So anyone who knows me, knows that I'm an a massive Star Wars fanatic. Other than maybe the LDS Church and my family, it has been the only constant in a life filled with moving from one end of the earth to the next. I read just about every Extended Universe (now "Legends") book, played just about every Star Wars PC game from the golden age of LucasArts.
One of my all-time favorite game was the X-Wing flight simulator series. I loved the idea of hopping into an X-Wing fighter and dogfighting with the evil empire. I would joke with my dad that I would invent a real life X-Wing and fly it around someday. As I grew older, I fell in love with TIE Fighter, X-Wing vs TIE Fighter, and ultimately X-Wing Alliance. Reality ultimately set in and I never did invent an X-Wing, but the idea of dogfighting Star Wars ships is exciting in my mind.
Enter: X-Wing miniatures.
I'd seen them on shelves but never had the money to invest in a tabletop miniature game that I'd probably never find people to actually play with regularly enough, especially when I knew I'd likely get sucked in and invest a LOT of money on it. Luckily, I married well and for Christmas in 2016, my wife found a deal on the special Core Set (Starter kit) with ships from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A simplified round or two later of playing my pregnant wife, and I was hooked and as the webcomic The Adventures of Dave the Direman perfectly illustrated, "mistakes were made."
The best I can describe the gameplay is it is essentially Chess with Starfighters and dice rolling. Ships move, position themselves in firing range, and "shoot" by rolling attack and defense dice. Ships are unique in their maneuvering, offense, and defense capabilities (X-Wings are slower and less maneuverable than TIE fighters, but they hit harder). Players customize their squadrons with different pilots pulled from all over Star Wars lore, equip them with upgrade cards that add abilities, fight to defeat each other in imagined space combat.
The core sets come with 1 X-Wing and 2 TIE Fighters and everything you need to play a game. (TFA Version comes with the new X-Wings/TIE's). A lot of fun can be had with this starter kit so if you're looking for a casual game, you'll get a lot of mileage out of it. Just be warned, it is a "gateway" purchase.
X-Wing Miniatures developer Fantasy Flight Games still actively supports the game with additional releases and rule tweaks to keep the game balanced as best they can. Fans of the game are enjoying the 12th and 13th waves of ships that were recently released. These expansions add more depth to the game through upgrades, pilot abilities, and even added in a 3rd faction for players to fly into battle (Scum & Villainy). They pull the ships from all aspects of Star Wars, both Legends and the new Canon. E-Wings, TIE Phantoms, Kylo Ren's shuttle, and even more obscure ships like the TIE Aggressor from Star Wars Galaxies make appearances.
Expansions, at their core, are ways to sell you new upgrades though. The ships look great and are awesome if you are a collector and want to fly your favorite obscure ship from Star Wars lore, but if you are interested in playing in tournaments at a competitive level, expect to spend some money on ships you probably won't fly regularly but comes with that Auto-Thrusters upgrade you need for your tournament squadron. Casual players don't have to worry too much about this as you can make fun squadrons without all the fancy upgrades. The tournament scene though, it can be a slippery slope.
The X-Wing Community
One of the strongest things X-Wing has going for it is the community. There's been a surge in new players over the last year or two and that helps make it surprisingly friendly towards beginners. The best resource is the xwingTMG subreddit. There you can find discussions on rule clarification, strategy, how to fly certain ships, upgrade synergy, and more. You can build a squadron, post it, and have it critiqued by experienced players. There is even a pretty comprehensive directory on how to find local games wherever you are. You can link up with Facebook groups near you and meet new players, find venues, and even work trades of upgrades and components to save a few bucks. Tournament matches are often streamed in bigger communities so new players can watch experienced players fly and learn from them. At a competitive level, the community is pretty friendly. The few tournaments I have been to, the environment has been welcoming and friendly. Most players don't have any issue explaining how their upgrades work and what makes their squadron work and many venues offer "flight school" nights to come and practice flying your ships.
As fun as this game is, there are some downsides. First, just like any competitive level play, there is a "meta" which dominates. While it changes from time to time, it can be annoying to try and do well in a tournament with ships you really want to fly instead of flying the "meta." It drives some players from the game for a time, hoping the "meta" changes. With that, the game also suffers from power creep [Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bxszx60ZwGw]. Early wave ships are falling further and further out of play as they can't hold up to newer upgrades, at least in a competitive setting. While the developers have done a decent job maintaining balance keep some ships relevant, many, including the game's namesake, have suffered.
Despite its flaws, X-Wing is a fun and challenging game once you get the hang of it. Games are filled with thrilling moments where a barrel roll will land you the sweetest kill-shot or a nail-biting 1 on 1 dogfight with your opponent's ace. It entertains the casual Star Wars fan but offers enough depth for some interesting strategy. And, push comes to shove, you can get a nice collection of really detailed miniature Star Wars ships.