Fly the Millenium Falcon. Undermine the Lannisters. Destroy the One Ring. Here's a look at the new Star Wars RPG, X-Wing miniatures game, the Game of Thrones card game, and other new releases from Fantasy Flight Games.
Fantasy Flight Games has parlayed its reputation as purveyors of big ticket, high production value board games into a series of lucrative licenses for some of the biggest properties in Geeklandia. When they secured the Star Wars gaming license last year, it added some serious force to their portfolio. And here's what they're doing with it.
Star Wars RPG
Role-playing games based on the Star Wars universe have gone through several iterations over the decades. FFG is using some elements from their Warhammer Fantasy RPG – specifically, custom dice for determining action outcomes. Each roll isn't a binary "hit or miss" result. The dice can have unpredictable effects on the situation, creating a more varied and interesting game.
What's particularly interesting is that Fantasy Flight has released a print beta version of the game. Open beta testing is all the rage in the RPG world these days – Paizo used it to develop Pathfinder, and Wizards of the Coast has wholeheartedly embraced it for the development of D&D Next. Still, most RPG betas are packets of PDFs available for free. The new Star Wars RPG Beta is only available as a $30 softcover book. It's somewhat stripped down, but still has a fair amount of art and graphic design. Why the extravagant print beta? It might have something to do with how weird LucasFilm is about Star Wars rights. FFG's deal doesn't cover digital games, and apparently a PDF version of a pen & paper RPG counts.
Instead of trying to incorporate the massive, unwieldy expanded universe, this RPG focuses on the fight between the Rebellion and the Empire, during the three original films. The three main books that will eventually be released focus on different aspects of that fight, starting with smugglers and bounty hunters, then moving to Rebel soldiers and spies, and finally letting players become "figures of legend," the last Jedis in the galaxy.
If you'd rather just strap into your X-Wing fighter and have a dogfight against those dirty Imperials, the X-Wing miniatures game looks pretty cool. Like all Fantasy Flight Games, it's non-collectible. There's a starter set with an X-Wing and a couple of TIE fighters, and fixed (i.e. non-random) expansion packs with Y-Wings and, coming this winter, the Millenium Falcon and Slave I. All the ships are built to scale with each other, which makes for a visually impressive game.
The game uses squad-level dogfight tactics. Fleets can be customized by changing the ships you use, and also by using different pilots (represented by cards) in your ships. Fleet builds use a point system to keep everything even – you can put Luke in an X-Wing, but for the same points you might be able to field a pair of X-Wings with random Rebels in the cockpits.
There aren't any mechanical links between the minis game and the RPG, but it's cool that there's a ready supply of accurate minis available if you want to show off your ship. You can always break from the RPG and fight a minis battle whenever a starfighter dogfight breaks out. If you're looking for minis of your individual characters, Wizards of the Coast's old Star Wars minis line is extensive, though out of print.
Game of Thrones Card Game
Fantasy Flight has been producing A Song of Ice and Fire games for 10 years, long before it was a hit HBO series. They have a board game, a more militaristic game, and a living card game. FFG created the living card game genre, in which you build your own decks out of your collection just like a collectible game. However, the cards come in fixed expansions, so you're never chasing rares or getting random cards you don't want. There are Cthulhu, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and A Game of Thrones living card games available, with varying numbers of expansions for each (I'm particularly a fan of the LotR game).
And FFG is not averse to capitalizing on the success of Game of Thrones. The living card game has been around for a while, and has many different houses and factions, with somewhat complex rules. To appeal to a more general audience, later this year they'll be putting out a new Game of Thrones card game. It's based on the existing card game, but has streamlined rules and only two houses, Stark and Lannister. It will use imagery from the TV series instead of the art used on the original game, and is not compatible with the original game.
There's one other difference between the new card game and the old one: the titles. Game of Thrones: the Card Game, versus A Game of Thrones: the Card Game. I swear I'm not making that up.
Richard Garfield is best known for designing Magic: the Gathering. While it remains his biggest success, you may run into gamers willing to argue that it isn't his best game. That honor is reserved for Netrunner, a cyberpunk game unique in being asymmetrical (Corp vs. Runner). It didn't sell very well and has been out of print since the mid-1990s, with gamers lamenting its demise and hunting down the dwindling supply of booster packs.
Fantasy Flight acquired that license, too, and showed up to Gen Con this year with a limited supply of the starter sets to sell. They sold out nearly instantly. I mean that literally – they were gone within minutes of the exhibit hall opening up. They even had almost 60 players show up for an early-morning tournament for a game that hadn't technically been released yet (it should be available at retail in mid-September). This new Netrunner is an entirely different game based on the same themes as Garfield's original. It uses the living card game format, and has been shunted over to FFG's own Android cyberpunk world.
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