I’ve been flying a bombing Miranda Doni for the last fourteen months. The K-Wing was the first purchase I made outside of the Core Set, mostly because it “looked cool,” and I’ve never regretted the purchase a single moment since putting ships on mat. Since then I’ve done things like adding Sabine to the Ghost, putting another awesome bombing ship alongside the K-Wing in the Kel Special list. I love bombs. Bombs, bombs, bombs! This is the background I’m bringing to the below conversation.
What a polarizing word in the world of X-Wing right now. Originally introduced in Wave 2 with the Slave I expansion pack, they didn’t see widespread use until Wave 8…a full three years later! Now everyone has an opinion on our little exploding friends. Some people hate them. Other people love them (me!). Still others grin and bear their presence while doing their best to ignore them. Regardless, bombs are here to stay and they are more powerful than ever.
Problem #1: Unmitigated Auto Damage
Bombs are how I eventually overcame both of my brothers in X-Wing. My initial losses were legion. My youngest brother loved Palp Aces. Soontir Fel is one of the banes of my X-Wing experience. Seriously, I hate that ship. I can recall game after game of throwing three dice, four dice, TLT’s, and more at him, and his stupid little ship emerging unscathed. This wasn’t just poor rolling, mind you. I could roll above average, my brother below average, and he still had enough tokens with Palpatine to pull a Luke.
My younger (not youngest) brother flew OldFennAroo before it was cool. Before North America discovered that Attanni Mindlink was actually a good upgrade, and not something to relegate to the trash bin, said brother was pairing Manaroo with Fenn Rau and Old Terroch. Tokens. Tokens for days seemed to be the motto of that list. Manaroo did her squad support shenanigans his knife fighters and higher PS laughed at my attempts to fend them off regardless of which ships I flew.
And then I got good at bombing. I learned the art of the Advanced Slam in conjunction with Conner Nets. Ping, take 2 damage Soontir, and no actions for you! Take 2 damage Fenn Rau. Nope, your dice aren’t saving you now. It got to the point where if their ships were in an 180 degree arc in front of my ship at range 2-3 I could almost always get to them, Slam past, and drop an unavoidable bomb. They stopped winning. I stopped losing. Huzzah! They stopped playing. Womp, womp.
When they stopped playing, half of my 2-3 times a week playgroup vanished. They couldn’t win, and losing over and over again isn’t any fun. Sure, one of us could have swapped up our list, but often we fly what we fly because we love it best…and against non-bombing lists they did really well. Swap up their list and begin losing to others, or swap up my list and lose to them. Those didn’t seem to be great options. And remember, I’m crap at arc dodging aces and they don’t like flying big beefy ships.
Let’s reiterate that point. They had a choice: fly what they want and lose, or be forced into something that they don’t care for. People don’t like lose-lose situations before ships ever hit the mat. Having their choices constrained in list building because of an unavoidable mechanic isn’t fun. On the other hand, lose-lose situations on the mat are different. Those usually indicate your opponent is out flying you or you’ve simply made mistakes. Their argument would be, “Give me more of the latter if you fix the former!”
Solution #1: Evade Tokens
Even as an avid bomber, I think that there should be some recourse against the auto-damage that bombs + Sabine bring to the table. I’ll talk more about Sabine later and focus just on the bomb damage for now.
The change I’d like to see made is allowing Evade Tokens to be spent to reduce the damage received from bombs. Spend your Evade Token(s), reduce incoming bomb damage by one. No Evade Tokens? Life continues as usual.
Think of it as taking evasive maneuvers to avoid the worst of the explosion. You get to reduce some or all of the damage, but potentially place your ship in a position for you enemy to take advantage of that fact (your Evade is gone by the time they attack). No, this doesn’t help every ship. I also don’t think that it should. Large HP pools are one way of mitigating bomb damage. This is putting an expendable tool in the hands of aces. It doesn’t make them immune to bombs, but it lengthens their life span to a point where they can be attractive ships to fly again.
Circling back to my youngest brother and his crush on Soontir Fel. Ignore the high pilot skill ships repeatedly fielded for just a moment. Give Soontir the opportunity to spend an evade token to negate that Seismic Charge? Sure, he’d go for that. Sabine might still hit him for 1 more (more on that later), but now he’s losing one hull instead of two. It still hurts, but he’d gladly take that and start flying the little nimble bastard again (or, more likely, start flying Kylo). Options redeemed.
Problem #2: Trajectory Simulator & Genius
I’ve flown a lot of Nym + Miranda. Most of my play with that list was before the release of Trajectory Simulator, but I’ve gotten my fair time on mat with the current Trajectory Simulator + Genius combination. Is it powerful? Yes. Is it working RAW? Yes. Should it work? NO.
Bombing done right should take as much skill as any other aspect of X-Wing. Trajectory Simulator paired with Genius reduces that skill floor to below basement levels. Dialing in a relatively good maneuver, waiting until last to move, and then deciding to launch that bomb out there before OR after you maneuver, essentially doubling your opportunities for a good hit? Hogwash. Absolute hogwash.
Solution #2: Kill the Interaction
The FAQ that I desire from FFG right now contains one line. “Trajectory Simulator and Genius cannot be used in conjunction with one another.” Kill the interaction. Bury it. Salt the grave. I don’t think any more needs to be said about that. The Chicago Regional disallowed it. The Regional to be held in FFG’s HQ is disallowing it. Let’s all disallow it.
Problem #3: Sabine
I like Sabine. I think that she has done a good job in making bombs viable threats on the mat. Remember bombs being introduced in Wave 2, but not really used until Wave 8? Yeah. That’s when Sabine came along inside that beautiful VCX-100 expansion pack.
Should FFG takes care of Problems #1 and #2, a change to Sabine is probably not needed. #1 gives opposing ships a recourse against bomb damage. #2 raises the skill level for bombing again by getting rid of the most egregious means of guaranteeing the bombs hit. That should be sufficient in my book. But let’s say for a moment that FFG doesn’t enact Solution #1. The clamor for Sabine nerfs might grow so great, and FFG caves. In that scenario, I’d like FFG to consider three different (mutually exclusive) solutions.
Solution #3A: Increase Sabine’s Point Cost
This one is to relatively straightforward: Increase Sabine’s cost from 2 squad points to 3. She’s still powerful, but now she costs a tad bit more to equip. In many bombing lists that means downgrading other equipped cards to fit Sabine in. Downgrades generally mean a less powerful list overall, solving two problems at once.
Solution #3B: Limited Usage
Alter Sabine’s card text to make use of tokens. You can Sabine as many times as you have those tokens. Once you’re out, no more Sabine’ing. Once is insufficient. Three is probably a good number. Here we keep Sabine powerful, but reign in her ability to effect the game turn, after turn, after turn.
Solution #3C: Limited Effect
Alter Sabine’s card text to only affect the bombs dropped by the ship she’s equipped to. Sabine maintains her full strength, but only for one bomber in your list. Your other ship is a bomber? Sorry, those bombs are just doing their base damage.
Note, this solution would likely require unique markers to go on/alongside the bombs. We already do this for target locks and ship numbers, either of which (and other options) could be used here to denote a bomb dropped by Sabine’s ship, versus a bomb dropped by another ship.
Solution #3D: Add and Roll a Die
Alter Sabine’s card text to read, “Once per turn, when a friendly bomb token detonates, you may choose a ship at range 1 of that token. Roll an attack die. On a hit or crit result, that ship suffers 1 damage” This solution lets Sabine continue to add damage to all bombs, but only do so 50% of the time.
Solution #3: Recap
If I had to lobby for any of the solutions to Problem 3, it would probably be 3C. You get to keep a bomber that is a viable threat to the enemy, but you don’t get two or more. Miranda remains powerful, Nym loses some of his teeth. In the Kel Special, the Ghost gets Sabine for its Cluster Mines, but Miranda no longer gets her for the Ion and Conner Nets. In Miranda/Nym, Miranda’s bombs remain strong, but Nym’s become more of an annoyance. It is a sweeping change that is limited in its scope, the kind of ideal “first step” change in addressing the problem before taking a wait and see approach on its shakeout.
Problem #4: K-Wing & Scurrg
Both the K-Wing and the Scurrg are what I call toolbox ships. They have the upgrade slots available to do a little bit of everything all at the same time. Turrets, check. Missiles, check. Torpedoes, check. Bombs, check. Crew or System Slot, check. Name me another small base ship that can take each and every one of those upgrades all at the same time. Don’t worry, I’ll wait while you go check out your favorite squad builder. Check yet? Yep…there isn’t one.
I get the idea behind them. They can be kitted out to handle any particular situation that arises. I like that. You put a lot of upgrades into them, invest heavily with points, and you can meet the challenge of the “current meta”, whatever that might be. The problem is, you can invest so much into either one of these ships that they can’t just handle “any” particular situation, they can handle “every” situation.
Solution #4: Titles
The K-Wing currently doesn’t have a Title. I vote on giving it several in the same vein as the TIE Defender and making it mandatory to take one, or stripping off all of its slots and giving it titles ala the Star Wing. The examples below will assume the former, the K-Wing keeps all of its slots but has a mandatory Title:
Heavy Loadout (-2)
Your upgrade bar loses the Turret and Missile upgrade icons.
Place one ordinance token on each equipped Torpedo and Bomb upgrade card.
Ordinance Loadout (-2)
Your upgrade bar loses the Turret and Bomb upgrade icons.
For the sake of the Guidance Chips upgrade, treat your Primary Weapon attack value as 3.
Turret Loadout (-2)
Your upgrade bar loses the Bomb and Missile upgrade icons.
When attacking with a secondary weapon, if the enemy ship at Range 1 and in your firing arc, you may roll 1 additional die.
Solution #4: Recap
The above titles (examples only) still let the K-Wing maintain its “toolbox” reputation. You can still adapt to the meta when kitting out your ship, and be able to handle “any” situation. Now, however, you can’t handle “every” situation at the same time. Your ship is really good at what it does…better even at that particular role than before…but it isn’t good at all of the possible roles at the same time.
Bombs should be a viable weapon that impact how your opponent flies his/her ships. They should absolutely punish poor flying and range control. They should help you deal with stacked defenses that are otherwise nigh impossible to penetrate.
And a change needs to be made to those same weapons and their upgrade interactions.
As stated a few times above, I don’t think that all four solutions need to be enacted. I view them as mostly mutually exclusive, and hope that FFG might take the same tempered approach. My preference would be to immediately enact Solution #2, and then choose either Solution 1 or Solution 3 (preferably 3C) next. When the dust settles in the wake of the above, evaluate whether Solution 4 has any merit.
From the myriad of reddit, forum, and Facebook threads I’ve seen, I know that I don’t hold the monopoly on potential fixes for where we are today with Bombs. I’d love to hear what you think works, what doesn’t, and where you’d like to take the fixes.