What you see below is a real world, non-staged example, of how I arrange games of X-Wing Miniatures. “Pew pew” is a phrase that gets used a lot in our games, as we direct our ships to zoom around the table, try get in a good position and “pew pew” the enemy ships out of the sky. But is the game any good? How does it feel to actually play? Read on dear friend, and you shall find out.
In the X-Wing Miniatures game each player assembles a squadron of ships, along with their pilots, special weapons and other abilities. Different ships cost different points, and the players build to a predetermined point value. We usually play to 100 points, which allows us to get enough ships on the board (usually 2 or 3), but also gives us flexibility to vary how we play. As the Imperial player, I could end with 6 TIE fighters on the board, all weak, recently graduated Academy pilots, who aren’t very good. I could end up facing Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon with Luke Skywalker in an x-wing. That would be like a scene straight from the movies! The game is usually played with two players, and there are three factions available to choose from: the Rebel Alliance, the heroes of the story whose ships tend to be less maneuverable but more heavily armoured and shielded. You can play as the Empire, whose ships are faster, more maneuverable, able to turn on a dime and fly away from danger but are generally fragile and easily taken down. Or you can play the Scum & Villainy faction, including pilots from the well know Boba Fett to the lesser known Zuckuss, which is somewhere in the middle, with a few dirty tricks up their sleeve.
There is a big elephant in the room that I need to address: this game can be expensive. You can buy a core set, and this will give you a single x-wing and two TIE fighters. But soon, you’ll want more options, or the ability to put more ships on the board. It’s often recommended online that a second core set be your second purchase. Not only will this give you more ships, but also more dice, more movement templates and more copies of the cards in the core box. This effect has amplified recently where there are now two core sets, the “original” core box, which has ships for the original trilogy and a Force Awakens core box with pilots like Poe Dameron, from the 2015 blockbuster. But even then, those core boxes mightn’t be enough as you strive to figure out ways around your opponents strategies. If you want to play in tournaments, it’s almost a necessity to buy all the ships to stay competitive. If, like me, you’re just playing casually, you might just want to pick up a ship because it looks cool, or you need to spend a little extra to qualify for free shipping, or a stamp on your loyalty card… With each ship costing between €12 and €30 each, it can add up quickly.
But enough of that malarky, how does it play? Is it fun? You bet your ass it is. Every moment of this game is designed to make you think, stress and enjoy yourself. From the moment you start looking at your points and the ships available to you, you’re trying to outthink your opponent. Will they take the Millenium Falcon? How do I counter that? Should I take one more ship with this last 15 points, or should I use it to upgrade the ships I’ve already picked? Then the game actually starts, and you have to decide first, where to place the asteroids that will litter the sector of space you’ll be flying around. Should I put the close together, making them tougher to maneuver around, or should I spread them out wider and make it easier for my opponent to fly straight through? Once you’re done with placing the asteroids, you have to actually decide where to start your ships. Do I split them across the two flanks, and try a pincer move on my enemy? Or should I deploy them all in the middle of the table and just hope for the best?
All these tough choices before a dice has even been thrown in anger.
As the turn unfolds, you’ll feel magnificent and terrible all at the same time. You say you want your ship to do a gentle maneuver to the left, at speed two, no problem. Until you realise that this ships moves before your other ship, and now they’ve crashed into each other and you’ve wasted precious actions. Alternatively, maybe you’ve successfully navigated the asteroids, and barrel rolled into an excellent position, allowing you to fire on the enemy but preventing him from firing back. Oh yeah, well done, sit back in pride, let a smug smile cross your face and shoot your opponent that look that says “I’ve have you now”.
May the Force be with you
But maybe you don’t. Next comes the dice rolling. Both players roll at this phase. First up, the attacker rolls, and decides if he wants to use his ability to modify the dice. Let that smug smile grow a little wider as you roll a handful of hits. But then the defender rolls to dodge; that smugness will quickly turn to horror as your handful of hits are cancelled out by his handful plus one of dodge! Curse your damn luck and curse mine!
This all lends the game a hugely thematic feel. I’ve mentioned before I don’t really like dice, or games where dice make or break your game, but like in Hostage Negotiator, it makes sense. You roll the dice to see how your shooting: even the best pilots miss sometimes, a little over eager to pull the trigger, and sometimes even the worst pilots get a little lucky and time it just right to hit everything that flies in front of them. Similarly, sometimes the target is just in the zone, dodging blaster fire left and right, or alternatively unable to dodge a single thing, and gets blaster fire rained upon his puny ship!
This doesn’t mean that sometimes you won’t be cursing under your breath in frustration or just plain want to give up when the dice don’t seem to go your way for a few turns, but if you close your eyes and imagine it, forgetting for a second that you’re trying to recreate 3D space combat in 2D, it’s an incredibly dramatic dog fight across the darkness of space, asteroids floating in the background of a hugely thematic fight between Rebellion and Empire.
I like drinking Beavertown beers with the X-Wing Miniatures game because the black cans with white often remind me of starfields. The first time I had their Applelation Bramley Apple Saison was during a game of X-Wing and it went down a treat. There’s plenty of other options that fit too. How about Darkside IPA from Bru, a perfectly thematic beer if you’re playing with Darth Vader in your squad. Or if you’re feeling a bit braver why not match up your TIE Fighters with an Imperial Stout or Imperial IPA, whichever you prefer!