A bit of a deviation from my standard X-Wing articles today (ah a stats pun in the opening paragraph…) I wanted to take a look at what is more important in the X-Wing Meta when constructing a Squad, Stats and Abilities or Dials and Actions?
The X-Wing community has had a lot to take in during 2014, FFG released the first official fix for a ship the felt they could have done a better job with. Namly the Chardaan Refit for the A-Wing, effectively saying that the A-Wing just did not justify its points cost.
Its hard to argue against the raw stats that get thrown around and you only have to look at the upcoming fix for the TIE Advanced to see that this is how FFG plans to address these issues in the future to try to keep all the ships relevant.
This leads on to the reveal for the M3-A Scyk and the discussions that it has generated. This was the ship that I was most looking forward to seeing in Wave 6 as the concept really excited me.
A shame than that the general consensus seems to be that the dial is going to have to be very good for it to see meaningful play and as hard as I find it, I have to agree that the stat line does not justify 14 points.
This leads me back to a thought that I have had for a while of just what points value do you assign to a dial?
As some of you may be aware there is a lot of information out there for how we should value the stat lines of various ships, MajorJuggler from the FFG forums has some excellent posts on the FFG forums that go it to far more depth than I am going to in this article, and you can read them here.
The basic premiss is that it is relatively simple to assign a given value to a statistic and then judge it in comparison to another ships stats.
This is something that I have spoken about when I have been a guest on NovaSquadron Radio.
Normally I have a gut feeling of where something is going to fall and then MajorJuggler comes in with the actual maths, This usualy results in us having a long off air discussion about how much we agree on something being overcosted or that something is a really good value upgrade.
I would expect that almost everyone reading this does the same sort of thing, we all have some form of grasp of how a stat line works, be it in X-Wing, 40K, Infinity or whatever.
The fact that we even call them stat lines implies that Math is going to have the answers, this lends itself to a form of Math(inserts end part of game name here) where Unit X comes out to be stronger than Unit Y because it kills Z Space Marines per turn more (OK, so it kills Z TIE Fighters a turn…)
My point is that skill level does not in anyway influence the list building phase of the game, especially with the existence of the internet and the wealth of information available at peoples fingertips about latest results and what Paul Heaver is flying this week.
The costing issues come in when you then transfer this on to the table top. The game stops being all about the numbers as there is dog fighting involved. Not all ships are created equal and the Dial now come in to play, what is harder is actually getting the value from the points cost of the dial.
This X-Factor is something that FFG has to build in to the points cost of a ship and this is where the problems start!
Lets look at an example.
This is a comparison I like to make as it removes the Action Bar and Pilot Skill from the equation as both ships are the same.
In this case 21 points on the Lambda buys you the equivalent of 2 Hull Upgrades and 3 Shield Upgrades which (as an unfair comparison) FFG costs at 18 points the loss of the 1 Defense dice has to be accounted for as well which I personally cost at approximately 6-7 points in this case (this is not an arbitrary number and involves lots of comparisons to other ships but does come down to my personal gut feeling that if the Lambda had 2 Evades is would cost about 27-28 points with no other changes)
These numbers put the Lambda as a raw stats level of being about 12 points undercosted when compared to the X-Wing so is the Lambda’s dial really that bad when compared to the X-Wings?
We will ignore the All Stop on the Lambda for now and see what they have in common first. For the 1’s they are all green and the both have the 1 Ahead and the Banks with no turn.
Both have access to all the 2’s again with the ahead being Green and the banks are both white but the Lambda’s turn is Red.
The 3’s is where the difference starts to really show with the 3 Ahead being white for both but the banks being Red on the Lambda and it not even having the turns.
4 Ahead for the X-Wing and it also has a 4 K-Turn while the Lambda has the aforementioned Red All Stop.
It is also worth pointing out that the Lambda can’t really slow roll as well as the X-Wing as it is a large base ship so its 1 ahead actually covers the same amount of space as the X-wings 2 Ahead. So it needs to pull the all stop of effectively slow roll which whilst powerful induces stress.
What this actually boils down to is that yes the X-Wings dial is a lot better than the Lambda’s and if you ever get around a Lambda with an X-Wing it should never get away from you.
However in a joust, your X-Wing could well be dead before it ever gets a chance to be behind the Lambda. In this instance you could say that I am doing the comparison backwards looking at how FFG have give us a points break on the Lambdas stats because of its dial and that is correct, people who actually use the shuttles a lot swear by them as they are extremely cost effective if they are firing.
It is when we take the comparison in the opposite direction that we see the true problems with this dial, action bar and upgrade costing.
A look at one of my personal favorite ships in the Expanded Universe the TIE Defender. There is no denying the power of its stat line all the 3’s make it a ship not to be trifled with but 30 points for a PS 1 Defender, really.
This is where we start to look at comparisons to other ships FFG is making with and add the Action Bar and upgrade bar in to the equation.
FFG with releasing the Chardaan Refit have effectively costed the ability to take missiles at 2 points, this is somewhat reinforced but the up coming release of the Scyk with the Heavy Scyk Title.
Does this mean that the Defender is paying a 4 point premium for the ability to take a Missile and a Cannon? Not necessarily but it does mean that part of the cost is included in the platform. Couple that with the Dial and the placement of the White, Green and Red and you have a ship that stat line wise should be right up there but despite having access to the full suite of moves and a White K-Turn just does not quite cut it.
Compare that to a Knave Squadron Pilot with a Hull Upgrade.
Both Ships would share the same stat line of all 3’s both would come in at 30 points and both would have 17 maneuvers available to them, so which is better?
That is the X-Factor that is hard to cost, what the player can actually do with the ship on the table drastically affects how much value they get out of the dial.
In a match between two weaker players I would give the edge to the Defender as its White K makes the 2nd pass easier to plan out. If the E-Wing player has enough about them to start forcing hard turns though and its a whole different ball game.
This ultimately means that a player of less skill can fly a ship where to cost is factored more heavily in to the stats/abilities better than they could fly a ship where the cost is weighted more heavily in to the dial and action bar.
A player of a higher skill is going to get the same amount of value from the stats of a ship as a weaker player. The difference is that they are going to squeeze every ounce of value out of the points cost that were factored into its Dial/Action Bar.
Not to say that any of this is bad or that there is anything inherently wrong with flying the “easier” ships, just that with the current state of the game. Where both sides deploy opposite each other in a victory point grabbing furball that the Stats/Abilities are always going to weigh more heavily than the Dials/Actions.
I would love to see some variation in deployments or missions to help take some of the stress from points killed being the only way to win a game. Until that happens there is no reason to change and damage application and mitigation are going to continue to be the deciding factors in games.
The good news is that whilst this is not changing, more variables are being added to the game. The addition of Debris Clouds, Corran Horn, 58 Point Dash, Autothruster Fel and the upcoming TIE Advanced fixes the more slippery ships are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, and whilst all the ships I mentioned live or die by their abilities the fact that they are centered around positioning rather than brute force is what we all want.
The Game is not perfect, and I for one hope it never will be, Pawns don’t hold the same value as Rookes and nor should they, it does not mean that chess is unbalanced it just means that you have to use the pieces at you disposal to the best of your ability and dice being even the better player should win.
I do have one last point before I sign off this piece, make sure you talk with your opponents about the type of game you want. If its an event than fair game, play the best squad you can use well but don’t be afraid to lose some games on the kitchen table whilst you try to get better with some off the wall lists. You will never get value out of the more Dial/Action intensive ships if you never take the time to get to grips with them, and who knows you may even enjoy it!
So am I right or am I wrong. Is X-Wing sinking in to a pit of Turreted, 2 Ship list madness or is the Interwebz misleading when it comes to what is on vogue? I know that 90% if the games I play out side of events have all manor of lists and combinations that no-one talks about but are we destined to complain about the top 1% being the same event after event and for that to influence the overall image of the game? I would love to hear your thoughts and will be doing my best to remain an active part of the discussion. So, have at it!