For Christmas, I was given the miniatures wargame, Star Wars X-Wing. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a fairly straight-forward tabletop spaceship dogfight game where you field these gorgeously detailed and pre-painted models of the ships from the Star Wars universe. You can choose different pilots, with different flying skill, and select from various weapons and other upgrades. The game is amazingly well-designed and plays very cinematically. And with all of the potential ships you can collect and the various pilot, upgrade, and modification cards, the game can quickly get very involved and seductive. I’m completely hooked (and I am not even a huge Star Wars geek).
Papercraft laser turrets from YouTuber “Crusin’ Central.”
This article is about my research into the “maker” side of X-Wing, but it was inspired by a revelation I had while doing this research. I’ve been a devout gamer (wargames, RPGs, miniatures) since I was a teen. But given the fact that I suck at math, that I’m dyslexic, and that I have a hard time with memorization and logic, these kinds of very eggheaded games have always seemed like a strange fit for me. It’s taken me until now to realize that it’s always been the maker side of gaming that’s been its unwavering draw. I’ve always loved building the armies, painting and customizing the models, building my own terrain, fleshing out parts of the game universe that don’t yet exist as products (known as “gaming in the gaps”). It seems completely obvious now, but it’d never occurred to me that this is the fundamental reason why I game. I’m not drawn to a game for what’s there as much as I am for what I’m going to put there, that I’m going to add to that fantasy world.
One of the amazing re-paints from Alternative Wargamer.
So, that brings me to my new obsession, X-Wing. One of the first things I did after I’d played my first few games was to start looking up what gamers were doing to add to and improve the game. I found a ton of stuff, an active maker community within this gaming community, who were re-painting and scratch-building models, building their own starfield playmats and asteroid fields, 3D printing gaming accessories and storage boxes, and much more. Here are just a few of the things I’ve found that I plan on exploring more of as I travel deeper into the busy and dangerous spacelanes of the Star Wars X-Wing universe.
Making Your Own Asteroids and Other Terrain
The X-Wing starter game and upgrade packs come with a lot of stat cards, damage cards, upgrade cards, tokens, and cool little navigation dials for plotting the course of your squadron. All of this stuff quickly becomes unruly and begs for some system of organization. 3D printing to the rescue! Thingiverse has a bunch of boxes, holders, trays, and stands to organize all of your game components, both for storage and for easy access during gameplay. The above boxes are for storing all of the various cards used in the game. The files are located here.
This token holder is the first thing I plan to print for my games. Right now, all of the tokens get scattered around the edges of gaming area during play (and end up on the floor).
Model, Card, and Gear Boxes
To store all of the models as well as the cards and model stands, players have taken to making their own Styrofoam-padded model cases, some of them quite elaborate. One easy and cheap solution is to use custom “tuckboxes.” At Sir Willi’s Workshop you can download a lovely set of box templates for storing your ships, ship accessories, and the various game cards. I’ve been making some of these, and while cutting, folding, and gluing them is rather time consuming, I couldn’t be happier with the results.
Repainting the Minis
Adding Lights to Models
For those of us too lazy to wire up lights, one player created stickers of engine burns for the various ships in the game that you can print out and apply.
While I know this game is rather niche and might only appeal to a segment of the Make: readership, I think there’s a larger point here about such deep niche making. It seems as though, these days, any game, hobby, craft, or workshop activity, house project, nearly anything you can think of, has a community of makers within the larger community of that activity. It’s really inspiring to me to get a commercial product like this and to quickly find an extensive community of enthusiasts who are creating all sorts of documented projects and non-commercial products to expand, improve, and hack that product. Go ahead and try it out yourself. Put “DIY” in front of a Google search for whatever new game, pastime, product, tool, or activity you’re currently enamored with and see what you get.
[Thanks to Ken Cho and the folks at DMV Squad Leaders, one of my local X-Wing groups, for their input on this article.]