Cracking Formation Flying

My thoughts on #flying a #swarm in #formation #XWing #AWings #Flybetter #itsgettinghothinhere


tumblr_n8d4475Yl41s44y43o1_500The time is now. I’m not saying my training is complete or anything, but I’m ready to start learning how to fly a swarm. A-Swarm.  You know the one, the Chihuahuas. [Shudders. Sad Face. Heavy Sigh].

I now have 5 Green Squadron personalised A-Wings (thank you, Liam), each with Adaptability, Chardaan Re-fit, the A-Wing title card, Autothrusters and Crack Shot. Obtaining each of these cards was a feat but let’s simply say that I will never need to buy a Kihraxz Fighter again.

In case you’ve missed it, the surprise list that sprung up (yeah, that was an intentional small dog pun) as a result of some of the new Wave 8 upgrade cards was the 5 A-Wing Crack Swarm. It comes in at 100 points and consists of five of the following

Green Crack A-wing

I feel a bit giddy. An A-Wing list that is truly competitive and doing the rounds. When listening to the Nova Squadron Radio Podcasts analysis of the Regionals lists (you can find this episode here) it turned out of the swarms that did make it through to the cut, the A-Wing Crack swarm had a greater chance of all other lists of being the top list. Because A-Wings.

My first blog post professed my undying love for these babies and explored the idea of a four strong A-Wing list that was a riff on the traditional Green-Arrow list (you can find it here).

This is different. Really special. I could try to push in another dog-pun but I’ll simpy say the path to learning how to fly a swarm successfully has no short cuts (Sorry).

If you’ve seen me attempt to fly my swarm in formation, you’ll know why I’m writing this post. When we bought our son the Core Set in November, he instantly picked up the Imperials and left me to take on the Rebels. It’s been the same ever since. My own Imperial ships have barely ever touched a playmat. No Vader. No Soontir. No Imp Aces. Nadda.

Just paws for a moment and think about that. It’s like I’ve skipped a massive step and I will never become a truly competitive player until I can grow some more. It’s really ruff. (I’m actually going to stop now).


Where to start? Well, I’m going with an A-Wing Swarm, so I need to know the dial. There’s no 1 forward or bank, but that’s the only thing that is pretty much missing. The A-Wing was in Wave 2 so segnor’s loops and talon rolls hadn’t yet been introduced to the game.  There’s a whole lotta green there too.

Paul Heaver’s Turn Zero articles are also an excellent source when considering how to approach your game. Part One focuses on asteroid placement (you can find it here).

Which rocks? I tend to bring the biggest rocks as I’m accurate with my flying 95% of the time. For the London Regionals, I took two large asteroids and one piece of large debris.  This meant that if I should mis-judge and end up on top of the field I could still get off a shot.

Placing your first rock.png

When I played in my first competitive tournament, I saw my opponents measuring where to place their rocks with real precision. I thought it a little pretentious at first; I had always thrown them down casually with some thought on making it awkward for my opponent, I hadn’t really considered how I could make the rocks work for me as well.  By placing my first rock as close to my corner as I can using the range rulers, I know exactly where the rock is and how best my ships can navigate around it.

Rocks two and three.png

What about rocks two and three? Well, this tends to vary for me depending on what ships my opponent brings; whether they are large or small base ships; whether they are flying a swarm, jumpmasters and so on – there are too many variables. What I can say right now is that a safe bet is probably placing a rock in the centre and then another directly opposite your first rock.

Read Paul Heaver’s article – it really does help.

The third Turn Zero article, Mastering Ship Placement, pretty much does what it says on the tin, you can find it here.

To simplify things, your goal in the opening round of conflict in X-Wing is to have all of your weapons pointing at the opposing ship you want to destroy first.

This is the best advice. No joke. I would always advocate focussed fire when assessing your opponent’s list and where you need to eliminate the biggest perceived threat.  My biggest mistakes have been in splitting up my swarm too early or arranging them so that they unintentionally bump early on.  There are two videos that I would really recommend watching when it comes to flying your ships together, they’re both from Sling Paint.


I love the look of the pinwheel formation, but I’m really not there yet. I found this awesome graphic on the Bell of Lost Souls: Swarm Theory Part 2

Pin Wheel Covenenat.jpg

There’s also some really useful diagrams and advice in Earning Your Wings Part 7: Formation Flying taken from the FFG forums.

So how do I begin to make this my own? My starting point was actually Vassal. I grouped four of ships together using the advice from the Slingpaint video, separating them by the width of a range ruler.  I know, my A-Wing crack swarm will have five ships altogether but I’ll get to that. Patience.

Starting position.png

Starting in the corner buys you some time to assess how your opponent approaches the game, you can then use this as a opportunity to set the pace over the next two rounds.

Starting 1 turn.png

A one turn puts you here, with a four forward clearing your four ships of the rock you placed at range two.

starting 1 turn and 4 forward.png

If you compare this to starting with a two turn,

starting 2 turn.png

Then moving with a three forward, you end up at the same distance from the edge of the board but slightly closer in.

starting 2 turn and three forward.png

How about that lovely diamond-like formation? take a two bank

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 13.17.13.png

Perferct diamond. No bumpity bump.

I haven’t even begun to think about what to do with the little dude at the bottom of the screen.  Well I have, but I’m not putting everything here.  The A-Wing swarm is an entirely different beast to the Tie Crack Swarm, especially as this often involves Howlrunner or an anchor ship (Hi, Lord Vader!).

I’m beginning to get my head aroud the rule of 11.  Watch the video below

For now, the easiest thing to remember is that you need to move a total distance of 11 spaces before you can throw dice at each other. That’s a total of 11 between each side of the board.  So moving 1 forward is actually moving two spaces after you take the base into account; 2 forward is actually three spaces after youtake the base into account and so on.

This will become much more relevant when I evaluate my game playing against Sim below.

How has my swarm worked in actuality?

So far, three losses and one win. I managed to beat Lucas’ Imperial Aces list which consisted of

TIE Advanced -Darth Vader (29)

  • Adaptability (Increase) (0)
  • Engine Upgrade (4)
  • TIE/x1 (0)
  • Advanced Targeting Computer (1)

TIE Avanced Prototype – The Inquisitor (25)

  • Push The Limit (3)
  • Autothrusters (2)
  • TIE/v1 (1)

TIE Interceptor – Soontir Fel (27)

  • Push The Limit (3)
  • Autothrusters (2)
  • Royal Guard TIE (0)
  • Stealth Device (3)

This was my first time flying the list. As we set up, I perceived the Inquisitor to be the biggest threat because of his ability to stop my Autothrusters and his additional range bonus ability. Lucas attempted to use him to get me to split the swarm, I feinted this as a counter and managed to take the Inquisitor out after boxing him in.  After that I wasn;t sure whether to focus on Soontir or Vader. I assessed that Soontir would probably be the bigger threat in the end game. I think I lost two A-Wings at this point. I did manage to take out Soontir and then Vader.

100 – 60

I then lost to Janus’ (Jesper) Hill Bot list (88B & C with PTL, Advanced Sensors, Mangler on B and Tractor and HLC on C). Janus beat me but I still managed half points on B. I also learned a valuable lesson about not using my target locks too early.

I also lost to Pablo’s Rebel Aces build which had Biggs, Ten Numb (with the Autoblaster Cannon and some ordinance I can’t remember – sorry). This was simply poor flying on my part. I split the swarm far too early.

The game that I have found really taxing and particularly enjoyable over the last few weeks was against Sim’s Imperial Aces. This list was identical to the one above and is also Nathan ‘The Kid’ Eide’s list that he played in the Hoth open.

This was only a 60 minute game and we started fairly late. This was my most present and alert when flying the swarm and I wish that I had taken some photos. I have re-created a moment taken from the game in images from Vassal below. Again, I began the game thinking that the Inquisitor needed to go down first. I kept my formation tight and by round three, we were ready to shoot. Whether Sim was aware of it or not (I’m sure he was), he played using the rule of 11 really well. Sim spent the game maintaining his shops at a consistent distance of range 2, stopping autothrusters in most instances from all of his attacks. He turtled up well throughout and I found it really hard to break down his defences.

What did I learn? Although I was planning my manouveres well, I wasn’t consciously blocking until round 3 of the game. Once I got my arse in gear, I managed to do this with a cheeky K-Turn.

Firing Arc Inquisitor.pngThe Inquisitor has its pick of three separate range one targets, but when you look at my firing arcs in comparison, it’s going to, potentially, be hit three times and with eight dice.

Firing Arcs on Inquisitor.png

You guessed it, he took out the A-Wing directly in front and managed to survive another round – but he only had one hull left afer I was done. He was gone in the next round.

I knew my job was blocking after this, but I really didn’t concentrate my fire enough and kept switching targets between Vader and Soontir. When the timer had gine off at 60 minutes, I still had three A-Wings left, Sim still had Vader and Soontir. I’m quite certain Sim had the upper hand but it was really fun. This was my first game since Regionals where I felt fully on the ball during every round.

I’m playing at the I Am your Father’s Day tournament in Stevenage on the 3rd July and Scum ships aren’t allowed. I think I’ve found my Rebel list.

I’ll leave you with this final image, uncanny isn’t it?

a-wing swarm movements

2 thoughts on “Cracking Formation Flying”

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