Get Your Head Out of Your Cockpit

I’ve really struggled in the transition from first to second edition of X-Wing.

It’s not the dice, it rarely ever is.

Finding that list has been particularly difficult for me over the last six months. Deep down, I guess the real problem is that I don’t really know what kind of player I am or what my strengths are.

That is Why You Fail

With the dawn of second edition, I resolved that I no longer wanted to play alpha strike lists; they didn’t really engage me and I was bored of the Rebel 1 forward dance.

I want to improve as a player, to at least be more consistent. In order to do that, there are some truths that I need to accept:

I am not the player I want to be (yet)

This sounds so simple but the parenthesis that hides the adverb yet is actually the safe place of one of the most powerful metaphors. Yet occupies an almost liminal space where time becomes dependent on failure, learning curves and ambition. Like a triumvirate where the three are dependent on one another.

When I began playing X-Wing three years ago, I had never played in a competitive setting before. I wasn’t afraid to lose because I saw each game as a learning opportunity. I evaluated diligently on my blog, attempting to stay away from writing Battle Reports but trying to figure out what I had learned and what I could take with me to my next tournament.

The blogs that I wanted to read didn’t exist back in 2017. I started writing Hoth because I wanted to hold myself accountable and figure out how to fly better.

The online X-Wing community has continued to grow and grow and blogs are published every few days or so. Deep down, I have this sense that the real reason that Hoth has become less of a priority for me is because I’ve become disillusioned with the idea of tracking a journey to success. How often can you write about the lessons you’ve learned when there is little reward in terms of measurable progress?

What sort of player do I want to be?

In my head, I imagine this fully realised version of me as an X-Wing player:

  • I want to be an Ace player.
  • I want to be the sort of opponent that is a good ambassador for the game.
  • I want to be better at reading situations.
  • I want to achieve wins on my merit as somebody who can fly well, not just because of luck or dice.
  • I want to play lists that have an element of fluff.
  • I want to play honourably.

I deliberated over writing those six bullet points in any particular order. I begun to evaluate them and prioritise but, in fact, they are there in the order they popped out of my head.

If you’re on a similar journey to me and you are feeling the failure funk, maybe make your own list and prioritise that.

The Strongest Stars Have Hearts of Kyber

When I played at the Dice Saloon’s Hyperspace trial this weekend, my round two opponent was Richard Greenaway. Spoiler – I lost. I was playing:

There was a point mid-game where a father and son watched us play. It was genuinely delightful to see Richard narrate the game to the young boy, who must have been only five or six. Without any effort, I found myself joining in. Then as the dad ushered the boy to perhaps try the game, Richard asked me if he could briefly pause and get something. I consented and he reached into his bag and got out a deckbox. Richard carefully looked through the box and pulled out an alt art card to give to the small boy. These are the moments that make a tournament.

Richard came 2nd in Swiss at the end of the day. Whilst I was looking down the wrong end of 1 and 5, Richard had achieved entirely the opposite to me. I’m certain that he did it with integrity and honour. More than that, humility and kindness.

By game five on Saturday, I was 1 and 4. Fatigue had gotten to me and I felt disappointed in myself and my performance. I was paired against Phil GC and, I have to confess, my heart was not in it. Phil knew this and tried his best to console me. I conceded after 30 minutes.

I felt like such a shit. I couldn’t find the place within me to play and I knew I was simply going through the motions as opposed to thinking ahead or about what my opponent might well be trying to achieve.

I found some space to myself and shared my anxieties and failures with a few friends and my partner. Phil came to see me and begun to talk me through my mistakes in our play and my thoughtless (my words, not his) opening engagement. Within minutes Dale Cromwell was there attempting to talk some sense into me. I had Simrandeep Pone on the other end of my phone telling me that I was better than my lack of achievement and that it didn’t define who I am.

Dale tried to talk to me about realising my strengths as a player and using them and I just wasn’t ready to hear it. I asked him if he could let me find a little headspace and he graciously left me to it.

At the end of the tournament, after I had been awarded the wooden spoon, Phil GC and Dale both presented me with their range rulers, top 8 templates and focus tokens.

Dale told me:

You need to use these and remember I gave them to you because I believe in you.

As I was leaving, my friend Sean approached me and said that he had snuck a present into my bag. It was his focus tokens.

When I first met Sean, he was my first round opponent at a Store Champs shortly after the release of wave 11 of first edition. I can’t remember what Sean was flying, it definitely had a phantom in it and I think he beat me (I wouldn’t be surprised) but at the end of the game, I suggested Sean use Fire Control Systems to improve the efficiency of his list. He said he didn’t have the card as he was a new player. With that, I reached into my bag, pulled out a deck box and gave him a copy of the card. It made sense to me. I didn’t need the multiple copies of the card I had.

Two years later, Sean saw that I was disappointed with my poor performance and attempted to return the favour.

The acts of kindness by Richard, Phil, Dale and Sean really underline the player that I want to be. Not just somebody who consistently plays well, someone who approaches the majority of games with warmth and compassion. I want to be a good player, but I want to be a friendly and graceful one.

This isn’t really the swag brag that I had imagined, it’s actually a whole lot better than that.

On Saturday I will be taking Resistance 5s to The Dark Sphere Hyperspace Regional, what’s more, I will be taking my eldest with me. I can’t wait.


  1. Hi Joel. Brilliant reflection on your experiences. Great to see that sort of camaraderie on the circuit and that your early act of kindness came back around. Best of luck at Dark Sphere, I am sure you will have a great day whether 5-1 or 1-5.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A great read đŸ™‚

      I hope you find the flight style that best suits you and that is in rhyme with your instincts. Sometimes our aspirations (i.e. flying aces) is not in harmony with our natural tendencies. I believe that we can strive in many things that we aspire to with practice however it does help to tag along to our nature too.

      X-wing has the best community of players, it’s worth the effort just to be part of it.

      Liked by 1 person

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