“Heroes of the Aturi Cluster” by Josh Derksen is a fan-created game that does all of that and more. Taking the core rules from X-wing Josh has created rules for running the game with an “AI” opponent. So instead of two players going head to head, 1-6 players can team up to face waves of Imperial opponents controlled via a set of instructions instead of a player.
Each class of fighter has a maneuver guidance chart that determines what maneuver it makes. It’s a relatively straightforward operation. The ship picks the nearest enemy target (ie the human players) and makes a maneuver based on that ship’s relative position within eight zones. If the target ship is to the AI’s “East” it will look in the corresponding zone, roll a d6 and take the matching maneuver. After completing the maneuver it will perform an action based on a hierarchy chart. This chart is unique for each class of ship but essentially boils down to respositioning if that’s advantageous, focusing if it has a target and evading if it doesn’t.
Over all the AI logic is effective at bringing the Imperial ships to bear and works decently for choosing the most appropriate action. Unfortunately, it does lead to some really stupid maneuvers in some instances. Because movement is entirely based on the current position of a target ship it gives no allowance for the fact that the target ship might move later in the round.
While on one hand it might seem better if the human players could decide the optimal maneuver for the AI ships, that would inevitably lead to trouble. The method the game employs isn’t perfect but is well thought out and removes any temptation to cheat from the equation.
There are a few smaller issues with the AI logic that the instructions are not very clear about. This primarily involves when the AI ships are affected by stress and when they lose actions. There is no clear section that explains what happens when a ship bumps. Normal X-wing rules mean no action but the AI ships are already operating on different rules so it took us a little while to determine that the normal rules applied.
But “Heroes of Aturi” is much more than just a way to play without an opponent. It is also a roleplaying experience. Instead of flying as one of the heroes from the Star Wars canon you instead create a unique pilot. As you play different scenarios you can earn experience which can be spent to upgrade your ship and pilot. You start out with the standard slots for your chosen ship (X-Wing or Y-wing to start). So an X-wing pilot at character creation is Pilot Skill 2, has an Astromech, Torpedo and Modification slot.
As you gain experience you can buy higher Pilot Skill which in turn unlocks additional upgrade slots on your ship. A fully outfitted Pilot Skill 9 X-wing pilot could have four Modification slots and four Elite Pilot Talent slots. Not only can you equip standard EPT cards into the EPT slots but can also pick up pilot abilities that named pilots have.
Imagine a pilot with R2-D2, Engine Upgrade, Autothrusters, two shield upgrades, Push the Limits, Wedge’s, Tycho’s and Jake’s ability. You don’t care if you’re stressed, can perform up to three actions and reduce your target’s agility. This makes for an unholy broketastic pilot. But crazy fun.
The game has a good scaling system so that as more players join and the pilots’ abilities grow, the difficulty of the targets increase. All TIE Fighters will be your standard PS1 Academy Pilots but all the other ship have elite upgrades that make them equally as deadly. Imagine a wave of Soontir Fel equivalent TIE Interceptors. Even as broketastic as the pilots can become, that’s scary.
What really makes the game work is that it functions as a true campaign. Instead of random skirmishes your pilots play through a series of missions. Each mission adds different flavors and goals. The one I’ve played so far was the first of a four part campaign that introduces the TIE Phantom. You start out hunting for a lost escape pod inside an ion storm.
Some really nice looking clouds fill the board and you have to fly into them and scan for an escape pod. You have twelve rounds to find the pod, get a YT-1300 rescue ship to pick it up and get off the board. All the while waves of Imperial fighters try to destroy your transport. This leads to a lot of strategic discussions and planning with your team, something that regular X-wing lacks due to it’s competitive nature.
There are quite a large number of missions included in the game so it will take awhile to play through them all. This gives lots of replayability to it especially when combined with the scaling and random nature of it. Like a regular skirmish, no two games will play the same.
I highly recommend downloading this if you are a fan of X-wing. This is entirely a fan-created project and the creator Josh did an amazing job. It takes a bit of work to get everything printed out properly as the bonus pieces need something sturdier than just printer paper. Printing the 80 page instruction book could end up being pricey but it works as a PDF too.