One hundred little points. That’s all you have at your disposal. One hundred points to put together a squadron for X-Wing that will be both fun to play and have a chance at success. There are a variety of spectrum that can be shown (lots of low PS ships, or a few high PS ones) and by analyzing what each one brings and how you need to play to optimize it, you can begin answering the questions necessary to have a squadron that is built to how you play. So, let’s get started.
Empire vs. Rebels
The first, and largest, decision to make is whether you will pick forces from the Galactic Empire or the Rebel Alliance. As of Wave 4, you really can build any type of list from either side, so let’s get this out of the way first. Rebels tend to have shields and heavier weapons, while Imperial ships tend to have lighter weapons but much better maneuverability and defense – although that can vary.
So, the real question is, which do you like the look of? Do you like the ragtag look of the Rebel ships, or the smooth uniformity of the Imperials? There is not a wrong choice here, and oftentimes a player will collect some from each, so you can do both as you progress.
For me, I tend to go with Rebels for casual play and Imperials for competitive play – but that has more to do with the Maneuverability vs. Durability question later on.
Quality vs. Quantity
With just 100 points you need to decide rather quickly how many maneuver dials you want to use. With fewer ships you can afford to invest more in upgrades or more expensive ships, with more ships you are limited as to what you can bring and how much you can upgrade them.
A “swarm” is the general term used when Quantity is chosen over Quality. The term was popularized in Wave 1 with “Howlrunner’s Swarm” which takes 7 TIE fighters and attempts to use them to overrun the opponent, giving him simply too many targets. I took a 6 ship (2 TIE Fighter, 2 TIE Advanced) to the Wave 1 Kessel Run event and fared rather well. Another possible swarm features four X-Wings with Proton Torpedoes each. With the addition of the Headhunter, Rebel swarms have new tools.
When you look to have fewer ships, you need to make them all count. Generally, three ships, or two (provided at least one of them is a large ship) is the end of the scale at Quality over Quantity. The “Chewie/Lando“ is one such squadron. They suffer in that they have fewer attacks to make each turn, but usually have high pilot skills and upgrades that ensure their shooting hits more often.
Many squadrons build somewhere between 3 and 6 ships, balancing Quality and Quantity. A few variants on these arguments follow.
Quantity: Classic vs. Neoclassic Swarms
A classic swarm features very few, if any, upgrades. The “TIE Swarm” brings eight low pilot skill TIE Fighters to the field. What it lacks in flashiness it makes up for in Hull Points (24) and attack dice (16). When maneuvered correctly, it can bring a lot of firepower where it is desired, and can block opponents and deny actions to higher PS opponents.
The neoclassic swarm keeps a high number of ships (typically 6 or so) and adds a few upgrades to make them better, maybe one or two pieces of ordnance or an upgrade. Neo swarms will utilize the best upgrades available throughout the waves, but still use them sparingly. “Headhunter Party” is an example of a neoclassic swarm, and it uses the new Rebel ship, the Z-95 Headhunter, to dangerous effect.
If you opt for the swarm style, you may wish to debate whether you want any named pilots what so ever, or if you’d like to stay with generics. In the debate “Achilles and the Myrmidons vs. Band of Brothers” below, you will see further discussion on this matter.
Quality: Synergy vs. Individuality
On the Quality side, you face a crossroads. A synergistic build uses the special abilities and upgrades of each ship to augment or enhance the others. This makes the combined strength greater than the sum of its parts. On the downside, though, these builds can fall apart when they begin to take casualties, as the armor gets holes in it.
The other way of making a Quality type build is to have a handful of units that can hold their own, without need for support. While this is more potent in the long-term, it cannot achieve the alpha-strike potential of a good synergistic build.
Achilles and the Myrmidons vs. Band of Brothers
This fork deals with the number of named ships you desire. Achilles was a fabled hero who leads a group of competent men. This type has a single named character and a group of generic pilots. This can manifest as in “Never Fly Solo” with a very skilled hero and a few identical pilots. The other way of meeting this spectrum is by bringing a handful of identically skilled pilots, such as “Niko’s Royal Guard”
The Band of Brothers type has a very unique “pocket” rule, one that exists but is not explicitly stated. The player has control of which pilots he activates in a given pilot skill, and having multiple pilots of the same skill gives you options for activation order in both movement and shooting. This can be achieved with multiple named pilots to the same effect, adding synergy to the band.
Maneuverability vs. Durability
Lastly, you must balance Maneuverability (the potential to avoid damage through defense dice) and Durability (the number of hull and shield points available). As discussed in The Persistence of Lethality, a ship is (usually) fully functional even at a single hull point, so keeping them alive is paramount.
On the Maneuverability end, the Empire shines. TIE Interceptors are darty, defensive, and have a maneuver dial that is practically made of green. Squadrons such as “Cornor’s Crimson Guard” use this maneuverability not only in defense, but also by jinking and rolling out of fire arcs and into better firing positions for themselves. On the other side, builds such as “What Would Lando Do” bring heavy, less maneuverable craft such as YT-1300 and B-Wings that can take a beating, gambling they will be able to destroy their opposition before suffering crippling damage.
If you do not trust your ability to fly, or doubt your chances rolling green dice, shift toward the Durability side, but if you like dog fighting in the rocks and frustrating your opponent, shift more toward Maneuverability.
We have discussed several different axes of design methodology. In the next installment we will explore how these pair against each other.
To be continued…