X-Wing Miniatures in Episode VII

Happy Force Friday, everyone! Among a ton of other new Star Wars goodies, a new version of the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures starter set has been released today. As of this time, the set is only available at Target, Barnes & Noble, and on Amazon, although it should be available in gaming stores within the next couple of weeks. I’ve hustled home from a midnight release and cracked mine open. Thankfully the fears that have plagued the rumor mills about the new version being incompatible with the existing game are 100% false. And, thanks to the hard work of some Bothan spies, I already knew what I wanted to talk about out of the kit, so no need to go digging through and researching how things work, all of our intel has been confirmed!

wpid-img_20150904_230905582.jpg
It’s blue, because the X-Wings are from Blue Squadron… except for the ones that aren’t…?

Let’s take a look at the contents. This kit includes two new First Order Tie Fighters, the modern day replacement for the original TIE Fighter, and the new T-70 X-Wing, which in turn serves as an upgrade to the original T-65 X-Wing. It is presumed that new expansion packs will be available soon for individual versions of these new ships. These ships belong to new Subfactions for the Rebels and Imperials; the full impact of that distinction is currently unknown, but I would suppose that in the future we’ll see some upgrades that are sub-faction specific, preventing Episode IX crew from flying on an Episode IV ship, for instance. Unknowns aside, let’s take a look at what we do know now about the contents of this core set, the pilots and upgrades therein, and how we can put them all to use.

Epsilon_Squadron_Pilot                  Zeta_Squadron_Pilot

Epsilon Squadron Pilots and Zeta Squadron Pilots equate almost precisely to Academy Pilots and Obsidian Squadron Pilots. For an increase of 3 points over their elder brethren, these two receive a single Shield, the Target Lock action, and access to the new Tech upgrade slot. Only one such Tech upgrade exists in the starter set, and it doesn’t really fit here, so we’ll come back to that one later. The movement dial is greatly improved; the New Order TIE Fighter performs quite similarly to TIE Interceptors, with a notable addition of a Speed-2 Segnor’s Loop.

Omega_Squadron_Pilot

Omega Squadron Pilots are similarly comparable to Black Squadron Pilots; same changes, same 3 points. I feel like of the generic TIEs, this is what we’ll see the most of for the First Order TIEs, as budget conscious players will stick to the standard TIE Fighter to use as blockers and swarms, but the extra health will be welcomed on ships that we invest in, especially if that “Draw Their Fire” critical can splash harmlessly on the Omega Squadron Pilot’s shield.

Zeta_Ace

The unique pilots are a bit more interesting. “Zeta Ace” is the first example of a much needed new tier of pilots with mid-range Pilot Skill and swarm-hunting capabilities. “Zeta Ace” has the ability to perform Barrel Roll actions using either the 1 or 2 speed template, which gives a lot of flexibility in final location. This will allow Zeta Ace a modicum of arc-dodging capabilities and finding a gap in a swarm’s firing arc coverage without the high pilot skill and associated cost of a traditional squadron Ace. That seems to be a theme in this box, so we’ll return to this subject in a few minutes.

Epsilon_Leader

“Epsilon Leader”, on the other hand, belongs in a swarm. With the ability to remove a stress token from any number of nearby allies, “Epsilon Leader” feels like he belongs in the midst of a swarm of TIE Fighters, removing all of their stress tokens after a squadron-wide K-Turn, preparing them to reverse course again immediately if needed. Keep in mind, a ship is considered to be at Range 1 of itself, so “Epsilon Leader” sheds a stress per turn even without taking a Green maneuver. This is almost assuredly why there was no Elite Pilot Talent slot given to this ship, but there could be some future combos available with Experimental Interface and a Tech upgrade that grants a new action.

Omega_Ace

“Omega Ace”, or “Murder Face” if you prefer (and I think I do), is the last of the First Order pilots, fitting the definition of a big game hunter. With a Focus and a Target Lock, “Omega Ace” can guarantee that each attack die it rolls is a Critical Hit. If you can keep your action economy flowing, this guy can’t miss his target. All Critical Hits makes the average attack hurt a little more when you’re shooting at other fighters, but against something big and beefy like a Y-Wing, TIE Bomber, or even worse yet a Decimator or the Ghost, “Omega Ace” will be devastating, dealing three critical hits per turn at close range.

Before we look at the Resistance ships, let’s talk upgrades. It wouldn’t be a starter set without Proton Torpedoes, which appear in the box but aren’t really going to appear in competitive builds, you’ll find other uses for those points. But the other four upgrades are all new.

Weapons_Guidance                           Wired

The two upgrades included in this pack and usable by the First Order TIEs are Weapons Guidance and Wired. Weapons Guidance is a peculiar upgrade that serves as a failsafe on a single attack die. Essentially, if you have one die that does not roll a Hit or Crit, and you’re equipped with a Weapons Guidance, you can convert that die to a Hit result regardless of whether it is a Focus or a Miss. Multiple Miss results or a split between Focus and Miss results are the only scenarios where you’re not covered with a single Focus token.

Wired, on the other hand, lets you reroll any number of your Focus results per attack/defense if you are stressed, a neat ability. Both of these upgrades give a degree of extra reliability for your dice, but I don’t feel as though they will be cost effective in the long run, or be able to stand up against other options in their upgrade slots if you are going to spend those points (once more Tech upgrades are available).

Blue_Squadron_Novice              Red_Squadron_Veteran

Moving on to the shiny new T-70 X-Wings of the Resistance. Blue Squadron Novice gets the exact same treatment as the Epsilon Squadron Pilots; compared to their Rookie Pilot equivalents in T-65 X-Wings, the Novices cost 3 more points, have one additional shield, one new action (Boost, in this case), access to the Tech upgrade slot, and a revitalized movement dial. The T-70 dial builds on that of their predecessor’s, but doesn’t completely reinvigorate it. The revamped dial gains an additional green straight maneuver, and the new Tallon Roll maneuver, a hard turn followed by a 90 degree rotation; similar in use to a Segnor’s Loop, but without the change in facing from a Koiogran turn, and a touch more flexibility in final positioning thanks to the free slide at the end of the template akin to a Barrel Roll. (Side note, I do NOT want to think out the game mechanics of how to fairly perform a Tallon Roll with a large based ship.)

Red Squadron Veterans get a matching set of upgrades and for the same 3 point premium compared to Red Squadron T-65 pilots. There’s a bonus here though, as these pilots also get an Elite Pilot Talent slot for no additional cost. For just under a third of your points, you can have a solid if not awe-striking squadron member:

Red Squadron Veteran – 26 (Episode VII Starter)
Predator- 3 (Kihraxz / TIE Defender)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)

At Pilot Skill 4, carrying Predator, and with a touch of arc dodging available in the Boost action, the Veteran will punish swarms, fitting in right alongside the Zeta Squadron Pilots mentioned earlier as midrange options with a bit of arc dodging to them. Meanwhile, taking a Focus as their default action, damage output of higher Pilot Skill opponents can be mitigated, or the Focus can be spent freely on return fire. With seven points available to play with another upgrade or two like R3-A2 (GR-75), a trio of Veterans could be a solid choice for a casual game night.

Blue_Ace

Our next pilot is “Blue Ace”. My mind went absolutely racing at the possibilities that a tag team between the expanded boost choices and BB-8 could bring to the game if given Push The Limit (I counted at least 50 different final positions available even if only using the most extreme options for Barrel Roll actions), but the lack of an Elite Pilot Talent slot tempers those thoughts a bit. “Blue Ace” can still dance around a bit that way if you want him to, and has unique options, but not as many as Push The Limit affords pilots that can take it.

Still, “Blue Ace” can do some really unexpected things with his tight turning boost.  While the positioning isn’t exact, he can come close to the same repositioning as a Tallon Roll by combining a bank or turn with the special Boost, and the benefit of this is that you can change your mind about the facing if you need to, and in either case you wouldn’t have a Stress token to deal with next turn.

Tallon_VS_Blue_Ace
T-70s: Talon Roll possible positions. Ace 1: Speed 3 Turn, Boost. Ace 2: Speed 2 Bank, Boost. Ace 3: Speed 3 Bank, Boost.

This action is especially  effective when that boost is triggered late in the round by a bonus action from another ship like Lando Calrissian (Millennium Falcon), Airen Cracken (Z-95 Headhunter),  or any other high level pilot equipped with Squad Leader (TIE Advanced).

Lando_Calrissian             Airen-cracken

BlueAce_Cracken
Neither X-Wing has a shot initially. Cracken fires at but does not kill the TIE in front of him, and can give an action to a wingman. The T-70 on the left could escape the TIE’s arc with Cracken’s help, but would end up hitting an asteroid. Blue Ace, though, can maneuver in for a kill shot.

And last, but not least…
Poe_Dameron                     r5-p9

The big star of the show is presumed to be our elite T-70 pilot, Poe Dameron. He’s got an evolved version of Luke Skywalker’s ability, passively converting not only a defensive Focus, but an Offensive one too, just so long as he’s holding on to a Focus Token. R5-P9 (GR-75) will be a natural fit for Poe, since he wants to hold that Focus as long as possible. He’ll need to watch out for Carnor Jax (Imperial Aces), Palob Godalhi (Most Wanted), and anyone carrying Tactician (TIE Phantom) or similar Stress inducing abilities, as all of those could shut down his special ability. With his reasonably high pilot skill, Poe is also the best equipped to take advantage of BB-8 and his native Boost ability (see below) to go arc dodging in his T-70, a foreign concept for the Rebellion outside of a couple A-Wing pilots and the occasional E-Wing.

R5-X3                          BB-8

R5-X3 and BB-8, will find their way into lists more frequently than the previously discussed upgrades. R5-X3 will sneak in for his low cost to add flexibility, combining both pilot and crew variants of Dash Rendar for a single turn for all of a single point. BB-8 is the much more powerful of the two, letting his ship “roll” all over the place. As a reader pointed out, I was mistaken initially about Stay On Target; Since the trigger is the same “When you reveal your maneuver”, you can activate BB-8 and Stay On Target in either order. So long as your initial maneuver selected was Green, BB-8 can be used and then you can trigger Stay on Target to zip around to wherever you choose. But I think Push The Limit will see more use here; BB-8 is almost custom-built for multi-action shenanigans where a ship can perform 3 separate actions in a turn without ending up with a stress at the end of the round.

“How would this work?”, you ask… No, it’s probably more like “Master, this humble Padawan begs of you an explanation” Or at least that’s how it sounds in my delusional mind. Regardless, let’s break it down. Ship starts with zero Stress tokens, selects a Green maneuver anyway. BB-8 triggers upon the reveal of the Green Maneuver, and the ship has the option to perform a Barrel Roll. Unless you have a good reason not to, or actually can’t execute one, go ahead and take that action, and use it as the trigger for Push The Limit. In the case of the T-70, your options are Focus, Target Lock, or Boost, picking up your Stress token afterward. Perform your Green maneuver; remove the Stress token during Check Pilot Stress, and then you can perform a third action in the Perform Action step. You can combine Barrel Roll, Focus, and Target Lock for a fully modified attack, or Barrel Roll, Boost, and Focus for a more defensive “this isn’t how I wanted this turn’s maneuvers to look” plan of action. In fact, even ignoring any adjustments to your Barrel Roll options beyond which side to roll to, you end up with at least 16 different unique potential final positions to end up in that you can pick and choose between as you reveal your maneuver dial! As the following diagram will show, that can make you really hard to pin down.

BB-8_BR_PTL_Boost

(Assuming a Green 2 straight was selected)
1: 2 straight, Focus/Target Lock
2: 2 straight, Boost right
3: 2 straight, Boost forward
4: 2 straight, Boost left
5: Barrel Roll right, Focus/Target Lock, 2 straight, F/TL
6: Barrel Roll right, Focus/Target Lock, 2 straight, Boost right
7a: 6: Barrel Roll right, Focus/Target Lock, 2 straight, Boost straight
7b: 6: Barrel Roll right, Boost straight, 2 straight, Focus/Target Lock
8: Barrel Roll right, Focus/Target Lock, 2 straight, Boost left
9-12: same as 5-8, but Barrel Roll left first.
13: Barrel Roll left, Boost left, 2 straight, Focus/Target Lock
14: Barrel Roll right, Boost left, 2 straight, Focus/Target Lock
15: Barrel Roll left, Boost right, 2 straight, Focus/Target Lock
16: Barrel Roll right, Boost right, 2 straight, Focus/Target Lock

Along with the ships and upgrades, the damage deck has been revised in the new starter too. For now it’s “suggested” that we replace our existing decks with the new one, but I’m sure it won’t be long until the new deck is considered required for competitive play. There are some devastating new cards, like Major Explosion, which with suitable luck could potentially turn into four damage (Major Explosion, Major Explosion, Direct Hit). But more importantly, every critical hit now does SOMETHING, with very few exceptions;  Lambda Shuttles still don’t care about Damaged Engine, and Tycho Celchu isn’t about to care about a Loose Stablizer any more than a Thrust Control Fire.

Unchanged_Critical_Hits
Unchanged Critical Hits
Updated_Critical_Hits
Updated Critical Hits
New_Critical_Hits
New Critical Hits

On the whole, the damage deck became just a little bit deadlier (see the Major Explosion example above). But it also became a lot more fair; the removal of Munitions Failure means that expensive secondary weapons are no longer vulnerable, while the same card was just a regular damage card to those without secondary weapons. I’m also glad to see that the Gunner loophole has been closed for Blinded Pilot (not exactly thematic, but definitely a good balance shift).

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So what are your thoughts on the new starter set? How will you integrate your new reinforcements from The Resistance and the First Order into your existing fleets? See a combo that just has to be played? Let me know in the comments below, or reach out to me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/TheTabletopGeneral). As always, I’d love to hear from you!

– The Tabletop General