Welcome to the blog!
It’s been a pretty whirlwind week, hasn’t it! There’s rather a lot to say without having any individual games to look at (I mean, I have some but I think there’s enough to talk about without them…) so I’ll try and keep the intro short this week.
On a personal note, my fractured ankle is now ‘fully’ healed. This means I can walk (yay!) and drive (yay!) and am back in work (boooo!). I say ‘fully’ because it is still pretty swollen by the end of the day, it does still hurt to walk and I am still limping but at this point I’m mostly just hoping this goes away eventually over time.
In terms of X-Wing? Well, it’s been….. interesting. Actually that rather feels like an understatement. More on that in a minute I suppose.
!!!LAST MINUTE EDIT!!!
Unfortunately, some posts were made on Facebook last night that have sort of blown up. ALL of this was written before they appeared but I became slightly concerned that with tensions raised, this post might become a further point of contention.
That is the VERY last thing I want.
Saying that, as I go on to say below, these are my thoughts and feelings and I am perfectly entitled to have them and talk about them. I am also perfectly entitled to change my mind about them later based on experience and discussion. Polite, constructive discussion.
Before I begin I want to preface this post a bit. I’d originally started this post a few weeks ago as a ‘we need the new rules before the game dies’ sort of post, underlining why the (unnecessarily, in my opinion) long period of 6 months from first ‘tease’ to ‘rules imminent’ interspersed with small (but very incomplete) spoilers was doing very terrible things. In fact I was over 2500 words into that post before canning it (well, most of it) and writing this instead.
Then, literally while I was chatting via Messenger with Jordan Bishop (of the Tales of a Space Junkie blog) about what I was writing and speculating that the rules might drop when points came out for the new releases last week, I got a notification of a tweet by Atomic Mass Games with X-Wing in the text. Was this it? Had it happened?!
Indeed it had. New rules, scenarios, new points and errata were all there. AMG had finally done it.
But, what exactly had they done?
Before going any further, I’m going to need to ask something of you. You need to read some stuff. Need.
The very first thing and I really, REALLY mean the VERY first thing you need to do (if you haven’t already) is to read this article. I’m not asking you to agree or disagree with it but it MUST be read before looking at anything else.
Alright, now that we’re all on the same page with the same raw information, here’s the AMG X-Wing page with points and scenarios and all that other stuff we need.
LARGE DISCLAIMER HERE!!!! (yes James, that IS left in on purpose!)
As of publishing I have yet to take a deep dive into any of the documents further than a scan read. This blog is NOT a review or deep analysis of the changes (I’m sure there are plenty of blogs/vlogs/podcasts doing that), this is more of a commentary of my feelings and reaction on the impact of them. Does that make sense?
Last thing before starting fully (I promise!), this particular post has been written, edited, deleted and rewritten over the course of many weeks and then with even more increased intensity once the new rules and points dropped. I apologise now if parts don’t make sense or it feels disjointed.
Also (oh man, promise broken!), I was away this last weekend rather unexpectedly (in a good way!) and so I’ve not fully had the time I’d have liked to flesh this post out as much as I’d have liked, plus I am still processing a lot.
Ok, information disseminated, time to dig in.
The Arguments For 2.5…
Let’s start here shall we? Why is 2.5 even a thing? Well, it’s difficult to try and summarise everything the devs have said over the last few months. If you want details then it’s perhaps a good idea to check out some of the X-Wing related Twitch streams they’ve done since September (not easy to dig out unfortunately since they’re all titled the same…) but another option is to listen to this interview the devs did with the Fly Better Podcast back in January.
Since Asmodee handed ownership of X-Wing (as well as Legion and Armada) to AMG (Atomic Mass Games) from FFG (Fanatsy Flight Games) in November 2020 there had been little in the way of news or development aside from new releases that had been designed and implemented by FFG.
AMG’s only project up until that point had been Marvel Crisis Protocol. Now, I’ll freely admit that I know very little (ok, fine, nothing) about MCP. What I do know though is that it’s scenario based.
It makes sense, then, that the devs have this mindset and preference in how they play and design their games and that they would shift the overall vision of X-Wing to line up with their existing values.
Please excuse a small detour – it’s relevant, I promise.
Back in the days of my youth I really loved the X-Wing series of computer games (X-Wing, TIE Fighter, X-Wing Alliance, you know the ones). I had a joystick and throttle and loved the simulation of flying these iconic ships.
More recently, during my little lay off with the aforementioned broken ankle, I’ve played a little (although not as much as I would have liked!) of Star Wars Squadrons on Cai’s Xbox. Again, I’ve loved the cockpit view of getting up close and personal with TIE Fighters and Y-Wings and blowing things up.
One thing in particular (of many) that is common to all these games is that there are mission goals. Scan freighters, escort shuttles, take out specific targets, that sort of thing. There are very few missions which are simply ‘go and find fighter ships and blow them up’, at least, not only that.
And so, when you factor this aspect of play in with AMG’s track record with MCP, the introduction of scenario play in X-Wing makes sense.
So what are the benefits? Well, having read the update article I linked above AND having listened to a second interview that Fly Better did with the devs just before teh rules released, it seems to me to boil down to a few things.
Scenarios bring variety
Like them or loathe them, you can’t argue with this. It’s interesting hearing the devs talk about different ways to play them game we know and love. We have all ‘grown up’ on X-Wing being a PvP, ‘fight to the death’ (or final salvo…) style game. I personally am a tabletop gaming n00b. X-Wing is my first and only tabletop game (aside from some Warhammer when I was around 13 but I just liked the models, I never played it) and so I’ve got no point of reference with regards to how other games work.
Dogfights are cool but, as I mentioned above, I can totally see the appeal to some people of doing other stuff too.
Oh boy. Of all the things I was expecting from new rules, a TOTAL shake up of how points are scored and what ships ‘cost’ was NOT one of them.
Still, given how AMG had already demonstrated that objective scoring would work, I can see how the new points structure for ships fits well with it.
If I am closest to or have ownership of an objective, I score 1 point. If I destroy your 4 point ship, I score 4. First player to 20 wins the game. Easy.
The beauty of X-Wing from 2.0 onwards has been the ability to tweak things. Whether it’s points on ships or upgrades or adding/removing upgrade slots from certain ships or pilots, it was designed with flexibility baked in.
2.5 continues in the same vein. The loadout allowances for ships can be adjusted up or down and slots added and removed as needed. There’s also scope to add further scenarios, ban or restrict problematic cards and shift ships from extended to standard once ships that are currently only available as 1.0 models get a 2.0 (2.5?!) release (which AMG have confirmed that they are looking to do).
Zero* Financial Cost
*depending on how much you spend on printer ink
Unlike the jump from 1.0 to 2.0 (or when Warhammer release a new codex, or Pokemon has a new quarterly release), there is almost zero cost for this update. Nothing. Nil. Zilch. Nada.
For me, this shows that this isn’t a simple cash grab by Asmodee/AMG (when it totally could have been) but that the heart behind it is genuine. Clearly nobody is running a charity here and they will hope to benefit from ongoing sales of product. This leads me to think that the whole process that AMG have gone through here which, let’s face it, has the potential to totally blow up in their faces (more on that later), is actually happening because they genuinely believe that these changes will have a marked positive impact on the game.
Now at the same time you could argue that if they had the audacity to charge for upgrade/conversion/rulebook kits to force changes that some argue make the game worse and many would say were unnecessary that people would quite simply have laughed in their faces. Then again, I’m still in the ‘arguments for 2.5′ section right now… just.
The Arguments Against 2.5…
I’m going to preface this section just a little. On the whole I’m generally a pretty positive person. Glass half full, clouds and silver linings and all that.
Having said that, I do have some negative feelings and reservations and some of them are going to come out in this section. Please don’t judge me. At least until the end of the blog. It is going to feel pretty negative but that does NOT mean those are the only feelings I’m having.
There was a point in time (I don’t know when exactly but it’s a statement I’ve heard) that X-Wing was outselling Warhammer 40k. Since Warhammer has been going for a LONG while and is generally regarded as the market leader and biggest name in tabletop gaming, this was kind of a big deal.
The pandemic has had a hugely detrimental effect on many, many things and in my view, X-Wing is one of them. The community rallied and kept the game alive online and I believe that while many lost interest and have stopped playing it would have been far, far worse had online play not been a viable and user friendly option. This demonstrates to me that while the game may not currently have the level of sales it’s historically had, what is does have is a very loyal and committed player base.
While there may be niggles about certain aspects that could be improved (final salvo…) I’d say that, generally speaking, X-Wing 2.0 has been in a pretty good place for a while now. Yes, there may have been some degeneracy following points updates (*cough* Spamtex *cough*), overall the game feels fairly balanced and while the global meta (JARGON ALERT!!) has periodically settled on certain strong lists, for the most part there hasn’t been a ‘one list to rule them all’ that’s dominated without being dealt with in reasonably short order.
X-Wing 2.0 is good and fun and while in person play is still feeling it’s way back, good turnouts for in person AND online tournaments indicates that X-Wing is doing ok.
Which is why such hugely sweeping changes are surprising and confusing and are upsetting so many people.
So what are the arguments against the changes?
Right from the off you can tell that AMG knew that people would have a problem with the new squadbuilding method because they defend the move in just the second paragraph of their update article (referenced at the start. You read it, right? RIGHT?!!). And you kind of get the feeling they know it’s controversial because it totally flies in the face of one of the major changes (that was well received) from 1.0 to 2.0. In 1.0 squads were built to 100 points and pilot and upgrade values were printed on the card, fixed forever.
2.0 changed this by not only not omitting card values on the printed card but by doubling everything, effectively meaning that a 1.0 upgrade that was too good at 1 point but bad at 2 points could now be priced at the 1.0 equivalent of 1.5 points. 200 points to build and everything is roughly doubled in price meant that more delicate and precise changes could be made.
It certainly feels then like AMG changing the squad value to 20 points and dividing ship values by 10 is a massively backwards move. Of course, whether it is or not is something that is very subjective and can only be determined over time.
Staying with squad building….
Squad building confusion
What throws the whole ‘200 points down to 20 points’ change into slight confusion is that upgrade points are no longer included in that cost.
When I first opened the Ship Points document I have to admit that I just stared at it for several minutes, not knowing what the heck was going on. I’d read the update article already but I looked back at it and just switch between the two several times as I tried to make sense of it.
Upgrade points and ship points are no longer anything to do with each other. Whatsoever.
Now, listening to the devs on the Fly Better podcast I can sort of see where they’re coming from. Some upgrades are used more than others and they want stuff to be used. Ok, that’s fine.
So now I can pick what ships/pilots to fly, counting up to 20 and then….each ship can have upgrades (without increasing the ‘value’ of the ship in terms of how many points my opponent gets by killing it) BUT what upgrades it can take and how many is varied by each individual pilot’s loadout allocation?
I already mentioned that I don’t tabletop game outside of X-Wing and maybe this is my inexperience in this area showing through but for me, this is way more confusing than 2.0’s ‘build to 200’ squad building.
For starters, in the COMPLETE absence of an official squad builder app, as far as a new player is concerned, this all has to be done via PDF’s. Squad building has never been my favourite aspect of the game and online builders have gone a massive way towards making this bearable for me. While I’m not saying that PDF only puts me out of the game, it’s certainly enough of a pain that I could be put off playing. Thank God for 3rd party tools like YASB and Launchbay Next! Both are FREE and both were updated within HOURS of these new rules dropping, despite the total restructure. Absolute freaking heroes.
Secondly, with ‘good’ pilots and ‘bad’ pilots now having pretty disparate loadout values but being pretty close to each other in terms of ship value, I can’t immediately see any benefit in running the traditionally cheaper ships whatsoever. More on that in a minute.
Thirdly, surely this makes points balancing in general much harder? Again, maybe I’m wrong (and always happy to be proven to be) but tracking loadout vales and upgrade slots on each pilot (since they now vary wildly for different pilots on the same chassis) has got to be more work than 2.0 points, hasn’t it?
Considering that I’ve already seen some absolutely ridiculous squads posted in various places (with 2.5 legal squads valued at around 245 points in old money), I think that AMG will be pretty busy over the next few weeks or months simply balancing points when they could have been looking at new content.
Squad/Loadout points imbalance
Ok, let’s get onto the points themselves. The reduction of ship points by a general factor of 10 produces some interesting results
Blue Squadron Escort (4)
R5 Astromech (4)
Servomotor S-Foils (0)
Ship total: 4 Half Points: 2 Threshold: 3
Hera Syndulla (B-Wing) (6)
Fire-Control System (2)
Heavy Laser Cannon (4)
Ion Torpedoes (4)
Cluster Missiles (4)
Conner Nets (3)
Hull Upgrade (4)
Stabilized S-Foils (0)
Ship total: 6 Half Points: 3 Threshold: 4
Maybe this isn’t the best comparison since there is a 2 point difference in the pilots but what this underlines for me in particular is the ridiculous variation from generic to named pilot. If I was across the table from both of these ships, I know which one I’d be scared of.
Also, since Hera is the same value naked (JARGON ALERT!!) as she is with all those upgrades (as intended by AMG’s statement that they want to see more upgrades used), why wouldn’t you pick her and stack her up?
The question then actually becomes – why on earth would you bother taking any generic pilot? Like, ever? For example, initiative 5 Thane Kyrell (with 7 loadout points) has the same squad point cost (4) as the aforementioned initiative 2 Blue Squadron Escort (with 4 loadout points and ONLY an astromech slot)?
Taking named pilots and loading them up with things is fun, I get it. It’s fluffy (JARGON ALERT!!) and thematic and that’s cool. But while the intention seems to have been to get some of the lesser used upgrades out of the dusty old binders and into the table, it’ll be virtually every generic pilot from almost every ship that gets slipped into that same folder and forgotten.
Small back story here. My wife and I know a couple who are our best friends. We’ve known each other over 25 years, best man/bridesmaids at each other’s weddings, kids have grown up together, go on family holidays together, that sort of thing. Our ‘thing’ is that we play games. Board games, card games, whatever. Normally until a very silly time of the morning. We have an ongoing joke that my wife and one of our friends are the only ones who read rules of the games and that myself and the other friend will just wait until they’ve read and processed the rules, disagreed about them a little bit, re-read them properly and then we start.
I don’t find it easy to learn rules. I just don’t. My brain does not work that way, especially just by looking at words on a page.
I need to see how the game works. I need to do it, screw it up and try again. I’m not necessarily a slow learner but I am a visual one.
So when the new rules, points and scenarios all came out in HUGE PDF files I found it incredibly overwhelming. My gut reaction was to simply not bother, rely on other people to read and process them and just learn on the fly. I actually still haven’t done anything other than scan read the scenarios and haven’t opened the points PDF since I learned that YASB and Launchbay Next had been updated.
This issue is personal to me but I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this way. I feel that I’d been doing ok as a player and had a pretty good and confident grasp of the way the game works and now I’ve been knocked back to being a n00b again. Maybe this feeling will go away once I’ve tried it a few times. Hopefully.
“Before, when the game had no scenario play, it was very difficult for new players to understand what they were trying to accomplish while looking at the game.”
Look, I’m sorry. I like to think I’m a polite, nice person and I really dislike being negative or critical but in my personal opinion this quote is utter, utter (insert your own word here).
Since it’s inception (not that I played it from launch), X-Wing has been a dogfighting game. It’s PvP. Me vs you. Chess (2 player, positioning and strategy) crossed with Risk (strategy and dice) crossed with Poker (reading your opponent, risk & reward).
I take my stuff and I use it to try and destroy your stuff.
This game, at casual level. is played and understood by 7 year olds. Maybe younger.
Maybe it’s just a mindset thing for me but if anything, I’d personally say that scenario play complicates the game rather than simplifies it. Referring back to the quote above, in classic X-Wing, what am I trying to accomplish? Blow up stuff while not getting blown up and if we hit a certain time we count up and see who has blown up more.
In new X-Wing? Well, it depends on the scenario for starters. I need to get near things while also maybe shooting my opponent while maybe trying to not get shot. Although maybe I’m picking things up and taking them, while trying not to get shot. And maybe trying to shoot my opponent. I’ve got until 75 minutes to do it. Or 12 turns. Or until one of us scores 20 points.
I know the game isn’t hugely different in terms of using dials to move ships around and roll dice to decide if things get shot but it’s certainly enough change (in my view) to be a very different type of game.
Core set incompatibility
I know I’ve mentioned this before while talking about upcoming changes but I simply cannot let this go. AMG talk about bringing in new players but this whole system is INCREDIBLY new player unfriendly and I’m about to go off on one. Sorry in advance.
Imagine someone walking into their FLGS and spotting X-Wing for the first time. They pick up a core set and maybe a couple of other ships and head home, excited to try things out.
They open the boxes, read the included instructions and run through the escalation style tutorial game. They like it. They go online to find out more…
You search X-Wing and find Facebook groups and Reddit posts but they’re talking about scenarios. What scenarios are they on about?! You search through your core set box again but find nothing.
Fine, you look up the manufacturer details on the box and google FFG, find their website and find…. nothing. At all. No reference to X-Wing or Star Wars on their products page. You click the search button and type in X-Wing and it brings up 786 results. What?! By chance you find some reference online to the game now being developed by AMG. Cool, I’ll google that. You bring up their website and…..wait, this is Marvel Crisis Protocol! That’s a totally different game!!
You persevere though and again you search the menus and you have eventually found the X-Wing page (with NO information, only 7 links to PDF documents) which has the new rules reference (which is 47 pages long and looks remarkably similar to the one in the core set…) a 12 page long errata document (never a good sign…) and, aha! Points values! But where’s the link to the squad builder app talked about in the rules document from the box? Nowhere to be found. Weird. Is this game discontinued or something? So now I have to wade through 45 pages of points (26 pages of ships, 19 of upgrades) to be able to build a squad with zero references on the pages of the PDF as to what anything actually does?
Am I hamming this up to the extreme to illustrate my point? Of course I am but you can’t seriously tell me that this scenario will never happen.
I have to say that if I was looking at X-Wing right now as a new player, I’d be very confused and feel disappointed and cheated out of my hard earned cash.
We HAVE to have new core set boxes if the game is going to attract new players and clearly that doesn’t simply mean reprints of the existing one. It’s got to be fully reworked and compatible with the new system and honestly, we need it FAST.
So after all this talking (typing, whatever. You know what I mean!) I guess the question is – how do I feel about the changes?
You might think otherwise, given the difference in length between the 2 sections, but actually I’m not really sure that I’ve answered that question. If anything has become apparent while writing this (and I assume for you while reading it) is that my feelings are very, VERY mixed.
On the one hand it’s good that AMG are looking ahead at how they can mould X-Wing into a system that they believe has a very long and successful future. I don’t doubt their motives. There are people who like scenario play and are very happy at this new direction for the game.
On the other hand? Well, I think the ‘arguments against 2.5’ section speaks for itself. I haven’t chosen to play a scenario based game, I picked X-Wing as it was – PvP dogfights. I have spent time and effort (and a not insignificant amount of money) on it and, quite naturally, am not overly happy with what’s happening.
That said, I’m not 100% against it and I’m not writing it off (not yet, at least!). It’s my opinion that many individual’s choice of direction will be influenced by a few factors and depend on the level of their feelings.
I’m not sure that explains things too well so let me try and elaborate with an example.
If a play group of let’s say 15 people has 5 players who love the changes, 2 who hate it and 8 who don’t feel strongly either way, there’s a very good chance that the group will transition to 2.5. The 2 who hate the changes will, sooner or later, most likely give up the game.
If the balance in that group though is more like 2 who love the changes and 5 that hate it, it’s very likely that the group will stick with playing 2.0 in the state that it was as of the 21st of Feb.
Now, based on online community responses, it certainly feels like there is more distain for the rules changes than there is support. Then again, if there’s one thing you need to remember about the internet is that outrage is far louder than apathy and that people with a strong response (in either direction) will ‘shout louder’ (meaning post or comment more, not that they’re shouting. Or maybe they are? Who knows?!) than those who have no strong feelings. That doesn’t always give an accurate read on how that balance actually lies (neither is it a judgement on said people. Unless they’re being jerks about it. Then I am definitely silently judging from afar).
A great example is this poll (screenshotted because I can’t post a link to a closed group) where a question was asked by a store owner about tournament formats moving forwards.
As you can see, despite many posts criticising the move by AMG, the majority of players would rather move on with 2.5. Again though, this is a ‘global’ (wide scale) view. It’s entirely possible that everyone from one store clicked the 2.0 only button and so despite it being the least popular choice above, it’s what works for that store.
You’ll also notice that I’ve gone for both because, as of right now, that’s what I’m feeling.
The ‘shout louder’ principle also applies for the sections I’ve written above. It might seem like I’m upset or even angry about the changes but it’s probably more accurate to say that that positives don’t excite me as much as the negatives upset (or confuse) me but with the caveat that I’ve actually yet to practically try any of it out.
As for me, I’m very, very much on the fence right now. I’m struggling to determine whether I dislike the changes because I think they’re objectively bad or simply because change to this scale is difficult for me to process. What I do feel is that they were broadly unnecessary and I think that isn’t helping me balance my perspective.
Another reason I can’t definitively say that the changes are bad (or good) is because I am yet to try them. For me to say anything as a statement of fact without trying is very closed minded and could be interpreted as elevating my own thoughts on game design above those of actual game designers. Maybe they are right and this is a better version of the game. Maybe their definition of ‘better’ differs to mine. My opinion on that is one thing, the wider consensus on that though will only tell over time.
Cultural and social trends over the last few years would have me believe that I must ‘pick a side’. That I should be ‘Team AMG’ or ‘Team 2.0’ and that whichever I pick, the other sucks/is boring/is rubbish/isn’t progressive/isn’t valid/lives in the past/etc.
That is not true.
It is possible to like both. It is ok to like both.
Yes, over time I may develop a preference for one or the other that might be based on multiple factors like further rule changes, what my play group does, what tournaments use (I’ve had thoughts/fears about that but this post it too long already…), what people want to read about in the blog and more.
The thing about opinions is that everyone is allowed to have them, even if they don’t line up with our own. We are also all free to change our minds. We don’t have to stubbornly stick to one opinion just because we chose it once, made some bold/cutting/sarcastic/insulting statements and now feel too proud to change our position.
On the subject of opinions and what is valid, it’s always important to seek perspective from other people, even those whose opinions may differ from our own. I want to stick a link in here for Paul Braggins’ blog on the topic, it’s balanced and well reasoned and definitely worth a read.
I have got more thoughts on what we might see in the future and how that might affect the future and development of the game but if I’m honest, more speculation isn’t what’s needed right now, especially as I’ve already hit 5000 words! While writing this post has been very cathartic, what I really need is time. Time to process, time to look at what new lists do and time to get some games in and try things out.
If you made it this far, well done! Looking back, I feel like I ranted a few times and that I’ve maybe sold the ‘reasons for 2.5’ a little short. Please PLEASE don’t think that this means I’ve written 2.5 off. I haven’t, I just need it to convince me. Also don’t think that the last sentence there means that I’ve forgotten and moved on from 2.0 and left it for dead. I haven’t, I’m definitely still open to playing it.
So there we have it. New rules are here and the future is now. How will it all pan out? Let’s all stick around to find out.
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