Discovering a new game to play might not be as hard as you think. Nowdays, with the technology available to us it’s possible to check out a large number of games and gather opinions on them before dipping a toe into the water and buying a core set for a given ruleset. It’s with this in mind that I recently found me a brilliant game to play.
And that game you ask? Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game, from Fantasy Flight Games. A fast-paced game of dogfighting in the Star Wars universe. Playable by two players(but I’m working on house rules for a third), this is a fun way to spend a couple of hours with some friends. Personally, I love how there’s so many levels to the game – it’s pretty much a perfect gateway game into the larger world of wargames, and I want to explain to a larger audience(that’s you sat there reading, dear reader) what it is that appeals. I guess this would count as cramming my opinion down someone’s throat, but you have the power to look away at any time, such is the power afforded to you the reader. Go on, I won’t mind if you leave now and come back next week.
Still here? Excellent! Now I’ve got to be honest here, I didn’t always want to play X-Wing. I saw it as yet another over-priced(that phrase again!) game that would sucker me in and get me to buy all the expansions, or sell essential items at stupidly inflated prices to reflect their importance and influence within the game. Yes, the setting excited me – dog fights with smaller craft such as Y-Wings, TIE Interceptors and the like – but the cost kept putting me off. That Star Wars licence must be where all the money’s gone, and not developing the game, surely? And jeez those ships are tiny, right?
One day, I came across a video on YouTube of an X-Wing tournament game, purely by chance. I was intrigued. Here I was, sceptical of the whole scene around big branded games(given my poor experience with 40k as previously discussed) but I’m a man of curiosity. And after all, why dismiss the game off-hand completely without even doing some homework into the subject?
Plus, I was impressed that someone had actually gone to all the effort of recording a freaking war game. A table top war game. On video. How the heck? And there were lots of on-screen graphics added in during the editing process that aided the viewing of the match.
What followed pushed me over the edge of curiosity and into the realm of “shut the heck up and take my money”. The match lasted just under an hour, it was a small squad of Rebels versus a “swarm” of Imperial TIEs – but the larger of the two squads was only seven strong, compared to the three Rebel vessels. I was snagged in as the commentators explained the nuances of balancing the two loadouts(loadout being the ships and assorted upgrades attached to each. These usually have some sort of point value attached, and in X-Wing’s case there is a maximum of 100 points available in tournament-style play) so they could encounter any kind of opposing squad and come out reasonably well, preferably with a win. The loadout types were varied, surprisingly so given the lack of models on the table. Swarm. Aces. Jousters. Arc dodgers. Bombers. Grinders. Glass cannons. Fat Han. And so on.
The Imperials won, but only just. It was a really close run thing, and I was quite impressed that I’d kept up despite knowing nothing about the game. After that match ended, I dived head long into the internet to find out everything I wanted to know. And there was such a wealth of information out there that I just had to dive in and buy a core set… so come Barrage 2016, I bought one.
So why should you, the reader, bother with X-Wing then? Why should you spend your hard-earned cash on something you might not even be interested in? I guess we could say that to pretty much any gaming system(I’ve been looking at Bolt Action with similar questions in mind, it looks interesting enough to warrant further investigation) but if you’ve gotten to this point in the article, it’s fair to say either you’re wanting me to make a big sell to you, or you’re wondering whether my thinking with regards wargaming matches yours.
Well here’s why.
For a war game, it’s cheap – the core set costs under £30 and comes with everything you need to get started. Then if you choose to concentrate on building up just one faction(to date there are three: Rebels/Resistance; Imperials/First Order; Scum & Villainy) and have a solid idea of what you want to fly, you can get a solid force quite quickly. If you went Rebels, you already start off with one X-Wing – you could then get another X-Wing and a pair of B-Wings, and have change from £50. Oh, and they come assembled and painted. Eat your heart out, GW.
It’s really easy to play – There’s 5 stats: Attack, Agility, Hull, Shields, Pilot Skill. That’s it. Movement is determined by a dial that you spin without telling anybody else, then revealed in order. Templates are used for moving ships according to what you revealed on your dial. Attack determines how many red dice you roll, Agility determines green dice you roll in defence. If you get more success on your greens than the reds, nothing happens. More reds, you lose Shields then Hull. Pilot Skill determines the order everything happens. There’s a bit more to it than that, but in a nutshell that’s about it. Move, shoot, repeat. Also, overuse the word determine.
It’s a great spectator sport – it helps to have a basic understanding of the game, but when you see two players calling shots and comparing results, it’s quite easy to get suckered in and will one of the players on to greater things. Normally, this isn’t me. I’m a dirty Rebel player and my friends are all on the side of the Empire. And as it can be quite a quick paced game(ten minutes is considered a slow turn), anybody watching won’t have long to see whether shots line up properly as intended, or if the Millennium Falcon is going to fly into yet another asteroid(the answer to that last question is always yes) and take damage.
You can play how you want – if you want to fly casual, this game caters to you perfectly. Just buy what you want, proxy the upgrades you don’t have, and have at it. You want to fight in tournaments? There’s always at least one happening every weekend. Squad composition too falls under this: X-Wing is by far and away one of the most flexible and balanced systems I’ve played, and it just screams out for experimentation. I’ll write up a battle report in the coming weeks to highlight this very point.
The amount of support out there is incredible – free squad building apps, Facebook groups galore, several dedicated YouTube and Twitch channels, a whole subreddit, even a mighty customer support section on the main FFG website. And if you don’t have internet access(and yet you’re reading this!!!) then your local gaming shop should be more than able to point you in the right direction. All this has come about from the fantastic community that’s built up around the X-Wing game, everyone is willing to help newer and older players alike with help and advice.
And if that doesn’t persuade you to try out X-Wing, I assure you it applies to numerous other gaming systems out there. We’re all very fortunate to be living in a day and age where access to information is so easy and on such an unprecedented level. No longer is wargaming the reserve of miserable old farts and spotty teens – it’s now becoming fun for everyone and the options out there are so many and numerous, you’re bound to find the right choice for you. So long as it’s X-Wing, of course.
Parting Shot: it doesn’t matter what system you play, you’ll always buy at least one expansion for it.