The Cantina: Squad Building for Objective Play

The Cantina: Squad Building for Objective Play

This article is going to be so difficult to update for the February 2022 rules and points update that I'm going to leave it as is: an artifact of the prior points and squadbuilding as they were. Keep in mind that much of this may no longer be relevant and enjoy!

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.

The X-Wing community has been told by Atomic Mass Games to expect our next round of rules and points updates in the next few weeks and included in those updates will be a noteworthy shift in format with the introduction of objective-based gameplay. In a recent interview on the Fly Better Podcast we were given a preview of what the scenarios will be. It sounds like in all cases the first objective marker will be placed in the middle of the mat and the remainder are placed by the players with range restrictions and points are tallied and scored at the end of a round.

  • "Chance Encounter" - basically a dogfight, but there is an objective in the middle of the table that can award some scenario points if you're the only one near it.
  • "Assault on the Satellite Array" - zone control demonstrated on an AMG stream. 5 objectives on the table, you score points based on who has the most ships at range 1 of an objective.
  • Some sort of "pick up the cargo" - 5 objectives on the table that are "picked up" using an action. You score scenario points by carrying the "cargo" but your maneuvers are limited somehow. "Cargo" can be shot off by the enemy without needing to destroy them.
  • "Scramble the Sensor Array" - 5 objectives on the table that you can "tag" with an action to take control to score points.

The developers clarified that in every game mode you still score points for destroying enemy ships and fighting and destroying the enemy is still a viable, if not the most viable, way to win. Their stated goal for introducing these objectives was first and foremost to incentivize engagement and to introduce a new element of strategy to the game. To quote from the interview, "you win with the aid of scenario, but at the end of the day your dogfight is going to determine who wins and who loses."

An effect that I, as someone who loves list-building, am looking forward to is that this adds an exciting new puzzle to building a squad. Do I tailor my list to excel in one or two scenarios and try to get by on solid play and advantageous matchups for the others? Do I build a flexible list that does well for all 4 but may be outflown in specific situations by something more specialized? Should you bring flexible multi-role ships or find an optimal mix of capabilities? The devs said, and I am inclined to agree, that we will see some interesting new uses for traditionally "good" pieces but there are also now opportunities for some less popular ships, pilots, upgrades, and strategies to find a place in the game.

Odd Ball, anyone?

There are many discussions to be had about list-building and gameplay strategy, though everything is still speculative considering we haven't yet seen the rules in writing. I'd like to spend our time today brainstorming possible squad types that would perform well and building an example of each. These are not polished lists, just concepts. This is, of course, only theoretical and just for fun as the developers have explicitly stated that current point values are nowhere near balanced for the new rules/format. I look forward to finding out how wrong I was!

Concept 1: The Ace and Mini-Swarm

You have two elements to which you can assign roles based on your strategy or your ships' strengths. Your ace or your swarm of other ships can alternate taking objectives and covering each other and this type of list has proven effective in a fight. An ace and mini-swarm squad may not excel in any one scenario but could possibly be a decent "jack of all trades" option.

As an example, here's a squad that has already made the rounds under the current rules. Vader in the Defender is just scary and super versatile and the four TIEs can play a variety of roles. The Defender's speed will be helpful in some scenarios but the need to go 3+ to trigger Full Throttle is likely a liability in others.

Concept 2: Ships...Lots of Ships

Particularly when it comes to taking up space on the table and holding more than one objective it seems like having more ships would be helpful. With the current points and rules you're allowed up to 8 ships in your squad, so why not bring as many resources as possible?

Full disclosure: I've only ever flown Separatists online so I'm by no means an expert, but I did make a few specific choices with this Vulture swarm. I wanted to set the droids up in two separate "units" for objective play: the Precise Hunters and DFS-081 with their bullseye abilities zoom in to take objectives and fight the enemy while the Separatist Drones use Discord Missiles and the ability to land on obstacles to deny access to areas of the table or defend obstacles that you control, using Networked Calculations with two droids on each obstacle. 8 ships is also certainly enough to overwhelm and defeat an objective-focused list in a fight to the death. The increased risk of collisions with friendlies is maybe offset by the ability to take advantage of obstacles and ignore their effects?

Concept 3: Well-Supported Large Base

Here's where we start to break away just a bit from some of the established squad archetypes. It was mentioned in the interview that in the scenario where points are scored by proximity to the objective marker, medium and large base ships count as two ships for the purpose of scoring. A list that is set up to send a capable large base ship in to do the heavy lifting while providing it support from nearby could be very effective for taking objectives, even putting itself in range of multiple objectives in a turn, but may suffer in more intense combat.

With a large and medium base, white coordinate (Tactical Officer), solid offense, speed, and plenty of green tokens to go around, this squad should have staying power to mix it up near the objectives. Hera is in the list to assist the others with token-passing and to carry the endgame if necessary but could be switched to her B-Wing version or another heavy-hitter like Wedge with some changes to upgrades. "Scramble the Sensor Array" will involve some sort of dice roll to capture an objective so Han's reroll ability may come in handy and Cassian's ability to remove stress prior to activation keeps everyone's dials open when maneuvering around obstacles. You could even change Hera to a HWK-290 or another U-Wing and use Cassian to enable repeated stop maneuvers when it is safe to do so.

Concept 4: Deploying in Force

Since medium and large bases are good for occupying space and capturing objectives, why not try and bring more? While you're at it, why not go for as much health and firepower as possible? This kind of list may be able to hold its own in a fight as well as in most scenarios but may be left in the dust by faster squads.

The ARC-170 is a great compromise between base size, offensive power, and durability, and may be a good way to put pressure on your opponent in a scenario-based game. Sinker's friendly reroll ability works from range 1-2 so they don't need to fly too close together for everyone to benefit and having as many Veteran Tail Gunners as possible (2 points at time of writing!) adds extra attacks that can get mods from Sinker if you're careful/lucky. I added the R4-Ps to help these hefty ships get out of tricky spots near obstacles. You can mix and match other ARCs to your taste, of course. You could also, I suppose, fit a LAAT in there as well for more reroll effects but be aware that your offense will be reduced.

Concept 5: The Sum of its Parts

With multiple possible scenarios requiring flexibility, there's something to be said for squads whose elements are all perfectly happy working on their own. A group of independent ships and pilots that can cover each other's backs but don't rely on each other for support may allow you to pivot between types of objectives. This one might be another "jack of all trades, master of none."

These Resistance aces are at their best when they work together but all can be independent in a pinch. The speed of the A-Wings could come in handy for capturing objectives and Kaz's SLAM ability can help you get in some unexpected places in a hurry. Also, Flyboy Poe is just good clean fun and he and L'ulo pack a brutal punch.

Concept 6: Need for Speed

Similar to the above, but gotta go fast! Maybe there's something to be said for the ability to zoom in, get ahead on points to put pressure on, then win the fight once your opponent is off-balance.

4 TIE Silencers seem like they can get around the table and do some damage when the time comes. It's absolutely wild that these things are technically TIEs but get 2 shields and 4 hull with three green dice and that amazing dial. Maybe for ultimate flexibility the way to go is just to build a squad with great ships?

Concept 7: Dirty Tricks

There is a very good chance that there will be space for dirty, scummy tricks in the upcoming ROAD/scenario meta. With the changes to obstacle rules and the goal of flying close to objectives to score points it stands to reason that control tactics like tractor and ion will also be very effective. AMG has said that you will no longer be able to tractor an opponent onto an obstacle but you can always tractor or ion someone directly in front of one or use your tractor beam to remove someone from that range 0-1 bubble of an objective.

Now, just like with Separatists, I'm not much of a Scum player. I have a hard time wrapping my head around all of their tricks and for that reason I also need to constantly practice playing against them. This list is just a variation on the fantastically scummy list that Brian Lindamood flew to the top 8 at LVO. 2 of the 3 ships that you place at the start of the game have abilities that allow them to cheat death and/or show up in unexpected places. Moralo Eval gets to flee the battle and then reappear on that same edge once the heat is off and adding Boba Fett crew lets him set up on an obstacle in the middle of the board, possibly right next to one or more objectives. Once Moralo is destroyed he can bail out in the Nashtah Pup and continue scoring objective points while your other ships fly interference. Tel Trevura gets a free "respawn" after death which could come in handy. Probably not a great list with my changes, but definitely annoying.

What kinds of squads are you planning to try once the new rules are published? Are there any pilots or ships that you hope to see used more often?