X Wing Theory: Controlling the Uncontrollable

Or how much of the game can we directly control and influence?

“The final score of a football game is decided on average by 20 percent: a referee’s bad call, a tricky bounce of the ball, an injury or some other happenstance. I accepted the fact I couldn’t control that 20 percent. However the rest of it – 80 percent – could be under my control with comprehensive planning and preparation.”

Bill Walsh, former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, from his book “The Score Takes Care of Itself.” Which I thoroughly recommend reading, even if like I, you have no great love for American Football, you will find applicable methodology to both X wing and business in general.

So far I have looked at marginal gains and perception bias. In this article I want to look at the elements of the game we often feel we do not have any control over.


What we do not Control

In X-Wing there are a number of variables that as a player we do not directly control:

1. The opponent’s list
2. The opponent’s rock placement
3. The opponent’s deployment
4. The opponent’s manoeuvres
5. The opponent’s dice rolls
6. Your Dice rolls

Of these six only one of these do we have absolute no control or influence over in a normal tournament setting which is your opponent’s list. Everything else you can exert some form of control or influence on. That being said, planning for what you may or may not face in your list and having a plan to implement if faced with certain builds or ships, even if it is too just flip the table, negates some of the shock and awe factor when you exchange lists.


Rock Placement

While it’s often worth considering your opponents list when setting up obstacles I personally favour keeping to my own plan of rock placement as often the opponent will place one where I want them too. Most players will look to place a rock or two in a corner at range 2 or diagonally in from the corner at 45 degrees at range three. More often or not they will put it down your end of the field or failing that stick a rock bang in the middle of the star matt.

I prefer to place obstacles second as I feel placing the last obstacle is quite advantageous. My deployment of preference is to stick one rock at range 3 from one corner and the other at range two on the other corner on my side of the board with a rock in the centre. Then its about controlling the lanes and planning where you are going to engage from.

As nine times or more out of ten my opponent will stick the first obstacle either in the middle or down my end at range 2 from the corner I can then fill in either the middle if he goes for the corner, or a corner if they plant middle. If they have placed in your corner first, they will most likely go for the other corner as their next placement so by the time it comes to placing you second rock and fourth rock to go down, so far you have effectively controlled all four placements in accordance to how you like the rocks placed.


Obviously you will need to factor in how your squad likes to fly and potentially what your opponent is doing with regards to placement but having a plan on how you want the rocks laid out and the potential habits your opponent will do in placing obstacles to allow you greater control on overall placement is an advantage. Even if placing first you can effectively get four rocks where you would like them if your opponent is going to be willing to place one or two where you would generally expect them to go.

With some lists players will find it advantageous to place as many obstacles in the furthest corners such as swarms or U-boats. You need to recognise that and place accordingly as you know where they will be placing their rocks.


This is effectively down to the relative pilot skill of everyone’s ships. If you have some overlay say with a mixture of pilot skill on both sides then the placing of some of your first ships will directly affect where your opponent places there next ones. Sounds obvious but you can then work this to your advantage by using your placement as an indication as to where your future placements may or may not be.

For example if you have an Imperial ace list plus a single Tie academy pilot the placement of the Tie can be crucial. You can use this to suggest where you intend to place the rest of your ships but effectively use it as a dummy. Or even as a counter bluff.

It’s worth thinking about your initial moves and having a standard pattern for each game which is tweaked by what ships you are facing against. Having a standard form of deployment and initial moves, or an option of well-practiced openings allows more mental thinking time in dealing with where your opponent is going.

yoda manouvres

Your Opponent’s Manoeuvres

It’s difficult to exert control on this unless of course you have controlled the initial direction of the first engagement which will leave your opponent with particular directions of flight afterwards. By picking where and when you first engage the enemy, even if they are the ones to fire first, you can wield a control on where and what they will do next. This is effectively flying with a plan. Anyone who likes to state that they fly by the seat of their pants will at some stage crash and burn by the seat of their pants.

By contrast its always worth asking yourself the question that are you being forced into the first engagement not on your terms or pre-planned methods and is it worth or possible to break off and re-set?

dash dice

The Opponent’s Dice Rolls

Not much in the way of directly affecting them unless you have gone down the various routes like Juke or Crack Shot. More so you can affect them best by denying them altogether in terms of attack dice and maximising the potential of your attacks by attacking at range one or two.

Your Dice

This will start from the list building process. What modifiers like Predator, Auto Thrusters or Wired you can throw in or pilot abilities from various ships. The more you can modify your dice in both attack and defence the more you can negate bad rolls and increase the damage from an average to good roll.

stay on target

The Difference between target locking and focusing

There is no statistical difference between target lock and focus when attacking. The probability is the same. If I am going offensive with a ship that has the option of either a target lock or focus I will target lock for the simple reason of the ability to re roll dice has the possibility of changing a really poor roll to a good one. It can get you out of jail. If you are thinking offensive rather than defensive then you will spend the focus regardless to push the damage through. So in that respect target lock would be a better option as modifying defence dice is not at the for front of your mind. You also have the possibility of further punishing the target the next round if the target lock is not spent as the option of a focussed target lock attack becomes a reality.

Our 20 percent

Our 20 percent of uncontrollable happenstance in X Wing may actually be less than twenty percent as Bill Walsh theorised in American Football. The main uncontrollable aspects are bundled down to opposing list choice, maneuvering and dice. Both the opponents maneuvering and dice rolls can be influenced to a degree. The more modification or weight of numbers to dice irons out disparages in dice rolls. This is why lists like crack shot swarms are potent or any other way of modifying a dice roll.

Controlling the Uncontrollable

1. Build in as much dice modification as the list can potentially allow. This can even be in other ways such as weight of numbers other than just abilities like predator or crack shot.

2. Have a strategy for rock placement. Try and work out your opponent’s strategy for rock placement and act accordingly. Even if you want to corner four rocks and your opponent does too, they will do three of them for you allowing the placement of the other two at your control.

3. The rock placement can have a direct bearing on how and where your opponent deploys their squad. Combine this with a well-rehearsed deployment plan and opening plays and you can force your opponent into making what will to you be reasonably predictable opening moves. Even if you deploy you squad entirely before or after theirs, having a structured deployment and opening move options ideally around a favoured rock placement will put you at an advantage to control the initial engagement.


TCUP: Think Correctly Under Pressure.

Sadly however well we prepare and plan, no plan survives contact with the enemy and the dice can often turn bad at an unexpected moment. A key ship can go down in smoke or some unexpected maneuvering leave you cut and dry. When this happens taking a few moments to just reassess and think through a new potential winning strategy and not panic can bring you back into the game.

We can play and strategise to our hearts content but we need to follow it through and then react accordingly when things go astray, ideally to a plan B or C. The more random elements we can implement a form of control on, the more likely it is that we can win.



One thought on “X Wing Theory: Controlling the Uncontrollable

  1. Pingback: X-Wing Theory: To net list or not to net list, that is the question? | ZOMBIE SQUADRON

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