“Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1!”
“Never tell me the odds.”
Obstacles are a pretty big part of the game. Most players progress from (1) hitting them very frequently when you start playing, to (2) getting good enough at maneuvers so to almost never hit them, then (3) figuring out hitting them isn’t always so bad, and intentionally hitting them on occasion.
The tournament squad building rules (which are those used by default for most games) at time of writing state “Each player must include exactly three unique obstacles of their choice in their squad. Players must select these obstacles from the asteroids and debris clouds available from official X-Wing products, including first edition products (except those found in Epic expansions). A player may not select two of the same obstacle.”
Aside from the fact these are in desperate need of an update, as it is pretty clear gas clouds are currently not allowed, you choose three obstacles to bring to the game when building your squad.
For the purposes of this article, we‘ll assume gas clouds are good to go.
Choosing your obstacles
There are a whopping TWENTY-ONE different obstacles to choose from. That sounds like a lot. Like a lot.
But in reality, the choices break down much simpler than that. Most of the time you want 3 of the same type of obstacle, so (choice 1) start with choosing one of the three types, asteroids, debris clouds or gas clouds, and then (choice 2, less important) decide if you want big or small.
If you’re new to 2nd Edition and only have access to the rereleased obstacles (from the 2nd edition core set and the Wave 3 Squadron Packs), not at a major disadvantage, maybe even at an advantage, without the illusion of more decisions, and the needless struggle of analysis paralysis that may accompany them.
And more to that point, I’ve used the same 3 medium sized asteroids (that I recognize the shapes of after a game very easily) for almost every game for literally the last couple of years, except for a few squads that wanted debris clouds.
Yes, there can be more nuance to it, especially when you want a mixture of types, but if you’re thinking about mixing the types, there’s probably very little, if anything in this article that you don’t already know.
An example of mixing obstacle types might be taking 2 big asteroids and 1 debris cloud in a squad with Qi’ra or Grappling Struts Vulture Droids, where the strategy is to place 1 big asteroid in the middle of the board, where you wish the engagement to happen. Select 2 big asteroids to ensure you get to place one of them (opponent can have the chance to place one first) and then a gas cloud to keep more of remainder of the board open for easier maneuvering. Or the Grappling Vultures might choose a debris cloud over the gas cloud, as they can’t grapple a gas cloud.
For choosing which type of obstacle you want, one of the first things to consider is how does your squad interact with obstacles. For example, a Mining Guild TIE swarm would likely choose all asteroids, as they can freely maneuver through them. Here’s an exhaustive list of cards that directly interact with obstacles:
(one thing the official squad builder is good for, is the card database search function. Still a long way to go for me to want to build my squads in there though)
- Obstacles in general: Han Solo (Rebel, Pilot), Dash Rendar, Han Solo (Scum, Pilot), Outer Rim Pioneer, Blackout, Debris Gambit, Trick Shot, Collision Detector, Ablative Plating, Outrider, Boba Fett (crew), Tobias Beckett, Qi’ra, Seismic Charges
- Asteroids: Modified TIE/LN Fighters, Grappling Struts
- Debris Clouds: Grappling Struts, Rigged Cargo Chute, Spare Parts Canisters
AutothrusterGas Clouds: (nothing… yet)
There’s more than simply the text on the cards that interact with the obstacles. Number, size and maneuverability of your ships will interact with obstacles. Is your squad going to fly around obstacles, or need to fly through them (maneuverability, formation etc), and would you rather take damage or stress from that. Or now, the third choice of throw defensive bonuses around the place.
Gas clouds side-rant
Anyone who says taking Gas Clouds are “No consequences” or nonsense like that, is wrong. The defensive bonus being thrown around is pretty dang significant, and it works both ways (unless you’re Qi’ra). Yes, its a different kind of consequence, but there’s a reason a lot of range 3 shots were a bit of a joke towards the end of 1st edition.
Not wrong for taking them, they are super interesting but not inconsequential. Personally, I’m not a fan of the extra defense being thrown around so easily, the game is played slow enough as it is without helping ships survive longer.
Fun fact, cards such as Outrider and Blackout, that previously negated the bonus gained from defending through an obstacle, do not negate the blank to evade dice modification provided by gas clouds.
Qi’ra does however get around it, and make the gas cloud’s bonus one-way. Seems good.
Back on topic, choosing which obstacles you want based on how your squad flies, leads very much into the next section:
Game setup step 5, again from the tournament regulations:“Each player places their three obstacle tokens next to the play area to form a pool of six obstacles. The first player chooses one of these obstacles and places it into the play area. Then, the other player chooses one of the remaining obstacles and places it into the play area. The players continue to alternate until all six obstacles have been placed. An obstacle cannot be placed at Range 0–2 of any edge of the play area or at Range 0–1 of another obstacle.”
Some might say that obstacle placement doesn’t really matter. But have a look at these 3 setups, and try tell me games would play out the same on each of them.
Hmm…. yeah, looks like obstacle placement might matter after all.
And games can absolutely be won or lost at this part of the (pre)game.
If the obstacle placement is bad for your squad, it’s
somewhat your fault. You placed 3 of those obstacles.
First thing to look for (at least when starting with a list or for casual games when you don’t have a master plan) is to work out whether you want to place the obstacles together, or spread them out. And this will likely vary from game to game based on the opposing squad.
You can of course always just toss them out, without a care in the world. Plenty of fun and competitive gameplay can happen without finer details of obstacle strategy.
Or better yet, practice the physical act of tossing obstacles, so you can throw them onto the map and get them exactly where you want them, at the same time as throwing your opponent off.
For every match, there will be a right answer to who wants to fly in the obstacles more. Same question as before with obstacle selection, Is your squad going to fly around obstacles, or need to fly through them. But now you need to account for the opposing squad, and who would benefit more from fighting around the obstacles or in an open space.
Hopefully, you know how your own squad works and flies better than your opponent does (If you don’t, you’ve probably lost already), so winning turn zero comes down to who gets a better read on their opposing squad and their interactions with obstacles.
Secret to winning in general, if you know how your squad works and flies better than your opponent AND how their squad works and flies better than them, you’re probably going to win. So know how your own squad works at the very least.
Are spreading out or clustering obstacles mutually exclusive?
Here’s some example layouts:
- The first map on the left has 1 giant cluster of 6 obstacles. But the other 3/4 of the board is completely open space.
- The second map has 2 small clusters of 3 obstacles, with a giant lane down the middle.
- The third map has all 6 obstacles spread out. There is more space between the individual obstacles, but no large area of open space near the middle of the board.
(There will always be open space around the edge of the board, because obstacles must be placed range 2 from each board edge, but easily avoidable if you don’t want to, just don’t line up directly across)
Clustering leads to areas of high density and areas of low density, whereas spreading them out removed both of those areas for a more even spread across the whole board. So if you want to fight in a high density area of obstacles (or other area), obstacle placement is only half the battle, you then need to fly better to decide where the engagement happens, in the rocks or in the wide open spaces.
Your side or their side?
Before you get too far into obstacle placement, you probably want some idea of how/where you’re going to set up your ships and the opening few moves. More so, if you are lower initiative and have to deploy first. Think about if you’re going to fly fast or fly slow, if you want to engage in obstacles or in open space. And then you can make better decisions about which side of the table you might want to place your obstacles.
Some specific obstacle placements
The oldest obstacle placement in the book. Place your obstacle at range 2 and range 2 from two board edges in a corner.
Easy first step for spreading out obstacles. There is also the handy benefit of knowing the distance between the obstacle and the board edge (for example, a small base ship can always safely 4-koiogran if it’s base is with the obstacle field, because of the minimum distance of the obstacles from the board edge). This also works anywhere on the map when places precisely range 2 from an edge.
Opening up/Blocking off a corner
How not to do it: A common misconception is that an obstacle at range 3 from both board edges in the corner will block off any further obstacles being placed there.
Nope, that shaded red area is pretty big, very easy to fit another obstacle in there. A little thought, and some high school level trigonometry, shows this is pretty clearly how the distances and maths line up, and that it is a bad strategy. Similarly using a single range 3 rule from the corner of the board, diagonally inwards, also isn’t even close, it barely reaches beyond the minimum range 2 from both board edges.
How to do it correctly: Measure range 2 from both board edges, (like you would for cornering an obstacle) and then measure range 1 from their overlap towards the centre of the map. That is where the open corner obstacle goes.
You can even push it in a little further, but making sure none of the other obstacles fit between in the gap between range 2 from the board edges and range 1 of the obstacle.
Fun fact: Range 2 is the same distance as a 5 straight template, can make measuring the corners even easier.
What does this actually create? A bigger space with no obstacles around the edges of the map, but increases the density of obstacles in the centre of the map
That’s a pretty big difference in obstacle density, between putting them in the corners, and creating open corners.
It also opens up more space for a squad to set up and move out of the corner. #CastlingIsNotDead
You always get to place 3 obstacles
Some neat specific things you can do with your 3 obstacles are:
- create a little triangle cluster, to ignore, or force engagement at,
- make a line that can edge a flying lane, or separate different areas of the map.
- And if you place 2nd, you can incorporate your opponents first placement into this.
Other things to keep in mind
If you have the same obstacle strategy as your opponent, one of you is wrong. Stop and think. Better off for one player to be fighting in the obstacles than the other (though good flying and controlling where the engagement also matters).
Placing first or second
The other aspects of deciding first player (moving/shooting first in an initiative tie, or ability timing overlaps) are generally more significant than placing obstacles first or second, but there are pros and cons either way.
- Placing first allows you to control 2 out of 3 of either your obstacles (place them where they will matter) or 2 out of 3 of your opponents obstacles (place them where they won’t matter), whichever is more relevant to the specific match. (Yes, you can choose to place one of your opponents obstacles when it is your turn to place an obstacle)
- Placing first lets you place the very first obstacle (duh!) and set the stage for the battle, for example opening up a corner for yourself
- Or placing second lets you have the final say on the obstacle set up and choose how the battlefield will ultimately be
- Placing second lets you react to your opponent’s initial placement, can place near it, or far away from it, however you want the spread to be. Can create a tight cluster of 4 around their first placement
Creating dead zones
Some ships/cards have abilities to interact with a specific type of obstacle, such as Mining Guild TIEs. They will likely have brought all favorable obstacles for them, but if you brought unfavorable obstacles, you can use that to your advantage. With the Mining Guild TIEs example, you can place 2 debris field at range 1 of each other, creating a dead zone the Mining Guild TIEs won’t want to go, because they’d rather fly in the asteroids to leverage their ship ability. You can do a similar thing against Dash Rendar, place a pair of rocks at range 1, and Dash will likely stay away on his debris clouds to shoot freely.
Flying around obstacles
This could be a whole other article, but comes down to know where you maneuvers (and formation) will land. And you get that from practice, practice, practice.
What is a lane? An extended straight distance of open space between obstacles, generally wide enough to fly a couple of small based ships side by side. For the later 3-4 obstacles, creating or closing lanes is definitely something to keep in mind (as with how and where you intend on flying your ships)
Some (crudely illustrated) examples of lanes from the earlier example maps:
As you can see, the more spread out obstacle placement is far more interesting for lanes, whereas for clusters you can simply fly around them. And yes, there are always lanes around the edges of the board, up and down, and left to right.
What happens if you can’t place the 6th obstacle?
Who the f*ck no knows, but holy sh*t it’s doable. Proof:
Again crude, because I didn’t want to spend more than 5 minutes on this picture and didn’t think to pick a more plain background when I started.
What happens here? Nobody knows?
Brief Cards Discussion
- Tobias Beckett is the man, and messes with an awful lot of the previous points. This is a man you’d want to pay enough to make sure he’s on your side. Getting to remove an opposing placement, and have another of your own is pretty strong, even better that it is after they have deployed. And you always get to place the last 2 obstacles, so fighting on your own terms. (If first player, you place 5th obstacle, then can move the 6th obstacle they put down. If second player, place 6th obstacle, and then move any of the others)
- Rigged Cargo Chute and Spare Parts Canisters add extra debris fields to the chaos, which is great fun, even before you start dropping them on top of enemy ships.
- Seismic Charges, even better paired with Trajectory Simulator, simplify things, by destroying the carefully (or not so carefully) placed obstacles.
I know the Mynock Squadron Podcast with guest Paul Heaver recently (actually several weeks ago now) did a Flight Academy episode on this, but I had already planned/written a pretty big chunk of the blog already, so finished it despite a lot of similar ideas. And I’m pretty sure there are some people out there that prefer a blog/article to an 80 minute podcast, or simply can’t get enough X-Wing content.
Long time between blogs, life getting busier, which has been f*cking great! So this might be a bit disjointed with sections written weeks apart. And I still didn’t think of a good title. Handful of people out there keeps checking, handful of views everyday, high proportion on the home page, happy that at least someone is excited for it. I love the watching the stats, seeing people clicking on my stuff all over the world is pretty cool. I do have another entry planned/half-written….