If an evil genius were to invent a machine to suck money directly from the bank accounts of gamers, it’d look a lot like the X-Wing miniatures game. If he were to go back and tinker with it, seeking to make to terrifyingly irresistible, and add the power to suck in non-gaming Star Wars fans too, it’d look a lot like the wave 2 miniature releases.
There are four new ships to add to your collections. The Empire gets Boba Fett’s Slave-1 and the four-cannon TIE interceptor while the Rebels resist them with the A-Wing fighter and, of course, the one we’ve all been waiting for: the Millenium Falcon.
I must admit I passed on Slave-1. Ever since I was a small boy, watching Empire Strikes Back on the cinema screen in slack-jawed amazement, I always thought it looked ugly and ungainly. And as a big ship, it’s pretty pricey. I’ll probably pick it up at some point for all the usual, tedious, nerdy reasons: completeness and a cool-sounding scenario. But for now you get reviews of the other three.
We’ll start with the lone Imperial ship that remains: the TIE interceptor. It only featured briefly in the original trilogy films so, unsurprisingly, you don’t get any big-name pilots or upgrades. What you do get is an astonishingly flexible ship. It’s a TIE fighter with an extra attack dice, and a new “boost” feature which allows you to make a 1-length straight or banking move after it’s normal move.
Think about that a moment. It’s still got the TIE barrel roll ability, alongside its speed and agility rating. It might be fragile without shields, but It’s a hard ship to pin down into a firing arc, never mind actually hit. And as long as it survives that extra firing dice ensures it can dish it right back to its tormentors. The mere existence of this ship should be warning to Rebel commanders to pack more missiles.
Not being a huge Star Wars nerd, I’m confused as to why the wave 1 TIE ships were pale gray, but the interceptor is dark blue. Otherwise you’ll know what to expect from another figure using the basic TIE chassis.
Oddly, while the Imperial side gets a fighter that’s approaching the terms of an X-Wing in terms of firepower and utility, the Rebels get the equivalent of a TIE fighter in the A-Wing. To my astonishment it’s actually slightly more maneuverable than the Imperial mainstays, having the same dial but with one extra green action. It has shields, but only two, and a paltry hull at the same value.
Continuing with the similarities, it can’t barrel roll but it has the same boost ability as the Interceptor, which is almost as useful, and it has the same agility value. But unlike most imperial ships the A-Wing can carry missiles. Given it’s relatively cheap point cost, loading these things up with warheads and unleashing first-attack hell looks like a viable strategy.
The model for this is so tiny that I actually felt slightly cheated by the price when I first saw it. But of course a few gram of plastic isn’t going to make any meaningful different. And it’s actually a really lovely little thing with an amazingly detailed paint job for a pre-painted figure.
Anyway, these are both valuable additions to the game. At first I was worried that there might be a problem with power creep here: the TIE interceptor is superior to the basic TIE for not a lot more, and the A-Wing isn’t hugely underpowered compared to other Rebel ships for a quite a lot less.
But the costs do seem to work out when they’re actually on the table. What’s rather more dispiriting is that both these ships seemed tailor-made to be used en masse. Interceptors, fragile but packing a powerful punch, are going to draw massive fire if used in ones or twos. A-Wings on the other hand look be used like a skirmish screen or as a swarm, both requiring multiple models. Could get expensive.
Speaking of which we have yet, of course, to talk about the big ship. The Millennium Falcon. And it is big. Palm-sized. And hugely detailed to match. It’s a feast for the eyes. And since it packs pretty much every remaining famous name in the genre amongst its pilots: Han, Chewbacca, Lando - Luke Skywalker is even in there as a crew upgrade - it feels utterly essential if you’ve bought into the base game.
There’s a fair amount of brand new stuff to look at in the box for this as well. In addition to the expected slew of upgrades the Falcon brings with it some new concepts. It has crew upgrades, so you can have Han in the cockpit, Luke on the guns and Chewie repairing the engines all at the same time. There are also new title cards which you can apply to specific ships to mimic something from the film: in this case a “Millenium Falcon” title to apply to basic freighter which helps make it more like the fastest hunk of ... oh, you know.
So you know you’re going to end up getting one anyway. But what’s a bit unfortunate about the Falcon, and indeed all three of the ships I looked at in this new wave expansion, is that they’re just not that different from what’s already there. I’ve already made an explicit comparison between TIE fighters and the A-Wing. The TIE Interceptor is the Imperial equivalent of an X-Wing. And the Falcon is probably the worst offender of all being very much like a souped-up Y-Wing, even down to the circular firing arc.
It’s sad, but pretty much inevitable given the simple rules framework of the base game which is an essential part of its accessibility and appeal. Instead it feels to me like the real strength in these new Wave 2 additions is actually the cards. The upgrades, missiles, modifications and of course the unique pilot skills on offer. The amount of choice in the system to build you 100 point squad has now reached hugely impressive levels, with enormous amounts of variety you can recombine together to try and get a new tactical edge.
It’s a phenomenon, X-Wing. A buildable miniatures game that’s just sucked in people across the geek spectrum for all sorts of different reasons. And so far there seems little reason to imagine that it’s going to let them go anytime soon.