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X-Wing Theory: Perception Bias

6 Minute Read
Mar 28 2016
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The biggest problem we have when looking into building a list and tweaking it is factoring in our own perception bias.

A perception bias is a psychological tendency to lose objectivity in perception of people and situations.

The human brain is constantly forced to make rapid decisions about situations and people, and has developed a number of forms of shorthand to quickly arrive at judgments. Some of these contribute to the formation of perception bias. Cultural and social pressures can add to these biases, colouring perception even when people think they are being impartial. These can include tendency to make assumptions and attributions that are incorrect while believing they are right, or believing in logical fallacies


We all have perception bias as it is due to all sorts of personal experience muddying the waters in our mind. Before using Veteran instincts on TIE/FO Zeta leader I used Wired. I switched as I felt I was not getting a full utilization out of it, (yes, that’s right, on a ship that will be near enough permanently stressed). My recollection from the event that I ran it in with Wired only remembered the notable successes which were not many. In fact in play testing I had Zeta leader with Comms relay and wired and would target lock at range three. If I got eyeballs I could reroll with Wired saving the target lock for a coup de grais shot the following turn with  a focus token at possibly range one.

zeta leader cradwired

I’ve seen it with people before when not understanding the maths and basing the result on a previous experience. Years ago when playing a game of 40K, (4th edition), my opponent threw a bucket load of dice as his Blood Angel marines fired their bolt pistols at my Orks before charging them. He got extremely frustrated and stated, “unbelievable, not even average!” as the dice slewed to a stop on the table. I was slightly speechless as he had in fact rolled an average number of hits, followed by average number of wounds. If I recall rightly one above the total number of wounds inflicted on average but his perception bias had ingrained in him either through background fluff or previous experience that the actual average, was not the actual average. He should have rolled a higher amount of hits and damage than was likely.


There is a good bit on Mynock Squadron Episode 6 about all sorts of bias that we self-inflict on ourselves at the 2hour 15mins mark: Mynock Squadron Podcast episode 6



Relating back to my own recent experiences with Agent Kallus on Whisper I find that it varies a lot as to how effective it is in game due to the ship Kallus has targeted and the actual natural dice rolls you get. This is similar to Auto thrusters in that you could end up not rolling any blanks when in the situation that it would kick in and as a result may lead you to subconsciously decide that it is not worth the investment as it does not make a difference. The reverse could also be true. I now feel loathed to take off Kallus from Whisper due to the successes being etched into my memory when in fact the glorious successes are not that frequent when I go back through it.

The question I have to ask myself though is were those success worth it when compared to when it made little to no difference? Could those points have gone elsewhere which would have had little knock on effect to when it succeeded and make a bigger difference in covering the less successful times? Is my own perception bias blinding me from making small incremental changes that could improve the list? Are other people’s own perception bias, (like podcasts, the internet and all those who write in it), also forcing my decision one way or another.

guitar vader.jpg

I dropped Darth Vader from my lists after an event in January as I felt I had played badly with him and as a result hurting my game. I swapped him out for the next two events to try to reign myself back in as I felt I was being to gun-ho with Vader. Thinking about it now whilst I agree with the fact I was reckless with Vader at times during that event, I still won the tournament and the issues were probably down to the fact that for the most part I had been running Vader before Christmas with the Palpmobile so that the Emperor would bail him out. In an effective two ship list, (Palpmobile is often hiding), you have to be a bit more aggressive in attacking which in the current three ship list I run, I have a luxury of not doing so.

Reading my battle report again for the Winter Kit event, I notably fouled up in rounds 1 and 5 with Vader but its stuck in my mind so much that I have biased the information to conclude that I should maybe drop him. It has me thinking now that my perception bias from that event made me tinker unnecessarily with the list for the next two events I went to.



I wrote an article recently which had the list I had used at an ETC qualifier where I had VI on Carnor Jax and someone in the comments section wrote the above. I didn’t do too well, I only finished in third as a result. This is a great example of how perception bias can be formed by second hand information or personal experience in that the perceived notion is that Carnor Jax must and can only have Push the limits. Putting veteran instincts on Jax is not ground breaking or new as people were running Jax with VI at Worlds 2014 and having success with it there and other events. It’s a different set up looking to capitalise on moving at the PS10 spot to gain maximum effect. It is a trade off with the possible added survivability and action economy of push the limit but allows you to snag PS9 and PS10 aces if you don’t have the initiative.


Our Biggest Enemy

Our biggest enemy is ourselves. We back up our own assumptions with evidence that may not be correct and base our decisions on this and other experiences which may not be the norm. We are most likely to remember dramatic successes and failures which then colour our own decision making processes. We are also doing all this without realising it. Recognising these false bits of information that we have made up for ourselves and had confirmed one way or another is part of solving our perception bias.

I had convinced myself that even as primarily an Imperial player, Soontir Fel didn’t work for me. The dice always turned on me and that somehow he was just too fragile with no damage output. I then challenged myself to play more responsibly with him and take it to a tournament and what do you know, he works just fine, although I prefer the targeting computer over stealth device for consistent damage output.

Sometimes to go two steps forward we need to take a step back or as Kuato from Total Recall would say, “Open your mind.”

It is tricky not to get effected by perception bias, is it time to re-evaluate your choices?

Checkout this article and others at


Author: bbqwithstannis
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