From One Chance to the Next
Guest Writer Bryan Young on Using X-Wing™ in His Age of Rebellion™ Campaign
"They have no idea we're coming. They have no reason to expect us. If we can make it to the ground, we'll take the next chance. And the next. On and on until we win... or the chances are spent."
Iconic heroes, powerful villains, dramatic starfighter battles, and the heated conflicts between the evil Galactic Empire and the rag-tag Rebel Alliance—these are all hallmarks of the original Star Wars trilogy, and you can bring them all to life on your tabletop with both Star Wars™: Age of Rebellion™ and the X-Wing™ miniatures game.
In the Age of Rebellion roleplaying game, you and your friends weave your own, galaxy-spanning tales of action, adventure, and duty. One of you assumes control of the Empire and its vast resources—soldiers, pilots, TIE fighters, Star Destroyers, and even the Death Star. The rest of you become Rebels, woefully outnumbered and outgunned, looking to complete whatever missions might make a dent in the Imperial machine.
On the other hand, X-Wing cuts away from the politics, the relationships, and the action on the ground to focus laser-sharp on the sort of Star Wars starfighter battles that spark the imagination. With its streamlined mechanics and nearly limitless customization, X-Wing allows you to recreate nearly any starfighter duel that leaps to mind. Darth Vader versus Luke Skywalker . Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon against Boba Fett in Slave I . Rey in the Falcon against Kylo Ren in his shuttle.
But these games don't need to stand apart. Just as the galaxy benefitted from the unusual combination of a Tatooine farm boy and a Corellian smuggler, you can bring these games together. With a little imagination, you can blend the games to add new dimensions to your enjoyment of the Star Wars experience.
This combination of Age of Rebellion and X-Wing has long been a subject of discussion among fans, and it has also been at the center of a number of articles by guest writer Bryan Young. In previous articles, he explored how blending the games might add visceral, visual appeal to your roleplaying experience and emotional urgency to your miniatures battles. He discussed the creation of villains who would fit both systems. And he talked about how he sent his friends on a mission designed to feature the best elements of both games.
Today, Bryan returns to share more of his experiences. His team of Rebels has infiltrated an Imperial outpost, recovered a mysterious decoder, and strapped themselves into the cockpits of their fighters. Now, they're set to return to base… But first they have to race through a treacherous asteroid field and deal with the incoming TIEs.
Bryan Young on "The Varactyls: Session Two"
In our last session, our group of Rebels—the Varactyls—had broken the decoder out of his jail cell and made it to the stage of the mission where they were getting into their ships and making their escape from the secret Imperial asteroid base. It was time to put the miniature starfighters on the table…
I can barely begin to describe how much more exhilarating I find the X-Wing game when you have actual investment in the characters in the fighters. There’s so much more at stake. When you add in the life-or-death stakes of the mission objectives, it adds an all-new dimension to the tabletop play.
In this article, though, rather than talk about how the heroes managed to evade the Imperial fighters and make their escape, I’m going to tell you how we went about organizing the session. Since we’re blending Age of Rebellion and X-Wing, we obviously had some things to consider. How would we make the stats on the X-Wing ship cards reflect the characters and their unique abilities? How could we give characters credits for talents they’ve taken? That’s what we’re about to explore.
But first, one notable caveat: Since this is just about how my friends and I chose to run our campaign: our experience was largely trial-and-error, and there might be things I’d do differently next time. You might want to do things differently if you try this as well.
If you remember from last time, the Varactyls had broken into a secret Imperial installation in the heart of an asteroid belt. The end of the session saw them escaping in small fighter ships they’d brought along.
Their mission objective was to make it from one end of the play field to the other, which was coincidentally the very length of my gaming table. Once the Varactyls made it to the other side, it was assumed they would make the jump into hyperspace to their rendezvous point.
Since the base was in an asteroid field, I spread a bunch of asteroid and debris tokens across the play area. I then chose two pairs of TIE fighters as the security detail on the other side of the asteroids, having been called in to stop the Rebels from fleeing the base. I decided the base would have scrambled more fighters by the third round, so I would need to keep track of that as well.
Now that the mission parameters were clear, we had to work out some mechanics.
In X-Wing, each ship is given a ship card that identifies its pilot and that pilot's skill. In general, there are three tiers of pilots for each sort of ship—rookies, squadron pilots, and named, unique aces. These allowed us some way to distinguish between the characters in our campaign as we shifted from pencil and paper to miniatures on the table.
The characters who had no ranks in piloting whatsoever got the rookie cards. This means they’d be maneuvering first and firing last, which put them at a distinct disadvantage. The characters who had a modest investment in their piloting skills got cards for squadron pilots. And this put them in the middle of the pack as far as pilots were concerned.
As far as the squadron leaders went—the characters who had been designed to shine in ship-to-ship combats—they got named character cards for the type of ships they were in. In the case of the story, we had one such character flying an E-wing, and he used Etahn A’baht’s card to represent his piloting skills and squadron leadership.
One of the most fascinating features of Age of Rebellion—and each of the games in the Star Wars Roleplaying line—is how it uses a pool of destiny points to help players shape the narrative and draws the nature of the Force into the story. Bringing this pool forward to X-Wing for the purposes of our game made a lot of sense and kept it more fully in the spirit of our general roleplaying. Accordingly, we established a pool of destiny points just like at the beginning of any regular session of the roleplaying game.
In the game then, I allowed players to try to come up with creative ways to use them. Sometimes that meant taking an extra action in their ships, pushing their engines to travel an inch farther, or adding a die to their attacks or defenses. But it worked in the opposite direction as well; it gave my Imperials the same opportunities to adjust their maneuvers or modify their attacks.
The result was that our use of destiny created a heightened sense of stakes to the game.
Another way we decided our players could use their destiny points was to activate the piloting talents from their skill trees whenever they made sense. Like everything in a story-based roleplaying game, this took some give and take from the players and myself.
Here are a few that came up or we discussed:
- Full Throttle: This is a talent in the Driver and Pilot talent trees that allows pilots to push their ships past their normal top speed for a number of rounds equal to their cunning. Using a destiny point from the pool would add that extra bit of movement—if desired—for virtually the entire session. When the mission objective is to escape safe and sound, this one would come in handy!
- Defensive Driving: Since this was a passive skill, we allowed anyone with it to take a free, automatic evade token every turn, allowing them that extra chance to avoid incoming fire.
- Full Stop: This is one of those abilities that's extremely rare in X-Wing and simply didn't exist on any of the ships we had in our mission. So for the cost of a destiny point, a pilot able to use this ability and stop his ship completely, could wreak absolute havoc.
There are a whole range of talents that characters could potentially apply to their flying, and part of what made the exercise so much fun was the collaborative process of interpreting them. For example, Master Pilot could conceivably allow a player to use his or her action to fire twice in one round, rather than use it to focus, evade, or barrel roll. Perhaps your Ambassador character could use Inspiring Rhetoric over the comlinks to help your fellow shipmates recover strain…
The possibilities are really endless and are limited only by your imagination and that of your players. But don’t forget to use the dark side of the destiny pool yourself. Come up with creative ways to use your destiny points to really put your players in a tight spot. That could just mean pushing the speed of a ship, or it might mean performing a double barrel-roll—anything to keep the players on their toes!
There's a risk that players will lose their characters in any roleplaying game. Sometimes it's a result of how the dice roll. Sometimes it's because one or more characters make a heroic sacrifice.
It's not always intentional, but given the lethality of starfighter combat in X-Wing, the risk of having a player lose his or her character is far greater in a blended X-Wing and Age of Rebellion game than in your standard Age of Rebellion campaign. That's part of the charm.
So when a player loses their character in the X-Wing portions of the game, you—as Game Master—should make the others roleplay their anguish. I’d even suggest adding some dark side points or using them more frequently here to simulate the added pressure.
But when that character falls, don’t make the player just sit and watch the rest of the session! Have him or her roll up a brand new character. By the end of the mission—by time the rest of the Varactyls make it back to base—that new character will be the team's newly assigned rookie, and the player will be all ready to take part in the next phase of the game.
Story Makes Everything Better
I can't tell you much fun it was to incorporate our roleplaying story into the context of X-Wing. With the stakes raised and the lives of actual player characters at risk, it gave each maneuver and action a personal energy. No longer could you expect your pilot to fly another day simply because you still had its particular pilot card; you were flying for life-and-death stakes with a character you had invested time and energy into.
With the tension all ratcheted up, this ended up being easily one of the most memorable playing experiences I’ve had in a Star Wars roleplaying setting!
When Bryan Young's not busy dreaming up new ways to marry the miniatures action of X-Wing to the battle-scarred adventures of Age of Rebellion, he is a regular columnist for StarWars.com and a frequent contributor to Star Wars Insider. You can also hear him on the Full of Sith podcast and follow him on Twitter @swankmotron.
Save the Rebellion! Save the Dream!
Throughout the Star Wars galaxy, there are countless stories of the brave and heroic few who stood against the cold, implacable forces of the Galactic Empire. With Age of Rebellion and X-Wing, you too can step into these stories and play your part in the fight for galactic freedom. If you choose, you can even combine the games like Bryan Young in order to further customize your Rebel experience.
After all, there is no right or wrong way to enjoy the narrative depth of our Star Wars Roleplaying titles or the fast-paced action of X-Wing. Instead, we encourage you to experiment with the whole range of possibilities they afford you—a range of game experiences nearly as vast as the Star Wars universe itself!