Tag Archives: Star Wars

Battle of the Heroes – Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game review

Confession time. I never actually watched any of the Star Wars movies until I went to University. On discovering this horrific fact, one day in late 1993, a guy I was sharing a flat with called Ian locked me in a room with Episodes IV, V and VI (you know, the good ones) and refused to let me out until I had watched all three back to back. Which I did. And I was converted, realising the error of my ways.

Now I understand the importance of the (in)actions of one simple stormtrooper who could have changed the course of history in a galaxy far, far away. I know that Han shot first (of course he would, he’s a badass). And most important of all, I have learned to hate that stupid Gungan with a fiery passion.

however, the thing that really grabbed me during that first proper viewing of the Original Trilogy were the battles in space. The howl of a Tie Fighter as it shot across the screen, the mosquito-like X-Wings coming to an end as they attempted to take down the might of the Death Star… it was incredible to see how well realised they were in a bunch of movies that I’d previously completely disregarded. And now we get to live out the experience ourselves in the rather glorious form of the brand new Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game.

Oh my. Never has so much joy come from such a small amount of plastic.

There’s little wonder why this eagerly awaited package has been snapped up quickly by gamers from all around the world. Just looking at the front of the box makes your average nerd salivate like a dog – there are two splendidly realised miniature TIE Fighters and a X-Wing right there! Look at their inherent beauty! Who wouldn’t want them? Then you open up the box, punch out a pile of tokens, grab the quickstart rules and away you go…

Fantasy Flight Games, the creators of X-Wing, have realised that the folks who play it want to get down to business in minutes. They want to be flying around the table making pew-pew noises from the moment they open the box, so you’ll be pleased to know that playing the game is gloriously straightforward. Each player chooses a vessel and a character card, each of which are marked with various stats that will affect how you play. You also grab a movement dial (FFG seem to be loving dials lately, don’t they?), a handful of tokens and then it’s time to fight.

See? Dials! Also, those things with the numbers on them are what you use to do your movements.

The objective is simple – wipe out the opponent. Select how far you’ll travel first by secretly choosing a move on the dial; some may cause stress on your ship meaning you’ll be limited in future actions, so always be aware of what you’re doing! Once you’ve moved, you get to attack as long as you’re in range of an enemy; you can fire off a few shots by rolling the custom dice that come with the starter set and they’ll do the same in a hopeful bid to cancel out your results. Do enough damage and you’ll blow them into the vacuum of space, then go on to rule the galaxy… all in around twenty minutes.

Each vessel’s card also has some special abilities that you may be able to use as well, from using the Force (of course) in order to change a dice roll, pull evasive manoeuvres such and lock on targets. Better pilots will have more abilities but the game strives to retain balance no matter who is facing off against who. Sure, pitching Luke Skywalker against a rookie TIE Fighter straight out of Empire School will generally result in a win for the Rebel Alliance, but you’ll always feel like you’re at least in with a chance.

Have a look through the forums on BGG that focus on X-Wing and you’ll see a lot of people complaining about the price. Now, I know that it’s relatively expensive for what you get and the fact that you only get three vessels does seem a little mean, but consider this; you’re not just buying a self-contained game (despite the fact that it’s perfectly playable just with this starter set). What you’re picking up is a whole new game system, and anyway IT’S STAR WARS. Of course it’s going to cost more than your standard game – is there anything out there that has George Lucas’ paws on that hasn’t gouged the fans? FFG will have paid through the nose for this license so they’ll need to make their cash back somehow.

TAKE ‘IM OUT VADER!

Thankfully, they haven’t just rushed out something to make a quick bit of turnover. The rules in X-Wing, though simple, give the game a real arcade kind of feel. Games are speedy, fun, raucous… everything you want from a battle in the depths of space. If you want something a little deeper, rules are included for larger scale battles because – you’ve guessed it – there are more and more ships due for release over the next few months. Already out there in Wave 1 are Y-Wings and TIE Advanced as well as extra standard TIE Fighters and X-Wings. Wave two promises more iconic vessels including Boba Fett’s Slave 1 and the mighty Millenium Falcon.

I’ve ordered mine already. I am *such* a child.

The X-Wing Starter Set is a pile of fun hewn from cardboard and plastic. Grab a couple of extra ships and the door opens even wider, showing you just how entertaining a tabletop skirmish game like this can be. And then you start thinking about the future, about other ships that could potentially come out, about setting up new missions and adventures to tackle. This starter box comes with a couple of small missions to attempt but imagine what kind of things could happen in the future. Personally I reckon that if FFG don’t release a large scale Death Star Trench Run set at some time in the future they’re missing a trick.

In conclusion, the Star Wars X-Wing beginner set is just that – something that will start you off on a potentially epic experience. It’s not for everyone, sure, and it *will* end up being a pretty expensive game if you insist on picking up every single thing that’s released for the system, but if you’re sensible and pick and choose the odd thing here and there, you’ll have something that offers a massive variety of play with relatively little outlay. Whether it’s a one-on-one dogfight or an epic battle to decide the destiny of the universe, this is a hell of a lot of fun – and it’s going to get even better.

The Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game is available now. Designed by Jason Little and produced by Fantasy Flight Games, a copy will set you back a shade under £30, but you can pick it up from Gameslore for £25

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Build – LEGO Games for Spring 2012 reviews

While most of the time we cover games for grown ups here on The Little Metal Dog Show, I must admit to keeping an eye out for those aimed at a younger audience. After all, we love to play which means there’s still a kid trapped inside most of us that’s screaming to get out and throw dice all over the place… Unfortunately, a lot of the games available that are aimed at children are really pretty duff, but thankfully the good folks over at LEGO are doing their damnedest to change that by developing their range of own brand games.

They’ve actually been at it for a couple of years now, even getting legendary designer Reiner Knizia on board as a consultant to try and help them make something a little bit different than the usual roll and move extravaganza that most children are used to. Early experiments were… well, a little hit and miss, but LEGO now seem to have found their feet and are focusing on quality releases over quantity. This past January saw them announce the release of four new games for 2012 at the London Toy Fair, and now I’ve had a bit of time to get my hands on them, I’m pleased to say that the company’s definitely heading in the right direction.

Of the four, Kokoriko is the smallest and silliest – that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable though. Essentially a very simple race to collect more eggs than anyone else, it’s accessible in the extreme with even the youngest of players being able to get a handle on it. Rolling a dice gives you a couple of different options: landing on the grey or brown sides allows you to take a chicken of that colour or – if you have one or more of them – they can each lay one of those all important eggs. Rolling blue gives you control of the Rooster which doubles your egg production for as long as you have him, while pink triggers a free for all where players rush to grab a worm token; the winner of that particular little battle then gets an egg for every chicken they have. It’s a lovely little game with plenty of take that – there’s something very satisfying about stealing chickens from an opponent who has built up an early lead – and is a great way to pass the time between heavier games.

Mini-Taurus is the second release and is a sequel of sorts to the earlier LEGO game Minotaurus. Set in an ever-moving labyrinth, between two and four players race against each other in a bid to claim a mythical sword. Again, the action is based around the roll of a dice but this game encourages a sneakier style of play. Yes, you want to work your way through the maze and be victorious, but you’ve also got plenty of opportunities to screw your opposition over by moving walls in order to block them or – if you’re lucky – set the terrifying Minotaur on them. Actually, he’s not that terrifying; he’s only a couple of centimetres high, after all, but again this one’s a nicely put together game that teaches young players the value of not just racing to the end – tripping up everyone else is equally as fun and often more productive.

City Alarm comes next – the classic standoff between cops and robbers made plastic. It’s a pretty simple premise: the bad guys want to escape will all their stolen money, and the police want to stop the lot and throw them in jail. Travelling around a small but busy board, the robber player must visit buildings in the town and take whatever they can get their hands on. If the thieves pick up all ten stacks of cash, they win, but if all four of them are thrown in jail it’s a victory to the lawmen. There are some really nice ideas in City Alarm; your moves are determined by revealing face-down bricks so you can work out what potential pieces are left and develop a strategy dependent on that information, plus there’s also areas on the board that act as train stations – essentially warp points that you can magically move one of your guys to should you pull the right tile. Again, it’s far from the most complex game in the world but it’s really quite entertaining and even older players will enjoy the surprisingly deep gameplay.

Last of all – and the best game of the four, in my opinion – is the fantastic Star Wars: Battle of Hoth. Again, it’s another chapter in war between good and evil, this time with the Rebel Alliance taking on the might of the Empire with some of the most awesome LEGO pieces I’ve ever seen (seriously, the AT-AT is amazing). Controlling a range of vehicles, each of which has a different movement and firing range, it’s simply a matter of wiping out the opponent’s forces. Victory can also be attained by destroying the enemy’s leader, opening up the game’s options yet further. The whole board is modular and as such allows you to move it around, opening up areas that previously couldn’t be reached and hopefully lets you get that opposing Rebel craft – because after all, who wants to be the on the side of the Jedi? One curious thing about Battle of Hoth is that thanks to licensing issues, it’s not getting a release in the United States. However, there are plenty of copies here in Europe… perhaps we should start a service for desperate LEGO Star Wars fans who want copies…

So, those are the four new releases. As always, they encourage experimentation with the included rules – they are LEGO after all, and are completely compatible with all other sets, so you could potentially build an immense area for City Alarm or pimp out your Kokoriko set by creating a spectacular farmyard diorama for your chickens to peck about it. However, even if you just want to stick to the basic games, you’ll discover that they’re all actually pretty solid, offering different gameplay experiences to the norm that will appeal to kids and grown ups. Play time for all the games is between ten and twenty minutes each, so there’s very little chance of the kids getting bored and having their attention drawn away. These are bite-sized chunks of surprisingly fun gaming that are far from disposable, so if you’re looking for something a bit different, why not check them out?

The four new LEGO Games releases will set you back between £8 and £25 and are available in all good toy and game shops as well as LEGO Stores. And seriously, Kokoriko can get shockingly cutthroat. Don’t drink and game.

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The New Year – Nurnberg 2012’s Big Games

Another month, another big games show in Germany! This time around it’s the Nurnberg Spielwarenmesse – International Toy Fair for us non-natives – a trade show that is less about getting in there and buying stuff and more focused on things that will be out over the next few months. It has a bit more of a presence for games than something like the London Toy Fair (although that is definitely improving – this year’s event was infinitely better than 2011 for boardgamers) which can be simply put down to the cultural difference; German people play more than British families. Thanks to that, it’s a good place to discover some of the new Euro hotness that will be hitting our tables in early 2012.

I’m not there (sad face – too busy working on Secret Projects which are soon to be revealed) but I’ve been keeping an eye out on some of the titles that have captured my interest. Here’s a few highlights that we’ll hopefully be covering here on The Little Metal Dog Show in the near future.

Wurfel Bohnanza

One of my not-so-guilty little pleasures is the rather splendid little card game Bohnanza, an explosion of trading beans and making cash money. It’s a gloriously simple little affair, plays quickly and works whether you’re new to the hobby or an old hand. It’s all about making deals, though if you can’t do that, you’re allowed to force your crap on other players. AMIGO  Spiel are releasing a dice version this year – in fact, it may well be out in the stores already – where players are given certain sets to collect. Some are easy and worth a little, other more valuable ones are trickier to get – and other players are allowed to steal dice you’ve rolled. It could well be a great little addition to the franchise.

Kaispeicher

An expansion to Stefan Feld’s The Spiecherstadt, this adds a wealth of new elements to an already excellent game. By adding new buildings, ships, actions and orders, Feld has increased the opportunities for players to gain advantages while making life tricky for their opponents. Auctions aplenty and loads of chances to screw over your fellow gamers? What more can you ask for?

String Railway

After what seems like ages, String Railway is finally getting a reprint! This Japanese game is now seeing a wider release thanks to FoxMind, though I reckon they’ve missed a trick by changing from the original packaging… A simple game of connecting stations using different lengths of coloured string, it’s a matter of just getting more victory points than the other players. It’s an interesting concept, ridiculously quick to play and well worth trying to get your hands on a copy. Good call by FoxMind to get it out there again.

Carcassonne Minis

There’s going to be a total of six new mini expansions for everyone’s favourite tile laying, castle building, meeple placing gateway game released at Nurnberg under the catch-all title of Carcassonne Minis. They’re cheap (3 Euro a go) and range from interesting to just plain odd. The full list is as follows:

The Messages: a second meeple on the scoring track potentially allows players to get bonus points.

The Ferries: adds new rules for roads by bringing in little boats!

The Flier: allows for movement of a meeple to a new area at the risk of losing it on the throw of a dice

The Goldmines: more bonus points are available by collecting gold bars placed on tiles

The Robber: scupper your opponents’ progress by having a Robber meeple steal their points

Mage and Witch: Add a point per tile with the Mage, halve the points of a feature with the Witch

Every time a new expansion comes out for Carcassonne there’s always cries that the game has jumped the shark… what’ll happen when these six hit the stores?! Personally, I really want to get my hands on Mage and Witch and The Robber – both look like they could add some interesting elements to the game. English language versions will be made available through Rio Grande in March or April of this year, but as the game’s pretty much language independent anyone could use these.

Star Trek Catan

The ultimate expression of nerdiness, surely? Yes, it’s just a rebrand of the regular Settlers of Catan, but it’s all Star Trekked up! Based in The Original Series universe, there’s all new resources to collect (including Dilithium, of course), building space stations around planets and a Klingon vessel swooping in on the roll of a seven – excellent! There’s also a new element introduced in that players are given characters at the start of the game granting them special abilities during their turn. While some folks are complaining about the Monopoly-isation of the Catan brand, I reckon this one’s a fun addition to the series.

LEGO: Star Wars: Battle of Hoth

On the other side of the geek spectrum, this is one I’ve actually managed to try out – there’ll be a full review to come soon. LEGO have made a great effort in recent months to get into games, most notably with the rather ace Heroica game system. Battle for Hoth is another one from their game range that has a slightly more mature vibe about it despite having the cutest AT-ATs in the history of mankind as playing pieces. It’s a very light two player strategy game that could easily act as a way in for younger players to something a little more hardcore, requiring a bit of forward planning and a willingness to take the odd risk. A very nice use of the Star Wars franchise that will hopefully spur LEGO to keep on trying something different with their games.

Wallenstein

The big reprint so far for 2012 has got to be Wallenstein, Dirk Henn’s much loved game of area control during the Thirty Years War. The fantastic combat system using a dice tower and incredibly balanced gameplay has had gamers clamouring for a new version for years, and now Queen Games has stepped up and produced something a little bit special. This remake also includes two expansions that allow for special actions and bonuses that can be claimed through the game, adding yet more to the Wallenstein experience. It’s a tightrope of a game where you need to work to increase your power while ensuring that your people are well cared for. Ignore the peasants and you could well have a revolt on your hands…

There’s plenty of other games available (as well as those still to be announced) as the event continues over the next few days up the 6th of February. After that… well, it’s the New York Toy Fair from February 12th to 15th. Who knows what we’ll see there?

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