Star Wars: X-Wing - Wave 8 Review
on Apr 13, 2016
Each wave of X-Wing seems to have its own looming and distinct personality. The eighth iteration has two separate areas of focus - Star Wars: Rebels and the wretched Scum. The former has already been touched on and declared fair game with the release of the TIE Assault Carrier, a spectacular huge-sized ship that packs a punch. While the Scum faction certainly hasn't been ignored, it's still not quite up to snuff with the other two main forces.
Man, the Ghost is beautiful. This is one of the biggest large sized models to be released and the package even includes a small Phantom-class fighter that can be fielded separately or docked inside the VCX-100. We've seen this paired ship style already with Bossk's "Hound's Tooth" and I was a huge fan of ejecting the Z-95 in the dying breath of the hulking beast. Punching out of the cockpit of a freighter to zip around and throw some final blaster bolts at the enemy is entertaining as all get out.
With this new toy, however, you don't have to wait until it's torn apart to eject its snub fighter. With the Ghost and Phantom title cards, you can even utilize an extra firing arc from the rear of the VCX to simulate the little sucker throwing shots simultaneously with the larger ship. This unique ability is pretty wild and adds some heft and terror to the presence of the oversized vessel. It's also a huge thematic jolt to align with what we've seen in the Rebels Disney series and present that extra touch of care and focus we've come to expect from this excellent game. Paired with the Ghost from Rebels is the TIE Inquisitor, the TIE advanced prototype piloted by the dastardly villain from the recent series. The ship itself isn't particularly noteworthy mechanically, except for the inclusion of the Guidance Chips modification. This stellar upgrade allows you to convert one die result from a missile or torpedo into a hit, once per round. For zero points and the only real cost being your modification slot, this is an ordnance game changer and a huge push for the inclusion of more secondary weapons.
The use of ordnance has long been criticized in X-Wing as too risky and not generally worth the points value each piece of equipment costs. The design team has slowly edged towards leveling the playing field by implementing ships that can equip additional payloads for cheap prices (TIE Punisher and K-Wing), or by extending the life of torpedoes (munitions failsafe). However, nothing has been as direct and affirming as Guidance Chips which have managed to directly move the needle.
Both of these ships also deliver on the fact that it's hugely entertaining being able to hop into the persona of our favorite Rebels characters Ezra, Chopper, and the Inquisitor. You can re-enact your favorite scenes and forge new stories. There's legitimate attraction to on-screen presence and we're not stuck utilizing lame generics or nobodies.
On the back half of this wave are two rich sets of bounty hunter ships that briefly grace the original trilogy in The Empire Strikes Back. We have the Mist Hunter, a smaller craft piloted by Zuckuss/4-LOM, and the fabled Punishing One steered by everyone's favorite mummy - Dengar. Both of these inclusions have pretty strong impact from a universe perspective and definitely give Scum players something to hang their hat on.
From a high level the Punishing One is the ship to dive into. It's a gorgeous model with a nice large footprint and a wide range of capabilities. It has incredible personality in that it favors steering towards port due to its awkward physical dynamics. You can also outfit the thing in a huge number of ways, utilizing Dengar as the pilot or crew, throwing Boba Fett onboard as a passenger, and creating some totally off the wall focus/stress sharing with the Attanni Mindlink upgrade. The tricks don't end there as Dengar's pilot ability allows you to counter attack and fire off turn.
The Mist Hunter expansion pack gives us the slightly more diminutive G-1A starfighter. This ship is notable for its two pilots but it cannot be argued that it's one of the ugliest boats to grace the table. The wretch looks like a cockpit sawed off the front of a jet with a huge obnoxious spoiler attached to its rear. I'd almost rather be caught flying a K-Wing.
Zuckus packs a punch and 4-LOM passes off stress, but what you really want to throw down is the new Tractor Beam tech. This weapon fills a cannon slot and allows you to make an attack roll with a similar tactical goal as an ion-cannon: disrupt enemy movement. It's an annoying laugh-out-loud havoc-inducing shot into your enemy's bow that lowers your target's agility and lets you move them one distance in a similar process as a barrel roll or boost. Throw âem on an asteroid and watch them wince.
This small expansion also includes the new Cloaking Device which can be mounted on any Scum small ship with the illicit item slot. This gives you the same functionality as the TIE Phantom and is very hard to resist throwing on an entire wave of fighters at only two points per. The rub here is that the Scum version of the Cloaking Device is of course shoddy and ill-tempered, considering they don't make Imperial bank. It has a chance to malfunction and be discarded at the end of each round you are cloaked.
The Tractor Beam and Cloaking Device reinforce the niche of the Scum which is hilarious tricks and really oddball but overwhelmingly enjoyable play. They're a chaotic faction that is about denial and surprise and keep the drama volume on the table cranked to 11. It's why I can't help but field them despite their lack of overall oomph and effectiveness outside of some cheesy builds. Just like Deadman's Switches and Feedback Arrays, these new tricks are more amusing and situational than outright powerful.
Another wave and another stellar drop in the X-Wing bucket. I enjoyed wave seven quite a bit, but this set of releases just knocked it out of the park. You have new fantastic Scum tech, iconic ships on both sides for very different reasons, and several new strategic spaces opened wide in the design. Fantasy Flight has dialed in on its customers wallets and certainly knows how to keep us entertained and on our toes. It's difficult to fathom where this game is headed next, but without a doubt, it's headed somewhere interesting and novel.