Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Star Wars X-Wing Miniature Game - Unboxed and 1st impressions review

Well, after listening to the d6generation podcast I was were enthusiastic about this new game, so I ordered the basic core box and this is what I found inside :)

Three very nice ships: two Tie fighters and one X-wing. Contrary to what I was told, the material allows for deformations of the models and actually the X-Wing four cannons are not perfectly straight but I can life with it.
The ships are supposed to fit into a plastic peg which goes into the base. Those pegs are cylindrical and with the corresponding holes for the fitting, which are not round but have wedge shape so that the pegs do not rotate when mounted. This translate in that the ships can also not rotate over the base.
This should no be a problem BUT the X-Wing is not perfectly aligned with the orthogonal position, so any person will instinctively try to fix it right by turning (when we try the game, after assembling the ships it was precisely that what my friend and opponent for the game tried). Luckily he knows how delicate this join points / pieces are and did it carefully and realized his error on time, but imagine the opposite and you have a broken ships or peg. The second is not so much of an issue, the first, well...
I think this is a particular bad design point of the ships, which on the other hand look very nice and detailed.
I do not see the need of a fixed peg which can not rotate. I think this complicated the components without offering any substantial advantages

Further components:
 And all the pieces on the table :)

1st impressions

The rules:
They come in two sections. Basic and Advance rules. The basic rules are really basic. I would not play with only them, they are too simple and the game offers nothing in terms of excitement or tactics at this level.
The advanced rules are a bit more complex but not very good. I will explain.
The ships can not collide with each other. The movement is performed using templates which fit into the base of the ships and it is very fluid and easy, however if two ship bases overlap at the final position of the ship moving, nothing really happens except that the moving ship "breaks" and stays just before the other ship, in base contact and they can not declare themselves in attack.
On the other hand, there are rules for obstacles, such as asteroids, whereas if you fly through the obstacle (the template overlaps with the obstacle) or you finish your movement in the obstacle, the moving ship get an attack of 1 dice.
The reasoning for the non-collision of ships is that the space is 3D and big enough for the ships to maneuver so that they do not collide, this reasoning seems not to apply to the obstacles.
I see the point of the obstacles as an interesting feature of the game (and needed) but then, why limit it to other obstacles and not extend that also to ships.
Maybe I would like to ramp with my Tie fighter the insidious X-Wing. But, this is alas not possible with the actual set of rules.
Also, the game is supposed  to represent 3D combat, however the rules are totally 2D. There is no indication of different levels of altitude, so all the ships are flying on the same plane.
I know this game is based on the previous Wings of Glory, but I cannot recall if that game was having altitude rules. If not, why no one bothered including them here ? If yes, why they removed them?
I know that it is very difficult to represent 3D on a 2D board, but this game not even tries to do that, it just ignores it.

The Core box:
Not enough. Just so simple. The box is 30 €, it is true, but with three ships it feels a bit short. We got the impression that at least another core set would be needed to start to enjoy the game and to see some tactical challenges.

The Missions:
We play the first mission, the escort of the Senator twice, changing sides.
The scenario is very neat in terms of winning of losing it, as the movement of the Senator ship and the attack of the Tie fighter are borderline in terms of who will win. Actually in our game, the Rebel won once and the Imperial the other.
However, the X-Wing which escorts the Senator is pointless. It has more shields and hull that the Tie fighters, so it is very difficult for the Imperial player to destroy and for what reason? The objective of the scenario is clear, destroy the Senator ship. So, the Imperial player will launch both Tie fighters against the Senator and disregard the X-Wing.
If the X-Wing makes a wrong turn it would be out of game as it takes ages for it to turn back into the combat and obviously, the Senator ship would not wait for it as two Tie fighters are just pounding on him.
So, basically the Senator runs forwards at maximum speed and the X-Wing try to destroy the Tie fighters which by ignoring him can concentrate fire on the real target.
If the X-Wing destroys a Tie fighter and being honest, he can do one Tie fighter per turn with a bit of luck, nothing really serious happens. At the end of the turn, the Imperial player gets another Tie fighter as reinforcements coming from his boardgame side which is the same side the Senator has to go.
So, think about this, the Senator is running towards the direction from which one the Imperial reinforcements are coming !
Therefore if the Rebel destroy a Tie Fighter, another exactly equal appears in a better position as it would be directly in front of the target to destroy.
Now, tell me, why will the Rebel player try to destroy Tie fighters ? Just to avoid two of them firing to the Senator, yes, point given, but that would only be so if the X-Wing manages to destroy one Tie fighter, each and every round.

The second mission is Lucke Skywalker trapped inside of an asteroid field waiting for four complete round before being able to activate his hyperdrive and scape in the fifth round.
At the beginning I was very excited because we were using some of the characters from the movies with better stats, but it does not matter if you are playing with the core set.
In the first mission, the Tie fighters are on the hands of Academy pilots which are both equal and with pilot skill lower than the Red Squadron pilot of the Rebel player. So Imperial moves first and attack last.
In this mission, the Imperial have again two pilots with pilot skill lower than the Rebel pilot, only difference being that the imperial pilots have different skills and one goes before the other, but again both go before the Rebel pilot and attack after.
Yeap, true, they have special skills and so, but it feels a bit too short again.

My final impression ?
Well, I am disappointed. The reviews I read and specially the podcast crew, they were all very excited about the game, the rules, the scenarios and so on, and maybe they are right, maybe the game is great, but with the Core set you do not feel it so, or at least, I do not feel it so.
But, even if I would have two core sets, two advance Tie fighters and one Y-Wing, the 2D rules would be the same and I cannot see me expending around 100 € in miniatures for a rule set which is below optimum.
Maybe if there would be a More Advance Rules, then maybe...

Also, the FAQ is already there and a lot of people apparently were discussing what my opponent in the game calls "millimetre discussions". That is, when you start arguing about the relative position of a ship based on an accuracy which is far beyond the experimental error of the game.
You are moving not so heavy items over card board templates with your hands !
Of course it is not possible to make machine precision movements. Of course, it would be never possible to move a ship in a crowded area of the board without disturbing the others, specially when the template has to go over those other ships.
Therefore I found funny that one of the FAQ was about how to use the range ruler, if its broadness was used for the measurement or not, so that you can add one or two more millimetres to the arch of fire of the ship. I find this ridiculous.
In the first game we play, after two movements, there was one situation where a Tie fighter was dubiously able to fire against the X-Wing. My proposal was to use a dice, my opponent says, "no, too much dices is no good, we will give the advantage to the attacker always". We could also have given the advantage to the defender. That is not the point, the point is that some people need a ruling about one millimetre (!?)
Anyway, it was not my intention to criticise anyone.
Coming back to the game.
It is a nice game, but with several shortcomings. The rules could be better and it looks like just an excuse to collect Star Wars miniatures. This last is not so bad if you are a Fan boy (which I am) but still.
Maybe I am just tired of investing money in games to which I never play...

Update: I almost forgot, I was so in a disappointed mood and maybe a bit depressed too that I just decided to invest my money in people instead of in plastic and so I visited the Extra Life Charity Event under the sponsoring from Craig Gallant (from d6generation). Here the link just in case you decide to give away some money to help some Children's Hospitals:


Mario said...

I think you might have been a little too harsh. It's true that the rules are pretty simple, and that the core set offers very little in the way of tactical depth. But I believe that it will play very different with 3-6 fighters per side.
The collision avoidance rule I actually find rather neat - it costs the "offending" ship its precious action and precludes both parties involved from shooting at each other. Considering how often this came up in our game, it seems penalty enough! Allowing for damage as a possible/likely outcome would make ramming an unreasonably attractive (and indefensible) tactic against high-value units.
Yes, the game is 2D, whereas Wings of Glory (at least the WW2 version) include altitude rules. But those mostly matter because, gravity being what it is, you can trade altitude for speed - and there is a ground to worry about. No such features in space, so keeping track of altitude changes would be way more trouble than it's worth. Such rules may be interesting in a Death Star trench run scenario, but in open space they're just not worth the hassle (play WoG or the new A&A Air Force Miniatures and you'll understand what I mean).
Having said that, I fully agree that this is a classic "millimetre game" in which every time you move a miniature or measure a range you're invariably introducing small errors which can push an enemy fighter outside (or inside) your firing arc, or trigger a discussion whether two ship bases are actually touching or not. And I hate that. Some would argue this is a problem inherent to all miniature games, but I just think it's bad design.

Jokin R. González Cantón said...

I agree with Mario about the collision rules. It would be so tempting to ram your cheap Tie Fighters into the XWings. Even more in the Senator's ship scenario, where the Empire player has unlimited fighters supply.
I really enjoyed the old XWing and Tie Fighter videogames by LucasArts so I also miss the 3D movement of the ships. But we play in a 2D table, it would be so hard to make it work the same way. A different altitude levels system just wouldn't be good enough :-/
And all the millimetre arguing is inherent to these game mechanics (I remember some nasty Warhammer evenings because of this issue). My way to manage it is to play only with friends who enjoy most gaming in the Star Wars universe than winning, like me. This way I know that no argument will ruin the game :)