Sunday, January 18, 2015

Star Wars Miniatures Game Review

    The Star Wars Miniatures game is a collectible prepainted miniatures skirmish game produced by Wizards of the Coast. It launched in 2004 with the Rebel Storm set and has been out of print since 2010.

    As always, SWM suffers from the problems universally associated with both prepainted miniatures, and collectible games. If you read my review of Heroscape, this section of the review will be very similar. The detail of the models is disappointing overall and the paint schemes are terrible, particularly on Rebel Hoth Troopers (off-white with a poorly applied wash over the entire figure...). The plastic, as with most prepainted miniatures is the malleable, rubbery plastic however in this instance the plastic is even softer than other games (even worse than the plastic from Heroscape). The collectibility of the figures is somewhat lessened now that the game is discontinued. You can find a plethora of the minis available on various online stores, and ninety-nine percent of the time they'll already be out of the package, allowing you as a buyer to select the figures you want. Despite the ability to select, we still have aftereffects of the manufactured scarcity of certain figures. Generally Common and Uncommon individual figures will sell for one dollar a piece (I wouldn't recommend paying any more), but if you want to field a squad of Scout Troopers on Speeder Bikes you'll have a hard time finding them for less than twenty dollars per figure, or even more ludicrous prices for Rancor miniatures and Imperial Probe Droids.
     The upside of the miniatures is self-expainatory: they are Star Wars miniatures. For all of us man-dolly enthusiasts, this game is a great excuse to collect all of the characters you had as action figures when you were growing up (I can't be the only person who did that). It's a beloved mythology, and there's a special kind of nostalgia that comes with it. When I started collecting them, I had no interest in the rules. If anything, I was going to try and find rules that better suited my need than the Wizards of the Coast rules could. The miniatures range covers pretty much any era (I have a limited knowledge of the expanded universe, so it's possible they have missed an obscure detail) that you'll want to play out, with models for the events of the Knights of the Old Republic games, an extensive range covering the prequels and TV shows, the original trilogy, and the New Republic/Yuuzhan Vong war. As such, I would advise focusing your purchases on a given era that you find most interesting. Like anything, it will become prohibitively expensive if you try to collect everything. Remember, the Death Star wasn't built in a day.
     The rules are straightforward, and may leave something to be desired depending on your preferences. It's a typical Wizards of the Coast miniatures system, centred on D20 rolls with modifiers based on the statistics of your characters. It's like playing a watered down Dungeons and Dragons combat encounter with some minor variations. The Commander Effects were one of the strongest elements of the game. Different characters that would act as a leader within your squad (examples including a Rebel Captain or Darth Vader) give off a unique bonus to friendly models nearby. It can create some subtle but immersive narrative details. A Rebel Officer holding a pair of binoculars directing the fire of a Rebel Trooper with Repeating Blaster during a Battle of Hoth themed game just felt like an accurate representation of the narrative.
     One issue I had with the rules was that every single figure has multiple hit points to keep track of. This rule inherently limits the scale of battles as it becomes more difficult to keep track of wounds, particularly when you're dealing with many identical figures. I would recommend either using homebrew modifications to make the game work better at a larger scale, or use the models with a ruleset that better fits your needs for a particular scenario (I'm curious about using the Bolt Action rules from Warlord Games to adapt a larger battle). Furthermore, if you want to play a larger scenario on a traditional wargaming table, you will also want to consider adding range limitations for blasters. The lack of ranges in the confines of Death Star corridors works just fine, but it doesn't quite feel right for larger, outdoor games.
      One question that has recently crossed my mind regarding Star Wars Miniatures is whether the game has a place in a current collection when you consider the option of Fantasy Flight Games' recently released Imperial Assault. I think that the original ruleset, left in its original state, is made obsolete by the release of Imperial Assault. However modified and played more along the lines of a traditional miniature wargame (modelled terrain, higher model count, using inches instead of squares, etc.), I think Star Wars Miniatures can still be a fun, unique experience.

Lastly, I think we should all take a moment and appreciate the fact that WotC had the decency to refrain from ever releasing an expansion featuring characters from the Star Wars Holiday Special.

Overall Score: 5/10

It needs some adjustment. 

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