I already blogged about the new Star Wars Micro Machines that London got on Force Friday. I got a little something myself – the new Force Awakens core set for the X-Wing Miniatures Game (currently an exclusive at Target and possibly other brick and mortar stores, going into wide release on Sept. 18). The set isn’t that different from the first core set. It’s still one X-Wing and two TIE fighters, this time reflecting the slightly different versions of these vehicles from the upcoming movie. This is the first time I’ve been able to compare the new and old X-Wing and TIE fighter designs side by side.
The ‘new’ T-70 X-Wing is a curious beast. In many ways it’s not a new design at all, but rather a return to the mid-development versions that Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie drew and painted for Star Wars back in the late 70s. Here is one of McQuarrie’s production paintings showing hemispherically split engine intakes and a somewhat smoother nose profile than the version that made it to the screen in the original trilogy.
The two most obvious differences between the two X-Wing models are the big engine intakes on the T-70 and the way that its wings split, with the top and bottom wings lying in-line when closed, instead of stacked as in the original. That split-wing design is not something I’ve seen in any of the old concept art. I could just about convince myself that it was present in that McQuarrie painting above, but if you look closely there’s no evidence that either wing is further forward or back. I think it must be new for this movie. (That’s neither good nor bad, by the way – I like the new version and I’m glad it exists.)
The photo above shows a couple of additional differences that are more subtle. At least in these game pieces, the T-70 has a longer canopy over the cockpit, and a longer nose cone at the front end. There are also very minor differences in the wingtip laser cannons.
Finally, when seen from behind the T-70 has a narrower, more tapering rear fuselage, and the new engine design puts the exhausts slightly farther apart than on the classic T-65.
Of course these game pieces are not the models and life-size mockups used in the movie and they probably do not record the T-70’s form with complete fidelity. But from what I have seen, the folks at Fantasy Flight have gone to great lengths to make their models as accurate as physically possible at this scale (within the limits of mass-production). So I think it’s more likely than not that these subtler differences are actually there in the X-Wings we’ll see in The Force Awakens.
This is our current Imperial/First Order Fleet: the TIE Defender out front, followed by the two First Order TIE/fo models, and then by the OT TIE/ln models. The most obvious difference for the new First Order TIE fighters is the flip-flopped paint scheme, with white solar panels bordered in black. But these aren’t just repaints of the old TIEs, they’re new sculpts. You can see this in the superficial lines sculpted into the cockpit ball, the inner and outer wing “hubs”, and the raised ridges on the wing “spokes”.
And for completeness, here’s our Rebel/Resistance fleet: E-Wing out front, new and old X-Wings, and the Y-Wing.
Gameplay for the new models hasn’t changed much. The TIEs have a single point of shields, now, and the T-70 X-Wing has one additional shield token. The Force Awakens ships have access to new maneuvers, including new 180-degree turns. The TIEs can now get target locks, and the T-70 X-Wing can boost. The asteroid pieces that come with the new set are actually new shapes and paint jobs, not just clones of the originals, which is a nice touch. The rulebook that came with the original is now updated, expanded, and broken into three separate pieces: a short “Learn to Play” guide, a long “Rules Reference” organized alphabetically, and a very short setup guide for the (new) scenarios. I’m hugely in favor of this – the Rules Reference book is much better organized than the old rulebook, and it really cuts down on the time needed to check rules during games.
We mixed it all together for a massive battle that occupied the whole table. We got a big sheet of black felt at Wal-Mart for $3.97, which has the dual benefits of (1) keeping stuff from sliding around too easily, and (2) looking like space – at least, more than our wooden tabletop. London made the point that somehow, the playspace seems bigger with the black felt on it. I don’t know what’s behind that perceptual trick, but he’s right, it does.
I had a funny realization when I was cropping this last photo: it’s the collision of two futures. Since The Force Awakens is ignoring all previous continuity other than the films, the old Expanded Universe is no longer canon. But Lucasfilm and its licensees don’t want to just kiss off that whole legion of popular and lucrative books, comics, and so on, so they’re still being issued under the heading of Star Wars: Legends. And here in this battle we have the E-Wing – originally created for the Dark Empire comic book series – squaring off against the First Order TIE fighter from a different, non-overlapping timeline. That’s trippy, and if I was a canon purist it would probably drive me nuts.
I’m glad I picked up the new core set – the new ships are a pip, and now we have two sets of maneuver templates and all of the dice we need. A lot of advice about getting into X-Wing starts with recommending two core sets to get all of that useful stuff, and now you can do that without getting straight duplicates of the ships.