How To Get Better III – Tools for the Job

The intro…

Following on from last week’s blog about focused practice I rather unfortunately haven’t been able to get a game organised (i mean against a real person. I’ve had a little time for dabbling with Fly Casual just to stay fresh).

With certain areas of life starting to kick back in and jobs to be done around the house, finding a 2 hour window that doesn’t invade too heavily on family time has been tricky. Plus my last session lasted 5 1/2 hours and until around 1:30am and there’s only so many times I can/will do that!

Anyway, with no game to write about I started racking my brain about what I could blog about. I’ve blogged every week (sometimes twice!) for almost 18 months, only taking breaks when we’ve been away on holiday so I feel like I ‘should do it’ but at the same time I know the only pressure to do that is from myself and also if there’s nothing to write about then really, what’s the point? I’m just wasting my time and yours by writing pointless drivel that nobody cares about.

And so I thought about sticking with the theme of practice and improvement and eventually I decided to look at tools for X-Wing. Specifically free ones.

I have long been fascinated by people who spend large amount of time and effort (and money!) to provide something of value to their community (whatever community that is) and do so for free. I ask myself ‘why do they do this?’

And then, I suppose, I became one.

And the answer to that question, for me at least, is ‘because, I could maybe help someone?’.

When I put it like that it sounds (in my case anyway) a little self important. Like ‘I’m special and so you should be gracious that I deign to impart to you my precious knowledge’.

That’s not it at all. The thing is, I had a thought, an idea that I thought might help some other people.

In my case it was the Jargon Buster. That’s actually the first thing that I put together and it came from reading blogs and posts and listening to podcasts and thinking to myself ‘what the heck is VTG? Or Rebel Beef?! And FLGS?!!?’. I searched Google and took to forums to search the terms and find answers. I decided that a central collated list might be helpful (for me if no-one else!) and so set about putting one together.

This then led to a couple of ideas about blog posts and then, here I am 75 posts later, still going.

I imagine that the process is similar for many.

  • Identify a need.
  • Find/know a way to meet that need.
  • Pour your heart and soul into making it work.
  • Make it widely available for other people in your community.

And so, while I have a few pages now which cover various subjects that I thought might be useful and maybe other people might find useful too.

With that in mind I decided that having a dedicated blog post to highlight some of these tools might be in order, particularly in reference to practice and getting better. While practice and experience are two very valuable aspects of improving your game, they’re not the only ones. Arming yourself with information is always useful and below I have listed some resources that can be used to improve your game in some way.

Some are sites that I’ve listed before, either on my Player Resources or Dylan’s Picks pages but as I don’t regularly post out links for those pages specifically they may not be things you’ve seen before.

All of them are 100% free and I want to spread the word and make sure that as many people as possible are aware of them because

  • they’re there to help
  • the creators deserve credit for putting them out

I’m VERY far from being some sort of blogging superstar but I get a reasonable number of hits on these posts and even if I help one person find something that helps their game then it’s worth it.

If I have missed anything that you know of then it’s because I probably don’t know about it myself so please contact me to let me know about it!

Anyway, enough blabbering, on with the content!

Tools…

These are sites that will give practical information or assistance to help you make good informed decisions.

Gate of storms

http://xwing.gateofstorms.net/2/multi/

Gate of storms is basically a probability calculator but putting it like that feels like I’m selling it a bit short.

It allows you to find out the expected damage in any given situation. Can’t decide whether to take a focus and range 2 shot at that TIE/ln Fighter or boost in for that extra red but forego that focus? You may have a gut feeling about which might be better but does it line up with the numbers? You can put the specific data into this page and it will give you the expected damage.

It’s not exactly something you can just quickly do mid-game with someone but you can always run the numbers later and see whether you made the (objectively) correct decision.

Of course all of this is based on average rolls and probability. Just because it tells you that your range 1 double modded shot should have landed 3.6 hits (or whatever!), that doesn’t mean that your dice will cooperate (I know mine don’t!) but understanding which decisions will give you the best chance (statistically speaking) will normally work out over time.

X-Wing Mapper

https://c-basse.github.io/c-basse/

With experience I had found that I am usually not too bad at judging where a ship will end up from a straight move. Even hard turns I am generally ok with (especially with large base ships after I was told that for a hard 1 turn, the ship basically just pivots around it’s corner). But bank turns? They’re tricky. When you start to factor in barrel rolls and boosts too, well, it can be hard to envision exactly where your slippery ace will be and if you land them in the wrong spot…

Hard turns with Dash!

The X-Wing mapper can produce scaled diagrams of, well, whatever you want. Hard turn & roll with Kylo? No problem. Three bank, roll and afterburners boost with Vader? Of course. Just click the ship icon in the top left to select your ship and see the dial and reposition options for the ship. You can also see how far the firing arc reaches and compare which position gets you to the paces you want to be.

YASB

https://raithos.github.io/?f=Rebel%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

It’s not exactly a secret that the official FFG Squad Builder app/website is….well…. let’s just say it could be better. In fact I’ve seen Facebook group posts from new players asking for advice and the VERY first replies being along the lines of ‘don’t use the official app’. Nothing to do with what ships to get or where to meet other players. That says rather a lot.

YASB (which stands for Yet Another Squad Builder) is a website which provides an excellent (and free!) alternative which is easy to use and has a very intuitive interface. You can save your squads, share them and there’s a feature which lets you calculate the points lost by the destruction (or half damage) of ships.

In fact, YASB is pretty much the standard for sharing/using/copying links for various X-Wing platforms (TTS, Vassal, etc)

Launchbay Next

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.launchbaynext&hl=en_GB&gl=US

‘But what about an app?’ I hear you cry. What if there’s no signal where I am and I want to list build or work out who won this game?

Well, as the saying goes, there’s an app for that.

Launchbay Next is available on Apple and Android and allows you to build lists share them as you’d expect. It also has a very good tournament tracker, allowing you to record your overall results, calculate the scores of each game and scan the QR code of your opponent’s list and import it. And it all works offline. Awesome.

Listfortress/Metawing

https://listfortress.com/

What if you could know which lists were most commonly used? Which ships most commonly make the cut at tournaments? Well, for the most part, you can.

Listfortress allows TO’s (Tournament Organisers) and/or players to create entries for tournaments and upload lists and results. So, aside from being able to brag and share links of that tournament where you came top, why is this useful? Well for those who struggle with list building (which is me!) it shows you which lists are winning tournaments (and which are not!) and you can then give that list a try yourself.

The website also breaks down that information in the Metawing page where you can see which are the top performing pilots, ship types, upgrades and list archetypes. So if you do want to build your own list you can find out what is strong in the current meta (JARGON ALERT!!) and what isn’t.

You do have to bear in mind that ALL of this data is user submitted but for the most part it is accurate and the community generally does a fantastic job of filling in their details when tournaments are published.

Tabletop.TO

https://tabletop.to/

Tabletop.TO (also known as TTT or TTO, depending on who you speak to!) is a very comprehensive web based tournament application.

It allows you to set up a tournament, generate pairings and submit lists and scores. It even has a timer that you can set full screen for players to see.

Simulation

Being a tabletop game there are many aspects of X-Wing that translate quite well to a computer. Below are some options for getting your X-Wing fix electronically.

Vassal

https://xwvassal.info/

‘Vassal is a game engine for building and playing online adaptations of board games and card games. Play live on the Internet or by email. Vassal runs on all platforms, and is free, open-source software.’ (yes I did directly take that from the Vassal website!)

There is a good following for X-Wing on Vassal that has been around for quite a while. Over the last 2 years or so there have been significant advances in the interface making it easier to make your ships do what you want them to do without having to know all of the keyboard short cuts! When you play online there is a ‘lobby’ where you can contact other online players to invite them to play if you haven’t already arranged a game.

Vassal give a 2D, top down view of the play area and different windows for the various components of the game (your list, your opponent’s list, dice, etc). It can be a little tricky to pick up but after a couple of games against people who can guide you through you should be good to go!

Fly Casual

https://github.com/Sandrem/FlyCasual/

Fly Casual is a stand alone, dedicated X-Wing simulator which is available for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android devices.

It has an AI mode (using the Heroes of the Atauri Cluster AI mechanic) and so can be used in a single player mode. I personally find this very useful for testing how viable a list is and for trying different deployment/openings. The AI obviously isn’t a real person and so you shouldn’t always read too much into results but it can give a decent indication as to whether a list is worth playing.

There is an online mode which has been in development for a while. I have yet to try it myself but I believe that at the moment it involves pre-arranging with an opponent and exchanging IP addresses. I believe that a more user friendly system is in development.

Tabletop Simulator (TTS)

https://store.steampowered.com/app/286160/Tabletop_Simulator/

I debated whether I should add this option since technically it is not free. You can buy TTS via Steam for around £15 but it often is on offer and I only paid £7 for it. I mention it because once you have the application, the X-Wing mod itself is free. Also as it is a general tabletop game simulator there are many other game systems that you can play on it.

The X-Wing mod for TTS plays in 3D and all elements of a real game of X-Wing are items within a virtual game room. Personally I find TTS to be more intuitive than Vassal and was comfortable setting up games after just one learning game against someone more experienced in using it.

It also has the option of modding certain elements of the game (alt art cards, custom painted ships, tokens, etc) which I feel helps to make it a bit more like real life X-Wing.

Resources…

As well as websites to help you get information or simulators that you can practice on there are some really great content creators in the community who have archives of articles or streams full of advice and insight on the game.

I’ve not included podcasts on this list because many of those have a LOT of episodes to catch up on. If you’re looking for podcasts to follow check out Dylan’s Picks for a list of ones I listen to.

Gold Squadron Podcast

https://www.youtube.com/c/GoldSquadronPodcast/featured

These guys host several streams a week on their Twitch channel and most (or all?) of that eventually makes it over to their YouTube channel. As well as live streams of games (including on TTS since Covid hit) the YouTube channel has quick tip videos and LOTS of other content.

186th – Top gun

https://www.youtube.com/user/warmster91

Hosted by the 2019 (and still current!) World Champion Oliver Pocknell of the infamous 186th Squadron, the Top Gun flight academy videos take an in depth look at various aspects of the game. There are also reviews/commentary of Oli’s 2019 Worlds games where he breaks down his strategy and decisions.

186th – Veteran Instincts

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChyTTrlSbjsoeRx4tL9r32Q

Sticking with the 186th, this YouTube channel is run by Paul and Lloyd as they re-watch a streamed game and ask the players to comment on their choices.

Hairy Nick

https://www.youtube.com/user/siamesemojo/videos

Hairy Nick is an Australian YouTuber who produces videos relating to many aspects of X-Wing from tournament results to ship reviews and more. Most videos are 15-20 minutes long and so fit perfectly into the ‘lunch break’ category.

X-Wing Buying Guide

http://stayontheleader.blogspot.com/2019/11/x-wing-buying-guide-introduction.html

I won’t be mentioning many blogs here (just this one in fact!) for the same reason I’m not mentioning podcasts, there’s generally just too much out there to catch up on/dig through for helpful information. The exception, however, is David Sutcliffe’s X-Wing Buying Guide. It’s a really helpful guide on getting into the game and expands into breakdowns on the different factions too. Definitely worth checking out if you’re new to the game or if someone you know is interested in getting started.

The conclusion…

And, that’s it! I think, anyway! Like I said earlier, there are bound to be things that I’ve missed or that I just don’t know about. If you know of (or are involved with making!) something that I’ve missed PLEASE comment/message/email and let me know what it is.

I realise this is a bit different than my normal content and that many people who normally read my posts (thank you, by the way!) will already know most or all of this but it’s information that should definitely be out there to help people improve their game (me included!).

If you’ve made it this far, well done! And if you already knew about all those site, I’m sorry!

As a bit of a future tease, I already know what next week’s blog will be about and I’m REALLY HYPED for it! My only worry is that I won’t have enough time to write it all down before the Tuesday morning. But I’ll try!

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