Saturday, May 30, 2015

Bark: X-Wing Miniatures Tabletop Game

In recent weeks, I have gotten majorly into Fantasy Flight's X-Wing Miniatures Game. I'm lucky enough to have a couple of friends at work who, like me, are veteran gamers (in both the video and the tabletop form) and have been collecting the ships and playing the game for a year or two now. My love of all things Star Wars (excepting Jar-Jar, obviously) is the stuff of legend, so it's surprising that I've taken quite this long to get into it. But get into it I have, very badly indeed, as the pictures dotted throughout this post will show.
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With the extra ships I have incoming from the Amazon System, due to arrive out of hyperspace later this morning, I'll have a large enough fleet to have a significant 100+ point battle between three factions. That's some pretty epic tabletop gaming, right there. Added to all the other ships owned by the other guys at work (the Decimator, Falcon, Outrider, Lambda-class shuttle and more fighters than an evening at the UFC), we've got practically everything the game can currently offer: the only ship we're missing is the Tantive IV, and I may very well pick that up next month. On Thursday night this week, we played a 2v2 battle: Rebels versus an alliance between the Empire and the Scum & Villany ships I picked up at Orc's Nest in Covent Garden earlier in the day; 100 points for each player. I'm still very much feeling my way around the game a bit, but the game couldn't have been closer: the final two ships were both down to one hull strength each going into the final round, and my team only lost because in a previous round I'd suffered a critical hit to my cockpit, dropping my pilot skill to zero... and he who shoots last invariably dies first. Well, that and Boba Fett (i.e. me) rolled like Wil Wheaton in an episode of Tabletop all night whenever Slave One had a shot at the Millennium Falcon... But that's sometimes what you get with dice games. Guri in the StarViper, on the other hand, was an absolute demon for damage rolls - I only lost the ship because my teammate had the Ruthlessness card for the Decimator, and I was caught up in the collateral damage.
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I'm impressed with how much fun the game is, even when you lose, but probably the most impressive thing is just how easy the game is to pick up. The rules are simple enough to remember after a simple skirmish game with a couple of ships each, but the ship upgrades, abilities and customisations add a lot of tactical depth to the combat. Knowing what modifications and upgrades to choose for each ship takes some experimentation, as does getting a feel for when you should focus, evade, boost, barrel roll or target lock. There's more to the game than the random chance of the dice rolling for attack and defence, too. There's a real skill in being able to out-think or anticipate the next move of your opponent, as well as judgment in knocking whether your next maneouvre is going to leave you stranded against an asteroid or piece of debris (I've been there a couple of times, both with fatal results), or whether it will bring you into the blind spot behind an enemy ship's fire arc. The game has a bit of everything: skill, chance, excitement, tactics, psychology... and a lot of good design. Not least with the actual ships themselves.
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There's no getting away from it (despite my awful photography) - the models are gorgeous things in their own right. Overpriced? Maybe, but they are pre-painted and exquisitely detailed. Slave One takes pride of place next to my Boba Fett action figurine on the boom box of my speaker system, next to my monitor. The rest of my fleet stand on overwatch atop the bookshelves in my office. I think that the Scum and Villany faction ships are going to be my go-to faction, since some of the ships are just a little bit out of the ordinary (the IG-2000, which is coming in the morning, looks fabulous), and I've always had a soft spot for the Z-95 Headhunter, too. The Black Sun models are slinky little numbers - I love the Black Sun crest on them to make them stand out from the standard Rebel colour scheme.

On our next games night we're going to try out Medium Transport in a three faction free-for-all game: the Rebels have to defend the Transport, the Imperials have to destroy it, and the Scum and Villany have to capture it... That, my dear readers, will be a night to look forward to.
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