Second Day At Tacticon Report and X-wing Miniatures Game Review

Labor Day weekend I was at Tacticon in Denver.  It is mostly a role-playing/board game/tactical and historical miniatures Con.  I posted pictures in several places over the course of the weekend: Day 1, Day 1 Part 2, and Day 2.  This is the full report for the second day!

I usually hit a wall sometime during Tacticon.  I’m not used to gaming for many hours straight and I always end up skipping a session and napping or just relaxing.  For me, it was the morning of Day 2.  I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before due to bad hotel pillows.  There was a Battletech game that I was interested in during the first session on Sunday.  I went to the table a little early and saw two things I wasn’t keen on:  a grognard with a bad attitude (not the GM, I know the GM) and a pretty sparse open board.  I didn’t want to play with a guy with a bad attitude.  Playing on an open map makes sense at a Con, to speed the calculations and game up, but I don’t play Battletech just to pound on other Mechs until they expire.  I want a little bit more tactical sophistication than that.  So, I skipped session one, graded some projects to catch up on school work, walked the dealers hall, bought presents for my wife and a buddy of mine, and just hung out.  It was a good choice.

During the second session, I took in a team battle of the X-wing Miniatures Game.  Before the Con I had been thinking about getting into X-wing, knowing full well that I couldn’t collect it with any amount of seriousness.  Miniatures games are expensive.  But, it turns out I lucked out on my startup cost!

X-wing is simply a really fun game to play.  It is easy to learn, but has quite a bit of depth to it.  X-wing was born out of Wings of War, a WWI bi-plane dogfight game designed by two Italian game designers.  WoW eventually spawned Wings of Glory.  All three games use the same basic rule concept.  X-wing is produced by Fantasy Flight Games, which any nerd will tell you is a board game company with among the highest production values.  One of the original WoW designers works for Fantasy Flight is designing games for them.

In miniatures games of this nature, movement and positioning are key.  There is no “game board”.  Instead, you maneuver your ships using movement templates that take you on precise turns and straight movement.  After you move, your ship can take an action, which can take several forms.  I’ll take you through movement and then actions.  I wanted to mention actions here because some movement results prevent you from taking an action and I want readers to know about that aspect before I start discussing it.

Not all ships can move in the same way, based upon their capabilities.  Every ship has a “movement dial” that you set to your desired move.  Your opponents moves are hidden from your view and vice versa.  There is also a visualization skill element, as you can’t “test” to see where your ship will end up using the templates.  You have to eyeball it.  Once everyone places their movement orders, they are resolved in pilot skill order.  Higher pilot skills mean that you move last (a big tactical advantage) and that you shoot first (you could eliminate an enemy ship before it gets a chance to attack).  Turns consist of gradual turns, in which your ship ends up facing 45 degrees from its starting heading, hard turns, in which you end facing 90 degrees from your original heading, and Koiogran turns (K turns), in which you move straight but end up facing the way you came (180 degrees).

All turns also have a color rating.  White turns are a standard turn and have no benefits or drawbacks.  Red turns “stress” your pilots, preventing you from taking actions.  You can still attack though, so the fun continues.  Green turns are easy turns for your ship that allow you to remove stress tokens.  If you do a red turn, forget you are stressed, and then do another red turn, your opponent can choose your move for you!

Crashing into enemy ships prevents you from taking actions and you cannot attack a ship that you are based with.  You can, however, attack a distant ship that you are not based with.  I like this pro/con aspect, because there seems to always be an upside in X-wing that keeps the game moving.  Many miniatures games only provide you a downside and it really neuters what you’re capable of doing.  Order of movement becomes critical in close quarters, because sometimes you want to crash (to deny attacks on your ship) and sometimes you don’t.

Actions are different for different ships, and upgrade cards can influence your actions.  The base actions are focus, target lock, evade and barrell roll.  Others have been added by other expansions.  Focus allows you to turn “eyeball” results (two of eight sides of the attack and defense dice) into positive results.  Its benefit is its flexibility of use.  Focus must be spent before the end of a turn.  Target lock allows you to get a “lock” on an enemy in your firing arc at the time you do it.  It stays from turn to turn.  You can either spend your target lock to fire secondary weapons, like concussion missiles or proton torpedos, or you can use it to re-roll any number of your attack dice.  Evade allows you to cancel one extra enemy hit.  Barrell roll is one of several movement enhancing actions in the game that allow you to “sideslip” one movement left or right to get a better position on your opponent.

Combat is very straight forward.  Combat happens from higher pilot skill to lower, so once again higher pilot skill has an advantage.  You check to see if someone is in your legal firing arc, marked on the ship’s base.  You then check range, either one, two or three.  At range one, the attacker gets an extra die, at range two it is “even” and at range three the defender gets an extra defense die.  You roll your number of attack dice and the defender rolls theirs.  Hits are cancelled by evades.  Special abilities can turn blank results and “eyeballs” into hits and evades, just as the evade and focus action can.  Damage to shields gets subtracted from shields.  Damage to hulls gets a facedown damage card and when damage cards equal the hull value, the ship is destroyed.  Critical hits (one side of eight on the die) results in a faceup damage card that damages your pilot or ship in some unique way.

That’s basically it, rinse and repeat.  Its a lot harder than you might imagine to learn to position appropriately.  Pilots and ships can be upgraded with upgrade cards that can be just as valuable for gameplay as the ships.  Some people may get a particular expansion just the upgrade cards, which can often be used on any ship.  Its a slick business model where you can buy what you can afford, it isn’t random, but if you really want that particular upgrade, you would buy another expansion.

More reports as I continue to play the game.

Back to Tacticon, I played an A-wing in the scenario and I love the speed and maneuverability of the little ship.  I didn’t play too poorly for my first time, our side “won” and my buddy DJ killed me at the last second.   The highlight, by far, is that the event organizers were super generous.  They gave away over 300 bucks in free swag to new players, and my buddy Jon and I scored free starter sets (40 dollar value) just for playing.  I was debating whether I could get into X-wing before the Con, and that answered it for me.  The game IS expensive, but I’m in the process of trading in 50 or so of my Star Wars Miniatures to Cool Stuff for store credit to get more.  I call it “flipping” collectible games.  Selling one to finance the new one is a common tactic in an expensive hobby.  😉

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