The Cantina: This is Where the Fun Begins
X-Wing is cool. X-Wing is fun. Some of us just like getting together with our friends and a few beverages to play a round with house rules, others know no greater thrill than making the cut at a major tournament. It’s worth celebrating how many different ways we enjoy collecting and playing with our fully licensed plastic and cardboard. Welcome to the Dice and Cardboard Cantina Series, where we chat about what makes X-Wing fun.
X-Wing is my first tabletop game. I started playing because I love Star Wars, simple as that. I am by no means a “great” X-Wing player but I like to think that I bring a blend of thoughtful play and friendly cheer that makes me a good opponent. To celebrate my favorite part of this game I’d like to talk today about the value of “fluff,” flying what you like, and making your favorite Star Wars content viable if not competitive.
Dylan Jones’ excellent X-Wing blog includes a helpful “Jargon Buster” that defines “fluff” thusly:
“A combination of pilots/upgrades that have been chosen for thematic reasons over effectiveness (I.e. T-65 X-Wing pilots that made the Death Star trench run)”
Now, it’s important to note that just because a combination is “thematic” doesn’t necessarily mean it is ineffective. In fact, in many cases, the game designers have created pilot and upgrade card abilities so that they synergize thematically. A great example straight out of the Battle of Endor is Lando with Nien Nunb crew:
Nien reduces the difficulty of Lando’s maneuvers to give him more opportunities to be an effective leader. In fact, I don’t know why you would fly Lando without Nien in the right seat.
Now, as a newer player, I’ve had plenty of people recommend “net-listing,” or copying a proven competitive squad to learn its strengths and weaknesses as well as understand what it feels like to play with a powerful combination. I am in no way dismissing the value of this, everyone should absolutely do it. However, I am also a musician and, personally, net-listing feels to me sort of like practicing scales - necessary but technical and kind of boring.
In my experience, the most fun I have in X-Wing is building my own squads around the ships and pilots that I like and I wish as a new player I had gotten more guidance on how best to do this. Expansion packs *generally* include upgrades that play to the chassis’ strengths and a good build can make even the “worst” ships at least relevant if not revelatory.
For our exercise today I’d like to focus on building a squad that you like with the resources at your disposal. I have chosen the humble Naboo N-1 Starfighter. The N-1 certainly does not set the X-Wing world on fire. It can be tricky to fly if you want to maximize the use of its chassis ability and it doesn’t put out much damage or stand up to much abuse in its unmodified state. I don’t care, I love it.
Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was the first Star Wars movie on the big screen in my lifetime and, good or bad, it means a lot to me. Also, you can’t deny that the last third of the film absolutely RIPS.
Pictured: My 1999 holiday wishlist
Disclaimer: This build discussion was written prior to the February 2022 points and rules release so point values and list composition may no longer be relevant
The N1 is strikingly beautiful and representative of the unique Naboo culture that TPM let us briefly enjoy before the utilitarian wartime designs of the Clone Wars and the cold uniformity of the rise of the Empire. I currently have three Naboo N1 minis, so I’d like to build a squad utilizing all of them. We’ll start with the three most expensive (points-wise) pilots on the chassis. We do have to fill out a 200 point list with three relatively cheap ships, of course. 70-point Firesprays these are not.
- Talent: Juke. If you have the points to spare for this somewhat expensive talent it really leans into the strength of the N-1’s Full Throttle ability. If you executed a speed 3-5 and haven’t had to spend your evade yet (at I5 you probably haven’t) then you get to modify your target’s defense dice, either to push a hit through or force them to spend a token so your squad can follow up.
- Torpedo: Proton Torpedoes. Sure, Ric’s ability only applies to primary attacks, but having the option of throwing 4 attack dice at range 3 with Juke, an automatic critical hit result and no range bonus is helpful. Plus, we have points to spend.
- Astromech: R2-A6. Flexibility. Now I can dial in a 4 or 5 straight to ensure I triggered Ric’s ability to get the extra dice, then dial it back a bit after revealing if I don’t want or need quite so much speed.
This isn’t the “classic” Ric build with Daredevil and R4 Astromech but I like it and think it’s worth a try. I personally don’t enjoy the predictable “5 straight->red hard boost->blue to clear stress” pattern of the Daredevil Ric.
- Talent: Juke again. See above. You risk having to spend the evade before firing at I4, but it may still come in handy.
- Sensor: Fire Control System. We had some points leftover and it’s nice to have the option to keep the lock on your target for a deadlier salvo next turn. Passive Sensors is popular on the relatively lower initiatives but the points didn’t really work.
- Torpedo: Proton Torpedoes again. See above.
- Astromech: R4-P17. Aside from Full Throttle, Padme doesn’t benefit as much as Ric does from whizzing away at high speed and taking the long way back into the fight. R4-P17 lets her utilize that red Tallon Roll, take a lock, and blast a Proton Torpedo in the face of whoever made the mistake of chasing her.
I love Padme’s ability. It helps her punch harder and live longer and, if you fly your list well, she helps everyone else out on offense and defense too.
- Talent: Juke again.
- Sensor: FCS again.
- Torpedo: Proton Torpedoes again. Love that extra punch and with The Force Anakin gets to double modify this attack.
- Astromech: R7-A7. Anakin already has his Force token to use as an extra dice mod so R7 is here to either boost his two-dice primary or help the torpedoes hit even harder. Anakin is the pilot on this list who I’d send after a large base ship with a lot of health that will really suffer from critical damage.
Little Ani is fun and The Force is good, right? There’s an argument for giving him Trick Shot so he can hide behind an obstacle, use the Talent, then use his ability to barrel roll away before moving, but that’s kind of a solution asking for a problem and prevents you from using your Force to modify any dice that round.
There we go! I used my three gorgeous Naboo Starfighters and built a 200 point list that I can bring to my weekly meet-up and hopefully at least have a laugh and wipe out an enemy ship or two. Another plus is that we got to take advantage of the Republic’s array of unique astromechs. One thing I appreciate about this squad is the uniformity of it. Everyone has largely the same upgrades and, aside from the pilot abilities and the ‘mechs, there aren’t a lot of weird triggers to remember or interdependent synergies that I need to set up.
Now, there’s a lot more we could do here if I wasn’t intentionally working within the confines of my current collection.
- To stick with the N-1s we could drop the torpedoes and downgrade a droid and add a fourth N-1. Maybe Dinee Ellberger? Or perhaps go even more thematic and let Ric lead a squad of Bravo Flight N-1s?
- Another fun option I’ve heard of for the N-1 is the oft-overlooked Ion Torpedo. Sure, if your attack hits you aren’t doing more than one damage, but doubling the ship’s red dice for four points and potentially ionizing an opponent for Ric to invariably outpace and finish off is certainly viable. See also: Plasma Torpedoes if I wasn’t intentionally trying to spend a lot of points.
- I’d consider changing Juke on Ani and Padme to Outmaneuver (same points at time of writing) or Lone Wolf (1 point more, drop an FCS) since at I4 there’s a chance they’ll have to spend their evade before firing and thus lose their Juke trigger. This may be a good idea, but here are the reasons why I didn’t make the change:
- The N1’s dial is pretty predictable. They like to move fast and in straight lines. Realistically the primary way I’d end up with a shot outside someone’s front arc is with the red Tallon Roll and in that case I’d be without my free evade and depending on a single token (Padme via her droid’s charge-limited ability) or Force (Anakin) for both offensive and defensive mods.
- Lone Wolf is nice and flexible as it has both offensive and defensive benefits, kind of like how Juke lets your defensive token work for you on offense, but the “risk” of the two ships ending up too close together to use it is something I’d rather not worry about. Especially with Padme’s ability being something I’d like to take advantage of.
- Since this is a “just for fun” squad I prefer the simplicity of all three using the same talent and getting the Juke benefit on half of the turns is better to me than forgetting to trigger Outmaneuver because I’m having a good time and not thinking too hard or constantly checking range for Lone Wolf. Plus, the threat of Juke will make some opponents think twice about focusing on any one ship and get them to spread their fire around to strip off those evade tokens.
- A cheap V-Wing ace like Contrail would be a nice complement to Ric with a similar fun ability. Common wisdom is that an extra ship is the most valuable upgrade, and this is almost always true. Just know that if you take the torpedoes off and add another ship this squad will engage differently.
All of these are viable options. However, I like my “fluffy” loaded Naboo list so I’m going to try it. Is it going to win a tournament? Almost certainly not, but that’s not really the point.
What lists, pilots, or ships do you most enjoy using “just for fun.” What is your favorite thematic combination? We would love to share the things about X-Wing that make you smile.