By Zach Bunn– October 4, 2012
Before continuing to read this post, I want to run a little experiment. If you have played Star Wars X-Wing before, scroll immediately down to the comments of this blog and answer this question:
Before, during, or after playing this game, I looked at both the Attack and Defense dice to determine how many strikes, evades, focus, and blanks were on each die?
You can respond as simple as, ‘Yes, I did.’ and ‘No, I did not’. Now, on to the discussion at hand!
If you are one of those who couldn’t find the droids on Tatooine, this post is not for you. In short, this post will take an in depth look at the dice in the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures game, discuss the effect of odds and probability on this game, and if it turns out anything like most other games I’ve ever played (excluding Monopoly), will result in me saying that blaming the dice is the pansy way out and a very immature way of taking a loss.
If, however, you found those pesky little pieces of scrap on Tatooine, let’s dive in.
Before we get too far, we will do something you hopefully did the first time you pulled the dice out of the core box… count the sides! How can you make good decisions if you don’t know the odds of hitting or defending.
Defense Die (green)
With no modifications, the attack die has a 50% (4/8) chance of rolling a strike, while the defense dice has a 37.5% (3/8) chance of evading. Of course, in a game as beautiful as this it’s a bit more complicated than simple math. In the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures game, there is a finite number of ways to increase the odds of dealing damage or evading.
As primitive as it might be, examining these four topics is as necessary as checking the sides of the d8′s that come in the box:
1. Focus Action
2. Evade Action
3. Target Lock + Roll More Dice
4. Upgrades / Special Abilities
The Impact of Focus
Have you wondered which Focus has more of an impact on, offense or defense? If you said defense, you would be correct!
As the attacker, Focus is the difference between a 50% roll and a 75% roll. With a three dice attack, it’s the difference between averaging 1.5 strikes and 2.25 strikes. Of course, the more dice you roll, the greater the overall impact.
While it might not seem as useful for defense, especially with evade tokens available, it actually increases the odds of successful evade rolls by 66%. It takes a 3 die defense from an average of 1.12 evades to an average of 2 evades!
If both the attacker and defender are rolling the same number of dice it’s a 50% roll (attacker) versus a 37.5% roll (defender). If both happen to have a focus icon it’s a 75% roll against a 66% roll, much better odds for the defender at this point! Knowing this little fact might make you rethink spending that focus or even who to target in the first place.
Of course, if you don’t end up needing the additional evades, Focus can be used offensively, sometimes making it a much better option than the Evade action. The nicest thing about Focus is that it can be used offensively AND defensively, providing you a level of versatility that the Evade action cannot.
The Effect of Evade
Yet, we cannot take the Evade action and it’s effect on the game for granted. Whereas the Focus action allows you to increase the odds on all of your dice, the Evade action is more like adding a defense die and knowing that the particular die won’t let you down.
In a scenario where you are rolling 3 evade dice, you guarantee 1 evade and make your average slip up to 2. More importantly, you have the potential of 4 evades whereas with a focus you could only ever roll as many Evades as the number of dice in your hand. The primary difference here is it gives you a chance at more evades, but doesn’t increase the odds of the dice you are rolling. For ships that naturally roll less dice (like the Y-Wing while defending), the evade token is way more useful.
Depending on the ship, these can be great to use when a nearby enemy has Proton Torpedoes or Cluster Misseles. In the event that they end up rolling 3-4 dice and can modify them, having the capacity to get to three or four evades when otherwise impossible can have a huge impact on the game.
I Have You Now
Seriously, I have you. Target locks are silly good!
A Target Lock has to be the best tool for the risk adverse (which includes me). Let’s go back to a three die attack scenario for a moment. As the attacker, you have a 50% chance of Strikes on each dice. So, you roll three and get 1 strike (because you can’t really get 1.5 strikes). Now you get to spend your Target Lock and re-roll two dice. On a bad day, you should be rolling two total Strikes here.
But see, as the risk adverse guy I’d want to ask… what happens on a really, really bad day? Let’s suppose for a moment that you roll 0 (yes, zero) strikes and 0 Focus icons on your initial roll. What then? With a target lock, you pick them all up again and let the dice fly.
Because you get to pick what dice you re-roll, this drastically shifts your Strike curve to the right, allowing for much more successful rolls. In the event that you start off by rolling 2 Strikes, you now have a 50/50 shot at rolling 3 strikes. Again, this becomes really useful the more dice you roll to begin with, so ships that roll a lot of dice will often times be acquiring target locks.
Having extra dice helps with the odds too. Rightfully so, the game rewards the risk of getting close with the benefit of being able to hit hard once you are close. Being within 1, you get an additional die on your attack. This works out well for pilots with high Pilot Skill or for those who maneuver well enough to get behind enemy ships.
Alas, we are to the point. It is shocking how many people play tabletop games and never pause to consider the basic constructs upon which the game has been built. In our case, the two fundamental elements of the game are positioning and dice. While many think dice at all in a game makes it too luck based, this is only the case when the game largely depends on very few rolls.
In the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures game there are many, many rolls per game. The true test of skill in this game comes in the form of risk management. Players that can successfully manipulate their dice to produce the least risk and highest potential reward are the ones who are going to consistently win at this game. Yes, there might be games where the odds were in your favor and you lost, but that doesn’t mean the dice were entirely (or even largely) to blame.
Over the next several weeks, I’m going to be visiting several topics related to the odds and dice in this game. The Star Wars X-Wing Miniature game is unlike any that I have played before and the odds behind it are truly unique. Once I belabor on long enough about dice, odds, and not blaming either, I’ll be looking to discuss and analyze movement and positioning.
Before continuing though, I’d love to hear your thoughts on dice / odds in this game and am seriously interested in getting an answer to the question I started this post with! So tell me truly, did you look at both dice intently when you first started playing this game?