Friday, 9 August 2013

Star Wars: X-Wing

Plays: 3Px2.

Star Wars: X-Wing is one game I have been interested to try for quite some time. It is unabashedly an expansion-eyeing game. The base game comes with an X-Wing fighter and two TIE fighters. Given how rich the Star Wars universe is and how many types of spaceships, characters and weapons it has, these three basic fighters will not be satisfying to anyone who likes the game. Plus the nice spaceships will surely drive the collector's urge.

The Game

Star Wars: X-Wing is a dogfighting game set in the Star Wars universe. The basic scenario (which is the only type that I have played so far) is just shoot-down-all-enemies. The playing area is your table. You fly around the battle space and try to kill off every enemy fighter. There are some more sophisticated scenarios like escorting and protecting a particular spaceship.

A TIE fighter. Each fighter in the game comes with a few pilot cards. You pick one pilot to fly the fighter.

A pilot card. The orange 5 is the skill level. 5 is quite mediocre. The red, green, yellow and blue numbers are attack value, defense (evade) value, damage value, shield value. A TIE fighter has no shield, and is destroyed upon taking the third point of damage. The text at the centre is the special ability of the pilot, the icons below it are the actions the pilot can take after completing movement. The number in the lower right is the point value of this card. Better pilot + fighter combinations have higher values.

Before the start of a game you need to agree the point values to be used by both sides. Every pilot and equipment has a point value, the better ones having higher values. Both sides of the battle need to mix and match and come up with their own line-up. Once the battle starts, the procedure is very straightforward - plan, move and shoot. The first thing you do in a round is secretly plan movement for each of your fighters using round disks. Different fighter / spaceship types have different discs, and thus different types of movement. E.g. TIE fighters are better at turning tight corners than X-Wings. Also some movements are more strenuous to some fighters than others, causing a penalty when such movements are made. Once every fighter has a movement assigned, the players take turns moving the fighters. This is done in order of pilot skill level, with lower skilled pilots moving first. You take the movement strip matching the movement type you have chosen earlier, place it in front of your fighter, and then you pick up your fighter and place it at the other end of the movement strip. You've completed movement. There's a type of movement which allows you to flip your fighter. When you do this, you turn your fighter 180 degrees after moving it to the other end of the movement strip. After movement, the pilot can usually take an action. Options vary from pilot to pilot. E.g. if a pilot chooses to do Focus, later on whenever die rolls show the Focus icon, it can be converted to hits or misses.

Once every fighter has moved, you start shooting. This is also done in the order of pilot skill level, but this time the higher skilled pilots shoot first. This means the lower skilled ones may get killed before they can retaliate. The first thing you do is check whether you have a shooting angle on any enemy fighter. If you do, you then check whether it (or they) is in range. If it is, then you shoot by rolling dice. Every fighter has an attack strength and a defense strength. The attacker rolls a number of dice according to his attack strength, and the defender rolls a number of dice according to his defense strength. If the attacker rolls more hits than the defender rolls misses, the defender takes hits. If the defender has shield, the shield is damaged first. If no shield is left, the defending fighter is damaged. Once a fighter reaches the max damage point, it is shot down.

That is basically it. There are other things like pilots' special abilities, characteristics of different types of fighters, and weapons and special equipment that fighters can be armed with, but in a nutshell you are doing: plan, move and shoot.

The Play

Han, Allen and I played a very basic scenario, with Han playing Luke Skywalker flying the X-Wing, and Allen and I playing some unknown pilots flying TIE fighters. It was 2 vs 1, so naturally Han could pick a star pilot while Allen and I only had enough points for two mediocre ones. We intended to attack from two different sides, forcing him to be exposed at least on one side. At one point we managed to chase him to the edge of the table. He must make a flip, because otherwise he would fly off the battle space and lose (escaping means conceding). He was cornered, and both Allen and I were bearing down on him. Allen and I decided to each turn a different direction, so that no matter how Han turned, one of us would catch him. However Han made the bold move of charging straight at where we were. Both of us had swerved aside, and completely lost our firing angle. What a waste! Eventually Han was able to take us down one by one, and won the match.

Han played Luke Skywalker and piloted the X-Wing on the left. Allen and I piloted the two TIE fighters on the right. We were planning to surround him and attack him from both sides.

Han was chased to the edge of the table and had just made a flip, which left him vulnerable. A flip is usually a strenuous move which causes the pilot to be unable to take a pilot action in the next round. See that triangular token with a red exclamation mark. That's a reminder. Allen and my TIE fighters were approaching.

Guessing your opponent's intention is a big part of the game, so the planning stage of every round is the most important stage. The movement and shooting stages can usually be played on autopilot. There isn't that much to mull over, and the decisions that need to be made tend to be straightforward.

In my second game I played the good guys. I played the rebels and Han the empire. We had more fighters and used a higher point value. In addition to the X-Wing, I had a Y-Wing too. Not as nimble, but it can take more damage. In addition to two TIE fighters, Han had a TIE fighter advanced. It was piloted by Darth Vader too! My X-Wing was piloted by Luke Skywalker, so it was father vs son (sorry to those who have not seen the movies). Darth Vader was one very tough nut - his special ability was he had two pilot actions instead of one. Halfway through the game, Allen arrived and took over from Han. We had some amazing attack rolls, but in those rounds the defender rolled wonderfully too, which meant no damage. Eventually Luke was shot down, so it was a tragic ending. Killed by his own father. The empire won.

That in the background is the TIE fighter advanced, piloted by Darth Vader himself.

The Y-Wing.

Darth Vader in the TIE fighter advanced leading his remaining henchman to finish off the Y-Wing.

Shooting in this game is very exciting. It doesn't take many hits to destroy a fighter. It's not easy to score a hit, because not only the attacker needs to make good rolls, the defender also needs to make poor ones. However there is always a possibility of a hit whenever someone shoots, so that keeps you on your toes. Both sides constantly try to manoeuvre their fighters into favourable positions, to get within firing range, to avoid being shot at, and also to maximise their odds when shooting.

When shooting, the attacker rolls red dice, while the defender rolls green dice. This large star icon means a critical hit. In addition to causing one point of damage, a critical hit also causes same malfunction reducing the abilities of the fighter being shot at.

The Thoughts

Star Wars: X-Wing is brisk and exciting. It is smooth and simple, and also very flavourful. I like how the characteristics of the different spaceships really bring out the Star Wars setting. The game is mostly tactical, but I imagine when playing larger scenarios with more ships, there will be a bigger strategic element. The game is exciting because a fighter only takes a few shots to kill, and if you are very unlucky, it is possible to lose a fighter in one round of shooting. You get that sense of urgency that every round may be your last round.

If you are in the mood for a dogfighting game, I highly recommend Star Wars: X-Wing. It's not a heavy eurogame or a detailed wargame, but it does what it has set out to do very well. It's a game that lets you become a child again, going pew pew pew and playing with toys again.

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