The other day, a friend I don’t get to see very often brought me a Christmas gift: the X-Wing Miniatures game published last year by Fantasy Flight. It’s a pretty perfect gift, because I’ve been eying that game for months now, and I’ve got a little, tiny, almost insignificant, lifelong passion for the Star Wars. Plus, as my friend noted, the game has a lot of similarities to a board game that I’ve been developing in my spare time. He thought it would be useful for me to see how another designer handled a similar concept.
Before anything else, let me say that the miniatures used for this game are beautiful. Seriously, click that picture! The rest of the pieces are are alright, with some high quality artwork for the pilot cards. But the miniatures? The miniatures for this game are of fucking stellar quality. When I first saw them I thought perhaps they re-used the old Micro Machine molds (which are some of the coolest toys ever). But! I pulled out my old micro-machines box to compare the two, and the models included with the miniatures game are even more detailed! I’m tempted to just keep these things on my desk rather than putting them back in the box. (And if the TIE fighters are as fragile as the old Micro Machine TIEs were, that may not be a bad idea).
The actual play of the game is surprisingly simple. The players agree on the number of “points” which will be used in the skirmish. They then use those points to add ships, pilots, and upgrades to their forces. Once play begins, the players use small dials to secretly choose which maneuver each of their ships will perform, then place the dial next to the relevant ship. Once everyone has selected their maneuvers, the dials are revealed, and the players use included cardboard guides to move their ships around the countertop, or table. And once everybody has finished moving, the ships with an enemy in their firing arc get a chance to attack.
Here’s some photos demonstrating the basic gameplay as I just described it:
The gameplay is fast, and it’s a whole lot of fun.
I do have one complaint about the game though, and it’s a big one. This game is designed around expansions. The basic game comes with 2 TIE Fighters and an X-Wing, which I’ve had a lot of fun with. But you’re not really getting the “full experience” until you start shelling out more money for extra ships. Which are expensive at $15 for a single fighter craft, up to ~$30 for larger ships like the Millennium Falcon or Slave I.
I’ve enjoyed the game enough that I’m okay spending some additional money to be able to have larger battles. But not everybody will be. I’d even go so far as to say it feels a bit slimy. Many board games have expansions, but those expansions are usually produced after the game is already a success and the developers believe they can produce more content for it. This game was released simultaneously with its expansions. And while the basic game can stand on its own, it also feels incomplete.
In defense of the game, the miniatures are of very high quality. The productions costs of each ship doubtless contributed to Fantasy Flight’s decision to use this expansion-based distribution model. None the less, I think it would have been better if the basic game included a few more ships. The bump in price would be worth having a more complete-feeling game. They don’t even include enough dice in the basic set! But you can bet there’s a fucking dice pack!
TL;DR: The X-Wing Miniatures Game is fun, and awesome, and I really like it. But if you don’t want to buy the expansions, it is not worth your money.