X-Wing Miniatures Accessibility Teardown


X-Wing Miniatures Game (2015) – Accessibility Teardown

Context of Document

This is not a review of this game. You will find the review linked in the introduction.

Meeple Like Us is engaged in mapping out the accessibility landscape of tabletop games. Teardowns like this are data points. Games are not necessarily bad if they are scored poorly in any given section. They are not necessarily good if they score highly. The rating of a game in terms of its accessibility is not an indication as to its quality as a recreational product. These teardowns though however allow those with physical, cognitive and visual accessibility impairments to make an informed decision as to their ability to play.

Not all sections of this document will be relevant to every person. We consider matters of diversity, representation and inclusion to be important accessibility issues. If this offends you, then please stop reading now. This will not be the blog for you, and we have no interest in debating with anyone whether these issues are worthy of discussion. You can check out our common response to common objections.

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Version Reviewed

Starter Kit:  English First Edition

Millennium Falcon:  English First Edition

Introduction

We love the X-Wing miniatures game, and that probably came across in our review. Actually, scrap that. It did come across in our review. You think that we’re very witty and handsome. You want to make sure everything that we write gets posted to reddit and stumbleupon to boost our signal. You want to hit all the social share buttons along the top of this post.  We can go about our business. Move along.

So now we move on to the accessibility teardown. Many Bothans died to bring you this information. I hope so, anyway. I did send an order to the sluicing mines for them to kill Bothans until the works gummed up. I’ll need to check up to make sure that happened as intended.

Colour Blindness

Colour blindness isn’t a particularly serious issue, but there are a few problematic areas. The striking reds and greens of the attack and defense dice are going to lose something for those with Protanopia and Deuteranopia. They’re still visually distinct, and have different symbols they can roll, but red and green are very easily differentiated by those without colour blindness.  The differential between the colour palette for those afflicted by these categories of colour blindness is much reduced:

Colour blind dice

This somehow seems less epic

There’s a fair amount of colour-coded information on the base indicators, but it’s mirrored by the pilot cards which show the number break-down with iconographic accompaniment. The ease of telling rebel and empire ships is reduced for those with Protanopia and Deuteranopia since the firing arcs for both become impossible to differentiate. Each ship base also has a ship icon on it so the information isn’t lost, just made a little more obscure and trickier to pick out easily in a massed ship battle. And of course, each ship is visually distinct in and of itself – if you can’t tell the side the TIE fighters are on versus the X-Wings you might have broader thematic problems with the game.

Colour blind markers

Which of these yellows is the dark side?

The rest of the tokens have other encoding information, such as either iconography (focus and evade tokens), form factor (almost everything else) or distinct letters (numerical codes or target locks). The target locks use alphanumeric combinations, but appear in pairs – red for the target, blue for the originator. With all categories of colour blindness (save for monochromacy) you can still make out which is which.

I find your lack of green disturbing

I find your lack of green disturbing

The range markers come in green and red varieties, but this is entirely thematic – the Empire fires green lasers, the rebels fire red, so you can use whichever side appeals based on your faction. You don’t need to worry about it all though.

The movement dials use red and green to indicate easy and stressful maneuvers.  While you can usually tell which is which from context (the farther you go along the dial, the more likely it is to be a stressful maneuver) it isn’t always going to be easy to tell. It’s not really something you can ask another player since you’ll reveal your intentions in the process. You can find maneuver lookup tables for each ship easily enough, and they even come with the documentation for the game. A little bit of preparation before playing will be useful in this – print them out or mark them with dots or icons on the manual so you can be sure which is which.

Colour blind dials

‘As best I can tell, none of these stress me’

We’re going to recommend the X-Wing Miniatures game here – it has a few minor lapses, but nothing that will seriously impact on the flow of play if you’re prepared to do a little bit of homework.

Visual Impairment

Other categories of visual impairment are more of a problem. Some cards have very small iconographic information presented along the bottom, and while the icons are visually distinct and well contrasted they’re small enough to be difficult to make out:

Tiny icons

Sir, the odds of successfully identifying the available upgrades are…

These are the ship upgrade slots available, and they’re an important part of setting up a budget-based game – the actual upgrade cards themselves though are clearly indicated on their obverse, although not especially easy to categorise when they’re face up:

Cards up front

I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They’re not much bigger than these icons.

The special ability text that goes with particular pilots and upgrades has a readability problem on occasion when it is mixed with symbolic language .  most of the icons are distinct and relatively easy to make out, but some are very similar – in particular hits (filled in explosions) and critical hits (outline explosions).  You can though almost always work out what’s sensible from context. You’re probably not going to be turning blank dice into critical hits, for example. You’re unlikely to be using a ship-damage action to turn a hit into a critical hit, and so on. There will though be some occasions where it’ll be necessary to ask.

The readability problem extends to the dice, which are non-standard d8s. Gamers with serious visual impairments may have invested in a set of braille dice, and perhaps even have them in the usual range of standard ‘heavy game’ varieties – braille d4s, d6s, d8s, d10s, d12s and d20s are easy enough to procure. If you don’t want the braille varieties you can usually pick up over-sized dice for enhanced readability.  Below are a couple of mine, with standard-sized dice alongside them for reference:

Oversized dice

Me and my dad

However, if you’ve made the effort to buy accessible dice it won’t help here because the dice have their own face values and these are different for the attack and defence types. You’re going to need a suitable d8, and you’ll need to construct a lookup table for results, such as:

Result Attack Defence
1 Blank Blank
2 Blank Blank
3 Hit Blank
4 Hit Evade
5 Hit Evade
6 Critical Evade
7 Focus Focus
8 Focus Focus

You’re rolling a lot of dice at a time, and rolling them often, and until you memorise this lookup chart you’re going to lose a lot of flow in play. It’s not an insurmountable problem, but something to bear in mind as you assess whether this is a game for you.

A larger problem is in the movement dials, which present only a tiny slice of the possible set of movement options at a time and are often showing similar looking icons for entirely different moves. For example the bank maneuver versus the Segnor’s loop, or the Koiogran turn.

Dials

Did you ever have one of those days when you don’t know whether you’re looping or banking?

It’s going to be tricky for players with even relatively minor visual impairments to easily see these without making use of an assistive aid, and the act of doing so may reveal intention.

X-Wing will take up a large amount of space. The standard play mat you can buy is thirty-six inches square, and you’ll often be using all of it. Ships tend to congregate together briefly for battles and then fly wildly around as they maneuver back into the fray. You need a certain degree of ability to tell when and where you’re going to be flying into range of your opponents, and how best to maneuver your ships for tactical advantage. The range finder tool is really just for edge cases and working out the specifics of distance. That’s only viable though if you can reasonably reliably ‘eyeball’ the firing arcs of your ships and locate your enemies inside and out. It’s also difficult to tell in what direction some ships, mostly the base TIE fighters, are facing without being able to easily see the firing arc on their base.

In squadron battles using multiple expansions, it’ll often be necessary to indicate ships with the numerical base tokens. If you’re going to keep track of four separate TIE fighters each will need their own numeric indicator, and it can be difficult enough for sighted players to keep the mental link of what ship is where and what maneuver best suits them. It’ll be difficult too to make out the numbers on the ship base, so a degree of cross-referencing between card and ship and number will be needed.

However, it’s not all bad – the cards uniformly adopt high contrast and readable fonts, and while there are a few problems with sizing of icons it’s mostly fine. The different tactility for most tokens (save for evade and focus) is a welcome design choice and helps in differentiating by touch. The models themselves are reasonably generously proportioned and all but those with the most serious visual impairments should be able to get a reasonable overview of broadly where ships exist even if they may not necessarily know which are which.

We’re going to offer a *very* tentative recommendation here.  We think those with minor to the lower-end of moderate visual impairments will *probably* be able to play.  We strongly advise though you consider the discussion above before deciding whether or not to part with your cash.

Cognitive Accessibility

You can probably guess from our review that X-Wing is a game that requires deep strategic thinking, tactical awareness and an ability to deal with flexible emergent situations as they occur. These are features that tend to mean it’s inaccessible for those with cognitive impairments.

A considerable degree of reading fluency is required, Many pilots, upgrades, critical hit damage effects and more require the ability to parse reasonably complex conditional logic. This logic then gets passed through an interpretation of symbols and iconography based on the context of the action. Game state can become extremely complex, as can your options available with any given ship. Some pilots have passive abilities that trigger at the beginning or end of game stages. Some upgrades have conditional impact that let you change something of X into something of Y. Ongoing ship damage may require dice-rolls as particular stages begin, or require that from the next turn a particular trait of the ship is altered. Some upgrades may provide actions to a ship that it wouldn’t normally have. Each ship has its own particular style of movement, and its own menu of ‘actions’ it can (usually but not always) perform at the end of the movement phase. Those actions may be extended through upgrades, pilot abilities, and ongoing damage. Some actions may be temporary based on the current availability of a particular discardable upgrade. You may be acting under the effects of focus, or evade. You may be the instigator or victim of a target lock. The dice you roll in an attack is dependent on your range, except for in the cases where it isn’t. You can only fire at an enemy in your front targeting arc, except with weapons where that’s not true, or in ships that have different firing solutions.

There is a lot to keep track of, and a huge amount of compound conditionality in the rule-set. None of the rules are complex in and of themselves, but the net cognitive burden of the combinations is massive.

There’s not a lot of inherent rule synergy.  As soon as you start getting into upgrade and pilot combinations though you’ll find that the right pairings will yield powerfully exploitable interrelationships.  Some combinations even result in anti-synergies that will cause ongoing problems. For example, the Push The Limit medal permits you to perform a free second action once per round – you can’t do the same action twice, but you can do one of the others you have available. If you also have BB-8 on board, you can also perform a free barrel roll each turn you make an easy maneuver. When taken together, you will have turns where you can boost, focus and barrel roll all in one single round of movement. Understanding the interaction between upgrades is an important element of effective play.

Relatively little though is needed in terms of memory management, except for an understanding of the jargon of play and the meaning of symbols. Both of these things can relatively easily be supported through the use of a bespoke crib sheet. Everything else is available for inspection, and sometimes even in multiple places – tokens exist for allowing players to distribute damage so it goes with the ship itself, or placed on the ship card. There’s a nice amount of potential redundancy if you want to reduce the memory burden lower than what the game itself would usually permit.

As I mentioned in the review, there is a deeply simplistic tutorial version of the game available in the rules – it avoids focus, the use of actions, range combat bonuses, critical hits and more. You can even further ramp down the cognitive complexity by limiting yourself to a small number of ships. This would perhaps bring the game into the level of a tentative recommendation. This fully-skimmed version of the game though has none of the fun or crackling energy of the full fat version. If you have someone that is a huge fan of the franchise and wants to fly an X-wing around shooting at TIE fighters we could offer that as a possibility.

For anyone that wants X-Wing as it actually exists, we can’t possibly recommend it to those with fluid intelligence impairments. We can though offer a recommendation for those with memory impairments only.

Emotiveness

This is a tricky one – X-Wing is a game that will allow you to feel incredibly smart and painfully stupid on a turn by turn basis. It’s a game that emphasises strategic and tactical thinking, and it permits a whole pile of interesting ‘take that’ mechanics as part of the flow of the battle. A ship with a high skill pilot for example might take advantage of the ordering of movement to drop behind a pursuing enemy before unleashing fire at close range on their exposed rear.    Oh god that’s so satisfying, but it’s hard to dress it up for the one that fell for the trap as anything other than being duped. When you fail in X-Wing, you fail because you were beaten. Sure, the dice likely played a role in the outcome but fundamentally it’s a game of ensuring the odds are ever in your favour. You will have an occasional game where you just couldn’t roll the right results, but good positioning, strategic nuance and effective use of your flexible options for action will win the day in most cases.

This is, depending on the person you’re dealing with, both good and bad from an emotional perspective. You only rarely feel as if you were robbed of a victory by the inherent luck of the draw, so defeat is at least controllable. However, you also can’t really convincingly blame the dice – when you lost, it was primarily down to you as a player. The issue here comes with how emotional issues may manifest – if they’re due to a lack of control, it’s probably fine. If it’s the sting of losing or the self-recrimination of defeat then there’s going to be a more significant issue.

There isn’t any explicit bluffing or lying in the game, but like most miniature based war-games it does encourage, and even perhaps mandates, a degree of feinting and misdirection. All of this is in the expression of ship movement and not in terms of personal inter-dynamics, so the usual social issues that come along with this shouldn’t be a major factor.

It’s a game of player elimination, but if you’re doing it as a two-team game then elimination is the end state for everyone involved anyway. It’s possible to play games with larger numbers of teams (making use of the Scum and Villainy ships that appear in later expansions), but we’d advise against that when dealing with emotional or behavioural disorders. Games of X-Wing can last a long time, and there are few things as frustrating as standing on the sidelines watching everyone else have fun without you.

Due to the importance that strategy and tactics have in success or failure, X-Wing is a game that can permit for very significant score disparity. Technically, the only winning condition for skirmish battles is all of your enemies leaving the game through one means or another. However, the number of ships you have versus the number your opponent has (and the point values of each) is clear for all to see. Winning a battle with only a laser-scarred TIE fighter left over is one thing. Winning with every ship you had intact and undamaged is something entirely different. Some scenarios too have turn limits, at the end of which the remaining points in play are totted up and used to determine a winner. If you lost badly, then *you* lost badly.

However, it’s a game with an inherently controllable setup – even the randomness of the dice can be modified by upgrades and wise positioning. There’s no need for anyone to begin the game thinking that they are going to lose because of the hand fate dealt them. Likewise, there’s no reason to assume defeat even when things have gone badly for a while.

We offer a tentative recommendation for X-Wing here,  As usual we advise you to consider the precise natural of the emotional impact and assess based on your own unique situation.

Physical Accessibility

Physicality is uniformly problematic here. Tokens are small and fiddly for the most part, although the models themselves are reasonably large. However, even the models have detachable bases and these can easily come apart in movement. When moving ships in close quarters and through other ships you can’t just lay down the movement track and follow it. Instead you need to pick up the ship, hold the movement guide over the ship you’re moving through, and move your own through the obstacle before working out where its movement probably would have ended. Fitting the maneuver tools into the guide tracks can be tricky, and they need to be used at both the start and end of maneuvers. It’s very easy, especially in a tight battle, to knock ships out of position and this can have significant gameplay impact – the difference of a centimeter may be enough to move a ship from being out of range, and the difference of a degree of orientation may entirely alter the dynamics of the game state.

Some cards are half-size and will need to be flipped over at certain points of play, and there is a constant traffic of stress, evade, shield and focus tokens.

The largest issue though is going to be in the maneuver dials. Everything else you can have handled for you, but the dials are secret and must be manipulated privately to indicate intention. However, they are rotating cardboard circles attached by a strut, and they tend to stick easily. They don’t offer any easy way to know which direction is optimal for turning, and in a large battle you might be dealing with half a dozen or more of them every single turn. If you’re going to use these, you’ll need to have some assistance.  You can buy upgraded plastic dials, but while these will improve the rotational freedom of motion they won’t significantly alter the interaction difficulties.

But there is again an alternative – the maneuver templates for each ship are reasonably freely available. The dials are only used to enforce compliance with the ship profiles and to allow for everyone to make plans without reference to other players. It’s possible in consultation with printed charts to adopt a more accessible regime – written instructions on a face-down pad, typed instructions on a computer, or selecting from a pre-built deck of options. As long as you can make clear, correct decisions without your opponent knowing what’s going to happen, such compensations would permit for the game to be played without significant impact.

Everything else is reasonably easy to verbalise – actions all have consistent names, and the maneuvers too have particular names and numbers that uniquely identify them. ‘Segnor Loop 4 on TIE #15’ is an unambiguous instruction that anyone can transparently enact on your behalf. There are no judgement calls in whether the movement is correct or ships are in range (save for when you’re moving through another ship). The rules are very specific about positioning, and the movement templates ensure that nobody needs to guess at what’s right.

We’re offering our usual tentative recommendation here – if agency of play is important, we don’t recommend this at all. However, if you’re willing to let someone else make moves for you, and if you can make a few compensations to deal with the difficulties associated with the maneuver dial we think you’ll probably be okay.

Socioeconomic Accessibility

Let’s talk about the problem Star Wars has with women. In this, we’ll also an acknowledge an issue that comes along with fairly reviewing the X-Wing game in this area.

I own the X-Wing Force Awakens core set (two of them) and a pile of expansions. I have the Imperial Aces set, the Rebel Aces set, the Millennium Falcon, and Slave I. More will follow, but that’s an investment of around £140 to date.

Do you know how many women pilots I have available?

Rebel pilots

Spot the Smurfette

One rebel pilot (Nera Dantels) and one imperial pilot (Kath Scarlet).

Empire pilots

There’s only one female space Tory. She’s kind of like a sci-fi Louise Mensch, I guess.

If I want to pretend I’m a woman flying a ship otherwise, I need to just assume the generic no-names are appropriate. The Millennium Falcon pack lets me fly the ship as Han (yay!), Lando (Boo!), Chewbacca (Yay!) and as a generic outer ring smuggler (Uh, okay).

Where the hell is Rey? She flew the Falcon in the Force Awakens, and she was great at it. Imagine being a little girl seeing this game, thinking ‘Oh wow I get to be Rey’ and finding out ‘Sorry, no – if you want Rey she’s in another expansion pack and it’s not out yet.  And you’ll need to buy another YT-1300 to get her. She’s an extra Millennium Falcon pilot, not one of the real ones’. Do you want Finn? He’s going to appear later, but he’s not here now. What if you want a female crew member? You’ve got Jan Ors and that’s it.

I don't even want her in the golden bikini, I just want Leia on the Falcon.

I don’t even want her in the golden bikini, I just want Leia on the Falcon.

Do you want Leia? Haha, screw you. She’s in the Tantive IV pack. Sure, that’s a sensible and thematic location – but that’s not where we saw her most in the movies. We saw her on the Falcon. I want her on the Falcon goddamit.

The Force Awakens did wonders in adding diversity to the Star Wars canon, but the game has been very half-hearted in embracing that. To be fair, that’s not an isolated incident and some of it is explained by the history of the game. See, the Force Awakens pack is from 2015 and is an update of an earlier 2011 core set. Most of the other expansions predate the Force Awakens by a considerable degree. The Falcon and Slave I are from 2013, whereas the Imperial and Rebel aces packs are from 2014. But that’s not what stops them being updated with new characters – it’s the need to ensure consistency of the packs for tournament play. There’s no reason we couldn’t get Rey in modern printings of the Falcon, or in an associated cheap booster pack. Instead we’ve got new, modern characters being added in later waves, with the old ships being kept as they were.

The result is a confusing mishmash of expansions which work together mechanically but grate against each other canonically and thematically. So to an extent the gender imbalance is understandable – there are very few women of note in the Orig Trig, and we’re probably all comfortable with forgetting the prequels ever happened. Recent waves of expansions have included the far more interesting cast of the Star Wars Rebels TV show into the roster, and that’s got a lot of great bad-ass women in it. So, it’s getting better.

Except…

There’s a universe of extended canon out there, and there are some tremendously great female characters in it.  It’s not that the X-Wing game avoids drawing from outside the movies, either. Kyle Katarn is a Jedi in some of the Star Wars video games, and he’s available as a crew member. Why wait until so late in the game’s evolution to make an effort to widen the roster?

A lot of game playing is about wish fulfillment and being able to identify with the characters involved. If that’s the male characters, you’re sorted. Otherwise, it’s a slim roster.

But then, you can buy expansion packs to bulk out the diversity, right?  After all, I just said that above.  Sure, assuming your budget isn’t an issue.

A core set for X-Wing has an RRP of £27, which gets you a fun but not phenomenal game. Buying an individual ship (another X-Wing, a TIE bomber, a Y-Wing or whatever) is between £10 and £15 depending on the ship. Smaller expansion packs are £20, the Millennium Falcon and Slave I are in the £30 bracket. The Ghost expansion is £43. The Tantive IV has an RRP of £60, and the Imperial Raider is £80. That’s a *lot* of money to spend to get the kind of roster you might want. While nobody holds a gun to your head and makes you spend money on any of this, the core set is not enough to meaningfully enjoy the game in any real sustainable sense. You’ll get a taste, but you’ll need more. And in the process, it’ll make your wallet weep.  My set of expansions, slim as they are in the grand scheme of things, represents a spend of around £140.  That’s at the point where I think that I don’t need any more, although I still want more.   The starter kit is a down payment on a much larger investment – if you’re at all worried about a budget, this isn’t a game that will work well with it.

But what you get for the money is a game that supports reasonable player-counts – with very large battles, you’ll probably want to have teams working against each other, collaborating on strategy and logistics. But you don’t need that – you can have one person on each side controlling a whole fleet. You can mix-and-match – it works very well for all kinds of player counts, so it’s not as if you’re spending a fortune on a game only two people ever get to play. You can even setup free-for-alls with three, four or more small squads battling against each other. The only real limit is how many ships you can afford.

However, this is undeniably a luxury title with a price-tag to match – that would be enough for us to be wary of recommending it. Coupled to its problems in terms of diversity, and how those two issues interrelate, we can’t recommend it in this category.

Communication

There is a required reading level, but no formal need for specific communication in a two player game.

However, in team play you’ll want to be able to confer and the strategy can be quite deep and intricate. It’ll involve long term aims, assessment of likely counteractions on the part of your opponents, and how you’re going to counteract those counteractions. Moreover, these conversations will need to be keep private, which may create issues for those making use of signing, communicative aids, or visually distinctive conversational systems. You can leave the room for strategy discussion, but much of what you do is going to be based on examining the game state and making decisions like some kind of old-timey WWI general.

We recommend it in this category.  The reading level is an issue for all game modes.  The strategy discussions will only be of relevance to those with visual communication forms working in a team-play scenario. There are compensatory strategies available for dealing with it.

Intersectional Accessibility

You’re dealing with a lot of cards, but you’re not holding them in hand – they’re laid out on the table for all to see, which alleviates the physical and visual impact of card management.

The dice are non-standard, and make use of symbolic language. There are only a handful of symbols that need to be dealt with, although those with cognitive and visual impairments may find some of them difficult to discriminate. This symbolic language is used throughout on the cards, and some information is presented only iconographically such as the range of actions available to particular ships. There may be a degree of referencing, close examination and cross-referencing for those with visual and cognitive impairments.

The size of the game area tends to be very large, and this creates issues for those with visual and physical impairments. Not only do you often need to check which ships are where, how they’re facing, and what their current state is you will be making plans for your own ships in relation to those of your enemies. Given that some ships may well be four feet away on the opposite corner of the play area, it can be difficult to easily scan the game state if you can’t see clearly and can’t move to take a closer look. It’s not as if you can just pick up ships either – they need to stay where they are because of the difficulty of replacing them exactly where they were. Most of the state information can be stored on cards, rather than directly on the ships, so if you and your opponent are sitting side by side these issues can be alleviated to an extent.

The precision with which ships must be moved is significant, and it’s often being done in the midst of a pile of other ships. It’s difficult to do if you can’t see very well. It’s difficult to do if you can’t make precise physical motions. It’s incredibly difficult to do if you can’t do either. You’re almost certainly going to be relying on other players to make the physical moves you plan out.

One especially good thing about the game though is the way it permits scaling of game-length. If you want a a quick skirmish, grab a couple of ships each and you’ll be done in thirty minutes. If you want a day long engagement, grab everything you’ve got and schedule replacements for destroyed ships at later stages. That means you can meaningfully structure your play around any physical or cognitive discomfort you might be likely to experience. That’s good, because unless you’re dealing with team-play there is no ability to drop-out without ending the game.

When multiple players are on each side, the impact of another player dropping out is only cognitive. It’s a redistribution of logistical and tactical planning, but it doesn’t otherwise change the game. All the state is open, so you can just assume the responsibilities of other players without anything else being impacted.

There are going to be issues for those that have the relevant kinds of colour blindness along with other visual impairments. The maneuver information is quite small and the difference between certain maneuvers may be just a square turn as opposed to a rounded one. This is going to impact on determining the stress, or otherwise, of certain maneuvers.

Finally, we have the usual issue here that if you are relying on someone to action the instructions you verbalise, you’re going to have a problem if this is compounded by a communication impairment. Our comments above relate to an either/or situation – if both physical and communication impairments intersect, the game will not at all be playable.

Conclusion

The X-Wing Miniatures game is awesome – we gave it 4.5 stars and it deserves every one of them (once you’ve spent a bit more on some expansions). In terms of accessibility though it’s a complex beast:

Colour Blindness B+
Visual Impairment C-
Emotiveness C
Fluid Intelligence F
Memory B
Physical C-
Socioeconomic E
Communication B

It’s accessible to those with colour-blindness, for those with memory impairments, and for those with communication impairments. It’s a more nuanced story for everything else. We absolutely don’t recommend it for those with fluid intelligence impairments, and we strongly suggest you avoid it if cost is an issue. As to its inclusivity, it can be expanded to deal with its inherent lack of diversity but it’s gonna cost you. Really, it should have the words ‘It’s gonna cost you’ translated into Latin and emblazoned across the front of every box.

Radar Chart

Not so much a Millennium Falcon as a Manta Ray

We can tentatively recommend it in every other category, but always with caveats. You’ll almost always need someone to lend support here and there, and in some cases you’ll need people to do almost everything for you. You’ll need to be willing to make some changes in how you approach the game, such as in how you represent your programming of hidden maneuvers for each ship. It’ll be difficult to play, we’re not trying to convince you of anything else. It might though, given how good it is, be very much worth the effort. You must do what you feel is right, of course.


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  • Zap

    Great article, I always find your critiques poignant in ways that I would never think about. I’ve actually be hoping you’d do an article on X-Wing for some time.

    That said I found your socioeconomic section to be a little confusing. First off, it’s worth noting that the Falcon set came out before TFA was even announced, Rey /couldn’t/ have been in the set. Further, we’re about to get a brand spankin’ new falcon model with Rey as the star pilot. You write like you were mislead about Leia, but I find she sits with an ability that suits her role as a senator and diplomat, that fittingly kicks major butt in Epic play. Sure, there could be more female pilots, but they’ve built the game to the universe it’s created in. Some of my favorite pilots in the game are women: Kath Scarlett, Howlrunner, Guri, Latts, Echo, not to mention that they do a good job of including the powerful women from all sides of the conflict, such as the imperial Mara Jade and Ysanne Isard. Yes there’s a discrepancy, but there’s a bigger discrepancy in the source text than in the game itself. It feels like you’re faulting the game for it’s theme rather than discussing some of the more pressing socioeconomic limiters.

    Those do exist. I’m a woman, and I generally don’t feel comfortable at tournaments that are not my home game store or among friends. While it’s waaaaay better than Magic or Warhammer (which I’ve tried in the past) it’s still intimidating to be one of a few women among about a hundred men and boys. As a self described feminist killjoy, this is where the problem for women in the hobby lies. Representation is limited, yes, but it’s hard to break into the competitive scene as a woman. I imagine the same stands for most people of color. That said, a friend and I are going to regionals together for the first time in a few years at her urging and it’s supposedly been getting better since TFA (the movie) and the Ghost were released.

    It’s also expensive. While it’s less expensive than the next most popular minis games (Warmahordes, 40k, Infinity), the pricing schedule is such that in order to be tournament competitive one needs to buy cards from lots of packs. However, most stores I know are fine with you printing copies of cards or ships, heck I’ve gotten away with a whole list of ships I don’t own. While it is pricy the community’s done a great deal to cut those costs down for the casual player. Plus, most ships are at a low enough price point that I can pick one up and support my store without saving up first.

    Further, it’s the most geographically accessible minis game I’ve ever seen. You can pick it up in local game stores, but also big boxes like target and barnes and noble. It’s getting the hobby out there to more people. Among my friends I know a few women who first got into the game after they saw a ship they loved.

    Cutting the financial cost is online play spaces like Vassal and Tabletop Simulator. Vassal is a 2d software that I personally find frustrating, but Tabletop Simulator has an amazing community committed to keeping it up to date. I’ve played more on there than in real life recently since it’s easier to do. Anyone who wants to try out X-Wing should check it out.

    No disrespect intended, but I feel like there FFG is doing more for representation than you give them credit for, there quite frankly aren’t that many women in Star Wars and FFG does what they can to feature us, not just pilots than in card art (e.g. Recon Specialist, Intelligence Agent, Fleet Officer), what they don’t do well at is other gender representation, POC representation, ability representation, and several of the other intersections that are constantly erased. But FFG does do more than most games I’ve played to try to disrupt the male gaze inherent in their source, and that’s a step in the right direction. Further, I feel like you didn’t properly cover the other socioeconomic issues in the game, which I personally feel are more restrictive to the player base than representation of women.

    • Hey there

      I know that the Falcon came out before Rey – I mention that in the review several times. My point there is that there are modern prints of the Falcon that could so easily include here, and if that’s not an option then the easy solution is to simply provide packs that let people buy her without having to buy an entirely new ship. I know that’s not FFG’s business model, but that doesn’t really matter. A non-inclusive business model is a problem even if it’s intentional. You shouldn’t be able to buy a model that doesn’t include the single most significant female pilot, just because of a need to maintain consistency for tournament play, and you shouldn’t need to buy a replacement model especially since you’ll be losing other pilots in the process.

      My problem with this kind of ‘buy in inclusivity’ is two fold. The first thing is it couples representation to price, which is something I can’t endorse. The second thing is, it requires you to have already bought into the hobby. If what you’re buying is a starter set and maybe a couple of the early expansions, you’ll get what I get – almost nothing in terms of women pilots. If you’re looking for wish-fulfillment, I think it’s passing the buck to say ‘Oh, just buy more expansions’. Sure, If you’re willing to buy more packs, the roster will improve – another thing I actually said in the review. Fundamentally though, I don’t think that’s enough.

      The tournament comments are really interesting, and they actually did come up in a reddit thread about the card issue, where someone remarked that if you want specific cards you could ‘simply go to a tournament’. I’m not really looking at this from the perspective of the X-Wing social ecosystem though, and I don’t know enough about it to comment.

      There are certainly other intersectional issues in terms of representation, but they’re really muddied and complicated when you’re dealing with a universe where you have aliens, because those aliens are often (not always) but often modeled on real-life ethnic groupings but that is never explicitly stated. If you consider The Phantom Menace (oh god, I know) you’ll see a horrible mess of racism in the way several of the aliens are presented. But the defence against that can always be ‘you’re projecting’, or ‘that’s your own racism talking’. There should absolutely be more POC in Star Wars, I agree – but it’s hard to say even within the EU what characters those would be.

      The Star Wars setting is hugely problematic from all kinds of perspectives, but there are plenty of characters in the expanded universe that could so easily have been brought in. As I mentioned in the review, Kyle Katarn is there. It’s not like they haven’t raided the EU for characters. The Star Wars setting is a problem, but that doesn’t excuse the half-hearted efforts that have been made to address it, certainly in early expansions.

      I agree that X-Wing is cheaper than many mini games. But ‘cheaper than others’ isn’t the same thing as ‘cheap’, and that circles back to the problem with bolt-on diversity/ Think of this game for example as something a parent may be buying for a child. They see they box and think ‘Oh, little Emily loves the Force Awakens, let’s get this’. And then Emily finds she can’t play as Rey, and that in order to actually play as women pilots the family is going to have to put down an awful lot more money, perhaps money they can’t actually afford. My advice is always going to have to be ‘Don’t get started down this road’, although the question ‘What is the best mini game to get into, financial’ would probably be ‘X-Wing’. That can be the same thing as saying ‘What payday lender is likely to gouge me less’. The advice is ‘don’t go to a payday lender’.

      Tabletop Simulator is a good way to cut down costs, but we’re not looking (currently) at that kind of solution here because it introduces its own complex and highly nuanced accessibility considerations. That’ll eventually be a thing we cover, when we have some research to support it, but we’re focused in our entirety on the physical game here.

      I really appreciate your comments, and there’s some very thought-provoking stuff here. Thanks for commenting!

    • BTW, I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts on how the tournament goes with regards to how welcome you feel. I know absolutely nothing, other than what was in a single SU&SD article, about the competitive scene around the game.

      The issue of women in male spaces is one I’m very interested in, but not particularly well suited to comment. I actually wrote a paper about male dominated spaces in video gaming (as a response to gamergate) as it was something I watched unfold in real-time in front of me and wanted to address the origin myth that was being generated. You can find that here: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2695582

      Beyond that, I have limited expertise – if you wanted to write up a bit to be tacked on to this teardown, I’d be happy to include it as an editor’s note?

  • Matt Holland

    Couple of things as a longtime X-Wing player. With such a limited collection you’re going to have slim options for anything, gender or no. It looks like you only have 6 or 7 MALE pilots per faction, no? The rest are generics or genderless. Overall in the game there are certainly more male pilots (82 by my count) than female pilots (20), but it’s not as one-sided as your small sample size would make it seem 🙂

    Rey IS a pilot in the new Heroes of the Resistance Pack that will be out soonish. So is Finn. The only named characters from the new movies that are out as we speak are Poe and BB-8. It’s only been 7 months, which isn’t a lot of time in terms of creating a product like an X-Wing expansion!

    Howlrunner, Juno Eclipse, Jan Ors (a pilot in the same set that has Katarn as a pilot, I’m guessing you don’t have that one), Guri, Manaroo, Sabine, Hera, and more coming. Not to mention many female crew, and a decent number of upgrade cards that aren’t specific characters have female art as well (the new Veteran Instincts promo card, Ruthlessness, Recon Specialist, etc). There’s also a lot of unique pilots that are gender-neutral, Omega Leader, Zeta Ace, Scourge, Chaser, etc.

    Another thing I think is worth mentioning is that when females are depicted it’s done in a classy way, the same as anything else. No cheesecake scantily clad art or damsels in distress like in many games.

    Just a couple of thoughts that I wanted to share. Otherwise I really enjoyed the review! It certainly will cost you!

    • Hey hey

      I don’t disagree with any of this, but I do disagree that it means there isn’t a problem. 82 to 20 would be a problem even across the whole set, but fundamentally my problem is with the philosophy that you should be expected to buy in diversity. It is a small collection I have, but it’s still £140 and in my view that already puts it way beyond the bracket that the expectation should be on me to solve the problem with more financial outlay.

      The later expansions, as I mentioned in the review, look like they’re going to do great in this though – Star Wars: Rebels has some tremendously strong women characters, and that’s going to do the line a tremendous amount of credit. I just don’t think that’s enough, and I think the problem can be relatively easily solved.

      Bear in mind this blog isn’t about tournament play or a guide for high-end X-Wing players. It’s not even actually a blog about X-Wing – it’s just one of many things we’ve looked at. This blog primarily for people that are thinking ‘Okay, we have a group with accessibility considerations – can we play X-Wing if we want to?’, and as an extension to that ‘We can play X-Wing, will people feel like it’s a game for them?’. The diversity issue directly impacts on the second of these – it won’t be everyone, but a large number of people need to feel a sense of connection with the characters they play, and it’s not easy to do that with X-Wing unless you have deep pockets.

      But really, in the end if you don’t think this is a problem, if it hasn’t been an issue for any groups you’ve played, and any women you’d like to play with are happy with the characters on offer, it’s safe to ignore the comments. Accessibility is very nuanced, everyone is different, and there are plenty of women who will roll their eyes at the problems I’ve outlined above. I personally think it’s a problem though, which is why I raised it.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the teardown though – remember that this isn’t my view on X-Wing. There’s a review elsewhere on the site where I gush about how fantastic it is. This is just ‘Can people play if they want to’, and ‘will they want to if they can’. It’s not about whether people *should*, because as far as I’m concerned that’s a straight-forward and uncomplicated ‘absolutely’ 😀

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