Board games based on movies have a reputation of being, rushed, cheap knockoffs that exist only to make a quick buck off of someone's enthusiasm for a certain property. If a board game is based on a popular film or film series, you don't even need to pick up the box to know it's garbage wrapped in cardboard.
But Fantasy Flight's Star Wars: X-Wing miniature game is not only the exception to the rule, it's one of the best tabletop games of recent years and one of the only movie-themed board games that actually captures the spirit of the original property.
The short version: it's really, really great and a must-own for any Star Wars fan currently looking for a way to fill the countless hours between now and the release of Star Wars: Episode VII.
The long version…
Star Wars: X-Wing has two players re-creating spaceship dogfights between Rebel and Imperial forces. Players build their squads by selecting specific ships, pilots and armaments that fall within a certain point limit and then they dive right into combat. There is no actual board: your table's surface is the playing area (although you can decorate it with obstacles like asteroids). Although combat is accomplished through dice, you can increase your chances of succeeding in combat through tactical movement, putting your TIE Fighters and X-Wings in the right place at the right time to, you know, not die.
The best part about the game design is the movement mechanic. Players secretly select what they want all of their ships to do on a nifty movement dial and reveal their orders simultaneously. Then they take turns moving their ships by taking long, thin cardboard strips that correspond to whatever movement they selected on their dial and using it as a "track" on which their ships move. This is where a lot of the skill comes in -- like an actual pilot, you have to judge exactly how you want to bank, how fast or how slow you want to move and if a crazy maneuver is worth putting "stress" on your pilot and ship, which limits options in the immediate future.
Actually, I lied. The real best part of the game is the ships themselves, which put most other miniature games to shame. While many games like this force you to construct and paint your miniatures, X-Wing ships come preassembled and prepainted. More importantly, they're all gorgeous, looking movie accurate and professionally made. This means the price to dive into the game can seem a little steep ($40 for the base set, $15-$30 for each ship expansion), but you're investing in a game that looks so much better than anything else on the market.
Ultimately, it's the attention to detail that's going to attract movie fans and not just hard-core gamers. When you see the game in action, and see the tiny X-Wings and TIE fighters battling alongside a Millennium Falcon that's built to scale and therefore much larger, it's downright awe inspiring. Since you can customize your squad, you can literally have battles with Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles versus Darth Vader and Boba Fett. Serious Star Wars fans can really push their geekdom to the limit by playing with the various expanded universe pilots and ships, many of which only exist in comics and novels.
Star Wars: X-Wing is a great game that's very much worthy of your time and money. But it's special because it truly feels like you're living a new Star Wars adventure when you play it. So put on the Empire Strikes Back soundtrack, clear the table and give this one a shot. You can squeeze in a few hundred games before December of 2015, right?
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