We'll take a quick break this week from the thematic squad series for some gameplay tips and tricks.
I often hesitate to write these tactics articles because I am, in the grand scheme, not a successful competitive player. I wonder, "who am I to tell people how to play X-Wing?" That said, I feel that many of us objectively understand these core concepts but the hardest part is applying them on the table. Learning to adapt takes time and practice and the best way to do it is to put in the reps and have fun playing X-Wing with your friends. Remember that you can sit and talk theoretical tactics all day but when it's time for the real thing the "enemy" always gets a vote.
Why Are We Here?
Target priority/selection is a vital part of X-Wing. A game can be won or lost by how you evaluate an opponent's squad and decide which ship you are going to pursue first and then how you tactically approach that target. A good list played by a competent player will complicate that decision and/or punish you for making the incorrect choice or not executing well. In this article we'll discuss some target choices you can make as well as things that can happen in-game that you'll need to keep in mind. Also, remember that your priority can and probably will change at some point in the game.
Many accomplished X-Wing players will agree that it's a good idea to examine your opponent's list and decide just how many points' worth you'll be able to kill and then plan to make up the rest with objective points. With that in mind, it's often best to simply commit your heavy hitters to chasing down and destroying the enemy's most valuable ship. This has the compound effect of both getting you closer to your win condition and removing a significant chunk of their squad.
If you can easily identify your opponent's most valuable ship then chances are they know it as well and will actively work to deny you that opportunity.
- Big "points fortress" ships like the VT-49 Decimator or VCX-100 can take a while to kill, with a lot of hull and shields and defensive abilities like the Reinforce action and crew slots to help repair damage, etc. If you're going to commit to attacking a ship like this then make sure you can do enough damage to kill it, otherwise you just spent the entire game shooting at something and got nothing (or nearly nothing, remember half points in Chance Engagement) in return. Focus fire every turn to punch through those defensive countermeasures or sometimes you might as well not even bother.
- Chances are your opponent has done something with this ship's upgrades or pilot ability to discourage attacks. Maybe it has Notorious and False Transponder Codes equipped or maybe it's Zam Wesell, Quickdraw, or Dengar. If this is the case make sure you weigh the costs of attacking this ship before committing. If you're going to shoot at a ship with an ability that punishes you for paying attention to it then make sure you can eliminate it as quickly as possible to minimize the amount of time the ability makes you suffer.
- This will be true for most of these but...maybe it's bait. That doesn't mean don't attack the big, juicy target, but don't be surprised if your opponent planned for this and tries to counterattack once you've committed.
Many squads have either a support piece or a ship carrying an upgrade or ability that is just the "secret sauce," the thing that makes the squad's combo tick. This can be one of the toughest ones to identify since sometimes the ability interaction is intentionally obscure in an attempt to hide the value from you. If you're able to eliminate this one ship then it will significantly reduce the rest of the opponent's squad's ability to function as intended. An added bonus: these ships are often less capable in combat than the other ships in the list so if you can get to them they may go down relatively quickly. A LAAT/i is a great example of this. Not only does it carry helpful crew upgrades but it also has a built-in support ability that gives its squadmates rerolls on attacks. Just make sure you focus fire and get rid of it quickly because its friends will be all over you while you're chasing it.
- Your opponent knows that this ship is vulnerable and will keep it away from you or fight hard to protect it. Be persistent. You might get roughed up a bit but once you get rid of The Enabler your job should get easier.
- You may not get many points from a cheap support ship like a Rebel TIE/ln carrying K-2SO or Leia Organa or a 4-point Sheathipede so make sure that the negative impact to the other squad is worth the time and potential casualties that you'll take to remove it. It could be a decoy.
The Endgame Piece/Ace
That one high threat, high value ace in the enemy squad is a big deal. Not only are they worth a lot of points but you also know that they will be an increasingly serious threat as the game drags on and your ships are whittled down, probably to the point where they'll be easy prey for Anakin Skywalker, Poe Dameron, Darth Vader, or Kylo Ren. If you don't commit to getting rid of them now, when you're at full strength, chances are you'll never be able to pin them down and finish the job.
This is a really tough one, definitely high risk, high reward. You need to identify the situations where you can't win the game without killing the ace and commit to doing it quickly. Just as important is recognizing when it's possible to simply play around them, eliminating their buddies and making up the remaining points with objectives.
- These pilots are, by their very nature, often difficult to catch and kill. If you attack The Ace then they likely will flee, evade, or generally find a way to waste your time so that the rest of the squad can come and bail them out. If you don't have the tools to pin Vader down in multiple firing arcs then it may be better not to try and instead wait for the other player to make a mistake.
- In many cases your opponent will try to get you to commit to and chase The Ace. This doesn't mean that it's necessarily a bad idea to take the bait and go for it, but have a plan to stay one step ahead, handle a counterattack, and keep the pressure on to force an error.
The Target of Opportunity
Sometimes the best target to attack is the one right in front of you. If your opponent made a mistake and dropped a ship in a compromising position it can be a good idea to take the easy points so you don't need to worry about that ship later.
- Make sure that the points are worth your time or that, if they aren't, you can take care of business quickly and get on to more important things. A TIE Fighter that wandered into Wedge's arc may be worth blowing away in one shot for an easy 2 points but if you have to spend more than one turn firing at it than the 2 points are possibly a waste of your time. My favorite (and least favorite) example of this conundrum is Finn in the Resistance Transport Pod. He looks like an easy 3 points in that goofy little ship and also an offensive threat that you want to remove from the board but with his ability to add a result and then reroll he'll rarely be killed by a single shot, even if already damaged. If you can't commit at least a second attack, if not a third, to take advantage of his self-straining then you might as well just ignore him.
- This target is, in my experience, the one that has the highest likelihood of being bait. Your opponent has given you what seems to be a nice, easy target in the the hopes of distracting you from what else they're doing or preventing you from focusing all of your shots on another ship. Sometimes you'll have a nice, easy range 1 shot at a cheap ship but all of your other arcs are pointed at the enemy's ace. It may be smarter to ignore the "good" shot and take the range 3 shot at the ace to try and chip a token off so that your other attacks are more effective.
I hope this was helpful! What are your tried and true strategies for determining target priority?