So after playing a handful of Star Trek Attack Wing Organized Play games this week (Dominion War Months 2 and 3), I think it might be handy to give a brief run-down of the two systems for a number of you may be looking at starting one or more of these games. With Christmas around the corner, it’s not a bad time to start looking into your wish list!
It’s pretty common knowledge that the Attack Wing ruleset is based on Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing rules. They licensed the rules out to Wizkids, makers of Heroclix, who then went insane and pumped out a ton of cards in record time, since they already had compatible miniatures designed for the aforementioned Heroclix.
The core mechanics are extremely elegant. You don’t need a 20 pound hardcover rulebook to play either game. Instead, you get a short pamphlet style rulebook and a pile of dice, cards and tokens in either game’s core set. All movement is done via templates, and you must select all of your moves in secret before revealing them in order of ascending pilot skill/captain skill. Less experienced pilots move first and shoot last, while the most experienced pilots move last and shoot first. Each ship class also has its own manoeuvre dial, which tells you what types of turns they can make. Some are very flexible, while others steer like a brick. Combined with their stats and other abilities, this allows each ship to have its own unique playstyle, strengths and weaknesses in the game.
The damage is worked out via dice, and damage cards are assigned to ships. Once they have reached the maximum amount of damage listed on their card, you can make explosion noises and they are removed.
Sounds pretty simple, and for the most part it is. The core rules are beautifully elegant, and unlike many starship battle systems you don’t have to look up reference charts or tables during the game to play. I do hesitate to call the rules “simple” because that doesn’t really reflect all of the subtlety involved in estimating ranges, trying to figure out where your opponent is going to go, and trying to avoid tripping your own ships up by breaking formation and flying into each other. Like they say about poker, the game is easy to learn and difficult to master. The same applies here.
Add to that a plethora of upgrade cards to customize your ships and their abilities, and you get endless variation in gameplay. With new ships coming out regularly for both systems, the game will be fresh for a long time.
The format and associated cost to play each game is just about the same. Each game comes with a Core Set featuring all the rules, dice, markers and templates you will need to play — plus three of the ships. X-wing comes with one X-wing and two TIE fighters, while Attack Wing comes with a Federation Galaxy Class, Rumulan Warbird, and Klingon Vor’cha. Core sets retail around $40, while individual ships cost $15. Some of the large ships in X-wing (i.e., the iconic Millennium Falcon, Firespray-31 and Lambda Shuttle) are much bigger and cost $30.
Overall, you’re looking at around $75 to put together a nice starter fleet with an extra ship or two for options. To get everything, plus doubles, it can rapidly get up to a couple hundred bucks. Still, it’s way cheaper than virtually any tabletop game like Warmachine, Warhammer or 40k.
One of the slightly sticky things about these games is the availability of upgrade cards. There are plenty in the starter sets, but each individual expansion comes with some generic cards as well as exclusives that you can’t get elsewhere. Not a huge issue for casual play, but competitive games may require you to buy, borrow or trade with other players beforehand, as you are required to own original copies of all the used cards by your fleet.
For example, depending on its role the B-wing works great with either a Heavy Laser Cannon or Advanced Sensors but they come with Ion Cannons, Autoblasters and Fire Control Systems (among several other cards). If you want the big guns, you have to get the Firespray-31 or Lambda Shuttle expansions, or arrange a trade with another player who might want cards that you have from sets they don’t want to buy. This is something of a marketing ploy to sell more ships, but it also makes sense in that every ship can’t come with every possible upgrade available to it. There’s just too many cards! The same applies to Attack Wing. Some expansions have great ships you’ll want in your fleet, while others might just have a weapon or crew card that you want.
Virtually everybody I talk to that plays Attack Wing admits that the models aren’t terrible, but they do kinda suck compared to X-wing. They have less fine detail and the factory paint jobs are very basic. Let’s just look at a few examples:
This is a small selection of the ships, and some of them look better in person than others, but it gives you an idea of what to expect. The Attack Wing ships represent their designs faithfully, but the quality of the miniatures just isn’t quite there. Don’t get me wrong, Attack Wing miniatures are 100% playable right out of the box, but most gamers who are used to painting their own models insist on re-painting Attack Wing ships, while their X-wing ships only get re-painted for pleasure and not necessity.
For the purists out there, the X-wing ships are generally all in 1/270 scale. There is a notable size difference between a light, fast A-wing and a bulky TIE Bomber, just as there should be. Some of the future releases may be a little bit off just for the sake of playability, but for now they are much more accurate than with the Star Trek game, where the scale is approximate at best.
What Attack Wing lacks somewhat in quality, they make up for in quantity of releases. Since Wizkids has been making Heroclix miniatures for a while now, they have a ton of ships in “close enough” scale that they can just print new cards for and shove out the door every two months. As such, they tend to release approximately four ships every two months, while X-wing does four ships about twice per year.
X-wing is also getting a few themed expansions, such as Imperial Aces and the Rebel Transport, which will provide scenarios, new pilots, and some massive scale ships to play with. The Tantive IV looks to be around 8-10″ long, where most standard X-wing and Attack Wing ships are maybe 1.5″ across on average.
X-wing has been out longer and so there are plenty of ships available, but Attack Wing is definitely expanding more rapidly. Attack Wing also technically has a lot more factions than X-wing, but this isn’t always an issue as anybody can fight anybody else, and you can mix races rather freely when building your ship (paying a small penalty to do so). In X-wing you can use upgrade cards from the other faction, but you can’t mix Imperial and Rebel ships themselves in the same squad.
Both games also suffer a bit from availability issues. Simply put, they are too popular for their own good! X-wing is maybe a bit worse, as some ships tend to go months without a resupply from the manufacturer. Y-wings and TIE Advanced seem to be the two hardest to find kits at the moment.
Community Support and Gaming Events
As both games are proving to be very popular, the community support has been excellent. There are plenty of gamers playing; in fact many of them play both systems!
I would probably have to say that X-wing has a bit more mature of a gamer community, with plenty of blogs, forums and squadron builder websites available for use. This makes it easy to research new releases, strategies and even find groups to play with. All of these are very good things.
Attack Wing on the other hand has a pronounced advantage in terms of event planning by the manufacturer. Fantasy Flight also does tournament packages and seasonal Organized Play packs with prizes and promotional materials (I have played both and they are plenty of fun), but Wizkids is taking it to another level with Attack Wing.
Currently they are running an Organized Play event for the Dominion War, as seen on Deep Space 9. Each month has had unique scenarios (like beaming troops down to fight over a planet during Month 3), as well as new cards and abilities to use with your fleet. There are also limited edition “prize ships” to be won, which are not available for purchase. League kits come with three ships, two to give away to participants and one for the volunteer running the event. This provides a lot of prestige, and some of the ships have strong abilities that you might want to use.
The grand prize for the Dominion War is the actual miniature for Deep Space 9. This thing is going to be a monster, as the cardboard template used to simulate DS9 earlier in the campaign was almost the size of a dinner plate. Once again, these ships will be in high demand as they won’t be available to purchase off the shelf. Expect to pay a couple hundred bucks (at least) for this on eBay once the campaign has concluded!
Overall Impressions and Personal Preference
This is getting pretty lengthy, so I will wrap it up in “tale of the tape” format 🙂
Both games are very similar. The core mechanics are more or less the same, and you can collect a good sized fleet without breaking the bank. The biggest differences (aside from fanbase allegiance) may be felt by the most active players; there are slightly more engaging events out there to play in for Attack Wing, with plenty of prize support from Wizkids. On the flipside, many avid gamers will have to put a lot of work into painting up their Attack Wing ships to make them look as good as the factory paint jobs for X-wing miniatures.
Personally, I prefer X-wing right now since I was always a little bit more fond of the setting and I can paint the miniatures at my leisure. The rules are also a little bit less rowdy; the upgrades are usually subtle in effect and elevating yourself from casual gamer to tournament winner is less about what army list you create and more about how you use it.
Attack Wing on the other hand has some downright savage abilities in it. They are not necessarily cheap, and they do come with downsides (e.g., when cloaked you have to drop your shields but you gain 4 bonus evade dice (most ships only come with 1 or 2 naturally!) and the enemy can’t lock on to you to fire torpedoes). Many of the ships also allow you to add 2-3 Crew Members, each with their own unique skills and bonuses. The combos get pretty crazy, and Klingons rolling a dozen attack dice on a single shot with re-rolls is not an uncommon occurrence. Compare that to X-wing, where rolling 4-5 attack dice is almost as good as it gets!
Both games require a lot of talent, planning and judgement to master (not to mention luck with the dice), but I do feel that X-wing is slightly more about your piloting skills and Star Trek is more about your ability to stack upgrades and execute some killer combos.
This makes a lot of sense due to the scale of the games; X-wing is mostly about individual fighters duelling in the void, whereas Star Trek has bigger ships, each with their own unique complement of crew members and weapons with which to accomplish various missions. In other words, X-wing is more adept at recreating small-scale combat between individuals, but Star Trek Attack Wing is perhaps better suited to specific scenarios and narrative campaigns.
Realistically, it’s hard to make a bad choice with these games. Both are a lot of fun and use similar rules to deliver a different style of battles. I highly recommend both of them; however, only X-wing has Boba Fett so it wins any and all tie-breakers.
So that’s my opinion. What do you think? By all means, discuss which game you would recommend most in the comments or on the Facebook page! I’d love to hear what you think, and I’ll probably see some of you soon on the tabletop!