Everyone knew X-Wing was going to see some new expansions to TIE in (gettit?) with The Force Awakens. But I, for one, wasn't expecting to see it quite so soon, nor in the form of a new starter set. Releasing a new base box for all the new fans makes sense. The speed of the release less so.
So, what do you get for your money? Three new ships - different versions of the X-Wing and TIE fighters from the base set. Not just different paint schemes but ever-so slightly different models, too, and very fine looking they are. Their stats and dials have been slightly adjusted so that the new X-Wing is more maneuverable and the new TIE has a shield. Points costs have gone up accordingly.
This is all good stuff, if perhaps a little over the top in terms of variety. The surprise and, I feel, the missed opportunity, is in the pilot cards that come with them. Most of the elite pilots are not named. A consequence, no doubt, of the early release before some of the shrouds of mystery surround the film have been thrown off. Instead we get people like "Blue Ace" and "Epsilon Leader" who have perfectly useful pilot abilities but no character whatsoever.
The only named pilot in the box is Poe Dameron for the Rebels. He has the cool ability to adjust focus die results without spending his focus tokens, which can make for some awesome combinations. In one game, upgraded with the R5-P9 astromech that lets you spend focus tokens to regain shields, he turned out to be almost unkillable.
What's particularly interesting about both the ships and the pilots, however, is what it reveals about the directions FFG is trying to nudge the game. The new X-Wing has a boost icon among its action choices. Its maneuver dial has a new Tallon roll which allows you to make a hard turn while rotating the model ninety degrees. One of its new pilots gets an extra hard turn when they boost, and one of the new TIE pilots can barrel roll two distance.
The focus on maneuver couldn't be much more obvious unless it piloted a ship into your eye. And it's a good thing. When X-Wing first came out, it was a game about flying straight at the enemy and then turning round. It quickly evolved in to a game of list-building where you'd often win or lose before you even put a model on the table. No-one cared because those models looked so cool, but neither approach was sustainable in terms of game appeal. More in-game movement choices means more in-game tactics and that's just what X-Wing needs long term.
So I expect to see similar sorts of abilities on all the new named pilots FFG are going to try and flog us for these ships when the films come out and we want to fly them. That's good marketing, but it does make this box feel premature.
However, in spite of my reservations about the pilots, I'm going to suggest every X-Wing player who only has one copy of the base set should run out and get a copy of this. It's great value in terms of the figures you get. The extra range rulers and dice are really useful to have. More decisions during the game means there's more actual game. And it's got a new damage deck which irons out much of the swinginess of the original one.
I don't think I've ever wholeheartedly recommended a release I have slight concerns over before. But there it is: it's a new dawn for Star Wars and for X-Wing and for me. And it's an extra on your Christmas list for you.