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Published on March 2nd, 2015 | by Colin


Cardcore Gamer: Ex-Wing?


When it was released, I went all starry-eyed for the X-Wing Miniatures Game. 3 years on, is the love affair over?

Ok, here we go. Take a deep breath. Try not to burp. Haaaahhhh! Dear X-Wing, I…don’t think I love you any more.

Back in 2012, I sold off all of my Wings of Glory (then Wings of War) kit and heavily courted a younger model: Fantasy Flight’s brand new, if “heavily influenced”, Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game. The game was quick, easy to teach, intuitive and gorgeous and all the iconic ships and characters were yours to play with; Luke’s X-Wing, Vader’s TIE Advanced, the Millennium Falcon and Slave 1 all arrived in the first few waves, allowing me to goof about playing pew-pew spaceships under the guise of serious table-top gaming.

I bought more ships, played in tournaments (sometimes won), worked out new fleets, and learned the tricks of each new addition to the game. It was great, but there was a tiny, nagging hook of doubt – easily ignored, but always present and ready to snag once more with each new announcement and purchase. At first it was hard to put my finger on exactly what the matter was. X-Wing was and remains a nicely thought-out and well-balanced game; the rules and FAQ are continuously revised, the tournament scene is well supported and the miniatures are of a consistently high quality, both in sculpt and paint. With the game so solid on the surface, I just couldn’t work out what was wrong.

It took my first tournament win to help me understand what was bugging me. I ran a popular metagame fleet build, nicknamed Bluebacca – a pair of Blue Squadron B-Wing fighters accompanying a heavily upgraded, Chewbacca-piloted Falcon – to a curiously unsatisfying victory. The fleet worked well, so well in fact that it was ultimately pretty damn boring to fly and with the unusually high number of Falcons in the tournament, I also learned that it was pretty damn boring to fly against. I used the word ‘metagame’ back there, so I’d best define that term for those who haven’t encountered it: The metagame is what happens outside of the game being played on the table -in X-Wing, it mostly refers to the ‘game’ of working out the best fleets to field. For me, it’s also the pulled thread that caused things to begin unravelling.

Whether you choose to engage with the ‘meta’ or not, it still affects the game as a whole; players will seek out and share the best, most efficient, most powerful combinations of ships, pilots and upgrades and other players and the game designers will react to them in turn. As a game expands, the ‘meta’ constantly changes and the designers have to add new content to keep things interesting, but also maintain a balance, ensuring older ships remain relevant in the face of new ‘toys’. With new additions, the style of gameplay changes and since X-Wing began, we’ve had more turrets, more ships with unique manoeuvres and more abilities stacking up until the whole game has started to feel like it’s tipped away from the fast dogfighting game I enjoyed toward a style focused around the interaction of individual mechanics and rules.

To go back to the beginning, I mentioned Wings of Glory, a World War 1 and 2 dogfighting game. The core gameplay is much the same as X-Wing, where you predict your opponents manoeuvres and plan yours accordingly to get them in your gun sights and shoot them down. It is a deadly game in which you’re constantly trying to out-think and out-fly your opponent, staying in their blind spot and outside their arc of fire. It’s all about your skill as a player to read your opponent, or bluff them into making a poor move –  if you fly well, they get shot. That is what I wanted out of X-Wing, that dangerous, seat-of-your-pants, fly-or-die fighting.

In the last X-Wing tournament I organised, the final round became a three-way battle between several strong fleets – a Decimator and a TIE Phantom, a Falcon and an X-Wing and a pair of brand new IG-2000 Aggressors – after two hours of flying and blasting, cloaking and crazy moves, only one ship had been destroyed. Even with that much firepower and technology in play, the manoeuvres were too complex to plan for, the shooting was to easily negated, the turrets ignored clever positioning and sometimes the dice just came up blank.

I’m sorry, X-Wing, we’ve both changed over the years. I hope we can still be friends.

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