The Star Wars franchise has probably spawned more games than any other movie series. There have been the usual suspects; like most other franchises, you’ll find several Monopoly, Risk and Top Trumps editions. Star Wars has also, however, given rise to some more original games or iterations of other innovative games.
With the release today of the latest Star Wars film, now would seem to be an appropriate time to take a look at the X-Wing game from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG).
I should say at the outset that I have never previously been a fan of games that depend on the use of tape measures. I like moving soldiers about but it’s the measuring that put me off tabletop wargaming. It also put me off aerial combat games. I’d seen and admired the very detailed X-Wing models, which all come pre-painted and assembled, but I’d also seen the measures and firing arc calculators, and so I resisted temptation.
Then, about six months ago, I had a chance to play the Star Wars X-Wing game. To my surprise, I found I rather liked it. The measuring played an important part but gameplay was more fluid and intuitive than I’d anticipated. I liked the way in which the game incorporated cards and characters from the movies, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover how well the game delivered on its experience of tactical combat. The way the galaxy (playing surface) became littered with markers and tokens was initially distracting, but players soon get used to the debris.
In Star Wars X-Wing, players choose and set up their battle fleets and then they engage in ship-to-ship combat. Ships will have very different capabilities in terms of armaments, shields and manoeuvrability, so players need to balance and utilise their forces accordingly. Movement is simultaneous, with players setting up their moves each ‘turn’ through the use of dials for each ship showing speed (distance covered) and direction.
Aside from the impressive miniatures (and many of the ships are not so miniature), much of the success of Star Wars X-Wing is due to the game’s design compromises. To keep the game manageable, the movement and manoeuvrability is in two dimensions only (appropriately, the X and Y planes); players don’t have to worry about up or down. Diehard wargamers may not approve, but there are other abstractions too, as designers have rightly plumped in this game for playability over ‘realism’.
As tactical combat games go, this one takes some beating. It is playable out of the box, just using the core set, which you can buy for under £30. That, however, comes with just three small ships (one Rebel X-wing and two Imperial TIE fighters). If you like the game, the core set will be just the first step in a long and expensive path of collecting. The game was originally published five years ago, and every year has seen a long string of new models released.
I had the surprise good fortune to be given two very large boxfuls of Star Wars X-Wing miniatures as a donation to my board game library. Pictured in Board’s Eye View are just a few of the dozens of models that I now have in my armada. Problem is that Star Wars X-Wing is the board game equivalent of crack cocaine... Now that I’ve been seduced to the Dark Side, will I be able to resist adding even more miniatures to the collection?