Sunday, November 15, 2015

Obstacle Placement - Part 1 - Standard Obstacle Placement Objectives

By request, today we are going to discuss a frequently overlooked and honestly quite difficult topic - obstacle placement.  Now, we're just going to talk about normal obstacle placement, and not dive into more complicated obstacle based objectives like Minefields, Dangerous Territory, or Contested Outpost.  Hell, it doesn't even consider non-obstacle specific objectives like Hyperspace Assault or Firing Lanes.  Just where you want to place your obstacles to maximize your potential deployment and spoil your opponents.

What we will be working with.

Player 2 - What Do You Place First?

Of the six obstacles, there are 3 types, each of which having a different effect on the ship overlapping it.  The Station is the only positive obstacle, granting a single hull point repaired for any ship or squadron that overlaps it - and as such it is usually deployed first.  Not only does it heal hull damage, making it a good obstacle to have your ships head towards - something easier in theory than practice - it also obstructs attacks.  You can use this obstruction to protect yourself from enemy fire for your ships, but it works even better for squadrons.

Despite the TIEs at Range 1, the B-Wings can shoot at the Gladiator.
B-Wings and other 2 dice bombardment squadrons can still fire off of it at any ship dumb enough to park in Range 1, and the squadrons themselves are immune not only to engagement, but also receive one less anti-squadron dice.  This gives any squadron based on that station immunity to any 1 dice anti-squadron ship on the field.

Use obstacles to keep your interceptors free to engage enemy Bombers.
This lack of engagement lets the squadrons, especially fast squadrons, move off and engage enemy Bombers on later turns.  You can do this with other obstacles as well, but the station uniquely has room for 3 squadron bases on its considerably sized footprint, without causing any of the squadrons to be off the obstacle and subject to engagement.

For all these reasons, the station should be placed in a location where you are willing to bring the fight.  Somewhere you would be looking to reach on turn 3 or 4, and your squadrons on turn 2.  You can use it defensively in the squadron game to save damaged squadrons, to hold interceptors in reserve until the enemy has committed their bombers, or visa versa - saving your bombers until you have engaged the enemy's fighter cover.

However, as the station is a defensive obstacle, it does not limit in any way where your opponent can maneuver.  In fact, it can be as much of a help to them as it is to you, blocking your shots and obstructing their squadrons.  So, as an alternative, consider the Big Rock.

The Big Rock can help shore up your flank.
The Big Rock can be placed defensively to help cover a flank from an enemy sliding up next to or behind you at close range.  Of the three rocks, the Big Rock is the largest, and can comfortably hide a single squadron of fighters completely inside it.  The thought of a face-up damage card can be enough to scare off most anything fast and cheap enough to flank, giving you a bit of breathing room.  For either broadsiders or front facing lists, you want the Big Rock closer to your own side, about where you'd expect your flank to be exposed on turn 3 or 4.

The final alternative is one of the two Debris Fields.  More overall damaging, but less randomly dangerous than the rocks, the debris fields deal 2 damage which the overlapping ship can take on any hull zone.  All existing Medium and Large ships can fix an overlap of a debris field by a single Engineering Command - not the most frightening proposition when it comes to an overlap.  They are, however, still a decent threat to smaller ships and still obstruct shots.

The Debris Field helps to keep the rebel AFII from turning inside against the VSD's front arc.
The TIE Fighters are free to engage the B-Wings, shielded from engagement by the obstacle and the VSD itself.
A bit larger in size then the Big Rock, they can add more total space covered on your flanks and rear.  They are also large enough that overlapping one with a Larger or even a Medium ship going at speed 1 might not be able to reliably clear then the next turn.

What about size?

Consider the size of your ships and your opponents ships when placing obstacles.  As you likely know, obstacles must be placed outside of Range 1 of each other obstacle.  Medium size ships are just under Range 1 in width from side to side, and Large ships are just a little bit over Range 1 in width.  If your opponent has medium ships, it makes sense to cluster obstacles as close to Range 1 as possible where his ships would be inconvenienced.  However, if your opponent is more threatening with Large ships, and no mediums to speak of, it may work out better to set your obstacles slightly farther apart, at closer to Range 2 - you'll still create an effectively impassable barrier, unless your opponent wants to crash through those obstacles.

 Placing Defensively:

Obstacles do not work particularly well alone - to really impact how the obstacles will work, they need to be placed with a plan in mind.  This is something important to keep in mind if you are going to be using your obstacles defensively.

Setup with 3 obstacles close, in a line.  The opponent went with an obstacle denial.
Flank Denial Line - This setup involves creating a line on your side of the map with your 3 obstacles, but any that your opponent wants to contribute are obviously welcome.  The idea behind the flank denial is to make it difficult for an enemy ship to set up to take advantage of one flank, as they would have to maneuver through a significant obstacle trap to do so.  While easy enough to avoid, they would not be able to turn until they cleared, and that would put them well behind you.  This works best with forward firing, slow moving ships like the Nebulon B or the Victory Star Destroyer, who fear flankers more than anything, especially as they can themselves pop up between the last two obstacles without overlapping anything, and do so early enough to turn themselves if needed.

It also gives a nice area on your side of the field to hide your squadrons prior to engagement, keeping the enemy from tying them down with an early activation.  Putting the station on the side you are setting up on gives you the biggest squadron related benefit, and lets you deny the opponent using it for late turn repairs, by putting most of your guns on whatever would be making its way there.

The lower player has set his obstacles up in a Denial, giving him more room to maneuver.

Obstacle Denial - This defensive setup decides that it's biggest goal is maneuverability around the battlefield.  As such, it has places its obstacles in the location least likely to obstruct its own maneuvers, namely the corners of the map.  The two closest to him, and one of the far corners.  Alternatively, you can put them in a line on one side of the map or the other, and just forget that this side exists.

Obstacle Leapfrog - Squadron oriented, this setup involves placing your obstacles in such a way that your squadrons can use them to hop to key areas around the map.  Using your slowest squadron's speed as the maximum distance apart, you can give your squadrons an obstruction to hide out on until an engagement is necessary, at roughly medium range from where you expect your carrier ship to deploy.

Offensive Obstacles:

Obviously the station will not be used if you are going to be setting up obstacles in an offensively oriented fashion.  This really will only work as Player 2, or as Player 1 if the first obstacle placed is the station, otherwise you can find yourself stuck with the station as your only obstacle to place.

The Imperial player has made a V wedge with the rocks, forcing their opponent out of the middle of the board.

The V Wedge - Using the rocks, you can force a more maneuverable opponent to commit their forces to one side of the board or the other, giving them a section in the center that is difficult to navigate through.  

Inverted V gives up some initial denial of maneuverability to protect against flanking.

The Inverted V - Similar to the original V, this one sacrifices preventing mobility to increase defense from flankers that deployed to the "wrong" side of the map.  Much like the original V Wedge, this is about forcing a maneuverable, broadside based opponent to commit to one side of the field or the other so that you can cap the T in their conga line.

Diagonal Line - This is more of a reaction to the opponent's obstacle setup - if the opponent either places an obstacle in one of their own corners, or begins to create a cloud of obstacles on one side or the other, you can build a line with your 3rd rock instead of a V Wedge to block off either a corner (if you are first player, and caught it quickly) or heavily discourage a specific side of the board from the middle (if going originally for a V Wedge).

So, what do you think?  What do you like to do with your obstacles?  Do you place the station first, or leave it be for a different obstacle?  Join the discussion on the FFG forums, or comment below.

Next time in Part 2, we will discuss obstacle placement for special objectives - specifically Minefields, Dangerous Territory, and Contested Outpost.

Want to read more articles like this?  Check out The Academy section.


  1. Great article, just the kind of stuff needed to stand out the tactical side of the game

  2. Agreed, this is really good analysis. With the Empire, I have always tended to focus on 'closing off' one half of the board with obstacles to encourage the Rebels to stick to one half of the board. I will definitely try out these new ideas in my next game!

  3. Glad you folks liked it. I am particularly sick of talking about obstacles now, but I feel like it's something I'll come back to again, later. Really, it's only scratching the surface.