Before Setting Dials: A Turn Zero Guide – Part I

This article, by Matt Cary, will be one of a series of articles geared toward helping newer players get ready for their first large tournament. The topics we cover will include: general tournament preparation, the pros and cons of net listing vs. taking a homebrewed list, how to stress test a home-brewed list to see if it’s tournament ready, a guide to community resources, and a guide to turn zero considerations.

One of first things I tried to learn when I started playing X-wing was what to do at setup. “Where should I put my rocks?” and “Where should I place my ships?” were two of my bigger questions, but what has been dubbed Turn Zero goes even deeper than that. In the next two articles I will run you through the many factors that I try to account for when I set up during Turn Zero and discuss the many things to consider before your put your first dial down.

know your list

First and foremost, you need to know your list. Whether you’ve built your list from scratch or net listed your whole squad, you need to know what your list is capable of doing. Be familiar with the dials of each ship in your list, what each pilot’s actions are, and how each pilot ability and upgrade works. Knowing how your ships fly is imperative to know how to fly your ships.

You also need to know the strengths and weaknesses to your list. Is your list a jousting list? Is your list good at handling a swarm? Do you have good blockers? Does your list have a strong alpha strike but a weak closing game? Do you have ace-y arc dodgers? Is your list good at formation flying? Do you need room for your ace flanker?

Also, you need to know what is essential in your lists. By essential, I mean what can you win with, and what can you win without. This is your opponent’s win condition. If your opponent takes out your two heavy hitters and all you’re left with is a limp-wristed coordination ship, you have probably lost. Keeping your “winner” ships alive may require sacrifice plays by the scrub ships.


Obviously, the composition of your opponent’s list is out of your control. At a tournament, you cannot control who you play against or what their list is, but there are variables you can control.

First of all, make an effort to familiarize yourself with every ship, pilot and upgrade that you can. Start with learning the ships that you fly, but then move on to learning the dials and abilities of the more common ships and pilots before finally moving on to learn the obscure. This will take time, but it is harder to be blindsided by a maneuver or tactic when you are already familiar with that particular tool in the toolbox.

Secondly, know meta lists. Beyond knowing what meta lists exist, you should know how they function. Fly against them, but also fly them for yourself (proxy ships and cards if need be). The best way to learn what a list’s weaknesses are is to fly it for yourself. Meta monsters are less scary when you know what pressure points make them buckle.

All this information is technically pre-Turn Zero, but it sets you up for the next piece, which is determining what is your prime target in your opponent’s list. Decide whether you need to take down the opponent’s ace, eliminate their key crew carrier, or pick off low initiative ships so they never shoot. And then choose your next target. You are also making another decision here, and that is what you can afford to ignore. Some ships become less useful when you knock out a synergy that another ship is providing, making them less of a target; some ships can be outmaneuvered and made useless; and some do little enough damage that they can be ignored until later.

garven ap5
In this simplified scenario, we’ll assume everyone is at full health. Garven has shot and spent target lock but could not spend focus which BSA 3 evaded. Who do the TIE fighters shoot at? Garven, BSE, or AP-5 carrying Leia? While knocking out a higher initiative ship like Garven would be nice, at full health and able to pass his focus if he spends it, he’s best left alone. BSE while a decent target could survive all four TIE shots, and with his lock on a ship out of arc and no focus means he is less of a threat. But AP-5 could be potentially be initiative killed and take Leia out of the game. Killing the BSE is good, but killing AP-5 changes the game.

Try to have a game plan for what needs to be destroyed. Your opponent may take away any choice you made once the game gets going, forcing you to adapt, but going in with no game plan is the worst choice.


Obstacle placement is where Turn Zero actually meets the game table, but we still aren’t there yet! You must first choose your obstacles, and choosing what three obstacles you utilize has a large effect on how you place them. Do you pick large or small rocks? Asteroid, debris, or the brand, spanking new gas clouds? You need to think what would benefit your list the most.

Certain pilots and ships want specific obstacles. Dash Rendar clearly wants debris. Both Han Solo pilots and any ship with Debris Gambit like decent size obstacles to activate their abilities. Mining Guild TIEs want asteroids since they largely ignore that they exist. Any lists with Seismic Charges want the largest obstacles they can get. Most large base ships and most swarms (which typically act like one large ship early game) want smaller rocks or debris to maximize maneuvering options. Hyper-maneuverable aces enjoy large asteroids to restrict paths that only they can maneuver effectively through.

The soon-to-be released gas cloud will present new opportunities and strategies that I largely cannot comment on. What we do know is that the also-soon-to-be released Vulture and Hyena droids will likely shy away from gas clouds since they cannot use their grappling struts on them. No doubt fragile aces will enjoy the extra safety of changing a blank to an evade. Beyond that, we will need to see what strategies come from using the gas clouds.


Here we are finally, Turn Zero. Now what? Where do you place your rocks? Before we get prescriptive, let’s talk about a few generic strategies with rock placement.

Marking Range

The first strategy is fairly common, and that is using your obstacles to mark range. Fairly often obstacles are placed range two from the edge in the corners which can help you judge a K-turn maneuvers. Since range 2 is equal to the 5 movement template, an obstacle at range 2 from the edge can mark a safe point for a 4 K-turn or less and 3 S-loop or less. Provided, of course, that the obstacle hasn’t been bumped. Also with the inclusion of medium bases, we can see the a 3 S-loop will fit within the range 2 band as well for the medium base.

e-wing IG
Here both the Koiogran and the Segnor maneuver for E-Wing fit, and the Segnor maneuver for the Aggressor fits, as well.

Another lesser mentioned tactic is to use obstacles to measure arc range for movements. 1 range band is equal to a 1.5 forward for a small base, equal to a 1 forward for a medium base, and .5 forward for a large base for the front end of a ship. Additionally, if you know the range that obstacles were set up from another, you can use those objects to judge distance for your maneuvers or for any ability that measures range (jam, coordinate, lock) so you don’t fail those actions.

While Deathrain may have missed the opportunity to attack the Gray Squadron Y-Wing this turn, when measuring range he learns that the asteroid was beyond range 1 so a 1-forward or a pre-maneuver boost from his pilot ability will land him safely in front of the rock.

Pivot Points

Another thing to consider for obstacle placement is pivot points. You want to set up obstacles in a manner that allows maximum maneuver options for your list. These pivot points are the spots where your ship or ships can turn with the most ideal and varied options.

In this scenario, Boba and Fenn set up on the left of the board. With the rocks set up as they are, their first maneuvers set them up for the majority of their dials next turn. From here they can continue forward, pull towards the center of the board, or cut in with one hard turns. Their opponent will need to guess what maneuvers Fenn and Boba will do since they have so few limitations.

The more swarm-like your list is, the more difficult and the more pivotal (a pun!) setting these up are. Bad pivot points will force your swarm to break up, risk making sub-optimal maneuvers, or spend actions just to keep the swarm together.

In this simplified example on the left, we can see a clear pivot point for the Academy Pilots to turn though. From a two forward this mini-swarm can do a two bank as shown or a three bank. They could also do another two forward or a three forward to set up for hard turns the next turn. They have several options from just the two forward maneuver. In the example on the right, there is no clear pivot point immediately available that would maintain the formation for at least three opening maneuvers due the placement of the rocks. Certainly, they can make their way though, but options are limited, which the opponent can take advantage of.

Zone Defense

Say perhaps you don’t know where you want your obstacles to be, but you know where you don’t obstacles to be. You can control that. When you place a rock down, you create a bubble where other rocks cannot be. Depending on the size of the obstacle, you draw an imaginary shape a little greater than range 2 to around range 3 in diameter. Use this to “place” your opponents rocks elsewhere.

As you can see here, this debris creates a rather sizable bubble that other rocks cannot be.

To maintain wide lanes you can place obstacles at range 2 of each other, preventing another obstacle from being placed in between them. You can combine these bubbles with the range 2 area where obstacles can’t be on the sides of the board to create a rather large area free of debris and asteroids.

Consider your opponent’s list synergies

Another thing to consider is what parts of your opponent’s lists synergize with their obstacles. You picked your obstacles for a reason, and your opponent did the same. Try to understand why your opponent picked what they picked. In the next article, I will discuss more specified obstacle strategies regarding some of these synergies and also give some tips on placing your list in the deployment zone.

Hopefully, this blog will help you step up your game in X-Wing and prepare you for that all important Turn Zero. What are Turn Zero tactics that you know that I may have missed? What other tricks and tactics can you share to bring others up in the game? Let us know.

If you are in the St. Louis area or coming to visit, reach out to Arch Alliance X-Wing on Facebook to find out where we are playing on any given night.

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Our YouTube channel, Facebook page, and Biophysical’s Starfighter Mafia blog.

6 thoughts on “Before Setting Dials: A Turn Zero Guide – Part I

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