Learning to Teach

Last week I mentioned that I was heading time to game night this week and would have something to write about in my continued journey of trying to be good with/make Dash good (that’s Dash Rendar in an YT-2400 in case you don’t already know). I was planning to experiment with a different wingman (Luke Skywalker in T-65 X-Wing) and discuss he difference in play and performance and which one I might go with moving forward. I promised to take pictures and everything.

Now, I did keep my promise (well, I don’t think I used the word promise exactly but I still kept to my word!). I have pictures of games from game night and I played Dash but the evening went a little differently than I had anticipated.

Flying completely in the face of my last blog about how the game becoming more complicated may scare away new players, we have some new guys coming down to store recently who are just starting out, a few of them actually. We have a Facebook Messenger chat to co-ordinate some things and let each other know who will/won’t be down to play each week (since some of us can’t make it every week). There’s couple of new guys who have joined the chat through being friends with some of our regulars as well as another, Neil, who recently just turned up, was interested in the game and walked away having made a couple of purchases and was promptly friended and added to the chat. Well this week one of the new guys, James, came down for a game.

Cai and I arrived a bit later than everyone else and so some games were already under way while James was still unpacking some kit. I offered him a game and got my kit out ready.

While unpacking I noticed he had quite a bit of gear for a new player. It turns out he had picked up quite a lot 2nd hand and was very keen to try out some of the new toys.

James then mentioned this was going to be his second game. Ever. Suddenly I felt a teeny bit of pressure (no, a reasonable amount. Well, maybe more of a perfectly acceptable level). Like his future involvement in playing X-Wing hung firmly on how this next hour would turn out.

I mean, I’ve never taught anyone the game before! Sure, I’ve helped Cai develop some of his tactics but he knows how to play. Does James know how to play?

A bit over dramatic? Definitely. Am I overthinking it? Almost certainly. Any slivers of truth? In my opinion, yes. I had been in his shoes 2 years earlier and the fact that a good friend of mine was helping me navigate all this new stuff was a huge plus. Here I was, about to play against someone I’d met in person just 5 minutes ago. I had some quick decisions to make in my head.

Firstly – how am I going to play this? I mean, I hadn’t turned up with some top tier, ‘big bad’ list but I did only have Dash and a choice of Luke or Norra. I went with Luke because the last thing I wanted to do was to complicate the game any more than I had to with double tap ion shots and auto-evading. If I’d had all of our kit then maybe I’d have gone with something a bit more ‘vanilla’ with less gimmicks and triggers to keep it a bit more simple. After all, I had no idea how much he actually knows about the game.

Next decision – how am I going to play this? I clearly don’t want to put the guy off playing again but at the same time, I can’t roll over and give up. He needs to learn some general principles and get good play habits but also see that decisions have consequnces and you have to think carefully about what you’re going to do.

So, what happened? Well, let me show you… (yes, with those pictures I promised!)

James was playing an Imperial swarm list. Going from the pictures I took he was running 4 TIE/ln Academy Pilots, 2 TIE/in Alpha Squadron Pilots and 1 TIE/in Saber Squadron Ace. No upgrades on anything (which for a 2nd game ever isn’t a bad thing in my opinion). The set up was…interesting. (to save you skipping ahead, yes, we discussed it afterwards and no, I didn’t remember to take pics until turn 2. Sorry!). James lined up the ships across the board, like playing British Bulldog in school style.

At this point I took a decision. I don’t want to just tell him he’s wrong (which, unfortunately for him, he is) but I want to show him why and in a way that he will remember. So I say nothing.

We take turn 1 and then 2. In both turns he moves all ships 5 forwards, keen to get into the action. After all ships have moved we end up like this (sort of, this was after 1 ship had been destroyed).

Before anyone comments on how untidy the board is, we were sharing templates

Dash is in arc of just 2 ships (and one of them only just) and Luke in arc of just 1.

Now, here’s where I start to feel really bad. My dice were on fire. Like, better than I can remember them being for months. Typical that it happens on a casual night against a new player! Luke takes the range 1 double modded shot and wipes out the only TIE that can shoot him back while Dash takes out not 1 but 2 ships. Brutal.

After activation of the next round, the board looks like this:

My very sincere apologies for the blurry picture. You still get the idea though. It’s bad times for the Empire

It’s horrible. I’m a terrible, terrible person.

But still we continue.

Another turn and another TIE drops and some damage onto a second.

Yes, that is 3 hits and a crit out of hand from Dash. Ouch.

We go again and this time it really is the end. Dash spends a focus to make it 4 hits onto the last but one ship of James’ list and James rolls… blank, blank focus. Boom.

At this point, with just 1 lonely Academy Pilot (facing the wrong way and contemplating whether the 3k will land him on the rock) versus a full health Luke and Dash with just 3 shields down, we call it.

As James starts to pack up his ships we stop and reflect. We talk about the strength of swarms and how to make the most of them, a little about target priority and just general tactics of the game. The ever insightful Dan ‘Eggs’ is playing against my son on the next table and adds his own advice. We set up a swarm using the movement template widths to space the ships and talk about how different manoeuvres will make it all look as you try to steer them all together without bumping.

Now, time is always tight for us on a Wednesday night. It’s a school night and my kids need to go to bed. But I don’t want to leave it here. He says he is enjoying playing (and I believe him!) but I feel like I can do more.

I decide we can spare another 20 mins or so to at least start off another game. Cai is still playing his game anyway and Toby is happily playing Pokemon across the way. I ask James if he’d like to set up for another even though I can’t stay too long.

James pulls out a different list and sets up.

He lines up with an Upsilon, 2 TIE/fo’s and 2 TIE/sf’s. All generic pilots from what I can recall and possibly the Special Forces Gunner on the SF’s. This time though, he sets up differently:

Change of tactic for setup. Please excuse the gratuitous trolley shot.

Again James starts aggressively, sending the small ships 5 forwards and the upsilon 3 forwards and catching me slightly off guard.

Gigantic Bat-Wing incoming accompanied by baby bats

Turn 2 and the First Order contingent continue to push forward. I manage to keep Luke completely out of anyone’s arc with an unanswered shot at the Upsilon while Dash trades range 3 shots with the Upsilon and one of the TIE/fo’s.

Sadly after this I didn’t take any more pictures as I desperately needed to finish up and leave but James again surprised me by YOLO’ing all his small ships over the debris cloud (and not taking a SINGLE crit!!) and poured the pain onto Dash.

Long story short, when we called time on the game he had Dash at half and I had…nothing. He had the win! I really wish I’d had more time but we had to go. Whilst packing up though I did hear him say to one of the guys that he had really enjoyed playing and was looking forward to next time. That, for me, was the biggest win of the night!

Conclusion time then? Well, James got his 2nd and half of a 3rd ever game of X-Wing. He appears to have enjoyed it and I would say that hopefully he has a slightly better understanding of the game than when he arrived. Is that good? Yes. Could I have done things better from my side? Yes, I think so. I mean, yes I reminded him to move the ships in initiative order and prompted for actions every now and then but did I take opportunities to get him thinking about decision making or how to prioritise targets? And should I have done that as we played or at the end?

These are harder questions for me to answer. Playing against a newer player is a new thing for me but also something I’d like to get better at doing. Maybe you could help me out?