18 Sep 2013

X-Wing Miniatures Game: X-Wing and TIE Fighter

Hey everyone,

Pete back as promised, with a follow up to Monday's intro article on the X-Wing Miniatures game from Fantasy Flight Games. In today's post, I'm going to be looking at the first two starfighters from the phase one releases.

But first, lets have a quick recap of the basics and familiarise new players with everything you'll need to have ready for your game...

In the example above, you have everything you'll need to field an X-Wing on the battlefield, including:
  • Pilot card
  • Optional upgrade card(s) 
  • Shield tokens
  • X-Wing ship mounted on it's base
  • X-Wing movement dial
  • Red attack dice
  • Green agility (or defense) dice
  • Range ruler (red side for the rebels!)
  • Game tokens: Pair of target locks, focus token, stress token
As we're going to be comparing the ships like-for-like, let's take a look at the pilot card anatomy and get an idea of the stats we'll be sizing up:

Here we have the pilot card for the X-Wing 'Rookie Pilot'. Pilot cards fall into one of two groups; generic squadron pilots (such as this one) and unique named characters (Luke Skywalker, for example).
  • Unique characters are indicated by a bullet point before their name on the card. It's worth stating that you can only have one of each uniquely named card on the tabletop in any game. This also applies to any upgrade cards in play. 
  • You can't have two Luke's piloting X-Wings; additionally, you can't take Luke as an X-Wing pilot and use the Luke Skywalker crew upgrade card for the Millennium Falcon. Even Jedi's can't pull that one off!
The pilot card shows you the pilot's skill (top-left, orange number) as well as any special abilities they may have (shown in the main text panel to the right of the card). Below that, is the action panel, which displays the basic actions available for that pilot to choose from each turn. At the bottom of the card is the upgrade bar. A series of icons here represent the various upgrade slots available to use, if you have points available. In the bottom-right corner is the base cost of the ship, before upgrades.The emerging standard force points limit is 100 points per side and we'll be looking at force composition a little later.

On the left-hand side of the card are four icons that show you how well armed and armored the ship is. At the top (red) is the number of attack dice the ships primary weapon uses. Below that (green) is the number of agility or defense dice you have to defend yourself with and represents how agile the ship is in combat. The yellow icon shows the number of hull points the ship has. Once the ship has taken damage cards equal to the number of hull points, the ship is destroyed and removed from play. Lastly, the blue icon shows the number of shields that the ship starts the game with and is represented by shield counters in the game.

An X-Wing has a primary weapon system that uses three red dice (plus one at range band one), has an agility value of two green dice (plus one at range band three), has three hull points and two shields at the start of the game.

In the example above, the Rookie Pilot has the R2-F2 upgrade card attached in the 'Astromech' upgrade slot (indicated by an R2 icon in the upgrade bar). The abilities conferred by an upgrade are displayed on that card in the main text panel.

As the games title ship, we'll use the X-Wing starfighter as the benchmark.

Here, the X-Wing is shown with it's full range of movement. At speed one, it can make a bank to the left or right or move straight ahead. Note that all of these maneuvers are green. Green moves must be performed to remove any stress tokens that the ship has acquired, before it can take any actions or perform a red move. At speeds two and three, it can move forwards, bank to either side and make right-angled turns in either direction. At speed four the X-Wing can only move forward or make a wing-over or 'Koiogran Turn', where it flips over to face the opposite way to which it started it's turn. The K-turn is a red maneuver and will put a stress token against the ship.

In the example above, you can see all of the possible ending positions that are available to the X-Wing, from it's initial starting point at the bottom of the picture. (Note that the K-turn would put the ship at the top of the image but facing 180 degrees.)

The X-Wing pilots available are:

  • Rookie Pilot - Skill 2, 1x Astromech & 1x Torpedo upgrade slots - 21pts
  • Red Squadron Pilot - Skill 4, 1x Astromech & 1x Torpedo upgrade slots - 23pts
  • *Biggs Darklighter - Skill 5, 1x Astromech & 1x Torpedo upgrade slots, Other friendly ships at range band 1 cannot be targeted by attacks if the attacker could target Biggs instead - 25pts
  • *Garven Dreis - Skill 6, 1x Astromech & 1x Torpedo upgrade slots, After spending a focus token, you may place that token on any other friendly ship at range 1-2 instead of discarding it - 26pts
  • *Luke Skywalker - Skill 8, 1x Astromech, 1x Torpedo & 1x Pilot upgrade slots, When defending, you may change one focus dice result to an evade result - 28pts
  • *Wedge Antilles - Skill 9, 1x Astromech, 1x Torpedo & 1x Pilot upgrade slots, When attacking, reduce the defender's agility value by 1, to a minimum of 0 - 29pts
All X-Wing pilots can use the focus and target lock actions as standard (well, if it was good enough for Luke to blow up the Deathstar, what more do you want, eh?)

So lets have a look at how the TIE Fighter shapes up...

By it's very nature, the TIE Fighter is a much more agile craft, offering a forward maneuver at speed five and a k-turn at speed three as well as four. Ship-stats-wise, it offers two primary attack (red) dice, three agility (green) dice and three hull points. TIE Fighters do not have any shield points as standard. All TIE Fighter pilots can use the focus, barrel roll and evade actions, which goes some way to balancing this disadvantage out.

The graphic really shows off the TIE Fighters greater agility over its X-Wing counterpart. Adding in the barrel roll action (to the right of the diagram) and the ship can effectively cover a large area of the table. The TIE Fighter can leave most ships way out of range or, conversely, close with a target at high speed.

The available TIE Fighter pilots are:
  • Academy Pilot - Skill 1 - 12pts
  • Obsidian Squadron Pilot - Skill 3 - 13pts
  • Black Squadron Pilot - Skill 4, 1x Pilot upgrade slot - 14pts
  • *Night Beast - Skill 5, After executing a green maneuver, perform a free focus action - 15pts
  • *Dark Curse - Skill 6, When defending, attacking ships cannot spend focus tokens or reroll attack dice - 16pts
  • *Mauler Mithel - Skills 7, 1x Pilot upgrade slot, When attacking at range 1, roll 1 additional attack die - 17pts
With an average cost of 14pts per TIE Fighter, compared to an average 25pts per X-Wing, the imperials naturally take on the strength in numbers swarm role, whereas the X-Wings are in a more elite ship class. This echoes their positions in the Star Wars story nicely, given that the empire are turning TIE Fighters out ten-a-penny and crewing them with kids straight out of the academy, whereas the rebel fleet is far fewer in number but crewed by highly skilled individuals that have joined the cause.

Before we look at some tactics, it's worth a brief recap on attacking, damage and spending tokens.

In the example here, the TIE Fighter completed it's movement and chose to take an 'evade' action, indicated by the evade token placed next to the ship. The X-Wing then moved and took the 'focus' action, also indicated with the appropriate token. As the X-Wing has the higher pilot skill, it gets to resolve any attacks first. Using the measuring guide from the edge of it's base to the closest point of the TIE Fighter, we know that the target is in range band three. The X-Wing pilot rolls three red dice (as indicated on their pilot card) and the TIE pilot rolls two green dice (also see the pilot card), plus one additional green die as they are at range three.

The X-Wing pilot gets a pretty decent roll, with one focus result, one hit (solid white star) and one critical hit. Despite the benefit of an extra die, the TIE pilot only manages one evade result out of three dice. Hits are cancelled by evade results, starting with normal hits before any critical hits can be cancelled. Any hits that are not cancelled will remove shields from a ship before reducing hull points.

The X-Wing pilot opts to spend their focus token to convert the focus die roll into another hit. The TIE pilot can cancel two hits using their die roll and their evade token, but will suffer the critical hit. As the TIE Fighter does not have any shields, it is dealt one face up damage card, which details any special effects of the damage taken, as well as counting towards the maximum three damage the ship can take.

The best tactic I have found for maximising damage potential with the X-Wings is to take a two stage approach. As soon as the target ship comes into range band three, grab a target lock on it. It's worth remembering that the target doesn't have to be within your firing arc to grab a lock on it. It only needs to be within range band three!

The target lock is represented by crosshair-like tokens assigned to each ship, with the holder having the blue token and the target with the red. The target lock tokens are labelled A-Z in both red and blue, so you can use corresponding pairs to track who's locking who. Target locks can be used in two ways. They can be spent in order to fire a secondary weapon system, like a torpedo or missile, if one is equipped. They can also be spent when firing your primary weapon in order to reroll any misses. This, for me, is key to the success of the X-Wing and I have seen players completely ignore the target locks when flying them as they've not got secondary systems attached.

Unlike the evade and focus tokens which are lost if they are unspent at the end of the turn, target locks remain in play until they are spent, released, in order to acquire a new lock on a different ship or of course if the target ship is removed from play.

Once you have your target lock acquired, take a pot-shot if the enemy is within your sights. Although it's tempting, I try and hold off spending my target lock there and then as the opposition has a greater number of green dice to evade your attacks at that distance.

If you successfully get the target within your sights and at closer range (ideally, range band one!) on the following turn, take the focus action. More often than not in an X-Wing vs TIE setup, you will be moving after the TIE and shooting first. You should now have the target lock still in play as well as your focus. If you're in range band one, you also have the benefit of an extra red dice, for a total of four. Roll the attack and keep any focus, hit or critical hit results. If you have any blank results, spend the target lock and reroll those. If you have any focus results, spend the focus token and flip them all to hit results. I've seen this done a number of times and it's totally possible to pop a TIE Fighter in a single round of combat in this way.

With an average cost per model of 25 points, you're never going to get more than four X-Wings in a 100pt list, so why not drop to a three-fighter list and take some ace pilots and great upgrades. In my experience, the X-Wings are best when they stick together in a pack and there are some great benefits of doing so, if you take the right combination of upgrades.

In this list, we have Biggs Darklighter (5), Garven Dreis (6) and Wedge Antilles (9). Biggs draws enemy fire from allies in range one as is best positioned in the centre of the formation as other ships do not block line of sight. In this way, Biggs can cover both wingmen. He is equipped with two additional shield upgrades (for a total of four) and R2-D2. Whilst R2 is the favourite companion of Luke, in the game, he compliments Biggs really well. His ability allows one shield to recharge immediately following a green manuever. The additional shield upgrades are 'generic' upgrades and do not take up any slots.

Wedge Antilles reduces the agility value of the target by one, to a minimum of zero when he attacks, which, for a TIE Fighter at range one, is a daunting prospect in itself. He is also equipped with Squad Leader, which allows an ally in range bands one to two with a lower pilot skill to take a free action. He has R5-K6 equipped in the Astromech slot. When Wedge spends his target lock, he can roll a green defense die. On an evade result, he can re-acquire the target lock on the same ship.

Making up the trio is Garven Dreis, whose ability is to pass a focus token to an ally in range one to two instead of discarding it when it's used. Garven is also kitted out with R2-F2 which allows you, as an optional action, to increase your agility value by one until the end of the game round, making him a little more survivable if things gets tight. Using Wedge's Squad Leader ability, this means he can toughen up and take a focus action in the same round, or, if he doesn't yet have a target lock, could take that with the focus in the same round instead.

The list is designed to make the most of the target lock dice reroll and focus action combo, in order to dish out trouble at short range and picking off enemies as they come at you. Not a bad way to spend 99pts.

The way to succeed with TIE Fighters is to play to their strength: Numbers. So, why not go all-out and take a swarm?

Here we have seven academy pilots (skill 1) and Dark Curse (skill 6). Nothing too fancy, no upgrades at all. The only thing to remember is Dark Curse's great ability that attacking ships cannot spend focus tokens or reroll attack dice when targeting him. The perfect antidote to our X-Wing squadron! OK, so I wrote the list in direct response to the X-Wings, so maybe in practice, I may have taken Night Beast (skill 5) instead and receive a free focus action after performing a green move...

Outnumbering the rebels at nearly 3:1 you have a couple of viable options at your disposal. You could fly as one unit of eight fighters and crash into the X-Wings head-on in an attempt to steamroller them off the table. It's possible with that weight of fire, you could strip Biggs' shields off and start punching holes in his ship before R2's ability kicks in. Theoretically, he could be removed in the first contact, leaving the remaining two rebels outnumbered 4:1, assuming you got lucky and didn't take any casualties on the approach.

Your other option is split the force. You then have the decision to either take both flanks or take one unit on a more direct course and have the rest of the TIEs skirt round the side or better still, the back and tail the X-Wings all over the board. The TIEs are much more agile than the rebel ships, but you need to be lucky with your planning and actions as you'll be moving first and shooting last each time.

These are not by any means the holy grail of force lists and I'm sure there are plenty of arguments out there against some of the selections made. However, based on my experiences of the game, I believe these lists would put you in a strong position. As we explore the other ships on offer, we'll look at these forces and see how we can take them to the next level.

So there we have it folks. Thanks for sticking with it 'til the end, it was a bit of a beast! In the next installment, I'll be throwing the spotlight on the remaining two ships from the first wave of releases: the Y-Wing and the TIE Advanced, so stay tuned for that.

Until next time folks!

Pete of Team Gambit. 


  1. Really good piece Pete, made for a good read!

  2. What about the Darth Vader Tie Fighter, the Tie Advanced - do you rate it?

  3. Anonymous7:46 pm

    A ship can only take one upgrade