I’ve been playing X-Wing 2nd Edition for a few weeks on Vassal now. I finally put some ships on the table at a Quickfire Tournament. These are regularly hosted by the Moldy Crows at Athena Games. Games are comprised of 65-minute rounds where, despite flying some absolute nonsense, I finished 4th after going into the final round with a chance to win.
The one thing that has stood out for me at present is the wide variety of lists out there. I have not flown against the same list once. After the list spam-fest of 1.0 this is a fantastic breath of fresh air! However, the game is still very young. Everyone has an abundance of new toys and ideas to mess around with but this Wild West Meta is fun! I know, “fun” is a dirty word in tabletop circles, but it’s entirely true. Would it not be great if people stopped caring about what the Meta is and started having fun? I know this concept is not new, last year our current world champion started the #whatmeta? trend which mixed things up for a while. However, how can we keep this Wild West Meta going?
I’ve Stopped Sweating the Small Stuff
Part of the fun for me has been the list-building. Discovering if something works, or watching it burn like a Porg on Chewie’s BBQ. I used to trawl through the data, looking for counters to the Meta and the new hotness. I would do my best to make sure I got some of that sweet swag or at least win something. This led to me taking things way too seriously and sapped the enjoyment out of the whole hobby. Hobbies are supposed to be fun and letting a bad tournament ruin my whole weekend was getting me down.
However, my break from X-Wing and playing different, more narrative-driven games quelled that competitive side of things for me. The exception to this being Underworlds where I seek to crush opponents under my mighty boot! X-Wing is no longer about the winning and with so much out there to play test I hope this continues. I think FFG are putting a lot in place to keep things mixed-up and interesting. Though for me to keep enjoying the game I feel like I just need to relax!
The first and most obvious way they can keep the game fresh and exciting is with a steady release of new ships. Due to this they can keep adding to the glorious pot from which players can brew ideas. Holding back the First Order and Resistance factions in my mind was a great idea. The meta dust has not even started to settle one bit. However, that dust is going to be blown away anew with the arrival of two new factions alongside a handful of ships for the current ones.
Literally whilst writing this blog FFG announced that the Prequel Trilogy Factions are now on the horizon. I must say that the Wave III additions look great! Combined with Disney providing new Star Wars films and TV shows, there’ll be plenty to shake things up and keep the pot bubbling over.
The core element of what makes this game tick like no other that I have played is the tournament scene. It seems to be the biggest influence on how the game grows. FFG have tweaked their Organised Play for X-Wing Second Edition. At risk of being accused of being too positive, I genuinely really like the changes.
It’s broken down into three tiers. The first is more casual events aiming at encouraging new players to join with thematic tournaments which keep things fresh. These kits also give local players the bragging rights of having a store championship. The variety to a local community this brings is great.
Showing up once a month and facing the same players flying the same lists makes things a bit predictable and again not fun. I can attest to this having done it myself. These Deluxe Wave Kits FFG have introduced means there will be a lot of Organised Play. These include wave-limited tournaments to thematic afternoons of gaming. Overall, these provide great opportunities for some varied gaming experiences for everyone.
Blood, Sweat and Tiers
The second tier is what I find the most interesting tier of the pyramid. First up, “The System Opens”. These are huge monster tournaments. They are to act as real celebrations of X-Wing with all levels of players gathering for a weekend of gaming. You could be a hardened competitive player gunning for their tickets to the world championships. Alternatively, you could be a casual “kitchen table gamer” who wishes to spend a weekend with hundreds of like-minded folk. It seems there really is something for everyone here.
It has been announced that System Opens will be Extended Format. Everything that has been released will be available. I’ve never been to an Open, which is something I hope to change next year. Everyone I know who has been always talks about it with enthusiasm and excitement seeking to get tickets as soon as they are available.
The Hyperspace Trials are the other half of the second tier and is the section that has me thinking that “the meta” will be a lot harder to call in the future. They are effectively replacing regionals from first edition. The X-Wing Second Edition Hyperspace Trials are big events aimed at bringing together larger groups of the community while they battle it out for a ticket to the world championships.
Hyperspace Trials – Little Tweaks, Big Changes
Before there was a limited number of regionals for each country. This made them premium, must-attend events if you wanted swag or buy-in for nationals. In the UK this was limited to around 8 or 9, I believe. The Hyperspace Trials for X-Wing Second Edition are open for any store/community that chooses to house one. This means that in 2019 in the UK alone there are 37 regionals spaced-out over the two waves, and some of these even clash.
In the past regionals crowds were made up of two halves. These were either locals or travelling X-Wing teams. With prizes at such limited numbers it made them very competitive and meta-driven. This does build a great sense of community with similar faces and old friends clashing. However, in some circumstances it may have kept people away who were not as confident in their game. This would be especially relevant if their local store was visited by some of the best players in the world.
With so many tournaments attendees who would participate in 3 or 4 regionals may not be able to attend the same percentage of the Hyperspace Trials this time round. After all, it is a lot of X-Wing. This isn’t even considering the other events local stores could be running too. This may mean new players emerging with new ideas and play styles could actually have a chance to participate. Whereas before they might not of quite made the cut due to the attendance of teams deciding on a weekend away of Nando’s and tabletop space battles.
Touring Around the Globe
Seeing the same names, with the same lists do well week after week slightly moulds the meta. Regardless of if they admit it or not, people like to net list. Who better to net list from than the folk who are consistently doing well in the big tournaments? Travelling X-Wing is fantastic and if you are looking to improve as a player is almost a necessity. However, fresh players are just as important as fresh products in keeping a meta stable. It also helps to keep the overall gaming experience varied and less stale.
I mentioned the fact that there are two waves of Trials next year. This has got some of the Podcasts talking. Each Wave will have a card pool to choose from. The Hyperspace System will be in-between Extended and Second Edition, including some new stuff and some old.
It is only natural that a meta of some description will evolve from a limited pool of cards. Nobody currently knows what this pool of cards will be. This means that there is no long-term planning or practising. The first couple of weeks of Trials season will be a glorious Wild West of people trying to figure out what the hotness will be. This will then be followed by a few weeks of figuring out how to beat that hotness. By the time they do that the window gets slammed shut, and focus is drawn onto the second wave.
I understand the concerns some people have. Some feel it’s less than ideal because they do not like the idea of being told when and how they can use their ships. In First Edition the old rules unofficially did that any way, making some ships unplayable if you wanted to compete at these premier events at the top-level.
Community and the App
Probably the most important factor. Previously, FFG would drag their heels with FAQ’s or errata. In X-Wing Second Edition with the app they have the ability to change things quickly and hopefully efficiently.
They will have all the data from all the tournaments at hand to see what the community are playing. However, they also need to listen to what the community are saying. If there is the slightest whiff of a negative vibe about a combo or ship people should canvass FFG about it. There are a tonne of outlets, forums, blogs and podcasts which I’m sure FFG take note of. It is in their best interests to pay attention to all of us, but it is up to us to use our voices.
As I put the finishing touches to this article Nerf Herder III is just kicking off its first round. Stores all over the country are scheduling dates for the first deluxe wave kits. Hyperspace Trials are being put in everyone’s diaries. Meanwhile, the community await the date to buy tickets for the System Open next year. Am I foolish for wishing that the meta will never settle and that we will forever be in this crazy Wild West meta? Most likely, though at present I find it a wonderful place to be in.
I do understand the need for there to be a meta as well. Meta and top-tier gaming do come hand in hand. It helps the best of the best navigate their way through the big tournaments. Without it, the tournament scene would be very, very different indeed. With all the different play styles now being introduced I do not think that the meta will ever be stale, as the opportunity to fly different lists in different settings is going to be much greater.
I do fear that players may now only stick to one sort of play style. With so many Hyperspace Trials people may only play that system and ignore the local foundation tier of the pyramid. I certainly hope not, a lot of the X-Wing community have an almost tribal connection with their local store. However, the lure of a ticket to worlds and that sweet, sweet swag may become too much.
The big question I ask is this the next time you’re in a tournament: Will you be drawn in with a meta? Or, will you be packing your nonsense, jumping on your horse and tearing into the Wild West meta? I know what I’ll be doing, and I’ll make sure I’m having an absolute blast doing it.
Now, where did I put my Spurs?