A (very) short prologue
I do not have any history in tabletop gaming before getting involved in X-Wing.
SIDE NOTE! Actually, that’s not quite true, I used to collect Warhammer figures in my early teen years but after not investing any time at all into looking at how the game works I ended up just painting and displaying them. Apparently this means I used to be able to paint good. Dunno what happened there!
When I first picked up X-Wing tabletop gaming was very new for me. Different phases, funny shape dice, bits of cardboard to add/remove as necessary. Being totally honest, what really sold it to me most was my fanboy love for the beautiful little models. Before that the most hardcore gaming experience I’d had was playing Risk. After being persuaded by my son Cai to take a look at the game and thinking to myself ‘if my 11 year old can get it then I’m sure I can at least have a go’ I played a couple of games with a friend’s gear. And that was the thing, my 11 year old could pick the game up and play it. Sure, it was more complicated than other games (even Risk). Yes, some aspects of the game were totally new to us (rounds not turns, ships moving based on pilot skill, etc) but on the whole, a complete newbie could pick up a core set and be finding their way though the game with relative ease. I saw a comment on a Reddit post that around Wave IV of version 1.0 one of the selling points was that you could ‘pick up the game in 30 minutes’.
So here we are in this ‘new’ (well, 1 year old) era of version 2.0. How do things look? Well, in a word, different. Don’t get me wrong 1.0 definitely had it’s complications. There were many times a more experienced player pulled off some amazing move, cleared their stress, made me take one and still ended up with a billion tokens (that’s how it felt to me anyway!). But I suppose part of the appeal of the game is that at it’s most basic form (move, shoot, repeat) it can be grasped by children but also it has the capacity to spawn a highly passionate, competitive community who push the boundaries of combining ships, pilots and upgrades to produce combinations that the game designers had never considered (I mean, that’s why we have FAQ and errata documents, right? Because some genius found an exploit that the designers missed). It is a beautiful thing and the fact that the larger X-Wing community is always looking for the next ‘big bad’ or ‘meta monster’ (I may have just made that last one up. I quite like it though!) means that, combined with the ability to change points values, the game will never (or at least is less likely to) go stale.
Having said all that I have a concern.
Moving to 2.0 from 1.0 was not something I found easy. I am not a particularly fast learner. I need repetition and consistency and to refresh every now and then. That’s something that I know about myself and as such it means I can try to find the best way of learning something new that works for me.
In 2.0 there was lots of new stuff – Force, calculate, systems phase, linked actions, etc. This was stuff that I knew that over time I would pick up but the more I did it or was exposed to it, the more familiar it would get. In the excitement of starting out with a whole new version and maybe feeling a bit like I was on more of a level playing field (what with having EVERY pilot and upgrade in the conversion kits) I was ok with this.
Moreover there was stuff that I had to unlearn, things that were not just new but were different. Things like turrets now having to be moved (not just being automatically 360 degrees), evade tokens changing a result (not adding one) and how reinforce works. This was harder. Changing my mindset on how I would make new lists or how different considerations of what action I could take might alter how I should fly my list felt like a lot to take in. Especially combined with the brand new stuff.
Then when you factor in what new fandangled wizzardry your opponent might do? Being honest, I struggled a little.
So here we are 12 months on. We’ve got used to the new features, got our heads around changes to the existing ones and then…. a rules reference update! Yay! With some clarifications on interactions to prevent abuse of new things (I’m looking at you Nantex!) but in the mean time breaking some other things which were generally not seen as needing a change, in particular how the ability queue works. Being honest, I didn’t have a deep working understanding of the process of the ability queue before the rules update. After consuming 3 podcasts and 2 blogs I feel like I have some ‘head knowledge’ but would need to see it in practice before claiming to really understand.
Another issue I have is with how this information is delivered. If I wasn’t in several Facebook X-Wing groups, didn’t read blogs or listen to podcasts and just walked into a store and picked up a copy of the game I’d have no idea that some of the rules that were provided with my game didn’t really work like that any more. I mean, it’s mostly not a big deal but as a worst case can you imagine turning up to play your first proper tournament, starting the first game and being told 20 minutes in ‘no mate, it doesn’t work like that’ and then spend the next 6 hours having your list smashed to pieces because the new version of the rules that you never knew existed say you can’t do that special trick any more?
I know I’m being super extreme so before I go any further let me clarify a couple of things:
- The game is not broken
- I’m not sad
- I’m not quitting (and neither should you!)
- It isn’t a massive deal (even though it may look like I think it is)
I’m not intending having a rant here (even if it sounds like it!). One of my previous posts talked about why FFG moving from 1.0 to 2.0 was a good thing and one of the points in that was about the volume of updated rules, FAQ and errata that had grown out of control and now we see it in 2.0.
The point (and believe it or not I do have one and I am getting there!) I want to make here is not about the rules changes directly. There has already been an amazingly written blog by Stay On The Leader (which you can find here) which outlines the changes and give practical examples of what it does and doesn’t affect. Broadly speaking I agree with what’s changed and can see the benefit in it.
My point (finally, I hear you cry!) is more this – with all the new mechanics and rules in the game, is it putting off new players picking it up?
For example, where you once had one mechanic that worked in a particular way (let’s say focus), you now have 2 (focus and calculate). Where you previously had one mechanic to penalise a ship (stress), you again have 2 (stress and strain) (although you could argue that ion, tractor and jam are also this kind of effect. Bear with me here!). Thematically I understand. A droid can’t focus like a real life pilot, it crunches numbers instead. I 100% get it. But is the game getting too complicated for it’s own good?
In the next wave new card packs are being released with brand new pilots for existing ships (and I REALLY want to see X-Wing or even A-Wing Tycho Celchu and an X-Wing, force user Corran Horn. I can but hope!) which is great. Also coming soon? The ‘Never Tell Me The Odds’ obstacles pack with new obstacles, ways to play and interactions to learn. Something else? A Wave VI ship has a pilot which can assign a Depleted token. What is it? Nobody knows yet! But it’s another new thing mechanic to tack on to the ever growing list.
I guess that the numbers you’d need to find out for sure would be near impossible to find. You’d need to compare how many 1.0 players decided not to transition to 2.0 against how many players have started to play in the last year and have only heard about ‘the fabled 1.0 nonsense’ from us ‘old hat’ players. Every club will have a general feel though and I have to admit that in the year since 2.0 launched, my FLGS (JARGON ALERT!) has seen more new players join than who have left (and some, for varying reasons, sadly have). Where we sometimes got maybe 2 players down on some Wednesdays we now regularly get 10-12, maybe half of which have started since 2.0 (though I may need to check those numbers exactly). How much of this can be attributed to the new release? Who knows. Would they have come anyway even if 2.0 wasn’t a thing? We may never know. Hypothetical answers, eh? Who needs ’em!
I’ll be honest, having spent some time writing this (and not having another blog to post this week!) I almost haven’t posted it. I felt like it’s a bit too negative and whiney. Generally I am a positive person and don’t focus on the negative but here’s the thing. Well, two things.
First, I’m allowed to have an opinion. These are my thoughts spewed onto my keyboard and nicely formatted into paragraphs with some lovely pictures. I’m also allowed to change my mind and happy to be wrong. As I’ve said before, this blog is mostly for my own though processing.
Second, balance is good. Taking the good with the bad, rough with the smooth, etc. Having a balanced viewpoint is a rather important life skill. It’s easy to focus on only the good things but I also have to recognise that nothing and nobody is perfect. This also works the other way (i.e. not being too negative!).
Third, I love this game. I don’t want it die a slow and painful death as it bloats it’s way to an early grave. I want existing players to keep playing and for new players to pick up this brilliant game and get involved with a local community. Am I biased? Certainly but not without cause. Having read many a blog and spent countless hours listening to podcasts in the car I can indeed confirm that this game, by it’s very nature, creates community. It gives the opportunity for interaction and therefore the means to build relationship. Maybe I’m looking too deep (and I do feel that I’m starting to ramble a little, sorry! I’ll wrap this up soon!) but a sense of belonging is something that everyone needs but not everyone gets very easily. This game gives that chance to many who might otherwise miss out.
The rules have changed. Nothing too major (unless you really liked flying Finn I suppose?) and in time I will get my head around it. I guess I just think it’s pretty important to keep the game going and in that, we all have a part to play.
My apologies for the lack of detailed actual X-Wing content. Like I said above, you take the rough with the smooth! Sorry if you’ve read this far looking for some sort of game report or pictures of pew pew! If you’d like something to look forward to, I’m heading to game night this week so I’ll have an actual game to talk about. I may even remember to take pictures! Woohoo!