Fantasy Flight makes some amazing games set in the Star Wars universe, but a huge conundrum lurks within.
FFG makes some really great games. Some of it’s best games are set in the Star Wars universe, X-wing, Armada, Imperial Assault, plus board, card and RPGs. Among these X-wing and Aramda are two of my current favorite miniature games. So at the start I want to be very clear that I like, love even, the FFG Star Wars games, all of them in their own way are great games. But they, and in particular X-wing and Armada, have one really big… anomaly lets say.
And it’s a space anomaly, the best kind!
Most miniature games are set in a particular setting. 40K has the Warhammer setting, the Grimdark, Warmechine has the Iron Kingdoms, Bolt Action has WWII, Kings of War has Mantica. There are also some game systems that are setting agnostic, they are simply a set of rules and have absolutely no setting and often no models purpose made for it.
The vast land of Mantica
This brings us back to X-Wing and Armada. What is the setting of these games? Well the easy, the obvious, answer is “Star Wars, duh”, and heck it even says so in the titles of the games. But, and it’s a big but, a Jabba sized but, what is the Star Wars setting? This is where it gets complicated, so strap in for a moment.
Cus Jabba the Hutt and Jabba the Butt rhyme, get it? Get it?
Star Wars is huge, it has a ton of fluff, as much as any other setting out there, between the 7 feature movies, 1 full animated movie, several TV movies (Ewoks), a dozen or more seasons of TV shows, and scores if not hundreds of novels, RPG supplements, magazines, games and what not. But despite that it’s also limited in a major way. When Disney bought LucasFilms way back in 2012, they ushered in a reboot of the existing fluff, most of the Star Wars background was regulated to the status of “Legends” and is unofficial , only the movies , TV shows and few books published since the buyout are officially canon. More than that however the New Canon is radically different from the old Legends or EU stuff.
And no one even knows how the Old Republic fits into the fluff
I won’t get into weather or not this was good idea here, that’s a totally different topic. But this move did pose a challenge to FFG when using Star Wars as a setting. In essence there are two Star Wars settings, the old and the new and they are radically different. So which one did they pick to set their games in? Well, the answer is neither really. FFG has chosen to pull from the new and the old fulff pretty much at will. Now for some, many, most even, this isn’t really a problem. Not everyone cares about the fluff or the setting. Or maybe they don’t care beyond the basics. “Empire and Rebellion? Still got Star Destroyers that look cool? That’s enough for me man.” I can’t argue with the point of view, if you don’t care much about the background and the fluff, man that’s cool, more power too you.
And you’re entitled to be wrong
But I care. Maybe I’m old school, maybe it’s cus I cut my teeth on fluff heavy and hobby heavy games. Maybe it’s my love of history, real or fictional. Whatever the core reason, fluff and background do matter to me, and others, and this is a problem for FFG Star Wars games. You see it bothers me that, for exzample, in X-wing you have both Corran Horn in an E-Wing and Poe Dameron in a T-70 X-Wing. The E-wing and Corran and the T-70 and Poe don’t exist in the same setting, they are inimical to each other in many ways. All of this makes the setting and the fluff weaker and matter less, it takes away from the setting and overall from players engagement with the games.
Poe you handsome devil, I just can’t stay mad at you!
It can also make the games confusing to talk about. Look at some of our articles here on BoLS, such as mine about what new Admirals should be in Armada, or Adam Harry’s about his Kavil list for X-Wing. Both of us were inspired and excited about the fluff and background behind certain Star Wars characters. We talked up their background and accomplishments and their fluff. That fluff however, may or may not count, it may not matter, it’s in this grey area. It’s not official Star Wars fluff, but maybe it is FFG Star Wars fluff? Who knows.
Actually, nope, not even the Shadow knows
This get’s even more complicated when talking about characters that do exist in both versions of the fluff. Take Grand Admiral Thrawn for exzample. Thrawn was iconic in the old EU and is now in the new Canon, but I can guarantee that there will be differences between the two versions. When Thrawn comes to Armada and X-Wing, what version will they use? What fluff or background are we going to talk about for him? In the FFG Star Wars setting does Han die on a walkway in Starkiller Base cut down by his only son Ben, or does Chewie die on Sernpidal crushed by a moon while saving Han’s youngest son Anakin? There is no answer.
I know Chewie, it makes me rage also
Now to be honest I don’t think X-Wing or Armada do a great job of interacting with their fluff or setting. Both games do feel very “Star Wars-y” it’s true. Neither however really draw and revel in the fluff the way a game like 40k or WarMachine does. The other week I said Aramada tends to be used by it’s fluff rather than using it. Armada or X-wing will put out a new ship simply because it showed up in the latest movie or show, not because the game needed it or it adds to the fluff, or anything like that. FFG is of course a company and this makes perfect business sense, I’m noting this trend, not condemning it. Doing things this way does however lead to a bit of a disconnect from the background. Outside of the artwork and the names in fact the games interact with the setting very little. Some few cards in X-wing have a bit of flavor text, but Armada doesn’t even have that. In many ways they use the symbolism of Star Wars and not it’s fluff, they deal with the signifier and not the signified.
Star Wars is, of course, all about the subtle symbolism
In my experience games that are tied too and draw on a rich fluff and background last longer and are more popular than games that don’t. It seems to me that dealing with it’s rich background better is a major opportunity for FFG’s Star Wars games. Now to some it doesn’t matter at all, background and fluff are of minimal importance. But I do think there is a large group of people out there, the real nerds, the diehards, that make or break a game, and to a lot of them Star Wars does matter. Many people play X-Wing or Armada simply for the Star Wars name, and the more you can do to tie those games into the Star Wars background the better for everyone. The issue, the conundrum, is not really FFG’s fault, LucasArts and Disney created it when they split the Star Wars canon, but FFG does have to address it and deal with. For the sake of the amazing games they’ve made and the players who love them, I wish them well in the endeavor and may the Force be with them.
That’s all for this time BoLS fans! Let us know what you think about the FFG Star Wars fluff, and if it matters, down in the comments.
Follow me on twitter you will!