Welcome back to X-Wing Debrief! The worst thing in X-Wing is missing an opportunity because you didn’t take the time to appropriately analyze the current game state. How do you analyze the board while you’re playing? Today we’re going to discuss the Situation Report, or SITREP, and tools that we can use in the X-Wing world to reassess the board state and provide fuel for the decision-making fire that generates best chance of success.
The SITREP is really a series of tools utilized in many different military applications to pass information in a rapid, discernible format. Most of the time they are mnemonics, like TEFACHR, each letter having a meaning and specific associated content. Mnemonics are helpful memory joggers that keep you from missing key steps. I am most familiar with situation updates like TEFACHR that are utilized with Close Air Support. The details of the mnemonic aren’t important for this discussion, but the concept is. Close Air Support is air action by fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft against hostile targets in close proximity to friendly forces and requiring detailed integration of air missions with the ground force component. SITREPs are a way to pass information like threats, airspace control measures, and clearance authority between those aircraft and/or with the ground force component. It isn’t really an analysis tool, just a summation tool. Probably not a lot of parallels with X-Wing, right?
You’d be surprised. There are a few things that work against the comparison, but I promise I’ll get there. So we said that these SITREPs are utilized to pass information, but why? Well, often times an engagement requiring air-to-ground fires (in this case, close air support) will take awhile or have many components. Perhaps the aircraft are just there in case they are needed. New aircraft rotate in to support, or aircraft go get gas and come back. The ground situation changes also – the enemy moves, the friendlies decide on a different course of action, etc. The use of SITREPs (and an identifier, like SITREP 21B) allow an on-station aircraft or the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who controls those aircraft to ensure that all players have the most up to date knowledge of the situation. So when that aircraft leaves to get gas and had 21B, and they come back and we are on 21C, they know there is new information. This is information between aircraft though and has nothing to do with gaming, or analysis, or self-reflection.
The great benefit of the creation of SITREPs and subsequent passage is that it forces all participants to take a look at their mental model of the combat environment and whether the SITREP information matches that perception. The SITREP itself isn’t the analysis, what the participants do with that SITREP is. Because of that, as X-Wing players, the creation of a SITREP format is of no use unless we apply it well. We’ll build a SITREP format here, but how we package the information doesn’t matter much. Use whatever makes sense for you and don’t get tied up into how I do it, since a standardized format to communicate between players doesn’t matter (yet – EPIC!!!!!) The importance is tied to our ability to take that SITREP format and use it to analyze our position on the board.
In my opinion, the best (and easiest) time to give yourself a SITREP is during the planning phase. You’ve just cleaned up tokens, shots are over, and you’re on to the next iteration. One of the great aspects to the game that combat crews don’t often get (but at the same time, get more often than one would think) is that reprieve, that chance to take a step back from the situation and think mid-engagement. So build a rapid SITREP during your planning phase. For the SITREP mnemonic, I utilize a FACT check. I try to pick things that I remember; at work, I use a WALLET check (because I can’t afford to forget it.)
The F stands for Friendlies. The first thing I care about is the status of my own ships. How did that last round fare for me? Did I take a significant amount of damage on any of my ships? Is the positioning ability of my ships limited by the environment (i.e., obstacles, mines, etc.) Are there any status effects on my ships that I must account for this turn, such as ion, stress, or particular critical damage? What are my movement options? Where are my points at?
Once I’ve done a review of what I have still on the board, I look at the A: Abilities. What pilot/ship/card abilities are going to come into play this turn (whether mine or my opponents?) This isn’t just pure knowledge of the opponent’s list, its understanding how those abilities are likely to be applied against your list. So what abilities might be used this turn?
Continuing along, C stands for Charges. This is a pure resource review. What resources do you have remaining/in-play? Munitions and devices, ability charges (if not reviewed already), force. After you review your resources, be sure to review your opponent’s resources as well. There is nothing worse than forgetting about the proximity mine that gets dropped perfectly in place of your most likely maneuver. My worst offense at the Atlanta System Open for Charges was nearing the end of round 3. Details aside, I was running Grevious on Maul and forgot to flip my charge token up when a friendly ship was killed. Now this isn’t egregious, as it is not a may so the board state should correct, but I forgot all the way through the next turn of combat – where my Maul took a panicked pilot critical that I could have avoided, double-stressing Maul and keeping him from turning around and managing his arc effectively. I realized the depleted charge was a mistake after the shot was over, creating a missed opportunity. I didn’t get a shot off for the rest of the game as my Maul was chased and killed to finish out a frustrating loss.
So the final step. What do you think we’ve missed?
T is for Threats. Threats is a final review of my opponent’s options, now that I’ve looked at abilities and charges. What options does my opponent have for his or her dials? What is his/her most advantageous position? What will my opponent try to take away from me? What damage did my opponent take that round, and where are his points at? How much time is remaining?
At the end of this rapid assessment of the board state, I know what my friendly ship status is, the abilities in play for the next round, how both mine and my opponent’s charge resources are looking, and a status for threats to my list. I should know my options and those of my opponent, informing an updated win condition and preparing me to set dials.
This doesn’t have to take forever. You probably do all of this now, or most of it. But if you utilize a mnemonic, maybe even this one, you might not make the mistake of forgetting to assess a critical aspect of the board state. If you miss that key information…