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Star Wars: X-Wing - wave II expansions

I really enjoy the Star Wars: X-Wing miniatures game, and have been playing it on and off for a few years now. Unfortunately, the core set is very lacking in variety, and so the game really needs to be expanded in order to be fully enjoyed. There's a myriad of expansions available, and they can be pricey. A single fighter ship expansion retails for $15, large ship expansions retail for $30-50, and the huge (epic) ships can cost as much as $90 or $100! If you get into this game, be prepared to spend money.

I never got into much of the Star Wars extended universe, so my interest in expansion ships is mostly limited to content from the original three movies. This allowed me to be at least somewhat frugal in my purchases, but I still tried to find as much variety as I could. At the time of this review, I own (and have played with) the following expansion: Millennium Falcon, Slave I, Lambda Shuttle, VT-49 Decimator, X-Wing, A-Wing, TIE Fighter, TIE Advance, TIE Interceptor.

I also recently purchased the Corellian Corvette expansion (the foot-long huge ship that stands on two bases), but I've yet to have a chance to play it. I'm also interested in trying out the Imperial Raider, which (as I understand) is a ship that was conceived for the X-Wing miniatures game and then also ported into Armada. I also haven't played the "Most Wanted" expansion, which adds a third faction and could hypothetically allow for three-player games. I don't think that there's an official ruleset for a three-player deathmatch though, so even with a third faction, you'd probably just be playing in teams.

Small ships (fighters)

There's really not much to be said about the small fighter expansions, as they play (mostly) the same as the X-Wings and TIE Fighters that come packaged with the core set. Each ship comes with its own special abilities that add some nuanced differences to how they play, but they still play similarly at fundamental levels.

Star Wars: X-Wing - multi-ship collisions
Be very aware of each ship's Pilot Skill, as the risk of collisions dramatically increases with more ships.

The biggest change (and most obvious ones) is that they allow for larger fleet sizes, which complicates the board and requires more careful management of your ships. With more ships in play, you have to be much more aware of what ships are where, what their respective pilot skills are (e.g. their turn order), and what kind of movements and abilities each possesses. Collisions become much more frequent and harder to avoid as more ships are added, and a careless player will probably also find themself running their own ships into each other -- especially if you're trying to fly tightly-packed formations. Of course, I've never run my own ships into each other ...

Spare X-Wings and TIE Fighters

MSRP: $15 each (USD)

Perhaps the most obvious expansion is stand-alone X-Wings and TIE Fighters. These are a little bit more than a simple repackaging of the core game's components, as the stand-alone expansions include some character and upgrade cards that aren't found in the base set (such as a Wedge Antilles pilot card). This means that you can't get away with simply buying another core set (or combining your core set with a friend's core set), which would actually be slightly cheaper. At $15 a pop, if you wanted to double your fleet size, you'd have to buy 2 standalone TIE Fighters and a standalone X-Wing, which would end up costing $45 -- $5 more than simply buying a second core set. To add insult to injury, you also don't get other core set components that you may want more of, such as extra attack and defense dice - Fantasy Flight wants another $8 for those.

Star Wars: X-Wing - Swarm Tactics
The Swarm Tactics upgrades allow a high-skill TIE pilot to pass his skill rating on to other TIEs.

The TIE Fighter expansion includes a "Swarm Tactics" upgrade card that allows you to press the Empire's typical numerical advantage by allowing nearby low-level pilots to attack earlier than they should. This upgrade is available for the rebels as well, but since the rebels usually have superior pilot skill anyway, it's a much more useful card for the Empire. It's something that the rebel player would have to be very wary of if the Imperial player starts attaching it to his ships.

X-Wing and TIE Fighter grade: C

TIE Advance and Interceptor even the playing field

MSRP: $15 each (USD)

For the most part, the rebel ships tend to be superior to any given Imperial ship. This is why the core set comes with two TIE Fighters and only a single X-Wing. If your Imperial fleet is made up entirely of TIEs, then you'll probably never be able to go toe-to-toe with a comparably-sized rebel fleet. But there are some Imperial fighters that offer a little bit more bang for the buck. The Interceptor and Advance are such ships.

These two expansions come with high-skill pilots that can use Swarm Tactics to boost the skill of measly Academy Pilots to levels equal to - or superior to - most Rebel pilots. With the Swarm Tactics card available with the TIE Advance, combined with the identical card available in the TIE Fighter expansion, the Empire can potentially field multiple, cheap Academy Pilots (pilot skill of 1) that get to attack as if they have a pilot skill of 7, 8, or even 9 (if Darth Vader's TIE Advance is in play).

The TIE Interceptor and TIE Advance can hold their own against most rebel fighters.

The Interceptor is one of the fastest, most nimble ships in the game. It gets three attack dice, three defense dice, has a very wide open maneuver dial, and features the boost ability that allows it to use its action to perform another distance-1 maneuver. These little buggers are fast and can be difficult to take down, and can almost stand head-to-head with an X-Wing.

TIE Advance and Interceptor grade: B

The A-Wing is a nimble little bugger

MSRP: $15 (USD)

The A-Wing is kind of the Rebels' response to the TIE Interceptor. It's also a highly maneuverable fighter with the boost ability. The two hull and two shields gives it more total hit points than an Interceptor (but still puts it at the low end of durability for a Rebel ship), and it gets a missile upgrade slot. The downside is that it only has two attack dice. Much like the Interceptor, it has three evade dice and can use its boost ability to get out of sticky situations, or to line up shots.

The A-Wing should use its nimbleness to avoid damage long enough to deliver a missile payload.

You'll probably want to unload an A-Wing's missile payload early in the fight, as their low HP and late attacks means you shouldn't expect them to stay alive for very long in a pitched battle with high-skill Imperial pilots. All it takes is one lucky hit, and your A-Wing can be blown off the board. In one instance, I rolled blanks on all my defense dice, and my A-Wing took 2 hits and a crit. The crit was a double damage effect, and so my A-Wing went from full HP to dead in a single round of combat -- and before having unloaded its missile payload.

A-Wing grade: B

Large ships feel a little awkward

The large ships are where things start to get interesting - and kind of messy.

In general, the large ships feel kind of awkward in play. It takes a little bit to get used to their larger bases, but even once you get used to it, their movement rules feel a little weird. Obviously, the ships occupy a larger amount of space, and having multiple large ships can really eat into the available real-estate in the play area. There's no rules (that I've seen) for enlarging the play area to accommodate large ships, but I suppose there is no reason why you can't just house rule a larger area if you feel so inclined - just don't expect to participate in any formal tournaments!

Star Wars: X-Wing - large ship movement
The larger ships have awkward and counter-intuitive movement.

The larger bases also make these ships feel much faster than they maybe should. Since the movement templates are placed at the front of the ship's base, and the ship moves to the far end of the template (such that the back of the base touches the far end of the template), the ship effectively moves the length of the template plus the length of its base. This was true in the base game as well, but it wasn't an issue because all three ships in the base game were the same size. The larger ships, however, cover more distance than the smaller fighters, which (to me, at least) seems counter-intuitive because I would expect larger ships to be slower and more lumbering.

Of course, the Star Wars films themselves aren't terribly consistent in this regard either. In the first film, the Millennium Falcon doesn't engage in dogfighting with pursuing TIE Fighters. Instead, Han and Luke man a set of turrets, and the Falcon acts more like a stationary gun turret. This was probably due a limitation in special effects techniques and/or budget. In Empire Strikes Back, the ship doesn't engage directly in combat with imperial ships, and instead just runs away (and proves incredibly nimble). Nobody mans the guns because everybody is occupied either flying the ship or trying to repair it (or nagging into the pilot's ear). But by Return of the Jedi, Lando pilots the ship as a fighter, and dog fights with imperial fighters. I'm not even sure if anybody even bothered using the gun turrets in this battle. So I guess it's not really the game's fault that the movies couldn't decide whether the Millennium Falcon is a nimble fighter or a lumbering weapon platform.

The Star Wars movies also couldn't decide whether the Millennium Falcon is a weapon platform or dogfighter.

Millennium Falcon is a boring tank

MSRP: $30 (USD)

This unreconciled dichotomy persists into the board game, and the Millennium Falcon ends up feeling like the most broken of the early expansions (at least among the set of ships that I've played with). This ship feels very overpowered due to high hit points, decent speed, and 360-degree primary weapon turret. Granted, it's also a very expensive ship (in terms of in-game fleet budgets), but still feels too strong.

Star Wars: X-Wing - Millennium Falcon
With a 360-degree arc, you don't have
to think too hard about your maneuvers.

Worse yet, this ship is also kind of dull to play. The turret means that your ship's position is kind of mostly irrelevant. You don't have to worry about lining up shots. As long as you have line of sight, and are in range, you can attack. This ship can get a bit more interesting if you put some obstacles in the way and rely more on secondary weapons such as missiles (which are limited to a standard firing arc). But even then, the size of the ship makes maneuvering around or between obstacles very difficult, and you still run into the problem of the limited space of the play area.

The Falcon probably does have a very high skill ceiling though. So skilled players can likely find very creative and fun ways to use the ship (or cheap and exploitative ways). I'm definitely not that good at the game, and I doubt I'll ever be a tournament-level player. Once the novelty wears off, more casual and intermediate players (like me) might start to find this ship a bit boring.

Further, the Falcon isn't particularly interesting to play against either. Again, because of the turret, your positioning against the Falcon doesn't really matter that much. If you're in range to hit it, then it's also in range to hit you. I might like the turret primary weapon better if its range were limited to a distance of 2 when outside of the primary firing arc. That way, it would at least offer the interesting tactical challenge of trying to stay at a long enough range to shoot at it, while also keeping far enough away that it can't shoot back.

At least the ship model is gorgeous! If you're not playing a game with it, it can make for an excellent little display item if you just put it on its base and set it on a table or shelf. If it had lights on it, the Falcon expansion might be worth the $30 for the model by itself.

YT-1300 grade: C

Slave I punishes tailgaters

MSRP: $30 (USD)

The Empire's first large ship is a bit more interesting to play. The Firespray doesn't have the 360-degree firing arc. Instead, it has an auxiliary rear-facing firing arc for its primary weapon (secondary weapons are limited to its forward-facing main arc). So unlike with the Millennium Falcon, your relative positioning matters a lot more. You don't want to be right in front of a Firespray or right behind it; instead; you want to try to hit it from the sides.

Star Wars: X-Wing - Slave I proximity mine
Firesprays can deter pursuit with rear-facing auxiliary weapon arc and ability to drop bombs.

But Slave I also introduces a new mechanic: bombs. Bomb tokens are dropped behind a ship during its movement (whether its before the ship's movement or after depends on the specific bomb), which can be a rude awakening for any ships that happen to be pursuing Slave I. Slave I comes with two bombs: a small Seismic charge that automatically damages all ships within range 1 (including friendly ships -- collateral damage!); and a larger proximity mine that detonates when another ship moves through the token. The bombs aren't overwhelmingly powerful, but they can be a deciding factor if properly used. You only get a single bomb, so you have to use it wisely.

The bombs are difficult to use effectively, and you really have to be wary of dealing collateral damage. While seismic charges detonate right away, the proximity mine isn't triggered until somebody moves through it. This means that it can be used to control the battlefield. This can be particularly valuable in certain objective-based scenarios. And if your opponent tries to come at Slave I from the sides in order to avoid its weapon arcs, then Slave I can fly across their faces and drop a bomb right in their path.

These novel mechanics and unique tactical considerations make Slave I a much more enjoyable ship to play with -- or against -- than the Millennium Falcon.

Firespray 31 grade: A-

Lambda Shuttle is flimsy and difficult to use effectively

MSRP: $30 (USD)

I love the design of the Imperial Lambda Shuttle, but I was a bit surprised to see it show up as an expansion for X-Wing. It's not exactly a combat vessel. Low and behold, the version of the Lambda Shuttle presented in X-Wing is also not much of a combat vessel. It's slow, lumbering, and weak, and is predominantly used as a support ship. For the most part, the Lambda Shuttle is used to provide buffs to the Empire's other ships. Depending on which version of the shuttle you decide to play with in a given session, it might allow you to absorb stress tokens from other ships, absorb an enemy's target locks, or grant extra target locks to allied ships.

Star Wars: X-Wing - Lambda Shuttle support abilities
The Lambda Shuttle is a support ship that generally provides bonuses to other ships in your fleet.

Unfortunately, I've yet to really figure out how to use the Lambda Shuttle. I'm not saying that it's necessarily a waste of money, but you have to really know what you're doing in order to effectively use it - and even then, I'm not sure that you wouldn't be better off picking a different ship. Most of the support abilities that it can offer rely on the ship being in close range to allies, which means it has to put itself in the thick of the battle.

It typically has 5 shields and 5 hull, which is pretty sturdy. But it only has a single evade die, and is probably the single slowest and most lumbering ship in the entire game (that I've played). Further, since ships don't obstruct attacks, you can't use your faster fighter escorts to screen the shuttle. This all means that the poor shuttle takes a lot of hits, and if you don't have some other upgrade cards that allow you to negate those hits, that shuttle isn't going to last for very long. Every time I've played with it, it ends up taking a pummeling in the first couple rounds of shooting. I then either have to give up on it completely or escape to the perimeter of the arena in the hopes it'll catch a rebel ship in its arc.

Star Wars: X-Wing - Lambda Shuttle support abilities
Support abilities typically operate at short range,
forcing the shuttle into unfavorable combat.

The shuttle does make up for its general weakness by being the cheapest of all the large ships in terms of fleet-building points (being a good 10 to 30 points cheaper than a Millennium Falcon). You'll have plenty of points left over to apply multiple upgrades to your shuttle, or to field ships that actually are potent combatants. And if anything saves the Lambda Shuttle, it's the upgrade cards. There's some good ones in here, including a Darth Vader crew upgrade! The weapon strength is also pretty good (it has 3 base attack power). It's just that getting into position to actually use your weapons can be tough.

In addition to being an overall difficult ship to use, the real nail in the coffin is that the actual plastic model feels kind of flimsy. The wings can be rotated into the up or down position, but the plastic feels very weak at the joints and seams. Whenever I adjust the wings, I always feel like the ship model is going to snap or come apart at the seams. Maybe this ship has some cool function in epic or campaign games, but its overall weak combat stats and cheaply-made plastic model means that I don't really recommend this as a purchase for anyone but the most hard-core of X-Wing collectors.

Lambda Shuttle grade: D+

The Decimator declares: Ramming Speed!

MSRP: $40 (USD)

The VT-49 Decimator is an extended universe creation, which means that I probably would never have bought or played with it if it hadn't been gifted to me for my birthday or Christmas. But I'm glad that someone did go ahead and buy it for me because it's actually one of the most unique and interesting X-Wing ships that I've had the pleasure of playing. The Decimator is a ship that was designed to act as a counter to the Millennium Falcon (moreso than Slave I), and since I already owned the Falcon, it actually was a wise ship to add to my collection. It has the same 360 degree turret as the Falcon and is a pretty durable beast. But this ship's novel strategic niche is that it is specialized for dealing damage to other ships by ramming them!

Star Wars: X-Wing - Dauntless Decimator
One of the Decimator's novel possible specializations is ramming other ships.

This makes the Decimator more interesting - and therefore more fun - to play than the Falcon, and the Decimator (with this particular specialized build) might be my favorite expansion ship in my collection. It has me wondering if I should maybe open my mind a little bit and try out some of the other expanded universe ships as well.

The ship is also fairly versatile. You don't have to select the pilot or upgrade that specializes in ramming. Instead, you can chose a pilot that buffs your close-range combat damage, or another that buffs your agility after your shields go down. These pilots are a bit less interesting, since they allow the player to fall back on the more boring tactics of just circling around the middle of the battlefield, using the 360-degree firing arc to take pot shots at enemies.

VT-49 Decimator grade: A-

Expansions as a whole dramatically improve X-Wing

There's a lot more expansions for this game, and buying them all would be very expensive. There's also a few huge (epic) expansion ships, such as the Correllian Corvette "Blockade Runner" that is almost a foot long and stands on two plastic bases. That might be interesting to play with assuming that it doesn't just sit there eating up half the play area without doing much. Perhaps I'll review some of the huge ships at a future date.

In addition to being fun additions on their own, expansion ships also come with new upgrade cards that can be equipped onto the older ships that you already own; thus, giving those ships new utility that can open up new play styles and interplay with the rest of the fleet. Everything is very easily integrated into the core mechanics, meaning that you don't have to learn a whole new set of rules to make the new ships work.

I definitely recommend getting some expansion ships if you enjoy the X-Wing game, since the core set doesn't really provide enough variety for many repeat plays. Having expansions elevates the quality of the game considerably! There aren't any individual expansions that I consider to be must-haves. Whatever expansions you do decide to get, you should do a little bit of research to make sure that your Imperial and rebel fleets remain balanced against each other. You wouldn't want to buy an expensive ship like the Decimator ("expensive" in terms of both real dollar cost and in-game fleet point cost), only to find that you don't have enough rebel ships to ever field an even fight.

Now when can we expect an Imperial Walker and snowspeeder expansion?

PROS

  • Very nice, detailed, collectible-quality plastic miniatures!
  • New ships are seamlessly integrated into the core rules
  • Some ships fill novel niches that create interesting strategies
  • Allows for larger fleets and wider gameplay variety
  • New upgrades can improve your older ships as well

CONS

  • Cost really adds up!
  • Movement of large ships feels counter-intuitive
  • Millennium Falcon feels overpowered and bland
  • Lambda Shuttle requires skill and cleverness to even be viable, and the model feels flimsy

FINAL GRADE FOR LARGE SHIP EXPANSIONS: B

Note: This is a review of expansion content only.
Please click here for my review of the base game.

Manufacturer: Fantasy Flight
Lead Designer: Jay Little
Original release: 2013 (Wave I), 2013 (Wave II-III), 2014 (Wave IV-V)
Player(s): 2-players
Game Length: 1-2 hours
Official site: fantasyflightgames.com/en/products/x-wing/

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