Playing X-Wing is one of my favorite pastimes. It just scratches that itch for me. I love the list building. I love the tactical decision making. I love the precise maneuvering. And I think that I’m similar to many people in wanting to share that love and enjoyment with those closest to me.
A couple of people from my local gaming store (LGS) recently asked me how I got my wife and kids to play X-Wing with me. “Man, you’re lucky, I have to beg off time from home to get to play,” one remarked. “I’m lucky if I get two games in a week, my time is limited around wife and kids,” another said. Note: I have a wife of eight years, a five-year-old, and a three-year-old…all three of which are semi-regulars at our LGS. “It wasn’t hard,” I replied, before launching into a four-part explanation.
Tip #1: Baby step them in
I average between six and ten games of X-Wing a week, all in person. In order to do that, I needed a family that also liked the game. I knew how to rope my wife in, I just had to make use of the patented (not patented) “Baby Step” approach.
Real life practical example: My wife is now an avid NFL fan. She used to be completely apathetic toward American Football. Did I try to get her to like the NFL right away? Heavens no. I started with baby steps. I introduced her to a single entertaining player, Darren Sproles. At the time he played for the San Diego Chargers, stood about two feet tall, and could outrun most of his opponents. Simply put, he was fun to watch. From there, my wife became naturally inclined to root for the Chargers, and then for football in general.
Could the same approach work with my kiddos and X-Wing?
It did for us. The baby step for us was the Star Wars Rebels TV show. But not the whole show. One character. Chopper.
Neither of my kids initially gave a second thought to Kanan, Hera, Sabine, Zeb, or Ezra. They might as well have not been on the show. My kids looked forward to the scenes with the C1-10P droid. “Bahp bahp!” they’d shout, running around the room and generally causing mayhem like their on-screen favorite. Eventually they grew to like the crew of the Ghost, then the Rebellion, and then the show itself. Love for Star Wars…established.
Moving from Star Wars as a concept to X-Wing as a physical manifestation of that universe happened by itself. My daughter stumbled up to the game room one night about a half hour after her bedtime. My wife and I were in the middle of a round of X-Wing. I was flying the Kel Special, while my wife fielded Triple Jumpmasters (pre-nerf). All it took was one look at the Ghost for my daughter to exclaim, “Oh! What is that? Can I play?”
Boom. Mission accomplished. Or was it?
Tip #2: Don’t start them too young
Let’s start with the not-so-good: my son loving X-Wing. He’s three. He doesn’t care about the game of X-Wing, he cares about the ships. To FFG’s credit, they’re cool. Some of the models are absolutely fantastic. The ARC-170, Phantom II, Ghost, Raider, Starwing, Star Viper, Aggressor (Brobot variety)…they’re all really, really good looking ships. You could (and many do) put them in a display case rather than on a game mat to show off to guests and friends.
The problem is more specific: my son loves all variations of the TIE Fighter. And hey, they look pretty cool. But each and every manner of the TIE is the most fragile ship that FFG produces. I often feel that I can look at my TIE/fo wrong and one of the panels will fall off. Nevermind the wibbly wobbly disaster waiting to happen being in the hands of my favorite thee-year-old. Despite assurances of, “I be caweful, Daddy,” each and every time an Imperial ship ends up in his hands it comes back to me destroyed.
Despite my best attempts, my son is just not interested in ostensibly more durable models like the A-Wing. I’ve not yet brought myself to buying him a copy of the Ghost, but I’ve considered it if only to spare more losses to the Imperial fleet. A Slack friend recently recommended a Hot Wheels line of X-Wing products, which we’ll see if he goes for.
Tip #3: Start them simple
As the above illustrates, three years old was a bit too young to begin involving my son in X-Wing. Four was the perfect time, however, to begin involving my daughter.
My job was not to teach her how to play X-Wing. That’s the wrong goal. While that may be a long-term strategic objective, X-Wing is a bit above a four-year-old’s understanding (even a brilliant one like my daughter). My job was to make our pseudo-game fun. By capturing her heart, it would be easy to capture her attention and build from there.
We started off simple. She had one ship, I had one ship. What the ship’s hull, shields, attack, and agility values actually were didn’t matter. My daughter’s ships took six damage to kill, mine took three. Her ships got four red dice, mine got two. Her ships got three green dice, mine got two. She picked out the coolest ship she could find (usually the Star Viper…she called it the “Star Flower”), put it on the mat, and we took turns planning dials, moving, and attacking. If we were pointed in the right direction, regardless of the range, we rolled dice.
I’d intentionally stacked the odds in her favor. Why? To make it fun for her. She wanted to move her Star Flower and roll dice. She wanted to blow my ship up. And I wanted to let her. You see, I don’t have to win against my daughter. Dads, that’ll come later. Right now I want to stoke that quality time love language that she has and make it something she looks forward to doing. “Daddy, daddy, when can we play the ship game again?!” is the question that I want asked when I walk in the door.
It was a wonderfully simple game that she instantly loved. We played it a couple times a week with those core basic rules for the better part of a year.
Tip #4: Incrementally increase the complexity
If I’d tried to introduce all of the myriad X-Wing rules to my daughter when she was four I’d probably not be writing this article now that she’s five-and-a-half. She would have given up on the game as too hard, or too many rules, or not enough fun a long time ago. That’s why we kept it simple.
But all things need to change eventually. Cue this week. This week we introduced a couple new rules to up the ante on our little “ship game” and make it more like normal X-Wing.
- We started using actual hull and shield values
- We introduced range bonuses at Range 1 and Range 3
- We (she) is required to use the dial that goes with the ship she is flying
We’re still ignoring things like the difficulty of the maneuvers, stress, actions, critical hits, upgrades, and pilot abilities. Those will come in time. But after our last game my daughter remarked, “Daddy, it is like a whole new game! Can we do it again?” Of course we can, and of course it is. It was a new game. We might be using the same pieces, and the goal might still be to kill the opposing ship, but all the rules had changed. Now my daughter had to pick out not just the ship that looked coolest, but one that fit her style. “Daddy, this ship stinks. It can’t turn around,” she said, piloting an Auzituck. “Can I have one that has turn arounds?” Being in range was no longer enough, now she needed to try and get close to roll more attack dice to kill me quicker.
We will probably add criticals next, not resolving the card text but instead treating everything like a Direct Hit when an uncancelled critical dice gets through.
I hope the above tips prove useful in some way for you. The more people that we have playing the great game of X-Wing the better. But much more importantly than that…the more dads, moms, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and friends we have spending time with their loved ones instead of off somewhere else doing something by themselves the better. Yes, my goal was to get my family to enjoy playing X-Wing…so I could spend time doing something I like with people I love. The same strategy can work for most people in your life. Hook ’em, get them started simply, ramp up the complexity.