Fantasy Flight Games released their preview article for the Kihraxz Fighter this week, a new expansion for Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures. The Kihraxz will appear in stores later this summer, alongside the TIE Punisher, the Hound’s Tooth, and the K-Wing. In the FFG article, the Kihraxz was compared heavily to the game’s namesake ship, the X-Wing. This is an appropriate comparison, as the ships are similar in several ways both in design and intended combat role. These two ships have the same total health, similar maneuver dials, comparable costs, and the same available actions. But there are differences in the designs that necessitate a vastly different play style for the two ships – in the maneuver dial, in the upgrade cards, and in the base cost of the ship itself.
Is the Kihraxz Fighter an X-Wing?
The Kihraxz’s lack of a Speed 1 straight maneuver means it will have to turn or bank to maintain a low speed. Unlike the X-Wing, it cannot easily force a following TIE Fighter or TIE Interceptor to choose between a collision and flying by. The Kihraxz also cannot perform quite as well at high speed, and does not have access to a Speed 3 turn, reducing its’ options when trying to put distance between itself and the enemy. Having most of its’ green maneuvers in the Speed 2 range but none on hard turns, yet no red maneuvers outside of K-Turns, the Kihraxz turns better than the prototypical jouster. At the same time, it doesn’t have the actions or the stress clearing capabilities to function like an arc-dodging interceptor, so I don’t feel like we’ll see stress mechanics like Push the Limit (A-Wing / Imperial Aces) or Opportunist (Imperial Aces) being used to augment this ship’s combat abilities – they simply can’t be used without hampering your ability to stay on target for multiple turns.
I’ll shorten the discussion about the difference between Missiles (available to the Kihraxz) and Torpedoes (available to the X-Wing), because the only real difference there is what page of my upgrade card binder they collect dust on, neither one is seeing play for me. Too many points for a one-shot ability without having some major support abilities that aren’t available to either of these ships.
The remaining difference from an upgrade standpoint is Illicit (Kihraxz) vs Astromech (X-Wing). It’s hinted at in FFG’s post, but I think it’s worth noting explicitly that the Illicit upgrades available to Scum & Villainy ships have a much greater potential to have a huge impact upon a single turn of the game, whereas the benefits from Rebel Astromech upgrades have a smaller impact but most of them last throughout the game. A smart X-Wing pilot can get at least 3-4 extra health per game out of using R2-D2 (Starter Set) or R5-P9 (GR-75) to regenerate shields, or keep the enemy pointed in the wrong direction all day long with R3-A2 (GR-75). In return for a similar investment, an Illicit upgrade like a “Hot Shot” Blaster (Most Wanted / IG-2000) or Inertial Dampeners (IG-2000 / Starviper) can potentially net you an extra point or two of damage at a key moment in the battle, but most of them only function once.
So while both the X-Wing and the Kihraxz are intended as medium-cost jousting superiority fighters, I think the biggest difference between the two ships is how they go about it, and the key for me is the cost of the generic pilot. The X-Wing’s bargain generic is the Rookie Pilot, clocking in at 21 points. But the Kihraxz equivalent, the Cartel Marauder, snips off that last point and gives you just enough room to run 5 of them in a list. This is what some thought might be the Scum equivalent of BBBBZ, which features a Bandit Squadron Z-95, and four Blue Squadron B-Wings, generally acknowledged as the reason Rebel players rarely bother with X-Wings anymore.
Is the Kihraxz Fighter a B-Wing?
But rather than the 4.5 ships that BBBBZ brings to the table, if you can fit a 5th ship into 100 points, how does that comparison stack up?
BBBBZ – 5 ships, 14 hull, 22 shields, 14 attack dice, 6 defense dice.
5x Kihraxz – 5 ships, 20 hull, 5 shields, 15 attack dice, 10 defense dice.
The Kihraxz swarm has 11 less total health, and much higher vulnerability to crits, but it has higher total firepower, and more evade dice. But a bit of quick analysis of the numbers says that this isn’t where the Kihraxz will shine – or at least it won’t stand up to the BBBBZ list.
The figures below are ignoring the difference in maneuvering options (all ships are assumed to fire at Range 2 with Focus every turn, no focused defense), and also ignoring the impact of critical hits as well as the fact that the B-Wings can Barrel Roll to do a bit of arc dodging. At that point, we’ll just have to trust empirical evidence, there’s too many factors to give an exact predictive analysis. Still, the best case scenario I can come up with for the Kirhaxz swarm has them falling short by a couple points of damage in a head to head matchup against BBBBZ.
Getting the questions out of the way: Yes, I’m enough of a nerd that I use Excel spreadsheets and create charts in order to make decisions on how to play a game. And no, I don’t play EVE Online anymore… why do you ask?
So, we’ve got that out of the way – they can function as a swarm, but you might as well play BBBBZ if you’re going that route. Where do the Kihraxz fit, then? Where the B-Wings can’t go, of course – in existing Scum lists!
Where DOES the Kihraxz Fighter fit?
I suppose I should be a bit more specific.
But first, I have to lay the groundwork on how I view Scum and Villainy list-building. Unlike Rebel and Imperial forces that often are constructed with a specific theme and center piece, Scum and Villainy has very few synergistic abilities and aura bonuses. As a result, many of the squad lists I see for them have a modular feel to them, and are constructed out of a combination of two or more interchangeable “blocks” of ships.
XL block (41-55 points): Firespray or Aggressor with upgrades
Large block (30-40 points): Named pilot Y-Wing, Starviper, or HWK
Medium block (25-29 points): Generic Starviper or Y-Wing (Warthog), Named Heavy Scyk
Small block (20-24 points): Named Z-95, Named Scyk, Generic Heavy Scyk
Tiny block: (12-19 points): Generic Z-95 or bare Scyk
Take your pick:
2 XL blocks
1 XL, 1 Large, 1 Tiny
2 Large & 1 medium
…and so on.
Build to a similar theme, sure, but pretty much anything can plug & play just fine. Don’t like how Serrisu with a Mangler Cannon is working out for you? Swap in a BTL-A4 Y-Wing with an Ion Cannon. The problem is, the Medium block is considered to be nothing more than support fire that can’t win you a game, the Tiny block isn’t threatening because there’s nothing to boost its’ offensive capabilities (i.e. no Howlrunner like TIE Fighters have), and the Small block has most of both of those problems. So while there’s certainly exceptions, you end up with the functional lists consisting of:
2 XL blocks.
2 Large & 1 Medium block.
1 XL block & 2 Medium blocks.
The Kihraxz Fighter helps address this by fitting well into three of these size categories. Once loaded for combat, Talonbane Cobra is a solid new option for the Large block. Equipped, the Black Sun Ace is a legitimate contender in the Medium category. And un-equipped, the generic Cartel Marauder gives a bit of teeth to the Small block that had previously been missing, thus increasing the viable build combinations. Now, perhaps an XL, a Large, and a Small (Firespray of choice, Talonbane, and a Cartel Marauder perhaps) is just as viable as an XL and two Mediums (such as a Firespray and two Black Sun Aces).
So if you’re not happy with N’Dru Suhlak, you can swap in a Cartel Maurauder. Where I suggested earlier that you might substitute in a Warthog for Serissu, a Black Sun Ace is also a viable option as a replacement. It’s plug & play, really.
And if you feel like Guri costs too much to be PS5, swap in Talonbane Cobra. Instant functional list, and most likely an upgraded one. Side note: Swing and a miss on Graz. If I’m not spending the extra points to geet Talonbane, I’m probably putting the 2 points I would save on taking a Black Sun Ace over Graz towards the Elite Pilot Talent upgrade that Graz can’t have; his ability just doesn’t call to me enough.
The Kihraxz Fighter doesn’t solve every problem that Scum and Villainy has in being able to build a competitive list that isn’t dual IG-88’s, but it adds solid options, and it doesn’t take much work to find a home for one or more of them in your lists. They’ll be a welcome addition to my collection.
– The Tabletop General