The times, they are' a changin'. New points, new rules, new owners, new ships. I'm going to touch one some of the big winners and losers I can see in each faction after this latest points change, but first let's talk about a topic that is completely non-controversial and everyone can agree on.
More words and blood have spilled on the internet over this topic since AMG announced their intention to change the rules than I care to think about. I don’t want to go into it on too much depth because I think it’s a bit pointless to do so – people’s opinions are pretty firmly entrenched on one side of the aisle or the other at this point. Personally, I’m in favour of the change, and here’s a few thoughts about why…
- It Never Made Sense – I dropped into the game with the Force Awakens core set and the bid system has always stuck out as an oddity. I get that the intention was to be that players would make tough decisions to sacrifice valuable upgrades to take the initiative but in reality the cost/benefit ratio was never well aligned and when movement order really mattered there wasn’t an upgrade in the world that you’d take instead of winning the bid by 1pt. You can imagine that AMG came into the game cold and had new eyes on everything. What was the point of an upgrade system that punished people for buying upgrades?
- It Made Too Much Difference – somebody did the maths that the benefit of moving second in matchups against the same initiative was 20-30% win rate – the difference between being 65/35 and likely to win or 35/65 and likely to lose. When the odds are flipping that wildly it says that you’re playing with a mechanic that is very potent and which is often overwhelming how you actually play on the table. Are we playing a game where the best player wins, or a game where the person who took off the most upgrades wins?
- It Was Getting Worse – In 1.0 we saw the important of initiative mainly as Veteran Instincts being overplayed, but in 2.0 the compression of the Initiative values led to bidding wars becoming deeper and deeper so it was a much bigger problem in 2.0 than it ever was in 1.0. You were more likely to match initiative with an opponent’s ship, and ships were more likely to have reposition actions to take advantage of moving second – it wasn’t just aces even Norra Wexley could barrel roll out of your arc in her Y-Wing if she moved second.
- It Supported Imbalanced Squads – there’s some very subjective opinions in here, but I think that if you’ve built a squad that HAS to move second to have a good chance of success then that squad is not very well balanced or well rounded and you’ve only been able to make that squad work by leaning on the crutch of the bid system to give you a huge chance of moving second and securing the unfair advantage of doing so. I’ve been on both sides of this and my Rebel Aces list 100% abused the bid system to give me all the information before I had to make decisions – S-Foils, R2 regeneration, Target Locks, actions from Ahsoka, arc-dodging with impunity – I’d banked my whole list on 193 being a deep enough bid to move second. It didn’t have to be that way, and Oli Pocknell’s World Champion list is an example of building aces (with the same 6-5-5 initiative pattern as my Rebel Aces) that could move first happily. My squad was not well rounded and the deep bid was a vital crutch I was leaning on… that’s not necessarily healthy for the game.
- It Prevented Aces Being Played – ironically I think removing bids will mean we see MORE aces played, not less. Dedicated aces lists will suffer if they don’t adapt but it’s now much more viable to include an I5 or I6 into a ‘normal’ squad without having to worry about leaving a chunky bid just to give them a chance. While there were a lot of aces running round with a deep bid nobody else could really afford to play an ace in their squad.
- It Doesn’t Actually Make That Much Difference – wait, didn’t I just write a bullet about how it made too much difference? Well in how it can affect the outcome of any single game I think bidding and initiative order can have a huge impact (which is a bad thing), but over the course of a number of games the move from bidding for initiative to deciding it randomly with a dice roll… doesn’t actually make that much difference. If you’ve got an I6 pilot he’ll still move last in 82% of matches, yes it’s not 95% but it’s still a lot. And if your win percentage dropped 30% in those 13% of matches that flipped to you moving first… it’s going to change the result in about 1 game in 20. And that’s the worst case because you’ve now got points that you were going to spend on your bid to buy actual upgades with, so in fact it may only change the result in 1 game in 30. That’s not quite the “skill is dead in X-Wing” apocalypse that I read a lot of people worrying about.
- It’s A Distraction – the addition of sideboarding has been heavily hinted at by AMG and if that comes to pass then I guarantee it’s going to be 10x more impactful on X-Wing than anything they’re doing with initiative order. For a start the answer to the question “what happens when I face opposing I6 pilots and I may lose initiative 50% of the time” could be answered by sideboarding for that matchup more effectively than the opponent, but in truth sideboarding is going to hugely affect EVERY game you play. If they adopt the Marvel Crisis Protocol system then 200pt squad lists will be a thing of the past and we’ll be making 250pt squads then leaving 50pts on the sidelines every game. Do you bring specific tools for specific jobs? Do you leave whole pilots on the bench? Honestly, if we move to a world of objective play and sideboards then rolling dice for initiative is going to be the least of your worries and your win % is going to be determined far more by how you can react and think on your feet to deal with the opponent and task in front of you that round.
Bring on random initiative. It's screw me over from time to time but I think the gains FAR outweigh the losses. And in the grand scheme of the changes coming to X-Wing it's just a little kink in the road and there's some much bigger bumps and bends ahead.
The first bit of good news for Rebel players is a surprise to nobody – it’s Dash Rendar. With both the pilot and his Outrider title getting a big discount this time around (a combined 15% price cut, from 99 to 84) I think it’s finally time for Dash to hit tables in a serious way. Along the way Dash has traded a gunner slot for a second crew slot and that’s a really good move – it’s good to break his reliance on the wombo-combo Bistan double tap trick that has so far been the only way to justify Dash’s cost, and that second crew slot gives you access to more goodies from the Rebel unique crew options, like Kanan, R2-D2, Magva Yarro etc. Dash is ready to prove his worth as an independent ship, not just as the output channel for 200pts worth of combolicious actions.
My second pick is Hera Syndulla in her B-Wing. I think by now we all understand that Hera’s pilot ability to share tokens is really great, but while the A-Wing version takes a big price hike the B-Wing version has come down to match it at 48pts. Here’s some homework: go and check how many B-Wing pilots cost the same as their A-Wing counterparts with similar initiative and report back to me with just how much of a bargain the B-Wing version of Hera now is.
Dash is going to get a lot of table time and if that comes to pass I think it’s really going to shine a light on just how lacking the YT-1300 chassis is. It’s pretty much the least cost-effective way of putting red dice onto the table and now that Han’s 3 red dice cost the same as Dash’s 4 red dice that’s going to be more apparent than ever. I think there’s potential for the Falcon to benefit from the gunner slot now that it’s been removed from a bunch of ships and some of the best gunners have dropped in price, but I still think the Falcon is just not suited to dealing the amount of damage it really needs to be putting out. That’s only been cast into more sharp relief than ever by this round of changes to the YT-2400.
Y-Wings in general still seem very lacklustre. Do you remember that brief moment with Veteran Turret Gunner cost next to nothing and the Y-Wing was actually good? Well that’s a long time in the rear view mirror and I’m not really sure what dropping their gunner slot for a missile slot (which competes directly with the existing Torpedo slot they didn’t use much) does to help the Y-Wing out. I think this ship still needs a clear sense of what it’s actually good for and I’m no clearer on what that is.
I’ve been banging on about TIE Aggressors almost as long as I’ve been banging on about Scyks and I’m not about to stop now. With so many of the key generic ships getting a price hike this time around I think the TIE Aggressor now stands almost unchallenged as the most efficient and effective generic ship in the game. At 26pts for just the raw chassis you get you’re at the cutting edge of a TIE/fo and outclassing the V-19 Torrent by having a much more flexible dial. Add a Dorsal turret for a bargain 2pts and you’re a 180 degree firing arc threat, and upgrade that turret to an Ion Cannon Turret at 31pts and you’re adding a whole 3rd red dice. At all three cost points the TIE Aggressor is best in class and if anybody thought these things were only making waves because of Admiral Sloane I think they’re going to find themselves given a rude awakening. Probably the best ‘little engine that could’ in the game right now.
Dust off your ACE OF LEGEND and get them ready for the table because I think Soontir Fel is coming back to play. He likes that most of the swarms are going, he likes that Fifth Brother has gone up in price a lot so there’s less Homing Missiles being flung around, and he likes that you don’t feel like you need to bid 8pts just to play him once we move to random initiative. Soontir will happily hunt any opposing I6 aces if the initiative roll goes your way but can run and hide effectively without wasting too many points in the games where you lose the dice roll and the opponent has to chase your ACE OF LEGEND. Removing the need to take a bid is like a 15% price cut to Soontir and I think he’ll be back to support tougher and more efficient Imperial ships with a little bit of finesse.
The humble TIE/ln has seen it’s better pilots get another round of price cuts… but I suspect it’s still not enough. The decision to keep Commander Malarus & 6 TIE/fos viable means that the original Imperial TIE Swarm is still going to come off badly in a straight fight against a list with more hull, more guns, and more tactical flexibility. The gap has closed a lot and I think you’ll see TIE Swarms much more than you have been used to, and even doing pretty well here and there, but that -1pt they knocked off Commander Malarus is felt very keenly over on Team Howlrunner.
The Defender Elite title now costs 0pts, coming down -2pts from the initial points cost. Now there’s only another 15pts left to come off before it’ll be worth playing.
SCUM & VILLAINY
It’s big changes in StarViper world, losing their coveted Sensor slot to gain the future-era Tech slot instead. That means they can look forward to whacking Automated Target Priority onto things for the extra free dice mods, but it also means Guri gets a lot cheaper. A Guri who could reliably S-Loop and reposition to get into range 1 used to cost 74pts (Guri & Advanced Sensors) but now only costs 65pts (Guri & Pattern Analyser). By Grabthar’s Hammer: what a savings.
Illicit Slots in general still look really attractive for the sort of short burst of action economy that can decide games. False Transponder Codes may have gone up to 3pts but I expected more and they’re still good, while Overtuned Modulators look like a really attractive rework of the old Glitterstim. Scum still have the tools to produce big turns that really punish opponents.
It took 18 months but they finally stopped me from playing Cartel Spacers, at 27pts the extra bit of value I was scraping off has gone and I'm going to go looking elsewhere (see: Republic). Sunny Bounder is still unchanged value at 27pts so a lone Scyk in a list can be a really strong filler to round a squad out, but the days of my bringing a squad of seven Scyks to the table are behind me. Sad times.
The whole Scum faction still looks a little bit unsure of what the future is. Every time a good Scum lists crops up it gets rapidly determined to be TOO good and gets whammed with a big hammer. Boba has been hit into unusability twice, the Torkil Swarm is gone, the Scyk Swarm is gone, the Jabba & Contraband combinations are gone, Zam Wesell is gone… the cupboards are looking a little bare. Scum players do love rising to a challenge of finding new ways to win, but by crikey I think they’re going to need to because they do seem to keep getting hit by the rough end of the stick.
Probably about two years ago I was trying to explain that Poe Dameron was overcosted at around his 68pts, and really if you benchmarked him against Wedge Antilles in another I6 X-Wing with a strong pilot ability he should probably cost around 60pts. We’re finally getting to that point, but in this round of price changes there was a BIG cut to the Heralds of Hope version of Poe and now he actually costs Wedge Antilles money! I think this Poe is a real steal at this price point, and he also makes a lot of sense to bring in the world of random initiative being decided as he’s happy to joust it out when he doesn’t have the drop on opposing I6 ships, or be a top ace if you do win the initiative roll. He makes Ello and Nien look sad and I think you’re going to see his white and orange T-70 around a lot.
Is Vennie’s Starfortress ever going to stop going down in price? It’s happened again here, with the typical Vennie build benefitting from multiple savings on her pilot card itself, on Veteran Turret Gunner and on M9-G8. Vennie was once that oddity of a pilot who you rarely saw and could catch you out if you weren’t quite sure what she did… these days she’s probably just one of the single strongest pieces the Resistance can call on and there’s plenty of room for two strong pilots to run alongside her.
I think Rose Tico’s price increase may well be enough to push her out. In truth 28pts for her still isn’t a ridiculous amount to pay but I think I’d now put her behind Vi Moradi in the pecking order. Vi was always the unfairly ignored transport pod as Finn & Rose grabbed the headlines but with the incoming changes to the initiative rules I think Vi’s intelligence-gathering and ace-thwarting abilities gain a lot of value. Rose is going to the be the pilot who most often pays the price for Vi leapfrogging her in the queue.
I don’t get what the Rebel Y-Wings are for and unfortunately I feel very similarly about the Resistance Y-Wings… only moreso because for some reason they cost more points despite having worse stats. There’s a lot of pilots who all have a lot of words in their text box and to be honest with you I fell asleep before I could finish reading them all and trying to work out what they actually did. It’s possible there’s some secret sauce in here among the pilot abilities that makes them worthwhile… but it’s still a secret to me if that’s true!
Midnight finally costs about the right amount! The I6 TIE/fo pilot has spent the last three years paying the price for what Omega Leader did in First Edition but she’s finally been let down from the naughty step with the same type of 15% price cut that all the other TIEs had enjoyed. It’s a nice little gift that Fanatical has also come down in price, and that being an I6 that doesn’ really want to take a massive bid has gained value with the move to random initiative. I’m not sure Midnight is going to ever become the terror that Omega Leader was as it’s still a defanged version of the original ablilty, but they’re now the correct price for what you get and you’ll see them around a lot.
Commander Malarus. What a difference a point makes. The decision to cut Malarus by -1pt has baffled me because it’s the difference between culling one of the most efficient and oppressive swarm lists (Malware) or allowing it to run rampant after most of its competition has been wiped out. I wouldn’t have done it, personally, and I think we may come to view this as a mistake but until then there’s no doubt that Commander Malarus and her accompanying TIE Swarm is going to be a big part of the coming metagame.
The First Order Bombers have been a long time coming and… I don’t get it. I love a Scimitar Bomber as much as almost anybody but the key to the Scimitar is that it’s super cheap for how hard they are to kill – the FO Bomber is no harder to kill and costs 15% more. Yes you’ve got that funky boost preposition but you’ve got to make that really work for you to make back the excess cost. The named FO Bombers close the points gap over the Imperial Bombers – Breach is only +1pt more than Tomax Bren at I5 – but the named Bombers have never really proven their worth anyway. I really wanted to like this ship but so far I don’t get what you’re doing with them that wouldn’t be better served as being a TIE/sf. Happy to be proven wrong!
Deuterium Power Cells… that’s not enough to come off this card. I want to see DPC as a valid option for Vonreg to make them a bit more reliable but at this cost it’s just not worth considering – a bad regen option at a bad cost.
If the TIE Aggressor has any real competition for the spot of being the best little ship in the game then that is surely going to come from… the V-Wing. The V-Wing? Seriously? Was that a typo? The Loyalist Volunteer came down a point to 26pts, it’s direct comparison is the TIE/fo who went up a point to the same 26pts. Except the V-Wing also has a boost action… not just that but a LINKED boost action into a target lock. And it’s also now got a completely free “Esk” configuration that adds the possibility of being an Ion threat as well. In a side-by-side comparison I think the V-Wing is a clear winner over the TIE/fo and the only thing holding the TIE/fo up is that it gets fire support from Commander Malarus for less than the V-Wing can get it from a LAAT or Sinker. You may never have seen a V-Wing on the table before, but I’d say you’re about to get all too used to them.
AnakYn, Ynakin, AnYkin, however you’re used to nicknaming the Y-Wing version of Anakin Skywalker I think he’s now got a much bigger role to play in the game as he’s another I6 pilot who never really wanted to bid but was being held back by losing initiative to all the other I6’s who did want to bid. Anakin’s role in the Y-Wing is simple – fire Proton Torpedoes into the opponent’s aces until they’re gone, leaving Obi-Wan and Plo-Koon to mop up what’s left. Anakin has consistently dropped in points since his initial release and this latest round makes him better than ever just as the impending rules reference changes also play into his hands.
As for the rest of the Jedi I’ve not got much good to say. The ETA-Actis was a badly conceived ship design that doesn’t really have the tools it need to fulfil any role – it can’t joust, its bad at arc-dodging, it’s not a good blocker etc. The one saving grace this ship had found was being able to punch above it’s weight thanks to equipping a cannon, and now that’s gone. I’m genuinely a bit staggered by this change and I’m not sure what the ETA pilots are supposed to use instead… harsh language? Maybe the Trick Shot/Scattering Shot build won’t just be a janky meme. I think it probably is though.
And don’t be fooled by all those price cuts you can see on the Aethersprite versions of the Jedi, either, because they’ve been offset by increases to the CLT and Delta-7B titles that mean the cost of these ships has actually gone up! So the Jedi weren’t very good, the faction overall was struggling and relying on them as a crutch… and they got a price increase? Awesome.
It’s been a while coming but is the Tri-Fighter finally going to make waves? Although the Colicoid Interceptor still looks pretty sad there’s some hefty discounts applied to the Phlacc-Arphocc Prototype and the Independent Calculations modification that could really shake things up. You’re now able to field an I5 Tri-Fighter with two calculate tokens for 38pts and that looks pretty nice compared to similar TIE Interceptors that are currently seeing play, like the I4 Saber Squadron Pilots at 36pts. I think the Tri-Fighter is another ship set to benefit from the changes to bidding – in the past these would cost 45pts and then you’d have to bid to give your flimsy I5 droid a chance of moving last and dodging arcs, where in future you’ll be able to bring them at 38pts and not worry about the bid at all. Definitely one to watch and I think they’ll open up new ground for CIS squad-building that’s not just a block of droids moving as one.
Independent Calculations. I’ve mentioned it once but I think changing Independent Calculations to cost 0pts is huge for not just Tri-Fighters but for Vulture Droids too. Sitting on a stack of double the number of calculate tokens makes you a potent threat and now you can have your cake AND eat it. It also makes many of the costs that included Calculate tokens being spent that much more tolerable, like Discord Missiles or the K2-B4 tactical relay. I think Independent Calculations could be a massive change for droid squadbuilding, freeing them up to move independently of each other and activate powerful effects without going tokenless.
I understand that Nantex are a bit of a dirty word and that very few people have fond memories of the Stalgasin Hive Guard or Petranaki Arena Ace, but did they really need to be bombed back to the stone age with another 10% price increase? At 35pts the Stalgasin Hive Guard is the most expensive it’s ever been. A Stalgasin Hive Guard with Ensnare now costs 54 points… FIFTY FOUR! On release they were 44pts and not exactly dominating anything… and that was with the old Tractor rules. Stop it, they’re already dead!
The Sith Infiltrator got edged down in price but I think it’s got a long way to come yet. Stats-wise the chassis is the same as a Scurrg Bomber (3 red, 1 green, 10 hit points) but the base Dark Courier costs 6pts more and comes on the dreaded front-arc-only large base. That’s not a great starting position but even worse is the +14pts and +15pts you have to pile on top to get to Dooku or Maul. They simply aren’t worth the investment to get there and I could see another 6-8pts coming off those two villains before they really get back onto the table in a meaningful way.
I'm actually a little bit nervous about the 50% discount we just got on Tactical Officer because I remember just how much we saw that guy when he was 2pts. X-Wing has moved on a long way from those early days of 2.0 so I may be worrying about nothing, but I'm sure there's going to be players putting him back into their U-Wings, Escape Crafts etc. Is there going to be some ridiculous Nodin Chavri action-spewing combo?
There's two side of the same coin in new force abilities from the Fury of the First Order expansion, and I'm pretty sure people are excited about the wrong one. Compassion may only trigger on 25% of the crits somebody receives, and may mean moving damage from another ship onto a fragile Jedi instead, but it only costs 1pt and if it keeps a ship on the table it'll be the best 1pt upgrade you bought since Crack Shot. With no need to bid in the new random initiative rules I think cheap little upgrades like this are the real beneficiaries - you'd have sacrificed them for a bid in the past because they were too niche, but now you can pay the little cost and wait for them to win you a game.