X-Wing Second Edition: First thoughts

Fantasy Flight games have announced X-Wing Second Edition. It surprised me a bit but I am quite optimistic. As a somewhat serious casual player I think the game was in need of an overhaul. I see a number of areas of possible improvement. I mostly fly rebels/resistance.

Rock-paper-scissors
X-wing is unfortunately not so little like Rock-papers-scissors. Often when you reveal squads it is obvious right from the beginning who has the upper hand. Not because one squad is better but because of the fit.

Pilot Skills
If you field 3 ships with PS8 against 3 ships with PS9 you know you have a massive uphill battle to fight. Your PS8 could as well have been PS2 and it would have made no difference (except your squad would have been much cheaper). There are a few mechanism that make it convenient to have the same PS on all your ships. If both players reason like this it is very likely someone will get a PS advantage before the game even starts.

I hope 2nd Edition will be more interesting and balanced for all combinations of PS.

Turrets beat Arc Dodgers beat Jousters
X-wing was originally about choosing a maneuver template, resolving your move, and the player who outsmarted/outguessed the opponent gets an upper hand. Arc dodgers – hi PS pilots with boost and/or barrel roll turn the maneuver template into an afterthought. In order to beat a high PS arc dodger you need a turret, which reduces the role of maneuvering and flying.

I hope in 2nd Edition both Arc Dodging and Turrets will be less efficient so the game gets back to the maneuver dial.

Rebalanced Maneuver Dials
After years of Waves almost every ship has a superior maneuver dial to the T65 X-wing. It makes no sense.

I hope in 2nd Edition the maneuver dials are balanced.

2 attack dice vs 3 defence dice + evade
Some ships can hardly produce damage to other ships at all. Particularly 2 attack dice is getting hopeless against many squads. A more powerful weapon should not make it easier to hit, it should cause more damage when you hit. For the rebels this hurts the A-wing and the Z95 particularly bad.

I hope in 2nd Edition no ships will be allowed to be practically safe from 2 attack dice.

Ordnance
Torpedoes and Missiles were not good enough when the game came out. Different upgrades have tried to improve the situation so now there are some cases where ordnance can work. Harpoons are effective but there is nothing fun or thematic about them whatsoever (why do they attach if they only remove shields).

I hope in 2nd Edition Torpedoes and Missiles will be more like upgrades that improve an attack or two for for most any ships, rather than very specific strategies. I hope the different Missiles and Torpedoes will be more balanced.

Secondary Weapons
I think the costs for secondary weapons are problematic. For the X-wing, which already has a primary weapon of 3, paying 4 points for a single Torpedo that typically requires target lock often makes little sense. Also, Guidance Chips collides with other modifications.

The B-wing and Y-wing are more suitable for Torpedoes (extra munitions + guidance chips) but they have Cannon and Turret options also.

The B-wing already has 3 attack dice and usually it has other weaknesses that are more important to fix than a slightly better attack. They Y-wing on the other hand really needs a turret. So much so that TLT (or rarely Ion Turret) are almost mandatory and the weaker turrets are rarely used.

The A-wing is fun with a missile but it hardly makes sense instead of Chardaan Refit.

Secondary Weapons are too expensive to add just in case or for the fun of it. In a way I would have preferred them to be a mandatory configuration choice because it would make the game more interesting. As it is now a generic Y-wing is flown with TLT. If all generic Y-wings came both with a turret and two torpedoes of choice flying them would be much more interesting. But today you would never field such a Y-wing because it would die with most secondary weapons never used and points wasted. You only equip ordnance if you are quite sure you can deliver them very early in the game (high PS is a must).

I hope in 2nd edition more secondary weapons are brought into actual play so they create tactical choices in the game, rather than merely being strategic list building choices.

Stress as control
There are a few upgrades and pilots that can deliver stress rather arbitrarily (like Tactician and R3-A2). While a somewhat useful strategy against some opponents I don’t much enjoy this mechanism. I think it makes more sense to deliver stress with weapons like Flechette Cannon/Torpedeos, bombs and criticals.

I hope in 2nd Edition stress delivery will not be a strategy.

Regeneration
Regeneration can make a pilot practically immortal (against some opponents) and/or make the game very long. I think the idea of the game is that ships should get damage and get destroyed, not repair during battle.

I hope in 2nd Edition recovering shields will be a more limited thing.

Actions, multiple actions and free actions
It was cool that Darth Vader could make two actions and Push The Limit was also cool. But when ships start getting free actions (or tokens) it makes the game less interesting. There should be an element of guessing and risk-reward involved with actions. The worst thing is cards like Expertise.

I hope in 2nd Edition the very normal thing will be one maneuver and one action. Multiple actions should not be routine and tokens should not just come for free.

Upgrades, pilots and combos
I understand a game like X-wing is about finding powerful combination of upgrades (like in Magic The Gathering). But that also eliminates balance. Today I tried Rey+Finn+Gunner+Expertise. Finn is kind of useless in most other cases and Gunner is usually overpriced. But the combination with Rey and Expertise is very powerful. Sometimes in X-wing it is like the fundamental principles of the game are overthrown by upgrades and pilot abilities.

I hope in 2nd Edition pilot abilities and upgrades will play a less significant role for the outcome of the game. I hope the list building element is more about taste, style and tactics and less about finding very optimal and efficient combinations (because those few strong combinations of pilots and upgrades will generally rule the game and all else will turn obsolete and uncompetetive).

Cloaking
Cloaking is cool. But the idea of decloaking with a boost or barrel roll is that you didn’t really know where the cloaked ship was. It really makes no sense when a ship (Whister) cloakes and decloakes every round basically breaking all reasonable rules of flying.

I hope in 2nd Edition cloaking gets more balanced.

Generics
I think X-wing is (too) much about Aces and often pairs or triples of aces. When it comes to Generics it has often been very monotonous squads (4xY+TLT, BBBBZ).

I hope in 2nd Edition it will make sense to fly a wing leader with a few generics and that all-aces-lists will be less common (or even uncommon).

Early game vs End game
I have often fielded 4-5 generics against 2-3 aces. The game is interesting from the start. Aces can be blocked, fire can be focused on a single ace and so on. If I play well both sides have lost ships and the game is down to 2-3 generics vs a single ace. Usually the Ace wins even if it represents fewer squad points, and often the ace can control the game completely. I understand the opposite is somewhat true for Epic games: with 200-300 points per side the aces are vulnerable and not so significant. This is perhaps realistic if there is such a thing.

I hope in 2nd Edition the game will be more balanced (and interesting) from start to end.

Conclusion
It is easy to get a romantic idea about the original game with just T65 vs Tie. Of course it is more fun now with all the variety of ships, upgrades, pilots and tactics. But there are also severe balancing problems.

  • Many ships are rarely used
  • Even more pilots are never used
  • TLT is enormously dominant as turrent
  • Harpoons are very dominant as ordnance
  • Miranda is overpowered (in a K-wing of all possible ships), but she is necessary to balance out the Arc Dodgers that otherwise just beats most squads
  • Many cards have been nerfed and the original text/rules dont apply anymore
  • Powercreep – more defence dies – more attack dice – more upgrades – better maneuver dials; has turned the game more into a guessing arms race and less into a tactical flight game

A new simplified, unified and balanced edition can probably be much better.

After playing X-wing I have often thought that perhaps it would be funnier to just construct to lists that are supposed to be balanced and thematic against each other. The 2nd Edition seems to have this idea for casual game.

The conversion kits seem great (and reasonably priced). Hopefully in 2nd Edition I don’t want to play XXXX, XXXXZ, BBBBZ, YYYY, AAAAA, AAAAAA or ZZZZZZZZ but rather squads with more variety. In that case a single conversion kit will do quite fine.

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