The Cantina: Now THIS is Podracing!

The Cantina: Now THIS is Podracing!

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, where we chat about what makes X-Wing fun.

Here we go! I made it out to league night last night and got my first few games with new rules and points under my belt so I thought I'd post a few of my first impressions. I'm fortunate to be a part of a strong local community and we had 10 show up to our weekly meetup at the FLGS. Many had experience with new rules and points from weekly meetups at different stores last week or a store tournament this past Saturday.

I am, at best, an average player so this will not be an in-depth strategic analysis. I played a couple of games (and decisively lost) yesterday so these are just my piping hot takes.

This is Still X-Wing

Old picture because I was too excited to take new ones

Our group has, against AMG's advice, been practicing with the bits and pieces of rules that were teased such as ROAD (Random Order After Dials) and new obstacle effects, so none of that was new to me. At its core, each game that I played still felt the same. Setup of objectives was new but resolved relatively simply, adding a new "puzzle" to play against your opponent, though there's relatively little variation in how you can place them. We still set dials, rolled for player order (had already been doing this for a few months), maneuvered using templates, and resolved combat using dice. I had been a little concerned about card clutter on the table but it honestly wasn't as bad as I expected if I set up my squad intentionally, taking advantage of the card overlap technique, sliding the upgrade logo under its associated pilot card.

Scenarios are Interesting and HARD

Do I pick up the supply crate with Shara, knowing it will use my action, but then use Jake to let her take a Focus knowing that isn't a Coordinate so she won't have to drop it? Or do I guard the objective with Wedge, attack with Shara, then pick up the crate with Arvel and give him a Focus-Boost from Jake into my opponent's Lieutenant Blount? Or do I fire missiles and torps from everyone and pick up the crates afterwards? Or do I just take a sip of my beer, forget my plan, and accidentally crash them all into each other?

I walked into the game store last night thinking, "how hard can this be? Just fly well and expect to have to pivot from objective play to combat a few times." Wow...was I wrong. Playing with scenarios really got my brain juices bubbling. I got the chance to try Assault at the Satellite Array and Salvage Mission and was soundly beaten by two experienced players in our group. This was probably a combination of a few things: 1) they are very good and one of them got experience in a tournament over the weekend. 2) I am, again, at best the World's Okayest X-Wing Player. 3) I definitely miscalculated the things I would need in my squads and how to employ them. I learned that getting an early lead on points by securing objectives is a great way to put pressure on your opponent, but there are also risks involved with overextending yourself early in the game. It did feel like with more ways to score points there are now many different ways a specific matchup can unfold. Sure, I wish we could have more thematic scenarios like "Supply Drop at Nar Shadaa" or "Transmissions from the Maw Installation" but, as far as gameplay goes, I was 110% engaged the whole time. So much so that I forgot to take any photos for this article.

Things Happen Fast

Speed and flexibility are key. Sure, a couple of beefy ships with support abilities will help, but it seemed to me like flexible multi-role fighters like T-65 X-Wings provide a good balance of speed and firepower that balances across scenarios. Just like the movies! Every game I played was just about wrapped up by round 8. I simply wasn't flexible enough; if I committed to objectives then my ships got shot to pieces because I didn't set them up to support each other and when I turned to face my enemy they always had a ship in place to sneak in and grab the objective because I had left it exposed.

Learn to Read Your Opponent

Just like before, when you and your opponent jockeyed for the best position for an opening engagement, reading your enemy and trying to divine their intention as early as Turn 0 seems to be an important skill. There's always the option to dash out of the gate and grab objective points early but that leaves ships exposed to a counterattack. If you suspect that your opponent is going to do that then you can hang back and make them pay, but you risk giving them an early lead. If you want to capitalize on your list's speed then be aware that you'll need a strategy in case they are waiting for you to overextend yourself.

Guns...Lots of Guns

Only an observation from my local "meta" insofar as it exists, but it feels like 4-5 ships will be a healthy squad size, with some exceptions. Heavy hitters seem to do well; since half points are only awarded in Chance Engagement you'll want to quickly blow your enemy's ships to pieces before they have a chance to score points. Hull and Shield Upgrade are great tools to keep your pilots around longer that don't require remembering an ability.

Have a Plan for the Aces

The initiative 5 and 6 "aces" are no longer limited to the "Aces" or "Ace and Mini-Swarm" squad archetypes (and I'm all in favor of us moving on from describing squads in these kinds of terms) since they slot so nicely into many squads and there are even some good budget options. I brought one Republic list that leaned heavily on Deplete mechanics (Suppressive Gunner and Mag-Pulse Warheads) to try and shield me from attack while scoring objectives and, surprise! My I4s took their depleting shots but it didn't matter because the key pieces of my opponent's squad were I5 and I6 and had already attacked. Abilities that maximize damage quickly and pilots that can either put pressure on an ace or keep them occupied somewhere safe would have been a better choice.

Surprise! Rebels are Still Good!

With strong pilot abilities and Loadout Values, durable ships, and now the ability to consistently bring 5 or more ships, Rebels are still a force to be reckoned with. Not really a surprise, right?

I also just got my Pride of Mandalore pack yesterday, here is my brief review of the contents:

  • Rebel Fangs!!! ...seem fine. As mentioned above, Rebels already seem to be in a good place and I don't think I have the chops to fly such a fragile ship in this environment at the moment. The abilities are very cool but points-wise they're competing with Wedge, Hera, HWKs, U-Wings, etc. I'll need to try some out to see how I really feel.
  • 5 Fang dials? To fly a 5-Fang squad?
Spoiler alert: it is not. 27 Points at time of writing.
  • The new TIE Fighter pilots, Moff Gideon and the ISB Jingoists, seem like maybe the surprise heroes here. Their abilities are pretty neat and they're costed well to slide into a list as filler or fit great in established TIE swarms.
  • The new asteroids and debris clouds look gorgeous. They'll be my new defaults.
  • I'm just overwhelmed by the array of new Crew options. No idea what to say about them now.
  • I hadn't paid attention to the content leaks and was pleasantly surprised to now have copies of Malice and Compassion!
  • I don't really collect Scum so the Scummy stuff will go in my extras box for now. Maybe having it and some Fang models will now convince me a Firespray.