Pilots, today we will address the talk of the town recently, the Fortress deployment! What is it? Why use it? And how do you defeat it?
Greetings all, Ed here from NOVA Squadron Radio! This will be the first in my series of X-Wing Tactics articles here on Bell of Lost Souls.
What is the Fortress?
The Fortress is a controversial deployment method where each ship in your squad is deployed in such a fashion that choosing certain movements on their dial (usually a Straight 1) will result in the entire squad bumping into each other, and hence not moving at all. This is controversial because if one desired, this formation can be held indefinitely throughout a game. A perfect example of this deployment can be seen in the photo below, taken at a 2014 Worlds top 32 match a few weeks ago with a Wedge, Biggs, Rookie and Cracken list:
|The Fortress in the wild|
Now, we are not going to debate the ethics/sportsmanship behind using this deployment here. Another, much better author did an awesome job covering this about a week ago here. Let’s just agree for the purposes of this article that this deployment is legal within the rules of the game, and nothing in the rules prevents a player from forcing his entire squad to not move. Let’s move on from that, and examine this deployment and its merits and flaws from a tactical point of view.
Why use the Fortress?
|Death Blossom anyone?|
Fortress Strengths: No Place to Hide
When deployed in the corner like this, it is clear that no ship can escape the firing arcs of the squad. No Phantoms on your “6” (the main reason to do this), no dodgy Interceptor “Pushing the Limit” to get away from your blasters, nowhere to hide at all. No matter which way you attack this formation, you will almost always fall within at least three firing arcs and take 8-15 Attack dice in return. In chess, this is referred to as a gambit, planning to exchange actions and movement for the advantage of killing your ships. And since the formation is such that it will never move, you can constantly defend this corner with your maximum amount of fire power. And unlike the Lambda Shuttle, these ships can all stall without the penalty of receiving stress. This is important because one of the ships in this formation is Airen Cracken, and as long as he attacks (at PS 10 thanks to Veteran Instincts), at least one of your ships can pick up a focus token to make those attack dice a little more potent. Add in Wedge to strip an evade die from a would-be attacker, ‘Draw Their Fire’ to pull off untimely crits, and ‘R2D2’ to regenerate that lost shield (even if you bump, the Straight 1 green maneuver would still trigger R2D2’s ability) and you can survive for a long time in that corner. Toss in some creative rock placement and you can even funnel ships into one direction or another to ensure they come at you from the direction you want them to.
Timing is Everything in big tournaments, or Using the Clock to Win:
Now, another reason to use this method, aside from what we have discussed so far, is that it is quite difficult to deal with in timed matches. If you chose to do so, you could hold this formation for 50 minutes of a 60 minute timed match. All the while your opponent is dancing around the board confused by what you are doing and afraid to enter your kill zone. You could then, at say the five minute mark, break out of the formation, kill a single TIE fighter and you win the match when time is called. Again, we will not debate the ethics/sportsmanship of this method; only accept that it is indeed legal within the rules of X-Wing.
Cracks in the Armor: Where is this tactic weakest?
So, since this formation did not win Worlds (in fact it was only ever used once in the top 32), there have to be some obvious weaknesses to deploying this way. There are several small factors here that add up to one BIG glaring weakness in this formation. The first that I will point out is the lack of moving firing arcs. This static formation allows your squad to be ‘lined up’ for the perfect kill shot as your opponent has the time limit of the game to get his maneuvers correct and attack you how he chooses to do so. Therefore forcing you to have to react to your opponent’s attacks and take a very passive role in the battle. We will demonstrate how to exploit this a little later. The loss of actions is something we cannot forget either as, even with Airen Cracken, your squad will only be performing at 25% action efficiency. That is not very good and your dice will suffer for it. Your force is also very predictable, by definition, and your opponent will know each and every turn what you are going to do and can plan for it. Half of the strategy of this game is that your opponent has no idea what you are going to do with your dials. Giving that way puts you at a severe disadvantage. All of these factors are not helping you, and a good opponent will take advantage of your predicable movement, lack of actions, and pre-defined firing arcs and exploit them. Allow me to demonstrate.
Breeching the Fortress: How dangerous is that kill zone, really?
So we have covered how strong this formation is, so what can you do to defeat the fortress? Well let’s first look at a few things, namely how deadly is that kill zone. Those attack dice are fickle things after all. In a real life situation, ideally this list would throw out about 8 attack dice at range 2-3 (getting within range 1 of this formation is a BAD idea, so don’t do it) from 3 out of 4 of its firing arcs. Some dirty math tells us that there will only be 4 hits/crits in there and possibly 2 focuses. Now, at best, only one of those ships will be able to take advantage of those focus rolls thanks to Cracken’s special ability. So the average offensive firepower of this formation is a little less than average for those ships, only 5 hits/crits total in a round of shooting, again using some dirty math. That is not an insurmountable amount of damage, and a smart player knows ways to avoid/absorb it.
Method One: Down the Gut!
This method will be determined by your squad, of course, and rock placement, but the 5 damage in the kill zone is not a mind blowing amount. It won’t kill a B-Wing! If you just take your squad into the mouth of the lion, absorb those non-optimized red dice, and strike back, I believe more often than not, you will trade one ship for one (or two) and break up that fortress. If you are running TIE Fighters in a Swarm/Mini-Swarm (as it was done at Worlds) this could be an issue, as you might have to sacrifice a TIE to break up the formation, but it might not be as big of a risk as you think. With 3 or 4 evade dice (let’s not forget Wedge stripping one from you!) and the evade actions you have going in, with a little luck, you lose one TIE in the opening exchange, and kill at least one X-Wing. You’re in the lead for points and the fortress is broken.
|Not enough dice to kill ALL of those TIEs!|
Method Two: Conga Line down the Sidelines!
I will stress that this method involves hugging the edge of the board, and that less experienced players may fly themselves off of the board just trying to set this up. It requires some precision flying to pull off, but is the best method to attack the one glaring weakness the Fortress has, the edges! There, only one ship has a firing arc, and this will minimize the amount of dice that you will see in return and will maximize the amount of dice you can throw at it. If you fly it correctly, you can get a conga line of ships down the side and overpower one (or more) of the fortress’ corner defenders and break up the fortress:
|Cha, cha, cha!|
Advanced Sidelines: The Merry-Go-Round of Death
So, this is just silly, I’ll admit, but if you want to spent the time (since you’re opponent is mostly trying to kill the clock you have plenty of it to set this up), you could set up a 6 move combo to allow you to attack a single X-Wing in the Fortress, turn out and Barrel Roll out of range, and move back into the same firing position in a few moves. If you set up 4 TIEs in this ‘Merry-Go-Round’ of doom, you could, in theory, kill a ship and never see a shot back. Now, if your opponent allows you to do this, shame on him! No really, boo him! But I thought I’d share what you can do just for fun!
|Crazy but can be done!|
So I hope that I have demonstrated to you the merits tactically of this formation and exposed its weaknesses. If you were to see or attempt to use this formation at your next local tournament, you now have the proper tools to run it and beat it.
Good hunting guys! What’s your opinion on “The Fortress”?
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 tournmament, 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!