A-Wing Ace: The Finger Four Formation by Jonathan Scott

The Finger Four

By Jonathan Scott, A.K.A. “Green Squadron Leader”

 

Table of Contents

 

In this article I’ll explain how to use my signature “Finger Four” formation. This formation is extremely flexible and helps mitigate a number of weaknesses many other formations have. By practicing the many transitions this formation is capable of you will be able to up your game becoming less predictable and better able to rob your opponent of easy maneuver choices. There are 10 basic transitions this formation can undergo during the first 6 rounds of a game each of which is designed to counter different sorts of strategies your opponent’s may employ. The great thing about this formation is that all of the Transitions are nearly identical to begin with so it is very hard for your opponent to guess which you intend to use until it’s too late to counter it. It’s also easy to switch between the transitions based on what choices your opponent makes.

As many of you have no doubt noticed there are a few common archetypal approaches to squad design in X-wing, each of which brings its own set of challenges to reach its full potential.  Two of these common approaches are the “Swarm” where players use a large number of ships often all of the same type to overwhelm their opponent through brute force and weight of numbers, and “Aces” where a small number of elite ships use their superior abilities to pick apart their opponent over time.  The smaller number of ships in an Ace build are often able to overcome the larger number of ships in a Swarm by isolating individual members of the swarm and forcing them to fight in one on one engagements where the Ace ship’s superior pilot skill and ability synergies will most often win.  To attempt to counter this skilled Swarm players employ various formations to allow their ships to mutually support each other and force the Aces to fight against several opponents at once.

Line, Box, Pinwheel, Stagger, and Diamond formations: the "Standard" of the X-Wing repertoire.

Line, Box, Pinwheel, Stagger, and Diamond formations: the “Standard” of the X-Wing repertoire.

The goal of most formations is to provide a favorable first engagement with the enemy list, essentially ensuring that when the shooting starts all the members of the swarm are able to engage the same target and overwhelm it with massed firepower.  In military terms this concept is called “establishing overlapping fields of fire”.  Common formations like the Box, Slanted Box, Diamond, Line, and Pinwheel are good at providing overlapping fields of fire but they have two main drawbacks.

The first is that they are exceptionally predictable.  To maintain the overlapping fields of fire provided by the formation the formation must be maintained.  Each formation has a slightly different approach for doing this, but the key takeaway is that on any given turn there will be a relatively limited number of possible moves that will both maintain the formation and keep your opponent’s ships in arc. This tends to make the likely moves a formation will make relatively easy to predict.

 

The second drawback to these formations is that they are extremely rigid, by which I mean they are not well suited to adapt to changes in battlefield orientation.  What the heck is “battlefield orientation” you ask?  It’s the concept that as your ships move around the playmat their relative orientation to the various obstacles, board edges, and enemy ships is not fixed, it changes every round.  As a player it’s easy to see the orientation of the battlefield as being fixed as often you will be standing in the same spot looking at the playmat from the same direction for the whole match.  To show how this can impact formation flying let’s use the example of a Line Formation.

As you can see when the enemy is in front of the formation it is relatively easy set up shots with every ship in it.

Poor, poor Falcon.

Poor, poor Falcon.

However, if our opponent has moved around the side of the formation and it turns to engage him not all of our ships will be able to shoot.

As we can see, the length of a column formation can be a drawback - even if the Falcon was in range of some, it would not be in range of the rear ranks, giving poor shots for the swarm as opposed to the "Box" or "Line" formations.

As we can see, the length of a column formation can be a drawback – even if the Falcon was in range of some, it would not be in range of the rear ranks, giving poor shots for the swarm as opposed to the “Box” or “Line” formations.

 

So how do you overcome these two inherent weaknesses in formation flying?  Well it turns out that we aren’t the first people to try and figure this out, the US Army Aircorps came up with a pretty good answer during World War II, they called it the “Finger Four”.

Back to Top

Origins and Theory:

The "Fighting Wedge" in the air was originally pioneered by the Luftwaffe who called it the "Schwarm."

The “Fighting Wedge” in the air was originally pioneered by the Luftwaffe who called it the “Schwarm.”

At its most basic the Finger Four is an adaptation of an Infantry Fighting Wedge, which is a small team formation designed to ensure overlapping fields of fire are maintained while a squad is moving with the majority of the squad’s weapons being able to rapidly point in the direction that the enemy is most likely to attack from.  The Army Aircorps adapted it by having each fighter in the formation fly at a different altitude. The advantage of this formation was that the enemy would not be able to tell how it would move once a dogfight began, it’s so flexible and had so many possible moves that it was difficult to predict. This unpredictability helped the often less skilled American pilots to counter their more experienced opponents.

Composition:

So how does it work?  First off this formation works best with a squad of four highly mobile ships all with the same pilot skill. I designed it with the A-wing in mind, but it works well with the Tie Advanced Prototype, Tie/FO, Tie/Interceptor, and T-70 X-wing. Unfortunately Scum don’t yet have a good platform for this formation yet.  This formation is particularly effective when paired with my Green Arrow list (http://xwing-builder.co.uk/view/292005/green-arrow).

At the end of the article I will briefly discuss a variation of this formation called a “Finger 5”, which uses 5 ships instead of 4.  All the Openings and Transitions work the same way just with a few changes and the starting formation looks slightly different.

As the formation was designed with the A-wing in mind, the speeds of the maneuvers and actions recommended in each Opening and Transition are based on the options available to the A-wing. If you are using a different dial or action bar just adapt the speeds and actions so that your ships achieve the same effect as that demonstrated in the transitions.  It also works best with ships that have Push the Limit, but again this isn’t absolutely necessary for some ships (Tie Fighters and T-70s).

Back to Top

Basics:

Obstacle Placement: In many match ups you will want to create a dense asteroid field in one of your opponent’s table corners. Ideally you want to engage them in and around this obstacle dense area as it will make it easier to limit their movement options and gain positional advantage. Place 1 Large rock range 2.5  x 2 from the corner, another towards the middle at range 2 from the side, and the last wherever it would best help form an obstacle dense area.

Creating a dense field on the opposing side.

Creating a dense field on the opposing side.

Initial Ship Placement: In most cases you will be deploying first as the majority of ships which can form the Finger Four have pilot skills between 2 and 4.  Usually you will deploy in the corner across from the dense obstacle area you made on your opponent’s side.

For the purposes of this tutorial we will presume that you deploy in your right corner for all of the transitions. Just swap the directions of all the maneuvers if you deploy in your left corner.

The basic "Finger Four," deployed in the bottom-right corner.

The basic “Finger Four,” deployed in the bottom-right corner.

To deploy the squad first place a range ruler along the rear edge of the playmat. Ships 3 and 4 are placed along the side table edge, make sure to leave a small gap so you don’t risk flying off the table by accident. The width of a range ruler is what I’d recommend.

Ship 1 is placed so that its left side is at range 2 from the side table edge, again leaving a small bit of extra space is helpful to avoid “drifting” onto obstacles that were placed at range 2 from the table edges.

Ship 2 is placed halfway between ships 1 and 4 and 1 ship length from the rear table edge.

Does it matter if there is an obstacle in the corner where you deploy?: So you may think that an obstacle placed as close to your corner as possible will restrict your initial movement options, but in fact it really doesn’t.  As you can see in this picture Ship 3 is the furthest forwards of the formation, but it clears a rock placed fully into the corner when it conducts a 3 turn.  If you’re concerned that you may overlap a rock in your deployment corner just move ship 3 backwards a smidge when you deploy it and you’ll be fine.  Likewise Ship 1 will clear a cornered rock with any straight maneuver.

In short: No, not really.

In short: No, not really.

Breaking Formation:  In several of the transitions the squad with break up into two ship teams. When this happens Ships 1 and 2 will be team A and ships 3 and 4 will be team B.

Order of Maneuver (OOM): For many of the Openings and Transitions the order in which you reveal the maneuver dials of your ships matters a lot.  When this is the case I list the necessary OOM to avoid bumping yourself.

Openings and Transitions: As already stated the Finger 4 has a wide array of strategies you can employ, and because there are so many I have divided them into Openings and Transitions.  Openings are strategies you employ at the beginning of the game, each of them is designed to ensure a particularly favorable initial engagement for you.  Transitions are potential follow on strategies you can choose from to react both to your opponent’s moves and to the outcome of the initial joust.

Back to Top

Opening 1- Block Joust:

Trigger: The enemy deploys directly across from you to joust. This transition is most well suited to attacking lists consisting of large based ships, but it works equally well against everything except an enemy swarm which out jousts yours.

The trigger for a "Block-Joust" opening: When the opponent deploys right across from you.

The trigger for a “Block-Joust” opening: When the opponent deploys right across from you.

Round 1: Racing forward to initiate a block-joust

Round 1: Racing forward to initiate a block-joust

Round 1: Using the Rule of 11 determine what the maximum speed you can choose so that your opponent cannot gain shots in the first round. Have all your ships select that speed of straight maneuver.  Boost straight if your opponent moves before you and has chosen a move slow enough that you will not be within range 3 if you do. When in doubt just 5 straight and boost, most players choose slow maneuvers first round to gauge what their opponent intends to do, I’d recommend evading with all your ships as well.

We use the maneuverability of our ships to effectively deny the enemy all movement options.

Round 2: We use the maneuverability of our ships to effectively deny the enemy all movement options.

Round 2:

  • Ship 2- 5 Straight
  • Ship 1- 4 straight
  • Ships 3 & 4- 2 left bank.

This set of maneuvers will create a space where your opponent’s ships effectively have no possible maneuvers which will not result in their ships being blocked. It also should provide range 1 shots to all of your ships.

 

 

 

 

 

Round 3: We now invert to get excellent shots and come about into chase position.

Round 3: We now invert to get excellent shots and come about into chase position.

Round 3:

 

  • Ship 1- 3 K-turn or 5 K-Turn
  • Ship 2- 3 K-turn
  • Ship 3- 5 K-turn
  • Ship 4- 5 K-turn or 3 K-turn

This round inverts the squadron so that all your ships will have arcs on the bumped ships regardless of where they went. Ship 4 can either perform a 3 K-turn to attempt to block the enemy ship from escaping or it can perform a 5 K-turn to have shots on it, obstacles will likely limit this selection as well.  Ship 1 can also choose to either make a 3 or 5 K-turn, normally you’ll do a 3K but if there are other ships that could block you then pull a 5K. In this situation your opponent will either move straight down the table edge as fast as possible (potentially K-turning) or they will turn into the center of the table.  The choice they make will determine your next move.  As you can see in the picture no matter the move they choose you should have arcs with at least 3 ships.

Transition 1: Flip Chase:

Trigger: The enemy has fled the kill box along the table edge towards your corner.  This transition places your squadron back into its starting formation, just in reverse, and it allows you to employ additional openings and transitions later in the match.

Flip Chase A: In an Inverted Finger-4 formation, now at the rear of the enemy.

Flip Chase A: In an Inverted Finger-4 formation, now at the rear of the enemy.

Round 4a:

  • Team A- 5 Straight
  • Team B- 3 Right Bank
  • OOM: 4,3,1,2

This puts your ship back into the Finger Four (Facing Backwards) and close to the enemy ships.  If they K-Turned then you get to repeat the Block Joust again going the opposite direction!  Otherwise if they flew away really fast you can flip the squad around next round and use whatever new transition you want to as you’ll wind up being almost exactly where you started at the beginning of round 1.  Note you may need to alter the speeds of your ships to avoid bumping the enemy.

Flip Chase B: More reliable destressing and more usable if you might be blocked.

Flip Chase B: More reliable destressing and more usable if you might be blocked.

Round 4b:

  • Team A- 5 Straight
  • Team B- 2 Right Turn + Left Boost
  • OOM: 4,3,1,2

This is an alternative move that is more appropriate it your opponent’s ship would block Ships 3 & 4 were they to do 3 banks. It also is more reliable to destress ships 3 and 4.

 

 

 

 

Transition 2: Diamond Chase

Trigger: The enemy has fled the kill box towards the center of the table.  Again there are two main variations on this transition based on where the enemy ship ended up.  4a shows a fast moving enemy ship with boost, 4b shows a slower enemy without boost or barrel roll.  There are an enormous number of possible variations on how this transition can go, but for all of them Team A’s moves will be the same.

 

Diamond Chase A: For if your opponent flees toward the center

Diamond Chase A: For if your opponent flees toward the center

 

Round 4a (Fast enemy that doesn’t block Ships 3 and 4):

  • Team A- 2 Right Bank + Straight Boost
  • Team B- 2 Right Turn

OOM: 4, 3, 1, 2

This sets you up into a reversed Finger Four in hot pursuit of the enemy.

 

 

 

Diamond Chase Formation B does split the teams, but gives you options upon options to pursue.

Diamond Chase Formation B does split the teams, but gives you options upon options to pursue.

Round 4b (Slow enemy that blocks Ships 3 and 4):

  • Team A- 2 Right Bank + Straight Boost
  • Team B- 2 Straight + Right Boost
  • OOM: 4, 3, 1, 2

This puts Team A in hot pursuit of the enemy and Team B is set up to pursue next round.

 

Back to Top

Opening 2: Kill Box

Trigger: Your opponent deploys in the center of the table.  Its advantage is that this formation creates a huge zone of overlapping fields of fire, preventing the enemy from being able to escape your initial joust, and it sets you up well after the initial engagement. Its useful against enemy squadrons with very unpredictable ships.

 

Kill Box Round 1: turning in toward the center. You should be fine on rocks.

Kill Box Round 1: turning in toward the center. You should be fine on rocks.

Round 1:

  • Everyone- 3 Left Turn + Straight Boost

If there is a rock in your corner you may want to do a 2 Left Turn + Straight Boost instead, otherwise Ship 3 may end up on a rock.

Round 2:

  • Everyone- Slowest Straight

If your opponent moved very slowly round 1 then move straight at your slowest speed for round 2.  You don’t want to set up the trap before he is in position for it, so if you expect your opponent will slow roll his start then don’t do a boost round 1 either.  You can even add another round of slowly moving straight to buy time if need be.  If they move very fast round 1 then skip this Round and go straight to Round 3.  For the demonstration I’ve left this round out of the pictures.

Moving into the center to set up the kill-box. Round 2 or 3 depending on your opponent's speed.

Moving into the center to set up the kill-box. Round 2 or 3 depending on your opponent’s speed.

Round 3:

  • Team A: 3 Right Turn
  • Ship 3- 2 Right Bank
  • Ship 4- 3 Right Bank
  • OOM- 1,2,3,4

This round sets up the initial Kill Box establishing a large section of the table where an enemy ship cannot escape most if not all of your arcs.  It also has the benefit of giving your opponent to obvious way to outflank your formation.  Note you don’t need to do much damage this round, the main benefit of it is to force your opponent to make a very hard decision for his next maneuver.

 

 

 

Transition 1: Rock Steady

Trigger: If the enemy will be in roughly the same spot next round then this is an appropriate move to keep them guessing and in arc. This transition leaves you in a modified Diamond formation.

Rock Steady: Keep your arcs moving and your opponent guessing.

Rock Steady: Keep your arcs moving and your opponent guessing.

Round 4:

  • Team A- 3 Left Turns + Right Boost
  • Team B- 5 Straights

Transition 2: Break Off

Trigger: You want to engage another target. This is used primarily if the enemy squadron is spread out over a larger area, and it can be used regardless of whether or not the initial target of this Opening was destroyed in the initial engagement.  Rapidly switching your focus between separate ships of an enemy squad can be a valuable tactic, particularly if your opponent has a ship which wants to be chased. It’s also a great tactic against ships with very long turning radii which will take a while to re-engage if you break off.

 

Kill Box Break-off: For when you need to reposition

Kill Box Break-off: For when you need to reposition

Round 4:

  • Team A- 3 Left Turns + Straight Boost
  • Team B- 5 Straights + Right Boost
  • OOM- 4,3,1,2

Transition 3: Half Kill Flip

Half Kill-flip: Extending the killbox to come from different angles

Half Kill-flip: Extending the killbox to come from different angles

Trigger: You want to engage the same target, or one near it, but the enemy might move fast and get behind your squad this round. This is used primarily if the enemy squadron is confined to a small area, and it can be used regardless of whether or not the initial target of this Opening was destroyed in the initial engagement.  Additionally you can transition back into a reverse finger four if you want next round (Team B does 2 Left Turn + Left Boost, Team A does 5 Straight and you’re back in the Finger Four.)

 

Round 4:

  • Ship 1- 5 K-Turn
  • Ship 2- 3 K-Turn
  • Team B- 2 Straights

Transition 4: Kill Flip

Trigger: The enemy will move past your current position next round. This is used primarily if the enemy squadron is confined to a small area, and it can be used regardless of whether or not the initial target of this Opening was destroyed in the initial engagement.

The full Kill-Flip: Maneuvering in behind the hapless enemy squadron

The full Kill-Flip: Maneuvering in behind the hapless enemy squadron

Round 4:

  • Ship 1- 5 K-Turn
  • Ship 2- 3 K-Turn
  • Team B- 5 K-Turns

This maintains the kill box giving you another full round of shooting at the backside of the enemy ship, or at another ship in their squad.  Note that you may need to change the speeds/maneuvers of one of the ships or teams due to terrain considerations.

Back to Top

Opening 3: Flank Trap

Flank Trap opening

Flank Trap opening

Trigger: The enemy deploys in the opposite table corner from you and he aggressively moves into the center of the table to engage you.  The goal of this formation is to force him to fly around the obstacles to engage you near the right table edge with few safe maneuvers that will not result in a bump or colliding with an obstacle.  The result is that you establish a large zone of the table overlapped by the fields of fire of all of your ships that your opponent is actively flying into that lacks any good escape paths for his ships once they enter it.  You’ll notice that this opening triggers VERY fast, its intended to counter a very aggressive opponent who deployed diagonally across from you. One benefit of this Opening is that the enemy will reliably not be able to gain range 3 shots as they enter the trap.

Another important thing to note is that this Opening has the same moves for the first few rounds as several other openings, so you can switch based on what they do round 1.  If you want to switch you’ll just need to have Team B move 2 speeds faster than Team A next round to get them back on line.

The A-Wings blast forward!

The A-Wings blast forward!

Round 1:

  • Team A- 5 Straight + Straight Boost
  • Team B- 5 Straight
Spread out, and spring the trap!

Spread out, and spring the trap!

Round 2:

  • Ship 1- 5 K-Turn
  • Ship 2- 3 K-Turn
  • Team B- 1 Left Turns
  • OOM- 1,2,3,4

If the enemy advanced fast but did not boost then they will need an additional round to enter the trap, so in that case add an extra round moving Team A Straight 3 and Team B Straight 2.  Again I’ve left this out of the pictures.  It is possible for the enemy to have a shot on Ship 1, but that its largely dependent on how many rounds it takes them to make their approach.  If its more than 2 rounds then there should be no way for them to have a shot.

 

A-Wings are phenomenal at blocking, but make sure to back up your blocks with some firepower to knock 'em down!

A-Wings are phenomenal at blocking, but make sure to back up your blocks with some firepower to knock ’em down!

Round 3:

  • Team A- 3 Right Banks
  • Ship 3- 5 Straight
  • Ship 4- 4 Straight
  • OOM- 1,2,3,4

The enemy really has no way to escape a bump fest here.  Virtually ever maneuver they could attempt will be blocked, and your ships are well set up for the next round.  Note that if you need to do 2 Straights with Ships 1 and 2 to clear stess that’s fine, but it will potentially leave space open for a long K-turn from the lead enemy ship.

Back to Top

Opening 4: Table Flip

Trigger: The enemy deploys in the opposite table corner from you.  The goal of this Opening is to reset the battlefield to your advantage by “flipping the table” and placing your squad in your opponent’s deployment zone.  This is the Opening I find myself using most often.    This Opening is great against lists that need to ensure that their ships approach you in a certain order, so for example most squadrons with Biggs Darklighter want him to be behind the rest of their squad for the initial engagement. Editor’s note: I have found the Table Flip to be especially useful when you are flying the actual Green Arrow List, as Wingman is indispensable for clearing stress off the K-Turns. 

Table Flip Opening

Table Flip Opening

From Rounds 1-4, get your squadron in position to K-Turn. Base your maneuver speeds on how quickly the opponent is moving.

From Rounds 1-4, get your squadron in position to K-Turn. Base your maneuver speeds on how quickly the opponent is moving.

Rounds 1-4:

So the key thing to remember with this formation is that you need the Ship 1 to travel 16 ship lengths and Ships 2-4 to travel 14 ship lengths forwards before you trigger the trap.  Traveling far before you pull your K-Turns leaves puts you as close to your opponent’s table edge.  A thing to remember is that a 5 Straight (6 Ship Lengths) advances a ship the same exact distance as two 2 Straights (3 Ship Lengths).  Any combination of these maneuvers that adds up to 12 works, just add a boost for the extra 2 ship lengths of distance.  Base your maneuvers off of the speed your opponent is flying.  If they are flying fast do two 5 Straights with a single boost to cover the distance.  If they are flying slow swap the first 5 Straight for two 2 Straights.  If they are flying REALLY slowly swap both 5 Straights for four 2 Straights.  This way you can be in position to trigger the trap on round 3, 4, or 5.

KEY NOTE: Ship 1 needs to perform an additional Straight Boost in order to be in the right position for the flip.

Also note: The absolute furthest your ships can travel without risking flying off the board is 17 ship lengths.

 

 

 

"Flipping the Table" on your opponent - putting an asteroid wall between you and your opponent's ships.

“Flipping the Table” on your opponent – putting an asteroid wall between you and your opponent’s ships.

Round 3-5:

  • Everyone- 3 K-turn

o Again there are a number of ways to vary this opening’s speeds.  This method will see the squad as close to the opponent’s table edge as possible.  Alternatively if Ship 1 skips its second Straight Boost in Round 2 then it can perform a 5 K-turn while the other ships perform 3 K-turns, this still puts you in a reversed finger four and is harder to predict.

You should now be in a reversed Finger Four facing back towards your own table edge with your rear being within range 1 of your opponent’s own table edge.  This effectively “flips” the table forcing your opponent to turn into the center to engage you, breaking up their formation in the process usually.  This opening has a LOT of transitions, so please bear with me here.

Transition 1: Bank In

Banking in to catch the opponent.

Banking in to catch the opponent.

Trigger: The enemy moves aggressively from the center of the table around the obstacles to chase you into the corner.

Round Flip+1:

  • Ship 1- 2 Straight
  • Ship 2- 2 Right Bank
  • Team B- 2 Right Bank

This leaves you set up to rush in and start bumping stuff, and your opponent’s formation will have had to turn and thus won’t be able to concentrate its firepower as well as He’d probably like.  You can also perform 3 banks with Ships 2-4 as long as you can clear your stress.  Ships 2-4 also have room to boost forwards if they wish.

Transition 2: Block Joust

As the name implies, moving into a jousting position with good options to block and deny your opponent.

As the name implies, moving into a jousting position with good options to block and deny your opponent.

Trigger: The enemy has swung wider around the center but is still coming towards you. As the name implies this works similarly to the Block Joust Opening.

  • Team A- 5 Straight
  • Team B- 2 Right Bank

As you can see you have a wide array of options available for your next round while your opponent has very few good ones.

 

Transition 3: Flank Trap

Trigger: The enemy has moved into the center really slowly and won’t enter the engagement area for another round.  As the name implies it executes similarly to the Flank Trap Opening.

Widen your formation and prepare to turn in.

Widen your formation and prepare to turn in.

Round Flip+1:

  • Team A- 2 Straight
  • Team B- 5 Straight

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flank trap sprung! Note the "U"-shaped engagement pattern.

Flank trap sprung! Note the “U”-shaped engagement pattern.

Round Flip+2:

  • Team A- 3 Right Bank
  • Team B- 3 Right Turn

Again this leaves your opponent without good options next round while keeping yours open.

Transition 4: Run Away!

Bravely ran away, away...

Bravely ran away, away…

Trigger: If for whatever reason you don’t want to engage your opponent after K-turning you can disengage with this transition.

Round 4:

  • Everyone- 1 Right Turn + Right Boost

From here you are set up to execute the Feigned Flight, Come About, and Kill Box Openings.

Transition 5: Air Brake

Trigger: The enemy has moved to fly around left side of the asteroids, ready to trap you in the corner.  This Transition allows you to turn the tables on them anyways.  You move back down the side table edge to draw them after you, then flip again and execute a Block Joust Opening with them trapped in between the side of the table and the obstacle fields.

Oh dearie, the enemy has called your bluff! Too bad you have a plan...

Oh dearie, the enemy has called your bluff! Too bad you have a plan…

Round Flip+1:

Round 2: Flip the table, again!

Round 2: Flip the table, again!

  • Everyone- 3 Straight

o Alter the speed based on how fast the enemy is coming towards you, add boosts as needed.

 

 

Round Flip+2:

  • Ship 1- 5 K-turn
  • Ship 2- 3 K-turn
  • Ship 3- 3 K-turn
  • Ship 4- 3 K-turn

You are now set up to execute the Block Joust Opening on the enemy ships trapped between the table edge and the obstacles.

Boom.

Boom.

Round Flip+3:

  • Team A- 5 Straight
  • Team B- 2 Left Bank

Profit.

Back to Top

Opening 5: Come About

Trigger: The Come About is a bit different from the other options as it is essentially an abort button for the Table Flip to be used when executing the Table Flip would put you at the disadvantage.  This is useful against skilled players who understand how the Finger Four flies and move to counter it with fast ships, or against players whose squads have an overwhelming alpha strike that they will be able to successfully execute against you if you complete the Table Flip.  The plus side for it is that it forces your opponent to maneuver into a position of disadvantage and increases the number of opportunities for them to have to break up their formation even if they expect the Table Flip.  Again like the table flip you can use 2 Straights instead of 5 Straights for the first few rounds.

Round 1: As if you're executing a Table Flip...

Round 1: As if you’re executing a Table Flip…

Round 1:

  • Everyone- 5 Straight + Straight Boost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zoom zoom!

Zoom zoom!

Round 2:

 

  • Ship 1- 5 Straight + Straight Boost
  • Ship 2- 5 Straight
  • Team B- 5 Straight

o Alternatively you can have Ship 1 be the only one to Straight Boost or have Ships 2-4 perform 3 Straights + Straight Boost.  The Goal is to make it look like you plan to execute a Table Flip.

 

 

 

 

You have sort of executed a Table Flip in that you've put yourself on the other side of the table, however, you haven't flipped, just turned.

You have sort of executed a Table Flip in that you’ve put yourself on the other side of the table, however, you haven’t flipped, just turned.

Round 3:

  • Everyone- 3 Left Bank

o Add either Straight or Left Bank Boosts based on how the terrain is set up.

From here you are set up to execute the Feigned Flight, Full Flight, Kill Box, Early Break, or Block Joust Openings.

Back to Top

Opening 6: Fake Flip

Trigger: A variation of the Table Flip, the Fake Flip is used if your opponent charges into the corner you are “flipping” in to trap you there.  In some cases it can be ok to engage the enemy as they charge into the corner against you, but in other’s doing so would be very disadvantageous.  The best example I can give of this sort of situation is when a tie swarm deploys in the left corner and turns towards the right corner on the first round.  Engaging them in the corner would likely be suicide, so instead you need to get them to break up their formation.  That’s what the Fake Flip is designed to do, keep forcing your opponent to take maneuvers which will disrupt their formation and resetting the battlefield to give you a more advantageous engagement.

You’ll notice that the first 3 rounds are the same as those of the Table Flip, but you will need to use your own judgement for the speeds.  This is because dependent on how your opponent deployed and how aggressively he moves into the corner you may not want to do your flip right up against his table edge.  So if you need to slow the formation down and flip around range 3 from the table edge, whatever it takes to keep you from getting shot.  Slowing down like this won’t effect the rest of the strategy.  Note that this opening does delay you having shots until at least Round 6, so get ready for a maneuver game.

You cannot out-joust your opponent, so you need to get creative!

You cannot out-joust your opponent, so you need to get creative!

You've initiated the Table Flip, but your opponent wants to trap you

You’ve initiated the Table Flip, but your opponent wants to trap you, so you flip early!

Round 1-4:

  • Just like the Table Flip you base the speed of the first 4 rounds off of how fast and aggressively your opponent moves. The goal here is to flip the squad before the enemy squad will have shots on you, use your judgement for how far that should be.

Round Flip:

  • Ship 1- 5 K-Turn
  • Ship 2- 3 K-Turn
  • Team B- 3 K-Turn

o This is where things get different from the Table Flip.  Instead of engaging in the corner you are disengaging to force the enemy to chase you.  They sought to trap you in the corner without an easy path of escape, but what they’ve actually done is trap themselves between two table edges and the obstacles.  Because of the rocks they won’t be able to reliably perform the same maneuvers with every one of their ships and maintain their formation, ideally some will bump and others may go over the asteroids.

Transition 1: Pincer Split

Classic anti-swarm technique gets the swarm chasing one target while your "hammer" hits them from behind. The Pincer helps accomplish this.

Classic anti-swarm technique gets the swarm chasing one target while your “hammer” hits them from behind. The Pincer helps accomplish this.

Pincer Round 2 - in position and ready to go!

Pincer Round 2 – in position and ready to go!

Trigger: The enemy’s formation has been disrupted and but they are still chasing your squad.  You split the teams to force your opponent to pick one team to follow.  The other team then cuts in and attacks from the enemy’s flank, catching them in a pincer attack.

Round Flip+1:

  • Team A- 2 Right Bank + Right Boost
  • Team B- 2 Straight + Right Boost

Round Flip+2:

  • Team A- 3 K-Turn
  • Team B- 1 Right Turn

o Your squad is now angled to attack the enemy squad from 2 directions.  Team B can add a Right Boost if you are worried they will not have arcs, but given how close to the table edge they are it should be pretty difficult for the enemy to dodge their arcs.  The 2 reasons that Team B did a 1 turn to turn around instead of a K-Turn is that it keeps them on line with Team A to engage the enemy and it also sets them up to potentially 3 Right Bank and Boost to try and bump the enemy next round.  Next round both Teams bank in to attack the enemy, and they will be well set up to K-Turn behind them in the following round as well.

Transition 2: Wedgie

Trigger: The enemy’s formation has slowed down and is still in the corner OR they are chasing you and they have a juicy target at the rear of their formation.  Your teams split up to pincer, one goes through the obstacles to attack the enemy rear, the other draws the enemy’s squad towards the center of the table.

One might say... ATOMIC Wedgie....

One might say… ATOMIC Wedgie….

Round Flip+1:

  • Team A- 3 Right Turn
  • Team B- 2 Right Bank + Right Boost

This sets you up to attack him next round and should rob your opponent’s ships of shots, so not destressing Team A should be fine.  This should work regardless of rock placement.

 

 

 

 

You've driven a Wedge(ie) into the opponent's formation!

You’ve driven a Wedge(ie) into the opponent’s formation!

Round Flip+2:

  • Ship 1- 2 Right Turn + Right Boost
  • Ship 2- 2 Right Bank + Right Boost
  • Ship 3- 1 Right Turn + Right Boost
  • Ship 4- 2 Right Turn + Right Boost
  • OOM: 1, 2, 3, 4

As you can see you’re set up to do a lot of stuff this round.  I didn’t move the enemy squad in this picture, but visualize it with me.  The enemy rear ship either flies fast and is in range 1 of Ship 1 or flies slow and bumps Ship 1 to be shot range 1 by Ship 2.  The enemy miniswarm can either K-Turn and get shot by Team B or it can Right Turn and have multiple bumps against Team B.  If none of these sound like good options its because none of them are!  Note you can also do a 1 Turn with Ship 4 if you’re concerned you may bump Ship 3, but you should be just clear of bumping.

 

 

Transition 3: Reset Button

Trigger: For whatever reason you don’t think either of the first two transitions will work well you can use this one to just reset the battlefield.  The best way to think about it is that your opponent turned in at the start of the match to avoid having to fly around the cluster of obstacles in the corner before they engage you.  This Transition forces them to do it anyways.

Reset Button 1

Post-flip, heading back to the start

And now you've reset the table!

And now you’ve reset the table!

Round Flip+1:

  • Everyone- 2 Straight

Round Flip+2:

  • Everyone- 3 K-Turn

o You’re now set up to perform the Kill box or Block Joust openings.

 

 

Back to Top

Opening 7: Feigned Flight

Trigger: Designed to counter an opponent’s squad made up of fast moving ships deployed directly opposite your squad.  Use the Feigned Flight when you are facing ships against which you feel that the block joust will lose.  Dengar is an excellent example of a ship against which the block joust reliably will not work, a Tie Swarm is another good example.  This strategy forces the enemy to turn into the table, preferably into an obstacle rich zone, where you can restrict their maneuver and targeting options.  Note in the examples that I’ve deployed my asteroids on my side of the table in the corner I’m deploying inside of.  This is intended to force the opponent to commit to one attack lane and restrict his maneuvers.

Note the more "Centralized-on-your-side" obstacle deployment.

Note the more “Centralized-on-your-side” obstacle deployment.

Aaaaaannnd you're gone!

Aaaaaannnd you’re gone!

Round 1:

  • Everyone- 3 Left Turn + Left Boost

o Note that if the enemy has a large based ship with a white 4 Straight and Boost you should do a 2 Left Turn instead, otherwise Ship 3 will barely be at Range 3 if they advance at full speed.  This has little to no impact on the rest of the opening.

Editor’s Note: Practice this opening with obstacle deployments to ensure that your turns don’t overlap. They shouldn’t, with a cornered rock, but you want to make sure. 

 

 

 

Transition 1: Short Trap

Trigger: The enemy moved full speed at you round 1 and will reliably have shots on you next round and they do turn in to chase you.

Zoom zoom! Along your board edge, forcing the opponent to commit to a lane.

Zoom zoom! Along your board edge, forcing the opponent to commit to a lane.

Looks like the traditional joust, but you have engineered it on YOUR terms. With restricted options, your opponent is likely to bump or be forced to turn out.

Looks like the traditional joust, but you have engineered it on YOUR terms. With restricted options, your opponent is likely to bump or be forced to turn out.

Round 2:

  • Everyone- 3 Right Bank + Right Boost

o If you performed a 2 Left Turn last round then do a 2 Right Bank this round.  Otherwise you’ll fly off the table!

Round 3:

  • Team A- 3 Right Turn + Right Boost
  • Team B- 1 Right Turn

o You’re now set to block the enemy next round and you have lots of options going forwards, making you hard to predict.  Your opponent on the other hand has few safe movement options due to the obstacles and your ship’s current location.

 

 

Transition 2: Long Trap

Trigger: A variation on the Feigned Flight this transition is useful when the enemy again has a powerful jousting list and deploys opposite your squad, but where he advances very slowly.  Alternatively this transition is also appropriate if the enemy moves rapidly towards the center of the table instead of directly forwards round 1.  It takes more time but achieves a similar outcome to that of the Feigned Flight.

Much like the Short Trap, but moving a little slower.

Much like the Short Trap, but moving a little slower.

Round 2:

  • Everyone- 3 Right Bank

o Based on the enemy’s speed you can add additional rounds of 2 Straight moves.  The goal is to draw them in to attack your seemingly vulnerable flank, so be careful not to transition too early as it will provide your opponent time to react.

 

 

 

 

 

And, into the center we go!

And, into the center we go!

Round 3:

  • Ship 1- 1 Right Turn + Straight Boost
  • Ship 2- 1 Right Turn
  • Ship 3- 5 K-Turn
  • Ship 4- 3 K-Turn
  • OOM- Ship1,2,3,4

 

 

 

 

 

It looks like the Short Trap, but takes a little longer to set up, accommodating slower-moving opponents. Additionally, being more spread-out affords you more options as well.

It looks like the Short Trap, but takes a little longer to set up, accommodating slower-moving opponents. Additionally, being more spread-out affords you more options as well.

Round 4:

  • Team A- 2 Right Bank
  • Team B- 2 Left Bank

o You’re now set up in a line to engage the enemy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Top

The Finger 5

In recent months its become more common to see 5 ship swarms of ships that can use the Finger Four (IE: A-wing Crackshot/Adaptability Swarm.).  This formation is simple to adapt for use with five ships, here’s how to do it.

Starting the Finger 5. I'm going to call this last ship the "pinky."

Starting the Finger 5. I’m going to call this last ship the “pinky.”

Take the 5th ship and place it next to Ship 1 turned to the right.  It will perform a different maneuver from the rest of the formation during the first and sometimes the second round, but once it has it will fit behind Ship 2. Ship 5 will perform the same maneuver as Ship 2 usually.

Here’s a table for what moves to have Green 2 perform based on what the rest of the squad does round 1:

Squad Ship 5
5 Straight Round 1: 3 Left Turn + Straight BoostFinger 5 - Straight 5 start
4 Straight Round 1: 3 Left Turn

Round 2: Increase Round 2’s speed by 1

3 Straight Round 1: 3 Left Turn
2 Straight Round 1: 2 Left Turn
Kill Box Round 1: 1 Left Turn

Kill Box Opening Round 1

1 Left Turn + Right Boost

Kill Box Opening Round 2

3 Left Turn

5 Straight

Round 1: 1 Left Turn

Round 2: 3 Left Turn

2 Left Turn Round 1: 1 Left Turn

Round 2: 2 Left Turn

Back to Top

Conclusion:

So there you have it, as I said at the start the Finger Four is a formation which provides the player with a rather vast array of options in terms of how they can fly it for best effect.  When I first started working on this project I had no idea how big it would become, I hope that its a useful tool for player’s looking to up their game. Sorry its taken so long to make this guide, if you’ve survived to this point thank you for reading!

Please send any feedback or questions to Green.Squadron.Leader@gmail.com.

Back to Top

Editor’s Note: In final conclusion: 

Yes, yes they do.

24 thoughts on “A-Wing Ace: The Finger Four Formation by Jonathan Scott

  • This stuff is absolutely awesome; I can’t wait to try it out on the table! I know you said this formation is optimized for high-maneuverability ships (namely the A-Wing), of which I only have two, so what way would you adjust it to accommodate ships with middling dials, like the long-suffering T-65?

    • Vectored Thrusters will help tremendously for the T-65. The issue is that a lot of these formations hinge on very tight, close-in maneuvering, and to pull that off you really need to be able to reposition to get out of the way for the next ship. The 1-hard turn, which the T-65 does not have, contributes a good amount to the A-Wing’s flexibility, as does the 5-straight (and K-turn options). Now, that’s not saying it’s impossible, and I can say from experience that the Finger Four formation is definitely possible with middling dials (and in many situations with things like the T-65 is much better than standard Box and Stagger formations, facilitating arc-spreadying and different methods of concentrating fire and more blocking options), but you need a lot more planning and forethought to execute it, as you can’t “reset” and bug out nearly as well as with an A-Wing or TAP.

  • In theory couldn’t a Syck Interceptor perform this formation or perhaps the finger 5 modification of it due to point differences, having 5 Tansarii point Veterans with push the limits or four with push the limits and shield upgrade. They have similar dials. Just a thought.

    • They certainly could – though the lack of green hard turns on their dial makes PtL a bit tougher to pull off. Spacers in the Finger 5 (With Manglers at 20 points apiece) is quite possibly, (assumed with some practice) the best Syck list! (Of course, that is the best Syck list…)

  • Hi Jonathan,

    thank you for this really interesting read. I think I will soon try out your tactics as a starting point for my first rebel squad.
    Do you plan any further articles about formation flying?

    Greetings from Germany

    Admiral Apfel

    • Thanks and yes I do, the next one I plan to write is to explain the principle of ‘strike and fade’, where you plan ahead how to escape an engagement area after a given number of rounds. Some ships are great puggislists and will nearly always win in a tight scrum while many others aren’t. For more fragile ships (like a-wings) you need to use a ‘strike and fade’ approach to attack, do damage, and then reset the battlefield before reengaging. Should be a cool article.

  • In adapting this list for Imperials, I was thinking about whether to run 4 Interceptors (possibly 4 Saber Squadron pilots with wingman and autothruster) or 2 Interceptors (saber w/ push, Autothrusters) and two TAP (baron w/wingman, v1, Autothrusters) or some other variety (my initial thought was to run 2 royal guard and 2 saber all with Adaptability)…

    What would you say are the most important parts of the list? Push/action economy (which would seem to argue for wingman), everything having the same ps?

    This, by the way, is a great read and I’d love to see it adapted to a video to make it easier to visualize

    • Thanks! 🙂 We’ll see what we can do about releasing a video series 😉 As for adapting it, I think the most important aspects are: Action economy, and same PS. A lot of the formations hinge on being able to select your movement order, and boosting while still having actions. Wingman helps, but isn’t absolutely essential for effective flying, but it requires a lot of extra forethought flying without.

    • I’d say that the most important baseline point is that you really do want all the ships to have the same pilot skill. Interceptors really scream for ptl, though you could run them without it if need be I don’t think it would work as well. That said 5 PS 1 interceptors is fun.

      As far as mixing taps and interceptors I agree that the taps can more easily take wingman given their title, but it’s actually recommend that you instead try this:

      (100)

      “Epsilon Leader” (19) – TIE/FO Fighter

      Royal Guard Pilot (27) – TIE Interceptor
      Push The Limit (3), Royal Guard TIE (0), Autothrusters (2)

      Royal Guard Pilot (27) – TIE Interceptor
      Push The Limit (3), Royal Guard TIE (0), Autothrusters (2)

      Royal Guard Pilot (27) – TIE Interceptor
      Push The Limit (3), Royal Guard TIE (0), Autothrusters (2)

      Everyone is PS 6 so they move at the same time and Epsilon Leader provides you the wingman benefit. The Tie/FO dial and the Tie Interceptor dial are nearly identical, which again will help out making maneuvers easier to plan. You also have a bit more firepower and you move after ships like manaroo.

      An alternative list would be to take off the auto thrusters and make Epsilon Leader more survivable as he will reliably be the one being targeted:

      (100)

      “Epsilon Leader” (25) – TIE/FO Fighter
      Comm Relay (3), Stealth Device (3)

      Royal Guard Pilot (25) – TIE Interceptor
      Push The Limit (3), Royal Guard TIE (0)

      Royal Guard Pilot (25) – TIE Interceptor
      Push The Limit (3), Royal Guard TIE (0)

      Royal Guard Pilot (25) – TIE Interceptor
      Push The Limit (3), Royal Guard TIE (0)

      This does make the interceptors rather fragile though. Here’s the good compromise version:

      (100)

      “Epsilon Leader” (22) – TIE/FO Fighter
      Comm Relay (3)

      Saber Squadron Pilot (26) – TIE Interceptor
      Push The Limit (3), Autothrusters (2)

      Saber Squadron Pilot (26) – TIE Interceptor
      Push The Limit (3), Autothrusters (2)

      Saber Squadron Pilot (26) – TIE Interceptor
      Push The Limit (3), Autothrusters (2)

      This way you still have a decent build on each ship and Epsilon Leader will still have some increased action economy and survivability.

      As far as how to go about flying this squadron I’d recommend placing Epsilon Leader in the ship 4 position. This lets her reliably move last and her 4K turn is less of a liability and ship 4 usually wants to move slightly slower than ship 3. I hope that helps.

  • The formation was developed by several air forces independently in the 19. The Finnish Air Force adopted it during 1934-1935. In the 1930’s the Finnish Air Force , aware of its weakness in numbers compared to its neighbours, sought to offset the disadvantage with a radical re-think of its tactics.

  • You could do a scrum finger four with protectorate starfighter or finger five with the m3-A fighters. The only drawback is that the m3-a’s can’t boost

  • Would this be viable with Protectorate Starfighters? Or are these too easily destroyed when flying in the the face of danger like this? I’m a beginning player with affinity for Scum & Villainy and swarm and tactics like these, but I’m not sure if having 4 starfighters is a investment I should make.

    • I am not Jonathan, but my own experience tells me that it sort of is – you can kind of pull it off with four Concord Dawn Aces with Fearlessness and the title, but they don’t have the action economy that the A-Wings do, and although they are much more powerful attackers, when they miss the R1 joust they die like fly paper. Not impossible, just very difficult to pull off!

  • I love this article. It inspired my to try and fly better. I took a 5 finger A-wing list to a local tournament last weekend. 4 with snap-crack and one with swarm leader. When I manage to fly smart and beautiful it rocked. The moment I messed up was the moment I lost. 🙂

    4-5 A-wings are survivable but I think they need some better way to deal damage. I tried four with prockets and Guidence system. But had a hard time to get both tl and focus to maximize damage. Do you have any ideas to increase damage output or do you think pecking away at the enemy is the way to go?

    It’s been a while since you wrote this article but the ideas live on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *