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Star Wars X-Wing 2nd edition miniatures game

I finally got around to playing some games of Fantasy Flight's second edition of the X-Wing Miniatures Game. I had bought the 2.0 core set and the 1.0 conversion kits back in October of last year. I was on the fence about purchasing 2nd edition. The only change that I was really excited about was the new turret rules, which I figured I could easily house-rule into 1st edition. However, I used my girlfriend's teacher discount at Barnes & Noble along with a coupon to get a hefty discount on the 2.0 core set and conversion kits, in the hopes that the game's other changes would also make it worthwhile.

Older ships have new abilities,
and tokens flip to a "spent" backside.

Fantasy Flight took the opportunity to streamline many components and add some ease-of-use features. For example, the maneuver dials are redesigned such that you can see every maneuver that the ship has available without having to rotate the dial. Upgrade cards have large, empty spaces that allow you to slot them underneath their respective pilot's card without covering up important information. Ship bases and maneuver templates have handy guidelines that can be helpful when executing partial maneuvers (due to collisions). And so forth.

Tokens have been broken up into different colors, each of which has a different effect. All green tokens (such as "focus" and "evade") are now buff tokens which are removed at the end of the round (unless a card says otherwise). Orange tokens are de-buffs (such as "disarm") that go away at the end of the round. And red penalty tokens (such as "ion" and "stress") remain in play until a certain condition removes them. Shield tokens now have a back side, which is colored red. This way, you can flip a shield token over when it's spent, but keep it on your ship card in case it ever gets recharged. The new energy and force tokens work the same way.

Better still, many features, concepts, and abilities from later expansions to 1st edition have been back-ported to all ships in 2nd edition. This has certainly increased the value of simple X-Wings, Y-Wings, and many other early 1st edition ships. The titular X-Wings, for example, now have a barrel roll ability on its card and a Talon Roll on its maneuver dial. The Lambda shuttle is one of the most improved ships in second edition, as it now has both a fore and aft-facing firing arc, as well as new "coordinate" and "jam" actions.

I appreciate that expansion ships are sold in smaller, more efficient packaging.

Heck, even the packaging is more streamlined. The massive boxes for 1st edition's large ships (which were full of empty space) have been replaced with smaller plastic bubble-packaging.

The same component mistakes as 1st edition? And then some...

Despite all the general improvements that have been made to the game's components, I find myself incredibly frustrated with Fantasy Flight for their decision to repeat mistakes made by first edition -- not to mention making new ones. Just like with first edition, Fantasy Flight decided (and it must have been a deliberate design choice this time around!) to not include enough physical components in the core set to actually fully resolve basic outcomes within the game. Just like with first edition, there are only three red and three green dice, and just like in first edition, the basic (un-modded) X-Wing included in the core set rolls four attack dice at range 1, and basic (un-modded) TIEs roll four defense dice at range 3.

The dice haven't changed since first edition, so if you owned first edition, you can add your old dice for a total of six attack and six defense dice. Even so, is it really too much to ask for Fantasy Flight to have included one more of each die?

Just like with 1st ed, the core set only includes 3 attack and 3 defense dice --
not enough to resolve attacks with range modifiers.

Further, the game does not include enough copies of some of the upgrade cards for players to be able to put the card on all the ships that use it. For example, the recommended "Escalation" rules (more on this later) pit a pre-built version of Jek Porkins against a pre-built version of Iden Versio, both of whom have the "Outmaneuver" upgrade. But there's only one "Outmaneuver" card in the box. Both players are going to have to share the one card and remember that both ships have it because there aren't two cards to slide under each pilot card.

The core set also only comes with four shield tokens, which is exactly enough to equip all the core ships with a Shield Upgrade card. The 1st edition upgrade kits do not, however, include any additional shield tokens! I guess I'd have to buy 2nd edition expansions if I wanted more 2nd edition shield tokens. When we've been too lazy to break out some old 1st edition shield tokens (which lack the "exhausted" back-side), we often make due by using force tokens or cloak tokens.

The core set only includes 4 shield tokens [LEFT], and no extras in conversion kits.
We've been using force or cloak tokens [RIGHT] as makeshift shields.

There's similarly not enough target lock tokens. The core set comes with target lock tokens (and corresponding ship ID tokens) up to 6. It's more than enough to play with the core ships, but not enough for larger engagements. A single TIE swarm built using the default 200 squad points can easily use up all six IDs and target lock tokens, leaving the Rebel or Scum player with none for their ships. Again, the 1st edition conversion kits do not come with any additional ID or target lock tokens.

The conversion kits come with additional focus tokens, plenty of orange tokens, and a handful of cloak tokens (which I've never used except as makeshift shield tokens). But shield tokens, evade tokens, stress tokens, and target lock tokens are in extremely limited supply. These kits are expensive! Is Fantasy Flight seriously too stingy to include an extra sheet of cardboard cutouts? Or are they just inept?! Or are they planning on selling "Shield token expansion packs" alongside the dice expansions?

We can't play the game with what's in the box?!

What frustrates me even more, however, is that Fantasy Flight decided to not include any squad-building point values on any of the game's cards. In first edition, the squad point cost of every pilot and upgrade was clearly listed in the corner of the card. Players could agree to a point total, then look through the cards to create a squad that added up to that point total. You didn't need any materials outside of the game components themselves.

Cards do not include squad-building point costs.

Now, Fantasy Flight requires players to need to download a mobile app for building squads, which means that the components packaged within the game do not provide enough information to actually play the game! If you don't have a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or computer handy (with an internet connection), you can't use the squad-building rules because you won't know how much everything costs.

This wouldn't be so bad, if not for the fact that the official version of the squad-building app that was available at the release of second edition is somehow worse than the free, third-party apps that existed for first edition. Far worse.

X-Wing Squadron Builder

My girlfriend and I used Extrebit's X-Wing Squadron Builder app. It worked great, and we loved it. Seriously, if you're still playing 1st edition, then go and download Extrebit's Squad Builder app! It's fantastic! At least one or two other similar apps existed, but Extrebit's is the one that I used, so I can't speak to the quality of the others.

The official second edition app (developed by Fantasy Flight) was buggy, lacked certain usability features, lacked descriptions for certain cards or abilities (which meant you also needed the physical cards in front of you so you can read what they do), and had numerous other problems. As of the time of this writing, many of these problems are still present, and the app still requires the user to log into a server (over the internet) in order to save or load a squad list.

The official squad-building app for 2nd edition is far inferior to the free, 3rd party apps for 1st ed.

Now, to be fair to Fantasy Flight, there is a valid reason for why they would want players to defer to an app for squad point costs. This allows the costs to be fluid over the lifetime of the game, such that Fantasy Flight can change the relative costs of cards the same way that a video game developer might patch a video game to fix a bug or remove an exploit. This allows Fantasy Flight to re-balance the game and maintain competitive parity as certain strategies are found to be dominant, or as new expansions further change the relative value of old cards. In first edition, tournament players had to rely on official FAQs for such revisions. Having an official app to handle this is a valid decision.

They could have printed default point costs on cards,
just like what was done for 1st ed.

However, that only applies to tournament-level players. Casual players aren't going to be paying attention to the meta of the game or caring if some card is one point too expensive or too cheap compared to another card. Casual players (which almost certainly makes up a majority of the player-base) just want to play the damn game! Those players shouldn't be dependent on an outside source as a reference for how to set up the game. That's just such a huge inconvenience.

What if I took the game with me on a vacation to a cabin in the woods (with no reliable internet) so that we can play it in the evenings after a day of hiking or kayaking or picnicking? That's a perfectly valid use-case for a board game, which is why rental cabins are regularly stocked with common family games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Yahtzee, Uno, Trivial Pursuit, Sorry, Life, and so forth. In that case, we wouldn't have access to download the app, load up a saved build, or look up point values online. Furthermore, what if, in 10 years, Fantasy Flight stops supporting the game because they lose the Star Wars license -- or they go out of business, as unlikely as that may be -- and the app isn't available anymore? Players would similarly be screwed.

Vacation cabins likely won't be stocking X-Wing if
the game requires an internet connection to play.

Fantasy Flight should have just printed the default ("vanilla") costs on the cards as a reference for non-competitive play, and released the app for use in tournaments and competitive-level play. The competitive players will be looking up FAQs anyway, so it's not like changing the value that is printed on the card is going to inconvenience them. Heck, most of them would probably re-buy or print out their own copies of cards with the updated costs anyway.

At the very least, they should have included a small insert with all the default point values and available upgrade slots for each ship listed on it. That way, I can open up the box and play the game without needing any other outside resources.

When I first opened up the packaging and saw that point values were not on the cards, I joked to my girlfriend "In six months, they're going to expect us to shell out another $40 for third edition, which will be exactly the same as second edition, but with the point values on the cards."

Picard facepalm

Fantasy Flight makes up for this slightly by including "quick build" cards with pre-built squads... But only for the core set! No such quick build cards are included in the conversion kits, and I have no idea if any are included in any of the 2nd edition expansions.

But it gets worse

The 2nd edition squad-building app is also a useability nightmare. The UI is clunky and cumbersome to navigate. My friends and I have repeatedly pressed the wrong "go back" or "cancel" buttons, and wound up accidentally removing a ship or card that we didn't want to remove, or (worse yet) accidentally exited to the main menu, with the app having clobbered the entire squad we were in the middle of building.

I can't sort or filter my saved squads, or track win/loss/draw stats, as I could with the 3rd-party 1st ed app.

You can't view descriptions of cards unless you activate the "edit" mode. There's no sorting or filtering options for your saved squads, nor can you keep track of win/loss/draw results for each squad to track how effective that particular build is. You can't set your own custom squad point totals. If you want to do that, you have to log into the desktop version of the app to set up and save a custom ruleset, then import it into your mobile app.

This app includes a "My Collection" menu, which allows you to save which expansions and packs you have. But if you have the 1st edition conversion kits, the app doesn't allow you to specify which specific 1st edition ships/packs you own. The app assumes that you have the models for all of the ships in the conversion kits. But it wouldn't matter anyway, because the app apparently lets you create squads with any ships or cards, whether they're in your collection or not! So what is the point of even letting me save my collection?

The app doesn't tell you how many copies of a given upgrade card you have in your collection. There's also no way (that I've seen) to share your collection with other players who you commonly play with. I had to send a text message to my friends with a list of all the ships I own so that they could reference it when they build their own squads.

I can't specify which 1st edition ships I own the models for, but it lets me add ships I don't own to a build anyway.

All of those missing (or poorly-implemented) features that I just listed are features that were available on the third-party app that I used for 1st edition. It seems pretty apparent to me that Fantasy Flight outsourced the development of this app to people who don't actually play the game, and therefore didn't know or understand what players would actually want from the app -- even though all they had to do was copy the existing third-party app that was made by a person (or people) who clearly played the game regularly and fully understood the needs and wants of the end-users.

Seriously! How did they screw this up so badly?!

Do improved rules offset components and app frustrations?

So, once my friends and I were able to get through using the atrocious app to get our squads set up and actually start playing the game, how'd it go? Well, this is still the same, great X-Wing game that it always was -- more or less. Mostly more.

Turrets reward good flying!

Perhaps my favorite gameplay change (and the rule change that essentially sold me on the 2nd edition in general) is the new turret rules. Basically, every turret is treated like the "mobile firing arc" that was introduced in 1st edition's "Shadowcaster" Lancer Pursuit expansion. This was one of my favorite rules in 1st edition, and as soon as I played with the Shadow Caster for the first time, I thought to myself "this is how all turrets should work!" Apparently, Fantasy Flight agreed.

Turrets must be pointed in a specific direction, leaving blind spots in the ship's arcs each round.
For example, the Falcon can only target the Imperial shuttle this round because
it is colliding with the Decimator and does not have its turret facing the TIE Interceptor.

One of my biggest complaints with 1st edition's expansions was the boring turret rules. Basically, turrets in first edition were basically just primary weapons that could fire in any direction. Any ship within range 3 of a turret could be attacked. Relative positioning didn't matter, and there was very little strategy regarding how you piloted and maneuvered your ship(s) with a turret, or how an opponent would approach and attack a ship with a turret.

Some turrets point in opposing directions.

This is one of the reasons that I liked the Firespray (Slave I) expansion so much, since that ship had only a fore and rear firing arc (and bombs). The blind spots on its port and starboard provided opportunity for skillful maneuvering to put an opponent ship out of reach of the Firespray's guns. Positioning was more important, and piloting with or against the Firespray was fun and interesting. Even ships like the HWK freighter offered a slight improvement to the turret rules. The HWK had a turret as an optional upgrade card, but it only had a range of 2. This meant that a skilled pilot could keep at range 3 and be able to avoid the HWK's turret, which provided at least some strategy to maneuvering and positioning the ships.

In 2nd edition, ships with turrets have a little pointer dial on their base that must be rotated to point to one of the four sides of the base. The turret can only fire in the direction that the dial points to, and the pilot must use an action to rotate the turret during the ship's activation. Most ships with turrets don't even have forward-facing primary arcs; the turret is their only primary weapon! This means that every ship has blind spots in its attack radius, whether it uses a turret or not. That blind spot may change from turn to turn, but there will be a blind spot for an enemy to potentially exploit. Proper maneuvering (and anticipating your opponent's moves) is now critical to success with all ships (including those with turrets).

Gunner Luke can re-aim your turret before firing,
but he costs as much as a whole ship!

Some turrets are also two-sided, pointing in opposing directions. This allows the relevant ship to attack in one of either opposing directions (forward and backwards, or port and starboard). The Rebels also have the Luke Skywalker turret gunner upgrade, which can rotate the turret at the start of the engagement phase (instead of during the ship's movement), which guarantees that the relevant ship will be able to aim its turret at an enemy. However, this card is ridiculously expensive as far as upgrades go, costing 26 squad points (as of this writing). Adding this upgrade to your ship (and it's a named card, so only one ship can have this upgrade!) has the opportunity cost of not being able to field an additional ship. This gunner upgrade seriously costs as much as a cheap Z-95, and almost as much as a base Y-Wing, or A-Wing!

The Force is strong with 2nd edition

The other big change is the inclusion of charge and Force tokens. Secondary weapons, some upgrade cards, and some pilots now come with a new "Energy Charge" token. These tokens act as counters for how many times (or how often) certain abilities can be used. Some charge abilities will also recharge each game round (or from some other effect), allowing the ability to be used once per game round (or only under specific conditions). Weapons like torpedoes and missiles will generally come with 2 charges, allowing you to fire the weapon up to 2 times. Further, most ordinance upgrades no longer require you to spend the target lock (or focus) to make the attack, meaning that lock (or focus) is available for modifying the dice results of that same special weapon's attack. This makes you much less likely to whiff with your expensive torpedo or missile!

Most ordinance can be fired multiple times, and do not consume your target locks to do so!

These two changes combine to make consumable special weapons much more valuable (assuming your ship survives long enough to use them). As such, these upgrades are also a lot more costly (as you'll discover when you download the app, since the cards don't specify the cost). For example, a Proton Torpedo upgrade has tripled in cost from 4 points (in 1st edition) to 12 points (in 2nd edition) (as of the time of this writing).

Because of this, I kind of wish there were cheaper, 1-charge missiles and torpedoes available for when you're a few squad points shy of 200. Ah well. Maybe in expansions?

Some pilots and character upgrades also include new Force powers, which require spending a Force token in order to use. This does a good job of separating the Force-sensitive characters from the average Joes and Janes of X-Wing, while also setting hard limits on how often these powers can be used. These Force abilities and tokens work almost identically to energy charge abilities, except that they use a different token as the "fuel".

Luke's Force ability makes him nigh impossible to damage with just the core set's TIEs.

I do question the balance of some of these Force powers. This is a new mechanic to 2nd edition, so I assume it's going to take Fantasy Flight a while to perfectly tune them. Luke Skywalker's pilot card (in the core set), for instance, has a capacity of 2 Force tokens (one of which recharges each game round) and an ability that recharges 1 Force token every time he is the defender of an attack. Those Force tokens can be used to convert eyeball die results to evades. At least one token is going to be available every time Luke defends, since the pilot card does not specify "once per round". This (especially combined with the R2-D2 upgrade card, which can repair shields) makes it nearly impossible for the two TIE Fighters in the core set to deal damage to Luke with their measly two attack dice.

Bullseye!

Another more subtle (but very significant) rule is the new "bullseye" mechanic. This is something that was added in some late expansions for 1st edition. I never owned any of the ships that included it, so this mechanic is new in 2nd edition, as far as I'm concerned.

Every ship base includes a narrow window within its forward and aft-facing arcs called a "bullseye arc". It points straight ahead (or behind) the ship. Attacking a target within this narrow arc does not have any inherent effect, but some upgrades may grant additional bonuses or unlock additional attacks for targets within this arc. The Heavy Laser Cannon, for instance, can only be used within the bullseye arc at range 2 or 3, and attacks with four attack dice! The Crack Shot upgrade allows you to cancel an opponent's evade dice if the target is in your bullseye arc. These cards aren't very expensive either. The Heavy Laser Cannon is only 4 squad points, and the Crack Shot talent is only 1 point!

Don't bother equipping bullseye upgrades unless you're confident you can line up the shots.

It's very difficult to line up a bullseye shot, but these cards can be very effective if you can use them even just a couple times in a match. I would guess that the bullseye arc is probably the single mechanic (above all others) that separates tournament-level players from the chaffe of casual players. If so, I certainly fall into the category of "casual". I still regularly run my ships into each other when trying to fly in formation, and I still regularly mis-judge the templates and fail to line up shots in the regular firing arcs.

Good ideas tarnished by lazy production

The core rules also include a new game mode called "Escalation". This play mode allows you to hold some ships in reserve (off the board), and bring them into play to replace other ships that have been destroyed. For example, if you only have the core set, you only have a single X-Wing and two TIEs. Under the Escalation rules, if the Rebel's X-Wing is destroyed, that player swaps out the base and cards with another pre-built pilot, and then brings that same X-Wing miniature back onto the board (with a different pilot) against the Empire's remaining TIE(s). Similarly, if the Empire loses one of its two TIEs, he or she can replace that destroyed TIE with another pilot and bring the same miniature back into the battle.

This is a neat idea that allows players to play larger squad engagements with fewer pieces, or with a more manageable number of ships in play at any one time. If you can't afford to buy multiple expansions, you can still enjoy longer matches with more pilots.

Escalation allows you to re-use a destroyed ship as a new pilot, enabling larger matches with fewer components.

However, like with everything else about 2nd edition, even this great idea is tarnished by poor decisions in the game's production design. None of the conversion kits included cards for Escalation quick builds. The core rulebook does not include clear rules for how to build a proper Escalation squad. How do you determine "Threat Level" with a custom-built squad? Is there a point budget for the starting ships? Is there a point budget for the reinforcing ships? How do players decide which ships are deployed at the start and which ship(s) have to wait in reserve? Even the app does not include anything about Escalation quick builds!

Picard double facepalm

Why does every step forward from this game have to be accompanied by a step or two back?

I have a few other, nagging complaints, like how some upgrade cards from 1st edition do not have an equivalent upgrade in second edition. For example, the conversion kit includes pilots for the Rebel's stolen TIE Fighter (Sabine's TIE), but it doesn't (as far as I've seen) include any equivalent of the Captured TIE upgrade card, which allowed the stolen TIE to masquerade as an Imperial ship until it makes a surprise attack. I thought that card was the whole point of the Sabine TIE expansion! Why would you not port that over?

There's no "Captured TIE" upgrade in the conversion kits?

And why does the Scum faction still not have even a single generic "Smuggler" or "Pirate" pilot for the YT-1300 or YT-2400 freighters? Scum can re-purpose Rebel Z-Wings, Y-Wings, and HWK freighters, so why not YTs? While on the topic of pilots switching factions: why isn't there a "Hired Mercenary" or "Writ of Marque" upgrade (whether it be a talent or illicit) that allows Scum pilots to play in another faction's squads?

Then there's the much more frustrating fact that 2nd edition does not currently have any support for the huge / epic ships that I spent literally hundreds of dollars on! As far as I know, there are no current plans to add official rules for them. It probably wouldn't be too hard to house-rule the epic ships into 2nd edition (by doubling the costs of the ships and upgrades), but it would still be nice to have official rules for 2nd edition, and clarifications regarding confusions we had with the epic rules in 1st edition.

In summary, X-Wing is a fantastic miniature game, and second edition is a better version of it. I've been playing it almost every week -- at least 2 sessions a month -- with a couple friends since we unboxed it back in January or February.

Yet, it's really hard for me to recommend this package, especially to those who already own and play first edition. Fantasy Flight made too many omissions, cut too many corners, and flat-out made terrible decisions in the design and production of the components for this game. While they showed definite signs of learning from past mistakes or oversights (mostly involving game balance), they doubled-down on the nagging material issues that plagued first edition, for [what I can only assume are] nefarious corporate reasons. They had to have known better, but they did it anyway.

Fantasy Flight has not announced any plans to convert epic ships into 2nd edition,
so they sit, collecting dust on my shelf while everything else gets plenty of use.

WHAT I LIKE about X-Wing 2nd edition

  • Upgrade kits (sold separately) allow you to re-purpose 1st edition ships for play in 2nd edition
  • Entire game has been re-balanced for competitive play
  • Improves rules for turret weapons
  • "Escalation" rules allow for larger-scale skirmishes with fewer components
  • Across-the-board usability and component improvements and streamlining
  • Pre-made builds allow players to jump straight into the action
  • Core rulebook includes rules for expansion content

WHAT I DON'T LIKE about X-Wing 2nd edition

  • Point values are not listed on cards
  • Official squad-building app is far inferior to third-party apps for first edition
  • Not enough dice or upgrade cards to play recommended core set builds
  • Not enough shield, evade, or target lock tokens for 200-pt squads
  • Some Force powers seem unbalanced
  • No support for huge/epic ships?!
  • Some fun upgrade cards from 1st ed are not adapted for 2nd ed conversion kits
  • Some rules are covered in Quick Start guide, but not in the core rulebook?
  • No rules for custom squad-building using Escalation?
  • A quick reference sheet of changes from 1st edition would have been welcome

FINAL GRADE for X-Wing 2nd edition game: A

FINAL GRADE for X-Wing 2nd edition components: D+

Note: This is a review of the 2nd edition of X-Wing.
Please click here for my review of 1st edition.

Manufacturer: Fantasy Flight
Lead Designer: Jay Little
Original release: October 2018
MSRP: $40 USD
Player(s): 2-players
Game Length: 45-120 minutes
Official site: www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/products/x-wing-second-edition/

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