A few weeks ago, I made a post about flying what you love, and throwing together fun lists. On the back of his Warboar Hyperspace victory, PhilGC has apparently taken this idea to heart and taken two silly yet effective lists to Hyperspace Events at Aldershot and Brighton. I’m pleased my thoughts hit home with someone, and a fellow TNX member spoke to me on Sunday to say that my thoughts about flying what makes you happy, especially what you’d be happy to lose with, has reinvigorated his love of X-Wing.
So yay! Right?
You’d think so, but what happens when the list that’s fun to lose with, stops being fun to lose with? What happens when, thanks to how X-Wing is mainly organised around competitive play, your fun list means you’re spending £10-£20 (sometimes more) to wallow on the bottom tables and eliminate you from any chance of benefiting from the prize support that you’ve paid for?
Recently, my love of X-Wing has plummeted. After taking a week away after the Warboar Hyperspace Trial thanks to work, last week saw preparations for Warboar’s Wave Championship this weekend, and turned into the worst week for me since the release of 2.0. Lists that look fun on paper haven’t been when they’ve been put on the board, Phantoms are still a negative play experience, only half the Republic stuff made it to the UK for release (thanks Brexit!), and overall my faith in the game just entered a flat spin. Continuing the flat spin analogy, if you’ve seen the movie Top Gun, my enthusiasm is Goose.
There will be people out there who will ask what I expected flying two ships (and two small ships at that), and they may be right. There will be others who will likely say “just fly better” or the infamous “git gud”, as if that’s a thing that a player can miraculously do. These comments amount to being told “your fun is wrong” by players (or worse, armchair Admirals) who believe their opinion has more weight or importance than yours (newsflash, it doesn’t) and think that your choice of ships, upgrades, or tactics is fundamentally flawed just because they wouldn’t do it; a concept I first came across thanks to the D&D show Critical Role, where viewers regularly criticise the players for their characters’ choices. Yes my list might not be optimised, or even actually competitive, and God knows I’ve made mistakes, but in other games variance has been king. Losing can be crushing for a player’s morale, and variance is a core part of the game, but kicking someone when they’re down even unintentionally is what drives players away.
An acquaintance on Discord was discussing this issue with me as I typed the first part of this entry and tried to find that image of poor, unfortunate Goose, and they suggested that taking a “jank” list to an event is fine so long as the player understands that they cannot expect their opponents to be flying a similar list, and that said player really has no grounds to complain if they get trounced. On this, I agree; players need to be aware of what they are getting into and to modify their expectations appropriately; the Rebels didn’t complain about unfair match-ups prior to the Battle of Yavin, so why should we?
Which then begs the question. What is fun? Where do we derive our own concepts of “fun” from? Do players play to win, and derive their fun from the glory of victory? Do players play for the social aspect of X-Wing and get their fun from discussing the game? Do players play simply for the sheer joy of pushing plastic spaceships around the board making pew-pew noises?
Yes. Yes they do.
Fun is about as subjective a concept as any, as unique as any individual person. My fun, is coming up with fun lists that make people scratch their heads and think “what does that do?” or “why?” The fun of a prospective World Champion might be challenging the top players in the country for seventy-five minutes of high-stakes X-Wing. Dave from accounts might just want to play a game or two over a beer or three on a Friday night.
None of these are wrong, and they need not be mutually exclusive.
The danger to fun comes when the expectations placed upon a player (usually self-inflicted) are not necessarily realistic; for example, I had loads of fun at Hyperspace when I knew I’d not be making the cut and would be happy to win one just game. I had much less fun yesterday when I decided I was a contender for Wave Leader (I needed three wins and I needed TNX squadmate Dan to not win any). I then won one game (against a swarm, so I’m learning!), screwed up the second (maybe not learned as much as I’d hoped…), and got variance-ed to death in the third – result, pretty unhappy X-Wing player! Had I flown a list that wasn’t “for fun”, I might have actually contended, and if I hadn’t even considered the Wave Leader position, I might have enjoyed my day more.
The same has thus far been true of the Republic faction: the Jedi don’t seem to be…for lack of a better word, worthwhile. I understand that making Jedi powerhouses would be a nightmare for game balance (and sales), but they currently seem predominantly geared towards supporting ARCs and Torrents and that…doesn’t feel right? Weren’t Rebels meant to be mutual-support faction? Again my expectations for the faction were inaccurate, possibly even unrealistic, so they’re currently no fun – hopefully when Guardians of the Republic finally arrives, the extra characters included might make flying three Jedi worth a shot?
I’ll be spending this week stripping down my ships again for repainting, not sure what schemes I’m doing yet, but I know for sure that regardless how my ships perform on the board I can always be proud of how they look; painting is fun when I have time to do it, so if flying repainted and unique ships is where I now choose to find my fun, I don’t see how I can go wrong!
After that, maybe I’ll try Scum out. See what this Boba/Guri malarkey is about…