Seven waves on from the original phenomenon that is x-wing, it's getting harder and harder to differentiate the releases. The ships from the films are all long on the table. Every faction has a ship in every role, from waspish light fighters to heavy bombers. What is there here to make wave 7 unique and exciting?
Size, that's what.
All these ships seem huge. The Hound's Tooth is an enormous, elongated, clumsy thing. Oddly endearing in its distinct colours and tooth decals, like a bumbling Rottweiler puppy. The TIE Punshier looks like someone stacked two TIE bombers on top of each other. The K-Wing suggests someone squeezed a Large ship into a standard size blister, just for a joke.
The other unifying factor is that two ships are for the new Scum & Villainy faction. Not surprising seeing as they have some catching up to do in terms of force selection.
One is the only ship we haven't mentioned so far, the Kihraxz Fighter, belongs to this faction. Aside from having a name that sounds like a sneeze, there's little of especial interest here. It looks, sounds and plays a lot like an X-Wing, only for the Scum faction. If Scum players want a medium fighter, now they have one.
It does have some nice upgrades, though. Glitterstim is particularly sweet, a one-shot card that allows you to change all your focus tokens to hits or evades, as you prefer. The Scum already have lots of fun, flavourful and flexible upgrades. Here's another: you can just imagine scum pilots slamming down illegal narcotics as they fly.
The other Scum ship is the Hound's Tooth, an extra-big big ship to give you an option besides the IG-88. The stats and dial are nothing to write home about, although having three crew slots allows for some fun combinations. The draw here is all about pilots and titles.
Bossk, the owner of the canonical Hound's Tooth, can swap critical hits for two normal hits. Not only is this super useful but it dovetails with several other upgrades. The Mangler Cannon, for instance, allows you to turn one of them straight back into a crit.
He goes alongside the Hound's Tooth title card. This lets you deploy a Z-95 in place of the freighter if the big ship gets destroyed. One Headhunter isn't the most useful ship but the upgrade only costs six points and is funny as hell. And there's the issue: Bossk, a cannon and that title will be the default payload every time this hits the table. Still, it's tremendously entertaining in spite of being predictable.
The Imperial TIE Punisher is not particularly interesting in itself. It's a slightly better version of the TIE Bomber. The real draw here is in the upgrade card Extra Munitions. For the 2 point cost of this one upgrade, a ship get to use its entire payload of bombs, missiles and torpedoes twice.
This is a very obvious sticking plaster for the limited value of these weapons. Clunky it may be, but it's also very effective. In addition it should encourage the use of specialist weapon-carrying ships - like the TIE Punisher for instance - over fighters armed with a single missile. That seems thematically appropriate.
You can get another copy of that card from the K-Wing expansion. Which is appropriate because the K-Wing is supposed to fill the same sort of a role as a heavy bomber. At first glance it looks a lot like a Y-Wing with some extra munition pod slots. And we all know how popular the sluggish, clumsy Y-Wing is in Rebel fleets.
However, the K-Wing has a brand new upgrade, called SLAM. SLAM changes everything.
It allows the pilot to perform a second maneuver from the dial at the same speed as the one selected, right afterwards. The catch is that you can't attack that turn, but that feels like a minor detail. With SLAM you can move a heavy figher up to six distance in one round. Or four distance with two hard turns. The maneuver range is insane. It's just a shame that there's no equivalent of the K-turn on the dial. Not least because of the lost opportunities for alliteration.
I have mixed feelings about this. Mostly, it's great. It makes the ship highly unpredictable and encourages imaginative maneuver on the table. Anything that gets the "game" in X-Wing out of list planning and in to actual play has to be a good thing.
On the other hand, it can lead to torturous endgames with slower ships pointlessly pursuing a K-Wing round the table. This isn't good for the Rebels, since the limited maneuver dial of the K-Wing makes it hard not to fly off the table eventually. But it is a massive anti-climax.
This wave, on the whole, is not an anti-climax. Having strayed a long way from original trilogy ships, FFG deserve some credit for keeping these new designs fresh and fun. The K-Wing and Hound's Tooth feel pretty essential: the TIE Punisher and Kihraxz less so. The question is, if we're at a fifty-fifty success rate for releases with three new movies with new ships coming up, how long can they keep it up?