Tournament Talk is a new thing I'm trying on here where we talk about game meta and what's prevalent on the X-Wing Miniatures Tournament scene.
While browsing around the forums and stuff reading up on the current tournament scene, I ran across a lot of discussion and a bit of a meta shift that I wanted to talk about a little bit on here regarding Rebel builds and whether they should be 3-Ship builds or 4-ship builds.
First, let me just say that I didn't get the impression that either is exactly what you'd call dominant right now. During Wave 2, rolling 3 named pilots with high PS values was pretty popular. Han Shoots First of course was the main representative of 3-ship builds, but there were (and still are from what I saw) a lot of Wedge, Luke, and Biggs type lists getting played a lot too.
And for good reason- most of the time, you can take just about any named fighter pilot's card text and stack it up against the various upgrades or Elite Pilot Skills and it becomes pretty obvious pretty quick which is better- the card text. Sure, there are exceptions, and ideally you have both, but in general, if you're looking at sticking an Astromech in the backseat of Red Squadron, it isn't going to equal Luke Skywalker for the points.
That card text can give you the foundation of your in-game strategy too, obviously. A lot of folks try to create strategies that will inflict their gameplan on their opponent, but just as important I think are the strategies that address your own shortcomings as a player as well.
Having trouble downing your opponent's ships? Throw Wedge or Han out there. Having trouble staying alive? Try flying Luke or Chewie for a game or two. Losing Actions due to collisions? Try mitigating that by flying somebody who passes around tokens like Garven Dreis, Dutch Vander, or Lando.
Even though this is kind of a Rebel-centric article, you can apply that same line of thinking to your Imperial squadrons too- if you're still having trouble picking smart maneuvers, take Boba Fett with or without a Navigator, if you have trouble killing stuff with TIE Fighters, let Backstabber or Mauler Mithel do some dirty work for you, and so on.
Identifying where your game is lacking can be difficult, but it's a skill like anything else and with some careful analysis and removal of bias via objectivity and data, you might be surprised where you're actually losing your games. I talked about this a loooong time ago in an article called, Why Do You Lose? If that topic seems interesting to you, give it a read.
Back on topic though, 4-Ship Rebel builds are coming into popularity for fairly simple reasons- namely more ships is more durability, more guns, and overall more forgiving to fly.
I've mentioned before that I tend to gravitate towards 4-Ship builds. I can't exactly explain to you why, but I just seem to play better with a couple of 2-Ship fireteams on the table instead of whatever combination of 3-Ships I can come up with. Again, maybe it's for you, maybe it's not, but as this style becomes more popular, it's something that's going to turn up more.
So your typical 4-ship list has a multitude of ways it can be setup because of the fact that X-Wing is fairly balanced for the points. I've flown 4 X-Wing builds before (remember my Regionals list from last summer- Wedge, Luke, Rookie, Rookie), 2 X-Wings and 2 Y-Wings, all kinds of stuff, but there are a few things I try to do when I make a 4-Ship build. Maybe they'll work for you, maybe they won't, but it's some food for thought if nothing else.
First, I try to keep the ships fairly even points-wise. I talk about the 33 point thing on here a lot, so naturally I try to stay away from creating single ships that cost more than 33 points. While that's not possible with some of the Big Ships, it's not to hard to pull off with the fighters. By not investing a ton of points in a single ship, then skimping on everybody else, I'm trying to do a couple of things- one, I'm trying to not paint a giant target for my opponent to focus on with that expensive ship, and two, ideally I'd like all of the ships in my squadron to be capable when necessary. In other words, instead of having one monstrously effective ship and three weenie ships, I'd rather have 4 ships that can all hold their own, at least on paper. Of course, this line of thinking is also part of the reason I wasn't a fan of the HWK for so long, which I've since recognized as a mistake, so take that for what it's worth.
Secondly, if possible, I try to make all of the ships the same Pilot Skill. It's not something I do every single time, but if I'm just kind of lost or I'm going to play against people I don't know or whatever, it's not a bad trick. Pilot Skill's effect on movement and shooting orders makes such a profound difference in this game, by having four ships all at the same PS, you instead can pick what order in which your ships move and shoot. This isn't just a great idea for the new player still trying to get his head around Pilot Skill- it can also help a cagey vet make good contextual decisions outside of the Pilot Skill mechanic, at least to a certain degree.
Having multiple ships at the same PS almost virtually assures going last or close to it (you're likely to be at PS 2 or PS 4) in the Combat Phase if you're the Rebels, but you do gain that advantage of picking the order your ships fire, which can be a pretty big benefit. Moving in teams or formations becomes easier too as you can at least choose the order in which your stuff moves, which sometimes can be the difference in a collision or not.
If shooting last isn't enough of a downside for you, bear in mind too that picking low PS pilots virtually assures you'll be locked out of all those fun Elite Pilot Talents. The introduction of Modifications dulls that pain somewhat, but if you hang your hat on stuff like Push The Limit, you'll likely have some trouble adjusting at first.
Almost inevitably, whenever I'm building one of these 4-Ship lists, I'll end up trying to decide between the lower PS generic pilot and the higher PS generic pilot. Which one do you choose? Well, it depends, but generally speaking, I pick the lower.
It also kind of depends on the ship itself that I'm taking. With X-Wings, for example, the point difference between two Rookies and two Reds is a set of Proton Torpedoes, a Shield Upgrade, or a couple of Astromechs. Sometimes those upgrades play into my overall strategy better than having a PS of 4 rather than 2. Again though, it's pretty contextual with what's going on in the rest of the list. If we were to start talking about A-Wings, I might take the Green over the Prototype because the Green has an Elite Pilot Skill slot. Of course, if I didn't really have the points left to spend, I probably wouldn't. There's no real hard fast rules for this, at least in my book.
All that being said, just because you're shying away from named pilots and taking stuff all at the same Pilot Skill, you can still come up with some pretty diverse lists. Take this one I just made up for example-
That's not a terrible little list right there. The B-Wing is a little more expensive than what I like, especially compared with the other ships in the list, but it does have Advanced Sensors and an HLC, so it ain't exactly a soft target. Rebel Op is in there to provide some ion support (and was originally Roark, but then I traded him back in to get some points to give the B-Wing a HLC instead) and hopefully appear to be a soft enough target to draw away some shots from the B-Wing. The Y-Wing has an Ion Cannon Turret as well, and the X-Wing sports just an R2, but really, what else does he need? In any case, just the ships alone leave you with 20 points for upgrades, so if you don't like the way I have mine kitted out, you certainly have some room to play around with something that would work for you.
Oh, and if you click the image, it'll take you to the list itself on +Geordan Rosario's Yet Another X-Wing builder. Don't know why it took me nearly a week to realize that'd be a good way to present stuff like this- visual image, but access to the list too via link. Duh.
Anyway, like everything else with this game, a 4-Ship build may not be for you, but if you've been struggling with the limitations of 3-Ship builds, give it a day in court and see how you perform.