X-Wing: Another Set of X-Wing 2.0 Takes
ChahDresh is sure you’ve heard the news of X-Wing 2.0 and that you’ve read any number of preliminary takes on it. Don’t think that means he’ll spare you his!
What a week! This week’s big news was so momentous the Director Krennic expansion pack got teased and no one had the bandwidth to register the fact. And just think—I wasted my “stop the presses” joke last week! Well, too late now.
X-Wing 2.0 is on the way!
There’s so much to talk about here it’s hard to know where to start. We could spend hours poring over the teased images alone. The excitement doesn’t help the cause of focus either. I think the best place to begin is to address the macro-level “What will this do to my gaming experience” question. I’ve already seen some people protest the idea of buying the necessities to convert over. I’ve seen some people say this is the last straw and they’re quitting. I’ve seen some people declare that their gaming groups will continue playing X-Wing v1.
Declarations of this sort can make people worried about the future of the playerbase. It feeds into the natural anxiety we experience when we face change.
The thing is: Even though this is X-Wing’s first new edition, it’s not the first time a wargame has ever had an edition change.
The Playerbase Will Be Just Fine
Veteran wargamers have heard all this chatter before. For my part, I’m pretty unperturbed by it. Every game carries a certain percentage of its players that are done with the game and looking for a time and reason to quit. Big transitions tend to shake those players loose. Then again, there’s a non-zero population of players looking for a time to get in or get back in; big transitions draw them in.
Experience shows that it’s rare for playerbases to split along edition lines. It happens sometimes in RPGs, but it’s often lore-motivated (White Wolf’s World of Darkness RPGs, for example). Playerbase splits happen most frequently in very insular communities. That doesn’t really match most X-Wing communities. By the nature of competitive games, people play different people; they go to events and talk about them; they interact. The more interaction in a community, the stronger community norms become. No one’s judging you or left out if your RPG group wants to stay on D&D 3.5 until the stars grow cold. If your FLGS is holding a tournament and it’s only a particular edition of the game, well, that’s a different story.
I’m sure you’ll see occasional throwback events, special one-off “1.0” tournaments in the same way that we’ve seen infrequent “movie ships only”-type events. If experience teaches us anything, though, it’s to trust that the community will nigh-unanimously shift over so long as this edition wasn’t written by Jar-Jar Binks and some ewoks on Glitterstim.
(Just try and get that image out of your head.)
A Changing Gaming Experience
Let’s continue pushing this question, though—“What will this do to my gaming experience?” The next level answer has to do with how FFG is running the game.
The conversion packs, to my mind, are very nice. They also show FFG’s been listening. For years, players have been agitating for “card packs”, both to avoid having to pay for ships they don’t want to use in search of their cardboard and to give us post-errata versions of cards. Here they are! Rather than having to buy new version of every ship we already own, the conversion packs give us everything we need to field our old ships in the new game. Most players will be covered by a single conversion pack for each of the factions that they own. Some players will immediately protest: Hey, I want to run 4BZ! You wouldn’t be able to with a single conversion pack. However, it’s probably fair to say that if you were running 4BZ and were footing the bill for those extra ships for a single specific list, you’re probably the sort of player who’ll shell out for another conversion kit. For other players, the ones who haven’t bought several multiples of every expansion, the conversion kits may have the opposite effect: it will fill in gaps in, if not the plastic, at least the cardboard. What I mean by that is that, if a given player hasn’t bought two Auzitucks, the conversion kit will have cards as if they had, and it will actually expand their collection.
No Points On Cards You Say?!
One of the biggest changes in the edition is that points costs and upgrade bars are no longer printed on the cards. They’ll be maintained digitally by FFG. Boy, they’re driving me to bullet points to explore this one!
- This is a continuation—an amplification, even—of the developing trend of FFG intervening for balance purposes. Historically, those have been the knobs FFG has turned to adjust ship power levels. This came in the form of a “fix” release in all cases but one (the Jumpmaster nerf). By shifting these knobs to the digital format, FFG is empowering their balance team to make granular changes free from any release schedule.
- FFG’s announcement also suggests that different upgrades might carry different costs for different ships. This makes sense in certain cases. The easy example: Engine Upgrade. EU is much more powerful for a large ship than a small ship. For a large ship, it was appropriately priced; for a small ship, it was too expensive for all but a select few pilots. (Corran Horn and Vader, basically.) To spitball an idea possible under the new regime: they might set the cost of EU to 2 points for small ships, 3 points for medium ships, and 4 points for large ships, or the 2.0 equivalent of those values.
- (Oh yeah, medium ships are a thing now. This was suggested by the community a while back; it makes sense.) (However, despite the model’s size, the TIE Silencer is not a medium ship. Could have fooled me.)
- There are potential pitfalls to this new model. We don’t know what the community’s tolerance is for the frequency of tweaks. Having those knobs in reach can present an irresistible urge to turn them. The trouble is that it’s easy to go overboard. This probably won’t be too much of a problem—data collection in miniatures games tends to take time before you have enough samples.
- This reduces the tendency for FFG to think of creative fixes to ships’ problems. Think about StarVipers. Everyone loves the new bendy barrel roll that came with the same title that slashed their points cost. If FFG could adjust the points cost with ease, would they ever have thought to add in the bendy barrel roll? It is to FFG’s credit that several of their ship fixes—like the Defender titles—were interesting and fundamentally changed how the ships operated. It would be a shame if we never got something like that again because changing an upgrade bar or points cost is easier.
- I think problem children where the ability is the problem—e.g. Zuckuss or Manaroo—will still be dealt with via FAQ rather than just via points.
No messing with points costs in the digital aether is necessary to understand and use the new Threat Values. It’s a quick-and-dirty way to field ships: FFG gives recipes for how to build certain pilots with a selection of upgrades and a 1-to-5 rating of how nasty the new creation is. Whether FFG cribbed this idea from 40K’s power levels or not, it’s a useful thing. Too many times I’ve heard people pick up a new ship and say, “Cool—now what am I supposed to do with it?”
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, I’m a superior player who does my research, I always know how I want to build a ship before I buy it!” In that case, more power to you. I still think threat ratings have something to offer. Because the builds are fixed, the ships aren’t engineered to be part of a squad. They’re more generic. That means that an event built around Threat Levels (rather than traditional squad building) would be free of a lot of the usual meta-gaming. Such an event would de-emphasize list-building as a skill, putting more of the onus on pure piloting.
Here’s a thought: run, maybe not a full tournament, but a small-ish store event, as a draft. You can do it with Threat Levels. You might even relax the faction rule for simplicity’s sake.
Cha, Cha, Changes
Among the things you should consider in your squad building are the game’s new resources. 2.0 not only brings Force powers into the game; it converts limited-use items to use a new token to show how many charges (or uses) it has remaining. (“Charge” is probably correct; it’s a lightning bolt-ish icon and “energy” is already taken.) This expands the design space quite a bit. Not only can new cards be made more or less powerful by manipulating how many charges they have, but new cards and abilities can enter the game that affect those charges. A visible example is new Fang Fighter pilot Joy Rekkof, who can steal charges from equipped torpedoes to reduce the target’s defense dice.
Another given example of how charges might work is the new R2-D2.
FFG is displaying here, for all to see, that they’re willing to put some old strategies out to pasture. Rebel regen is a strategy as old as X-Wing itself. It also presents some game-design issues: it’s frustrating to play against, and it pushes players to prioritize burst firepower to knock out the regen ship before it can get away. It also creates situations where a player can have ships on the table but be unable to deal lasting damage.
There are, in other words, reasons for changing Rebel regen. With X-Wing 1.0, you couldn’t introduce a new card that functions like the new R2-D2; it couldn’t compete with existing regen options. A new edition allows for a reset of these things. Now R2-D2 can only give you back three shields in a game. Even the least mathy of us gets that three is fewer than infinity. That FFG would make the original shield regen mechanic so (comparatively) weak suggests that other shield regen options are similarly weakened.
The changes to turrets have a similar effect. Changing all turrets to follow the Shadowcaster mobile arc is a great boon for the game. Arc dodgers in this edition were compelled to buy Auto-thrusters or, if they didn’t have the option, just hope to get lucky and avoid the matchup. More broadly, 360-degree firing arcs pushed arc dodgers’ strategy away from, well, arc-dodging. Rather, they were incentivized towards stacking enough tokens and defenses to survive the shot. (Soontir Fel, please pick up the white courtesy phone, the Emperor is on line one.) With this change, we’re back to prioritizing out-flying the enemy and finding blind spots. Mobility is its own reward—as it should be.
(Why, yes, my favorite rebel ship is the A-Wing—why do you ask?)
Push the Limit – We Hardly Knew Ya…
We can predict not only the demise or restructuring of strategies at this point: we can predict the demise of certain cards. I am confident that, for example, Push the Limit is done. And not a moment too soon! The card was too stinking good. When your discussion of a ship’s merits always includes, “But is the dial good enough to support PtL?”, the cart is not only ahead of the horse, but rolling along down the road and stacking extra focus tokens.
In 2.0, certain ships come with mini-PtL built in. Actions with a difficulty rating are one of those things that seems totally obvious in retrospect. 2.0 also allows certain ships to take a particular action after another, with the second typically being red. For example, the B-Wing can focus, then do a red barrel roll, getting two actions at the cost of a stress. Sound familiar?
These chained actions reduce the need for PtL. Ships that cried and sobbed for action economy can now get it baseline, without sacrificing their EPT slots on the PtL altar. In turn, generous dials are still important and useful, but we’re not grading every dial on the PtL curve. That card can go away. It will be missed… and, yeah, also not really missed.
This is about more than just random best-in-slot cards, though. It’s about FFG listening to, and reacting to, player feedback and game results. FFG is taking the opportunity of 2.0 to prune cards and whole strategies that were corrosive (I wouldn’t count on seeing TLTs in 2.0…) while giving themselves the latitude to make more adjustments later.
There’s SO Much!
There’s so much we haven’t talked about so far. I’ve barely touched on the Force. I haven’t even begun to address the de-escalation of stacking offenses and defenses—this guy gave a preliminary look, but the evidence is everywhere. We haven’t talked about the revamp to pilot skill and the possibility of no more Veteran Instincts, or the bullseye arc on every ship, or tweaks to make crits more frequent and more important… We haven’t talked about a lot!
In the end, though, what I think a lot of people are looking for is the reassurance that X-Wing post-2.0 will still be, well, recognizably X-Wing. My take-away from all of this:
~There’s so much more.