First released in 2012, Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures has been a huge success, and it has seen no shortage of starfighter expansions. The game is a collectable miniature game in which two players take on the role of the evil Empire or the heroic Rebel Alliance as they pilot X-Wing starfighters and TIE Fighters in deadly dogfights on the tabletop. Though in the past, X-Wing has introduced large ships like the Millennium Falcon, Slave I and the Imperial Shuttle, these new ships dwarf anything that has come before.
First seen fleeing the planet Hoth in the 1980 film, “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back,” the Rebel Transport expansion uses new rules and a new template for movement. One new key mechanic that it brings to the table is energy. Each turn the Rebel player will select the ship's movement on its movement dial, just like they would with the smaller fighters. Here however, after each movement, the ships generates energy. The slower the ship moves means the more energy it can generate for other things.
After movement, players can allocate their energy to different tasks and then take actions.
The Rebel Transport also comes with one X-Wing starfighter escort with an orange paint scheme and several new pilot cards. The Rebel Transport must be surrounded by a bodyguard of Rebel starfighters, as it has no offensive weapons of its own. Unlike most ships in the game, the Rebel Transport only comes with one ship card, displaying its shield points and hull strength.
The Tantive IV has the distinction of being the very first spaceship ever seen in the Star Wars universe, appearing at the very beginning of “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.” The Tantive IV expansion for X-Wing, sold separately from the Rebel Transport, uses the same new movement/energy rules and movement template, though it does come with quite a few more options.
The Tantive IV comes with several crew upgrade cards, including Han Solo and Leia Organa, which give the ship important bonuses. Critically, the Tantive IV comes with important weapons. In addition to a primary laser weapon with a 360-degree firing arc, several upgrade cards allow the ship to fire additional weapons at the cost of energy.
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures is just a fantastic game, and these two huge ship expansions bring a lot more fun and variety to the table. Both ships come with scenario and campaign books that allow players to re-create the adventures from the films. Fantasy Flight Games has really gone all out to make these pre-painted minis absolutely gorgeous. The attention to detail on these sculpts make the ships true works of Star Wars art. The only downside is that Fantasy Flight Games has not yet announced an Imperial huge-ship release, which could add a whole new dimension to the game as two or more huge ships battle.
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures is recommended for ages 14 and up. Play time varies with scenario.
Forsaken Lore: Also from Fantasy Fight Games is Forsaken Lore, an expansion to last year's breakout hit, Eldritch Horror. In my Top Ten Tabletop Games of 2013, Eldritch Horror came in at No. 1, and for good reason. It's a smart, scary board game that has players working together to battle some of H.P. Lovecraft's most menacing monsters.
One of the few (and big) complaints about Eldritch Horror was that it didn't have enough cards for its adventures, and therefore replayability suffered. This new expansion features a new ancient one, a monster named Yig, and mountains of new mystery cards, mythos cards, asset cards, condition cards and more.
Forsaken Lore adds virtually nothing to the game in terms of mechanics, though it didn't really need to. This expansion offers more of the great storytelling adventure that players have come to love from the game.
Eldrtich Horror plays in about two to four hours. It is recommended for ages 14 and up, and does contain some scary imagery.
Machi Koro: Machi Koro is a product of the Japanese microgame movement, a design method that tries to pack big games into small packages.
In Machi Koro, two to four players take on the role of a community leader as they each try to develop their town. Players start with two cards face up, the wheat field and the bakery. They also receive four landmarks, face down cards indicating the radio tower, the amusement park, the station and the shopping mall. These four buildings are considered to be under construction. All of the cards are placed before them on the table.
A wide variety of cards is then laid out to one side in easy reach of all players, forming the supply. These cards represent other buildings or enterprises, such as the convenience store, the ranch, the cafe or the mine.
On a player's turn, he or she rolls a dice. If the number matches the number upon a card in his or her city, it activates, and they receive a certain amount of coins. However, the color of the card is also important. Whenever a player rolls a number that activates a blue card, all players receive coins. Whenever a player rolls a number that activates a green card, only that single receives coins. If a player rolls a number that activates a specific red card, he must pay all the players who have that red card.
After a player has rolled and paid and/or collected money, he may purchase a card from the supply. Paying the card's cost to the bank, the player places the card in his tableau. Ideally, players are going to want to diversify their cards in order to cover the most possible dice rolls, giving priority to the most probable.
Machi Koro is a surprisingly simple yet really fun game that draws in players in a big way. The mechanic of dice rolling to activate playing cards is reminiscent of the dice rolling in fan favorite The Settlers of Catan. Here, however, the game is all about the dice roll and selecting cards that players believe will make them money. There is a lot of variety in Machi Koro, and though there is a lot of luck in every dice roll, there is some strategy.
Machi Koro may be too light for some gamers. There is not a lot of thematic or mechanical depth with this game. Nevertheless, it is incredibly engaging as players race to be the first to build the landmarks. Its simplicity means that it is also a great game for younger players and families
Playing in about 30 minutes, Machi Koro is recommended for players 7 and up.
Pixel Tactics 3: Level 99 Games' Pixel Tactics is a series of card combat games in which two players battle using various cards with multiple abilities. The third iteration of this game can be played as a stand alone game or in conjunction with the first two in the series.
Each player receives an identical deck of cards with different color backs, red and blue. Players shuffle their decks then draw five cards. Each card has five distinct abilities. First of all, a card has an order for when the card is played from the hand. It also has three specific abilities depending upon where you place the card (hero) in the play area. Finally, the card has a leader ability, which is upside down from the rest of the card's text. Each hero and leader has attack and hit points.
Each player imagines a three-by-three grid in the play area before him, facing opponent's grid. Players select a card from their initial five cards to be the leader, then place it in the center section of the grid. After selecting a first player, there is a wave, or turn, for each player at each horizontal rank of their grid: the vanguard, the front rank; the flanks, beside the leader; and the rear.
On a turn during a wave, there are six options. Players can draw a new card from their deck; they can recruit a hero, placing one of their cards in an empty section of the current wave; they can attack an enemy card with one of their heroes; they may play an order from their hand and discard the card; they may clear a corpse, a defeated face down hero, from the grid; or they may restructure, moving a hero to a different location in the grid.
The first player to defeat his opponent's leader is the winner.
Pixel Tactics 3 is another example of a simple game that offers a surprising level of engagement with every play. “Tactics” really is the key word here, as you must constantly consider how best to play your cards given the variety of abilities they posses. Where you place a hero in the game is very important.
There is a lot of little text on these cards, and players will be hunched over constantly to read it. Unfortunately, Level 99 Games put the rules on a fold out poster which has two grids you can play on with on on the other side. It's never a good idea to put a player board on one side with the rules on the other. If you choose to use the poster you won't be able to look up important rules at key moments.
Pixel Tacitcs 3 is a great tactical card combat game that is really a lot of fun. It plays in about 30 minutes and is recommended for ages 12 and up.