I’ve had many hobbies over the years. I’ve been a comic book collector, video game nerd, toy collector, dungeon master, etc. A few years ago, I decided to get into painting miniatures. It was mostly a way to express my artistic side when I was temporarily not being paid to do so. It also led me into me into the world of miniatures wargaming. I’ve been regularly playing Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing Miniatures Game for a little over six months now. I’m still very much a novice, but here are a few things I’ve learned about diving into the wargaming hobby.
#1 – Find a community first.
X-Wing was not my first miniature wargaming choice. My first choice was Warmachine by Privateer Press. The miniatures are detailed and I had a great time assembling and painting them. I poured over the rule book for weeks. I bought carrying cases for all my minis and accessories. . .
And, I’ve never played it, not even once.
Warmachine had a bit of community in my area, a few years ago. However, they all moved on to other games. After that mistake, I took the time to learn what was being played in my area. I found that at my local gaming store, The Village Geek, had a great community of X-Wing players that met every Thursday and even held tournaments regularly. So first things first, It doesn’t matter how amazing a game is if you don’t have anyone to play it with.
#2 – How much is this going to cost me?
The starter sets that most wargames have are basically demos. You can have fun learning the rules and playing a short scenario, but it’s not the complete game. With X-Wing, the starter set is forty dollars. You get an X-Wing and a couple Tie Fighters. It’s a fun game with just that. However, to get the full experience, you need to buy a few more ships. So, it ends up being closer to eighty to a hundred dollars to have a complete squad of fighters. It’s different with every wargame though. X-Wing is one of the least expensive to get into. I’ve seen some where you’re looking at least three hundred to get started.
#3 – How much is it actually going to cost me?
If you’re anything like most nerds, and I am as well, you’re going to spend a whole lot more. Part of the fun of miniature wargaming is the customization options when fielding your forces. X-Wing has dozens of ships and each of those ships has at least four different pilot options. Not to mention the pile of upgrade cards to add missiles, turrets, special crew members, and all kinds of other fun stuff to add on your spaceships. You’ll want to try them all and they all cost money. You don’t have to buy everything though. Every wargame has factions and they all play differently. In X-Wing, it’s Rebels, Empire, and (my faction) Scum and Villainy. They’re even adding more over the next year! After you get the initial starter set, take some time and research the different factions before you go all in. I dipped my toe into each of the different factions before I jumped into my faction all the way.
#4 – Learn what the meta is. Meta is the “game under the game” or rather “what’s good.” With all the available options, there is a constant discussion of what options are the best. In X-Wing, it is the combinations of pilots and upgrades that are going to give you an edge in your matches. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter what you picked. As long as you where skilled and lucky enough, you’d win. That’s not how it works though. Companies strive to obtain a perfect balance. But there’s always going to be those combinations that pulls ahead of the pack. It’s worth your time to pay attention to this. Even if you’re not going to use it yourself, you’re going to see it often. However, it’s also important to remember when to ignore it because you need to . . .
#5 – Find your favorite.
Eventually, with all your testing you’re going to find a combination that just works for you. It might not be the best according to the meta. But, it will be your favorite. You’ll bring it to games more often and because of that, you’ll get better with it. The current world champion of X-Wing didn’t win with a squad of ships that the meta said he should be playing. He brought his two favorite ships that he had been playing with for years and was incredibly good at playing with. Find what fun to play and you’ll get good with it.
#6 – You are going to lose, a lot.
If a game has a regular groups of players, that game has probably been around for several years. There is a good chance that some of the players in your group have been playing for a long time. Maybe even since the game was first released. They have much more practice than you and your going to get your butt kicked by them. In the case of X-Wing, if I have a fifty percent win ratio of the night, I’m doing well. I’ve never had more fun losing a game.
Don’t get frustrated. Pay attention to what you’re doing in the game. Wargaming is all about making decisions and correctly guessing what decisions your opponent is going to make. When you lose, take a few minutes to discuss the game with your opponent, especially if they are a veteran of the game. Figure out when you made that error that gave them an advantage. If you don’t try to learn from your mistakes, you are going to keep making them.
#7 – Fly Casual.
This is one of my favorite terms from X-Wing. Fly Casual means not taking the game too seriously. I’ve played other games where people took the game far too seriously and it causes a lot of unnecessary tension and hurt feelings. Sure, you all need to follow the rules as strictly as you can so it’s fair, especially if you’re at a tournament. You can be nice about it though. If someone forgets to do something or accidentally bumps into a mini, it’s not a big deal. In the end, remember that you’re a grownup playing with little plastic toys. That’s objectively pretty silly, and it’s supposed to be fun. If you’re not having fun, then what is the point.
In closing, you should know what you’re getting into. A little research goes a long way. It is not a cheap hobby and it takes a commitment of your time to get good at. It is worth it though. Every week, I look forward to Thursday night. That’s the night I get to hang out with some awesome people that have become my friends over that last few months and play a game that I hope to be playing for many years.
Shameless plug – If you want to see some of my art, please visit my Deviantart page.