Thursday, February 7, 2013

Games Review: X-Wing Miniatures

One of the nice things about having kids is that as they get old you can attempt to inflict your interests on them, and sometimes they stick. Other times they don't, because to them you are old and stuffy and don't really know anything, but thankfully one of things that Ewan (10, going on 15) does enjoy is board- and war-gaming. Its one of the reasons I can justify buying miniatures to paint. It also meant that for Christmas he got the X-Wing Miniatures Games and we've played a good few times since.

First, a description. This is a two-player tactical starfighter game played on a coffee-table sized flat surface with small pre-painted fighters from the Star Wars (classic era) Universe. Out of the box you get an X-Wing and a pair of TIE Fighters which are a purportedly fair match, and you can buy more if they ever come back into stock anywhere - the game seems to have been a large success! At its simplest, you start at one edge, your opponent at the other, and the fighters swirl around each other until one side or the other is victorious. Sounds simple?

Oddly, it largely is. Each fighter has a movement dial where can you select from a range of legal maneuvers (so the TIES are faster and more agile than the X-Wing, for instance). Once all the dials are set, you reveal them in reverse initiative order and move the fighters by choosing the appropriate template, placing it at the front of the model stand, and then moving the model to the end of the template. Its a wonderfully simple and intuitive movement system and is indicative of the game design overall. After everyone has moved, you do shooting in initiative order (so low-initiative pilots run the risk of being shot out of the sky without firing back) by rolling the provided attack dice vs defense dice and comparing "hits" to "dodges". When your fighter runs out hit points (indicated by damage cards), you explode. Musical Fanfare, Fly Through Wreckage.

There are wrinkles. Some pilots have special abilities, some maneuvers are harder or easier than others, that can limit your options in a tight spot. Everything is marked with chits that come out of the box to keep everything clear, and again I have to say how well designed everything feels. The box also comes with three scenarios to play though and notes on how they can be scaled up to larger battles, although I'd like to have seen more as they're pretty specific.

The main game itself is fantastic value, in my view, especially when you consider how much buying additional fighters are. The base game is pretty good fun, but I can easily how adding fighters increases the playability and excitement very quickly, and I can't help thinking that this is where the makers intend to cash in. I appreciate the expansions are more than just the fighter model - they come with the dial, pilot cards and chits - but I would think many people are in the position where are buying for two, so you're not going to be getting a single fighter for just one team.

That caveat aside, X-Wing Miniatures is a really fun, well balanced and slickly produced game that can easily picked up and played with a wide range of gaming ability. It would be a great game even if it didn't feature X-Wings and TIE Fighters (and soon, the Millennium Falcon!) and the fact you can zip around the tabletop making "whoosh" and "pewpew" noises is a real bonus.