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wally holland
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Massachusetts
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## x-wing with a 5-6yo kiddo

This is my first review/forum post! Hi everyone.

First off: I'd encourage anyone on the fence about the game in general to look at Phuntom's review, **TK https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1617080/longer-time-exposur... link to this** which superbly covers the bases. X-Wing's a brilliant little game with a healthy community scene, and I'm really my son and I got into it.

My son and I started playing a little less than a year ago, if memory serves -- he was 5-1/2 at the time. He'd seen the first of the SW films and some Lego SW cartoons, read a bunch of books about the SW universe, and we'd listened to the soundtracks** while driving to school, but that was it for him. I've loved the films since I was a kid (my earliest memories involve RotJ t-shirts).

We used to listen to the music while playing. Now we don't need to, though I'll occasionally sing a few bars as Carnor Jax's groovy little red TIE Interceptor boils away into space under a withering hail of Rebel gunfire.

learning by playing

We started with the Learn to Play rules in the TFA box, which went quite smoothly: once we had the minis set up on their pegs and asteroids placed, we were up and running within 5 minutes or so. The first game was really an ideal introductory experience: I flew two TIE Fighters against Poe Dameron's X-Wing, and all we did was take turns moving and shooting. In the 'game zero' rules, you needn't manage the emergent complexity of pilot powers + upgrades + action economy, so even a 5yo kid can immediately grasp the basics.

One strength of the game that the Learn to Play book doesn't mention is the neat modular quality of the ruleset: you can easily layer in additional wrinkles as the players are ready for them. Range bonuses, asteroids/collisions, pilot powers, initiative bids, upgrade cards -- it's easy to add those rules in one by one if you like. We didn't play with the full ruleset until the 4th or 5th game, and my son was 100% into it each time.

managing information & complexity

Because players simultaneously choose maneuvers in secret and reveal them in initiative order, X-Wing presents one obstacle for kids that, say, chess doesn't -- young players will have a harder time predicting opponents' actions than older/experienced players. My son's 6yo now, and he's able to strategize a turn in advance about his own moves, but he's not yet thinking at that second level (what will my opponent likely do?). I'm not sure how quickly that skill develops, but we're working on it.

That said, my son still beats me at X-Wing pretty often -- partly, I think, because he can be clear-headed about what he wants and simply pursue it, without trying any dipsy-doodles.

Once you add in a bunch of upgrade cards and fly three or four ships to a side, you're potentially managing a LOT of little one-off powers, some reusable, some highly situational, all written in smallish print on smallish cards. I suspect this is too much for a typical kid of 5-6 to keep track of. My son's a bright kid, but he's as distractable/excitable as anyone else his age, so he'll often forget that he has That One Pilot Ability Perfect for This Situation.

collectibles

My son's into the Pokémon TCG, offline and on-. It's not a great game, frankly, but it's really the perfect complexity level for a young kid -- a fiendishly clever onramp to the financial hellride that is sealed-product collectible gaming. X-Wing is a vastly superior game to Pokémon TCG, and depending on the kid, the draw of (really quite lovely) Star Wars miniatures might outstrip the appeal of those $#%@ing foil-printed cute monster cards. Crucially, at $10-15 for the small ships, it can scratch some of a CCG's collectible-swag itch, though you probably wouldn't make an impulse purchase of even a small craft.

The X-Wing minis are impressive, but some of them are also a little fragile; I've had to whip out the Loc-Tite glue a couple of times to repair a broken gun here or (more often) reattach the little lucite connector on the bottom of the ship. Fortunately, they fix up quite easily, but it's a bummer when they break. The Falcon's radar dish is a weak point, like the Decimator's turret, the wingtip guns on the X- and B-Wings, and the front-mounted guns on the K-Wing.

Alas, I recommend sitting down and having The Nerd Talk with your son/daughter: 'There is a difference, beloved overenthusiastic creature, between a toy which is for smashing and a gamepiece which is for gaming.' Still, my son's old enough now that I only have a couple of palpitations when he takes out every one of our 27ish ships and lines them up in a 'hangar' made of Lego pieces and stray cardboard bits.

storage

We have little Stanley toolboxes with pick'n'pluck foam inside. They work. Pluck foam is amazingly versatile. You'll need at least 2" thick stuff in general.

You can easily google up details about storage solutions here and on the wider Web, and you'll have to do so eventually, so have a sense of how you'd like to handle things before you start buying expansion sets.

which ships?

Buy the TFA starter set, which can be had dirt cheap (we picked up five copies at Target for $12 apiece, months ago, to give away to his friends as gifts). Then you can branch out:

1. Get the Falcon, which is both an iconic collectible and easy to fly, and some combination of Boba Fett and Vader or the like; or
2. Grab a copy of the original basic set, with Luke and two TIE Fighters.

The first option dramatically changes the dynamics of the game -- the Falcon's a Large ship with a turret, so it's at greater risk of crashing into asteroids but has a much easier time finding targets -- while the second option gives you a much-needed second set of dice, plus R2-D2 and enough TIE redshirts to make for an impressive battle scene.

There are three factions, not two, but the Scum ships are less recognizable/iconic than the Rebel/Imperial sets. A Scum squad allows for some sneaky play, but it means starting from scratch shipwise unless you pair your already-purchased Fett/Z-95/Y-Wing with the 'Most Wanted' set (which contains ships and extra pilots).

The ships have gotten, I think, more complicated over time. The Falcon's easy to fly, the TIE Phantom not so much, and recent waves have emphasized crafty tactics. But that also means they've gotten more interesting, more challenging. It's a wash, really. So I'll repeat some good advice I read online when we were first getting into the game:

For casual play, buy whatever looks groovy to you, and move to more targeted purchases only as you figure out what kind of list (squad) you favour.

Overall, Rebel ships/lists favour toughness over maneuverability, Imperials vice versa. The basic set matchup -- X-Wing vs TIE Fighter -- is all about this contrast: Poe Dameron's T-70 X-Wing has more shields (which absorb critical hits and are almost always strictly better than extra hull strength) than the two TIEs combined, but can't make the same tight turns as those winged demons. He deals out more damage per roll on average with his three attack dice (vs two for the TIEs), but also takes more hits (two agility dice vs three for the TIEs); his interaction with BB-8 gives him extra maneuverability to compensate. Meanwhile Luke in his T-65 is even less maneuverable -- but R2-D2 can regenerate his shields. The Falcon fits this paradigm to a T: in a pinch you can simply fly her through the middle of the battlefield, relying on her large hit points and laser turrets to do the hard work.

In practice, I find that Rebels are more forgiving for younger pilots, and it makes sense to focus on a Rebels vs Imperials matchup at the outset.

My son and I have got the following ships:

* Y-Wing (somewhat ungainly workhorse, shown to be very effective w/turret upgrade)
* Imperial Aces (2 maneuverable, deadly, but fragile TIE Interceptors; a little more skill required, but they're a blast to fly)
* Rebel Aces (A-Wing and B-Wing, the former a zippy lightweight snub fighter, the latter a surprisingly versatile dueling craft -- a fine early purchase)
* Millennium Falcon (an essential purchase -- powerful upgrade cards and a neat ship profile, plus it's central to the collective dream that is Star Wars, innit)
* TIE Advanced (Vader's ship -- an interesting casual ship out of the box, but if you're flying competitively you'll want to look into the 'TIE Advanced fix')
* K-Wing (munitions! super-fast movement as an action! a very different approach from the initial rounds of ships)
* Ghost (an obvious early buy for fans of the cartoon; some interesting tactical choices)
* ARC-170 (we haven't flown this one yet; fans of the prequel trilogy may recognize it)
* JumpMaster ('U-Boat'; a deadly turreted large Scum ship, though you'll need to plan your squad somewhat more carefully to make the most of its upgrades)
* Decimator (hulking Imperial turret ship w/interesting tactical possibilities from ramming/blocking opponents)
* Z-95 (a couple of these low-point-cost snub fighters neatly fill in a Rebel/Scum squad, but they don't really change play much unless you're kitting them out w/Scum upgrades)
* Slave One (Boba Fett's beloved ship -- a rear firing arc opens up tactical possibilities, especially as a counter to the Falcon; the alternate Fett pilot card in the 'Most Wanted' set changes his profile somewhat for inclusion in a Scum faction)

Amazon sells some ships at 30% off or better, but the discount's just a buck or two on the small ships, so where you're able PLEASE SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GAME STORE.

grab bag

Huge ships (like the iconic Rebel Blockade Runner) look awesome, they're tempting for collectors and players alike, but they don't trivially integrate into basic play and you won't end up using them very much. Resist the temptation until you're sure you know what you're buying.

The 'TIE swarm' approach remains an viable approach to the game: build an Imperial list of a half-dozen TIEs, give or take, often with an upgraded leader, and fly 'em in tight formation toward the vile secessionist upstarts. If you can put your hands on a couple of basic box sets dirt cheap, you'll find this an enjoyable test of the Rebel player's fortitude.

CHOOSE SQUADS IN ADVANCE!! The game itself moves briskly with very little downtime -- I'm not kidding, this is a brilliant little design -- but choosing upgrades takes forgoddamnever, especially with a little kid. It's basically deckbuilding as prelude to the tactical maneuvering bit, and if there's a short attention span at the table (which in the age of Twitter is basically guaranteed), the fun of sitting there with the ships and cards all laid out will start to pale a bit after a handful of plays. Consider using a web-based squad builder which allows you to print out pilot/upgrade sheets -- among other advantages, it lets you try out upgrades you don't yet have.

THINK THROUGH YOUR ORGANIZATIONAL SCHEME!! Setup and teardown can be a real pain with this game if you're the only one helping, especially when you've got a biggish collection. If you have to hunt for the pegs and bases every time, you're losing play time, or just raising your blood pressure needlessly. Be consistent about storage and setup. Consider using a binder for upgrade cards, which multiply quickly and are less visually distinctive/scannable than pilot cards.

We bought an extra-wide yoga mat, cut it in half, and dotted it with a silver-Sharpie starfield. Cheaper and more satisfying, though less perfect for the task, than buying one of those expensive playmats, which are essentially giant mousepads. If you can buy the playmat dirt cheap, do that instead. But our yoga mat does give me a little twinge of pride every time.

to close

Playing X-Wing is one of the best tabletop experiences I've ever had; seeing Darth Vader blasted out of the sky by my son's YT-1300 and hearing him yell out 'Don't get cocky!' has been a thrill on par with the time my brother-in-law played Possession/Throne Room to end a Dominion: Alchemy game and went from 30+ points down to winning handily in a single marvelously mad turn. I can't recommend it strongly enough. But you should know what you're getting into: the cost of a collectible game, the need for storage, the setup/teardown time, the need for a 3x4 playspace (our local Starbucks adjoins a hotel with perfectly sized breakfast tables). It's a relatively casual game, but it's still a minis wargame, lacking only the painting/modeling aspects. Plan accordingly.

And may the F--- Aah, never mind.

** The prequels have extraordinary scores -- Phantom Menace in particular. They might not be etched in your memory the way, say, the wordless male chorus that accompanies Luke & Vader's final clash of arms is, but Williams was at a peak of creativity and craft in the late 90s/early 00s, and the prequel scores are a major achievement for him. Just listen to the Phantom Menace end credits for a taste: 'Duel of the Fates' is literally a primordial version of the Imperial March (complete with these weirdly jazzy syncopated brass tuttis during the first 'chorus'?!), and Anakin's melody passes through all twelve tones on its way to a haunting brief reprise of the Imperial March cadence. The credits suite ends with that cadence repeated several times, first in a hopeful but halting major key, then giving way to a troubled minor, then -- after a stutter, a moment's pause -- an octave drone, open and uncertain as the character it depicts. As musical *mimesis* this is unusually high art for a Hollywood film.
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Mike Waleke
United States
portland
OR
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Except Colt Express!
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"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." Douglas Adams
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Also if you haven't tried playing the fan made cooperative mode; heroes of the Aturi cluster I recommend it.http://dockingbay416.com/campaign/
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John Pollack
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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I am just about to give this a try with my almost 6 year old. It was great to read this. Can't wait to see what kind of fun we end up having.
 
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Stuart Wexler
United States
Virginia
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Thank you very much for this review. My soon-to-be 7-year-old son (bday on 12/31) has been begging me for this game for the last two years. Every time we see it in a store, he's asking for it. The last two years, however, he's also been building a 7,000+ Pokémon TCG collection. So X-Wing took a back seat (we're not made of money and neither is he!).

But he's sort of grown out of Pokémon lately and has been more into playing Carcasonne, Castle Panic, Star Wars RPG, Pandemic and other more advanced games. After reading this review and others on BGG, we're finally giving X-Wing it's due. I bought him the TFA and OT core sets for Christmas and we'll go from there. (As a bit of a fallback, I also went ahead and bought Star Wars Destiny starter sets and boosters in case card battles are still his preference).

I'm excited to see him learn and hopefully enjoy the game. It's easy to see that there is a whole galaxy full of add-ons and expansions, official and community, to keep us engaged for many moons.

So thanks for helping convince me to give my son an opportunity to live out all his Star Wars dreams one mini-starship at a time.
 
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wally holland
United States
Massachusetts
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Stuart --

Brilliant. I've complained to friends for months that the X-Wing scene is awwwwwwfully male; the flip side of that is that there seem to be bunches of fathers and sons playing together. Fathers of a certain age, I mean, for whom the phrase 'never tell me the odds' possesses unusual significance. Much as I love the gameplay itself, that connection with my son has been everything. Good luck!

And happy early birthday to your son!

(I'm curious about Destiny but, after seeing the way Pokémon devastates the ol' pocketbook, we're not gonna get into another blind-booster game.)
 
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Stuart Holden

Sevenoaks
United Kingdom
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'...fathers and sons playing together'

Well I'm sold!

Have been using Lego as the mainstay 1-1 play with my 5 1/2 yo for a while now but that generally ends with us making our own separate models. He's getting more into games now and we had a cracking game of Carcassonne last Sat morning while his younger brother was still asleep. These reviews have convinced me that this is now my way forward, both for gaming with him, but also with my collection of local geeky dad's who get together for games each week over a bottle or four of red.

Thanks all,

Nuts
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