The X-wing is far and away my favourite ship from the Star Wars saga, so it breaks my heart to see it unused in the meta. Discussions of how to “fix” the ship are rampant; one such post by reddit user Bozbacca on the x-wing subreddit inspired this post. I want to make clear right here at the top that I am sure that FFG will be releasing something to make the X-wing better. They’ve done a great job monitoring the meta, and have released two fixes for the Interceptor, one for the A-wing, one for the Y-wing, and soon, one for the TIE Advanced and some funky munitions fixes. So, I don’t doubt that we’ll see something to help the poor X out, especially considering it is the title ship of the game.
A quick recap on the problems with the X-wing: first and foremost, it is not very maneuverable. It tends to get eaten alive by Interceptors, Phantoms, E-wings, and in some cases even well-flown YTs of both varieties. It’s maneuver dial is lackluster, and has no way to consistently change its position after standard movement. Second, the X-wing lacks survivability. The B-wing and Y-wing simply trade off their agility values for huge hull and shield states; the TIEs and A-wings trade their health for extra agility which makes them harder to hit. X-wings are a middle of the road value on both. They have enough health that a total flub on the defense roll will rarely (but occasionally) result in death, but not enough defense dice to reliably mitigate any real damage. With 3 attack dice, the ship packs a punch, but no more than a B-wing or really almost any other ship in the game whose price point would be comparable. These other ships, however, bring additional strengths to the table that the X-wing simply lacks.
However, within the realm of the films and extending lore, we do not see the X-wing as some middling fighter of debatable value. Rather, it rocks! It’s been the star of multiple video games, a ten novel series, and even bears the title of a fantastic miniatures game. Just looking at the 1996 Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels, from the 1 page description, one can already tell that this is a space superiority fighter that does it job with style. The X-wings 4 laser cannons, which can be set to fire single, double, or quad-linked, and 2 torpedo tubes that can hold up to 3 torpedoes each (for a total of 6), suggest a fighter that is heavily armed. The text of the guide actually specifically says “The X-wing is known for its durability”, which is not something any X-wing pilot (of this game) would say! It is also apparently easy to fly, and requires the astromech droid to handle “many of the in-flight operations, such as damage control, astrogation jumps, and flight performance adjustment”. Then there is the one thing that we don’t have for X-wing that is so thematic players have been dreaming up ways to do it since the game’s inception: S-foils. It’s well established that the X-wing is able to close its wings to dramatically increase its speed (at least it was that way in the Rogue Squadron games). This also typically cancels the X-wing’s ability to attack, though I seem to remember some novels where the X fired its guns with the wings in the closed position. This boosts the X-wing’s ability to move across the battlefield dramatically.
With that said, I’m going to propose 5 different ways to fix or boost the X-wing. They’re probably not all viable, and I do not think that all 5 should be implemented (because that would be too much), but I think all 5 bear some consideration.
Quickly, I think the easiest fix for the X-wing would be to knock a point off its cost. I would only pull the point off the two generic versions, the Rookie and the Red, not the named pilots. This would make the PS2 version only 20 points, so players could field 5 X-wings at a time if they were willing to take them naked. This would give the X-wings a fair bit of a “swarm” mentality, where it’s a smaller swarm with far fewer tricks than the Headhunters, but is composed of significantly more effective ships. It would allow players to field a 4X list but save a couple points off the low end pilots, allowing more upgrades to be purchased. I think it would have a positive effect on the meta’s use of the ship, while still maintaining its established and playtested drawbacks (because nothing should be too strong).
Heavy Weapons: The X-wing is supposed to be heavily armed. Four laser cannons is nothing to be scoffed at. I have a couple ideas of how one might simulate the changing of the fire-linking, but I don’t think any are particularly good. Perhaps allowing the ship to make two attacks at 2 dice each (single fire, quick fire), the current attack (dual linked), or doing a heavy quad-linked attack that would hit with 4 or 5 dice but would miss next round’s combat phase due to the recharge on the lasers. What concerns me more is the torpedoes. Protons have been around literally since the start of this game, and ever since then, players have been leaving them aside. They just aren’t viable. If I could do them over, I would make the basic Proton Torpedoes have the same attack value and ability (questionable whether they should spend the TL to attack), but make it range 3 only, and don’t discard the card. Having the option to turn the X-wing into a sniper would be very cool. I suspect the cost would have to stay the same, since you’re effectively turning it into a cannon, but still. Or don’t give it unlimited uses, but then make the torpedoes much cheaper, like probably a 2 point cost. This fix would be pretty difficult to implement, since it would require potentially a new game mechanic (for the lasers), or would require reprinting a whole set of cards, which would need to be playtested across the other ships that can take them. Actually that’s more possible, but would still be a fair bit of work.
Astromechs: Considering the X-wing basically couldn’t fly without a droid, I find it weird how much we see them without anything in this slot. The current droids we see are largely highly specific, lackluster, or both, and all are expensive. I think the X-wing should come with a droid ability already included, and that droid can be “upgraded”. K, look, there are currently 3 generic droids for the X-wing: the R2 (1s and 2s all green), the R5 (flip a Ship crit), and the R7 (target lock on attacker lets you force them to reroll dice). What I’d really like to see is something where anything that has, say, the R5 prefix has the generic R5 ability. So R5-D8, you who never gets used because you’re 3 points and cost an action and have to roll a dice to potentially heal damage, you now also have the ability to turn a ship crit back down! Now granted, R5-D8 just has way too many costs associated, compared to something like R2-D2, to ever make it worthwhile, but adding on the ability to flip a crit would actually make this into a reasonable healer droid. I would argue that R2-D2 is the best astromech droid (and actually the only one that would be problematic with this fix because suddenly you’d have so much green on your dial), but that the second best (named) droid is probably R7-T1 (action: target lock an enemy at range 1-2, and if you’re in their arc, you may immediately perform a free boost). The double-action droid, with no stress, and giving the ship the ability to reposition after moving? It’s the best thing ever! TOO BAD IT’S UNIQUE. Seriously, I’d pay 3 points to stick this puppy on every X and suddenly have them be really viable. I think short of just releasing a whole new set of droids that are going to be useful, this fix would probably be the easiest way to fix it (but R2-D2 would actually need his point cost raised). This could work via a new Title that gives each droid the prefix ability, and maybe the title itself costs -1 to bring down the costs across the board. Actually that could be abused, so make the Title only apply the point saving to the Astromech slot, the same way the new X1 title is applying only to the System/Sensor slot.
S-foils: The ability to open and close the S-foils is probably the most iconic bit of the X-wing. This is where many people are proposing the new SLAM action should be applied to the X-wing. I personally don’t like that idea only because of just how unnatural it will feel, since SLAM is a direct result of the type of engines on the K-wing. So, I feel that the S-foils should have a different flavour. Maybe it could be treated like the Cloak mechanic. In the RPG I’m getting ready to do, I’m allowing all the Rebel players to do something akin to this, where they disable their weapons for the round, add 1 to the speed of their maneuvers (add the 1 straight to the template), and regenerate a shield. Regenerating may be a bit much (or see below under Survivability), but the ability to “get a move on” would be pretty critical to the X-wing, I think. Maybe instead of doing the clunky “add 1 to the speed of your maneuver” that I’m doing, the ship should just be able to take a free Boost action every round that the wings are closed. The question would become whether they should be able to open their wings at the start of the Combat phase. I mean, obviously they aren’t going to be able to “decloak” with the 2 boosts and barrel rolls, but the ability needs to apply to their ability to reposition in an immediate sort of way, or it hasn’t done anything. Being able to jump across the board is great, but unless you can get a shot lined up (the current issue), it isn’t helping you. Then again, closing your wings into not-attack-position should cost you, so maybe you could still fire your weapons that round but your primary weapon value would be lowered by 1. That is, if this isn’t costing you your action. If it costs the action, then it’s just a flavoured Boost, and nothing else needs to happen, but if it’s something that can be done, say, when revealing the maneuver dial, then it needs to have an additional opportunity cost. A mechanic like this could be done either through a Title or through a Modification, but I don’t think it should happen through a Droid because that just doesn’t really make sense to me.
Survivability: I think the best answer to the X-wing’s survivability issues is to give it a way to heal, naturally. I know, it sounds crazy, and it probably is crazy, but let’s think about it a bit. If one could, say, reroute power from the weapons (-1 primary weapon value) in order to regenerate a shield, then there would be an opportunity cost and would give the ship some survival in hot situations. Oh wait this is exactly the new K-wing’s PS8 pilot ability, so we likely won’t see that. But, the X-wing is supposed to be a ship with great durability. I think the two agility dice is probably the right choice; it’s far more nimble than a B-wing or Y-wing. I also don’t think it should have more health, because it shouldn’t be as sturdy as a Y-wing, though it seems to need something to make it more sturdy. This is why I think the ability to regenerate health is the best answer. Look, we widely acknowledge R2-D2 as the best droid, but we rarely put him on Biggs. Why? Because Biggs doesn’t survive long enough to make use of R2-D2’s ability. We all know that an X-wing can be really easily focused down in one turn, so giving them the ability to regenerate health doesn’t do much beyond making pot-shots kinda useless. Exactly how this would be applied, I’m not sure. Probably through a droid, since they are supposed to manage damage control and in-flight repairs. Maybe making it so it can only do the heal thing every 2 rounds. At any rate, I think this would go a long way towards making the X-wing more viable in that it would still have a lot of difficulty in a heavily focused engagement (keeping the B-wing strong), but allowing it to be more useful the longer it survives. Make it a marathoner, rather than a sprinter.
So those were my 5 ideas to improve the X-wing. I don’t think all 5 should be implemented, as that would be far too strong, but these are 5 ideas that may bring some flair back to using the X-wing. Let me know what you think in the comments below, or back wherever you found the link!