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X-Wing Editorial: Target Lock Controversy

7 Minute Read
Nov 28 2014
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Pilots, today we are going to explore some of the little quirks found in the Target Lock rule and how they can impact the game, both in friendly and competitive play.

Is it really an exploit of the rules to use the Target Lock mechanic to know range?  Or is it a clever tactic used by experienced players?   And what can we do about it?


Greetings all, Ed here from NOVA Squadron Radio!  This will be another one of my series of X-Wing Editorial articles here on Bell of Lost Souls.  Today, let’s explore the Target Lock rule a little deeper and how it can be used outside of the action it represents to judge distance in the game.

Defining the problem: Target Locking and Firing Range
While this topic is not new for many of the competitively minded X-Wing players, it has most certainly gained a bit more traction after the events at the 2014 World Championships.  So let’s first define what the possible rules exploit is before we analyze it and see if it needs to be changed.  

The range for a Target Lock is identical to the range in which ships can fire, range bands 1 thru 3, as seen in the above example.  Seems pretty straight forward, right?  If you want to Target Lock a ship, whip out the old range ruler, see if you’re in range or not, and place the appropriate tokens.  So, what’s the problem?  
Well, if one were so inclined, they could declare a Target Lock action in the Activation phase on a ship that is clearly out of range 3 and by doing so determine the firing range of another enemy ship as well.  You could then make corrections based on this gained knowledge to get out of firing range, say through a barrel roll or boost action.  Through the Target Lock action, you have gained knowledge you otherwise would not have had.

Spirit of the Game: Run Away!!!

While this is most certainly completely legal and permissible through the rules of the game (see page 9 of your handy-dandy rulebook to see the exact wording on how to ‘Acquire a Target Lock’) it doesn’t feel right within the ‘Sprit of the Game’.  This one clearly feels like you are using a rule which was intended to do one thing in the game to gain information for another phase of the game.  
Now, let’s just take this one step further and use this tactic in a timed tournament game.  You are up by 13 points on the final table at a local tournament at your FLGS.  This is more than enough to insure a full match win and you are already eyeing up those final table prizes.  You’re two A-Wings are both out of shields, but still alive, with a higher Pilot Skills than any of your opponent’s ships, and there is 15 minutes left in the match.  You know all you have to do is survive those last 15 minutes and those prizes are all yours.  So what do you do?  Well, you want to make sure your opponent never rolls another red die and take away the chance of losing this game!  You do this by fly fast around the board, avoiding combat and declaring target locks to make sure you are out of range of any of your opponent’s ships.  And if you happen to fall within range of these ships, you can then ‘Push the Limit’ (because you are require to take the Target Lock action if within range) to Boost back out of range and your opponent never gets a shot off.  You do this for the remainder of the time on the clock, the clock expires, and you win the match.
Now, there are some that would argue that this is not very sporting.  Sure you won, but you did so by not only running away throughout the remaining final minutes of the game, but also used the Target Lock action to know for certain that you would not get shot at.  That doesn’t seem fair.  

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Playing to Win: Tactics to Secure the Win

Now I will agree that the above situation doesn’t sound like an awful lot of fun, for either side of that game to play.  And in a friendly environment I would never recommend using such a tactic to win a game.  You may actually be boo-ed at your local game store for doing so.  However, in a competitive tournament match, that is a bit of a different story.  I am all for a good, friendly sporting match, and I personally will always be a friendly and fun opponent.  But I am also there to win.  
The player using this tactic did nothing wrong.  As per the rules of the game, everything he did was completely legal.  In fact, it is a common tactic used by good X-Wing players, used so that they posse all the knowledge they can of a battlefield before making decisions.  The developers have released several FAQs and Errata for this game and have never addressed this issue, not once.  This means that they are aware of this tactic, and have decided that it is not ‘that’ game breaking to have to address it.  So while using a tactics such as this may not ‘feel’ like it belongs in the game, it most certainly has its place in competitive play, especially at the highest levels of competition.
There is a movement within competitive X-Wing players called ‘Fly Casual’, started by 2012 World Champion Doug Kinney.  It basically represents the attitude we all would like to see at the high level tables of big X-Wing events.  I was once asked what ‘Fly Casual’ means to me and this was my response: 
“To me it means that while I do take this game ‘seriously’ and play it at a competitive level, that there is still room in there to be a decent human being.  To not be a jerk, and recognize that I am playing a spaceship game where both me and my opponent want to have a good time.  To laugh at my own misfortunes, and understand that in the end, it is only just a game. 
It means to me that I want to walk away from a game confident that any of my opponents, win lose or draw, would want to play me again because we both had a positive gaming experience, even at the highest levels of competition.”

I would never support a player who was a jerk, abusive in any way to his opponent as a human being, flat out.  Cheating on his dice rolls, taking actions he forgot without consulting his opponent first, fudge movements… things like this have no place whatsoever in this game.  And players like that are NOT welcome!  These are the things a WACC (Win At All Costs) player would do to win a game, and that person would not care I their opponent was having a good time or not.  However playing competitively and within the rules of the game is not being a WAAC player.  

How to fix it?

I would first like to preface this by stating I do not believe this needs to be fixed, clearly, from my stance on the rules above.  However I am also open to new ideas, and I also know that I do not know everything.  I could be wrong.  And if I were to offer up a fix for this particular tactic, what would it be? 
I would like to recommend the following Errata to the ‘Acquire Target Lock’ rules that should put a stop to this particular issue within the game, for the most part.  
“Once a Target Lock has been acquired, no further actions may be performed by that ship during that phase of the game.”
This will place the Target Lock at the end of a series of actions taken and if someone were to be using the Target Lock to know the range of an enemy ship, it strips the ability to do anything about it away.  So you couldn’t Target Lock and boost for example, it would be against the rules.  
Now, there are plenty of ‘other’ situations that could arise to still allow this to happen, Special Characters who grant free actions in the combat phase, or whatever, but they would all be in other phases of the game, and hence, less likely to affect the outcome of a game.  I feel this simple, subtle, change to the rules could end the problem.  
Do you agree, disagree?  Let me know in the comments below!
If you are a new player looking to  get into the more tactical end of the X-Wing Miniatures Game, or an old pro looking to up your game, why not check out our podcast, NOVA Squadron Radio!  Every two weeks we review what’s new in the world of X-Wing Miniatures.  We break down those top lists from the big tournaments, interview X-Wing personalities from around the world, and review all of the new ships, cards, and combos that are all the rage in the meta today! 

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