Disclaimer: I was recently sent the X-Wing Force Awakens Core Set to check out by the folks at Esdevium Games. After spending some time with it I came out with some thoughts. This is a review of sorts, but as with my recent HeroClix articles, I want to highlight that I’m a newbie when it comes to miniatures games, so I’m mainly speaking to fellow-newbies or fellow Star Wars fanatics. Either way, enjoy!
X-Wing, I’m going to bet you’ve heard of it. If not, allow me to very quickly explain: it’s a tabletop miniatures game from Fantasy Flight Games built around aerial ship combat in the Star Wars galaxy. Two opponents take control of an opposing squad of fighters from one of Star Wars’ factions and send them into combat against one another.
It’s a simple premise and it’s translated into a game that’s become a huge success over the last few years.
With Episode VII: The Force Awakens looming on the horizon, FFG have released a Force Awakens flavoured core set for the game. Is it worth getting for X-Wing newbies? Do the miniatures look as good as the earlier releases? Can you play with just this core starter set? In short, yes, yes and yes. As for a longer explanation…
What’s in the box?
Let’s start with what everybody really wants to know: how cool do the miniatures look? The answer is very cool. Although I’m new to X-Wing as a player, I have been around the models in the past and I’ve always been impressed by the attention to detail. Fully painted and carefully sculpted, they look absolutely perfect.
The Force Awakens set contains 1 Resistance X-Wing, notably different from the Rebel Alliance X-Wing (note the more McQuarrie-esque S-foils, fellow nerds) and two First Order TIE-Fighters in a snazzy new colour scheme. Of course, the film isn’t out yet so we’ve not properly seen these ships in action, but I definitely got a kick out of seeing these recognisable but unfamiliar ships. It drives home that Star Wars is evolving again and games like X-Wing are going to be keeping up the pace.
You may instinctively wonder why the Resistance only get a single ship. But fear not, the game isn’t unbalanced and by using what’s available, the X-Wing will have the shields and handling to hold its own in your games. That leads us to talk about another important inclusion: movement templates.
Flying in X-Wing is handled very easily, using numbered movement templates. These are strips of numbered cardboard corresponding to the direction and distance of a particular manoeuvre. Thus it’s as simple as picking the corresponding template, popping it in front of your ship and then moving said ship to the end of it. This is a relief for someone like me, who isn’t a fan of carefully measuring distance with a tape measure, or dealing with the incredibly precise positioning you might find in some more traditional tabletop games. It makes turns snappier and involves less hassle. As the movement templates are made with a thick cardboard, as are all the tokens and markers, they’re sturdy and wearing them out shouldn’t be a concern.
So some of you may be worried that this set contains Force Awakens spoilers. It does not. If you’ve seen the original two teaser trailers then you know everything that this set discusses, which is to say: not a lot. Don’t take this to mean that the set is lacking in detail however, everything is dripping with Star Wars atmosphere, it’s just that they’re careful to avoid dropping any direct hints about the actual plot of the upcoming movie.
Like who are the First Order? What do they want? You won’t find the answers here, thankfully.
Pick ‘n’ Mix
So let’s say you’ve decided to pick this set up, you may notice there’s not any extra Force Awakens ships out yet for X-Wing. That’s true, there aren’t as of the time of writing. However, FFG have explained that Resistance ships are fully compatible with Rebel Alliance ships, and First Order ships are likewise compatible with Imperial ships. What this means is that you can grab the Millennium Falcon for instance and have Han fly alongside Poe’s X-Wing and everything will be nice and tournament legal. This also means both this and the original core set can be combined.
If you’re wondering whether to pick up the original X-Wing core set or this one, the Force Awakens one seems the best bet, assuming you’re neutral on ship preference. This one contains a slightly tweaked damage deck for more balanced play and the rules have been formatted in a way to make them easier to understand and pick up. For beginners who just want to learn how to play, then this Force Awakens set is what I would recommend.
As X-Wing is a miniatures game built around the idea of expansion packs, you may be wondering how much variety you can get out of this core set. Well, the set also comes with a small set of missions which are game types built using objectives beyond just “destroy the other team.” Utilising the included tokens for asteroids, mines and satellites it’s easy to come up with your own missions and shake up the game too. Better yet, FFG have added a mission section to the X-Wing hub on their website, here other players can create and upload their own mission setups. Now, of course, this means missions can (and often do in my experience) involve ships from expansion packs, but it’s easy enough to pluck ideas from these missions if you’re not quite ready to dip into expansions.
So, how does it play?
We’ve discussed a lot about what’s in the box and how it looks and only briefly touched on how it plays. Essentially the game works by taking turns at flying around and shooting each other, the actual mechanics of doing this are very straightforward. That said, planning plays a big role too, as pilot skill determines who moves first and then who shoots first (no pun intended). So if we imagine a match between a couple of grunts in TIE-Fighters and Poe in his X-Wing, the grunts are going to be moving first which lets Poe decide how to react (being the better pilot he can adapt to their moves). Then Poe will be shooting first, giving him a chance to damage one of the enemy ships before it can fire at him. In this sense, superior numbers don’t necessarily make for a better chance at coming out alive.
Just like movement, shooting is handled using a template. This template also splits the range of the attack into three different sections, range giving either the attacker, the defender or nobody a bonus depending. To check if your ship can attack you simply have to refer to the firing cone indicators on the ship’s base. This lets you know the cone of vision for the ship. If you indeed can still attack then you can use the range template, essentially a stick made from the same solid cardboard as the other tokens, to quickly check the exact range of the attack. Altogether this takes just a few seconds.
In terms of resources for performing actions, the game uses it’s own dice system. These dice rely on symbols rather than numbers and are very easy to understand. It adds an element of luck to the game, but considering what the game is simulating that’s hardly out of character.
To balance the game, X-Wing uses a point system. Pilots and equipment cost points. Meaning you and your opponent will select a point total for the match before it begins. Then with this limitation you’ll build a squad for the match. This means even with the core box every game isn’t the same, obviously your options are quite limited but you’re still not simply playing the same characters each time.
I have to take a moment to say that the artwork featured on the cards is gorgeous. If you’ve dabbled in any of FFG’s other Star Wars releases, such as the RPG line which I’ve tinkered around with a little myself, you’ll know they commission some absolutely stunning original art. The cards here continue that trend with ships and characters rendered beautifully with intricate details.
FFG list the length of matches lasting between 30-45 minutes which sounds about right with what I experienced. Now, maybe I’m a little bias because I’m such a Star Wars super fan (I’d wager some of you reading this are too), but I had a ton of fun with X-Wing. Again I want to stress that I’m coming at this from the point of view of someone who’s only recently digging into tabletop games, after years of being just a casual player. With that in mind something that’s simple to play, has added depth and offers plenty of fast fun is exactly what I’m looking for, X-Wing nails that completely. The rules are very easy to pick up and I surprised myself in how confident I’d become with the game in such a short period of time.
As with all dice games, there is an element of luck involved. But skill and planning are also vital. Positioning is everything in X-Wing and you have to outthink your opponent, as well as outmanoeuvre them, if you want to come out on top. This can be tricky when you’re picking your manoeuvres, as you don’t know what your opponent is choosing to do. Thus it’s down to you to try plan ahead, taking into the account the skill level of your pilot.
Now, I’m just a childless twenty-something, but for what it’s worth I think X-Wing would be a good game for families. As long as your children aren’t too young it should be fairly easy to introduce to a kid who’s also a fan of Star Wars. The detailed miniatures mean that you don’t have to use much imagination to immerse yourself, which should be good for kids who don’t have the patience to fill in the blanks themselves. Although FFG suggest ages 14 and up, I think if the interest is there you could easily have a fun game with a 10-year old. The depth of the game involved in customising your teams and planning your strategy does mean the game accommodates older players more than younger ones, but the option is there if you’re looking for something to play with your child.
Altogether, everything in the X-Wing Force Awakens Core Set feels like a premium product. This especially goes for the miniatures themselves, but even the box itself feels like it’s been carefully made to allow it to last as long as possible. The whole release feels like it’s made with pride, pride over having made a quality product but also that they’ve done the Star Wars licence justice, which they certainly have. The gameplay translates the exciting and flashy combat of the films into a tabletop setting perfectly, while ensuring everything has a high level of polish to it and no corners are cut.
If you want to try out X-Wing then you have to buy a core set, to get your own set of templates, a damage deck of cards and a set of dice. You get all that here but on top of that you’ve got three ships to ensure you can start playing with someone straight away, no need for anyone to bring any extras whatsoever.
Overall I heartily recommend this set. Just maybe be prepared for the temptation to pick up some of those expansion sets…