Fine Margins

The intro…

Welcome, welcome , welcome! And, more importantly, HAPPY STAR WARS DAY!!

It feels like weeks are flying by at the moment and while the weather can’t seem to make it’s mind up (20 degrees one day, 6 degrees the next!) we are slowly but surely approaching summer. With that comes the possibility of outdoor activities (in fact I saw on the news the other night that there was a 5000 person gig/festival in Liverpool where everyone was tested before entering and has to test again 5 days afterwards) and maybe, just maybe, indoor activities too!

Which of course links us to the land of X-Wing (which is what you’re here for after all!). There are still no plans in place for in-person play near me yet but things are looking good for that possibly changing in the next couple of months.

In the mean time virtual X-Wing is keeping me going. I’m glad that the Sith Taker league is back and I have a regular game with someone else having the legwork of setting it up for me, all we need to do is to pick a day.

I’ll take a moment here to say thanks to Ben Hibbert in particular for setting up and running what is essentially an almost 200 player tournament in league format. I can’t image what the admin on that must be like. You sir are a champion and I (and many others I’m sure) appreciate your efforts.

Right then, after a slightly disastrous start last week while trying my Dash list I wasn’t guaranteed an easy game this time around. That’s because a) the tournament doesn’t use the swiss system to pair players on the same results and b) I’ve moved up a league and a lot of these players are pretty good at the game.

I was delighted to find out that I had been paired the Mr Steve Boulton of Vagabond Squadron. Now, I’ll clarify here that I wasn’t delighted because he’s a rubbish player and it would be a walk-over for me (I wish!). Not at all. No, I was happy because Steve is someone I know and he is a thoroughly fantastic chap. This was a game I was really looking forward to.

So, what to fly? Dash? Well, I don’t know. Having had two sub-par games with the list I felt I was at a stick-or-twist point with it. The thing is, following some discussions from last week’s blog, I’m not convinced that the list is up to scratch, even for a Dash list.

The main issue is that the list has no alternative threat other than Dash. If you destroy Dash, you win because the A-Wings don’t dish out enough damage. They are, after all, support ships. It’s strange in a way because it’s a theoretically comparable build to the Rey-Wings list that I’d been flying over the last few months. Big turret ship that hits hard plus two nimble 3 agility ships. The differences are significant though.

While Rey only shoots once per turn (unlike Dash with Bistan, provided he’s focused), the shots are accurate, boosted by Finn gunner and Rose crew. Rey also has force so in the turns where you need to turn around you can sloop (JARGON ALERT!!) and still have force mods AND pick up a lock with Rose. Crazy.

By comparison, Dash is very able to roll 4 blanks. Yes, if Jake has passed a focus to him then it should be possible to take a lock for his action but it isn’t guaranteed and sometimes you need to take the roll to get out of trouble. Using Gate of Storms with basic numbers (range 2 shot from Dash with focus to a 2 agility ship with a focus), Dash is predicted to get 1.7 hits. Adding a lock takes it to 2.5.

By comparison, Rey taking the same shot (3 dice) with 2 force and a lock from Rose (taking Rey’s ability and Finn into account) is predicted 2.6 hits. If you’ve got a lock already (from using Finn on an incoming shot) and take a focus at range 1 it goes up to 3.7 hits. It’s one less shot but it is SO accurate.

The RZ-2 A-Wings are also better because both have Prockets (JARGON ALERT!!) for spike damage but also have good time on target with their turrets AND have Advanced Optics and Heroic meaning that nearly every shot is 2 hits. They aren’t support ships for Rey like the RZ-1’s. I mean, they don’t need to be. Rey is self sufficient.

Ok, fine, I’ve talked myself into it. I’m going back to Rey-Wings, at least for now.

Rey (68)
Korr Sella (6)
Rose Tico (9)
Finn (9)
Rey’s Millennium Falcon (2)

Ship total: 94 Half Points: 47 Threshold: 6

Tallissan Lintra (37)
Heroic (2)
Proton Rockets (5)
Advanced Optics (5)

Ship total: 49 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 2

Zizi Tlo (41)
Heroic (2)
Proton Rockets (5)
Advanced Optics (5)

Ship total: 53 Half Points: 27 Threshold: 2

Total: 196

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0:,core2asteroid1,core2asteroid2

Right, on with the game!

The batrep… (JARGON ALERT!!)

So what was Steve bringing to the table? He’d actually asked me in the lead up whether there was any list or faction that I wanted to face. In the league he’s planning to fly each faction once and so I had pretty much any choice if I wanted it. Having decided to fly Rey and drop Dash for the moment I said that I didn’t mind what he flew, totally his choice.

He came with Imperial Aces:

Darth Vader (66)
Fire-Control System (2)
Afterburners (7)

Ship total: 75 Half Points: 38 Threshold: 3

Ciena Ree (48)
Predator (2)

Ship total: 50 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 2

Soontir Fel (54)
Predator (2)
Shield Upgrade (8)

Ship total: 64 Half Points: 32 Threshold: 2

Total: 189

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0:

Triple i6 and a massive bid. My history against aces is, well, patchy at best. I tend to dive in hard at something and then get arc dodged. Maybe today I’ll try and approach differently and see if it goes any better.

With his massive bid Steve gives me first player. I wasn’t quite sure I heard him right as I felt that since we had no overlap in initiative that if I was him I’d have taken first player to take control of the obstacle placement.

Still, I started and we placed obstacles and then ships and were ready to go.

With his aces all spread out I want to try and be as generic as possible in my approach. His ships are so nimble that they can decide to turn in at will and can all double reposition if needs be (although Vader only has 2 afterburners charges for that). I decide that Rey will head between the gas clouds towards the opposite corner while the A-Wings will go straight for now and hopefully force Cienna to turn in.

Rey goes 1 straight, bumping the A’s to stay where she is. Tallie goes 2 straight then rolls left and Zizi follow suit.

Cienna goes 4 straight along Steve’s board edge, Soontir banks in and rolls left while Vader goes 1 straight and rolls left as well.

Cagey. To be expected I suppose.

Back to planning then.

Since it seems like Steve might be sticking around in the corner I’ll start slowly coming in that way. I know that his ships can turn on a penny and do what they want but I have to start somewhere, right? I also don’t want to allow myself to be flanked if I can help it.

Rey goes 1 straight while Tallie and Zizi both bank in.

Cienna goes as slow as an interceptor can with a 2 straight. Soontir 3 banks left and rolls towards the board edge and Vader goes 1 straight, also rolling out.

Turns are going quickly but it looks like it could still be a while before we actually start shooting!

Back to dials then. I’m aware of Cienna along the top and that if I turn at Soontir and Vader that she could flank, however I believe she’s the least threat to me and so I’d rather it be her than one of the others if it’s going to happen.

Zizi 3 banks, Tallie 2 banks and rolls towards Rey who herself 1 banks in. I’m trying to keep it neutral here.

Steve suddenly changes tack. Cienna hard turns in and boosts back towards where she came from. Vader hard turns and spends an afterburners charge to boost away from me while Soontir turns, rolls and boosts to chase him.


No shooting again so back to planning we go.

At this point I get a strange feeling. I feel like I’ve got him on the run. I stamp that feeling down, knowing full well that aces are slippery so-and-so’s and that I need to concentrate.

I look again and my positioning isn’t’ particularly great. The debris is blocking the A-Wings from both turning in together. They’ll have to go around it together or split up, neither of which I’m keen on. Rey can cruise up from behind and doesn’t really care too much about the debris so that’s not too bad.

Both A-Wings go 3 straight, focus and boost left. Rey takes a 1 straight to come up behind them and focuses.

Let’s see what Steve’s done.

Cienna goes 2 straight and rolls away, Soontir goes 5 straight, boosts left and rolls away. Vader takes a 1 bank, locks Tallie (dammit!) and then rolls right to get out of range.

And so the ace play begins. Steve has managed to steal a lock and then escape being shot. Nice.

Nobody is in range and so back planning we go.

What now though? Zizi’s position won’t avoid the other debris with a 2 hard (needed to clear the stress). She’ll have to bank and go further around. Tallie will clear it though so she gets a 2 hard turn. Rey will 1 bank in, debris be damned.

Tallie’s 2 hard is followed by a focus and boost right (since she doesn’t want to go over the gas cloud next time). Zizi’s 3 bank is also followed by a focus and boost but hers goes left.

Rey’s 1 bank stops just short of the debris. Nice.

Soontir turns in, takes a focus and rolls away. Vader goes 3 straight, takes a focus and rolls away too while Cienna banks in, takes a focus and boosts in at Rey. Here’s that flank I ‘wasn’t too worried about’.

Now we shoot. Well, some do.

Cienna shoots at Rey. With her being in Rey’s side arc none of the shenanigans work and Rey takes 2 hits. First blood to Steve.

Soontir doesn’t have Tallie in arc but Tallie DOES have Vader but a cheeky range 3 shot does exactly the amount of damage you expect. Zero.

That’s it for this turn so we’re back to dials.

I want to focus fire but now Tallie has to go around the gas cloud. Zizi could hard turn in to where Tallie is now but one shot from an A-Wing isn’t going to do much to Steve’s ships. Unless it’s a Prockets shot which, against repositioning ships, is incredibly unlikely. Tallie will 2 hard around the cloud and Zizi will follow her with a 2 bank.

I feel like Cienna will press in at Rey and so I need to being the full force of her big scary gun to bear. She will sloop over the debris to face off.

Tallie lands the 2 hard rather close to the cloud…

But she’s fine. She takes a focus.

Zizi banks in behind and takes a focus too.

Rey sloops, taking a stress for the manoeuvre, one for the first debris and a thrid for the second debris. Two dice rolls produce no crits. Lovely.

Rey’s sloop caught Steve off-guard with Cienna taking a hard turn in. She evades and rolls away, attempting to put some distance between herself and Rey.

Tallie’s position has Soontir spooked, landing in her bullseye. He rolls away and boosts right to get away.

Vader banks in but again is concerned with taking shots so also rolls away.

Cienna shoots at Rey but with no focus to back it up doesn’t land any hits. Rey adds a Finn blank and spends it to pick up a lock using Rose.

Oh yeah.

Rey fires her 3 dice shot at Cienna, adds a blank and spends her lock for 4 hits without needing to spend any force. Nice.

Steve rolls his 4 greens and rollsonly eyeballs and blanks. The evade doesn’t save her, Cienna is gone in one shot from Rey. Brutal.

The A-Wings take pot shots at Vader but nothing gets through and so we’re back to dials.

Right, how to press the advantage now?

Vader is worth the most points so I want to try and score some there but Rey isn’t particularly well placed to do that. She needs to clear stress though so she gets a 2 bank. The A-Wings will try and dive in at Vader and see if I can block him.

Rey banks and takes a lock on Soontir. Tallie goes 2 straight, focuses and boosts in at Vader. Zizi just cruises 2 straight and takes a focus.

Let’s see what Steve does…

Soontir hard turns left to clear stress, takes an evade and rolls away, trying (but failing) to escape Rey’s range.

Vader also hard turns, landing just shy of Tallie’s attempted block. He takes a focus and spends a force to roll left, getting out of Tallie’s bullseye. Poop.

This could be nasty. Vader fires 4 dice at Tallie at range 1 (with the lock already in place) but somehow Tallie rolls all paint and spends her focus to just lose 1 shield. Nice.

Rey fires at Soontir, rolling 3 dice, adding Finn’s blank and spending the lock for 4 hits, again without spending force.

Soontir blanks out completely. Ouch. Steve is lamenting the loss of Soontir when I remind him that he has a shield upgrade and so he isn’t dead. Which is a shame for me.

The A-Wings fire at Vader but with their plinky little 2 dice guns (well, Tallie had 3 at range 1 but you know what I mean…) manage to do no damage. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Back to dials then and some decisions to make.

Try and finish Soontir or put some pain on Vader? Hmmmm…..

I want to hit Vader. Soontir isn’t close to Rey but he’s slippery so if I close in at him he can probably arc dodge her AND do some damage. As much as I don’t want to leave him roaming about, I need to do something about Vader.

I set Rey a sloop to her left. Tallie is stressed and a 2 hard left turn won’t fit so I’ll 1 turn and keep the stress. Zizi will turn to her right, possibly blocking Vader off if he tries to escape and disengage.

Rey sloops but the angle doesn’t cover as much of the area of the board as I’d like. Tallie turns while Zizi also turns, takes a focus and rotates her arc to rear.

Soontir turns in and bumps into Rey. Nice.

Vader banks right (not escaping), takes a focus and (annoyingly) spends a force to roll right, dodging Rey’s arc. Balls.

Soontir doesn’t have a shot so Vader fires at Rey range 2 with a lock. FCS allows a reroll and with Vader not being in Rey’s front arc I can’t add a blank or use Rey’s ability and he scores a hit and a crit which turns out to be a Direct Hit. Ouch.

Only Zizi still has anyone in arc and takes shot at Vader and (finally!) takes a shield.

Back to dials then and it’s not quite looking as good as it was.

Rey will sloop again to keep guns on target. Tallie will 2 turn this time to come in while Zizi needs to turn around so will hard turn as well.

Rey’s sloop lands on the gas cloud (only just) and she picks up the strain. Zizi turns but I’m not quite sure about the position if she boosts so I just leave her there. Tallie’s hard turn comes in nicely and she takes a focus.

Soontir banks left, evades and then boosts, realising he’s going down but will do so swinging.

Vader decides to disengage with a 5 straight and roll.

Vader can’t fire so it’s Soontir to shoot. Steve checks arc to see if he has Rey in bullseye:

OOF. That is close. Computer says it’s in though (even though eyeballing looks out) and so Soontir gets a focus too.

He shoots at Rey and spends his focus for 2 hits and a crit. Rey is strained and so doesn’t roll anything but can add the Finn blank.

Now here’s a decision.

Do I spend the blank for a lock on Soontir to all but guarantee the kill? Or do I spend a force to turn the blank to an evade and take just 2 hits?

I deliberated a while but in the end chose violence and took the lock, taking the 3 hits. Soontir’s parting gift though was a Fuel Leak. Ouch.

Rey’s return shot was brutal. 4 dice plus the Finn blank, spent the lock for 4 hits. Even with his evade token, the Ace of Legend was toast.

The hits on Rey put her on half points but I was pretty well ahead with just over 15 minutes to go. Looking good for a win. Tentatively.

Back to planning then and time to hunt down the Dark Lord of the Sith.

Rey goes 1 straight to clear her stress. Tallie 2 banks to straighten up but doesn’t boost. I’m trying to regroup here. Zizi hard turns, boosts straight to catch up and links to a red rotate.

Steve knows he’s behind and has to take something out so he gives Vader a 4K (JARGON ALERT!!)

A quick arc check shows that nobody is in range of anybody and so we’re back to dials.

At this point, I’m confident. Rey is unstressed so she will 1 bank in.

Tallie takes a 3 straight. When I see where it lands I consider where Steve might go. He’s stressed so his options are limited, he definitely has to do a blue move. I’m so undecided whether he will go 2 straight or bank right that I decide not to commit to either reposition options that I’m conidering – a roll right and boost left or simply a focus and boost in. She just takes a focus.

Zizi goes 5 straight followed by a focus and boost.

Vader takes the 2 bank, landing exactly where Tallie would be if I’d boosted straight. Perhaps even if I’d rolled and boosted. Balls.

Now free of stress, he rolls left to dodge Tallie’s arc altogether and takes a focus.

In my excitement to go and smash Vader over the head, I appear to have forgotten some game basics…

Vader shoots Rey (with an existing lock in place) with 3 dice, rolls 2 crits and a hit out of hand and with the ship ability converts the hit to another crit.

Now, I can’t quite remember exactly what happened here. I think that Rey rolled blank. Adding a Finn blank didn’t matter because she can only turn one with her ability and with the Fuel Leak she takes an extra one.

Either way, she died. Without shooting. Oh.

Not only that but Tallie also can’t shoot and, to Steve’s surprise, Vader’s managed to dodge Zizi’s bullseye arc.

Zizi’s shot does nothing and now with 7 minutes left on the clock we have a VERY different game.

I have to avoid the apparently unkillable Vader for a few more turns to win.

Dials then. Tallie has lost a shield so she’s my weak link and needs to get out of there. I set her a 2 bank so she can duck behind the gas cloud. She follows it up with a focus and then bank boost left.

Zizi 3 banks into the spot where Tallie was. I consider staying there for a possible block on Vader but given my form so far and the repercussions if I don’t get it, I decide to boost her too.

Vader goes straight and rolls left.

Nobody has arc and so we’re back to dials for what looks to be the last turn.

I need to hedge my bets here a little. Zizi hards turn right, rolls right and rotates her arc, just in case.

Tallie takes a 5 straight and, for some reason, an evade and a boost left. Looks like good distance.

Vader starts moving.

He takes a 3 hard turn, rolls to his left and forwards and checks arc for a lock.

He spends a force to take the lock and then another force for a focus.

Oh man.

Steve rolls his dice. Crit, eyeball, blank. He rerolls the blank with FCS and it’s a hit which turns to a crit with the ship ability. He then spends the focus for maximum hits.

I roll my 4 green dice and suddenly wonder why on earth I took an evade and not a focus. My green dice stop moving.

Evade, eyeball, eyeball blank.

No way.

I spend the evade and lose Tallie’s last shield, giving up half points.

Rather unsurprisingly, Zizi’s unmodded range 3 gas cloud obstructed shot failed to land the 2 damage needed to get half points on Vader and so, with the timer having sounded during the round, the game is done.

Result: 114 – 121 loss

The conclusion…

Wow. I can’t quite place my feelings after that game. Having gone ahead early I managed to give up a big chunk of my advantage and then lose out on the (almost) last roll of the dice. I have to say I’d rather be beaten like this than by getting completely smashed up by a better player and/or list 200-0 though. At least I was in this one.

So, time to analyse then. Where did it all go wrong? Did it even go wrong? Well, yes of course it did. But not a lot and not anywhere blatantly obvious. No, I titled the blog fine margins because as I looked back over the game there were decisions I made which, with hindsight, could have swung the result.

Starting with the most obvious, the last turn. I went 5 straight with Tallie (correct decision), evaded and boosted left. On reflection, taking a focus was a better choice since an evade only flips one die result. With the dice results being what they were, if I’d taken a focus instead, I win. But more than that, I could have boosted straight or right (since it was the last turn and positioning for future turns was irrelevant) and would have been out of Vader’s range. If I’d rolled right and THEN boosted (straight or right), I’d have been well out. And won.

Going a bit further back, I’m unsure about my choice to chase Vader with my ships once Soontir died. With Rey already heavily damaged, carrying a Fuel Leak and worth a big chunk of points, and Vader seemingly impossible to damage in previous turns, all I was doing was presenting him with a big juicy target to hit. In the following turn my decision to NOT boost with Tallie meant Vader wasn’t blocked and then was able to roll out of bullseye (although Steve was convinced at the time that he was rolling into her arc and taking Zizi’s Prockets) and do exactly enough damage to finish Rey off.

Even before THAT though I had a big choice to make when finishing Soontir. Steve and I discussed afterwards about the reasoning out (and my personal bias that you can’t trust your dice to do the job) and he agreed that he would also have taken the damage on Rey to pick up the lock to guarantee (or at least significantly improve the chances) the kill shot. As it was Soontir did an additional hit which, two turns later meant Vader had done enough to take Rey out.

It’s like dominoes.

No, not that Domino’s!

More like what I mean…

Still, I feel like I learned something from the game. I’ve always been a bit rubbish at taking on ace lists. I’ve tended to try to focus down hard on one particular ship and usually end up chasing shadows while getting chipped away at from the flanks. I feel like overall I did ok in this game. Aside from my last turn choices with Tallie I feel like most of my decisions were pretty reasonable (even the chasing down of Vader since there was still around 20 minutes to go and he was facing away from my list).

I guess what I need to try and determine is which were simply bad decisions and which were probably still the right choice even though the result wasn’t great. That’s the thing with X-Wing, you can do everything right and still not have a good outcome. We do play a dice game after all!

Ironically Oliver Pocknell released a new video on his Youtube channel specifically about decision making which is well worth a watch.

Thankfully the result was made less important by me having a great time playing X-Wing with Steve. He is a fantastic bloke and although we only met just over a year ago at the 2020 UK System Open we’ve actually played each other a few times since then in various tournaments. At some points I almost forgot that we were there for the X-Wing as we just chatted, sharing stories and experiences and generally having a good time.

So, not a great start to this season of the league in terms of results but pretty good in terms of having a good time. And that, after all, is what it’s all about.

It turns out that this is my 99th blog post! Be sure to come back next week for post 100!

If you’re looking to buy some gaming ‘stuff’ and don’t have a local gaming store, you can use my affiliate link for Firestorm games. They’re great!