Hello and welcome to this week’s blog!
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for me personally these last few weeks since moving house and the Welsh Open. We’ve got new carpets being fitted which has meant that every spare moment is being spent decorating. DIY isn’t my favourite thing (nor am I particularly good at it!) but we are making headway and it feels VERY satisfying.
I am, however, exhausted and want it to be done with.
In X-Wing news, details of the TIE bomber came out last week just before my last post published but not long enough before for me to have time to talk about it!
I guess the big news is that it’s a double pack but the other interesting thing is that there are some standard loadout cards (Battle of Yavin and Siege of Coruscant style) which means that veteran players who already own some Bombers (like me!) actually have a reason to buy the pack.
I’ve said before that I’m a little torn on this. On one hand I begrudge buying something I already own several of just because there’s a handful of cards that might be useful. I guess that it being a double pack and more expensive makes it feel a bit worse. On the other I think that it’s the right play from a business point of view. I’ve heard it said many times that FFG’s biggest bungle in the move to 2.0 was the production (and low cost) of the conversion kits.
As a rookie player at the time I do think a full re-buy in of everything might have put me off staying in the game but honestly, given how infrequently ships are released and therefore how infrequently I buy new stuff from my FLGS (JARGON ALERT!!), they really need to give the game a boost to encourage stores to keep stocking it. I don’t know sales figures but I can pretty much guarantee that any given store makes a LOT more money from things with small repeatable purchases like Pokemon or Magic than they do from X-Wing.
And THEN, just last night, I start seeing some VERY lovely images…..
Dash is back baby!! I already own 3 of these models but I don’t care, I am DEFINITELY buying this one. It’s an easier sell to me than the bombers simply for the fact that it’s now multi faction.
Either way, the next time I’m down at Firestorm it’s highly likely that I’m going to pre-order BOTH of these packs because I can’t exactly sit here and preach ‘support AMG, support your FLGS’ and then not buy the new things, right?
Anyway, back to the point, new releases are great and I’m looking forward to more!
Store Championships seem to be VERY frequent at the moment with three this past weekend in the UK (that I know of!).
Congratulations to Steve Boulton for winning his Worlds 2024 invite at Excelsior in Bristol! A big shout out to and to Gavin Kirby for winning in Swansea on Sunday but passing his invite on to Miles Horry! An honourable mention to Dom Flannigan who won his SECOND Store Champs (at Entoyment) since being runner up at the Welsh Open and congrats to Elliot Weights for being runner up and getting that invite too!
I’m a bit frustrated that all these store champs are going on and I’m not getting to any yet but my time is coming. Firestorm in Cardiff is holding theirs on the 9th of September and we’re holding ours in Newport on the 21st of October.
Am I hunting a Worlds ticket?
It’s a little too early to commit one way or another but I’d really LOVE to go and experience Worlds and if I did somehow manage to win a ticket it would certainly strengthen my argument for going.
Anyway, at this point it’s still a bit of a pipe dream but who knows eh?
Ok, it’s the last blog post before the quarter ends! I will admit I’ve been a little all over the place this last few months with the house move and the Welsh Open but thankfully I was WELL on top of Q3 before it all went bonkers.
I’ve already talked about the Resistance alt ats a few weeks ago and while I talked about the Exile 2 straight template (for Veterans, Commanders and Legends)and Mandalorian spot gloss card (for Legends only!) I didn’t actually add any pics of them. Time to fix that!
The last things to talk about are that I’m sending out some of the Mandalorian helmet 3D printed tokens that we had at the Welsh Open for Commander and Legend tiers. and also what the giveaway prize is for this month – a brand new boxed Decimator!
If you want to support the blog and get your hands on some of these things then you can sign up to be a Patron here. As I always stress, there’s no pressure to sign up, I appreciate you just taking the time to read!
Alright, that’s enough shilling for now. On with the show!
The main bit…
Now, given the aforementioned decorating (me) and combined with sickness (not me) and work (me, but also others) and people being away (not me), I didn’t get to play last week.
I know, very sad.
I thought about reaching out to someone for a TTS game to get back into the swing of that, especially with XTC 2023 creeping up, but I ran out of time to organise something. Also very sad.
So, given that we’ve had version 2.5 of X-Wing for a good while now, I thought it might be time to have a look at the general state of the game at the moment. I can’t say that broad analysis is exactly something I’m an expert at but since when did that stop people having an opinion?!
Part 1 – A brief history
In case there are those who are reading who only know the current iteration of X-Wing I’ll quickly go over the history of the game as I know it. Apologies in advance for any inaccuracies!
X-Wing was released in August 2012 by Fantasy Flight Games, a game developer owned by Asmodee. Ships were released in waves, 14 across 6 years until in 2018 FFG announced second edition (known as 2.0).
The major changes here were moving from 100 point lists to 200 point lists (which was made up of pilots and upgrades from the same points pool) and also not printing the point values on the card itself, allowing FFG to make adjustments to points if something was found to be too strong or too weak for it’s points.
Now, 2.0 was somewhat controversial at the time and some people sold up their collections and left but the overall feeling was that 1.0 (as it became known) was pretty broken and had rather a lot of NPE (JARGON ALERT!!), particularly for newer players.
I can personally attest to that. I started playing in late 2017, just a few months before Nymranda was popular (popular is a bit of an understatement) and between Harpoon Missiles and Push The Limit and all sorts of other nonsense that I didn’t quite fully understand, it often felt like more experienced players could effectively just pick up their ship, place it where they wanted, roll the dice and turn them all to hits.
2.0 was now here and it was the start of a big expansion for the game as it went from three factions to seven with First Order and Resistance splitting out from Empire and Rebels and the prequel factions being released.
Then the pandemic hit and tabletop gaming in person simple disappeared. Now, we’ve no way to know whether Asmodee’s decision to basically take X-Wing away from FFG (who, historically, were a card game publisher anyway) and passing to Atomic Mass Games (a miniatures publisher… of one game) was as a result of covid or whether it was a plan they had all along but that change was the start of some fundamental shifts in the game.
Nothing changed for a while but in September 2021, AMG started making announcements and running streams and the major change was going to be scenario play.
And I get it. Sort of.
X-Wing had always been a purely skirmish game. Two players bring their lists and the idea is to blow up the other person’s ships before they blow up yours. Simple and clear.
AMG argued that, in terms of storytelling and theme, this could be better. I mean, when consuming our favourite Star Wars content, how often do two opposing forces turn up at the same location with the express purpose of knocking seven bells out of each other? It may not be never but it’s not a big number. There’s usually some reason or some other thing going that’s brought them to that place.
So yeah, in those terms, I get it.
From a gameplay point of view, AMG were bringing a very different overall ethos on playing a game. In their existing game – Marvel Crisis Protocol, the focus is (as far as I’m aware!) very scenario heavy, much more so than on dealing damage. When that’s your view on how games work (and MCP does very well so you can argue that it does work), then why would you not implement this into other games?
And so, in March 2022, AMG released the new rules for X-Wing, unofficially dubbed as 2.5.
The response was… man, I don’t even know how to describe it. I also don’t want to be negative or give too much time to it but it does need to be acknowledged.
The long and short of it was, some people were angry, some were happy. Some were upset, others weren’t bothered. The fallout was long and messy and while it’s hard to give any indication of even vaguely accurate numbers, many people stopped playing the game.
For some, the game had changed to such a degree that they no longer liked it. For others, it was AMG’s decision to make the game more casual. When combined with prolonged lack of table time following almost 2 years of lockdown, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
People I saw regularly no longer play and that still makes me sad.
The first iteration of 2.5 was… interesting and following some very broken lists and weird tactics, and adjustment was made around May 2022 and has, for the most part, stuck around ever since.
So, it turns out that it wasn’t quite such a brief history eh? Sorry!
Part 2 – the current state
So it’s at this point that things are going to be less history and facts and more opinion and thoughts.
The VERY first thing I’m going to do here is to issue a few reminders.
- Everyone is allowed an opinion.
- Everyone can voice their opinion.
- Dumping on someone else’s opinion because ‘they are just wrong’ or ‘stupid’ or they disagree with your opinion is not ok.
- Clearly and politely discussing opinions is perfectly fine. Maybe someone will change their mind.
- People arguing over something on the internet rarely change their mind.
So, where are we at then?
The game itself is a good game. I’ve heard a couple of people say that this version of the game is, objectively, the best version of there’s ever been.
Is that a controversial take? Maybe.
I’m not a gamer, historically speaking. I don’t play any other games (well, except your typical family board games) and probably the closest I’ve got was collecting some Warhammer figures when I was about 14. So I don’t really feel that I can judge whether a game is technically good or not or how exactly you judge that.
What I do know is that I still enjoy this game. I know that some people don’t but for me, the elements that make it fun are still there. Rolling dice. Star Wars ships. Making decisions based on the information you have. Blowing things up. Friends.
No matter how you feel about 2.5, I don’ think you can tell me that these things don’t exist any more. Some of them have changed, though and I can see how if, for example, you only flew really acey lists, 2.5 might not be as enjoyable for you.
Balance is an interesting point. Something that I do like about the current state is that there isn’t just one list that stomps everything. Or even two. Most factions (sorry Scum) have at least one list or large portion of a list which is capable of winning a tournament and that is a huge positive in my eyes. Variety of ships on the table is great and for players that own a single faction it means they don’t feel automatically out of the running.
The scenarios themselves are…. fine, I guess. It’s been said many times that AMG have basically taken bog standard/ground based scenario types and shoehorned them into a space game and I feel that this is a fair judgement. It would be great to see a more space themed scenario in future but, since I’m not a game designer, I have no idea how easy that is to actually do. Probably hard, I guess.
We all have our favourites and least favourites (Assault and Salvage for me) but when you also factor in how well any given list works for each scenario coupled with what your opponent’s list is doing, I think that overall it adds enough variables to make each game a really interesting challenge.
Part 3 – weighing up
Looking at the positives, we have a plethora of Store Champs happening, we have Worlds, we have reprints and potential future releases and we have scenario kits. Things are finally happening after a long period of very worrying quiet and that’s definitely a good thing. Definitely.
Balancing those positives out though, some Store Champs aren’t always seeing the player attendances that we’d want to see. Personally I think that the notice that AMG gave for the kits wasn’t as far in advance as they could have been (a bit of a running theme unfortunately) but also that when they did turn up, a lot of stores got dates in as early as possible which has resulted in some duplication. Now, in the UK there was an attempt to avoid this by bringing TO’s together to discuss dates before making them public but often it’s the store that sets the date rather than the TO. As I already mentioned at the start, there were 3 Store Champs this weekend in the UK and two of them were very driveable in a day from where I live (but circumstances dictated I couldn’t make either).
When you couple this with summer holidays and, honestly, the quality of the prizes in the kit, people have been able to just pick and choose the most convenient date for them. I love the inclusion of a Worlds invite in these kits but if Worlds isn’t a possibility for you then what is there to play for? A Suppressive Gunner alt art?
Of course we all (well, I think nearly all at the very least!) love the tournament experience but when you consider the dice and coins and tokens that used to be available in the FFG kits and were pretty exclusive, they were quite a draw for people.
Reprints are great (honestly, new stock on the shelves is VITAL) but what about new content? I’ve seen pictures of new Lego kits from the upcoming Ahsoka series which I’m sure we will eventually get in X-Wing but that’s going to take AGES. I seem to recall hearing/reading something along the lines of FFG having early access to the Force Awakens in order to start planning and designing ships to match (or at least get close to) the release of the new movies. Since we already know from AMG that from first concept to boxes on shelves takes 18-24 months, something needs to happen to take better advantage of the hype that Disney are already paying for, in terms of both commercial gain for AMG and gameplay for us players.
The scenario kits (such as Battle of Yavin, Children of Mandalore, etc) are an interesting one.
AMG clearly stated that they want to lean in to the ‘beer and pretzels’, casual type of game. These scenarios let you play out a well established part of the story that people will know with ships you’ll be familiar with and most likely already own.
And that’s cool.
But from my experience, we aren’t seeing that.
I bought Battle of Yavin and played it once. I bought Siege of Coruscant and only opened it to lend someone a base tile for something. There’s simply no demand for this type of play in my local group. Now, of course, I can’t claim to say that’s the case everywhere. There might be plenty of people who love to play it and have had repeat games out of the kits and that’s great. I guess, though, that maybe AMG should know? I’ll assume that they get sales reports and that those figures will feed into what they plan for the future but while I understand AMG’s desire to tap the casual play market, they have to sell models first.
So what am I actually saying?
As it is, I like the game itself, obviously, otherwise I probably wouldn’t still be playing it. I struggled to get my head around scenarios initially but while I still enjoy blowing things up, it does add an extra layer of strategy to the game that makes it interesting
I do think that a fifth scenario is needed and possibly a sixth. If tournaments are going to be 5 or 6 games games of swiss then I do feel that each game should be different in order to level the playing field a little since lists are very rarely good at all of them and having repeats can sway things in someone’s favour.
I remember reading quite early on that part of getting to grips with 2.5 was understanding that it’s a different game to 2.0. Yes it’s the same ships on the same board with the same dials but fundamentally it’s very different and while you may be able to win by simply annihilating your opponent’s ships, chances are that you won’t.
I still struggle to an extent with the way that ships and upgrades are pointed. I understand that ships points were altered to match the scoring format but I feel that AMG have boxed themselves into a corner by having ships total at 20 points. I think that Rebel Han Solo is the prefect example of this right now. At 8 points he’s nowhere, at 7 points he’s everywhere. Adjusting the loadout works to a degree but once you start putting up upgrade points to combat one ship having something it all gets a bit messy. If there were 30 or 40 pilots in the whole game then maybe it’s possible but with almost 350 of them it’s damn near impossible.
I can’t see AMG reversing this decision so it is what it is and after almost 18 months I guess I’m used to it. Still, it’s an aspect that I tolerate more than enjoy.
In terms of what I want to see, we need more ship releases. X-Wing is fighting with an increasing number of games for shelf space in my local store and getting new content out will help it reclaim some of it. Scenario packs are good but nothing can compare to new ships.
I guess the last thing is Organised Play. I know we’ve only just had Store Champs kits after three years of nothing but I really believe that OP is the lifeblood of X-Wing, probably far more than AMG realises.
I’ve been at my store when Pokemon and Magic and 40K are being played but nothing pulls bypassers over to the table more than X-Wing. Seeing those iconic ships as beautiful models in affordable packs (compared to 40K at least!) is just about the best advertising that AMD could hope for and they don’t even need to pay for it. In fact, we pay them for it!
Monthly store kits or bigger Store Champ kits with good prizing at a fair cost will bring players in. I’m sure of it. Since AMG seem to have plans to keep the game going for a good few years, this step is a vital part of that.
So, the game is good, the people are great and the future? Well, we’ll have to see but I’m definitely a lot more positive about it than I was 12 months ago, that’s for sure.
I think that’s about it for me today. Thanks for reading, I’ll catch you next week!
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