Those that were on Twitter last Friday night (GMT) would have seen me live tweeting the game of the X-Wing Miniatures Game Mat and I were playing. We (I) enjoyed ourselves so much that we (I) thought we’d write a battle report of what went on.
There was a violent jolt, then with a shudder that rattled systems in their housings and the distinctive whine of engines powering down, Luke Skywalker was catapulted from hyperspace. The mottled blue of faster than light travel disintegrating into starlines and then twinkling points of light against black velvet. Below him the swirling chaos of a gas giant seethed, purple lightning rippling over its surface as high pressure pockets ignited. Luke held a tight grip on the flight stick as he rushed to activate sub-light systems. His X-Wing slewed back and forth as the sub-light drives came back on-line, repulsor fields bursting to life to halt his prodigious speed.
‘Blast it.’ Luke cursed, punching at his navigational display. ‘Artoo!’ He called into the comm, ‘What the heck happened?’ Artoo blurted back a series of squawks and whistles, the on board systems converting it to text on the display positioned in front of the flight stick. Luke sighed. ‘I know the hyperdrive stopped working Artoo, I meant-‘ He sighed. ‘Just fix it wouldya?’
Artoo’s rasped affirmative was overlaid by a hiss of static. ‘Rogue Leader, this is Rogue Two.’
‘Wedge, old buddy.’ He paused as his scanner system failed to detect the other 10 members of the newly founded Rogue Squadron. ‘What did you do with my squadron?’
Wedge, sat within the tiny confines of his own X-Wing fighter, smiled to himself as he punched controls to start to divert energy from the engines to shields and weapon systems.
‘Sorry boss, misplaced the lot of ’em. Nothing but a bunch of scoundrels any how.’ He paused checking his readouts. ‘Looks like our hyperdrives went into emergency shutdown. Our plotted course took us too close to that gas giant down there.’ A burst of static cut through the transmission. ‘-at command gave us bad co-ordinates. Lucky the rest of the squadron missed it.’
‘Is that affection I hear in your voice Rogue 2?’
‘No boss,’ Wedge replied with a smile. ‘Recruitment is a drag and I’ve just got this bunch just the way I like ‘em.’
Luke’s chuckle over the comm was drowned out as a proximity alert cut him short. Wedge’s instinct took over: black gloved hands dancing over controls, bringing shields up to full power, temporarily draining the laser cells. He knew the weapons would be full charged again long before they made contact.
‘I’m reading 3 energy signatures dead ahead.’ Wedge said squinting at his sensor display. ‘Looks like an Imperial patrol. Judging by speed and sensor silhouettes I’d say a flight of eyeballs.’ Wedge flicked a switch and, with the whining of motors, the stabilizer foils of his X-Wing fighter split apart taking the shape that earned the snub-fighter its name. Just ahead of him and to the left, his friend and commanding officer did the same.
‘Roger that, Wedge, you know how this goes, stay on my wing. Artoo jam their transmissions, we don’t want them calling for help.’
With a flare of purple flame the two X-Wings roared into the black, the merest smudges of grey barely discernible against the oily backdrop to indicate their quarry.
The Imperial Navy
So for our first game of X-Wing I was fielding 3 TIE Fighters, piloted by the fighter aces Mauler Mithel, who I gave the Determination Pilot trait; Howlrunner, with the Swarm Tactics card and Backstabber. My plan from the out-set was to power Mauler and Howlrunner towards the Rebel Scum to keep them occupied as I try to sneak Backstabber out to the flank and bring him in behind them, monopolizing on his inherent Pilot trait of, well shooting people in the back.
The Rebel Scum
My battle plan was a simple one, and based on the premise (because it’s all about narrative) that my plucky X-Wings – piloted by none other than Luke Skywalker & Wedge Antilles – were alone in hostile territory. Basically, stick together and make every shot count.
Had I thought about it a scenario counting down to Imperial reinforcements would have been cool. But seeing as we only have those models it would have been a bit shit…
P: As I’d blown my full 60 points on heroic types and a marksmanship upgrade, Mat won the initiative and got to move first.moved first – spent fewer points so gained initiative
M: My first turn was pretty uneventful, as first turns often are. I moved Howlrunner & Mauler Mithil at maximum burn in order to immediately put pressure on the X-Wings before them and act as a distraction to give Backstabber time to flank to starboard with the intention of getting behind the slower, less manoeuvrable Rebel fighters.
P: One of the best things about X-Wing is the hidden movement as it so accurately represents how unpredictable dogfights are. Pilots attempt to read the situation and respond accordingly. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In Mat’s case it kinda didn’t as I’d expected ultra aggressive tactics because I was outnumbered by fast, more agile, craft. What I hadn’t expected was for Backstabber to move to starboard. But as my move was a move to port it lined me up perfectly for an attack run next turn.
M: As I now had one TIE Fighter playing chicken with two fighter aces I had to act fast. Backstabber broke to port in an attempt to get out of the fire arc of his attackers, whilst Mauler Mithil & Howlrunner moved at high-speed to port in an attempt to put some distance between them and the X-Wings that were about to be right behind them. The intention being to line up an attack run once they’d finished off the no doubt doomed Backstabber.
P: I’d expected Mat’s attempt to get Backstabber out of the splashing he was about to take and had given them turn orders to starboard and moved to intercept placing the TIE Fighter in the crosshairs of both Luke & Wedge. They opened up but alas the majority of their shots went wide, Luke scoring a glancing hit on his target. And it was only once turn 3 was well underway that I remembered my Marksmanship upgrade for Wedge which would have resulted in Backstabber being destroyed. A lucky escape for Mat and a lesson learned for me.
M: Turn three and I had a damaged TIE Fighter, on one flank and two TIE Fighters that were yet to engage or do anything other than runaway. However I needed time to make good my attack so I continued to drive Howlrunner & Mauler Mithil onwards, slowly drifting to starboard in an attempt to put some distance between them and the X-Wings.
Backstabber, having narrowly escaped his dance with death, and momentarily free of the Rebel guns, broke hard to starboard, my intention being to trap the X-Wings in a scissor move once Howlrunner & Mauler Mithil were back in the fight.
P: Whilst I was disappointed with the performance of the two greatest fighter pilots in Rebel history – no pressure lads – I knew I had to press on and deal with the threat the other two TIE Fighters represented a turn or two down the line. So, ignoring Backstabber for the time being I sent Luke & Wedge on a slow starboard turn with the intention of intercepting the other two TIE’s as they completed their turn.
M: Right, it was time! I ordered my entire flight to make starboard turns to begin the move that I hoped would encircle and trap the Rebel scum allowing me to concentrate fire and destroy at least one of my opponents.
P: I can only assume I must have felt Mat through the Force (don’t worry, he’s not pressing charges) as I opted to stagger my own starboard turns, cutting Luke in much tighter, taking him from the outside of the formation to the inside and dropping his crosshairs over Mauler Mithil. Putting Luke’s Lock-On to good us he opened fire and tore the TIE Fighter to spinning shards of debris, rolling two hits and a critical.
M: Well shit and balls is all I have to say. That was not part of the plan and now Howlrunner was on his own so made a sharp starboard turn in an attempt to get clear, the intention being to blast right past the X-Wings, giving Backstabber time to move in for a kill shot – he too making a tight turn to starboard.
P: I hadn’t expected Howlrunner’s sudden bid for safety. I had fully expected a volley of fire before attempting a breakout manoeuvre. The pragmatism seemed very un-Imperial. But the result was that my tight turn to starboard, to go after the fleeing Howlrunner, dropped me perfectly in line with the damaged Backstabber. Wedge wasted no time scoring 2 hits and a critical on the TIE Fighter, tearing it apart amidst a blossom of flame.
M: Things were not going well for the Empire. Howlrunner had his back to the X-Wings who would have him bracketed in their next move so running wasn’t an option. I considered a sharp turn at full power but wasn’t sure how much good that would do, so I decided death and/or glory was the only course left to me. Howlrunner performed a Koigan Turn, allowing him to put some needed distance between him and his opponents, whilst turning on its axis to bring his weapons to bear on Antilles. Sadly the Force was not with me and I missed with every shot. With Howlrunner’s fate now sealed I sat back and watched his demise.
P: It didn’t take long. Luke and Wedge moved into position and with the skill the galaxy have come to expect from him, Wedge annihilated Howlrunner with a hit and two Criticals.
An Empire Defied
Well…shit. Okay, so my plan was frankly flawed from the start. I moved Backstabber out to the flank way too early making him vulnerable and I couldn’t make use of his pilot trait. Equally I didn’t take advantage of TIE Fighter’s ability to make ridiculously sharp turns at the last-minute, this proved to be the fatal as I wasn’t doing enough to get out of the Rebel gun sights.
From turn 2 I was playing a game of corrections, trying to get my fighters into a position where they could at least fire off some shots but, to Phil’s credit, he did an excellent job of keeping his fighters on my tail. I do honestly believe that the first move was the mistake that cost me the game and it has taught me a massive lesson: TIE fighters are essentially pack hunters and if you split the pack you’re fucked. Basically. And you really do need to make the most of the TIE Fighter’s ability to make sudden sharp turns that the X-Wings can’t.
So with this all in mind I am looking forward to my next game of X-Wing and a better result, at least take one of the Rebel Scum down with me anyway.
Long Live the Rebellion
In terms of battle plans mine was pretty simple. Stick together, and don’t get bogged down. TIE Fighters excel at swarm tactics and if I focussed on any one target or allowed Luke & Wedge to become separated for targets of opportunity I’d have been done for.
But I have to hold my hands up and say some of my manoeuvres proved very lucky, turns that didn’t quite work but were just enough that they were still in arc to target one of Mat’s TIE’s. Or turned out to be the perfect counter to Mat’s moves. However Mat’s decision to split off Backstabber as early as he did was hugely beneficial as he had to work hard to bring his flight back into formation. And with me harrying him it was something he didn’t quite manage.
For me it was a brilliant game. And not just coz I won. It was fast, easy and meant we were able to enjoy the theatre of the game rather than getting bogged down in rule debates. And the whole thing was done in a little over an hour. I love this game.
Wedge Antilles feathered the throttle, settling his X-Wing into a parallel course with the fleeing TIE Fighter as he and Luke pulled out of their slow turn to chase down the last of the Imperial patrol. His R5 unit blurted as his display told him that the fighter was attempting to radio for aid but so far the jamming efforts of the two Astromech droids were preventing anything from getting out.
Suddenly the TIE’s engines flared out. Wedge had just enough time to wonder if the fighter’s engines had failed before it span on its axis and surged forward, lasers spitting emerald darts. The Koigan Turn, Wedge smiled to himself. Not bad, he thought as deftly jinked and dove through the laser barrage, every bolt sailing past his fighter without making contact.
‘Show off.’ He heard over the comm and chuckled.
His targeting reticule flashed green and he squeezed the firing stud on his flight stick. A quarter of scarlet laser bolts sprang from the X-Wing’s wing tips and speared through the armaglas of the TIE Fighter’s cockpit. A split second later they chewed through its power plant and the fighter disappeared amidst an expanding blossom of incandescent flame.
For a moment there was nothing but the whine of engines and the background static crackle of protective layer of fields that wrapped the fighter like a veil. Then –
‘Artoo confirms the area is clear Wedge. Let’s get clear of this gravity well and rejoin the squadron.’
‘Roger that Rogue Lead.’
The X-Wing Miniatures game is available from Firestorm Games, prices starting from £6.29.