Before Setting Dials: A Turn Zero Guide – Part II

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 preperation, 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 first article I ran you through the many factors that I try to account for when I set up during Turn Zero. In this follow-up article, I will discuss the remaining things to consider before your put your first dial down.

list specific

Special Note: This article was written 2 weeks before gas clouds were introduced. Gas clouds greatly change obstacle setup in general. Most swarms will benefit sharply from partially consequence free obstacles. Aces will love to hide behind them, but hate that others can fly through them largely unimpeded. Once I develop strategies for these new obstacles, perhaps another followup Turn Zero article will be needed.

Swarm/Anti-Swarm Rock Placement

As mentioned in the previous article, swarms tend to move like one big ship. The ideal rock placement for anti-swarm is an hourglass shape. Place the two biggest obstacles available range 2.5-3 from the side in the middle, and after that, do what you can to corner the remainder of the obstacles. Ideally, you want the center obstacles to be large rocks, as those are the most punishing for swarms to fly over, and thus should dissuade them from turning in.

The hourglass shape of the obstacles creates a poor turning zone indicated by the red zone. The swarm cannot fit through there without either compromising the formation, driving over an obstacle, or by taking a round to set up for the passage. This leaves the blue zone as the optimal pivot point to turn in, making a good 70% of the board a poor pivot point. Restricting so many avenues will allow for the more maneuverable X-Wing to dictate where first engagement will happen.

As a swarm, you want to avoid the hourglass much as possible. You want to place the obstacles as far to one side as you can get. As you should be bringing smaller obstacles, you need to grab your opponent’s largest obstacle and center it on your side of the table. After that, you need to flow with what your opponent is putting down. Whatever side of the table your opponent chooses after that, go heavy on that side with the obstacles. You want to create a crowd of objects in a corner as best you can so you have as many lanes as possible and as wide a space as possible to frolic in.

The swarm player (obstacle placements in blue) places the largest rock centered on their side. The Rebels (obstacle placements in red), attempting to make the hourglass, place their first obstacle on the right. The swarm follows up by placing their second and third on the same side that the Rebel player placed their first asteroid. The Rebel player continues to try to make the hourglass with ever smaller rocks. For the swarm, the red zone is much less restrictive for turning in and the blue zone is where it wants to play with little to no obstruction.

Han/Seismic and Anti-Han/Seismic Strategy

Both Rebel Han Solo pilot and Seismic Charges want a loose cluster of obstacles that they can get within range 1 of. Bring the largest obstacles that you have with the large “L” debris taking precedence. The funky shape of that particular obstacle obstructs a lot of shots if you happen to be running Han with Trick Shot and has an awkwardly large range 1 bubble for Seismics and Hanning dice. When you are placing your first obstacle, you want to put it at just under range 3 from either side in a corner. This way you not only create a decent size bubble where your ability/bomb can trigger, you also disallow your opponent from placing obstacles in less frequented lanes of maneuvering.

Look at how large that range 1 bubble is. Not even the mustache asteroid can fit in that corner.

For Han, try to accomplish the same for at least two of the corners and one as centralized as possible. This also allows for greater maneuvering for both Hans as large base ships don’t want to be stuck in a corner. If your opponent obliges you and places them in these spots for you, that is wonderful. Try to keep rocks spread about range 2 from each other to where Han can straddle the edges of two bubbles at the same time with his large base. This will also allow for easy maneuvering through rocks as well.

Here is a decently optimized placement where the opponent even brought the three smallest obstacles. I have nestled Han into the only three spots where his ability won’t be active in the inner square.

For Seismic Charges, after the first corner rock, you want to put rocks about 1.5 range widths away from each other. The idea here is that you want to be able to clip as many range 1 bubbles at the same time as possible, so if your opponent is trying to avoid one bubble they will still be stuck in another bubble or be forced to disengage entirely.

Using the same setup as the Han example, a Seismic Charge in any of these five locations will clip the range 1 bubbles for three obstacles, and in a plethora of locations, a Seismic Charge can be in two different range 1 bubbles.

The Anti-Han strategy and the anti-Seismic strategy are largely the same. Take the biggest obstacle and put it in a corner. If your opponent placed first, place the biggest obstacle you can get and a put it a range 1 of their object. Try to clump the obstacles together as best you can, utilizing the largest pieces first. You want the field bunched up as much as you can manage so you can keep the engagement as far away from the obstacles as possible. For Han in particular this is bad, since he will either need to abandon his friends to stay in the asteroid thicket, or abandon the rocks, losing his ability, so his teammates don’t have to engage without him.

anti han
Even with the non-Han player (obstacles in blue) placing to minimize Han’s rerolls, the Han player still covered a decent area for his ability. However, to maximize covering the center of the board, a significant portion of the bottom of the board does not trigger his ability. The non-Han player will want keep the engagement in this area.


So now that you’ve placed your obstacles, you have come to the last crucial step of Turn Zero: where do you place your ships? The answer to this question depends on many factors. I will address them in no particular order as they don’t always weigh in the same for every match.


Jousting is the simplest setup to do, you just plop down all of your ships together and drive at your opponent. But can you joust your opponent’s list? “If two lists are jousting, one of them is wrong”, is one of the earliest maxims of X-Wing I learned. Typically, a list with four or more ships will be jousty, but you need to be able to assess whether your four ship Rebel list should drive straight at that TIE swarm or vice versa. If you can honestly say you want to joust your opponent, plop your ships down across from them and dare your opponent to come at you. But you need to have a plan for when you can’t slam your head against your opponent’s head, as well.


Flanking is the most common way to deal with jousty lists. It will involve a portion of your list committing to the joust, while another portion attacks from another angle. Typically your flanker is the hardest hitting portion of your list. Flanking forces the opponent to either commit to the joust, exposing their side to the heavy hit, or turning into your flanker, leaving their side open to the many shots from your jousting portion.

Here we have Luke and Wedge both set up to flank on the Tie Swarm. Due to where the obstacles are placed it is easier for Luke and Wedge to flank the swarm than it is for the swarm to turn in on them. If the swarm commits to the U-Wing and Y-Wing, the X-Wings will punish the swarm. If the swarm turns on the X-Wings, the rebel jousting element will punish them for that choice.

A word of caution, however. Do not place your flanker too far away from your jousting contingent, because the key to the flank is engaging with all of your list at the same time. I have seen many Vaders and Fenn Raus leaving their wing-men high and dry because they placed too far away from them.

Feinting a joust and dangling

Feinting and dangling both apply the same principle: get your opponent to commit so that they will either be out of position or in a bad position for the next engagement while your other ships flank. Feinting the joust is a dangerous game because if you get the engagement wrong, you’ll eat the brunt of the jousters’ shots. Feinters usually will need to be a fast ship with reposition options at a higher initiative. The Feint will set up as if to run the joust but will disengage somehow, either by a fast maneuver accompanied by repositioning or by a pre-maneuver reposition (for example Advanced Sensors, Supernatural Reflexes, decloaking, et cetera).

In this simplified example, an ace (smaller arrow) is flanking toward Palob, while a jousting contingent (larger arrow) is heading towards Old Teroch and Guri. Old Teroch’s 3 forward set him up with plenty of options to dodge away from the joust, and at I5, he should be able to reposition should with a boost if he needs. Guri with Advanced Sensors can be wherever she wants. Both of them avoid the straight joust, putting the opponent’s flanker in a precarious spot.

Dangling, as I call it, is a form of stalling where your ships remain uncommitted to engaging, baiting your opponent into committing to an attacking lane so you can flank. You typically want to dangle with a fast ship that can opt out of engaging your opponent while taking minimal damage. For a dangle setup, you place much like a flank setup, only instead of placing the bulk of your ships up for the joust, you place one ship as bait. The bait will do non-committal moves (for example 1 hard then barrel roll away, decloak then one hard, hard stop, et cetera) while the rest of the list moves into position.

In this example, we see Poe and two A-wings set up on the far corner from the opponent’s joust, leaving L’ulo to “face” the joust alone. L’ulo, Poe, and the Blue Squadron Recruit can make plenty of non-committal maneuvers while Tali blasts up the right side, setting up a second dangle. Now the jousting element must make a choice: commit to L’ulo, commit to Tali, or drive towards Poe and the generic A. No matter what choice the opponent commits to, the Resistance ships get a flank while dragging the opposition through the rocks.

Formation Flying

Another consideration for setting up is formation flying. If you are running a list that likes to stick together, do their dials allow for that? Running a four ship Rebel with an A-Wing or a U-Wing gets annoying when everyone wants to do a 1-forward but an A-Wing must go 2 or more and a U-Wing’s 1 forward is really a 1.5 forward with the medium base. A TIE Reaper can keep up with a TIE swarm when it goes fast, but when the Swarm want to slow down, can the Reaper match the slow pace?

Also, how do you get your medium bases into formation with the rest of your list when a medium base and small base won’t fit in the range 1 setup placement zone because nubs will rub? If the ship has barrel roll, it will be easier to get them in line, but ships like the U-Wing and the G1-A with out the title might need some finagling to get your ships in order.

Here we see that Drea cannot set up in the deployment zone behind any of the Scurrgs as her nubs overlap both the medium base ship and the edge of the board. If Drea is placed on the outside, while she is better protected, her pilot ability wants to be at least somewhat closer to the action and it will be harder for her to keep up with the faster medium based ships. If she takes the inside, she can keep up with the ships, but she is much more exposed to fire.

Another consideration to formation flying is setting up not to run into yourself while flying. You need to consider the initiative levels of your ships when setting up, so that when it comes time to turn you don’t self block. One of the best methods for this is to stagger your ships. There are several ways to do this. Typically, you will see a tight formation with the ships one range ruler width apart. This allows plenty of maneuverability for when your ships bank. As long as they are doing the same maneuver, they should not block each other. The advantage of a tighter formation is the guarantee of range 1 effects such as Howlrunner, Iden, Biggs, or Selfless; and should bullseye talents such Crack Shot be in play, it maximizes the chance that if a ship is in one bullseye, it will be in many bullseyes.

The tight formation.

The Pinwheel formation is an even tighter formation for four ships that keeps ships the minimum amount of distance away from each other while still facilitating movement. The ships are not staggered uniformly, but rather in a tilted square format that resembles a pinwheel. This maintains the range 1 and bullseye effects that the former formation had, but the tighter formation allows the pinwheel swarm to fit much more easily through obstacles. It only accommodates a 4 ship mini-swarm, as the deployment zone is too small for more. The largest downside is that it takes super precise placement so that your nubs and sides don’t bump.

The pinwheel formation performing a 2 bank right and a 2 bank left.

I prefer loosely setting up ships a little greater than 1 movement template length apart, placing the first row of ships at the front of the deployment zone. The second row of ships will then place at the back of the deployment zone staggered between the ships of the first row. While this is less ideal for range 1 bubble abilities, it spreads out bullseyes to make avoiding all of them much more difficult. There is also the benefit of being able to accelerate the rear line faster into the fray should you need to do so. I recommend this more for four small base ships, not a TIE swarm.

In this loose formation, the front line does a 2 forward maneuver and the rear line does a 3 forward maneuver.

Also, remember when formation flying ships of differing initiatives what ship movement order is. If your swarm wants to do a 1 hard to the right, everyone could get knocked out of formation and be deprived of actions if your lower initiative ship gets in the way. Place your lower initiative ships accordingly.

This swarm has dialed in a two bank left. It must start with the I1 Acadamy Pilot who really wants to barrel roll to not hit the rock next turn. But he must consider that if he barrel rolls left, he will block Iden and Del’s maneuvers and maybe even Gideon’s maneuver as well. This would not only deny the TIEs all of their actions, but also compromise the formation of the swarm. It would be best for the Academy Pilot to either barrel roll right or take one for the team and fly over the rock next round.

Picking where your battle happens is a bit tricky as the opponent has a lot of say in it. But even when your opponent refuses to engage, you need to pick where you want to engage your opponent. Do you want to draw your opponent into the rocks, or are you the one better in an open field? But we must be realistic, and try to see where you and your opponent are likely to clash first judging by initial placement. Try to have at least a basic game plan for where you want to battle before you place your ships, and adapt that in your head after all ships are placed.

For swarms, try to find a clearing where your swarm can pivot in uninhibited and have their moves dictated less by obstacle placement. For aces, you’ll likely want to draw your opponent’s ships through the obstacles to break up their formation. For flankers and feinters you’ll want a clear shot for the joust/feint while your flank will want to engage from the relative comfort of obstacles that discourage your opponent from turning in on the flank. For the dangle lists, deciding where to engage is much harder from the start as your need your opponent bite at one bait or the other, so your target battle location will switch from round to round.


The last bit of Turn Zero advice I can conjure is to practice your opening. And try to have more than one opening. Different lists require different tactics. You do not advance against a TIE swarm the same way you approach a 3 ship list. Flirt with different openings in practice. Find what dangles, flanks, and feints work for your list and how you would set up against any of those tactics.

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.

For more Arch Alliance content check out:

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

One thought on “Before Setting Dials: A Turn Zero Guide – Part II

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s