An X-Wing (TM) Strategy Series by 2013 World Champion Paul Heaver
|X-Wing | Published 20 March 2014|
X-Wing™ is a fast-paced miniatures game of dramatic dogfights and squad-based combats set within the Star Wars galaxy. Each turn, players lock in their starships’ maneuvers, then execute those maneuvers, choose from a variety of actions, and fire upon their foes. Skill, strategy, and squad recruitment all play a part in deciding the outcome of these matches.
Today, as you consider how to approach your next battle between Rebel and Imperial fighters, reigning World Champion Paul Heaver offers a look at one of the most critical components in mastering the game… getting started.
2013 X-Wing World Champion Paul Heaver in action during the final match
2013 X-Wing World Champion Paul Heaver on Opening Strategies
Hi! I'm Paul Heaver, the current X-Wing World Champion. In my Turn Zero column, I plan on going over the strategies at the beginning of a game of X-Wing. These include asteroid placement, ship starting locations, and crafting a plan to win. I've found that these are probably the areas to which beginning players pay the least amount of attention, and, conversely, they’re among the most important aspects of the game. In this first article, I just want to go over the basics before getting into more detailed and complex strategies in future installments.
Step one to tournament play is to develop a basic plan for how you are going to win. This includes how you'd like to see the asteroid field laid out, how you’d like to set up your ships, how you’ll maneuver your ships in the first two or three rounds of a typical game, and how you’ll prioritize enemy targets against some of the game’s most typical builds. In the current metagame, there are three builds for which you should definitely have a fully developed plan: a TIE swarm of roughly seven TIE fighters, a Rebel squad of four fighters (usually two X-wings and two B-Wings), or a Rebel squad fielding the Millennium Falcon™ plus two fighters.
Paul Heaver’s squad contained two X-wings and two B-wings
There are a lot of other viable builds, but if you have a plan and can win against these three groups, you can usually adjust the plan on the fly to help with other opponents.
Step One: Asteroids
How big a role do you want asteroids to play in your matches? A rule of thumb that I use is that if I have more ships, I generally want asteroids to play less of a role in the match.
If I’m the aggressor in a matchup, I want my opponent to have fewer options to use tricky maneuvers and actions to break up any synergies I have. It’s usually easier for three or four ships to dodge asteroids and line up their firing arcs at your preferred targets than seven! For example, in a match featuring a TIE Swarm versus three elite Rebels, the swarm will position asteroids in places to minimize their impact on the game, while the elite rebels will try to use the rocks to break formations and scatter the TIE fighters.
So if you do not want the asteroids to play a big role, you need to place them away from where the action will take place. Usually, most battles occur in the middle of the board, so you want to keep the rocks out of it. The best idea is to place your asteroids on your own side of the board, right in the two corners.
Starting with asteroids in your corners opens up your opponent’s side of the table. (Click to enlarge.)
You place them in your corners instead of on the opposing side because you can control your own speed, but you can’t control your opponent’s. If you place your asteroids on the opposing side of the board, then your opponent can build on your asteroids, and move slowly enough that you are stuck fighting in the field. When you place the third asteroid, you can usually pick the corner furthest away from where your opponent placed asteroids, or put it in-between the two asteroids you already placed.
When you’re the aggressor, your third asteroid should go into your opponent’s corner as far from his asteroids as possible. In this example, your third asteroid would go into the top-right corner. (Click to enlarge.)
Then, after setting up, you rocket past the asteroids at full speed and engage your opponent in the open.
On the other hand, if you want to have the asteroids help you out, then you pursue pretty much the opposite tactic. Generally, I try to stick relevant asteroids on the opposing side of the field, somewhere between three and four range increments from the far edge of the board. This is so your opponent will have problems getting past the asteroids and turning to engage you effectively with their entire fleet. Try to position your asteroids near your opponent’s asteroids when possible. If you can use opponents’ asteroids against them by making their ships avoid four or five rocks instead of three, then you’ll have an advantage.
To break up your opponent’s squad formations, you want to prevent your opponent from placing his asteroids out of the way. Here, your asteroid placement prevents him from placing in any of the locations indicated by the green glow and forces his next asteroid further from his edge of the table. (Click to enlarge.)
Lastly, if you want to try to break up squad formations, avoid placing asteroids in vertical, horizontal, or diagonal lines with one another. If you place two asteroids at a twenty- to thirty-degree angle to one another with respect to the edges of the board, it’s much harder for your opponent to maneuver a group of ships past them than if the asteroids are parallel or perpendicular to their flight path.
By placing your third asteroid at an angle from the edge of the map and your other asteroids, you can close up the amount of open space on the table and force your opponent to work with different flight paths. (Click to enlarge.)
The last thing you need to do for successful asteroid placement is observe and practice. You can find videos of various high-level games from Gen Con and the FFG World Championship Weekend on YouTube, and you can watch them to figure out why the players placed their asteroids where they did. Then, when you have a list that you want to bring to your next tournament, practice placing asteroids at home. The easiest way to practice your asteroid placement is to test your squad against an imaginary seven TIE swarm. Since their strategies are so well-documented in the community forums and on other fan sites, you can practice placing their asteroids in their own corners, and yours according to your strategy. Then practice flying your opening, before getting into range for combat. Are you in a good position to start focus firing down opposing ships, while forcing them to fly through asteroids or split their fire? If so, you’ve started onto a good plan.
Careful asteroid placement and skillful piloting can help a squad of three X-wings battle against a TIE swarm. Here, Biggs Darklighter ends the Activation phase at Range “3” from most of the TIEs, forcing them to fire at him instead of Luke Skywalker or Wedge Antilles. Because he’s at Range “3” from his opponents, Biggs Darklighter gets a third die to his defense, and he adds a fourth whenever his opponent’s shot is through an asteroid. (Click to enlarge.)
Check back for future installments of Turn Zero! I’m going to keep focusing on placement and openings, since I think we can all learn more about this key aspect of X-Wing.
As Paul notes, the importance of the game’s early stages is one of the elements newer players most frequently overlook. Whether you’re looking to win your next casual match or improve your tournament results, Paul’s advice for your opening strategies is well worth considering.
What other advice can you find or offer about the opening moments of X-Wing? Head to our community forums and join the discussion!
X-Wing is a tactical ship-to-ship combat game in which players take control of powerful rebel X-wings and nimble Imperial TIE Fighters, facing them against each other in fast-paced space combat. Featuring stunningly detailed and painted miniatures, X-Wing recreates Star Wars’ exciting space battles. Select your crew, plan your maneuvers, and complete your mission!