New Starships, Tough Command Decisions
World Champion Doug Kinney Previews Four Upcoming X-Wing (TM) Starships
“The Alliance should be assembled by now.”
–Leia Organa, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
The next four X-Wing™ starship expansions will arrive at retailers next week! To get an expert’s opinion of how these ships will reshape the game’s dramatic space battles, we asked reigning World Champion Doug Kinney to take a close look at all their ship cards, upgrades, and maneuver dials.
The short version is that Doug expects these starship expansions to improve every single starship in the game by opening new strategies that make them more viable in competitive play.
The long version? Read on for Doug Kinney’s take on the Lambda-class Shuttle, HWK-290, B-wing, and TIE bomber…
Doug Kinney on the Next Evolution of X-Wing
The thing that struck me most about these ships are their various maneuver dials. The second set of expansions, which included the Falcon and Slave I, introduced us to some new maneuvers: a 5-speed Koiogran turn and a 1-speed turn for the Rebels, and it gave us an expanded list of green maneuvers for the A-wing and TIE interceptor. With these next four starships, the game’s developers continue to surprise us with new maneuvers.
The Lambda-class shuttle can perform a red 0-speed maneuver, and the B-wing can take a 2-speed Koiogran turn. On the other hand, neither the Lambda-class shuttle nor the HWK-290 can perform a Koiogran turn. In fact, their only turns are 2-speed turns, and those are red on the shuttle. Turning these ships is not going to be an easy feat!
The maneuver dials for the Lambda-class shuttle (left) and HWK-290 (right)
Likewise, flying these ships in a dogfight will be even trickier, as they only have primary firing arcs. Both the shuttle and the B-wing have more red maneuvers than green ones, a claim previously only made by the Y-wing. That means it’s going to be very easy to stress these ships, and not so easy to remove that stress token.
The maneuver dials for the B-wing (left) and TIE bomber (right)
In my opinion, the TIE bomber boasts the best maneuver dial of the four starships, but it can only perform a Koiogran turn at 5-speed. Because its 2-speed turns are also red, keeping the TIE bomber pointed at enemy ships won’t be easy. Nonetheless, you’re going to want to keep this starfighter pointed at enemy ships because it thrives on its secondary weapons, as does the B-wing. The many options these starships offer provide you with a bit of a point puzzle: do you spend your points on a payload of weapons, or do you spend them on more ships? A sixteen-point Scimitar Squadron Pilot could max out at forty-three points just by adding secondary weapons! I foresee a learning curve as players try to find a good balance between the points they spend on weapons and those they spend on ships. The game leaves the choice in the player’s hands, which is always a good thing.
Focus / Target Lock
Part of the difficulty in balancing points on weapons and on ships owes to the fact that secondary weapons are going to be deadlier than ever after these ships release. This is largely due to the many ways that ships will be able to quickly acquire both Focus and Target Lock tokens (F/TL). Even with the first four starships, it was possible to pick up both tokens before attacking, and the combination became even more prevalent with the next four starships. However, with this next cluster of ships, pilots like Garven Dreis, Dutch Vander, and Lando Calrissian will be joined by Kyle Katarn, and the Imperials gain Colonel Jendon. These pilots, with their unique abilities, easily allow their wingmen to attack with F/TL, and the advent of the Advanced Proton Torpedoes and the Blaster Turret will make this tactic all but mandatory.
The Rebels are going to have the advantage in the F/TL category, and I expect to see many variations. In response, I expect to see an almost instinctive response as Imperial players reserve sixteen points in their squads for Dark Curse.
Another twist is the new system upgrade. The B-wing and Lambda-class shuttle can each equip one of three new system upgrade cards. The Advanced Sensors upgrade will be especially fun with the B-wing, allowing it to Barrel Roll before maneuvering, or allowing it to take an action before it would be forced to skip its Perform Action step after colliding with another ship or obstacle, or after performing a red maneuver. The Sensor Jammer will be a great defensive card, as it applies to all attacks made against the ship carrying it. Still, it’s true utility will depend a lot on whether or not we’ll really see a prevalence of F/TL strategies. Finally, Fire-Control System will be a cheap way to acquire Target Locks, and I expect to see it used quite often.
One way to counter the F/TL strategy is by action denial, and I think we will see a resurgence of the Outer Rim Smuggler. Consider an Outer Rim Smuggler with Intelligence Agent, Anti-Pursuit Lasers, and optionally a Saboteur or a Navigator.
Similarly, Imperials can utilize the same tactics, but even more cheaply by recruiting an Omicron Group Pilot. Now you have a ship that moves early in the round, that can reveal one of your opponent’s maneuver dials, and that has a chance to damage any ships that collide with it. Then, if a ship collides with it, that ship will be forced to skip its Perform Action step.
There are still ways to get around being blocked, and blocked ships can still gain the full benefits of F/TL from a number of means: Advanced Sensors, token-passers like Garven or Kyle, or abilities like Squad Leader or Lando Calrissian. But make no mistake, action denial is still a viable strategy with these new ships, and it may, in fact, be more important than ever.
The Advanced Sensors upgrade can allow Ten Numb to barrel roll before executing his maneuver, thus avoiding obstacles like nearby asteroids.
Another thing that has jumped out at me about this wave is the new phrase “cannot be cancelled by defense dice.” This new mechanic partially bypasses the basic game mechanic of dice-rolling. Thankfully, the mechanic is currently limited to two cards: Ten Numb and the Autoblaster. For now, the Autoblaster is further limited because it can only be equipped on the Firespray-31, B-wing, and Lambda-class shuttle. Also, all of these ships can attack with four dice at Range “1,” so using the Autoblaster means that you’ll be giving up an attack die to ensure that your hits cannot be cancelled by defense dice. And, yes, you do have the option of equipping Ten Numb with Autoblaster, which I did in a squad I call “The Biggs Ten Conference.”
I almost hate to make this squad public because I think it will be very powerful, indeed. But I think it’s important to point out that even though we’re now into our third wave of ships, the first four expansions, their ships, and their upgrades are still quite relevant to the competitive scene of this game. We’re seeing some powerful new cards, but they are cards that build effectively with the previously released ships, and that is a testament to the game designers and a true test of a lasting game.
These expansions also bring us some new Crew upgrade cards that provide an array of different strategies for both the Rebels and Imperials. The Darth Vader crew card might replace the Gunner on some Firespray-31 squads. Consider Krassis Trelix with Heavy Laser Cannon, Cluster Missiles, and Darth Vader. That will be one hard-hitting ship.
The new Flight Instructor provides an ability that I have long wanted: the ability to reroll a defense die. Meanwhile, Saboteur, Rebel Captive, Recon Specialist, Intelligence Agent, and Navigator will all find their ways into squads, and I think you’ll see many players use them effectively. Furthermore, as I think again about the new ships and their maneuver dials, I think Rebel Captive will be surprisingly effective for those players who field it.
The Next Evolution
So where does that leave us for the evolving metagame? I think we’ll see an influx of the new ships and upgrades. That’s always bound to happen, but I think we’ll also see a lot of new opportunities for some older ship cards and upgrade cards that haven’t found much time in the competitive scene.
With all of the new ship and upgrade cards that focus on establishing Target Locks, I think you'll see Expert Handling used more widely, in order to shake off some of those Target Locks. The Weapons Engineer will serve Colonel Jendon well, and he’ll also be good as a counter to Captain Kagi.
Other predictions? The R5 Astromech is another upgrade card that hasn’t seen a lot of play, but I think it will. When Proton Bombs and Ten Numb enter the scene, the ability to flip face-down a face-up damage card with the “ship” trait will prove an enticing option. I think you’ll see the Slave I title card used in conjunction with the new Advanced Proton Torpedoes, and I know some people will want to use Expose along with Jan Ors for maximum extra attack dice rolling.
Want to fire six attack dice against zero defense dice? It’s possible with Wedge Antilles, Jan Ors, and Expose.
I see the Ion Cannon finding a new home on an Imperial Shuttle, especially the Omicron Group Pilot. And I think you’ll see some players running Ibtisam with Elusiveness to great effect.
All told, these new ships and their upgrades present us ways to not only get the most out of our common squad choices, but they present us with interesting opportunities to use a good number of the less common cards for both factions. In the end, squad building is going to be even more diverse than it already is. The only question is: which squad do you run first?
The Lambda-Class Shuttle, HWK-290, B-Wing, and TIE Bomber Expansion Packs are nearly here, so as Doug suggests, it’s time to start thinking about your next squad. With these four new expansions, it’s a whole new X-Wing, and you’ve got some tough, entertaining command decisions ahead of you!
- Kriegsheld des MER
Jupp, die 3. Welle wird interessant!
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Will ... sie ... jetzt ... haben ...
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