Musings on Meta – X-Wing Miniatures Game

DSCF3412 (1280x960)It’s a fairly well publicised fact that Jervis Johnson does not like points values and army building, and indeed, back in the late 1990s and early 2000s when this debate was first raging, I was firmly in his corner – I’ve always chosen my armies based on a narrative, rather than simply ‘bang per point’. It’s one reason why I built a Deathwing army for W40K. Dark Angels are my favourite Space Marine chapter, so why not build an army based on their elite soldiers? (As an aside, how come, if the 1st Company are ‘the best of the best’, a Deathwing army is pretty dreadful in W40K? According to all the blurb and fluff, these are the best warriors in the galaxy, except that an army of them appears to suck…big time. Go figure…)

Anyway, I digress.

What I am saying is that I have never been one for playing the great ‘meta game’ of army building: spending hour upon hour pouring over an army list looking for that perfect combination or synergy to add to my army. I’m just not that sort of gamer.

Fast forward 15 years or so and over the last few months I’ve been getting back into a couple of games I haven’t played for a while X-Wing Miniatures Games and Lord of The Rings: The Card Game.

wp-1480291986465.jpgIn this blog post, I’ll look at the X-Wing Miniatures Game. Having played a few friendly games with Josh, I entered a local tournament at Galactic Models in Derby, where I was soundly thrashed. This wasn’t unexpected, but it was interesting to see how the other competitors played the game, talked about their forces and reacted to how I played. For example, I did find it mildly amusing that in my final game of the day, my opponent couldn’t kill my final TIE Interceptor, thanks partly to the way I was flying – I was never quite where he expected me to be. “Who K-turns with a TIE-I!!?” Only me, apparently, because that’s “not how you play TIE Interceptors” if you’re are a ‘proper’ X-Wing player. Who knew? (Certainly not me!)

I’m a member of a couple of X-Wing tournament groups on Facebook, and there appears to be a steady stream of questions relating to “what’s the best upgrade for x points” or “how do I fly formation Y”, formation Y being whatever the latest ‘unbeatable’ combination of ships and upgrades, which appears to be dependent upon what squadron the player who has won the most recent high-profile tournament was flying.

I freely admit that I am NOT a tournament player, so, to be perfectly honest, even if I entered a tournament, my number one priority is not winning, but rather playing games against different opponents who provide different challenges – hopefully learning something in the process, but primarily having a good time playing a game with a like-minded individual. After all, we are playing forces with the same point values, so the games should be balanced, correct?

Well, yes and no.

kwingcomponentsAs you probably know X-Wing is, at its heart, a collectible miniatures game. Whilst there is no blind purchases involved, it is true that as more and more ships are released, the other resource that are released are upgrade cards. Different upgrade cards change the synergies of how ships and pilots fly with each other, but the only way you get the new cards is by buying the new ships (unless of course you want to enter into the ‘separate card purchase’ market on auction sites). As someone who hasn’t bought a new ship after wave 3 (since I was only interested in collecting ships from the original film trilogy – the only 3 ‘proper’ Star Wars films after all J ), I can see that this automatically puts me at a potential disadvantage if I am building a squadron for tournament play.

Going back to the tournament I played, I was asked why I didn’t play X pilot with Y upgrade? It’s because I didn’t own the Y upgrade card. Why? Because that upgrade card comes with the TIE Defender, and I don’t own a TIE Defender.

tiedefender-componentsWait…You fly an Imperial squadron and you don’t own a TIE Defender?! What sort of X-Wing player are you? An unusual one, by the sound of things.

I’m not really knocking the whole meta-game behind X-Wing, it’s just something that I have chosen not to take part in, and probably to my detriment should I subsequently choose to continue playing tournaments.

The original reason I got into X-Wing (other than be bullied into it by Mike Hobbs and Rich Jones) was to look at recreating the battles I had played on the PC version of Microprose X-Wing computer game back in the mid-1990s. I was looking at putting together my own rules using my collection of Die-cast Star Wars fighters, but then X-Wing came out and kind of made that little project redundant. To recreate the missions from the X-Wing computer game you only need the ships that were released in waves 1-3 of the X-Wing miniatures game (although a Rebel Transport and Tantive IV are still on my shopping list, and I should probably look at getting the Rebel and Imperial aces expansions. You could also argue that if you are to include the TIE Fighter computer game, you also need at least one TIE Defender). Given that aim, I am perfectly happy with my collection of ships.

tantiveiv-components

Can this challenge in a current X-Wing tournament? Well, if FFG have managed to keep the game balance correct, then there is no reason why they shouldn’t. However, my suspicion is that in reality they would struggle. Perhaps foolishly, I’ve entered the X-Wing regional tournament at Battlefield Hobbies early next year. This may well prove my point, although my hope is at least I’ll have a good time, whilst again possibly frustrating the odd opponent with somewhat unorthodox tactics. However I suspect that it will only prove that I’m not particularly good at this game!

12 Comments on Musings on Meta – X-Wing Miniatures Game

  1. I had the same experience in the 2 40k tournaments (local ones) that I played – I used just squads of the tactical marines – beakies, even. I managed to come in 2nd each time – no one could understand how I won without a land raider, land speeder, assault marines, etc.. Not sure that could actually happen now though 🙂 Best of luck to you – and while I fully agree with your Wave 3 limit (and games based on X-Wing and Tie Fighter computer games – available now on Good Old Games for modern systems) I do love the Scum&Villainy faction so I’ve made that one exception. 🙂 Best of luck to you and show them youngsters a thing or two!

  2. K turns are really useful and why on Earth wouldn’t you use them? So not a tournament player.

  3. Colin Peake // December 14, 2016 at 21:16 // Reply

    Great article Neil

    I enjoy the fact that we exist in a hobby with such a breadth of activities and opportunities.

    Unfortunately I have never enjoyed tournaments; from observing the “activities” at Derby (WRG Ancients) from the 80’s
    The classic being a friend placing his army on the table and stating “i am toast” before a die was rolled
    He just knew the opponents force would defeat him because that’s how WRG worked!
    All the way to the GW etc rules the changes and the rules lawyers.
    I remember Commissar practically indestructible (shiny buttons on the leather coat deflecting blasters?)

    But like you Neil its not a criticism, they enjoy what they do, we enjoy what we do
    My only issue is the constant drive by noisy minorities in either camp to try and persuade others of their errors.

    Your article was balanced and good fun to read, lets hope we can all debate reasonably
    Moderately
    And agree with me 😉

  4. While generally I agree with you about the ships, there are a couple I like (and we don’t have all the Episode 1 – 3 ships) I bought it to play with my boys, nearly 8 and nearly 6, and they like it, but we only use the basic rules and points so far. But I’ve got the youngest Slave 1 for Christmas (he loves baddies, and already has the TIE Advanced) while the eldest is getting Rebel Aces (now he is a power gamer in the making!). I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a ship for myself to join in, and if I do I think it will be the Shadow Caster; nice aesthetics, it appeals to me as the YT-2400 does too. I have to go with what I like the look of.

    But on the points and tournament games, I understand the appeal to your sense of humour, and I admire your patience!

  5. You are the Polish cavalryman of the X-Wing world!!

    I suppose that it is one of the more interesting things about fantasy and SF games with points systems – the discovery of what is over-valued and under-valued. With historical games it is just annoying, but in a way I think that interaction of points, models, tactics and real-world purchase price make for quite interesting games in fantasy settings. In a way, the players are discovering “what works” in the fictional combat world (e.g. working out that the Death Angels are over-hyped….). What I’d like to see is this be used to adjust points values during the life of the game to improve it, although unfortunately some companies’ model appears to be more based on an exploitative “arms race”. And this way, there would never be a need to nerf an army just because you don’t want to make the models any more…

  6. I’ve heard so much of that “that’s not how you supposed to play” in Xwing games. It seems to be that there is some doctrine that has to be followed among serious Xwing players. Never mind if the unorthodox tactics work or not. 😉

  7. Nice read 🙂 It seems to me you’re obviously looking for a different experience than what you can find in a tournament, that happened to me in the past also, it’s a tournament so a good way to play some games in one day and have some fun. Problem is, in my opinion, not how many games you play but the type of games you play. Tournaments, particularly for certain games that have big meta, are not the perfect place to play narrative (as it seems this is what you really like). There’s nothing wrong with them as long as you don’t expect a different experience from what really is. I would really like to see the old X-wing pc game scenario re-created for X-Wing miniatures game!

    • They are on my ‘list of things to do ‘ – I have had the strategy guides by the side of my desk for ages…
      …possibly a project to start over Christmas 😀

  8. I think just see how it goes and have fun. If it is not your cup of tea (or coffee) then just move on to narrative play. That is honestly much cooler in any case. if you get Imperial assault as well you could even have a campaign with troop landing etc.

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