X-Wing™ 101: Bombs Away
Worlds Runner-Up Kevin Leintz Provides an Introduction to Bombs and Blocking
These are the questions behind our X-Wing 101 articles, as we look for advice from some of the game's greatest advocates. We ask them, "If you had only 101 USD to invest as a new X-Wing player, how would you get started?" What we get are answers rooted in hundreds of games worth of experience.
There's no wrong way to go forward with X-Wing. You could focus on a single faction, fly the ships you like to watch in the movies, or collect the pieces you need to fly the squad you saw flown at your local gamestore. But what we get from our X-Wing 101 contributors are answers that pursue specific X-Wing experiences.
Previously, Team Covenant's Zach Bunn built a sample Imperial squad that he felt could fly competitively, even as it provided a quick introduction to the Imperial faction's greatest strengths. World Champion Nand Torfs selected the classic Core Set and a pair of expansions that he felt permitted a wide variety of heroic Rebel squad builds.
And today, Worlds Runner-Up Kevin Leintz presents a sample Rebel squad that doesn't just allow for fun, competitive matches—it can also lead you to a better understanding of how your ships can fly.
Kevin Leintz on Maneuvers, Bombs, and the Blocking Game
The first thing to learn about X-Wing as a new player is the concept of maneuvering. Someone might put a ship's dial in your hands and explain how the symbols on the dial correspond to the movement templates in front of you. Even at this stage, it's easy to associate the dial to the idea of going slow or fast, and performing banks or turns. It feels pretty simple. "I just set my dials and move my ships."
After you actually play a few turns, you start gaining familiarity with the rest of the game concepts. You'll grasp actions, stress, attacking, and defending. You'll even have a pretty clear idea of how advanced tactics like blocking can work. Here, you want to start learning how to visualize flight paths and develop confidence about where your ship should end up after each maneuver.
It also becomes apparent that each ship moves around the board in a different way—truly creating a feeling that each different type of ship has its own unique style.
What Does This Have to Do with Getting Started?
If you're a new player or looking to get deeper into the game, how do you know where to start? Well, as my part of the X-Wing 101 series, I'm happy to offer a nice Rebel list that you can assemble for under 101 USD, that's fun, and that can help you quickly learn the basics of the game—as well as giving you a few tricks you can learn while you're at it.
What will you need? The Force Awakens™ Core Set, the Heroes of the Resistance Expansion Pack, and the K-wing Expansion Pack. With just these three products, you can assemble a dynamic list that allows you to learn and experiment with some of the most powerful tools the Rebels can bring to battle!
- Warden Squadron Pilot with Bombardier , Twin Laser Turret , Extra Munitions , Plasma Torpedoes , Ion Bombs , Conner Net , and Advanced SLAM (43)
- Rey with Wired , Finn , Hotshot Co-pilot , Millennium Falcon , Smuggling Compartment , and Burnout SLAM (57)
Total Squad Points: 100
What's in a Dial?
One of the things that makes this list so much fun to play is that it really helps you understand how your ships can move. The more you play, the more you'll get exposed to different kinds of dials. Some have a lot of different colors, some have a lot of different speeds, and some are very simple with only a few options. Each ship starts to feel different based on how it moves around the board—simply as a result of the unique compositions of their dials.
Immediately, you can see that the A-wing dial has a lot more options. It also has a lot more color in its dial—some stressful red maneuvers that provide repositioning benefits and a lot of green maneuvers that allow your pilots to clear their stress.
A quick count shows that the A-wing dial has sixteen different maneuvers while the K-wing has only eleven. The A-wing also has eight green maneuvers versus the K-wing's four. This suggests that the A-wing is a lot better at getting rid of stress instead of getting slowed down by it.
Additionally, the fact that the A-wing's dial doesn't have a speed "1" forward maneuer or speed "1" bank tells you that the A-wing is supposed to go fast. You also notice that the K-wing can't reverse its facing like the A-wing can with its Koiogran-turn, and it cannot go above speed "3." On the other hand, the A-wing goes above speed "3" very well—its high-speed forward maneuvers are all green.
Next, we look at each ship's Action Bar, which tells us the different actions it can take.
Both ships have have the focus and target lock actions. The A-wing has an evade action that the K-wing doesn’t, but they both have an action that allows them to reposition after completing a maneuver. The A-wing can "boost" and the K-Wing can "SLAM."
Maneuvers and Actions Together
In the diagram below, we can see a side-by-side comparison of the A-wing and K-wing both performing their fastest maneuvers. We see that the A-wing can go faster both while turning and while going straight.
These diagrams are helpful, but they're incomplete. There's an important piece that's still missing at this point. Our comparison between the ships doesn't yet account for their actions. So let’s review their maneuvers again—and then show where the A-wing can end up after using its boost action and where the K-wing can end up after using its SLAM action. This will offer us a better comparison.
Wow, that tells a very different story, doesn’t it?
Suddenly, the K-wing with its relatively simple dial can actually go as fast as the A-wing—or faster than it—and it can end up in a lot of different places that the A-wing cannot. The ships aren’t limited to just the moves illustrated above, but what's clear to see is that the K-wing is not just a slow plodding ship with a simple dial.
Using Bombs and Blocking to Control the Battlefield
Three-time X-Wing World Champion Paul Heaver has written in-depth about the power of "blocking"—positioning your ship or ships to interrupt your opponent's flight paths and deny them actions. In his Turn Zero article, "Block Party," Paul goes into great detail about using blocking to deny your opponent’s his or her best maneuvers and actions.
With the release of Wave VII and the K-wing Expansion Pack, there arose another option for this kind of maneuver and action denial—in the form of bombs.
Bombs have existed in X-Wing for a very long time, but were never really competitive until a change was made to Proximity Mines right before the 2014 Worlds when Mark Flettcher took four TIE bombers and a Lambda-class shuttle to a dignified four-and-two finish. Shortly afterward, though, bombs disappeared once again, and they didn't really reappear until Waves VII and VIII were released—giving us the K-wing with its Advanced SLAM and then the Sabine crew upgrade.
These upgrades increased the reliability and impact of bombs, and they opened up some new and exciting bombing strategies. So let’s take another look at the concept of blocking from the eyes of a bomber.
As Paul already mentioned, the key is to identify your opponents' best options and then take them away. How do you identify their best options? One way is to start by identifying and ruling out their worst options. So let's examine this idea in an example.
In this example, our opponent's TIE interceptor is stressed, which means if it doesn’t execute a green maneuver it will not get its actions. Actions are extremely important to TIE interceptors, as without them, they are extremely fragile. So as we consider our maneuvers, we can first quickly review the TIE interceptor dial to figure out what its green maneuvers are.
Okay… our review of the TIE interceptor's maneuvers tells us that its speed "1" turns are probably not good options because they won’t remove the stress. All of its speed "2" maneuvers are green, but a speed "2" turn in either direction will land the ship on an asteroid, as will a speed "2" left bank. It's highly unlikely our opponent will choose to risk damage and forfeit an attack, so we’ll mark these options as “least likely.”
Since the speed "2," "3," and "4" straight maneuvers will all clear stress and give the interceptor some room to move—as will the speed "2" right bank—we can safely say these are the “most likely” options.
Having identified our opponent's “most likely” and “least likely” options, we can now move on to my favorite part—planning our bombing run.
They'll Never See It Coming
Here is where you can really showcase the tools we talked about a little bit ago. In a situation like the one we're exploring, the K-wing has all the options and all the power we need to control the battlefield.
So let’s begin exploring all the different places that would be good for a bomb by reviewing all of our K-wing's speed "2" maneuvers, pairing them with Advanced SLAM, and then see what we think.
Now let’s look at where our Conner Nets would end up so we can get a better idea of the situation.
Most of those look like good options; we should be able to comfortably land a Conner Net on our target. Furthermore, the speed "2" turn into the interceptor or the speed "2" right bank that puts our K-wing right in front of it feel like safe options. If it ends up in either position, the K-wing shouldn’t be shot at.
This is something very important to think about when you're dropping bombs. If you go all-in just to drop one bomb and end up putting yourself in a bad spot, you might be trading away your K-wing for a single a bombing run—not a good trade to make.
There is one other option, however, that our list has to offer. Can you see what it is? I actually think this last option is the best. Let’s take a look at that nifty crew card I included on the K-wing, Bombardier. Instead of dropping our bomb with the straight "1" template, we can drop it with the straight "2" template, which allows us to consider some additional maneuvers.
This option allows our K-wing to drop its Conner Net and end up behind one of the asteroids that we determined earlier the interceptor would want to avoid. Our net also covers every speed "2" or higher move that he could take.
The other thing that I like about this option is that it leaves our K-wing in a good position to continue flying on the next turn. If the K-wing turns toward the interceptor and flies through the asteroids, it’s effectively out of the fight for a turn or two while it turns around. But from this end position, we can respond to the TIE interceptor's movement.
Closing the Trap
We’ve planned our trap, and it’s time to close in on our target!
Using the last option I showed you, we place the bomb right in front of the TIE interceptor while keeping our K-wing safe. Next, we use the new Title upgrade for the Millennium Falcon to turn our "3" bank into a Segnor's Loop , leaving Rey right in the face of the incoming interceptor—exactly where she wants to be.
Thanks to the Wired upgrade and Rey’s ability, we will get rerolls on up to two blank dice—including the one we add with Finn—and we can also reroll all our focus symbols. On top of all this, because the Conner Net stops the interceptor from taking any actions, Rey is getting this heavily modified attack against a nearly defenseless ship.
Now, Add the Blocking…
The K-wing adds one more thing to this list that I wanted show you—its ability to block. Take for example this situation.
This two-ship list of Kanan Jarrus and Biggs Darklighter is fairly common and known for its ability to effectively reduce incoming damage. But it's extremely important to the list that it can generate focus tokens for Kanan to spend with his ability.
Like before, we need to identify the "most likely” and “most unlikely” maneuvers on our opponent's dials. The VCX-100 is the ship we most need to consider, so let’s take a look at its dial.
After looking at the dial and Kanan’s ability, we know a couple things:
- A speed "5" Koiogran-turn puts Kanan off the board, so we can easily rule that option out.
- Since Kanan really wants to use his action, he really doesn’t want to take a red move, which means he’s also unlikely to execute a speed "1" or "3" hard turn.
It is most likely Kanan will turn into our K-wing with a bank or speed "2" turn so that he can still focus and use his ability. Here, I’m showing the speed "2" bank along with the speed "2" turn since the speed "1" is difficult to illustrate with large ships if we want to see the speed "2" turn, as well.
So we’ve identified our opponent's “most likely" maneuvers. It's time to take a look at what this K-wing can do for us. It looks like a speed "3" forward and speed "3" SLAM will set us up to block Kanan's "most likely" maneuvers—and even some of the “less likely" ones, as well.
Executing the Plan
So we stick to our plan and zoom ahead with the K-wing. We’re able to successfully block Kanan and deny him an action. But it looks like a little more also happened!
Our block on Kanan causes Biggs to run into Kanan, and Biggs is also denied an action. Using our K-wing to end Kanan's movement also let us get Rey into a position where she’s at range "1" of Kanan and not in his arc. This means Kanan doesn’t get to attack anyone this turn—not with his primary weapon or his Twin Laser Turret. It also means Rey gets a great shot at a defenseless Biggs.
That is the power of the K-wing!
When you're new to X-Wing, it's often hard to predict exactly where your maneuvers will leave your ships. This means that new players often have more fun when they have solid ships with shields and turret weapons that allow them to fire at their opponents, even if their opponents end up outside their firing arcs.
Still, maneuvering is the game's key skill, and as I've shown, this list leaves you plenty of room to grow with your maneuvering. In fact, the better you get at maneuvering, the more fun I expect you'll have with the list. Certainly, you'll be well rewarded for finding your way past the initial use of dial and templates and into the more strategic uses of repositioning actions, bombing, and blocking.
From Rebel Recruit to Legendary
No matter where you are in your X-Wing fandom, there's always room to grow. Like chess, X-Wing takes only moments to learn, but it can take a lifetime to master. Except that X-Wing has detailed miniature Star Wars spaceships, and we think of their movement in terms of templates, rather than gridded squares.
As Kevin shows us, learning how to visualize your ships' maneuvers leads to some of the greatest joys in X-Wing, as well as some of the greatest bluffing and counterbluffing. Games between experienced veterans may feature feints and counters, and there's a rich tension to the game as both players try not only to anticipate their opponent's maneuvers, but also how to lure them into their traps.
And the beauty of Kevin's sample list is that it can support our journey from Rebel recruit to legendary ace. It gives us tools to fight when we're just hoping to stay on the board and line up shots against enemy ships. But it also allows us to delve deep into the realm of the galaxy's greatest mind games—planning our bombing runs multiple turns in advance, and pouncing upon the opportunity to block an enemy ship and launch devastating attacks against ships we've denied the opportunity to raise their defenses. And it does all this for under 101 USD.
The truth, though, is that there are all kinds of different X-Wing squads you can build with just a modest investment. And there's no wrong way to go about it. Want to build a list around Darth Vader ? You can. Want to carry Jyn Erso into enemy territory aboard Cassian Andor's U-wing? You can do that, too.
How do you want to wage your X-Wing dogfights? Our X-Wing 101 articles are just meant to be helpful hints. You can also pursue your own interests and ideas with the members of our community forums. And in the meantime, you can keep your eyes open for our next X-Wing 101 article and other X-Wing news!