Welcome to this week’s blog! It’s going to be another slightly unusual one this week so I’ll get some of the housekeeping out of the way early!
First up – tournaments!
In Newport we (that’s Exile Squadron at Firestorm Games Newport!) have got our next event on the 26th of November. We’ve got Louis Leong Holocron metal objective markers to give out, PLUS a trophy! Why would you NOT come?!?
Yes, it’s the LAST WEEK of this quarter! Can you believe it?!
So, I guess it’s time for the last reveal – the prize for the giveaway draw!
Being that it’s the last one of the year and marks the end of my first year running a Patreon account, I’ve added a couple of sneaky extras in, meaning that THREE Patrons will get prizes this time!
So that’s a brand new, still sealed Decimator for the first name out of the (virtual) hat and a faction damage deck for the next two!
If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning any of these prizes or getting your hands on some of the other gifts for this quarter (such as alt art cards, claim tokens, bomb tokens or dial covers!) or even if you’d just like to support my work on the blog out of the kindness and generosity of your heart then you can sign up to become a Patron here.
Please don’t feel any obligation. I know times are pretty hard right now (I mean, at least in the UK they are, I don’t know about elsewhere!) and money is tight. I never take the support I get for granted and I appreciate it hugely!
The deadline to be included in this quarter is the 31st of October. I’ll be doing the prize draw on the 1st of November and getting stuff ready to send out soon after.
Right then, let’s move on!
The main bit…
Alright, it’s time to come clean – I know the title of the blog is a little bit click-baity.
It’s not exactly on purpose but it DOES relate to the content. Eventually. We’ll get there, I promise.
So, another slightly different blog today! My wife and I had an event to go to last Wednesday so I didn’t make it to casual night for a game. Booooooo!
It’s ok though for a few reasons
No, honestly! Aside from missing time with some of my buddies I’m actually ok with not getting a game in. Which feels weird to say. Let me explain why.
Way back when, some time that I can’t remember (and if I’m honest, haven’t bothered searching for!) I recall talking about points changes under 2.0. In general, under FFG in 2.0 there were points updates approximately every 6 months or so. Whether this was to shake up the meta (JARGON ALERT!!), fix ‘broken’ things or attempt to find some sort of perfectly balanced game I’m actually not really sure and while you couldn’t exactly say they were regular as clockwork, they were at somewhat reliable intervals.
I know that there are some people who believed that 6 months was too long with one set of points and that points changes every 4 months (so three a year) would be better.
Personally, as someone who has, historically, usually struggled to find a list that I like and as someone who needs reps with a list to get up to speed AND someone who gets two to three games a month (generally speaking), a points change after 4 months would feel way too soon. Heck, for me, even 6 months was pushing it sometimes.
And so it feels really weird to admit that I’m actually looking forward to the points update due this week. Yes, in case you hadn’t heard – new points are due this week.
I’m sure that most of you are very aware of X-Wing’s recent history but just in case, here’s a quick recap
After around 3 1/2 years of X-Wing 2.0, at the end of February this year AMG released the new format for X-Wing. New rules, new scenarios and new list building which we came to call X-Wing 2.5
Of all the changes, the new points system for building lists is the one that I found hardest to get to grips with.
First of all came the bloat. My lists contained around 4 high initiative pilots with countless loadout points. I think at one point I had a list which had over 30 cards. It was crazy. Too many upgrades and triggers to remember it was just mind boggling to process.
Then came the reduction of cards and increase of ships. It was quickly found that high ship counts favoured most scenarios and that the force was particularly strong. Lists started leaning this way and soon it was found that being able to use the Force at range 0 and have lots of cheap ships was the way to go to get wins.
I mean is, other people found this. I was busy getting murdered in most games as I got to grips with scenarios.
Then towards the end of May this year came another major update. Some rules tweaks (bye bye range 0 Force!) and points updates and changes to how (or more to the point, when) you score.
‘X-Wing 2.6’ was a big step forward and felt much more balanced. It still had scenarios and all the other differences that I needed a brain adjustment for but it was just… better. And so began the current meta or season or whatever you want to call it.
Now, I’ve heard it said before in previous iterations and at different points values that the meta can become solved. That basically means that THE thing, the absolute best combo, the unbeatable whatever has been found and that’s it. That’s what it is.
Personally, I don’t believe that.
Even looking only at this current points set, it was suggested early on that Rebel Alpha was THE thing. Then that was countered by First Order lists bringing boosting bombers, nasty bombs and chaff clouds. Then other lists started popping up. Resistance Y-Wings plus a ‘good’ piece, Republic LAAT plus 3/4 ships, Vader plus cheap TIEs, Decimators, Jango, Grievous plus things.
Things seemed to look remarkably balanced (at least in terms of faction representation) for a while. Sure, not everything is good but there is something good in every faction.
And so despite the early claim on this current meta, there’s actually been quite a fair spread of stuff doing well.
It’s my opinion that it’s very rare (but not impossible!) for a meta to actually become completely solved at all. I believe that’s generally down to there being some individuals (which doesn’t include me!) who straight up refuse to take the common, popular thing and they specifically look at options to directly counter it.
I honestly believe that if AMG came out today and said ‘NO POINTS CHANGE FOR A YEAR’ that 10 months from now we would be seeing very different lists than we see today.
However, what I do believe is that our (that being the wider community as a whole) mindset ‘decides’ that the meta is solved.
I also believe that at any given point we are generally fine with the points as they are (whatever it is that the currently are and based on the assumption that there isn’t something glaringly broken or exploitative available)… until we aren’t.
For example, Around a year ago I remember being totally baffled and frustrated by a Scum list which I absolutely could not defeat. You know the one. Bossk with Zam, Asajj with 0-0-0, Lando with Jabba and everyone has False Transponder Codes. I faced it (or variations of it) at least 3-4 times and never found a way past it. I used it once and absolutely trounced my opponent despite it being the first time I put it on the table.
At the time, for a season, it was the thing to beat. But eventually it was beaten. It didn’t die from being nerfed (JARGON ALERT!!) or having elements of it banned. It died when some clever person/people found a list or strategy to negate or overpower what it was doing.
During this time FFG had already passed stewardship of the game over to AMG and nobody knew whether any points changes were coming at all, let alone when (little did we know what was around the corner!). We all just got on with it and we found a way around.
But looking back at previous times, we either knew for sure or had some indication that points updates would roll around every 6 months or so and I think it’s no coincidence that as we approached that time it was very common to see posts begging FFG for an update or wanting to know the exact date for new points.
Whether we were bored of what lists we’d been playing or tired of seeing the same things winning for a little while, as soon as we started getting close to what we expected to be an update, I’d hear or see things like ‘the meta is stale’, we need a shake up’ and so on.
It’s my opinion that we were only tired of these points and after an update because we were expecting an update. If updates were only going to be in case of an emergency (like when triple Upsilon was a thing. Or the Nantex) or very few and far between (given that we’d come from 1.0 when points were printed on cards and fixed forever) then our expectations would be set differently and our attitudes might be different.
It’s like getting frustrated with your phone being slow six weeks before your contract is up for renewal. We know we’re due an update soon and we’re impatient for it.
Having said all that, in real terms, a pending points update has meant that I’ve not bothered looking at new lists. At all. I just don’t see the point. The list I’ve been flying the last couple of weeks has been pretty fun but since there’s now a reasonable chance that it won’t be legal by the time I next get a game then why would I bother looking at something else? I might as well just appreciate what I’ve got right now, wait for the new points and then see what I can find that’s cool and fun.
And I don’t mean just this time. Every time we’ve had a points update coming up, my interest has sort of fallen off a little. Whether I’m grieving the likely loss of a list I really like or nervous of how long it’ll take me to find something new that I enjoy I’m not quite sure but it’s something that I’ve felt every time.
And that, for me, is the down side of regular points updates. Towards the end it can feel stale, but only because we know it’s the end. Know what I mean?
I’ve written a LOT of words so far and not actualy got to my point so let’s get there shall we?
I say all of that to say this.
I think a points update IS necessary.
It feels weird for me to say that and I suppose everything I’ve written above is to give you that context.
In spite of what I’ve outlined, especially about how there’s a pretty nicely balanced spread of ‘good stuff’ right now, I think that the way that AMG have decided that lists are to be built (i.e. with 20 point lists and upgrade points costed from a different pool) actually necessitates it.
I totally understand why AMG went for the list building method that we currently use. Ship points are measured on the same scale as objective points and it makes sense that you can reach a ‘winning’ score (i.e. 20 points) without claiming any objectives just as much as you can do it without killing any ships. I’m not sure either of those has ever happened but I can see how it’s theoretically possible.
The exact phrase that AMG cited in their release article was ‘loss of granularity’. They understand it and accept it (embrace it, even) as the way to take the game forward. While it allows for simpler scoring and for unique pilots to be used much more commonly than generics, it does have it’s drawbacks. For example, while each faction having something good is great, what it means is that you’ll ALWAYS see that thing.
FO lists will have bombers. Resistance lists will have Y-Wings. Rebel lists will have Luke or Wedge (maybe both). Republic lists will have Hound. Empire has… a lot.
That’s all fine. In a way. What it also means is that there are also things (and FAR more things) that you will simply NEVER see. You want examples? Ok, let’s go!
Let’s go with Rebels since that’s where I’m most comfortable. A year ago I was doing pretty alright with a three ship list of Luke, Leia and Ahsoka. Luke’s getting plenty of play since 2.5. Ahsoka a bit less so but she’s around.
Leia though? Gone.
And it makes sense. Why on earth would you bring Leia at 8 points when Lando (with hyper action economy) and Han (higher initiative and free rerolls) are the same price? Sure she’s got more loadout than the guys but only a little and clearly not by enough to make it worthwhile picker her.
And what about the faithful support ship – the Sheathipede. All pilots are 4 points. All of them. That’s i1 AP-5, i2 Zeb, i3 Ezra and i6 Fenn. Why on earth would you pick anyone but Fenn? You wouldn’t. You don’t.
Let’s look cross-chassis now. Who do you want for 6 squad points, Fenn Rau in the somewhat fragile Fang Fighter with a worse ability than his Scum card and 16 squad points? Or Luke Skywalker who can regenerate Force quickly, double mod himself and 6 additional loadout points?
In case you’re not sure, Metawing has the answer. Luke is 34th on the list of 232 pilots. Rebel Fang Fenn isn’t even listed.
And you know what? It feels like a waste. Why are we getting new ships and new card packs with new pilots (or new versions of old pilots!) when we’ve already got a huge number of pilot cards in the game?
Another dilemma at the moment is those pesky/amazing (depending on what faction you play!) ISB Jingoists. In my opinion they are drastically under costed at 2 points.- Considering that you get initiative 4 AND a great ability, the fact you can also get two of them is just crazy. But, as is pointed out by multiple people I’ve heard on podcasts, if they go up to 3 points (even with a higher loadout to compensate), do they just disappear, never to be seen again? Personally I think they should go up to 3 points and that the only 2 point ships should be low initiative generics (provided that faction has a sufficiently crappy chassis to use them. I know that Resistance hasn’t).
What’s the answer? I don’t actually know. What I know is that there’s no way AMG will be going back to the old way of pointing pilots.
It doesn’t fit with scenario scoring and, let’s face it, going back to the old way would be a massive admission of failure and I’m really not sure that even if AMG saw it that way (which I’m sure they don’t), that they would go there.
As much as it’s easy for me to muse the ins and outs of what may or may not work, the truth is that I’m not a game designer and I’ve got no way of know whether any idea that I did actually have would work or be possible to implement.
Will AMG tweak things just a little? Or will they make wholesale changes to cycle strong things out and different things in? Who’s to say really! I guess we’ll find out in just a few days time!
So, after all that talk, what am I saying here?
I think that by structuring the points as they have, AMG have made a rod for their own back. Going forward I think that points updates will need to be more regular than I felt they previously needed to and I wonder whether every new release now brings greater risk of accidentally introducing something that might ‘break the game’. I’m hoping that play testing will prevent that though!
With the release schedule that we currently have lined up (Battle of Yavin this week, Hotshots and Aces 2 at the end of November and Siege of Coruscant just 1 week later), I’m quite sure we’re not expecting anything more than points for new releases after this week’s update, that’s for sure.
I guess that leads me to the big question – when will the next major update actually be? Will we get semi-regular updates like under FFG (for example every 6 months or so) or will we only get them with new releases?
Do we actually need to know when the updates are coming? Or does that just dampen our general enthusiasm for current points as we approach the expected date? Or is that just me?!
Of course, ALL of this is just opinion and conjecture. I’m just vomiting my thoughts onto my keyboard in an attempt to make sense of what may or may not be happening. Maybe I’m wrong here? That’s the beautiful thing about opinions I suppose. I can be right or I can be wrong and polite and friendly discussions may or may not change how I think about things as we all wait and see how things shake out.
Still, the fact that we’ve got new releases is awesome. I think that at some point we’ve all wondered whether this game was heading the way of Star Wars Destiny. I’m really glad that AMG have got plans to keep releases going and the reintroduction of OP is great (even if I’m not a fan of big events at mass conventions).
I know that this post might feel a bit negative overall. That’s really not my intention here. I’m actually pretty positive about the game on the whole but I just get the feeling at the moment that it needs a bit of a shot in the arm. Or maybe it’s just the ‘new points around the corner’ feeling. Hopefully the new packs are the start of a new season. I really do feel that 2023 is going to be a great year for X-Wing.
If you’ve read this far – bless you. I know it’s been a bit of a weird one today. This is what happens when I’ve not played a game and I’ve got X-Wing thoughts to get out of my head!
Come back next week and I’ll not only have played a game (or two?!) but new points will be live and the new Battle of Yavin pack will be out! Ill see you then!
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