New X-Wing Strategies for Scum and Villainy: Lean Han and the Outrider

It has been a busy end of the 2014 year and there really hasn’t been time for all my hobbies. Really, I have too many interests, so my enjoyment of the Star Wars Miniatures game X-Wing has been on hold for a while. I did manage to watch the matches of Paul Heaver at the Worlds X-Wing tournament at Fantasy Flight Games and enjoyed watching his “Fat Han” build dominate the competition. Those matches can be seen below and are well worth viewing for their strategy. X-Wing has become even larger over the last year and there are no signs of it stopping. It’s a fabulous game as I’ve said before—and it keeps getting better. Even with all the innovation that has went into X-Wing from FFG it was great to see the Han Solo build win Worlds. I have used a similar build from the start of X-Wing but it was the addition of the Headhunters and the Artoo card that put the Fat Han build over the top—and Heaver exploited it brilliantly over the course of the 2014 season.

For anyone who has been wondering about the content of the new Star Wars films, hard-core fans know that the rumored abandonment of the Expanded Universe is purely a false flag attempt to throw people off the trail of the actual plot. In the gaming universe, FFG has shown that more than ever the Expanded Universe is shaping the future of Star Wars for the better and for me personally, there has been nothing more exciting than the Wave V addition of the Rebel faction YT-2400 Outrider which fits perfectly into a strategy I had been wanting to work on for the 2015 evolution of the meta game. imageThe news coming out of X-Wing is so exciting that sometimes I wish I could afford to just play that game all the time. I would love to spend the rest of my life playing it all day every day and I’d never tire of it. For guys like Paul Heaver they are able to delve into every aspect of the game strategically which would be a lot of fun. I can maybe get a game of X-Wing in about two times per month. But some people who I know are able to play several times per day and 12 to 20 per week which is the best way to really get good at the game. Now with all the expansions coming into play, there is a lot to keep up with—but its fun trying. For 2015 the biggest news is a Star Destroyer huge ship coming to the Empire faction and the advent of the new Scum and Villainy faction. It is that new faction that had my interest in devising a new strategy in how to deal with them once they hit the market. For me, that will involve the new Outrider.

It took me until February of 2015 to finally get to play a game with the YT-2400 but I’m happy to report that it is the perfect complement to the traditional Fat Han build replacing the old Twin Falcon builds as a viable strategy. The Outrider fits in as a perfect complement to the Falcon with its 360 turret ability, and barrel roll. On the Falcon I typically use Expert Handling ability to get a barrel roll out of the Falcon so having two large ships that can barrel roll in and out of firing arcs is the key to making this a build that I think will work best in dealing with the new faction of Bounty Hunters.

What will set the Scum and Villainy faction apart from the previous Rebel and Empire factions is that the bounty hunters will utilize illegal armaments and dirty tricks. So it will turn the game meta on its head and make the game so much more dramatic—as if it needed it. The addition of the new Boba Fett Firespray under the Scum faction is going to be a really difficult ship to deal with along with IG-88 and other pirates. So firepower will be needed that can fire behind those dirty tricks. That’s where the YT-2400 comes in. The feature build is the use of a Heavy Laser Cannon from range 2-3 to pick off foes from a safe distance using the barrel roll to stay out of the line of fire.

The version of Fat Han that I’m using is a very fast Falcon that I’d call a “Lean Han” and the YT-2400 decked out with a HLC and the Outrider card which allows for that secondary weapon to become the primary. With the two speedy YT family ships on the board at the same time using Han’s re-roll ability to make sure he hits each round, it will be the most effective counter to the meta-game that is coming if you are a Rebel player—which of course I wouldn’t consider playing as anything else. The games I played with the pairing were very successful even against a TIE Swarm so the YT for me is a dream come true.

The guys who are playing double-digit games of X-Wing per week are really lucky. I would consider retiring from all my many tasks and becoming a professional player just because it’s so much fun to play. I think it far surpasses Chess as a game of strategy and is showing signs of maintaining great depth for the future. The game is huge now, but after the next Star Wars film comes out in less than a year it will really explode because of all the new ships and characters who will be made into ships in the game. The Scum and Villainy factions along with the Outrider are great examples of how FFG has used the Expanded Universe to build a great mythological gaming experience and for Star Wars to really work; the new films will need to tap into all this background going into games like X-Wing. Many of the cards offered with the ships come from characters only referenced in the novels and comics, so the direction of X-Wing indicates the direction of the Star Wars franchise from Disney over the next six years. A decade from now X-Wing may be a massive game full of loyal fans that will greatly eclipse what Magic the Gathering is today. It is really fun to watch this phenomenon mature into something special.

I played a game over the weekend at 4 AM and found myself so consumed with the strategy of X-Wing that I felt like I was on vacation from the mundane world of normalcy. It’s no wonder the game is gaining so much in popularity. What’s better is that every month more and more players come to the game as newcomers and with them will come a host of bizarre strategies and attempts at innovation. Right now, Paul Heaver is the top player in the world—for two years in a row. The trick in becoming so good is in figuring out what the new meta game will be, and developing a strategy in how to deal with it. “Fat Han” was last year’s strategy. This year it will have to be something else. For me, it will be a twin Falcon/Outrider build with a Lean Han advancing with great maneuverability through and around obstacles. From my perspective speed and firepower are the only ways to really deal with the Scum and Villainy faction. But we’ll see. Part of the fun with the game is in figuring out those kinds of things—and seeing how they play out in real life against a real player. As usual, FFG is at it again, and stronger than ever. They really are an amazing company. Their products bring me great joy, and I know by the game’s popularity that I’m not alone. It is certainly one of the bright spots in the modern world. Myth made into a community of neat people who give me hope on humanity. I love X-Wing Miniatures.


Rich Hoffman

Visit Cliffhanger Research and Development

‘The Force Awakens’ Preview: Canon versus fan boy reinvention–concern on the horizen

I am one of the few people who saw the new Star Wars preview for Episode 7 and did not get all that excited. My daughter and I were at the Barnes and Nobel at Newport on the Levee as she was catching up on the New Jedi Order books and we were talking about the new preview which saw millions upon millions of views depending on where it was seen on YouTube in just 24 hours. Some sources had 24 million views in that time frame whereas the official Star Wars site had over 8 million. I’m not that excited about the new story because for one, Han Solo will likely be killed and unless Lucasfilm follows the story line they have been on for over twenty years with their expanded universe I will not be able to accept a new story canon—as I’m too invested. It just won’t work for me. Once Han Solo is out of the picture, there won’t be anything for me in Star Wars any more. Even if there are the planned Han Solo stand alone films, if they do not follow the storyline of the six novels I have read about the origin of Solo, I will likely reject the movies and stick with the books. The whole thing will only work if Lucasfilm keeps everything in continuity with each other.

I told my daughter to get the New Jedi Order books and continue reading them, because there is some great stuff in that series. It is quite possible by watching the trailer that the Daisy Ridley character is Jaina Solo and that the X-Wing pilot is Jag and that the Sith story line that was built up in the Legacy of the Force novels will be the jumping off point for these new movies. It would make sense. But she reminded me that most franchises—particularly Marvel are mixing and mashing story lines with revision and under those circumstances, Star Wars would be making a huge mistake. I told her that I didn’t think they were that stupid—and I don’t think they are. I think most of the story lines leaked out are false ones meant to keep fans in the dark and in doubt. But, there is the part of me that has been so let down by bad decisions made by other people in the past, that it wouldn’t surprise me if my daughter was right. In that case this next Star Wars film will likely be it for me—and I’m sure I’m not alone.

I just don’t see Lucasfilm isolating all their long-term fans with revisionist history in the overall Star Wars mythology. Scrapping the stories of several New York Times best sellers just doesn’t make any sense for anybody. There are many fans who have been with Star Wars through the lean years so taking away the story arcs that they fell in love with would not give the franchise the fuel to carry the kind of numbers Disney needs out of this mythology. Without question the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens will do great initial numbers—but realistically—it needs to be a two billion dollar money-maker at the global box office to hold up to the aims that Disney has for it—and if people like me jump off the ship—I don’t see how they get there. There are obviously a new generation of people who will enjoy them but Star Wars just doesn’t benefit from having a split fan base of people who liked Star Wars before Disney took ownership and those after.

There was nothing in the new trailer that told me that my thoughts weren’t the case, so I am still hopeful. But from the new preview I wanted confirmation that Lucasfilm didn’t decide to take the revisionist route in the story arc.   They didn’t give me that assurance—so anxiety toward the new film was my reaction. In many ways my concerns stem from the new cartoon Rebels—which is alright, but you can certainly tell that George Lucas is not a part of the stories anymore. The content in the new Star Wars cartoon is good, and fun—but much too light. The program is being made by fan boys essentially—like myself and that’s fine so long as it doesn’t screw up the overall story lines of the greater mythology. If it does, and these new filmmakers stray off the path—then there is trouble ahead for Star Wars.

It is possible that Rebels will come around once these filmmakers get their teeth deeper into the story and become more comfortable with the characters—but so far I see Lucasfilm and Disney painting themselves into a corner they don’t need to. Without George, I have my doubts that the whole thing will work because of what I’ve so far seen in Rebels and what they didn’t show in the new Force Awakens movie trailer.

Pablo Hildago who is part of the new story group said in his book The Essential Guide to Star Wars that it was possible that Lucas might revise the canon around the films—that the movies were the establishing parameters. Yet Pablo is the essential guide to the expanded universe and with him a major member of the story group—I just can’t see them making decisions that ruin years of publishing from the guide books to the novels. To do that would be a disaster for the Star Wars franchise. For families like mine where we own every single Star Wars book that there ever was—making them suddenly irrelevant would isolate our investment. So from a business perspective, I just don’t see a rejection of the expanded universe canon. It would be the dumbest thing to do in entertainment. I am a die-hard Star Wars fan and the prospect of a change in canon from what I’ve invested twenty years into to suddenly accept something a bunch of fan boys came up with second-hand is not possible. I would lose my enthusiasm for the upcoming films instantly.

But for now the new film looks great from the preview. Basically, if the female lead is Jaina Solo I’m good for a new generation. If it isn’t, then my love of Star Wars essentially stops now and it will become like a James Bond franchise for me which I’ll watch for fun, but cannot buy into the character since Sean Connery stepped away from the movies. Sean Connery was James Bond canon whether or not anybody likes it. Accepting someone else in that role just never worked. Star Wars is even more sensitive to this issue.

So we’ll see. I told my daughter to stick with Star Wars, read New Jedi Order and all the other books because they perfectly set up another movie by the time a reader comes to the end of the Legacy series. But the new preview didn’t do anything personally for me because I wanted to see assurance that Lucasfilm didn’t screw the pooch. In some ways they gave cryptic indications, such as the Ridley character with a lightsaber mounted to the side of a strange vehicle, and the X-Wings flying in formation with someone who could easily be Jag leading. But if those characters aren’t present—then it would be impossible for me to accept a substitute. It would just be too much to kill off the most beloved character in the series and accept a bunch of new characters not part of the twenty plus year canon formed by the novels. Until that confirmation is materialized, I will be skeptical and not all that enthusiastic to see something very good come to a bitter end.

Rich Hoffman

Star Wars: Commander–How the Apple Company greatly increases the quality of life

I have predicted and discussed much of what is happening today in virtually every category over the last 4 years.  Some listened, most didn’t.  For those who didn’t—hopefully you learned your lesson and will in the future. However, for me, which has been the case all of my life, humanity has let me down.  People do not aspire to be what they should, and the times are often regulated and maintained by the laziest of our species.  This is why I often turn to mythology for inspiration, because the Wall Street Journal doesn’t offer much inspiration—just raw news.  Contemporary real-life characters fall short of my expectations—so I don’t even bother.  Thus, my love of Star Wars and the reason I discuss it so much—especially lately is because it provides such motivation.  It is the creation of minds in need of something bigger than the human race is currently offering.  So I often vacation there to recharge my own batteries.  As such, it should come as no surprise that I had a viewing party at my home for the new Disney television series Rebels, which premiered with an introductory movie on Friday, October 03, 2014.

To celebrate I spent the day in the world of Star Wars in one fashion or another.  My wife and I played the Old Republic’s Galactic Starfighter online—which is always fun.  I then spent the morning playing X-wing Miniatures which is of course my latest passion.  I rounded out the time between those events up until the airing of Rebels playing a new game downloaded for free onto my iPad called Star Wars: Commander.  My brother texted me excitedly about it recently and after a few weeks of prodding, I finally downloaded it.  I didn’t give the free app much though because I didn’t think it would be any good—that it would be a kid’s game.  Let me say that it is far from a kid’s game—it is a wonderful war simulation of resource management and I have been wonderfully consumed by its contents.

Years ago—way back in the 90s I once spent an entire week playing an old game similar called Armada 2000—or something to that effect.  One of my nephews introduced it to me and it required the building of fleets by mining raw materials and going to war to conquer planets.  The graphics were rough, but the game content was wonderful.  Around that same time I started enjoying the various Sim City games which developed into a game called Outpost, which required you to terraform an entire alien planet by using the resources there to build a civilization.  I have also been a fan of the various Civilization games over the years including the most recent introduction.  Those are endlessly fun games of strategy and construction that are designed for those with a keen eye for productivity.  Never before in the history of the human race were such tools of resource management available to so many people.  The new Star Wars: Commander is all of those games wrapped up into one.  It is incredible—especially for a free app. It’s a whole new age that we’re living in where such a thing is offered as a simple download.  I can’t recall a time when I enjoyed blowing stuff up so much.

Star Wars: Commander lets you as a player pick a faction—either Rebel player or the Empire and build a base that must maintain an economy through your credit vaults while continually mining alloy for the construction of everything from factories to starships.   You have to build and maintain troop strength, engage in research and development, and deploy defense strategies as your base will constantly be attacked by other player’s bases looking for credits and alloy, and shield generation.  It is fairly involved for a game designed to be played on the go—anywhere and everywhere.  I’m used to playing those types of things on a PC locked in my room and not dressing for days.  This ability to put such a thing on a computer device that I carry in my jacket pocket is unreal to my previous generation eyes.

On that note as I have been playing Star Wars: Commander all week diligently—everywhere that I can really, in restaurants, in shopping malls, in the fabric stores as my wife shops for supplies for the many blankets and craft items she makes, I have been fascinated by how portable this new age of ours really is.  Commander is really a game that must be played against other players so it requires interaction.  The brilliance of the game is that the designers created the basic template, but most of the way the content is used is created by other players—leaving players to essentially let the game evolve through competition.  But it is the portability that I find so strangely interesting.  While shopping at Kenwood Mall with my wife and daughter at the Eddie Bauer store, I stood outside across from the Apple Store and marveled at how busy it was at 7:30 PM on a weekday evening.  Business was thumping inside and a line requiring service was outside the door.  It was amazing.  People were very active in looking at the various Apple products—everything from iPads, iPhones, to new computers.

I’m a huge fan of the iPad as I use mine everywhere for everything.  I use it primarily for maps, and for processing data on spreadsheets.  It is a remarkable device—there is no question about it.  I’m not so keen on the iPhone as I like to separate those two functions.  But Apple and its innovations are game changing aspects to human civilization.  Most of the people shopping in the store were there to pick up devices to allow them to have more versatility in texting their friends or updating their facebook accounts.  They weren’t looking for performance as much as being fashionable.  But, their interest is driving the market in new directions regardless of the quality of their desires.  It is largely because of that swarm in the Apple Store that Disney put out the new game Commander.  It’s the perfect game for a touch screen device.

The new game only enhanced my Star Wars day experience leading me up to the Disney Channel airing of the new Rebels cartoon—which was fabulous I might add.   I’ve been talking about it for a year now—and it was worth the wait.  Cartoons like that and content on the Apple products like what Commander is certainly elevates the expectations of entertainment.  But what’s more important is the reason people like Star Wars so much—as I’m far from alone on the topic.  Star Wars offers hope and expectations on human potential that is higher than it otherwise would be.  And Apple is there to provide a format to further the mythology into ways that were unfathomable a decade ago.  Star Wars: Commander just seven years ago would have cost $50 dollars for a PC title sold in a store like Gamestop.  Now it’s a free app.  The game makes its money off the impatience and mismanagement of its players.  For those who don’t know how to manage resources, they will pay extra for crystals to build up their defenses or increase their offensive mobility.  Many of the upgrades take several hours to implement, especially shield generators and alloy depots—but they can be sped up through the consumption of crystals and Disney sells them by the bag which I’m sure is generating millions upon millions of dollars.  I typically launch an attack from my base every three and a half minutes—and I have yet to meet the same player twice—that’s how many people are on the game.  I would say that it’s a successful enterprise.

For those who want to play, you can look me up when you arrive by typing in the name of Cliffhanger—the character from my first novel The Symposium of Justice.  Of course you know—I’m playing for the Rebels.

Rich Hoffman


A Little Slice of Heaven: The Millennium Falcon up close and personal

On more than one occasion I have discussed the Batman film Dark Knight Rises as possessing an ability to change cultural opinions in a very dramatic way. I have said the same about the new Superman: Man of Steel. And of course I have professed on for pages and pages the importance of Star Wars and its dire warnings of institutional corruption and need for individual atonement. So it is not a surprise to see the director of the new Star Wars film having fun with the director of the next Superman/Batman film with careful social media plugs that have been going on for weeks. They know what these films mean to several generations of fans—and they are doing a good job of stoking the fires of mythology further. But J.J. Abrams went to another level when he released his latest video of a full scale Millennium Falcon from the set of the new Star Wars film that combined the Batmobile from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy to it. It was exciting to see as the detail on the movie prop was exceedingly meticulous—which was the point of the video which prompted the following reaction from the online site, Clever Movies:

Star Wars VII director JJ Abrams shows off the new/old Millennium Falcon and reveals a connection to a certain Dark Knight. If you’ve been on the internet in the last few weeks, you’ve probably noticed a slew of pics and videos have surfaced showing off the full scale version of Han Solo’s famous ride, the Millennium Falcon that will be part of next year’s Star Wars Episode VII. Well, it looks like director JJ Abrams has seen them too and decided it was time to show off the ship that “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” on his terms. Abrams released a video titled “Hunka Junk” on his official Bad Robot channel that shows a close-up view of the Falcon while the classic Star Wars music plays. But things aren’t exactly as they appear as the music quickly changes we pan around the ship. If you don’t recognize the music, it’s the theme to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy and as the camera comes to rest underneath the ship, we see Batman’s Tumbler has now become a fixture of the Falcon.

Now, for those of you wondering why on Earth the Batmobile would be on the Millennium Falcon, it’s all part of a Star Wars/Batman/Superman mashup that Abrams and Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder have been playing throughout production on both films. It all started back in July when Snyder tweeted this image of Henry Cavill dressed as a Sith Lord with the caption “#SuperJedi”. Abrams followed that with a photo of new Star Wars cast member John Boyega dressed as Batman holding a blaster with the caption “#BOYEGAMAN”. Snyder than tweeted out an image of Batman and R2-D2 together in a scene resembling that from A New Hope a few weeks later. Abrams countered with his own droid inspired photo featuring C3PO as The Caped Crusader. Things seemed to die down until Snyder once again tweeted out this photo over the weekend. It features a Stormtrooper being arrested by Gotham’s finest with the new Batmobile in view. The photo was a response to recent rumors that one of the Batmobile’s had went missing from the set. It was that photo that lead to today’s Millennium Falcon reveal. These Star Wars/Batman/Superman mashups are definitely unconventional, but considering both filmmakers are notoriously protective when it comes to set leaks, it’s a fun way to tease fans with details from the films and just gives us all a major nerdgasm.

In the past the Millennium Falcon was built for shots in the original trilogy, but certainly not to the detail that Abrams was showing off. The detail was excessive and was a small example of what fans of the new film can expect from the new Star Wars film. I can’t say how many times I have looked at Millennium Falcon models and wondered about what all the hoses and pipes would possibly do on that ship. I once stood at the actual model of the Falcon at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. trying to look at all the detail underneath the ship in the very area showed off by Abrams just to see what was connected to what and trying to figure out what everything did. But I never imagined that there would ever be a giant model built of the Falcon to this scale where such detail was committed to the smallest detail. That was what Abrams was showing off, and it was quite enticing. I have watched the video now well over 100 times in just one day and I’m not done. It is excessively exciting.

This is just a sample of things to come. It is a very exciting time indeed.

Rich Hoffman

E-wing Fighter from Fantasy Flight Games: Signs of the future for the Star Wars Expanded Universe

Given my recent comments about the importance of mythology, it should come as no surprise when I do these occasional articles about the Star Wars Miniatures game, X-wing. It is a participatory mythology that is a real step up from the old days of exclusively verbal and written myth. As a strategy game it has a real power to it that never ceases to impress me—as a creative endeavor. I find it an amazing game which I play often. With that said, within the game I have a new love which nearly mimics the response of a new ship called the E-wing from the video below. The Millennium Falcon, which is my favorite ship, now has a rival, the E-Wing fighter has become a close second. A ship for the Rebellion, it is their best offering and fits nicely within a 100 point squad at the lowest pilot rating or the highest which features Corran Horn—one of my favorite Star Wars characters. For anybody who has played the game, the reaction of Steven should not come as a surprise once they have been used in a combat engagement.

I thought the Fantasy Flight Games inclusion of the E-wing was interesting. They have to get all their designs approved through Lucas Licensing—who already knows the contents of the new Star Wars films. Corran Horn and the E-Wing in general are exclusively creations of the Expanded Universe which supposedly Lucasfilm is abandoning with Disney’s urging. I am not one of those people who believe that Disney is scrapping the EU—as the media currently advocates. In fact, I think I know the entire plot—at least how Episode VII begins—but I’m not going to trample on what the filmmakers are trying to do. They are deliberately creating rumors to throw people off the truth of the film’s plot—so it is important to them to maintain that for their own reasons. So don’t believe what the media is reporting—because most of it is wrong. To confirm my beliefs about Episode VII, the inclusion of the E-Wing to the game X-wing speaks loudly about how much value the EU will maintain in the creation of further Star Wars stories. The E-wing was a ship that Corran Horn flew with Rogue Squadron several years after the initial Star Wars films and are comfortably into the years following the original trilogy, which delights me as to how it fits into the overall mythology. But the ship itself is one of the best that the rebels have. All Rebel squads should include at least one after I have spent some considerable time using them.

For those who do not know much about the E-wing this Wiki article should shine some light on how they fit into the EU story. The E-wing escort starfighter was a single-pilot starfighter developed by FreiTek Inc. It was the first fighter designed entirely under the support of the New Republic.

As designed, the E-wing was intended to match, or exceed, the performance of the preceding X-wing series in nearly every respect, and was originally intended to replace the older design in New Republic service. However, the craft suffered from some significant problems when first deployed among front-line squadrons, including malfunction issues with the laser cannons and the new R7 astromech units. As a result, many pilots continued to fly upgraded versions of the venerable X-wing.

Despite the initial problems, improved models of the E-wing would see wide-spread use by the New Republic, particularly by the Fifth Fleet, and later by the Galactic Alliance. They would play a significant role in every engagement from the Black Fleet Crisis, through the Yuuzhan Vong War, and beyond.

By the time of the Second Galactic Civil War, the E-wing had matured into an excellent starfighter design and equipped several elite squadrons of the Galactic Alliance. However, it never achieved the same popularity or wide-spread use as the X-wing.

The E-wing was considered an excellent combination of firepower, maneuverability, speed, and armor, but initial models required the use of the R7-series astromech droid, which was exclusively built for the E-wing.

The spaceframe of the E-wing was surrounded by two aerodynamic foils which provided stability and increased weapons ability. The nosecone contained the starfighter’s powerful sensors, while a concealed astromech droid could easily be positioned midway through the craft. Directly in front of the astromech slot was the cockpit.

The fighter was heavily armed with three laser cannons and oneproton torpedo launcher with a magazine of sixteen torpedoes. Like most Rebel designs, the lasers were spread out and could be set to converge at varying distances.

A single E-wing cost 185,000 credits.

Much of the great cost of the E-wing came from the use of the R7 droid, a much more sophisticated and expensive astromech than the classic R2 and R5 astromechs. Later models of the E-wing starfighters were however able to interface with earlier astromech models, such as an R2 or R5 unit.

The Republic introduced the E-wing during Grand Admiral Thrawn‘s campaign to rebuild the fallen Empire. The fighter later served in the fight against the “resurrected” Palpatine. Built with cutting-edge weapons, shielding, and propulsion systems, the fighter was extremely powerful and well-rounded. It was intended as an escort fighter and could also serve as a medium-range assault craft. It had enough speed to counter TIE/In starfighters and had better armor than other New Republic starfighters, including the X-wing. They were used by the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances during the Second Galactic Civil War, during early skirmishes with Corellia.

The E-wing had some initial teething problems relating to the placement of the wing lasers near the outboard engines. The synthetic Tibanna used for the lasers tended to degrade at accelerated rates, which swiftly rendered those guns near-useless (and cutting gun firepower to a third). Rebel engineers came up with a temporary solution during the World Devastator assault on Mon Calamari. Those problems were eventually resolved and the fighter entered fleet service. It is known to have served at least with the New Republic’s Fifth Fleet as the primary fleet space superiority fighter. When the Fifth Fleet was moved to the Koornacht Cluster during the Black Fleet Crisis, many E-wings saw action against the Yevetha in the conflict that ensued.

Four major models appeared to have been designed; the last (Series IV) was introduced around the time of the capture of Coruscant by the Yuuzhan Vong. By that point in the war, the XJ X-wing was rapidly equipping most squadrons in the massive military expansion; the more sophisticated E-wing may have been limited to some elite squadrons. The Series IV E-wing remained in service through the transition from New Republic to Galactic Alliance, and was still in operation as of the Second Galactic Civil War.

During the era of the New Republic the Rogue Squadron was expanded vastly, turned into a multi-fighter unit based around E-wings and B-wings, and based on Lusankya, which Antilles departed the squadron to command, leaving Celchu as Rogue Leader. This unit first saw combat conquering Phaeda.[30] Shortly after that campaign, the last leaders of the unified Empire were defeated, and the former galactic power dissolved into warlordism.[29] Horn stayed and weathered these changes, which were only temporary, as the squadron was back in X-wings and at regular strength within the year.[8]

After reading all that it is quickly evident that if Disney were abandoning the EU, they would not have approved the inclusion of the E-wing into the canon of the X-wing Miniatures game. The game will continue selling for years and once the story is out upon the release of the new Star Wars film, the market potential for a non canon ship would be extremely weak. There is just too much story and history present to abandon those stories in favor of an alternate timeline within the Star Wars Universe. Time will tell the truth but for now, the E-wing is encouraging and brings with it a very rich history directly from the EU. There is so much potential for Disney and Lucasfilm to explode their merchandising base off the EU it would seem evident that the E-wing is just the tip of an iceberg. There should be much more to come. It is possible the decision to use the E-wing was exclusively to milk everything that could be milked to bring forth new ships for the hot selling strategy game, but as important as story has always been, and will always be in Star Wars—the E-wing is an exciting inclusion that points to wonderful things on the horizon.

For one of my nephews, Corran Horn was his favorite character created during an Expanded Universe novel series called X-wing. Corran would later become a Jedi Knight under Luke Skywalker and eventually serve on the council being a big part of the Yuuzhan Vong War. The literature produced for Star Wars far exceeds the content of the movies, so watching those EU elements percolate into the gaming world is a lot of fun.

Strategically speaking however, the E-wing is one of the best ships made in the game. It is a must for any collector and player. I doubt ever again I will create a squad of ships that does not in some way include an E-wing—they are just too powerful and nimble not to. I have spent many hours dazzled by mine and enjoyed the immense game play that they bring to a table. But what is most fun of all is knowing that the X-wing game is reflecting all the wonderful aspects of that larger world which is the Expanded Universe. While reporters are hinging on every morsel of information and scrap photo taken from the paparazzi about the new Episode VII movie, some of the best secrets are those hidden in plain site. Behind the E-wing are the answers that many Star Wars fans are looking for. Nobody is hiding the information, it’s there for all to see—if you know a little about the mythology of Star Wars—and in our house, we have one room full of every Star Wars book ever written, then its obvious. Nobody in the business of making money—which Disney is—would  let those rich stories fall into decline and disrespect. The E-wing is a part of the EU that is very important only to the values of events after the movie Return of the Jedi.   And it was given a dominate role in X-wing which greatly enhances the game play. Needless to say, Steven was right about that ship—it is a thing of wonder and beauty for more reasons than that it gives players a strategic advantage. It is a member of the cherished EU and hopefully a sign of great things to come.

Rich Hoffman


A New X-Wing: Capitalism helps a ‘Force for Change’ benefit the world

Charity is only a bad thing when the altruism involved masks other behavior designed to win social favor instead of genuinely using productive excess to help those suffering from stifled freedom.  The Star Wars: Force for Change initiative, linked below, is one of the good ones.  The intent is to bring the benefits of capitalism to the far reaches of planet earth, and that is wonderful.  There are many children suffering under countries with poor political philosophies or economic systems that do not capture the natural innovation of their inhabitants—but instead stifles them needlessly.  Force for Change is intended to use the excess of capitalism created by the mythology of Star Wars into actually making people’s lives better which is something everyone should emphatically support.  And as usual, J.J. Abrams has provided a teaser of the new movie, Episode VII in a final week push to drive up the numbers.

The new ship looks like a classic Z-95 Headhunter from the pre-years of the X-Wing fighter seen in the original trilogy.  But the claims are that it is a new kind of updated X-Wing—whatever the case it looks fantastic and is proof that the crew working on the new Star Wars film is going to extraordinary measures to produce something wonderful.   The clever presentation of the Force for Change material during the production of Star Wars hints at the level of creativity emerging from the endeavor and is truly something to be excited about.

It will be hard to avoid this new Star Wars movie once it is released—so news from it is important to everyone, even those who are not dedicated fans of the series.  Star Wars is a direct creation of capitalism and without it there would not be a Force for Change initiative and a number of other charities which trickle off the mythology that takes place “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”  Certainly under no socialist government could Star Wars have been made, and it is particularly under socialist style governments that many of the children the Force for Change is attempting to help.  England is hardly a bastion of capitalism, but they are also directly benefiting from the production of Star Wars being shot in their country—in England over a billion pounds of wealth was created by production companies filming in and around London—Star Wars among the most notable and Abu Dhabi has seen an increase by 19% in hotel reservations from fans all over the world traveling to the left behind film sites to visit the location of the Episode VII props.  Without a story nothing would be shot in London or Abu Dhabi and without that story meaning anything to anybody, there would be no desire to pay money to buy plane tickets to fly to such places just to take pictures of what was left behind during the creation process.

And that is what J.J. Abrams is doing in his Force for Change videos; he is using the props created for the film—which will be seen by hundreds of millions of people the world over.  The film may generate $1 billion in global revenue just in the first two weeks—which is astonishing.  It will likely go on to make several billion more dollars dwarfing anything previously done by any film anywhere, because the buildup is so intense.  But on top of that Walmart, Target, and anywhere Star Wars toys are sold will see sharp increases in profit.  Fast-food tie-ins will dramatically increase their sales with promotional campaigns.  And the Disney Parks will also see spikes in attendance and interest in their new property from t-shirts to DVD sales.  J.J. Abrams knowing all this is using the props from the film already used to tell the story as a way to help some kids suffering from the lack of creativity their economies have imprisoned them to—and that is a wonderful thing.

Star Wars is capitalism at its best and is something worthy of support not just of the product itself—but the spillover it has which helps feed and clothe many millions who otherwise would not have the opportunity.  Because of Star Wars, there is a Force for Change—and the nature of that change is one of depravity to fulfillment through investment driven by passion for the subject matter.  And in that regard it is very exciting to see a new ship from a future Star Wars film.  I’m sure Fantasy Flight Games is already making plans to have it in their miniatures game which is so much fun.

Rich Hoffman


Fantasy Flight Games Does It Again: Wave 5 release to include a YT-2400!

In the context of my lifelong interest in global mythology and comparative religion, I see all the news coming out about Star Wars as infinitely good in so many ways.  When Harrison Ford was injured recently filming the new Star Wars Episode 7 movie, the world stopped as he was airlifted to the hospital in England.  With all the news going on globally, terrorists taking over Iraq, Obama’s parade of scandals, election impact of new blood in the Republican Party, it was Harrison Ford’s injury which captured the headlines of virtually every news source.  Some of that is deliberate misdirection, but a lot of it is genuine interest, and concern for a mythology which touches the heart of so many people. On the same day as this terrible news about Harrison Ford, who will bounce back from such things as he always does—came the latest news from Fantasy Flight Games popular X-Wing Miniatures game.  For Father’s Day my wife hosted a big party for our family, which was wonderful.  But much of the best parts of it were the weekend of playing X-Wing Miniatures with the people who came.

Every time I turn around starting about a year ago, Fantasy Flight Games has been improving their product line.  What they are doing with X-Wing Miniatures is cutting edge stuff that is launching tabletop gaming into a whole new dimension.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  There have been for years great games like Warhammer, Dungeons and Dragons, and Magic the Gathering, but this effort with X-Wing Miniatures is game changing.  As the new films hit the marketplace and return to the mind of society in general as part of their daily dialogue—which is already happening, this Fantasy Flight Games production of X-Wing Miniatures is about to explode.  Mythologically speaking, I think FFG’s relatively new game is the best vehicle to express and maintain new mythological trends that exist.  It is more powerful than novels, more relevant than the films themselves, and more participatory than video games.  Playing the game does essentially what some of the highest minds in the world do at Esalan at the Mythological Roundtable sponsored by the Joseph Campbell Foundation.  X-Wing Miniatures recreates myth and allows players to directly participate actively, as opposed to passively.  They take control of their own mythology, which is what I think is the key to the success of the Fantasy Flight Games venture.

During Father’s Day my family played the game extensively, and as we played we talked heavily about the new ships coming out in Wave 4, in just a few weeks, and we discussed the very exciting news about Wave 5 set to hit the marketplace later this year—2014.  The most exciting news of that announcement is the YT-2400 from the old video game Shadows of the Empire from Nintendo 64.   That particular ship will go well with my Millennium Falcon to cause all kinds of trouble in a game that has become a mild obsession.  Here is the press release from Fantasy Flight Games published as news poured out to the world the Harrison Ford would quickly recover from his injury.

Fantasy Flight Games is proud to announce the upcoming release of two new starships for X-Wing!

In this, the game’s fifth wave, two large starships arrive ready for the heat of battle: the Rebellion’s YT-2400 and the Imperial’s VT-49 Decimator.

In addition to their starships, each of which is sculpted faithfully at the game’s standard 1/270 scale, the YT-2400 Freighter Expansion Pack and VT-49 Decimator Expansion Pack introduce a host of new upgrades and terrain pieces that allow you to explore a wide range of new tactics in your space battles.

You’ll also find a large cast of characters drawn from the expanded Star Wars universe, the first Imperial turret weapon, and upgrade cards designed by the game’s first two World Champions.

YT-2400 Freighter Expansion Pack

A fast and resilient light freighter, the YT-2400 features no fewer than thirteen weapon emplacement points, making it an attractive vessel for smugglers, mercenaries, and other individuals looking for a heavily armed “transport.” Although a stock YT-2400 light freighter has plenty of space for cargo, much of that space is often annexed to support modified weapon systems and oversized engines.

The YT-2400 Freighter Expansion Pack brings this formidable light freighter to your table as a Rebel starship with two attack, two agility, five hull, and five shields.

The highlight of the YT-2400 Freighter Expansion Pack is its detailed miniature starship, which is enhanced by one new mission, three debris cloud tokens, a maneuver dial, all requisite tokens, and four ship cards, including one for the famed smuggler Dash Rendar.

VT-49 Decimator Expansion Pack

To be granted command of a VT-49 Decimator is seen as a significant promotion for a middling officer of the Imperial Navy. A heavily armed transport, the VT-49 Decimator is one of the Empire’s most feared warships, often used to provide long-range reconnaissance or to deploy raiding parties past enemy forces.

The VT-49 Decimator Expansion Pack brings this intimidating Imperial gunboat to X-Wing as the game’s largest ship yet designed for Standard Play. Even at the game’s signature 1/270 scale, the expansion pack’s detailed miniature towers over its base and smaller starfighters.

In addition to its imposing, pre-painted miniature, the VT-49 Decimator Expansion Pack introduces four ship cards, three debris cloud tokens, a new mission, a maneuver dial, and all the tokens you need to fly your Decimator into the thick of combat. Finally, you’ll find thirteen upgrade cards, which introduce a variety of crew members like Mara Jade and Fleet Officer designed to help you fill out the Decimator’s three crew member slots.

X-Wing Miniatures as it stands today is one of the coolest games on the market.  I have never seen something like it which has united my family the way it has—from young to old and all economic groups.  Everyone who plays the game loves the game—even if they aren’t very good at it.  I would say that is because of the strength of the mythological nature of it—it pulls players into a story which they control, and that is what separates it away from novels, movies, and video games.  In those forums, participants simply unlock what someone else created, but with X-Wing Miniatures, Fantasy Flight Games simply provides the tool box–the players use the tools for their own stories.

In my personal story arc, I’m a YT guy in every way possible—and to get my hands on a YT-2400 that barrel rolls and has a turret that can equip a secondary weapon is extremely powerful.  This will be the build that replaces the twin Falcons and with the meta game moving away from TIE swarms and toward the devastating aspects of Whisper who flies the upcoming Phantom Wave 4 ship shooting with 4 dice.  The game is getting faster and more maneuverable.  Rebel ships can’t just sit around with no agility waiting to get picked off.  They will also have to be able to shoot every turn just to survive the weapons the Imperial players are throwing at them—and that is where the fun begins.  Figuring out those types of problems and letting the mythology play out based on the thought of the players.

I think this game X-Wing Miniatures will replace Monopoly as the newest, hottest selling game that brings families to the kitchen table to play—because as the new films hit the market over the next 6 years, and the new Rebels television show on Disney XD gains in popularity, the innovation created by Fantasy Flight Games will have hit critical mass and the general population will find themselves every bit as addicted to the sheer joy that the game brings—only for them the learning curve will be steep.  What started as a simple game with just a few ships has turned into a very complex web of tactical entertainment with a seemingly infinite combination of strategic options which can keep a mind occupied for years.  But beyond that—there is a story to this game which has more power than Chess, all the ambition of a novel, and more edge of the seat excitement than a year’s worth of video games—and the new additions never stop coming—the most exciting for me yet is the YT-2400.

Rich Hoffman