Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Actual Play Report + Review - X-Wing Miniatures Game (FFG)

Last week my friends and I took our first crack at Fantasy Flight Games' X-Wing Miniatures, and fun was had by all! I have two disclaimers to get out of the way first.

  1. I am not a miniatures gamer.
  2. Luke Skywalker is a wuss.

As always with a FFG game, Ameritrash wins initiative!
It was to be a simple training session. Luke and Wedge would escort the rookie through a series of maneuvers in his Y-Wing. During the Clone Wars, Gold Squadron Pilot was a simple passenger ferry pilot, bussing travelers back and forth down the Koros Trunk Line. He was competent, but not exceptional; when Imperial Intelligence imprisoned his brother for treason, he joined the Rebellion. They emerged from hyperspace near Farwell Station, and began a series of simple drills. The Y-Wing didn’t handle all that differently from the ferries he piloted, and he was growing more comfortable by the moment. That all changed when a squad of TIE fighters came screaming from out of the station’s shadow!

We chose a big round table to set up our fight on. The Empire entered combat led by Darth Vader in his TIE Advanced. Hopefully his targeting computer didn't need fiddling with this time. At his side was the incomparable fighting ace Soontir Fel (ancestor of future Emperor Roan Fel?) in his TIE Interceptor and two mook TIE/LN pilots codenamed Back Stabber and Dark Curse. They set up on one end of the board, and surprised the Rebel squadron who had no idea they were hiding behind a glass of Jameson's whiskey.

Our erstwhile heroes were led into combat by that whiny baby Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing. On his wing, striking fear into his opponents, was the great Rebel hero, pilot-beyond-compare, everyone's favorite drinking buddy, Wedge Antilles in his own X-Wing. Gold Squadron Pilot helmed the Y-Wing.

X-Wing Miniatures is a turn-based game, but with a twist. Instead of each side performing their actions at once, actions are performed based on a pilot’s rank. During the Planning Phase, each ship chooses a maneuver in secret, selecting it from a dial of actions on a counter, which is then flipped down. During the next step, the Activation Phase, each counter is flipped up revealing the maneuver the pilot plans to take. One by one, going from least experienced to most experienced, the player has his pilots perform their chosen action. Kudos to FFG as you don't use a ruler or measuring tape, but rather choose the appropriate template-thingy that corresponds to the maneuver you are pulling off. 

FUN FACT: Loner is only one letter away from Loser.
Vader, unafraid of that loathsome coward farmboy, instructed his line to move forward at the fastest possible speed. Despite Wedge's insistence on meeting force with force, Luke decided to peel off to one side and try to flank the Imperials.

Wedge wanted to say something in protest, but the words got stuck in his throat. ‘Really’, he thought, ‘who was the bright guy who put Luke in charge? What aspect of moisture farming granted him a brilliant tactical mind? I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home. Right. Womp rats aren’t outfitted with twin ion engines and laser cannons’. Wedge shook his head and readied to protect the rookie.

As none of the ships were in range to attack, we moved on to round two, which is when SHIT GOT REAL. After the Activation phase, the ships entered into a chaotic mass. The randomness of revealing your hidden maneuver really makes things interesting, as now each ship had different vectors and different fire arcs. At the end of the Activation Phase, each pilot has an action to take. Unlike your maneuver, your actions are not determined secretly in advance, so you can choose them in response to where your ship ends up positioned. There's are several actions you can take. You can only take one of these actions if your ship has the appropriate icon on its base or on the pilot card. For example, a standard TIE Fighter gets the ability to do a Barrel Roll, but not an X-Wing.

  • Acquire a target lock on an opponent 
  • Focus (expending focus can make your attack rolls better or help you avoid getting hit) 
  • Evade
  • Barrel Roll
After these actions are declared, you move on to the next step, the Combat Phase. This time, combat initiative is determined by the highest skilled pilot on the board. If an opponent is in your ship's fire arc and in range (and we get a handy cardboard range meter to use), you roll the appropriate dice, modify them as necessary, and then do damage. Each ship comes with a default set of weapons and defenses that determine these results, but there are additional modifications you can purchase and outfit a ship with to increase your shields, give you proton torpedoes, etc. X-Wing minis uses the custom dice that seems to be FFG's trademark these days, and your attack dice results are cancelled by the corresponding defense dice results. Any hits still showing then are translated into damage, which is applied to shields first and then the hull. Pretty straightforward stuff!

Fel calls this maneuver "The Wedgie."
Luke peeled off on a vendetta against his dad, like the petulant child he is, leaving only Wedge to assist the new pilot in his bulky Y-Wing. After the maneuvers were executed, Wedge was in some serious trouble. 

Soontir Fel and the other TIE/LNs converged on Wedge and the Y-Wing. Fel instructed them to fire on Wedge, and they took out his shields. Coming straight at the damaged X-Wing, the seasoned Imperial pilot made short work of Captain Antilles, and across the galaxy, a million teen-aged girls hearts were broken. Wedge's last though before meeting his end was 'Dammit Luke, I hope that princess you are always going on about turns out to be your sister, you fucker.' ILM supplied a suitably epic explosion.

It all happened so fast. Gold Squadron Pilot could barely keep up with the readouts on his display and the movement outside his cockpit window. His ornery astromech driod just made things worse with its impatient beeps and whistles. Sailing through the fireball that was once Wedge, he found himself surrounded by a swarm of enemy fighters. Closing his eyes, he wrenched the throttle and tried to peel away - and maybe stay alive.

This is a good place to talk about the maneuvers a bit. You have four basic types, a gradual turn (90 degrees), a hard turn (45 degrees), straight, and the Koiogran Turn (an Immelmann Turn). Each of these maneuvers have four flavors corresponding to the distance achieved by the maneuver. Each of these maneuvers is located on a dial at the base of the maneuver dial. As each ship type handles differently, some of those maneuvers are red, while some are green. If you perform a red maneuver you take one strain and cannot take another red maneuver until you clear that strain; the green maneuvers allow you to clear that strain, but are quite basic with limited tactical advantage. 

If your maneuver would end up placing your ship in a space occupied by another object, you stop short of the object and end up losing your action. Alas, this is what happened to our hero, poor Wedge Antilles.
The next round had Vader dog-fighting with Luke, while another TIE/LN peeled off to assist. Luke kept getting hit and instead of doubling back to help the Y-Wing fend of Fel and the other TIE/LN, he kept spending his action to have his R2 unit repair his shields. He couldn't touch the Sith Lord. Each named pilot has a unique ability they can use. Luke's reads: When Defending, you may change 1 of your Focus results to an Evade result. Luke gets a boost when he's trying to get away? On brand! Vader, on the other hand, has a much more versatile ability: During your "Perform Action" step, you may perform 2 actions. He can focus AND gain a target lock, making him a powerful attacker; he can evade and focus for the best of both worlds, among other things. Despite being shot at multiple times, Vader never took a hit.

On the other side of the battlefield, our rookie Y-Wing pilot tried whatever he could do to avoid being blown to pieces. The Y-Wing is slow and maneuverable, but has lots of shields and can take a ton of damage. Fel has this very cool ability that lets him get a free focus when he takes strain; he used this to great advantage to put him in position to attack the hapless Y-Wing. 

Gold Squadron Pilot knew it was going to be over soon. He wasn't upset per se, it was, after-all, quite the ride. How many people get to fly with the great Wedge Antilles? How many people have the opportunity to fly such a beautiful machine? He only wished he'd had a chance to put his affairs in order first. His zen-like state suddenly disappeared when his commander chimed in over the con. "Hey Rook, I just realized I have some..uh...Jedi training I need to finish. I'm out - first round is on me later!" Anger welling, the rookie decided to ingore the Imperial ships pounding him into submission, and blast the Hero of Yavin straight to hell. If he had only communicated that to Soontir Fel, perhaps the Imperial ace would have let him live. As the Y-Wing broke apart, Luke's X-Wing made the jump to hyperspace.

The game probably took us about three hours to play. As none of us had any clue what we were doing, that's probably much longer than it normally would. One to two hours is probably more representative, depending upon the number of ships involved. Though the Empire won easily, much of that can be attributed to the randomness of the dice rolls. If we played it 10 times, I'd bet money that the tally would be 5-5.

The starter set comes with two TIE/LNs and one X-Wing, with a number of pilots and upgrades you can install onto the ships. I've heard that you really want to start with two sets of the beginning box, so that you have a wide range of customization options available. The base set is priced at @ $30, which is a pretty decent price for three well-built, very detailed miniatures. FFG has already launched a number of expansions with even more ships; you can see those here. This summer they announced the first capitol ships for the game, and they are glorious!

Oh hello! Is that money? I'll take that, thank you very much.
Even if you are not a miniatures gamer like me, this is a blast. There's a nice balance of crunch, tactical maneuvering and flavor without overwhelming with detail. There's lots you can do with the game besides a straight up combat; it would be quite easy to come up with any number of scenarios and missions, from escort duty to eliminating a well-defended target and bugging out. As with all of FFG's Star Wars products, it captures the feel of the movies very, very well. I highly recommend it, just make sure you can stand Luke's incessant whining and cowardice.