Wow, well, where to start with the now-classic miniature battle game themed around the Star Wars universe.
For any complete newbies, I would probably explain it best simply as a dogfight. You take control of either the Resistance or First Order (FO) ships, pit your wits against a friend (foe/family member/all of the above), planning moves and trying to second-guess theirs, in order to line up the perfect attacks and blow them into a thousand pieces of floating space debris.
Star Wars X-Wing Background
Without becoming Wikipedia (or Wookipedia- the Star Wars focused equivalent), it’s probably useful to know a little bit of background. The original core pack was released, along with some expansion packs, in 2012 by Fantasy Flight Games and very quickly became a go-to game for Star Wars fanatics.
The original core pack and the Force Awakens core pack have only minor differences beyond the thematic branding (the original is Rebel Alliance and the Empire), but ultimately they are completely compatible, both with each other and with all expansion packs. And talking of expansion packs, these have been released in waves two or three times a year since the original release, normally consisting of 1-3 ships (with movement dials, stalks and bases), a selection of character cards, special upgrade cards, special missions and spare tokens.
So, what's in the pack?
The Star Wars X-Wing core pack itself contains a beautifully painted and detailed T-70 X-Wing miniature, and two First Order Tie fighters (it’s all about the ships!). These come with ship bases and transparent stalks, and a selection of character cards, some with different “pilot values” and some with specific characters and abilities. These are flown around by use of movement selection dials and a variety of movement templates.
Also in the box are some annoyingly-shaped asteroid templates (where are the big round ones from my old asteroids game?), some attack (red) and defence (green) dice, and various damage cards, upgrade cards, and marker tokens.
....And how does it work?
One of the things I like about Star Wars X-Wing is that for each person who plays it, they will get their pleasure in different aspects. For some of my friends the best part is putting the “squad” together. Selecting ships, (when played with expansion packs), pilots and upgrades, and totting them up to an agreed value. Do you go for high pilot values, complimentary and devastating upgrades, or sheer numbers?
For others, myself included, the fun is in the flying. Second-guessing your opponent’s flight paths and planning your moves to avoid enemy ships and rogue asteroids, and still putting yourself in the best place for a killer shot. Throwing in the unexpected decoy move, or the risky flight millimeters past an obstacle.
The gameplay itself revolves around three simple stages; Plan, Move, Combat. Its simplicity is addictive, with turn order dictated by lowest pilot skill moving first, but highest shoots first. This creates a clever little dynamic which especially works with a large, low-value squad against a small high-value squad.
Can I play just with the base pack?
To test a game's simplicity and stand-alone playability, I see whether I can both explain, and play a simple version of it with my six-year-old. The answer is a (hesitant) yes. Small child #1 has been pestering me for ages to play X-Wing with him. The lure of the small space-ships is great, drawing him towards them. Luckily he chose the light side, leaving me to play the dark side.
Although it is possible to simply battle an X-Wing against two Tie Fighters, this is a very limiting experience, which only gives the value of learning the basics of the game. However, the sheer joy on his face to be “flying” an X-Wing and shooting at a Tie-fighter can’t be underestimated. The core box also includes a playable mission scenario, but again, this is only really worth one, maybe two run-throughs.
The real value comes with the expansion packs, allowing some really imaginative squad-building and battle dynamics. With some additional ships and characters you can also venture into tournament play. There is even a third faction – the “Scum and Villainy” team, which opens up the mini universe even more (and yes, Boba Fett and his ship, Slave 1, can be played as either Empire or Scam).
If I had to pick out one negative, I would probably have included two X-Wings in the base pack, just so it could be played with 2v2 straight out the pack.
Am I going to bust the bank to make it good?
The beauty of Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures is that you really don’t need many ships and expansions to make it really interesting. As soon as you have the core set and even a couple of other ships, this opens up many combinations which you can try against friends. Experimenting with different upgrades can be fun in itself, and the dynamic between two players will shift every time depending on the squad build and the flying ability.
There is the possibility that every time you browse online you will see another amazing miniature ship which you “need” in your collection. But this is “need” in the desire sense, rather than the playability sense.
Will I ever regret buying the core set and starting this journey…?
Are you kidding me? For all the other games you play, you will keep coming back to this again and again. You can walk away for a year, and the desire to put together another squad and pull out those range rulers will still be nagging at you. Whether you enjoy tournaments, or just the odd game over a beer, there will be no regrets.