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September 25. 2012 11:54AM

Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club

Red 5 standing by to take on imperial strike force


 

If you're as big a Star Wars geek as I am, you probably know that Red 5 was Luke Skywalker's designation during the Battle of Yavin in the original 'Star Wars' movie. Now, you can be Luke or any of the other rebel alliance pilots - or even the evil empire. I talked about the new X-Wing miniatures game last month after GenCon. X-Wing (from Fantasy Flight Games) was in limited release, but last week it hit hobby stores as well as chains such as Target and is widely available.


The basic game set retails for $40 and comes with an X-wing and two TIE fighters (the bad guy ships) plus all the cards, tokens, dice and other items you need to play the game.

You also can buy expansion packs that contain extra X-Wings, Y-Wings (more rebel ships), TIE fighters and TIE advanced ships (this last one comes with the pilot card for Darth Vader) for $15 a pack, which includes the ship and cards and speed dial for it. New ships, including the Millennium Falcon, will be out later this year.

Because it's Star Wars, I was going to buy it anyway. But having the Star Wars brand on it is not enough. The game has to be good. And X-Wing is a really good game. Fantasy Flight Games is known for quality, and X-Wing does not disappoint.

The components are outstanding. The ships come prepainted, and they are probably the best prepainted miniatures I have seen in any game. The cards and other items in the game are also excellent.

So how does the game work?

Well, one of the great things about the game is that there's no reason you can't have large games with several players. I've played with as few as two players and as many as eight, and the game is still fast and fun.

For ease of discussion, let's assume it's a two-player game.

One player picks the rebel alliance, and the other gets the empire. Decide on a points value for the game and build your fleet of ships.

To pick ships, you decide which pilots to use, from cheap, low-level rookies right out of the academy to the big names, including Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. You can also add upgrades to the ships, such as better weapons or droids such as R2D2. Each turn, you set a special speed dial, and then in order of the pilot's skill number, you complete your moves by using special rulers. If you choose to move ahead three and turn right, you place that ruler in front of your ship and move it to the end of the ruler.

Fast and easy.

You can then pick an action, such as focusing on shooting or evading enemy fire. Then, again using pilot skill numbers, you take turns firing at the enemy ships with special eight-sided dice. There are a few other nuances, but nothing too complex.

One of the best things the game does is capture the feeling of the ships and pilots. A TIE fighter is fast but fragile, while a Y-Wing is slow but deadly in combat. Vader is unmatched as a pilot, etc.

As for what to play the game on, there's no reason you can't play on your kitchen table or even the floor. If you want to make the surface look more like space, throw down a black square of felt or blanket. Or go all out and paint a special board complete with stars and planets.X-Wing is an excellent introduction to miniatures games, and kids should be able to handle it, as well, with a little help, depending on their reading, skill and ability to comprehend rules. I highly recommend the game.

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Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. He is the author of two fantasy novels: 'Prophecy of Shadows' and 'Plains of the Past.' Check out his 'Nerdherders' podcast on iTunes and nerdherderspodcast. com. His email address is iclark@unionleader.com.


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