X-Wing 101: 5 Tips for New Players
X-Wing 101 is a series of articles presented by Radio TCX, written to help players new to the X-Wing Miniatures Game transition from casual player to competitive player.

    X-Wing just celebrated its 4th birthday, and the competitive community is larger and more robust than ever before. When I started playing, about two and a half years ago, Wave 4 was just about to launch, and getting into the game was not difficult. There were only a dozen ships to own, and the competitive scene was just starting to gain momentum. Since then the X-Wing community has experienced substantial growth and change. In just a few years we have seen dozens of new ships released, a third faction added, a huge increase in high level competitive play, as well as a 3-time World Champion.

    Entering the competitive scene for any game can be intimidating, especially if that game has been around for a long time, like X-Wing. If you are an X-Wing player interested in becoming a part of the competitive community, here are 5 tips to help get you started.

1. You Don’t Need to Buy Everything Right Away
    With all the ships that are now available, it can be challenging to know where to start. Like all games with an active competitive community, not every game piece is equally viable in competitive play. There is a reason you don’t see any M3-A Interceptors (AKA “Scyks”) winning any high level tournaments.

    But when you are deciding what to buy, there is more to consider than just the ship that comes in the package. Often valuable upgrade cards come packed with seldom used ships, like Autothrusters in the Starviper Expansion, or Push The Limit in the A-Wing Expansion. Buying one or more copies of every expansion is impractical and expensive for new players, but not having access to certain upgrades can make it difficult to play competitively.

    This is where using a proxy can help. A proxy is some kind of token used to represent an X-Wing card you do not yet own. Proxies can be as simple as a scrap of paper with the card’s text written on it. When you are playing X-Wing in a non-tournament setting (X-Wing tournaments generally require you to have the official game components), using proxies for cards you don’t have is a great way to experiment with different ships and upgrades. This way you can try out that A-Wing Crackshot swarm, without having to buy a bunch of Kihraxz Fighters and YV-666s for those additional Crackshot upgrade cards.

2. Learn How to Maneuver your Ships
    Over the last few years I have seen a lot of frustrated players complain that, “X-Wing is a dice game!” after a bad loss or series of below average die rolls. While I would never deny that dice are a fundamental part of the game, they are not the primary factor in determining the outcome of most games of X-Wing. Paul Heaver didn’t win 3 consecutive World Championships because of a series of uncanny die rolls. To say that X-Wing is mainly a dice game discredits the many high level X-Wing players who have practiced endlessly to learn the ins-and-outs of list building, anticipating an opponent’s moves, and maneuvering their ships.

    Serious competitive X-Wing players scarcely, unintentionally fly their ships through or on top of obstacle tokens, and they almost never fly ships off the board. This is because a well practiced X-Wing player knows their ships’ maneuvers, and how they will play out on the board, so well that they can confidently set risky looking maneuvers with the absolute confidence that they will clear obstacles and other ships. For the same reason, they will also know how their opponent’s possible maneuvers will work out, allowing for more effective blocking and positioning.

    The only way to gain this skill set is through practice. So for beginners, I would recommend using ships with robust dials, so you can learn how to estimate which maneuvers will work best, in a variety of situations. The actual stat values of a ship (Attack/Agility/Hull/Shield) have no effect on how a maneuver template will fit; a 3-bank on a bulky K-Wing functions exactly the same as a 3-bank on a nimble Tie/FO. Though it must be noted that there is a vast difference between how maneuvers play out on small base ships vs. large base ships. It is important that you practice with both base sizes, to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of how all ship types can maneuver.

    For this reason, I recommend new players fly lists using small base ships like the T-70 X-Wing or the Tie/FO, along with large base ships like the YT-2400 or the Firespray (with Engine Upgrade). While these ships are not always viable in competitive play, they do feature strong maneuver dials. Each of these ships also has 1 of the 2 main repositioning actions, Barrel Roll and Boost. Familiarity with these 2 actions is vital in understanding how your ships (and your opponent’s ships) can move.

3. Don’t be Afraid of Tournaments
    Many of the new X-Wing players I’ve met are hesitant to play in tournaments. While I completely understand the apprehension new players experience (like I said, trying to learn a competitive game is intimidating), I always tell them to play in tournaments anyway. Sure, you may lose most of your games. You may lose all of your games. But you will never become a better X-Wing player if you do not challenge yourself.

    There is a lot of knowledge to be gained from playing in tournaments, even small store level tournaments. First of all, you get to test your list. Testing your list against other players in a competitive environment is the best way to determine its strengths and weaknesses. Second, when you play against other players, you get to experience new strategies and card combinations. I didn’t appreciate the efficiency of a “Party Bus” (Trandoshan Slaver YV-666, with Dengar crew, Zuckuss crew, and 4-LOM crew) until I saw it tear my Ace Imperial ships apart.

    And it goes without saying, but don’t drop out of a tournament because you have a losing record. I’ve seen many X-Wing players drop out of a tournament after a couple hard losses, just because they no longer have a chance at making the top cut. While I understand the frustration of starting a 6 round tournament with an 0-2 record, I would recommend sticking it out and playing every match possible. A losing record might bar you from making a top 8 cut, but the experience you will gain is incredibly valuable. At Worlds 2014 I won my first round of swiss and then proceeded to lose the next 7 matches. While this was discouraging, I played a lot of great games against a lot of great opponents. The next year, at Worlds 2015, I went 5-3. Sure I didn’t make the top cut, but I credit my winning record to the experience I gained the previous year.

4. Don’t Switch Lists Too Often
    A recurring problem I see with new players is the readiness to abandon a list after 1 or 2 rough games. Maybe their strategy didn't pan out like they hoped it would, maybe the upgrade cards and pilot abilities did not synergize that well. It is easy to succumb to the desire to give up on lists, just because they do not generate immediate success.

    Do not fall into this trap. I’m not saying you should should fly a list that always fails; a bad list is a bad list. But it is impossible to measure the real value and efficiency of a list after just a couple games. It takes time and practice to learn how to effectively fly a list.

    The very first time I flew the Protectorate pilot Fenn Rau, I lost. I thought I had assembled a strong list, relying on ship builds that were known to be effective in the metagame. But in spite of that, I lost the match. Now, I could have chosen to give up on Fenn Rau, and move on to experimenting with other Wave 9 ships, but I didn’t. I stuck it out and kept practicing, and I was able to win the next 10 or so games I played with that same list. I didn’t trade out ships, I didn’t try new upgrade cards, I just kept trying to develop my strategy and learn how to use the ships effectively.

    Sometimes a list won’t work out. You’ll play several games, but you will continue not to get the results you are looking for. That is a reasonable time to make a change, but always try tweaking a list before abandoning it. Rather than giving up on a list wholesale, try to look at it critically and identify what parts are holding it back. Maybe the Elite Pilot Talent you chose isn’t triggering often enough, so try a new one. If the list doesn’t seem durable enough, try swapping out one of the ships for a different one. Continual, small adjustments are how you shape a list into what you want it to be.

5. Don’t Let One Bad Experience Ruin the Game For You
    Sometimes things won’t work out like they should. Sometimes that range 1, 4 dice attack with a target lock and a focus token will generate 1 hit. Sometimes you will play a rude and condescending opponent. Sometimes a judge will make a bad call, and it will lose you the match. Don’t give up.

    After a few years of being a part of the X-Wing community, I’ve player hundreds of games, against countless opponents. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but I never let one bad game, or one bad opponent, or one bad tournament, ruin my experience. This game is incredibly challenging and entertaining, and that’s the reason I continue to be a part of this community. The good times I have had with X-Wing far outweigh the bad, and if you practice and keep striving to be a better player I believe the same will be true for you.

X-Wing 101 is presented by Radio TCX, the premiere podcast for X-Wing Miniatures news and commentary. Find the podcast on iTunes and Podbean, and follow the show on Facebook facebook.com/radiotcx, or on Twitter @RadioTCXPodcast.