Simultaneous Attack; X-Wing rules discussion.

One of the first rules that players learn in Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures is how Pilot Skill affects the order of moving and firing; ships are activated in order lowest to highest when moving, highest to lowest when firing. Simultaneous Attack is almost always brought up immediately following that explanation because you have to know how to resolve ties. The player with initiative does everything first, but thanks to Simultaneous Attack, ships that are shot down by pilots of the same skill level get to perform their attack if they haven’t already. That’s not the exact definition of the rule, but it covers what a novice player needs to know at that moment; if your PS 5 guy shoots down my PS 5 guy, I still shoot, but if your PS 6 ship takes me out, my finger wasn’t on the trigger yet. The visual that the novice comes away with is that everybody at a given pilot skill shoots simultaneously, we just can’t roll all those dice at the same time and make any sense of it all, so we resolve one at a time.

However as the game grows and gets more complicated, and we start combining more upgrades and abilities, the intricacies of the core rules start meaning a lot more, and our understanding of the rules changes, or we simply apply them incorrectly because that’s how we thought they worked. In a discussion regarding whether or not a new FAQ was needed after the release of the Wave 7 ships (the K-Wing, the TIE Punisher, the Hound’s Tooth, and the Kihraxz Fighter), I posited that there were certainly rules that could use clarification.

miranda-doni                     twin-laser-turret

Consider Miranda Doni, the “Ace” of the K-Wing pilots, carrying a Twin Laser Turret. If you fire a Twin Laser Turret, and deal a damage to kill your target with the first shot, does the second shot still happen? It seems pointless to worry about at first, or when looking at Twin Laser Turret by itself, but Miranda Doni could potentially sacrifice a die on the second shot and regenerate a shield, not caring whether or not the attack actually dealt damage. Does she get that opportunity? I believe the answer is “yes”, always, but it could be argued that the second shot cannot be performed because the target is destroyed by the first shot. To convolute matters further, it then matters whether or not the target is the same pilot skill, and which player has initiative.

This turned into an interesting discussion, and the quotes below arose from other players in the conversation.

“I think the rule is that technically that shot will happen because the ship isn’t removed until after all pilots at that skill level have completed their turn, BUT can you fire at ships with no [Hull Points] left? I’m not aware of any rules on that, so I’d be interested in any references to that.”

“The short answer is: yes. If you have eight ships firing at [Pilot Skill] 1, but the first one deals enough damage to the only legal target to destroy it, the other seven ship may continue to fire at that ship.”

The above are both correct and incorrect to an extent. All eight of those Pilot Skill 1 ships could fire at the target even if the first shot dealt enough damage to kill the target, but only if the Simultaneous Fire rule has triggered. For reference’s sake, I’ve copied the following text from page 16 of the X-Wing rulebook (emphasis is written in): 

Destroying Ships
When the number of Damage cards dealt to a ship is equal to or greater than its hull value, the ship is immediately destroyed (faceup and facedown cards count toward this total). Immediately remove the destroyed ship from the play area, discard all of its Damage cards to a faceup discard pile next to the Damage deck, and return all of its tokens to their respective supplies.

Exception: See “Simultaneous Attack Rule.”
Note: Because ships are destroyed immediately after receiving Damage cards, ships with low pilot skill values may be destroyed before having an opportunity to attack.

Simultaneous Attack Rule: Although ships perform their attacks one at a time, ships with a pilot skill value equal to the active ship’s pilot skill value have the opportunity to attack before being destroyed. If such a ship would be destroyed, it simply retains its Damage cards without being removed from the play area. It may perform an attack as normal during the Combat phase, although any faceup Damage cards just dealt to it may affect this attack. After this ship has had its opportunity to attack this round, it is immediately destroyed and removed from the play area.

So, as written, you can fire at a ship with zero hit points if Simultaneous Fire has triggered, because it’s still on the field until the end of that initiative step, and nothing about the target selection rules checks the target’s health. This is because every Critical Hit has a chance to a hinder your opponent’s retaliation.

Even with a Twin Laser Turret that cannot inflict Critical Hits, some players have discussed running Miranda Doni with a Gunner, which could result in the following sequence:

Fire with Twin Laser Turret shot #1, hit, kill with one damage.

Fire with Twin Laser Turret shot #2, regenerate shield, miss.
Gunner triggers, primary attack hits, inflicting a critical hit.

This third attack is why it’s crucial that Simultaneous Attack allows Doni to continue to fire at the enemy even after inflicting a deathblow with the first shot. The extra point(s) of damage normally wouldn’t matter, but critical hits do. A Weapon Malfunction, Munitions Failure, Injured Pilot, or Blinded Pilot could potentially reduce the impact of return fire.

But stepping back a second, our quoted discussion example from above doesn’t work. Not all eight of those Pilot Skill 1 ships are guaranteed to be able to fire, even if the target is also PS 1. As written, Simultaneous Attack only triggers if the target’s pilot skill matches the attacker’s pilot skill AND the defender has not yet had an opportunity to fire this turn. If your opponent has initiative and shoots first, then Simultaneous Fire will never trigger when you are the attacker.

If the destroyed ship has fired already, it is removed from play immediately. And if it has not fired already, and Simultaneous Attack goes into effect then it is removed immediately after it does shoot, not at the end of the initiative step.

Consider the following game scenarios for examples of why these distinction matters. 

Player 1 (has initiative)
Whisper – 32 (TIE Phantom)
Advanced Cloaking Device – 4 (TIE Phantom)
Sensor Jammer – 4 (Lambda Shuttle)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)

Soontir Fel – 27 (TIE Interceptor)
Royal Guard TIE – 0 (Imperial Aces)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
Stealth Device – 3 (M3-A / Slave 1)

vs.

Player 2
Patrol Leader – 40 (VT-49 Decimator)
Rebel Captive* – 3 (Lambda Shuttle)

Kath Scarlet – 38 (Slave 1)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Rebel Captive* – 3 (Lambda Shuttle)

*For the purposes of the first example, assume Rebel Captive is non-unique. It’s just easier to highlight the issue that way.

Now, let’s say we’re near the very end of this game, and all four ships are down to one or two hull points remaining. Soontir Fel and Whisper both have shots available on the Patrol Leader, neither can fire on Kath.

Both Whisper and Soontir are stranded in the firing arc of the Firespray, and cannot maneuver out of it or manage to get a shot off. Neither ship is stressed, but both skipped the action phase. We’ll say that Soontir was planning to Barrel Roll out of Whisper’s way, but clipped an asteroid during movement, causing the Phantom to collide with him and losing both sets of actions in the process.

The semi-obvious solution is for Fel to fire first and take the Stress from Rebel Captive, and thus gain a Focus. But if Fel’s shot kills the target, Simultaneous Attack does not apply, and it is removed immediately. Whisper is now left uncloaked and extremely vulnerable to Kath’s attack.

Whisper could shoot first, and would most likely get a Focus for hitting the target, but would be unable to Cloak because of the Stress assigned by Rebel Captive. And Soontir would be left defenseless without having found a way to get that Stress token.

However, had Player 2’s ships been in the opposite positions and the target had been Kath, Simultaneous Attack DOES take effect. The Firespray would be able to shoot too, but not until after Fel gets his Focus, and Whisper gets to fire, most likely hit to get a Focus and Cloak after the attack regardless of the results of Fel’s attacks.

Now flip the Initiative around, because Soontir wanting to move last was less important to Player 1 than Whisper shooting first. Kath Scarlet fires first, and we’ll say she completely misses. Because Player 2 has already had the opportunity to attack with the Firespray, Simultaneous Attack does not go into effect if Kath is killed, even within the same Pilot Skill. So in that case, if Soontir scores the kill, Player 2’s ship is removed immediately, and Whisper is again hung out to dry with no tokens to defend against the Patrol Leader’s shot.

Next example:

Player 1 
Esege Tuketu – 28 (K-Wing)
Chewbacca – 4 (Millennium Falcon)
Twin Laser Turret – 4 (K-Wing)
Seismic Charges – 2 (TIE Bomber / IG-2000 / Slave 1)

Garven Dreiss – 26 (GR-75)
R5-P9 – 3 (GR-75)

Kyle Katarn – 21 (HWK-290)
Blaster Turret – 4 (HWK-290)
Moldy Crow – 1 (HWK-290)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)

vs.

Player 2
Zertik Strom – 26 (Imperial Raider)
TIE x1 – 0 (Imperial Raider)
Advanced Targeting Computer – 1* (Imperial Raider)
Draw Their Fire – 1 (Millennium Falcon)

Howlrunner – 18 (TIE Fighter)
Stealth Device – 3 (M3-A / Slave 1)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)

Academy Pilot – 12 (TIE Fighter / Starter Set)

Academy Pilot – 12 (TIE Fighter / Starter Set)

Academy Pilot – 12 (TIE Fighter / Starter Set)

Academy Pilot – 12 (TIE Fighter / Starter Set)

Zertik-strom                   Draw_Their_Fire

Let’s say Player 2 has initiative. We’re a couple turns in, and Zertik Strom is almost dead. In fact, right after Zertik fires, Tuketu drops him with an immediate retaliatory shot. Strom is removed from the board immediately, because Simultaneous Fire doesn’t apply here. His abilities stop applying, and Howlrunner gets shot by Garven and Kyle, who manage to sneak through one Critical Hit each, and Garven has an additional hit on top of that! Howlrunner drops like a rock.

Now turn the initiative around, and say that Player 1 has it. All the attacks are directed at the exact same targets. When Zertik Strom gets shot down by Tuketu, because he hasn’t fired yet, Zertik remains on the board thanks to Simultaneous Fire. Now Garven and Kyle take their shots at Howlrunner, but Strom is still there, and his Pilot Ability causes enemies at Range 1 to lose their range bonus when attacking, so Garven loses an attack die and each of the attacks results in one just one uncanceled Critical Hit. But the doomed TIE Advanced causes problems for the Rebels again; it has Draw Their Fire and is still on the table, so both of those Critical Hits are pulled off of Howlrunner, who now escapes unscathed! Zertik makes his attack now, and only then is he removed from the field.

One more (slightly silly example):

Player 1
Biggs Darklighter – 25 (Starter Set)
Han Solo – 46 (Millennium Falcon)

vs.

Player 2
Mandalorian Mercenary – 35 (Most Wanted)
Latts Razzi – 33 (Hound’s Tooth)
Guri – 30 (Starviper)
Palob Godalhi – 20 (Most Wanted)
Kaa’to Leeachos – 15 (Most Wanted)
Drea Renthal – 22 (Most Wanted)
Black Sun Ace – 23 (Kihraxz Fighter)
Tansarii Point Veteran – 17 (M3-A)

Trivia question: What do all of Player 2’s ships have in common?

Biggs-darklighter

Answer: Assuming that none of them have taken Veteran Instincts, they’re all Pilot Skill 5, the same as Biggs.

And that means that Player 1, obviously having an initiative bid when outnumbered 195 – 71, should give initiative to Player 2. It doesn’t matter if there’s 50,000 additional Mandalorian Mercenaries on the field, if they have Biggs in arc and range, so long as Han stays close enough to his sacrificial lamb, they can’t shoot Han if Biggs was alive as Pilot Skill 5 shots began ringing out; Since Biggs hasn’t had an opportunity to shoot yet, he remains on the field and his ability still applies. Quite the martyr, no?

So is there something you should do differently when designing your lists based on understanding exactly how the Simultaneous Fire rule really works? Probably not.  Has misunderstanding it hurt you badly in any previous games? The chances are slim. But not knowing how the rule works can possibly force players into a bad position that could be avoided if you know the rules.

Lets look back to our first example with Whisper and Soontir Fel. If this is a timed match, and time has almost expired, there’s absolutely a right decision to make. Knowing that you might not be able to protect both ships with tokens, protect Whisper by firing with the Phantom first, cloaking, and hopefully scoring a Focus token too. At 44 points, keeping Whisper alive can score you a modified win over the 43 or 42 points invested in Player 2’s remaining ship, whereas Soontir’s 35 would leave you with a loss.

Going back to how this whole thing got started, can Miranda Doni regenerate a shield via Twin Laser Turret’s second attack against a dead target when Simultaneous Fire applies? Absolutely. Does it work if Simultaneous Fire doesn’t apply? Only a FAQ update can say for sure.

If you’re still with me, thanks for sticking around, because let’s be honest… that is way too much to think about on the subject of Simultaneous Fire.

And while we’re talking about “sticking around”, thanks for sticking around for a year with the Tabletop General. I hope you’ve learned a little from me, I know I’ve learned a lot in the process of writing it all down.

– The Tabletop General

On The Art of Arc Dodging

I like thinking on my feet, reacting to a situation, and solving puzzles. So as a player of Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures, the art of arc dodging intrigued me and called to me; every turn of the game is a new puzzle to solve. With the TIE Interceptor being my favorite ship in the game, I had no choice in the matter of adopting this high risk, high reward play style. I’ve leaned heavily on three Interceptors for my default tournament list for quite some time now.

I’ve thought for months about how best to share what I’ve learned about arc dodging with all of you, and it’s a daunting task. It’s not that I –KNOW– that much, it’s that so much of what I’m doing is extremely dependent on the situation, and largely based on gut feeling, or trusting the Force, if you will. There are plenty of situations where the best choice for your actions will change based on what you’re facing, how much time is left in the match, or even how your opponent has reacted to previous moves.

Arc dodging, for those who aren’t familiar, involves making adjustments to your ship’s position on the field in order to prevent the enemy from being able to fire on your ship. The general idea is that it’s better to remove the possibility of being shot at completely than to gamble on the dice treating you well. It’s a play style that can be very frustrating to learn, as mistakes will generally cause your ships to take major damage – not only will you still get shot at, but you’ll do so without the benefit of defensive actions, and perhaps in a worse position than you were in before.

My personal definition of an arc dodging ship, is, of course,  a TIE Interceptor. Period. But most of these ideas would apply to properly equipped M3-A ScyksStarvipers,  the forthcoming TIE Prototype, Jake Farrell, and to a lesser extent any ship with barrel roll which can have Engine Upgrade added, like the newly refreshed Darth Vader, Corran Horn, and so on. The true requirements to take advantage of all of these tactics are access to both Boost and Barrel Roll actions, the ability to perform multiple actions in one turn (generally via Push The Limit), and room for the Autothrusters upgrade. This ship should also have access to a healthy dose of green maneuvers, ideally including one or more green turn moves, because you’ll likely be stressing your ship each turn once engaged. High pilot skill is also a very crucial component, as you really need as much information as possible about the final board state for a the turn when performing your actions.

When arc dodging well, it doesn’t really matter what your ship’s current health is; you’re not getting shot at. So generally, I guarantee that I have the highest pilot skill on the table by making a kamikaze attack on any pilots that are higher skill. Wedge Antilles (with initiative choice), Corran Horn (with Veteran Instincts), and Ten Numb (also with Veteran Instincts) are prime examples of ships that have to come off the table quickly for me, as they can all move after my personal ace of choice Soontir Fel. Even if I lose Soontir in the process, Carnor Jax or even my Royal Guard Pilot can often clean up the remainder of the enemy squad. If I have one hit point left, and my opponent has one ship left, I’m okay with that situation, so long as I’ve cleared out the higher pilot skill threats. The less ships on the table at any given time, the better, and combining that with having the highest pilot skill still active in the game allows an arc dodger to run rampant.

Let’s break out the diagrams and show some practical examples.

The absolute most basic example of arc dodging is denying your opponent a shot when you don’t have one either by using a Barrel Roll, a Boost, or a combination of the two to escape the enemy’s firing arc.

Chase_BR_Escape
Barrel Rolling to safety out of arc
Chase_Boost_Escape
Boosting to safety out of arc instead
R2_Aligned_Escape
Options abound, but some are better than others. Note what a difference it makes whether you Boost or Barrel Roll first here; Boosting first leaves you in arc!

Denying attacks is great, and will often be your primary goal when arc dodging, as most arc dodging ships will win the long-term positioning battle. But just escaping isn’t enough to win the game. The ultimate goal of arc dodging, then, is to escape the enemy’s line of fire, but still having them in your sights.

Barrel Rolling into an unopposed shot
A simple Barrel Roll into an unopposed shot

Here’s one of the least counter-intuitive things about arc dodging: Sometimes, boosting TOWARDS the enemy is the right thing to do!

Offset_Boost_Unopposed
Despite moving toward the enemy, the forward motion and rotation keeps the Interceptor out of arc here, and gives them a great firing opportunity as an added bonus.
Offset_Boost_BR_Unopposed
This one is a little tougher. Escape is available by dodging out to the left, but combining an inwards Boost with a Barrel Roll back to the outside gets a clean shot

There will, however, be times where escaping the enemy’s firing arc is simply impossible, or will leave you in a much worse position because of the presence of other ships or obstacles. That’s when it’s time to “turtle up” with defensive actions, take your lumps, and try again the next turn.

R3_Aligned_No_Escape
From this position, avoiding an enemy shot is impossible.

Obviously, these are situations that an arc dodger wants to avoid. Any enemy shot is a bad shot. So how can we best avoid these situations? Consider the following two images. The first shows our two demo ships going head to head, and indicates the closest forward position from which the Interceptor can Barrel Roll backwards out of the enemy’s range, and the furthest back position from which the Interceptor can escape to the side, with a large “deadzone” between the two from which escape is impossible. The second shows the same situation if the Interceptor is approaching from an offset alignment, indicating the spacing with a blank base.

Aligned_Margin_of_Error
Any position between the two rightmost T/I bases does not allow the T/I to escape, they’ll have to stay put and exchange fire.
Offset_R3_Margin_of_Error
With an offset alignment, the deadzone is MUCH smaller, and only includes Range 3, which helps the T/I defensively if it does get caught there.

Now, as the pilot of the X-Wing, you might think that you’d be able to block this escape by banking towards the Interceptor on the turn of engagement, as opposed to coming straight in. But that just makes escape even easier, and gives up an unopposed shot!

Yes, the escape to the left is cut off by the X-Wing's bank maneuver, but the combined change in angle and position leaves the opposite side open for an attack!
Yes, the escape to the left is cut off by the X-Wing’s bank maneuver, but the combined change in angle and position leaves the opposite side open for an easy attack!

So, when facing an arc dodging ship, what can you do? There are often multiple ways in which a slippery target can duck out of your firing arc, and the opposition has to close them all off, the arc dodger only has to find one way to escape.  Using obstacles as an assistant can greatly cut down on those options.

The Interceptor is trapped between a rock and a hard place here. Unable to escape to the right at all, going right means an inevitable encounter with an asteroid the next turn.
The Interceptor is trapped between a rock and a hard place here. Unable to escape to the right at all, going right means an inevitable encounter with an asteroid the next turn.

Similarly, the edge of the playing field can block off options and force the enemy to joust with you, but do be careful with that approach – the recent FAQ changes make it much safer for players to squeeze into tight spaces near the board edge, as they do not run any risk of being destroyed if the action cannot be completed.

Arc dodging is certainly an art, not a science. The goals change completely when your opponent has a fleet of B-Wings carrying Tacticians that are ready to load you up with Stress tokens if you get caught at Range 2. Turrets change the emphasis of arc dodging if you have Autothrusters, or mostly eliminate the point otherwise. A Heavy Laser Cannon on the Outrider makes Range 1 a safe haven, Feedback Array on IG-2000 makes it a death trap. There are just far too many permutations to describe the absolute perfect move at any given time in advance; positioning (both for this turn and subsequent turns), score, time remaining in the match, obstacles, presence of other ships, and more can all affect what a player will chose to do. But there are plenty of wrong moves to be made, where you’ll do nothing but hurt yourself in the attempt. Don’t be afraid to make those mistakes, it’s the only way to learn to find those epic “I can’t believe you pulled that off” moments that make this play style so fun and rewarding.

– The Tabletop General