Near the end of X-Wing’s Wave 2 expansion, my life as a table-top gamer was in transition. Privateer Press’s abandonment of Monsterpocalypse years early was finally, despite the continued love of its players, starting to fully kill the game — regular opponents online were becoming impossible to find, as each player slowly found other things they would rather do. I’d already started playing X-Wing back at the start of Wave 1, but it was time to put my brain to X-Wing.
At the front of Wave 3, X-Wing saw a strange event; the B-wing platform was introduced, a ship that was not entirely different from the existing X-Wing platform. Curious which ship was better and at what moments in the game, I took my first look at the numbers behind these (and other) ships — I wanted to learn how to fly each one to make each shine, and I wanted to see if FFG’s numbers guys were solid before I fully commited to X-Wing as “my game” for the coming years. I never particularly shared my findings, except to say that the B-wing was slightly superior to the X-Wing in durability and mobility. But later I began to say that the X-Wing platform was soft. The B-wing was not superior to all other Rebel platforms; the X-Wing merely lagged behind other Rebel platforms in overall capability, and next to the B-wing it was obvious.
The critical statements I made about the X-Wing were not easy for many to swallow. After all it’s the X-Wing, Star Wars’ most canon ship… even more than the “star” ship of the trilogy, Millenium Falcon. Hearing that it sucked a little was a bitter pill. Many players dismissed it as bellyaching, or tried to argue the merits of the X-Wing as some kind of counterpunch. And of course, many Rebel players had piloted X-Wing lists to many victories — some could not fathom that they had done so well with a weak ship. But “sucks a little” isn’t the same thing as unplayable. (The X-Wing is playable.) Many people misunderstood what I was trying to say, and I gave up trying to convince those who weren’t ready to listen.
I wonder who is ready to listen now.
THE EASY COMPARISON: X-WING vs B-WING
To start us on the same page, I want to share some numbers.
(In available cases, X-Wing and B-Wing Focus to survive.)
(This also assumes no damage-altering crit results.)
Against a mass of TIE Fighter guns, at Range 3/2/1 (w/ Focus):
— X-Wing dies in 9.8/7.0/3.9 shots.
— B-Wing dies in 10.6/7.7/4.7 shots. (+0.7/+0.7/+0.8 durability)
Against a mass of k-turned TIE Fighter guns (target also k-turned):
— X-Wing dies in 14.3/9.8/5.6 shots.
— B-Wing dies in 15.7/11.1/6.8 shots. (+1.4/+1.3/+1.2 durability)
Note that the X-Wing relies heavily on defensive Focus to survive. Even vs less accurate guns, it drops comparatively vs the B-Wing when it can’t spend that Focus. But I will also point out that vs fewer guns, the X-Wing can catch up by spending a Focus where the B-Wing could not — in these cases they are defensively even, but the B-Wing shoots with a Focus while the X-Wing shoots unmodified. The B-Wing becomes the harder hitting ship there despite both being ATT 3 ships.
Against a quad of ATT 3 shots, at Range 3/2/1 (each with TL or Focus):
— X-Wing dies in 4.8/3.9/2.6 shots.
— B-Wing dies in 5.8/4.6/3.3 shots. (+1.0/+0.7/+0.7 durability)
As the caliber of enemy guns climbs, AGI weakens as a defense. The extra shields from a B-Wing becomes the better defense. The X-Wing’s best comparison to a B-Wing is vs swarm guns. The X-Wing is comparably worse elsewhere than it is against ATT 2 guns.
THE QUALITATIVE COMPARISONS
X-Wing vs B-Wing favors the B-Wing defensively; demonstrated above. But are there perks that the X-Wing has, that B-Wing doesn’t have? Yes, and no. They are different, but is it enough?
Mobility — X-Wing has 4 forward, 3 bank, and a longer k-turn. This lets it rush an enemy formation to get by some arcs, pursue a fleeing enemy when the X-Wing wants to Focus and shoot, run for it and Focus to defend at the same time, and get behind an enemy that is about to overshoot its position. The B-Wing cannot do these things as well. Still, the B-Wing has some perks; Barrel Roll being the huge one, but the shorter k-turn can be a better pursuit weapon vs ships fleeing danger by overshooting your position (as Interceptors like to do). In addition, the B-Wing has better access to mobility-ramping upgrades. I’d say it’s a not a draw here… the X-Wing has some minor advantages, and they can be useful; but B-Wing has more tricks and those tricks are better.
Offense — B-Wing all the way. Fire Control System, HLC, you name it. Against light fire, you still have your Focus for offense more often and are still as tough as the X-Wing without spending your focus on defense.
Control — R3A2 is good, but double-edged while the B-Wing gets Ion Cannon and Tactician, and can even run both cards together if you like. The B-Wing all the way, again.
THE HARDER COMPARISON: X-WING vs B-WING vs A-WING
There isn’t really anything that X-Wing does that B-Wing doesn’t do better. So the question becomes this — is the X-Wing weak, or is the B-Wing “too good?” There are multiple ways to answer that question. One way is to compare both ships to a third Rebel option:
20 Green w/ PTL + Chaardan Refit (+ whatever you like)
Slightly cheaper but just as capable, the Green can be an amazing ship. It excels at avoiding heavy enemy fire and getting lots of Range 1 shots with TL+F vs whatever target you wanted to chase down. It’s as tough as a B-Wing under heavy fire, and nigh impossible to kill in a 1-vs-1 dogfight compared to a B-Wing. Still, the A-Wing lacks the control options of a B-Wing. It’s also worth considering that the A-Wing can only ramp its offense up via missiles, but it’s quite good at launching them before it dies and is accurate with the delivery.
The A-Wing and B-Wing are both good solid ships. They switch out for each other pretty well, each bringing one heck of a fight to the enemy. By comparison to the A-Wing, the X-Wing… continues to suck a little. It doesn’t bring much of a game to play. It’s not tough. It doesn’t hit hard. It’s less mobile. It does NOTHING.
We can go on to the Y-Wing from here. The HWK even, though the HWK doesn’t build for cheap. We can compare a 24pt Rookie w/ Hull to x2 Bandits, and the numbers say choose Bandits. Outside of getting R3-A2 or key pilot abilities, there’s no reason to choose X-Wings. Every other Rebel ship has much more to offer, no matter what you are looking for.
IF AN ISSUE EXISTS, WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
I’m sure that I still haven’t made the case to some people. So from here, I write only for those who are reasonably convinced. What does the X-Wing need to be cool?
If the X-Wing had 1 extra point of Shield or Hull, you might not be reading this article. The X-Wing would slightly outperform the Bwing in absorbing damage vs small guns, giving the X-Wing a clear niche as the better Rebel fighter vs TIE Fighters. So an ultra-cheap way to add health to the ship would be good. Perhaps this:
R4 Astromech (3pts, droid)
“At the end of combat phase, you may
discard this card to regain 2 shields.”
It would help the generic E-Wings as well. They see very little play, because they have severe efficiency and performance issues. This would turn the X-Wing into the Rebels’ cheap tank, a strong role for the game’s canon ship.
If the X-Wing could do something B-Wing could not in terms of getting around the board, it would go a long way toward giving the X-Wing a clear place in Rebel lists. There are ways to do that:
Stealth-wing Rebuild (1pt, droid, X-Wing only)
“Your action bar gains the -cloak- action.
While you have a cloak token, you have no pilot ability.”
(Compare the 22pt Stealth-wing Rookie to the 25pt Sigma.)
R3 Navigation Droid (1pt, droid)
“Your action bar gains the -boost- and -barrel roll- actions.”
(This brings the Rookie more in line with the Alpha as a cheap glass cannon flank ship.)
R7 Combat Jump Droid (1pt, droid)
“Before or after executing a maneuver, you may discard
this card to perform a 5 forward maneuver. If you overlap
any ship or obstacle, remove your ship from play.”
(Because “that would end your little trip real fast, wouldn’t it”.)
Of course, R3 helps the E-Wing and the Y-Wing also. The E-Wing could use it. The Y-Wing is never going to be a powerhouse because of it. Mainly, R3 helps the X-Wing finally accelerate to attack speed.
R3-A2 was a nice start, but I wish that droid hadn’t been unique. A generic with that ability would have revitalized the generic X-Wing fully. Again we can add to the E-Wing and the Y-Wing without it being a big deal, since those ships share a very different design space to the X-Wing. (And also the E-Wing struggles too.)
R3 Targeting Droid (3pts, droid)
“After you miss an attack, assign 1 stress token to the defender.”
(I think this would be extremely neat for Ion Turret Y-Wings as well.)
R5 Defense Droid (2pts, droid)
“During your combat activation, you may discard this
card to assign 1 ion token to all ships within Range 1.”
(This includes yourself and friendly ships, as written)
A QUESTION FOR READERS
I won’t ask if you agree with me; we don’t get very far that way. Some players will agree that X-Wing needs some new toys to make it what it really ought to be. Others will swear that the X-Wing is fine, and we’ll all end up in an argument. That’s not what i want.
What I want to know is much simpler, one question really.
If you could make an upgrade card for the X-Wing, what would it be?
Remember that depending on what upgrade type you use, other ships will have access to the card. Obviously, I like the droid slot, since I think the E-Wing needs a little help too. Feel free to tack on “X-Wing only” if you need it, like I did for the “Stealth-Wing Rebuild” card. Mod, title, droid? Torpedo???
Please share your ideas with me. I would love to hear them.