Stress, it’s an interesting mechanic in X-Wing Miniatures and honestly one of it’s unique ones. It can be handicapping, or used for your advantage in certain ships or even ignored completely by Tycho. So, the question I am setting out to answer; is it worth building a list that deals out stress?
In X-Wing there is said to be an associated economic system on the cost of everything from upgrades, to pilot skill, so every time you are making a list you are “paying” for usefulness with the squad points you invest. It’s often thought that the best investment is in cold, hard attack dice or in something that give you an extra action without disadvantage. How so then does stress fall into this?
Lets start by breaking it down to basics.
Stress can deny you an action if it’s present on you during the activation phase, it can also deny you the ability to preform a “red maneuver”. Both these occurrences are desirable in the game of X-Wing because to deny your opponent the chance to take an action can greatly increase your chances of getting hits through. As well, limiting his maneuverability greatly increases your chances of having him in you firing arc and getting a good shot off. All stress dealing abilities are built in, so they do not take up actions and can be completed at no or minimal disadvantage to the attacker.
The problem is, most stress that is dealt by the attacker comes at the combat phase. This gives your regular opponent the opportunity to shrug off the stress by simply completing a green manoeuvre during the next movement phase. The only ships that really struggle with choices of green manoeuvres are: Y-wings and Tie Defenders. (Having only forward motions as a choice) Some extra-ordinary ships even enjoy being stressed! The new Keyan Farlander uses it as a focus, Ibtisam uses it for re-rolls, Soontir for a focus and Tycho doesn’t even care about it at all.
The only way to make stress a consistently useful mechanic is to pair it. There’s two options of what to pair it with.
Option one: Double Stress
Stress is interesting because it can stack, but only be taken away 1 at a time as the game stands now. This way, even if your opponent completes a green manoeuvre, he still has 1 stress and can not preform actions.
Double stress can come about in multiple ways, the most direct currently being with two Tacticians.
You see, on ships like the Yt-1300 and Shuttle which have 2 crew slots, you are allowed to place Tactician twice. This makes it so that every time you attack in range 2, your opponent is double stressed. You can go a more round about way and have a Rebel Captive with your Tactician, making it so your opponent is stressed every time they attack you and when you attack them at range 2. If you happen to be Kath Scarlet, you can use Tactician and if there is a crit cancelled, they are double stressed. You may also use “Flechette Torpedoes” with Tactician on an opponent with a lesser hull value.
Option Two: Stress + Ion
Stress can usually only be removed by a green manoeuvre, and being Ionized forces you to move 1 white forward. This means your opponent must move 1 forward and then have no chance at an action once moved because he will still be stressed.
This combo is a beautiful and crippling effect that can be used very effectively in a few lists. I’ll start off by repeating myself: Two Tacticians on a Shuttle with an Ion cannon can allow you to be a huge jerk by ionizing your opponent at Range 2 with 2 stresses. The main downside to this is that you’ll be in a shuttle and so this will probably only happen once, if ever. More effectively you can use R3-A2 in a Y-Wing with a ion cannon to stress out your opponent, but also yourself. As stated before, being stressed in a Y-wing is not a good position to be in and so while this is great for crippling your opponent, you’ve come close to crippling yourself with it. A much better way to use R3-A2 is to have it on Hobbie! Hobbie loses stress when given or spending a target lock. You can pair Hobbie with Dutch who can give target locks and also equip an Ion Cannon. These two can effectively stress and Ion while flying happily and freely, while having target locks on desired ships.
Stress might not be as sure of an invest as extra attack dice or free actions, and is easily less represented in meta. However, by denying your opponent actions and manoeuvres, I can safely say double stress or stress/ion is very worth the cost. There will be even more ways to utilize stress in the next wave with the release of “Vrill” who gets an extra attack dice from stressed opponents, or Mara Jade who deals stress to all enemy ships in range 1.
Who knows, maybe stress dealing will get so common in meta that we’ll actually see a surge in the use of “Wingman”.