Monday, April 11, 2016

The Five Main Game Stages - Advanced X-wing Miniatures Aspects - Part 4

                Good day, pilots. I wish to express thanks for your patience. These last few weeks have been busy as I've been getting ready for school. I am also dedicating more writing towards editing as I am working on possibly making a Poor Grey Pilot book.  So we'll see how that goes, wish me luck.

                In today's article, I want to cover the game stages of X-wing Miniatures. I am not referring to phases of each round, but rather the stages a game of X-wing goes through, start to finish. While I'm not the sole proprietor of X-wing terminology, I have yet to find an FFG guide that states official stage names. So please allow me creative license to explain this topic. I do not wish for my terminology to become canon, only for my thoughts to be properly understood.
                There are five main stages of an X-wing match: Pre, Early, Mid, Late, and Post. In this analysis we will break down the stages, find out what they contain, and look at which upgrades are strong in each.

Pregame - Plan & Prepare
                While not part of the actual match, the pregame stage is nonetheless important. X-wing Miniatures isn't a game of pickup basketball. Before you break out the playmat, I hope you've taken the time to find or create a squad based on your likes. Squad creation is the first part of every game. When playing competitively, research the meta game and plan appropriate counters to what most people fly.
                Then comes the (not so) secret of the Pregame: practice! It can be an alluring to think you know your squad well enough, but if there is one thing I've seen the top level players do, it's beat their squads to death with practice! Know your ships inside and out. That way, you won't forget ability time windows and won't self-bump.
                The final parts of the pregame are when you meet your opponent and see their list. You want to understand the cards your opponent brings and hopefully glean their overall strategy. The pregame finishes when you roll for initiative. Remember to fly causal.

Early game - Set Up & Jockeying
                A mistake newer players make is misinterpreting when an X-wing game has truly "started". It's easy to think that it begins when you enter combat. After all, that is where the excitement resides! However, this mindset places no value on all the things before that moment. The game has truly started the moment the first asteroid is placed. If you haven't put thought into this part of the game, then you're already at a disadvantage. Instead, have a plan for game set up and make adjustments as needed, giving you the chance for better board positioning.
                We start with obstacle placement. Part of your pregame was picking your obstacles and obstacle deployment plan. Learn which obstacle deployments favor you and hurt your opponent. Then you set up ships. Here, you construct ship formations and mentally plot out initial vectors across the board.
                However, initial placement isn't as important as the next part of the early game: jockeying for position. Select your maneuvers and the mental battle is on! You must walk a fine line of guessing correctly what your opponent will do while not giving away hints of your strategy. It is common in the first few rounds for squads to move out cautiously, allowing more time to get an idea of enemy movement. Remember to keep your formations tight and don't self-bump.
                There are also several strategies for the early game. The first is stalling. Ships with 1 forward maneuvers and barrel rolls excel at this. Stalling helps you keep good positions, forcing enemies to come to you. Another tactic is Fortressing, where run ships headfirst into each other to prevent movement. This sacrifices your action economy but there is good chance you won't need it that early.
                Stalling also allowing you to charge upgrade batteries. A battery is an ability that stockpiles actions for later use. This can be Kyle in the Moldy Crow or Dengar with his Gonk Droid. It can even be Keyan Farlander with the Hera crew. The longer you can stall in the early game, the bigger your battery can get. Once things get crazy in combat, you won't have as many chances to charge.
                Another strong early game upgrade is mines. Bomber ships like K-wings and Punishers are mobile enough to traverse the map before combat, allowing you to lay mines and optimize board position for your squad. A well-placed mine forces enemies into less-favorable positions.  

Midgame - The Alpha Strike & The Joust
                The early game immediately ends when you enter combat range, the point of no return. Jockeying is over and now action economy and dice take control of the game. The first part of the midgame is the alpha strike, defined as the initial pass the sides will make.
                There are 3 main things that determine alpha strike strength: positioning, formation, and action economy. The first two are determined by the early game. If you out-guessed your opponent movement, then you will be in good firing position. If you didn't bump your own ships, or asteroids, then you will still have good formation, allowing you to reduce your squad's size while centralizing its firepower. (Exceptions are large-based and Scum ships, which dislike flying in formation). Enough of the alpha strike is affected by the early game that it can cause a snowballing effect. If your opponent lost the early game, then they can easily lose the midgame and spiral quickly to defeat.
                However, one aspect of the alpha strike that is determined right then: action economy. The ability to modify dice removes some bad luck from the game and makes ship performance more consistent, hence why midgame action-economy upgrades are powerful. Cards like Push the Limit and Experimental Interface give you the dice modification needed to keep ships alive. Certain pilots, like Howlrunner and Biggs, are influential because of their ability to shape the alpha strike.
                The next part of the midgame is the joust stage. When the alpha strike ends, all good planning goes to mush. Your starships dance in circles, continuously closing in for the kill. However, don't think that the joust is only for jousting-class ships. These ships are called Jousters because they excel during this stage, but all ship classes take part in the joust. Arc-Dodgers and Bombers cut tight circles and rely heavily on movement actions for positioning. Jousters love K-turns, S-loops, and T-rolls to keep enemies in sight. Turrets fly on wide, sweeping vectors to remain evasive while firing outside of arc. Support ships fly on easily-predicted patterns based off the parameters of their abilities. Concentrated firepower is much harder to achieve during the joust and players must coordinate what's left of their squad.
                One more aspect of jousting that requires attention: blocking. Positioning and dice modification are crucial at this stage of the game, meaning it is devastating to have a ship blocked and action-less. Here, low-skilled pilots shine if you can get them in the correct places to block enemy ships.
                There are many upgrades to chose for the midgame. I've already mentioned action economy, but other strong abilities include ones that shirk damage, such as Determination, the R7 Astromech, and the Sensor Jammer. Or, perhaps you like guaranteed results with Palpatine, Feedback Array, and Autothrusters. There are plenty of others, so be sure to explore!

Late Game - Mop Up & Chases
                It is best to look at the early, mid, and late games as best 2 out of 3. If you beat your opponent in the early and mid then you shouldn't have trouble cleaning the board in the late game. Vice versa, if you lost the first two stages. But the late stage can also be a tie breaker if neither player has gained the advantage.
                Here is where we find another mistake that new players make: how long a game of X-wing will last. Players sometimes think that games will have epic dogfights over large sections of the map. While this happens in some games, most games have jousts that burn out quickly and occur over one small spot of the map. This shortness makes set up and the alpha strike that much more important.
                I call the late game the mop up stage because one of two things happen: either the joust finishes with one player eliminated, or else the losing side breaks off and flees. Either way the winner is clearly established.
                The length of the late game depends on whether the match is casual or competitive. When I play casually, I try to be considerate of my opponent's time. If a winner is clearly established, I am fine finishing. That way time is saved, meaning time for additional games!
                But it is different for competitive. The chase stage is actually crucial because of the Margin of Victory. Put simply, the MoV is how many more squad points you destroyed than lost in all your games combined. While a win is a win in a tournament, there is a good chance players will tie in number of wins. Who breaks the tie is determined by the MoV, therefore each point matters. If you're in the joust stage and know you'll lose, it is wise to break. While you may not win the match, you can save some MoV points overall.
                In regards to upgrades, I would advice that you double check yourself before investing in late game squad points. It's usually more beneficial to pick early or midgame upgrades and defeat your opponent there. That being said, there are some good late gmae upgrades that are worth looking at.
                Health regeneration upgrades are very powerful in the late game. Cards like R2-D2, Salvaged Astromech, and the R5 Astromech reverse ship damage, giving you better squad strength while your enemy is crippled. However, this has the liability of drawing enemy attention. If your opponent can destory your ship in the midgame, then your squad points are wasted. Overcome this weakness by complementing your squad with a strong midgame ship, giving your opponent the tough choice of which ship to focus fire on during the midgame.
                Another strong late game investment is pilot skill. When in formation during the early game, pilot skill only helps you kill enemies without return fire. But during the joust and chase stages, high PS lets you slip behind enemies and stay there. Arc-dodging ships excel at this and terrorize low PS ships with bad dials.

Postgame - Pack up and Analyze
                No matter the outcome, its good sportsmanship to thank your opponent. Then, remember to determine the Margin of Victory.
                These things should be obvious, but there is one part of the postgame that many people forget. After a match or tournament is over, it is beneficial to introspectively analyze your performance. Perhaps you like to discuss games with family and friends. For me, I love writing about my games. That way I capture the exciting memories and have a chance to reflect. (And, of course, I can share them online with you!)
                No matter how its done, this analysis is where you grow the most. What went right or wrong with your squad build? With your action economy? With your ability to outmaneuver your opponent? Find answers to these questions and prepare better for the next match.

                These are the five main stages of an X-wing game. I hope you learned a thing or two about the structure of X-wing Miniatures. With that knowledge, you can improve yourself, your gameplay, and your overall X-wing experience. Which stage of the game do you excel at? And are there any stages that I missed? Let me know in the comments below. Thank you for reading and best of luck fighting for the galaxy! Poor Grey Pilot out.

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