Great Ball of Fire!

So, Barnes & Noble did it again; releasing stuff before the official “street date” as part of an alleged deal with their distributor, don’t you love big business?

Despite having a Fireball pre-ordered with my FLGS like a good loyal hobbyist, I ended up acquiring another one anyway (who knows, flying two might be fun) and thought I’d give it a spin last night at the local store. With new points out, it was likely to be a busier night than it has been recently, with less Legion and more X-Wing taking place (there was even an Attack Wing game, but we don’t talk about that game any more!)

The Ship

star_wars_resistance___kazuda_s_ship__fireball__by_adamkop_dcmx2z3

Artist Credit: AdamKop on DeviantArt

Let’s look at the ship first; overall, not terrible. Six hull (reduced to five at setup) with Astromech, Missile, Illicit, Title, and two Modification slots for 26 points. It’s a Headhunter on steroids. Dial isn’t terrible either, blue one forward/banks and two forward, with red three turns and four forwards. No K-Turn ability but the Tallon Roll is nice, not that you’d need it with the ability to turn hard one and then SLAM another one.

Speaking of SLAM; the action bar isn’t terrible, either. Focus, Evade, Barrel Roll and SLAM are pretty nifty on a low-Initiative ship with two attack and two defence dice; even if you don’t use the “Explosion with Wings” ability, it’s a pretty sharp blocker. I could see it being used in the same manner Torrents were used in the 2 Jedi/2 Torrent lists we saw rising to the top a few months ago.

Explosion with Wings

This is an interesting ability; Deal 1 facedown damage card at setup, after you SLAM, flip a facedown damage card to not take the Weapons Disabled. When paired with the Kaz’s Fireball title, you get to choose which card you are dealt at setup so long as it has the ship trait. For me, the no-brainers here are either a) Damaged Engine when paired with an R4 Astromech, or Disabled Power Regulator which turns the ship into an infinite-use Black One.

However, when you have more than one facedown damage card, the little booklet says you have to shuffle them and your opponent picks which one. This bit me hard on the arse last night when a 5 damage Kaz got a Direct Hit! flipped over and ended his day on a negative note. Bear this in mind when considering that last-chance attack; it might not be as worthwhile as you think!

Title

“Kaz’s Fireball”: “Setup: When you resolve Explosion with Wings, you may search the damage deck and choose a damage card with the Ship trait: you are dealt that card instaed. Then, shuffle the damage deck.

You can perform actions of damage cards even while ionized.”

For two points, this is a pretty nifty title; you get to pick which damage card you take at the beginning of the game as long as it has the “Ship” trait; there are several different tactics for this, including (if you have no desire to SLAM anywhere) siphoning out a Fuel Leak or Direct Hit from your deck and reducing the chances of that card ruining your day later on.

The ability to repair damage cards while ionized is also pretty handy; damage piles up on the Fireball and if, like me, you keep using the Disabled Power Regulator crit and then find yourself with a Console Fire or Fuel Leak, you might find your day gets really bad really quickly; being able to clear the Ion and repair a damage? Pretty nice, especially if you have the R1-J5 Astromech aboard.

The Pilots

Jarek Yeager

Jarek

Former Rebellion Pilot. Mechanic. Father Figure.

Pilot Ability: “While you have 2 or fewer stress tokens, if you are damaged, you can execute red basic maneuvers even while stressed. If you are critically damaged, you can execute red advanced maneuvers even while stressed.”

33pts for Initiative 5. Not bad! The ability isn’t terrible either, being able to still move at speed four in a straight line or do those three hard turns around an obstacle even while stressed (though good luck shedding those stresses without an R4 Astromech). Damage card faceup? Why not try a Tallon Roll instead?

I think you take Yeager for the I5 as opposed to his ability, in this case. At three points less than Tallie, however, I think you need to be very careful when considering putting him in the list.

Kazuda Xiono

kaz

Possibly the least likeable protagonist in the entire franchise! Grow up, man!

Pilot Ability: “While you defend or perform a primary attack, if the enemy ship’s initiative is higher than the number of damage cards you have, you may roll 1 additional die.”

Kaz sitting at 40pts is an interesting place to sit for a pilot in the Resistance; Tallie and Greer are both four points cheaper, the soon-to-be released Zizi is the same points, and L’ulo is only three points more; all for ships with equal or higher Initiative. Rookie T-70s are similarly costed, though they crucially have shields to soak those early crits that might sneak through.

Kaz is an interesting pilot: utterly useless against ships that are I1 with three attack or agility unless you fork out on an R5 Astromech to repair that first damage card, but surprisingly effective against Aces (if you can keep them in arc). I flew Kaz three times yesterday, and he was an annoyance (like in the show) to I5 and 6 ships in all three games, right up until the damage started to pile up and suddenly he was dead. He needs to be flown more carefully than I’ve managed so far, perhaps on a flank and use those initial SLAM actions to get into a more advantageous position; running him with anything more than Heroic and Kaz’s Fireball is probably a mistake, though a case could be made for Advanced SLAM if you’re like me and want to be particularly aggressive.

R1-J5

R1-J5

“Bucket”

Pilot Ability: “Before you expose 1 of your damage cards, you may look at your facedown damage cards, choose 1 and expose that card instead.”

Not terrible! If you were looking to put a single Fireball in as an annoyance/blocker, Bucket at 29pts is a steal. Getting to look before you pick which card which card to expose is huge; I wonder if this works with abilities like Rexler or Thane Kyrell? This guy can SLAM about all day and not care about accidentally flipping a Direct Hit or Console Fire or any of those other nasty cards that nobody wants.

Also, he can take an Astromech, which is just weird…

Upgrades

R1-J5 (Astromech)

“While you have 2 or fewer stress tokens, you can perform actions on damage cards even while stressed.

After you repair a damage card with the Ship trait, you may spend 1 charge to repair that card again.”

It’s an R5 on steroids! Being able to repair while stressed may be crucial to the survival of not just a Fireball pilot, but a T-70 or Resistance Transport as well. Better than that, the ability to discard a damage card when it repairs is a great way to keep your ship healthy, especially if it repairs automatically (like, you guessed it, Disabled Power Regulator)!

At six points it’s a bit pricey, but probably worth it if you can manage your damage cards and charges properly, and ensure you’re engaging in such a way that you can get the most out of the repair ability while also ensuring you’re not just going to take that damage again.

Coaxium Hyperfuel

“You can perform the SLAM action even while stressed. If you do, you suffer 1 critical damage unless you expose 1 of your damage cards.

After you partially execute a maneuver, you may expose 1 of your damage cards or suffer 1 critical damage to perform a SLAM action.”

Right now as far as I’m aware, only the Fireball can take this as it’s an Illicit that requires the SLAM action, but I might be mistaken. For 2pts, this isn’t bad as a get out of trouble card, the risks don’t outweigh the benefits and if you only need to use it once to keep yourself from being trapped at range one of a swarm, it’s earned its points back!

Overall Thoughts

I like it. It handles like a Z-95 or X-Wing with a few extra toys to play with. I think we’ll mostly see the Generic as a blocker or swarm ship and Kaz as a pocket ace, though I do hope I’m wrong as Yeager and Bucket both seem to have their place as well.

I think these things need to be kept cheap, Kaz at anything more than 45pts may as well be replaced by an A-Wing (Greer/Tallie with Optics and Heroic is 40, Zizi is 45), and even then I do wonder whether he’s the better choice. Regardless whether a Fireball is the right choice for a list, it’s usually the fun choice, and that’s important in a game that, for me, very nearly got left on a shelf after PAX and not looked at again.

This is what I’ve tried so far, with and without R1-J5:

Kazuda Xiono (40)
Heroic (1)
R1-J5 (6)
Advanced SLAM (3)
Kaz’s Fireball (2)

Fun? Yes. Good? Not in my hands. That said, I was flying with Poe and Nien and I’ve forgotten how to fly Resistance Aces, apparently. Perhaps in a four or five ship list with less upgrades? We’ll see. I’ll probably still favour the RZ-2 over the Fireball competitively, but only time will tell…

I hope you all enjoyed my 1600 word (ouch) review! If any of you got this far, thank you so much! Fly safe, be well, take care of each other, and so on!

swz63_art

It’s all good fun until your engines explode…

January Points Change: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

It’s January 10th, 2020; a new era of X-Wing 2.0 has arrived. The points update occurred 22 hours ago with the announcement of a fully curated Hyperspace list for the first half of 2020, to vastly mixed emotion worldwide – some love it, some hate it. There are people jumping for joy, and others throwing their toys out of the pram and flipping the table and disgust.

Without going into detail, there are other bloggers and streamers who have more time and inclination to do that, I’m going to quickly recap what I consider the good, bad and ugly changes to the game that came with the new PDFs.

The Good

What do I like about the points update?

Generics appeared to come down across the board, which is going to please the swarm players. Mid-initiative unique pilots also mostly came down in points, which opens up more options for a lot of factions and means that a lot of the lesser-used pilots might start seeing competitive play.

The creation of a truly curated Hyperspace list means the next six months will be very interesting; a lot of the more popular pilots or ships have been removed. Though this may throw a spanner in the works for some people, particularly Ace players, I think the game will be more healthy if it’s not flooded with I6 Aces as it traditionally has been; losing Soontir, Anakin, Quickdraw, etc will mean that the days of aces dominating in Hyperspace should hopefully be over. I’ll miss Wedge, though.

Sear and TA-175 went up, potentially making the much-loathed (or beloved depending on what faction you play) Sear Swarm less common. Likewise Ensnare got dumped from Hyperspace, which will be interesting.

People might fly TIE Aggressors now! Remind me I said that when people start putting Barrage Rockets on them and

Tractor Beams and Gas Clouds also got fixed, which is good; Gas Clouds went from no consequences to the most likely to have consequences, which is a huge jump. The Composure fix means I won’t be flying Snap in my 4x T-70 list any more, but with Vonreg & Co on the horizon, it needed to be done.

The Bad

What don’t I like…

Jedi didn’t go up. Well, that’s not true. Obi-Wan, the most popular pilot in the game, went up by one measly point. Fortunately this is offset by the increase in R2 Astromech and the changes to Hyperspace, but when you consider that Obi-Wan is only six points more than the rarely-used Turr Phennir for one more health, access to regen, a better dial and three Force, it makes you wonder where the proper price point for Force really is. In my mind, FFG have probably stopped looking.

Also, no Torrents for the Republic in Hyperspace? Really? I understand the Sinker Swarm was popular, but that’s maybe going too far…

R2 Astromech got a points boost because of Jedi and N-1s, meaning it’s probably now overcosted on worse frames like the Y-Wing and X-Wing.

I actually think those are the only things I don’t like, wow, short section!

The Ugly

What do I define as “ugly”? Probably changes that are neither good nor bad. In the movie, Tuco wasn’t good nor was he bad; he was just Tuco.

Losing about 75% of the generic Talent slots and a large percentage of upgrades is an interesting choice, as are the smaller factions losing access to entire ships; First Order without the Upsilon will be in an interesting place competitively until the Xi is released probably sometime in late spring. Resistance without the Bomber? Eh, I’m sadder about losing L’ulo, Ello and Pattern Analyser.

I’m also a little disappointed that Corran and Gavin didn’t come down, but that can’t be helped I suppose.

You can now run Fearless Fenn and three Fangs. Not entirely sure how I feel about this… My Liberty Squadron colleague Andrew is probably very happy, I imagine Oli Pocknell probably is as well!

Overall Thoughts

I’m enthused. Having spent the past month since PAX playing Legion Skirmish following what I can only assume is X-Wing burnout, I’m looking forward to playing X-Wing again.

Being able to play 5 Rebel X-Wings is something I never thought I’d see, having missed that part of 1.0, and I’m tempted; I just don’t want to spend another $40 on two more ships. I’m a little disappointed that I can’t use Ello, L’ulo or Wedge in Hyperspace, they’re three of my favourite pilots in the game, but I get it; there are a lot of I5 and 6 pilots floating around, a lot of whom have pretty cool abilities, and they couldn’t remove them from some factions and not others.

Composure, Gas Cloud and Tractor fixes make the game healthier, in my opinion. No more “no consequence” abilities return an element of risk to the game, no matter what you are flying.

I’m also really excited for the Fireball, which might be a decent cheap filler ship for Resistance. The First Order Interceptor, likewise, excites me; I don’t fly First Order, I probably won’t fly it now, but it’s nice for them to have something new and exciting.

This has been a short and sweet article, I’ll probably have more to say once I’ve experimented more.

What do people think? With all System Opens and Prime Championships until June being Hyperspace, how does this affect everyone? Is it time to rejoice for the golden era of X-Wing, or is everything going on eBay? Perhaps you occupy a middle ground and just enjoy pushing toy space ships around? Let me know!

Organised Play – Changes Ahead?

I wasn’t actually going to write an entry this week, mainly because I believe everyone is fed up with me talking about four T-70s and how I don’t feel at all prepared for the System Open at PAX Unplugged on Friday; I was going to do a writeup for that next week, followed by a year-in-review style post that I imagine a few other bloggers will be doing, and then diving into Star Wars Legion in the New Year (FLGS had 40% off all FFG products for Black Friday, I really couldn’t help myself!)

But then I saw this:

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Courtesy of X-Wing TMG 2.0 Discord

No more Hyperspace Trials!

It looks like most FFG OP events from now on will be Extended affairs, with the exception of the System Open Series. This is an interesting change from FFG, especially since last year the majority of events that led to a Worlds Invite were Hyperspace format.

Why has this change occurred?

Obviously this is all pure speculation, and the FFG OP people will be putting an official announcement out in January, but personally I believe this has something to do with simplicity: every six months, points change and the people at FFG have to decide what is or is not Hyperspace-legal. This could mean a ship is introduced or removed the week before an event, or the points changes might ruin a list entirely; while these changes need to happen to keep the game from stagnating, this isn’t going to make many players happy!

It could also be something to do with the fact that these are qualifier events for the World Championships: Worlds is an Extended-format event, as we all know, and it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to have the main qualifier be a different format if there were no other major competitions of that format (Hyperspace Cups suddenly becoming not-Hyperspace being a case in point here!) By mixing up the formats this way, Hyperspace remains a premier-level competitive format, but doesn’t impede or restrict people’s ability to practice with lists for bigger events; the world is now the X-Wing player’s oyster, with all 65 currently available ships ready to be used (except maybe the poor TIE Aggressor…)

Note: The cynic in me also wonders whether FFG just wanted to put Hyperspace on the back-burner so they didn’t have to worry about rotation.

So what does this mean for local events?

Well, prepare yourselves for more Phantoms, Defenders, Torkil & Friends, etc. On the other hand, this might not necessarily be a bad thing despite my own misgivings about certain aspects of Extended, which are actually more problems with game design than anything else (looking at you here, Tractor!); people are free to fly whatever they want, which can promote a wider range of diversity in the meta, or they can gobble up the newest and best net-list and still come dead last, proving that player skill is still a thing in this game.

What does it mean for me?

Honestly, not a whole lot!

I own exactly four ships that aren’t Hyperspace-legal under the current system: E-Wing, K-Wing, HWK-290 and YT-2400. I honestly can’t see myself using the YT or the K-Wing any time soon, but I’ve had a lot of fun with E-Wings since 2.0 came out, and flying Jan Ors next to Wedge Antilles to give him a 5-dice attack at Range One is always fun.

Ultimately, Hyperspace lists are still competitive even in Extended environments, so this shouldn’t be a problem for anyone who prefers their list on the more restricted side (someone remind me of that next time I see Defenders, Quadjumpers or Ketsu on the board!) It just means people will be playing against a much broader range of ships on a more regular basis at official events.

Though I was (and remain) a staunch supporter of the Hyperspace Format and prefer it to Extended, this can only be good for the competitive scene going forward.

System Open Series: They Did What?

It’s been three days since the announcement regarding the change to the System Open format, two weeks prior to the first System Open in the new season: PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia. Personally I was hoping for an announcement of new and interesting prize support, but what we got went far beyond that…

FFG have turned the entire series on its head. Literally.

Format

Rather than being an Extended format event like last year, followed by a Hyperspace Qualifier, 2020’s System Open Series will be Hyperspace for the main event followed by an Extended “World’s Qualifier”. 5-1 makes cut in the main event, with Top 8 winning an invite to Worlds; any undefeated player in the Qualifier also receives an invite. So while the format may have changed, the qualification requirements remain the same.

But what does this mean for players?

Well, personally it means I’m glad I didn’t put too much effort into developing and testing a list with Corran Horn! It also means we are less likely to see combinations that were considered the staples of Extended events in 2019: Phantoms of any shape or size, Torkil and his scummiest friends, and Inquisitors with Jendon, for example. This has its downsides, however; limited ship availability may limit interest in some corners of the community, and until ship/card rotation is introduced, Hyperspace is not truly a limited format: with every wave it gets bigger until it ultimately turns into Extended anyway (this may be FFG’s intention long-term, but I don’t know).

Personally, I’d like to see R2 Astromechs rotated out of Hyperspace; this may sound odd as a Rebellion and Resistance player, but Regen Jedi need to go away. Put them in a box until something rises to truly compete with them, and then let them back out to play while being priced appropriately. Supernatural Reflexes can also be tossed into the fire, otherwise Precognitive Reflexes really has no purpose, and of the two it’s probably the more balanced card despite the vast price difference.

Of course, any rotational changes will only take effect in January at the earliest; they won’t affect PAX and will likely mean the top tables are dominated by Regen Jedi, Imperial Aces, and some form of Rebel Beef that isn’t Daniel Taylor’s list. Can’t say I’m looking forward to facing off against that with four low-Initiative T-70s, but it’s too late to change my list and get the practice in I need (which is a problem for Liberty Squadron colleagues who wanted to use ships like Jendon or Ketsu), so it’s time to make the best of a bad situation.

At least the prizes are good!

Prizes

No participation prizes for everyone this year, which is kind of sad. I really appreciated the S-Foil and R2 Astromech cards last year, and the free Damage Deck was also really nifty. Plus then there was the Prize Wall and all of its myriad goodies that players could spend their hard-earned tickets on.

op20xo_prize-wall1

Very Inferno-centric this year; with an Imperial Damage Deck, Inferno cards/cardboard, and Imperial-themed Marksmanship and Swarm Tactics cards. They’re cool but are of little to no interest to me, if I’m honest; if the cards are 1 ticket each again they’ll make handy little trinkets to either sell to recoup some of my ticket costs, or to donate as prize support to smaller events in the region. Last year my main goal was 8 tickets to get myself a frosted Norra Wexley card, because frosted cards are cool, so what do we have this year?

op20xo_prize-wall2.png

Oh dear…

It may just be me, but does anyone else feel that frosted generics don’t have the same desirability as frosted uniques? I can’t really see people combining tickets for an Academy Pilot or Hired Gun, for example, it just doesn’t have the same pizzazz as frosted Guri or frosted Quickdraw did last year. Admittedly this may mean that they may cost fewer tickets, or that it’s less likely they’ll all disappear after Round 2; both are good, but I can’t help but feel that this wasn’t the best move. Perhaps they’re saving their more-upmarket prize support for Grand Championships and/or Worlds 2020?

Overall Thoughts

Overall, not feeling too bad about this: eleven games of competitive X-Wing over the course of a weekend is still eleven games of competitive X-Wing, despite any changes FFG may decide to make.

I won’t say I’m not disappointed by the prizes this season, but I know a lot of Inferno Squadron fans out there will be overjoyed; thematic prize support is always good to see, and after Red Squadron last year the change to Imperials is neither surprising nor a bad choice. It’s the frosted cards that surprised me; with so many interesting unique pilots in different ships, it’s a shame that they instead decided to go for the generics; I guess they’re more likely to appeal to people who don’t fly unique pilots?

I’m in favour of the format change; hopefully it’ll add to the prestige of the Hyperspace format as a major competitive format outside of Hyperspace Trials, and hopefully as further waves are released it’ll give FFG adequate incentive to start rotating cards to properly and effectively balance out the format. On the other hand, I’m aware that Hyperspace isn’t held in the highest esteem by some corners of the competitive X-Wing community, and we could see lower attendance figures because of it; I really hope this isn’t the case, because I think a limited-format competitive series can only be a good thing for the overall health of the game – this isn’t to say that Extended doesn’t have its place, of course!

It does make me wonder what the 2020 Worlds format will be, though…

That’s really it from me; what do people think about the format change? Yay? Nay? Don’t care?
Will this be a rousing success or a dumpster fire?
Are you planning to attend a System Open this year? If so, where?

Journey to PAX Unplugged – The T-70s went in Two by Two!

Time until PAX Unplugged: 24 days

Regular playtesting sessions remaining: 3

Last week’s playtesting efforts have been…eventful. I took four T-70s to Top Deck on Thursday (well three T-70s and a T-65 standin) to test the four Black Aces out. The first two games I won fairly comprehensively; once against Republic Beef that had been thrown together at the last minute, and once against a tanky Rebel five-ship list. This made me feel quite good about my choice of list, especially since the legendary Dylan Jones had offered to send me the required pilot cards from Wales for free; I wanted to put that on the blog now in case further playtesting takes me away from T-70s, so THANK YOU DYLAN! (Sidenote, his blog is a pretty good read, people should check it out!)

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At I4, a T-70 can do almost anything. It can joust, it can flank, it can arc-dodge. It’s truly multifunction!

Of course, that’s when things took a turn for the worse. Against a Scum beef list I struggled to put damage through against ships with three agility, and successfully defending against a Fearless Talonbane Cobra at Range 1 is almost impossible. That defeat was swiftly followed by a matchup against one of the current meta staples – Jendon TAPs; again, I failed to push any significant damage through. Though infuriating, this game taught me a valuable lesson about the T-70; it can’t turn for crap when against something as nimble as a TIE or Delta-7.

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Trying to dodge these things is like trying to smell colours… Glitterstim is the only way!

So suddenly I’m 2-2 with the list that I’d had a lot of confidence with that morning. The early successes had been comprehensively stomped on, and I was about ready to call it quits on the Quad-70 idea already. Annoyingly, I’d just purchased my fourth and opened it, so I couldn’t refund it; so I was honour-bound to keep trying, and refine the list if possible.

Enter shenanigans:

  • Blue Squadron Rookie
  • Lieutenant Bastian
  • Jessika Pava
  • Temmin Wexley w/Composure

Comes in at 199pts, and has some fun interactions. The issue is, with Jess in the picture, I want to fly in the block which might not be strategically sound; I also don’t really like I1 and 2 pilots (despite my success with A-Wings) as they’re susceptible to being Initiative-killed. That said, as a jousting block, it’s pretty reliable; Snap should have a focus/lock 9 times out of 10; Jess gets re-rolls, and Bastian should always be able to focus then acquire a lock.

First game with this list, played on Friday, was against Hera w/Saw, Luke w/R2-D2 and Braylen – 100% pure jousting ridiculousness. It was a mess. Luke died early, but then I suffered horrifically at the hands of Hera who wouldn’t stop rolling maximum damage. Quite heavily on-tilt, especially at my evade rolls, this game ended quickly. Perhaps targeting Luke first was a mistake, I should probably have tried to get Hera out of the picture (though with Reinforce that’s easier said than done). The second game was against Poe and 3x RZ-2s, and this game swung in the opposite direction: my opponent couldn’t escape the kill-boxes made by the four T-70s, and lost all three RZ-2s without killing a T-70 before conceding; not believing Poe could fight his way through three healthy T-70s before the timer ended.

So 2-2 with four Black Aces, 1-1 with the Resistance 1234 list. Not exactly heartwarming statistics with such a limited timeframe before the event. On the other hand, I can learn from my mistakes; one consideration is to exchange Heroic with Crack Shot on the Black Aces, use their higher Initiative and (hopefully) line up the bullseye to put the hurt through on those three-agility ships (especially those Inquisitors); obviously this means no defensive re-rolls, so they lose something in terms of tankiness, which I’ll probably need against lists with multiple I5 or 6 ships…

I’m going to keep trying with the T-70s, but I can’t help but think that my dislike of crew carriers like the Resistance Transport has hamstrung my ability to do well with a list like this; Cova Nell with an Ion Cannon might be a good replacement for the fourth T-70, for example. That said, I’m not prepared to sacrifice my gaming enjoyment for performance just yet (though I may regret those words if I don’t enjoy the event!)

I still have backup lists available, both for the main event and the Hyperspace Qualifier on Day 2. All I know is that to progress to the Elimination Rounds, I need to go 5-1 on Day 1. I’ve never gone 5-1 in swiss before: my best was 4-0 with my Headhunter Swarm way back when, and 4-2 at Highlander. Still, it’s doable, I suppose! Still no sign of a Prize Support article from FFG, which isn’t helping, but I can be patient for another week or so; when I know what I’m fighting for, I’ll know whether to keep struggling through with a list I’m not 100% comfortable with or to abandon it for something I’ve had more practice with.

Until then, I’m going to trawl through YouTube for streamed games involving four T-70s to get an idea how to deploy them, how and when to engage with them, and so on. Admittedly most appear to be based around three Red Experts and Jess Pava, which helps for the 1234 list but less for the four Black Aces who don’t necessarily want to joust everything they come across…

In other news, apparently several Corran Horn lists made the Top Cut at the Spanish Grand Championships; maybe my Wedge/Luke/Corran list isn’t as non-competitive as I initially thought it might be! I’ll keep it packed and ready to go, just in case, but for now I’m going to be sticking with the Resistance and hoping I can a) settle on a list and b) learn its foibles and quirks before the 6th.

Wish me luck, folks!

Journey to PAX Unplugged – System Open the Second

Back in April, I attended the UK System Open, which I believe remains to this day the largest X-Wing event ever. Things did not start well, having purchased (well, re-purchased) my ticket during a low point in my competitive X-Wing career. I finally settled on a list, a modified version of the “Danger Zone” Resistance list, but my five play-test games had not gone particularly well, leading me to believe I was making something of a mistake. Fortunately the event went reasonably well, going 3-3 in the main event and ending up 299th; a score I hope to better (since I doubt there’ll be 299 players) at the Philadelphia System Open hosted at PAX Unplugged in exactly one month.

Annoyingly, System Opens in the US appear to be connected to larger events, meaning you need a ticket for the event and the tournament, bumping up costs fairly significantly. Fortunately, I live close enough to the event that I won’t be needing a hotel, otherwise we’d be looking at a pretty expensive weekend!

So, tickets bought, what to fly? I’ve got three weeks to practice, since my FLGS has X-Wing nights on Thursdays and the last Thursday it’ll be closed for Thanksgiving (and all that yummy Turkey); it’s not a lot of time to conjure up a new list and get the reps in, so I’ll likely be resorting to an old favourite. But what?

  1. Danger Zone is a competitor; it served me well in the past but that was before the points change, having become more expensive since then. That said, without Trick Shot on L’ulo, it probably still comes in below 190 points to ensure I move second against most things. Nantices and deep-pocketed Imperial Aces/Jedi will probably still outbid me, so I can probably play with whatever points I have left (Autoblasters on Nien, perhaps?). Still, that’s one list I’m reasonably confident with, though my competency with Resistance Aces has never been anywhere near 100% and this room is going to be as tough as the UKSO was, but with tighter margins between below average, average, and above average player skill.
  2. 5x RZ-2s is always a solid choice; they served me well at Highlander Games despite not a whole lot of practice beforehand, and are definitely my backup option should nothing else pan out. Though running without a bid still feels weird, if I can block a Nantex and deny its action, I stand a decent chance of bringing it down with focus-fire if I need to. Crucially, this list is also less susceptible to Torkil Mux shenanigans than many of my other lists.
  3. 4x X-Wings, be they T-65 or T-70 variety. Simple to fly, reasonably manoeuvrable, and tanky to boot. Biggs with some Red Veterans with Selfless or four Black Aces with Heroic are my current ponderings; the latter’s I4 giving me the opportunity to trade simultaneous fire with meta staples like Grievous or Chertek should I need to, while also giving me options to outflank or arc-dodge lower-Initiative pilots should the need arise. Only problem is, I’d need a fourth X-Wing and the required cards/tokens (I left all of my generic bits back in the UK because I was on a Unique pilots-only rampage at the time).
  4. Rebel Aces, whatever that may be. I’ve currently got a few ideas how to run this; all of them involving Wedge and Luke (who should, in my opinion, star in every Rebel list) with one or two friends. I’ve got ideas about Torpedoes and Jake Farrell, upgrade-lite with Jake and Arvel Crynyd, or throwing Thane Kyrell or Corran Horn into the mix and running a three-ship build of some form. Though all of these appeal to me one way or another, the Torpedo-throwing shenanigans of Wedge/Luke/Jake probably appeals to me most. The issue is I am uncertain exactly how to engage with it, so I will probably choose one of the other options simply for simplicity’s sake, and for the sake of my own psyche and/or ego when it comes to playing the game and probably getting it wrong.

Of the above, the only thing I haven’t tried yet is the four X-Wings; mainly because, as I said, I don’t own four. Though I could get a fourth and repaint it in the white/orange scheme we’ve seen in Rise of Skywalker teasers; there’s also rumours of a white and green variant of the same pattern, but that’s based off marketing material for toys, and Hasbro has to make their money somewhere!

orange70

It’s bold, I’ll give it that!

It should, however, prove reasonably simple to fly; so long as I stay in formation and don’t self-bump (which I’ve not done for a while unless I was blocked by someone else). The old “One-Forward to Victory” should work, right? My main concern with this list is the likelihood of getting Initiative-killed by aces (or Torkil’s mates); even a T-70 is likely to die in one round under concentrated fire. The Selfless/Biggs damage-spreading of the Rebel variant means things might survive longer, and I can afford R2 Astromechs on 3 of the 4 ships, but that’s not necessarily a good idea either…

So as you can see, I’m in a dilemma…

I don’t even know what the 2019/20 Season’s prize support will be like, so beyond a 3-3 win/loss ratio, I’m not sure what I’m aiming for! What goodies do you have planned for us, FFG?! I’d quite like to finish my Red Squadron card collection, I need Jek Porkins and Garven Dreis (I foolishly bought a Wedge earlier this year); I also enjoy frosted cards, though knowing my luck they’ll be for ships I don’t own or fly! Anakin, Poe, and Norra need frosted friends!

Speaking of Anakin; I haven’t been enjoying Republic since my move to the US, so I sold them all. It was a rough decision, and I regret it a little bit because I really did have fun with the Fine-Tuned Controls shenanigans, but with so few events locally that are easy to get to without a car, I need to concentrate on lists that will do well rather than ones that’ll just be fun to fly. That may mean moving further away from ace lists and towards more generics, which isn’t the way I want to play X-Wing, but at what point do you start to sacrifice fun for competitiveness?

In other news, with the release of Epic, I’m really excited to try the new Aces High format: a furball situation reminds me of the good old days when I was in an X-Wing vs TIE Fighter/X-Wing Alliance clan/gaming group and we used to have weekly online melee combats either internally or against other groups. Perhaps when PAX is done with, I’ll dive into making some fun Aces High builds for certain points values, see what I can come up with, and whether or not temporary alliances built over the tabletop survive the crucible of battle!

Finally, I purchased, read, and finished the new Star Wars novel (Resistance Reborn) yesterday; which details the gathering of new assets for the Resistance in the immediate wake of The Last Jedi; it was a good read, and brings several older characters back into play (General Rieekan, Wedge Antilles and Norra Wexley to name but three). Makes me hopeful that someday we’ll see Resistance Wedge/Norra, and maybe, just maybe the T-85 will get it’s own official model…

Xwing-resistance

It’s not the prettiest in the X-Wing line, but it might make a good showing…

Check back next week to see what I decided, and whether or not my first week of testing fills me with confidence or leaves me thinking I’m going to crash and burn like Porkins into the Death Star…

What Makes An Ace?

I’ve been thinking recently about people’s play styles and the list archetypes we know exist out in the wide world of X-Wing. Two of the major contenders appear to be “Triple Aces” or “Ace and Friends” (Or Ace Miniswarm, Ace + 4, call it what you will).

But what is an “Ace”? We’re not talking about a pilot with five or more confirmed kills here, that’s far too real-world for this blog, but in X-Wing terms what is an Ace and what do they do? Is it down to their Pilot Ability? Initiative? Is an Ace an Ace all the time? These are questions that have been rattling round my head for a while now, and I think it’s time to put them “on paper” so to speak…

But first, this happened:

achievement.png

This blog started in 2011 as a method of keeping track of my 40k games and holding  myself accountable about progression in my hobby. Back then I had a core of readers centred round my local Games Workshop, and when I started blogging about X-Wing at the start of 2.0 this focus changed. My readership may not be huge, but every view I get or every comment I receive is much appreciated – thank you to everyone who graces this pokey little blog with your presence, it means a lot!

What is an Ace?

When I think of Aces in X-Wing, I immediately think high-Initiative ships that can reposition while still benefiting from offensive or defensive dice modification, or ships that can reposition twice to ensure they never take incoming fire while being in a position to capitalise on this the next round (or that round if they are lucky). We’re looking at our Soontir Fels, our Kylo Rens, I5 and 6 Jedi, and to a lesser extent ships like Fenn Rau, Quickdraw or Poe Dameron; though I’d consider these pilots brawlers rather than Aces.

But is this necessarily true? Do Aces have to be High Initiative? Or is it more about positioning and capitalising on it? I put it to a few X-Wing Discord servers and got a variety of responses; many agree with the concept listed above; High Initiative, probably low health, decent options for repositioning and damage output. However, one reply stuck in my mind:

“Anything that is mobile can be an ace; I2 Striker vs I1 Vulture is insane levels of ace.”

If this is true, it turns the concept of the “Ace” on its head; if your opponent lines up and jousts you, even your average T-65 or TIE Fighter can become an Ace so long as it doesn’t just obediently line up and commit to the honourable joust itself. There are pilots whose built-in abilities seem to imply they are built for Ace-style play, speeding up the flank, dropping in behind the enemy, and generally making a mess of things for them. Of  course, some might say this is a “Flanker” rather than an “Ace”, but are the two mutually exclusive? Are all Flankers Aces? Probably not. Are all Aces Flankers? Well that’s where this gets a little muddled and comes down to play style; your expensive Ace isn’t going to last long if they fly up the middle of the board, so it’s probably best to stick to a flank at least early-on.

So who are some of these Flankers who might be Aces but also might not be?

  1. General Grievous:
    grievous
    Grievous enjoys being in something’s flank, or behind it. Throw on Soulless One, and he even doesn’t mind facing the wrong way when you’re shooting at him. He’s got the dial and action economy to get around behind your force and really start wreaking havoc if you allow him. Initiative 4 doesn’t do him any favours against High-Initiative pilots unless you’re using that mobility to block, but against your average block of ships it’s more than enough to make a mess of things.
  2. Kullbee Sperado:
    kullbee
    One of the unloved T-65 pilots from Saw’s Renegades, Kullbee can really shine if people would give him the time of day. The ability to Focus and then link into a Boost before opening his S-Foils means that he gets the best of both worlds; throw an R4 Astromech on him for another two points and next turn he’s able to turn behind an opponent without losing an action and likely be able get a better shot than he otherwise might have. Again, I4 means he’s less likely to be useful against Higher-Initiative ships in this manner, but against Vulture Droids or a TIE Swarm, this ability could prove pretty useful.
  3. Karé Kun:
    Kare
    Who doesn’t love Daredevil being built-in to the ship? And without that pesky Stress token as well? Kare functions much in the same way as Kullbee except she never needs to close her S-Foils unless she wants to barrel-roll, which she may do every so often but not on a regular basis. Throw Afterburners onto this pilot and you get to do that hard-turn boost essentially for free twice per game, freeing up her action step to take a Focus or Target Lock as required (or barrel-rolling if that’s your thing). Once again we’re talking I4, it’s like we’re seeing a pattern here…
  4. Greer Sonnel:
    Greer
    Look at that dial, and that pilot ability! Greer is, probably understandably, my favourite RZ-2 pilot to fly; she can go anywhere, do anything, and will have shots 99% of the time unless I’m flying perpendicular to a target I need to re-engage. The ability to rotate her arc, take a modification, and reposition is huge, but perhaps so is her ability to roll and boost while still rotating her turret. Unlike the others, she cannot benefit from a Talent such as Outmanoeuvre thanks to no front arc (unless you give her Missiles), but unlike the others the Initiative 4 poses less of a problem; she can just zoom and rotate and get the shot regardless where her target ends up.
  5. I’d talk about Temmin Wexley but everyone just gives him Composure and fails his free Boost, so he no longer counts. Sorry Snap!

The pilots above are by no means the only pilots who can be both Flankers and Aces when the opportunity arises, they’re just the only ones I’ve got experience flying and thus am truly comfortable discussing. A special shout-out to the E-Wing (all pilots) should be mentioned as well; the combination of fast and slow manoeuvres plus that hard-one turn mean that it can get up in people’s business from all angles when required. The same can be said for A-Wings of both varieties, and even the lower-Initiative Jedi make effective flankers and can arc-dodge with the best of them (or better in the case of Jake Farrell and Jedi pilots) when required.

So why does “Ace Play” seem to revolve primarily around Initiative 5 and 6 pilots?

I would assume, perhaps erroneously, that it’s due to the prevalence of other Initiative 5 and 6 pilots out there. For example: Howlrunner is not an Ace, for example, but if you intend to deprive a TIE Swarm of its rerolls before it fires you need an Initative 5 or 6 pilot to kill her; usually both, since she’s squirrelly as hell when she wants to be and when Iden’s in play you need to kill her twice to make sure she stays dead. Guri, on the other hand, is an Ace and will look at where you put your I4 flanker, Advanced Sensors roll or boost to avoid your firing arc, and still hit like a tonne of bricks; sad times for all.

This contributes to something of a “No-Man’s Land” between I3 and I5, which is where these interesting pilots with flanking abilities all seem to fall; they’re useful against low-Initiative swarms, but not so great against the higher-Initiative Aces (they get out-Aced?) With the introduction of the Nantex and its ability that makes effective blocking a thing of the past, we’re probably even less likely to see some of these ships in play; a sad day for us all, unless you play CIS, in which case you’re probably cackling away in your evil lair while the Nantex debate continues to burn the internet to the ground…

Having discussed this with others, and re-reading what I have written, I wonder if the whole concept is subjective; what makes an Ace an Ace for me in my list isn’t the same as someone else’s Ace in their list. I’m back flying Wedge/Corran/Luke, for example; none of them are what I would consider Aces, they can be if used correctly, but as a general rule they’re probably brawlers with Ace-like qualities. A Poe/Nien/Ello (or L’ulo) list on the other hand, has more Ace-like qualities despite being similar in playstyle thanks to the way the T-70 and the pilot abilities work, but again they have to be played as Aces to count. I’m sure the same can be said for Darth Vader, Fenn Rau, Sun Fac (boo hiss!) and others.

What is clear in my mind, however muddy the issue of Aces may or may not be, is that there are a few stand-out pilots who you could not accuse of anything other than being an Ace: Anakin Skywalker, Soontir Fel, Kylo Ren are but a few. Keep them out of your opponent’s firing arcs, they’ll fly around like wrecking balls; let the enemy get a decent shot on them, and they go all glass-cannon on you and shatter into a billion pieces.

That said, I’m intrigued about what people think about the lower-Initiative pilots; they’re out there, they’re waiting to be flown, and I’m interested to see what people have to say on the matter!

Thanks for reading!