Fantasy Flight has really sunk their hooks in me deep. Not only am I hooked on two Living Card Games and numerous of their boardgame lines, now they’ve got me with this new X-Wing miniatures game. Though I can’t say I wasn’t warned; the dramatic success of X-Wing has taken a lot of the gaming community by storm. In fact, X-Wing is now the single largest grossing game in terms of revenue at Fantasy Flight Games… all the more impressive considering how recently it was released.
So what is X-Wing? It is a table-top miniatures game using pre-painted plastic pieces on assembled stands with cardboard templates to direct movement and measure ranges. The miniatures have been carefully scaled and reconstructed based on actual data directly from LucasFilms. The miniatures are 1/270 scale with magnificent detail and paint jobs; I haven’t seen mass-produced pre-painted gaming miniatures this impressive since Heroscape. Each ship type has a set of pilots with some varying statistics, abilities, and costs so that the same miniature can actually represent a variety of combat units. Most ships also have optional upgrade slots which can further increase the cost of the unit but give it even more abilities, making the customization options pretty staggering when you start introducing expansions.
The key mechanic of the game is the hidden orders system, where each ship is secretly assigned a maneuver and then maneuvers are revealed and executed one ship at a time. Pilots have a pilot skill rating and the system works to the advantage of more skilled pilots as they maneuver last and fire first each round.
The core set comes with an X-Wing, two TIE Fighters, some cards for both sides, 3 dice, and all the templates you need to play. While certainly fine as an introduction to the system, I think a second core set is definitely a good purchase as you get 3 more dice, 3 more ships, and a double set of all the cards and other tokens. On top of the core set there are now 12 expansions out, including several larger ships; an expansion is one ship plus tokens and a set of pilot and upgrade cards.
My first game was a slow process of trying to understand how all the mechanics meshed together, but once it clicked our second game was a lot more fun. I played as the Imperials both games and the TIE Fighters, while fast, have some definite disadvantages in that they can easily speed past their targets and have weak firepower. Planning and revealing maneuvers becomes a blast with some fantastic tension, and the game system somewhat penalizes collisions which discourages excessive blobbing and keeps the maneuvering interesting. The most strenuous maneuvers also require you to stress your pilot, taking away actions, so you have to decide regularly how hard to push the limit while trying to best guess where your opponent will end up.
What I was most nervous about was the movement system. My previous experience with tabletop minis was a long time ago with Pirates of the Spanish Main, a clever game system in it’s own right but which really suffered from an imprecise and frustrating movement and range measuring system. Fortunately X-Wing uses square bases with precision cut notches for the templates so the movement is much more carefully defined. In crowded situations there might still be some fudging but on a much more acceptable level than I expected.
For an introduction to the game system I’m pretty impressed, and I can really see the appeal. As much as I can understand people spending hundreds of dollars on expansions to build very specific squadrons for serious tournament play, I think the game scales nicely down to the casual level also since the point system makes it so easy to come up with a variety of evenly matched teams at all scales and the pilot/upgrade combos makes for immense replayability.