Friday, February 21, 2014

Valentine's Day X-Wing Showdown


My fiancee and I had a lovely weekend for Valentine's day filled with the normal kind of love showing; flowers, movie and dinner, nice dinner at home, etc etc. But we also shared our love by shooting the crap out of each other's star fighters in our first ever game of Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game. I am here to report to my faithful readers my thoughts, concerns and insights about this game manufactured by Fantasy Flight Games.

The Buildup

I wasn't born yet when the original Star Wars movie hit the big screen in a big way back in 1977. I was still pooping in diapers when Star Wars: Return of the Jedi came out in 1983. I was around to ride the tidal wave of merchandising that came after this final movie. I remember being young and thinking that the Ewoks were the coolest things ever and being afraid when Luke sees his own face in Darth Vader's mask after the duel in the swamps of Dagobah.

I also wanted to fly an X-Wing as they were, of course, the coolest ship in the world. I had a toy X-Wing as a child that I would pretend was making all kinds of Star Wars like noises that also had the ability to "lock S-Foils in attack position." I outgrew that toy, however, and ever since then I have been looking for a comparable toy that would allow me to experience Star Wars like I had when I was a child.

Enter Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game

Not only does this game have cool little ships that you can fly around, making Star Wars sounds as needed, but it also allows you to experience the thrill and uncertainty of being a pilot in the driver's seat of these iconic craft. Let's get to the review.

Rules - 12 / 15

Rules are an essential part of any game. They are the skeleton that the rest of the game hangs to and if the skeleton isn't formed well, or is incomprehensible, the overall game itself will suffer drastically. Now, my fiancée isn't one for trying new games usually but she did agree to try out this one with me. Her being a Star Wars fanatic certainly had something to do with this. She is also a stickler for well written game rules, something which several games forget is important it seems.

Upon opening the box we found the following:

Not only did the game come with a standard set of rules, but it also came with very well written and well organized quick start rules. Using these, we were playing a less complicated version of the game within 10 minutes! This is something that most games can't boast about.

The actual rule book is also relatively well put together. It is divided into various sections that make logical sense and the index at the end is surely something excellent as well. Unfortunately, there is no table of contents but the complete rules are only 37 pages in length with some interesting info on the production of the models themselves.

Over all the rules set is presented logically and also facilitates the ease of game flow going forward through several options that add flavor and tie into the theme well. This is certainly one sexy skeleton.

Components - 15  / 15

Fantasy Flight is known for not being shy on providing excellent game components and Star Wars: X - Wing doesn't disappoint. From the sturdy cardboard maneuver templates to the quality cards and absolutely stunning pre-fabricated models, they obviously spared no expense on this game. I mean, check out the models alone:

 With this kind of quality coming in every box, the components are certainly some of the finest on the market.

Theme -   12 / 15

Theme is an essential part of most games because without theme, without the meat and skin of theme, all you're doing is playing a game of dice with little chits moving around the table. Tons of well presented theme can enhance a mediocre rules set and improve sub-par game play. On the other side a lack of directed theme can ruin an amazing rules set with excellent game play.

That being said I would say that this game has a good amount of theme. All of the special characters in this starting box are relatively well known to non-Star Wars fans and there are some iconic upgrades as well such as R2-D2 and proton torpedoes. The ships add a ton of theme and even the game play mechanics involving ship movement really make it feel like you are flying these craft around the table.

The only thing that I can dock this category on is that with only buying the base game, you have to play on a table. While my brown wooden table is nice, per the pics above, it does detract some and can really destroy your suspension of disbelief. A folded paper map with the suggested quick start rules of 2'x2' would have been nice to aid with the theme but, there are several nice third party retailers that offer game mats that would certainly enhance the theme even more.

Game Play - 12 / 15

Game play is how well the rules and theme interact during the course of a game. Good rules and theme can lead to good game play but they can also lead to unexpected travesties of fussiness over components or exorbitant play times.

As for how Star Wars: X-Wing miniatures rates, I would say that it does very well. The components all have a logical place and while the tiny tokens for actions and stress may get a little fiddly at times, it is nothing that a normal person wouldn't be able to handle. 

The turn sequence is also very nicely handled with players going through a planning phase by using specialized movement dials unique to each fighter type and choosing a movement and placing it face down next to the model. Then you execute a movement phase with lower skilled pilots moving before the higher skilled pilots. After this is a combat phase where you get to blast your opponents with classic Star Wars weaponry. The higher skilled pilots get to shoot first representing their honed combat instincts.

The only place where game play can start to drag a bit is at the end in some games where each person is submitting movements but is unable to get the other person in their firing arc. This can drag on for several turns until someone makes a mistake, which can be regarded as true to actual dogfights. Unfortunately actual dog fights last seconds and not minutes fiddling with components.

Replay-ability -   7 / 15

This category is one that revolves around variation on a theme. Games that excel at this allow players to replay the same game over and over with it never getting stale or boring. Games that do poorly at this are ones that are basically one and dones.

Replay-ability is really the only category that I can hammer this game on. I understand that it is part of a miniatures line and that you can purchase additional ships to add complexity and deeper strategy. However, this review is only covering the base game. The rule book comes with a few missions that you can play and asteroid placement, acting as in space obstacles for cover, can vary game to game but essentially it will always be two Tie Fighters vs one X-Wing.

Fun -  20 / 25

Fun is the product of all of the above things clicking properly and the game being worth the amount of time required to play a game. 

This game is fun. Straight up unadulterated fun. Not the most fun I have had playing a game but it still flows nicely with the starting matches lasting about 10 to 15 minutes. As more ships hit the table the games will get longer but will also offer more depth so the score should ride as I get more ships. That's right. This game is fun enough that I will be buying additional ships that will hopefully, and logically should, fix the low replay-ability score above.

Overall Score - 78 out of 100

I would certainly recommend this game to those who love star wars, wargames, or tactical dogfighting games. The components are solid and interact nicely with the theme and game play leading to loads of fun while playing. Unfortunately, to really make this game shine you NEED to purchase the additional ship expansions to correct the woeful replay-ability score. 

Questions, comments, cries of anquish, leave 'em below and thanks for reading!

P.S. For those who were wondering, my fiancee and I played two games. I was the rebels with her as the Empire. She dominated me the first game and I returned the favor in our second game. Looking forward to the tie breaker and hopefully I can get this to hit the table again soon.