Building a ship or fleet is at the core of X-Wing. Here are the rules governing how this works, as well as a few tips.
Each ship (or really, pilot) in your fleet must be of the same faction. Some ships (e.g. HWK-290) can be played in multiple factions. In these cases, the pilot card's faction is what matters. You can field Jan Ors for Rebel fleets but not for Scum. Dace Bonearm is a Scum pilot and cannot be fielded in a rebel fleet. Likewise you need to use the correct baseplate for your ship, showing the correct ship, faction colors (Red for Rebel, Green for Empire, Yellow for Scum), pilot name, and pilot skill etc.
The paint on your ship and the color of your dial do not matter. You can use the rebel dial for a HWK in a Scum fleet without problems, and a Scum-colored Z-95 flies in rebel fleets without problems. These are only a matter of taste and convenience.
Squad points are spent during fleet construction on ships (specifically their pilots) and upgrades attached to those ships. The standard point value for an X-Wing game is 100 points.
Smaller or larger games can be played. For example, the Tutorial game is 28 points, pitting Luke Skywalker against "Night Beast" and an Obsidian Squadron Pilot with no upgrades. Epic games can be 200, 300, perhaps more points (300 is recommended). Many of the missions have more or less than 100 points, and may be imbalanced in points between players (creating asymmetrical games).
You should know the point value you're building your fleets to match. You and your friends may like to target 60 point games, or 150, to favor different ships or strategies. You might even split a team's points among multiple players, e.g. two players at 50 points against one player at 100. There are other game modes that use different points values, such as Furball, a free-for-all where each player has a single ship (and usually a low point value, e.g. 25, 35, 45).
However, the standard (non-epic) point value is 100, both for the majority of casual play and for tournaments, and the game is designed to be best balanced (globally) at 100 points. X-Wing is a usually a two-player game. General fleet construction should target these assumptions.
Ship Count Limits Edit
Fleet sizes vary; you can spend your points on many or only a few ships. It's even possible to put 100 points into a single ship (e.g. the Ghost, or especially Huge ships). You must field at least one ship (of course), and no more than 8 of the same type of ship (e.g. 8 TIE Fighters).
There's a practical reason to not fly too many ships, even in Epic play: managing 6+ ships can be mentally exhausting. However, if you know what you're doing, swarms in Epic can be quite effective (cheap generic pilots are actually ideal for Epic play, as no one ship is worth too many points). 5-ship swarms in Standard Play (100 points) can also be effective if built and flown well.
As of this writing, most fleets hover around ~3 ships. This changes as the meta shifts around with new expansions, but in general you'll be flying around 2 - 4 ships in standard play. All bets are off in Epic.
Once you've selected a pilot for your ship, you'll need to select upgrades. Let's use Luke Skywalker in a 100 point game as an example.
Luke costs 28 points, and has a number of slots on his Upgrade Bar: Elite, Torpedo, and Astromech. In addition, every ship has an implicit Title and Modification upgrade slot (not shown on the upgrade bar). Not all ships have titles to equip though.
These upgrade slots can sit empty; you do not have to fill them, and often it's advantageous to not use every upgrade slot. However, upgrades can greatly enhance a ship's performance, and the right ones will synergize nicely with the features of your ship or pilot.
To equip an upgrade:
- you must have an open slot for it
- you must have squad points left to afford it
- you must follow all rules and restrictions on that upgrade card and all other upgrade and pilot cards in your fleet
That last one sounds complicated, but it boils down to "if any effect says no, then no".
An Example Edit
Havoc for the Scurrg Bomber says you get two new slots (System and Salvaged Astromech), and you lose your crew slot. It also says you cannot equip non-unique Salvaged Astromech cards. We'll discuss unique in a bit, but this is placing a rule that restricts which upgrades you can place on this ship. You can equip "Genius" but not Unhinged Astromech. Havoc is interesting for a different reason: it removes a slot. Anything you had equipped in that crew slot is invalid and cannot remain equipped.
Removing Slots Edit
During squad building you cannot equip upgrades, remove the slots, and keep those upgrades. For example, if a TIE Bomber equips Proton Torpedoes and then equips TIE Shuttle (which removes those torpedo slots), those upgrades are removed. A TIE Shuttle cannot have torpedoes equipped.
There's also no removing upgrades and keeping upgrades they attached. For example, you cannot equip Mist Hunter and its associated Tractor Beam upgrade, then remove Mist Hunter and expect to keep the tractor beam or other benefits.
Once you've planned out your ship, you should be able to assemble it without removing upgrade cards. If you're trying to pull some trickery with removing upgrade slots, you're on munchkin grounds and will be rebuked for cheating.
Back To Our Example Fleet Edit
Right, so back to Luke Skywalker. He can equip an Astromech, so let's give him R2-D2. This will cost 4 points, so Luke now costs a total of 32 -- still lots of room in our 100 point fleet. R2-D2 allows Luke to regain a shield whenever he performs a green maneuver, so any time Luke can afford to take a slow, easy maneuver he can recover shields. This is a big boost to Luke's effectiveness (as his pilot ability also improves his defense).
Luke can also equip a Modification, so let's give him Integrated Astromech. For his elite slot, we'll give him Veteran Instincts so he moves last and shoots first. This protects him a bit better, playing nicely to our defense focus, and it costs zero squad points. We'll leave his Torpedo and Title slots empty.
We still have 67 points left. Let's add Jan Ors (cost: 25) with an Ion Cannon Turret (5), Wired (1) and Moldy Crow title (3), for a total ship cost of 34. Jan has a strong support pilot ability that can make Luke's attacks hit harder, and her turret is easy to aim and quite dangerous.
Last of all, for our remaining 33 points, we can add the B-Wing Pilot Nera Dantels (cost: 26) with Proton Torpedoes (4) + Extra Munitions (2) + Deadeye (1) + Guidance Chips (0). Nera has Torpedoes and several upgrades that make them easier to use and more powerful. We could have given the torpedoes to Luke, but Nera's pilot abilities and upgrades will make better use of them.
This completely uses up our 100 points, and our fleet is ready to field. Note though that we could have chosen to not spend all 100 points, for an Initiative Bid. This might be valuable in case Luke faces another PS 10 pilot, but in this case we chose to spend all our points and that's perfectly fine.
If you don't have all the upgrades I've listed here, that might be fine: check out the Proxying section below.
Unique means you can only field one card with this name in your own fleet.
You cannot build a fleet that has both the Luke Skywalker pilot and the Luke Skywalker crew card. You cannot field Luke Skywalker as the pilot of multiple ships. You also cannot equip multiple Jumpmasters with the Punishing One title.
Unique serves two purposes. First, it avoids the conflict of a fleet having clones of named characters; 3 Luke Skywalkers is somewhat immersion-breaking.
Unique does not apply to your opponent. If your opponent also flies rebel and fields Luke Skywalker, that doesn't prevent you from fielding Luke as well. Luke can, in fact, kill himself in the cold vacuum of space, and the game has no problem with this. This inconsistency is allowed simply to keep the game fun; it would be very difficult to plan fleets if the other player's choices blocked your own (let alone decide who gets who, though there are custom Draft games that do this). Likewise if one player fields a unique upgrade such as Punishing One or Experimental Interface, the other player is unaffected by this and can field the same upgrades in their own fleet. Unique only controls what you can field.
Unique can also be referenced by upgrade cards. We mentioned Havoc earlier, which restricts which salvaged astromechs you can equip. Dengar (Crew) is another example, which gives you better accuracy against unique pilots (as a bounty hunter, Dengar specializes in bounties on well-known targets).
Owning vs Proxying Cards Edit
If you don't own the physical card, e.g. the R2-D2 upgrade card that comes in the Core Set, then you can often "proxy" that card. Proxying just means using a placeholder for cards you don't own (be they upgrade or pilot cards) that have the information you and your opponent need to know what each card does. You might write the information on a piece of paper, print it off from an image online, or use a Squad Builder app or webpage to build your squad and print it out or have it available on your phone.
The main reason you may want to own the physical cards is you cannot proxy during official tournaments. You must own every item you field in your tournament fleet, including pilot cards, upgrade cards, and tokens (bomb, obstacle, etc).
Some players also prefer to own the cards, though this is personal preference and not regulated by the (mostly community-driven) rules of casual play.
In general, casual games don't require that you own every card, and proxying is quite common and generally not a problem. X-Wing can be an expensive game to play if you need to buy all the expansions. As a general rule, unless you play in tournaments, you should purchase expansions for the ship models instead of for the cards, since the cards can be easily proxied. Proxying cards by printing a fleet from a squad builder can also save a lot of time, as tracking down ~25 cards for a fleet can be tedious when you just want to play.
Depending on your community, you may even be able to borrow cards from other players. This would allow you to play in a tournament even though you personally lack the cards to build the fleet you want. This is entirely dependent on your local community though, and you shouldn't make assumptions before asking around and getting permission.