Sabine’s TIE Fighter – Preview Thoughts

Fair warning, this post contains some spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2 of Star Wars Rebels.

We’ve had the first in-depth preview for Wave 10 with the Suppressive Fire article looking at Sabine’s TIE Fighter for the Rebel Alliance.  While we’ve had cross-faction ships for a while thanks to the Most Wanted boxed set that launched Scum and Villainy into the game, it’s the first time we’re seeing a ship go cross-faction between the Empire and Rebels.

Sabine’s TIE Fighter looks like it’s going to fill an interesting niche for the Rebels, giving them an assortment of cheap unique pilots, some of which can certainly fall into the “pocket ace” category.  However, before we look at the pilots, let’s take a look at some of the upgrades that come in this expansion.

Dirty Tricks

Sabine’s Masterpiece

A unique title for the Rebel TIE Fighter, this card represents the TIE stolen by the crew of the Ghost and heavily customised by Sabine.  A point gets you a Crew and Illicit slot on the TIE’s upgrade bar, giving it a much wider range of options, and the Rebels their third ship with potential access to Illicit upgrades.

You may be thinking “but putting even more points into a TIE Fighter doesn’t seem like the best idea”, but this expansion includes some interesting options to make that much more viable than it seems at first glance.  Even without those, just the ability to cheaply include an Intelligence Agent or Jan Ors to support the rest of your list has some real potential, and with more Rebel crew coming in the U-Wing expansion the Rebel Alliance may well have a lot of use for a cheap crew transport.

Captured TIE

An interesting first for X-Wing, this modification means that lower Pilot Skill ships can’t target you with attacks – as long as you don’t attack and there are still other friendly ships on the board.  Given these restrictions, this title works best on ships that don’t need to attack to be valuable for your list.  A challenging proposition for a TIE Fighter to pull off?  Not when combined with some of the other upgrades and pilots included in this expansion.

For 1 point, this is nice and cheap and gives you a very interesting ability to play with.  The PS restriction to the effect means that it’s probably going to see the most use on Ahsoka with Veteran Instincts (a copy of which is conveniently included in this expansion) to give the widest range of ships affected, although that starts to nudge the base cost of the ship up further.  Combine this with Sabine’s Masterpiece and Back Market Slicer Tools or the EMP Device (see below) and you’ve got a ship that can potentially be a real niggling presence on the board that your opponent can’t do anything about.

EMP Device

Onto the third unique upgrade card of the expansion (in fact, the only non-unique card included in this expansion is the copy of Veteran Instincts), the EMP Device allows you to potentially ionise a large chunk of the board in one go.

There’s three key things to be aware of with this upgrade.

  1. It deals two ion tokens to all ships effected, meaning that large base ships have just as much to worry about.
  2. As is doesn’t say “each other ship”, the ship using it also gets ioned.
  3. As this isn’t actually an attack, you can use this and still keep your cover if you’ve go the Captured TIE modification.

At 2 points, it’s not really cheap for a one-use upgrade, but it’s potentially a very sizeable effect on the game.  Ionising multiple of your opponent’s ships is going to give you a strong position the following turn, and as it’s instead of performing an attack, you can bump and still use it.  It’s solid on the Rebel TIE, and I’m sure it’s something that we’ll see popping up in various Scum lists as well in the near future.  I think they made a wise decision in making this upgrade unique, as multiple Scum Z-95s packing this upgrade could potentially exert a lot of board control.

 

So, that’s (most of) the upgrade cards covered.  Onto the pilots that come with the expansion.  While we haven’t had Zeb officially spoilered as yet, his Pilot Skill and pilot ability both appear to be the same as his Attack Shuttle incarnation, and we can pretty safely retro-engineer his cost to 13 points based on the other pilots in the pack.  Not bad value for something that’s going to be a little more durable than your standard TIE Fighter thanks to Zeb’s ability to cancel critical hits first.

The clone, the legend – Captain Rex

This expansion brings in several fan favourites, but in particular the grizzled Clone Trooper Captain Rex gets a lot of love with both a pilot and crew card.

Captain Rex (Crew)

Clocking in at 2 points, Captain Rex has a simple ability – if you miss with an attack, you get a focus token.  It’s a way of getting something out of the dice not going your way, and may be particularly relevant to low Attack, high Pilot Skill ships as you’ll have some dice modification for your defence.

I was initially very hyped for putting Crew Rex on a ship that could take a Twin Laser Turret, but then more thorough examination of the attack timing chart in the FAQ ruled that out – rather than potentially triggering off both shots, you would instead need to miss with both TLT shots to get any benefit.  (Similar to how Gunner and the Twin Laser Turret (don’t) work together.)  He might be quite useful on the Ghost with a turret and a docked Phantom shuttle, so if you miss your main shot, you’ve got a focus for your turret shot at the end of the round.

The HWK might not be a bad place to put him, specifically to work with the Moldy Crow title, allowing it to bank those focus tokens away for future use.  Likewise, you could put him on a two crew slot ship with Rey crew for a similar effect, although both of these might be investing a few too many points into something of a gimmick.  If you want to go for a more offence focused option, then you can pair Rex with Gunner, but Luke Skywalker crew can do much the same thing and takes up one fewer crew slot.

Overall, Captain Rex in his crew form is a little underwhelming.  The ability is nice, but either needs to be on a higher PS ship than most of your opponent’s list to get any benefit from the focus token, or on a ship that can make use of or save that focus after attacking.  My instinct is he’s slightly overcosted at 2 points, as Rey has a similar but under most circumstances better ability, but I’m hoping there’s some synergy for him I’ve missed.

Captain Rex (Pilot)

Captain Rex comes in at 14 points as a PS 4 TIE Fighter.  That’s pretty reasonable pricing, comparable with the Black Squadron Pilot.  Captain Rex doesn’t have an EPT slot, but does have a unique pilot ability which uses the new Conditions mechanic that’s being introduced into X-Wing with Wave 10.

When Captain Rex attacks someone, he gives them the “Suppressive Fire” Condition.  This means they roll one less dice when attacking anyone who isn’t Captain Rex (as long as Captain Rex continues to shoot at them).  What’s that you say, a budget Biggs Darklighter?  The one minor downside is that you need to have shot at them to apply the condition, which with Rex’s mighty PS 4 won’t be happening until quite late into the turn, and so probably won’t help with the opening exchange of fire, but it’s still going to be a thorn in the side of your opponent.

At 14 points, I’m expecting Captain Rex to see a lot of play.  His ability is annoying enough to cause your opponent to shift their target priority, and he’s easy to use as filler in a range of Rebel lists while still providing a meaningful contribution to the game.  I’m inclined to think that running him with no upgrades is the way to go, as he’s going to quickly draw a lot of fire, but a Stealth Device or Hull Upgrade might increase his survivability enough to be worth it.

Also, don’t forget you can run him alongside Biggs to notably help Biggs’ durability, or with Kanan Jarrus in the Ghost to further hamper your opponents attacks.  Either combination could be a significant obstacle to your opponent’s plan of attack, and running all three in one list seems like it could veer towards table-flipping levels of frustration (although probably isn’t a viable 100 points)…

Multicoloured Mandalorian – Sabine Wren

With the same Pilot Skill and pilot ability as her Attack Shuttle version, Sabine is as versatile a pilot in the TIE Fighter as she is elsewhere.  The ability to perform a boost or barrel roll before revealing her dial makes her very manoeuvrable, and capable of navigating her way through dense obstacles with precision.

At 15 points, she compares extremely favourably to the PS 5 Imperial TIEs, clocking in at the same point cost but with a better pilot ability and access to an Elite Pilot Talent.  Speaking of which, while there’s not much green on the TIE Fighter dial, a combination of Sabine’s ability and Push the Limit allows you to effectively take three actions in a turn and finish with no stress.  (Use her ability to boost or barrel roll, Push the Limit to take an additional action, reveal a green move and clear stress, then take an action as normal after executing your manoeuvre.)  While not the hardest hitting ship, it’s only 18 points…

I can see Sabine getting a lot of use as a “pocket ace”, something to fill that slightly awkward 15-20 point range that can still be a meaningful presence on the board.  Combine her with the Sabine’s Masterpiece title and an Intelligence Agent, and you’ve also got an extremely accurate blocker for any high PS aces you might be facing.

More than just an apprentice – Ahsoka Tano

Finally, we’ve got the former Jedi, Ahsoka Tano.  17 points gets you a Pilot Skill 7 pilot with an interesting ability.  As a support ship, Ahsoka’s ability to spend a focus token to give a friendly ship at Range 1 a free action can be very useful, especially since this ability kicks in at the start of the Combat Phase.  But it does more than that – note that the wording is “a friendly ship at Range 1”, not “another friendly ship”, so she can use her ability on herself.  This give her a lot of action flexibility, and the potential to reactively barrel roll after every other ship has moved.

She’s got a lot of potential combinations with the other upgrades in this expansion.   While Rex and Sabine can both be flown with little or nothing in the way of upgrade, Ahsoka will be at her best when she’s coming with a few added tricks.

Her Elite Pilot Talent slot allows her to push her Pilot Skill up to 9 with Veteran Instincts.  This pairs nicely with the Captured TIE modification, making her able to escape the notice of all but the most highly trained pilots.  With the Crew and Illicit she gains from the Sabine’s Masterpiece title you open up a wealth of options – a Recon Specialist allows her to use her ability while still keeping a focus token, Jan Ors potentially allows her to hand out evade tokens to her allies, and Black Market Slicer tools or the EMP Device work alongside the Capture TIE title to let her harry your opponents ships from the safety of her disguise.  It’s a new set of options in the Rebel’s tactical toolbox, and she’s a pilot who can fill a variety of roles in a list.

That said, all of these options cost points, and you’re very easily looking at spending 20 points or more on what is still just a TIE Fighter.  As with any support ship, the key is to not overspend on the support and take away points from the rest of your list by doing so.

 

Final Thoughts

This is an excellent addition to the Rebel fleet, giving them a cheap ship that can fill a variety of different roles.  I think I’m most excited by its potential as a cheap support ship, as even just 14 points of Captain Rex can really change your opponent’s plan of attack.

There’s very little in the way of weak or dud options in this set either.  Zeb’s ability is actually better suited to the TIE Fighter than the Attack Shuttle.  All of the other pilots have strong abilities, and the upgrades are almost universally excellent.  The only card I’m uncertain about the value of is the crew version of Captain Rex, but I’m hoping there’s some uses for him I haven’t spotted as yet, or some potential synergy with other Rebel crew or the U-Wing’s named pilot abilities.

With the TIE Figher’s dial already a very known quantity and essentially all of the cards spoiled at this point (I’m about 99% certain on Zeb), this is the most complete look at a ship we’ve had before release.  I’m probably going to be picking up two copies of this expansion, just for the gimmick of running a Rebel TIE mini-swarm, but for most players I think one copy of the expansion is likely to be sufficient.  With all of the new upgrades and all of the pilots being unique, there’s not much need to get more than one unless you really want to run multiple Rebel TIEs at a time – and if you’re mainly an Imperial player it’s an expansion you can skip entirely without missing out on anything.

 

 

Ordnance in X-Wing after the Deadeye FAQ

With Deadeye Scouts out of the picture as of the 4.2.2 FAQ which made Deadeye “Small ship only”, what are ordnance-heavy ships going to look like going forwards in X-Wing?

There are four key cards for making missiles and torpedoes work efficiently in the game at the moment.  I’ll quickly cover each of them in turn.

Deadeye

Previously the staple of the triple Contracted Scouts ordnance list, Deadeye allows low Pilot Skill ships use their ordnance effectively, and more generally allows you to pick your target at will as long as you’ve got a focus token.

The change to “Small ship only” has a big impact on the Contracted Scout, leaving them needing to acquire target locks at Pilot Skill 3 – challenging to set up in the opening exchange of fire against higher PS opponents as they may well be outside of Range 3 when you move – and unable to access the main other upgrade that might help with that.

There’s not a huge number of small ships with an Elite Pilot Talent slot that can carry more than a single missile or torpedo, returning this upgrade card to quite specialist use.

Extra Munitions

Ordnance is expensive, but Extra Munitions makes those points go a little further by giving you an extra use of each one you’ve got equipped.  Frankly, this makes missiles and torpedoes actually usable outside of rare edge cases (Proton Rockets on Agility 3 ships being that main exception).

However, you need a spare torpedo slot to equip this card, which notably limits the number of ships that can take it.  There’s a reason you don’t really see X-Wings shooting Proton Torpedoes around, despite their iconic status as the ship and weapon that destroyed the first Death Star…

Guidance Chips

Arriving in Wave 8, Guidance Chips were the second fix for missiles and torpedoes, and probably the card most responsible for their rise to prominence.  Guaranteed dice modification into a hit is a big deal, and a 0 points, there’s not reason for an ordnance carrying ship not to equip this unless there’s a really good alternative competing for the slot.  (Another reason why you don’t see X-Wings with torpedoes, as they really need to have Integrated Astromech equipped to make them a little more durable.)

Combined with additional dice modification from Proton Torpedoes, Concussion Missiles, or some of the tricks that the Contracted Scouts could pull off with various Salvaged Astromechs, this gave an almost unprecedented quality of attack, with some builds able to push themselves to to a 90%+ chance of getting four hits from four dice.  That’s a lot of punch that makes the points put into your ordnance genuinely worth while.

Long-Range Scanners

Finally we come to Long-Range Scanners, a somewhat overlooked piece of the ordnance puzzle (although this may just be to do with it being a comparatively recent release from Imperial Veterans).  Being able to set up target locks on the first turn of the game, well ahead of any likely exchange of fire, means that low PS ships can provide a genuine alpha-strike threat to high PS aces.  It also means you can take another action on the turn you’re likely to fire those munitions, probably giving you a focus token for modification.

However, it comes with a few downsides.  Like Guidance Chips, it’s a Modification, so you have to make a choice between the two, potentially dropping the quality of the attack as there’s no longer that absolute guarantee of a hit.  You can’t take target locks at Range 1-2 with this equipped, which can really hamper your ability to get a second ordnance shot away, or limited your offensive output in a close range fight in general.  And you need to have both the torpedo and missile slots on your upgrade bar to equip it, restricting it to just three (or with a title, four) ships in the game as things stand as of Wave 10.

 

For what I’m discussing below, I’m going to ignore anything that can’t take Extra Munitions for now, as that doesn’t leave it with much potential as a dedicated ordnance carrier.  For the most part I’ll be focusing on generic pilots rather than uniques, as if we’re looking at things that can fill a similar role to the Contracted Scouts you’ll want to be able to fly more than one of them at a time. With that in mind, there are a few builds that spring to mind.

 

Rebel Alliance

B-Wings (or more accurately, Nera Dantels…)

Nera Dantels — B-Wing 26
Deadeye 1
Extra Munitions 2
Proton Torpedoes 4
Guidance Chips 0
Ship Total: 33

The B-Wing in general isn’t the best ordnance platform, as it already has a good primary weapon, a System slot to give it a little more action efficiency in the form of the Fire Control System, and access to cannons if you want to upgrade its firepower further.  However, Nera Dantels packs a lot of punch as a torpedo boat. Guidance Chips and Proton Torpedoes give her solid dice modification on her shots, and with Deadeye she doesn’t have to worry about firing arcs (other than for denying Autothrusters). Notably, with her primary weapon value of 3 she’s got a good chance of getting at least two crits on her Proton Torpedo shots (one from Guidance Chips, one from the Proton Torpedo’s pseudo-Focus ability) which is potentially crippling to anything lacking shields…

At 33 points, she’s also not exactly breaking the bank points-wise, and you can pop a Fire Control System on her for a bit of extra dice modification if you’ve got a couple of points to spare. That said, she’s still 33 points for a PS 5 B-Wing – not exactly the toughest ship to take down before it gets its second torpedo away unless you’ve got a bigger threat on the board, or some Biggs support.  She’s a solid option if you want to create a bubble of board control what your opponent just won’t want to fly into, but don’t rely on her being your only serious damage dealer.

K-Wings

Warden Squadron Pilot — K-Wing 23
Extra Munitions 2
Homing Missiles 5
Long-Range Scanners 0
Ship Total: 30

If you’ve not got Deadeye, Long-Range Scanners (if you can taken them) aren’t a bad alternative on low PS ships – assuming you’ve got some way of making up for the lack of the dice modification guaranteed by Guidance Chips. Homing Missiles fit the bill nicely here, as you don’t need to spend your target lock to shoot them, leaving it available for modifying the attack. If you can set a target lock up early, you should be able to fire them with both a target lock and focus for modification, and thanks to the Homing Missiles, stop your opponent from spending any Evade token they might have. This makes it a strong choice against nimble but low health ships like the TIE Interceptor, or hard to hit ships like the TIE Defender with the TIE /x7 title.

The downside is that it can be tricky to get the second shot away. Long-Range Scanners stop you from acquiring target locks at Range 1-2, which combined with the K-Wing’s lack of a K-turn can make it tricky to have both a target lock and firing arc for a second pass. You may need to take a hit and run approach, using the SLAM action to speed away from the engagement and come in for a second shot. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from loading up a bomb or two on the K-Wing (which also benefits from Extra Munitions) to change its role after you’ve got that first missile away. Alternatively, adding a Twin Laser Turret gives you some out-of-arc long range firepower, although that’s another 6 points onto the cost of this build.

Like the B-Wing, the K-Wing isn’t the hardest ship to kill with only 1 Agility, although 9 health isn’t a trivial amount to need to chew through.

Galactic Empire

TIE Bomber

Swx52-gamma-squad-vetGamma Squadron Veteran — TIE Bomber 19
Deadeye 1
Extra Munitions 2
Proton Torpedoes 4
Guidance Chips 0
Ship Total: 26

There’s a number of different builds for the TIE Bomber, but the Deadeye Gamma Squadron Veteran is the closest thing to the old Contracted Scout build still in the game. It doesn’t have quite the same quality of dice (there’s no way of keeping your focus for dice modification), but the combination of Proton Torpedoes and Guidance Chips gives you a decent chance of a hard-hitting attack.

There are a few advantages over the Contracted Scout. You’re a small based ship, which makes it easier to fly in formation and avoid obstacles. Clocking in at 26 points, its also notably cheaper than the 32-33 point standard build for the Contracted Scout, letting you fit in a fourth (cheap) ship into the list. And at PS 5, you’re shooting before the vast majority of generic ships, giving you a decent chance at taking a ship off the board before it gets to shoot.

That said, there are some notable downsides as well. 6 hull is no where near as durable as the JumpMaster’s 5 hull and 4 shields. You’re very vulnerable to critical damage as a result of this, which means an early crit going through can be crippling. While the 5 K-turn of the Bomber is a really strong manoeuvre to have access to (it opens up a lot of space, handy when you’re dealing with Range 2-3 ordnance), it’s still a red manoeuvre which means no focus or target lock to get a torpedo away that turn.

You can potentially fit three of the Gamma Squadron Veterans outfitted as they are above in a list alongside Captain Jonus for some added quality of dice, which may have some potential as an alpha strike list, although it’s much more vulnerable to higher PS shooting than the triple Scout list.

TIE Punisher

Cutlass-squadron-pilot-1-Cutlass Squadron Pilot — TIE Punisher 21
Fire-Control System 2
Extra Munitions 2
Homing Missiles 5
Long-Range Scanners 0
Ship Total: 30

If this looks very similar to the K-Wing build above, there’s a reason for that… With no access to an EPT, Deadeye is out of the equation, meaning that Long-Range Scanners are the next best option. Combined with Homing Missiles, you can potentially get the same focused and target lock modified 4 dice shot that the K-Wing offers. If you can get that first shot away at Range 3, you can use the Fire Control System to set up a target lock for the second missile, and you’ve got a K-turn to potentially more easily get get arc for that second missile shot.

However, you’re also lacking some of the upsides of the K-Wing. No turret means you’re entirely reliant on getting arc to take any shots. Having Boost rather than SLAM is a mixed blessing – while you can re-position and still shoot, you don’t have the K-Wing’s ability to break off from the engagement and come back in for another run as easily. And the Long-Range Scanners are actually somewhat anti-synergistic
Redline-1-with the Fire Control System, as you can’t use it at Ranges 1-2. Even more so than the

K-Wing, I’d actually be quite tempted to drop the Fire Control System and put on a bomb or two to allow you to switch roles if you’re stuck up close and personal in a firefight.

I’d be remiss not to mention Redline here – his pilot ability gives any torpedo or missile a target lock for modification, meaning that Proton Torpedoes or Concussion Missiles can hit as hard (or harder) as Homing Missiles. Add in a Fire Control System, and he’s going to be a consistent threat. However, at PS 7 with no access to an EPT, he’s still going to struggle to get an early target lock on higher PS aces, and you really want to be using Guidance Chips rather than Long-Range Scanners so you’re not hampering his pilot ability.

Scum and Villainy

In a distinct reversal of fortunes, Scum are now probably in the weakest position when it comes to missile and torpedo boats. The Contracted Scout build really needed Deadeye to work effectively due to its low PS, and with no missile slot the JumpMaster can’t take Long-Range Scanners. This isn’t to rule it out completely, but it’s a significant shift in the ships’s role. Other than the JumpMaster, the only other real ordnance option Scum have is the Y-Wing, which as problems of its own…

JumpMaster 5000

Contracted-scout shipContracted Scout — JumpMaster 5000 25
Attanni Mindlink 1
Plasma Torpedoes 3
K4 Security Droid 3
Unhinged Astromech 1
Guidance Chips 0
Ship Total: 33

Pop three of these in a list, and you’ve got some strong action efficiency – assuming all of your ships do a green move, they’ll be able to have a target lock (thanks to the K4 Security Droid) and focus, and two of your ship will be able to barrel roll in addition (having gained their focus via the Mindlink). You’re still stuck with the problem of not being able to easily get your torpedoes away during the first turn, as your PS 3 will put you lower than most things you’re wanting to target, but you can do an initial pass with primary weapons, then circle round.

Of course, this doesn’t have any Extra Munitions, so the Plasma Torpedoes are more of a nice extra if you get the chance to shoot them, with your primary weapon probably doing the majority of the work.

Attanni-mindlinkAn alternative route would be to swap Attanni Mindlink for Adaptability, the Plasma Torpedoes for Proton Torpedoes, put Extra Munitions on two of them, and strip the torpedoes, astromech, crew and Guidance Chips off the third to be replaced with Anti-Pursuit Lasers, a Feedback Array, and Intelligence Agent (aka the classic “BumpMaster” build). You can them push the two torpedo carriers up to PS 4, and drop the third ship down to PS 2 to improve its chances to act as a blocker.  The full list for this can be found here.

Both of these builds have much less of an alpha strike than the classic triple Scout build, but probably have a notably stronger late game. If that’s enough to balance out the loss of that massive early game damage spike remains to be seen…

Y-Wings

Syndicate-thug-1-Syndicate Thug — Y-Wing 18
Autoblaster Turret 2
Extra Munitions 2
Proton Torpedoes 4
Guidance Chips 0
Ship Total: 26

With no access to Long-Range Scanners, the Y-Wing just has to rely on controlling the range of the opening exchange, and hope you can get a target lock while also avoiding the Range 1 blind spot for your torpedoes. With that in mind, the Autoblaster Turret acts as a decent deterrent to any short of a VCX-100 or Decimator thinking about getting close, and gives you some out of arc fire in a pinch. At 26 points, you’ve got a reasonably chap and tough ship with answers to a few problems.

However, it suffers all of the issues of the other low PS ordnance platforms and lacks some of their strengths. With no primary weapon turret, you’re only able to shoot out of arc at Range 1. You’ve got no re-positioning actions, and the Y-Wing’s dial is pretty stiff. Stress is a killer to you, as your only two green moves are the 1 and 2 forward, leaving you either Autoblaster-turret-1-hugely predicable or action-less. (Although you can solve some of that by putting an Unhinged Astromech on, but that adds another point to the cost.) And fundamentally you’re a PS 2 Agility 1 ship with only 3 shields. The Y-Wing’s 5 hull takes it up to a respectable 8 health, but leaves it somewhat vulnerable to critical damage.

Overall, it’s something to add in to a list to give a little more damage output than something to be fielded en mass.

Many of the above points also apply to the Rebel Y-Wing, although replacing the Unhinged Astromech with the R2 Astromech. Generally speaking, the Rebels have better ordnance options than the Y-Wing, although when you get to named pilots, both Dutch Vander and Horton Salm have some perks when dealing with ordnance.

 

So what does this all mean?

Good question.

  •  I think we’re going to see much less in the way of ordnance for the next couple of months while people figure out what they want to do with it.  It’s still a strong option, but requires a lot more planning now to get the full effect.
  • We’re going to see a resurgence of the types of lists that the strong alpha strike of the Contracted Scouts pushed out of the game – so Rebel regen, TLT Y-Wings, Rebel lists without Biggs, multiple B-Wings, and the like.
  • This may also help some new ships see more play – both the ARC-170 and TIE/sf will benefit from there being less high damage spikes around.
  • Eventually as a result of this, I’m expecting to see Gamma Squadron Veterans with Deadeye getting more play than they have before, as they offer many of the same abilities as the Contracted Scout to counter those types of list.  It’s not as strong a list, but does has some advantages of its own.
  • JumpMasters are going to continue to see play, but I suspect more in terms of Dengaroo, Mindlink lists, or as the BumpMaster to support other ships.  I’m certain people are going to be working hard to get the triple Scout build to work in some form or another, and I think the K4 Security Droid is going to be a key part of that.
  • Both Rebels and Scum desperately want a Y-Wing generic pilot with an EPT slot.  Deadeye on an ordnance Y-Wing would give both factions something akin to the Gamma Squadron Veteran.  Perhaps the Rebel Alliance will get something of that nature sooner rather than later, as Rogue One seems to be featuring both X and Y-Wings a decent amount…

FAQ 4.2.2 – The Highlights

A new FAQ for X-Wing dropped earlier this week, and it’s bringing in some pretty sizeable changes to the game that will probably significantly affect the shape of the meta in the run up to Worlds. I thought it was worth taking a look through, and jotting down some quick thoughts on what these changes are likely to mean.

First up, the big one…

Deadeye

DeadeyeDeadeye has been errataed to include the “Small ship only” restriction. This has a huge impact as the main user of this upgrade, the Contracted Scout (and sometimes other flavours of JumpMaster 5000), is no longer able to take it.

I’ve got some mixed feelings about this decision. While I’ve found Contracted Scouts a tough match-up in the past, I’ve always felt like I’ve been in with a chance against them as long as I could manage the opening approach well. The same cannot always be said for some of the Imperial Aces plus Palpatine matches I’ve had, so it seems like they’ve only focused on one of the potentially overly strong builds around at the moment.

That said, there’s no denying the massive effect the mere existence of the Contracted Scout has had on the larger meta for X-Wing. We’ve seen some previously popular list archetypes pretty much disappear entirely (Rebel regen, TLT Y-Wings, or to be honest any Rebel build without Biggs), and that’s created a quite small subset of lists at the top tiers of play.  Specifically, it’s allowed some of the Imperial Ace builds (with or without Palpatine) a relatively easier time, as some of the counters to them, in particularly Rebel stress control, haven’t really seen much play at all of late.

Removing Contracted Scouts as the dominant ordnance ship in the game also potentially opens up space for other ships to come into play to fill that gap, but I’ll be writing a separate post in the next day or two to discuss that in more detail.

Heavy Scyk title

In what’s a first for X-Wing, FFG have just flat out buffed an existing card to make it better.  No ifs, not buts, just a flat improvement.

And, to be honest, it’s a much needed one.  The M3-A Interceptor, also known as the Scyk, is probably the single ship in X-Wing that’s seen the least play to date.  It wasn’t quite cheap enough to be flown like a TIE Fighter or Z-95, didn’t have the dial to work like an A-Wing or TIE Interceptor, and the Heavy Scyk title added a cannon, missile, or torpedo slot at the cost of an extra two points.  Given you’re already going to be paying for the weapons you’re putting in that slot, it just made most builds of this ship significantly over-costed for what they could do.

Adding a point of hull into the bargain brings the M3-A much more in line with the other Scum small ships, and means it’s got that little bit extra durability to potentially keep its cannon in the fight a little longer.  A basic Cartel Spacer with the Heavy Scyk title and a Mangler cannon clocks in at 20 points, comparing well with the lowest PS generic Kihraxz and Protectorate Starfighters.

Even with this change, I can’t see the Scyk being flown with missiles or torpedoes as it doesn’t have access to Extra Munitions.  If only they’d change the wording to be “cannon, torpedo and missile upgrade icons”…  Still, I’m not going to complain about a ship that’s always been something of a favourite of mine getting a bit more viable!

Biggs Darklighter

If you want to shoot with a weapon that can’t target Biggs for some reason (range, target lock requirements, firing arc, etc.), you’re now free to do so rather than being forced into always shooting Biggs if you’ve got any weapon that can.

This is a reversal of an earlier ruling, and makes Biggs a little weaker, but I can see the reasoning behind it.  It does make missiles and torpedoes that need a target lock a little more dangerous for Rebel lists, but interestingly this actually has the potential to make Deadeye a hindrance.  Also, to some extent I suspect this isn’t a targeted change at Biggs, but more a clarification of the attack timing chart in general.

All of this said, I still think that the right choice will generally be to get Biggs off the board as quickly as possible.  The last thing you want is him surviving until late game and then forcing you to split your fire at a crucial moment.

Cluster Mines

Simple enough, they do damage on a hit or crit dice result now, rather than just hits.  This is a minor but solid change to them, and helps to improve their chances of doing meaningful damage.

I still think Connor Nets are the stronger choice of mine if you’ve got 4 points to spend, but if you’re looking for the potential for some significant damage they’re not bad.  Plus they cover a lot of board space if you’re looking for something to use with Sabine crew.

Stress and red maneuvers

The rules for revealing a red maneuver while stressed have notably changed.  Rather than handing your opponent your dial and them being free to pick the worst possible (legal) move for your ship, it’s not just a white 2 forwards.

This seems like a good change to me.  Letting your opponent set your maneuver was already pretty harsh when it would only come up by accident, but the addition of the Rigged Cargo Chute has made this something that can happen through no fault of your own.  In a game as focused on positioning as X-Wing, letting your opponent set your maneuver dial could easily cost you the entire game.  The white 2 forward is still bad news (you don’t get to shed stress, leaving you action-less), but it’s not such a huge change to the state of the game.

Obstacles

There’s now rules for how overlapping obstacles outside of executing a maneuver works.  With Tractor Beams and Collision Detectors both potentially forcing or allowing ships to barrel roll, boost, or decloak onto or across obstacles, this needed some clarification, as you could have made the argument that Collision Detector allowed to you boost/barrel roll/decloak across obstacles without risking any damage or stress.  Not a major thing, but a good bit of consistency.

Other stuff

There’s also a minor buff/clarification to R5-X3 (your shots aren’t obstructed, but any shots coming at you still can be), some clarification for the attack timing chart, Attanni Mindlink, Advanced SLAM, and a few other things, but nothing huge.

So what effect is it all going to have?

Quite a lot.  Deadeye Contracted Scouts have been a major part of the X-Wing meta since they were released in March, and they’ve pushed a number of other previously popular lists out of competitive viability (for better or worse).

With their huge alpha strike potential off the board, we’re going to see a lot of the late Wave 7 meta lists coming back into play.  I’m fully expecting to see people trying Paul Heaver’s Worlds 2015 list again, although I think regen Poe may still be in trouble with Defenders and Fangs both offering enough firepower to burn through his defences.

For similar reasons, I’m expecting us to see (slightly) less of Biggs, as Rebels don’t need to use him as a shield to make sure their heavy hitters survive the first exchange of fire.  This potentially means a bit more variety in Rebel lists, and some counters for other strong lists coming back into favour.  Stress control is going to be big, not least thanks to the ARC-170, Asajj Ventress, and Black Market Slicer tools having all arrived in Wave 9.

And while I’m not expecting the M3-A to be a dominant force in the meta any time soon, it’s another weapon in the Scum arsenal.  It’s a cheap(ish) ship with some interesting options for heavy firepower, and the potential to be part of an Attanni Mindlink list (thanks to the Tansarii Point Veteran).  The extra point of hull takes if from bad to average (or maybe just above) and I’m looking forwards to this little ship getting a bit more table time.

X-Wing tournament report – Athena Games Store Championship 26th March

Athena Games held their Store Championship last Saturday, so it’s time for another X-Wing tournament report.

As usual, I was playing Scum. Specifically, I was flying:

  • Dengar – Push the Limit, Engine Upgrade, K4 Security Droid, Unhinged Astromech, Punishing One title
  • IG-88B – Adaptability, Mangler Cannon, Autothrusters, Fire Control System

Dengar was kitted out to take advantage of the sizeable number of green moves on the JumpMaster dial, and to give him some solid arc-dodging capability. (This possibly seems a little counter-intuitive give his pilot ability, but not getting shot is always good.) The K4 droid added to this synergy, handing out target locks on greens to make me a little more resistant to stress and other forms of action denial. IG-88B was there to be mobile and hard to hit, with 3 Agility and Autothrusters hopefully meaning he could deal with massed low attack shooting from something like a TIE swarm if needs be. The lists clocked in at 100 points exactly. I’d ideally have liked to have a point or two spare to put a better Elite Pilot Talent on IG-88B (Crack Shot, Veteran Instincts, Wired, or Juke), but Adaptability at least pushed him up to PS 7 which might have some use.

The full list can be found here.

This list was partly another attempt to challenge my flying skills – I’ve always struggled to fly large base ships well – and partly so I could take the JumpMaster out for a spin. As the Wave 8 ship I was the most excited about, and something new and different for Scum, I was eager to give it a try.

With 45 players in attendance at the Store Championship, we were looking at 6 rounds of Swiss with a cut to the top 8 – a long day ahead for everyone, and a very late finish in the works for anyone who made the cut…

 

Game 1 – Rob

  • 2 Academy Pilots
  • Mauler Mithel – Outmaneuver
  • Tetran Cowall – Push the Limit
  • Carnor Jax – Push the Limit

100 points. Full list here.

Ah, Carnor Jax, my old nemesis. An interesting looking list, including a pilot I’d not seen played before in Tetran Cowall. Carnor and Mauler Mithel looked like the big dangers in this list, with Outmaneuver Mauler looking like he could dish out a lot of damage. Still, with the highest PS being 8, Dengar should be able to react to my opponent’s moves and get himself into an optimal position.

The game started well, with the two Academy TIEs dying to concentrated fire on the first turn of shooting. Dengar’s ability proved valuable here, stripping off the last two hull from a wounded TIE as it shot at him. However, IG-88 took a bit of a battering from the Interceptors with only one shield remaining after the opening exchange, and Dengar was down two shields from a strong range 1 shot from the Academy TIE.

The next two turns swung things back for Rob, with Mauler and Carnor tearing IG-88 apart. The Mauler Outmaneuver combo was as nasty as I’d expected, and IG-88 exploded without really doing much else as Rob neatly predicted where he was going. Dengar had a better time of things, taking out Tetran Cowall for only the loss of one more shield.

With just two ships remaining, Dengar’s naturally high PS proved invaluable, as he was able to consistently boost and barrel roll out of arc. Combined with the target locks from the K4 droid, he managed to take out both Mauler and Carnor for the loss of 1 more shield.

100-44 win to me, although Dengar was only 1 hull away from giving up half points. A win to start the day, which is always nice.

 

Game 2 – David

  • Dash Rendar – Predator, Heavy Laser Cannon, Recon Specialist, Outrider
  • “Chopper” – Fire Control System, Autoblaster Turret, Ezra, Hera

99 points. Full list here.

An interesting Dash build, emphasising offence over the massive mobility of the standard “Super Dash” build. Predator plus a good chance of having a focus for both attack and defence seemed like it could prove troubling. This would be my second ever game against a Ghost, and my first flying against Chopper. With Ezra, Hera and the FCS, Chopper would be able to do red moves freely while also having consistent dice modification.

David deployed centre board with his two ships, keeping Dash a little behind Chopper. I deployed Dengar in the right corner, to maximise his options for green moves and protect his right flank, and IG-88 towards the left of the board to hopefully either draw attention away from Dengar or be able to sweep in behind David’s ships if they committed towards Dengar.

Things looked good initially, with Chopper getting caught up on some asteroids, and Dengar and IG-88 closing in on Dash. However, Dash laid down a lot of firepower, taking 4 shields off Dengar in the opening exchange, although he did lose 3 shields in return from the combined fire of my ships. The heavy laser cannon is not to be underestimated!

Chopper broke free of the rocks and pulled round to get a shot on IG-88, whose Agility couldn’t successfully fend off 5 attack dice. Dengar moved to pursue Dash, but took another heavy shot and dealt little damage in return.

The game continued like this, with David consistently outdoing my damage and rapidly taking out Dengar. IG-88B hung around a good while longer, and managed to get both ships down to half damage, but thanks to Chopper doing some very effective blocking (and so stressing as well) and Dash keeping out of range the few times I managed to get him in arc I just couldn’t keep up. IG-88 eventually went down to the Autoblaster Turret when Chopper moved a little further than I expected and David got a clear shot. Good Agility doesn’t help when you can’t dodge!

50-100 loss, although my points were only from getting both of the large ships down to half health. In retrospect, I probably should have tried to focus down Chopper earlier in the game and leave myself with just one ship to deal with, but Dash was a very intimidating presence I wanted to get rid of as soon as possible. Also, all credit to David for flying Dash very well.

1 Win – 1 Loss

 

Game 3 – Darren

  • Kanan Jarrus – Fire Control System, Autoblaster Turret, 2 Recon Specialists, Ghost title
  • Zeb Orrelios – Phantom title
  • Blue Squadron Pilot – Heavy Laser Cannon, Fire Control System, B-Wing/E2, Hera

99 points. Full list here.

I was pleased to be matched against Darren, as we’ve had some excellent games of X-Wing at past tournaments. His list intimidated me slightly, with a lot of health and some heavy firepower in play. The double Recon Specialists on Kanan seemed like they could be a problem as well, potentially dropping my offence significantly if I got too close.

Darren put his B-Wing in his right corner (my left), with Kanan (and the docked Phantom) centre board. I deployed on the left, wanting to take out the B-Wing as quickly as possible if I could. Darren’s ships moved forwards slowly, while I quickly closed range on the B. Thanks to some good rolls from both IG-88 and Dengar, and Dengar’s invaluable return shot, the B-Wing went down in the first turn of shooting, although Dengar did lose three shields in the process. Kanan was just out of Range 2, so my attacks were all at full strength.

Kanan swung round, and proceeded to dish out some hurt via the Ghost’s primary weapon. Dengar dodged round behind him with IG-88 following close behind, at which point I made what would prove to be a fatal mistake – I forgot about the docked Phantom and so the rear arc of the Ghost, and didn’t barrel roll Dengar clear. The 5 dice primary attack followed by the Autoblaster Turret put a crippling amount of damage on Dengar, and pulled things back in Darren’s favour.

Then he darted forwards, putting the Ghost facing squarely towards the edge of the board. The Phantom undocked in response to Kanan’s presumed rapidly approaching demise, neatly blocking IG-88. The Autoblaster Turret again proved it’s worth, whittling down IG-88 to only two hull remaining. Still, I was feeling confident again – while IG-88 was only on two hull and Dengar only on one, the Ghost flying off the board should swing things back for me so I focused Dengar’s fire onto the Phantom, badly damaging it.

However, the next Activation phase showed that I’d been overconfident, with the Ghost pulling a hard 1 right leaving it on the board by a hair’s breadth. The Phantom went down to Dengar’s shooting, but Darren took out Dengar in return. IG-88 continued to push damage onto Kanan, getting him down to four hull, but Darren flew well and boxed me in for a final Autoblaster shot that blew IG-88 away.

75-100 loss, and a sobering lesson about actually trying to remember what your opponent’s ships can do when you’re going against something new. (This was my first game against the Ghost with a docked Phantom.) And don’t just assume a ship will fly off the board if there’s the slimmest chance it might be able to pull it back! That said, for all of my mistakes Darren flew the list well, and made good use of Kanan’s ability throughout.

1 Win – 2 Losses

 

We had a late lunch break at this point, with my game ending early giving me a little more time to take a breather and clear my head. I went into the next round feeling a little more refreshed.

 

Game 4 – James

5 Academy Pilots
Epsilon Leader
Howlrunner – Swarm Tactics

99 points. Full list here.

A full on TIE swarm, something I was pretty sure my list would struggle with. While I’d got a decent amount of firepower, best case I was going to be taking out two ships a turn. In response, I’d be taking a lot more in return fire. Epsilon Leader also takes a lot of stress concerns out of the equation, allowing the TIEs to K-turn then go into the following turn with an unrestricted dial. Howlrunner would be the priority target, to push the overall average shooting PS lower and get rid of the dice modification.

James set his TIEs up in the centre of the board, so I went for a split deployment – IG-88 on the left, Dengar on the right – to hopefully either split his swarm up or leave them open to an attack from the flank if they committed one way or the other. Ideally I was hoping he’d gun for Dengar, as he’d be able to hopefully barrel roll and/or boost out of some arcs.

James immediately swept for IG-88 on my left. So much for that plan… The initial exchange of fire didn’t do much to either side, with one of the lead TIEs taking a crit and IG-88 losing a shield. I tried to S-loop round to the left of the TIEs, but James had neatly barrel rolled one of the Academy TIEs into position to easily block it. IG-88 and Dengar take out Howlrunner, but IG-88 goes down in flames from massed Range 1 TIE shooting. Things weren’t looking good… Dengar managed to get out of the arc of most of the TIEs the following turn, but was moving towards the bottom left corner of the board. He damaged another TIE, and only took a single shield damage in return.

I was left with two options – hard turn 1 to the left, get the target lock from the K4, and shed Dengar’s stress, or turn round to the right, keep my stress, but hopefully gain some positional advantage. I went for the latter option, and once again cleared most of the TIEs arcs and forced some onto the asteroids in the left corner. Dengar took out a TIE, took another shield in return, and I turned around to the right again. The TIEs moved round ahead of Dengar, Dengar bumped into the back one, and took out the one TIE with arc on him.

Dengar then proceeded to mop up the remaining TIEs handily, only taking a small amount of damage in return. The TIEs’ positioning left them with little in the way of options, and one clipped off the edge of the board.

100-44 win for me, although at least in part due to some exceptional luck on my part. James also had some bad luck with Epsilon Leader being just out of range to take stress off several of his TIEs the turn after they K-turned due to an unfortunate bump. That said, I’m glad I made the call to keep my stress and take a “bad” move to get into a better position – that won me the game.

2 Wins – 2 Losses

 

Game 5 – Sam

  • Poe Dameron – R2 Astromech, Integrated Astromech
  • Gold Squadron Pilot – Ion Cannon Turret
  • Green Squadron Pilot – Push the Limit, Chardaan Refit
  • Blue Squadron Pilot – Advanced Sensors

100 points. Full list here.

I’ve got a great deal of fondness for ABXY lists – the first tournament list I flew was ABXY. Sam’s list had got a decent amount of firepower, and a nimble potential blocker in the Green Squadron A-Wing. The Ion Cannon Turret didn’t worry me too much, as it would take two ion shots to ionise either of my ships.

I went for a split deployment again, and Sam swept in to close with Dengar. Degnar managed to roll out of most arcs, and started dishing out damage to the B-Wing as my priority target. It didn’t last too long under the combined firepower of my two ships, and I switched priorities to the Y-Wing. Sam had a bit of bad luck with a Talon Roll that put Poe just out of arc of my ships, although it did block Dengar from barrel rolling meaning the A-wing got to deal some damage.

My notes are pretty much non-existent for this game, as fatigue had started to set in, but with generally higher PS than Sam’s pilots and good maneuverability I was able to stay clear of his fire arcs a lot of turns while consistently dealing damage. The A-Wing was the last to go down, with a decent evade roll on my final turn depriving Same of half points for Dengar.

100-0 win for me. Sam was an excellent sportsman throughout the game, and we had a good chat about list building, X-Wing and gaming in general while we waited for pairings for the next round.

3 Wins – 2 Losses

 

The tournament software had a bit of a hiccup at this point, providing some incorrect pairings for the round. It briefly looked like I might be on the streaming table against a Punisher and two Interceptor list, but I was then re-paired. (The video of the stream can be found here for anyone who’s interested in seeing some of the games from the day: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAOMH3T_VzssrOGoPSnqcJA ). Finally new pairings were announced…

 

Game 6 – Tom

  • Poe Dameron – Veteran Instincts, R5-P9, Autothrusters
  • Tycho Celchu – Push the Limit, Proton Rockets, Autothrusters, A-Wing Test Pilot, Rage
  • Grey Squadron Pilot – Twin Laser Turret, R3-A2, BTL-A4

98 points. Full list here.

A very solid looking Rebel list, with a Tycho build I’ve been curious to try myself. The Grey Squadron Y looked like it could be trouble, as I’d had problems dealing with stress builds in the past. And that Poe build is a classic for a reason…

We closed range quite quickly. Dengar rolled into Range 1 of the Y-Wing to avoid the TLT shot (and so double stress), but couldn’t get clear of Range 1 of Tycho. The Y took a chunk of damage, Dengar unsurprisingly took more.

I managed to take out Tycho to little more damage, and started work on Poe, but as 8 PM and close to 10 hours of X-Wing rolled round I started making mistakes. I K-turned rather than S-looped IG-88, leaving him without a shot on the Y-Wing which proptly double stressed him. Dengar bumped Poe twice as I forgot the order of activation, and dialed in bad moves. Tom was also flying well, and using the Y-Wing to good effect. First IG-88 then Dengar went down to focused fire, with Dengar’s second bump on Poe spelling his demise and stopping him from getting out of the Y-Wing’s arc.

35-100 loss, and the end of the day for me. I think both Tom and I were feeling the length of the day, so there were a few mistakes from both of us at various points, but Tom held it together better than I did! 🙂

3 Wins – 3 Losses

 

The final rankings went up, and I placed 20th out of 45, firmly in my intended goal of top half. With the first round of the top 8 starting close to 9 PM, I was slightly glad to be out of the running, and headed home with my new C-3PO card.

As always, an excellent day of gaming against great opponents. The team at Athena Games kept things moving along smoothly (barring a software hiccup out of their hands), and both the TO and commentary team showed great endurance as the event ran until 12.15 AM.

The winning list was slightly unexpected – a variant on the Rebel Panic Attack, with 2 Blue Squadron B-Wings with Tactician, a Gold Squadron Stresshog, and a TLT Gold. By all accounts it was an extremely effective list well flown.

There seemed to be a good variety of lists in general, although both JumpMaster lists and Palpatine plus Aces seemed to be well represented. We did have one “Wolfpack” of three Contracted Scouts present which made the cut although not the final.

I was overall pleased with how I did, although there were some mistakes I shouldn’t have made – and there’s no matter how much theorycrafting you do, there’s nothing like flying against a new ship to get a handle on what it can do. Still, I managed to fly two large bases with minimal collisions, bumps and interactions with obstacles, so I’m pleased with that.

I’m looking forward to the Regionals hosted at Athena at the start of July, which will be the highest tier X-Wing event I’ll have played to date. I’m expecting to learn a lot from the day if nothing else… 🙂

X-Wing tournament report – Athena Games Winter Tournament 5th March

I made the Top 4 cut at Athena Games’ Winter Tournament a couple of weekends ago, and I thought as it’s the first time I’ve made the cut in an X-Wing event it would be worth writing it up for posterity. 🙂  We had 24 players overall, with a nicely varied selection of lists.  Although I didn’t face any of them, there seemed to be a lot of Firesprays around.

I’d put together a Scum almost swarm list (I’m not sure if 5 ships quite count as a swarm…) to try out the Kihraxz en mass.  I’m a big fan of this new addition to the Scum fleet, and have been flying it a lot in the form of Talonbane Cobra.

My list consisted of:

  • 3 Cartel Marauder Kihraxzs – no upgrades
  • 2 Cartel Spacer Scyks – Heavy Scyk title, Mangler Cannon

100 points on the nose, 20 points per ship – which should make for easy end of game points scoring at least…  Full list is here in Yet Another X-Wing Squad Builder.

I’d deliberately gone for this list to improve my piloting skills – all PS 2, with little or no post-maneuver maneuverability.  I’ve had a tendency to use high PS, boost and barrel roll as a bit of a crutch to make up for slightly sloppy flying, so taking that out of the equation should force me to fly better or die!  That said, there are some distinct advantages to the list as well – moving at PS 2 minimises the risk of being blocked, and 15 red dice should be able to put out a sizable amount of damage if I could get all of my ships pointing at the same target.

 

Game 1 – Hedge (100-40)

  • Prince Xizor – Veteran Instincts, Autothrusters, Virago title, Advanced Sensors
  • Trandoshan Slaver – Hound’s Tooth title, plus 2-3 points of other upgrades I’m forgetting.  (Note to self – take notes on the day, not a week later…)
  • 2 Binayre Pirates

That’s a mountain of shields and hull for Xizor to pass hits across to, and Xizor himself has the potential to be very difficult to keep in arc.  Advanced Sensors are always a good upgrade on him, if only for the entertaining ability to boost or barrel roll before doing an S-Loop for some very hard to predict and hard to block placement.

I’ve been flying against Hedge for a while now (he’s basically responsible for getting me into X-Wing in the first place), and was a little apprehensive going in as he’s won notably more games against me than he’s lost – and had won the last tournament at Athena.  That said, the Trandoshan Slaver and Binayre Pirates both looked like good targets to focus down quickly, and if I could get some early shots in on Xizor all the better.

The initial approach went OK for me, as I kept my ships in position and got a nice overlapping set of arcs.  One of the Z-95s went down quite quickly.  Then Hedge had a turn of terrible luck, with Xizor turning into the arcs of almost all of my ships and his green dice going ice cold.  Even with the ability to pass off damage to the Trandoshan Slaver, Xizor couldn’t resist firepower of that magnitude and blew up.

The Trandoshan Slaver proved a tougher nut to crack, taking down two of my ships fairly swiftly with heavy Range 1 firepower.  And even when it died, it spawned a new Z-95 (a bit of a surprise to me as I’d forgotten about the Hound’s Tooth title by that point…), and only some very bad luck for Hedge stopped him from taking out the badly damage Scyk that was foolishly hanging around the back of the YV-666.

1 Win – 0 Loss

 

Game 2 – Guy (16-60)

  • Captain Yorr — Emperor Palpatine
  • Darth Vader — Veteran Instincts, TIE/x1 title, Advanced Targeting Computer, Engine Upgrade
  • Carnor Jax — Push the Limit, Royal Guard TIE title, Autothrusters, Twin Ion Engine Mk. II

99 points.  Full list here. 

This was a game I knew was going to be hard from the outset.  Guy is an excellent player, and his list was one I’d identified as a probable weak point for my list going in.  That said, there were some interesting variations on the standard Palpmobile list – Yorr rather than the generic Omicron Group Pilot, and Carnor Jax rather than Soontir with TIE Mk II.  I was dubious about this last upgrade given the Interceptor’s already good dial, but it proved to be more than worth its points over the course of the game.

Guy very sensibly parked the shuttle in the far corner away from my deployment.  Vader zoomed off down the flank, while Carnor turned in and headed along Guy’s edge of the board.  I took the bait, and headed after Carnor – not least due to my past experiences of having struggling to deal with him late game.  This proved to be a mistake, as Guy kept him at Range 3 or out of range of my further back ships, and thanks to the Autothrusters and Palpatine I couldn’t land a hit on him.  Two turns of firing at Carnor produced no damage, and Yorr and Vader had both now closed in.

I turned my attention to trying to burn down the shuttle to get rid of Palpatine, but even that wasn’t to be.  Carnor and Vader picked off some stragglers, and Palpatine proved invaluable for keeping the shuttle alive.  We ran to time, with me having just scraped a few points by getting Yorr to just below half health, but I’m confident that Guy would have been able to mop up my remaining ships with ease if we’d had another few turns.

In retrospect, I should have gunned straight for Yorr and taken him out as quickly as possible.  Guy made great use of the Interceptor’s Agility, Autothrusters and Palpatine to soak a huge amount of firepower to no effect, and succeeded in drawing me out of position.  Very well flown!

1 Win – 1 Loss

 

A much needed break for lunch at this point!

 

Game 3 – James(?) (100-20)

  • Delta Squadron Pilot – Ion Cannon (I think)
  • Omicron Group Pilot – Vader
  • Whisper – Veteran Instincts, Advanced Cloaking Device, Tactician, Fire Control System

98(?) points.  Full list here.

This list gave me pause for thought.  I was relatively confident about being able to deal with the Defender as it was shooting after my ships, but both Whisper and the DoomShuttle worried me.  I needed to keep as many ships on the board for as long as possible to maximise my main advantage of firepower, and Vader seemed like he could be extremely bad news for my Scyks.  Whisper can be so hard to pin down, and shooting through four Agility with a focus and possible evade token available.

James set up the Delta Squadron and OGP in one corner, with my ships opposite.  Whisper was slightly off to one side to come in around the flank.  Turn 2 brought us into range, with Whisper doing some damage.  My ships all opened up on the Defender, which went down to a hail of fire (and some bad luck on the green dice) with one of my ships able to take some shields off the shuttle.  Vader stuck a crit onto one of the Kirhaxz fighters.

Turn 3, and I guessed right on the shuttle’s maneuver, putting most of my list in Range 1 of it, although Whisper comfortably dodged out of all of my arcs.  Five ships opened up, and the shuttle was destroyed. However, even with his ship exploding around him Vade was still able to finish off one of my damaged ships.

Turn 4, and Whisper had a terrible bit of luck, clipping an asteroid by the very slimmest of margins and ending up with none of my ships quite in arc.  At that point 2 Agility, 4 hit points and no tokens just couldn’t soak up the fire from my ships, and Whisper went down.

This game went way more quickly than I thought.  James had very bad luck with some of his dice rolls, and hitting the asteroid was a matter of a millimeter.  Shooting before the Defender definitely worked to my favour as I was able to take the Defender out before it fired a shot.  If Whisper had better luck on Turn 4 it could all have been very different, as even the solid firepower of my four remaining ships I could struggle to punch through Whisper’s defensive capabilities.

2 Wins – 1 Loss

 

Game 4 – Jack(?) (100-20)

  • Omega Leader – Juke, Comms Relay, Stealth Device
  • Carnor Jax – PtL, AT, Royal Guard, SD
  • Soontir Fel  – PtL, AT, Royal Guard, SD

98 points.  Full list here.

A game against a new player, who told me he’d only played 6 or 7 games prior to this including the previous two rounds of the tournament.  Not bad going at all to get to this point! 🙂

Another list with a lot of agility, Autothrusters and Stealth Devices.  Omega Leader looked like a good target to try and take down early, as I really wasn’t keen on letting them survive until late game when their ability would be all the stronger.

I set up in one corner, and Jack very sensibly set up as far away from my ships as possible.  I banked in through the asteroid field, managing to avoid any collisions.  It took a few turns for us to close in to exchange fire, with the first turn of shooting knocking a shield and the Stealth Device off Omega Leader to the loss on one shield on a Kihraxz – definitely an exchange I was happy with!  The following turn Carnor collided with Omega Leader by a hair, leaving him exposed in front of most of my ships, several of whom had set up target locks the previous turn.  Carnor didn’t survive, and Omega Leader followed shortly afterwards.

Soontir, however, just wouldn’t die.  He took out one of the Scyks, and managed to dodge neatly away from me for several turns afterwards.  However, he got a little too close to the edge of the board one turn and left himself with a limited range of options so I was able to get several guns to bear and finally chip through to those last remaining hull points.

I really wouldn’t have known this was a comparatively novice player if he hadn’t told me.  He was flying with a great deal of confidence, and Carnor bumping was a mistake anyone could have made.  Soontir proved as hard to take down as I expected, particularly as he could quickly dodge out to Range 3 to benefit from the Autothrusters again.

3 Wins – 1 Loss

 

A few final round games ran to time and took a while to wrap up, so there was a bit of a gap.  I’d done some quick calculations and was expecting to come 5th or 6th as I’d given up points every game, so I was quite surprised to come 3rd.  My first time making the cut – needless to say I was quite excited!

 

Top 4 Match – Chris (62-100)

  • Poe Dameron – Veteran Instincts, Autothrusters, R5-P9
  • Red Ace – Comms Relay, R2-D2, Autothrusters
  • Gold Squadron Pilot – Ion Cannon Turret, BTL-A4 title, R3-A2

100 points.  Full list here.

Double Rebel regen and a Stresshog – this looked like it was going to be a hard match!  Chris is also an excellent X-Wing player, and regularly make the cut at our local events.  Fatigue had started to set in somewhat for both of us, so setup took a little while as we tried to remember basic strategy…

I did my usual corner setup – a loose formation to gun forwards or bank in as needed.  Chris set up mid-way across his table edge, very rightly not wanting to directly joust into my list.

I made a mistake on turn 2, banking one of my Scyks across a debris field for better positioning and inevitably rolling a crit.  This stripped a shield that proved to be a deeply annoying loss for the rest of the game…

Chris lead his approach with Red Ace, and did a bit of damage to one of my lead Kihraxz.  I returned fire on Red Ace, but Autothrusters and Red Ace’s spontaneous evasion did their job and he avoided taking any serious damage ending up 2 shields down overall.

Turn 3 is where things started to go wrong for me.  Red Ace got a crit on the shieldless Scyk, dropping its attack by a dice.  The Gold Squadron Pilot closed into range, and Chris made the very smart call of spreading stress around, ioning and stressing a Kihraxz and stressing another.  With two ships unable to K-turn, I was going to struggle for position.

This continued to be the case, with Chris making excellent use of the Y-Wing’s stress output (and some very good flying) to lock down two of my ships each turn.  However, I got a break when I correctly guessed Poe’s positioning and he found himself in a corridor of three of my ships arcs and was unable to dodge out of it.  Three shots later, and Poe was down and I was starting to pull things back.  However, my undamaged Scyk had been taken out at that point, leaving me with two lightly-damaged Kihraxz and a barely holding together Scyk to deal with the rest of Chris’ list.

I finally took shots on the Y-Wing and put it down over a couple of turns, leaving a Kihraxz and Scyk to deal with Red Ace.  This however proved impossible, with Red Ace regenning faster than I could take damage off.  The Scyk eventually blanked its green dice and blew up, and Chris hunted down the remaining Kihraxz.

This was an excellent game to end the day, with the upper hand changing a few times over the course of the match.  In retrospect, I underestimated how much of a threat the Stresshog was, as I was somewhat dismissive about the effects stress would have on my all generic ship list.  Lesson learned on that front, and credit to Chris for spreading the stress around as much as possible rather than going for the double stress on a single ship approach.

 

Overall, the list did what I’d hoped, putting a lot of damage down range and having enough arcs of fire to make dodging them all a pretty tall order.  I certainly feel I’m notably better at formation flying as a result, although I don’t think I’m up to a full TIE swarm quite yet!

As always, an excellent and well run event by the team at Athena Games, and thanks to all of my opponents who gave me five really good games over the course of the day.  I’m looking forwards to the Store Championship at the end of the month, and all of the new toys Wave 8 will bring into play!

RPG a Day 2015 – Day 2: Kickstarted game most pleased you backed

Catching up with Day 2 of #RPGaDay2015.

Kickstarted game most pleased you backed

Kickstarter has been a revolutionary development for the RPG industry.  It’s allowed neiche products to be produced with a degree of surety that wasn’t previously possible, and it’s allowing small companies or individual writers to get the money they need to actually get a product off the ground.  It’s not a single magic bullet to cure all of the RPG industry’s ills (as a few high profile failed or misjudged projects have shown), but it’s allowed for a lot of innovation that just wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

I’ve backed quite a few RPGs over the last few years, and I’m pleased with all of them. Fate Core featured heavily in last year’s RPGaDay, and the assorted new World of Darkness lines that are coming out have all been pretty excellent. (Although I still haven’t run Mummy or Demon as yet…)

But of all of the RPG products I’ve backed, there’s one that I keep coming back to more than any other. It might be a bit of a stretch to call it a game in its own right, although it more than just one game in fact.

The Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide Of all of the systems currently out there, the various iterations of Cortex Plus are my favourite. They’re each designed to emulate a particular genre, and do that genre better than any other game I’ve seen. Leverage (Cortex Action) covers heists, Smallville (Cortex Drama) covers teen TV shows, and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (Cortex Heroic) does comic book superheroes better than any other game I’ve seen.

While the underlying system remains broadly similar between the lines (roll a pool of dice based on various characteristics, add two of them together to see if you succeed), the specifics change in notable ways to reflect the assumptions of the genre it’s emulating. The Leverage RPG rates your character on how well they do in various roles in a crew of con artists (Hacker, Hitter, Grifter, Thief and Mastermind), and includes a “flashback” mechanic where you can establish facts about a scene to reflect the preparation work and long cons that you’ve done without having had to play through them all in advance. Smallville’s character traits are based on the values they hold to and their relationships with major characters (PCs or NPCs). Marvel Heroic has an XP mechanic that rewards you for playing like your chosen hero, and power set rules that lets the Hulk and Hawkeye both feel 100% like the characters from the comics and also be on a team together without one feeling overshadowed by the other. (There’s also a Firefly RPG they’ve recently released, but I’m not as familiar with that iteration of the rules.)

So, there’s a lot to like about the system already. The Cortex Hacker’s Guide takes the three core sets of mechanics (Action, Drama, and Heroic), presents them in their most basic form, and then gives you a massive toolbox of options to use with them. Want to run a fantasy RPG using Cortex Plus? Then it’s got you covered with both the Old School Job for Cortex Action presenting the classic dungeon crawl as a badly planned heist, and Fantasy Heroic Roleplaying for worlds of sword and sorcery comic book adventure. The Breed hack for Cortex Action covers anything involving human/animal hybrids ranging from Dark Angel to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Backstabbing BFFs for Drama is Mean Girls (or any other high school film or TV show) the RPG.

There’s no shortage of other setting hacks, but there’s a number of neat additions to the system for any game including alternate Stress types to make sure the stakes match the genre, implementing time pressures for anything from disarming a bomb to catching a criminal before they make their escape, and advice on how to structure one-shot games for both setting and mechanics.

It’s generally a fascinating look into the depths of three closely related game systems, and a fascinating read if you’re interested in game design and genre emulation. Of all the Kickstarted RPGs I’ve got, it’s probably been read more than the rest of them combined, and that’s in no way playing down how much I’ve enjoyed the others.

Come back tomorrow, when we’ll be looking at new RPGs of the last 12 months.

RPG a Day 2015 – Day 1: Forthcoming game you’re most looking forward to

Day 1 of #RPGaDAY2015 and as the observant among you will have noticed I’m running a couple of days behind already…

Forthcoming game you’re most looking forward to

There’s no shortage of forthcoming RPGs to be excited about – Kickstarter seems to have helped the industry no end (see tomorrow’s post) and we’re seeing a huge amount of high quality games coming to the market. However, there are two standout titles I’m looking forwards to.

Star Wars: Force and Destiny.

The latest in Fantasy Flight Game’s line of Star Wars RPGs, Force and Destiny focuses on Force sensitive characters in the Galactic Civil War era. The Jedi Order has fallen, and any Force sensitive individual is hunted by the Empire for their talents. Player characters live as outcasts on the fringes of the galaxy, doing what they can to make a difference and seek out the lost lore of the Jedi.

It’s pretty compelling stuff, and gets to the heart of what most people want from a Star Wars game. The core system is also very well done – like a lot of Fantasy Flight Games products, it uses a selection of custom dice with weird symbols called “narrative dice”. These symbols have tell you if you’ve failed or succeeded at a given task (read this preview for more details on the dice system if you’re interested) but also introduce minor advantages or setbacks in the situation that can help or hinder a character. Did you roll a lot of Successes on your blaster shot at that Stormtrooper, but also several Threats? Then maybe you’ve run out of ammo or the shot has ricocheted and hit a pipe filling the area with noxious vapours. Did your roll to repair your speeder turn out to be a failure but you got some Advantages in the mix? Then perhaps you’ve been able to salvage some valuable parts, or get it briefly running to limp a little closer to your destination. It’s a neat system that helps inspire improvisation in both players and the GM.

The Force powers are also neatly implemented. There’s a Dark and Light Side element to all of the powers, so your morality and interactions with the Force can change what your powers do without invalidating the XP you’ve already spent. The ability to heal using the Light Side of the Force can quickly be turned into potent harm if you turn to the Dark Side, which also means that as you grow more powerful the temptation to tap into the Dark Side becomes stronger. I can easily see a lot of PCs being tempted to tap into the Dark Side when the odds are stacked against them…

It’s also cross-compatible with Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion, the other two Star Wars games from FFG, which are focused on smugglers and the Rebellion respectively. This opens up options for both players and GMs, and gives each major element of the Galactic Civil War era its own focused line while also easily allowing for a more mixed campaign that draws in elements from all three.
Blue Rose, AGE Edition

The original Blue Rose, published 10 years ago, was a breath of fresh air into the RPG market at the time. System-wise, it was an innovative new take on the D20 system, paring it down to a few broad classes that could be easily mixed together to build the character you wanted, and providing a notably simplified skill system that has a great deal in common with the approach to skills taken in 4th and 5th ed D&D. These rules would then be expanded on to produce Green Ronin’s True20 system, which was an elegant iteration of D20 that covered pretty much any genre or period of gaming.

Its setting and themes were the real innovation however. Blue Rose is firmly in the romantic fantasy genre, drawing on Robin Hobb or Mercedes Lackey rather than Lord of the Rings or Conan-esque sword and sorcery. The setting assumes the PCs are loyal to the Kingdom of Aldis (or at least its ideals), and would be (comparatively) selfless heroes working to protect others against the forces of evil in the world. Aldis is a pretty utopian society, where nobles are good and just (at least at the point they become nobles, they can have a change of heart later on…) and the ruler is selected by a magical deer who can sense if someone is good or evil. This isn’t in and of itself anything new within the romantic fantasy genre, but it’s a positive and optimistic outlook that’s rarely seen in RPGs.

It’s also notable that gender and sexuality are touched on far more than in most fantasy RPGs, with gay, gender fluid and transgender characters and NPCs included as part of the setting. There’s also no divide between the genders, with male and female characters seen and treated as equals (at least in Aldis). It’s by no means an unproblematic representation on this front, but it’s one of very few games where the setting is openly positive towards and welcoming of characters who aren’t just straight men. Given the issues in geek and gamer culture at the moment, this really felt like a breath of fresh air in 2005.

The Kickstarter for a new edition of Blue Rose has just completed, funding well above its original goal. Rather than being D20 based, it’s moving to Green Ronin’s Adventure Game Engine (AGE) previously seen in their Dragon Age RPG and in the Titansgrave web series. It’s a system I’m really interested to see in play, as it looks like it’s a neat streamlined game that still has a lot of space for fun mechanics. The setting is being expanded, and thanks to the Kickstarter will also include a number of campaign seeds, including one where the PCs are a group of wedding planners.

In short, I’m hugely hyped for this game!

Join us tomorrow, where we’ll be talking Kickstarter.