Flight Academy – Setup and Gameplay

Most of my articles concerning Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures and Star Trek: Attack Wing make assumptions about you as the reader; usually that you understand the game or that you’ve played a similar game before, but that you might not have seen the particular facet of the game which I am writing about. In today’s article, we’re going back to the beginning, and I’ll be assuming you’ve never played either game. With any luck, the “Flight Academy” series will become a go-to guide for when somebody searches “how do you play X-Wing Miniatures” or “how do you play Star Trek: Attack Wing”.  Today I’ll be covering setup and basic turn structure.

For the purposes of this article, both game systems work in exactly the same way unless otherwise noted. There are exceptions to almost every rule I’m about to describe in both X-Wing and Attack Wing, but this guide will give you a head start and form the basis for your understanding of the game.

While there are plenty of variants out there for more players or even solitaire games, a game of Attack Wing or X-Wing begins with two players agreeing upon a size of game to play based on a number of points, with 100 points being a suggested standard size. Each player builds a fleet of ships and optional upgrades from their collection; each card has a cost printed on it that counts against the points they have available. Each ship card has an “upgrade bar” which contains a quick reference as to what upgrades that ship may have equipped to it, not all ships can carry all items. Once all of your points are spent (or at least as close to it as you care to get), you’re ready to play.

The standard play surface is a 3 foot by 3 foot area, which may have a few obstacles placed on it; asteroids or a planet token perhaps. Players set up their fleets on opposite sides of the play area, within 4 inches of their edge of the field. This 4 inch distance is known as “Range 1”, and can be easily measured with the appropriately marked section of the 12 inch range ruler included with the base set of each game. Each ship will have a skill level associated with it, either from the pilot (in X-Wing) or the captain (in Attack Wing). Ships are placed onto the field in ascending order of skill, with different rules to break ties in each system. Once all ships are placed, the standard turn cycle begins: Planning, Activation, Combat, End/Cleanup.

In the Planning phase, players secretly select the maneuvers that each of their ships will be performing this turn. This is the part where you’re trying to outguess your opponent’s moves, as all players are simultaneously making their plans, normally without any solid information as to what the opponent will do. Each ship class has a maneuver dial associated with it, which shows all possible moves for that ship. For each ship in play, the controlling player takes a movement dial of the same class and turns it to the move of their choice for the turn, and places the dial next to the ship. The moves listed on the dial all have a direction, a speed, and a color. The direction indicates the shape of the movement template that will be used by that ship, the speed indicates which of multiple sizes of that template will be used. The color of the maneuver reflects how much effort is required to perform the maneuver. White moves are considered normal, and have no effect on the ship. Red maneuvers are difficult, and put the ship into a stressed state (represented by a Stress Token or an Auxiliary Power Token) if it is not already in that state, or is considered illegal if the ship is already stressed, which is rectified by allowing the opponent to choose a legal move for that ship. Green maneuvers, on the other hand, are easy to perform and remove one of the aforementioned tokens if one or more have been previously assigned to the ship.

Once both players have completed their planning for the turn, and all ships have a dial assigned to them, the activation phase begins. Ships are activated one at a time in ascending order of skill, in the same order that they were deployed (unless some game effect has modified their skill). During the activation, the maneuver dial for that ship will be revealed, the matching template will be placed at the front of the ship’s base, and the ship will be moved to the opposite end of the template. If the maneuver removes a Stress token or Auxiliary Power Token, it does so immediately.

Each ship moves and takes its’ actions one at a time. Players cannot change their selections on the maneuver dial once this process has started without an ability that specifically allows it, so there are bound to be some collisions eventually. The lower your skill, the sooner you move, and for low skill ships, the board looks mostly like it did before the activation phase began, making collisions more and more likely as the phase progresses.

Obstacles are handled differently in each game, and can have effects such as causing damage to the ship, preventing them from firing that turn, or causing them to not be able to take actions that round. If a ship’s final position would overlap another ship, it’s movement is shortened until it no longer overlaps a ship, perhaps not moving at all, and that ship is not allowed to perform actions for that turn. On the other hand, higher skilled ships have more information about what the board will look like during the combat phase, and can use that knowledge to their advantage when selecting actions; ships that are safely out of sight can take purely offensive actions, while ships that don’t have targets available to them can attempt to take defensive actions.

Assuming that no collisions have occurred, and that the ship has no Stress/Auxiliary Power Tokens, the ship may perform one Action after moving. Each ship’s card will have an Action Bar with multiple symbols on it denoting what actions the ship may take by default. Examples include acquiring a Target Lock, taking an Evade token, or taking a Focus/Battlestations token (same effect, different name per system). Many upgrade cards have text that begin with the phrase “Action:”, which may be used for the effect that follows instead of taking an action from the Ship card. In addition to the ship’s normal action, many ships and upgrades allow Free Actions, which are additional Actions that can be performed freely at this time (before or after the standard action). The only constraint is that no Action may be performed multiple times by the same ship within a turn. The process of revealing a dial, moving, and taking action(s) is repeated with the un-activated ship with the lowest remaining skill value on the field until all ships have been activated.

Now comes the part you’ve been looking forward to; it’s time to blow some stuff up in the combat phase! Once again, skill values come in to play to determine the order in which ships are resolved, but this time it’s reversed – highest skill shoots first. There are plenty of individual instances that modify this (weapons with no defined firing arc, or with specific range restrictions), but in general each ship may fire a single shot with their primary weapon at a target inside their forward arc (marked on the ship’s base) up to 12 inches away (the length of the standard range rulers).

The attacking ship nominates a target and rolls attack dice equal to their ship’s primary attack value, plus one extra at Range 1 (within 4 inches). The results of this roll can potentially be modified by effects from upgrades or actions taken during the turn (such as re-rolling miss results by spending a Target Lock). If there are any dice displaying a [Hit] or [Crit] result after modifications, then it’s on to the target to try to dodge the shot, otherwise the attack has automatically missed.

If there were [Hit] or [Crit] results from the attack (there’s usually at least one), the target then rolls defense dice. The number rolled is equal to their ship’s agility, plus one extra at Range 3 (and another extra if the shot crosses an obstacle of some type other than another ship). The defending ship may potentially modify their dice (such as spending a Focus/Battlestations token to convert the corresponding results to [Evade] results), and each [Evade] result cancels one [Hit] or [Crit] result, starting with the [Hit] results first. If there are at least as many [Evade] results as there are [Hit] and [Crit] results, the shot has missed. If any dice are uncanceled, then the defending ship takes damage. Starting with the [Hit] results first, each point of damage removes a shield token, if any are present, or deals one card from the damage deck to the ship. [Hit] results are dealt face down, [Crit] results are turned face up and have some additional effect. In either case, each card counts as one point of damage, and when the damage allocated to a ship meets or exceeds its’ hull value, the ship is destroyed.

Once all surviving ships have had their opportunity to shoot (regardless of whether they actually got a shot off or not, it’s pretty common to have someone without a legal shot), we move to the End/Cleanup phase. I phrase it that way because it’s technically two separate steps, there are lots of effects that can be triggered “at the end” of the turn from upgrades and abilities, but it’s simply a timing opportunity, nothing distinctly happens there without those abilities. After any of those effects have been resolved, tokens which last through the end of the turn (Focus/Battlestations, Evade, Scan, etc) are removed. Target Lock Tokens, and Stress/Auxiliary Power Tokens remain in place, as these abilities have continuing effects. Cloak Tokens are a special case in Attack Wing, they must be removed if flipped to the red side, or may be removed voluntarily if the controlling player wishes to do so.

After the Cleanup phase is completed, the next turn begins with another Planning phase. The game continues through these steps until one player reaches the victory conditions for the scenario (usually wiping out the opposing force), or until time runs out for the game. If there isn’t a specific scenario in play that says otherwise, the player with the most points of ships and upgrades still active in the game wins the match.

So there you have it, the core rules for both Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures and Star Trek: Attack Wing in well under 2000 words. Keep an eye out for future editions of Flight Academy, in which I’ll be discussing things that AREN’T in the rulebook: hit probabilities, the concepts of action economy and list economy, basic list archetypes, and so on. If there’s a concept you’re curious about, or want more information about, by all means, let me know and I’ll be glad to add it into the series!

— The Tabletop General