11 February 2013

Why Do You Lose?

I was reading the FFG X-Wing Forums over the weekend and I ran across another thread regarding how terrible Y-Wings are and how underpowered Rebels are in general

I also was lucky enough to play a game last Friday night over Google Hangout (there's another article I need to write- screw Vassal man; play this game the way it was meant to be played) with a good friend of mine who was nice enough to run a 50-point list with no pilots above Pilot Rank 4 in order to playtest some ideas I've got for a campaign system. 

So how do these two seemingly disparate topics end up in a post called, "Why Do You Lose?" 

Long story short, I used to be the Y-Wings are terrible/ Rebels are underpowered guy, but I've since evolved. If you want to get better, you need to evolve too. 

After going on a 8-10 game losing streak back in November and early December, I had to figure out why I was playing so terribly before the Kessel Run Tournament my club and FLGS were hosting. I'd chalked up my main reasons for not being good at the game to Rebels being underpowered, because try as I might, I never could get past the good TIE swarm players at my club. 

Being as how I fix stuff for a living (computers, fire alarm systems, manufacturing processes, whatever), I stopped bitching about imbalance and applied my troubleshooting skills to my X-Wing game and found some flaws that needed addressing. 

1. Movement Phase
In short, I was colliding with stuff way too much as a result of trying to play too aggressively. If you're an Imperial player, this isn't such a big deal because you have lots of ships to mitigate the loss of a few actions as the result of some collisions with other ships or asteroids. If you're a Rebel player however, this is unacceptable and frankly, uneccessary. As I've mentioned before, the game favors the Rebel player the longer it goes on- there's no reason to risk losing Actions for a turn just to try and get some more shots in on a TIE in turn 3. Play patiently, play safely and away from other stuff and you'll be fine.

I've alluded to this before, but if you're having trouble running your ships into each other, make a list of ships at all the same Pilot Rank- this helps to mitigate some of the issue by allowing you to move your stuff in any order you wish. If you still have trouble colliding with your own stuff, well, you just need to play more and develop your spatial thinking for this game.  

2. Learning Curve
One of the main knocks against this game I see on forums and similar sites is how X-Wing has no depth. I absolutely don't subscribe to this notion in the slightest. I do think however, that some folks approach the game from this perspective, and when they don't win every game, they blame the game rather than the learning curve associated with every game. 

This game uses two mechanics that are quite different than most other miniatures games- the maneuvering and movement of the miniatures and the Pilot Ranking mechanic. 

Pilot Ranking has it's own article, so I won't rehash, but suffice it to say, the movement and subsequent activations of your miniatures is different in this game than any other. As such, it'll take you a little while to get your head around it. 

X-Wing isn't the first game to allow some units to move differently than others, but when you couple that along with not being able to move backwards at all, and using templates to cover every possible move you can make, you get a pretty interesting and different set of rules to move your miniatures around at able with. Like Pilot Ranking, it's also going to take a little while to get your head around it. 

Once I got better at those two things my Win-Loss record improved, but what about the Rebel-Imperial imbalance? 

3. There is no "Tournament List"
Unlike many other miniatures games out there, there's no optimum tournament list build. There's not even any must-have pilots in my opinion, and I think anyone whose actually played the game extensively versus just read cards, read internet forums, and thought about it a lot would agree. Are there pilots who are easier to use than others? Most definitely, yes. Is there an X-Wing equivalent to a Draigowing or Necron Flyer Spam List? Most definitely not. Will this hold true in Wave 2 with the Falcon and TIE Interceptors seeming to dominate the pre-release tables of those lucky enough to win them from Kessel Run Tournaments? I don't know, only time will tell. My gut feeling is no, it'll still be balanced, but it's tough to tell at this point. 

I've mentioned it in other articles around here, but the only way to get good at this game is to play it. You're not going to run across some internet list that's impossible to beat even if your idea of tactics and strategy is push everything forward as fast as possible and roll buckets of dice. It ain't gonna happen, so stop spending hours and hours searching and trying to create the perfect list and instead, spend those hours playing the game. You'll be better as a result. 

Playing that 50 points or less, PR 4 or less game last Friday evening showed me once again, this game is very finely balanced. Where the perception of imbalance comes into play is with Named Pilots whether or not most people realize it. I feel that much of this perceived imbalance comes from Imperials being largely easier to pick up and being more forgiving to a new play by nature than an actual imbalance. Or to put it another way, I think that if you play Imperials, you have an easier time mitigating the learning curve associated with both maneuvering and Pilot Ranking than someone who exclusively plays Rebels. 

Being able to deconstruct your game and determine the real reasons why you're losing is an important skill to possess. It's that same line of thinking coaches apply in post-game analysis in sports and it's one I learned years ago when my dad taught me how to play golf. It's also why folks say you learn more from your losses than your wins, but you have to want to learn for it to work. If you blame your losing on a bad list when in fact you lost half your actions due to collisions, well, I can't do nothin' for you man

So the next time you end up on a losing streak, instead of jumping on the internet to complain that Y-Wings are terrible and the game is imbalanced, take a few moments and objectively examine why you're really losing and seek to mitigate those reasons. 

Now, shut down your browser and go play!