Since ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ is nearly here, I decided to stay on target and take a close look at the brand new The Force Awakens™ Core Set for the ‘Star Wars X-Wing™ Miniatures Game’ from Fantasy Flight Games. Is the Force strong with this one? We’ll find out!
If you haven’t heard of the ‘X-Wing Miniatures Game’, it’s a tabletop game of tactical dog-fighting warfare set in the ‘Star Wars’ universe. The game has been available for a few years now, with the Wave 7 batch of ships hitting stores just last month. But while players were still oohing and ahhing over things like the TIE Punisher or Bossk’s Hound’s Tooth expansion packs from that particular wave’s release, the internet also came alive with rumors of a new ‘Episode VII’ starter set showing up on the shelves of Target stores around the country. The rumors soon turned out to be true. The new Core Set was actually meant to be a surprise on Force Friday, but a handful of Target employees put it out a little earlier than they were supposed to. Nevertheless, the Force Awakens Core Set will be widely available in stores everywhere on September 18th with a suggested list price of $39.99.
The ‘X-Wing Miniatures Game’ Core Set includes everything required to play including a Getting Started booklet, a rules reference guide, a mission booklet, a set of cardboard maneuver templates, a cardboard range ruler, three maneuver dials, six dice (three attack dice and three defense dice), numerous cardboard tokens, cards (Ships, Upgrades, and a Damage Deck), plus three highly detailed painted miniatures: two TIE/Fo Fighters and one T-70 X-Wing. The miniatures themselves look awesome and easily blow away similar pieces found in many other games.
It should also be noted that while the Core Set is a playable self-contained game for the most part, it’s really just a starter set. As soon as you have a few games under your belt, you’ll surely want to expand and further customize your squadrons by buying additional expansion packs. The great thing about the expansions is that they all come with an assortment of different pilots with varying skill/point levels and abilities. So, for example, the YT-1300 expansion will allow players to run Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, or even a generic pilot in the infamous Millennium Falcon. This gives players all kinds of options with their purchases.
Before launching the fighters, players first have to create their squadrons from one of three main factions: Rebel (which includes the Resistance subfaction), Empire (including the First Order subfaction) and Scum (featuring the thugs, bounty hunters and other shady characters you might expect to see hanging out at the Mos Eisley cantina). Note: the Core Set does not contain any Scum-specific items.
Players have a certain number of points to spend on the ships to add to their squadrons as well as on the upgrade cards to equip them with. This allows players to fully customize their squads with different game-changing effects and abilities. You may wish to have an astromech droid like BB-8 riding in the back of your X-Wing, or perhaps arm the ship to the teeth with Proton Torpedoes. The decision is entirely up to you.
The game itself is also very interesting because players actually plot all of their movements simultaneously. Each ship comes with its own maneuver dial with the types of moves it may perform during a game. Most maneuvers are white, but red ones cause stress to a ship (limiting its actions), while performing a green maneuver will clear stress from previous rounds.
In the Planning Phase, players assign dials face down next to each of their ships, and then activate their ships beginning with the pilot with the lowest skill number (the orange number on the card or ship’s base) first – and then continue activating all the way up to the highest skill number. If the ship’s base or maneuver template doesn’t bump or overlap another ship or obstacle, and if it wasn’t already stressed or didn’t just perform a red maneuver, it may then perform one action. Actions can be really helpful and range from acquiring Focus, Evade, or Target Lock tokens (which can do things like improve accuracy, make a ship harder to hit, or be used to fire certain weapons); gaining additional movement via Boost or Barrel Roll actions; or even Cloaking – depending on the ship’s capabilities of course.
Attacks take place during the Combat Phase, but this time ships take turns from highest pilot skill to lowest. A ship can attack another target within its firing arc and in range by rolling a number of dice equal to its attack value (the red number), while the defender rolls a number of defense dice equal to his or her own defense value (the green number). After applying any modifiers, the results are compared to see if any damage gets through. The blue numbers represent shields and are usually the first to go when a ship receives damage, and the yellow number is the ship’s hull value. If a ship ever has a total damage equal to or above its hull value, that ship is destroyed. Ships can even be crippled by critical damage effects, which can sometimes be just as bad as blowing up altogether, but these random curveballs definitely make the game more exciting.
For a more in-depth look on ship combat, check out this great article on the Fantasy Flight Games website.
Although the ‘X-Wing Miniatures Game’ Core Set is directed more towards new players (it includes every necessary component required to play), veteran players should also be happy with this purchase. All of the rules that have come out since the initial Core Set have been integrated into the new documentation, and the Damage Deck has a few new criticals we haven’t seen before. While the included ships should be available as separate expansions at some point, the pilots here will likely be exclusive to this set if FFG follows the same pattern as the previous release.
The game is highly recommended.
See also: ‘Star Wars Armada’ Board Game Review