Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Rookie Pilots - Ignoring Dice Modification

Rookie Pilots is a series of occasional blogs looking at common mistakes players make, either when they're just starting out or trying to step up their play from the kitchen table to the tournament hall.
You've pulled off a great move and outflanked your opponent so you've got an easy shot.  The only thing that could have gone better is that you're just outside Range 1 for that fourth dice to throw.  But your T-70 X-Wing has a Boost action, and you put the hammer down to close to point blank range and give him all four red dice!

I will ride eternal, shiny and chrome!
Congratulations, by boosting to get closer instead of focusing you just made your attack worse.

If you roll dice without Focus or Target Lock to modify what you roll then each dice has a 50% chance of hitting, so throwing four dice is going to come up with an average of 2 hits.  Your boost has given you a chance of rolling 4 hits it's only a 6% chance.

On the other hand if you'd sat at Range 2 and used your action to Focus or Target Lock then you've got a 75% chance of each red dice coming up as a hit result, so throwing three dice is going to result in 2.25 hits.  Yeah you've no chance of rolling 4 hits with only three dice, but your chances of throwing 3+ hits went up from 31% to 43%.


Throwing your dice with no Focus or Target Lock (or Evade on defense) to help you out is where people start to feel like their dice are betraying them because they never seem to actually deal damage.  It can lead to a lot of frustration, and ultimately be the reason why some players simply give up on X-Wing altogether because they feel like there's too much luck in it.  They don't understand that they're introducing more luck into the game by the way they're playing and the decisions they're making.

The thing is when there's Boost and Barrel Roll actions available it's a really easy thing to get sucked into, especially for new players.  The position of your ships on the table is something tangible and real, while the maths of the dice is intangible and easy to underestimate.  X-Wing looks like it's a game about maneuvering and positioning, so if you can Barrel Roll into a great position or Boost around to the back of your opponent then it very intuitively feels like a good thing for you to do.  If put your guns right up the back of your opponent's ship then how can you possibly miss from there?


That disconnect between what looks like an easy shot and the reality of throwing four red dice only to get 1 hit (which isn't actually that unlucky - it happens about a third of the time) is where a lot of frustration with 'bad dice' is born and bred.

This goes equally for defence dice, by the way, if not more so.  Green dice have one less Evade result on them than the red dice do Hits and Crits so if you don't have a Focus token to spend on your dice then they're highly unpredictable.  When you're tossing a handful of green dice at range 3 it feels like you're in great shape, but in reality even getting one evade result from four green dice is all you're really 'due'.  Throw a Focus token on top of those dice, though, and you've a good chance of avoiding all incoming damage.

X-Wing looks like a game of positioning but ultimately it's not as one-dimensional as that.  A lot of the time the benefits of hugely outflying your opponent can be negligible compared to simply forcing all your dice into Hits and Evades with focus and target locks.  You need to strike a balance between getting your ships into the right place and making that positioning count by supporting your dice rolls as much as possible.

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