This article focusses on the different approaches to obstacle placement in X-Wing and the ensuing pathways of engagement between you and your opponent. For my article on how to approach your first tournament and the maths involved when looking at win conditions, click here.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly have my go to obstacles. Without fail, I have always taken two big rocks and the debris that looks a little like Italy’s boot.
Why? I’m fairly competent with my flying and the debris has always been there as a failsafe — place it bang in the middle for those times where I have had lapses in judgement.
If I rock up at a tournament (pun intended) and my opponent has brought the smallest of small rocks, I know that I am a more competent flyer and that I will be placing my obstacles in a clump close together.
That was the old me. Before I started playing with the Falcon and the VCX-100 as a main stay (although not in the same list, yer understand?). These two ships have no native repositioning actions and so the rocks need to work in my favour. Ladies and germs, I present my new jam
The moustache, the middle finger and the dollop.
So step one is done, I’ve chosen the rocks that best suit my current list. That’s not to say that all big ships only require small rocks, but it is giving me one less thing to worry about. Now where to put them?
I cannot pretend to have the answers, that would simply be disingenuous. When World Champion Nand Torfs took the title with Dengaroo, there was uproar from many a squeaky wheel about how he had won with a ‘broken’ list. It was UK National Champ Jesper Hills who came to Nand’s defence, after having played him during swiss, he had said that Nand’s approach to Turn Zero was spot on, that he knew excatly what to do with his rocks and his approach. I had only been playing competitively for a few months, but this spooked me. At my current level of play, my perception of obstacle placement extended to a vague idea of how I might use them to form a balance of making my approach easier and my opponent’s approach that little bit more difficult.
I’ve attempted to address rock placement and formation flying before, forming my thoughts after having read Jonathan Scott’s Finger Four Formation guide from Back to Dials and Paul Heaver’s Turn Zero article on Obstacles. I would also recommend Oli Pocknell’s On the Rocks for some insight as to how different approaches might vary with individual play style.
So what can I offer when writing my article in comparison to those mentioned above? I want to spend some time looking at Pathways of Engagement.
Meta-Wing’s top 10 of lists right now looks like this
Whilst some might be fundamentaly opposed to the idea of net listing, I feel in agreement with Polish player Łukasz Poczęsny on the most recent Mynock Squadron podcast,
choose a list from list juggler and learn how to fly it. You are removing one of the unknowns from the equation…then you can work on yourself.
Each of my screenshots and analyses here will look at how some of the lists above have been played from Turn Zero, obstacles, opening et al over the last four weeks of Regional competitions.
What are Pathways of Engagement?
I would define pathways of engagement as the clean areas of the board where you will decide to engage or disengage with your opponent.
I want it to be a bit like this
I’d be happy if I could explain it just a little bit like this
If you are Flying Rey in the Falcon for instance, you are going to want to maximise the spaces on the board where you have a clean sweep and can best use Rey’s native ability for both offence and defence by keeping your opponent in her primary firing arc.
Look at this screenshot of the opening from the Chicago Regional, day 1b, Round 1 (courtesy of the Gold Squadron Podcast).
Take a moment and look at where Zack’s Rey will want to go, in comparison to the Jacob’s Imperial list. What might seem like an unusual build on the Falcon of old title, Finn and C-3PO is actually a very clever meta-call when thinking of Harpoon missiles. The ideal engagement here when faced with an attack of Harpoons for Rey should be:
- Rey defends with her primary arc facing the attacker, already having an evade token
- declare 3PO zero and roll a blank
- this generates an evade result (notice not token, but result)
- Finn crew then generates another blank and you can re-roll both of these into evades with Rey’s ability
Four evades and no hit from harpoons. In an ideal world.
Returning to the photo, have a look and predict where Rey will move. Where will be the most optimal pathway of engagement?
There it is — a big ‘ol three bank and a boost and so much open space to keep opponents in arc.
Take a look at this screen shot of the round four match between Dee Yun and Vernon Davis at the Mandalore Open.
The obstacles are a mixture of small rocks and large debris. I have annotated this to show Dee’s possible pathways of engagement in yellow.
It’s important to recognise that Dee’s VCX-100 has been equipped with an Engine Upgrade and Rey crew, allowing it to boost through possibly dense(r) obstacle fields for its action and potentially still have a focus during the combat phase via Rey. Not to mention the modifications from Fire Control Systems.
With this opening in the corner, Dee has the opportunity to pursue at least 8 or so different pathways of engagement that are open to the Ghost, and that’s without turning very much at all. This allows Dee an advantage when wanting to keep the Ghost within ranges 2 -3 of his opponent as there are many ways of turning and protecting his biggest investment in points. It shouldn’t go without noting, that Vernon has two Delta Squadron Tie Defenders in his list and the main objective for at least one of them will be to attempt as many blocks as possible. The wide open pathways will certainly work in their favour too.
Let’s look at another example, taken from the same System Open, this is from round three, where Philip Booth is playing Conner Hawley.
This time, both players have brought middling to small debris clouds.
I began to explore the different pathways with this match in purple
Each purple line represents a possible clean pathway of engagement, a point where the ships may cross the board unobstructed.
Now if we look at the potential possibilities afforded by each ship in opening, the possibilities are wide open because of the many pathways.
Conner’s VCX does not have an Engine Upgrade, so it’s movement through pathways relies upon planning a few moves ahead with each engagements. In comparison, Dash (dirty, dirty, Dash) is not only more forgiving with approaching obstacles (‘Using Dash’s ability, I declare that I will now break ine of the fundamentals of the game’), but he has the better choice of pathways.
Both large base ships here have the potential to throw out 3.5 hits per turn and have modifiers that can be used from round to round without much fear of intereferance from being bumped and missing actions (Rey on YT-2400 and Maul/Ezra on the VCX-100).
For my final example before rounding up, I’m going to explore how rock formation was formed over a series of stills from a match up of John Higginbotham (Dash/Poe) and Jeff Vargas (Dengar/Asajj) from Round 6 of the Mandalore Open.
The stream on this began after rock 1 had already been placed by John, in the image above, Jeff is placing rock 2. John’s placement of rock 1, being a fairly small rock at 2 by 2 in his opponent’s bottom left hand side corner (LHS) is a fairly safe bet for marking range. From this point on, both players will know where range 2 begins at that end of the mat because the rock marks it out.
What might Jeff’s motives with rock 2? The placement looks roughly like 3 by 3 and it’s a debris cloud. By placing it slightly into range 2, however, this keeps Jeff’s top right hand side of the board clear for turns and barrel rolls.
John then places rock 3 as close to range one away from rock 2 as it can be. He is flying Dash, so his movements through a densely populated field of obstacles are at more of an advantage to him than they are Jeff.
Jeff now places Rock 4 at exactly 2 x 2 in his top left hand side of the mat. There are a few possible motives here:
- he has stopped a debris field from being in the centre of the mat, where it might be of an advantage to John’s Dash during the combat phase
- the placement of rock 4 here means that it might be hard to get another rock between rocks 2 and 3. He has now opened up this side of the mat
John’s placement of rock 5 is again barely one range away from rock 3. He has now built a tight(er) rock formation that will be easier for him to move through than Jeff’s Asajj.
Rock 6 has been placed one range away from rock 1 and is fairly level at range 2 away from the board edge.
The possible pathways of engagement now look like this.
Lots of open space to move through, many possible pathways of engagement.
When I began this exploration, I felt somewhat sure that I wanted to explore how certain builds require different approaches with rock set up.
What I have begun to discover is that the clever pilot will begin to exploit the rocks to their advantage, whilst also looking to open up their own pathways.
When in doubt, look to block off areas of the mat that will allow you to shoot at your opponent whilst also giving you the opportunity to disengage when your approach might well be suboptimal.
Next time, I will be exploring how pathways of engagement can develop into approaching initial enagaments that work in your favour.
Fly casual y’all!
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