A few weeks before Christmas, Bruce Schindler (author of the Dust and Cannibal’s series of SciFi books) was having a book signing event at a local gaming and comic book store, The Troll’s Den. So I thought I would go up there and visit with him and pick up Chrissy’s comic book. My grand daughter, Hannah, was having a sleep-over with Chrissy and I took them along. While at the store, something really neat happened that has started me on a path that I thought I would never go down, namely miniature tabletop gaming.
I was only planning on being at The Troll’s Den for about an hour or so, but time started stretching on and the girls were getting bored after about fifteen minutes. One of the people that run the store, Ryan noticed that Chrissy was looking at the Star Wars: X-Wing game ships and asked the girls if they would like to learn how to play the game. Chrissy is always up for something new and Hannah also thought it would be fun, so Ryan got out the store’s demo set and began teaching the girls how to play. He probably spent about two hours with them teaching them the ins and outs of X-Wing and I could see that she was having a lot of fun. Hannah was hanging in there too.
On my previous visits to the Den, I had also noticed that there is a Star Trek version of the X-Wing game that I was thinking about getting into myself. Well, When I asked Chrissy, my resident Star Wars super-fan, how she liked the game, she said that she wanted it. I told her that I would think about it and we would see. Well, being Christmas was just coming very soon, I grabbed the starter kit for X-Wing off the shelf along with an expansion ship, the Millennium Falcon. And while I was at it, I also grabbed the Star Trek: Attack Wing starter kit along with the USS Defiant and managed to get them to the car without letting the kid know what I had gotten. Both games got wrapped and placed under the tree.
In the days that passed after that first experience, Chrissy and I went up to the Den on several occasions and borrowed the store’s sets and we played the games, again with the help of Ryan, who helped us learn the finer points of the game. On Christmas morning, we unwrapped our games and began playing at home.
STAR WARS: X-WING
Of the two games that we play, X-Wing is the easiest to learn and play. The starter kit comes with an X-Wing fighter and two TIE Fighters, pilot cards, and upgrades. There are also tokens for various features that are available to ships as well as maneuvering dials (which show what moves a ship can make) and maneuvering templates to determine where on the three-foot square playing area a ship is able to move.
After one determines what ships and upgrades to use, based on a limited number of points allowed, the player places their ships in the playing area and tries to move their ships into the most advantageous position to either attack, or avoid being attacked. After each ship has been moved into the planned position, the player then performs an action. Actions include focusing, target locking, or doing extra maneuvers as determined by available tokens or as specified on the selected upgrades.
Next comes the battle phase. Ships within a certain range a may attack opponent’s ships to score damage against them. The attack and the opponent’s defense is determined by the dice. There are hits and critical hits, which can include devastating consequences on a ship, and depending on the actions taken a defender can avoid hits on their ship. Also depending on actions taken and what is on the chosen upgrade cards, the dice can be modified to maximize attack and defense results.
After the attack phase is completed, players clean up any tokens left with a few exceptions and once again plan their moves and the process repeats until one opponent’s ships are all destroyed or until a time limit is reached. In competitive play, there is always a time limit on games. In that case, the winner is determined by how many points each has left.
STAR TREK: ATTACK WING
As mentioned earlier, Attack Wing follows much the same procedure as X-Wing, but there are a few more twists with this game. One additional aspect of this game is the inclusion of a resource that can add to the maneuverability or the power of a ship. When a new resource is introduced to the game, it usually expires after eighteen months and can no longer be used in official competitive play, but can be used in non-official play.
Another difference is that Attack Wing seems to include a lot of scenarios that make the game more challenging. One competitive event that I participated in a while back included an element of a story line from Star Trek: Enterprise taken from the Xindi story arc. In “Temporal Cold War III”, a token is placed in the middle of the play area that represents a Delphic Expanse Sphere. Once at the beginning of each round of play, the Sphere send out a massive gravimetric pulse that causes damage to all ships on the board. Players can either choose to destroy the Sphere before attacking each other, or may ignore the Sphere and do battle while trying to sustain the extra damage from the Sphere along with that inflicted by their opponent. It was a bit harrowing but it did add a dimension to the game that made it interesting.
There are a lot of other details on both games, many that I am still learning as I play, so instead of going into all of them, I will provide links at the end of this article to allow you to investigate further if interested.
SO, WHAT’S THE POINT?
Well, other than just plain having fun, I am enjoying spending time playing with Chrissy. She is really more into the Star Wars end of things while I am a staunch Trekkie and love the ins and outs of Attack Wing, but we do play both games together. Chrissy wants to compete in the Troll’s Den Store Championship that will take place at the end of February, so we play that a lot so she learns how to fly her ships most effectively.
Another aspect that appeals to me is spending time with people who are of the same mindset as me, which is something that I have been missing. The people I have met while gaming are all good people who are mostly just as geeky as I am, and in some cases even more so. When I am playing, there always seems to be a side conversation about what episodes a particular ship or upgrade card is from. My fellow players are also quite friendly and always willing to help out and offer advice to a novice player, such as myself, and some of that advice has translated into wins in my column.
There are also the aspects of strategy and chance involved. It seems that no matter how well one plans their attack or defense, if the dice are not with you, you are going down in flames.
These games are not like Monopoly where you just buy a box of materials once and use until they wear out. They can become a real investment, both monetarily and time wise. While the starter kits cost between $35-45 in both cases, they do not provide adequate resources to play competitively outside of casual play. There are also numerous expansion packs that include ships and upgrade cards, the cost for these varies starting at $15 and can go as high as $100 for very large ships or space stations. At any rate, one will want to expand, especially if one is considering entering competitive play. Many events require a fleet to be “faction pure.” In other words, a typical fleet might consist of three ships, so if one is playing with the faction pure rule in place, all of the ships and upgrades have to be all Federation, or all Klingon, or all Romulan, or whatever others exist. The Attack Wing starter kit comes with three ships; one Federation, one Klingon, and one Romulan ship which works well for casual play, but to compete, one would need at least two expansion sets from a single faction to compete in some events. At this point, there are three factions in the X-Wing game, they include the Rebels, the Imperials, and Scum and Villainy.
This game, at least for me, is very addictive and I have invested considerable time and resources in getting my Attack Wing collection up to a competitive level. I have also invested a great deal in the care of the materials by purchasing card protectors, binders, binder pages, tackle boxes, totes to keep things organized and safe from damage.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
As mentioned earlier, the starter kits include three ship models, plastic stands for the ships, and carious cards that provide personnel and upgrades for the ships. There are also maneuver dials for the planning of movements on the field of battle, gauges for executing planned moves, a range gauge for making attacks, and finally, the attack and defense dice. Along with all of that, there are tokens that represent various aggressive and defensive actions that can alter the outcome of the game.
The models are mostly on the smaller side and are painted to represent the various classes of ships in the universes after which they are modeled. The Attack Wing starter set’s ships are not ass nicely done as the expansion packs, but the X-Wing ships look very authentic in every detail. Also, the X-Wing ships are far more delicate than their Trek counterparts, and can be easily damaged through mishandling. For instance, the weapons on the X-Wing modes can be easily bent and one has to take great care when mounting them on their stands and making maneuvers with them. If a ship is damaged (one upgrade I purchased had a loose piece that fell of the first time I used it) it can easily be repaired with a little care and a bit of superglue. The Trek ships, so far, have fewer tiny details that could be easily damaged. The reason for this is that the X-Wing ships are mostly representations of smaller, one pilot fighters while the Attack Wing ships are representations of mostly larger ships with large crews.
While the ships themselves are beautiful and fun to collect, the real power in the games are through collecting the cards that come with the starter kit and in the expansion packs. For the X-Wing game, some pilots have elite skills that can be very helpful as well as upgrades that add weapons and skills that can greatly enhance the power of a ship. Attack Wing’s cards include named ships as well as ships that have a specific classes of ships that have various levels of power, captain cards that also add numerous skills to the ship, and upgrade cards that add skills for crew, weapons, and others. The success of a game outcome are greatly enhanced if one chooses the right cards. One factor that determines the choice of upgrades is their cost in points as well as the skills. In competitive play, there is usually a maximum amount of points allowed and one has to budget what is chosen within those guidelines. This alone can be a real challenge.
Either one of these games are a great way to play in either the Trek or Star Wars universes in fun and challenging ways, whether one wants to just enjoy collecting models and cards, or if one wants to enter competition. I do have a few suggestions for getting started.
Go to a gaming store and talk to the staff. My “home store” is the Troll’s Den on 2nd Avenue here in Kearney, Nebraska. The owners and staff of the store were extremely helpful in getting Chrissy and I started down this path not only in having the supplies needed, but in advice and instruction on playing the games. The Den has demonstration sets that they are very willing to share with new players to get one started, and the staff enjoy working with people when there is time. Along with that, I would recommend getting your materials and supplies through your home store, especially if they are independently owned and operated. Most likely, the independent owners are people who have other jobs and are putting in a lot of extra personal time to keep their places open to provide other gaming enthusiasts with opportunities to play, compete, and just gather to have a good time.
Watch videos, listen to podcasts, and talk with others who are playing the games you are interested in. I have found that everyone I have talked with is more than happy to help, even when in competitive situations, and give advice and instruction on what they have learned. The majority of what I have learned about playing these games I have learned through playing with more experienced players.
Finally, just get a starter set and start playing. It is a blast!
- The Troll's Den - Games and Comics
- Fantasy Flight Games - X-Wing Miniatures Game
- X-Wing Miniatures Wiki
- WizKids - Star Trek Attack Wing
- Star Trek Attack Wing Wiki
- YouTube X-Wing Tutorial
- YouTube Star Trek Attack Wing Tutorial
- Mynock Squadron Podcast
Well, there it is...