For me the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars is a symbol of freedom. It was the pirate vessel of the smuggler Han Solo and became the premier deterrent against tyranny in the plight against the evil Empire. I love the ship in the fictional context for which it is presented. When I ride the Star Tours Ride at the Disney Parks I always hope for the beginning shown below, where the Falcon is sitting in a hanger surrounded by Imperial troops before suddenly leaping off the deck to launch itself into a firefight in space before escaping. There is no presidential address in human history which moves me more than seeing the Falcon sitting there at the opening of the Star Tours ride. The video below does not capture the mood completely, only in reference. On the actual ride, it is quite spectacular because visually it is captivating, but metaphorically, it is multi-dimensional—and important. There is no level of sign stimuli more appealing, no sporting event more dramatic, and no political event more powerful to me than watching the Millennium Falcon in flight.
I became hooked on the new Star Wars game called X-Wing Miniatures because of the fantastic model they had made of the Millennium Falcon. There has never been another more meticulous model of such a thing ever produced to my knowledge for the simple task of playing a game. But that game has deep combinations of options that are much more dynamic and interesting than any game of chess known to intellectual circles. The 3’X3’ game surface of a typical X-Wing game holds seemingly infinite strategies to use against an opponent which is refreshingly wonderful for strategy prone war gamers—such as myself. It has been many years since I have loved something so much as I love Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures.
I look for reasons to play with the Millennium Falcon at every opportunity, but because it is such a powerful ship I have found that I can’t use it the way I want as I have been teaching players new to the game to play using simpler rules instead of my Falcon build which involves many complex options. I have been looking for a great support ship for my Falcon that points-out right at 65 points. I shudder to consider spending so much on one ship in the game, but if my reason to play the game is to play the Millennium Falcon, then I owe it to the game to find a way to justify the experience. Most 100 point games in X-Wing come out to three ships, sometimes four or five. So tying up 65 points on my Falcon build is a steep price indeed. That means the Falcon will be continuously outnumbered and will have to take a lot of abuse to survive—which is ironically the actual role it had in the Star Wars mythology. Winning is not guaranteed under such conditions, but it’s the way I like to play the game. It requires excellent piloting instead of attacking opponents with mass, which is usually the best strategy for everything.
The ship I found to support my Falcon is the HWK-290, which just came out on Wave 3 from Fantasy Flight Games. Manufactured by the Corellian Engineering Corporation in the decades preceding the Battle of Naboo, the HWK-290 was a concentrated effort by talented shipwrights at breaking into a new market. Focusing on making the new design appeal to the wealthy of high society, the HWK-290 was an attempt at capturing business outside of its normal audiences.
Major marketing research was conducted on the demographic segment CEC sought to capitalize upon. As such, they designed the ship to appeal to entrepreneurs and wealthy merchants. One concern of the individuals questioned during the research phase was that the current designs of the time were often delayed at checkpoints and customs stations because they were armed; it was thought that the time it took goods to be delivered could possibly be reduced by removing the armaments of the ships. Additionally the majority of those interviewed said that the ideal ship would not only be fast but aesthetically pleasing as well, unlike most freighters, which are bulky in appearance.
The research provoked a design totally independent of the iconic YT-series freighters, which tended to be associated with the less savoury elements of society. The HWK-290 prototype had the appearance of a large bird of prey and when displayed at trade shows and conventions brought about many questions as to the availability of the ship. Designers also listened to initial feedback regarding the ship and made minor modifications to the interior until it was determined that the right balance of aesthetics and functionality were achieved. At that point, production began in earnest.
When the HWK-290 rolled off the production line, it was an unarmed, extremely fast, agile ship that could outmaneuver and outrun most fighters and had largest weight capacity for carrying cargo of any freighter up to 30 meters long. It also contained an impressive state of the art sensor array for a ship of its size and class, the purpose of which was to detect trouble before falling victim to it. Additionally, it was a lot more luxurious inside than normal freighters, boasting large passenger and sleeping areas, entertainment consoles and a cockpit that was designed with the comfort of the pilot and co-pilot in mind.
While only seeing relatively moderate success in contrast to that of the YT series, production of the HWK-290 was discontinued during the Clone Wars in favor of military production. Despite no longer being manufactured, the HWK-290 has found popularity in the inventories of smugglers and pirate groups, a far cry from the original clientele for whom it was initially designed.
I ordered the HWK-290 well in advance of its release date, and it shipped to me from American Hobby Supply in a box coming from Fantasy Flight Games. As I was helping my daughters get set up for their big party over the weekend, knowing that at least one of my nephews from out-of-town was coming, I was hoping my HWK-290 would arrive in time for the party so I could fly it while teaching him about the game. Sure enough the tracking information showed that my HWK-290 was coming and it arrived right on time on my front porch. Receiving that package was one of the most thrilling things I have put my hands on in years. That statement is not in reference to a lack of options in my life—quite contrary. But in my life mythology is extremely important, and the X-Wing game is a perfect symbiotic relationship of hobby model building and strategy mixed with deep metaphorical mythology. In that context the HWK-290 is the perfect complement to my Millennium Falcon and it was exciting to put my hands on it after thinking about it so much.
The reason I love that ship so much even though it is comparatively slow as opposed to the A-Wings and Tie Fighters is that both my Falcon and HWK-290 feature a 360 degree shooting radius. The strategy I plan to use with these two ships is not for everyone as the key to winning with them will be in maneuvering strategy. When the package arrived the day was a picture perfect sunny day in Southern Ohio, the sky was cloudless and the temperature was in the lower 70s. It was a weekend day with little pressure other than the upcoming party at my kid’s house for my first grandson. Opening the package from Fantasy Flight Games with the HWK-290 so carefully packaged within the box revealed the climax of such sentiments. At that moment it was a perfect day in every respect.
Of course I played with it that night as I showed my nephew how the game worked. It was challenging to fly, but I got used to it quickly and can see how it will play out in many future strategies to my liking. But seeing the HWK-290 parked next to my Millennium Falcon brings back to my mind that wonderful opening on the Star Tours Ride at Hollywood Studios, where the Falcon begins in captivity, frees itself, nearly collides with a cruiser in space during an intense battle only to escape in a nick of time into the safety of hyperspace. The HWK-290 and the Millennium Falcon go together well and I am excited for the many wonderful adventures that await those two during epic battles yet to be fought.