Our ongoing review of X-Wing’s ships continues with two specimens not known for speed: the B-Wing and HWK-290.
X-Wing Ship Parade is an ongoing review of the ships in our hobby, showing them off at their best and most iconic. A always, all cards referenced can be found on Yet Another Squad Builder.
Role: heavy fighter
The game’s preeminent jouster boasts very heavy shielding, a solid attack, and good close-in maneuverability. That jouster role means most players tend to leave them bare or with only modest upgrades; it’s dicey to sink a lot of points into a ship that can’t get away. That said, B-Wings generally don’t want to get away. They follow the grizzly bear mode of combat: get close and hug your opponent… to death.
Representative list: 4BZ
- B-Wing: Blue Squadron Pilot x4
- Z-95: Bandit Squadron Pilot
How it works:
Some lists are subtle, delicate instruments that require a deft hand and lots of patience. Some are loaded down with handshakes, rules interactions, and synergistic effects. Others are as simple and direct as a brick to the face.
4BZ falls into the latter category.
Even the name of the list speaks to this directness: it is four B-Wings and a Z-95, with no upgrade cards at all. This is a list that prefers to use the old damage deck because four of the critical effects it can get are utterly meaningless… six, if you don’t care about being knocked down from PS2 to PS0. This is the epitome of a swarm jousting list: its greatest strength is brute force economy.
Which is not the same thing as being an easy list to fly. There are important subtleties to explore why it works.
First, it shares a common element with the old Academy Swarm in that there’s no clear target priority. The “weak link” of the list, the Headhunter, is also the least useful ship in the list; other than that there is no stand-out ship to focus on. When that happens, your foe can get confused or opportunistic, taking shots at whatever’s in front of him instead of focusing on a wounded individual. This opens up chances for a skilled pilot to disengage his wounded Blues, turn them around, feed the opponent fresh ships in the meantime, and keep the furball going. When flown properly, 4BZ winds up with damage spread across the whole fleet… while all of those ships are still alive and kicking out three red dice (four at range one).
Second, also like the Academy Swarm, the list derives a lot of its value from landing blocks. B-Wings can go very slow when they want to: with the barrel roll, they can manage to do basically a 1/2-straight maneuver, while the five-ship block can cover an immense spread. Speaking of the barrel roll, Z-95s don’t have it, which is the main reason the Z-95 swarm never caught on; B-Wings do. That is what really makes the B-Wing the king of the knife fight: they’re able to slow-roll to delay the initial engagement until the foe is committed to a direction, then reform into an impossible-to-pass formation that blocks a foe and then pummels them with high-powered range 1 shots. That being said, the Z-95 is itself the preferred blocker given its weaker attack, but it also functions well as bait. However you accomplish it, the ideal situation is a giant pile-up of ships that makes actions, pilot abilities, and PS irrelevant. When that happens, it’s just a matter of math, and B-Wings have very good math.
Third, we have to mention the double-edged sword that is the 2K maneuver. Coming off a block, the 2K sticks the B right behind the foe, perfect for follow-on attacks…
…unless the enemy is a big ship.
This problem is a liability of the B-Wing that’s hard to cope with, especially with the ascendency of Scum double big ship lists. One high-level player went as far as to replace one of his B-Wings with a Rookie Pilot X-Wing explicitly to trade the 2K for a 4K. Nor is that the list’s only weakness. Like any swarm list it can get tiring to run, especially if you’re making heavy use of the barrel roll. More importantly, the B-Wing has issues with two weapons that have come to prominence recently: the Twin Laser Turret and the Plasma Torpedo. The B-Wing can feel helpless against a TLT-equipped Y-Wing, and matters don’t change much by adding more B-Wings to the mix. Plasma Torpedoes also are harsh on B-Wings, which rely on their heavy shielding for their value.
Generally, though, enemies that rely on a smaller number of precise attacks underperform against B-Wings robust enough to take those hits. And when those B-Wings are hitting back and hitting hard, the situation can get out of hand in a hurry.
The HWK has some serious limitations that even a cursory look shows. It has the game’s worst primary attack, a wretched dial, and low survivability. These problems are substantial enough to keep the HWK out of most competitive settings, but strong pilot abilities and crew and turret upgrade slots make the HWK fun to play around with. The turret, in fact, is nigh-mandatory, since it helps the HWK cope with all of its major weaknesses. Twin Laser Turrets and Dorsal Turrets have helped immensely, but never forget that this is a support ship that’s nearly helpless on its own. Nien Nunb is a fairly common upgrade to help the HWK escape trouble, especially given his low cost- and the HWK is very easy to make much too expensive.
Representative List: ChahDresh’s Stupid HWK List, a.k.a. Jan Goes Spearfishing
- HWK-290: Jan Ors, Twin Laser Turret
- K-Wing: Miranda Doni, Long-Range Scanners, Homing Missiles, Extra Munitions
- A-Wing: Jake Farrell, Autothrusters, Proton Rockets, Veteran Instincts, A-Wing Test Pilot, Push the Limit
How it works:
For those of you saying “Hey, you can’t use your own lists, that’s cheating!” My reply would be: My articles, my rules. And also: it’s pretty hard to find good, successful lists featuring HWKs. As we discussed in the overview, these ships are very limited. The only time they achieved widespread use was during the heyday of the Phantom when Roark Garnet, improbably, was lauded as the answer to Whisper– and Roark Garnet should never be the answer. Other than that, they’ve always been niche.
So: a niche list for a niche ship. The idea here is to pulverize one or two key enemy ships and scrape out a win against the leftovers. The alpha strikes the list can generate are tremendous– Soontir Fel can get perfect dice and still be one-shot. The effect is even more jaw-dropping in the unlikely event both Jake and Miranda can unload in the same turn.
Homing Missiles are Miranda’s implement of choice, even though they’re pricier than Concussion Missiles or Proton Torpedoes. The reason is that Homing Missiles let you keep your target lock when you fire them, allowing you to spend the lock to modify the shot. This is a stronger effect than Concussion Missiles’ or Proton Torpedoes’ letting you change one die, and it gets stronger the more dice you throw and stronger still with a focus token. Long-Range Scanners allow you to get the lock when you’re out of range, then focus when you go to engage. This also dodges the usual difficulty in getting target locks on high-PS foes. Toss in Jan and Miranda’s pilot abilities, and you wind up with a six-dice double-modified shot. The results are staggering: six hits a full 68% of the time, five hits 27% of the time– and then we’re almost out of percents. Not to mention that this shot ignores range bonuses and Evade tokens!
But you’ve probably detected the weakness of the list by now. With this setup, Miranda isn’t much of a brawler when she’s not spearing people with Homing Missiles. Jan? There aren’t many ships Jan is going to beat one-on-one (like, none), and if the enemy commits to killing her, there’s not much you can do to save her. If you mess up the initial engagement, only immaculate flying with Jake can rescue you. There’s precious little margin for error.
It’s fun, though, and you can have some decent success with it– I know I have. It’s worth flying just to see the looks on people’s faces when those missiles slam home. And if you lose? Hey, you were flying a HWK– you gave yourself a degree-of-difficulty modifier.
Next time: the Emperor’s chariot has arrived…
~ChahDresh is an amateur writer and an even more amateurish X-Wing player. Share your stories of the fury of the HWK-290 below.