Bikini Squadron Analysis

A couple months ago, The Metal Bikini ran a contest that involved submitting custom pilot cards. I had the privilege of going through those entries and pulling out the ones I thought were especially neat or potentially useable. It’s posted in four parts, but here’s the link to the first one if you’re interested in having a read of my thoughts on custom pilot cards.

http://www.themetalbikini.com/2014/09/bikini-squadron-analysis-by-tract-part-1.html

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Battle with James Sept 10/14

So I finally got to play a game of x-wing a couple days ago. It’s honestly been like four weeks, which is terrible. My buddy James came over; we’ve been playing together since I first got into the game a little over a year ago. And let me tell you, James has never beaten me. Until the other night. It was like watching a butterfly come out of the cocoon. It was beautiful.

What really thrilled me about this game was it was the first time I’ve felt like James has played a list I was genuinely scared of. He often does stuff like double phantoms+, but never anything like a swarm with a flanker. I haven’t been able to get a ton of experience with the new wave 4 ships, so getting the E-wing and the Phantom on the table at the same time was a lot of fun.

He played Echo with ACD, Howlrunner, and four Academy pilots, for 100 even. He’d played this list once before against a friend of mine, which I reffed. Actually now that I think it about it, it’s been longer than four weeks since I’ve played. Four weeks ago was that game where I supervised. Yikes. ANYWAY. After that game, which James won, I’d told him he should seriously consider being a swarm player. He’s loved the phantoms since they came out, but hasn’t had great luck with them. As I said, he hadn’t won yet, but that night his Echo + swarm paid off.

I wanted to try something weird, so I played Wedge, Biggs, and Corran Horn with R2D2, Engine Upgrade, and PTL, for 100 even. I made a couple rookie mistakes, which did not help me one bit.

I won the initiative roll, and I took it since the only PS conflict was Howlrunner/Corran. I ran Wedge right into an AP, and Biggs landed just barely inside range 1 of two Academies. I took out Howlrunner, but just barely. Wedge rolled three blanks and a crit, which Howl was able to dodge, but Biggs pushed through with a hit and a crit, which was, naturally, a Direct Hit. Biggs still went down that turn. Next turn I knocked out an AP when I used Corran’s double tap, but the next turn I ran Corran into a TIE, and actually got pushed back through Wedge, and ended up in the arcs of the Phantom and all three TIEs, with no actions. He almost made it, but that last TIE knocked him out. Wedge was down to something like 2 health at that point and I’d only managed to do 1 damage to Echo, so I conceded.

Lesson 1: Don’t joust a swarm.

Lesson 2: Don’t joust a swarm.

Lesson 3: Pay attention to where they’re going to move. Had I done the 1 straight I was thinking about instead of the 3, Biggs would have been in range 2 and Wedge wouldn’t have collided during the initial meeting. That could have made for a very different game. I guess it also applies to losing Corran; that was really a single mistake that cost me that ship, and he moved in a way that I really wasn’t expecting (who knew TIE fighters had a green 2 bank? Everyone knows that? Oh. Well then).

I’m seriously considering running something like 2 Gold squadron with Ion Turrets and 2 Dagger squadron with Advanced Sensors next time. I think that would be quite fun, but no idea how it will work. I’m also thinking about Paul Heaver’s alternate Nationals list, which if I remember correctly was Biggs, Grey squadron with Ion turret, and two Blue’s with AS. I really like the concept of that list.

My FLGS is also starting up a new league on October 1, but I’m wondering real hard over whether I’ll be able to attend now that university is in full swing. If I do go, there will be more battle reports going up!

What to buy?

I see people asking this all the time. On message boards, at the stores, on the subreddit (which I frequent), people are constantly wondering what their next purchase should be. Here it is, for all to see:

BUY WHAT YOU WANT.

That’s honestly how simple it is. This is a game, not a job. You need to enjoy it. Now, I know it’s not that simple. We work on budgets and we want to play in tournaments and show off to our friends. Before I get right into it, I do recommend finding a friend who will get into the game with you. This game gets expensive fast (though I’m told it’s nothing compared to Warhammer or other miniatures games), and it would be awesome to be able to focus on the Rebels or the Imperials, rather than having to buy everything. This is often not the case (I supply my whole group with ships), but it would be great if you could find a buddy before you get in too deep. With that being said, here’s a couple thoughts, in order, of what you should buy.

1) Buy a core set.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people think they don’t really need a core set to play. The core set is a) essential, and b) the best bang for your buck to expand your fleet. You NEED dice, movement templates, a range ruler, and a damage deck to play. Tokens do come with ships, but those four things you will not get from buying the expansions, and you need ’em. Also, small ships are ~$15/each and the core set comes with 3 of them, which makes $45. I usually see it advertized for $40. It’s just a better deal.

2) Buy what you want.

I know, this is where I started this article. But seriously. If you like A-wings, get an A-wing, and don’t let anyone tell you different. If you like the TIE interceptors, grab another one of those. If you see some ship that you’ve never heard of but you think it looks cool, grab that! It’s a game, have fun, experiment. If it was entirely up to me, this game would be almost 100% x-wings. I love that puppy. I’d be doing alternate paint schemes and weird pilot skills and alternate stats. THANKFULLY, it isn’t up to me, which is why we get Falcons and E-wings and TIE bombers, and a much better game. Get the ships you think are cool.

3) Get a second core set.

Having two range rulers is super handy. Having two sets of templates is super handy. Having two sets of dice, oh my goodness, is handy. With the TIE phantom having 4 attack dice and often 4 defense dice, three just really isn’t enough. I have three core sets, actually, so 9 of each die. I got my start when I bought a set from a friend, and then I bought myself another core, and then I bought another set off another friend, and ended up with a third. No regrets about that. I have two sets worth in my basement, and the third set stays in my tackle box for taking to the store. Also, it’s two more TIEs and another X. 4X is a bread-and-butter list, and the TIE swarm is a shark. It’ll never get old. To do either of those, you need some more ships, and the core set is a bargain for expanding those.

I would also recommend picking up the X-wing expansion and the TIE fighter expansion. They are different than the ones in the core set. Wedge Antilles is an amazing x-wing pilot who does not come in the core. Howlrunner is the PS8 TIE pilot that comes in the expansion (not the core), and is without a doubt the greatest force multiplier in the game, a real asset to the Imperial side.

4) Get one of everything.

Once you feel like you have all the ships you really want, I’d really encourage you to grab at least one of all the ships that you’re not that interested in. X-wing Miniatures is a strange game in that most people collect both factions (soon to be 3 factions), which is both a blessing (being able to show your friends the game easily), and a curse (ohh my wallet, it burns!). That being said, you will find cool stuff lurking in the ships you’re not interested in. If nothing else, they often have new upgrade cards you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. For example, most people would tell you the TIE Advanced is pretty useless, but if you don’t get it, you don’t get Squad Leader. Also Vader is super fun to play and don’t let anyone tell you different. I did this with the HWK-290. Zero interest in that ship. Thought it looked ugly and not terribly interesting. Picked it up, it ended up being part of many of my squads. I love the versatility of it. If you don’t do things you’re uncomfortable with, you’ll never learn anything new. Same goes for buying toys. Don’t forget to pick up the Aces packs as those release too, since they add new pilots and upgrades, but they will be different from the original expansion, so you’ll want both.

5) Pick up specific stuff to make lists.

Competition is kind of the crudest form of this game. I really feel that X-wing is at its best when it is in a basement with friends, messing around and having fun. At any rate, buying the ships to make the specific lists you want should be the last thing you do. I guess unless you’re really, really interested in something. For example, I saw the APLs and Ionzes list from the Metal Bikini (PLUG), and I went out immediately and bought a second hawk. Why? Because I wanted to try that list. Have I ever flown two hawks at once since then? Can’t think of a single time! But I did it to try something out, and I don’t regret that.

–The Eternal Question: “I only have $100 to get started”–

People seem to ask this a fair bit. Unfortunately, this answer is going to change over time as new ships release, but I can give a short answer.

BUY WHAT YOU-just kidding. Well, sort of. The core set is $40. That’s a given that you’ll need that. So, you have $60 left to play with. That’s 2 large ships, or 4 small ships, which actually is not a lot of wiggle room. You can grab a Falcon and a Slave I, which are both very fun ships, but that will eat your whole budget. If you’re wanting to do the smaller ships, I’d say grab the X-wing expansion, the A-wing expansion, the TIE interceptor expansion, and the TIE fighter expansion. This will NOT give you a balanced game. TIE fighters really only work in groups. If you wanted this to be balanced, you would probably need to add a fourth TIE fighter to the game. However, putting in these four ships will give you all the pilots for the essential two, and will allow you a taste on the maneuverability/positioning game with the A and the Squint.

Well, that’s all I have to say on the matter. There’s plenty of room to fiddle if you don’t want to stick with the plan I’ve given, but it’s what’s worked for me.

Squad Building Theory

Building a great squad doesn’t happen when you sit down at a table. In fact, the best squads tend to be the product of reflection, testing, and specialization. Every once in a while you’ll decide to do something silly and end up finding something awesome. One time, I decided that I wanted to run ships that all had the ability to heal (or something. I don’t really remember), and ended up taking an X-wing and two Y-wings, all with droids. I threw the ion turrets on the Y’s because I thought what the heck, let’s see what those are like. And that was the night that we discovered ion turrets are INCREDIBLE. However, most of the great lists don’t happen that way. Heck, that wasn’t even a great list, it was just a cool discovery.

You want to build a great list? Play a lot of games, and then think about them.

Typically when analyzing squads (or individual ships), you try to figure out what your ships do best and what they do worst. Some reasonable categories would be stuff like Damage Output, Survivability, and Maneuverability.

If you’re making a squad with high Damage Output, your goal is to put them down as fast as possible. That is, there’s somewhat of a glass-cannon mentality going on, in that you’re actively trying to kill them quickly, because if the fight goes long you won’t last. You’re likely going to want to be killing at least one enemy ship every turn. I fly my Skill Squadron on a regular basis (Wedge with Swarm Tactics and Hull Upgrade, Rookie, Rookie, Roark with Ion turret), and this is what I aim for. I’m usually able to take down at least one ship in the first round of shooting, and that’s before they’ve fired.

If you’re going for high Survivability, you’re going to be looking at ships that have a lot of health (like, 8+), or high-moderate health with high agility, like the Defender. The idea there is that you can take a beating and keep on putting out the damage. It’s the Leviathan vs Swarm mentality, that after 3 rounds of shooting you’ll have knocked out some of their power, while you’ll have lost none, though typically this is at the expense of some firepower. A great example of this list is 3 Bounty Hunters.

Maneuverability is about not ever having to roll defense dice. A-wings, E-wings, Interceptors and Phantoms live and die this way (maybe less so the E-wings but it does seem to be how they are played). The idea is that although your ship can’t take much damage, your opponent just won’t be able to hit you. Even having 3 agility isn’t usually enough to keep those red dice away, so what this focus ends up meaning is that you’re just never in their firing arcs. Soontir Fel is the poster boy for this.

Good squads can focus into one of these categories, or they can use multiple ships to fill multiple roles. Trouble comes for lists when ships are used for roles that they aren’t intended to play, and end up under-performing and hurting the whole squad. In my next post I’m going to work through the Rebel ships and how they fit into list building, and after that I’ll do the Imperial side.