Qt3 Games Podcast: Craig Miller and X-Wing Miniatures

Craig Miller, who’s never been into miniatures games, explains why he’s playing one now. But as you’ll discover in the course of the podcast, he won’t be playing it very much come February!

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2016/10/05/qt3-games-podcast-craig-miller-x-wing-miniatures/

I keep forgetting to make this clear at the head of these podcasts, but the Craig in question is @craigm, in case that’s not clear!


That was fast!

Man, I could talk for hours more. We barely scratched the surface of the games depth. So much there, which is why I love it.

One thing I didn’t really get to on the show was how much of X-wing is outside of the game. I spend more time before a match, thinking of lists, creating odd combos, than I do actually playing. In fact that is more than half the fun! I love looking over what card I have, and trying to come up with novel and interesting lists to play. I’ve played less than half of the lists I created. Finding some card that I’ve not used, and trying to create a list around that, is enjoyable in how it forces me to think about the mechanics in creative ways.

It was a blast Tom, and I promise if I had another hour, I could have talked you into the game. After all, as you are a fan of RTS’s, what if I told you there were several opening strategies, much like how in an RTS there are rush strategies and turtle strategies? I’m telling you, this game has as much depth as you want to find in it :)

The real question I have, Craig, is why I would get into X-Wing over Armada? Because I am curious, but the scale of Armada appeals to me much more. Is there anyone out there who knows both X-Wing and Armada who can speak to which they prefer.

Because, seriously, look at this:

Which is hawt enough, but look what’s due out later this year:

A campaign mode!

The main problem is that it’s a collectible game and I don’t have any friends with whom I regularly play who are interested in collectible games.


Personally, I think that Armada is the better system, but it also requires a bigger time/monetary commitment. X-wing is easier to pick up and play, but Armada is just so much more epic and rewarding. I especially love the dichotomy between strike craft and capital ships in Armada, which X-wing doesn’t really have.

Welp, for what it’s worth, I think I’ve just consented to be directly exposed to X-Wing later this month. Wish me luck!


OMG it’s not Kai-roh: that’s in Egypt. It’s Kay-roh, Illinois!

Haven’t finished listening but am enjoying it so far.

Just because they say it wrong, doesn’t mean I have to ;)

Ok, so to kind of tail off of what @cpugeek13 said, the games do play at different scales. Armada plays on a fixed turn limit, X-wing a fixed time limit. Armada plays for 7 turns, which roughly equates to 90 minutes - 2.5 hours. X-wing standard format is 60 minutes, with tournaments typically going 75 (to reduce the amount of draws/ modified victories). Armada is also less strictly ‘destroy other ships’, as there is an objective mechanic. Depending on lists and point bids one player will select an objective from a few options the other player made available. This can mean that a player could, in theory, win without destroying an enemy ship. In practice, though, the points are such that this would be really hard to do.

Also, as mentioned, X-wing is more reactive to the game state. You only ever set one turn at a time. Now, granted, top level players will think several moves in advance (if I pull a hard 2 here, it puts me in good position for this attack, but if he moves his ship with a 3 bank, it will put him right behind me the next turn), but Armada mandates setting your movement and actions several turns in advance, depending on the ship. Now this is one thing FFG does very well, they create mechanics to evoke the setting. A capital ship battle should feel more ponderous, more regimented, more careful planning. X-wing is a dogfight, having ships quickly change direction is fitting with the dogfight mentality of the game.

X-wing is also the more mature system, having been around longer, and also has more potential for variety in new ships. Unfortunately, due to the depreciation of EU into legends, there is a much more finite number of ship options in Armada. Plus the models are more expensive, by a factor of 2+. The base game costs double, and most capital ships are $40-50. They are just as highly detailed and good looking as X-wing though, so I’ve even considered getting an ISD to put on the shelf.

And really that’s why I prefer X-wing. It is a lower cost of entry, for the same money I get more variety in how I can build out my lists, and it takes less of a time commitment. Considering I do all the cooking I can often get a game in and be home by 7 on store nights. With Armada that just wouldn’t happen. And since most of my friends who would play X-wing with me live 45+ minutes away this is essential to play.

And there is a campaign for X-wing! It is, granted, a fan mod, but it is supremely high quality. It even has an RPG like leveling mechanic! Co op with an ‘AI’ for imperials. That, plus the missions that come officially with the game, offer lots of ways to play beyond the basic 100 v 100 matches.

So the reality is that X-wing vs Armada is a choice between two well designed and highly thematic systems, where the mechanics gloriously compliment the theme. Fantasy Flight has done a fairly good job of keeping the games balanced and encouraging list diversity. My limited exposure to Armada means that I can’t definitively say which is better, just that I prefer the more frenetic pace and play of X-wing. There are just some things that are a part of X-wing that are not in Armada. Arc dodging, for one. One of my favorite ships is the TIE Interceptor, it is a fun ride. But you play on the edge of your seat, like I said in the show, you are always one hit away from death. So you need to carefully use your boost or barrel rolls to get out of firing arcs to stay alive. That intensity, that moment to moment planning of maneuvers, that ability to engage in a high variance maneuver to try and land a killing blow, that is where the game shines. X-wing often is a game of cat and mouse positioning, where two players may skirt the edge of the board, feinting in and out, trying to control the time and space of engagement. An arc dodger versus the Falcon needs to be very careful.

Armada evokes a different set of feelings. Positioning and speed are critical, those ships don’t turn around quickly so misjudge and your ISD may be out for the rest of the match, but it is a slower burn. A slower burn which, unfortunately, does not fit into my life.

Yeah, I feel you on the whole ‘not fitting into your life’ thing. I don’t have time to play either game but I seem to have plenty of time to collect them, organize them, and create overly-elaborate methods of displaying them.

One day I may actually get to play one!

Those pictures are about four months old and are missing the new wave 9 X-Wing stuff along with the last Armada batch.

So pretty! I have a few ships on display at any time, but mostly they’re boxed up. Such is apartment life.

But if you find yourself in the south or west Chicago suburbs, I know places. Just saying ;)

Didn’t realize until listening to this podcast that @CraigM was a fellow Rose-Hulman Engineer! When were you there? I started in '93, graduated CS/MA in '98. Been back to the Haute a few times since then, but I don’t exactly go out of my way to spend time there. :)

One story shared during pre show was about how the sewage treatment plant was on the west side of town.

I started in fall of 2003, but only went for 2 years due to a bunch of reasons, financial and otherwise. So I did not graduate from there. Instead I went back, years later, to Florida Tech. Which I graduated from in May of this year.

Had gone for Chemical Engineering initially, graduated Computer Science.

Which is a really good reason not to go back often!

That’s because you’re spending all of your time dusting them. That looks awesome, but holy crap it would take forever to dust!

@CraigM, the big question is which animated series should I watch first?

Unh-unh - the natives get to decide how the place name is pronounced! :)

Pleugim, that is awe inspiring. And more than a little daunting!


The short answer is: probably Rebels

The slightly longer answer is: It really depends on what you’re looking for.

The full answer: Rebels and The Clone Wars are very different in scope and tone. Each is worth watching, but where to start depends on what you’re looking for.

Clone Wars takes place during the titular Clone Wars, between Episodes 2 & 3. It is much more an ensemble cast, with Obi Wan, Anakin, and Anakin’s padawan Ahsoka being the primary, but there is about a dozen or more what I would call major characters. During the course of the show you may go multiple episodes where Anakin, or Obi Wan don’t appear at all. The show does, however, use this to tell stories you couldn’t do with a strict main cast focus. Episodes that emphasize the relationships between clones (who have distinct names and personalities) drives many episodes, minor Jedi become major focal points, the universe is expanded and explored.

It also has the best depiction of the actual realities of war in the Star Wars 'verse. It makes the economic and political factors of the movies that, quite frankly, were dull and horribly handled, and makes them interesting and exciting on their own merits. The problems of war, such as starving populations, the political and social pressures, the cost in lives and money, all these are depicted well. It also brings out the role of the Jedi as generals, and haves it make sense. Plus the tactics of battle are done as well, or better, as many actual war movies. There is a lot of care and attention to how engagements occur, and you get the sense of how the different army doctrines operate.

Finally it does much to really show Anakin as a fully fleshed out character. His relationship with Padme is given a real sense of care, his descent into the dark side sold. You see Anakin as the great general and war hero. You see him as this exemplar of the jedi knights. You also see how his choices and relationships set the stage for his fall, even while he, and those around him, remain oblivious to the seeds of his destruction. It also gives Obi Wan a love interest, which provides wonderful contrast to Anakin. It shows the path not taken, and the costs and pain involved in that.

Basically it takes every potential, every promise, every thread and relationship that the prequels set up, and then squandered, and it fulfils that potential. It does this while paying homage to the old serials that inspired Star Wars in the first place, right down to the narrator. It is Star Wars as the best form of serial it could be.

Now Rebels

Rebels is much more focused on a smaller narrative. It is a more intimate story, one that eschews the grand sweeps of galactic war for a much more personal story of a small band of outlaws. At the show open they are not part of the Rebellion, in fact the Rebellion does not formally exist. The crew of the Ghost each have their own stories, each their own personalities, and each their reasons for being there. Think Firefly.

As such the smaller focus enables much greater emotional payloads. This small scale enables the relationships to be explored in greater detail, and done so with an often deft and subtle hand. It may seem weird to describe a cartoon in the Star Wars universe as ‘subtle’, but often the histories of relationships between the crew are exactly that.

So by the time the Rebellion gets going, and by the time the crew joins, the groundwork has been laid. The evolution of the characters really comes through and visibly impacts the narrative. Choices and actions grow organically from who these people are. That way when old friends from The Clone Wars come up, they are also brought through to new and interesting dimensions.

Plus the story does a great job of expanding on the force mythos, and does so in the same ways that KotOR 2 does, by blurring the lines between light and dark. Rebels also has higher highs than the Clone Wars. When I said that the ending of season 2 is as good or better than Star Wars has ever been, I stand by that. Lets just say that the appearance of several sith lords from the movies has a HUGE emotional impact. It is worth watching the series to see this alone.

Rebels has higher highs, and does not have the type of occasional clunker that Clone Wars has. It is a more consistent series, and generally maintains a higher level of quality.

Now there is one reason to watch Clone Wars first, or at least concurrently. There are several characters that make important appearances in Rebels. Some of the impact of certain reveals, particularly in season 2, are diminished without at least some familiarity with Clone Wars. By no means do I think it required to watch the entire show, I watched season 1 of Clone Wars before starting Rebels, but at least a little. And whatever you do, do not start season 2 until you’ve watched some Clone Wars.

I spotted a Lego Tie Fighter and I think that must be from Episode VII but what is the craft next to it?

Piggy backing off that a bit: I am about 90% sure that both X-Wing and Armada share a designer: Alex Davies is one of the designers of Armada, and is the lead designer of X-Wing. They are both very well designed, and the concepts of the game do inform one another.

I do actually think that the scale of Armada looks much more interesting than the scale of X-Wing, but X-Wing came out first and I’ve been playing it since roughly month 6. I only have the mental and time bandwidth to get into one of these games, and so I’m sticking with X-Wing.

That actually seems to be the case for a lot of people, which creates a sort of network effect: it’s much easier to find people to play with.

(I’m starting to listen to the podcast right now, so maybe you’ve already covered this)

The other interesting thing about X-Wing, that Armada simply cannot do, is represent a 1:1 version of the battlefield. All* X-Wing ships are on the same 1:270. Some of these ships (coughs the HWK-290) seem off in scale, but all the ships are exactly to the dimensions that LucasFilm says they should be.

The scale of the ships is only a symptom of a cool part of the game, though. The game’s… I dunno, mental space? Conceptual area? is “battle that makes sense for a single X-Wing to meaningfully participate in.” So in Armada when you plunk Luke Skywalker down on a table, he’s Luke Skywalker leading a group of Rebel Fighters. That’s cool! But in X-Wing, when you put down Luke, he’s Luke Skywalker flying his own X-Wing fighter with whatever equipment you’ve put on his fighter. And that’s true for each individual ship on the board.

The Armada capital ships look amazing, and I love the fact that when I watch people play, I can see them moving actual Star Destroyers around the board. I don’t want to sound in any way like I’m dissing that game. But there’s something equally cool about X-Wing’s smaller scale, and intimate dogfights.

*There are currently 3 exceptions, all of which are part of the “Epic” part of the game. The Imperial Raider, the CR-90 “Rebel Blockade Runner”, and the GR-75 “Rebel Medium Freighter”. They exist on a different “relative” scale, where they are shrunk down enough to fit on the board, but are still big enough to feel more important than the rest of the ships floating around.