Today we look at Named Pilots in X-Wing and whether or not they’re worth your while.
You may have noticed, I’ve been doing some beginner listbuilding articles here on BoLS the past couple of weeks. Today we’re going to look at Named Pilots in X-Wing and whether or not they’re worth your while.
So last week I advocated for quantity over quality, but mentioned that didn’t mean that the more expensive Named Pilots, the guys from the movies/ books/ whatever, had no place in your lists. I just don’t suggest going completely bananas over them. With a little finesse, you’ll discover you can find a middle-ground where you can enjoy the higher dice and hit points (hull points + shields) of a “quantity list” along with the fun and unpredictability of a Named Pilot or two as well.
Ok, first of all, if you’re not familiar with X-Wing, there are generic pilots (Black Squadron TIE, Red Squadron Pilot, etc.) and there are Named Pilots. As you’d expect, those are for the most part, the famous dudes from the movies- Han, Luke, Boba Fett, etc. Much like other miniatures games, these Named Pilot dudes are different from the generic guys in that they have some special rules that allow them to function a little differently. As a sort of built-in limiter, these guys cost more points than the standard, generic, no-name guys and have a little dot by their name which the X-Wing Miniatures rulebook tells us means that you can only have one instance of that character in your list.
Note that there are multiple copies of some of the Named Pilots in X-Wing. For example, you’ve got the Lando card pictured above (the Crew Member Lando) as well as the one below who is actually the pilot of a YT-1300.
Long story short, no. No you can’t. You can’t take Lando as a Crew Member for a ship in your list and also turn around and take him as a pilot of another ship.
At this point, there are a TON of Named Pilots on both sides of the fence in X-Wing. Like most miniatures games, some of these Named guys are very accessible and straightforward in their application, some are a little more subtle, and yeah, even in this relatively well-balanced and generally well thought out game, there are a couple of straight up clunkers for their points.
It’s way, way, way outside the scope of this article to try and cover each and every named pilot in X-Wing, but I would like to give you a rundown of a few as examples of the straightforward, the subtle, and the suck as well as some thoughts on how best to apply Named Pilots in general.
Rebel Example: Wedge Antilles
Imperial Example: Mauler Mithel
Again, there’s literally a dozen different Named Pilots I could pick for this example, but these two pilots are pretty popular and have been since Wave 1. There’s a reason for that- their special rules are pretty accessible to new players, but are robust enough to still benefit the veterans as well.
Remember how I said back in the first article that it was easier to hit than evade in X-Wing Miniatures? Well, Wedge makes it even tougher to evade than usual by removing one of his target’s green dice. Nasty, huh?
There’s really no downside to this special rule- you just need to remember you have it and keep Wedge alive as long as possible so you can reap the benefit of it. The downside to the card is that Wedge is fairly pricey points-wise as far as X-Wing ships go. Again- pretty straightforward, simple to apply, synergizes well with… well pretty much anything. You can try to make Wedge even more offensive with something like Marksmanship or go defensive to increase his survivability with a Shield Upgrade or a droid like R2-F2. Or heck, you can make his already pretty shifty X-Wing even more maneuverable with an Engine Upgrade.
While not every Imperial player will find the points for Mauler Mithel in their lists, he sure is fun when you do. Remember that in X-Wing, if you’re firing your primary weapon at Range 1, you receive an extra red Attack die to roll. Mauler Mithel’s special rule then turns around and gives you an additional red Attack die when you’re at Range 1 for a total of 4! For a 17 point TIE Fighter that’s super maneuverable and generally doesn’t have much trouble getting into Range 1 of enemy ships that’s friggin’ intense, y’all.
While he doesn’t have all the upgrade possibilities of Wedge, he does have the option of taking Elite Pilot Skills, so stuff like Marksmanship can buff that offense even further or you could go defensive with a skill like Expert Handling. Modifications like Stealth Device or Engine Upgrade are good ways to hedge your bets a little between the two if you’re not quite sure you want to invest in offense or defense.
Rebel Example: Biggs Darklighter
Imperial Example: Boba Fett
This tier of named pilots aren’t quite as easy to use out of the box, but with the right combinations of upgrades or sometimes wingmen and a little practice, they can really come into their own.
In the hands of a new player, Biggs often ends up gifting the opponent 25 quick points, but in the hand of an experienced veteran player who knows how to maneuver his ships effectively, Biggs can be an extremely disruptive force in a game that already disrupts target selection by mechanisms such as firing arcs, range, and Pilot Skill.
Biggs makes you shoot at him. If there’s another Rebel ship within Range 1 of Biggs, and you can attack him (and in this game, there’s very little that actually prevents you from attacking save firing arcs and range), you have to attack him. Doesn’t matter if you’re Range 1 to Wedge and Range 2 to Biggs, you have to attack Biggs instead.
Again- it takes some practice to get your points back on Biggs, you’ve got to be able to maneuver effectively, and you’ve got to be able to not let your wingman get split off which means you shouldn’t be running into other ships and stuff like that. Once you get the hang of him though, and with an Astromech that helps him mitigate damage like R2-D2, he can be a fairly tough nut to crack all while his pals at Range 1 light up anything in sight.
I remember when Boba Fett came out, people were fairly underwhelmed. For such a popular anti-hero, outlaw type, his card text isn’t exactly the sexiest thing you’ve ever seen especially compared to the other named Firespray pilots. That said, after people gave him a try in some games, they started figuring out that being able to flip your bank maneuver to the opposite bearing when you felt like it actually was pretty useful especially when you considered the Firespray’s surprising maneuverability. Then Wave 3 dropped and people started pairing up Fett with the Crew Member card Navigator and he could darn near pick whatever move he wanted when it was finally his turn to flip up the dial.
Again, far from an auto-win button, like Biggs, Fett awards the player who can maneuver a Firespray and has a few games under their belt. Pair him up with that Navigator and mini-swarm of 4 Academy Pilot TIE Fighters and your opponent very likely has some real trouble on his hands. Oh, and you’ve still got 10 points left to burn on other upgrades and whatnots.
Rebel Example: Arvel Crynyd
Imperial Example: Maarek Stele
If you read my blog, you know I’m faaaaar from a tournament level player. I’m kinda like Lloyd Bridges in Hot Shots, y’know? A Navy Admiral talking to a bunch of hotshot fighter pilots before their mission and it hits him in the middle of his speech that, come to think of it, he’s never landed a plane in his life.
That said, I try to make up for my shortcomings of being, you know- good, by noticing interactions between cards that maybe other folks overlooked. And making funny.
This is my trademark long story long kind of way of telling you that I wanted nothing more than to be the guy who figured out how to play Arvel Crynyd and Maarek Stele because everyone else said they sucked. I would love that. I can’t tell you how much I would love to figure out some weird rule interaction that made these two killers of the highest order.
I’m still working on that.
Arvel is kinda the opposite of The Subtle because when you read his special rule, it actually sounds pretty cool while in reality, it’s kinda useless. I mean yeah, it’s cool to be able to bonk into somebody and still shoot them (normally you can’t in X-Wing), but the problem here is by using his card text, you relieve yourself of his Perform Action step because you ran into them so you can’t Focus or Target Lock those Attack dice without some outside help from somebody like Garven Dreis or Dutch Vander. Now yeah, it’s totally possible to perform a tricky maneuver and get the enemy to run into Arvel after he’s moved and has some sort of Action, but that Pilot Skill of 6 actually has him moving after a lot of the ships in this game- essentially any generic pilot is going to move before him, and even a few Named Pilots.
It’s just rotten synergy with the way the game rules work.
This for the guy who kamikazed the Executor which then bonked into Death Star II? It ain’t right.
Anyway, the silver lining here is there have been a couple of revealed cards in the upcoming Rebel Aces Expansion that might help Arvel not have such a rough time, but until then, good luck. You’re gonna need it.
Same deal with this guy, really. I don’t know if you played TIE Fighter on PC back in the day, but I sure did. It was teh awesomes and Maarek was your character in that game. He goes onto become quite the formidable Imperial pilot and gets all kinds of cool tattoos and stuff working directly for his paleness, The Emperor. What could be better, right?
Well, his card text for starters.
Again, much like Crynyd, at a glance, Stele’s card text seems pretty good actually. And on somebody flying a ship with more than 2 Attack dice or was a few points cheaper, you’d probably be right. As it is, Darth “I have you now, and also two Actions and PS9” Vader is only two more points than this guy. Two points. I want to say something like, “Call it economy of scale”, but since I’ve only got an associate’s degree in electronics, I don’t really know what all that entails, so instead I’ll just say that either Stele is overcosted or Vader is under. I’m of the opinion that Vader is undercosted, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter- you’re still pretty unlikely to take Maarek in your 100 point list compared to other available options.
So there ya go- Named Pilots are fun to play with and as long as you don’t go totally overboard on them, can really put some twists and turns into an otherwise vanilla list. Just bear in mind when you go looking around at different lists on the internet, just like with other miniatures games, some of these guys are tougher to use effectively than others and learning the fundamentals of X-Wing while also learning all these special rules can be challenging, so take it slow, read your rules, and don’t be afraid to try new things with these guys.
If you want to get into X-Wing Miniatures but don’t know your Evades from your Target Locks, by all means, stop on by the hippest pilot bar in the galaxy- TheMetalBikini.com. We serve all kinds (yeah, even droids- they’re the best tippers), and have a whole bunch of articles from breakdown summaries of every single card released so far, to tactics articles, to our Bikini Battle Basics new player guides- all served up with a heapin’ helpin’ of my own personal brand of slang and humor. Can you dig it?