I know, I know. Miniatures games are not the typical fare for my blog, especially ones as big and slick as X-Wing Miniatures Game by Fantasy Flight Games. However, this game is just so good. Like, SO good.
X-Wing Miniatures Game is not like any other miniatures game I’ve played, and I’m hoping that I can convert some of you over to the dark side (so to speak) of miniatures wargaming. So instead of a typical laundry list of “here’s what I love about this game,” I’m going to take you on a journey. This is the journey of how I went from “I never want to play miniatures games…” to “Let’s play X-Wing every weekend!”
I spent a large part of my pre-adolescence tinkering around with miniatures wargames. As any kid who grew up in the ’90s with a penchant for nerdy fantasy and science fiction stuff, I naturally gravitated to… you guessed it, Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. And as a pre-adolescent, this was fine. Orcs annihillated Elves. Space Marines blew up Tyranids. All was right in the universe. I was content.
The High School Years
As I got a little older–and accumulated more responsibilities–I could no longer justify spending 2 hours constructing an army list, 2 hours setting up a dizzying amount of miniatures on an enormous table, 4 hours chucking dice on said table, and 2 hours cleaning up aforementioned dizzying amount of miniatures. So, I turned to skirmish-sized wargames that could be played with a dozen or so miniatures. (Shout out to Necromunda and Mordheim! Still amazing games, by the way.
As I got older yet–and went to college and onto adulthood, where responsibilities seem to grow exponentially–I could no longer justify spending any amount of time tinkering around with tiny toy soldiers. It just wasn’t practical… or cool, really. So, I took to more… highbrow Tabletop Games. (“This game has meeples, not silly miniatures. So it’s okay.”) I joke, but really, it was a logical progression. I graduated college in 2007, right at the start of the tabletop gaming renaissance, so it fit perfectly into my newly minted adulthood.
The Years That Followed
The years went on–as they tend to do–and somewhere, in the back of my mind, in the deepest recesses of my soul, ached a nostalgic longing for those little plastic and metal soldiers set up on a tabletop “battlefield,” waging war against one another. One night, in between long work weeks, one of my brothers tried to convince me to get together to play a game of X-Wing Miniatures at his house. I remember thinking, “Can’t we just watch a movie, or something? I don’t have all night to fiddle around with toy ships.” But, I humored him. And that was the start of someting amazing.
Here’s a rundown of every little thing that I came to know about X-Wing Miniatures Game over the course of that fateful evening, which made me realie that–yes–I can enjoy miniatures games again:
- Listbuilding can be as quick-and-painless or as deep-and-consuming as you want it to be in X-Wing Miniatures. Like most other miniatures wargames, X-Wing’s various miniatures have a points cost associated with them; and you and your opponent must spend the same amount of points to construct your fleet. This can extremely simple, if you want it to be: “I’m taking these 4 ships whose points add up to 100.” Or, if you prefer, it can be an entirely separate game before the game: “I want this ship with that pilot, who’s learned this elite pilot skill, and the ship is armed with this special cannon and these torpedoes.” Creating strategic combinations of upgrades for your ship is actually quite fun. But, for those who don’t want to spend the time doing it, playing with a vanilla fleet is just as viable an option.
- Set-up is ridiculously fast in X-Wing Miniatures. Place a few asteroids. Place your 2-4 ships. Done. Yes, you can play an “Epic” sized game, where you’ll likely have anywhere from six to a dozen ships, but honestly… the smaller dogfights are more fun. A handful of ships facing off a handful of enemy ships.
- You don’t have to paint the miniatures. This bears repeating… you don’t have to paint the miniatures! Now, I’m a huge fan of miniature painting. But it’s a wholly separate hobby that is ten time more time-consuming than playing the game by itself. So, if you’re into painting, by all means… you can repaint the ships. But, X-Wing Miniatures ships are all fully painted… and they look quite amazing, I must add. This isn’t one of those games where you have to spend countless hours assembling and painting all your dudes if you don’t want to look like a scrub on game night.
- X-Wing Miniatures game is luck-driven, yes, but all the gameplay revolves around mitigating the element of randomness to your favor. This is a huge point of interest for those of you who are dice-averse and abhor random chance. Combat in X-Wing Miniatures is determined by rolling a few dice. However, the core gameplay decisions you make are all about managing an economy of actions for your ships – do you use your ship’s action to evade – thereby granting you automatic successes on a defense roll? Or do you use your ship’s action to acquire a target lock on an enemy ship – thereby granting you a re-roll on an attack against that ship, should you desire? Etc.
- Maneuvering actually matters. Unlike a lot of other miniatures wargames, where the placement and movement of the miniatures has little bearing on the game (it might modify dice results a bit depending on “cover” or distance… but that’s about it), in X-Wing Miniatures, maneuvering is a tactical puzzle in its own right. At the start of each turn, players secretly program their ships’ maneuvers. “Where do I think my opponent is going to move?” becomes more important than, “Where are they right now?” The maneuvers you are allowed to program vary ship-to-ship (some ships are quick and nimble, while others are a bit more cumbersome) and the more difficult maneuvers cause “stress” on the ship performing them. This is a really interesting mechanic that forces a player to perform a slower (and more predictable) maneuver in the following turn, or else forfeit their luck-mitigating action that round.
- Every choice and event carries a lot of weight. This isn’t one of those wargames where you’re rolling a hundred dice to mow down dozens of infantrymen, and it barefly feels like anything happened. In X-Wing Miniatures, every shot fired, every barrel roll, every target lock acquired carries an immense amount of importance. This is a small-scale skirmish game where players’ choices actually matter.
I just can’t praise this game enough. It turned a former miniatures wargamer who came to abhor the thought of rolling a single die into a believer again. If you’re automatically turned off by miniatures games, I urge you to give this one a try. It might surprise you.
Until next time, gang. Keep it plucky,