A long time ago in the 20th Century a bearded sort named George Lucas risked everything he had to make a film about a farm boy who saves a rebellion and becomes a psychic samurai. And it was called…Star Wars. A franchise that was completely utterly awesome until around 1999 when Mr Lucas decided to systematically destroy it.
I wanted to review X-Wing Miniatures Game because more than anything, it was always the X-Wings and the dogfights they were in that drew me to the Star Wars Universe. Wedge Antilles was, is and always will be my favourite character. X-Wings are awesome. Let me paint you a word picture…
I have a bit of a love affair with the Incom T-65 ‘X-Wing’ snubfighter which harks back to the X-Wing game released on the PC. The prospect of getting behind the controls of the iconic warhorse of the Rebel Alliance back in the mid nineties was almost too much for my child mind to stand. I played the game as much as humanly possible and quickly scaled the ranks to a Fighter Ace and kept a back up of my pilot profile so as PCs were upgraded I could just move it across so none of my endeavours for the Rebellion would go to waste.
Then in 1996 the X-Wing novel series came out. Now, a little fact about me: I use to hate reading. I mean hate reading. I grudgingly did so at school but given the choice at home I’d rather do the dishes. That was until my brother convinced me to read the first novel in the series written by Michael A Stackpole. Not only did it deepen my love for X-Wings and their pilots but made me love reading which endures to this day. I say this to help you understand that X-Wings and Star Wars as a whole is an engrained part of my childhood and also a seminal point in my personal development (It’s funny how things work out).
So when I first saw the X-Wing Miniatures Game I was both excited and concerned. Excited, obviously, because it was bringing iconic Star Wars dogfights to the tabletop but I was really worried that it would struggle to bring that ineffable Star Wars quality with it beyond just having X-Wings and TIE Fighters flitting about my gaming board.
The other thing that worried me was the miniatures would be pre-painted. For me pre-painted is never good because the standard is barely table quality. Fantasy Flight Games are heavy hitters, to be sure, and Lucasfilm were not about to lend their name to something below par but I couldn’t help but worry about the quality of the models until I got to see them first hand.
In truth they’re pretty good. The paint job is basic but more than passable and detail wise it’s hard to get more faithful for the scale. The lasers on the X-Wings are bit flimsy so care has to be taken with figure cases and such. But the reality is no matter how good or not the paint job may be, you can’t help but forgive any short comings because they’re like anything else with Star Wars in the title; they’re cool by default. Apart from Gungans. They’re shit.
The rest of the box contents is as premium as you would expect from Fantasy Flight Games and a licensed Star Wars game. There’s a lot of cardboard as you have counters for your base, movement templates, range rulers, damage cards, focus cards, target lock cards and so on. And a handful of custom D8s. Which goes some way to making up the cost of the box considering you only get three models to start with. Part licensed products are always going to be more expensive so I should really get off that horse.
The rule book, whilst on the thin side is beautifully put together. The paper stock is so think you think you’re turning two pages half the time and it’s full of lovely artwork. To be honest it’s not the most concisely written rule set. Things can be over explained and considering how small the book is it’s a wonder why. There’s nothing wrong with an elegant game system concisely written, the value for money is as much in the playing as what comes in the box. Because the game is superb. I mean really excellent. It captures everything that made those space combat sequences great, from the swarming waves of TIEs to the elegant sweeping turns of the X-Wings.
It works on skill first and foremost. The more seasoned a pilot the better they are, simple enough. However rather than it be reflected in a greater chance of rolling to hit it’s reflected in the order in which play is carried out. Inexperienced pilots move first as they are eager to close and get that all important first kill, but they shoot last. This effectively represents a seasoned pilot’s ability for wait for a rookie enemy to make the first move and then strike when they’re vulnerable. Which makes a cinematic amount of sense. The likelihood is that no one will ever, in the right minds, take rookie pilots. Because they’ll die. All the time. Especially if you’re the Imperial player. Because their rookies are rubbish.
Where it gets a little tricky is, much like Firestorm Invasion, orders are given in secret using a manoeuvre wheel which you place face down next to each ship. The movement is then revealed, as mentioned, in order of ascending experience. This can mean that fighters can end up flitting about all over the place which, at first, I thought it would be a nightmare to manage but once I played it I was struck how (a) easy it was and (b) how well it represented the chaos of short ranged dogfights. Not everyone is going for the kill, some people are just trying to survive. What this means is that you’re not playing your move, you’re playing opponents. It’s a little like poker. It’s agonizingly tactical and even with relatively few ships you can spend time worrying over what you think your opponent will do, but in the end you just have to trust in the Force. The turn wheels are a tad on the bulky side – necessarily so – but they do get in the way a bit. It didn’t take long for us to place turn wheels on the profile cards instead of next to the models.
Combat is nice and quick, even with the addition of actions like target lock and focus involved and actually depicts the difference between Rebel pilots and tech against Imperial very nicely and if used at the right time can bring all kinds of pain on your opponent. The dice rolling represent a ship opening fire and the target attempting to evade/jink/roll out of the way which, again, completely fits with how both the movies and books describe dogfights happening, which is ace.
It’s all just so smooth and quick. A 60 point game can be played in an hour. More to the point, as the game only needs a 3×3 space you can play a game over a lunch hour. Star Wars? In a lunch hour? Oh very yes!
Once you figure out which direction everyone is flying in (you’ll spend a few turns trying to twist yourself round to match your fighter’s facing), the X-Wing Miniatures Game is hugely fun and feels ever bit like Star Wars which is the most important thing for me. The rulebook could do with a bit of tightening up but reads well enough that you can get to the business of rolling dice and fighting for galactic supremacy quick enough.
The X-Wing Miniatures Game is out now from Firestorm Games priced £26.99.