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Editorial: Can GW Match X-Wing?

5 Minute Read
Jan 15 2016


X-Wing has exploded onto the scene the past few years – but GW has all the parts they need to create their own dogfighting juggernaut!


The Specialist Games rumors from yesterday really got me thinking.  In Aeronautica Imperialis may lie the salvation of Games Workshop.  Hear me out…


First let’s take a look at some of the “high level” traits of X-Wing that has made it such a runaway hit.

x-wing-t70 copy

  • Quick easy to learn rules
  • Attractive pre-painted models
  • Played on a small board
  • Little to no terrain
  • unique maneuver based movement system
  • Multi-faction
  • High interest IP with a built in audience
  • Low initial cost with easy to digest “ship at a time” expansions


Now some of these items that make X-Wing so attractive I can’t EVER see GW adopting. Can you EVER see Nottingham producing pre-painted minis?  I can’t.



If you go hunting through the debris of the past, you will find that a WHOLE LOT of those winning X-Wing traits are sitting there for the taking with 2006’s abandoned Forge World air-to air fighter game Aeronautica Imperialis. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.


Aeronautica Imperialis

Back in 2006 Forge World was still highly experimental, the Horus Heresy line was far in the future, and they were still cranking out items like large scale characters, EPIC scale models, and even testing thier hand at new standalone games.

Aeronautica Imperialis was an EPIC-Scale game set in the skies of the Grimdark.  Players could form squadrons from the various factions of the galaxy (Imperium Chaos, Ork, Eldar, Tau, etc…) and duel it out. It had a large range of attractive ship models (now only found rarely on eBay).


Could they fly again?


The movement system was in many ways a design predecessor to the movement guide system used in X-Wing.  The game used a set of 10 Maneuver Cards, and ships could use a sub-set of them based on it’s maneuverability rating. So for example a lumbering bomber may only have had access to 3-4 of the ten, while a light tiny dogfighter could use all of them.


To make  maneuvers in Aeronautica, first both players wrote down what card each ship would perform this turn.  Then on a alternating ship by ship basis you would line up the arrow that started the maneuver with the front center of your model’s base, and jump it over the card, lining up the center back of the model’s base with the arrow defining the end of the maneuver on the opposite side of the card. Sound familiar X-Wing players?


You took turns until one side was dead or the mission conditions were finished.  AI was heavily influenced by the rulesset from Ares Games Wings of Glory.  Still the game has some big issues.

For example compared to X-Wing’s single plane of action, Aeronautica had NINE (Yes you read that right) altitude bands which made the gameplay needlessly complicated and dragged things out.  Often it was a huge chore just to time your climbing and diving to even be able to shoot an opponent who WANTED to fight you, and it was almost impossible if they were trying to avoid contact. The game had issues…

Still though all the bones of a GW winner are there.

What Could GW Be Up To?

If you look at Aeronautica’s basic traits and compare them to X-Wing you get something like this:

  • Quick easy to learn rules (the entire rules were 11 pages)
  • Attractive models
  • Played on a small board
  • Little to no terrain (some ground turrets and targets if you want ground attack missions)
  • unique maneuver based movement system
  • Multi-faction
  • High interest IP with a built in audience
  • Low initial cost with easy to digest “ship at a time” expansions (you needed the rulebook and 2-3 models)
  • Same Scale as EPIC – serving as a “gateway drug” game into EPIC Scale.

If I were the powers that be at GW, I would be shooting for a relaunch of Aeronautica that went something along these lines:


2 Faction Sprues (Imperials, Orks)

Each sprue builds 3 fighters, 1 bomber

1 Ground Target Sprue

Some AAA guns, and target buildings

Clean up the rules to be nice and tight 10-15 pages

Drastically simplify altitude rules to increase that X-Wing “instant action” fun. I would suggest two:  Strafing-Altitude, and High-altitude.

Ditch the maneuver cards tin favor of a set of templates included in the box (and sold separately as well)

Package individual aircraft models in the “clampack” sprue size and ship each with it’s stats, cards, and any special rules in the package.

So the only thing you need to play is the starter box and then you buy individual clampacks per aircraft to your heart’s desire.

Sell it for $99 




Oh I almost forget, queue up Black Library to start cranking out pilot-hero novels.

I’d buy it and it would give GW something directly competitive with X-Wing, within thier own IP range, and relatively easy to design and manufacture.

Would you go for it?

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