First things first- remember last week and the review of X-Wing: The Miniatures Game? Remember when I described how to play the game? That’s how you play this game. Pretty much, word for word. There are some differences in terms of game play (ships can “cloak” (Star Trek invisibility) and they can do some other things), but it’s mechanically pretty much the same. The devil, however, is in the details, and Star Trek: Attack Wing has a lot of problems.
Second of all- when Attack Wing came out, I started a blog. WEBSITE. You can go there if you want an in depth analysis of the game when it first came out.
Comparing the two games is actually an interesting case study in aesthetic, monetary and game play decisions, as well as an interesting compare and contrast between Wizkids and Fantasy Flight Games.
1. The Ships- Star Trek: Attack Wing was shipped with three ships. These ships looked like this:
X-Wing shipped with three ships and they looked like this:
Despite your level of “giving a shit” about miniature quality, it’s very clear that Star Trek: Attack Wing gives less of a shit than X-Wing. This isn’t really a problem for me- I just repainted most of my ships- but that isn’t really a step most people are going to take. Instead, they’re going to shell out $30.00 to $40.00 for something that looks like a 3 year old’s painting project.
Aesthetics in gaming is a difficult thing to discuss, especially given the subjectivity of taste. In this case, however, there’s very clearly a delineated line between the effort that went into one set of miniatures, and the effort that went into the other set. The expansions for both games have followed a similar trend set by both starter sets- the Star Trek stuff has been very sub-par and the X-Wing stuff has been great.
The difference comes down to what Fantasy Flight had to do to get their game off the ground, and what I think Wizkids had to do to get theirs off the ground. Wizkids has been making Star Trek Heroclix for some time before Attack Wing came out. It would appear that the Star Trek ships were repurposed Heroclix molds. Fantasy Flight had to design the X-Wing miniatures from the ground up. In essence, Attack Wing is an attempt at Wizkids to make further profits off of an existing investment, where X-Wing represents a new investment.
2. Card Art: Both games come with cards that represent pilots and upgrades. Here is an example of an X-Wing card:
And here is an example of an Attack Wing card:
Both of these games are set in space- that means dark backgrounds- the whole shebang. Space is not bright. That being said, that X-Wing card is bright and colourful- the Attack Wing card? Not so much. Again, this is the general trend of both card sets- X-Wing is new images, Attack Wing is re purposed images from the television shows. Which company do you think had to spend more money to get their game off the ground?
3. Release Schedule: The release schedule for Attack Wing is insane. There are 3-4 ships that come out per month, each with a host of cards accompanying them. This wouldn’t be so impressive if it weren’t for one thing- For a minimal cost, any card can be used with any ship, and you’re allowed to mix and match the ships in your fleet. This means that not only must you buy a copy of every ship to have a full set of usable cards, but that the meta is constantly shifting every single month. It is impossible to keep up with Star Trek Attack Wing unless you shell out upwards of $60.00 per month. That brings the yearly cost of Attack Wing close to $500.00- even Warhammer isn’t THAT expensive.
X-Wing, on the other hand, has restrictions on the kinds of cards that can be used on different ships, and if you just want to collect the Rebels or the Empire, you can shave half off half the cost of the game. Sure, you can still buy all the ships that come out- the release schedule is a new wave of four ships every three months. That makes the cost of staying current in X-Wing significantly easier on your wallet.
4. Organized Play: Up to now, the discussion has mostly been aesthetic. The cards and ships in Attack Wing aren’t as nice as those in X-Wing and you have to buy more of them to get the full experience. This difference won’t be a factor in most considerations, but it was for me. Wizkids (the maker of Attack Wing), gives out exclusive prizes at Organized Play Events. That means, that if you win an event, you usually get a ship that can’t be bought anywhere, with cards that can’t be bought either. I’ve read that this is kind of changing, but it’s the general M.O. of Wizkids to incentivize Organized Play Events with exclusive items. Fantasy Flight, on the other hand, mostly gives out retail product or alternative art cards as their prizes- items that don’t effect play.
I think this is ridiculous, and I won most of the Attack Wing events I played in. Some of the ships were really cool, and some of the cards were obviously more powerful than other cards. This shouldn’t be something that happens in games with competitive play. Sure, it gets butts in the seats, but so does Magic- and WOTC never pulls this kind of shit.
Do you get a sense of where this is going? Attack Wing has a breakneck release speed and exclusive items on a per month basis, whereas X-Wing comes out at a slower pace, and there are no exclusives. It would seem to me that Attack Wing’s pace requires more work to balance than X-Wing does. It would also seem to me that Attack Wing’s aesthetic history is indicative of a company not willing to invest a lot of capital in the game. These things, in my mind, go hand in hand. Given the state of the game’s aesthetic appeal, and given the pace of release, I think that the work that is required to balance Attack Wing is probably not being done as effectively as in X-Wing. It’s a bit of a leap, but I think the signs are there to point
Finally, Flavour Wise, Star Trek Attack Wing is all over the place. Most of the appeal of Star Trek lies in the diplomacy, the sci-fi stories and the overall feel of two giant battlecruisers duking it out. Attack Wing, with its focus on combat, eschews some of the essential elements of Star Trek. I think the system works fine for both Universes, but I think the system works better for X-Wing in an “That’s how I feel” kind of way.
Alright! Next week, I’ll give a final overview of some other games that you may enjoy if you’re dying to get into Miniature Gaming!