Star Wars is, you know, slightly popular. And in this day and age, in our culture, popular things get the crap marketed out of them, Star Wars most of all. You could argue that this franchise started the whole marketing craze. And part of that marketing usually involves board games: Star Wars Monopoly was a staple of my teenage years, but you could also find SW trivial pursuit, risk, and whatever else really.
But a few years ago, a game came along called X-Wing, which really changed the way we viewed Star Wars board games, and board games from licenced products in general. Sure, there have been great games made in this capacity before, such as A Game of Thrones or Knizia’s Lord of the Rings, but there was something about X-Wing which really set things in motion.
There is probably some discussion to be made about whether X-Wing is included in the broad spectrum we refer to as “board games”, or whether it is a “miniatures games’, and whether or not the two mix. I really don’t care about all that, I am just giving my perspective as a board gamer on what this unique and interesting Star Wars game is like.
X-Wing is a 2 player game, but can also be played in teams of two (which I prefer). One team plays the rebels, the other the empire. In the base game the rebels get a lone x-wing against the Empire’s two tie fighters. With expansions, of course, ships can be added and swapped. The goal is simply to take down all of the other player’s ships. It’s a simple goal, which I appreciate a lot.
So how do you destroy other ships? Each turn has two main phases. In the move phase, each player uses secret dials to determine how they move, then reveal their moves one by one. The direction and distance of the moves are determined by segments sticks that you use on the table to show where your ship ends up. Some are straight, some are curved. It’s a neat system that makes things really easy.
Then you attack. And how well you can attack is again calculated by a stick, seeing how far in range your enemy ships are. The combat is then determined with a dice system that I a little convoluted, but once you get the hang of it, it works well. And so these systems allow for an interesting cat-and-mouse-and-mouse-and-cat game where you are simultaneously trying to get out of range of their fighters while getting your fighters in a position to attack.
I mean, what can be said about the components other than simply awesome? Of course, I am referring to the ship models when I say that. The game comes with three models: two Imperial Tie Fighters and one iconic X-Wing. These ships are so great in their detail that it adds a lot to immersing yourself into the Star Wars universe. They are the reason for the instant appeal fans had towards the game and, honestly, are more than likely the reason the game has hit the popularity eights it has.
As for other components, we have the measuring sticks that function very well in making the gameplay smooth, we have the range stick which barely fits in the box and only underneath the insert which is infuriating, and we have a bunch of cards and cardboard chits.
I didn’t get into the cards and tokens used in the game because, well, this is a review and not a rules explanation. But basically, the cards add either add-ons or characters to your ships, which give them new stats (attack power, shield defense, etc.) or one-time abilities. They add a lot to making each session unique, and provide for more story by attaching characters to each ship.
X-Wing simulates the space combat of the Star Wars films and as such provides a fun experience for fans. Does the game encapsulate all that the Star Wars trilogy is? No, for that you would want to look towards something like Star Wars Rebellion. Here, the makers of this game have taken that one piece of the famous films and blown it up into focus.
The game is not perfect however, and probably the biggest setback is the mispairing of the speed of the game and the theme behind it. You are supposed to be involved in an intense space battle, which should be fast and chaotic. But lets face it, with all the measuring, looking up rules and reading cards, and turn-taking its really hard to simulate the flow of the fight. Perhaps if players play this a lot, know their rules inside out, and make an effort to speed up, but I doubt that happens.
That’s a hard criticism to make, but its there. I don’t know what the alternative is though, and I do think it works a best as it can in that regard. I will say that some of the minor rules, like using focus and targeting icons, assist in this slowing down of the action. In fact, the rules could maybe stand to be a little simpler; there always seem to be small things you have to be familiar with that make this game kind of fiddly.
X-Wing is not a game I play often, to be honest. And its one of those games where most people are not going to just by the base game; the new ship expansions will enhance the experience. And for Star Wars fans, its not the complete Star Wars experience as a board game, but it definitely does feel like that famous galaxy far, far away.