AMA with Frank and Max Can you talk about your vision for how the TIE Phantom will play on the table in 2.0 and why some of these changes were made?
MB: At three attack dice, the TIE Phantom is able to be cheaper, which expands the list building opportunities for it. We found in testing this made it an interesting addition to a lot of Imperial lists. With the Cloak action, it remains a unique piece for the Empire to use. By contrast, the VCX and YT-2400 are much more the cornerstones of the list they're involved in, because they have so much hull. Having four attack dice is necessary for them to function at their cost.
How frequently can we expect a re-balancing of points? Outside of scheduled updates, if something is quickly shown to be unhealthy for the game, is the option of an emergency update to the app/points something you are willing to do?
FB: We are planning on making point adjustments on a scheduled basis. Only a handful times of year. We are still settling down on how often, but the numbers we are looking at right now are between 3 and 4. You shouldn’t run into a problem where in the time between when you leave your house to go to the event and when you arrive, points have changed.
MB: In terms of emergency updates, we would very much like people to be confident that the point values are accurate, so this isn't something we would want to use unless it was absolutely necessary, but never say never!
What are some of the themes that you felt you needed to attach to the factions and how do you plan on preventing these identities from blurring together with the expansion of the game?
MB: Splitting the Resistance and the First Order off means that the core factions of the game are smaller. As a result, we don't have to worry about as much of one faction being able to do absolutely everything, but certain factions do overlap in some ways. For instance, Rebels and Scum both have access to Illicit slots, but the Resistance does not, which helps anchor the thematic differences and similarities between those three factions.
FB: The Empire plays up a bit more of having commanders issuing orders that the other pilots need to follow. The First Order on the other hand, does so much more aggressively, possibly to the detriment of said pilots.
MB: Access to Force users and high-initiative pilots varies by faction and can be seen as another defining feature.
Is getting more named ships (even the cheap ones) on the table a design goal, or would you like to see more generics on the table in second edition? What does a fun squad look like for you? Half generics? 75% Generics? 25% Generics? Or is not a design concern at all?
Basically, is variety in lists for generics/named pilots something that you go out of your way to influence and design, or just let the community figure out as we go? And if you do have goals for seeing generics in competitive play, how often do you like seeing them appear?
FB: With our ability to adjust point costs, at different times in the game's life, generic pilots and named pilots will fill different roles. Different game modes will encourage different builds. Some game modes will have a limited card pool and will force players to try builds they would not have played before.
MB: Keep in mind that the ability to alter upgrade slots available also gives us a lot of flexibility in adjusting generics up or down, compared to named pilots. Some generics in first edition would have benefited from a talent slot or an extra mod slot, and we can make these sorts of changes to incentivize or balance generics as necessary. And we can take away slots if certain generics or named pilots prove too powerful with them.
How will you distinguish between strong squads/cards and squads/cards that need to be changed or nerfed?
FB: This is a pretty subtle distinction. It honestly comes down to the fact that we don’t want a specific ship, upgrade, or list to dominate for too long. We want to keep things moving and shifting—a stale meta-game is a boring meta-game. That said, we don’t want to it be a hurricane of changes that make the game difficult to follow and impossible to plan for. New content being added with new waves certainly shift around what’s good, but we are not afraid of shifting point costs of things that were staples of the meta-game just to make people have to adjust their thinking.
As an aside, some events will force players to rethink what cards are useful by shifting which cards are allowed.
There are a number of ships such as Rebel Fenn Rau that no longer have range requirements on abilities that require you to be in arc. Is there something in the rulebook that makes stating range requirements unneeded?
FB: This is an easy one: yes. Since the only measuring tools provided by the game are the range ruler and the maneuver templates, rather than constantly restating “inside your (firing) arc at range 0–3” (since a firing arc can’t be measured with those components beyond the range ruler), we just put a rule in that says measuring inside your arc goes to the end of the range ruler (i.e. up to range 3).
Are you still open to the idea of occasional FAQ posts for the sake of changing a card's text rather than just clarifying it, or do you think that kind of situation only clutters the game and belongs in 1.0?
FB: Getting the opportunity to rewrite the game's language, we had the entire backlog of first edition content to explore all of the abilities we are going to explore in second edition, and therefore, could write the language anticipating a lot of these game effects. Ideally, this will mean we don't need as much clarifying FAQ. Additionally, the app will include the most up-to-date versions of cards in cases where we might need to do errata.
Can you talk a bit more about Force Powers and Light Side/ Dark Side powers and how you see these influencing the game in ways that differ from Pilot Talent upgrades?
MB: Light side and Dark side Force Powers give us a lot of ability to evoke the theme of the unique Force abilities we see in Star Wars. And then of course we have characters like Maul, who can let characters access powers they normally couldn't (he's a bad influence on Ezra).
FB: Force Powers tend to be more paradigm-breaking, allowing pilots to do things that no other upgrade would let them do. Talents tend to reward you for good flying, or give you interesting tricks that reflect experience in the cockpit.
Will Force Users have a serious point premium?
MB: Yes, Force Users will pay a significant premium. The Force is the greatest power in the Star Wars universe, and you'll have to pay for it.
if you're stressed and reveal a Red maneuver, what happens in 2.0?
FB: The ship does a white 2-straight maneuver.
Do you plan on expanding the smaller factions more aggressively than others to try and make them similar sizes again? Are there any thoughts or ideas about future implementation of new factions?
FB: In the game mode for only re-released ships in second edition, we plan on keeping the factions at similar sizes. In the long run, we'd like all the factions to grow towards the same size, but this will be influenced by the specific ships that exist.
Are you balancing the calculate action through a reduction in point cost or will we see situations in which calculate possess advantages or interactions not possible through focus? If the latter, will these advantages and interactions be a possibility for all droids, or only for certain droids with the advantage baked in (like all the droids with access to multiple calculate tokens)? Will we see advantages that are drastically different to multiple calculate tokens?
FB: Hecks yeah! We have a lot of fun ideas in mind on how to use calculate. The ones you've seen so far are typically generating multiple calculate tokens, but we have a lot of fun ideas coming up. :]
MB: (That's a droid smiley face.)
FB: Occasionally, ships will be cheaper if they have calculate instead of focus. Of course these will be droid pilots rather than organic pilots.
Can you comment on your design thoughts for rule breaking upgrades? For example, a gunner that would allow you a free action to turn the mobile arc without spending an action is 'effectively' the same as the old 360 degree turrets from first edition. Does your design mantra afford the ability to break these fundamental rules with limited cases? Was the goal to drastically reduce 360 turrets, but not eliminate the possibility completely?
MB: Clearly, you're talking about Luke (Gunner). Obviously, this card has been contentious. There are a number of interesting factors at play in the design of this card, some of which people have picked up on and others we want to highlight here:
1). Some cards are calibrated more for certain modes of play than others. Luke (Gunner) is a great example of a card that is targeted—and costed toward—use at the casual level. It helps new players get a handle on the mechanics of turrets, but rewards them for “proper” use of the rotate action and good flying (because they can spend the Force point on modifications instead of rotation). However, its high cost means that taking it at a tournament level probably isn’t optimal for many builds.
2). Speaking of cost, one thing that has changed enormously in Second Edition is the thought process behind costing upgrades. Simply put, upgrades can cost a lot more than they did before. Previously, individual upgrades only very rarely cost more than 10-20% of a ship’s cost. Now, an upgrade that brings as much benefit as an inexpensive ship (such as Luke (Gunner)) will cost as much as an inexpensive ship.
3). Many people have pointed this out, but it bears repeating: Luke (Gunner) interacts differently with the core conceit that flying ships is important, but it doesn’t invalidate it, because Luke (Gunner) is always better if you don’t need to use his ability to rotate the turret, which you accomplish by flying your ship correctly.
4). Finally, and this gets most to your point, one thing people haven’t picked upon as much is that Luke (Gunner) fits in very closely with the mechanical theme of the Force in Second Edition. The Force allows characters to do things that would normally be “impossible” (yes, even for a computer). Force powers and Force user characters get to do things nobody else can—but they have to choose which tricks they want to be able to do, and they pay for this flexibility in points.
FB: What he said.
What are some of the less obvious lessons you've learned from the first edition and how have they shaped X-Wing 2.0?
MB: Players really like dice modification effects, but too many dice modifications that don’t require particular conditions or flight patterns make the game less healthy overall. Dice randomness might feel bad in the moment, but dice certainty makes for a weak game experience overall. So, to this point, we wanted to make sure that you can still get dice mod effects, but you have to engage with the core activity of the game to get them or they cost some sort of diminishing resource. You'll notice a lot of dice modifications (like Predator) are now restricted to the bullseye arc, or are now charge-based like Elusive.
What role do you see for control (stress, jam, ion, tractor, etc) mechanics of X-Wing Second Edition?
FB & MB: Good question!
FB: We felt that certain effects (such as Ion and Stress) become incredibly negative play experiences in large quantities. We want to keep a cap on these effects and are carefully dishing them out.
MB: Ideally, we would like to see Ion, Jam, Tractor, and other de-buff effects as part of a toolbox of options that a list has, but not as the defining feature of a list. We have calibrated them and costed them as such.
FB: I like your answer better than mine.
Now that you have the ability to modify the point costs of upgrades on a per ship level, do you plan to use this ability more as a reactionary measure, or a proactive measure?
FB: We will be doing both. If we anticipate a card doing too well with new content, we will preemptively increase its cost. In contrast, we will certainly also take reactionary measures to bring balance to the Force—er... game.
What was your favourite design epiphany in 2.0?
FB: Making all turrets behave as mobile firing arcs. Also to account for ships that relied on that mechanic, we added the double turret arc.
MB: We made a prototype and left it on Frank's desk as a proof-of-concept that the smaller base could accommodate a mobile arc so that it would be the first thing he saw when he came back from vacation.
FB: And I said, "Let's do it!"
You've mentioned with the App the ability to ban cards from list building; is this intended to create a upgrade/pilot card rotation for competitive play or mainly as a last resort if a certain card becomes too dominant?
MB: It's not so much banning as certain events will have a list of specific cards that will be allowed. This might be based on theme, such as the Battle of Scarif, or it might be based on other considerations. X-Wing is a game with an enormous amount of possibility for different modes of play, and we are excited to explore them.
Can you explain the design decisions that kept known force users such a Corran Horn from having the force ability in X-Wing 2.0?
MB: Having a Force rating is not the only possible reflection of being a Force user and many Legends characters (but some canon characters too) do not have a Force rating in all of their incarnations. They do, however, have abilities that reflect their connection to the Force. For instance: Corran's second attack breaks a fundamental paradigm of the game (attacking once per round) much as a Force power would. Similarly, Leia (Crew) does not add a Force rating to her ship, but her ability does reflect her Force potential in addition to her prowess as a commander.
Please do not send us copies of "I, Jedi"—we've read it.