I picked up a copy of the X-wing tabletop base game a while ago, so what is X-wing? X-wing is a space combat game set in the Star Wars universe at the time of the Galactic Rebellion (Ep 4 to Ep6 of the films). This basically means the Rebel alliance vs the Empire (and now with added Bounty hunters), but other than that it’s Star Wars space combat. X-Wing is made by the same company – Fantasy Flight Games – who makes the Warhammer 40,000 table top RPG’s Dark Heresy, Rogue trader, Deathwatch, Only War and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay along with myriad other games.
I split my copy of the base game with friend and it cost us £13 each so £26 in total. Inside the base game box you get 1 X-wing and two TIE Fighters which are all pre-painted plastic along with a set of fast start rules and a set of full rules with scenarios. Also in the box is some 2-D card scenery in the shape of some satellites, asteroids and a Senatorial shuttle (which are needed for the missions in the main rule book), all the tokens, templates, movement dials, pilot cards, upgrade cards, and the unique eight-sided dice that the game uses.
As well as the miniatures that are in the base game box, you can also get more models which come in individual packs (called expansion packs) which come with all the cards and gubbins that you need. The ships are all in proportion with each other and some of the larger ships that you can get (such as the Imperial Decimator) look impressive on the battlefield.
The ships are mainly drawn from the original films but there are a few from the (now defunct) Extended Universe and some Star Wars games such as Star Wars Galaxies. There is a good range of ships including every thing from the A-Wing, TIE Interceptor and the Z-95 Headhunter all the way up to Slave One and the Millennium Falcon (complete with Chewbacca upgrade card). At the top of the pile the is the Tantive IV Corellian Corvette from the beginning of Episode IV, which is the largest ship and can only be used in very large games which are called “Epic Play” and uses some different rules. I have yet to try this game type.
The miniatures for X-wing are pre-painted but they are usually done to a high standard, for example, they have shading that really brings the detail out and there is some definition to the models with all the colour markings being neatly delineated, as well as any recessed panels picked out. That said I do have some concerns about the flying stands on the ships snapping, and some of the protruding bits on a few the ships getting bent or breaking off. Along with this, all the templates and tokens are made of card and I am wondering how they will fair under extended use. In fairness, it is very high quality card so in all probability they will last although, after several games, mine are looking a little scuffed.
Each models statistics and any special rules are on cards much like Warmachine and Hordes (from Privateer Press), the only difference is you don’t need to write on them and each model can have multiple cards for it (which come with the ship). The information on the card is everything that you need to play a game with that ship from how much damage it can take, to shields and the all important pilot skill. The ships also come with an insert for the flying stand base that matches the cards and has some of the statistics as well as each ships firing arc. For the ships there is wide variety of pilots with every thing from a rookie pilot all the way up to Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and everything in between. There is trade-off a freshly minted TIE pilot fresh out of the Academy costs much less points than, say, Darth Vader but skill wise isn’t as good. The same goes with the Rebels, the only difference is the basic Rebel ships cost more than their Imperial counterparts due to shields and a better ability to take damage but they do lack the maneuverability of the Imperials.
The movement mechanics are unusual with each ship having an individual movement dial. At the start of each turn you select what movement each ship is going to do that turn in secret, then as each ship is activated in turn with (ships with pilots that have a low pilot skill stat being moved first and pilots with a higher skill rating moving last) you then reveal the ships’ maneuver. I do like this mechanic because there is something deeply pleasing about dropping a ship on to an opponents tail with some skillful maneuvering. The secrecy of the move can make for some awesome moments with mad dogfights with jinking and dodging and at the other end of the spectrum ships making a gentle 180 degree turn away from each other which adds an element of unpredictability, Instead of the traditional tape measure, movement measuring is done using a set of templates that match the symbol shown on the movement dial. The movement templates are only available in the base game so picking a copy up is a necessity.
Shooting is done in much the same way but there are some differences, namely that pilots with a higher skill level shoot first. The shooting range is determined by a range ruler that is also only in the base game. Shooting is resolved using the two sets of custom dice; the red dice are used by the attacker and the green dice are used by the defender. The number of shots that is fired is given on that particular ships card. The game doesn’t use any form of 3D Combat or maneuver mechanics which I think was a sensible step that the designers have taken, as I have found that 3D combat or maneuvering can some sometimes slow a game down
So how does it play overall? Well, there are two sets of rules the fast start and the full rules. The two sets of rules are similar but the full rules are more complex and make the game feel less like a board game and more like a proper wargame. The fast start rules are useful to get the basics for the games e.g the movement and shooting though game mechanics such as shields and the way damage is assigned are simplified and ships can’t make use of upgrades. Both sets of rules though feel tight and well written and simple to learn yet flexible, with hosts of differing play styles accommodated. I have yet to have a rules dilemma that couldn’t be sorted out in a few minutes. All the ships seem to be balanced with both strengths and weaknesses and there does not appear to be an unkillable “Deathstar” ship, or combination of ships. (In the games I have had against one of the largest ships at the time of writing (the Imperial Decimator) while it was an issue to deal with at first (as I was using X-wings and E-wings), it is by no means invincible, it just requires use of tactics and some luck) This balance is achieved by a points system much like a lot of other table top wargames.
A game of X-wing can be played in about 2-3 hours depending on individual players skill and knowledge of the game and rules. The missions that you get in the base game are entertaining and challenging, with a nice variety including everything from an escort mission to a mission were one ship must escape off a specified board edge.The larger ships that I have encountered also include a new mission that can be done with or with the ship that they come with, which is a nice bonus.
So in conclusion is X-wing any good? Well yes it is. It combines the Star Wars universe with a set of really solid combat mechanics and rules that are simple to learn yet flexible and expansive. The cost of the games is reasonable with individual standard sized ships being about £10-20GBP ($10-20USD) depending on where you shop. It also has the benefit of not needing much for a game, with only 3ftx3ft of playing space needed for a standard 100pts game, so if you wanted you could take some X-wing to your local club, hobby shop or your mates house as well as all the stuff for any other games that you may play. In the words of my regular opponent about X-wing that I agree with completely “It’s the most fun I’ve had around a tabletop in a very long time, and I get the distinct feeling that it’s going to continue to be so for a while to come.”