Sunday, 24 January 2016

X-Wing Miniatures: FIrst Thoughts

I think I’ve finally found a miniatures game I like. That game is FFG’s X-Wing miniatures game, and I played a test game the other night on the kitchen table. It appears to work very well – even the base set is fun (the X-Wing beat the two TIE Fighters this time).

An X Wing and two TIEs
Here’s why I like it:

It’s fast and furious, with almost no downtime. It’s not quite simultaneous, but choosing manoeuvres is done simultaneously (and secretly), then everyone moves, then everyone shoots. So there’s not much hanging around waiting for your turn. That compares favourably with, say, OGRE, Warhammer 40K or the D&D Miniatures Game. I imagine that more ships slows things down, so my plan is not to have too many ships.

Shots are fired almost every turn, because the ships perform some crazy turns. I remember playing a biplane wargame which seemed to consist of an attack run followed by long turns to get back into a firing position. I hated it. In X-Wing, because the ships can make ridiculously tight turns (although not every turn – there’s a neat mechanism limiting that) you’re rarely more than a turn away from being able to shoot at an opponent.

It’s Star Wars! And it reminds me of the X-Wing computer game of the 90s, which was awesome.

It doesn’t take long. It took me about half an hour to play through my first battle, and that’s with me checking the rulebook every few minutes. The ships don’t have many hit points. (X-Wing 6, TIE Fighter 4), which compares very favourably with my memories of Car Wars, in which you knock tiny bits off each other’s vehicles, slowly reducing them to piles of rubble.  I remember Star Fleet Battles and Battletech being much the same.

(I then played Megan and that didn’t take long either.)

Positioning is important. I’ve played some miniatures games where positioning isn’t important – if you’re in range then you can shoot (or hit): OGRE, Warhammer, D&D Miniatures. To me, these games feel a bit like everyone rushes to get into range – there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of positioning. Most of the X-Wing ships (certainly those in the base set) have forward-facing guns, so positioning yourself to be able to fire is really important.

(I should point out that of the three games I mention, I’ve only really given OGRE a real chance - and I quite like OGRE. I’ve not played the other two very much.)

It looks gorgeous. Unlike Warhammer or OGRE miniatures, the X-Wing miniatures are all pre-painted. While I used to enjoy painting figures, I don’t have the time for it any more. The painting standard is pretty good, making the game look spectacular. (And the other components aren’t bad either.)

It’s only two player. Maybe that should be a disadvantage as I generally prefer games with more players than that, but keeping it to two players minimises the downtime. Four player Car Wars used to take an eternity while you waited for your turn (and I’ve played it with more than four players). And as for more players, well, there’s team play and I have other games to scratch that itch.

The downside to X-Wing comes down to cost, space, time and opponents.

Cost: Those gorgeous miniatures don’t come cheap, and in my head I have to balance the cost of the game (and its expansions) against the replay ability value. I’m not sure where I am on that equation yet – I think I need to play a few games to find out. I expect that while I will probably limit the number of extra ships I buy. (Megan has already said she wants the Millenium Falcon...)

Space:  The game works fine on the kitchen table, so that’s okay. However the game box and all the miniatures take up storage space that could otherwise be used for another game that I might enjoy more. (At some point I guess X-Wing will have to replace something, but I’m not sure what yet.)

Time: With a full time job, a part-time business and a family, there’s not always that much time to be playing games. If I’m playing X-Wing then something else has to give - and that’s probably another game.

Opponents: My opponents are likely to be Megan (who is keen on it so far), and my brother and his family (who already have it). I’m unlikely ever to get Mrs H on board, but you never know.

Obviously, in buying the game, I overcame all those objections, but those are the kinds of things I weighed up before buying X-Wing. (What finally pushed me over the edge was finding it on sale in WHSmiths in York.) 

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