Game Thoughts: X-Wing Second Edition

Up here in Average Gamer Towers (that’s totally a thing and not something we just made up to make ourselves sound more grandiose than we actually are…) we love a good tabletop game. Fully 50% of our team are MASSIVE Star Wars fans, and so it stands to reason that the first big review we put on our humble little blog is for a game set in the Star Wars universe.

Join us, if you will, in casting your mind back through the mists of time to the the distant past of 2012, where a little company by the name of Fantasy Flight Games released a game that would become one of the biggest selling tabletop games of all time; Merchant of Venus second edition!

Oh, and they also brought out something called Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game.

xwing1

X-Wing by Fantasy Flight Games

The X-Wing Miniatures Game (handily shortened to the far catchier ‘X-Wing’ by its fans) would gain a huge following over the next few years, at one point even eclipsing the juggernaut of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 as the highest selling tabletop game in the US. Of course, as time wears on, the rules set began to groan under the weight of new releases (and FFG’s insistence on using cards and tokens for EVERYTHING). Most people witnessing X-Wing events would rarely even see the eponymous ship among the many tables where the games were being played. It’s safe to assume FFG noticed this too, and so in the summer of 2018, they announced that a second edition of the game was on the way. Given that our finger is firmly on the pulse here at The Average Gamers, we jumped straight onto this new edition a mere 6 months after the announcement!

x-wing2

X-Wing Second Edition by Fantasy Flight Games

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Lee: Well, to say I was excited at the announcement of second edition would be an understatement. I’d already been playing X-Wing casually for a good few years with some friends, both with standard games and the excellent fan-made co-op campaign, Heroes of the Aturi Cluster, so the announcement of a second edition was music to my ears. I enjoyed the game immensely, but the thought of trying to get hold of every ‘fix’ card for my beloved T-65s was becoming hard to justify. Thankfully, because I’m a filthy casual player, using printed squadron lists in my games at home was far cheaper, but it was becoming hard to keep up with everything that had been released.

One of the things that surprised me the most though, was how divisive the announcement of the Conversion Kits for players with existing collections was. There were many cries of gouging from FFG – The line “we need to spend hundreds to keep playing” (not quite true) was thrown about a fair bit on various forums. However, coming from a miniature wargaming background, I can tell you, having to spend a relatively small amount (in the grand scheme of things) on conversion kits to make my first edition stuff relevant again is far more preferable to having to scrap the lot and re-buy it all as second edition versions!

I was also relieved to hear that the second edition rules themselves weren’t going to be a complete overhaul, just a tidy-up and re-tuning of the existing engine – something which I find is the mark of a good game-system – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (maybe just mend little bits and take out OP combos)” – as the saying goes!

cards

Cards… All the cards…

Adam: Alright, calm down there fanboy! I’m here to put a bit more level-headedness in to this article! Up to now I’ve only really dabbled in X-wing over the last couple of years, mainly by playing games using the stuff that other people own, so I’ve never really needed to buy into it myself. Maybe it’s because I’m not as big a Star Wars fan as you are, Lee? I was always slightly put-off by the cost-per-pack – it felt quite expensive to me, even if they do come pre-painted!

If I really think about it, I think the main thing holding me back from diving in before was that every time we played, I had big problems with the way abilities and upgrades were handled via the cards – if you’re not too deeply involved in the game as a whole, it’s harder to know what the good/bad combos or options are. While the cards *are* available online via various websites and apps, the sheer number of them out there by the time I was looking at the game made it hard to know where to even begin.

In fact, I think that’s nailed it – I felt the game was really hard to get into as a new player with the sheer number of options available, and I found that I really needed help putting together what I thought was a viable list, rather than a bunch of trash flying around aimlessly with useless upgrades.

game 1

Speaking of a bunch of trash with useless upgrades, here’s a shot of Lee’s list…

Lee: But isn’t that half the fun, discovering things like that for yourself? Personally I just think you were intimidated by the sheer awesomeness of my ability to smash into every asteroid on the table!

So with all this talk of what we thought when we first heard about it, what is it we actually like? I’ll start because I’m positively bursting to talk about this game! Probably the biggest thing for me was the general tightening up of the rules, such as the timings of certain effects – even as far as adding a new phase to the turn to cover some other parts like bombs and mines for example.

The thoughts put towards accessibility was also a nice touch, I thought – for instance, in first edition, the different movement options had three difficulties – Green, White and Red. Of course, these aren’t the best choices for those who suffer from colour-blindness, and so for second edition they’ve changed the green to pale blue. Also, they’ve altered the shape of certain tokens – their shape determines whether they’re a persistent token that must be removed manually, or whether they’re removed at the end of the turn. Little things like that go a long way to making a rules-system intuitive and easy to remember, I find.

The Force is something that’s always been present in Star Wars in some way, although it was never fully represented in X-Wing, I noticed. While some of the pilot abilities gave a bit of a nod to their sensitivity to the Force, it’s only now that they’ve got specific rules to cover their ability to throw furniture about or just be better than your average-joe pilot. What I like is that the abilities they have don’t appear to be *too* powerful, but can really make a difference into how effective they are on the table without being game-breaking.

Adam: Yeah, I’d agree with you on The Force. It really brings the game to life and makes it feel more ‘star-warsy’ (totally a word) – they aren’t just flying around in spaceships, there’s also that energy field thingy giving people special powers! I definitely enjoyed using Luke Skywalker with Instinctive Aim to shoot his torpedoes without needing a target lock – just like in the film!

I really like the new ‘Threat Level’ cards they’ve come out with too – it seems like a good way to play the game without all the list-building faff – and from the looks of what I’ve seen so far, they look pretty thematic, like the Falcon with Han and Luke in the turrets and Chewie at the controls, just like when they escaped the Death Star (I swear, I’m not that big into Star Wars…)!

One of my favourite things about the game as a whole is the hidden movement choices provided by the dials – it really gives you that sense of tension as you try and second-guess your opponent before inevitably getting it wrong and clipping an asteroid! I really like how they’ve improved the dials to allow you to see all the manoeuvres from the off. It really helps for newer players who don’t know the dial as well as a veteran. It’s far more preferable to the old way where you had to spin the dial endlessly to see every option – although didn’t they have those fancy plastic dial upgrades at one point which did a similar job to now?

game setup

Our setup. Many Bothans died to bring us this information.

Lee: Yeah, they did, so I guess they took some learnings from that.

Of course, it’s not all roses for me. As much as I like FFG’s ability to write very clear and concise rules, I do have some gripes with some of their practices, X-Wing in particular. For instance, their continued insistence on cards for rules and upgrades, rather than releasing army lists like so many other wargames do. From a business standpoint, it makes sense (put the really desirable cards in different sets so people have to buy them if they want to use them at official events), but it’s irksome for those of us who come from a more traditional wargaming background, where the rules for your force are (usually) all contained in a single book. Luckily for me, I’m never going to any events with X-Wing, so I can get away with using the freely available rules on the cards in a written-up, army list-style form.

One of the other issues I have with the game is the ship tokens (ie: the bit you put on the base to show the firing arcs). In my opinion, they’re over-engineered – why does it need the various pilot names and initiative values on? If I’m thinking about the environment, you could save far more cardboard by just having the arcs printed on there – if you do that, there’s no need for eleventy billion different baseplates with every pilot name and initiative value on them, you only need one per ship that shows all the arcs. I’ve taken the bold step (and further ruling-out my possibility of ever going to an event) of taking a Sharpie and blanking out the names and initiative values on my base plates, meaning I never need to change the base plate over from game to game – I just need a single one which can stay on there forever and a day.

I think the biggest disappointment (and that’s a term I use loosely, as I’m pleased as punch about X-Wing 2.0 in general) is the lack of mechanics to simulate 3D space. There are plenty of other systems that deal with the third dimension of height in their games, and I think it’s a shame FFG didn’t do something like this with X-Wing 2.0, if only because the ‘bumping’ aspect of the game just feels weird to me in a game that takes place in 3D space. I get that bumping is a ‘thing’ to add another aspect of tactical play into the game, but it has never sat right with me that you can effectively stop a ship from moving by virtue of being ‘nearby’.

Adam: Hah, that certainly is a bit weird! I guess it’s a limitation of playing on a tabletop to some degree. Like you, I too have some niggles with the system – I totally agree with you on the cards thing – when ships end up with several cards attached to them, they can take up a lot of space on the game table. I mean, it can sometimes look like a game of Magic the Gathering with a few miniatures scattered around, what with all the cards on show!

Does the terrain placement bother you at all? It just feels a bit weird and random to me. I suppose asteroids do move about at random in the vacuum of space, but I’d rather something a bit more prescribed. I’m not quite sure about the ‘bid’ system that appears to have come about as well – seems weird that you’d want to ensure you’re the underdog – I guess it goes a bit deeper than that for the tournament players though – it’s quite possible neither of us fully grasp the nuances of that right now!

If I had to really pick out one thing, I think it’s the lack of diversity in scenarios when playing X-Wing. Maybe there are more in the main book, but I always find that just having a straight up pitched battle to eliminate the other guy can promote a certain kind of playstyle. Maybe I’ve just been playing Infinity too long, but I really enjoy building lists with the purpose of being able to achieve the missions, rather than just to ‘kill all the things’.

asteroids

Pew pew pew!

Lee: Yeah, sadly there aren’t alternative scenarios offered in the core set beyond kill the other guy and survive. There used to be extra scenarios provided in the main book and in some of the larger supplements during first edition, not that many people played them. The only real alternative to that (and one that I highly recommend, even now in these heady days of second edition) is the previously mentioned Heroes of the Aturi Cluster which has some brilliant scenarios in it with slightly more defined objectives. It’s definitely a campaign I’d play through again! Perhaps you and I should give it a go?

Overall though, I’m very happy with the new edition of X-Wing. While I still have some very minor gripes, I’m glad that FFG was able to cater for a veteran player with a reasonable collection of first edition stuff, rather than leaving me with a load of plastic that I can’t even use. While it wasn’t the cheapest of things to upgrade to the new edition, on the whole, it was still far cheaper than re-buying my entire collection in second edition form, and it’s far less of an issue than some members of the X-Wing community would have you believe. I can’t wait to continue flying and crashing into things on the table!

Adam: Hah, I bet you can’t! In general, I definitely feel that FFG have made great strides in taking the best bits of a 6-year old system and upgraded it to a more concise second edition. I really like the changes they have made to some of the core mechanics (like turreted weapons, for instance) and can’t help but admire their push to make the game more accessible – a special mention to the colour-blind friendly tokens is well-deserved here, I feel. With that being said though, I do still have worries about the risk of card ‘bloat’ and some broken combos which could arise (especially when you use printed media, which is harder to amend), but maybe the app-based approach to things that FFG have taken with point costs etc will go some way to alleviating this? Only time will tell!

Nevertheless, this brief foray into second edition has proved enjoyable enough for me to decide to pick up some of the new starships that are coming out in 2019 from the Clone Wars era – hopefully we can play a few more games then!

game 2

Damn, I love X-Wings!

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Well then, overall it seems we’re both pretty positive about X-Wing second edition, doesn’t it? We definitely recommend picking up X-Wing Second Edition, whether you’re purely just a fan of Star Wars, or if you’re a gamer who’s after something casual yet still has competitive elements. It also should greatly appeal to those aren’t as enamoured with the ‘hobby’ side (building and painting) of gaming and want security in knowing the system will be supported for years to come!

What about you, dear readers? Do you agree with us, or are we just talking a load of old rubbish and you vehemently disagree with literally everything we’ve just said? Why not leave us a comment and tell us what you think? We’d love to hear from you!

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