17 April 2013

Bikini Battle Basics- The Three Main Actions

Bikini Battle Basics is a series of articles here on TheMetalBikini.com where we dissect certain game mechanics to aid in understanding and promote effective application. In short, it's stuff you need to know, but is somewhat obtuse or hard to understand or could just be a topic that warrants further discussion, but doesn't fit directly into a category like Listbuilding, for example. 

The Three Main Actions- Focus, Evade, and Target Lock

It's always kind of bothered me that I've gone to such great lengths talking about the Elite Pilot Skills, which in many cases are Actions that you've paid points for, and made statements like "ships without an Action get dealt with", but never really discussed the Actions that will make up the bulk of most X-Wing Miniatures lists- the three main ones: Focus, Evade, and Target Lock.

Now, I know, I know- a lot of you guys are waaaay past this article. I understand, but I can tell you from the search engine referrals I get here on TheMetalBikini.com, there are still a lot of new faces wandering into the bar every day, and while many of y'all are pickled barflies when it comes to a topic like this, I'm still serving up a lot of virgin pina coladas and Shirley Temples, if you take my meaning. 

Hyperbolic statements about the importance of not losing your Perform Action step aside, let's take a look at base Actions that are available to most ships in X-Wing. 

I came close to including Barrel Roll in this thing, as it's an Action that's detailed in the rule book, but frankly, there aren't enough ships that have it stock as an Action to be included in an article like this. I know, kind of any ship can have it via Expert Handling, but I just don't see enough pilots take that for me to really buy into that line of thinking. If enough folks really feel like I'm short-changing them by not including it, I'll edit it in, so let me know what you think. 

Usage in game: Changes any rolled eyeball die results to a filled explosion die results (a "hit" in local parlance) while attacking, changes any rolled eyeball die results to wavy lines (an evade) while defending. 
Availability: Every ship in the game
Offense or Defense: Both
Removed during End Phase: Yes

Focus is a brilliant fence-sitter Action because you can choose to use it either trying to shoot somebody or when somebody tries to shoot you; declaring a Focus, you leave your options open either way, which having an option as contextual as that is huge. It is likely to be your most used Action on just about any ship lacking a more specialized Action available because of an Elite Pilot Skill. If you're a beginner level player, I'd suggest Focusing by default any time you get the chance. 

If you take out an Attack die and examine it closely, you see how much more likely your attack is to hit by using Focus over just rolling the die stock. The Attack die has 3 hit (local parlance) symbols and 1 crit (ditto) symbol on it, so stock, you've got a 50% chance of rolling something that will generate a hit if left uncancelled by the defender. If you Focus that Attack roll, you still have those 4 faces and gain the two eyeball symbols as well, improving your odds of generating some sort of hit from 50% to 75%. Not bad! Essentially the two blank faces are the only things that screw you if you've Focused your Attack roll. 

Using it for a Defense boost works in a similar manner. The green die has only 3 wavy arrows on it, so with no modifier, you're statistically only going to roll an Evade 37.5% of the time. Not great odds. However, if you tack a Focus onto that, you get to count the two additional eyeball faces, improving your odds to Evade from 37.5% to 62.5%. Again- a pretty significant improvement! 

My statements about losing your Perform Action step don't seem so hyperbolic now, do they? :) 

Last bit about Focusing- it's not considered a re-roll, it's considered to be a change or modification, so stuff that doesn't allow re-rolling can still be Focused. Long story long, yeah, it's perfectly acceptable to Focus a Target Locked Attack roll and not violate the "no re-rolling re-rolled dice" rule. This was kind of my lightbulb moment playing X-Wing in a little 25-point beginner tournament my FLGS offered back in October or early November. Of course, I didn't figure it out until my third and last game of the mini-tournament, but once I did, it was like, ohmaigerd! It makes a difference for sure and you'd be crazy not to capitalize on it any chance you get. 

Usage in game: Hit (rulebook sense) cancelling 
Availability: TIE Fighters, TIE Advanced, TIE Interceptors, A-Wing, Firespray-31, YT-1300 via the Millennium Falcon Title
Offense or Defense: Defense 
Removed during End Phase: Yes. 

Evade effectively gives you an extra green Defense die that automatically rolls a wavy arrow result. This is a good thing because the stock Defense die only has 3 wavy arrows on it, as previously mentioned. 

Is it better to Evade or Focus; that is the question. As I've said on here many times, I'm no math whiz. I've never taken stats or even had probability formally presented to me in my academic career (which should give you a pretty good insight into my level of commitment when it came to securing higher education as a brash, young man and why I always find my real jobs fairly unsatisfactory- stay in school kids!). So while I'm sure there's a way to mathematically ascertain that one is better than the other (which will likely to be presented to me in the comments very soon after this article goes up), for me, it's about the context. 

The first criteria I use to make my Focus v Evade decision is- am I likely to get shot at in this Combat Phase? If that's a no, and I have an opposing ship I can fire on, then I'm going Focus, no question about it. If the answer to the first question is a yes, then I try to ascertain how badly that ship's likely to hurt me. If the answer is not much, or I'm unlikely to incur so much damage that my ship will be removed, I stick with Focus. If however I'm likely to get shot at, and it's likely to destroy me, and I need to have that ship on the table still, I'm going to Evade. 

TL;DR version- I usually Focus instead of Evade unless in some very specific circumstances. 

There's probably a Dos Equis ad in that statement somewhere, but it's eluding me (Evading me? Haw, haw!) at the moment, so instead, I present to you my favorite Roberto Luongo parody Dos Equis ad. 

Target Lock
Usage in game: Re-roll attack dice of your choosing
Availability: X-Wing, Y-Wing, A-Wing, YT-1300, TIE Advanced, Firespray-31
Offense or Defense: Offense
Removed during End Phase: No.

A lot of the time, beginning X-Wing players think that Target Locks are only good for being the prerequisite to firing off a salvo or torpedoes or missiles. While they're good for that, they're also worthwhile in a normal, Primary Weapon situation too. 

Acquiring a Target Lock isn't quite automatic like declaring a Focus or an Evade, however. You have to pick a target that's in Range 1-3 of you, but that target does not have to be within your firing arc just to select him as the target of your Target Lock (I know that reads clunky, but intended recipient sounds even worse, and victim doesn't quite convey the meaning I want it to).  Also bear in mind how this actually goes down- the ship you Target Lock could very well move away from you in his movement phase if he's of a higher Pilot Skill than your Target Locking ship; that's fine- your Target Lock still stays in effect. Once you've got it, it sticks around until you either use it to modify an Attack roll, and as I mentioned last week- turns out that yeah, you can burn it and choose not to actually re-roll any dice or decide to abandon it simply by TL'ing another ship. 

Target Lock when used with a Primary Weapon allows you to re-roll any dice you want, which is pretty nice as if you've got a Focus token to burn, you can pick up just the blanks you've rolled and keep the eyeball, hit, and crit results, or if you have no Focus token, you can choose to re-roll everything but your hits and crits (local for both). 

As trying to get them both is something of a no-brainer, the real question is if you can only get one this game turn, which one do you pick? 

For me, there's a selection process kinda like Evade, but the main difference here is I try and gauge how likely I am to destroy the other ship as my main determinant. If I need the TL to make sure every shot hits because that's likely to grease that ship I usually do it. If that's unlikely to happen and/ or I'm going to get fired on by multiple ships before the end of the game turn, I'll probably fall back on Focus as usual. 


  1. Good article. It was needed for the n00bs coming in.

  2. One thing to say is the psychological factor of an Evade token on one of your ships. Sometimes it highly discourages someone from firing at it just b/c it has the Evade token on it.