X-Wing Expansion: Tantive IV – A Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight GamesI was very young when I was first exposed to Star Wars. Return of the Jedi was released when I was just a year old and so I was watching the Original trilogy on VHS (kids you’ll have to Google that) from around 2/3 years old. I didn’t have that seminal, life changing, moment that friends that are a few years older had. Instead I was born to a world with Star Wars and actually that makes me pretty lucky. I grew up watching and rewatching those incredible, industry changing, films countless times.

Even now, 30 odd years later, the opening scene of Episode IV is just as exciting as it was when my tiny infant mind was first exposed to intergalactic violence. And even now I still look upon the ‘Blockade Runner’ as it became known with great fondness.

So when Fantasy Flight Games announced that the Tantive IV would be released I must admit to a certain degree of nerdgasm. And with fairly good reason. Aside from being an incredibly cool looking ship and an iconic one at that, it was also going to completely change the way X-Wing played. Introducing large vessels not only could make for some scenarios very close to the kind available on the X-Wing PC game but introduce campaigns and even ship to ship combat rather than just snubfighters.

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When the Tantive IV arrived from the good people at Firestorm Games I was, according to my wife, as excited as a kid at Christmas. Who am I to argue. I was. It’s the Tantive IV for crying out loud! And it’s massive. I thought the Rebel Transport was big (a review will eventually be written I promise) but the Tantive is crazy big. Below is a size comparison (swanky star mat kindly provided by Deep Cut Studio) and as you can see it dwarfs the transport and makes the X-Wing look very flimsy indeed.

IMG_3026But as one would expect from something classified in the game as Epic. And it is. Very. But so is the truly embarrassing amount of packaging. I’ve commented on this before but it’s just mad on this occasion. If Fantasy Flight were willing to have just one window on the box rather than two it could be half the height. Granted, most of it can be recycled but it’s an unnecessary cost of production which gets built into the cost of the model.

The model itself is impressive. The larger the X-Wing models get the better the detail – stands to reason – so the Tantive is impressive. I even brought up images on Google to compare the model with the original and it’s all pretty faithfully done, right down to the asymmetrical hull sections. The ventral turrets and radar dish move which is a nice touch. But be aware they’re a little on the flimsy side so if you don’t have a case for the Tantive make sure you keep the plastic tray it comes in so you can keep it safe between games. It is epic though. I mean so impressive. And the joy of scrutinising the model and identifying little details cannot be emphasised enough. Being able to use this ship in a game is, well, epic. There’s also the usual stack of cardboard. Cards, upgrades, energy tokens etc. And all produced to Fantasy Flight’s usual standards.

What really lets the Tantive IV down, however, is the paint job. Now I appreciate and accept that having mass-produced pre-painted models is going to mean a drop in quality somewhere along the road, especially considering the volumes Fantasy Flight are being forced to ship now. However some parts of the paint job are just down right sloppy. And for the money they’re asking this shouldn’t be the case. Of all the ships I own – which is a lot – this is the only ship I think I’m going to have to repaint. Not because the quality is staggeringly under par compared to the rest of the range but because it’s so big the flaws are glaring obvious which is a bit of a shame. Overall and when on the board it does look awesome but once you spot a mistake your eye will be drawn to it every time.

In game terms the Tantive behaves rather differently to its more agile cousins. For start its a walling cow of a craft when it comes to movement. There’s two reasons for this. 1 the designers shrewdly acknowledged that it was represented at the speed depicted in A New Hope it’d fly off the board in a single turn. 2 this game is about the fighters ultimately and being able to have a squadron of anything swarming around a Corellian Corvette is immensely cool. Just putting an X-Wing or the Falcon next to it gives me hobby stirrings so you can only image what it’s like in-game.

The Tantive – again in difference to the fact that to behave any way would make it devastating – has to generate energy before it can do anything. For those that remember Titan Legions and using the Imperator or Mega Gargants, it’s not entirely dissimilar to that. Energy is produced and then directed to systems which allow it to perform special actions and fire secondary weapon systems. The good news is firing its range 5 (yes I said 5) turbo lasers isn’t included. It’s assumed there’s enough energy available to fire primary weapons and drive the engines. As the ship takes damage energy can be lost or you have to make the choice between diverting energy to make repairs to continue to fight. It’s kind of a game within a game which is a nice touch.

Upgrades can obviously augment the energy levels as well as generally up its lethality. Not that much is needed. Especially if you have a fighter escort within the vulnerable 1-2 ranges. However the option to take Prince Leia, Raymus Antilles, R2D2 and C3PO is pretty cool and most of the upgrades are worth taking. And some of them can be taken with other craft as well so there’s some nice buffs to be had across your fleet with our without the Tantive IV on the board.

The added bonus that comes with the Tantive IV box is a campaign leaflet which is something that’s always been lacking. Yes there’s been missions but they’ve always been stand alone. This adds the missing piece of the puzzle. Whilst not long or complicated it’s something you can build on and gives you a series of missions that allow you to bust out the Tantive in various capacities which certainly increases your return on investment.

Although the X-Wing Miniature Game has never been about value for money. It’s been about Star Wars on your gaming board. It’s about X-Wings facing down TIE Fighters and daring dogfights. Heroes and villains, good and evil and some way cool ships all smashed together in the form of little plastic ships. So in those terms the Tantive IV ticks all the boxes because it’s the iconic ship of the Rebellion, a desperate and ultimately failed gambit and all wrapped up in that gorgeous looking craft. And it’s all mine.

The X-Wing Miniature Game expansion, the Tantive IV is available from Firestorm Games priced £67.49.

X-Wing Miniatures Game – A Three Party System

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight GamesIt doesn’t take much to realise that I’m really enjoying the X-Wing Miniatures Game at the moment. I’ve been a Star Wars fan ever since I saw Return of the Jedi at the age of 2 or 3 and that love grown over the years with the introduction of the Star Wars novels, specifically the X-Wing series by Michael A Stackpole and Aaron Allston. If you haven’t read them do so, they’re awesome.

As Mat and I have grown our fleets Lee has found himself increasingly interested but was always put off by the fact that there was only ever two sides to choose from – The Rebellion or The Empire. Being a Rebel through and through, and the person he was going to play the most it left him with little option but to collect the Empire, which he didn’t want because, in his own words, he ‘had no love of the Empire and their ways’.

And that by rights would be that. He’d either have to collect a Rebel fleet and we never really get to play one another, or we have to play ‘training missions’ from now until the galaxy far far away collides with our own thanks to interstellar drift.

However, thanks to those wonderful novels mentioned above I was reminded of a third party that features often in the books and indeed one of the best loved characters fell firmly in their ranks for a while. I refer, of course, to scum and villainy. Smugglers, outlaws and raiders and pirates.

Granted, a certain degree of artistic license is going to be required as such ne’er do wells in the books and comics used Uglies, pilot slang for mongrel craft cobbled together from components salvaged from both sides of the conflict.

ZCeptorThey’re pretty cool but to recreate the craft above it would require the purchase, and subsequent chopping up, of an X-Wing a Y-Wing & a TIE Interceptor. And that’s £36 you could be spending on three ships and not chopping them up.

The point is this – a faction without allegiance is a faction that allows you to pick and choose whatever you want from the range. The transports and the Firespray are obvious places to start affording your fleet a solid core that’s entirely in keeping with its shady origins. A Rebel Transport suits the role of a mother ship or mobile base of operations just as fine as it works as its purpose for the Rebellion. And the fighters on both sides are fair game. Personally I’d set myself limitations – TIE Defenders, for example, are unlikely to make it into a pirate fleet. The robotic TIE-D – should it ever be released – would be almost impossible to maintain. The E-Wing would be too new and in too few numbers and in the likely event raiders did get their hands on one they wouldn’t know about the laser cooling issues.

But the most important piece of the puzzle if fielding unnamed pilots. This puts the pirates at a disadvantage in terms of skill but this tracks as few to none would have had military training. Plus the points saved by buying cheap pilots will mean you’ll have more of them. Coupled with the option of being able to mix the durability of the Rebel fighters with the speed and numbers of Imperial fighters and it becomes a very interesting fleet to go up against.

Moreover it represents the only truly legitimate painting opportunity for the X-Wing Miniatures Game. Whilst you can repaint the models you get for your Imperial and Rebel fleets, you don’t have to and generally the quality is gaming standard which suits most of us just fine. However with a pirate fleet there’s an opportunity to do some really fun stuff with your ships, making up for the fact that converting a fleet of Uglies would be prohibitively expensive.

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Throw in the fact that you have the pick of the Imperial and Rebel fleet lists (with the aforementioned limitations) and you’ve got a fresh set of tactical challenges along with the fun of painting up a truly individual looking force.

If your Photoshop skills can stretch to it there’s nothing stopping you from making up your own pilot cards to give your piratical dogs even more flavour.

Whilst somewhat of a bodge, putting together a raider/pirate force is relatively straight forward. It allows you to cherry pick all the ships you like from the Star Wars universe and use the various larger ships – with a groovy paint job – to add some real flavour to the force.

The X-Wing Miniatures Range is available from Firestorm Games from £6.29

 

 

X-Wing Expansion: E-Wing – A Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight GamesI’ve always loved the E-Wing. Ever since I read the Dark Empire comic book. At the time my brother and I were elbow deep in the Expanded Universe and the X-Wing game series on the PC. I waited and waited for a patch or expansion for the E-Wing but it never came to be. So when Fantasy Flight announced the E-Wing would be released I may of squee’d a bit. Just a bit.

Ewing_negvvThe E-Wing was designed to have the punch of the X-Wing with the speed and manoeuvrability of the A-Wing it was the first star fighter commissioned by the New Republic. With an enhanced sensor suite and engines, a large torpedo magazine and greater firepower it should have replaced the A-Wing but critical overheating problems slowed its roll out and in the end became a fighter that complimented, rather than replaced,

With this in mind I got my hands of two E-Wings to mirror the interceptor/fast mover role of my two A-Wings. With a solid core of 5 X-Wings and a flight of bombers in the form of Y-Wings and a B-Wing, they would give me the edge of Imperial players allowing  me to deal with nasties like TIE Bombers before cutting back and splatting the more troublesome Defenders.

I’d wondered how Fantasy Flight would tackle the E-Wing as the lasers were even flimsier than that of the X-WIngs and their locations would almost guarantee them breaking off.

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Rather simply they just tweaked the lasers, making them shorter and thicker so the model would be robust but not at the cost of the ship design. And I do love the design. It’s slightly crude and a bit of a shit kicker which is great because the Rebel ships always had that slightly rough and ready feel. But the model actually has quite a lot of detail faithfully recreated from the comic books including the the support strut from the hull to the stabiliser foil, the armoured hatch to the astromech compartment and the various bits of hardware on its flanks. It’s a very cool model.

Rule wise it’s not quite the stone cold killer I was expecting/hoping (delete as appropriate). Don’t get me wrong – it gets one more shield than an A-Wing and has overall better manoeuvrability it doesn’t come with terribly sexy upgrades. They’re useful but noting to get too excited about. The named E-Wing pilots are also incredibly expensive. To the point that I thought it was a typo. 35 and 32 points. Wedge Antilles, generally regarded as the greatest fighter pilot ever, is only 29 points.

The more expensive pilot is my joint favourite (with Wedge) character in Star Wars. Corran Horn. A former CorSec officer, he joined the New Republic as a member of the newly reformed Rogue Squadron under Wedge Antilles. He later discovered he had Force powers and became a powerful Jedi and staunch ally of Luke Skywalker. So quite why he’s flying an E-Wing I don’t know, but I’m delighted to have him in my squadron. His pilot trait allows you to make your next turn’s attack at the end of the current activation. This is extremely useful as it can mean the difference between taking return fire and not. Finishing an enemy and not or taking down two targets in quick succession. As traits go it’s pretty awesome. Throw in a skill of 8 and he’s pretty lethal. Partner him with any of other pilot aces – Luke, Wedge, Tycho – and it all gets a little bit unpleasant.

The second named E-Wing pilot, Etahn A’Baht lacks skill – only 5 – but it does get to turn a hit into a critical if the ship it’s targeting attempts to defend. Which is nice. But at 32 points, with the aforementioned skill of 5, he’s a risk as Imperials will get to shoot before him and that could be a problem. Although E-Wings get to focus, evade, lock-on and barrel roll so they are very nimble. This not only increases their survivability but increases your chances of getting in behind the Imperials to counter attack.

Whilst expensive the E-Wing is worth the points. The extra shield gives it that extra bit of survivability and the two pilot traits are very useful. Partnered with other craft and timed right they’d be invaluable. Moreover the do a fantastic job of not only taking the fight to the Empire but being able to double back and allow the squadron to encircle their enemies. This is a very good thing.

I’m fairly delighted with the E-Wing expansion pack.The model is way cool. The upgrades and cost of the pilots is a little disappointing but there’s no escaping just how useful the pilots are in a fight. Especially Corran Horn. 

The X-Wing Miniatures Game range is available at Firestorm Games from £6.29.

 

X-Wing Expansion: B-Wing – A Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight Games

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the B-Wing. When it dove into view in Return of the Jedi I was fascinated by the design. Of all the Rebel fighters it looked the least like a conventional/modern/atmospheric craft. But this had a lot to do with it being designed by Admiral Ackbar, a Mon Calamari who has no reason to think like a human and therefore design like one. In the movie it seemed to keep up with the fighting and the squadron did themselves proud in the Battle for Endor taking down two Imperial Star Destroyers.

When I got my hands on the X-Wing game for the PC and my opinion soured slightly. Whilst undeniably well armed, the B-Wing was a turd to fly. Slow and lazy in its turns, it was a pig to fly in a dog fight. Whilst I appreciate it’s a bomber and shouldn’t be in the middle of a furball it was an often inescapable situation in that game. Especially if you were a young, aggressive rookie pilot like I was back in the day. I can’t say I’ve mellowed in my piloting style but I do now, at least, appreciate the combat role the B-Wing is supposed to play which is that of a ship killer. How convenient that two are now available…

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Similarly with the X-Wing Miniatures game I wasn’t sure about including a B-Wing in my rag-tag interpretation of Rogue Squadron. Especially as the majority of the unit is made up of fast-moving X-Wings and even faster moving A-Wings & E-Wings (the latter are on their way and a review will follow). That was, however, until I read the rules for the B-Wing.

Whilst slow and alarmingly prone to stress, it is as well shielded as the Millennium Falcon and nearly as well armed. And for near enough half the points. That’s incredibly good. Partner a B-Wing with the Falcon, or a couple of Y-Wings and you have an incredibly capable killing blow after the fighting wedge of your fast movers punches a hole in the enemy formation.

Whilst I can’t see myself taking one (or more) B-Wing in every game I can definitely see the pros in taking one at all.Especially against larger craft. Aside from its crazy resilience to damage and meaty amounts of basic fire power the two special rules on offer from the character pilots are incredibly good. Being able to either prevent a critical hit from being cancelled or being able to re-roll a dice when under stress (which will happen al lot!) is very useful. Not cheap however. 31 and 28 points respectively. But this has something to do with the B-Wing being nails and able to take piles of upgrades including two missile types which is just as well because the expansion comes with both proton torpedoes and advanced proton torpedoes. For 6 points (ouch) the advanced torpedoes gives you 5 dice and allows any blank results to be turned into focus results. Which if you’re smart ensures you utterly destroy whatever you shoot at.

To be honest, you’d be mad not to take all the upgrades for the B-Wing. The Fire Control System being a must for 2 points, giving you a target lock on the ship you just fired on. For. Two. Points. Chuck in a focus action and advanced torpedoes and that’s a heady mix and shaves a turn off delivering the aforementioned destruction. However, all this kitting up will set you back around 15 points. On top of the 28-31 points for the pilot and ship. Or to put it another way, roughly the same number of points as the Falcon. The only saving grace being it’s harder to hit.

The model itself is actually pretty cool. And massive. It’s significantly bigger than the X-Wing and dwarfs the A-Wing which makes the B-Wing pretty good value for that reason alone. Fantasy Flight did a nice job of work around the design of the ship and the flight stand. And already I’ve seen conversion were gamers have worked the stand loose and rotated it 90 degrees to get the horizontal pose which actually works better.

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The B-Wing is a bit of a surprise choice for me. I was expecting to be indifferent at best but I can actually see a real benefit to taking them in your fleet. Whilst very high in points they have more than potential enough to make those points back thanks to the prodigious amounts of damage it can do. Its lack of speed isn’t such a problem because targets will be flying towards it. The hard part will be keeping it  alive once the Imperials get behind it because it lacks the ability to turn and face. I’m not sure how it’ll fit in with my aggressive playing style but if used correctly the B-Wing is a devastating asset.

The X-Wing Miniatures Game B-Wing Expansion is available from Firestorm Games priced £10.79.

Deep Cut Studios Space Battle Mat – A Review

deepcutstudioYou may remember a little while ago I took a look at the Ice Planet battle mat from Gale Force 9 for use with the X-Wing Miniatures Game. I came across Deep-Cut Studio and their wide range of game mats not just for X-Wing but a wide range of tabletop and RPG systems as well.

I got my hands on the Deep Space mat, again for use with X-Wing with the idea of making a direct comparison against the GF9 product.

miniature_games_mat_space_2The Gale Force 9 mat had converted me to game mats. They’re a great all in one solution for those that lack the time or the skill to create something similar. The best news about the Deep-Cut Studio mats is that they’re available in sizes between 3×3 and 6×4 which is fantastic. This means games of all stripes can get an awesome looking gaming mat for not lots of money.

And awesome is the word. My first impressions were that it’s really very pretty. Whereas the GF9 mat felt photoshopped, albeit still looking pretty cool, the Deep Space mat from Deep-Cut was more like looking at something taken with the Hubble Telescope. It’s incredibly good-looking to the point it’s almost a shame to put models on it. And that makes it completely beautiful. The richness of colour is very impressive. The standard of print is exceptional. Whereas the GF9 mat felt slight over saturated with ink, Deep-Cut’s feels like a press quality item. Which is what you want for something you’re paying cashy money for.

It’s thinner than the GF9 mat which means it rolls out easier but takes a fair bit longer for the ends to settle flat but it’s not a massive deal. Just give yourself a few extra minutes when you unroll it. And because the PVC seems to take the ink better there’s no signs of wear or rubbing which was my big peeve. The thinness does make rolling it back up a bit of a faff because it lacks the rigidity to tapped into a tidy roll but again, it’s not a big deal but extra care is needed.

But going back to the look of the mat, it’s just a joy to play across. The models look fantastic and thanks to the sizes available it means Gothic players get to enjoy gorgeous playing spaces as well. And this makes me extremely happy. It doesn’t mean I’m going to spontaneously start painting my Gothic fleet but it’s nice to know the grey plastic will have a good-looking backdrop.

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Come on! Look at it! It’s just epic. And it makes anything you put on there look epic. And considering what I put on there are Star Wars ships which are, by definition, epic; there’s a shit tonne of epicness in that photo.

The battle mat from Deep-Cut Studio is an excellent product. It looks fantastic, it’s produced to a high standard and the 3×3″ mat I got is cheaper than the GF9 version and I know which I prefer. I’m really keen to see what some of the other mats look like, particularly other space mats and ones that could be used for Bolt Action.

The mats are available direct from Deep-Cut Studio priced £22.90.

X-Wing Expansion: HWK-290 – A Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight Games

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.

SWX12_HWK290Unless 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 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

X-Wing: Collecting a Rebel Fleet

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight GamesThe addition of a second Y-Wing means my Rebel fleet for Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing Miniatures Game is starting to take shape. With a few games (and wins) under my belt I’ve started to get to grips with the tactics of fighting with a Rebel fleet.

To be perfectly, brutally, honest you can pick up the basics for my approach from reading the X-Wing novels but as that’s 10 books it may just be quicker to read on.

So the Rebellion’s main strength has always been the quality of its pilots. You can put a crap pilot in an X-Wing and they’ll end up dead. Perhaps not as quickly as a crap pilot in a TIE fighter, but still. So when it comes to collecting a fleet your first thought should be to the quality of the pilot you’re putting behind the stick over what the hardware can do.

Granted this is quite limiting at the moment thanks to the woefully slow release schedule Fantasy Flight are working to. There’s various hooky cards floating around the internet and it’s sorely tempting under the circumstances. But the point is, that ability to fire first is vitally important to the often outnumbered Rebellion.

And top tip; try to keep your points under the agreed limit, or at least less than your opponent. Possessing the initiative and the higher pilot skill is too good a combination to pass up.

Rebel Fleet

Profile cards aside the other issue is whether or not you collect a fleet with your heart or with your head. Given the choice, I’d happily collect all X-Wings. Their all round performance means that they’ll be able to go toe to toe with just about any other snubfighter with the exception of the TIE Defender. However the durability and weapons of Y-Wings and the savage speed of A-Wings make them both invaluable to a squadron sized force.

This combined arms approach, coupled with quick draw pilots and durability of those fighters is what makes the Rebels so lethal. And gives you the edge over the oft simplistic and bludgeoning approach of Imperial fleets full of cheap, poorly trained pilots, flying cheap poorly built TIEs. Couple it with the Imperials’ own preferred tactic of mobbing targets and it’s surprising how quickly you can chew through Imperial formations. Concentrated fire backed up by the ability to soak up some real punishment means that, providing you don’t allow your flights to get bogged down, they can take on a fleet twice their size and comfortably and capably deal with it. The trick being to scissor your say through Imperial formations. Try to avoid furballs which allow superior numbers to be brought to bear. And where possible try to plan your moves so you can tuck in behind a target with one element or another every other turn allowing you to hammer everything bar a Lambda Class and Slave 1 with impunity.

The important lesson however is never leave you wingman. A flight of three X-Wings is difficult to deal with. Possessing 9 shots, 6 shields and 9 damage points between them, they chuck out 3 more shots and can soak up 6 more points of damage for the same number of TIE fighters. Don’t be tempted to break one off to finish off a target. Ignore it and move on to the next. By the time the winged target is dead your lone fighter will be two turns away from formation and that’s a long time in X-Wing.

With all this in mind it’s also vitally important to identify threats. Figure out which of your opponent’s ships have comparable pilot skill to your pilots, or a trait that tips the balance in their favour. And then destroy them. Slowly stripping away advantages not only makes your life easier but demoralises the opponent. Plus the Imperial player is going up against a fleet of superior pilots and so target prioritisation almost becomes meaningless to them. You can play to your advantage by applying pressure with different ships at different times which forces them to engage multiple targets, spreading the damage points out.

But let’s not forget the various upgrade cards. Proton Torpedoes are a relative cheap, yet devastating tool. The important this is to not save them. They only work at long-range so fire them off as soon as possible. It’s up to you whether or not you put multiple locks on a single target. If the target gets destroyed by one missile then you’ll just have to wait another turn. The important thing is that you want at least one enemy fighter dead for each flight of two or three ships a turn firing that turn. There are ways this can be improved upon. Marksmanship is mandatory, among one or two others.

And finally: capital ships. Larger, bulkier, and tougher ships like the Falcon serve two vital roles. The first is the obvious magnet for enemy fire. They’re big enough and ugly enough to take quite a pounding. If you’re lucky your opponent will get so distracted trying to bring it down that they’ll ignore the snubfighters scything their way through TIE fighters. The second is their ability to anchor your ever flexing line. It’s 360 degree field of fire means that it will always – assuming you make it keep pace with the rest of your fleet – be able to lend a hand to soften up, or finish off, a problem target. Again, with the right combination of upgrades the Falcon can not only shoot first, but lob out a volley of missiles, repair itself, get a burst of speed or gain the evade ability, which is very very useful.

Ultimately the best advice I can give for collecting a Rebel fleet – assuming all the cards were available – is to go with what you love. Whilst, personally, I wouldn’t recommend a squadron of B-Wings because they’d get danced around more times than the proverbial piggy in the middle, if they’re your jam than take them.

My fleet will, eventually, be 4 X-Wings, 3 A-Wings, 2 Y-Wings, 1-B-Wing, 2 E-Wings and the Falcon. The reason being it offers a near perfect blend of firepower, speed and durability as well as the capacity throw a lot of Ion cannon shots and missiles at my opponents. Seven ships down, 6 to go. Roll on Salute…

The X-Wing Miniature series is available from Firestorm Games from £6.29.

It’s all for the Greater Good

We are coming up to my anniversary. That’s right its been nearly a year since my re-insertion into the hobby. Which I imagine to be a bit like being reinserted into the Matrix but a lot less sinister and somewhat more enjoyable. 

A lot has happened in the last 12 months and a great deal of that has been in the last 3 – 4 months if I’m honest. You may recall I had played a couple of games of Mordheim which I’m sad to say didn’t reach any higher than a couple. But there have been other distractions and lately I have found myself less in love with my warband than I was before. I was never 100% taken with them. I suspect a combination of rushing to get something together on the cheap, which meant using models I didn’t like and being so rusty with my painting that I made a hash of a couple of them. This following on from a mishap with a can of basecoat (people it is really important to shake the can well and make sure it’s not cold). With no inspiration for a colour scheme or the background the other guys had behind themMonty’s Bastards have languished in one of my now numerous carry cases. Until last week when the poor perverted sociopath has found the dust being brushed off his unpainted shoulders and being put straight on eBay. He and his merry band of mentalists are being replaced with a warband I’ve wanted to do since before my departure from the hobby a decade ago. A heavily themed Beastmen force. I won’t go into too much detail now but I am genuinely excited at the prospect of fielding some hairy stinky Beastmen, with a slight humorous twist, and I get to have an Avatars of War Minotaur because frankly they are awesome. 

I am also now the proud owner of a small Sorylian fleet for Firestorm Armada all thanks to my wife being very generous, and not too judgemental, on my birthday. Although have you ever tried to explain to your other half why a Dreadnought (space shotgun) made from resin is so damned expensive? No? Well I have and she still doesn’t get it. Much like many of my other models: the fleet is currently sitting in a carry case in a very much unpainted and un-played with state, but I am slowly adding to it and I know my colour scheme so it’s just a matter of getting round to it and I look forward to seeing how the Sorylians do in a game. 

Now those other distractions I mentioned, are primarily the Star Wars X-Wing Miniature Game by Fantasy Flight Games. If you didn’t know already Phil and I have a massive hard on for this game, which does border on the slightly unsavoury side from time to time. I run the Imperials and Phil as you may be aware is fielding the Rebel scum. I have to say I didn’t take much convincing to pick this one up, I had been looking at it but didn’t know how to take the plunge. Phil, being the enabler that he is,saw to that. I am now the proud owner of a small but growing Imperial fleet which includes 5 TIE Fighters 1 Tie Advanced and recently Slave 1 (you may have seen my rather gushy review). We have yet to get down to pitting Slave 1 against the Falcon but I am very much hoping it’s soon as I have a bit of a score to settle and honestly it would be nice to maybe win a game. [Never! – Ed.] This new love affair has kicked off many thought processes that revolve around Star Wars but again these are things that will I’m hoping become more apparent in the not to distant future. 

Dreadball… okay so I have dabbled here a little bit and while I’m not as hot for it as Neil, I do still love it. I never really got on with Blood Bowl but Dreadball is everything Blood Bowl wasn’t which is good, fun and fast, (all opinions expressed in this article are purely my own and are just that only an opinion). Now I haven’t actually played a straight game of Dreadball just yet, but I have played Ultimate against 3 other opponents and it was brilliant, I was slightly concerned as I have a Judwan team (yes I field the pacifists in space). Despite the fact they only have strikers and can’t perform any physical attacks they performed really well. Except against the Maruader player who decided he wanted to squish everything on the board and Judwan are particularly squishy. But I enjoyed my game so much I have actually started to paint my team, and after a couple of pointers from the painting guru that is Lee, I have to say I’m rather happy with the results. I am yet to finish them but so far so good. 

Before I get onto the subject that this article was named for, I have a few other bits I want to mention. Firstly being I now own a copies of Dreadball & Sedition Wars, rule sets for Battlefleet Gothic, Necromunda, Adeptus Titanicus 2 and I’m now on the look out for Epic Armageddon rules… So a busy boy, I know. Having recently played a game of Battlefleet Gothic (battle report with spangly pictures coming soon) with my Necrons (God are they broken) I have once again got the bug to sail the warp and blow the shit out of Imperials, BUT not with my Necrons. And Phil gave me a copy GCT Studio’s game Bushido to read and review too! I’ve always been into Japanese culture, and this mixes plenty of that with some great looking models and so far decent looking rules.

I have also got ever so slightly further with scratch building my Chaos Titans but that’s a completely separate article. 

So onto the matter of the Greater Good. Some of you may recall last year I started talking about a Space Marine project using Codex Space Wolves, based on Celtic culture and mythology. They never really got named although Moon Dragons was an option, especially for Nate of ODAM fame. I built up a fair few blokes including some Horus Heresy stuff from Forge World. I wrote a background and devised a colour scheme. Now due to the fact they were Celtic themed, they were going to be rather up close and personal and through discussions with Lee & Phil I realised just how badly dicked on they were going to get in the process. And so my Tau allies were born. And this is where it all changed. 

I really wanted my Space Marines to look the tits and I was looking at a mixture of Forge World and Scibor miniatures for the main force. Now this is a lovely idea but it’s just so expensive. I was also concerned that my painting skills would never really do them justice and so it would be a project that would limp on and on and never be finished. So I made the decision this week to sell my Marines and concentrate on the Tau force that had grown beyond a small allied force because, basically, I was psyched by them. 

All this was due to the following: 1. The Space Marine project was prohibitively expensive. 2. One army per system is enough for any man (well at the moment), 3. FOCUS. This is in capitals because that’s the text I get from Phil two or three times a week when I start talking about something cool I’ve seen and how it’s given me a great idea. And 4. It’s all for the greater good. That is to say: Tau are my jam.

So my Tau force grows, which is funny when I think about it, and has been a long time coming. When I first started to drift away from the hobby the Tau had only just been released. So a decade or so. And in my odd drifts back into the fold I have picked up various iterations of the codex but have never got around to acquiring any models. had a massive thing for Fire Warrior on my PS2: who remembers that? [No one because it was shit. – Ed.] And the bit where you come face to face with a Chaos Space Marine… shoot and run, shoot and ruuuuuun. But more recently since coming back to the warm loving folds of plastic crack addiction, Phil was giving away some of his goodies to The Chaps and the Tau Codex was amongst them. Clearly it was fate.

Now I’m not only pulling together a decent force with a colour scheme I’m happy with, and actually have some painted models, but I’m looking at creating a Pathfinder Kill Team and looking at cool conversions I can do too [FOCUS! – Ed.]. I’m currently liking the idea of sculpting cloaks for them and giving them some samurai swords to act as their Ta’lissera bonding knife. Kromlech do some nice Sci-fKatanas that would work really well for this.  

do have to admit I’m not a huge fan of the Kroot or Vespids so they will be left out of my Tau force. I know this may not be the best idea but, frankly, I just don’t care. I’m also not a big fan of the vehicles but that said I’ve never been a massive fan of vehicles in any army and always preferred to go down the infantry route. However after a few conversations with The Chaps I will likely end up with at least one Devil Fish and possibly a Hammerhead. Okay, three. As I realise the need for these and that vehicles have become a much bigger focus since my days of 40K. I also love the look of the Forge World Pathfinder Tetras but that’s going on the possible list as I like the idea of my Pathfinders being sneaky stealth bastards. 

So currently I’m sitting at 3 Fire Warrior Squads, 3 XV15’s, 6 XV25’s with Drones, 1 Small Pathfinder Team, 1 Commander in Crisis Battle Suit, another 2 Crisis Battle Suits as body guards and a hand full of Drones.

Tau have slightly taken over my life as I also currently find myself reading Fire Warrior by Simon Spurrier the book based on the aforementioned game, it’s a great if not wholly accurate look into Tau culture. 

So my addiction continues and is culminating/climaxing* in a trip to Salute in a couple of weeks, which I no doubt will have to write about my splurging of monumental amounts of cash. And hopefully I will get to meet some of you guys there. 

So until next time…

Oooh I nearly forgot Firefly: The Game is AWESOME. 

*delete as appropriate

X-Wing Expansion: Slave 1 – A Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight Games

So now we really get to the meat of the subject, capital ships for the X-Wing Miniatures Game, and for me it all starts with Slave 1, the entire reason I choose to do an Imperial fleet. Boba Fett was always my favourite. Yes, I know it’s an obvious choice but so what? He was freaking cool and his ship is awesome.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the Firespray 31 Prisoner Transport (check me out using the proper name) I would like to quickly comment on the packaging, as I touched on it in my last review about how I expected a premium product to be in premium packaging. Well now, I’m with Phil: this is massively over packaged frankly. It’s about twice as big as it really needs to be. But who cares, it’s what’s inside that we’re interested in.

fantasyflight-xwing-slave1-box

Now being a capital ship, and therefore somewhat larger than the standard snubfighters, it does weigh in at a hefty £22.50 when bought from the fine chaps at Firestorm Games. That seems pricey even by Games Workshop standards but actually when you compare it with the other expansion kits that come in at £10.79 and are considerably smaller, you’re actually getting a decent amount of ship for your money… and besides it’s Slave 1!

I would like to go on record at this juncture and say that so far the painting standard of the models hasn’t really bothered me. I mean TIE fighters are, well, dark so there’s not a huge amount of detail to see and honestly it’s better than I could do at this point. And it means I get to field a painted army. But Slave 1 is frankly a little poor. The whole shitkicker look (as Phil would say) works but it’s a little lazy, to be honest. I mean this ship is old. Really old. And the paint job is just a bit basic and blocky. There are some nice areas of detail but I think Fantasy Flight could have been done a little better given the size of the model.

Slave 1 for Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight Games

So what comes in the rather oversized boxed?
1 x Slave 1 Ship with Plastic Base
2 x Ship Tokens
1 x Manoeuvre Dial
1 x Focus Token
2 x Stress Token
1 x Evade Token
1 x Critical Hit Token
4 x Shield Tokens
2 Ion Tokens (the fun begins)
1 Bounty Token
1 Proximity Mine Token
1 Seismic Charge Token
2 Reference Cards
6 x ID Tokens (21 – 22) We are yet to sue these but you know it’s on the cards (excuse the pun).
4 x Ship Cards, Boba Fett, Kath Scarlet, Krassis Trelix and Bounty Hunter. 13 x Upgrade Cards (yes 13 upgrade cards) 1 x Homing Missles, 1 x Assault Missles, 1 x Ion Cannon, 1 x Heavy Laser Cannon, 1 x Veteran Instincts, 1 X Expose, 1 x Seismic Charges, 1 x Proximity Mines, 1 x Gunner, 1 x Mercenary Copilot, 2 x Stealth Device and last but not least 1 x Slave 1 card.

And you get a rather cool looking scenario specifically for Slave 1.

So you really are actually getting pretty decent value for money on this Expansion set and some of these upgrade cards are serious game changers, especially when coupled with Slave 1’s Auxiliary firing arc, which allows it to fire behind it with its primary weapon.

Needless to say with all this in the pack you are a little spoilt for choice and it also means you can load the Firespray 31 to the teeth and that’s not just a whimsical expression, you can seriously load this bad boy up with some nasty ordnance and special rules.

I’m just going to pick out some of my favourites because honestly with 13 upgrade cards we could be here a while. So for me the essentials are: the Slave 1 card which adds torpedoes to your arsenal of very nasty stuff and it’s free so it’s a must. You also have your Homing Missiles which are pretty self-explanatory which weigh in at 5 points but means your opponent cannot evade. Although I find myself torn between these and Assault Missiles which are the same cost but if they score a hit they cause 1 damage to any other ships within range one of the target which is nasty. You can also choose between an Ion cannon or Heavy Laser cannon. I’m more inclined to lean towards the Ion cannon because of the longer term effect and the fact it will make your other weaponry more effective. And it’s only 3 points against 7 points.

Then you get to load up some mines. I can see these being a real pain for the opposition as you perform it as part of your action and by then it’s too late for your opponent to change his mind about where he’s going. Which makes them a bit beardy. But I’m still likely to load up on proximity mines though. At 3 points, they detonate once a ship touches them and they have their own reference card which explains the results. This is one of the aforementioned game changers I was talking about. These could cause some serious mischief for the Rebel Scum. You can also take the Veteran Pilot Skills card much like the Falcon which gives your Pilot 2 extra skills points which I have to say sadly is much-needed as Fett only comes in at 8 skill. But as this only costs you 1 point it’s well worth it. The Crew Cards are very much like those of the Falcon. And Finally you get to add your unique modification: a Stealth Device which adds one to your agility, however if you’re hit you lose it. It’s worth taking but at 3 points it’s not cheap considering you can lose it within two turns.

So your Pilots. Well it goes without saying, I’m only ever going to use Boba Fett who rocks in at 39 points and has a rather nifty special rule that allows him to change his bank manoeuvre once you turn over his movement dial. With the cost of Fett taken into account and all the additions you’re going to want to take to make him the ultra bad ass he is, you’re looking at around 65 points. You could get 5 TIE fighters for the same price. Whilst the TIEs are better value, Slave 1 will still pack a wallop and offers some handy tactical advantages over TIEs. Mainly in the form of high explosives.

But ‘what if we don’t want to take Boba Fett’ I hear you ask. Well firstly why not? Are you mental? And secondly, you have got some other rather cool options. You have Kath Scarlet for 38 points whose ability means that if an opponent cancels a critical hit they take a stress point which is not too bad. And then there’s Krassis Trelix for 36 points who allows you to reroll 1 attack die when firing a secondary weapon, which if your firing Assault Missiles could prove devastating to your opponent.

So to sum up, the Slave 1 expansion is, for me, so far (barring the core set) the best value for money with all the additions you get, as well as what it adds to the game. There is some seriously heavy hitting stuff going on in this expansion and all well worth the points cost. I know I can’t wait to see what it can do in a game and how much of a difference it will actually make. As you can tell the poor painting in the end is actually not that big a deal once you get caught up in the fact you’re going to field Slave 1 with some serious ordnance and Boba Fett at the helm.

The Star Wars X-Wing Slave 1 Expansion pack is available from Firestorm Games for £22.50.

X-Wing Expansion: Y-Wing – A Review

FFGSWXwinglogoThe much maligned Y-Wing has been the butt of jokes by fans and Star Wars novelists for years. It had everything to do with the fact that they were generally portrayed as a bit shit in the movies: fairly incapable of doing anything other than explode. And the design, with the extended – and seemingly decorative – support pylons did nothing to convey the robustness it’s supposed to possess.

There was an ill-advised attempt to make the Y-Wing cool by giving Anakin Skywalker one in the Clone Wars series, but as most people knew how the story ended it did little to gain either credibility. The fact is the Y-Wing is as tough as old boots and twice as ugly. A lethal combination of high-powered lasers, ion cannons and a hefty payload of torpedoes made them the workhorse of the Rebellion to the X-Wing’s warhorse.

y-wing-layout

So when it comes to the X-Wing Miniatures game the Y-Wing provides all those qualities. With 3 shields and 5 points of armour it’s incredibly tough. Which is just as well because they’re less manoeuvrable than the Millennium Falcon. But for the points you can almost forgive it. Even when you take Horton Salm at 25 points, and the Ion Cannon upgrade it still only weighs in 1 point more than Wedge Antilles. And that comes with Salm’s ability of re-rolling blank misses at range bands 2 & 3. Which is fantastic when combined with focus. Not that Dutch Vander’s special ability is sloppy. Being able to acquire a target lock then immediately assign a second target lock to a wingman is extremely good. Especially considering Y-Wings will rarely be operating alone.

If you’re feeling particularly cheeky you can equip the Y-Wing with two lots of torpedoes which does jack the same pilot up to 38 which is barely worth it but its lethality, coupled with resilience and the fact you’d never leave it on its own, means that it’s got a fair chance of surviving. However being forced to babysit a Y-Wing is rather a waste of potential for an X-Wing.

And because the Y-Wing is as agile as I am, with lots of red manoeuvres on its dial and a single point of agility you’ll be hard pressed to decide which astromech to choose – and you will want to take one – whether it’s treat all 1 & 2 movements as green or the ability to remove damage cards. So the Y-Wing can weigh in a t between 39 & 41 points. For 6 points more you can take the Millennium Falcon piloted by Han Solo (including the 1 point upgrade to make it specifically the Falcon). But credit where credit’s due, she’ll pack plenty of punch per model.

pic1424437pic1424438_md

Ion Cannons, whilst expensive, are worth the points. Although they can do a single point of damage per hit, they prevent the targeted model from performing any manoeuvres next turn which makes them very easy to finish off with anything else at your disposal. The downside of Ion Cannons is, because they are a secondary weapon, you’ll be forced to choose between them and firing torpedoes. So Y-Wings working in tandem is where their strengths really come in. Between them they’ll be chewing through targets. Throw in the aforementioned characters and a heady astromech combination and all of a sudden two Y-Wings become a formidable, if expensive fighting force. And in bigger games I don’t actually think you could be without them. Especially if you’re going up against Slave 1, transports or the humongous Tantive IV/Corellian Corvette.

The model itself is actually pretty cool. The shit-kicker look that the pre-painted models have suits the Y-Wing far better than the X-Wing. The aforementioned workhorse label lends itself to a craft that just gets thrown into fight after fight with very little love going its way. Y-Wing aren’t as pretty as X-Wings. Y-Wing pilots don’t get the praise. They just suit up and ship out and hope to God they don’t get vaped in the process.

Fantasy Flight Games did a pretty good job adjusting the design so it was still faithful but not break every time you put it in a figure case. The ion turret is integrated into the canopy and the chin mounted lasers are much shorter than the original design but it works. Equally the pylons are thicker but I’ll take that. My brother had the Kenner toy growing up and not a one of those pylons survived not because we were careless but because it was too faithful a recreation.

I’m really pleasantly surprised by the Y-Wing. I wanted it out of a sense of completeness and thought it’d be a soft target to act as a lure but I’m a convert. The Y-Wing and it’s two named character cards are a valuable addition to a fleet. They’re tough, they pack a punch and whilst they’ll still get picked on, the right tactics can mean you can turn that to your advantage.

The Y-Wing Expansion Pack is available from Firestorm Games priced £10.79.