Thoughts on X-Wing 2.0

In this post I will discuss my thoughts following the announcement of X-Wing 2.0 and what I think it will mean for the game.

My Initial Reaction

Over the last month or so, I had seen a few posts from people on reddit talking about rumours and possibilities of X-Wing 2.0. These were generally in the form of posts such as “What would you change if there was an X-Wing 2.0?” and the like. I have to admit, generally I ignored these posts because I thought that the possibility of FFG releasing a new version when there was already content announced but unavailable (TIE Reaper and Saw’s Renegades) was pretty remote, and I’d rather deal with what is that what could be.

How wrong was I. The announcement that X-Wing 2.0 was coming actually took me quite a bit by surprise. My immediate reaction was negative, I thought why are they doing this? Why now? How could they do this when they’re only just now fixing the original X-Wings? What will it mean for the unreleased 1.0 content?

However once I sat down and read the articles about what was changing and watched the videos about 2.0 that Team Covenant released in conjunction with FFG, my opinion has morphed to be one where I am very much looking forward to the announced changes. I will try and cover the topics that helped change my mind, however this article is not intended to change anyone’s opinion of 2.0, it’s purely meant as an outlet for my thoughts that might assist someone else who is not sure what the changes mean or how it impacts them.

Thoughts on Gameplay Changes

The main thing I have noticed about the changes to the game coming with 2.0 is that overall there’s a few main themes that appear to have been covered. These are:

  1. Bring the significance of firing arcs and maneuver planning back into the game.
  2. Bring down the power curve.
  3. Streamline the overall flow and interaction of abilities.
  4. Make the game more thematic to it’s Star Wars origins.
  5. Open up the design space for new and interesting abilities, while providing the capability to grow and expand the game for years to come.

Overall I am very happy to see the above changes in the direction of the game, and I will try and talk about these themes as part of the specific changes discussed below.

Firing Arcs and Maneuver Planning

You may have seen from my other posts that I’m a fairly active competitive player of X-Wing, attending multiple store monthly tournaments per month and usually two days a week of casual games when there aren’t tournaments being held. As such, there are a few things that kept popping up in the competitive meta that were counter to the original concept of the game, that were usually a result of power creep and upgrades that had a disproportionate impact on the game.

The biggest of these is the preponderous presence of turrets at the top of the meta, particularly Twin Laser Turret on the Ghost/Nym/Miranda, ships like Dash, or to a certain extent Rey and Dengar. The problem with these ships is it really takes away the significance of the planning phase from the opponent, because for ships like Miranda it didn’t matter where you ended up or which direction you approached from, if you were within range 3 of her you were going to get shot. It really meant that the best thing to do was to take your own set of ships that didn’t care about firing arcs, so that you too didn’t have to think too hard about facing or placement, and you’d also guarantee getting some damage in, as opposed to doing nothing if you happen to be facing the wrong way. Even 180 degree arcs lessened the impact of planning and moves. These items, combined with the power of red dice (see later sections), also meant that missing a round of shooting was a game changing affair, I have seen the untimely Blinded Pilot crit swing a game, all because that player missed a turn of shooting.

I’m very pleased to see that 360 degree arcs and turrets are no longer going to part of the game in X-Wing 2.0, ships that have turrets will have to plan their moves to point their movable arcs in the direction they think they will need to shoot as part of the planning/activation steps, which means the opponent can avoid being shot if they plan the right moves to end up out of arc. They are also changing the game-swinging capability of items like Blinded Pilot, so that not you can still shoot, just without a lot of the modifications that make red dice so good.

The second thing that was a bit of a problem was the use of Veteran Instincts alongside other upgrades. I didn’t really have a problem with VI on it’s own, but it did make some powerful combos that were very difficult to counter. Some of these include Captain Nym going to PS10, which is not really a problem on it’s own, but combined with Bomblet Generator, Advanced Sensors, and pre-nerf “Genius” it meant there were a ridiculous number of spots that Nym could put a bomb after almost everyone else had moved (see danger zone diagram below). “Genius” of course got nerfed, and Trajectory Simulator also had some clarifications about interactions, but at this point the damage had been done, with Miranda and Nym being top of the meta since Nym was released, because infinite unavoidable bomb damage with Sabine is just so powerful.

Veteran Instincts also played out with the Kylo crew “I’ll show you the Dark Side” ability, where a ship such as Rear Admiral Chiraneau could perform the action at PS10 and then use Palpatine and/or RACs pilot ability to likely get a crit through before almost any other ship had a chance to shoot.

A lot of these abilities are a lot less scary at PS8 when there’s a lot more chance of making a list that can move after and shoot before them. I’m very happy to see that FFG have reduced the granularity of Pilot Skill (although they have changed it’s name to Initiative) from 1-12 down to 1-6, and appear to have removed the upgrades like VI that allow players to change the skill of the pilots above what they were intended. This should streamline how different pilots compete with each other at the different initiative levels and make it easier to balance the game as pilot abilities will not have to be balanced to compete with so many different possibilities.

This was also true of double-repositioning actions. Ships that had the flexibility to do both a boost and a barrel roll (particularly before movement by using Advanced Sensors) could end up in so many different places, and it made it made the competition during the planning phase meaningless in a lot of respects, because it didn’t matter if you tried to out-think your opponent, they could just double reposition to avoid what you planned (or force a bump so you couldn’t shoot them anyway). By changing which move actions can chain together, making the barrel roll a positional choice instead of allowing the full forward/backward slide on the template, and removing Push the Limit from the game, they are making the planning phase a lot more relevant and important to players, with consequences for good or bad planning. This has to be combined with a change to the power of attacks, which I cover in the following section, so that the punishment for bad planning is not as devastating as it is today.

Shield regeneration abilities were also disproportionately represented in the meta, with Miranda’s pilot ability and R2-D2 in particular being very powerful. Combined with small based ships not conceding half points, regen ships could just run off when in danger, regen some shields, and either reengage or still be alive at the end. It appears that regeneration abilities will be tied to a specific number of charges in 2.0, so that infinite regen capabilities will not be as meta-warping as they are currently.

Another aspect about maneuver planning was all the new types of moves that were available to new ships, but not old ones. Moves such as the S-Loops and T-Rolls were available to new ships but not any of the classic ships like X-Wings (aside from the forthcoming changes in Saw’s Renegades), TIE Fighters, A-Wings, etc. These are the iconic ships that people know from the original movies, but a lot of them weren’t seeing play because they didn’t have the move options available to the later ships, among other reasons. It appears that a lot of the ships are getting dial changes to add the newer moves to their dial, leveling the field in that respect to bring different ship chassis back into competitiveness.

Bringing Down the Power Curve

One other aspect of the game that had gotten a bit out of hand is the relative power of red dice vs green dice. There were so many ways to get double modifications on attack dice (PTL for TL and Focus, Expertise and Rey/Finn, Predator and Glitterstim, etc.) but not a lot of ways to get double modifications on defence. Red dice are natively better than green dice given they have one less blank side, but this is exacerbated when you have rerolls and focus mods.

Ships that could get good defence modifications and a high health pool (Asajj with Lone Wolf and Glitterstim for example, or Lowhhrick with C-3PO) became quite powerful.  This meant that most of the time your red dice were showing damage at the end, and you’d feel disappointed if you even had one blank dice, and it pushed out all the low health ships that relied on green dice to stay alive (with the exception of some Palp Aces lists that used token stacks and Palpatine).

A lot of the changes I have seen to pilot abilities are addressing this aspect of the game, making it much harder to get double dice mods, including limiting which two actions can be chained together unlike the current game where Push The Limit could be used to pick any two actions the pilot wanted. There are also  changes to limit the offensive capabilities of some pilot abilities, for example RAC can only get the dice modification of his pilot ability if he took a reinforce action and the defending ship is in the reinforced side.

All of these changes should reduce the relative power of red dice to green dice, and make ships that rely on green dice to be much more viable than they are in the current game. To people concerned that their favourite pilot has been nerfed, I say don’t worry, this appears to affect everyone, and it will bring balance back to the force game.

Streamline the Game

Another thing that has happened in the time since X-Wing was first released is that there became a lot of common interactions or steps that didn’t have a name or concept associated to them, which meant that a lot of cards needed to have walls of text in order to explain what they do. X-Wing 2.0 has allowed the designers to move a lot of these items into specific named concepts to allow them to be identified by a symbol or word where a whole paragraph was needed previously (“fully complete” a move as a concept for example, as opposed to “After executing a maneuver, if you did not overlap an obstacle or another ship, then …”).

They have also changed the progression of phases and items in the game, so that bombs for example are dropped in a specific phase instead of needing a card to specify when and how a bomb can be dropped. They’ve also eliminated Action bombs to streamline bombing as a game concept.

The addition of medium based ships should also help differentiate the types of ship capabilities seen in the game, and makes more sense for ships of a particular size and stat range. The change to half points for all ships also stops the issue currently where big base ship players are penalised vs small based ships (commonly referred to as points fortressing), for example a Dengar/Asajj player vs a Miranda/Nym player could have all ships left on 1 hull at the end of the game, but the Miranda Nym player would win even though they had the same effective total health.

All of these changes should make the game easier to understand by players without needing to constantly refer to walls of text on cards or the FAQ to know when and how something should be done or how one thing interacts with another, and in particular it should make it much easier for new players to get a handle on the game.

Star Wars Thematics

X-Wing is a Star Wars game, and they are making changes to the game to try to bring in some of the thematic concepts that it is currently missing. The top of these concepts is the use of force powers.

Up until now, pilots such as Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and crew like Emperor Palpatine had powerful abilities in the game, presumably because they could wield the force, however there were no real differentiation between them and other powerful characters. The addition of force powers and the use of force charges really brings their attunement and mastery of the force into the game as a separate game concept, and brings a little bit more of the Star Wars universe into the game.

Game Design

Probably the most important change, which is partially covered above, is the way the changes open the game up to future expansion. If we look at the state of the game right now, there were too many things that started to be tacked on to the game to make it viable. As an example, look at the original X-Wings, the ship that the game was named after. In order to make them competitive, the ships needed:

  • Integrated Astromech, to make them able to shrug off the damage and bring them in line with other ships health pools.
  • Renegade Refit, to bring it’s point cost in line, and given Integrated Astromech is already taking up the modification slot, give it a second one.
  • Servomotor S-Foils, to give it the moves (T-rolls) or actions (Barrel Roll/Boost) that it’s competitors have, and bring it back in line with how the ship appears in the movies.

After all of this, we have a ship that has used two modification slots (a slot not shown on the cards) and taken up the torpedo slot, to get moves and abilities that didn’t exist in the original release that most ships now have, just to try bring it back in line with other ships in the game. Title slots were added to the game later to try and do the same thing, and generally became auto-include items for ships such as the ARC-170, TIE/sf, TIE Striker, StarViper, etc., for abilities that should have been natively on the ships.

In 2.0, the different ships have native ship abilities that are on the cards to begin with.

This simplification of the game design space should allow the developers to add more unique feeling to ships and pilots in the game without the cumbersome additions required to do this that we see in X-Wing 1.0.

The App

Another big change is the use of online applications/websites for squad building and tournaments. It appears that this will be mandatory now as FFG are not publishing points costs and upgrade slots on the pilot cards, and instead will control this through the applications. This will give them the flexibility to alter the cost or available combos to keep the game balanced, but it also means that people will need at least periodic internet access to update the apps if they want to keep playing the game.

This is a drawback compared to the current game where you can take your squads with you and play without ever needing internet access, and will particularly impact people who play the game in places where this isn’t possible (deployed military service people, sailors, school camps, etc.). That said, in general I don’t know anyone who doesn’t already use an online or phone app for squad building or tournament purposes, but the fact that this is now required vs optional may be a concern or an outright barrier to some people.

One counterpoint to this is the ability for the app to be used to put restrictions or changes into a specific tournament, for example a “Battle of Yavin” tournament that only uses ships/pilots that were there, etc., limiting the combos and items to create a unique play experience for tournaments.

Quick Play

They have also included cards that have predefined builds for ships/pilots/upgrades that have a threat level, so that players who are still learning or looking for a very casual experience can get up and running very quickly, without needing to put in all the research to know what upgrades are good on what ship, and what pilots would balance against each other for a fun game. It also opens up the possibility of doing tournaments using a quick play draft system, draft a squad up to a certain threat level and play.

I think this change alone will make it a lot easier to get a younger audience into the game compared to what is needed today, so hopefully we will see more parents teaching their kids and everyone having a fun time.

Thoughts on the Conversions

This brings me to how we transition from X-Wing 1.0 to 2.0. FFG are releasing a new core set, and a conversion kit per faction. A big change to the game is that factions have been split, so now there is the Rebel Alliance, Galactic Empire, Scum and Villainy, First Order, and Resistance factions. Only the first three are supported for conversion on day 1 of X-Wing 2.0, with conversion kits for the First Order and Resistance to follow in a later wave.

The conversion kits include all the pilots, dials, upgrades, and bases to allow the existing ships to be used from day 1 in X-Wing 2.0. Each conversion kit includes at least 2 of every dial and all of the associated pilot bases, cards, and upgrades.

Not everyone will be happy with the number of dials/ships included in the conversion kits because their own collection may differ from the number of included items, however I do feel that FFG have tried their best to include the appropriate number of each ship to field a viable list in 2.0, with the possible exception of B-Wings, TIE Defenders, X-Wings, and TIE Fighters where a lot of people have more of those than the included dials, either because certain lists were once competitive and/or fun to play (e.g. BBBBZ/Triple Defenders), or they have lots of those ships (e.g. X-Wings and TIE Fighters come in the core sets and some epic ships), or both (in the case of TIE Swarms). Personally if I get one conversion kit for each faction, there will be less than half a dozen of my current models I wouldn’t be able to field, and I have a pretty sizeable X-Wing collection.

The biggest issue I see with X-Wing 2.0 is the cost to convert. Each player will need to buy a new core set (approx. USD$40), and at least one faction conversion kit (approx. USD$50) to be able to play with their current collection.

Overall I feel that to get the changes described above will be worth it for the cost, but other players may certainly feel aggrieved that they are having to pay more to keep playing with their current collection. Some players may not see the changes in the positive light that I do above, because they may not have seen the problems in the game due to the way that they play it, e.g. casual players may not regularly run into a lot of the issues that only came up in the competitive tournament meta.

It also appears that individual ship upgrades will also be more expensive in 2.0. This is partially due to the new detail in the sculpts for the ships, for example the movable S-foils on X-Wings, rotating wings on Fang fighters, and other changes we are likely to see as more ships are converted (FFG please release a B-Wing that rotates like it should!). That said, existing players will not have to purchase the same ships they already have in order to get any new content, at least not in wave 1, as all of the content in the new individual ship packs is already included in the conversion packs. I am hoping this trend will continue, at least for the first few waves while existing ships are re-released.

The main benefit to the changes in regards to cost though is for players who favour a certain faction, as they will no longer need to purchase ships from another faction just to get an upgrade they need. This means there will no longer be packs like the StarViper where almost everyone bought it for the Autothrusters upgrade it contains, regardless of what faction they play. My teammate Sentinel is a hardcore Imperial player, and he only intends to get the Galactic Empire and First Order conversion kits to play the ships he wants, and only intends to buy ships from those factions in the future. This change partially offsets the increased individual price for ships in 2.0 for such players, as players who prefer one faction may end up spending less overall to get the stuff they want, as opposed to today where a lot of players get all ships in a wave just for the upgrades, but still largely only play one faction.  X-Wing tragics like myself however will likely continue to get one of everything if they can 🙂

Overall, the conversion will undoubtedly be expensive for players, particularly those with large existing multi-faction collections. FFG have given us 4 months notice to save up, however there will be a certain proportion of the X-Wing community that don’t think it’s worth it or can’t justify the cost given the way they play the game, or can’t afford the cost to convert their fleet. It’s unfortunate that the community will lose these players, but hopefully this will be counteracted by the ability to attract a new audience to a streamlined game, which may be likely through the inclusion of Quick Play cards to get people up and running with ships without the need to theorycraft and squad build for hours.

My Plans

Overall I’m very much looking forward to X-Wing 2.0, and I plan to pre-order the core set and one of each conversion kits when I am able. It’s also coincidentally within a week of my birthday, so that’s also favourable to me personally. I am also very happy to see that FFG are including 1.0 and 2.0 content in the TIE Reaper and Saw’s Renegades packs.

The one big negative issue for me though is that with the announcement of X-Wing 2.0, it has taken the shine off the tournament scene between now and the release, as a lot of the prizes will no longer be compatible with the game once 2.0 hits. FFG did a good job with things like the templates at Worlds being 2.0 compatible, but there were some large Australian tournaments coming up that had sourced a lot of prizes from the System Open Series events that we would otherwise not get access to here in Australia (come on FFG, give Australasia a System Open!) that are now not going to be valuable at all in 2.0, which means I’m much less likely to spend on travel and accommodation to large tournaments between now and the release.

I hope all of the positive things I have seen or read about in regards to the overall themes for the game changes turn out to be true, and we have a much healthier meta-game in the future, and the ability to attract a larger player base to this amazing game.

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