So, GenCon is upon us, as most of you know. And with it, comes a slew of new games. This time round, it’s the company with a flight of fantasy that mostly catches my attention. Namely, the two games they are releasing on GenCon. In so many ways, drastically different, but on my gaming radar they both tick the exact same boxes. And for reasons explained below, I decided I’m only gonna get one of them. But I really can’t decide which one. So what I’m gonna do is, I’m going to talk about them and explain why they both appeal to me. And you guys are gonna tell me which one I should choose. Let the battle of the games begin.
Let’s begin with X-Wing. Not this upcoming boardgame, but X-Wing the PC game from the early 90’s and its even more successful (and better) follow-up – Tie Fighter. I first played those games in 1998. This was when I first got a PC. I was 14 I believe. I bought a pirated CD from a local market (at the time the purchase of legitimate copies of PC games in Lithuania was unheard of and did not exist, especially since no one sold them, so don’t blame the 14 year old me), and to my dismay the game told me that I was not going to be able to play it without a joystick. The man that sold the pirated CDs did not accept returns so I went and begged mum for more money and bought that joystick. The game was already starting to irritate me, and I hadn’t even played it yet.
When I finally got it to work – everything changed. I mean, my life had changed. Here was a game, where I actually felt like I was sitting inside the cockpit of a real X-Wing, with all its intricacies. I had to remember over 50 various keybindings that triggered obscure actions that were never well explained. It was like learning to fly a jet without a tutor, using trial and error. I crashed and burned a lot. So many ejections. So many Tie Fighters swooping in and destroying the ejected pilot. I’ve easily spent over a 100 hours playing that game. And then I went and got Tie Fighter, which was longer, the ships were cooler, the missions more interesting – dynamic. I can still remember the time when a desperate Tie Interceptor (without any shields I might add) managed to take down an entire space station. Even as I’m writing this I have this irresistible urge to go and get a joystick and get X-Wing: Alliance, the latest game to come out in the series (and still marginally playable).
This boardgame then, that’s what it has to measure up against. If Fantasy Flight Games wants to sell me a Star Wars spaceship dog-fighting skirmisher, these are the shoes they have to fill. Here are some hard facts. The box costs £29.99 pounds (the same as Netrunner I believe) and comes with three miniatures: two Ties and one X-wing. Just three? Yes. Are you sure Banjo, are there really just three minis? Sadly, I am sure. Just three. This comes straight from the horse’s mouth (or the horse’s mouth’s website):
The Core Set, alone, comes with thirteen ship cards and five upgrade cards that can each lend a different tenor to the battles between your X-wing and two TIE fighters.
So, if I play rebels, I get to pilot just the one X-Wing. Ah, but there are four different types of booster packs coming out upon release, each featuring a single spaceship. There is a choice of X-Wings, Y-Wings, Tie Fighters and Tie Advanced, each retailing at £11.99. All come with a few cards that seem to outfit your ship with a pilot and various tech upgrades, making every fighter different. But three miniatures and 5o cards are not quite enough for me with this pricetag. Thankfully the game features special dice and various cardboard tokens. Furthermore, FFG promises that these models are the most accurate X-Wing and Tie Fighter models made to date, and that the scales and proportions are perfect.
In terms of rules, I didn’t delve too deep into the previews. I hate rules snippets, they just confuse me. I’d rather get the full picture when it comes out. From what I understand the stands have various dials, and they interact in meaningful ways with the cards.
Banjo, tells us now, and be honest – you don’t sound so thrilled about this game. How come is it though, that you are considering buying it? Well, it might indeed sound like I’m not excited, but the thing is, I really am. What it boils down to are two things that counterbalance all my negative predispositions and fears. Number one: this is a Fantasy Flight Games product. If they are releasing a game with three minis for 30 pounds, they are probably pretty damn sure that this game is going to captivate our imaginations. It’s a bold move, and my gut instinct tells me that it might pay off. FFG have consistently delivered excellent, well thought out games that are dynamic, innovative and ground-breaking. Chances are, this is one of them. Number two: this is a Star Wars miniature game where you pit X-Wings against Tie Fighters. That in itself is a heck of a sentence, and I don’t think I even need to elaborate on it.
And then there’s Netrunner. A re-imagining of a classic by Richard Garfield. A game I have never played before and have no familiarity with whatsoever. This time it’s set in the Android universe, which is one I am not familiar with either, except I hear it’s an amazing board game, of which I have no doubt. It’s strange, in fact, that I haven’t played either of these before, because Cyberpunk is a genre that I enjoy very much (now that I think about it, I haven’t played Shadowrun too – what’s wrong with me). What is it that attracts me to this game then?
Well, it’s the next game in the FFG line of Living Card Games, their particular breed of collectible card games that come in non randomized monthly booster packs. I’ve been casually playing their co-operative Lord of the Rings LCG and it quickly became one of my favorite games. I’ve enjoyed the Game of Thrones LCG as well. I think LCGs are great as casual collectible card games but have the scope to be competitive as well. Netrunner introduces something new to this tried and true formula. Basically, you can choose to play either as a corporation or a runner (read: cyber-hero-hacker). However, both of these options are completely asymmetrical and play in different ways. Whereas, say, in Magic: the Gathering, every player can construct their decks using the same cards and everyone plays with the same set of rules, in Netrunner, the runner and corporation use different cards and play in different ways. This concept pretty much sells the game to me on it’s own. I do have a concern however. If this is a competitive game, how would tournaments work? Are they possible at all? From what I understand runners can’t play against runners. Maybe someone who played the previous version of the game could shine a light on this.
Oh, and the artwork! I love it. Why describe it though? Just have a look at these cards – they speak for themselves.
I am not even afraid to stand up and say that this is the best looking card game to date, and whoever is the art director for this project – well they got it bang on.
And here it is. I have to decide. Why not just get both of them? Well, because each of these games have scope. They are expandable and will probably require an investment that goes past the core set. I don’t mind that, but I am a poor recent university graduate and my finances are limited. And even if they weren’t I’d still probably just pick one. This is where I have to be grateful to FFG, they’re releasing them games at the same time, as if knowingly letting us choose. I am sure there are some people who will get both. Sometimes, I lean towards Netrunner, imagining how fun it would be to play this with my friends at my FLGS, or just with my wife who quite enjoys cyberpunk too. But then, it’s not Star Wars and not X-Wing vs Tie Fighter. To me, it really is an impossible decision, so I am asking, nay begging for constructive input. Speak up guys, and let me know what you think about these games.
DISCLAIMER: I’ve borrowed some of these images from preview articles from fantasyflightgames.com. I am not sure if they are happy with this or not, but I’m certain that if I’ve done something unsavory here I’ll get some sort of cease and desist letter – which I don’t mind at all. If I have to take them down so be it. But do me a favor and go and read up some more on these games – there’s some nice preview articles here (for X-Wing) and here (for Netrunner)
Peace out – Banjo