Wednesday, January 02, 2013

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror as they were sat on by a cat, and were suddenly silenced."

I'm often asked in the street, "What were your favourite bits in the dogfight at the end of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope?"

"Aha", I reply confidently, because I'd handily prepared the answers in this very blog post, "One of my all-time favourite bits during the dogfight at the end of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was when a hapless X Wing pilot completely failed to hit either of the two TIE Fighters attacking him, they obliterated him and then the camera panned to one of the pilots of one of the TIE Fighters who, with a befuddled expression on his face - somehow visible under his black helmet (bear with me on this one) said 'I've got absolutely no idea what I'm doing'".

"Or there was the bit where one of the TIE fighters accidentally flew out of the Battle zone by a few short feet and was destroyed instantly, therefore rendering him unable to return to the battle. It was probably a barrage of Star Destroyer fire or some meteors, or something. Or it might have even been that time when mid-battle a giant scabby white Space Cat suddenly appeared and with a swipe of her paw sent a TIE fighter spinning into oblivion before visibly washing her bum and wandering off."

Mind you, I am very old so it's possible I'm confusing these memories of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope with my experiences in playing the (quite) new tabletop game "X Wing".

It's a tabletop game simulating a dogfight between the plucky Rebels ("Hooray!") and the dastardly Imperials ("Boooo!"). Each players take a side and attempts to blast the other side into so much space debris. The starter pack comes with 2 TIE Fighters and a single X Wing, and these three ships make for a reasonably fair battle.

The Imperial TIE Fighter is fast and manoeuvrable, but this comes at the cost of shielding and fire-power whereas the Rebel T-65 X Wing Starfighter is slower and less agile, but with this comes shielding and superior weaponry. It's like a dogfight between two Go-Karts and a Nissan Note.

The rules are deceptively simple - players take it in turns to declare the move their ship will make on a movement dial, which is then placed face down besides the ship - these hidden moves are then revealed in a strict sequence from worst pilot to best pilot, and the ships are moved accordingly.

What you get for your money.
Much like the (quite similiar) World War 2 Dogfighting simulator Wings of War, you're trying to manoeuvre your ship into firing range of the enemy, preferably away from the firing arc at the front of your opponent so they can't retaliate. You're trying constantly to get on their six. Each move sees the ships thrust full speed ahead, perform shallow or sharp banking moves or try a daring Immelmann turn.

The ships get to fire in the order of best pilot first, worst pilot last - this rule means that even if you're blasted into smithereens, it's possible that your returning laser fire happens simultaneously, giving you a chance to get your revenge.

When building your squadron you're given a fair old amount of flexibility - you can choose different pilots and different ships can be equipped with different weaponry and types of countermeasure.

The beauty of the system is that it is incredibly quick to learn - Tara isn't a keen tabletop gamer, apart from when she gets to accuse me of being a cylon in Galactica - but quickly got the idea - although, as aforementioned, it didn't help my mood when after destroying my solitary X Wing without suffering a single scratch to her TIE fighters proclaimed that she wasn't sure what she was doing. A likely story. *sobs*

The basic set is relatively cheap - especially for a Fantasy Flight game for which you'll typically need to re-mortgage your home - but if you want additional ships for a bit of variety (X Wings, TIE Fighters, TIE Advanced and Y Wings are available now with the Millennium Falcon and Boba Fetts Slave-1 available later in the year) they're quite expensive. The miniatures are absolutely beautiful, pre-painted and incredibly detailed - and you do get everything you need with each expansion (new pilots, new dial, new abilities and the like) - but it's going to be a dear old game to add to.

The basic set should be enough to keep you going for a while though. Even with just the three vehicles, there is a fair amount of variety available in the pilot and equipment choices.

So, my verdict? A lot of fun. Quick to set up and more importantly quick to play. A logical set of rules you'll have committed to memory within minutes and it feels fast and furious - exactly what a dogfight should feel like - and as of yet not even the slightest hint of touching any vehicles from Episodes 1-3 which is just as it should be. It's definitely one of those "One more game" games. Strongly recommended.

But watch out for Polydactyl Space Cats. Neither Imperial or Rebel Forces can repel paws of that magnitude.

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