Into The Unknown

The intro…

Hello! Welcome to this week’s blog!

There’s rather a lot to talk about so no chit-chat to start us off, let’s dive right in!

Not my strength but I’ll give it a go!

Some news…

It’s entirely possible that you’ve been living under a proverbial rock for the last week or so but chances are, if you frequent the internet ‘spaces’ where I post out my blog links, you’ll already be very aware that AMG (Atomic Mass Games) ran a stream on the 9th of September and released a LOT of information about X-Wing.

A lot of people then got rather upset about some of the information with cries of ‘ruining the game’, ‘don’t know what they’re doing’ and the like.

This post on the Fly Better Facebook group, for example, has almost 300 comments on it.

My thoughts on it all? Well, I’ve a couple.

  1. Community reactions.

With the stream being at midnight UK time I have to admit that I did not manage to remain awake to watch it live. Then I got up the following morning and did normal morning things (like lunch boxes and the school run) before heading in to work.

During work I browsed Facebook in down times and was pretty shocked at some comments and the range of what was being talked about. The game is ruined? Bids are gone? AMG hate competitive play?! It was Friday night before I got the opportunity to sit and watch the stream for myself.

It was VERY different than what I’d expected going from the posts I’d been reading. It was nowhere near ‘sky is falling’ as I’d been led to believe.

IT turns out, it was not falling.

Maybe it’s the nature of people to focus on negatives when it comes to things we hold close to our hearts or maybe I’m just naïve in thinking that I can take the video at face value and that AMG are really saying what they mean and meaning what they say. But it’s my choice to believe that AMG are serious about the project they’ve been given and will do their best to keep giving us content and updates for this awesome game. The comment by Will Schick about wanting to hand this game over when he retires certainly implies that AMG view X-Wing as a long term project.

2. The Squad Builder

I’d genuinely forgotten what it looked like.

The squad builder website/app being retired is disappointing. Not because I use it (I mean, it’s really terrible) but because it’s a new player’s first impression of the game. Image that you buy a core set, find that it’s an online squad builder, navigate to the link only to find that for your first game past the tutorial in the pack, you’ve got to browse through multiple PDF’s while also referring to the hundreds of cards in the box to find out what each one costs before you even get to play, all the while questioning what happened to the online app and whether the game is even still going and whether you made a mistake buying it?

Of course there are awesome squad builders out the like YASB and LaunchBay Next but how on earth does a new player find out about them? I know some people will dive into Facebook or Reddit to look for relevant groups but I’ll bet that for each person that does, another 3 or 4 don’t and while a lot of the changes being implemented appear to be aimed at newer and/or casual ‘kitchen table’ players, this particular one seems to fly in the face of it.

For me, while I totally understand AMG not throwing good money after bad in terms of developing a tool that has MUCH better alternatives FOR FREE, it’s really not a great start for new players finding that the official version is DOA.

3. Bids and Initiative

Right, now for the big one – initiative and bids. Personally I’ve got mixed feelings. I like that you automatically give up the points bid to your opponent, it makes it more of a decision as to whether you should or shouldn’t do it. Want to bid by 14 points to make sure your go second? Fine but now those 14 points are already on your opponent’s score. Still want to do that? I believe it encourages players to actively engage with lists that perhaps try not to. Deciding initiative by a dice roll at the start of a game? I’m less sold on that.

I’m no ace flyer (in either meaning of the term!) so generally speaking I’m not thinking about a bid when squad building and so I’m definitely under qualified to discuss this at length. If I’m trying to look at things from AMG’s side of things? I can, to a certain extent, grasp why developers who are not as familiar with the game as the previous devs at FFG might wonder why simply not taking 10 points of upgrades is better than loading up Vader or Soontir with more stuff. It’s how I thought when I was new to the game. Or maybe I underestimate them and they do understand and they simply don’t like it. Either way, X-Wing is their project now and they have license to play around with it as they please to shape it into what they believe works.

Will we see some people ‘gaming the system’ by adding useless upgrades just to bump up points? Yes, of course we will. But we currently see people dropping perfectly useful upgrades just to get a point lower than everyone else. It’s not quite the same (since I guess you have to just be better at the game to make do without that extra card) but it’s along the same lines in my eyes.

Personally, in AMG’s shoes I would have added the ‘giving up points for bid’ but not the random first/second player. But then I’m not a game developer so what do I know?

I’m not saying it’s good. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying that while a part of me gets where the ace players are coming from, I think I also get where AMG are coming from here. Maybe. Time will tell I suppose!

4. Shiny Things

Ok, this has all been a little bit negative so far. Let’s change that.

THE MANDALORIAN!

BABY YODA!!!

New stuff is coming! While I’m not crazy about Din Djarin’s ability nor the lack of a ship ability, I did notice that with the ships being called the ST-70, it does give room for a title for the ship which could make it a bit more interesting.

Plus the model looks AWESOME.

THEN there’s the Gauntlet Fighter. Big base ship, great. Multi-faction, awes…. wait, multi faction!? MULTI. FREAKING. FACTION!?!

Sign me up!

I think this is a great move from a business perspective as they’ll likely shift a LOT more units with players who collect only one or two factions (like myself) forking out for it.

AND THEN a card pack which gives Rebels Fenn Rau in a Fang Fighter?! Again, great move in my opinion and they could gain a boost in sales for ships already released. It also sets a precedent for future card packs (T-65 Rey? TIE/SF Poe!?) which excites me too!

5. Organised Play vs Casual

Right, of all the stuff that I’ve read, the lack of support for OP and the limit of 12 rounds seem to have been rather overblown when compared to what I heard in the Twitch stream.

Whenever they talked about new game modes (narrative play, ‘droid soccer’, etc) I noticed that they pretty much ALWAYS used some version of the phrase ‘as well as competitive play…’. From what I heard, the 200-6 format (JARGON ALERT!!) that we all know and (mostly!?) love will still be the main way to play. It sounds like they are looking at new and different ways to leverage X-Wing’s excellent game mechanics. Why? Well, I’m pretty sure they mentioned it – new players.

They want new players. They also know that new players will not necessarily dive straight into a local group who already play this way. They know that some people prefer to play collaboratively rather than against their friends. They want kitchen table players, group players, competitive players, all kinds of players and to do that they need game formats to suit all kinds of players. After all, they are a business and they want to sell their product so why would they NOT offer new ways to play that might entice new people to join in?

A phrase mentioned during the stream…

And the 12 round limit? I believe it’s already been confirmed as being an option for casual play and NOT for tournament play. I mean, 12 turns for tournament play would be carnage, we all know that. But when Cai and I first got into the game we DEFINITELY played games at home to full destruction which had to be left one evening and finished the following day because nobody could roll the right dice. I think introducing a 12 round guideline for casual players is a great idea to keep games relatively concise.

In closing…

For all the negativity around some of the news we got, there’s definitely positives to be had. Yes, I’m a naturally optimistic person but all the same, X-Wing most certainly has a future. How much of a future might just depend on the attitude of the player base so let’s stay positive, keep playing and keep buying releases to show just how much we love the game!

Also, not ONE Facebook/Reddit post that I saw mentioned that AMG are planning to get reprints of unreleased 1.0 ships back in play. NOT ONE. Guys, this is huge! Given that FFG appeared to drop 1.0 reprints because sales weren’t as good as they’d probably expected and they wanted to focus on new stuff, this shows me that AMG are willing to get this going again with a focus on newer players and that in itself shows me how they’re thinking about X-Wing in the long term.

I did read a blog post which gave some immediate (and fairly balanced) thoughts on the news. I’m hoping that the next few weeks will bring more details on exactly how the changes will work and when they will be implemented so we can start to use them and see what the overall impact is.

Fly Better Podcast recorded and released an earlier than usual episode reacting to the news which is also pretty balanced and definitely worth a listen. Echoing what Ryan Farmer says both in the podcast AND on Facebook – please take the time to watch the stream yourself, it’s the ONLY way to get the information FIRST HAND and draw your own conclusions rather than from 2nd hand sources (like this blog!).

Michael Plummer – Master of Puppets?!

One thing that I have noticed in the last year-ish of AMG is that they appear to be very interested and very responsive to customer questions and feedback. Hopefully they will also show they’re not too proud to click the ‘undo’ button if a change they make does terrible things to the game.

On overall reflection, I think it might be more concerning if they weren’t looking at new game modes or rules changes. The fact that they’re putting time and effort into trying new things tells me that they’re invested and interested and not simply finishing off FFG’s closing plays before winding things down.

There may be the odd bump in the road ahead but overall I think things look bright!

The batrep(s)… (JARGON ALERT!!)

Ok, with the Sith Taker league being back AND in-person play on Wednesdays at Firestorm Games going strong, I’ve suddenly got a LOT to talk about.

I did actually skip last Wednesday night since it was my birthday and we took a surprise trip to the cinema to see Shang-Chi (which was awesome, by the way. I highly recommend it!).

Between the Epic game covered in last week’s blog post I have had two Sith Taker games and so I’ll cover them today. I won’t go full on step by step batrep but I will give some detail since both were interesting (to me, at least!) in their own way.

Game 1 – Petter Ellingsen

With schedules and time zones and night shifts all playing their part we arranged to play this game on the Saturday morning so I had a few days to prepare and decide on a list.

It’s actually been a little while since I’ve actively thought about what list to pick since Heratanni turned up. Between getting the hang of it in it’s first form (with Benthic Two Tubes in a U-Wing) and taking a variant to Bristol’s Excelsior! (with a Rogue E-Wing), I’ve always had something ready to go.

With a points change on the horizon I made a decision that I’m not entirely proud of.

Off the back of being thoroughly beaten TWICE by Bossk, Asajj and Lando and with the points on several pieces very likely, I decided to see how it felt from the other side.

Lando Calrissian (Scum) (42)
Cutthroat (1)
Jabba the Hutt (6)
False Transponder Codes (2)
Lando’s Millennium Falcon (3)

Ship total: 54 Half Points: 27 Threshold: 6

Asajj Ventress (68)
0-0-0 (5)
Contraband Cybernetics (3)
False Transponder Codes (2)
Shadow Caster (1)

Ship total: 79 Half Points: 40 Threshold: 5

Bossk (60)
Zam Wesell (4)
Greedo (1)
False Transponder Codes (2)

Ship total: 67 Half Points: 34 Threshold: 6

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Scum%20and%20Villainy&d=v8ZsZ200Z90X375WW39WWW369WW152Y125XW63W92W369WW160Y153XWWW336WW83W369WW&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

I ran it in Fly Casual once using the same setup and general strategy that Ben Barben had used against me in Bristol. I trashed the AI without losing a ship.

‘Sure, why not’ I thought and made no further prep with it. None.

Saturday morning rolled around and Petter and I connected over Discordv and loaded up TTS.

I loaded in my list and waited while Petter loaded his. Hmmm….

Patrol Leader (67)
Emperor Palpatine (11)
Darth Vader (14)
Hull Upgrade (2)

Ship total: 94 Half Points: 47 Threshold: 9

Soontir Fel (54)
Predator (2)

Ship total: 56 Half Points: 28 Threshold: 2

Ciena Ree (48)
Predator (2)

Ship total: 50 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 2

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Galactic%20Empire&d=v8ZhZ200Z216XWW29W26WWW164WY179X127WWWY455X127WWW&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

‘It’s Hyperspace legal’ he tells me as the guilt starts to build. He’s got two i6’s who can run rings around my ships but there’s a big juicy expensive target for my ships to pound.

I offer to change my list. It is, after all, a top meta, proven Extended list. Against his Hyperspace experimental list.

‘No, no’ he says ‘I want to learn how to face this’.

Ok then.

We set up obstacles and ships and are ready to begin.

In the first few turns Soontir and Ciena start taking up flanking positions while the Patrol Leader, after initially turning away, turns back in as my fleet approaches at speed.

The Patrol Leader’s Darth Vader crew forces a damage on to Asajj but takes a heavy beating in return. Meanwhile Ciena has turned in but misses arc and Soontir is taking the longer way around.

The Patrol Leader lasts out one turn longer than anticipated, living on account of it’s Hull Upgrade but it can’t prevent it’s inevitable demise despite some good blocking play to deny me shots and actions.

For the next few turns Petter’s aces dance around my big ships and chip hit after hit onto Asajj but she’s tanking it well.

Then I get a block onto Ciena with Asajj with both Bossk and Lando in range and she explodes.

As the clock counts down Petter continues to harass Asajj and in the last turn takes a hail Mary dive in to finish her off. Crucially, he just barely misses bullseye so doesn’t get a focus and then whiffs (JARGON ALERT!!) the attack on Asajj and she lives.

While Soontir has dodged Bossk’s arc he’s now sitting at range 1 of Asajj and Lando on just 1 health and succumbs to the attacks with 25 minutes left on the clock.

Result: 200 – 40 win

Mini conclusion

I feel dirty. I’m a bad, bad person. I apologise profusely.

This wasn’t really a match. The Patrol Leader managed to stay around a turn longer than it maybe should have but it never stood a chance with reinforce tokens being jammed off and taking modded shot after modded shot.

For Petter to not manage to take out Asajj with Soontir’s dying shot just added insult to injury. She should have died.

I wanted to fly this before it gets nuked in the points update and while on some level I’m glad I did, I think that short of taking it to a big tournament and going full try-hard mode (which there isn’t and I won’t be), I very likely won’t touch it again.

It has got me my first win of this league though. Yay me.

Game 2 – Jacek Kaczmarski

With no in-person play for the week, this game got organised for Thursday evening. Still unclean from Saturday’s game, I decided to move on from Scum but stick with the ‘play it before it’s nuked’ theme and go back to the OG Heratanni list

Kyle Katarn (31)
Jyn Erso (2)
Moldy Crow (16)

Ship total: 49 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 3

Hera Syndulla (A-Wing) (42)
Ship total: 42 Half Points: 21 Threshold: 2

Benthic Two Tubes (46)
Perceptive Copilot (8)
Leia Organa (7)
Pivot Wing (0)

Ship total: 61 Half Points: 31 Threshold: 4

Garven Dreis (X-Wing) (46)
Servomotor S-Foils (0)

Ship total: 46 Half Points: 23 Threshold: 3

Total: 198

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Rebel%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z48XWW40WWW156Y451XWWWY36XWW54W46WW140Y6XWWWW142&sn=Rebel%20Focus&obs=

Nothing more to say here, it’s pretty common knowledge now what this list does and while I’ll definitely be sad to see it go, hopefully there’s a version of it that’s still playable come next month.

Jack had brought something really interesting though…

Darth Vader (TIE Defender) (115)
Heavy Laser Cannon (5)

Ship total: 120 Half Points: 60 Threshold: 4

“Echo” (51)
Lone Wolf (5)
Passive Sensors (2)
Fifth Brother (12)
Stealth Device (6)

Ship total: 76 Half Points: 38 Threshold: 3

Total: 196

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Galactic%20Empire&d=v8ZsZ200Z469XW10WWY200X124W240W82W166&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

VADER DEFENDER! In the flesh! Yes it’s only two ships. Yes, one of them just has 4 health but I knew from the start that this would be a tricky game because getting any damage onto either is hard.

I’ve only heard about this list (i.e. never seen it) but I’m aware that Vader Defender lists have made top cuts. I know that he gets a free evade when going 3 speed or faster and has a white 4K (JARGON ALERT!!) and while he can’t spend Force on defence, a focus and evade and 3 agility means he could stick around.

Jacek has the bid and makes me first player.

We set up obstacles and place ships and are ready to start.

I didn’t get a pic of starting positions but I placed in a corner with the three lower initiative ships and Hera central while Jacek placed Echo sort of opposite my ships and Vader in the far corner.

We spend several turns jockeying for position. Jacek trying to draw me in and me refusing to split my ships.

I work my way up the left hand side of the board, moving slow and then fast while Echo comes forwards and backwards and Vader goes fast, K-turns and K-turns again before turning around the debris in my bottom right corner.

When Vader rolls in, giving him the position for a 3 bank in, I know he’s committing to an attack.

I spend Leia to turn everyone around and token up in case Vader strays into range but he falls just short.

Next time then.

I move forwards slowly with everyone except Kyle who just hard turns in behind Benthic and stack up tokens.

Echo starts turning in to flank but doesn’t get range while Vader screams in fast in order to get his free evade and takes a focus for his action.

It’s on.

Vader fires at Benthic and I realise that I’ve forgotten to pass Kyle’s focus to Hera at the start of engagement. As a result I opt not to pass Hera’s focus as an evade (keeping it for offence) and Benthic loses 2 shields.

I respond with shots from all 4 ships, two of them at range 1 and backed up by a LOT of tokens but Jacek manages to roll the exact dice and/or have the right tokens for each roll (despite not being able to spend Force on defence) and comes away with just 1 shield less than he started. Wow.

Back to dials and now I’m going to have Echo to deal with too. Bleuch.

I’m anticipating a 4K from Vader so Benthic will stop and rotate, Garven will talon roll, Hera will 1 hard turn and Kyle… Kyle will bank, keeping his side arc on Vader and threaten Echo from the front arc.

Vader and Echo both hammer Benthic who takes a Direct Hit but manages to live on 1 health. Phew!

I take 4 shots at Vader in return, 3 of them at range 1 but STILL only manage to get 2 shields of damage onto him.

Frustrating.

I assumed Vader is going for another 4K to get a finishing shot on Benthic so I hard turn Hera and boost, getting the block to keep him facing the other way. Echo has disengaged which allows my ships to regroup and clear stress.

A range 3 2 die pot shot from Kyle lands a hit onto Vader to drop his last shield and gets me half points. Finally!

Jacek tentatively keeps Echo on the edge of range while Vader now takes a 2K to stay close to Benthic.

Sadly Benthic still (needlessly) has his wings closed and Vader gets the kill shot. Meanwhile Jacek managed to evade all shots I rolled for.

With barely 5 minutes on the clock I’m pretty sure we’re only going to get 1 more turn. With Vader seemingly untouchable, needing 3 hits to kill and my position not ideal for turning on him, I opt to go for Echo. Jacek is just a single point ahead. Half points on Echo should do it.

Kyle and Garven both turn left following Echo’s decloak to the right, putting her in the right spot for me. Hera goes 2 straight and takes a lock, ready to pass over.

Echo goes 2 straight, right at my ships but then…cloaks. Balls.

Vader K-turns and Jacek rolls him left, checking position for front, middle and back before opting for back for a better angle at Hera.

Hera goes first but her shot isn’t going to do ANYTHING with Echo rolling 6 (yes, 6!) green dice and getting the free gas cloud evade.

Vader shoots at Hera who is just about range 2 and spends Force for 3 hits. Hera rolls 2 blanks and an eyeball and I spend her focus (from Kyle). Jacek think it’s half points on Hera but didn’t see that the attack was obstructed and she gets the free evade to lose a shield.

Echo being cloaked means she doesn’t shoot. Now I just need to get 2 hits past the 5 green dice.

Garven fires but the roll is poor. I opt to keep Hera’s lock for Kyle shot and Echo evades the lot.

Kyle fires, armed with a focus and gets the lock from Hera to get 4 hits/crits but Echo rolls enough squiggles and spends her evade to take no damage.

Result: 60-61 loss

The conclusion…

Wow, that one was crazy.

I cannot believe just how hard those two ships are to push damage on to. I think Vader got away with things a little bit, taking just 4 hits from 5 or 6-ish range 1 modded shots. Or is that just what happens with Vader? I mean, having focus & evade it clearly really good but I guess you’ve got to have the right dice rolls too?

BOOP, spend that focus!

I have to admit that I mis-read the list slightly on set up and thought that the cannon on Vader was a Jamming Beam (which I’d heard of Chrispy from Omega Squadron Podcast using on his Vader build at the GSP Jedha tournament a little while back) which is why I locked the debris relatively early on. If I’d read that properly I’d have taken more locks with Garven and Hera and relied on focuses from Benthic and Kyle.

Still, I learned how the list plays and since I can’t see Vader’s points increasing in the near future, I do expect to see this across the table every so often.

I’ve got a points related post planned for some point in the near-ish future (once points are released) but I feel like this time in any meta is just so weird. You know new points are coming soon so trying new things seems like a waste of time but also existing ‘good’ lists are very likely to get nuked so also feel like a bit of a waste of time. It’s just a bit hard to get excited about anything and that feels a bit bad.

That said, I do have a tournament coming up on the 25th of September in Firestorm Newport and since points are likely to be after that (or at least not 10 days before it!) then we’ll be sticking with current points. I’d best get preparing then hadn’t I!

The outro…

Thank you so much for visiting my blog today, I hope you’ve enjoyed it! If you’d like to support me in continuing my X-Wing blogging adventure there are a few ways you can do that.

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