If you’re a fan of Star Wars or miniature games, you’ve probably heard of X-Wing. You don’t need to be a mega-fan to know that the iconic X-Wing Starfighter is one of the coolest-looking ships in sci-fi history. It also lends its name to the massively fun Star Wars: X-Wing Tabletop Miniatures Game, a system originally created by Fantasy Flight Games and now overseen by Atomic Mass Games.
X-Wing is a fun, fast-paced tabletop game that challenges your list-building, spatial awareness, strategic planning, and tactical thinking skills. It’s played by two or more players on a three-foot-by-three-foot mat and represents two or more factions of starship pilots meeting in a brutal dogfight. Players select their ships and load-outs before flying into battle for aerial dominance in the Galaxy Far, Far Away.
If you’re interested in living out some of the most iconic scenes in cinema history by loading up your own X-Wing and flying into battle, this article is for you. Let’s take a closer look at the X-Wing Tabletop Miniatures Game, how you might start collecting the miniatures, and what you need to know to get started playing.
What is X-Wing? An Overview
X-Wing is a tactical miniatures game that uses small plastic models to represent ships from the Star Wars franchise. The ships are assembled and pre-painted, though some hobbyists choose to repaint their ships to give them distinct characteristics. Each ship can be piloted by a handful of named and generic pilots from the films, video games, and comic books that make up the Star Wars universe.
A standard game of X-Wing lasts between an hour and an hour and a half. It’s normally played between two players, each of whom brings a list of between three and eight ships. Players have 20 squad points to spend on ships, and they vary in points cost from as few as 2 points to as many as 9. Players usually bring between three and six ships, with “swarm” lists exceeding six ships being a popular strategy for some factions.
Players use maneuver dials to choose how their ships will move on the board. Each player secretly chooses their maneuver from these dials for each of their ships and then places them, hidden, on the board. Players then take turns revealing their hidden maneuvers according to their chosen pilot’s initiative values, using movement templates to resolve the ship-specific moves. This simulates the chaos of a real-world aerial dogfight, as pilots try to outfly each other in a pitched battle.
How It Works
In a typical game of X-Wing, the objective isn’t as simple as just blasting your opponent’s ships out of the air. You need to jockey for a position on the board and hold mission-critical objectives. In some missions, you might be fighting over stationary satellites, trying to hold them for as long as possible as your ships jet around the board. In others, you might be towing a valuable piece of cargo behind your ships, playing keep-away from the enemy squadron.
In any given scenario, you’ll need to be careful when your opponent’s squadron closes in. Each ship is outfitted with primary attacks, and many squadrons will sport dangerous missiles, torpedoes, and other ordnance. Each pilot comes with a rules card that shows how many dice they use when they attack and defend, how many shield and hull points they have, and what special abilities they bring to bear against their enemies.
Combat in X-Wing is resolved with dice rolls, a mechanic that Dungeons and Dragons players will recognize immediately. Attack dice have eight faces with four possible results: hit, critical hit, focus, and blank. Defense dice have only three possible results across their eight faces: evade, focus, and blank. The most heavily-armed ships get more attack dice, while lithe starfighters will have fewer. Likewise, the heavier craft will have fewer defense dice, owing to their bulky handling, while more agile ships will sport more defense dice but fewer hull points.
Making It Your Own
Much of the fun in playing X-Wing comes from creating a list you’re proud of. Finding which ship abilities, pilots, and upgrades fit your playstyle is highly rewarding. Beyond this, you can create scenarios in your lists that encourage specific play patterns and reward you for strategic thinking.
For instance, you might favor a strategy that brings numerous small ships outfitted with missiles to give them some extra punch. However, ships need to acquire a targeting lock on their opponents to use most missile systems. You might bring a centerpiece pilot who can help your smaller ships acquire locks on enemy ships to make it easier to fire your heavier weaponry reliably!
Once you find a strategy that you like, you can branch out and fine-tune your lists. Each player will find different elements of the game compelling, and it’s extremely fun seeing what lists your opponents manage to bring together using the 20-point squad-building limits! Making the most of limited resources is a surefire recipe for creativity and unique problem-solving. In this way, X-Wing shares some DNA with the popular card game Magic: The Gathering.
Some Recent Changes
The X-Wing Miniatures Game has undergone some substantial changes in recent months. The game transferred from its original developers, Fantasy Flight Games, back in 2020. The new designers, Atomic Mass Games, are known for their work on Marvel: Crisis Protocol, a miniatures game based on the Marvel Comics universe.
These developers have applied a markedly different approach to the tactical space combat game. At one point, X-Wing was all about dogfights, with no objectives on the table beyond blowing your opponent away. List-building also used to be more involved, allowing for more freedom to create unusual builds. Atomic Mass has simplified list-building while also introducing objectives to diversify the gameplay away from the bog-standard dogfighting favored by Fantasy Flight.
While these changes have upset some longtime players, they’ve been well-received among reviewers and some members of the community. Notably, these changes also make it harder for newcomers to figure out what’s going on from the paper rules inserts in products made under Fantasy Flight Games.
New Player Reference
Newcomers to the game might be confused about where to look for information regarding the rules and list-building. Atomic Mass Games’ website opens on a massive splash page for Marvel: Crisis Protocol and the rules for X-Wing are tucked away in a hidden section in the corner of the site. Some new players have also noted that older products instruct them to download an official list-building app that no longer exists–Fantasy Flight discontinued the app shortly before handing the game over to Atomic Mass.
New players will need to download third-party apps, like the popular Launch Bay app, in order to create their lists. This is because the pilot cards and upgrades don’t have point values printed on them, which makes it easier for the company to update overperforming components online without contradicting what’s written on the card.
While Atomic Mass provides the points values for each pilot and their upgrades in the form of a PDF on its website, this isn’t exactly easy for new players to use for list-building. Instead, most players prefer to use third-party apps to create and save their squadrons. Thankfully, if you’re reading this article, you already know where to start!
Why Play X-Wing?
X-Wing is a great starter game for people who want to get into tabletop miniatures as a hobby. Unlike games like Warhammer or Infinity, the models in X-Wing are provided both assembled and pre-painted. This means that hobbyists can spend time customizing their ships if they’d like, but gamers with more busy schedules won’t feel bad cracking open a new ship and getting it on the table a few minutes later.
X-Wing also requires far fewer models than some comparable miniatures games. The average list runs between three and six ships, which are represented by small models and take up surprisingly little space in a gaming bag or storage box. This makes X-Wing easy to pick up for less up-front investment than some of its competitors.
The game also has a robust and active community of friendly players. The tournament scene is full of great opponents and plenty of tactical depth that will give any competitive gamer a great chance to showcase their skills. If you prefer more narratively-driven games, you can opt to just play friendly matches at your local game store, too!
The X-Wing Tabletop Miniatures Game is a robust, strategic game that doesn’t cost much to start and offers a great amount of tactical depth for hardcore gamers. More casual players will love the detailed miniatures and the opportunity to play as their favorite characters from the Star Wars franchise.
If you want a fast-paced, competitive game that will test your strategic skills, you should pick up an X-Wing Two-Player Starter box today. It’s hard to beat a game that lets you field the Millennium Falcon, Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing, and Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter all on the same table! The game sits at the perfect intersection of having a great narrative surrounding the rock-solid gameplay mechanics, making it a one-of-a-kind experience on the tabletop.