Thursday, June 4, 2015

Etiquette & Gameplay - A Beginner's Guide to Tournaments Part 2

                There is an upcoming store tournament in my area this weekend. In light of this, and to help prepare myself, I have written the second half of my Beginner's Guide To Tournaments. In the first half I talked about what necessary preparations one should do before even paying for admission and walking in. In this section, we will discuss a player's attitude, etiquette, and the general gameplay needed to have a good tournament experience. This week will also be a good chance for me to put my money where my mouth is and actually use the advice I provide. After this tournament I will give a battle report comparing how it I fared versus the first tournament I attended.
                The first thing I want to talk about is time dedication. In my previous post I explained how my first squad had a 1-2 win-loss ratio. I only got to play three games because that's all the time I had. There was a previous engagement for that evening and an hour drive home so I left early. While I know we all have busy schedules I would strongly recommend you try to give the whole day to a tournament.
                The first reason why is because of time delays. Just like with LAN parties, there are many things that can go wrong in a tournament. For example, if more people attend than the store is prepared for then set up will take much longer. If you plan to be there anyways, you won't be pressured for time and can be stress-free while you play (always allowing yourself to take actions, right?). The second reason is because it provides the best experience. The best way to burn calories is long, sustained exercise. And the best way to solidify rules, strategies, and game skills in your brain is for dedicated, sustained mental focus. Give yourself a tournament day and you will improve far more than if you play a game here or there. Finally, you should stay the whole time because most store tournaments are Swiss style. When you lose a game you aren't kicked out of the tournament. Yes, you move to the losers' bracket but you still get to play and get your money's worth. Moreover, if you do well in the losers' bracket, your point score still might be good enough to get you into the finals.
                Staying for a whole tournament is where squad composition and practice play a huge role. You can't alter the build you have or change over to a new one during the tournament. If you are flying a weak squad and you don't know, you will find out real fast while playing others. The same goes if you have a good squad but you just didn't practice it enough. If you find yourself in this situation you probably will want to leave after just a few games. In addition to this, the longer you stay at a tournament, the more other players will see your squad. And because you can't change it, they can start mentally planning counters to use if they end up facing you. But you can be prepared for this if you've had plenty of squad practice. You can switch from flying in formation in one game to swarming from all angles in another. Or you can use the same ship in a different role in order to convert your whole strategy. Having a fluid build like this will allow you still throw surprises and catch others off guard.

                The next topic I wish to address is player etiquette. Tournament games should be treated like any other sport and so good sportsmanship should be applied. This means playing fairly and having respect for your opponents. Etiquette is a central part of tournament success because it affects so many parts of the game. Let's look a couple of them.
                The very first thing you will do when you start each round match is meet your opponent. Be happy and friendly towards them. Shake their hand, say good luck and be sincere. Remember that they are human beings too, not just obstacles in your way of claiming the title of Store Champion. They want to win just as much as you. But more important than being your enemy, the person across the table is also your forgiver. If you forget to take an action or completely space having one of your ships shoot, you cannot go back in the game and change it unless your opponent approves. In this sense, being rude to others actually hurts yourself and diminishes game enjoyment for both players.
                However, what if your opponent is the rude one? The motto of X-wing Miniatures is to fly casual. This means being friendly and forgiving to your opponent, even if they aren't to you. Don't cause contention but also don't be a softy. If you are timid in your playing then rude players will try to walk over you. Voice your opinion on the call of a range or shot you think is unfair, but make sure you are justified and are not just being contradictory because you can. If the two of you disagree on something try to resolve it between yourselves. Roll an attack dice for a 50/50 toss, one player choosing hit/crit and the other focus/blank. But there are some crucial moments in a game, in my opinion, where a simple dice roll won't cut it. Don't be afraid to call over a tournament officiator to get an official call.
                After you and your opponent meet, you will meet each other's squad. You are required by the rules of the game to tell your opponent which cards you have. You can't hide your cards and claim that surprise is your squad's strength. But though you are required to tell your opponent what you have, you are not required to tell them your strategy. This is because each player is expected to know the rules and cards of the game. Hence why you should do your studies on different cards and factions. True surprise and subterfuge happens in this game when you can do something your opponent isn't expecting, even when they have seen all of your cards. But on the flip side of this, be lenient when people don't know about a certain card. Be willing to let your opponents read your own cards if they have questions. And don't be afraid to ask if you yourself don't know.
                The third way to have etiquette while you play is in how you express happiness. If you groan aloud every time the dice are bad for you and cheer every time you blow up an enemy ship then you aren't being a very good sport. Anyone can be happy when something good happens to them, even your enemy can do that. But it takes a better person to be happy when something good happens for others. A good sport can congratulate an opponent on a successful maneuver and doesn't outwardly express joy when an opponent makes a mistake. Moreover, a great player can laugh all through a game no matter what happens. Tournaments should be taken seriously but not too seriously.  
                And that brings us to the end game. No matter the outcome of the match it is good manners to say 'good game' to your opponent. It is customary for the defeated player to initiate the hand shake because it is implies arrogance for the winner to do so. This can be quite humbling for the losing player and I know I don't really like it. However, doing so can really help you get over the loss. In a way it is a lot like prayer: the time you really don't want to do it is the time you need it the most.
                Overall, I want to be a good person having fun in a great game with other good people. So have a great attitude in your thoughts and actions while you play and everyone will benefit.

                The last thing I want to talk about is 2 gameplay rules. I'll begin with what I believe to be the biggest mistake players make: using the range ruler. The ruler is an important tool to help you play the game but there are rules attached to when you are allowed to use it. And surprisingly, the list is rather short. You may measure range when: acquiring a target lock, declaring an attack, or resolving a activated pilot/upgrade ability. Here are some examples:

Times you are allowed to measure:
"I want to attack your Rookie with my Decimator. Is he in range?"
"Combat phase is starting. Is my Academy Tie close enough to Howlrunner for swarm tactics to work?"
"Combat phase is starting. Is Guri within range one of an enemy to get her free focus token?"
"Is my B-wing within range to acquire a target lock on your Firespray?"

Times you are NOT allowed to measure:
"I just moved Mauler. Is he in range 1 of the enemy to get his extra attack dice? Because this will determine my action."
"I just moved my A-wing. Is he in the enemy Tie's firing arc? Because if he is then I will take a boost to get out."
"I've already had my Bomber shoot but how close is he to that enemy Aggressor? If he's close enough then I'll drop a bomb before I move next round."
"I just moved Keyan. I'll measure to see if he can use his Lone Wolf upgrade. If he can't then I'll barrel roll him away."

                In your own casual play it's not as important to follow these rules to the letter. However, this is not the case in tournaments. If you don't follow the rules you can be called out for cheating. You must rely on your own skill to win. Don't get accustomed to having the range ruler as a crutch. Practice measuring distances in your head and if you aren't sure on a distance, know when to play it safe and when to take risks.
                One final thought on the range ruler. Now that you know when you can legally measure, don't abuse it. It is very rude in the game to decide one thing, measure, and then to change your decision. If you declare an attack or an action you must follow through on it unless you can't do it. Learn to make decisions in X-wing like you would in Chess. In the later, your choice is locked when you remove your hand from the piece. In the same sense your choice in X-wing is locked when you verbally declare that it is your choice. If you are a person that thinks aloud - like me - that's ok as long as you are sure to specify when you have made your final decision.

                The other aspect of gameplay I wanted to talk about is the pacing of the game. X-wing Miniatures is intense and exciting and it can be easy to get moving faster through each turn. However don't fall into this trap. Instead, take a breath, slow down, and focus. It can be fun to anticipate a great engagement that is just coming up but it is more important to pay attention to the here and now. When you do you are more likely to correctly guess your opponents moves, not miss any actions or make mistakes in general. You need to take it slow so you have adequate time to think about your decisions and their ramifications. Flying by the seat of your pants can be a crazy ride but this leaves little time for proper decision making and large opportunities for making errors. You can recover from making a mistake every now and again but constant errors will ruin you every time.
                The first game I played at my first tournament was against a guy who was just as new to the game as I was. And our game came down to each of us having a final ship that was almost dead. In that moment the dice "betrayed" me, as the saying goes, and I lost. But I don't blame that one dice roll for my failure. I blame the innumerable mistakes I made along the way because I was nervous and didn't pace myself. Nothing feels quite as bad as losing Wedge because you forgot to recharge your shields with R2-D2, haha.
                In that same sense, you should not purposefully rush your opponent. It is explicitly expressed in the rules that rushing your opponent with the intent of them making mistakes is bad sportsmanship and is cheating. It can be consciously playing dirty or unconscious actions. It can be impatient body language or verbally pushing your opponent. But whatever form it's in, it creates an angry edge to the game that ruins the fun for both of you. If your enemy makes a mistake, such as missing an action, it should be because of their own fault and not because of your meddling. Playing nice and having fun will bring the best experience to yourself and to everyone else.

                And there you have it. There is no possible way for me to cover all etiquette and rules but you now have a healthy understanding of both and can play efficiently and fairly. You are now ready to enter your first tournament. You've built, perfected, and practiced your squad. You've set the day aside and have plenty of time to play. And you know how be a great sport. If you are going to attend a tournament for fun and are not too worried about winning then make sure you have a good time and learn a lot from your experience. And if you are looking for the win then I wish you the best and hope that these tips have helped you. So fly casual, good luck, and I'll see you next week with my battle report. Poor Grey Pilot out.

Click here for Part 1 & Part 3


  1. Thanks for all the input you provide! I appreciate all the points your sharing and I enjoy following this blog. Because I've seen it come up a lot, I do think range needs some more clarification for less experienced readers.

    The rules for measuring do say, "When a ship becomes the active ship during the combat phase, the active player can measure range from the active ship to any enemy ships before declaring one as its target." So you do have to wait on measuring attack range, but at least you're allowed some flexibility in choosing which ship to attack. It's important to note you can only measure from the attacking ship though, even if that ship shares PS with another so you do have to pick who makes their attack first.

    1. Christopher, thank you so much for the feedback. I'm glad you enjoy my writing and the blog. And thank you so much for the rule clarification. I didn't even know that part of declaring attacks so its a good thing you provided the full answer. I hope you continue to read and enjoy!