Friday, July 31, 2015

Do A Barrel Roll! - Discussing the Idea of an X-wing Barrel Roll Refit

In a previous article I discussed how the attitude towards the X-wing starfighter needed to be fixed. But even if the X-wing isn't as under powered as some people might claim, it still is under powered. For the longest time I skirted the edges of FFG X-wing forums, reading discussions and weighing players' opinions. To be honest, there are a lot of ideas that are good but don't fully fit the bill for one reason or another. Some ideas made radical changes to the game while others presented powerful upgrades for ridiculously cheap prices. And there were some that just didn't even have iconic application to the Star Wars universe.
                When deciding on a change in the X-wing game, one must keep several things in mind. First off, a change must have an appropriate cost that maintains overall balance with all factions. Second, we want something that will add to the game and not just be a repeat of other ships. Finally, any change should reflect the lore of Star Wars and provide in-game representations of iconic moments in the films.
                I've thought hard about what I believe will provide the best buff to the X-wing. And after much consideration I have settled on one idea that several other people have had online: The Barrel Roll Action. seriously. I believe this change will not just benefit the X-wing but provide some iconic application as well as not rock the boat when it comes to balance. However, I claim this as my opinion and not X-wing fact so feel free to challenge me, albeit with tact. Let's have a refitting discussion.

                I want to start off by mentioning what is wrong with the X-wing as it currently stands in the meta game. There are namely three: (1) A lackluster torpedo slot, (2) lack of a maneuver action, and (3) overly expensive in squad points. I primarily want to focus on the latter two problems, mainly because we now have upgrades like Flechette and Plasma torpedoes.

                The first and foremost argument is quite obvious: X-wings can barrel roll in the movies. Re-watch the films and you will clearly see examples of it. During the Battle of the First Death Star, X-wings are seen to roll as they strafe the surface while their counterpart Y-wings just lazily float along. Probably the most notable barrel roll scene is when Wedge blasts Dark Curse and rolls out from the explosion, thus sealing the deal on his awesomeness.
                In the books and the expanded universe, the X-wing is supposed to be the best star fighter of its time. It has the perfect balance of speed, maneuverability, offensive power, and shielding. So it is somewhat of a surprise when the X-wing miniature has all but one, maneuverability.

No Maneuver Action or Compensation
                The X-wing actually sits in an awkward spot in the Alliance Fleet. Most Rebel ships fit into one of two categories; either they have (1) a movement action or (2) a turret. This makes sense because outmaneuvering enemy ships can be really hard. If you have a movement action then you can use it to fix incorrect flight choices. And if it has a turret it can fire in any direction that it wants.
                However, there are two Rebel ships that don't belong to either of these categories, the Z-95 and the X-wing. The Z isn't affected by a lack of maneuverability because it is so dirt cheap. You can easily include one or two in a squad where they can be covered by their allies. Or you can bring a swarm of them and your enemy will find it difficult to arc-dodge every single one. But what about the X-wing? Regrettably, it doesn't have anything to help it outmaneuver an enemy nor does it receive any compensation for why it can't. A poorly moved X-wing is a 21 point ship that only has 2 defense dice, a focus token, and a prayer that it won't be blasted out of the sky. The X-wing has a serious gap here in the game that needs addressing. So my suggestion is to give it some maneuverability in the form of a barrel roll.

Point Cost
                We know that the X-wing needs a fix. So the next question to ask is how much would it cost? Here I bring in Major Juggler's Math Wing analysis. According to him and his number crunching, the generic X-wings are overcosted by about 2 points. Many people present that there should be an upgrade card that decreases the X-wing's cost. But before a change like this can be properly applied we must look at how the balance will change. This is especially true once you go lower than 21 points and can have 5 X-wings on the table. Instead, I submit that we give the X-wing a 0 cost upgrade. That way it will raise the ship up to the squad cost it was originally meant to be without disturbing the overall balance.
                When we look at the Expert Handling talent we can see that FFG places the value of the barrel roll action at 2 points. That makes it a perfect fit to bring the true cost of the X-wing to 21 points. However, we want to add choice variety to this game. So it should be an upgrade that you use if your squad needs it rather than just a gimme that is always attached. For this reason, said barrel roll upgrade should be a X-wing Only Modification rather than a Title card. As I've said before in many of my posts, the upgrade slot needs to be taken into account in the cost of the card. So yes, I propose a 0 point X-wing upgrade. But it must be chosen carefully because you have to give up your modification slot.

Generics vs Aces
                The next thing to consider with this change is how it will effect each X-wing pilot. Ace X pilots are actually seen in competitive lists because their high pilot skill and abilities justify their points. However, generic pilots are rarely seen. What we want from an X-wing upgrade is a big buff to Generics and a small buff to Aces. Again referencing Math Wing: all X-wing pilots, except for 2, are overcosted and can benefit from a 0 point barrel roll. The two that aren't overcosted are Biggs and Wedge. However, I feel that a barrel roll modification won't overpower either of these pilots.
                First, it is completely counter intuitive to barrel roll Biggs. He wants to stay near the ships he's escorting and a barrel roll can take him out of Range 1. But more importantly, if Biggs does a barrel roll he gives up his focus token. Any X-wing without a defense focus token is pretty vulnerable but Biggs becomes a sitting duck. Moreover, placing a barrel roll mod on Biggs means he doesn't have access to defensive modifications or even the Experimental Interface.
                It is somewhat the same with Wedge. The most frequent version of him that I see in competitive lists includes an Engine Upgrade. While a barrel roll mod would save him points, he would lose both his modification slot and maneuvering options. And even if people do take this mod for Wedge, he is still vulnerable to the normal set of counters: arc-dodgers, high PS with Veteran Instincts, and low PS bombers.
                Finally, the barrel roll action gives a big buff to generic pilots. The reason for this is because generics primarily have blocking power while aces have chasing power. A generic X-wing with a natural barrel roll can better set up screens and slip into hard to reach blocking positions. On the other hand, the X-wing has such a great maneuver dial that it doesn't need the barrel roll as a crutch for strong chasing power.

Different From The B-wing
                Speaking of ships reliant on the barrel roll...Won't an X-wing with a barrel roll make it too much like the B-wing? My response is no. The barrel roll combined with the B-wing's maneuver dial is an exceptionally different application from that of the X-wing's. Not only does the B-wing need the barrel roll action to overcome its horrible dial, it is actually a safer action for the ship. A B-wing that barrel rolls to get the shot and thus gives up its defense focus, honestly, really doesn't miss it. However it is riskier to give up the defensive focus of an X-wing. This means you probably won't be barrel rolling in a your X-wing unless you absolutely need to. And lastly, the B and X are just so fundamentally different because of their upgrade slots. A B-wing can still be unique with combinations of a cannon, extra munitions, system, and/or crew member. And the X-wing is happy with its choice of astromechs. 

Naming the Upgrade
                When it comes to naming this barrel roll modificaton, I think the Incom Refit is a nice fit. It pays homage to the Chardaan company and their own A-wing refit. It makes sense to me that these Star Fighter companies are continuously working on their designs and improving them where they can. It helps hide the awkwardness of in-game changes and introduces a little lore.
                 Perhaps another good name could be the actual modification Incom made to their T-65, such as the installation of Lateral S-Foil Thrusters. What would you name a barrel roll modification? Let me know in the comments below.

                 And there you have it. I present for your review the idea of giving the X-wing a Barrel Roll Action Modification. Perhaps something like this will come in a Rebel Aces E&X pack. Or perhaps it can be a part of the new T-70 Resistance X-wing that FFG has rights to make. Let's hope for the best.

I am aware that an X-wing with a barrel roll action is also very much like an E-wing. But seriously, the generic E-wing is also very overcosted and it could do with some changes of its own. But that is a topic in and of itself.

Numbers on actual point costs of ships came from Major Juggler's Math Wing

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