comment from Christian T. Petersen suggests). However, I think that some fraction of the gaming population might prefer to assemble and paint themselves, if they could get stuff substantially cheaper. And if they sold for half price but paid one quarter the production costs, they would have larger margins while still silencing a lot of the criticisms on price point, paying 15-30 bucks for a single 2 inch long miniature.

  6. jpinard October 2, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    What do you think of this review (except the blatant lack of puncutation):

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A1RSG9EPEA2EI0/ref=cm_cr_pr_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview

    After playing several games of this I’ve come to the conclusion that you have to be a big Star Wars fan to really enjoy it because the actual gameplay is really lacking.
    The whole game is just so repetitive and fiddly. The whole game is pick one maneuver then do that maneuver. check if anyone is in range to attack if they’re roll some dice then repeat. regarding the fiddlyness of the game you have to move so many tokens around that it really takes away from the fun.
    I’ve heard people talk about how fun it is to out maneuver your opponent in this game. But when I played that didn’t come up a whole lot. You are only able to select one maneuver at a time so if you get into a good position your opponent can react to it very quickly and I just never felt any satisfaction from making good moves because it is so easy to react to what your opponent is going to do next because you only have to think about his next move and ships don’t have a lot of different moves they can make so it is easy to make the correct guess as to where they will be. So pretty much everyone knows where you’re going to move to.
    The Game is also so rules light that it because dull and boring quickly. My first two games were pretty fun but on the third game I already felt like I had done this before and that there was no excitement. Sure they will release more ships but I’m not willing to sink any more money into this shallow game of moving miniatures and rolling dice and that is pretty much all this game is. Good looking miniatures and dice rolling.

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