Reawakening X-Wing (Star Wars: X-Wing Minis – Force Awakens Core Set)

“Outnumbered and outgunned, a cunning star fighter pilot leads his enemies into a minefield. Will it be enough to turn the tide of battle, or will superior numbers prevail?” From Mission F1: Ambush, Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game – The Force Awakens Core Set, Mission Guide

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Initial Setup
Mission F1 pits a Resistance T-70 X-Wing flown by Blue Squadron Novice (24 pts) against a pair of TIE/FO fighters (Epsilon Sqdn Pilot – 15 pts/Zeta Sqdn Pilot – 16 pts). The squadron point build imbalance is offset by the presence of three mine tokens in the battle space controlled by the Resistance player.

 

 

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Sweeping In
Swinging to the left, he tried to draw the TIEs across the minefield but they didn’t take the bait, instead sweeping to their left while keeping out of the lethal radius of the mines. Reversing hard into a tight turn, he raced through the minefield to get into position. His first shot was lucky and hit the trailing TIE which accelerated to get out of range while the second one turned to attack.

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Death of Epsilon
Ignoring a TIE that executed a Segnor’s Loop almost in front of him, he blasted one TIE away. Dangerously, he cut in front of the other TIE, just avoiding blasts of lethal energy. Boosting away, he extended the range as the other TIE followed. Dashing around the asteroid field, the TIE came just close enough to a mine to detonate it. His sensors told him the shields on the TIE were down. “That’s one chink in the armor,” he thought.

 

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Stressed Out and Still Too Close
As he continued around an asteroid, the TIE tried to cut the corner. Unfortunately, it came a bit too close to another mine and set it off. Sensors said it was damaged!

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Splash Two!
Stressing his T-70, he reversed hard into the TIE. He quickly lined up his shot. With a sharp intake of breath he watched his energy bolts hit the TIE. He exhaled slowly as it exploded. He muttered to himself, “The Force was with me.”

 

It has been a long time since I played X-Wing. I had picked up Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game – The Force Awakens Core Set a while back and it has sat on my shelf – unopened – for several months. The RockyMountainNavy boys seem to have passed their initial fascination with X-Wing and in many ways it was replaced with Wings of Glory.  I pulled it out for a somewhat rare weeknight gaming session.

Having not played in a while I didn’t use many optional rules. The fighters were all stock with no modifications. Relearning gameplay was quick (X-Wing is not complicated). Although the gameplay is not complex, there were more than a few “tactical errors” committed since the ships were new to us and their capabilities and limitations unexplored. Most significantly, near the end the Zeta TIE could have used their Action to Barrel Roll away from the mine and stay out of the lethal radius instead of looking ahead to  the T-70 threat and placing an Evade token to try to avoid any hits.

Playing X-Wing reminded me that this is one of the games in my collection that I classify as a “Manual Videogame.” The concept of Squadron Builds, Modifications, and Actions (special abilities) all are common with video games. That is not to say I dislike X-Wing; rather, I see it for what it is. The RockyMountainNavy boys, especially Little I, love the Manual Videogame-style of gaming. Pulling out X-Wing reminded us all that this is a lite, fun game that is highly thematic and “pulls you into” the story. It deserves to be on the table more.

#WargameWednesday My 2016 Wargame Revival

I have been a grognard wargamer longer than I have played roleplaying games or family boardgames. However, in recent years I have fallen off in buying new wargames, partially because of the prices (generally expensive) and partially because I have spent more time and money on RPGs and family boardgames. With the rise of the online publishing industry, RPG games and supplements are way more affordable, and my family boardgames included game series like Star Wars X-Wing, Star Wars Imperial Assault, Memoir ’44, and more recently Tanks: Panther vs Sherman. These “light wargames” favor playability over complexity/realism, and in the case of X-Wing or Tanks are more akin to manual video games. These games sorta scratched my wargaming itch, mostly because I used them to introduce the RMN Boys to the hobby.

But although I was scratching the itch, I was not making it go away.

So in 2016 I made a concerted effort to return to true grognard wargaming. Looking back, my modest effort appears to have paid off.

pic1559499_mdBreaking the Chains: War in the South China Sea (Compass Games) [Naval Combat/Modern-era/Operational-level]. My effort to explore modern naval combat. Moderately successful; the game is a bit too simplified for my taste. Looking forward to the next (upgraded?) version the refines the combat system.

pic3090467_mdDawn of the Battleship (Admiralty Trilogy Group) [Naval Combat/Pre-WWI-era/Tactical-level]. A continuation of the Admiralty Trilogy-series and the first published after the break-up with Clash of Arms.

pic3163917_mdEagle of Lille (GMT Games) [Aerial Combat/WWI-era/Operational-level]. Expansion for Bloody April, 1917: Air War over Arras, France. I personally love operational-level air combat games but the prior planning and time needed to play is immense.

pic2958247_mdMBT Second Edition (GMT Games) [Ground Combat/Modern-era/Tactical-level] Jim Day‘s  Panzer (1979 Yaquinto Press) was my first-ever wargame. Love this implementation of his armor combat system to fight the Cold War.

pic2999397_mdPacific Fury: Guadalcanal 1942 (Revolution Games) [Naval Combat/WWII-era/Operational-level]. A unique game that got to my interest in WWII naval combat.

pic2838345_mdPlan Orange: Pacific War 1930-1935 (RBM Studio) [Strategic Pre-WWII-era]. Aligns with my interest in alternative naval war in the Pacific. Great use of the card-driven game (CDG) mechanic.

pic3236903_mdWing Leader: Supremacy 1943-1945 (GMT Games) [Aerial Combat/WWII-era/Large-scale Tactical-level]. A different, and very interesting, look at air combat. A nice mix of tactical and operational-levels of aerial combat.

Breaking it down, of the seven wargames purchased this year:

  • Plurality are Naval Combat (3 of 7)
  • Majority are Operational-level (if one counts the large-scale tactical of Wing Leader as “operational” (4 of 7)
  • Plurality are are WWII-era (3 of 7)

Interestingly, I bought no space/science-fiction games this year. That is, unless one counts my pledged

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Courtesy Ad Astra Games

Kickstarter for Squadron Strike:Traveller (Ad Astra Games) that was to deliver in July but I am still waiting on.

I have to say though that my biggest wargaming achievement of 2016 was introducing Little I to miniature-style naval combat using my old copy of pic253396_mdBattleship Captain (Minden Games, 2007). This is the game that really started Little I on the path to grognardia. He had played, and enjoyed, Memoir’44 but with Battleship Captain he started seriously studying the history behind the game. This Christmas season, his attention has been seized by  the Gale Force 9 Tanks game and he is seriously studying WWII armored combat now.

Here’s to hoping 2017 is a year of many more wargame experiences.

All images courtesy BoardGameGeek except where noted.

A Disturbance in the (House) Force – FFG Star Wars Games

Courtesy FFG

I guess my boys are becoming Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) Star Wars fanatics. Big T has all the FFG Star Wars RPG Core Books (Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, and Force & Destiny) along with several expansion books. Together with Little RMN they started playing X-Wing this summer. Little RMN especially got into the system by reading older Star Wars technical books and spending his own money on expansion packs. This weekend, we broke out the Imperial Assault game – and now they are hooked again!

I believe a major factor in the appeal of the boardgames is the “toy factor;” the figures and models along with the many slick cards and tokens – not to mention the funky dice – just ooze that Star Wars feeling. Both boardgames do a decent job of capturing the feeling of the Star Wars universe. X-Wing plays fast and is deadly; just like in the movies. Imperial Assault has heroes and minions. As an added bonus, Imperial Assault is actually three games in one; a Tutorial Game to get started, a Skirmish Game (squad building) to play head-to-head, and a Campaign Game that is much like a RPG adventure series. Indeed, I wonder when FFG will come out with a way to convert your FFG Star Wars characters into Imperial Assault figures?

Bottom Line: Great games for the boys, but a bit damaging to the pocketbook. Glad to see the boys making their own investment in their gaming! In the long run, FFG has created new fans/players for life.

Miniatures Monday – Balancing the Force(s) in Star Wars X-Wing

Courtesy BGG

A Problem? Take a look at this thread over at BoardGameGeek. It will take you a while to get through the several pages (7 at the time of this post) of comments but give it a shot.

My Take: I don’t’ see the game as broken. Never forget that Star Wars X-Wing is a squad building game. The game by its very nature is not balanced 1-on-1. I think this is why you get two TIE fighters and one X-Wing in the Core Set. This is also in keeping with the source material where the outnumbered Rebels make up for their quantitative disadvantage through quality. Building a proper squad is the real key to victory. As designed, the Rebel player gains many complementary advantages if the squad is assembled the right way.

In my games, the younger RMN has always wanted to be the “good guys” and taken the rebels. I can now see that playing the rebels is harder than the Imperials because of the qualitative advantage. Unfortunately, the younger, inexperienced RMN pilot is often not able to take advantage of the inherent Rebel abilities and therefore loses to the numerically superior Imperials. I think this happens because the younger player wants to “turn and burn”  in a dogfight rather than “slash and run.”  Does this make the game unbalanced? I think not, but it definitely makes it more difficult to play for younger players.

Even the Star Wars Universe recognizes the threat of TIE swarms. In Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels (Ballantine/Del Rey, 2003) the entry for the Alliance RZ-1 A-Wing Starfighter includes the following:

“…the compact A-wing was a Rebel Alliance response to the Empire’s growing number of TIE fighters and TIE variants. Realizing the Rebels needed a craft capable of outrunning these enemy fighters….Because of its speed, the A-wing excels in hit-and-run missions, long-range patrols and reconnaissance, and surgical strikes against large starships.” (p. 17)

Looking over other Star Wars genre games, like Star Wars: Star Warriors or Star Wars: Silent Death Starfighter Game one can see the same “balance” issues. In every case the X-Wing is qualitatively superior to the TIE fighter when compared head-to-head. But the balance is restored though point valuation where a single X-Wing will often face several TIE fighters in a “balanced” battle.

Wargame Wednesday – Carriers in Space

Courtesy loomingy1 via Flickr

Michael Peck, writing for Foreign Policy National Security Blog, had a very interesting interview with naval analyst Chris Weuve on the concept of aircraft carriers in space. Basically, Mr. Weuve discusses what is “right” and what is “wrong” about aircraft carriers in science fiction.

After reading this article I think it is easy to say that Chris would probably agree that starship combat games that use vector movement (such as Mayday, Power Projection: Fleet, Full Thrust, etc.) are far more realistic than ones that don’t. The article also explains why it was so easy to base Star Wars: X-Wing off the Wings of War series (WWI and WWII) and make it appear “cinematically correct.”

Good comments for designers of science fiction games to keep in mind.

Miniatures Monday – Star Wars X-Wing: A Matter of Scale

Courtesy Fantasy Flight Games

The new Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures game claims that their ships are all in scale to each other. So what do you see in the above photo? Looks like a single X-Wing against two TIE/In fighters, right? But those TIE fighters are way too big!  Everybody knows that the TIE fighter is a small ship and NO WAY can it be that big compared to the vaunted X-Wing!

According to Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels (Del Rey/Random House/Lucasfilms Ltd., 2003) the Incom Corporation T-65 X-Wing Space Superiority Fighter is 7.25m long (p. 168). The Seinar Fleet Systems TIE/IN Space Superiority Starfighter is 6.3m long (p.156).  By this material (canon?) the TIE should be about 1/3 shorter than the X-Wing. Looking atthe photo above that does not appear to be the case.

So did Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) screw up the scale? In an interesting twist, FFG claims that all the source materials over the years has been dead wrong:

During the production process, we were surprised to discover that the official dimensions for some of the ships did not match our pre-existing expectations of their relative sizes. Nowhere is our devotion to scale more evident than in our TIE fighter. Through intensive research and close correspondence with Lucasfilm Ltd., we confirmed with no degree of uncertainty the true scales of this iconic Imperial fighter as it appears in the films, even going so far as to study the proportions of the original film models. (“The Making of X-Wing)

The main source FFG appears to have used is this production photo of various models:

Courtesy Fantasy Flight Games

The TIE fighter certainly looks big compared to the Y-Wings (front) or X-Wings (back row). Did George Lucas retcon another change into the Star Wars Universe? Do I really care?

I don’t really care because the X-Wing game is a guilty pleasure that I enjoy with my youngsters. It’s Star Wars…not reality. Once the Millennium Falcon comes out the scale will be totally ruined anyway.

Courtesy Fantasy Flight Games

Miniatures Monday – Star Wars X-Wing

Courtesy BGG

OK, I will admit it; I love the Star Wars Original Trilogy. So when Fantasy Flight Games announced they were making an adaptation of their Wings of War system for starfighter combat in the Star Wars Universe, I was both happy and hesitant. Happy for Star Wars; hesitant because see the Wings of War system as pricy and not quite “crunchy” enough for my grognards tastes.

What I failed to initially factor in was Little RMN. He is a true Star Wars fanatic (see what I created?). When I brought home the Core Set and first four expansions he badgered me endlessly to play it. I was a bit concerned because the game is rated for ages 14+; Little RMN is only 8.

I needn’t have worried.

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game is an easy to learn, easy to play system. The miniatures are well detailed and a joy to move through space. The game mechanics are fairly straightforward and simple enough that even Litle RMN (with a bit of coaching) was able to make sense of it.

Most importantly, we had fun. We first played an introductory game of two Academy TIE fighters versus Luke Skywalker. We didn’t use many of the advanced rules, starting first with a focus on game flow and basic mechanics. Little RMN as Luke scored a few hits but never concentrated on one TIE fighter long enough to knock it out. He eventually lost as he ran for a board edge (safe exit) after losing all his shields and a bit of hull.

But he wants to play again. He wants to add the full rules. The grognard in me hasn’t changed my opinion  that the Wings of War system is a bit of a simplification, but I will freely admit that X-Wing captures the cinematic feel of Star Wars space combat rather well.

Most importantly, it brings me closer to my kids. That’s the real win for me.