Hard Lessons Learned from X-Wing 2.0

Here’s me:  A World(ish)-Class X-Wing player. I placed 28th in the 2017 World Championship and have the only set of the 2017-2018 dice in SoCal (that I know of!). I also have waaaaay more ships than anyone could ever use (we’re talking 20-ish X-Wings, even more TIEs) and have a fat binder of promo cards. I am chomping at the bit for X-Wing 2.0!

Also me: I’m a filthy casual, think Epic X-Wing is Real X-Wing, and love fudging the rules in the name of making the game “more like the movies.” I’ve been a loyal and diligent customer but have loads of unused ships because, quite honestly, I simply haven’t had a chance to use them. Now you’re telling me my pounds (literally) of cardboard are useless and if I want to keep playing I not only have to re-buy, I have to pay extra?!? X-Wing 2.0 makes me feel sick…

So…after years of jumping both sides of the line, the announcement and subsequent promotions of X-Wing Second Edition have put me in an awkward position. I love X-Wing, but do I love what this new game is? This has taught me some hard lessons I think are important to share. That, and you can see a grown man complain about a board game, so that might be entertaining in it’s own right.

X-Wing Second Edition (a.k.a. X-Wing 2.0)

If you’ve missed it, Fantasy Flight Games made a special announcement via their Hyperspace Report announcing that there will be X-Wing Second Edition launching in September 2018. I’m sure this isn’t news to anyone, but if it is, here are the highlights of what’s included in 2.0

  • A brand new core set that’s required to play (damage deck, tokens, redesigned templates, etc)
  • No upgrade slots or point costs on any cards. This is all handled via an X-Wing App.
  • Initiative now includes “initiative” as well as pilot skill, which is capped at 6.
  • Ships bases, pilot and upgrade cards have been redesigned.
  • “Force” abilities are in the game and are a separate resource.
  • Stat lines, dials, action bars, native abilities have been reworked.
  • You can still use your old mini’s as long as you buy faction-specific conversion packs.
  • Medium-sized bases are now included.
  • The mini’s themselves are generally of higher quality and will often include resculpts or articulation.
  • The price will increase ($50 for conversion kit, $20 for small-based expansion).

I didn’t make it to this World Championship, but there are plenty of resources you can delve into if you want more details. As you can imagine, this will be a very different, but still familiar game.

The news left me with a somewhat intense non-reaction; I felt elated and hopeful, but also alienated. My opinion of the new edition swung wildly back and forth so quickly that they basically cancelled out. This allowed me to get a new perspective and think hard about what FFG was doing, as well as my own behavior.

Don’t Buy What you Won’t Use

This should be pretty obvious, but as you can see from my collection…haha nope, hard-learned advice for me!

A huge swarm of TIE Interceptors. More than you could ever use.

*Some* of my TIE Interceptors

Have you ever heard of Depression-era survivors becoming hoarders later in life because they’re afraid of going without? I think that might have happened to me a bit. I know it’s hard to imagine, but in the early years of X-Wing if you missed a release it was slim pickings. FFG struggled sorting out production issues and it caused the secondary market to go a bit crazy. While I’m not proud of it, I remember selling an extra Falcon I had on eBay for over $60 and people were happy to pay for it. OK, maybe not happy, but available ships didn’t stay available, regardless of price.

Some of my unopened ships.

Well, that “buy it on release or you miss out” mentality really hooked me and I ended up buying lots of stuff. I’d estimate there’s at least half a dozen types of ships I’ve never even used, some I even have multiples of. I definitely have way more minis than I’ve ever fielded. Now that Second Edition is announced, what am I going to do with all these ships? The price of a single conversion kit is reasonable, there’s no doubt about that, but as an X-Wing collector, every conversion pack I buy will yield diminishing returns.

This is all extra cardboard.

If you want to collect X-Wing ships, that’s still fine, but there’s no inherent value to owning ships, especially if they never see table time, so don’t buy anything you won’t use.

Promo Cards are Trophies, not Money

Oh man, my binder. While I never got my hands on Lando, I did have a Movie Still Boba Fett I was really proud of. I’d estimate I *easily* had over $500 in promos in that binder. Then, suddenly, the 2.0 announcement causes a stock market crash where I see cards going for a dollar or two apiece.

Personally, I think my attachment to my promo cards was too high to sell them anyway, but it still sucks having your super valuable items become near worthless. It’s OK though; I actually love the fact that X-Wing’s prize pools generally don’t consist of cash. Sure, you might get some sweet store credit on occasion, but overall you’re just getting cool tokens and cards. X-Wing is so easy to cheat at, or at the very least ruin the game state, so I think this is a positive thing.

So this makes our lesson two-fold: don’t be a scumbag while trying to earn these trophies, as their value is fickle and won’t last. Also, don’t spend crazy money buying promos on the secondary market, either. These prizes are not surrogates for cash payouts, nor should they be.

Hurry Up and Make Your Thing

The X-Wing community is full of creators, both of content and support. I’ve played Heroes of the Aturi Cluster and am an avid listener of the Mynock Squadron Podcast . I use accessories from Highbridge Design as well as Recreator Studios. Lots of people make all kinds of cool stuff that just makes the game better.

I even tried my hand at a few things. Below are some examples of custom pilot cards I made with “Strange Eons” . They’re just drafts I made a loooooooong time ago. Yes, I know there are misspellings and some of these abilities have now been worked into the game already, but I’m just showing you for funzies.

I always told myself “one day I’ll finish this. One day.” I even intended on making a custom campaign to go along with some of these cards. Now, with 2.0 on the horizon, I would be creating a custom campaign for a dead format.

Sure, some X-Wing hipsters out there might like playing unofficial First Edition content, but I wanted to make stuff for the community at large, not a small subset of it. On a personal level, this stings more than any of the other beef I have with Second Edition. I did not finish the cards or the campaign, but I never imagined the X-Wing environment I was working in would suddenly evaporate. Hell, even this website, geekadd.net, has loads of now invalidated X-Wing content! Yay!

But back on topic…if you have something you gotta do, be it a tool, a campaign, an alt-art card, a new game type…do it before it’s too late! Get your work out there!

Formats Will Die

To build off the last point, not every official part of X-Wing is successful. For instance, remember those scenarios that come in your large-base ship packs? Yeah, those missions are…ugh…they’re almost cool but not well conceived. Eventually,  FFG simply stopped including them at a certain point, but I don’t believe anyone noticed. So…yeah, that’s a thing that’s dead.

Epic X-Wing is my favorite format, but I feel even that is on life support, despite having multiple releases.

An Epic game I played with my friend John Davis long ago.

I initially had high hopes; when the Raider came out I was very, very, excited.  Not only did this ship balance out the factions by giving the Empire its first Epic ship, but FFG collaborated with LucasFilm to create the ship from scratch. Based on that level of investment I thought it was reasonable to assume Epic would receive a lot more attention and consideration.

Fast-forward to present day, and Epic is clearly an afterthought. The rules included Modified Wins for years after that rule was abolished. Hell, the C-ROC cardboard didn’t even have the “blue line” that was key to measuring line of sight. FFG mentioned 2.0 would include Epic at some point, but I’m not holding my breath.

Basically, what I’m getting at is FFG has, at various points in the X-Wing lifespan, said “hey, check out this cool thing!” only to let it fizzle out. Not only that, but if you wanted to play standard X-Wing competitively, it was almost mandatory to buy these Epic expansions. That has me a bit salty; I could have gone to the Secondary Market, but instead I chose to support FFG with the expectation that Epic would be supported. Now, I’m being punished for that.

Going back to our first lesson, please do not buy several conversion packs in preparation of 2.0 Epic play. Sure, if you absolutely want to have 300 600 point games right out the gate, then do it. What I am thinking, however, is if Epic 2.0 does come along, they might include some extra cardboard for the more common ships, like TIEs or X-Wings, saving you the trouble of buying three conversion packs full of stuff you don’t need.

Or not. The point is, you don’t know, so don’t double-down on a format that has a shaky future.

It’s a Sustainable Product First, a Game Second

One of the most overlooked aspects of design is sustainability. Now, sustainability has  different meanings depending on your perspective, but I’m talking in context of selling a product for an indefinite period of time. Having access to Star Wars is very expensive for FFG (I’m assuming), so they have to keep that in mind when designing the game. X-Wing must make money, both in surges as well as over time.

I know 2.0 is supposed to be the great equalizer; it’s basically taking 1.0 and redesigning it with hindsight. That sounds great, and FFG has already demonstrated that they’re optimizing and fixing  problems that were detrimental to the game.

However…remember the unarguable rule. It’s a sustainable product first, and a game second. There’s some awesome and seemingly well-balanced content that’s been teased, but FFG can’t have players fat and happy with Wave 1 content. Something has to be enticing about Wave 2 and so on, otherwise players will just say “meh, I’m good” and not buy anything new, only using their conversion packs. Each wave must be financially sustainable for FFG, so you know what that means! Power creep, feature creep, whatever you want to call it; as far as I can tell, there is nothing in Second Edition’s design that prevents this from happening.  Eventually, maybe five or six years form now, X-Wing 3.0 will need to be a thing.

I know this seems like a dig or cynical criticism at FFG, but I feel like it’s more of a realistic assessment. We’ll get deeper into this later, but just keep in mind that FFG will not shoot themselves in the foot; decisions are going to be made that keep the game alive, but also keep you spending money.

You Can’t Play X-Wing Like You Used To

One thing I used to pride myself on was knowing information about X-Wing. Points costs, abilities, upgrade slots, dials, you name it. Now, we’ve been discouraged from doing this because of the app.

A preview of what the official X-Wing Squad Builder App will look like

Sure, you could argue committing information like that to memory is essentially just trivia, but I would disagree. In my opinion, Squad Building is an art…haha, ok maybe not art, but it is a creative process. FFG forcing us to use the app to Squad Build limits what we can really “know” about X-Wing. Plus, this is personal, but the appeal to playing a board miniatures game is getting away from a phone or computer screen. These might be minor or non-existent issues for some people, but it restricts what we can do as players. We’ve been playing for years with tangible cards and now we’re shifting toward the intangible. That’s really going to impact my ability to squad builder and theory craft.

And not to sound like a Luddite, but now our board miniatures game is subject to glitches, programming errors, updates, OS incompatibilities, and possible hacking/cheating. Cool man, dig it.

More Competition, Less Fun

Haha, I’m sure I’ll get a lot of flak for this one, but I am disappointed with the current changes to the System Opens and World Championship structure.
Previously, we essentially had two competitive tracks, System Opens, and World Championship. Arguably, the System Opens were the more competitive format, as you had to qualify to make it to the final tournament, the Coruscant Invitational. This format measures performance over time and assures if you qualify, you’ll be playing the best of the best. The World Championship, on the other hand, was a one-shot deal. You show up (if you can make it through the bumpy registration), play your heart out, and someone is going to walk away best in the world ;).

Now, attendees to the World Championship will have to qualify via sanctioned, competitive events. As I mentioned, this measures performance over time, which will more accurately determine “who’s the best”. In the old format, there was a greater chance of variance coming into play. Now, you have to to prove yourself multiple times!

…and have the money to go to several events. And the available free time. And live in a part of the world with an active FFG Organized Play presence. Haha, so I’m obviously a bit salty, but as far as I understand it, FFG is very active in the U.S.A. as well as Western & Central Europe. Anywhere else? Not really. I feel like this set-up disproportionately affects players in other parts of the world.

I’ve attended two World Championships and I loved it. The thing that made it special, however, was that it’s equal parts celebration and competition. Live streams are up, side events are going, there’s beer (and not watered down Bud Light for $12) and food, and people from, literally, all over the world. Now, while this will be a cleaner competition, I imagine it’ll be a much colder and sterile event. I had a great run in 2017; if I really apply myself, I think I am skilled enough to qualify. But do I even want to? I can’t imagine this new format being anywhere near as fun.

To me, the World Championship just lost the thing that made it special. Am I going to watch the live streams of the finals? Oh absolutely, but do I have any desire to be there? If FFG created an ‘X-Wing Fest’ I would absolutely attend without question, but World Championships where you can’t roll with your crew, chill with other crews, and meet new people? Nah, no thanks.

This Game Will NOT Last Forever

I’m keeping all my First Edition stuff as the use of an app gives 2.0 a shelf life. Someone finding X-Wing Second Edition in a Goodwill thrift store in 20 years will NOT be able to play the game. You could probably, toward the end of 2.0’s life cycle, print out a PDF of everything at the current state of the game (point costs, upgrade slots, etc) but if you don’t this information will eventually be lost forever. In that sense, X-Wing Second Edition is designed as an incomplete product.

You could argue First Edition is in a similar state due to the massive FAQ document (note to self: download & print current FAQ while I still can) but at least the cards themselves are usable and decipherable, even without the rule clarifications and refinements.

Haha, I’ll be glad to be rid of this garbage in 2.0

Call me a pessimist, but I’m also not confident FFG is going to support Epic play in 2.0 or beyond, so I’m going to hang onto my 1.0 content just in case.

Final Thoughts

X-Wing was the first board miniatures game I really sank my teeth into. It was the first game I played with strangers, it got me traveling to different cities for events, and it motivated me to make a lot of friends. It was such a unique experience and unlike any game I’d seen before, and it promised to make all of my wildest dreams come true.

As I mentioned before, an important and oft overlooked aspect of design is sustainability. The glory days of X-Wing were amazing, and FFG was knocking it out of the park. In terms of game companies, FFG was clearly The Chosen One. But the good times, they happened too fast, burned too bright. Second Edition is most definitely necessary, but I’m just not in love with the way FFG handled it the transition.

It’s kind of like when you’re living with your girlfriend (or boyfriend, significant other, whatever) and they poop with the bathroom door open for the first time. It’s not as if they’ve betrayed you and it’s not like you’re going to stop loving them, but now they’re suddenly more fallible and human. It’s sobering, especially when you’re intoxicated with love. Basically, X-Wing has pooped with the door open and I saw it.

I don’t want to come across as overly negative. I know a lot of you are really hyped and excited for 2.0 and I don’t want to diminish that. 2.0 is going to be really good and I’m going to buy the hell out of it, but I wasted a lot of time, money, and effort on 1.0. No, I don’t mean all the time I spent playing was for nothing, but I consumed the game inefficiently (in an economic sense) and have no recourse. With little to no support for alternative or legacy formats, my trust in FFG has diminished. I get it, they did it for unarguably legitimate reasons and it’ll result in a tighter game, but I can’t stop thinking about X-Wing 3.0, what content is going to be invalidated, and how I should adjust my consumer habits. Maybe you’re not the chosen one after all, FFG…

OK, enough stupid GIFs. Long story short, I’m hopeful and excited for this new game, but I’ll never forget how supporting and consuming X-Wing burned me. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you guys on the 2.0 tables!


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