August 19th, 2013
Fantasy Flight Games is ramping up for the release of the B-Wing and TIE Bomber for Star Wars X-Wing miniatures. Here’s a preview from them;
The squad building rules for X-Wing™ offer tremendous flexibility in your squad designs. Your squad isn’t just a combination of starships. It’s also the pilots and upgrades you choose to assemble. These interactions between ships, pilots, and upgrades mean that you can really steer a squad to your preferred style of play, even with a limited number of ships. In fact, two squads fielding the same starships may bear only a superficial resemblance to each other; even though they look alike, they may pursue wildly different strategies in the heat of battle.
Two upcoming starfighters will soon expand your customization options even further. The B-Wing and TIE Bomber Expansion Packs are set to enter the fast-paced space battles of X-Wing as the game’s most upgradeable and heavily customizable small ships.
It’s All About Squad Specialization
Both the B-wing and TIE bomber can be outfitted with an astonishing array of upgrades, including punishing payloads of secondary weapons. The B-wing can carry one system upgrade, one cannon, and two torpedoes, and players can choose to upgrade their B-wings further with modifications and elite pilot talents. Similarly, the TIE bomber can carry as many as two torpedoes, two missiles, and one bomb or mine in addition to any modifications or elite pilot talents. All told, you could field either a B-wing or a TIE bomber that’s worth more than sixty of your squad points!
The massive upgrade bars of the B-wing (left) and TIE bomber (right)
But would you? It’s not likely. Utilizing these starfighters in your squad is a matter of balancing risk versus reward.
Lead developer James Kniffen explains why players won’t necessarily want to fill up all those upgrade slots:
“The TIE bomber and B-wing feature a staggering array of offensive upgrades, but savvy players will realize that these upgrade options favor customization over maximization. A TIE bomber may be able to equip two Proton Torpedoes and two Cluster Missiles, but will it be able to fire all four of those weapons during a single match? The real value is in the ship’s flexibility, allowing players to equip it with just the right assortment of missiles and torpedoes to fit any build. The same is true for the B-wing. The Advanced Proton Torpedo is a formidable upgrade, but every torpedo fired is another attack in which the ship’s cannon upgrade wasn’t used. Players will want to consider carefully the risk and opportunity cost of stacking expensive secondary weapons on a single ship. They’re generally wiser to pick a limited number of upgrades that matches their play-style. Of course, some players will still be willing to risk everything on an overloaded missile boat, and with a little luck and a lot of skill, they just might pull it off.”
Reviewing the Options
If the B-wing and TIE bomber are all about the options they afford you, then what are those options?
The B-Wing Expansion Pack comes with four different pilot options and five upgrades.
- Ten Numb makes his entrance in X-Wing as a pilot with eight skill and the ability to prevent his opponent from canceling one of his critical hit () results. Because he can utilize Proton Torpedoes as well as Marksmanship, both of which help generate results, Ten Numb’s ability ensures that you can make your opponent suffer the harmful effects of critical hits as often as possible.
- Ibtisam, the expansion’s other unique pilot, can reroll one die while attacking or defending anytime she has at least one stress token. This encourages the daring pilot to make timely use of red maneuvers, such as the Koiogran Turn or the hard “1” speed turns enabled by the Daredevil talent. Even better, you could allow Ibtisam to Push the Limit, and when her extra action forces her to take a stress token, it also grants her the ability to reroll a critical attack or defense die.
- The Dagger Squadron Pilot and Blue Squadron Pilot are identical in all ways, except for their pilot skill and squad points, but those subtle differences can have a big impact when you’re looking to make sure you fire your Assault Missiles before the opposing swarm fires at you.
Meanwhile, the expansion’s five upgrades offer any B-wing pilot a range of options in the thick of combat.
- At four squad points for an attack of four dice, Proton Torpedoes are still a solid choice for an upgrade, and since Ten Numb can make them more lethal than ever, it only makes sense that the expansion includes this upgrade.
- For two more squad points, B-wing pilots can exchange their Proton Torpedoes for Advanced Proton Torpedoes. Not only does this upgrade allow you to attack for five dice, it allows you to change up to three of your blank dice results to results, meaning that when you can pair your shot with the focus action, you’re effectively guaranteed at least three hits. That’s enough to take out a TIE fighter in a single shot.
- The B-wing also comes with two cannon upgrades: Ion Cannon and Autoblaster. Though the Autoblaster can only fire at Range “1,” it prevents opponents from canceling hit () results; only evade tokens can quell the fury of an Autoblaster barrage. Again, if your pilot happens to be Ten Numb, he’ll connect with every hit () and the first critical hit (). The trick, of course, will be to get into Range “1” of an opponent on the same turn you can set up a successful attack, but as we saw in an earlier preview, the HWK-290 provides plenty of ways to coordinate your strikes.
- Moreover, the B-wing comes with a system upgrade that can establish target locks every time the associated starfighter attacks. The target locks you gain from a Fire-Control System can allow you to reroll and hunt for hits when you fire your Autoblaster, or they can shorten the delay between one torpedo volley and the next. Either way, at a mere two points, the Fire-Control System is a great bargain for any B-wing pilot.
What about the TIE bomber?
Though it’s possible to outfit a single TIE bomber at more than sixty squad points, the TIE bomber is actually the cheapest Imperial starship capable of delivering missiles or bombs. Moreover, the TIE bomber is the only Imperial starship, other than Slave I, that is capable of firing torpedoes. Thus, whenever you want to add powerful armaments like Assault Missiles or Advanced Proton Torpedoes to your squad, the TIE bomber begs the question: am I paying for the ship or the weapons? Whenever you find yourself answering that you just want the weapons, you want to field a TIE bomber.
With a hull value of “6,” the TIE bomber is a fairly sturdy vessel, but it’s a cumbersome one, and even the most skillful pilots aren’t going to make these ships dance in the Activation phase.
- Major Rhymer may not be able to coax brilliant maneuvers out of his TIE bomber, but he can rain devastation upon his foes during the Combat Phase. When you’ve got a pair of Advanced Proton Torpedoes locked and loaded, the difference between Ranges “1” and “2” can prove the difference between victory and despair. By manipulating the firing range of his secondary weapons, Major Rhymer dramatically increases the utility of each.
- Likewise, Captain Jonus is a fantastic wingman for anyone looking to fire a secondary weapon. The TIE pilot “Howlrunner” has long been a staple of Imperial squads because she allows another friendly ship at Range “1” to reroll an attack die. Going one step further, Captain Jonus allows a friendly ship at Range “1” to reroll up to two attack dice. His ability only works for secondary weapons, but if you can keep him in formation with the likes of Major Rhymer, that’s bound to be good enough!
- Two non-unique pilots–the Gamma Squadron Pilot and Scimitar Squadron Pilot–add further options for customization. After all, if it’s just the torpedoes, missiles, and bombs that you want, not the extra range or dice rerolls, these pilots offer your squad the most cost-effective means of firing those weapons.
The TIE Bomber Expansion Pack includes five upgrades. We’ve already seen the Advanced Proton Torpedoes and Assault Missiles, but the expansion’s bombs are worth noting.
- Seismic Charges and Proton Bombs are both excellent weapons against swarm strategies. Swarm strategies require players to field as many inexpensive ships as possible, and that means those ships will be relatively fragile. Though the single point of damage that the Seismic Charges upgrade does may not seem like much, it does that damage to every ship within range. Swarms generally prove most effective when they fly in formation to focus their firepower upon a single target, and that means they tend to offer a lot of targets within a short range. Accordingly, that one point of damage those Seismic Charges do may easily be multiplied by five or six ships. If it is, the two points your charges cost will seem like the world’s greatest bargain.
- In fact, the only thing that you may feel matches that sort of bargain is the bargain you score when your five-point Proton Bombs successfully land some meaningful critical damage on opposing starships. How about an Injured Pilot on Wedge Antilles? Or a Munitions Failure on a loaded B-wing? Better yet, what if that critical damage is a Direct Hit that bypasses an A-wing’s shields to obliterate it one blast? The more your opponent relies upon shields to give him time to utilize his unique pilot abilities, talents, and other upgrades, the greater the chance your Proton Bombs have of radically altering the course of the game.
- The expansion’s final upgrade is Adrenaline Rush. Did you ever want to fire your missiles or torpedoes after executing a Koiogran Turn? Now you can.
To further highlight the amazing customizability of the B-wing and TIE bomber, we’re posting two sample 100-point squads that pair these fighters with the support of the other upcoming ships, the HWK-290 and Lambda-class Shuttle.
Our Rebel squad highlights the B-wing’s versatility by featuring two pilots who handle their ships in dramatically different fashions. Ten Numb is happy to keep his distance from enemy fighters, utilizing his Proton Torpedoes and Marksmanship to generate critical hits () that his opponent cannot cancel. Ibtisam, on the other hand, wants to fly into close range and eliminate the biggest threat with a single volley of Advanced Proton Torpedoes. Both pilots take advantage of their fighters’ advanced technology to acquire target locks after every attack with their Fire-Control Systems. Meanwhile, Kyle Katarn stays close enough to the lead fighter to supply focus tokens, which can be handy on either offense or defense.
While the Rebel squad is likely stronger against smaller squads with a few, heavily shielded ships, the Imperial squad is capable of unloading quick blasts of damage against enemy swarms. Both Major Rhymer’s Assault Missiles and Captain Jonus’s Seismic Charges can blast multiple ships at once. Meanwhile, Colonel Jendon minimizes the delay either pilot might face between one powerful shot with a secondary weapon and the next. His ST-321 Title upgrade allows him to acquire a target lock on any eligible ship in the play area, meaning you can lock onto enemy ships–and transfer those locks–even before both squads move within Range “3” of each other.
Acquire your target locks now. When the B-Wing and TIE Bomber Expansion Packs arrive for X-Wing, you’re bound to see more creative uses of secondary weapon upgrades than ever before!