Arena Review: Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game

I’ve always balked a little bit on dueling miniatures games. Partly because restricting a game to 1 on 1 doesn’t really do a lot for me when hanging out with a group of friends, but also because I’ve never found them a lot of fun. But I love Star Wars, so when the X-Wing Miniatures game was released, I was somewhat interested. Then I saw the ship models and everything changed.

Suggested ages: 13 and up
Number of players: 2
Playing time: 15 – 20 minutes
Contents: Rulebook, Quick-start rulebook,  1 X-Wing and 2 Tie Fighters with stands & bases, ship tokens, dice, range ruler, obstacle markers, maneuver templates, 3 maneuver dials, damage/upgrade cards, ship cards, action tokens, mission tokens.
Retail price: $43.99 available on Amazon.com

Let’s get this out of the way, the game is beautiful. The ship models are amazing, and some of the best game tokens I’ve ever seen. They’re so nice that I’d like to display them on my desk or a shelf when I’m not playing. The ships are modeled at a 1/270 scale and were created by using Lucasfilm assets to craft CAD models. (There’s a nice little set of production notes in the back of the rulebook that explains all of this). It absolutely shows in the level of detail in each ship. That being said, the ships are a tad fragile, and I worry about long-term use, especially on the X-Wings.

This picture doesn't even begin to do these ships justice.

The base game comes with three ships, 2 Tie Fighters and 1 X-Wing. The two players compete against each other, flying their ships around the game surface, trying to get into firing position. Play continues until one player destroys the opposing fleet. To maneuver, the game has a set of templates of various lengths and angles. Each turn players secretly choose one of the templates and move their ship(s) accordingly. This allows you to bank, turn, or even do a full u-turn to get into perfect position.

The game itself consists of four phases: Planning, Activation, Combat, End. In Planning, players choose which maneuvering template to use, after which the ships are Activated and the movements are all resolved.

Next, Combat is resolved by checking to see if any ships are within range of an enemy’s weapons using the guides and ruler provided. If so, dice are rolled in classic fashion and damage is assigned as needed. The different ships have strengths and weaknesses regarding power, defense (shields), and maneuverability. Finally, in the End Phase the game resets, and any abilities that involve End Phase actions are resolved. Players move back to Planning and continue the game.

There doesn’t seem to be that much to the game, and in truth the game can be very simple. A set of quick-start rules are included which use the very bare bones rules of movement and attack, to get you familiar with the game. The rulebook includes advanced rule sets that add all sorts of complexity from advanced movement – barrel rolls and such, to different obstacles, special missions, upgrades like Proton Torpedos, and other abilities that really flesh out the game play.

The effect is a game that scales to the players. Though the game says ages 13+, you could easily tailor the basic game for a younger audience. The simpler game also moves quicker, so swap in rules as you see fit based on how much time you have. X-Wing Miniatures could either be a center piece of a day of gaming, or just the intro game as you wait for more players to arrive.

The rules aren’t the only thing that scale. Remember that I said that the game is played on a “game surface” and not game board, because there is no board. The rulebook suggests an area 2’x 2′ or 3’x3′ to play on, but really this game could be played on any surface of reasonably equal dimensions. The bases for the ships hold up just as well on flat surfaces as they do on carpet, so if you don’t have a perfect table space, just play on the floor. The nice thing about this is that you can make the playing surface larger to accommodate more ships (but more on that later).

All ships need pilots and the game gives you a choice of several characters from the Star Wars universe to pilot your ships. Characters in the game range from classic characters like Luke Skywalker to lesser know characters from the movies or books. Finally there are generic “academy pilots” and “Obsidian squadron pilot” cards thrown in. Each character has special abilities and affect their ship differently. The opportunities for amazing expanded universe characters to show up later – like Mara Jade, Corran Horn or Dash Rendar to name a few – are nearly limitless.

Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1. Never tell me the odds.

Equally as limitless are the possible ships that could appear in the game as well. There are currently four expansions that are available. Aside from additional X-Wings and Tie Fighters there are also already expansions out for the Advanced Tie Fighter and Y-Wing. Each comes with a ship and some new characters – like Wedge Antilles and Darth Vader. In the future, Fantasy Flight has promised more ships and expansions are  on the way for the Millennium Falcon, A-Wing, Tie Interceptor, and Slave-1 (Editor’s Note: BOBA FETT!!!).

"Careful! You've got one on your tail!"

As wonderful as all the possibilities for new pilots and ships are, it does add to the cost of the game, which is expensive already. While I don’t begrudge the price point because of the absolutely gorgeous ship models, it makes creating a big fleet tricky. With only the three core ships you are almost forced to buy the other expansions (which retail around $15 each) in order to get enough choices.

Even worse is that you can’t buy new ships on their own, you have to buy a whole expansion, which means if you wanted to get a nice squadron of X-Wings you’d have plenty of leftover character cards and other tokens that would be wasted. Hopefully down the road Fantasy Flight will start selling ship packs.

Nevermind...

Fantasy Flight has started off on the right foot with the X-Wing miniatures game. While hardcore fans might balk at the investment to get some real fleets going, the game’s scalability is remarkable and will keep X-Wing miniatures in your game rotation long enough to be worth it in the long run. The impeccable work that has gone into making the ships live up to their cinematic counterparts really can’t be understated and any Star Wars fan would want this game for the ships alone.

Pros

Ship models are absolutely gorgeous, display them proudly.

Able to play on any surface and virtually any size space.

Game can be as complex as you’d like it to be.

Expansion opportunities are limitless.

Cons

Core game limits abilities to build squadrons, almost necessitates buying expansions.

Why can’t I just buy additional ships without the full expansion?

Cost of the game is already high and ramps up quickly with expansions.