By Robert M.– February 20, 2013
I’ve been busy with work and classes lately, so it’s been a bit quiet around here–but I had a light morning, and wanted to check in with at least a quick post.
I also wanted to make sure I point my readers to an X-wing blog run by a fellow who posts on various forums as Cid_MDCP. His writing is clearer than mine, his posting schedule is more consistent than mine, and he’s also stolen a number of posts I’ve been meaning to write–but despite those black marks I’m going to recommend that my readers check out TheMetalBikini.com anyway.
The post is principally brought on by a match I played over Vassal last night (in Round 1 of a tournament being run by regular reader mrfroggies).
|Imperials (Robert M.)||Rebels (Ron B.)|
The outcome was fairly lopsided: he dealt a total of three damage over the course of the match, which lasted only four rounds. He was experienced and smart (not to mention courteous and helpful), so it wasn’t that. There’s nothing obviously wrong with either list, so it wasn’t that either. The dice weren’t playing very fair, and that definitely had an impact, but I wonder if there isn’t a more subtle aspect of the game in play as well.
The Opposite of Min/Max?
So here’s my thought: setting theme aside for a moment, what stands out about the mechanical faction balance is that Rebels field units that are strong on offense but weak on defense, and the Empire fields units that are weak on offense but strong on defense.
That’s somewhat trivial, since I think most X-wing players figure it out with their first intro game from the Core Set–but it has some fundamental strategic implications that I think we often overlook. Namely, each faction has a critical weakness, and many common strategies for each faction tend to play to strengths rather than cover weaknesses. (I’m thinking here, for example, of Wedge’s popularity in Rebel lists and the tendency of Imperial players to value Evade.)
But one of the reasons I think I’ve been relatively successful in running Imperial lists over the past few months is that I don’t play Imperials defensively at all. I bring the best alpha strike I can, as early as I can, and I’m willing to sacrifice ships to get in close and hammer my opponent.
And it’s beginning to occur to me that when I do win with Rebels, it’s usually because my tactics and strategy favor defense and evasion. Biggs, for instance, is valuable because he has a defensive focus, and the more you pay attention to his defense the more useful he is to a list. Even my success with 4-ship lists and utter ruin with 3-ship lists fits into this lens: a larger list is more defensive, in a sense, because it increases the squad’s pool of hit points as well as reducing your opponent’s relative benefit from killing a single ship.
On the other hand, when I lose, it’s often because I paid too much attention to the Rebels’ already-strong offense. Target Lock is stronger than Focus on offense, for instance, but it doesn’t give you any defensive recourse; X-wings are stronger on offense than Y-wings, but the shorter hull and shield tracks mean it’s much less able to soak up a lucky shot from your opponent.
So (in addition to a substantial dose of luck), maybe that’s how a match that looked balanced at setup went so haywire. I was focused on offense and getting to the fight fast, and so was he–but his offense was blunted by the natural evasion of Imperial ships, where my boosted offense was up against the relatively weak Rebel defenses.
If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading. This is a bit of a departure for me, since it’s neither a list nor an argue-y piece of statistics; I don’t know how valuable it is to anyone else, but I’m trying to describe a shift in the way I’m thinking about the strategy of the game–and, if nothing else, it might result in a couple of new lists in the next week or so.
I also want to underline my opponent’s courtesy, humor, and sportsmanship. He definitely knows what he’s doing, and he helped me learn some things about Vassal it would have taken weeks for me to figure out on my own. I think he’s going to smash through some unsuspecting opponents pretty soon, and I wish him the best of luck in the rest of the tourney. (Hopefully his dice have gotten over their karmic hissy fit by next week!)