12 September 2016 | X-Wing

What's in a Dial?

The X-Wing™ Developers Discuss Wave IX and the Game's Maneuver Dials

Set your course, fly at your enemies, take aim, and fire! X-Wing is the fast-paced game of dramatic, squad-based Star Wars dogfights, and every new wave of expansions adds new ships and new ways to fly.

Now scheduled for release in just over a week, the game's ninth wave is the “wave of the firing arc,” and that means, in many ways, that it is also the “wave of the return to the maneuver dial.” It goes without saying that the more maneuvers you have on your ship, and the more that are green (or at least white), the more you can fly about the battlefield and set up the shots you want.

All the same, it can be easy to look at a ship and see its attack, agility, hull, and shield values placed next to its squad point cost and think of your ship only in those terms. Or when you have a unique pilot with an amazing ability—like those of Darth Vader , Soontir Fel , or Norra Wexley —you might think of the squad point cost in terms of stats and ability.

But this leads us to wonder, “What is in a maneuver dial?” To answer the question, we turn to the Wave IX developers, Alex Davy and Max Brooke…

X-Wing developers Alex Davy (left) and Max Brooke (right).

Developers Alex Davy and Max Brooke on Maneuver Dials

FFG: At what point in the design of a ship do you start to create its maneuver dial? Does it vary from ship to ship?

MB: Pretty much first. After we figure out what the ship’s overall role is going to be and what sorts of maneuverability it has thematically, we use this to inform what goes into the maneuver dial.

AD: It definitely starts with the theme of the ship, since we always want to be as accurate to the source material as possible. For example, the ARC-170 is a slower, heavier, “flying fortress” type of ship, and its dial reflects that. Conversely, the Protectorate Starfighter is a swift, fragile, agile ace with a dial to match.

The maneuver dials for the ARC-170 (left), Protectorate Starfighter (center), and Special Forces TIE fighter (right).

    Once we have the initial idea for the dial mapped out, we make small tweaks based on playtesting data, until we have a dial that matches the theme of the ship and works well within the game.

FFG: How much, then, do you tend to adjust the dials over the course of development and play testing? I know you tweak the statistics and point costs a good bit, but are those adjustments to work in conjunction with the dial you’ve created, or do they sometimes prompt revisions to the dial, as well?

MB: They definitely do sometimes. The ship’s ability to reposition with actions like boost and barrel roll has a pretty big impact on how its dial functions on the table, and sometimes if it gains, loses, or changes one of these actions, the dial needs to be adjusted accordingly.

AD: There are certain key elements to any dial that usually remain unchanged—nimble arc-dodging, “interceptor”-type ships really rely on access to green turns to function, shuttles with poor dials can utilize the red speed "0" maneuver to stay in the fight long enough to have an impact. Beyond that, we use our playtesting to review small details, like how many green and red maneuvers a ship should have, and whether a certain combination of upgrade cards poses an issue. On the JumpMaster 5000, for example, we knew we couldn’t make the Segnor's Loops speed "3" maneuvers because that would be too powerful in tandem with Unhinged Astromech .

MB: Beyond the colors and speeds of their maneuvers, deciding which turnaround maneuvers—if any—a ship has is a pretty big part of the development of the dial. Tallon Rolls, Segnor's Loops, and Koiogran-turns all give a ship a major edge in certain ways, but have other vulnerabilities.

Here we see the Special Forces TIE fighter pilot "Backdraft" performing a speed "3" Segnor's Loop maneuver. At the end of the maneuver, he rotates his base 180-degrees, slotting the template into the front guides instead of the rear guides.

FFG: Are there currently any ships in the game that share the same dial? Do you work consciously to ensure that each ship has its own dial?

AD: I’m pretty sure every dial is completely unique, but there are some dials that are very similar. The A-wing's dial is identical to the TIE interceptor's, except that the A-wing has a green straight "5" instead of a white one, and the TIE phantom is almost identical to a TIE fighter, except it doesn’t have a "5" straight.

     We try to make each dial unique, but when ships are thematically similar and occupy similar roles within the game, we like their dials to be similar as well.

MB: Creating similar dials helps us set up expectations for how the ship will fly, but sometimes its actions or upgrades mean that it behaves a bit differently on the table than the dial suggests. Given the sheer number of combinations we can create by mixing and matching speeds, maneuvers, and colors, there is almost always room to create a small variation for each ship.

FFG: Max, you mentioned that the composition of the dial also depends upon the actions you assign to the ship, and that changing the actions may change the dial. To that end, how much of a ship’s individuality do you feel resides within its dial as opposed to, say, its stats, action bar, and upgrade bar?

MB: Whenever there is a new action—or an action that hasn’t appeared on a particular archetype of ship before—that adds a lot to the ship’s unique features. For instance, the Shadow Caster’s mobile firing arc and rotate arc action mean that any player flying it faces an entirely new consideration when planning maneuvers. The player has to determine whether to set up a shot based on the ship’s maneuver, rotating its mobile firing arc, or some combination of the two.

The Shadow Caster comes with a mobile firing arc that it can use to great effect. Because rotating this firing arc requires you to perform the rotate arc action, you may find yourself selecting maneuvers for the ship based heavily on the action you hope to perform in the round—whether that is rotating the mobile firing arc, focusing, acquiring a target lock, or performing an entirely different action.

AD: A ship’s individuality truly is a sum of its parts. To go back to the A-wing and the TIE interceptor, even though they have an almost identical dial, they play very, very differently. The A-wing does not have access to barrel roll, and therefore doesn’t have quite the same incredible repositional power as the TIE interceptor. Also, with its low attack value, it doesn’t hit nearly as hard. However, it’s cheaper and more durable, and the low pilot skill A-wings have therefore proven much stronger than the low pilot skill interceptors. They end up feeling completely different and fulfilling very different roles despite their similarity.

     When we designed the Protectorate Starfighter, we wanted to supply a third interceptor-type ship that had its own identity and feeling. Just switching the evade action for the target lock action and adding a hull makes it fly much less defensively than an interceptor, and the title, pilot abilities, and the Fearlessness elite pilot talent give it a completely different play style and identity, despite the many similarities between the ships.

FFG: With the different “aces” packs, we have seen some upgrades that we can only interpret as “corrections” for previous oversights in how those ships are costed. How much do you factor the maneuver dial into a ship’s squad point value?

AD: There’s no magic formula for pricing an X-Wing ship. There are simply too many variables to account for, but the dial plays a huge, huge role in how a ship is costed. The Lambda-class shuttle is a perfect example of this; based purely on its stats and point cost, its an absolute monster, and when it was initially spoiled people were afraid that it would be an insurmountable force. However, once the dial was revealed and people started playing with it, they realized that because the dial is so incredibly limited, you have to work very hard to bring its guns to bear and make use of its excellent stat line.

     So the dial definitely factors into things. The Protectorate Starfighter’s Zealous Recruit has one less shield and pilot skill than the Cartel Marauder Kihraxz, but a better dial and more actions, so they wound up costing the same.

MB: Each aspect of an X-Wing ship greatly affects the value of its other statistics and abilities, and the dial has perhaps the greatest ramifications in this regard. For a simple example, having lots of green maneuvers essentially makes any actions the ship has more potent, as you’re much more likely to be able to use one of those actions on any given turn. That sort of second-level consideration is extremely important, and testing is an important part of how we figure out exactly how much it’s worth.

A ship's maneuver dial is certainly an important part of determining how it might fly, but it is not the sole determining factor. Upgrades and action bars also play their roles. In this example, Norra Wexley reveals a green speed "2" right bank, which means that (1) BB-8 allows her to barrel roll right. (2) She uses Experimental Interface after her barrel roll to deploy her Conner Net and then (3) completes her green maneuver to clear her stress. Finally, Norra focuses, ready to take a clear shot at the Emperor's Lambda-class shuttle.

AD: We’ve definitely learned a lot since the earlier waves. The more a ship relies on arc-dodging to succeed—via a quality dial and repositional actions—the more valuable pilot skill is on that ship. A tanky ship with an average or poor dial doesn’t get as much benefit from high pilot skill, so we try to make sure that the aces on those ships have rewarding abilities and are reasonably priced.

FFG: Well, since we've started touching more on the ships from Wave IX, specifically, what would you say interested you most about designing their maneuver dials? And is it ever the maneuver dials, themselves, in a vacuum? Or is it always in relation to something else, like the introduction of the mobile firing arc?

AD: It was really fun for me to work on the Shadow Caster's dial , because we wanted it to function like no other large ship. It’s absurdly fast, with a "5" straight and a set of greens that encourages high-speed maneuvers, so it plays very unlike other large ships. This synergizes well with the mobile firing arc, because a savvy player can plan their approach really well, skirting the edge of the combat with a well-positioned mobile firing arc that’s angled to the side, then blasting into a new position and readjusting the arc so that it’s facing behind to fire shots at any pursuing craft.

     It’s a very flexible craft that nonetheless requires a lot of planning and forethought in order to make it effective.

MB: The Shadow Caster’s dial definitely underwent the most iterations among the Wave IX dials. Because of the size of their bases, large ships move in more extreme ways than small ships, and having a large ship that focused on maneuverability and blistering speed provided some interesting opportunities.

     The Protectorate Starfighter’s dial was also a lot of fun to develop. It had to be aggressive enough to keep up with other interceptors, and also support the Concord Dawn Protector title that we wanted to help give the ship its distinct, aggressive flavor.

From left to right: ARC-170, Special Forces TIE fighter, Protectorate Starfighter, and Shadow Caster.

FFG: Thanks very much for your time. We're looking forward to seeing these Wave IX ships on the table!

AD: Sure thing!

MB: You're welcome. Thanks for the questions.

Plot Your Maneuvers

Wave IX is scheduled to arrive to retailers in just over a week. Start plotting your maneuvers today!

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