The Force awakens in a gloriously silky and cinematic next step for the definitive sci-fi dogfighter
Since it screeched onto tabletop starfields six years ago, X-Wing has remained the approachable miniatures game to beat. While the many ship expansions released in the time since have introduced plenty of additional case-specific rules and mechanics, this is the first major update to the central gameplay since the first core set. So, what has over half a decade of changes and refinements brought to one of tabletop gaming’s biggest success stories?
The answer is both quite a lot and not much at all. X-Wing: Second Edition is a successor by degrees, a bringing together of dozens of largely minor refinements and tweaks rather than a complete overhaul of what has kept fans both casual and hardcore gripped for years. At first, the lack of a single big ‘wow’ factor might make it seem an almost unnecessary revision, but in motion the many improvements come together to create an X-Wing that flies faster and higher than ever. Like the first time Obi-Wan uses the Force in A New Hope, you might not always see it happening, but the experience is more than a little bit magic.
That’s not to say there aren’t significant additions, either. The Force finally gets its due as a dedicated gameplay mechanic, sitting alongside the focus of non-Force-perceptive pilots as another way of bending attack and defence dice rolls in your favour, as well as serving as a regenerating resource used to pull off even more impressive tricks via pilots’ upgrade cards. This is balanced handily against another expendable resource, charges, that provide often limited opportunities to deploy advanced equipment and pull off stunts to keep ships in the fight.
Combined with sweeping changes to the general presentation of the already impressively-staged dogfights – such as a more widespread use of the pinpoint-accurate bullseye arc in the centre of a ship’s firing vision – X-Wing 2.0 doesn’t just feel like a competitive-level game that’s been more tightly balanced for tournament play, it feels like one of the best-ever realisations of the cinematic excitement and thrill of the Star Wars universe beyond the screen.
Take the redesigned miniature for the T-65 X-Wing, for instance. Here, the S-foils on the pre-painted model actually open and close. Combined with the redesigned Servomotor S-Foils upgrade card, it’s not just for looks – closing the ship’s S-foils grants the ability to boost in-game, at the cost of attack power. It’s a small touch, but one that delivers on the dream of whizzing between asteroids, locking in on a target. The second edition’s expansions take the meeting of gameplay variation and visual awe further – the Scum and Villainy Millennium Falcon piloted by Lando can eject its front escape craft, which can then be piloted separately.
In almost all ways, then, X-Wing 2.0 is an improvement, but it does come with some of the same caveats of its predecessor. The core set includes the single X-Wing and twin TIE Fighters that have become the standard starting block for the game; it’s just enough to be a functional taster, but it really takes a handful of ships on the table to really experience why X-Wing has become such a phenomenon.
With X-Wing already such an accomplished gaming experience for most players, it was hard to imagine what a second edition could add without weighing it down with unnecessary complexity. This update makes all the right changes to bring the game’s presentation and atmosphere even closer to the promise of its big screen inspirations without sacrificing any of its fantastic gameplay. Is it fully necessary? If you’re a casual fan, maybe not – but when you’re absorbed in its universe there are few bigger thrills on the tabletop.
Many of the changes will be most appreciated by hardcore fans, but the introduction of Force powers, charges and the overall improvement to X-Wing’s already stellar competitive gameplay makes this a wonderful update – even if it’s not quite fully vital.
Designer: Frank Brooks, Max Brooke, Alex Davy, Jay Little
Time: 30-40 minutes
This review originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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