Review – Star Wars: X-Wing Squadron Starter Packs (Second Edition)
Stay on target!
|Designer||Jay Little, Max Brooke, Frank Brooks|
|Publisher||Atomic Mass Games|
Star Wars: X-Wing has been around for over 10 years now. A few years ago, they released a second edition, which supposedly fixed and streamlined a few things. Now, Fantasy Flight Games is releasing handy-dandy Squadron Starter Packs for new players. This is especially helpful because the original 2018 second edition base starter pack only included 1 X-Wing and 2 TIE Fighters. So, how do these new Squadron Starter Packs fly?
Note: This review is specifically for the 2023 Rebel Alliance Starter Pack and Galactic Empire Starter Pack.
In Star Wars: X-Wing, players will choose a mission and build their squadrons accordingly. The mission could be anything from controlling a satellite to defending an allied ship. As players are building their squadrons, they can add ships, upgrade cards, and pilots. Creating squadron synergy for the playstyle you want is key to winning any mission. Winning a mission often involves destroying enemy fighters and completing the mission objective.
Both starter packs include plenty of customization options. Yes, you’re limited to what sort of ships you can bring as each pack only includes 4, but there are at least 2 pilot options for each ship, which changes how the ship plays. There’s also plenty of upgrade cards to choose from as well. New players will find the oversized, basic pilot cards very helpful. The basic cards have standard loadouts already attached to them, so if you want to jump right into flying, you can just grab those loadout cards without having to think through all the customization options.
Speaking of flying, that’s why we’re here, right? Each round, players will activate ships and abilities as their pilot number dictates. There aren’t turns in X-Wing: each ship’s activation is determined by the skill of the pilot flying it. For instance, Darth Vader will get to activate abilities and move last, so he can see what the other ships are doing, and he also gets to attack first, possibly destroying an enemy ship before it can activate.
Each round, players will go through the following phases: Planning Phase, where players will program each of their ships’ movement with a rotating dial that shows what moves that ship can perform; System Phase, where players resolve effects; Activation Phase, where players reveal their move dial and move their ships; and Engagement Phase, where players attack. Good pilots take advantage of these activations, by attacking first during that phase and moving last, which is helpful because most ships can perform a boost action that could put them in range to attack enemy ships.
My favorite part of X-Wing is guessing where my opponent’s ships are going to move and planning accordingly. It’s thrilling not being confined to a 3ft x 3ft play area instead of squares or hexes. There’s more maneuvering and attacking possibilities, which makes it feel like an actual battle is going on! You can get into 1-on-1 dogfights, you can start chasing people around, you can pincer for a fly-by: it’s really exciting.
However, there’s more to X-Wing than flying. There’s also many extra abilities to consider: the TIE Bomber and B-Wing’s bombs, missiles, lock-ons, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader’s force powers, and gaining extra tokens to make attacking or defending stronger for the turn. For example, most ships have extra actions they can activate after they move, which could be boosting, gaining a defense or attack token, or locking on to a target. Moreover, some maneuvers stress the pilot out, which could be worthwhile if you put your ship in position to attack, but stressed out pilots roll 1 less defense die.
The push-and-pull of risk-reward decision-making is really great from a game mechanics perspective. However, it’s not what the box advertises. X-Wing says you can play it in between 30 and 40 minutes. I’m not sure who’s playing a 30-45 minute game of X-Wing, as the box indicates. Maybe 2 harcore veterans who aren’t using card powers? The most appealing part of this game for me is flying your cool little ships around and shooting the opponent, but that often gets convoluted by all the additional powers, extra cards, and tokens. I didn’t want X-Wing to be a Legion in space; we already have Legion, where players are expecting to spend 2-3 hours playing a battle. Don’t tell me it will take 30-45 minutes to play a game that takes experienced players 60-90 minutes to play. The marketing is not genuine.
What is genuine are the figurines. The ships are gorgeous. They look phenomenally detailed and accurate, and the X-Wing’s s-foils even open and close! The cards and tokens are fine, and the card art is better. Each set includes literally everything you need to get playing, which makes it really easy: no sharing rangefinders, dice, or move pieces. The plastic bases for the ships are much improved from the first edition, and the ability to clearly mark which ship is which is helpful for quick identification. There’s even plenty of asteroids, space fog, and a satellite for different scenarios.
Star Wars: X-Wing (Second Edition) is not a bad game by any means. It’s a good or great game, depending on your tastes. My biggest problem with it is the false advertising and the fact that it feels similar to other miniature games. I wanted it to be fast-paced and consistently playable in under an hour, setup and teardown included, but it’s not. There’s a lot of good miniatures games out there, and X-Wing is one of them. While it does have the unique programming mechanic, which I adore, it can’t live up to its fast-playing advertising. However, X-Wing remains an accessible miniatures game, and it’s certainly worth a look if you’re considering getting into miniatures gaming.
The Bottom Line
A fantastic starting point for a game with an exciting design that occasionally gets bogged down in details.