Back when I was 9, I started playing Basic Dungeons and Dragons, my first adventure was Keep on the Borderlands. I still have the books. I still remember the excitement.
That was 32 years ago. Since then I’ve become a bitter, cynical and jaded gamer, fed up with constant rule revisions and re-releases of figures, as well as ever-higher prices. Four days ago however, I invited a friend around to play the basic rules version of Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars: X-Wing. And I haven’t had so much fun pushing plastic figures around a table for a very, very, long time. Warlord’s Bolt Action is very good, and I have some miniatures that need to be painted, and I look forward to playing it again, but Star Wars: X-Wing is different.
Like I said, we only played the basic rules, because we didn’t want to faff around trying to work out what something meant. We wanted to take our TIE fighters and X-Wings into space. We wanted to carry on the fight between the Empire and the Rebels. We wanted to be Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Wedge Antilles, maybe even Han Solo.
Unfortunately, the basic rules didn’t allow for that, and we have to get what Fantasy Flight Games call expansion packs in order to get the correct ship (Darth Vader flies the TIE Advanced Fighter) and the character cards. But I don’t see that as being a problem. Actually, the fact that the figures come ready painted, and the game rules are in a tiny booklet that contains everything you need to play not on the basic Star Wars: X-Wing game, but the advanced version as well, is fabulous.
Although it’s nice to get a big thick tome of rules, read through all the background and fluff, ingest the odd short story, this isn’t really needed. What is needed are rules that are a) easy to understand b) easy to expand upon as your knowledge of the game grows c) games that can be played quickly. And Fantasy Flight Games have absolutely nailed it with Star Wars: X-Wing.
Each expansion pack, such as the Millenium Falcon, comes with at least one ship, additional tokens, upgrade cards, character cards and other little gubbins and they build upon the advanced rules contained within the starter box (it’s in that picture up to the left). Some packs have much bigger ships in them, and those ships contain more rules and missions, allowing players to build on the game as and when they want to. Or their wives let them. Yes, the thumb exists. Yes, it’s big. Love you Karen.
So we played. Within five minutes we were both saying ‘man, this is so cool’! My friend was the first to break and say ‘We so need some more ships!’. All in all we played four games that night. I piloted the Rebel X-Wing twice, and the TIE fighters twice.
All the way through it was edge-of-the-seat, nail-biting tension and excitement. The rules are so well designed that the game just flows. Trying to anticipate the turns of your opponent, whilst trying to get out of their firing arc is so much harder when you’re not actually flying the ship in real-time. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader have nothing on our skills. And our ability to mix up left and right when looking at our models from a slightly different angle. Hell, Wedge Antilles would be laughing his socks off.