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Our Hands-On Thoughts of X-Wing 2nd Edition

Our Hands-On Thoughts of X-Wing 2nd Edition

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The announcement of a new edition is always met with both fevered excitement and a loud gnashing of teeth. The most vocal and dedicated of fans see their blood pressure spike and chaos ensues. Then the new iteration comes out and that audible barrier slowly begins to crumble like a wall running the length of Berlin. Book it, because X-Wing 2nd Edition is exemplary.

XW_Flying

After six years of ups and downs, the most popular tabletop miniatures game needed a refresher. One walk through a tournament setting and you’ll barely recognize the game being played. Long gone are the battle of Yavin and any miniatures resembling the original trilogy. Second edition is a homecoming of sorts, rebalancing those ships that have fallen through the cracks and giving the system a jolt in the cockpit.

“I see X-Wing Second Edition as a much-needed overhaul of the very fundamentals of the game, giving us a structure that incorporates everything we’ve learned and added over the years into a much more intentional and coherent design, giving us a much sturdier basis on which to build in the future.” – Alex Davy, co-designer

“We’ve always tried to keep pretty good tabs on the pulse of the community. Observing people’s reactions to things is why we playtest and run blind tests.” – Max Brooke, co-designer

Before we move any further, I need to share the most wonderful addition to this new system: The Force. Previously, Luke et al had their Midichlorian count represented by simply improved stats or a single unique ability (sorry, not sorry for the prequel trolling). It was fine, it worked. But now, we have a renewed commitment to narrative and fantastic synergy due to the force being codified as a resource.

You can spend these force tokens to convert a single eyeball result on an attack or defense die to the appropriate success; it’s a soft Focus action but performed for free. That’s well and good, but this new mechanism really opens up with upgrades. For instance, the replacement for the old “Deadeye” Elite Pilot Talent is a new ability that allows you to spend a force token instead of a target lock or focus to meet the requirements of a card. This means Luke can hammer Vader with a Proton Torpedo and keep his target lock to re-roll the dice in the attack. You can almost see the young moisture farmer dancing in his cockpit.

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention – those force tokens regenerate!

XW_ShipClutter

Extending that philosophy of expending resources for improved gains are the new charge tokens. In the previous version upgrades provided a permanent boost or a one-time power move. This left a lack of granularity and restricted the power levels of the design space in an unsatisfactory way.

Now we have charges. These tokens are placed on certain upgrade cards and are discarded to trigger the effect. Ordnance for instance always comes with multiple uses now, increasing its effectiveness. Some Elite Pilot Talents and many astromechs utilize this new mechanism to great effect. It allows for dramatic action and larger swings of play – something this game desperately needed to reclaim.

These kinds of neat tricks and combos are scattered throughout the abilities just waiting to be teased out. There’s a renewed sense of wonder and joy in putting together a list because the design feels adjusted to focus on cinematic action and drama, as opposed to intricate list building via upgrade management.

Speaking of upgrades, one of the largest shifts in strategic direction is in adapting a centralized app. You will now exclusively build lists on a mobile device or PC, smoothing out the process and allowing for the math to be handled behind the scenes. This is more radical than you realize as the point costs for every item in the game have been transferred from cardboard to bytes.

“With the constraints of not being able to adjust point costs without introducing a ton of inherent list-building complexity and not wanting to start using a ban list (for similar pre-game complexity), we felt there is no better way to keep the game thriving and  otherwise increase the fun of X-Wing than by launching into a second edition.” – Frank Brooks, co-designer

“One of the great things about dynamic points costing is actually a benefit to early development and testing…we can spend our early time and energy asking ourselves ‘Points aside, is this ship sufficiently unique? Is it fun to fly?'” – Max Brooke

This is a decision that will benefit the player base for years to come. It allows the design team to balance upgrades over time and adjust their point values as the meta and release line matures. It’s a failsafe way of patching the game and maintaining an even keel. This is so fantastic because it’s the rare instance of a tabletop developer leveraging the use of an app for its maximum benefit. This isn’t a timer or helper software, it’s a core component of the design’s fabric.

To combat the complication this adds to quickly throwing some ships out on the table, Fantasy Flight has extended a hand to the casual flyers. Each release now includes one or more “quick build” cards which feature suggested list options for the paired ship.

It’s a preset squad component with full upgrades on the spacecraft and a legitimately kitted out piece to add to your force. Potency is measured in threat – a less granular point system which avoids tight calculations and penny-pinching. There are of course some downsides to losing that precision as you will see things such as an Academy TIE statted up with a threat level equal to an Obsidian. There’s no tactical reason to choose the Academy here as the latter is identical in all ways except for one higher pilot skill. Those wanting to just toss out some lethal ships and blow each other to hell will easily overlook those small glitches and still get on with it.

XW_QuickBuild

Although many of the abilities have been streamlined and some of the card clutter has been reduced, it’s clear that the game hasn’t been dumbed down. There’s even a sense of more muddle and tablespace claimed as the upgrade cards are now full-sized and you have additional tokens scattered about. The existing problem of managing multiple ships with a bunch of cards is virtually identical, although at this point you’ve likely built your list more rapidly and will spend a larger amount of your attention glued to the streaking ion engines and warm laser cannons tearing up your table.

“My biggest concern is actually the expense and complexity of the conversion process…I hope players will agree that the improvements to the game and the tools we’ve baked in to ensure this is the last time players will have to undertake a major overhaul of the collections make it well worth the effort.” – Alex Davy

One of the biggest challenges with this new release is in bringing along the old guard, fans like myself who have been with this beloved game since 2012. Fantasy Flight’s solution is to offer conversion kits for each faction, boxed sets stuffed with enough dials, cards, and ship tokens to fill a Star Destroyer’s cargo hold. Combine these with your existing miniatures and you’re ready to go.

There are of course difficulties with this approach as those owning the gamut of releases across all factions will need to buy an upgrade kit for each, and possibly a second depending on their model count. It’s rough, but the value here certainly feels commensurate when compared to competition such as Star Trek Attack Wing’s recent upgrade process from publisher Wizkids games. Our path to the future may not be perfect, but it’s something that’s easy to stomach once you actually hit the table with these changes and experience the evolution of the product.

XW_YWing

While it’s merely the genesis of this new edition’s lifecycle, X-Wing appears built to last. The care and thought put into the system modifications provide a strong sense that this was crafted to provide an improved experience, and not simply to extort more money from the dedicated community.

Personally, X-Wing had been fading for well over a year in my humble abode. Second edition has reignited the fire and the simple joy of yelling “pew-pew” while blowing the hell out of Imperial pilots has returned.

“X-Wing’s Flight Path System is a really powerful and flexible tool, and I think a lot of the refinements we’ve made in Second Edition give us great options for the future. Frank wrote the rules with a lot hindsight from the lessons of the last five years, but also a lot of foresight for potential development options. As a developer on the X-Wing team, I’m certainly excited to see what we can do with them in the future!” – Max Brooke

Are you planning on checking out X-Wing 2nd edition? Let us know in the comments!  And be sure to join host Becca Scott on Game the Game every Thursday here on Geek & Sundry to watch the best boardgames played with fantastic guests!

More X-Wing goodness!

Image Credits: Charlie Theel

Editor’s note: A sample of the game was provided by the publisher

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Charlie Theel writes for Ars Technica, Tabletop Gaming, Player Elimination, and co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. You can find him on Twitter @CharlieTheel.

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