The Average Gamer

Friday Night Unplugged #16: Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game

In last week’s Friday Night Unplugged I talked about Agricola, a 17th Century farming simulator that encourages its players to think turns and turns ahead. This week me and Josh tackled a game that is galaxies apart from the economic warfare of the farming world, delving into the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game. We even have a new section this week.


The Basics:

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game does exactly what it says on the box. Two players pick a side as either the Imperial or Rebel forces and engage in space-based dog-fighting in a severely lightweight wargame.

Players pick their side, ships and pilots from the options available, building up to a total squad value agreed beforehand. The base set comes with two TIE Fighters for the Imperial force and one X-wing model for the Rebel, plus a selection of pilot cards. Players then place their pilot bases onto the base of the their ships and they’re pretty much ready to go. The only awkward bit comes next. Mark out a 2ft by 2ft square. I’ll come back to this later but for now let’s imagine the players have a perfect 2×2 piece of cardboard just lying around. Lastly each player places within “range 2” of the edge of the space, measured with one of the many range and movement tokens in the box.

Checking the range arc with the range marker.

Checking the range arc with the range marker.

Rounds are fast and brutally simple

  • Each ship has an associated movement dial. This has a range of movements from long straight moves to fast tight turns. Certain green moves grant you bonuses for taking an easy movement and stressful red moves slow your ship down and restrict its actions until you perform a green.
  • Players choose each ship’s actions at the same time (secretly of course) by rotating the dial to the movement they want and placing it face down on the associated pilot card.
  • Starting from the pilot with the highest initiative and ending with the lowest, players take it in turns to reveal their movement and perform it.
  • Performing a movement is easy; the player who is moving their ship takes the movement token with the matching symbol as their movement, places it against the front of their ship’s base then moves their ship so the back of the ship is touching the opposite end of the movement marker.
  • After a ship performs its movement it may also take an action as listed on its pilot cards, actions range from barrel rolls to focus/evade actions which are useful in combat.
  • Next it’s combat. Starting with the pilot with the lowest initiative each ship uses the range marker (pictured above) to check if there are any ships with its firing arc. If there are, it may roll the listed number of red attack dice against the players number of green agility dice. As with the Star Wars RPG, evade symbols on the green dice negate hit symbols on the red. If there are any hits left then that ship takes one damage card or they can discard a shield token per damage.
  • Once a ship has equal to or more damage cards than its yellow hull number, it’s destroyed and removed from the field.

The endgame is usually one of two options: either destroy all opposing ships in a standard dog-fight or complete your faction’s objective if playing one of the three missions included in the base set.

Let’s Play

We’re jumping into the middle of a plain skirmish, as the first few turns usually consist of players just moving their pieces into the field. Josh is commanding the lone Luke Skywalker in an X-wing and I’m in charge of the two TIE Fighters piloted by the strangely-named Night Beast and Mauler Mithel. Mauler Mithel has one marked damage and Luke Skywalker has one shield and no marked damage.

I decide to check my range using the secretive "just use the template" technique.

I decide to check my movement arc using the secretive “just use the template” technique.

Round 4

Movement: We both choose our movements and then Josh starts as Luke Skywalker has the highest initiative. The X-wing glides smoothly between my TIE fighters and finishes its movement. He also decides to take an evade action, placing one token on his ship.

Mauler Mithel moves next, taking a tight turn to the right and then a sharp barrel roll to the left placing him directly behind the X-wing. Night Beast finishes up by taking a sharp left turn and a focus action leaving the three ships in a rather awkward pile.

Looks like Skywalker isTIEd down this round.

Looks like Skywalker is TIEd down this round.

Attacks: Unfortunately the X-Wing is in a sticky position, facing away from the two TIE fighters so it can’t actually attack this turn. Night Beast fires first, rolling his ship’s two red attack dice to hit Skywalker. I roll two attack symbols and Josh fails to roll a single evasion. He spends his evade token and loses his last shield, meaning he can only take three more damage before the end of the game. For Mauler Mithel’s attack I roll one attack symbol on his dice and Josh again fails to roll a single evasion on any of his three green agility dice. He takes one damage.

Round 5

Movement: Seemingly going for an all-or-nothing approach, Josh sends Skywalker’s X-wing into a long range move and 180° turn. This places his ship under stress so he can’t perform an action but it does enable him to target either of the TIE fighters. Both Mithel and Night Beast take long but slightly curved movements in their respective directions, leaving the two TIEs and the X-wing all in firing range of each other. Mauler Mithel is equipped with a Marksman which I activate, allowing me to upgrade my attack rolls.

Attacks: Night Beast attacks first but his aim is obstructed by the asteroid he finds himself behind so he can’t fire. Mithel has a clear shot and rolls his two dice, rolling one critical hit and one standard hit. It’s up to the X-wing to defend itself. Sadly for the last time Josh fails his agility roll and doesn’t roll a single evade. Night Beast deals two damage to Luke Skywalker, destroying the X-wing and ending the skirmish

If only the X-wing could do a barrel roll

If only the X-wing could do a barrel roll.

 Conclusion: Having two TIE fighters so close to your rear and out of range of your weapons is bad. Try to avoid it.

What Is It?

Star Wars X-wing Miniatures is a two-player wargame-lite from Fantasy Flight Games. It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to play a game using the base kit but most games will stick close to the 30-minute mark. The included ship models are gorgeous, highly detailed, painted miniatures that I almost want to put on a shelf instead of hiding away in a box. Of course this is still a Fantasy Flight Game and it comes with handfuls of tokens for damage, target lock-ons, focus actions, asteroids etc. They’re all made out of thick stock so they shouldn’t get damaged from too much handling, especially important for the movement markers. All over, this is a well produced game but of course content quality isn’t everything.

There is one thing missing from the package.  As I explained earlier for a small skirmish you need to mark out a 2ft by 2ft square. For missions you need a 3ft by 3ft square. The problem is that without a tape-measure or handily-sized table to hand, this is a stupidly difficult task. We ended up using masking tape at a few points. A fold-out poster would have been great with some printed space patterns on it already pre-cut to size. Apparently this is too difficult. Either that or FFG have a deal with tape suppliers to help boost sales.

A 3ft by 3ft mission setup takes a hell of a load of space.

A 3ft by 3ft mission setup takes a hell of a load of space. So much so we ended up on the floor, again.

What We Thought

Every Star Wars fan worth their weight in merchandise has at one point or other dreamt of piloting an X-wing or TIE Fighter. Sweeping turns, blasting lasers and narrowly avoiding asteroids are all part of the appeal. That and it’s really cool. The X-wing miniatures game does a great job of actually translating that style into mechanics. A simple dog-fight feels like just that. It’s an every-turn-counts game of chase and while a 2ft x 2ft square feels like a lot of room when you actually get to manoeuvring your pieces you’ll soon realise it isn’t.

It would almost be perfect except for one thing. The base set contains 2 TIE fighters and 1 namesake X-wing, which is great. For the first 4-5 games. While the box comes with a stack of upgrade cards and different pilots, none of them really force a change in tactics or game-style once you’re used to the best way to pilot each side against the other. What X-wing needs is more ships.

Fortunately it does have that. While not included in the base set there are a host of different ships available to add on from A-wings to Darth Vaders advanced TIE Fighter. Even the Millennium Falcon and Jango/Boba Fett’s infamous Slave-I. It’s easy to say you’ll be fine and the base set will do but the more you play the more you’ll want the Falcon and its 360° firing rage, or the faster movements of the A-wing. Each ship comes with more pilots, missions, tokens and variety to add to the world.

See this? It's the newly released Millenium Falcon model and it wants to live on your shelf.

See this? It’s the newly released Millenium Falcon model and it wants to live on your shelf.

Eventually these will be things you need. Really it’s a testament to the game itself. Perfectly balanced and paced. The rulebook is easy to expand and its modular capabilities mean the game can be adapted to fit your needs each time.

For £29.99 the base set is an absolute steal to dip your toes into the world. It’s just so much fun. It might seem like the game’s heavily weighted in favour of the Imperial forces; after all, two ships are better than one. That’s simply not true.

The Rebel ship may be on its own in our example but it can (and has frequently in other games) dominate a game on its own if played right. Even if you don’t like Star Wars and were to remove all the branding and theme, you’d still have a capable and fun skirmisher. If you were to expand, then a decent 100 point squad wouldn’t cost more than another £20-30 depending on the ships you buy which is nothing compared to the army building costs of Warhammer 40,000. You can buy any extra ships + the base set over at Travelling Man.

Things we said:

“It’s great but suffers a lack of fleet movements? More ships! ” – Josh
“Do a barrel roll Mauler!” – Lewis
“Great Skywalker is dead. You just destroyed Star Wars canon, are you happy now?” – Josh

Next Week:

Next week’s game features some bad language, double entendres and strange graphics. It also features wizards blowing each others minds with increasingly mental spells in a battle to be the last one standing. We’ll be jumping into the world of Epic Spell Wars of The Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt Skullzfyre.