It was a massacre. Red Leader was shot down in a single turn, our second pilot soon followed. It was mere minutes before all six TIEs swooped down on my lone fighter, who didn’t even get a chance to fire off his proton torpedoes.
Fantasy Flight’s huge score this year was landing the exclusive tabletop license for all things Star Wars – card games, miniatures, and RPGs. At GenCon 2011, they had two titles ready to show — an X-Wing miniature dogfight title, and Star Wars: The Card Game. While I didn’t get my hands on the latter, the former was an easy-to-learn blast — even if we went down in space-flames.
Each unit on the table has something resembling initiative — with the conceit that “more experienced” characters have a higher number. The lower number characters move first, followed by the higher, and then the battle sequence is run in reverse order.
In order to simulate the chaos of a dogfight, all the players choose their movement for the turn secretly, and then they’re executed one by one. These are choices to move forward, soft bank, or hard bank, between one and five inches, depending on how far you want to move. After movement, you can perform an “action” such as locking on a target for an attack bonus as an X-Wing, or doing a barrel roll as a TIE fighter to score an extra inch of horizontal movement.
Then combat kicks in — if you’re facing an opponent and they’re within firing range, fire away with appropriate bonuses and negatives for close, medium or long distance. Combat is resolved by rolling attack dice and evasion dice. The die each have three icons — hit, critical and blank. On defense, each hit signals an evasion of an attack hit. Any unaided hits knock out shields (when applicable) and then begin to work on your ship’s hull. Criticals are fun, each one that damages a ship adds a modifier, like movement penalties when making a turn in one direction.
Some of the pilots have special abilities, and some other extras can be loaded onto your ship — one of the X-Wings had an astromech which could try and repair shields.
After our vicious and bloody defeat, I had a chance to talk to Steve Horvath, Fantasy Flight’s Senior Vice President of Communications and Digital Business, about FF’s score with this new franchise. Steve was extremely excited about getting Star Wars, and I can’t say I blame him. In terms of franchises, it’s just about the greatest in the galaxy.
Both of the games are still being fine tuned, especially for the final physical materials. Both are expected to launch early next year. The X-Wing game is expected to launch as a core set for $40. While they’re still ironing out the kinks, it’ll probably come with one X-Wing and two TIE fighters. Expansion packs will soon follow at a variety of prices, and they will be non-random. There’s even a rumor of larger ships, but don’t hold your breath on fighting the Death Star quite yet.
Star Wars: The Card Game is an interesting beast, especially as someone who hasn’t really played anything since the late 90s. It’s a completely cooperative game designed for one to four players — yes, you can play it solitaire — as a group of Rebels performing missions against the Empire. Your tiny band of fighters attempts a series of small tasks while the Empire tries to bomb you out of existence. If you fail one of the sub-missions, the remainder get progressively harder. Unlike the previous five Star Wars card games, it’s all about helping each other, rather than blasting people out of the sky.
The topic on everyone’s mind seems to be how to bring in new players, and Steve talked about how the card game will be perfect for more experienced players helping newbies get into the game. Since it’s entirely cooperative, if you don’t know what you’re doing, the others can help you instead of ganging up on you like you might see in a traditional game. “It’s something very uncommon,” said Horvath, “and accessible enough to help people.”
The game will be designed around campaigns, some of which will be based on events in the original trilogy. It’ll debut as a two-player set for $40.
So, what about the RPG license? Alas, Steve was mum on the details. Yes, there is one, and they’re hard at work, but no word on details, availability, or if it’ll use any of their existing game engines.
Finally, the one thing I know you’re all dying to ask. It’s the original trilogy only — for now. Their license includes the prequels, but there aren’t any plans for them in the immediate future.