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. I refer, of course, to 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 I absolutely love X-Wings. 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 because to the X-Wing video game. 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. 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. Part of the issue with Fantasy Flight Games is that they’re games writers first miniature designers second which, I feel, means they don’t put as much thought into the quality of the toys as other companies do. Their models are playing pieces rather than collectible miniatures. And that’s fine but table top wargaming is a tough market and you really need to bring you A-Game to make a splash – just look at Dropzone Commander (supply issues not withstanding) – especially when you’ve got the Star Wars logo slapped on every surface of your box.
Sadly the miniatures are a bit cack. The detail is okay but the pre-painting is average and the plastic they’re cast from is poor quality which means the X-Wing’s lasers had not only warped but are brittle so teasing them back into shape is…risky. It’s a shame because the emphasis is clearly not only on snubfighters but the X-Wing or they wouldn’t have put it on the box in massive red letters. But the reality is that you can’t help but forgive the short comings of the models 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 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 etc etc etc 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.
The other thing that attempts to justify the cost is the rulebook. The paper stock is so think you think you’re turning two pages half the time and it’s full of lovely artwork. It’s also full of waffle. It’s a tough slog to be honest and considering the main rules are less than 20 A5 pages that’s saying something. Taking two pages to explain what can be summed up in paragraph, and it’s then followed by a double page spread of examples is common. In reality it could have been half the thickness. 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.
That moan aside, the game itself actually plays rather well. 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. In experienced pilots move first as they are eager to close and get that all important first kill, but they strike 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. It the downside 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.
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 was shit, but on reflection is representative of 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 opponents move, you’re playing what your opponent will think your move will be. It’s agonizingly tactical and even with relatively few ships you can spend time worrying over. My only worry with the wheels is they’re pretty bulky and in big games the board can become really cluttered. Gamers would be forgiven for making up smaller counters to place next to units instead.
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.
Once you figure out which direction everyone is flying in X-Wing Miniatures game is hugely fun and, for all my worries, does feel like Star Wars which was the most important thing for me. The rulebook is a bit on the wooly side but you can pick it apart well enough and it’s worth doing. You’d also be forgiven for repainting the models…or buying the Micro Machines.
X-Wing Miniatures Game is out now from Firestorm Games priced £26.99.