Star Wars seems to be cursed: It can never have a good space battle game on a tabletop.
When Wizards of the Coast made the previous space battle game Starship Battles, it dropped the ball on several occasions: First of all, the game was sold in boosters. If there is one universal constant in this world, it is that booster-based miniature games do not work. Especially if there are only two sides in the game. I bought Starship Battles silly much and in the end I had only three ships capable of transporting fighters on the Light Side. Instead, I got 5 Slave 1’s.
Another thing was that the game itself wasn’t very memorable. They just took the space combat from Saga Edition and oversimplified it. There wasn’t any love in the design. What I did like in the game, however, was the flexible scale and the multitude of ships: You could have dogfights or grand-scale showdown between Imperial and Rebel fleets, where capital ships bombard each other and smaller ships zoom around them, lasers blasting. And the miniatures weren’t bad-looking.
The game, perhpas predictably, failed. If they only had packed the miniatures in faction packs and blisters, then it would have been easier for a single person to get the kind of fleet he wanted. And if only they had done something else than their standard d20-based system.
But that’s all ancient history, for X-Wing, a tactical space battle miniature game from Fantasy Flight games has appeared! Wielding the legendary name of a legendary old computer game, it attempts to once again bring us miniature gaming with Star Wars! Let’s behold the end product and pass judgement.
After the massive scale of Starship Battles, X-Wing is kind of a let down. The starter has 3 miniatures. 2 TIE/ln and 1 titular X-Wing. Not the mind-exploding scale I had hoped. But let us remain open to new suggestions and tear into the box.
After beholding the tokens, realization hit me: This was Wings of War. Once again, instead of trying to create something completely novel, someone decided to just take an old game and slap new paint on it. Well, at least WWI flight game is a strangely appropriate choice for a Star Wars space combat game. While the dice in the game look fancy, there are just three attack dice and three defence dice. In a conventional game, about 33% of rolls require 4 dice of one type. And in an advanced game, that number could reach 5 dice. In short, there aren’t enough dice to comfortably play the game. Even one additional attack and defense die would have helped greatly.
After two games, I can say that while X-Wing is just Wings of War, it is an improved version of it. At the beginning of each round, the players choose their maneuvers for every fighter in secret, using a handy maneuver dial. After executing the maneuvers, the players shoot at anything within sight and range, and hopefully deal damage. Repeat until one side is debris. On the other hand, every attack consists of attacker rolling dice and defender rolling dice, which I always think is a terrible mechanic. Since a good hit requires the attacker to roll well and the defender to roll badly, the chances of hitting anything are low. Therefore, there were long streches when not much happened. Not a good sign.
So X-Wing was a resounding ”meh”. It was not very original, nor impressive. The lack of dice and other tokens (we ran out of Focus tokens in the first game), smells of extortion, especially since there is a Die Pack on sale. There are Ship Expansions for sale, but they are expensive and bring only a single ship per expansion.
What the game needs now is customisability. The models are on flying stands, and most of the ship’s information can be stored on a cardboard plaque on the stand. Sell people blank stands, and let them craft their own ships. Those ships could be used in different scenarios, which could be shared with other people via social media. Take a look at the most popular ships and make expansion packs out of them. Have a plan on upgrading the game into a higher scale with Star Destroyers and Mon Calamari Cruisers. Don’t just leave it as a simple dogfighter simulator.
The lack of a good space combat board game is certainly starting to ire me. Must I do everything myself?