One of the best parts of the original Star Wars movies were the amazing dogfights between the Rebellion forces and the Empire. Always outnumbered, , the Rebellion’s ragtag fleet of X-Wing fighters, B-Wings and Y-Wings still managed to save the day through a combination of superior combat machinery and skilled pilots.
While there’s no guarantee that the Rebellion will win every fight, Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game captures all of the thrills of dogfighting in that galaxy far, far away. This simple but surprisingly strategic tabletop war game pits two players head to head in a skirmish among the stars.
Like all of the other Fantasy Flight Games products I’ve ever had the pleasure to play, the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game (referred to from this point forward as XWMG) is beautifully packaged. When I first saw the game I thought that the price was a big steep, but after opening up the box and unpackaging all of the components I think that it’s a steal. The game comes with three highly detailed miniature ships (two Tie Fighters and one X-Wing) and tiny stands to put them on, plus a bounty of nicely illustrated cards, punchboard tokens, custom rulers and special dice. It’s a significant haul of goodies that make it feel like you’ve got your money’s worth.
Once all of the necessary components are put together and sorted out, play can begin in minutes. Rules come in two flavors: basic and advanced. Once the two players decide on sides (Rebellion or Empire), each grabs his or her ship(s) and gets going. The Rebellion player gets only one X-Wing, but given its advanced weaponry and shields, it is an even match against the two Tie Fighters the other player gets. Of course, the Tie Fighters are far more maneuverable. Once the ships are sorted out, the two players choose a pilot for each vehicle. In the basic game, the Rebellion player gets a rookie pilot and the Empire player gets a rookie and a seasoned pilot. The pilots can get more out of the ships depending on their skill levels, and some of them have special advantages that they can bring into play. Finally, the players choose cards for any upgrades that the ships may come with (an R2 Unit or torpedoes, as examples) Following this, play begins.
Each vehicle has a little maneuver dial from which the players select in secret how far and to what area of the table their ship will move. Players then take turns revealing their maneuver dials and moving their ships in the selected manner. The game includes handy little rulers that can be put in front of the ship’s base and curve in the direction that the player chose to move, so there’s no guess work. Once the movement phase is over, the player selects a special feature to bring into play (focus gives the player a better chance of dodging an attack, and locking on targets allow the player to hit an opponent with photon missiles.) After this is resolved, the attacks start. The attacking player rolls a handful of dice and if he or she scores a hit (or three) the defending player rolls his or her own dice, outmaneuvering some or all of the strikes. Every successful hit scores a point of damage. First the shields (in the case of the X-Wing) are damaged and then the hull itself starts taking damage. Once the ship runs out of hit points then it is destroyed and taken off of the table. The side that destroys the other wins.
The advanced rules introduce a level of complexity that deepens the play experience without being overwhelming. Both players get to choose from a wider range of pilots (Including some very famous names, like Luke Skywalker and Biggs Darklighter) and customize their ships with their choice of different weapons and other upgrades. All of these cost a certain number of points to buy, and both players get a budget of 100 points to spin.
Executing maneuvers gets a little more complex as certain moves can temporarily stress the pilot and mess up their focus. Critical hits are introduced into play, so things like pilot injuries and weapons systems getting knocked offline can happen. Obstacles like asteroids come into play. The players can also choose to introduce new vehicles that have been sold as expansion packs since the release of the original game. I expanded my set with a Tie Advanced (piloted by Darth Vader!), an extra X-Wing and a Y-Wing. I’m adding a Tie Interceptor next. Despite all these and other added layers of complexity, the game still moves along fairly quickly, and a thrilling dogfight can begin and end in under an hour..
I’ve never been able to get interested in war games (or more properly in this case a “skirmish game”) before, and this is a notable exception. My buddy Tony and I played three sessions (two basic and one advanced) over the course of three hours or so and had a blast. It was a lot of fun pitting Luke and his buddies against Darth and his squadron in all-out war on his kitchen table, and making “BLAT BLAT BLAT” and “WHOOOOOOOSH” noises as we did it.
This is a game with major replay value, and if you’re a Star Wars fan who like strategy games then I can’t see why you wouldn’t pick this up.