When Fantasy Flight Games announced that it would be revamping the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game, fans around the world let out a nearly audible groan. But after spending a few days with the latest version, titled simply X-Wing Second Edition, I’m convinced that this is the best iteration of the classic tabletop game yet.
It’s all thanks to a revamped turn structure.
In X-Wing, players maneuver tiny, pre-painted starfighters across the tabletop, trying to blow each other to smithereens. The game uses curved rulers of various lengths to represent the different turns and stunts that a pilot can pull off, while stats and equipment are tracked with cards and tokens. Combat plays out with the help of a few custom-made dice.
But over the years, and as more and more new ships were added to the game, the original X-Wing became severely bloated. Nearly everything that made the newest ships fun to play existed as an aside to the basic structure of the game. Advanced play was a constant battle with the ruleset, as exceptions piled up at every turn.
The solution in X-Wing Second Edition is a new part of the turn called the System Phase, which takes place after players secretly plan their next move but before they make it. The System Phase exists solely for cool ships to do cool things. Want to lock your X-Wing’s S-foils into attack position? Then do it during the System Phase. It sounds so simple, but it’s a cunning feat of game design that smoothes out the pace of play.
It also makes the manual a lot easier to read, since it offloads all of the complexity of the System Phase to the game’s many expansions. If you want to deal with added complications, you simply opt in by buying more models, and those models will explain themselves when you open them up.
Fans of the original X-Wing will feel right at home, since virtually every core gameplay mechanic is exactly the same. There are many added nuances, however, including lots of quality-of-life improvements. Much of the data — point values representing the strengths and weaknesses of a given ship or pilot — has been removed from the miniatures themselves. It makes them appear much cleaner on the table, and gives Fantasy Flight room to add depth to the game’s combat mechanics. Each ship card now has four arcs printed on it instead of just one, and the forward arc itself is subdivided with a smaller “bullseye arc” right in the center. Turrets must now be physically pointed in the right direction every turn, giving players the opportunity to maneuver into the blind spot on larger, more heavily shielded ships.
Supporting that change in the miniatures themselves, Fantasy Flight also made the decision to increase the size of most of the cards in the game. No more fumbling with tiny, postage stamp-sized equipment and pilot cards. Now, each one is roughly the size of a traditional poker playing card, with plenty of room for stats, images and flavor text.
Existing miniatures will be compatible with X-Wing Second Edition ... eventually. You’ll just need to purchase the right conversion kit. The first batch, including kits to convert Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire miniatures, will provide you with everything you need to upgrade a whole fleet of miniatures. You’ll still need the starter set for all the odds and ends like maneuver templates. Sets will be available at Gen Con in August, but only in limited quantities. After that, fans will need to wait until the wider release on Sept. 13.
Update: This story has been updated to include the latest information on product availability at launch.