X Wing Force Awakens Core Set Review
NOTE: X-Wing is a game that’s meant to be expanded upon. In this review, we’ll be covering both the core game, and what the game is like when you have additional content. Sections labeled “Core” talk about just the core set, and sections labeled “More” will talk about the game as a whole with expansions. If a section is labeled “Core and more,” it means that it applies to the game as a whole, regardless of expansions or not.
There are two types of people in the world: People who have picked up X-Wing off of store shelves and coveted those little Star Was minis inside, and dirty stinking liars.
Okay, so maybe not everyone has lustfully stared at an X-Wing box, but chances are, if you’re an experienced tabletop gamer, you’ve probably seen this game, heard of it, and well, you’ve probably picked up the box at some point just to look at it (this also applies to Star Wars fans in general).
But what is the deal with X-Wing, anyway? Why is it so popular? Will I have to spend a fortune to keep playing it? What if I don’t care about tournaments and competitive play? Will it jump-start a powerful addiction that will someday require the intervention of friends and family? In this X-Wing review, we’ll answer all those questions and more.
X-Wing is a tactical collectible miniatures game from Fantasy Flight Games, and probably the most well-known of their current (and excellent) lineup of powerhouse Star Wars games (X-Wing, Armada, and Imperial Assault). Released in 2012, the game has enjoyed an extremely successful existence so far, and has no indication of slowing down.
Currently, there are two core sets available: the original core set from 2012, and the newer, shinier 2015 version which, hey, is tied to The Force Awakens. This is the first board game tie-in to the movie that will break every record known to man, so if you want something to turn your hype-meter up, look no further.
How do you play the game? Is it a fun experience? How much interaction is there between the players? Is there very much luck involved? Will it take forever to to learn and teach?
The first thing I thought when I played X-Wing was, “are you kidding me? The game was THIS simple the whole time, and I never bought it?!” Indeed, X-Wing’s gameplay mechanics are fundamentally simple, to the point where you can learn the game and start playing in as quickly as ten minutes.
X-Wing is a tactical miniatures 1v1 game that simulates the dogfighting we know and love in our Star Wars movies. Players will take turn moving their ships and performing attacks until one side has been completely obliterated by fiery laser death. The goal of the game is to tactically outmaneuver your opponent and use everything you’ve got to take down their ships to secure your dominance in the galaxy.
The game’s gameplay can be summed up to four words: Move ships, attack ships. That’s uh, that’s pretty much it. Every round takes place over the course of two phases—the activation phase, and the combat phase. Of course there are rules in this game (go figure), and it’s obviously not as simple as that, so let’s get into it.
First of all, before any moving and attacking even happens, you’ll have to choose your squad. In the base game, this is very simple; the Rebel player gets an X-Wing, and the Empire gets two TIEs. However, there’s an important thing to understand about X-Wing, and this understanding increases the value of the game dramatically—every ship includes four different pilot cards, and each one changes the stats of the ship. At face value, X-Wing looks like a lame deal, because you’re only getting three ships. How much variation is there to that? You must understand, however, that there are 12 pilots, so although you can only play three ships at once, there’s variability in how you can play them.
Every ship has its own stats. TIEs deal less damage, and have less hit points, but you can have more of them and they’re much more agile (read: hard to hit); the X-Wing is more durable and hits harder, but has to lone-wolf it and is less flexible in its maneuver options. While these stats are usually the same across pilots, pilots will give the ships different skill levels, upgrade card potential, and special unique abilities.
In addition to pilots, there are also upgrade cards that can be applied. The core set more or less provides enough for every ship to have their fill, but there’s not a ton of variety to be had. In any case, adding these to your ships can augment their abilities and change the way that you play them.
After ships are chosen, they are placed on the edge of the playing area and the game begins. Every round begins with the activation phase, which is where players will choose the maneuvers for their fighters. Every ship has a nifty little maneuver dial, from which you’ll pick your choice in secret, and wait for your opponent. When you’ve both made your choices, your dials are revealed, and ships will move in the order of their “skill,” which is determined by the pilot card. Lower-skilled pilots go first.
Every maneuver on the dial has a corresponding maneuver template. To move a ship, you’ll grab the template, put it against the ship’s base, and move it to the end. There are stipulations—you can’t premeasure your move (who do you think you are, R2-D2?), and it’s entirely possible to calculate wrong and overlap another ship. Should this happen, the ship is moved backwards to the nearest possible placement, and they lose their action (more on that in a second). Furthermore, some actions are easier to perform than others; red maneuvers can be immensely helpful, but they’ll stress the pilot out, preventing him from taking an action, while green maneuvers are easy and relieve stress tokens.
Speaking of actions, every ship has got ‘em. There’s a variety of actions that spans over a multitude of ships, and many ships have actions that others don’t. The T-70 X-Wing, for example, has superior engines that allow the ship to take a “boost” action that allows it to move farther in one turn, whereas TIE Fighters are more agile, and have barrel roll/evade actions that the X-Wing lacks. Every ship has the “focus” action, which allows the pilot to, well, focus, which can help them in the combat phase.
Oh yeah, the combat phase. This is where you’ll be able to say all your “pew-pews” or get giddy as you play blaster cannon noises out of your phone. In the combat phase, ships can attack each other, this time in descending skill order. Every ship has a firing arc, and if ships fall within a reasonable distance (measured by a range template) within this arc, they can be attacked.
Attacking is done via dice. This game uses custom eight-sided dice, rolled both by attacker and defender. The first thing you’ll notice about the dice is that they’re not very good. It’s pretty easy to miss in X-Wing, and you’ll have to use your abilities to set up situations that will maximize your odds. This is a nice touch that makes the dogfighting feel more palpable. How fun would Star Wars be if every ship was shot down with the first laser blasts? Not fun, that’s how much.
The dice are made up of three different faces: Hit/evade (for attack/defense respectively), focus, and blank. Hits are canceled by evades, and blanks do nothing. If the player chose to Focus as their action, a focus on the die can be converted to a hit or an evade. This is generally how combat works, but a multitude of things can give you more power over the dice – actions, pilot abilities, and secondary weapons (like the famous Proton Torpedoes) are a few among them.
Should you incur damage, it will be either a normal or a critical hit. A normal hit deals one point of damage, which is represented by a card with a big scary blast mark on it. Should you deal a critical hit, you draw a damage card and flip it over, which can be a truly terrifying experience. Every damage card, when flipped over, has some kind of unique ailment that impedes the ship. Think of it as the ship getting hit especially hard—a hard blast on your engine, for instance, will impede your maneuverability. The damage deck has a sizable variety of different critical hit effects.
Finally, every ship has its own stats. TIEs deal less damage, and have less hit points, but you can have more of them and they’re much more agile (read: hard to hit); the X-Wing is more durable and hits harder, but has to lone-wolf it and is less flexible in its maneuver options.
And, well, that’s about it. This process continues until the game ends, when somebody is either destroyed or chooses to surrender. Despite the fact that I took a bunch of time explaining the mechanics, it really does come down to choose maneuver, move ship, attack other ships.
The fundamental mechanics remain the same should you choose to expand the game, but you’ll be dealing with a lot more variety. In the core game, you’ll be playing one X-Wing versus two TIE Fighters no matter which way you spin it. X-Wing is a different beast when you’re commanding four different Rebel ships versus a swarm of TIE Interceptors, for example. There is also much more you can do with upgrade cards, due to the fact that cards obtained in one expansion can apply to a multitude of different ships.
New actions also become available with new ships. An example would be the “Cloak” action, which some expansion ships have. This increases the amount of defense dice a ship can roll, at the expense of being able to attack. The way you play the game will certainly change depending on what you choose to bring in to battle, but covering all those changes would deserve an article of its own.
Do you like Star Wars? Do you like spaceships? If so, this game is a blast. That’s all you need to know. Moving on.
…Okay, fine, I’ll explain more, but the bottom line is that X-Wing is a game that’s very easy to enjoy. First of all, I have to give mention to the thematic strength of the game. I gave Star Wars: Imperial Assault pretty high marks for how Star Warsy it felt, and X-Wing sets the same standard of quality. This game just nails the feel of Star Wars, and does an incredible job simulating the quick, zippy feel of dogfighting. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll have a lot of fun moving those ships around and just seeing everything happen in your head.
From an actual gameplay standpoint, X-Wing is very well designed. Maneuvering your ships is a huge part of this game, and you won’t be able to get away with just choosing random moves; getting the best of your enemy will require an acute tactical awareness. If you enjoy the type of feeling that Chess evokes, you’ll get a similar satisfaction from X-Wing; it’s satisfying trying to read your opponent, predict their moves, and outwit them to put yourself into a more favorable position.
Understanding the intent behind the game’s design will go a long way into increasing your enjoyment. This is a game that uses dice combat, but the combat doesn’t play out in X-Wing like it does in most other games. It’s important to know that you will very frequently miss your shots.
This, once again, can be attributed to the theme of the game; dogfighting is quick and zippy, and it’s not easy to hit a ship that’s trying to outmaneuver you. People that play this expecting their dice to be deadly and efficient might be disappointed; it’s important to know and understand that you have to take the odds into your own hands, and make moves that will maximize your odds. Even in the movies, ships don’t go down easily unless they’re nailed by torpedoes or swarmed by multiple opponents. X-Wing does a good job at capturing this; firing the right shots will be more beneficial than firing everywhere, all the time.
Overall, I can’t think of a better way to simulate Star Wars dogfighting on a tabletop. The game pays respect to its source material in a profound way, and has gameplay that’s good enough to match it. You’ll have fun firing your Proton Torpedoes and seeing those pesky TIEs get swat down like flies…just don’t get cocky.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with X-Wing. There are things here and there that can dampen the enjoyment. Since the game is elimination-based, you’ll occasionally run into the tedium of trying to shoot each other down when you’re both down to one ship. The cat-and-mouse situation that plays out can sometimes take a while; we tend to just end the game if there’s a clear and obvious victor, but sometimes it’s too close to call, occasionally resulting in a 1v1 chase that can end up being kind of a drag.
Other than that, the dice can be a nuisance, but it’s not a deal-breaker for me. You kind of have to know going in that dice determine your ultimate combat results, and that there will be rolls where they just don’t feel fair. X-Wing gives you a fair amount of options to determine your own odds, but it’s not always perfect; this is covered more in the Luck Factor section if you’re hungry for more details.
Adding ships adds to the fun factor in the sense that you have a lot more possibilities. Quite simply, putting together ship combinations is just fun, and I love the thrill of putting them into battle and seeing if my devious plans work, or if they result in crushing failure. Furthermore, the game is just more interesting when you’re playing with more than the three ships that are included in the core set. You can build up to 100 points, which either means five/six cheap ships, or two/three super jacked ships. I love sending my two tanky Rebel ships in against a swarm of five TIE fighters and seeing what happens. Watch that crossfire, boys!
The playtime of X-Wing is, by far, one of its greatest strengths. The game can be played pretty quickly. X-Wing can be set up, played, and finished within 45 minutes. Don’t get me wrong—the game isn’t always that short, but the point is that it’s a game that’s not designed to be a long experience. A billion factors may prolong your game: player skill, analysis paralysis, or the tedious cat-and-mouse game that might happen if you’re both down to one ship trying to pick each other off. Some X-Wing rounds have lasted an hour and a half, while others have finished in twenty minutes.
Setup is very easy here, though there are quite a bit of components and cards to deal with. Having some kind of organizer might help with this, like the excellent plano boxes I recommended for Imperial Assault. Assembling the ship bases might take some time, but I tend to keep my ships on a shelf, which allows me to just grab them when we want to play a game. This reduces setup by a longshot (and looks cool!). Even if you do nothing though, setting up X-Wing is a quick and easy experience. There is, after, no board. Ain’t that convenient?
Generally, the more ships you have, the more time the game will take. There are exceptions to this; for example a fully upgraded, maxed out ship might be able to take out an enemy ship in one roll if you’re savvy enough. If you’ve built a custom squad that’s really good at what it’s doing, then the game might actually go faster than it would normally, but it all depends. For the most part, what I said above still applies.
Setup does get a little trickier as you accumulate more stuff. There are not so many tokens and components in the core to warrant fancy organization, but after you’ve collected a bunch of ships, you’ll have heaping piles of cards, tokens, ship bases, and maneuver dials. At this point, I would definitely recommend some kind of plano-box, organizer, or at the very least, separating things into baggies. This will make setup and cleanup a much cleaner process.
CORE AND MORE:
I touched on it above, but X-Wing is extraordinarily easy to learn and teach. The devil is in some details, such as upgrade cards, pilot abilities and actions, but overall, the game really does come down to “move ship, attack ship.” Learning how to be tactical and clever might take a while, but learning how to play the actual game is something that can be done in ten minutes. Imperial Assault, this is not.
In this sense, X-Wing, to an outsider, may look deceivingly difficult. When I hear the words “miniatures game” it evokes an image of something big and complicated that has a ton of nitpicky rules. While you could get lost in the meta of X-Wing, it always comes down to the very, very simple gameplay mechanics. This is a game that’s actually very easy to play with casual gamers, significant others, or people who don’t even play board games.
The bottom line is this—It takes no time at all to learn how to play X-Wing, but it might take a while to learn how to be good at X-Wing.
CORE AND MORE:
X-Wing has as much player interaction as you’d expect from a tactical 1v1; it’s two players trying to kill each other. You will be attacking your opponent, relishing their salty tears of defeat when your ships tear theirs apart. Furthermore, you’ll definitely have to look at what they’re doing, as anticipating their potential moves is an essential component to outwitting them.
Excessively quoting Star Wars is, of course, an essential part of this game. If you line yourself up for a perfect killshot and don’t say “I have you now” in your best Vader voice, then why are you even playing this game?!
How much strategy is involved? Is there a sense of variety and balance? Does the game play well no matter how many players there are? How long does it take to play?
X-Wing is a tactical game at heart, so most of your decisions will be reactionary and made in the moment, though you can plan for certain general strategies. There is plenty of strategy to be had in X-Wing, but most of it occurs outside of gameplay, which is much more tactical. This is a miniatures game that’s meant to be picked apart and dissected to find the most deadly squads. By design, the game is meant to be analyzed, and picking the best, most efficient team will be a significant factor in determining the winner.
When it comes down to the actual gameplay, it’s all tactics, and this is where it’s important to understand your ships and what they do. Being bad at maneuvering can ruin your game, causing you to crash into an asteroid, bump into other ships, or fly into a spot where you can’t hit anyone (but can be hit by everyone). Even a poorly made squad can take the win if their enemy doesn’t know how to move their ships.
Aside from that, you have to know what your ship can do. The X-Wing comes with a target lock action that allows you to reroll your dice, but there are also proton torpedoes you can equip it with, which require the target lock to use. An astute player would recognize that it’d be more worth it to establish a target lock, not use it the round of, and then focus the next round before firing proton torpedoes, ending up in a powerful, potent attack that’s also supplemented by the focus token. Using that focus action before you fire those torpedoes would be especially useful against TIE Fighters, because they roll three defense dice and are generally very, very hard to hit. This is an example of maximizing odds, and clever players will see these kinds of combinations; a more unskilled player may choose to fire their torpedoes at a less opportune moment (or not at all), letting them go to waste.
Overall, the mechanics here aren’t complex in nature, but they offer a huge amount of tactical potential; maneuvering and knowing your ship is everything in X-Wing. After all, nobody in Star Wars could ever do amazing things in ships that they don’t know how to fly (Wait, that did happen once, didn’t it? We’ll just choose to forget about that part…).
The same principles of strategy apply when the game is expanded, only with more ships, you have a lot more options, and the strategic factor of building a squad becomes a critical part of the game. In the core set, you can make a few combinations that work, but building a squad with expansionary content is like a puzzle. If you’re perceptive, you can create combinations that work devastatingly well together and complement each other’s abilities. Sometimes these don’t work, but when they do, they really do, and that’s a whole lot of fun.
An example would be the combination I tried just the other night: my opponent and I were discussing if flying the Millennium Falcon was a viable option. It takes up roughly half your squad points, it’s huge, and basically has a sign pasted on it that says “HIT ME.” I decided to see if you could, in fact, make good use out of the Falcon.
I realized I needed to keep the Falcon safe, so I decided to make Biggs the wingman. Yeah, you remember Biggs, right? Luke’s friend, the poor chump that got blasted down in the trench? Hilariously (er, I mean, tragically), his special ability is that, if he’s close to an enemy ship, he must take hits for them if he can be targeted. Since X-Wings have better agility than the Falcon, I figured my strategy would be to make Biggs take the Falcon’s hits, make him really hard to hit, and then use the impervious Falcon to deal hard damage on the enemy. I gave Biggs a “Stealth Device” and R2-D2. The stealth device would give him an extra defense die (that he would lose once he gets hit), and R2-D2 can heal a shield every time he performs a green maneuver. Given that the Falcon had to use green maneuvers to do its ability (which I’ll explain in a second), this created a nice synergy. Biggs would take the Falcon’s hits, he would be harder to hit, and he could heal damage. Biggs, why didn’t you do this in the trench?
On top of being hard to hit, it would be necessary to have heavy hitting attacks to hit my enemy, who elected to use a TIE swarm; TIEs can be very, very hard to hit. I decided to choose Lando as the Falcon’s pilot. Lando, being the cool dude he is, can give a free action to a nearby ship if he performs a green maneuver. This meant that, every round, Biggs would be able to target lock AND focus every round, allowing him to reroll his dice, and change the eyeballs to hits every single time. I gave the Falcon “Marksmanship,” which, if used as an action, essentially does the same thing as a focus, only it guarantees a critical hit. This is especially useful for the Falcon, which has a 360 degree firing arc.
We played the game, and I quickly ran into some problems when I didn’t maneuver right; if the Falcon bumps into any ships, it can’t use its marksmanship ability, and if the two ships don’t run close to each other, Lando can’t give free actions. I didn’t anticipate that my enemy would move all his ships the way he did, and it was hard to place the Falcon in certain spots with all the TIEs in the way. For a little while, it was looking like it was the end of the line for Biggs and Lando. Fortunately, I was eventually able to move out of trouble, and when I finally got the synergy working that I planned for, the ships went to town on the TIEs. They got swat down one by one. Ultimately, both Biggs and Lando lived to see another day, despite the fact that they both got dangerously close to death.
Planning squads like so, and then using tactical prowess to make them work in battle, is fun, satisfying, and addicting. I can’t wait to do it again.
CORE AND MORE:
THE DICE. The dice, the dice, the dice. That’s where 90% of the luck is in this game, and you’ll just have to accept that. I’m a believer that dice will always have a place in gaming, and that good games will provide ways for the players to have some degree of control over their odds. X-Wing, for the most part, does this.
There are plenty of ways to influence dice rolls—target locks can be spent to reroll dice, and focuses can be used to convert an otherwise useless result into damage or evasion. One focus token alone changes the odds of a hit from 1/2 to 3/4 (it’s an important to know that, aside from special cards and abilities, ships can normally only hold one focus at a time). Aside from that, specific pilot abilities may augment dice rolls, as well as tactical decisions about where you choose to attack from. For instance, attacking at range 1 (close up) will allow you to reroll one die.
With all this being said, the dice can and will betray you. In my opinion, accepting that there’s randomness in the dice is kind of part of the cost of admission. If you’re going to complain about unlucky dice, then why did you play the game in the first place, knowing they’re there? I’ve found that dice rolls are generally proportional to your strategy, but it definitely can be frustrating when you set yourself up for an amazing roll and you get the inconceivable combination that just makes everything miss.
Now that I think about it, this must be how the bad guys in Star Wars feel all the time.
The only other thing is the damage deck. When you deal a critical hit, your opponent draws a damage card and flips it face-up, which inflicts some kind of specific ailment to their ship. While it seems like these are intended to be worse than normal hits, I’ve quite often felt that the opposite was true. TIE Fighters, for example, are pretty hard to hit with their high agility; getting even one hit on them is 25% of your job. It sucks, then, when you deal a critical hit, only for it to be inconsequential. “Damaged Cockpit,” for example, reduces the pilot’s skill level to 0; this changes practically nothing if the ship’s skill level was 1 to begin with. It’s a sad irony when a slew of “critical hits” doesn’t actually do enough damage to bring down a ship when normal damage would.
Well, isn’t this an interesting question? X-Wing is fundamentally asymmetrical, so the quality of its balance is always an important question to ask, and it’s a hard one to answer here, where so much depends on the expansionary content. In a nutshell though, Fantasy Flight has done a very good job with X-Wing, both in the core set and in all the add-ons.
The game dictates that you build a squad according to point value. Normally, the limit is 100 points, but the game advises a 31 point limit for the core set. There has been a lot of work done over at Fantasy Flight to ensure that an equal number of squad points results in generally equally capable squads. In the core set, it’s rather simple, and we can look at some specific examples:
Poe Dameron, the best pilot in the core set and (a) main character in The Force Awakens, costs 31 points to field. Just by using Poe, you’ve used the max amount of points that the core set will grant you. So, what’s the problem? You’re only using one ship anyway, right? Well, the problem is that you can’t use any upgrade cards. See, using these cards also costs you points, so you have a choice: Either fly Poe Dameron with nothing, or fly a lesser X-Wing with some upgrades. The upgrades afford you nice abilities, while Poe by himself is pretty capable. It all balances out.
On the other hand, 31 points will give you enough to fly two TIEs. You’ll get two ships, but they’ll be faster and weaker than the X-Wing. I’ve found that the built in balance is generally well done and reliable. As far as the core game goes, I can’t think of anything that’s fundamentally broken.
X-Wing has seen seven waves of releases, with an eighth on the way. With so many new ships, it definitely begs the question of whether the game, overall, is balanced. While I’d like to give a straight answer, I think the most honest statement would be that I’m not the one to ask, and that this is a big question that transcends the scope of this review. I personally prefer casual X-Wing play to competitive, and I haven’t kept up with the sweeping metagame.
What I will say is that the general consensus online seems to be that Fantasy Flight has done a great job avoiding “power creep,” or in other words, the tendency for newer units to get new features and mechanics slowly and surely, until it reaches the point where the original stuff becomes more or less obsolete. According to players I’ve talked to, this hasn’t happened, and bringing in ships from the early waves can still be just as viable as the brand new ones. One thing that surely makes this possible is the upgrade card system; if a ship does lose its edge due to new releases, a simple upgrade card tailored for that ship can bring it back to speed.
As with any metagame, there will surely be “disturbances in the Force,” if you will, that will introduce some new change, and players will hotly debate whether it breaks the game or improves it, and such is the destiny for a game that’s meant to be collectible like X-Wing.
Core and more:
X-Wing is, quite simply, a two player game. There’s not much more to it than that. However, you can be flexible should you want to include more people. This is really only an option if you own more ships, but it is an option. It’s not inconceivable to allow three or four people to fly squads in a free-for-all, despite the fact that the game was designed for two people. A more likely scenario would be team play, where each team has multiple players that command either their own ship or their own squad. I have not yet tried this, but it would be an interesting way to spice up the game.
Look and Feel
Is the game aesthetically pleasing? Are the components made out of quality material, or do they feel cheap? Is the rulebook well-designed and easy to read? How well is theme integrated into the game?
What is there to say, except for the fact that X-Wing is pure, unadulterated Star Wars eye candy? The thing most worth talking about here is obviously the minis, and the minis are beautiful. Unlike Imperial Assault, all of X-Wings’ minis come pre-painted. This is especially a treat in this core set, where we get a nice little detailed glimpse at the Force Awakens counterparts of the ships we know and love. The T-70 X-Wing fighter is gorgeous to look at, along with the TIE/fo Fighters, which basically look like recolored versions of normal TIEs, but still cool nonetheless. The minis have an impressive amount of detail; just about every little nook and cranny is on each ship is accounted for, as much as can be accounted for at that scale anyway.
As for the rest of the components, everything looks very nice. This is usual Fantasy Flight quality, where everything, down to the dice, tokens, and cards all look great. FFG seems to have a stock collection of Star Wars art they use across their games, so if you’ve ever played Imperial Assault, Armada, Star Wars: The Card Game, or the FFG Star Wars RPGs, it’s possible that you’ll already have seen some of the art.
Overall, it’s hard to argue with the production quality of most Fantasy Flight games. FFG isn’t perfect, but they sure know their stuff when it comes down to visual design and component quality.
X-Wing maintains its high standard of quality across the board. Every mini I’ve bought is just as detailed as the last, and this carries over with the bigger ships as well. Although I haven’t played with the behemoth Epic Ships (eg, the Tantive IV), the Millennium Falcon is pretty huge and is just as satisfying (if not more) to look at as the small ships. There’s no skimping in quality in X-Wing, so far as I’ve experienced.
Core and More:
Once again, everything here is generally very high quality. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first handled the minis. My first impression is that they’re lighter than I expected to be, and it was quickly apparent that these are meant for sitting on their peg, and not for playing. The models are hollow inside; while they can be easily handled, I could see them snapping pretty easily if someone were to play rough with them. In other words, don’t give these to your kids, unless you’re looking to recreate Watto’s Junkyard on your table.
As for the other stuff, once again, standard FFG quality with all of the cards and components. In other words, everything feels really, really nice. There’s only one complaint I have about the components in X-Wing, and it’s that the ship bases/pegs seem a little fiddly. Some of them connect to each other better than others do, and I already have a few pegs that don’t hold the ship firmly anymore. Basically, if you were to pick up the model by grabbing the ship, it would just slip off the top peg. This is a little unfortunate, given how nice everything else feels.
This core set also comes with a Rules Reference Guide which is effectively a “rules dictionary” that allows you to find clarification for any rule on a whim. It’s alphabetically organized, so it saves the trouble of having to dig through the normal book to find what you’re looking for.
Star Wars is so well represented here that, just like Imperial Assault, it often feels like a little movie is playing out on your table. The visual design and stunning minis obviously make a great case for the thematic excellence, but the way that Star Wars translates into the actual mechanics is just delightful. The way that health, attack power, and agility are assigned to ships is right on par with the movies. It just seems like an X-Wing should be strong enough to take on two TIEs, and that’s well reflected in the game.
It’s hard to remark about some of the thematic elements in this core set, because, well, we haven’t seen The Force Awakens. As far as I know, Poe Dameron’s X-Wing is a different color than the one in this box (that is, if LEGO is a reliable source of information), so that’s one strike. Aside from that, it’s hard to remark on the thematic accuracy of any of the Episode VII stuff. BB-8, for example, allows you to perform a free barrel roll if you perform a green action. Does BB-8 make ships more nimble in the movie? To clarify this extremely important question, Board Game Resource has reached out to Lucasfilm to request an advance screening of The Force Awakens. It’ll work…probably.
I could generalize here and just say that the theme is “really good,” no matter what pack you buy, but I’m not sure that would do it justice. For a Star Wars fan, some of the stuff is just so satisfying, and it’s fun to see all the connections made to the movies.
I’ve already mentioned how Biggs is basically used as a sacrifice card, which is, well, appropriate. Luke, on the other hand is harder to hit, essentially gaining focus when he’s being attacked. Also appropriate, given the few minutes where we saw him in ship-to-ship combat in the original series. Han Solo has the option of rerolling ALL of his dice or none at all (never tell me the odds). Boba Fett can change his direction after revealing his dial and seeing your trajectory, and R2-D2 can restore your shields.
The Y-Wing has a 360 degree ion turret that stops ships in their tracks. The Slave 1 has about 85 slots for bombs and missiles and torpedoes. The A-Wing is stupid fast, while the TIE Interceptors are glass cannons. TIEs have cards that encourage them to swarm together. The Millennium Falcon can host up to two co-pilots. The TIE Bomber is a slow missile-boat. The Z-95 is like a cheaper, older X-Wing.
Honestly, there’s just so much thematic delight here that it’s hard, as a Star Wars fan, to not have fun with the theme. Kudos, once again, to Fantasy Flight for giving their all with the Star Wars license. It would be really easy for a huge company like FFG to just roll out literal turds with the Star Wars brand stamped on them, and they’d still sell out. I’m glad they’re not doing that, because this (and their other games) feel like games that were made with absolute reverence to the source material.
Is it a game you can play over and over? Are there expansions available for the game, and if so, are they necessary? Does the amount of the content in the box justify the price?
If we’re just talking about the core set, the replayability is…alright. This is not Imperial Assault, which got glowing remarks from me about how ludicrously stuffed the core box is. You get the one X-Wing here, and the two TIEs. You can make different combinations by using different pilots and upgrade cards, but there are only so many combinations you’ll be able to make. If you plan on playing this in a casual capacity, here and there, from time to time, the core set might be enough for you to just function as a simple, quick board game. It is worth noting that, even if you played the same combinations over and over, the game is tactically rich to the point where it would still be fun. Due to the unlimited options you have for maneuvers, every game will be different. However, I’m still not sure how much mileage you’d get out of it before itching for more ships.
One thing that adds a little bit to replayability are the missions. There are three missions in the game, and, while it’s still a 1v1 battle, the players have specific objectives, rather than just fighting to the death. In one of these missions, for example, the Resistance player must destroy a certain amount of satellites before being destroyed by the First Order player. These missions are designed to accomodate play in the core set, and are also playable with expansions.
So, what if you get really into it? Playing the core set over and over and over and over would be fun, but you’d find yourself craving more. Chances are, if you love the game enough to hypothetically play the core set over and over, you’ll probably be okay with investing in a few different ships, which will dramatically increase the replayability of X-Wing.
It seems like every X-Wing ship you buy adds an exponential amount of extra replayability. Let’s just imagine adding two Rebel ships to the roster. Every ship comes with four pilots, and five or so upgrade cards. Prior to the purchase, the Rebel player would have a choice between four different pilots and four upgrade cards. Suddenly, he has a choice between three ships, twelve pilots, and fourteen upgrade cards. Although it’s hard to convey just by writing, believe me when I say that you can do a lot with that. I currently own six Rebel ships, and I have so many squad combinations I can make that I haven’t even slightly begun to scratch the surface of what I can do with all of them. The marginal gains increase with every purchase, as more cards are added to your pool. While having one or two ships doesn’t yield a ton of options, having even just two more suddenly makes your potential combinations innumerable.
The bottom line is that X-Wing is ridiculously replayable if you own several ships. If you were to own all the ships, then you could probably keep making squad combinations until the sun goes supernova.
There are three types of X-Wing expansions so far: small ships, large ships, and huge ships. The small ships are equivalent to what you have in the base game in size and scale. Every pack comes with four pilots (give or take), and a slew of upgrade cards. Some ships come with more cards than others. Now, upgrade cards, except for rare exceptions, aren’t ship specific, so every card you get essentially becomes part of a huge pool that you can use for everyone. Poe Dameron can only use four cards or so in the core set, but if you decide to buy an A-Wing expansion, Poe Dameron can now do more stuff because he has access to the cards from the A-Wing pack. This is one of the reasons behind the increasing marginal gains that I mentioned above.
Large ships include, well, larger ships, and the Millennium Falcon, Slave 1, and Lambda-Class Imperial Shuttle are among them (just to name a few). Large ships have a much bigger base, making them more difficult to maneuver, but usually are fairly powerful, especially in the right hands. These packs give you an enormous amount of extra cards. The Millennium Falcon, if I remember right, included sixteen upgrade cards; that’s just over three times the amount of what you get in the core.
Huge ships are just ridiculous, eclipsing the size of the small and large ships. An example of one of these beasts is the Tantive IV, the iconic Blockade Runner we all love from the original movie. These ships are massive, and as I understand it, accommodate a new style of play, dubbed “Cinematic Play.” The huge ships involve mini campaigns that can be played as missions, such as the Rebel Transport set, that simulates the escape from Hoth.
Finally, there are a few packs that bundle ships together—Rebel Aces and Imperial Aces include two ships each and a staggering amount of upgrade cards, while Most Wanted gives you three ships in one pack. The latter was made for the relatively new “Scum” faction, which premiered during Wave 6. Currently, there are seven expansion waves that have been released. Wave 8 is likely hitting this holiday season, and includes ships from the popular Rebels TV show.
The core set is currently available online at the ridiculous price of $25. Honestly, this is a fantastic deal, and I have a hard time not recommending it to anybody who’s remotely interested in playing the game. At $40 (MSRP), the game is more of a hard sell. You do, after all, only get three ships, and you’re most likely going to get more. Given the cost of expansions, $40 seems like a lot of money. At $25 though, you still have room to buy two ships before you’ve reached the price of what you’d pay for most normal games at MSRP. At even two extra ships, one per side, the game gains substantial replayability. After I bought the core set, I picked up a Y-Wing and a TIE Advanced, and it greatly enriched what I was able to do with squads on both sides. The bottom line is this: If you’re remotely interested in this game, it’s impossible for me not to recommend it at $25.
This is where things get interesting. My first advice is this: Short of single small ships, buy EVERYTHING for X-Wing online, unless of course, you want to support your local game store. The small ships retail for $15, and at such a small amount, the online markdown doesn’t amount to much. You might save $2 or $3 by purchasing online, and it’s up to you, but if it’s just a couple of bucks, I tend to prefer just picking them up at a store.
However, anything else is significantly cheaper online. Large ships, such as the Millennium Falcon and Slave 1 retail for $30 but can be found for $20 on Amazon. If you were to buy both of these, you’re already saving $20. The same goes for the Rebel/Imperial Aces – $30 retail, $20 online. These ones give you two ships, so getting the marked down price essentially gives you two ships for $10 each.
Many X-Wing players also highly recommend buying another core set—this gives you three more ships, and a little bit more of everything. At this point, this is a particularly viable option, since there are now two different core sets. The other core set goes for $26 on Amazon, so for roughly $50, you could pick yourself up two core sets, which would be more than enough to play with to have a good time; this is something that would cost $80 + tax at MSRP. There’s simply no question here.
So, how much does it cost to “buy in” to X-Wing?
The answer depends on a few things: First of all, who are you playing with? If you’re playing casually, you’ll want enough ships for both you and your opponent to make a respectable team. This requires buying for both sides, which can be a bit pricier. If you don’t want to spend excessively, I’d say two or three extra ships per side should do the job. In this case, I would recommend the two Aces packs, which give you a lot of options to play with. This, including a core set, will run you about $65, equal to what you’d pay for a normal game at MSRP, or for Imperial Assault online. If you want to give yourself so many options you won’t know what to do with them, throw in two large ships, such as the Millennium Falcon and Slave 1. This will really add tons of value, and would put you at ~$105. Add another core set, or one more ship per faction, and at this point you could play for months and not exhaust your options.
To play casually, ~$65 will give both sides substantial variety, ~$105 will give you a ton to work with, and >$135 will make the game nearly infinitely replayable.
If you want to go to tournaments and such and play competitively, you’re most likely playing with people who own the game themselves, and this will allow you to keep your spending lower, since you really only need to focus on one side. Then again, if you’re playing competitively, this game has probably already taken ahold of your soul, and you’ll likely want to buy everything anyway. I’m more of a fan of casual play, but there are some great competitive buying guides and resources online here at these websites:
X-Wing is a game that capitalizes perfectly on the Star Wars license, and gives an excellent tabletop representation of the space dogfighting that we know and love. While the core set provides plenty of fun, X-Wing is a game that is designed to be added on to. Unlike its sister game Imperial Assault which stands on its own without expansions, the X-Wing core set gives you just enough to want more. For casual fans who just want to experience X-Wing on a light level, the core set provides a nice game that can be replayed a decent amount, but even fans on a casual level might want to invest in just a little bit more for increased longevity.
The game itself plays very well, and is a wonderful exercise of tactical prowess. At 45 minutes to an hour, X-Wing can play itself very quickly, often prompting multiple games in one sessions. The game isn’t perfect, as it can tend to drag on as players are reduced to their last ships, and the dice can be unforgiving at times despite your best efforts. That being said, X-Wing’s strengths far exceed their weaknesses, and fans of tactical games will love the challange that the game provides.
For players who go all-in, X-Wing is an engrossing game with palpable strategy and tactical depth, with a brilliant component of squad building that encourages an evolving metagame with near infinite depth and potential. Although the game isn’t conventionally cheap, it’s an order of magnitude more affordable than most miniature games, and spending even just $100 can keep you busy for a long, long time. For players seeking a competitive game with a tournament scene, X-Wing is a viable option, and you’ll have a blast expanding your collection to make the best squads in the galaxy.
Overall, X-Wing is a fantastic experience on both a casual and competitive level, even if the core set only gives you the bare minimum. The core set itself can be a delight for casual players, but should you choose to expand the game, if even just a little, you’ll find yourself wanting to bring X-Wing back to the table over and over.
YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF…
- You enjoy Star Wars dogfighting
- You enjoy tactical games
- You enjoy squad/deck-building and optimization
- You enjoy miniatures games
- You like immersing yourself in an evolving metagame
- You want a game with a ridiculous amount of extra content
- You’re looking for new Star Wars toys to put on your shelf
- You want a game that can be played in less than an hour
- You’re looking for a game with a competitive scene
YOU WON’T LIKE THIS GAME IF…
- You hate all things Star Wars
- You don’t like elimination games
- You dislike tactical games like Chess
- If you don’t like buying expansions or add-ons
- You don’t like having to build squads or decks before you start playing the game
- You want a game that can be played with more than two players
- You strongly dislike video games with day one DLC
- You’re planning on dressing as Spock at The Force Awakens premiere just to spite people
About the Author
Zach is an avid tabletop gamer, and he created Board Game Resource out of his love for the hobby, and his desire to see more people come into it. When he's not writing for or managing BGR, Zach might be hanging out with cats, hiking a mountain, spending time with his lovely wife, or writing about video game stuff for Insert Gamer. Zach has also enjoys creating digital character art. You can check out his (long neglected) gallery here, or follow him on Instagram at @artworkbyzach!