Monday, January 18, 2016

Obstacle Deployment - Advanced X-wing Miniature Aspects, Part 2

                Today I present part 2 of a series where I talk about some of the more advanced aspects of X-wing Miniatures. Last week we took a look at the Pillars of X-wing and how they affect players' game tastes and squad building. In this article I want to delve into some of the nuances of how one wants to place obstacles during a match. We will go over how obstacles play a role in competitive tournaments. Then we will take a look at how certain build types, pilots, and upgrades work best when paired with a specific obstacle deployment. Let's jump right in.

Overview of Obstacles
                For beginning players, here is a review of the use of obstacles in competitive tournaments. Each player picks three obstacles along with their 100 point squad. These obstacles are locked: you cannot change them and you have to use them in each match of the tournament. Your pick of three can come from any of the obstacles found in the New Hope Core Set, Force Awakens Core Set, Decimator Expansion, or Outrider Expansion. Obstacles that come with Epic expansion packs are not tournament legal.
                There are two types of obstacles that you can pick: asteroids and debris fields. Both are themed very well with the game mechanics they provide. Asteroids act like what they are: really big rocks. If your maneuver template clips one then you must roll an attack die to see if you take damage and have to skip your action phase as you "swerve" to miss the obstacle. If your final base position lands you on an asteroid then you can't attack for that round. Debris fields act as stationary flechette stressors. If your final base position or maneuver template touches a debris field then your ship immediately receives a stress token and you roll an attack die. You are only worried about critical results here as your ship passes through a cloud of deadly space shrapnel. The biggest difference, though, is that you can still attack even when your base is on a debris field. So while asteroids are big death traps you want to miss, debris fields can actually be tactical positioning tools.
                The next thing I want to review is Initiative. Usually the player's desire to take Initiative is based off of Pilot Skill. But it also applies to obstacles. The player with Initiative places the first asteroid and it goes back and forth till both players have placed their three. Now if your obstacle strategy is more casual or flexible then you're not really going to care who places first. But if you have a strict, specific deployment planned then it can be very advantageous to get Initiative and place first.
                One last thing before I move on. Since all players can take three of any of the obstacles to a tournament, there is a good chance that there will be repeat obstacles on the playmat. You can save a lot of time and stress by marking the back of your asteroids in a distinct way. I place a blue, circular sticker on each of mine. That way at the end of a game you can flip the asteroids and easily pull yours out. This eliminates any need to memorize obstacles as well as reduces risk of getting them mixed up.

Obstacles Paired With Squad Builds
                The first obstacle deployment is the simplest: Beginners. If you are still working on mastering the basics of X-wing Miniatures then you probably don't want to be fussing too much over obstacle deployment. So the best thing you can do is pick the smallest obstacles you have and get them out of your way. I would greatly recommend picking the three smallest asteroids from The Force Awakens Core Set, including the "mustache" shaped one. Then take your three obstacles and place then at the minimum distance of Range 2 away from the edges. That way they will be out of the way and less likely to bother you. You will only have to worry about your opponent's obstacles as you deliberate your squadron's moves. Once you get some more experience and are feeling comfortable, try branching out to a different style of obstacle deployment.

Jousting K-turns
                This deployment is very popular among players with Jousting ships that rely on Koiogran Turns, especially Rebel fighters. In this deployment you place your three obstacles in three of the four corners of the board. (Corner being defined as the asteroid is at Range 2 of two of the playmat's edges.) The reason for this is because of the length of the range ruler. Range 2 on a ruler is longer than a 4 straight forward maneuver template. This means that if your X-wing or Y-wing is facing the edge but is behind your corner asteroid, it can successfully perform a 4 Koiogran turn. If your ship is facing the edge and is beyond your corner asteroid, then you need to pull a hard turn instead to not go off the board.
                It can also help with other lengths of K-turns. Since a small base is equal to the 1 forward template, you can use the base of your own ship to comparatively calculate its K-turn in relation to your corner astroid. A Headhunter is able to do a 3 K-turn so it can be 1 small-base-length past your corner asteroid and still make it. B-wings, with its shorter 2 K-turn, can be 2 small-bases beyond. And a TIE Bombers or Interceptor trying to do a 5 K-turn has to be 1 small-base in front of the corner asteroid to not go off the board. Take some time to practice these lengths and get comfortable using corner asteroids to help your Jousting K-turns.

Maneuvering Power with Obstacle Clusters
                Apart from ditching your obstacles at the edges, there are two other ways to position your asteroids: in clusters and in lanes. An Obstacles Cluster is defined as having three obstacles together and you CANNOT draw a straight line through them. To create a cluster, and to prevent your opponent from creating lanes, you want stagger obstacles so that they are never forming perfectly straight lines. You also want to pack obstacles tightly at the minimum distance of Range 1 away from each other. This creates weaving paths that give greater power to ships with strong dials and movement actions. You want to create clusters if your ships have better dials than your opponent, if your ships have access to Boosts and Barrel Rolls, and if you want to make it hard for enemies to fly in formations. That way ships like Arc Dodgers can capitalize more off of their advantages and have a greater chance to outmaneuver the enemy.

Non-Maneuvering Power with Obstacle Lanes
                The opposite of Obstacle Clusters are Obstacle Lanes. An Obstacle Lane is defined as having three obstacles together and you CAN draw a straight line through them. To create lanes, and to prevent your opponent from creating clusters, you want to place your first two obstacles randomly so your opponent doesn't see what you are doing and try to stop you. Then place your third in the middle to create the Tic-Tac-Toe, three in a row. You also want to place your obstacles between Range 1 and 2 of enemy obstacles. That way your opponent cannot fit another obstacle in between the two. Overal, this makes obstacles more spread out on the board. And this creates wide open lanes that give power to ships with weaker dials and no movement actions. It also gives more maneuverable enemies less places to hide. That way ships like Jousters,Turrets, and Supporters have less chance of being outmaneuvered and more chance of forcing the enemy to meet them where they want them.

                Obstacle Deployment that benefits bombers is actually a lot more fluid. It all depends on what your opponent is flying and how you want to deal with it. If you opponent has non-maneuverable ships then you need to capitalize off that. You can create Obstacle Clusters and place bombs on the edges. That way enemy ships have to either go through the cluster or else skirt far around the edges to avoid the bombs and possibly be away from the action. Or perhaps you want to do the opposite, create lanes that would benefit the enemy ships but then clog the lanes with your mines. That way you mess up enemy movement and also have a bit of surprise up your sleeve.
                And it is the exact opposite when your enemy has highly maneuverable ships. You can lure them into Obstacle Clusters that they like and then block the exits with bombs. Or else you can make wide lanes and then force even more strict movement with your mine placement. Since Bomber effectiveness is based on bomb placement, your obstacles will play a huge role. So if you like flying Bombers be sure to practice long and hard on getting your Bomb & Obstacle placement synergy right.

Obstacles Paired With Specific Cards
Stress Loving Ships
                Now let's apply obstacle strategy to certain cards. Let's start with ships that love stress. Even though stress is meant to be a negative game mechanic that players are to overcome, there are certain pilots out there that thrive on stress tokens. These pilots, by extension, prefer to have debris fields deployed during games. For example, Tycho Celchu or Soontir Fel can use debris very effectively. The former doesn't care about the stress he receives and the latter still gets a focus token assigned to him. That way these pilots aren't limited in movement options and can take unsuspecting opponents by surprise.
                Another example is flying a B-wing piloted by Keyan or Ibtisam. These aces don't worry about getting stress because it triggers their pilot abilities. And since B-wings are very slow, running through a debris field means that enemies chasing you will be less likely to follow.
                One of my personal favorite pilots is Eaden Vrill. He loves when there are debris fields because of his pilot ability. He gets an extra attack die when enemies are stressed and that makes your debris punish enemy movement mistakes even more.
                Other abilities that like stress include Wired, 4-LOM, Captian Yorr and Jek Porkins. And there are plenty more to choose from so have fun exploring and picking what you like.

Barrel Roll Before Moving
                Another interesting obstacle deployment is using abilities that let you Barrel Roll before you move. This includes using Advanced Sensors, Expert Handling, and/or BB-8. This combo allows a ship to move right up in front of an obstacle for cover and still not run into it. While both you and the enemy receive an extra green die from the obstacle, it can be in your favor as your Ace pilot is probably facing more than one enemy and therefore gets to roll more green dice. Then the next turn you can do a barrel roll before you move and therefore not hit an asteroid or debris. You can really gain the advantage over a surprised opponent who didn't expect that sort of move. This strategy can be used by a list of ships with the right builds. And that is longer than you might imagine: B-wing, E-wing, T-65 X-wing, T-70 X-wing, Rebel Y-wing, Aggressor, TIE Advanced/x1, Mist Hunter, and Star Viper. So learn to place your obstacles to give you excellent opportunities to fire, especially when you are directly facing them.

Dash Rendar
                Dash Rendar gets his love for asteroids from the Shadows of the Empire video game. Technically Han Solo also traversed an asteroid field but he received a pilot ability that deals with his smuggler's luck. Dash Rendar, on the other hand, brings a unique ability to X-wing by being able to ignore obstacles. When piloting the Outrider he wants to have an asteroid cluster in the middle and to lead enemy ships on long chases around the cluster. Then when he runs out of room on the board he wants to swing over an obstacle to have another clear lane while his opponents get stuck. All the while he is blasting away with an HLC or Mangler turret. It is essentially the opposite when you are flying against him. You want to place your obstacles in the corners and edges so he has no places to run away. Then you can hunt him down easier.
                While Dash the pilot deals with the Activation and Action phases, Dash the crew deals with  the Combat phase. Crew Dash isn't obstructed when attacking past obstacles and can even allow your ship to still shoot when on top of an obstacle. This allows any Rebel ship with a crew to be less restricted. You can place big asteroids and debris in lanes where you ship can shoot unobstructed while enemy ships have to take obstructed shots back. Or perhaps you put a huge cluster in the middle and have no fear overlapping it and still being able to shoot.
                For some extreme fun, try putting Chopper and Dash on the Millennium Falcon. You now have the Rebel version of a Darth Vader Doom Shuttle. It is a ship that destroys itself in the attempt to gain advantage over the enemy. And there are plenty of other fun builds out there.

Red Ace
                This is a fun little trick you can use when flying a Red Ace combo with R2-D2 and the Comms Relay. Already your T-70 X-wing is a tank and can absorb a lot of shots. But we can start out with an even stronger alpha strike. Place an asteroid in front of your starting edge. Then in the first few rounds of movement, fly Red Ace right over the asteroid. You roll a red die and have a 50% chance of taking a damage. If you take a damage you will lose a shield and that will activate Red Ace's pilot ability. Comms relay will then hold onto your evade token and the next round you do a green move to recharge the shield. Play it right and all of this can happen before the alpha strike happens. That way your X-wing can go into battle with the an Evade token already attached.

Advanced Targeting Computer
                While there are very few upgrades that allow you to directly ignore obstacles, there are many that don't care that obstacles exist. The most notable of these is the Advanced Targeting Computer. Normally, shooting at an enemy through an obstacle is a hassle because they get the extra evade die. But this is a favorable trade when your TIE Advanced is shooting at an enemy with its Advanced Targeting Computer. Your opponent gets one more green die, which gives a 33% chance of adding an extra evade result (without a focus token). But your Advanced Targeting Computer is already giving you a 100% chance of adding an extra critical result, so you'll win most statistical exchanges. This means the TIE Advanced is a Jouster that doesn't need Obstacle Lanes to properly dish out its damage. It can instead prey on ships across obstacle clusters.
                And it is the same for Secondary weapons at Range 3. They don't care as much if the opponent gets an obstruction defense die because they already aren't getting the Range 3 bonus die. So if you are running ordnance, Cannons, or Twin Laser Turrets, consider making Obstacle Clusters and getting cover for yourself without giving cover to your opponent

TIE Phantom
                TIE Phantoms aren't like other Arc Dodgers because they don't want tight Obstacle Clusters. The reason for this is because the decloak action uses the 2 straight rather than the 1 straight. To accommodate the cloaking action and allow your TIE Phantom the option of decloaking with a barrel roll, you will want loose obstacle deployment. In fact, you'll want your obstacles to be almost Range 2 away from each other. On the flip side, if you are facing a Phantom, you'll want to pack asteroids and debris in tighter formations in order to limit the movement of your enemy.

                These few examples we've covered are good ways to think about how Obstacle Deployment applies to your squadron. But in no way are they the only ones out there. There are plenty of other applications so be sure to follow the basic patterns of placing obstacles and then experiment to see what works best with the ships you fly. I hope you enjoyed this look at using obstacles in the bigger picture and I wish you the best of luck in your games this coming week. Happy flying!

For further study of obstacle placement, check out this article by Paul Heaver and this video by YouTube's X-wing Strategy Tips.


  1. Another sensational article Brian. Lots of useful stuff here I've never thought of and I'm looking forward to my next game to apply some of your knowledge to help out a bombing build I'm currently running.

    Great work.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Jimmy. Glad you enjoyed it. And good for you for trying out a Bombing build. Best of luck!