25 July 2016 | X-Wing


A Preview of the Protectorate Starfighter Expansion Pack for X-Wing™

Fenn Rau's starfighter has no shields. It has just four hull. Clearly, it was meant to dodge firing arcs—not to fly straight at enemy fighters—right? Certainly, that would be the standard thinking, but Fenn Rau has his own take on the matter. And who can argue with him? Not us.

The ninth wave of starship expansions for X-Wing is all about experimenting with firing arcs. The ARC-170 and Special Forces TIE fighter both feature auxiliary firing arcs that lead to interesting tactical decisions, and the Shadow Caster introduces a new mobile firing arc, which can rotate and face in different directions from round to round. Still, while all these ships encourage new ways to fly because they incorporate different firing arcs, it can be argued that the final Wave IX ship, the Protectorate Starfighter, is the one that does the most to encourage us to rethink our firing arcs…

The Protectorate Starfighter (or "Fang fighter") does not feature some new auxiliary or mobile firing arc. Instead, it uses the same basic primary firing arc that you could find on the Core Set's X-wing or TIE fighter. In fact, of the forty different ships in the standard game through Wave IX, fully twenty-two of them are similarly limited to their primary firing arcs. So what is it, you might ask, that makes the Protectorate Starfighter such a special starfighter?

A 360-degree view of the Protectorate Starfighter.

The Concordia Face Off Maneuver

With a maneuver dial remarkably similar to that of the TIE interceptor or TIE/fo fighter, the Protectorate Starfighter would seem a natural fit for the same sort of arc-dodging tactics employed by the Imperial aces who fly those fighters. And, in fact, the Protectorate Starfighter can be flown in a fashion similar to either of those fighters. Not only does it feature a similar dial, but it also features the barrel roll action shared by both of those fighters, as well as the boost action that grants the TIE interceptor its extra bit of maneuverability over the TIE/fo fighter.

Altogether, these allow Scum aces with high pilot skill values, like Fenn Rau's "9," to lock in a variety of different close-quarters maneuvers and then reposition after he discovers where his maneuver takes him relative to his foes.

After Fenn Rau executes his maneuver, he performs a barrel roll and then uses Push the Limit to perform a boost, getting out of his opponent's firing arc and lining up his own shot at Range "1."

However, quite unlike the game's TIE interceptor and TIE/fo fighter aces, Fenn Rau and his fellow Concord Dawn Protectors frequently abandon all their arc-dodging options in favor of high-speed, head-on charges. In fact, the elite of the Concord Dawn Protectorate frequently prefer to engage their foes with the Concordia Face Off maneuver, leveraging their ships’ narrow attack profile to get the better of their foes in deadly head-to-head confrontations.

Although Fenn Rau could duck out of the A-wing's firing arc, much as he ducked out of the B-wing's firing arc earlier, he opts, instead, to race straight into his opponent's firing arc, lining up a shot at Range "1" and modifying it by using Push the Limit to gain a focus token.

Of course, the Concord Dawn Protectorate's elite fighter pilots prefer the Concordia Face Off maneuver for a reason: it works. It may defy common sense, but there are actually a number of factors that help Fenn Rau and his wingmates come out ahead in these lethal jousts.

First of all, you have the Concord Dawn Protector Title upgrade. As a point of curiousity, every ship in Wave IX comes with its own Title, and like the Title upgrades for the ARC-170 and Special Forces TIE fighter, the Concord Dawn Protector upgrade functions much like an innate function of the ship itself. It costs you one squad point, instead of the zero squad points you would pay for an Alliance Overhaul or Special Ops Training ugprade, but, like them, it is a non-unique Title that you can play on each copy of the ship in your squadron.

Perhaps, more importantly, the Concord Dawn Protector Title functions like the Alliance Overhaul and Special Ops Training Titles in the way that it helps to define the ship's personality or role. Basically, it reads like this: fly straight at your enemies, and tell them to "bring it on." Then you get to add a result to your defense. For one squad point, you basically offset your opponent's Range "1" attack bonus. More than that, actually. Your opponent's attack die has a chance of missing. Two of its faces are blank. Two more will miss unless your opponent spends a focus token. And you, on the other hand, are guaranteed a free result in addition whatever else you might roll.

Be bold. Your Protectorate Starfighter pilots may take some damage when they dare their foes to confront them, but they will likely come out the better of the exchange.

Life and Death at Range "1"

The Concord Dawn Protector Title may be key to understanding how the Concord Dawn Protectorate's aces can repeatedly race their fighters into—and out of—these close-quarters jousts, but it is just one part of the puzzle. Pilot skill is also critical.

Here, we can consider pilot skill in three ways: pilot skill value, unique pilot abilities, and elite pilot talents. Of the five different ship cards in the Protectorate Starfighter Expansion Pack, four of them feature the elite pilot talent upgrade slot, three of them are unique pilots with potent abilities, and four of them come with pilot skill values of "5" or higher.

This last point about pilot skill values is important when you consider the X-Wing metagame. As the game evolves, competitive lists come and go, and even if you prefer casual play, you are likely to see some of these more popular lists on your table. For example, the introduction of the JumpMaster 5000 in Wave VIII has led to the prominence of lists that feature three Contracted Scouts loaded with ordnance, Deadeye,  and Guidance Chips.  But Contracted Scouts fire at a pilot skill value of "3," meaning that if your Concord Dawn Aces are firing at a pilot skill value of "5," they can potentially eliminate a Contracted Scout before it even has a chance to fire.

Of course, there is something to be said, also, for the ability to maneuver a Zealous Recruit at a pilot skill value of "1." Moving one of these into position to block a Contracted Scout's flight path—or that of another enemy ship—could deny that ship its action. In the case of the Contracted Scout, a successful block means you deny your opponent the chance to focus, and that means no ordnance for the round. In the case of another pilot—such as Darth Vader or Soontir Fel —your successful block may prevent the barrel roll and focus actions that would allow him to slip out of your arc and line up his kill shot.

By successfully anticipating Soontir Fel's maneuver, the Zealous Recruit blocks him, denying Soontir his actions, and keeping him in arc of the Protectorate Starfighter lying in wait.

So, on the basis of pilot skill values alone, these Concord Dawn fighter pilots offer you a good number of options for intercepting, blocking, and outgunning your foes.

Beyond this, however, you can outfit four of the different Protectorate Starfighter pilots with elite pilot talents, and even though these pilots feature only one other upgrade type—the torpedo upgrade—in their upgrade bars, the combination of elite pilot talent, Title, torpedo, and modification upgrades encourages a great deal of experimentation.

Discover New Tactics

For example, if you wanted to run four non-unique Protectorate Starfighters in a list, your one-hundred squad points could buy you four Concord Dawn Aces, all equipped with the Concord Dawn Protector Title and the new Fearlessness elite pilot talent. Such a squadron would be eager to perform the Concordia Face Off maneuver early and often.

On the other hand, you could fly four Protectorate Starfighters a bit more like traditional interceptors, outfitting four Concord Dawn Veterans with Adaptability , Concord Dawn Protector, and Autothrusters.  Here, you would be able to maneuver and fire at pilot skill "4" or block at pilot skill "2," or adjust your squad to do both. In the meantime, if you could not position yourself for the Concordia Face Off maneuver, your autothrusters would help you survive your opponent's long-range shots, or those fired from outside of your opponent's primary firing arcs.

Alternatively, you could outfit one or more Protectorate Starfighter pilots with Attanni Mindlinks and partner them with the focus token-thieving Palob Godalhi to set up brutal alpha strikes that use no ordnance whatsoever.

  • Concord Dawn Ace with Attanni Mindlink and Concord Dawn Protector (25)
  • Concord Dawn Ace with Attanni Mindlink and Concord Dawn Protector (25)
  • Concord Dawn Ace with Attanni Mindlink and Concord Dawn Protector (25)
  • Palob Godalhi with Dorsal Turret and Boba Fett (24)

               Total Squad Points: 99

Such a squad wants to get within Range "1" of its foes as soon as possible. There, it can fire at pilot skill "5" with as many as fifteen attack dice—almost all modified by both focus tokens and target locks. Furthermore, the squadron can use Palob Godalhi to steal at least one of your opponent's focus tokens, potentially disarming a brutal torpedo strike or exposing an ace like The Inquisitor .

The Concord Dawn Protectorate Elite

One of the key choices you have to make in X-Wing, as in most miniatures games, is how best to balance the quantity of your ships and pilots against their quality. Specifically, in the case of the Protectorate Starfighter, you have to decide whether you want to fly five unadorned Zealous Recruits, four Concord Dawn Veterans or Concord Dawn Aces with modest upgrades, or three pilots with exceptional skills and plenty of squad points remaining for upgrades.

We have already spent a good deal of time admiring the talents of the top Concord Dawn Protectorate ace, Fenn Rau, so we will only spend a moment to consider how, for thirty-four squad points, he can be outfitted in a fashion strikingly similar to the standard package for Imperial ace Soontir Fel.

  • Fenn Rau with Push the Limit,  Concord Dawn Protector, and Autothrusters (34)

Like Soontir Fel, Fenn Rau can use his ship's maneuverability, his high pilot skill value, and the Push the Limit upgrade to duck and weave out of firing arcs where his Autothrusters can help him avoid damage. Still, that does not necessarily mean that Fenn Rau wants to fly like Soontir Fel. Where Soontir Fel's unique pilot ability allows him to stack focus tokens for both attack and defense, frequently combining them with an evade token, Fenn Rau instead gains additional dice whenever he attacks or defends at Range "1."

As experienced players will tell you, extra dice are great, but if they come with a pilot like Fenn Rau, you will want to modify those dice. Soontir Fel can modify his dice with multiple focus tokens and evade tokens. Fenn Rau can only generate one focus token per round, and he lacks the evade action altogether. What he gets instead, though, is the target lock action. The difference boils down to this: Soontir Fel lives by being slippery enough to eventually wear down his foes; Fenn Rau lives by dealing damage to his opponent's face faster than his opponent can deal the damage back to him.

Beyond Fenn Rau, though, the Protectorate Starfighter Expansion Pack offers two more uniquely talented aces, Old Teroch and Kad Solus.

With his ability to discard one opponent's focus and evade tokens each round, Old Teroch is likely to join Palob Godalhi and Wes Janson as an integral part of squadrons designed to counter the metagame's prevailing lists. When the dust settles, he is likely to play a key role in the changes among the squadrons dominating the metagame, whether or not his lists float to the top.

Meanwhile, even though three-time World Champion Paul Heaver stated that his elite pilot talent Stay on Target was intended to reward ace with top-bar pilot skill values, Kad Solus may end up being one of the upgrade's most frequent recipients. With Stay on Target, Kad Solus can transform pretty much any maneuver into one that generates two focus tokens. Then, on a following turn, he can select one of his ship's six green maneuvers to shed his stress and reposition himself with a barrel roll or boost. Alternatively, he can empower some interesting tactics with Attanni Mindlink or Calculation.  Or he could even forego the Autothrusters modification in favor of Deadeye, Guidance Chips, and Advanced Proton Torpedoes.

Fly Differently

At the end, here, if there is any one thing we want you to understand, it is that the Protectorate Starfighter is not as simple as it looks. It is an arc-dodger that ignores arc-dodging in favor of blowing you up. It is a fragile ship that gains durability from its singular combination of Title and fighting style. And its deceptively bare upgrade bar is the sort of limitation that artists will often claim brings out the best of their imaginations.

Despite all this, if you fly it like a TIE interceptor, you are not necessarily flying it "wrong." You would just be flying it in only one of the many ways that it can be flown. And we encourage you to experiment with more of them. With all of the unique abilities the Protectorate Starfighter Expansion Pack introduces, and with all the different tactics they promote, you should find plenty of ways to fly differently.

Be sure to pre-order your copy of the Protectorate Starfighter Expansion Pack today. Then check back for our preview of the Shadow Caster Expansion Pack!

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