Category Archives: Gaming

Dungeon Master lost in Forgotten Realms

This post could also have been called:

  • Forgotten Realms suck!
  • I hate Forgotten Realms
  • When and where should i set my Forgotten Realms campaign?

First, if you are new to D&D, starting with 5e, buying adventures, you will be alright! Everything is taken care of for you, just go with the flow.

Background

I played D&D 30 years ago. About 25 years ago I played AD&D 2e in Forgotten Realms. Now I am picking up D&D again, this time 5e, and I still have my Forgotten Realms 2e stuff. I create my own campaign and my own adventures so I just thought I needed to pick a date (year) and a place in Forgotten Realms and get started. Well, the internet is an amazing resource for a Dungeon Master, but the confusion is also so much bigger!

Why use Forgotten Realms at all?

I own some content for Forgotten Realms, maps and books. That is better than nothing (at least I want to think so). Drawing maps take time. And inventing deities is not my piece of cake. However, I realised that not even maps or deities are constant in Forgotten Realms, and I was confused.

The Short Version

Wizards of the Coast (who makes D&D), want the world (Forgotten Realms) to match the rules of their game. Fair enough! So when the rules change, the world changes, quite dramatically (!).

Dates of the Campaing Books/Sets for each [A]D&D version (I just copied this from somewhere, the important thing right now is not the details):

  • AD&D 1e: 1358.
  • AD&D 2e: 1368 (after Time of Troubles 1358)
  • D&D 3e: 1372
  • D&D 4e: 1479 (after Spellplague 1385)
  • D&D 5e: 1491 (after Second Sundering 1480)

These events (Time of Troubles, Spellplague, Second Sundering) are not minor or ordinary events. Thy are the kind of earth-shattering events that I’d prefer to have 2000-3000 years back (like the First Sundering).

I am not an expert (not even a novice) on Forgotten Realms Lore, but the idea here is that major changes and events happened in Forgotten Realms to match the rules of 2e, 4e and 5e. And, to simplify things a little, 5e mostly reset things to 2e (and the Spellplague was a mistake).

An example of a rules-change is the race Dragonborn, introduced in 4e and “justified” via the events of Spellplague. WotC could have pretended Dragonsborns always existed and that they were just never mentioned and there were never any rules for them. But WotC choose to create an event that explained why there were Dragonborns in 4e, but not before (and many other things).

How to get a grasp of the Lore?

I recommend the youtube series Forgotten Realms Lore by Jorphdan. Watch the first 20 episodes (!) and you will feel a lot more comfortable about a lot of things!

When to set a 5e campaign

Here are some options I came up with for when to set a 5e campaign in Forgotten Realms

  1. In the 2e-3e-era, like 1368-1375. If you dont have 2e-3e resources this probably makes little sense. And you will need to deal with cases where the rules don’t match the Lore (are there Dragonborns, and where do they come from)?
  2. In 1491 as is intended. The possible problem is that you have 100+ years of history that is very confusing and complex. Your PCs and NPCSs will have so many weird (recent) memories. This is not optimal with 2e Forgotten Realms resources.
  3. In 1491 as intended, pretending the Spellplague and the Sundering never happened. Both 2e,3e and 5e resources should be quite useful, as long as you have a basic understanding of what you are leaving out.
  4. Later, like 1550-1600, when the Second Sundering has faded from recent memory and things have stabilized (if you like that, as a DM). This is not optimal with any official Forgotten Realms resources.
  5. Any other time that you find particularly interesting!
  6. Use Alternative Forgotten Realms, for a more low level setting.
  7. Just use the maps, and cherry-pick only things that you specifically need.
  8. I am choosing to make a few hundred years of Dark Age first.

I was thinking to choose (1), since I have 2e resources. But it is not very easy either, becuase for example the article on Moonshae in the Wiki says: “This article is incomplete.It is missing 1e and 2e information, including a whole sourcebook worth of pre-Spellplague lore.

Conclusion

Forgotten Realms is a double edged resource. And the events from 1350 to 1480 (just before 5e takes place) are extreme enough that it would be better if they were serveral thousand years apart, and several thousand years ago.

Still, I think the Youtube videos I linked to help to get you onboard, and if you make a few decisions that work for your campaing, you should be quite fine. Remember that there is nothing wrong in changing whatever you want!

Buying Dungeons & Dragons?

I used to play a lot of roleplaying games, that was 20 years ago. I just decided to start it again, and I realised there are so many options of Dungeons and Dragons that I was not aware of.

I will sammarize what I would have wanted to know when I decided to start over.

These are different versions of Dungeons & Dragons that you may have, find used or consider buying:

  • D&D 5e (5th edition)
    • Starter Set
    • Good old books (Core Rulebook Gift Set)
    • Digital edition
  • D&D 4e
  • D&D 3.5e
  • D&D 3e
  • Advanced D&D 2e
  • Advanced D&D
  • D&D

And then there is Pathfinder.

To be clear, to play casually, occationally, with a few friends or your children, any version will work! If you have what is needed to play (usually Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide and Monster Manual, or a starter set) you can have great fun for many hours!

If you and your friends/family are new to roleplaying and D&D, I guess getting the Starter Set is excellent!

However, it may be more complicated. I have the original D&D, and AD&D 2e that we played very much. And then I bought 3.0, which I never played. To play casually with a small group of friends, I ended up buying the 5e Core Rulebook Gift Set. So there are two questions to ask

  1. Why did I not get a digital verson?
  2. Why, if all versions are fine for casual play, did I not use one of the three versions I already owned?

D&D 5e Digital Version

The answer to the first question is that I was not aware of it (the digital version on dndbeyond.com, and perhaps other sites/services), I am old and stupid enough to make the mistake of not even considering that a digital option was available. I don’t regret getting the physical Gift Box. But I think it is good to be aware of the digital option.

DNDBeyond offers the core books for about USD 30 each in a digital version (marginally cheaper than a print). You can then add a Master subscription for USD 6/month. As DM, create a Campaign: Your players can now sign up for free, join your campaign and they can create their Characters online. You can print, share, level up and the entire thing is very nice. DNDBeyond is available for free, but if you dont pay

  • USD 30 for Players Handbook, you cant use many Feats, Backgrounds (and possibly other things) from Players Handbook. And its not like you can just easily type it in yourself, it is really missing in dropdowns.
  • USD 6/month, your players will need their own DNDBeyond digital edition of Players Handook.

It is fine not to use DNDBeyond! But it is not quite fine that your players start using it, and they like it (first), but then there is major confusion. It is not quite fine to pay for the game twice, if that was not what you wanted to do in the first place.

The background is that DNDBeyond is not Wizards of the Coast (who makes D&D), it is another company, who licenses stuff from WotC. So you don’t get a voucher or a code or anthing with your books. I wish I knew this before I got the books!

Good Old Versions

I realised that as a DM I will spend many hours preparing sessions with my players. And playing together is quality time with friends and it should be good. I simply decided that 5e was the best version of D&D, and that I can afford it.

When it comes to the old rejected versions, I found that:

D&D (first edition, red/blue boxes) is a very old game with some aspects I really did not like when giving it a second thought. Halflings can only progress to level 8, end of it. And the basic (1-3) and expert (4-14) was not particularly practical when starting over. My stuff was in bad shape too. And the books where not beautifully illustrated as later editions.

AD&D 2nd edition is an excellent game, but for some reason, after many years, I bought third edition. One thing that is not good with 2nd edition (and older) is that spellcasters are very weak in the beginning (like 1 spell per day). See my list below of things I like with 5e. It is arguably a more refined and well-designed game than 2e.

D&D 3rd edition received bad feedback and was quite soon updated to 3.5, which was a bugfix. I own no Dungeon Master Screen and when I looked for one online it was (almost) half the price of the entire 5.0 giftbox. It really fealt a bit awkward to start buying stuff for (the hated) 3.0. The good thing with 3.0/3.5 was that it was quite complex, detailed and allowed for customization. This was also its downfall: too much customization lead to too much imbalance (I have read). If I owned the Dungeon Masters Screen of 3.0, I might actually just have sticked with it, and never learnt or bothered about why it sucked. I think if you want a very epic campaign (much magic, powerful Characters) and you like complexity (a step towards Rolemaster), 3e (or 4e/Pathfinder) is perhaps the best for you.

A&D 4e and Pathfinder are games I did not own, so it made no sense to buy them instead of 5e.

D&D 5e

To me it seems D&D 5e is a good balance between AD&D 2e and D&D 3/3.5.

  • I like that spellcasters have Cantrips and more spells from the beginning (compared to 2e)
  • I like the idea of simple/martial weapons, and small, medium, light, versatile, finesse weapons, and I understand why this was made less complex than in 3.5
  • I like the advantage/disadvantage concept
  • I like that all spells are written for “any class”, and that just the spell lists are different (so the spells are effecively reused)
  • I like the way sorcerors, wizards and warlocks adminstrate their spells differently, and that players can choose “their style”
  • I like that armors and weapons are not so “forbidden” for the wrong class (proficiency is smart)
  • I like that saving throws are simplified to be based on ability (not the arbitrary poison, petrification and so on in older versions)
  • I like that all classes level equally fast (at the same XP levels)
  • I like backgrounds and feats (missing in 2e, and too much in 3e)
  • I like that skills are simpified – and made more relevant – compared to 2e (and that the list is short)
  • The concept with Short and Long rests, and that many things depend on it, is very smart (although, you can argue whether they should be longer, but that is easily up to you as DM)

My players like 5e too! And they like DNDBeyond. Perhaps we will pay to use it one day. But I guess… as DM I have unlimited power when it comes to the world, monsters, NPCs and even the rules. But when it comes to DNDBeyond – I have no power there.

Method to assign abilities in D&D

A key part or creating a character in any roleplaying game is to roll (buy or assign) abilities (or stats, or whatever they are called). In D&D there are 6 of them, and the basic idea is that you roll 3d6 for each and get 6 values in the range [3,18].

Abilities follow the Character forever so they do matter. Even if you are not into Character optimization, it is often more fun if your Character does not suck and if there is a level field.

Rolling

There are different ways to roll 3d6 in a way that it gives decent results. D&D 5e suggests rolling 4 dice ignoring the worst (and it is a good method). The problem with rolling is that given any method there are better and worse outcomes. And there are outcomes that are more or less suitable for a given class (or type of Character). In the end, if the player is not happy he may just decide to start over, and nobody wants unhappy players before the game even starts.

Buying / assigning

In order to avoid endless rerolls, and that some Characters genuinely and forever are better or worse from day 1, there are many ways to buy/assign stats. D&D 5e suggests two methods, both allowing abilities in the range [8,15]. To me, that is a bit dull.

I have seen other games or methods where characters end up with 18,18,18,5,3,3 and such stats. That is quite ridiculous.

Proposed Method

I suggest you assign values from a given standard range, and then apply “buffs” to them (5, or at your DMs choice).

Standard value   7    9   11   12   14   16
Modifier        -2   -1    0   +1   +2   +3
Buff            ---- +2 ----   ----- +1 ------

What this means is that 1 buff (of 5) can raise the one of the low values (7,9,11) two steps, which gives it a better modifier. However, to get a better modifier with one of the higher values you need two buffs. Also, getting 18 is possible, but only for one single ability.

I think it is reasonable that Characters can have som bad abilities and some strong abilities, and this enables modifiers from -2 to +4.

Compared averages

Different methods have different averages.

   3d6                     10.5
   4d6 (ignore worst)      12.2
   2d6+6                   13.0
   D&D 5e standard range   12.0
   Proposed Method        ~12.7  (12.5 with 4 buffs)

Best Train Simulator 2019

I have some personal enthusiasm for trains, and last years part of that has been playing Train Simulator on PC. That is the game that used to be called Railworks and that currently is named Train Simulator 2019. While I have spent much time with it I also have mixed feelings.

In 2019 there are two alternatives to TS2019 that I have tested and that I will write about: Train Sim World and Trainz Railroad Simulator 2019.

My experience with Dovetail Train Simulator (2019)

I got Train Simulator because I wanted to try to drive trains. The game has developed over the years but there are some annoyances.

The game has some quirks and bugs. The physics, engines, wagons, signals, AI and scenario conditions sometimes don’t work in a way you would expect.

The game is also rather unforgiving. One little mistake can ruin a scenario so you can’t even continue. If that was passing a red light, ok. But sometimes I am just a little late, a little early, I connected or disconnected the wrong wagon, I went into the wrong siding or something like that.

The combination of bugs and being unforgiving is rather frustrating. When there is a little inperfection in the game I can perhaps accept the lack of good simulation experience, but if it ruins the scenario completely, it is worse.

The game has a competitive aspect (it is a game) where you drive scenarios and get scores. This is particularly unforgiving. Decouple a wagon and for some reason (bug?) I get “operational error”, being penalised with -750 points (1000 is max), and I have no choice but aborting the scenario. Also, speeding is penalised heavily. This is annoying for two reasons: first the time table is often ridiculously tight, second it is not uncommon that maximum allowed speed changes unexpectedly.

You can read about the outdated graphics of TS2019 and that is true, but it does not ruin my experience. You can read about all the expensive DLC, but that is your choice (I bought some, but most everything on sales). What I find more annoying is that I buy a nice piece of DLC and it comes with very few scenarios. That is where the (Steam) workshop comes in and there are quite many scenarios (of varying quality) do download.

I found that creating scenarios was often more fun than driving myself and I have contributed some 44 scenarios on Steam Workshop. If driving is quirky, creating scenarios is kind of black magic (the problem is I need to test it, and when it fails after 40 minutes, I need to guess whats wrong and drive again for 40 minutes until I know if it works – a horrible development and debugging experience).

It seems to me it would be very possible to deliver a better Train Simulator game!

On Realism

It is easy to talk about realism. But is it really what we want. My experience…

  • Some routes allow for long eventless sessions. That is the realistic truth about driving a train, but how entertaining is it?
  • A real challenge when driving a train is breaking and planning your breaking. The weight and length of the train matters, as long as other factors. In the real world a train engineer makes calculations about breaking distances. They are not going to be driving a new train, with unknown weight, on a new track on a tight time schedule. Yet in a train simulator this is what we do, because we want (much) variation (it is a somewhat boring game anyways).
  • A real engineer knows the line well, and has special physical documentation about the line available. And he has studied this before. You don’t do that in a train simulator.
  • A real engineer spends much time checking things like breaks and wheels. And there is much waiting.
  • You can have a realistic “regulator”, that you can operate in the locomotive cab. That will look realistic in one way. But a real engineer would not point and look at it with a mouse, he just happens to have his hand there in the first place. User-friendly, where man-machine becomes one, is good simulation to me.
  • Real(istic) timetables are good, but not when it is almost impossible to arrive on time in the simulator.

My point is that I don’t want a realistic simulator. I want a simulator that gives me the feeling I am driving a train. And I want the time I spend with my computer to be more eventful, entertaining and challenging that the average work hour of a train engineer. And also somewhat more forgiving and I want support with things that are easier in the real world.

Train Sim World

Train Sim World is produced by the same company (Dovetail) as Train Simulator 2019. It appears they thought of it as a replacement for Train Simulator 2019, but it also appears that for now the games exist side by side. It is not clear that Train Sim World will ever replace, or even survive, Train Simulator 2019.

The good:

  • It looks (the graphics) better than the alternatives.
  • It may be the most “polished” option (also available for Playstation and Xbox, which gives you a hint).
  • If you get a “package” at discounted price on Steam (EUR25 for 4 routes) it is quite good value.

The bad:

  • It does not look that good; it is still computer graphics with obvious artifacts and problems. Also, the sound is not too convincing and the surroundings are pretty dead.
  • Walking around (in the scenarios) does not appeal to me, and it is not well made enough to add to the realism of the game.
  • Menus are a bit messy.
  • Quite limited number of scenarios, but plenty of “services”, but I think that contributes to (even) less events, action and storytelling.
  • The routes seem small, and very little action or room outside the mainline (like very linear).
  • Occational glitches like “what do I do now”, “what happens next” or “how do I do that”? (driving a service, I was done, told to get off, the train drove away by itself with no visible driver or no comments, and then nothing… had to just quit).
  • It lacks something. Like its not a bit dirty, noisy and rough… but just too smooth and clean.
  • So far, no possibility for user generated content. It is promised, and it will be based on Unreal, so it seems to be very technically demanding. I myself would prefer to be able to make scenarios with a story easily, without changing anything about the route or the other assets at all.
  • Unreal (which is to thank for the better graphics) seems to be a more complex (expensive) development environment, and perhaps this will limit in the future the availability or routes and assets, and make the price high (pure speculation).

I did give Train Sim World a first try, wrote a very negative review, refunded it, but after a few weeks I gave it a new try, and now I have a more balanced opinion about it.

Trainz Railroad Simulator 2019

Years ago I obviously did research and opted for Train Simulator rather than Trainz. Now that I was a bit disappointed with Train Simulator and rather disappointed with Train Sim World I felt I had to give Trainz 2019 a try.

My expectations based on marketing and what I read was:

  • Better graphics than Train Simulator, but perhaps not as good as Train Sim World.
  • More creator-, community- and sharing oriented (which appealed to my preference to making scenarios).
  • It’s a railroad simulator, rather than a train driver simulator.

I must say right away that I am quite disappointed. I ended up paying EUR 70 for Trainz, and EUR 25 for Train Sim World, and that does not reflect the value of what I got.

Download Station

Trainz comes with “its own Steam Workshop, Download Station”. This is the worst part of it. Hundreds of assests, organised alphabetically, with virtually no filtering and no community/feedback/rating function. Unless I completely missed something, this is shit. My use case is that I want to see if someone created a nice 30 min session for one of the premium routes that came with my purchase (and that has no extra dependencies). Trainz seems to live in the world where people download zip-files from ftp-servers and spend the effort of maintaining their virtual asset library like the stock portfolio. I am tempted to make a few sessions myself, and sharing them here, on my blog, but why?

Graphics

There is something idyllic, picturesque, beautiful and friendly about Trainz that is missing in Train Simulator and Train Sim World. There are gorgeous screenshots from Trainz out there. But when it comes to actual game performance on my actual computer (a NUC Hades Canyon) Trainz is the worst. I have been spending not so little time optimizing my graphics settings (and there are many settings to play with).

Quality

To my disappointment the routes come with quite few sessions. The beatiful route from Edinburg to Aberdeen (perhaps just to Dundee) has two sessions: a passenger service with the same Deltic locomotive going both ways. These two scenarios both take 1h30min each to drive. And the one I did try did not work in CAB (realistic) drive mode, because for some reason the Deltic can not pull those wagons with any speed whatsoever. Isn’t it reasonable to expect when a new EUR 70 release is made after 7 years, that the sessions are tested at least once, and working?

Then there was another beautiful session on the Cornish mainline where a 2MT steam locomotive pulls ~25 freight wagons and it just can’t make it up the grades. I asked in the forum and I had managed to get further than most people, but the suggestion was to just try another locomotive (edit the session). Why release a session with the wrong locomotive in the first place?

If driving steam locomotives in realistic mode can be a challenge in Train Simulator (often a frustrating one), in Trainz it feels… not realistic. Perhaps I need more practice, but it is very… unsmooth.

Other things

There is no support for a Gamepad (although I found a little software called AntiMicro) which works decently well for my purposes.

I really miss the look-out-throw-the-side-window camera view.

I appreciate that I can see the status of the next signal in the HUD.

When I have completed a session it does not remember (marked as completed) so I made my own list

A good thing about Trainz is that it is more forgiving than Train Simulator. I ran out of boiler pressure, but then I could switch to simple driving mode and at least complete the session.

I get the feeling that for people who already own and love the old Trainz this is an upgrade. But for a new player it is a rough experience.

Conclusion and recommendation

Unfortunately I think none of the games I have written about live up to the expections you should allow yourself to have in 2019. And I am not aware of a better game in the genre.

Clearly this genre appeals to enthusiasts who want to make their own assets and modify the game, and clearly Train Simulator and Trainz are based on old technology that have not aged too well (and people are reluctant to abandon their assets). Train Sim World, being based on Unreal, has not been able to deliver a workshop- or sharing-experience at all, yet.

If you are curious about how it is to drive a train, get Train Sim World (and an Xbox controller if you get it on PC, I know nothing about the Playstation/Xbox experience). Sit comfortably, turn up the volume, have some coffee (or whatever you drink) and do your best to enjoy the experience. Spend time with the tutorials and dont get too frustrated if you get stuck.

If you want to have your own digital train layout, and play with it (dispatch and control multiple trains), get Trainz, and make sure to have a powerful enough computer.

If you think that Steam workshop is a nice idea where you can share scenarios (and other assets) and communicate with other people about them get Train Simulator 2019. Cost/price aside, there are very many routes (and extra locomotives) available for Train Simulator 2019.

Train Simulator 2019 now supports 64-bit mode. Technically its not… hot… but it is being improved. Train Sim World looks better, but it is not that much better. Honestly, folks who make a living reviewing computer games say: “TS2019 looks so old, but TSW is built on Unreal like all the other cool games, much better.” But for your total train simulation experience, the difference is… marginal.

I would not be too surprised if the Train Sim World Editor never happens. If it is released I would not be surprised if it is too complex and a critical portion of contributors and enthusiasts never switch. The advice to enthusiasts to “Download the UE4 Editor from Epic and start learning”, I am sceptical about it. I doubt I will contribute scenarios if I have to get into a real 3D studio to place some trains and make some timetables/rules.

I would hope that Trainz gets a real workshop experience where you can easily share assets in a social way and where you don’t need to worry too much about dependencies. And I would hope that Trainz manages to polish their game, test it properly, and provide a solid graphics experience.


Train Sim World Review

I have been playing Train Simulator (up to 2019 just recently) for some years and I have mixed feelings for it. So I decided to try the “successor” Train Sim World. I will get straight to the point and say that I requested a refund from Steam after 104 minutes (despite getting the Digital Deluxe edition at 55% discount). Perhaps you may think I can not properly judge a game after just 104 minutes? Perhaps 104 minutes was more time than I should have spent.

The Graphics
The big thing about Train Sim World is supposed to be its state-of-the-art Unreal 4 graphics engine, compared to the “outdated” engine of Train Simulator. I think… it looks better, but not that much better. I think TS2019 with a decent GPU and 64-bit-edition looks pretty decent. And TSW did not look that amazing. But that was not the problem…

1st person perspective
In TSW you can walk around. You can enter and exit your locomotive. Thats ok, but I don’t really care. However in the first Scenario (Great Western Express) I had to take a local service to Paddington. So I had to, in game, spend 10 min on a commuter train. I could not figure out how to sit down, so I could not really look out through the windows and enjoy the view. And the interior of that commuter train was not amazing and there were some reflexes (I guess) that gave pretty ugly artifacts. It took me 20 minutes in a mostly empty commuter train and walking around in a mostly empty Paddington station until I was actually in my drivers seat. Not fun.

The Driving UI
The view from the drivers seat looks good. Both in TS and TSW there are basically four ways to do (the most common) things:

  1. Using the mouse to click/drag in the HUD
  2. Using the keyboard
  3. Using an Xbox gamepad
  4. Using the mouse/pointer to manipulate the actual instruments, buttons and levers in the cabin.

This is listed in the order I learnt it in Train Simulator. The HUD was easy to start with but not too comfortable. The keyboard was more comfortable and the gamepad even more so. For long relaxed drives I sit back using the gamepad. But for intense and precise shunting operations I bring out the mouse. I never really bothered with #4.

But #1 does not work in TSW. The HUD is view-only. So there is no button on the screen that clearly loads/unloads passengers. You have to click TAB to get a menu in the middle of the screen. I think it was great in TS that there was a simple control-with-mouse interface at the bottom of the screen that had everything I needed! Then I could use keyboard, gamepad or the cabin buttons as I preferred.

TS had an interactive and useful HUD at the bottom of the screen. And a task menu to the left that could be opened when needed. But TWS clutters the forward, outward, view with information. It is not pretty. The markers (for speed and signal color) completely destroy the beautiful view. You can turn it off but you need that information somewhere. You can get it in the HUD, but it shows up covering the landscape outside.

Its possibly I spent too little time with the new UI. But I really didn’t like it. And it was hard to use and learn.

Scenario Tasks
For some reason you can not see all your tasks from the beginning. What is that!? Isn’t the train driver supposed to know the timetable in advance to be able to plan ahead? And I did have problems completing tasks. In the EM2000 freight scenario “Aggregate Industries” I was supposed to activate Slow Speed Control. Not only was it unheard of, and I needed to find a little button with the right tooltip (not knowing if I am in a hurry or not), but clicking the button never completed the task and I could not complete (or even begin, actually) the scenario.

Scenarios and Services
The Great Western Express DLC comes with 3 locomotives and 5 scenarios! Perhaps more can be unlocked, but what is that? On the other hand there are very many “services”, being able to run any train on the time schedule. Thats ok, but then no information about duration or difficulty.

Conclusion
Well, this was just some of my impressions. But I was disappointed and frustrated after almost two hours with TSW and I feel relieved that my refund was accepted.

Since TSW is also for consoles (Xbox, PS) I would have expected a nice, smooth, beautiful, polished driving experience where I could relax with my gamepad and see, hear almost feel the power of the engine and the landscape flying by. Instead I got a slow boring confused first-person-shooter-experience where I felt lost in a runaway train.

NUC Hades Canyon Review

Computers don’t have to be large anymore. Apple has the MacMini and the MacPro is also very compact. You can get a long way with a Raspberry Pi nowadays. And I particularly like Intel NUCs.

How about gaming? Occationally I play Windows games (using Steam) that require a gaming computer. I needed to replace my old gaming computer (an Intel i5 2450 @ 3.1GHz I think, with a Radeon 9000 graphics card) and decided to give the gaming NUC a try, the Hades Canyon, or NUC8i7HVK.

Its a barebone machine the size of a broadband router so I needed to get an M.2 SSD (500GB) and RAM (2x8GB) and I installed Windows 10 on it (the natural choice for gaming, and I have heard this NUC is not working well with Linux).

Well, after a week with this machine I like it. Installation was smooth. It looks quite good and it is very small. Most of the time it is completely silent. Sometimes during gaming the fans spin up, but it does not sound worse than my old desktop (quite the opposite, I would say). It is obviously not the most powerful gaming machine but it replaced my old machine with no trouble.

Well, for benchmarks and details, read a “real” review.

I am satisfied with the Hades Canyon as a gaming computer. It will be interesting to see if I am happy with it in a few years, or if it turns out to have a short service life.

Review and Strategy: Railway Empire

I have much enjoyed playing Railroad Tycoon II and Railroad Tycoon 3. In a way I prefer the quite refined 2D graphics of RTII to the quite crude 3D-graphics of RT3 but RT3 has an economic model that is more interesting (although far from perfect). Over the years I have waited for Railroad Tycoon 4 and instead I have found games like:

  • Cities in motion
  • Transport Fever
  • Sid Meiers Railroads

They all have their charm and qualities but none of them aspire to be the successor of Railroad Tycoon.

Railway Empire
Then came Railway Empire. I have played it during closed beta and as I write it is still in beta. Railway Empire is a candidate to be the defacto successor of Railroad Tycoon so I will write about different aspects of it.

Graphics
The graphics is nice. It is cartoonish rather than realistic – Railroad Tycoon (esp II) had a more serious look – but its ok with me. The ride-along-mode is quite nice.

Controls
I understand Railway Empire is designed not only for computers but also for gaming consoles. For this reason things are large and quite simplified. You don’t get large tables of facts and statistics and it is more about clicking, sometimes a click or two more than what you want. I think it works well.

Time and speed
This kind of game needs to deal with time. On one hand a train on a line could do several roundtrips on a single day, based on a realistic time table. On the other hand the game should progress day by day or month by month while the trains beautifully cross the landscape. I think Railway Empire gets this quite right. The trains accelerate quite fast and it does not take too many days for them to reach their destination. If I remember correctly, in Transport Fever it takes annoyingly long time to arrive. I have not started up RTII/RT3 to compare, but I think in Railway Empire trains typically return in weeks rather than months (as in RTII/RT3).

A much debated thing is the tactical pause. As it is now the game has three modes:

  • Trainiac: no pause (with a few exceptions): +20% score
  • Normal: game paused when building
  • Manual: can pause whenever you want: -20% score

I personally prefer the Manual mode. I start up a new scenario, listen to the introduction, read the tasks and investigate the map before I start building anything. I don’t want this to take 6 months when the first tasks are to be accomplished in 2 years. Of course I can study the map, take notes, make a game plan and then restart the game but to me that just adds the feeling of cheating. I play Railway empire to relax, not to be stressed.

Nevertheless I can see that the absense of pause makes the game more challenging. Perhaps when I replay the same scenario in the future I can try one of the faster modes.

So I think the three modes are fine.

Rail network mode
There is a simplified mode where several trains can run on a single track. I am not interested in that and I have used the realistic mode that requires signals, where you can get deadlocks and trains can block each other.

Building
Laying tracks is enormously improved since RT3. Without going into detail you can place several segments and see the cost and the inclines. Then you can adjust the curves and height, creating new cuttings, viaducts and tunnels and get a new price in real time. If you are happy you can click $ and you are done. No need to build, delete and start over (or even make tactical saves as in RT3).

Each station can have up to 4 through tracks and each town can have 2 stations. Then there can be (any number of) warehouses also with 4 tracks. So a large city with one warehouse may have 24 outgoing tracks. This works quite well. You can build viaducts and tunnels and the game is quite forgiving. The station itself is just the platforms and you need to extend it far out in the surrounding landscape with parallell tracks for incoming and outgoing trains to avoid queues and deadlocks.

When you have many parallell tracks the switches and curves take more space than would be optimal. There are no crossings. It wouldn’t surprise me if these things get improved before the final version.

In conclusion you can do things you only dreamt of in RT3.

Routing and signalling
One of the most significant changes from RTII/RT3 is the signalling system (not very different from Transport Fever). The important thing to understand is that every train has one exact route that it will not divert from ever (unless you change it), meaning:

  • There is no such thing as available platform (train will wait for its assigned platform to be free)
  • There are no train priorities (in most cases it would have no relevance)
  • The train will take the shortest route (which may not be what you want)

The signalling system is not trivial. I would not be able to explain how it would work in every situation but I  have come up with ways to use it that works for me. The trains pass a signal if the section (until next signal) is free unless it is entering a single track that already have another train coming in the opposite direction. But it is possible to produce deadlocks.

Generally more trains mean more waiting. If you get to the point where you have deadlocks you probably have far too many trains. A lot of the time you increase capacity by making sure the trains you have already deployed easily can get to their destinations rather than deploying more trains on already busy tracks.

In conclusion the signalling system works beatifully but you need to practice a bit before you master it. When I have read other guides it seems other players use the signalling systems in ways I dont.

Town Growth
Each town has demands. Small towns demand small quantities of basic goods (such as wheat). Larger towns also demand more delicate goods (such as vegetables) or manufactured goods (such as furniture).

This means that when you supply a small town with everything it needs it will quickly grow. But then it will start demanding things you are not transporting there and it will stop growing.

Industries transform goods (like wheat) into other goods (like beer). Industries are located in towns and adds to the towns demand. What they produce will be consumed locally (if demanded) and you can also transport the surplus to other towns (where demanded).

Express Goods
Passengers and Mail (express goods) are very easy to deal with. They have a final destination and they will find their way through your network changing trains in intermediate stations. What I lack from RT3 is the map that shows where most passengers are waiting and where they are going (to identify and mitigate bottlenecks).

Freight Goods
Freight is the key to growth and growth is a more important part of Railway Empire than it was to RTII/RT3. I found the freight mechanism confusing at first and it resembles both RTII and RT3 but it is also different.

Local resources (like a wheat farm) can ship limited amount of goods (like wheat) by road to closely located towns. Apart from that there is no goods moving without trains and no and market prices as in RT3.

  • Goods (like beer) produced in one town will be stored/consumed where produced but never transported elsewhere (except by train).
  • Towns that don’t manufacture a type of goods will store it for local consumption only. You can only unload what is demanded. And you cannot load what is unloaded.

Imagine a line with three stations:

  1. A wheat farm
  2. A town with a brewery (demanding wheat)
  3. A town (with demand of wheat)

If you make a simple train go 1-2-3-2(-1) most likely no wheat will ever make it to town 3. Not until you have completely filled up the storage capacity of wheat in town 2 any wheat will make it to town 3.

There are several ways to deal with this like warehouses and manual freight mode (where you configure a train to load/unload exactly what you want). However the best solution is often to simply run a dedicated train directly from 1 to 3 (and combine with other duties if possible/needed).

Congestion
Eventually you will end up with congestion: several trains waiting in line to access the same platform. At this point, adding more trains will do more harm than good.

The obvious solution is to add more platforms and send the trains to different platforms (largers stations also serve trains faster).

But you also need to consider how efficiently you use your platforms. In a busy station the following scenarios are listed from worst to best:

  1. A train arriving, delivering nothing, getting serviced, loading nothing
  2. A train delivering and loading a few wagons
  3. A train passing through
  4. A train unloading all wagons, leaving empty
  5. A train unloading all wagons and loading a full train

This is why manual freight mode is subotimal: arriving with 8 wagons, delivering two loads, loading two wagons and leaving is wasteful utilization of platform capacity. For the same reason, long express (or mixed) goods lines calling at every station is not very optimal if most passangers or goods just go through.

Mostly the cause of congestion and your bottlenecks are your stations not your lines.

Warehousees
A warehouse has 4 tracks and can store goods but it does not belong to a town. In theory if you set things up in a good way you can have full freight trains going from a warehouse into a town with what the town demands and then return fully loaded with manufactured goods to the warehouse where the train gets serviced (maximizing platform utilization in the town itself). You can think of the warehouse as 4 extra tracks that occupy just on track in the town-station itself. In practice this is not very easy.

I have tried to set up warehouses that I fill with basic goods (wheat, corn, lumber, vegetables, fruits, milk). The problem is that wheat is demanded first. So trains will leave the warehouse for large cities that demand all the goods stored fully loaded with wheat only (until the town has reached maximum wheat stocks). This will leave the large city somewhat unsatisfied. Worse, your warehouse will perhaps run out of wheat and your smaller towns will get nothing (because they dont even demand vegetables, fruits and milk which the warehouse is full of).

My conclusion is that as long as you can supply a town with full train loads of anything it is better to go directly from the source(s) to the town. Often you can make a line like:

  1. A-town
  2. Corn farm
  3. Wheat farm
  4. B-town

If you run a train 1-2-3-4-3-2(-1) you get decent utilization. However, you may want to leave A-town and B-town empty, and perhaps you want to load only 4 wagons in the first farms both ways (otherwise B-town will get mostly corn). Even though the above route is nice it could make more sense to do 2-1-2-4-3-1-3-4.

Buying the competition
In RT you were a major investor in your own company. You could pay out dividend and you also received a salary. This money you could invest in your own company or in the competition. Eventually you (as investor) could buy out the competition. However your company could not buy stocks.

This is different in Railway Empire. You – your character – control your company but you can not buy stocks (or receive dividends). Your company can buy stocks in the competition (and they in yours). You can not buy stocks in your own company (it simply would not make any sense to do so).

You may take over (merge with) your competitors by buying 100% of their stocks. And they can take over your company the same way.

I would have wanted to be able to take over a company and let it operate as before, just not expanding. And perhaps being able to transfer industries to my own company. However, what happens when you take over a competitor is that all their trains are sold, tracks and stations are left empty. The good thing is that it makes it reasonable straight forward to set up your own lines and name them the way you want. The bad thing is that it is a lot of work. You have the option of simply liquidating everything receiving cash instead.

Locomotives
Railway Empire has quite many diffent locomotives to choose from and they become available as you research them.

Growing Stations
Stations usually start out small and grow with more lines and trains. This is what I typically do.

1. A single track allowing for a single train to one other station in the east.

2. Double track to the east connected to a single platform. Notice how I already prepared the double track on the south side to continue into the station should it grow. This will allow for future through traffic. If on the other hand I know there will be no through traffic I would place the double track north instead, allowing for more room for eastbound tracks connected to new south platforms.

3. Now I have double track also to the west. No through traffic possible.

4. Now through traffic is possible, as well as trains terminating in Salina from both east and west.

5. Finally, if there is much through traffic and also traffic from the east terminating in Salina I use track #1 (westbound) and #2 (eastbound) for through traffic, and #4 for terminating traffic. Notice that the longer the yard is the less risk for congestion. If you in my example have 3 trains queueing to get to #3 there is a risk that they will block a through train, even though #1 is free.

Intersections
Often two lines need to merge into one line and you can do this in different ways depending on ambition and expected traffic.

1. If you have a double track with a single track going to a station (typically a farm/resource) this works fine. However if multiple trains go to the farm one will wait in the mainline (blocking it) if the farm is busy.

2. The standard way to deal with two double tracks merging is seen below. Note that if the track to the north is the busiest this will cause waitings.

3. For practical this is often good enough (and very simple).

4. The below is an alternative when it comes to splitting the line from the east into two lines with equal priority. The extra complexity offers no advantage to #2 above.

5. This way two trains can meet either E/W or E/N with no train stopping.

6. If you are really serious about avoiding blocking/waiting you can invest in a viaduct. However it costs more and you may lose time because the track is longer and with a significant incline.

In all the above pictures only one-way signals are displayed. You need more signals to allow trains to run closely after each other. As you notice as soon as I have double track I use right hand one-way traffic.

Single Track
Although the price of double track is less than twice a single track often it makes sense to start with a single track. You then need sections were trains can pass (unless you have a single train). This is how I do it, to very easily be able to upgrade to double track later. Notice that those are the only two signals I have. I have seen other screenshots with more signals but I have experienced deadlocks.

If your single track line joins a double track main line, the passing section should be as close as possible to the main line to minimize waiting. The single track is to the north in the picture below.

Single Tracks and Stations
If you have two stations with a line between them the passing section needs to be between them. It makes no sense to have double platform stations.

If you have three stations with a line the middle station can serve as passing section as well.

However, in practice you would probably make the track longer on one side to place a supply tower.

It is generally a bad idea to have through traffic (both ways) on a single platform, especially if some trains also terminate. If you have limited traffic you can have terminating traffic from both ends. And for a rural station with limited traffic you can save money by having passing sections on both sides of a single platform. You can always start cheap and expand later:

Summary
There is so much more to discover and talk about when it comes to Railway Empire! It may not be perfect, but it is certainly much better than RTII and RT3. I think this game will give me many hours of entertainment for the coming years.

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.

Flight-Assist Astromech

Finally, the fix for the X-wing has arrived. I have written before here and here about my thoughts on fixing the X-wing.

The Flight-Assist Astromech costs one point and lets you make a free barrel roll or boost, unless you have a target in sight and range.

I think it is a good and well balanced upgrade, with uses outside the T65 X-wing.

T65 X-wing
I think for low cost generic X-wings (Rookie Pilots at 21p) the Flight-Assist Astromech is the best upgrade (previous options were R2 and Targetting Astromech). Does it also bring the Rookie Pilot back to play? Well, I don’t compete. I think it compensates for the worst weaknesses of the X-wing in a sensible way. In the first round(s) of the game you can boost to keep up speed with T70 or other ships, and you have more options when it comes to arriving at the battle. The first round of fire it is more likely that the T65 is actually in the fight, and not behind or all enemies out of arc. In the battle you have now options to the 4-U-turn and you can re-engage quicker and more effectively.

I tried a list I call Return of the X-wing that you find here.

How about T65 aces (Luke, Wedge, Wes)? Having a high skill means your opponents fly first and you may not be allowed to use Flight-Assist. I can see situations where BB8 (however unique) would be better. No doubt Luke, Wedge and Wes are better Flight-Assist than without. The most obvious situation is a first/second round strike where a boost or barrel roll can make them just reach. I have not tried this yet.

Finally, Flight-Assist seems to be of no significant benefit to Biggs which was important.

T70 X-wing
The T70 already has boost. Targetting Astromech is great with its 3 red maneuvers while Flight-Assist is not. Also, Poe likes R5-P9 and Nien Numb likes R3-A2. I think the T70 still has many options.

Y-wing
Flight-Assist Astromech can specifically not be used with turret weapons. This makes it interesting to combine with BTL-A4 to produce a more dog-fighting capable Y-wing. I think this was a clever Y-wing upgrade!

ARC-170
I think the ARC-170 is perhaps the ship that benefits the most of Fligth-Assist. With a maneuver dial similar to the T65 and no turrets (unlike Y-wing) it can really use boost or barrel roll. But I think (after flying only once) that Flight-Assist works very well with the Auxilliary firing arc. Normally it is quite hard to make good use of the tail gun, but if you can boost or barrel roll to get your enemy behind you it is a different story. And later with a boost it is much easier to get back in the fight. I tried this with Norra in the 10th (and so far unnamed) Horton Salm squad.

E-wing
I doubt Flight Assist will bring the Generic E-wings to the tables. And when it comes to Corran Horn he can really use a regenerating Astromech (R2-D2 or R5-P9). Perhaps Etahn A’baht could use it though.

Conclusion
I think Flight-Assist is a very good upgrade (I hope it was not too good, because while I want an upgrade for my T65s I still want a balanced game). There are old Astromechs that become even less relevant now (R2-F2, R3, R5). I think Flight-Assist helps where it was mostly needed without just making T65 more like th T70.

Y-wing: Now, on top of my list, I want new unique Y-wing pilots. There are several to choose from within Star Wars Canon universe.
Z95: The headhunter needed this flight assistance just as bad as the T65 did.

10 most important X-wing upgrade cards

Starting to play X-wing Miniatures can be a challenge. There are quite many cards with quite different effects and to get best effect you want them to work well together or with your pilot. Where to start?

This list is written with a Rebel (Resistance) player in mind, but many cards are very useful for Imperial or Scum lists as well. It is also quite focused on classic A/B/X/Y-wing lists.

These are the 10 upgrade cards I recommend that you familiarize with. They are all quite straight forward to play.

10. Autothrusters
For ships that can use them Autothrusters is a very good defensive measurement (much better than Stealth Device I would say).

9. Advanced Sensors
Advance Sensors requires a little thinking. It allows you to do an action and a red maneuver (instead of no action). With Push The Limit it allows you to do two actions, a green maneuver, and have no stress afterwards. For B- and E-wings this can be very useful. (#9 on this list used to be Fire Control System which is easier to use).

8. BB-8 (Astromech)
Especially (T-65) X-wing high skill pilots (such as Luke and Wedge) can make very good use of BB-8.

7. Primed Thrusters (Tech)
This is T-70 X-wing only, and allows you too boost when you are stresed. Boosting after a red manuever allows you to position yourself in flexible and unpredictable ways. The alternative here is the slightly more expensive Pattern Analyzer which allows you any action, but just the round you get stress.

6. Targeting Astromech (Astromech)
The T-70 X-wings have 3 great red maneuvers. With Targeting Astromech you get a free target lock, and the price of a red manuever is very low.

5. Crack Shot (Elite)
A 1pt card that basically produces one extra damage once. I shield upgrade is 4p. You may have a better use for your Elite slot, but keep Crack Shot in mind, especially for A-wings who get two Elite slots (A-Wing Test Pilot) and just roll 2 red dice.

4. R3-A2 (Astromech)
To deal stress to whoever you target is usually very good. Look for pilots who can deal with stress (Nien Numb, Braylen Stramm).

3. Twin Laser Turret (Turret)
This is one of the most feared weapons in the Galaxy. 360 degrees, range 2-3, and very likely to cause 1-2 damage. Particularly good with Horton Salm (your opponent will kill him first).

2. Veteran Instinct (Elite)
Sometimes 2 extra skill makes all the difference, and 1pt is cheap. The problem is obviously that it occupies your Elite slot. Alternatively check out Adaptability for 0pt.

1. Push The Limit (Elite)
Allows you to do two actions (and get a stress). As long as you can make a green maneuver next turn that is fantastic (and you can keep pushing the limit). This is most useful for A-wings that have 4 actions to choose from and plenty of green maneuvers. Sometimes it is great for T-70 X-wings, B-wings and the Millenium Falcon (YT-1300 + Title).

Ship specific upgrades
Some cards are almost mandatory and thus not included above:

  • Integrated Astromech (X-wing)
  • Alliance Overhaul (ARC-170)
  • Chardaan Refit (A-Wing)
  • A-Wing Test Pilot (A-Wing)
  • Millenium Falcon (YT-1300)

If you fly the above ships, make sure you understand these upgrades.

Free upgrades
Some upgrades are free (except they use an upgrade slot) or saves cost. If your ship can take them, think twice before leaving them out.

  • Trick Shot (0p Elite)
  • Adaptability (0p Elite)
  • Guidance Chip (0p Modifications – missiles/torpedoes only)
  • Extra Munitions (2p – instead of second missile/torpedo/bomb)
  • Collision Detector (0p System)