This past weekend I got a chance to enter my first ever Miniatures tournament, which also entailed playing the first miniatures game I’ve ever played.
One of the genres of gaming that has always appealed to me but has consistently seemed beyond my financial grasp is that of war-games, or miniatures.
With the likes of Warhammer, Shock troops, Malifaux, Dark Age and others, the cost of fielding, equipping and painting an army of fantasy units that makes up your typical war-game presents a huge investment in not only cold hard cash but also time and energy. The ability to not only purchase a workable army but also have it arrive on the scene in pleasing colors and with enough firepower to stand a chance is something that can be incredibly daunting to the budding war-gamer.
Enter: Fantasy Flight X-Wing Miniatures.
Premiering at GenCon back in 2012, X-Wing miniatures is a light 2-player dog-fighting game where opponents build squads of ships from either Rebel or Imperial forces hailing from the legendary galaxy of Star Wars. Cheaper and already painted unlike most war-games, they offer a nice beginners step financially and rules-wise into the world of minis.
As this was my first tournament play of a miniatures game, and my first miniatures game at all, I thought I’d give a recap of the event for folks looking for a brief introductory peek into the world of tourney play.
I dove into the tournament at the suggestion a friend of mine. A local gaming store in my town was participating in the global preview event put forth by Fantasy Flight Games.
Looking to premier their newest expansion to the miniatures game, Wave 4, the winners of these pre-release tournaments would get their pick of one the 4 new classes of Rebel and Imperial ships in an Event called the Assault on Imdaar Alpha.
But to begin with, each competitor chooses a 100-point buy for their squad, standard for advanced play as well as a 3 x 3 play area. These 100 points include ships and upgrades. Each player is given a score and squad sheet so Officiators can tally points and track game outcomes.
For my squad, I had the following, coming in at exactly 100 points:
1 – A-Wing : Pilot (Green Squad)
1 – B-Wing : Pilot (Blue Squad)
1 – B-Wing : Pilot (Ten Numb)
1 – X-Wing : Pilot (Luke Skywalker)
I participated in three matches, with the first being against a fellow who played a Fire-spray and a two TIE Interceptors, all upgraded. The second match was against a swarm of TIE Fighters with one Howl Runner, while the last was against a fellow sporting a Lambda and two TIE Interceptors.
As it worked out, my rebel forces always squared off against Imperials, but in tourneys, they have the Mirror system, whereby Rebels can face Rebels or Imps can fight Imps, with the exact same squad, including pilots.
Players then place asteroid tokens and ships based on ship point total, lowest goes first (i.e. 99 before 100) with ties rolling off.
The Matches (Squadrons & Tactics)
“For a great game of X-Wing Miniatures, check out the 2013 Championship Finals video above.”
As this was my first real outing, not only with miniatures tourney, but with miniatures in general, my experience was incremental. The first match, against a Fire-spray (Bounty Hunter Pilot) and two beefed up Interceptors was basically a turkey shoot—for the other guy.
I entered the match still shaky on the rules, but my opponent was generous with my rookie mistakes. I followed his bounty hunter around, realizing too late I should have been targeting a weaker Hit-point and shielded prey, and due to some bone-headed misunderstandings of the rules, I was flanked and outmaneuvered easily. His squad was overall thoroughly well built and ultimately made it to the final four.
The second match, against a swarm of TIE’s ended almost in my favor, I decimated my opponents seven squad force down to one versus three of mine, but lost one in the final round to an asteroid, and another to good rolls. Forgetting that the win condition was based on points, I flew into an asteroid carelessly thinking the match already over.
The final match was another turkey shoot—this time in my favor. I took out three Imp ships with zero casualties on my part.
Below: One of the upgrades to the first round turkey-shoot that demolished my poor Rebels. Their crime: just out to make the galaxy a better place–
Good Guys: 0 | Forces of Evil:1
The first take-away was the concept of the Buy. That is, after two rounds, or matches, the lowest scoring player (myself for an indeterminate reason) receives 5 points automatically, but sits out for the round. Winners of matches can win by Match Win or Modified Match win and scoring is as follows:
• Match Win = 5 Points
• Modified Match Win = 3 Points (Win by less than 12 )
• Draw = 1 Point
• Loss = 0 Point
The points are determined by remaining ships on the battle-mat at the end of the round which is scheduled to last 75 minutes unless modified by the Tournament Organizer (TO).
From what I could see of the tactics employed, the basic strategy in squad building coalesced into either ship swarms (4+ ships), notably TIE fighters and X-Wings, or upgrades (3 or less ships with plenty of upgrades). This matches with games design, rewarding less with better equipment, rewarding more with more shots.
In the matches I played, the deciding factor seemed tipped in favor of the better ships, as in the match I won, almost won and lost all seemed determined by ships that had either higher shields, or higher health.
In terms of tactics, outmaneuvering your opponent or trying to flank them, was also important and could negate the other overwhelming determinate of the game: good die rolls.
Grouping up ships also seems the classic play style as it provides greater shots and more dice rolls against opponents ships. This is also a determining factor as it relates to squad building. Ships with better attack dice (3+) have greater chances of hitting, and ships like the Fire-spray with upgrades that re-roll are even more likely to win, as that combo made it into the final four.
So in terms of game play, from my first tourney, it would seem that squad choice, upgraded ships notably with the ability to modify and re-roll, have an edge over pure number of ships and unmodified die rolls (a theory also evidenced by the championship video embedded above).
The goal of the tournament was for players to win one of the new TIE Defender, TIE Phantom, Z-95 Headhunter or E-Wing expansion packs part of the Wave 4 release.
A look at these new cards shows some nice new pilots and awesome ships. Definitely the most powerful ‘small’ ships to date it would seem with the TIE Phantom and E-Wing looking to be upcoming staples in most squadrons.
The TIE Phantom, with its Cloaking ability that gives it +2 Defensive die and a base +4 Attack roll is an epic addition to the some would say already beefed up Imperials. As the game is sold as being a dog-fight, ships like these, with 4 Health and high maneuverability thanks to Barrel Roll Actions, are going to make opening rounds in a match probably very one sided.
As a counter to the Phantom though the Rebels are right behind them with the E-Wings, one of which can attack twice per round, losing an attack the following round and another that turns any ally Attacks from hits to Crits against range 1-3 enemies. With Cloaking and Barrel-Rolling TIEs out there, the ability to attack twice, while an enemy is in your sights is a huge advantage, possibly finishing them off in a single round instead of two, a great advantage in any dog-fight where numbers matter.
But aside from these niffy toys that were only available to the top four, the rest of us bottom eight in the 12 player competition received Bandit Rebel pilots; 12-point buy 2-point stat across the board preview Headhunter ships. Designed to be similar to TIE’s I tried out the Headhunter in a match following the competition and while cheap, their pilot score is too low for end-game play.
The tournament was a great experience and I learned quickly how to use the ships I choose accordingly but also how to maneuver and anticipate my opponent’s moves. And that’s the great thing about the game, its relatively easy to learn, easy to get good at and relatively cheap (compared to other miniature games) to invest in. Add to the fact that the minis are pre-painted and you have a recipe for a very addictive game with a price point low enough to encourage newbie’s into the world of war-gaming. Even better, there is an entire network of retailers, locals and tourneys out there that Fantasy Flight has set up to give the aspiring galaxy Ace the chance to play.
So when you get a chance why not suit up, ship out and pilot your own X-Wing and