Calm down Bo and Luke, It's pronounced “Wu Way” not “Whooo Whee!”
"Welcome to whose conspiracy is it, anyway? Where everything is made up and the points don't matter"
We’re used to seeing massively overblown adjectives in game marketing, so much that we probably tune them out automatically. But when Fantasy Flight decided to describe the new big ships for X-Wing as “Huge Ships”, and the play formats that include them “Epic” and “Cinematic”, they weren’t kidding. These things are colossal.
Indeed the Tantive is so enormous that I actually felt embarassed getting it out and putting it on the table, as though I were some rich kid with a box of ridiculously overpriced toys flaunting it in front of his friends.
Which I was, of course, but that just made it worse.
It didn’t help that the Tantive is the uglier of the two models. That’s not FFG’s fault, of course, it’s down to the people who designed the ships for the film. The Rebel Transport is sleek and compact in comparison, and has a lovely assortment of multicoloured containers on its underside. Both, in common with their more modestly scaled companions, are wonderfully sculpted and painted.
For all its clumsy looks, the Tantive is, however, arguably the more interesting ship. But before we look at that, we ought to briefly examine how these things play.
Big ships mean big changes. These beauties have their own special movement templates, range rulers, upgrade decks and all that jazz. From a mechanical point of view there are two stand out changes. The first is that they’re treated a bit like two inter-connecting ships, with the two bases supporting each model translating to a “fore” and “aft” section, each with its own damage deck. In the case of the Tantive this is taken to the extreme of having two ship cards, each with its own upgrades.
The other significant difference is the use of energy tokens in place of weapons. These are an extra resource, accumulated each turn depending on maneuver selection. They can be spent on various interesting things like replacing shields, automatic evade results and perhaps most interestingly granting a free action to nearby friendly ships. The choice of what to spend these on – or, indeed whether to hoard them – is always deliciously difficult.
Yet however much they bring to the game, it needs to be set against the additional burden of rules and token-fiddling required to implement them. The simplicity of X-Wing was one of its joys, and it already required quite a lot of cardboard juggling, so these aren’t welcome changes. I won’t be using these ships every game.
Doubly so because the rules make it very clear that they’re not for every-game use. You’re supposed to either stick with the included scenarios that come with the ships, or use them in “epic play” format. Both require larger than the normal three-foot square play area, needing either four by three or six by three depending on the scenario.
The scenarios in each box can be played individually, or linked together to make a campaign. While some of the scenarios felt a bit long, mostly these are fun, well designed and don’t suffer too much from the rich-get-richer problem that plagues a lot of campaign rules tacked on to what were originally stand-alone games. Both are very good, but I thought the Tantive campaign was the better of the two simply because the rules are less convulted. Also, as I said before, the Tantive is just a more entertaining ship to run.
The reason is very simple: the Tantive is a proper combat ship, while the Rebel Transport is purely a support vessel. It has limited offensive capapbilities from one upgrade, the Slicer Tool, which allows it to do 1 damage to nearby ships with stress tokens, and the transport can burn energy to inflict stress on enemy vessels. It can also wipe out small ships simply by crashing into them, a surprisingly common occurance on a tight board with players used to the forgiving nature of the standard overlap rules.
The Tantive can do that too, however. And it can also field guns. Lots of guns. Lots of big, heavy guns.
Part of me would love to pretend that the fascinating tactical opportunities offered by the Rebel Transport were the best thing about the huge ships. And they are pretty neat: with the right upgrades you can use the Transport as a fire sponge, repair damage, even remove stress and target lock tokens from friendly ships. But I’m too shallow for that. overwhelming firepower was what I always felt was missing from the X-Wing game, and overwhelming firepower is what the Tantive gives you.
There’s no better showcase for this than the first scenario in the Tantive line-up which pits the single behemoth against a swarm of six TIE fighters. I didn’t have six TIE fighters and subbed other TIE models instead, and it was still amazing. This is what X-Wing was made for, nimble fighters zipping back and forth across a sluggish colossus as it tries to smash them with turret-mounted turbolasers and quad cannons and all the other cool stuff that comes in the box.
I don’t dount that FFG know this perfectly well, and put a premium price tag on the Tantive as a result. But both ships are fantastic additions to the X-Wing lineup, even only to see them drifting serenely across the starry void amongst your tiny fighters. If you’re a regular X-Wing player, you need one of these, and if the Transport makes more monetary sense, you can be sure of being very happy with your purchase.
Recently, I started playing X-Wing against someone who really knew their Star Wars. They knew that Howlrunner was a female pilot, and where the YT-2400 freighter originated from in the expanded universe. They also told me something interesting: that the Hutts and their criminal networks were a faction equal in power to the Rebels of the Empire. What looked like a footnote in the films was actually a major player in the galaxy.
Ever since I first saw the astonishing detail of an X-Wing model, all I've wanted from the game was cool ships copied from cool films. That well ran dry within three waves of expansions. So, as the game as continued to sell, the publisher has mined Star Wars trivia for new ships to flog. A lot of them were fun to run but they didn't scratch that core itch. They just weren't quite Star Wars.
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.
Seven waves on from the original phenomenon that is x-wing, it's getting harder and harder to differentiate the releases. The ships from the films are all long on the table. Every faction has a ship in every role, from waspish light fighters to heavy bombers. What is there here to make wave 7 unique and exciting?
Size, that's what.
All these ships seem huge. The Hound's Tooth is an enormous, elongated, clumsy thing. Oddly endearing in its distinct colours and tooth decals, like a bumbling Rottweiler puppy. The TIE Punshier looks like someone stacked two TIE bombers on top of each other. The K-Wing suggests someone squeezed a Large ship into a standard size blister, just for a joke.
The other unifying factor is that two ships are for the new Scum & Villainy faction. Not surprising seeing as they have some catching up to do in terms of force selection.
One is the only ship we haven't mentioned so far, the Kihraxz Fighter, belongs to this faction. Aside from having a name that sounds like a sneeze, there's little of especial interest here. It looks, sounds and plays a lot like an X-Wing, only for the Scum faction. If Scum players want a medium fighter, now they have one.
It does have some nice upgrades, though. Glitterstim is particularly sweet, a one-shot card that allows you to change all your focus tokens to hits or evades, as you prefer. The Scum already have lots of fun, flavourful and flexible upgrades. Here's another: you can just imagine scum pilots slamming down illegal narcotics as they fly.
The other Scum ship is the Hound's Tooth, an extra-big big ship to give you an option besides the IG-88. The stats and dial are nothing to write home about, although having three crew slots allows for some fun combinations. The draw here is all about pilots and titles.
Bossk, the owner of the canonical Hound's Tooth, can swap critical hits for two normal hits. Not only is this super useful but it dovetails with several other upgrades. The Mangler Cannon, for instance, allows you to turn one of them straight back into a crit.
He goes alongside the Hound's Tooth title card. This lets you deploy a Z-95 in place of the freighter if the big ship gets destroyed. One Headhunter isn't the most useful ship but the upgrade only costs six points and is funny as hell. And there's the issue: Bossk, a cannon and that title will be the default payload every time this hits the table. Still, it's tremendously entertaining in spite of being predictable.
The Imperial TIE Punisher is not particularly interesting in itself. It's a slightly better version of the TIE Bomber. The real draw here is in the upgrade card Extra Munitions. For the 2 point cost of this one upgrade, a ship get to use its entire payload of bombs, missiles and torpedoes twice.
This is a very obvious sticking plaster for the limited value of these weapons. Clunky it may be, but it's also very effective. In addition it should encourage the use of specialist weapon-carrying ships - like the TIE Punisher for instance - over fighters armed with a single missile. That seems thematically appropriate.
You can get another copy of that card from the K-Wing expansion. Which is appropriate because the K-Wing is supposed to fill the same sort of a role as a heavy bomber. At first glance it looks a lot like a Y-Wing with some extra munition pod slots. And we all know how popular the sluggish, clumsy Y-Wing is in Rebel fleets.
However, the K-Wing has a brand new upgrade, called SLAM. SLAM changes everything.
It allows the pilot to perform a second maneuver from the dial at the same speed as the one selected, right afterwards. The catch is that you can't attack that turn, but that feels like a minor detail. With SLAM you can move a heavy figher up to six distance in one round. Or four distance with two hard turns. The maneuver range is insane. It's just a shame that there's no equivalent of the K-turn on the dial. Not least because of the lost opportunities for alliteration.
I have mixed feelings about this. Mostly, it's great. It makes the ship highly unpredictable and encourages imaginative maneuver on the table. Anything that gets the "game" in X-Wing out of list planning and in to actual play has to be a good thing.
On the other hand, it can lead to torturous endgames with slower ships pointlessly pursuing a K-Wing round the table. This isn't good for the Rebels, since the limited maneuver dial of the K-Wing makes it hard not to fly off the table eventually. But it is a massive anti-climax.
This wave, on the whole, is not an anti-climax. Having strayed a long way from original trilogy ships, FFG deserve some credit for keeping these new designs fresh and fun. The K-Wing and Hound's Tooth feel pretty essential: the TIE Punisher and Kihraxz less so. The question is, if we're at a fifty-fifty success rate for releases with three new movies with new ships coming up, how long can they keep it up?
When I first started playing X-Wing, I made a vow. That vow was to never own or run a ship that wasn't featured in the original trilogy. Vows are made to be broken, of course, and tempted by interesting builds and special offers, I broke this one a long time ago. What's perhaps more interesting is how much Wave 8 made me enjoy breaking it.
The first time I took delivery of X-Wing ships, their quality just blew me away. Over nine full waves and the odd side release, we've become bored by perfection. Cracking open the clamshell on this batch, assembling dials and storing away the models felt almost mechanical. Then I sat down to makes some lists to test them out. It took two hours to make one competitive fleet for each of the three factions. Two hours I could have spent playing instead.
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.
In which Yie Ar Kung Fu is referenced.
I'm not sure you can review Yellow & Yangtze without at least mentioning Tigris & Euphrates, so I'm not even going to attempt it. Both are designed by Reiner Knizia , both center around twin rivers and they share a majority of concepts and mechanisms. I am by no means aTigris & Euphrates aficionado: I'm more of a peripheral player. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my plays, I adored the strategy but I had to be honest with myself, it was always going to be a game that I played another person's copy of. I was simply never going to get it to the table with my core group on a consistent basis.
No need to ramble on about it, everything I want to say is in the review here at Gameshark.com.
I knew of David Sirlin from his presence in the Street Fighter scene long before he started making board games. He used to post on alt.games.sf2, where I lurked back in the day and occasionally cracked wise. He was mildly famous for winning a few good-sized tournaments back in the 90s, and he's still pretty good, although not a top contender. My involvement in the scene was never that active, but I usually keep an eye on it for nostalgia's sake. When I heard he was moving into the analog design space I was quite intrigued -- and now, after a couple of warm-ups, he's finally released his main design, Yomi. Yomi is a fixed-deck, non-customizable card game that is designed to replicate the mental side of video fighting games like Street Fighter, Virtua Fighter, and so on. But how can a card game replicate this? Well....
Today's review is more of a precautionary tale, a sort of How Not To Kickstarter. Unfortunately, given the number of people who are willing to throw money at anything that passes by like a rich kid in a titty bar, this precautionary tale is likely to send the wrong message, because this one is probably going to reach its goal and thereby bring into existence yet another crappy game.
If we were to classify games like boxers, based on weight, I think that Intrigue might win the award for the most conniving game in its class. It forces the player to make endless promises to get ahead, and then it makes you break at least some of those promises, trampling on the needs and desires of your fellow players. My friends and I have joked that you lose a little bit of your soul every time you play, and there are moments when I’ve felt genuinely guilty for what the game is requiring of me. I would only ever play it with people who were willing to leave all grudges at the game table, and even then I might be more selective than usual.
The tagline from Alien told us that in space no one can hear you scream. Ascending Empires tells us that screaming isn't the only thing that no one will hear: In space no one will hear you when you try to explain that the spaceship you just flicked into their orbit got there purely by accident. You had no intention on going anywhere near them, and that you didn't mean to hit that planet that ricocheted your ship right into the heart of their sector of space. Yes, Ascending Empires has reminded me of this cruel fact over and over again, and that any such "accident" will be treated as nothing short of an act of all-out war.
RPGs are great fun. I honestly think that some of the funniest nights of my life have been with my friends, playing an RPG. They don’t deserve the label they have as a dorky past-time, consisting of various Asperger’s sufferers hiding in Mum’s basement pushing a lead dragon around. As I’ve said many times, I don’t understand how an activity that requires social interaction can be called sad, when sitting at home playing on your X-Box isn’t.
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