It has been awhile since I have written a Rethinking article. Since these posts usually deal with more controversial game aspects, I will start off today with a small disclaimer. I am not looking to prove that other viewpoints are wrong, or show that my thoughts are facts and therefore the best. I only write Rethinking articles to give alternate perspectives. Perhaps by thinking of things in a different light, players can find new ways of game application. With that being said, let's talk about a different way to look at the shield recharge mechanic.
You've probably had the thought, I know I have. Why do Rebels have all the Shield Recharge ability? After sitting down and perusing through pilots and cards in the X-wing Miniatures universe, I have come to a conclusion: Rebel's don't. There are two parts to my reasoning, a short answer and a long one.
The short answer is that Scum has access to shield recharge as well. IG88-A has the powerful ability to turn his kills into shield tokens. This means he can take a few hits in the early game and then recharge for the late game. Scum also has access to the Salvaged Astromech. While you do not actually place a shield token back on your ship card, it still "recharges" your health by stopping a Ship-based Critical. Coming in at 2 points, the Salvaged Astromech ability is only beaten in strength by the Integrated Astromech of the X-wing. Finally, there is some mystery surrounding the new Punishing One. The display picture of the expansion pack shows too many shield tokens needed for the ship. Players have theorized that the Gonk Droid, or possibly an "Overcharged Agromech", could bring more shield recharge. We'll just have to wait and see.
That's good and all. But Rebel shield recharge is still more powerful than Scum recharge, and the Imperial faction doesn't have any! Here is the where the long answer comes in. To understand Shield Recharge better, I looked at the game mechanics behind the ability. In essence, a shield recharge mechanic has you fulfill a certain parameter and, in return, you attach another hit point to your ship. This is where I made a startling discovery: there is another mechanic in X-wing Miniatures that acts in almost the same way.
I am speaking of the Evade action. When looking at the fluff of the game, there is no comparison. Flying evasive patterns with your agile ships is in not related to expending energy to revamp deflectors. But, on the mechanics level, the two are not that different. An Evade token, by definition, adds one extra evade die to your defense pool. Said die has an Evade symbol on each of its 8 sides, meaning that it always rolls an Evade result. That way, you always dodge an extra hit during the Compare Results phase of combat.
However, we can stick a different fluffy definition onto this mechanic and we find that the same thing happens. Just imagine for a second that the Evade action was named the "Angle Deflectors" action. When performing an Angle Deflectors action, you place an extra shield token onto your ship. That way, when you Compare Results, you know you always dodge an extra hit. At the end of the round, if you didn't use your angled shield token, it is removed from your ship. Imperial TIE Fighters, lore-wise, don't have deflection screens, which is likely the reason why this game mechanic was named the Evade Action.
When we look at it that way, Shield Recharge and Evade tokens are just two sides of the same coin. Both mechanics are used to prevent enemy shots from breaking through to your fragile hull points. They just do it in different ways.
While it is correct that the Rebel faction has access to the most powerful recharge abilities, it is also correct that the Imperial faction has access to the most powerful evade abilities. When looking at all ships available to each faction (as of Quarter 1 of 2016) we see this stark contrast. For the Scum faction, only 36% of their ships have access to the Evade action. The Rebel faction only has 38%. But, Imperial players have the strongest access to the Evade action with 67%. If a player wants a ship with the Evade action, the Imperial faction has approximately twice as many ships to choose from. Moreover, since some Imperial ships come so cheap, an Imperial player could field two in the place of one.
TIE Advanced Prototype/v1
All of this can be summarized as such: Rebel players can field only a couple of expensive abilities that each recharge a lot. Imperial players can field many cheap ships, each one with its own ability to "recharge" a little bit. Both mechanics work differently and have their benefits and drawbacks. First, Rebel shield recharge is permanent. If you don't spend the replaced shield token during combat, then you don't have to remove it at the end of the round. However, permanence can now be given to First Order TIEs with the Comms Relay. Second, Evade tokens are strong because they aren't predictable. They aren't limited by restricting circumstances, unlike specific recharge ability. While powerful, R2-D2 and R5-P9 can leave you vulnerable because your enemy has a better chance of correctly guessing your choices. Evade tokens paired with high agility and strong action economy give you ships that can be just as durable but are far more evasive. Third and final, shield recharge is an easier mechanic to apply. Like the Twin Laser Turret, it is straight forward and easy to learn, which explains why both are a big part of the meta. Evade tokens, on the other hand, are a little harder to apply because you have to know when the best time to use them, especially if your action economy is limited.
And there you have it. While housing different fluff, the Shield Recharge and Evade mechanics are quite similar at their core. For Rebel and Scum players, this means you can use recharging abilities to overcome the slow and clunky ships you field. And for Imperial players, this means that your ships have their own unique advantage that you can learn and master.
I hope you enjoyed this small session of rethinking. Perhaps this small glimpse of things in a different light can help you apply your X-wing skills in a new way to overcome the challenges that face you. Thank you for reading and have a great week of flying! PGP out.