X-Wing Escalation Furball

If you get more than four players in a room for Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures, the laws of physics mandate that a “Furball” will be suggested by at least one of those players. The Wikipedia definition of a Furball is “a large dog fight between groups of fighter aircraft”. More specifically, in X-Wing a Furball is considered a Free-For-All format, in which three or more players each field a force which is much smaller than used in standard games (30-35 points as opposed to the standard 100) and battle it out amongst themselves to be the last pilot standing. Another nearby venue whose regular X-Wing night conflicts with my schedule tends to run a Furball match about every other week, so players are familiar with it and like it as a change of pace, but I’ve not played in many.

With that being said, this week my Tuesday night group decided they wanted to change things up do something other than yet another round of 100 point 1-on-1 games. We’ve got an RPG-style campaign in the works, but the rules aren’t finished, so we couldn’t really kick that off. As busy as I’ve been lately, I didn’t have it in me to play a long and relatively slow Epic format game; I can only bring out the big guns on the CR-90 Blockade Runner so often. But not wanting to disappoint the group I dug out an idea that had been bubbling in the back of my mind for a few weeks; an Escalation Furball. I didn’t have any fully defined rules for it yet, but the group jumped all over it, so we cooked something up really quick, and the rules we used for a trial run are described below:

All players began the match with 15 points to spend on a single ship. Players were randomly assigned an initiative order in case of matching pilot skill which did not change through the course of the event. Players were also randomly assigned a board edge along which they deployed their ship as per normal rules. Assignment of a board edge was done using a die roll, which also included a wildcard value that allowed the player to chose any board edge from which they would deploy.

The game turn sequence was handled as normal, and every pilot was out for themselves to score as many kills as possible. No credit was given for damage, only for kills, so in many cases having a high initiative value was a bad thing, as subsequent pilots could steal your kills after your target was been softened up. The points spent on each ship killed were added to the cumulative score of the player scoring the kill.

But instead of being out of the match as per normal Furball rules, pilots who were shot down were given an additional 5 points above their previous allowance in order to create a new ship and re-enter the fight from a new random board edge. Not only did this keep the chaos churning, but it meant that players who were picked on early got something with more teeth to it to come back for revenge. The game continued until the end of the round after one player had scored a cumulative total of at least 100 points of kills, with the highest total score winning the game.

New players were allowed to join in at any time, and would receive the same amount of points for their ship as the points allowed to the majority of the group at that time. They would be coming from behind, with a starting score of zero, but would still be able to join in on the fun.

To keep players from rushing up to a higher point ship, suicides were discouraged (if it could be argued as intentional, flying off the board would disqualify a player), but being sent off the board or into an asteroid that would kill the ship by an ion cannon shot would earn a kill for the player who caused the ionization effect.

Escalation Furball
About 5 turns in, the first wave pilots taken out are starting to re-enter the field with heavier armaments. The Y-Wing just entering the center map is an un-welcomed surprise for the TIE Fighter next to it. I think the damage cards on the left are from where my TIE Bomber was swarmed in a hurry for an easy 20 point score.

The event itself was pure chaos. With 13 players, we used 3 maps side by side, 3 sets of asteroid tokens, two damage decks that were cycled back in as ships were destroyed, and there were dice flying everywhere. To keep deployment in check, I randomly assigned both a map and an edge for entry points. The 3-map format meant that not as many players entered from the center map, which essentially split the melee in half, and players entering from the middle went to one extreme or the other to pick which fight they would join. This split helped tremendously with keeping the game moving, as two or more players could move and shoot simultaneously, not being able to affect each other or really caring as to what the other did so far away from one another. After about 10 turns, players started handling things for themselves, only consulting me and my scribbled notes when they needed to know which of two ships with the same skill had initiative over each other.

As opposed to the “last pilot standing” Furball format which can lead to some cat-and-mouse type games, Furball Escalation turned into a race to the finish. Of the 13 players in this trial run, I think that 11 of the 13 managed to score at least one kill. The final score included at least 4 players at or above 80 points, all one more kill (of anything but a starter ship) away from victory. I had a horrendous start myself, as my Black Squadron TIE Fighter (Veteran Instincts, PS 6 in the opening 15 point bracket) and Scimitar Squadron TIE Bomber (2x Flechette Torpedoes, just because I could) were both shot down quickly, but Turr Phenir and his TIE Interceptor didn’t need any upgrades to quickly chew through a HWK-290, a Lambda Shuttle, and another TIE Interceptor in rapid succession, bringing me screaming up from the back half of the pack to pull off a last-second win.

I’ll be making some tweaks to the system before running it again, but the core idea seems solid. Some of the proposed modifications were:

  • Prohibiting a given player from using the same ship class twice.
  • Only allowing a certain number of lives per player.
  • Adding bonuses for surviving a certain number of turns in a ship.
  • Changing the win conditions to favor players with less deaths.
  • Splitting the game into two or more tables with a “hyperspace” option.

The system isn’t perfect by any means, but it seemed like everybody had a great time with it, and we will definitely be running it again in some fashion. It gave everybody a sneak peek at how our campaign will run, because the games will likely be similar in size and mechanics, but with scenario specific rules added in. It was a welcome break from just another series of 1-on-1 matches. We had a bigger turnout for this casual weeknight gaming session than we’ve had for some recent weekend tournaments (there were others watching and commentating). This was one of the first games ever played for a couple of participants, and being able to focus on just one ship in a target rich environment was a great way for them to start. All said and done, I’d call it a successful night.

— The Tabletop General