Category: Swarm Theory

X-Wing: Swarm Theory Part 4

It’s that time again, to look at one of the archetype builds for X-Wing.  Last time we looked at Howlrunner and what she adds to your Squad.  This week we look at how to actually move the 6 TIE block around.

After looking at the Math of why Howlrunner is good and how to build her into a 7 TIE swarm we are now going to look at some basic plays to make her and her six TIE block work.

The goal of this article is not to give you a step by step guide on how you have to move in the early turns as it will revolve around your personal play style, the asteroid set up and your opponent.
I am hoping for people to pick up some simple maneuvers and to be able to assess some options after looking at their opponents Squad and the Asteroid set up and make their own plans.

It would also be remiss of me to talk about a swarm in this age of Wave 4 and the threat that the Anti-Swarm focused Ordnance list that have been doing the rounds.  So we will start there.

The Rebel Y-Wing moves 5 Ship
Lengths (4 Ahead 
+ its Base)
 and so does the TIE Fighter.

This is going to get fairly basic but some people may not know about the rule of 11.

The basic premiss is that if both players deploy on the Range 1 Line of their deployment (as close as possible to each other) then they will have to travel 11 Ship lengths between them to be in range of each other.

From the perspective of the Rebel player (or the player wanting to use the ordnance) they will want to land at exactly 11 Ship lengths to gain the Target Lock and then next turn land at Range Band 2 so that they can have a Focused attack as the ideal.  This is a fairly unrealistic proposition against most ships, as if you have landed at Range 3 and been Target Locked most people will power into the enemy to try to negate the ordnance.

This means that most people playing with any type of ordnance based list against a Swarm will launch once they have the Target Locks and the new Munitions Failsafes only make this even more likely.

The Correct play is therefore to try to land outside Range 3 and then next round hit Range 1 with your full swarm.  Sounds Easy…

If you are flying in Ranks straight towards your enemy who is flying right back at you it is not too bad (remember you are well within your rights to ask what your opponents ships maneuvers options are if you don’t know them).  What you want to avoid is opening an engagement like this in Column as the back ships will be at range two of your opponents and still within Range 1 of all of your ships, meaning that Assault Missiles will still hurt your whole swarm.

Top Six TIE’s in Ranks Bottom Six TIE’s in Column

Why not just set up in Ranks and fly at your opponent then?

We now go back to the last article and look at the fact that the majority of your swarm is going to be low Pilot Skill.  Even if you managed to make a 6 TIE list with Black Squadron Pilots as your lowest Pilot Skill, in the emerging Meta where Higher Pilot skill has become more important against the Wave 4 Phantom you will likely be deploying the vast majority of your Swarm before your opponent has placed a ship.
Any enemy that sees your ships in ranks would be foolish to deploy opposite them, even if they are using an anti-swarm list.  This is because of the way that both formations can react to a threat to their flank.

Flanking either of these formations will give you a good advantage but if you can get to the flank of a formation flying in Ranks than it is in a much worse position as the first response would be to want to Turn in to you.

This leaves you in Column which if your opponent has anything about them will put the rear most TIE’s at Range Band 3 or even worse out of range entirely.  Your other option would be to Bank but as the TIE only has access to a Two or a Three Bank than you can not stagger the formation properly to hold a line meaning you are either breaking formation or just spending two turns to perform a longer turn.

Hopefully this shows that it is always preferable to be reacting from a Column so that you engage in Ranks.

The above diagram demonstrates the versatility of the Column’s Bank, a Bank will leave either formation in what is referred to as a Checker Board Formation which is a very powerful position to be in due to the options it opens up.

Depending on the engagement angle and position of your enemy the above formation could Barrel Roll as its action to dodge arch whilst holding formation or if positioning for a later round you can perform a second Bank to complete the Turn in to Column or if the enemy is looking to fly past you a Hard Turn will position to counter that move.

Not forgetting that both Straights or K-Turns are available to you as well.

One thing that it is easy to forget when picturing these moves is that Howlrunner will be moving at Pilot Skill 8.  This means that Barrel Rolls are not available from some positions as you have to move her last.  A clever opponent will use this against you and you also need to remember it for moving around asteroids in formation.

If in Column, Howlrunner should be placed in one of the rear corners which means that you cannot Barrel Roll back towards your table edge if you perform a Turn.

If moving from Ranks with a Turn then you will not be able to Barrel Roll towards Howlrunner or she will crash.  That is not to say that you should never do it as sometimes a crash will be advantageous but if you are looking to hold formation you need to remember it!

My next step would have been to demonstrate all of this in a game but due to my own loathing of flying the 7 TIE swarm (it just does not suit my play style I like the freedom of my 8 TIE build) and people looking to play with Wave 4 stuff I have not had chance to get a Battle Report done.  If you keep checking my Blog at The Dice Hate Me I will post a report as soon as it’s done – Kris

I hope this gave you guys some insight as to both the strengths and weaknesses of the 6 TIE block, what to be looking out for when playing with and against it and again I can only stress the importance of getting some ships on the table and experimenting with where you will end up after a maneuver and how tight a gap you can fit through etc…  If you have anything to add please leave a comment and next week we will be having a look at a Rebel Swarm I have been fooling around with!

X-Wing: Swarm Theory Part 3

Hi Guys,
It’s time for another Swarm Theory, now that we have got the 8 TIE swarm out of the way we get to look at the 7 TIE Swarm and Howlrunner!

So just as a quick recap over the last two parts of Swarm Theory we have gone over how the basic TIE Swarm works with lots of small attacks focused in to one area and the advantages that presenting multiple targets has by helping you keep ships alive after they have taken damage, due to the fact that they continue to operate at full effectiveness until dead, so if you can keep them an extra turn or two with some fancy flying it can really help drag the enemy down.

We also covered how important the opening moves are for a Swarm and I stressed the importance of practicing them a few times, even if it is by yourself.  This principle gets even more important when flying with a fulcrum such as Howlrunner (or Biggs if you are Rebel Scum…)

So lets just jump right in and show all of you TIE lovers the woman of your dreams!

Here she is, Howlrunner in all of her 18 Point glory.  She is still just a TIE Fighter but does boast a lovely Pilot Skill of 8 and has access to an Elite Pilot Talent.

The important part though, is her Pilot Ability;

“When another friendly ship at Range 1 is attacking with its primary weapon, it may reroll 1 attack die.”

Having done the rough math* this bumps your base chance to hit to the same as if you took a Focus Action. If you stack that with a Focus Action and assuming range band 2 or 3 that give you a 98% chance of getting at least one Hit or Crit Result and an 84% chance of getting 2 Hits of some sort.

If you feel like taking an Evading Action instead of a Focus Action the numbers are still a 75% Chance of at least one Hit and a 38% chance of 2 Hits.

As a force multiplier this is fairly insane and while obviously your opponent will still get a chance to Evade your shots as long as you took a Focus Action you will have a 78% chance of getting at least one Hit through two Un-Focused Evade Dice, which is not too shabby at all when you are rolling up to 6 Attacks.

*Take numbers with a pinch of salt as its a dice game and some rounding was done to keep the math easy.

Now that we have covered what she does and why it is good lets look at how she fits in to a 100 Point Squad.

As Basic As It Gets
Howlrunner (18)
Academy Pilot (12)
Academy Pilot (12)
Academy Pilot (12)
Academy Pilot (12)
Academy Pilot (12)
Academy Pilot (12)
90 points

Now obviously as she is 18 points you can no longer fit 8 Ships in to a list with Howlrunner.  The simplest thing to do is stick with TIE Fighters and if you went with 6 Academy pilots you have 10 Points left for Upgrades.

The Upgrades I like the most are things to help Howlrunner stick around for a bit longer, with a Stealth Device being a popular choice that gives you an extra Evade Dice until you suffer your first hit.
With the emergence of Lt. Blount with Wave 4 and his ability to always count as hitting his target I can see a Hull Upgrade becoming more popular but that could just be a knee jerk reaction.
I am also a fan of giving her Determination for 1 Point as her Elite Pilot Talent, ensuring that you ignore any pilot related critical hits can help to ensure that you Pilot Ability continues to function even if you are hit by an Injured Pilot result.  It may not happen often but when it does you will be glad of the one point spent!  There are 8 Critical Hits that are related to the Pilot and seeing as that is just under 25% of the deck there is a fair bet you will get some mileage out of it, especially if you do go Hull Upgrade rather than Stealth Device.

So even if you go for that you will still have 6 points left to play with and this is what is so interesting about a 7 TIE Swarm.  After the essentials of Howlruner and something to help her you have between 10 and 6 squad points left to upgrade a TIE or two.

The same options are open to you as in the 8 TIE Swarm where you can include a named TIE to add either some more Offense or Defense depending on your play style.  The most common choices are Dark Curse or Night Beast for defensive options or Mauler Mithel or Backstabber for a more offensive take on the theme.

Most of the time you will see this seventh Ship deployed as a flanker rather than in formation but another option that adds another level of protection to Howlrunner is to go for Night Beast as your Flanker (or drop Determination if you want to stick to one of the 16 pointers) and then use the remaining point to upgrade a second Academy Pilot to a Black Squadron Pilot with Draw their Fire allowing him to absorb any Criticals from Howlrunner on to himself. 
All of these options do focus on sticking with an build which is exclusively TIE Fighters, which whilst perfectly viable is not your only option.
If you feel like adding a whole load of Hit Points and a little more firepower to your list why not throw in an Omicron Shuttle to the list (although that does leave Howl without a Modification) or if you are looking for more punch in the list but on a slightly cheaper platform going for an Alpha Squadron Interceptor is a choice I like as operating it as a flanker/blocker, it is a hard ship to ignore but also quite hard to pin down.
A happy medium could be to add in a TIE bomber for 3 extra Hull Points in the list for a fall off in Maneuverability.  All of these options are viable and offer there own slight variations on how the list will play.
The main thing about the core build for a seven ship list is that you are going to finish up with a group of 6 TIE Fighters including Howlrunner and now all you need to do is figure out how they will work together on the table.
I find the formation flying of the 7 TIE Swarm more limiting that the 8 TIE swarm just because of the reliance of remaining in Range Band 1 of Howlrunner but the advantages she brings have been spelled out.
One of the common mistakes that a new player to the TIE Swarm can make is that they know that you can’t fit in column during deployment and so they deploy in two ranks of three.  This means that as you had to deploy first (being mostly Pilot Skill 1) your opponent can have an easier time flanking you and dictating range on the rear most TIE’s
This can be avoided with a little practice and a set up like this.
With this type of deployment you would deploy four Academy TIE’s in a square (ensuring you have enough space to maneuver without collisions) You then place Howlrunner and the remaining TIE facing the square ready to Hard Turn in to formation on your First Move.  As you can see there is adequate space for the Square to perform a Two Ahead while the outside TIE’s perform the Hard Three to form the Column.  
This then allows you to Bank in to a Checker Board Formation or to Hard Turn in to Line when it is time to Cut In on to the opponent. Giving you a better control of the engagement range of all of your ships whilst maintaining the tight formation to ensure everyone benefits from Howlrunner.
When flying in this manner it is well worth taking a moment to consider your opponents list, especially now that Wave 4 is on the shelves and being played.  There is a lot of talk about the Assault Missile Swarm on the Headhunters and if you fly carelessly this kind of list can do a massive amount of damage to your tightly packed formation.  Whilst I am yet to see anyone put this plan in to action on the table as it is very geared towards anti-swarm and it is essential that you are aware of it!

More on the actual flying of the Howlrunner Swarm and specifics on how I would deal with facing off against an anti-swarm list will be the feature of the next Swarm Tactics, I hope you have enjoyed reading this instalment and as always if you have any questions or requests please do not hesitate to leave a comment!

X-Wing: TIE Swarm Theory Part 2

For Part 2 of Swarm Theory we have a more in depth look at Deployment for an 8 TIE Swarm and cover the opening moves in a Battle Report showcasing some of the principles we spoke about in Part 1.

Last time on Swarm Theory we spoke about the principles behind an 8 TIE swarm, what Build options were open to still allow all 8 TIE’s and some basic stuff to think about during battle, if you missed it you can check back here to get caught up.

This time we are going to put some of that waffling in to practice and show how things go down on the table top.  The tactics and deployments I will be talking about very much reflect my play style and are in no way the only way to fly an 8 TIE swarm but this is how I like to do it.

For an 8 TIE Swarm I like to fly in two separate Pin Wheel formations that will interact only when it is time to do some shooting.  This is also the main reason that I am a fan of 4 Academy Pilots and 4 Obsidian Squadron Pilots as both of the formations will share the same Pilot Skill, giving you more versatility in moving them.

For those of you not familiar with a Pin Wheel this is an excellent explanation of how/why it works taken Team Covenant’s website and put together by KLUTZ.

As you can hopefully see this formation gives you a very large option of maneuvers whilst maintaining a tight group.

I would really recommend you spend some time one the Dining Room table and see for yourself how you can set them up and how they will shift when each move is carried out just so that you are confidant going in to the first 3 or 4 turns of movement.

The opening pass is very important to this type of list as if you take too much punishment without downing something,  your individually weaker TIE’s will start to suffer.  So I will say again make sure you practice some opening moves to see where your formations can get to from different starting positions.

Now in my games I like to fly both Pin Wheels as if I were just Flying 2 Large ships.  In my head they are each a single entity and I want to position them to support each other.

This process starts with Asteroid Placement.  There are two real options to go for here.  You can either try to develop channels to fly through or try to create a large open space to try to drag the battle in to.  If you are going to go for channels than you want to try to match your asteroids with your opponents at about 1.5 Range bands ( Just under 4 ship lengths) and then create as straight a line as possible  This works well if they place the first asteroid as close to a table edge as possible as that will mean that they can only off set other asteroids in one direction (back in to the table)
If an asteroid is placed nearer to the center of the table than I like to try to go for a much tighter group all in one quarter of the table.  It will not take long for your opponent to see what you are doing but it if they place first there is very little reaction they can do as one lone asteroid should not be a problem for our two independent groups to handle.  This will give you a large field to move in to and operate in with little fear of obstacles.

Now it is very rare for Academy Pilots to not be placed First in Deployment so this is where the planning of your opening moves comes in as you need to asses the table and pick where you want the opening engagement to take place, this may seem difficult at first especially as your opponent has not placed anything but most deployments for X-Wing revolve around one of the open channels on the Flanks and as you had a hand in creating the battlefield I normally place my Academies on the worse of the two flanks facing the enemy table edge.  I then either place the Obsidian Squadron facing along my table edge or directly in support depending on if the enemy has placed anything or the available space.  It is important to remember that if you think you may be force in to deploying all on one flank facing the enemy table edge than I would aim to have the Pilot Skill 3 obsidian Squadron on the outside of the Pilot Skill 1 Academies to allow them to cut in to the table once they have moved out of the way.

So enough Chatting about it and lets See it in action!

In this game I used the above 4 Academy and 4 Obsidian list against Greg’s By-By list featuring 2 Dagger Squadron B-Wings with Advanced Sensors and 2 Gold Squadron Y-Wings with Ion Turrets.

So there was a lot of potential fire from the B-Wings and the Y-Wings add a nice control element to Greg’s list with the Ion Turrets 360 fire arch and controlling my movement if I’m Ion’ed.  The Ions don’t worry this type of swarm as much as a Howlrunner swarm though as each ship is capable of acting independently after the initial pass anyway.

Turn 1

As you can see, for Asteroid placement in this game I concentrated on opening up space in my Right Flank as this is where I wanted the majority of the flying to take place.
I deployed the Academies on to my Left Flank despite the host of Asteroids knowing that Greg would be foolish to set up for a joust in that area he obliged and placed his Pilot Skill 2 Y-Wings on my Right Flank, and so the trap was coming together.  The Obsidian then set up approximately two ship lengths away from the Academies facing along the table towards my Right.  The Photo shows my opening moves of a Hard 1 Right for the Academies and a 2 Ahead with a Barrel Roll in to the table for the Obsidian Squadron, opening up room for the Academies to join them if Greg continued a charge down that flank. (He only did a 1 forwards to bait out my first move)

Turn 2

I picked up the pace a little with the Academies moving 3 Forwards (remember I said that I had deployed more than 2 Ship lengths to the right so I knew that there was going to be room before the Obsidian Squadron moved as I had moved 2 the turn before and had the extra half base length from the Barrel Roll forwards.)  Speaking of the Obsidian Squadron they maintained course with another 2 ahead and Barrel Rolled in again to make even more room in case the academies needed to speed in behind them.

Greg made the sensible choice of doing a hard Right in behind the asteroids but I knew that he would have to turn towards me next turn as the time it would take him to maneuver around the tight formations would allow me in behind him or to sweep back around and hover in my open bit of table.

Turn 3

This is the turn that really shows the strength of the 8 TIE 2 Pin Wheel set up.  I took the chance that Greg would chose this turn to cut in to the table and sprang in to action the Academies did a hard 3 to the left bringing them in to a dominating position over the center of the board whilst the Obsidian Squadron did a Hard 1 and Barrel Rolled to the Left to make a tight group matching the line of asteroids meaning that if Greg wanted to move in to the open space he was going to have to fight through the entire Swarm!

Greg did surprise me a little going slow on his bank as I had expected him to power forwards this round to try to isolate one group.  This did mean however that his B-Wings were out of range and arch.  In the opening exchange the 5 TIE Fighters I had in range all Shot the same Y-Wing Stripping its shields for no return damage.

Turn 4

In this turn I took the decision to abandon the Formation and start the Dog-Fighting Phase of the battle as I was confidant my greater Maneuverability and Speed would come in to play in the later rounds so I positioned to block off as many escapes from the asteroid packed center for Greg as I could whilst maintaining my fire arcs.
Greg shot for the gap but my sacrificial Academy Pilot staled his lead Y-Wing, he did manage Take down 1 TIE with the shooting from the B’s up close.  I however striped the Shields and 2 Hull from the undamaged Y-Wing, destroying its Ion Turret in the process.  Ignoring the B-Wings for now as I knew I could get the majority of my force out of arch next turn.
Turn 5
In this round there is a good example of what we spoke about in Part 1 of Swarm Theory, breaking off damaged TIE’s and leaving fresh TIE as the only targets.
As you can see, each of Greg’s ships now has limited targeting options and while my fire is also diluted due to be Break Off’s (namely the TIE flying to the Left Flank and the one heading up to Greg’s Board Edge)  I ensure that there would not be an easy target whilst maintaining good fire arcs over the area of the board he was likely to move in to.
This round I finished off both Y-Wings in exchange for some Critical Damage on to  the bottom Academy TIE who I had used to Block the Y-Wings escape in to the open table.
Turns 6 & 7
In these turns Greg gave an excellent display of how annoying Advanced Sensor B-Wings are to fly against with some really good flying he held position among the asteroids, refusing to be drawn out whilst I was re-positioning to bring all my fire to bare again.
This is where he started to spread some nice damage across my remaining ships but my philosophy of always breaking off with a damaged ship whilst presenting a fresh target on a plate slowed down the attrition a little whilst I started working through the B-Wings 5 Shields each.
Turns 8&9
As the B’s Shields started to go down Greg knew he had to play more aggressively and actively started hunting the damaged TIE’s, but thanks to some 3 Evades from 3 Dice I still had 4 vs 1 going in to the closing stages of the game.
Unfortunately for me, whilst my Defensive dice were Hot my Attack dice were slacking a little (well that and some good Flying from Greg) ensuring that it took me two turns to actually kill the Shieldless B-Wing.
End Game
Greg’s Dog Fighting continued to be top notch taking it from a 4v1 to a 2v1 before I finally finished him off. Even than it should have been only 1 TIE remaining as Greg had managed to get the 3 hits on to a damaged TIE with only 1 Hull point remaining before I pulled out the 2 evades and a Focus to sped my token and live to fight another day.
All in all it was a very enjoyable game that was a lot closer than it seemed at the start due in no small part to Greg’s tricksyness with his B-Wings.  Advanced Sensors and being Pilot Skill 4 really came to the fore against my low pilot skill (3 and Below) TIE’s allowing Greg to continually be out of arch of some of my shooting and he did a very good job of sticking close to me as I was trying to hold range on him to continue chipping away.  In reflection I could maybe have held formation for 1 more round and tried to pile the fire on to one of the B-Wings but I did not want to give Greg the advantage of the open table to fly around in.
I hope I managed to show some of the ways I like to use an 8 TIE swarm and what kind of things you need to look out for and take in to consideration.
If you have any questions on this game or this build than just leave a comment and next time on Swarm Theory we will look at some 7 TIE swarm builds and talk about Howlrunner!