Building the Future

Behind the Scenes of X-Wing Wave IV With Brooks Flugaur-Leavitt

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The fourth wave of expansions for Star Wars™: X-Wing goes on sale July 12, bringing eight new ships to the intense space battles of a galaxy far, far away. Among these, three ships are entering X-Wing for the first time, supplementing the ships already available to the Galactic Republic, Separatist Alliance, and Resistance. In addition to ushering in iconic pilots like Ric Olié and Padmé Amidala, these ships also bring an array of new upgrades to X-Wing, putting a variety of deadly torpedoes, missiles, cannons, and devices at your fingertips.

Today, we meet with developer Brooks Flugaur-Leavitt to discuss what went into creating the abilities for these new pilots and upgrades! 

Naboo Royal N-1 Starfighter

Lightly armed but sleek and graceful, the Naboo Royal N-1 starfighter is well-suited to the role of a fast interceptor in X-Wing. However, since the N-1 is in the same faction as nimble Jedi starfighters, I knew that it would need more than just speed and maneuverability to stand out. It was important that the N-1 be simple and fun to fly, so that new players could learn easily at its controls, while also including nuances that more experienced pilots would enjoy mastering.

The consistent defense provided by the Full Throttle ship ability means that N-1 pilots can concentrate on offensive flying, freeing them up to take target lock or boost actions to set up more powerful attacks. Importantly, the ship does not have evade on its action bar, so lists built around powerful abilities that require evade tokens like the Decoyed condition will be more predictable than those that remain flexible in their approach.

With the Clone Wars era factions concentrating on the war fought by Jedi and clones, the N-1 Naboo Royal starfighter was a rare opportunity to focus on the Republic’s citizenry. Instead of powerful Force abilities or disciplined teamwork, I wanted the pilots of the Royal Naboo Security Force to be at their best when they leveraged the unique characteristics of their vessel. I settled on abilities for Captain Ric Olié and Lieutenant Dineé Ellberger that reference their chosen maneuver at other times during the round, as this played to the N-1’s strengths of speed and maneuverability.

This mechanic also allowed me to reward players for outthinking their opponents even when facing maneuverable ships flown by higher initiative pilots, hopefully mitigating the effect of bad match-ups at the list building stage. Ric Olié’s astromech droid R2-A6 combos with the abilities of both named Royal Naboo Security Forces pilots, while R2-C4 is well-suited to any N-1 or Delta-7 that plans to fly aggressively.

For major characters, my goal is to create abilities that are not only useful, but reference iconic moments in their stories. Padmé Amidala is often underestimated by her foes, both in negotiations and in combat, and her aggressive style repeatedly catches them off-guard. Accordingly, I designed an effect that rewards her for aggressive play, especially as a flanking ship that opponents would ignore at their own peril.

This, in turn, meant that the  Naboo Handmaidens could be thematically useful in-game at her side. Meanwhile, young Anakin Skywalker’s pilot ability began as a humorous reference to his lines during the Battle of Naboo—but it's also a powerful effect to use at a key moment in gameplay, as well as being fun to resolve. It turns out spinning is a good trick after all!

Hyena-class Droid Bomber

Development of the Hyena-class droid bomber began before the initial Separatist ship expansions had been finalized, and I wanted to integrate it as closely as possible with the Vulture-class droid fighter on which it was based in-setting. Max Brooke, Frank Brooks, and I played numerous games with the Hyena-class Droid Bomber alongside the Vulture-class Droid Fighter, ensuring they flew well together; the two ships share the Networked Calculations ability, and Hyenas have their own version of Landing Struts,  so a mixed squadron will feel like a synchronized swarm of droids. Flying such a squadron in pairs or trios allows each Hyena to acquire locks and fire its ordnance, while its Vulture wingmates calculate to modify any of their dice rolls.

The Hyena’s main strengths lie in its upgrade bar, where missiles, torpedoes, and devices give it access to impressive firepower. The differing upgrade bars of the Limited Hyena pilots were an exploration of another new design space, representing the specialization of droid ships and their programming. Each pilot gives Separatist players creative ways to use specific ordnance: Baktoid Prototypes are low-Initiative droid ships that can more easily fire missiles, including several that they couldn’t otherwise, while Bombardment Drones can launch devices, making them much more difficult for the opponent to avoid.

DBS-32C takes this specialization to the extreme, carrying sensors and a versatile tactical relay so that players can field a full swarm of droid ships that still benefit from the direction of a tactical droid in some distant command center. Since DBS-32C carries electronic equipment instead of ordnance, I also replaced its reload action with the jam action, and its pilot ability allows it to coordinate a friendly ship with Networked Calculations, reinforcing the archetype of a full droid swarm.

TA-175 was also designed to support aggressive swarm play, turning the fragility of massed droid ships into an advantage, especially when facing higher-initiative opponents. The last limited Hyena, DBS-404, has the same upgrade bar as the non-Limited ships, but its powerful (and self-damaging) special ability reflects its faulty programming. Opportunities like this to turn thematic flavor into mechanics (or vice versa) are an important way of giving playing pieces their own identity.

Resistance Transport & Pod

The Resistance Transport and Resistance Transport Pod posed a challenge in development—how to make a slow, cumbersome transport vessel interesting in a game about fast and powerful starfighters. My solution was to embrace the ship’s weaknesses while giving it access to a versatile array of options, so that players will be able to tailor it for their preferred task. The ship’s B-wing lineage is reflected in its similar dial, strong shields, and access to cannons and torpedoes, making it a potentially powerful gunship. Its transport capacity is represented through two crew and an astromech slot, allowing its pilot to bring a wide range of interference, support, or utility effects to bear. Finally, the addition of stationary and reverse maneuvers allows it to hover at the edge of an engagement in ways that traditional starfighters can’t, bringing new flight patterns to the Resistance faction.

The Resistance Transport pilots were an opportunity to emphasize a major theme of the Resistance faction: their desperation in a struggle against an overwhelming foe. This performance under pressure is reflected mechanically by abilities that give a momentary advantage at the cost of future drawbacks. Each use is a risk to buy a little more time for their comrades to save the day. All three Transport pilots have abilities that tie into this theme: starfighter pilot Cova Nell pushes her lumbering vessel beyond the limits of its combat performance with red maneuvers, lead dispatcher Pammich Nerro Goode is capable of a complex series of red maneuvers to get her ship where it needs to be, and mutinous Nodin Chavdri is willing to disobey orders to do what he thinks needs to be done.

Finn in the Resistance Transport Pod also follows this theme, with his attempts to improve his current situation likely to cause more trouble for him in the future. Rose Tico, however, embodies the other half of the Resistance’s identity: the relentless optimism and commitment to her friends that keeps her moving forward. All of the Transport Pod’s pilot abilities are meant to make opponents think twice before ignoring an otherwise unimpressive ship; BB-8’s flexible maneuverability makes him an effective blocker while Vi Moradi can expose an enemy ace’s vulnerabilities by gathering Compromising Intel on them.

The assortment of crew upgrade cards developed alongside the Resistance Transport were a great opportunity to really flesh out the faction, reinforcing its identity with iconic characters and thematic abilities. Commander Larma D’Acy and Lieutenant Kaydel Connix both tie into the same theme of desperation and determination as the Resistance Transport pilots, and their abilities allow players to eke every last bit of performance out of that ship when the situation demands. General Leia Organa,  Admiral  Amilyn Holdo, and Commander Korr Sella reflect the dedication and idealism of their cause, their effects inspiring their allies to draw on new reserves of strength to continue the struggle by clearing negative tokens.

In addition to these officers, some of the Resistance’s droid staff make an appearance, with a subtheme of making the most out of their limited resources. PZ-4CO —like Holdo—allows players to transfer tokens where they will make the greatest difference, while GA-97 holds back one of your ships for a dramatic entrance at a pivotal moment. The calculate action each of them adds to your action bar is also the pay-off for the secondary ability that I added to C-3PO during the development of the Resistance Conversion Kit, allowing him to coordinate the actions of his droid spy network across the galaxy or the gaming table.

Other Upgrades

In addition to the ships of Wave IV and their attendant faction-specific upgrades, I had the opportunity to develop a handful of non-faction upgrades for X-Wing’s card pool. Some of these are concepts from X-Wing's first edition, brought in line with our new standards, while others were created entirely from scratch.

Among the former, Plasma Torpedoes most closely resembles its first edition counterpart, losing a die from its attack pool in exchange for a much more useful timing for its shield-removal effect. These changes reduce its potential maximum damage, but allow its unique features to trigger much more reliably, emphasizing its utility as an initial “can-opener” that drops off in power over the course of the game.

On the other hand, Autoblasters was significantly altered by keying its effects off of the relative positions of attacker and defender, rewarding players with unblockable damage only when they can outmaneuver their opponents at close range. Finally, Diamond-Boron Missiles are an evolution of the first edition’s Assault and Harpoon Missiles, balancing the threat of area-of-effect damage with careful restrictions that prevent them from decimating swarms on their own.

Of the new upgrade concepts, the Electro-Proton Bomb is certainly the most dramatic. A primary consideration during development was that it not be able to destroy ships on its own, instead disrupting the opponent’s flight patterns but requiring a well-executed follow-up to be decisive. Some sort of countdown mechanic was necessary for a range 0–2 bomb to not also affect its carrier, and the resulting fuse markers made Delayed Fuses a natural addition as well.

Both of the remaining upgrades bring new mechanical approaches to the opening rounds of a game, giving several ship and squadron archetypes new options in how to engage their opponents. Passive Sensors offers a method of overcoming the main barrier for low-initiative ordnance ships, allowing those equipped with it to initiate an engagement with long-range ordnance, even against higher-initiative opponents.

Angled Deflectors enables a more defensive approach, making a ship more likely to weather the enemy’s initial volley so that they can close to their preferred range. This upgrade was also an opportunity to include the thematic advantages and disadvantages of ships that manipulate their deflector shields to face a known or expected threat, creating a built-in drawback to limit the card’s overall power level.

Fusing theme and mechanics together to create this content was both challenging and rewarding, and I am excited to see what the community will do with the ships, pilots, upgrades, and new mechanics in this wave!

A New Wave

Thanks, Brooks!

For more information on X-Wing Wave IV, check out a game featuring the Naboo Royal N-1 Starfighter and Resistance Transport with Brooks Flugaur-Leavitt and producer Gavin Duffy on our YouTube channel and additional previews of the new ships here!   

Pick up your copies of the Wave IV expansions for X-Wing at your local retailer or through our website on July 12!

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