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.

Barrel Rolling to safety out of arc
Boosting to safety out of arc instead
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!

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.
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.

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.

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.
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