BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

X-Wing: Mastering the Three Main Actions

7 Minute Read
Oct 15 2013

You’re spacedust if you don’t master the three basic actions in X-Wing. Let’s take a closer look at the three main Actions in detail.

While there are lots of fancy Elite Pilot Skills that bestow Actions in X-Wing Miniatures, you’re nothing if you’re not solid on the fundamental Actions that are available to most every ship in your squadron or your opponent’s. Let’s take a closer look at the three main Actions. 

The Three Main Actions- Focus, Evade, and Target Lock

Now, I know, I know- a lot of you guys are waaaay past this article. I understand, but I can tell you from the search engine referrals I get on my own site that a lot of folks are just now getting into the game and even if you’re not a complete newcomer to X-Wing Miniatures, it never hurts to brush up on your basics.

As you probably know, the most common way to lose your Perform Action step in X-Wing is to run into something- namely another ship or an obstacle which is X-Wing for asteroid. If you’ve played much at all, you know that losing your Perform Action step is a very bad thing for your chances of winning. It’s not an auto-lose, of course, but losing multiple Actions over the course of your game can decide the outcome. With that in mind, let’s take a look at base Actions that are available to most any ship in X-Wing and see if we can glean why even these no-points, basic Actions are so important to not lose.  

(I came close to including Barrel Roll in this thing, as it’s also an Action that’s detailed in the rule book, but frankly, there aren’t enough ships that have it stock as an Action to be included in an article like this. I know, kind of any ship can have it via Expert Handling, but I just don’t see enough pilots take that for me to really buy into that line of thinking. If enough folks really feel like I’m short-changing them by not including it, I’ll edit it in, so let me know what you think.)

Usage in game: Changes any rolled eyeball die results to a filled explosion die results (a “hit” in local parlance) while attacking, changes any rolled eyeball die results to wavy lines (an evade) while defending.
Availability: Every ship in the game
Offense or Defense: Both
Removed during End Phase?: Yes

Focus is a brilliant fence-sitter Action because you can choose to use it either trying to shoot somebody or when somebody tries to shoot you; declaring a Focus, you leave your options open either way, which having an option as contextual as that is huge. It is likely to be your most used Action on just about any ship lacking a more specialized Action available because of an Elite Pilot Skill. If you’re a beginner level player, I’d suggest Focusing by default any time you get the chance.

If you take out an Attack die and examine it closely, you see how much more likely your attack is to hit by using Focus over just rolling the die stock. The Attack die has 3 hit (filled explosion) symbols and 1 crit (unfilled explosion) symbol on it, so stock, you’ve got a 50% chance of rolling something that will generate a hit if left uncancelled by the defender. If you Focus that Attack roll, you still have those 4 faces and gain the two eyeball symbols as well, improving your odds of generating some sort of hit from 50% to 75%. Not bad! Essentially the two blank faces are the only things that screw you if you’ve Focused your Attack roll.


Using it for a Defense boost works in a similar manner. The green die has only 3 wavy arrows on it, so with no modifier, you’re statistically only going to roll an Evade 37.5% of the time. Not great odds. However, if you tack a Focus onto that, you get to count the two additional eyeball faces, improving your odds to Evade from 37.5% to 62.5%. Again- a pretty significant improvement!

My statements about losing your Perform Action step don’t seem so hyperbolic now, do they? 🙂

Last bit about Focusing- it’s not considered a re-roll, it’s considered to be a change or modification, so stuff that doesn’t allow re-rolling can still be Focused. Long story long, yeah, it’s perfectly acceptable to Focus a Target Locked Attack roll and not violate the “no re-rolling re-rolled dice” rule. This was kind of my lightbulb moment playing X-Wing in a little 25-point beginner tournament my FLGS offered back in October or early November last year. Of course, I didn’t figure it out until my third and last game of the mini-tournament, but once I did, it was like, ohmaigerd! It makes a difference for sure and you’d be crazy not to capitalize on it any chance you get.

Usage in game: Hit (rulebook sense) cancelling
Availability: TIE Fighters, TIE Advanced, TIE Interceptors, A-Wing, Firespray-31, YT-1300 via the Millennium Falcon Title
Offense or Defense: Defense
Removed during End Phase?: Yes.

Evade effectively gives you an extra green Defense die that automatically rolls a wavy arrow result. This is a good thing because the stock Defense die only has 3 wavy arrows on it, as previously mentioned.


As I’ve said on my site many times, I’m no math whiz. I’ve never taken stats or even had probability formally presented to me in my academic career (which should give you a pretty good insight into my level of commitment when it came to securing higher education as a brash, young man and why I always find my real jobs fairly unsatisfactory- stay in school kids!). So while I’m sure there’s a way to mathematically ascertain that one is better than the other (which will likely to be presented to me in the comments very soon after this article goes up), for me, it’s about the context.

The first criteria I use to make my Focus v Evade decision is- am I likely to get shot at in this Combat Phase? If that’s a no, and I have an opposing ship I can fire on, then I’m going Focus, no question about it. If the answer to the first question is a yes, then I try to ascertain how badly that ship’s likely to hurt me. If the answer is not much, or I’m unlikely to incur so much damage that my ship will be removed, I stick with Focus. If however I’m likely to get shot at, and it’s likely to destroy me, and I need to have that ship on the table still, I’m going to Evade.

TL;DR version- I usually Focus instead of Evade unless in some very specific circumstances.

There’s probably a Dos Equis parody ad in that statement somewhere, but it’s eluding me (Evading me? Haw, haw!) at the moment. The original version of this article included my favorite as a consolation prize, but I’ve opted to omit it here on BoLS to (hopefully) save Larry the trouble of facing angry Canucks fans in his Comments section. 🙂

Target Lock
Usage in game: Re-roll attack dice of your choosing
Availability: X-Wing, Y-Wing, A-Wing, YT-1300, TIE Advanced, Firespray-31, TIE Bomber, Lambda Shuttle, B-Wing, HWK-290
Offense or Defense: Offense
Removed during End Phase?: No.

A lot of the time, beginning X-Wing players think that Target Locks are only good for being the prerequisite to firing off a salvo or torpedoes or missiles. While they’re good for that, they’re also worthwhile in a normal, Primary Weapon situation too.

Acquiring a Target Lock isn’t quite as automatic like declaring a Focus or an Evade, however. You have to pick a target that’s in Range 1-3 of you, but that target does not have to be within your firing arc just to select him as the target of your Target Lock (I know that reads clunky, but intended recipient sounds even worse, and victim doesn’t quite convey the meaning I want it to). Also bear in mind how this actually goes down- the ship you Target Lock could very well move away from you in his movement phase if he’s of a higher Pilot Skill than your Target Locking ship; that’s fine- your Target Lock still stays in effect. Once you’ve got it, it sticks around until you either use it to modify an Attack roll, or decide to abandon it simply by TL’ing another ship instead (though that doesn’t count as actually spending it, if you were wondering).

Target Lock when used with a Primary Weapon allows you to re-roll any Attack dice you want, which is pretty nice as if you’ve got a Focus token to burn, you can pick up just the blanks you’ve rolled and keep the eyeball, hit, and crit results, or if you have no Focus token, you can choose to re-roll everything but your hits and crits (local for both).


As trying to get them both is something of a no-brainer, the real question is if you can only get one this game turn, which one do you pick?

For me, there’s a selection process kinda like Evade, but the main difference here is I try and gauge how likely I am to destroy the other ship as my main determinant. If I need the TL to make sure every shot hits because that’s likely to grease that ship, I usually do it. If that’s unlikely to happen and/ or I’m going to get fired on by multiple ships before the end of the game turn, I’ll probably fall back on Focus as usual.

If you want to get into X-Wing Miniatures but don’t know your Evades from your Target Locks (which after reading this article, you kinda do but this is just canned text really), by all means, stop on by the hippest pilot bar in the galaxy- We serve all kinds (yeah, even droids- they’re the best tippers), and have a whole bunch of articles from breakdown summaries of every single card released so far, to tactics articles, to our Bikini Battle Basics new player guides- all served up with a heapin’ helpin’ of my own personal brand of slang and humor. Can you dig it? 

  • Clan Raukaan: Iron Hands Supplement Inbound!