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Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game relaunches with gorgeous The Force Awakens set

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Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game received a refresh last month, launching a new starter set to coincide with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. So how does the tabletop system hold up with Episode VII bits? Better than ever.

When I first demo'd X-Wing Miniatures at Gen Con about four years ago it was still a prototype — bits of paper glued down to cardboard and familiar, though shabby-looking, spaceships on plastic pegs. Little did I know the system would blow up, becoming a bona fide tabletop gaming phenomenon.

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Fantasy Flight tells Polygon X-Wing Miniatures is the centerpiece of their organized play circuit. It's so popular that the championships are regularly broadcast live on Twitch.

"But I don't play these kinds of games!"

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Justin McElroy — I was pretty intimidated by the game when we first opened X-Wing Miniatures, because my brain has somehow tied these sorts of games to infinitely complex rules that require graph paper and an abacus to execute. Once we had gone through the training mission, however, I felt like I had a really good grasp on the core rules of the game. While all the miniatures and rulers may look a little scary to those like myself who aren’t familiar with miniatures gaming, they turned out to be a really useful tool for simplifying play rather than complicating it. There’s no need for graph paper or counting movement squares when you can instantly tell how your ship moves by matching your selected secret move with the appropriate ruler. (cont.)

What makes the game so special are the pre-painted miniatures, and for the new The Force Awakens starter set FFG outdid themselves. For the money, I'm not sure there's a better-looking miniatures game out of the box.

Inside the $39.99 set are two First Order TIE Fighters, along with a T-70 X-Wing — the variant first revealed with The Force Awakens movie trailer last year. Sometimes you'll pull pre-painted minis out of the box and parts of it will be droopy, or the details will be a bit sloppy. Not so with X-Wing. These TIE Fighters are mirror images of one another, and the details in the T-70 itself are crisp on all sides. They command attention at the table.

The packaging itself is notable in that it actually holds everything securely inside. Miniatures games are notoriously hard to travel with, but I flew this one to and from the East Coast last week and it came through without a scratch.

New instructions inside include a quick-start guide, as well as a separate glossary. That means you can share the information load with first-time players, guiding them through the turn sequence while giving them access to specific rules in a separate document.

So how does it play out of the box? Fast and fun.

The tutorial mission drops the minutia of the rules, pitting two TIE's against a T-70 and letting them mix it up. It introduces the game's unique movement mechanic, which uses a selection of fixed tracks to move ships around instead of the rulers found in most miniatures games. Stuff blows up, and the round is over in about 20 minutes.

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The second tutorial mission picks up from there, adding rules for shields and focused attacks, targeting systems and ship-specific maneuvers like barrel rolls. The difficulty ramps up gently, and inside of an hour players get a good handle on the system.

Justin McElroy — My only major complaint was I often misjudged where my ship would end up after making a move, but that may be an intended element of chaos meant to represent the unpredictability of the battlefield. It was the only real impediment I could imagine for on-boarding new people. That hiccup aside, I could totally see myself investing the time it would take to become a competent starship pilot.

Expansion sets are available, including the K-Wing bomber and Millennium Falcon pictured here, all with the same attention to detail but at a larger scale. What's nice about the extra ships is that they not only expand your options for creating your personal armada, they also expand the game's ruleset. Each one also includes a scenario designed to showcase a given ships' capabilities.

Polygon will have more on X-Wing Miniatures when future The Force Awakens sets are released, as well as coverage of the X-Wing World Championships later this year.

For more tabletop coverage, see Polygon's dedicated hobby games section here.