Guest Post by Charlie King
I wonder how long these models will take to build… and do I have enough time to get them painted today, or will I have to wait until next week to get them in a list? I think the new edition of the Codex means this army’s rules have slightly changed, have you read them yet? As a young Warhammer 40k player, game piece frustration and rule minutiae often overwhelmed the fun of playing what was already a 3-4 hour game.
In part because of those drawbacks, I drifted away from tabletop gaming for about 10 years. I always had fun playing, but keeping up with something so complex and expensive was no longer worth it. It felt like a waste of time when enjoyable multi-player games like Settlers, Dominion, and Munchkin could be explained, set up, and played in the time it took to break a unit of Genestealers from their sprues (forget assembly and painting).
Despite and perhaps because of their relative simplicity, I started to notice that ‘social’ board games lacked the ability to drive narrative across plays, and therefore the novelty wore off quickly. As much as I tried to spin a tale of my Settlers being from an old-world herding clan, my opponents were somehow always more interested in beating me than learning about the backstory of my 2-1 sheep ports, can you believe that? Even though I had left tabletop behind, I felt the pull to construct and paint models for an old-school tabletop battle just for the richness of the stories I know it would produce. But as an adult the expense and time commitment hadn’t become any easier to justify.
If only there was a game with a robust player community, high-quality models that are simple to construct and use, uncomplicated gameplay and elegant list creation, that somehow had the world-building quality of an infinite universe like Warhammer 40k…
*CUE THE STAR WARS THEME*
I moved back to where my old gaming buddies lived and within a week I had heard from more than one of them about a new game. A game that involves the characters and ships from my favorite film saga played with movement templates and dials in around an hour start to finish with models that come assembled and painted. I was skeptical, as I’ve been taken on rides before with new games (airsoft comes to mind) touted as more fun, cheaper, and better. But I longed for the experience of a truly immersive game and jumped in with a starter set and a few expansions.
I realize what I thought was impossible has indeed been achieved. The pure joy of such simple gameplay is made richer by framing a battle upon seemingly endless possibilities within the Star Wars Extended Universe. Each dice roll gives you the ability to add a layer to an already deep story (Luke felt the Force course through him before firing, hitting with each shot), each victory or defeat signal movement in a much bigger war (Imperial forces were driven out of an Outer Rim system by Wes Janson and the Rogue Squadron), and list decisions can be weaved into an existing story (Wedge installed his own Integrated Flight-Assist Astromech after the struggling to maneuver in the Battle of Yavin). Because the Star Wars universe is so accessible other players connect with this larger narrative the same way I do, meaning no more rolled eyes when I start into some fabricated justification for an otherwise ridiculous gameplay decision.
What I didn’t realize until I had been playing for a few weeks was how mature the game and the community around it had already become. Having not heard of X-Wing, I assumed I was starting out as a new player just a few months after everyone else I was playing with, the way it had typically been for me. Not until I discovered seemingly endless message boards, podcasts, and blogs did I realize I was playing a game people had been enjoying for years. While being part of something new is always an enjoyable challenge, an existing community makes jumping into the game very comfortable. An unforeseen side-effect of this is there was plenty of painting and modelling inspiration already out there to find, which although not required, provides the perfect amount of creative outlet.
Games are for finding joy in time spent around other people. Part of that joy for me is the story each game tells. I reserve a spot for warm feelings about days now gone spent setting up ~80 models and tucking in for an afternoon spent slogging through only 6 turns, but that’s not enough to entice playing again. I’m glad I’ve been shown another path back into the world of tabletop with X-Wing.