Saturday, October 19, 2013

Got some games in of X-Wing

This game is godly.

Today, I went up to Dice House to play some X-Wing games with my friend Norm.  Having only played 3 games of X-Wing before today, I honestly didn't know what to expect.  The first few games I played was pretty standard for newer players.  You know, just beginner games with the starter kit where you're flying around aimlessly trying to figure out the rules and wishing we had more models to play with.  Today was my first real flight piloting the Tie Interceptor and the additional mechanics that came with the game.

I won't type out the battle reports entirely because frankly, I was having too much fun to remember all the finer details.  What I will do is highlight some of the stuff I learned from the games I played today so hopefully, you guys will get pumped and give the game a try.  I shit you not:  This the best minis game I have played in a very long time, and I don't say that ever.  In fact, I don't even like Star Wars, I'm only playing this game because of incredible solid game mechanics.

  • In the first game that I played, I took a list featuring Soontir Fel, Turr Phennir, Mauler Mithel and Dark Curse.  I would of picked Backstabber instead, but I didn't have the Tie Exp pack and I didn't mind playing with Dark Curse.  After all, she's pretty impossible to hit due to her special rule as long as you play in the proper range bands.
  • Speaking of range bands, maneuverability and positioning is everything in this game.  I guess this is just something that comes instinctively having played Dark Eldar for over a decade.  This game, to keep things simple, is all about doing damage while not taking damage in return.  That's all it is at the end of the day.  You have to make use of every one of your ships' movement capabilities as well as their special rules so you can find the most opportune combat scenarios.
  • I'll give you guys an example of a combat scenario that came up today:  My opponent was hot on my tail with two X-Wings and I needed to do something next round or die.  Out of all the manuevers I could of done, I predicted my opponent would declare a turn to catch my already wounded Tie Fighter.  Instead of playing the turning war, I flew straight ahead as fast as I could to reach the safety of range band 3.  Being further away gave me an extra defense die to roll against my opponent's 3 attacks.  I ended up not needing it because I simply flew straight while my opponent's planes banked left, and I barrel rolled out of their firing arc.  That's something I'll talk about later.
  • The point I was trying to make was that sometimes, it's better to just run away and into the safety of space.  This is especially handy if you have something like Stealth Device, which already gives you +1 defense die to roll but shorts out the second you take damage.  Whenever you're able to roll more dice, you should take it unless you know you will take a crap ton of damage in return.  Looking at all my combat scenarios today, I had to play to the strengths and weaknesses of my ships.  In the first list I ran, I had a total of 12 hull points to play with.  My opponent, who ran a list with Wedge, Biggs and Dutch, had 18 total hull points (including Shield) before modifications.  You should know that you shouldn't try trading hits at this point and you should be relying of damage mitigation over attrition.
One of the lists I used today.
  • Tie Fighters and Tie Interceptors are extremely maneuverable:  There were so many times today that I was able to maneuver my planes in a way that I can get shots on him without any retaliatory attack.  Whether this meant Boosting with my Interceptors out of their firing arc, or Barrel Rolling my way on their flank, it was just a joy to play.  One of the biggest boons for Tie Interceptors is their ability to fly green on a hard 2.  This allowed me to shake stress while maintaining a strong pursuit on my target X-Wing.  Boost, is also huge for me:  Being able to add that extra range allows me to not only dodge shots coming back, but gives me another die to roll for attack if I go from RB2 to 1.  Boosting and rolling in the correct situations also allowed me to change my opponent's shots from range 1 to 2, or 3 to no shot at all.  It's just amazing.
  • Prediction and being able to read your opponent's movement is a strong skill.  There were a few times today where was able to lead some shots and keep up my pursue by imagining where my opponents' ship will go.  There was another time where my opponent did something I completely didn't expect (I was expecting a K-Turn) and got the better of me on the maneuver.  Thankfully, I pre-selected a safer maneuver to execute on my turn so I was able to stay on target.  There's only one other game I know that has strategy attached to prediction, and that's Pokemon:  One of the best designed games of all time, something that this game shows a lot of.  More on that later.
  • Like I said, I played two games today.  Both of them against the same list with Wedge, Biggs and Dutch.  I'm not quite sure what their upgrades were, but I think Wedge had Marksmanship, Biggs had the R2 unit that gave him an extra point in defense after his action, and Dutch had a turret Ion Cannon.  The main experience that I have to share for Imperial players is:  Kill Wedge because he's the primary damage dealer of the lot.  Biggs can take a lot of damage for Wedge, but not if you can ignore Biggs entirely.  I'm talking about getting out of firing arcs, intentionally touching Biggs, or anything that makes it so Biggs is not a valid target.  No matter what, Wedge has to die.  With PS9, Target Lock and the ability to subtract one of your defense die when making attacks, the guy puts out ridiculous amounts of damage.  Thankfully, Wedge went down pretty hard in both games, taking the crit that makes him PS0 in the initial firefights.
  • Thank you Norm for being such a cool dude.  I learned a lot from today's games and I look forward to flying with or against you in the future!  Also, thank you for teaching me first hand why it sucks getting hit by the Ion Cannon.  Having to fly straight 1 for the turn sucks so hard on a squint.

What more can I say?  This game is amazing.  It has something which I find absolutely vital in all good games: Easy to learn, hard to master.  The more I play it, the more I discover the hidden mechanics that make all good games great.  It has near limitless complexity underneath the disguise of a simple game.  At first, you're flying around with X-Wings and Tie Fighters, but once you tack on more ships, unique pilots, Elite Skills and Modifications, the entire game changes.

Like I said previously, this game reminded me a lot about Pokemon, one of the games that I hold in the highest realm of game design.  To me, that game is near flawless:  It's simple enough that a child can understand the simple, all-too-familiar concepts of water beating fire, but so complex that on a competitive level, correct stats, EVs and specific movesets mean almost everything.  Not to mention Pokemon and X-Wing both have prediction mechanics, a unique and challenging aspect of gameplay that only the most advanced players can truly appreciate.

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