So back in May I clocked another year and was rewarded with many things. One of which was the HWK-290 expansion pack fro X-Wing. For those not up on their expanded universe, the HWK-290 made its debut in the FPS Star Wars: Dark Forces in 1995. It was widely praised for its vast level design, ability to look up and down and its plot.
I played it at the tender age of 13 on my next door neighbour’s Mac and I had my tiny mind blown. At the time it was graphically stunning and being able to fire the Imperial Stormtrooper standard issue E-11 blaster rifle was the thrill of my young life. I’d like to point out at this point I hadn’t really discovered boobs.
Unless I’m mistaken the HWK-290 is the first ship of the expanded universe to be released although there’s no shortage of stuff about to drop/should have dropped by now. It’s an odd choice considering the wealth of ships to choose from. Whilst the HWK-290 is associated with an awesome video game series, it’s not exactly the go to ship for giving the Rebel Alliance the edge.
The model itself is pretty cool. It lacks some of the gravitas of its video game progenitor and whilst it’s been recreated faithfully, the paint job does let it down a bit. It’s still way cool. It’s still a great look ship with big fat (underpowered) engines.
However, it’s not without its uses. Whereas the YT-1300 transport does just fine in a combat role the HWK just doesn’t. Although at armour 4 it’s no softy, but it has just a single shield and fires only one shot an activation. Which means it’s not a front line scrapper. So what do you get for your 16-25 points? Well, mainly, ship buffs. The HWK is a support role vessel, quite at odds with the hit ’em hard aggression of the front line Rebel ships.
Fielding Jan Ors – who vastly outstrips all the other pilot cards in skill – can take a stress token to give a friendly model within ranges 1-3 an extra attack. Given to the right pilot (Wedge Antilles) and it’s brutal as the attack will be subject to all the special rules and hardware the firing craft has.
Kyle Katarn doesn’t do too badly either, being able to give away a focus token which can really make the difference in a furball. His skill of 6 does make him vulnerable as he’ll be easily out shot by an Imperial pilot of equal ability, with more shots and costing fewer points.
It’s made worse by the fact that the upgrades, whilst awesome, are range 1 & 2 which means you have to get up close to make the most of them. Which is not where you want to be with such a potentially squishy ship. If you get to use them however, things will explode. Saboteur, for 2 points, is embarrassingly good. Basically a single dice roll that, if it hits, inflicts a damage card on the target. Seriously? For 2 points. If you can get that close without being shredded, things are gonna go boom.
And that’s the trick, it’s a slow turd of a ship to steer and when things start to get tasty you’ll be picking up stress tokens. Which makes Jan Ors a gamble. Choose your moments wisely, however, and the HWK-290 can add some game swinging support. It’s 4 armour points means it should be able to extract itself from the furball but time your run wrong and it’ll be vaped and it and all those lovely special attacks and unit buffs will be lost.
Which I suppose is the problem. It’s the only thing I’ve come across in the Rebel fleet so far that I consider to be a gamble taking. Even a B-Wing, despite being slow, is a worthy investment because it’s tough and armed to the teeth. Escorted by Y-Wings or X-Wings and it becomes a bitter pill to ram down the enemy’s throat. The HWK-290 doesn’t quite offer the same punch per point.
The HWK-290 is an acquired taste. It’s not a scrapper, it’s not something to sit at the back. It’s, rather unbearably, something in between. It’s probably at its best when being used in a scenario rather than a straight up fight, but I guess if you’re damn fool enough to take it in a straight up scrap over a X-Wing pilot ace then you kinda deserve what you get.
The HWK-290 expansion pack is available from Firestorm Games priced £10.79