This article is introducing you to the Star Trek: Attack Wing (ST:AW) game starting with its Starter set. We will be comparing a Star Trek:Attack Wing Starter Set with a Star Wars: X-Wing (SW:XW) Starter set. So if you’re strapped in, lock S-foils and……Engage!
Star Trek: Attack Wing (or ST:AW) is a multiplayer game set within the Star Trek “universe”. It is produced by WizKids and was first released to retail in August 2013.
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game (or SW:XW) is set within the Star Wars “universe”, and is produced by Fantasy Flight Games and was released in August 2012.
Players assume the roles of fleet or squadron commanders who can customize, upgrade, and assign famous crew members to their fleets or wings of ships.
What makes Attack Wing so appealing is that you can choose ships, crew, and technology from the all the five main Series in the Star Trek franchise. In the initial waves of releases ships were represented from the Dominion, Federation, Klingon, and Romulan factions, this has since been expanded to include the films and other factions.
X-Wing squadrons, on the other hand, comprise of only two factions, Rebels and The Galactic Empire. The ships and characters are taken from the films and the expanded universe, this includes the comics, books, and computer games.
Ships within both games have their special statistics, abilities, and unique manoeuvres displayed on separate “Manoeuvre Dials”. Alongside these dials, the game utilizes the “FlightPath Manoeuvre System” for its gaming mechanics, under license from Fantasy Flight Games and is used in both games.
On the surface of it the game appears to be a Star Trek themed variant on SW:XW even down to the appearance of the box itself but as you delve deeper into the box contents the slight nuances and differences between the two seem to emerge.
The main difference between the two games is the scale at which the game is played. Star Trek has always been about the adventures of the crews of huge ships of exploration or space stations with crews in the thousands and with certain recent exceptions the ships used in Star Wars have always been single seated high manoeuvrability craft dogfighting above a planet. Star Trek is a capitol ship space combat game where as Star Wars is more of a fighter space combat game. Whilst the two systems are similar these differences play out in terms of the statistics or attributes of the ships in game and as such some ST:AW ships have weapons and hull statistics far in excess of even the largest ships in SW:XW universe. Shields are similar and Evade dice are standardly higher in SW:XW representing the “dogfighting” nature of the game with skilled pilots Focussing, using the Force to jink and turn and avoid shots.
Opening the box for the first time you will see a number of components presented, a glossy softback rulebook, a quick start guide, some sheets of tokens and cardboard components that need to be “punched” out, a small pack of upgrade cards, an even smaller pack of Damage cards, a set of dice and of course the ships themselves which we will cover later. In terms of quality it certainly looks like more effort has gone into the design and aesthetics of the SW:XW cards and tokens than ST:AW. Both Starter Sets provide everything you need to play a balanced game straight out of the box. With a little setup you could be ready to play either within 10-15 minutes of de-boxing your goodies. Now we shall go onto the individual components within the boxes.
One of the huge draws to both games is the fact that the miniatures within each set come “pre-painted” meaning that with very little effort you can begin playing straight out of the box. No assembly is required barring the fitting of bases and pegs which is relatively simple.
Looking through the clear plastic of the box at the components within each Starter Box the first thing you will notice is the quality of the miniatures and the scales.
The SW:XW miniatures are from newly made molds and painted beautifully, each a work of art in itself. They are at a 1:270 scale and each ship is scaled relative to the rest of the ships. If I were to be hyper critical I would say that such detail can lead to some very brittle and breakable parts but the models themselves are simply stunning, beautifully cast, excellently painted and finished.
By comparison ST:AW’s painted ship molds look good too until they are held side by side with the SW:XW miniatures. The ST:AW ships are identical to those utilized in the Star Trek: Tactics games, without the names or registries painted onto their hulls. Unpainted versions of some of the ship molds were also previously released in the Star Trek: Fleet Captains game. It would be hard to give the ST:AW ships an accurate scale as it varies wildly between ships. The relative scale of the ships within the ST:AW box (and game) is one of the nerd-sense tingling things that bothers a lot of players.
For those of you out there who know their Trek you will notice that the Galaxy Class Federation ship is roughly the same size as the D’Deridex Romulan Warbird. However, in Star Trek the Romulan ship is twice the length of the Federation one and can completely consume the Federation ship between its “wings”.
The actual painting and “finishing” of some of the ST:AW ships can leave a lot to be desired especially some of the gaudy colours used on ships such as the Klingon Vor’Cha class which is in the Starter Box. The miniatures look fine if a little plasticky in themselves but are pale and poorly finished when compared to the SW:XW ships. All this said, the ST:AW ships are solidly cast and do not seem to suffer from some of the brittle fine breakable components found on the SW:XW ships.
The SW:XW ships in the core set are a Rebel X-Wing Fighter and two Imperial TIE Fighter miniatures. There are variants within the box to allow you to have Luke Skywalker in the X-Wing, Biggs Darklighter (his friend from Tatooine), as well as the generic Red Squadron and Rookie pilots. The TIE Fighters come with Mauler Mithel (otherwise known as DS-61-2), Vader’s left wing man in the trench run, Dark Curse (DS-61-4), the one that shot Luke and blew his engine during the run, and Night Beast OS-72-1, one of the Bespin TIE Fighters. Also included are two of each of the Black Squadron, Obsidian Squadron and Academy Pilots. This allows you to pick pilots with special abilities for more points or those without for less.
The ST:AW ships in the core set are a Federation Galaxy class Starship , a Klingon Vor’cha class Bird-Of-Prey and a Romulan D’Deridex Class Warbird. As with each expansion and the SW:XW ships you can get “named” or “unique” versions of these ships. None of these ships come with an in-built captain but in general with ST:AW if you choose a named version you get a special ability on the ship and an extra shield. The named variants are the Federation USS Enterprise-D (as seen in the ST:The Next Generation series), the Klingon IKS Maht-H’a (from the ST:TNG Episode The Chase) and the Romulan IRW Khazara (from the ST:TNG Episode Face of the Enemy).
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that SW:XW wins this section hands down. The ships are simply better cast, better painted and better detailed. Out of the box this is a win for SW:XW
Both games come with a number of cardboard sheets containing tokens and game elements to be “punched” out. Once punched out you will have a full set of tokens to play a game, a set of manoeuvre templates, a range ruler and any obstacles to manoeuvre your ships around. In SW:XW you receive a number of asteroids and in ST:AW the box contains a two sided planet token (again another indicator as to the relative scale differences in game).
The Manoeuvre templates are similar in each box containing a number of standard manoeuvres each ship in game can perform. The only real difference I have seen so far is that the ST:AW box contains two additional manoeuvre templates that SW:XW doesn’t use. The additional ones are a “6” Fwd and a “4” Bank.
Now you’ve excitedly punched out all the card sheets and your table is full of hundreds of tokens of various shapes and sizes, be they from the ST:AW box or the SW:XW box. These tokens represent all the Actions and identifying markers required to play the game. Aesthetically speaking I prefer the SW:XW tokens and they are all sorts of different shapes with a nice finish and feel very much “of the game” with little bits of art to make them seem interesting. ST:AW tokens by comparison are more numerous and have a very simple icon on each to define what it is for. There has been far less effort put into the graphical look of the tokens but the finish is glossier and simpler. The stylistic look of the ST:AW tokens is very “Trek” using simple icons that look like they were lifted from a Star Trek Bridge console.
Both sets of tokens feel as though they are “right” for their respective game, pro’s and con’s for both games here.
Captain & Upgrade Cards
Opening the cards you would notice an immediate difference in size and texture when comparing the two sets. Both Starter sets include a Damage deck. These cards are applied to ships when they receive damage in combat or by other means. They are small, 62 x 41mm.
The ST: AW cards are larger, 63 x 88mm, a standard European card size, with a grainy texture which prohibits scanning of the cards.
The SW:XW ship cards are the same size but the upgrade cards slightly smaller at 62 x 41mm.
All the ST:AW ships come with 2 ship cards (a Generic and a Named variant) plus multiple captains and upgrades. SW:XW comes with usually at least 2 named pilot/ship combinations and then generic ones with varying pilot skill levels. The starter TIE fighters have 3 Unique and 6 Generic included and the X-Wing 2 Unique and 2 Generic.
Looking at the cards for each respective game you can immediately see the stylistic differences.
Firstly the SW:XW cards all display original artwork in a slightly cartoon-esque style that really add to the cards and feel very Star Wars however the images used by Wizkids for the ST:AW cards are still screen captures from movies and series episodes. Some can be a little low quality and almost blurry. This has also led to alternate card images when the wrong image has been used. I prefer the look of the SW:XW cards but the feel of the ST:AW cards, honours even on this score.
In ST:AW you build a fleet using a ship and then assign a Captain and upgrades (in the form of Elite Talents, Crew, Weapons and Secondary Weapons) but in SW:XW each ship card has an in-built pilot so you would select Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing, Mauler Mithel’s TIE Fighter or a X-Wing without a named pilot. You still have a vast array of upgrades to choose from but its broken up more since fighter ships cant house massive weapons or technology. Rather than the ‘Technology’ upgrade, it could be an ‘Astromech Droid’ upgrade and instead of a ‘Secondary Weapon’ it may be a ‘Turret’ or a ‘Missiles’.
Aside from the franchise on which the game is based the main difference of note to mention is the Factions within each game. At the time of release the SW:XW game only had two factions, Rebels and Imperials. Now a third faction has since been released “Scum and Villainy”, which play with a different style to the current game. In SW:XW the starter box comes with a balanced force of ships from both Factions, a Rebel X-Wing and two Imperial TIE Fighters. In ST:AW you receive one ship from each of the three main protagonists in the game; the Romulans, the Klingons and the Federation. These ships are all from the Star Trek:TNG era but other series, eras and timelines are also available.
ST:AW has a wider variety and much richer selection of playable factions available for the casual player including Federation, Klingon, Romulan, Dominion, Borg, Species 8472, Kazon, Bajoran, Ferengi, Vulcans, Independents & Mirror Universe. You can mix and match these factions in your fleets or ships at additional cross-faction costs during the fleet build.
For SW:XW you cannot mix the Factions so you are unable to put Imperial pilots on a Rebel ships and you cannot run a fleet including both Rebel & Imperial ships however no such ruling exists in the ST:AW game. Whilst it is neither endorsed nor denounced a mechanism does exist for some exciting and seriously broken combinations of Captains, Ships and Upgrades in ST:AW. There is a +1 point cross-factional penalty when building fleets using cards that do not match the Faction of the ship to which they are assigned. This means that a new player can attend and compete at Organized Play events with just a Starter Box whereas an additional purchase of ships would be required for SW:XW.
For both games each ship (and expansion) release has options for different named Captains and multiple upgrades. It also allows for a player to use a generic version of that ship rather than the named variant, so a Galaxy Class Starship rather than a USS Enterprise-D. There has been a bit of a power creep on ST:AW Waves over the last year. Some ships releases have completely changed the game in terms of power and abilities notably USS Voyager, USS Enterprise-E and the Borg expansions. This has meant that some ships rarely see the light of day in the competitive environment except for the odd upgrade card. You still see some of the original Starter Set ships in use in builds today in competitions but on the whole SW:XW is a more balanced game power wise with less power “creep”. You will still see ships that were released in the beginning being used today and being competitive. For example a Wave 1 ship, the Millennium Falcon, won the Worlds in November and the TIE Swarm is still a popular build in the current meta.
For me it’s a win for ST:AW here, the sheer amount of variance and customizing that can be done with this game is phenomenal and part of its huge appeal for me. The re-playability is huge and whilst SW:XW challenges on that front I feel it’s the range of available upgrades across the range of Factions that makes ST:AW difficult to beat in this area.
There are also some mechanical differences in how the ships react to certain things in game. Both games use the same FlightPath mechanics system but there are differences which are as a result of the relative scale of each game. For example obstructions in space…..in ST:AW ship can pass completely over an obstacle such as planet or asteroid without incurring a penalty but in SW:XW if any part of a ships manoeuvring template touched the obstacle then a roll on an Attack Die must be made to see if your ship receives damage. This is made even worse when a ship collides with an object in space as two very different things can occur. Due to SW:XW being a smaller ship game using fighters the impact of a collision with an asteroid would damage the ship amongst other interactions such as loss of firing and loss of Actions. In ST: AW because the ships are so much larger by comparison they do not suffer the same damaging effects of collisions but do lose their ability to perform Actions for that turn. Firing is unaffected in ST: AW.
There are also slight differences in the rulers used to measure and manoeuvre ships in each game. These differences are so small that it’s almost impossible to notice and for casual play it really isn’t an issue at all. One improvement between SW:XW and ST:AW is the introduction of icons to the Range Finder ruler to remind players that attacks at range 1 grant the Attacker an additional attack die and attacks at range 3 grant the Defender an additional defence die.
Anyone familiar with either franchise will recognise the terms used by each game. Whilst they may sound different they exist merely to bring the mechanics in line with the terminology of the game, so, a Stress in SW:XW would be equivalent to Auxiliary Power in ST:AW. Mechanically they perform the same function but the different terms fit the ships in the game.
The basic Planning Phase, Activation Phase, Combat Phase and End Phase process hasn’t changed between the two games. Both games could be easily learnt by a player of the other game quite quickly. There are some subtle differences, mainly in the Cloak and Sensor Echo/Barrel Roll Actions.
Some ships in ST:AW can perform the Cloak action. This involves the ship lowering or “disabling” its shields and disappearing. Cloaking is a powerful ability especially when used in conjunction with the second new Action, “Sensor Echo” which is the ST:AW equivalent of “Barrel Roll”. For SW:XW the “Cloaking” mechanic is slightly different. Once a ship cloaks it is unable to fire until it de-cloaks, it does not de-cloak by firing as in ST:AW. Once the player chooses to de-cloak he immediately performs a “2” slide or “barrel roll” manoeuvre to the front, left or right. He then makes his manoeuvre as normal and can perform an action. This is a nice mechanic and I feel this is a better representation of cloaking than in ST:AW.
As covered earlier, ST:AW introduces the “Sensor Echo” action which almost equates to “Barrel Roll” in SW:XW. This represents the inherent unknown in attacking a ship under Cloak. It can appear to not be where you expect it to be. The biggest difference between the two Actions is that ships in the ST:AW universe can only “Sensor Echo” if they are already cloaked and can choose from the “1” or “2” Fwd template to slide to the side and some SW:XW ships can “Barrel Roll” but ONLY use the “1” Fwd
The “Disabling” mechanic is also new in ST:AW and represents a ship’s crew or upgrades being used (a crew member performing some ability that makes them unavailable) and needing either to be reloaded (in the case of secondary weapons) or have the power diverted back to them (in the case of shields which are disabled during Cloaking Actions). So when a Cloak is activated the shields divert power to the Cloak which disables them. Now the ship has no shields so any attacks against it are directly against its Hull. Once a ship fires, or voluntarily disengages Cloak (at the end of a turn) the shields could be re-enabled at the end of the turn. The box set includes small token to place over disabled upgrades to remind a player its disabled. The Shield tokens are two sided, blue side up when Shields are enabled and they get “flipped” to red side up when they are disabled.
Whilst I feel the cloaking mechanics of SW:XW are better the two games are very similar in most ways. The Disabling introduces a new element to the game about the management of your resources and the Action economy of your ships and fleet/squadron that SW:XW simply doesn’t have. I can’t really call this one so its honours even.
I am a self-confessed Trek nerd, always have been and always will be so to me the decision was easy…I loved Star Trek so I bought into that. I loved the Trek universe, the variety available in terms of factions, I loved replaying the scenarios that came with new ship for famous battles using characters I’d only ever watched on TV or at the cinema.
I genuinely believe that had ST:AW been released first a lot of SW:XW players would play both games. However as SW:XW was released first and the models for the ST:AW game were of such a low quality by comparison I feel a lot of people chose not to invest.
I would suggest that if you find yourself with money burning a hole in your pocket at your Friendly Local Gaming Store and can afford it I’d highly recommend both for all the reasons I’ve outlined above. They are both excellent games for different reasons.
Having played both I find it easy to change between the games with very little effort.
If you are looking for a personal opinion as to which you should buy I will honestly say you cannot go wrong with either. Both Starter Sets represent great value and are playable within a very short space of time. My personal opinion would be to purchase Star Trek: Attack Wing for the greater variation in re-playability and the varied mix of factions.