X-Wing: Sprucing Up the Namesake

There are a lot of fans of the X-Wing miniatures game who are dissatisfied with the game’s titular ship. It’s somewhat lackluster, with no way to reposition, limited green maneuvers, and is generally more expensive than comparative ships. Here I put my game design chops to use and theory craft some fixes.

Where it’s at

The stat line is solid, with 3 attack, 2 agility, 3 hull, and 2 shields. There’s only a single red maneuver on the dial (a 4-speed k-turn) and of the standard maneuvers it’s only missing the 1-speed turns and the 5-forward. This gives the X-Wing a lot of choices in the scrum.

But there are downsides. Printed costs range between 21 and 29 points per ship and the action bar only has focus and target lock. Without a barrel roll or boost, opposing aces tend to fly circles around the X-Wing. Not to mention the green maneuvers are fairly limiting (1-banks, 1-, 2-forward) so X-Wings tend not to fly Push the Limit, which remains the gold standard for action economy with aces. The lack of an evade action means the X-Wing’s defenses lies mostly in its shields – it takes hits and hopes to dish them out in return.

The release of Vectored Thrusters will partially help with the position fixing but it’s 2 additional points on a ship that’s already pushing the upper limits of cost effectiveness. Still, it’s better than Engine Upgrade which costs 4 points.

X-Wing Novels

The series written by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston are some of the most beloved novels in Star Wars Legends. Stackpole wrote the Rogue Squadron books as fairly straight, serious military sci-fi. Wedge and his collection of pilots were the best of the best, able to outmaneuver the nominally more nimble Imperial fighters. Allston’s Wraiths were more Hogan’s Heroes but the dogfights were no less thrilling.

The disconnect between what Stackpole & Allston wrote with how the game designers have balanced the ships is causing consternation among fans. Outmaneuvering an Imperial ace like Soontir Fel is next to impossible with the current X-Wing in the game. Granted, the endgame is not the entire game but it’s something worth considering.

Fans of X-Wing have been clamoring for a Rogue Squadron expansion that ‘fixes’ the venerable T-65. I have some ideas on that front.

Rogue Squadron Pilot

Part of what made the novels so much fun is that the pilots are the elites. They can fly circles around the opposition even though their own fighters are not as maneuverable. Sounds to me like the Rogues need a title.

Rogue-Squadron-Pilot-Front-Face

One of the design challenges that face any potential fix to the original X-Wing is that you have to be careful not to accidentally boost the newer T-70 X-Wing, which is in a very good place in the game at the moment. By setting the restrictions to X-Wing only and ships that have a shield value less than 3, we eliminate the T-70 from the running. It’s the cleanest way I can think of without a weird FAQ ruling.

The title itself costs 0 points. This is a baseline upgrade to any T-65. The ability text, “Once per round when you acquire a target lock, you may perform a free barrel roll action or focus action.” gives us action economy. One of the advantages X-Wings have over TIE Fighters is the target lock action, allowing for more accurate fire. But the lack of action economy meant X-Wings have to play the long game – establishing a target lock one round and then using target lock and focus the next while hoping to catch the more nimble TIEs in arc. This lets X-Wings grab target lock and focus in one round or target lock and reposition themselves, something that’s been hard for them to do in the past.

In many ways, the title is a lot like the TIE/v1 title for the TIE Advanced Prototype but with more flexibility. The title clearly favors high PS pilots (such as Wedge) because it allows them to reposition late in activation but it has benefits even for low PS pilots. Tarn Mison whose pilot ability reads, “When an enemy ship declares you as the target of an attack, you may acquire a target lock on that ship.” benefits uniquely from the title. Since Tarn can acquire target locks during combat, the Rogue Squadron Pilot title would allow him to barrel roll or focus during the combat phase. He may well forgo any actions in the activation phase if there are token-stripping enemies like Old Teroch or Palob Godalhi about.

Aside from Tarn, Rogue Squadron Pilot has a few combos. The R2 Astromech, which makes all 1- and 2-speed maneuvers green, seems a natural fit with Push the Limit. The R7-T1 astromech, which makes use of the target lock and boost actions, also opens up many action possibilities.

But the X-Wing isn’t just about pilots and titles. It has the astromech slot, which I feel has been the most lackluster of the upgrades in the game.

Rogue Squadron Astromech

The X-Wing novels introduced a number of memorable new astromechs to the Star Wars Legends continuity: Whistler, Gate, Shiner, and Vape are just a few. Many more were never named. I think writing them into the lore as part of the reason the Rogues and Wraiths survived so long is appropriate. The Rogue Squadron Astromech is designed to make your elite pilots survive just that much longer.

Rogue-Squadron-Astromech-Front-Face

This astromech has the same restrictions as the Rogue Squadron Pilot title. It’s X-Wing only and cannot be equipped if the ship has 3 or more shields. This is just for the venerable T-65, not the T-70. The text really improves the durability of the X-Wing. “Once per round when you spend a target lock you may assign an evade token to your ship.” Unpacking that a little, it’s rewarding high PS ships the most. They shoot sooner in the initiative order and are the most likely to get shot at after spending a target lock. Paired with the title, it effectively gives you three actions per round – about on par with the best aces like Soontir Fel. Since assigning a token isn’t an action, this lets X-Wings use Push the Limit during activation to improve their action economy and prevents them from doing too many shenanigans like boosting in the middle of a shot.

While pairing Rogue Squadron Pilot with Rogue Squadron Astromech is obvious, it opens up some interesting choices for elite pilot talents. Juke, which requires an evade token, actually becomes viable on the X-Wing (which otherwise requires a Jan Ors crew nearby). Moreover, the timing of Rogue Squadron Astromech means you are almost guaranteed to have that evade token for when Juke activates. Push the Limit allows for the equivalent of up to four actions, if the ship is equipped with an Engine Upgrade (something of a point sink).

The two Rogue Squadron upgrades are priced as they are so that a squadron could consist of four generic Red Squadron Pilots equipped with both. While only pilot skill 4, the ability to shoot before several of the major lists (Wolf Pack and TLT Y-Wings come to mind) is important. The matchup would suffer against aces but that’s just the give and take of a well designed game.

Whistler

Generic upgrades are all well and good but sometimes you need a good, solid unique upgrade to introduce new possibilities. Enter Whistler, possibly the most famous astromech after R2-D2.
Whistler-Front-Face

It’s basically Crack Shot or Wedge Antilles but unique and in an astromech slot that only triggers when you shoot a torpedo. This is a hyper aggressive upgrade. Putting it on Wedge Antilles with the Rogue Squadron Pilot title, Crack Shot, a Proton Torpedo, and Guidance Chips is terrifying to aces. A Super Soontir (with Stealth Device and Autothrusters) would roll 2 agility dice against an incredibly well modified 4 dice attack. And Wedge could cancel one of the evades. Basically two crits are going through no matter what Soontir does. And you know what? I’m fine with that. Because it’s a one-trick pony. Wedge gets exactly ONE of those in a game. After that he’s basically just an X-Wing again.

I didn’t make Whistler X-Wing only because I figure this is the sort of thing that could reasonably play well on other ships with the astromech slot. T-70 X-Wings, ARC-170s, and E-Wings all have a single torpedo slot. Y-Wings have two. So, sure, maybe tossing Whistler on Horton Salm with Proton Torpedoes, Extra Munitions, and Guidance Chips is a good idea.

How this affects pilots

These upgrades have the potential to dramatically improve the viability of a number of X-Wing pilots. Wedge Antilles, one of a handful of pilot skill 9 pilots in the game, is the most obvious beneficiary. His innate ability, while powerful, has never quite earned him the top tier status of similar elite pilots like Han Solo and Soontir Fel.

Wedge Antilles (29) + Juke (2) + Rogue Squadron Pilot (0) + Rogue Squadron Astromech (2) + Integrated Astromech (0) = 33 points

This is a formidable build for Wedge. He’s got action economy – effectively three actions per round as long as he target locks – that includes repositioning and an evade token. While he’s not as nimble as some other pilots, he’s certainly packing more firepower than most aces. His innate talent makes Juke hurt even more. And by spending the target lock when he fires (generally as one of the first ships) he gets an evade token. The point cost is right in line with other aces of similar ability, such as Soontir Fel, Fenn Rau, and Darth Vader.

Wedge Antilles (29) + Push the Limit (3) + Rogue Squadron Pilot (0) + R2 Astromech (1) + Engine Upgrade (4) = 37 points

This is a heftier but more nimble Wedge Antilles. This version can keep pace with the most agile of enemy aces, with the ability to target lock and take two other actions in round. He’s not as durable, trading the evade token of the Rogue Squadron Astromech for the green maneuvers of the R2 Astromech, but he can arc dodge with the best of them now.

Luke Skywalker (28) + Veteran Instincts (1) + Rogue Squadron Pilot (0) + Rogue Squadron Astromech (2) + Integrated Astromech (0) = 31 points

Luke is one of the most popular characters in pop culture history but is rarely flown in X-Wing. His innate ability to turn a focus result on green dice into an evade is hamstrung by the ship’s mediocre agility and inability to stack tokens. By giving him a chance to earn an evade token before other ships fire, Luke earns a much better chance of surviving to the end game. Encouraging the expenditure of a target lock also increases Luke’s potential damage output

Wes Janson (29) + Veteran Instincts (1) + Rogue Squadron Pilot (0) + Whistler (1) + Proton Torpedoes (4) + Guidance Chips (0) = 35 points

Janson is one of the star X-Wing pilots in the game. His innate ability can really hammer foes and disrupt your opponent’s tactics. Having him shoot first at pilot skill 10 sets up your other ships to maximize their damage output. I gave him Whistler, Proton Torpedoes, and Guidance Chips instead of Rogue Squadron Astromech and Integrated Astromech because I want him to a) have a powerful alpha strike that forces targets to spend tokens in addition to what he strips; and b) act as a distraction so my other ships survive a bit longer.

Tarn Mison (23) + Rogue Squadron Pilot (0) + R7 Astromech (2) + Integrated Astromech (0) = 25 points

This is a pretty standard Tarn, just with Rogue Squadron Pilot equipped to let him get a focus token or barrel roll in combat even if he gets blocked.

“Hobbie” Klivan (25) + Rogue Squadron Pilot (0) + R3-A2 (2) + Integrated Astromech (0) = 27 points

The addition of the title really improves Hobbie by upping his action economy – a target lock and focus every turn is a lot better than just a target lock. R3-A2, commonly called the Stressbot, is the natural pairing. It triggers before Hobbie’s innate ability so it clears when he spends the target lock later during the attack.

Red Squadron Pilot (23) + Rogue Squadron Pilot (0) + Rogue Squadron Astromech (2) + Integrated Astromech (0) = 25 points

At 25 points, this is a nice filler ship to round out a squadron. At pilot skill 4, it won’t have as many opportunities to use the Rogue Squadron Astromech as the aces but it could do well against enemy swarms.

Armchair Design – So What?

This is just me spitballing and theorycrafting. My biggest worry is that the title is over powered. A further restriction, possibly “You can only equip this if you have [elite pilot talent slot] on your upgrade bar.” That would take it out of the hands of Tarn, Hobbie, and the Red Squadron Pilots; which wouldn’t be the worst thing. I’m pretty sure the Rogue Squadron Astromech is good on the cost/power balance curve.

I may print out some of these as proxies and have some friends over to play with them but until then it’s all just in my head. Let me know what you think in the comments.

About PK

PK Sullivan is a game designer and writer living in Chicago.

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