I have been playing X-Wing Miniatures for about a year. I think it is a very good game and I will share some findings, particularly with new players.
I have exclusively played the Rebel (and Resistance) side and I have only played causual games, no tournaments.
What to buy first
I have the same boring advice as everyone else: after your first Core set (the blue Force Awakens box), get a second starter set (the Original core set).
You want 6+6 dice, thus the second start set is good value.
Only if you already have friends that own the game and you just want a squad, and you want to build the strongest possible squad for as little money as possible perhaps you should not get a second (or even a first) core set.
Winning X-wing comes down to a few key factors:
- Flying well
- Some luck with dice
- A good squad
The dice luck is a good thing because it keeps the game interesting until the end!
When it comes to flying well and building a good squad I have some bad news: it is more about avoiding mistakes than to be brilliant! Bad decisions decide the outcome of the game much more often than good decisions.
If you are fighting a decently good opponent this is what will make you lose:
- Flying off the board: lose your ship immediately.
- Flying into asteroids (obstacles): you may get damage, you lose an action, and in worst case you even lose an attack. There are (rare) occations when running through an asteroid is a winner, but most of the time it happens by mistake and its a bad thing.
- Flying into yourself: (blocking yourself) losing an action – if you occationally do it intentionally for a good reason – fine, but by mistake or because you have no option – not good.
- Not flying as one squad: see below.
What it comes down to is that both squads are equally strong from the beginning. If you make the above mistakes you lose actions and shots and your ships die faster.
You typically pay 100 points for your squad. You pay for:
- Upgrade cards
- Good maneuver dials
- Special pilot abilites
- Pilot skill (moving-after-shooting-first-advantage)
- Actions (all ships have Focus, but you pay extra for Boost, Evade and Barrel roll)
This is all good! But at a fundamental level your squad has
- a total number of attack dice per round,
- a total of Hull + Shields (and Evade dice).
If your squad has more attack dice and can take more damage than your opponents’ squad, that is a good start! A player can of course try to compensate for lack of firepower and hull with upgrades, skills and maneuvers: but that makes the squad more sensitive to mistakes.
Also with squad building, it is much easier to make a mistake than to do something brilliant. Bad squad economy:
- A ship with too many upgrades: some upgrades may be underutilized and when the ship dies they are all lost. Worst of all, unused torpedoes, missiles and bombs (these points are entirely wasted)
- Multi-ship-combos: double point of failure means that if any ship goes down all ability/upgrade is lost. There are of course good combos, but if you don’t get time to use it until one ship is destroyed, it is bad economy.
There are a few other things that can make your squad very weak against very defensive opponents (like highly skilled Tie Interceptors with autothrusters).
- Weak firepower: attack value of 3 is much better than 2 against ships that are hard to hit.
- Poor meneuverability: Y-wings in particular may get very few (forward) shots in a dog fight.
The ironic thing here is that 2 attack dice is very fine against enemy ships with many shields and much hull. It is against ships with Evade + 3 Agility Dice + defensive upgrades (Autothrusters) (and no shields and little hull) that you really need high firepower to do any damage at all.
Flying as one squad
It is critical to fly your squad in a way that your ships support each other.
You and your opponent both have 100p. If you split your squad 50-50, and half the squad is engaging while the other half is not, you fight a 50 vs 100 battle. You will typically lose your 50p while your opponent keeps most of his 100p. So your remaining 50p will face 75p and you lose again. It does not mean that you should, or need to, fly all your ships in tight formation, but
- If all your squad can take out isolated enemy ship, do it
- If one or two of your ships gets away from battle, the rest are in trouble
If you have two (perhaps weaker and lower skill) ships fighting against one enemy:
- even if the enemy gets first shot, and perhaps kills one of your ships, your other ship will still get a shot
- a ship that is easy to hit (B-wing or Y-wing) will still not be hit if your opponent targets another ship
- an A-wing (with an Evade token) will often not be shot at, because opponent shoots at anything else that is easier to hit
Evade tokens are very efficient against a single enemy ship, but two or three attacks the same round is much harder to survive.
When you find yourself having lower pilot skill than your opponent you:
- Move first: making it hard to Target lock your opponents, and your opponent can pick actions, perhaps boosts or barrel rolls, knowing where your ships are.
- Shoot last: risking that your opponents kills you before you shoot back
Moving first has one advantage thought: you know where your enemy is when you move, so you should not need to fly into an opponent (losing an action). If you, on the other hand, can get in the way of (blocking) your opponent, he will lose his action. This can be very bad for him:
- A lost evade action, which means you can hit a Tie fighter hard
- A lost target lock, preventing a missile from being shot
- A lost boost or barrel roll, preventing your opponent from getting in position, or getting out of the attack arc of some of your ships.
This is quite obvious but I will mention it anyway. A ship can be in different health states:
- Only lost shields
- Lost hull, but no criticals
- Got criticals
An enemy ship in state 2-3 (and often 4) is equally dangerous to you as a ship with no damage at all. If the enemy squad has a total of 20 shields+hull, and you have produced 15 damage, dealt zero criticals and destroyed no ships, you have removed no threat at all. Only when you destroy a ship and it is taken off the board anything significant is achieved.
A good beginners’ squad
Unfortunately, a squad that is good to fly as a beginner is not the squad you want to buy first. The first squad that comes to mind is:
This is good for a beginner because:
- Any ship is disposable
- All ships have 3 attack dice
- Integrated Astromech makes X-wing really good, and the R2 is disposable (requires a total of 28 damage to destroy squad)
- Tallon roll is quite efficient to change bad positions into attack positions
- All ships have the same maneuver dial
- All ships have the same skill (move in any order)
The last two points help to avoid blocking yourself and makes the squad much easier to fly, especially for beginners.
I understand very well you find this suggestion very boring when there are so many cool ships out there!
A-Wings require the Push the Limit upgrade. You should most likely equip the Chardaan Refit and dont forget to consider the 0-point A-wing test pilot. You almost always make the Evade action and the A-wing will be hard to hit. When occationally hit, its shields will prevent it from getting criticals (as opposed to the Tie Interceptor). For 20p:
Dont worry about getting stressed: there are so many green maneuvers (to combine with a boost if needed). You can replace Trick Shot with Wired for 1p.
Weakness: without Evade you are easy to hit. If you run into another ship or an obstacle you miss your action (both of them, since you have Push the Limit) and your A-wing can die early.
B-wings are really cool, but they are not very easy to fly. The basic setup is:
For 24p it is a dangerous fighter. It is very tempting to start with a high-skill B-wing-pilot and add several upgrades, but it is usually not good. Your opponent will fear your B-wing and focus on killing it first. With one evade dice and a slow maneuver dial the B-wing is an easy target.
If you read online sources it is widely thought that the X-wing is bad. It was true, but Integrated Astromech was released (for 0 points) and it improves the X-wing. Usually you should use the T70 (blue model from Force Awakens) rather than the T65 (the red model from original game). The X-wing is durable, rather maneuverable and has strong base attack: it may not be perfect for everything, but you can’t go very wrong. Suggested beginners configurations:
Y-wings need upgrade cards! Without extra equipment it is a waste of points. The obvious and very efficient option is to equip it with turret weapons: I am not too fond of torpedoes on the Y-wing because it can be hard to get firing opportunities. And as with the B-wing, your super-equipped-Y-wing will be primary target and it will quickly die. Try:
The above Y-wings can obviously benefit from a defensive astromech like R2-D2. Study the maneuver dial of the Y-wing and realise it is the same as the (T65) X-wing (just less green and more red).
At 12p, the Z95 can be used as a filler in a squad with 3 other ships. However, the A-wing Prototype Pilot with Chardaan Refit at 15p is often a better (superior maneuver dial + more actions + extra evade dice) option.
I have found that with the Headhunter, quantity is a quality of its own. This is not an easy beginners strategy – and who wants to start purchasing several of the worst ship in the game? Don’t get me wrong, I like the Z95 Headhunter much, but it is not the easiest ship to make good use of.
YT-1300 (Millenium Falcon)
The Millenium Falcon is very good – not the least for beginners. First, note that there is the old Millenium Falcon expansion pack, and the new Heroes of the Resistance expansion pack. You want the old one.
The Millenium Falcon is easy to fly well. Its 1-turn-maneuver allows you to navigate around obstacles. Its 3-strength-turret-weapon (you cant use Outer Rim Smuggler) is always dangerous against any opponent.
Note that the Millenium Falcon title is very good (few Rebel ships have evade). Since you will use it heavily you need the Han Solo pilot, the Luke Skywalker crew, or something else to make the attack deadly.
Other rebel ships
I think these above orginal ships are fine for the beginner. Other options are:
- ARC-170, which I have too little experience with
- E-wing, which is like a more expensive version of the X-wing, but few powerful ships make the squad more sensitive to mistakes and bad luck.
- HWK-290 and U-wing, which are more about bringing support/crew to the rest of the squad. They are not so good fighters of themselves, so I would avoid them until you have more experience.
- K-wing, which is expensive, easy to hit and I dont like bombs much.
- YT-2400, but I think you are better off with YT-1300.
Upgrade cards and Pilot abilities
My general beginners advice is to focus on quantity before quality, similar ships with the same pilot skill (to make it easier to fly) and avoiding complicated upgrade combos and pilot abilities.
Torpedoes and Missiles are usually better avoided. They (most of the time) require a target lock. For X-wings and B-wings with 3 attack dice, it is almost as good to roll 3 dice and spend a target lock to reroll than it is to roll 4 dice with no rerolls. For A-wings missiles are 2 points extra (since you otherwise use Chardaan Refit). I would suggest:
I used to think that a problem with missiles and torpedoes is that you can load so few of them. The problem is often that you die before you fired them all (even if you just have one), and that you are so eager to fire them that you fire them at first possible opportunity without much effect. A single proton torpedo on a T70 X-wing to get a really nasty range 3 attack later in the game can work. But usually, you should not use your points for missiles and torpedoes.
Cannons can only be mounted on B-wings. But B-wings already have 3 attack dice, and if you make it too dangerous your opponent will quicky destroy it and your cannon is lost. I don’t generally recommend.
Turrets are more or less mandatory on Y-wings.
Upgrades that promote bad stuff like getting stress or flying on your own should be use with care. It can backfire and you can make bad decisions just to make use of an ability.
Combos with other ships like Wingman also makes it harder to fly: perhaps you are tempted to make a non-optimal move just to be able to use your skill. Biggs can be very good, but not if your opponent just kills him round 3 (or he is on his own).
There are better and worse abilities and upgrades, but I suggest:
1st consider to add another ship (or a more powerful ship)
2nd consider to add upgrades that always works (like Shield Upgrade)
3rd don’t add too many upgrades to any single ship
Focus on flying your squad right rather than building the perfect squad.
Note that the 15p A-wing is superior to a 12p Z95 + any 3p upgrade. The same way the T70 X-wing cost 3p more than the T65-xwing (for those 3p you get built in Shield Upgrade (4p) + Engine Upgrade (4p) + better maneuver dial and a tech upgrade slot).
Availability and Proxies
Compared to collectible card games like Magic The Gathering, X-wing Miniatures is very nice because everything is available. You don’t need to find used versions of old cards online for high prices just because you where not in the game a few years ago. Also, you know exactly what every expansion contains, so there is no luck or bad luck with booster packs.
Nevertheless, it is a quite expensive game. For casual play with friends I think proxying make sense. When it comes to upgrade cards, just print them! You don’t draw them from a deck so they dont have to look perfect. For example, C-3PO is a good Millenium Falcon crew, but you might not want to buy the Tantive IV expansion to get one card. If your friends are fine with it, go ahead.