X-Wing Expansion: A-Wing – A Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight GamesThis review is rather later than planned and, for a change, it had nothing to do with me. It’s fair to say that Fantasy Flight have been victims of their own success and have struggled to keep up with demand for the X-Wing Miniatures Game and as such all but the wave 1 range was unavailable.

But rejoice fellow X-Wing gamers, for the restock has hit and you have the briefest window to buy what you can before unscrupulous bastards buy it all up and put it on eBay for three times the price. I’ve been able to get my hands on the A-Wing at long last. Well two actually. I can hear Mat soiling himself from here.

swx08-layout

When I was formulating an idea of what to include in my squadron I knew that I would need something in the rapid response column to either scythe through fast-moving flights of Interceptors or, God forbid, Defenders or to blast past the main enemy line to pick off the TIE Bombers.  A-Wings and E-Wings tick the box most effectively. I’ve always loved the E-Wing ever since it blasted its way across the pages of the Dark Empire series. However, it isn’t out yet. But A-Wings will more than make do for now.

The A-Wing’s always been a bit of a funny one for me. Whilst I appreciate its speed, and being able to out pace and out turn a TIE is appealing, I’ve never liked how soft and squishy they are. However, you can’t knock the speed or its potential punch and in X-Wing it’s a necessity for two very good reasons. One: it performs a vital intercept and engage role that nothing else in the Rebel fleet can. Two: The general lack of pilot cards means that if you want to field a dozen fighters you have to a couple of each type.

But on to the A-Wing itself. Of all the models I’ve seen so far it’s probably the most disappointing. Not because it’s not a loyal representation or anything like that but the pre-painting on the two I got was poorer than on the other ships I own. The additional colouration feels rather arbitrary and does nothing to make it feel like I’m recreating Return of the Jedi. But the thing that really ticks me off is the stupid spots of red paint on the tips of the lasers. There is absolutely no need for it and for the first time since properly collecting and playing X-Wing I’d consider repainting one of the model. Or at least paint over the lasers.

The board it’s blisteringly fast. Speed 5 makes it the fastest thing in the Rebel fleet (so far) and with a wealth of green manoeuvres on its wheel, it is very agile. The down side is you can only make Koigan turns at speeds 3 and 5 which means you could well put yourself out of range of a target if you wait til you’re on top of them to pull the manoeuvre. This does mean it’ll suck in a dogfight and you’ll be far better off performing hit and run attacks. But considering how little armour they have, it was some what of a given anyway. The plethora of missiles it can take as upgrades rather backs up this theory as the ability to strike with concussions missiles or homing missiles on the way in, lasers in the thick of it and then blast out the other side with the handy-dandy boost action. So despite its two armour points it’ll take a big bite out of the Imperials before its shredded to tin foil. Because it will die. Especially going up against the vastly superior TIE Defender. But the Rebel’s strength has always been combined arms…

And it’s pilots. Those that know their Star Wars novels will know that Tycho Celchu is a bit of a badass. His pilot card is no exception. Aside from being comparable to Luke Skywalker with skill 8, he’s allowed to still perform actions with stress tokens. This means he can perform a Koigan turn and lock on, focus or evade. This makes him pretty lethal. To be able to turn to face an attacker and potentially ignore a hit as well as roll 3 dice to evade is nasty. Only two shots in return means he’s still not likely to splash a TIE, but in a pair or in a coordinated attack with an X-Wing or Y-Wing and you’ll be laughing.

You get the usual pointless generic pilot cards which I’d never take. Ever. You also get Arvel Crynyd who allows you to target a ship you’re in base contact with – normally against the rules. With such a fast-moving craft, and in the role it’ll likely be performing, it’s an incredibly useful skill to have and make you slightly happier to have your A-Wing in the thick of it.

Whilst the A-Wing will never replace the X-Wing as my go to fighter, it performs a vital role in a squadron. Especially as the games grow in size and the variety in the Imperial formation increases. The speed and potential punch it can deliver to the back of the Imperial formation is too valuable to pass up, especially taking them in pairs. Which of course you’d do. Because you’d be mental not to. I still dislike their flimsiness and I dislike that they force you to be careless with pilot lives – because it’s not the Rebel way of doing things – but they’re just too damn useful.

The A-Wing is available from Firestorm Games priced £10.79.

X-Wing: Collecting a Rebel Fleet

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight GamesThe addition of a second Y-Wing means my Rebel fleet for Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing Miniatures Game is starting to take shape. With a few games (and wins) under my belt I’ve started to get to grips with the tactics of fighting with a Rebel fleet.

To be perfectly, brutally, honest you can pick up the basics for my approach from reading the X-Wing novels but as that’s 10 books it may just be quicker to read on.

So the Rebellion’s main strength has always been the quality of its pilots. You can put a crap pilot in an X-Wing and they’ll end up dead. Perhaps not as quickly as a crap pilot in a TIE fighter, but still. So when it comes to collecting a fleet your first thought should be to the quality of the pilot you’re putting behind the stick over what the hardware can do.

Granted this is quite limiting at the moment thanks to the woefully slow release schedule Fantasy Flight are working to. There’s various hooky cards floating around the internet and it’s sorely tempting under the circumstances. But the point is, that ability to fire first is vitally important to the often outnumbered Rebellion.

And top tip; try to keep your points under the agreed limit, or at least less than your opponent. Possessing the initiative and the higher pilot skill is too good a combination to pass up.

Rebel Fleet

Profile cards aside the other issue is whether or not you collect a fleet with your heart or with your head. Given the choice, I’d happily collect all X-Wings. Their all round performance means that they’ll be able to go toe to toe with just about any other snubfighter with the exception of the TIE Defender. However the durability and weapons of Y-Wings and the savage speed of A-Wings make them both invaluable to a squadron sized force.

This combined arms approach, coupled with quick draw pilots and durability of those fighters is what makes the Rebels so lethal. And gives you the edge over the oft simplistic and bludgeoning approach of Imperial fleets full of cheap, poorly trained pilots, flying cheap poorly built TIEs. Couple it with the Imperials’ own preferred tactic of mobbing targets and it’s surprising how quickly you can chew through Imperial formations. Concentrated fire backed up by the ability to soak up some real punishment means that, providing you don’t allow your flights to get bogged down, they can take on a fleet twice their size and comfortably and capably deal with it. The trick being to scissor your say through Imperial formations. Try to avoid furballs which allow superior numbers to be brought to bear. And where possible try to plan your moves so you can tuck in behind a target with one element or another every other turn allowing you to hammer everything bar a Lambda Class and Slave 1 with impunity.

The important lesson however is never leave you wingman. A flight of three X-Wings is difficult to deal with. Possessing 9 shots, 6 shields and 9 damage points between them, they chuck out 3 more shots and can soak up 6 more points of damage for the same number of TIE fighters. Don’t be tempted to break one off to finish off a target. Ignore it and move on to the next. By the time the winged target is dead your lone fighter will be two turns away from formation and that’s a long time in X-Wing.

With all this in mind it’s also vitally important to identify threats. Figure out which of your opponent’s ships have comparable pilot skill to your pilots, or a trait that tips the balance in their favour. And then destroy them. Slowly stripping away advantages not only makes your life easier but demoralises the opponent. Plus the Imperial player is going up against a fleet of superior pilots and so target prioritisation almost becomes meaningless to them. You can play to your advantage by applying pressure with different ships at different times which forces them to engage multiple targets, spreading the damage points out.

But let’s not forget the various upgrade cards. Proton Torpedoes are a relative cheap, yet devastating tool. The important this is to not save them. They only work at long-range so fire them off as soon as possible. It’s up to you whether or not you put multiple locks on a single target. If the target gets destroyed by one missile then you’ll just have to wait another turn. The important thing is that you want at least one enemy fighter dead for each flight of two or three ships a turn firing that turn. There are ways this can be improved upon. Marksmanship is mandatory, among one or two others.

And finally: capital ships. Larger, bulkier, and tougher ships like the Falcon serve two vital roles. The first is the obvious magnet for enemy fire. They’re big enough and ugly enough to take quite a pounding. If you’re lucky your opponent will get so distracted trying to bring it down that they’ll ignore the snubfighters scything their way through TIE fighters. The second is their ability to anchor your ever flexing line. It’s 360 degree field of fire means that it will always – assuming you make it keep pace with the rest of your fleet – be able to lend a hand to soften up, or finish off, a problem target. Again, with the right combination of upgrades the Falcon can not only shoot first, but lob out a volley of missiles, repair itself, get a burst of speed or gain the evade ability, which is very very useful.

Ultimately the best advice I can give for collecting a Rebel fleet – assuming all the cards were available – is to go with what you love. Whilst, personally, I wouldn’t recommend a squadron of B-Wings because they’d get danced around more times than the proverbial piggy in the middle, if they’re your jam than take them.

My fleet will, eventually, be 4 X-Wings, 3 A-Wings, 2 Y-Wings, 1-B-Wing, 2 E-Wings and the Falcon. The reason being it offers a near perfect blend of firepower, speed and durability as well as the capacity throw a lot of Ion cannon shots and missiles at my opponents. Seven ships down, 6 to go. Roll on Salute…

The X-Wing Miniature series is available from Firestorm Games from £6.29.

The Shell Case does Salute – Phil

Salute 2014

As the 12th April comes ever closer and the prospect of another day filled with nothing but the sights, sounds and smells of the UK’s best all-round gaming show (and with the recent trend with Games Day, arguably just the outright best) fills our every waking thought (especially Mat’s – it’s his first time and he’s really quite excited), the members of The Shell Case team attending Salute this year (sorry Ashley, next time maybe?) have taken time to reflect on their hopes and expectations for Salute 2014.

Here’s Phil’s thoughts:

Phil

This’ll be my third consecutive Salute and my third representing this site. It’ll be the first, however, that I’ll be going there with (most of) my newly assembled team of writers. My focus this year will be much more around building some links with all the various companies attending so we can bring you better content across a broader range of games.

I’m also looking forward to catching up with the likes of Mike McVey, the guys from Amera & 4Ground, Wendy from West Wind and Jed from Antenociti’s Workshop to name but a few.

The hobby fund is a little light this year thanks to a few unforeseen expenses so I’ll be keeping things focussed, although with Black Library not in attendance I’ll save £30 or so. There will be the mandatory, if modest, purchase from Forge World, a couple of A-Wings, if I can find them, and then the rest can go on childish impulse buys. As I’ll be on a budget I’m thinking of putting the Khorne Daemon Prince off in favour of the Legion Praetors as I’ve been wanting to update my Ultramarine captains for ages.

Obviously I’m looking forward to the #warmongers Meet Up. It’s always great to see familiar faces and put new ones to familiar Twitter names.

Myself, Mat, Lee, Neil, Reece & Rob will all be there with TSC shirts so please do come over and say hi. And the first 10 who do will get an exclusive pin badge. Just because we’re nice like that.