Journey to the System Open: Highway to the Danger Zone!

So, the big weekend has been and gone, and I’d like to start with something of an apology.

My last blog entry was somewhat negative, as have some of my other posts that discuss the concepts of fun, mental health, etc. It turns out that several people (more than I’d expected) have become concerned about my well-being, and I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise for worrying you and to assure you that I’m fine, I was just having a rough time of it. The Open cured that, and I for one am glad I got to go, see so many familiar faces, and meet some people I’d never played before!

Thursday night post-rant brought with it some trouble sleeping; Dale Cromwell, who is an absolute legend, stayed up until past 1am helping me write some lists, but was (probably) asleep when I woke up at 4 so I made a few of my own before falling back to sleep. Friday started with a trip to The Oval to watch Sussex play Essex, and by the time play was called off for bad light at about 5pm, Essex were chasing Surrey’s 395 and looked comfortably able to catch them before the end of the weekend (damn!). A long wait and a short train-ride dropped me at the Hilton, where I checked into my room and was informed registration was still open. Wandering over to the hall, I handed over the first list I’d managed to grab; Danger Zone. I briefly considered swapping it, but I figured some kind of divine providence or fate had made me choose it (it was also by far the most interesting list I’d packed), so I left it. Then, off to the bar, intending a drink or two followed by a reasonably early night. I crawled into bed at 1am, woke up at 4.30 (and got the near-hangover out of the way then), before falling back to sleep at about six. This is usual for me before an event; it wasn’t nerves, I wasn’t expecting to win anything (my goal was a frosted Norra, so I could lose eight games over the weekend and still emerge “successful”), but anticipation. Or insomnia. One of the two.

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Saturday morning arrived, and I took myself off to the event ready for six games in which I expected to face all manner of Extended filth and shenanigans, hoping not to draw Phantoms, Y-Ion, or Drea Scurrgs. Still, even if I did, my ships looked pretty (even though they weren’t finished).

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Yes, Nien is in Black One, which threw just about everyone off over the weekend!

Game #1 vs Phil Pond – Assajj Ventris, Palob, 4-LOM

This wasn’t a list I particularly wanted to face; Nien Nunb might be immune to stress shenanigans, but Poe and L’ulo are not. Little did I know at the time that Phil is a member of Basingstoke’s Firestorm Squadron and has been mentioned regularly on PhilGC’s blog; had I known that, I probably would have been even less confident going into my first match!

I made a critical mistake with Nien early on, which left him mostly-dead and unable to do a whole lot, but at a crucial moment Phil’s dice went cold and Nien lived long enough  for Poe to draw first blood and remove 4-LOM from the field. Nien and L’ulo joined the droid soon after, as Poe hunted down Palob before finding himself double-stressed and unable to function; denying me the one hit I needed on Assajj for half-points and causing his untimely demise.

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Poe vs Assajj and Palob. This is fine!

Result: 114 – 200 defeat.

Game 2 vs Iain – Boba/Fenn/Lando

Boba Fett and Fenn Rau are something of boogeymen for my X-Wing playstyle, especially when they move last. Fortunately for me, with Lando’s Escape Craft in the mix, they would be moving second and allowing me to be doing the arc-dodging for a change.

Despite what Iain felt at the end of the game, he made only one single mistake, and that was to co-ordinate Boba early-on. This left him stressed, unable to re-roll any of his dice, and open to range three fire that he hadn’t expected; Lando evaporated. Boba was next, but not after stripping Poe’s shields from a Proximity Mine and dropping one of L’ulo’s shields at range 3 despite the four evade dice and a focus. The killing move on Boba was a Nien Nunb three bank into a Tallon-Roll, out of arc, at range one.

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The first (and only) shot that Fenn would make all game.

Fenn bailed on the engagement, having taken a Torpedo from Poe and barely survived, but I got greedy and Poe overshot his target. Fenn half-pointed Poe before being gunned down by Nien; the first time the Mandalorian had fired all game.

Result: 200 – 42 victory.

I was ecstatic with this result: not only had I won a game in what was possibly the toughest gaming room in the country, if not Europe, but I’d very nearly won it 200-0! I was content with that, and knew that regardless what the rest of the day brought, I’d won a game at the System Open!

Game 3 vs Geoff – Han, Norra, Jake

This game was a nail-biter: there was a lot of health to chew through, and a lot of damage to be put out. I’d never faced a list like this before, and it was one of several I knew to be being played across the weekend owing to Nathan Eide’s success with it. Still, 1-Agility ships do not like Torpedoes, and I knew roughly where I wanted to put them.

The game stared poorly: Nien found himself half-pointed early on, died soon after, and I found myself unable to push damage through on anything. Han finally went down, but it was still two vs two, and Norra is a tough cookie.

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The game’s afoot: Poe and L’ulo vs Norra and Jake

L’ulo failed to land a killing blow on Jake and died for his failure; leaving Poe to deal with multiple foes alone. He managed it, but I once again got greedy: I wanted Jake off the board, and in the process lost the one hull that meant he, too, was half-pointed. Looking back, I probably should have just run the two or three minutes down on the clock and preserved 40-odd points, but I wasn’t playing for a World’s invite, so I wanted to finish the game properly (though I do admit, I could have easily rolled badly and lost thanks to that greed!)

Result: 200 – 146 victory.

Game 4 vs George – L’ulo, Tallie, Nien, Ello

Not a matchup I wanted, not at all. It’s one of the most solid lists out there, and George is apparently a fairly good player, seeing as he made the cut. One of the issues with not following all of the podcasts or blogs is that, at an event like this, you’ll come across someone well-known in the community and think they’re just another player on 2-1.

L’ulo died on the first engagement, followed quickly by Poe and Nien. It was a short and brutal match, yielding the worst result I’ve had in X-Wing 2.0. I freely admit I made mistakes, but I own that I was outflown by a better player with a better list.

Result: 20 – 200 defeat.

Game 5 vs Ben – Drea, Lok x3

Oh wonderful! After the humiliatingly bad performance in game 4, this was just what I needed! Much like Phantoms or Y-Wings with Ion Cannons, this list is a strong contender for NPE of the year. However, Ben, or “Bengar” as he is apparently known, was a laugh and a great opponent. His tactic was not to just trundle one forward to victory as he could have done; that’s boring, we were here to play X-Wing!

So he Tallon-Rolled his Scurrgs every other turn, keeping arcs on target while being unpredictable and blocking the manoeuvres of my ships at the same time. He also nearly fell out of his chair laughing when Nien, who he thought he’d boxed in, did his three bank into a Tallon-Roll behind Drea (thanks Black One!) out of every arc he had.

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There’s only one way out of this! Prepare the SLAM button!

Ultimately, however, the match went horrifically badly and ended with another sound and rather painful defeat.

Result: 26 – 200 defeat.

Game 6 vs Paddy – Vader, Whisper, Sigma Ace

I was tired by this point; it was around 9pm, I’d not slept well, McDonalds food fills a hole but lacks the nutritious value one needs at an event like this, and I don’t drink coffee or energy drinks. So a matchup against Vader and some Phantoms wasn’t one of those things that I was really looking forward to!

The opening engagements saw Vader lose two shields from a Torpedo from Poe, while L’ulo and Whisper were both dropped to half-points. Vader, suddenly realising that he was moving before Poe’s double-modded Torpedo, bugged out and went to victimise L’ulo while Nien pulled his now-signature three bank into a Tallon-Roll behind Whisper and killed her. Denied his shot at Vader, Poe put a torpedo into the Sigma and caused a Damaged Engine; making life hard for the lowest-initiative ship on the board given it was edging dangerously close to a board edge! Still, it took another two turns to put enough damage through to kill it, at which point Vader had given up trying to run and was flanking around to attack from the rear.

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Vader got backed into a corner from which he couldn’t escape…

Cue the honourable joust! Vader tried, he really did, but facing down two ships at a significant health defecit isn’t really what he wanted to be doing, and despite his valiant attempts, he too was slain.

Result: 200 – 41 victory.

Final Result: 3-3 and 299th place.

I was really happy with this result (though that’s an understatement), given how I wasn’t expecting to win even one game with it. I think had I not made errors against Phil and George, and had Ben’s list not been wildly out of control with those Tallon-Rolls, none of my games were unwinnable. I certainly could have put up more of a fight, given my opponents a bit more of a game, and maybe come 290th or a bit higher. That said, I came in the top 300 of a 600(ish) person event and placed higher than several well-known personalities, so I can live with that!

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Obligatory “swag photo”! Not as impressive as some, but I’m happy with it!

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Shout out to the talented artists from the Wayland Wampas, Firestorm Squadron, Hull’s Angels, TNX’s own Kevin, and Omer of Can’t Sleep, Must Paint!

Special Thanks To:

Obviously I’d like to thank all six of my opponents for their patience with me, and for providing six great and varied games; and to FFG/Asmodee/the MK Stadium staff/Hilton Hotels for providing a great weekend.

However, there are a few people I’d like to thank individually, without whom this weekend might not have been so fun.

In no particular order:

  • Dale Cromwell (186th Squadron) for staying up late and offering to help with lists.
  • Joel North (186th Squadron) for being supportive and offering advice and reassurance after reading last week’s blog.
  • Harrison Sharp (186th Squadron) for offering me somewhere to stay if I didn’t have a hotel room.
  • Henry Westcott (TNX) for looking out for me even when he should have been worrying about the cut (and maybe for the hangover…)
  • Kevin Branch (TNX) for the ride back to London so I didn’t have to faff around quite so much with public transport.
  • Darren Palmer (Wayland Wampas) for never being too busy for a quick chat and generally being a nice guy.
  • Phil Marshall (Wayland Wampas) for telling me how pleased he was to see me at the event, and for being a supportive reader.
  • Omer Ibrahim (Porg Patrol) for checking up on me and the two fancy Luke Alt-Arts (I now have a sizable collection!)
  • And just about everyone else who has liked or commented on this blog over the last two weeks: without your support, this blog entry wouldn’t have happened!

That basically concludes my review of the event: Sunday’s Hyperspace Qualifier went badly owing to another 1am finish after celebrating three TNX pilots (and one pseudo-TNX pilot) making the cut (good job Henry, Janus, Ben and Jake (who has only been playing since November!)). I might write about it next week, but that all depends on whether or not I have something more interesting to write about!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll leave you with the theme tune of this entry!

 

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Journey to the System Open: Crisis of Faith

It is currently 10.18pm on Thursday evening. The System Open begins at 9am Saturday morning.

And I have come to the conclusion that I simply am not very good at X-Wing.

After last week’s post, I received a lot of kind words from the X-Wing community. Harrison Sharp offered me the spare bed in his hotel room, and Dale Cromwell offered to write me a list if I needed it. I was genuinely touched by the overall positive response, and the responses I’d seen to other people in situations where they needed tiles, cards or models to borrow the event proves that the X-Wing community is Good People.

Which is why this whole situation is making me feel a little low:

In order to do something a little different (i.e. not Resistance 5s or Trip-70s), I’d chosen to fly two T-70s and an RZ-2 in what has become colloquially known as the “Danger Zone” list. The first game I played with it, against fellow TNX-member Ian, I went 200-0 against his two T-70s and two RZ-2s. Since then, it’s been battering after battering. Five games, four defeats (three of them pretty crushing).

The irritating thing, is that I don’t think it’s the list, which I will post here:

Poe Dameron:
– Heroic
– R4 Astromech
– Proton Torpedoes

Nien Nunb:
– Heroic
– Pattern Analyser
– Black One

L’ulo L’umpar:
– Heroic
– Trick Shot

It comes in at 187, and is fun to fly (though I need to remember whose dial is whose, I keep giving Poe an RZ-2 dial). I just keep screwing it up! I either commit too early, or don’t commit hard enough, and end up getting hurt for it. Fights that in my head, at least, I know I can win (or indeed should win) are turning into defeats based on my over-aggressiveness or possible incompetence.

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One of the problems with the list, the glaring weak spot that isn’t my flying ability, is L’ulo. He wants to be stressed, and yet this is the sharpest of double-edged swords. Three dice primary, two agility dice. He goes from being a nimble arc-dodger/flanker to a glorified Z-95 just from one little red token. Fellow TNX member Jake is flying five RZ-2s, and his advice is to not stress L’ulo. Now if that’s the case, why take him over Tallie, who is cheaper?

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Dropping L’ulo for Tallie and giving her Heroic and Trick shot drops me down to 183 points; not quite Dale Cromwell’s 181 or PhilGC’s absolutely ludicrous 177. If I felt like it, I could give Nien Torpedoes. At 187, I could anyway, thinking about it… I’m beginning to wonder whether maybe I should stop pretending to be an ace player, which apparently I am not, and just use the high-Initiative pilots as blunt instruments to bludgeon my opponent’s ships to death with; like my Rebel Alpha Strike list.

On the other hand, maybe I’m reading too much into this? Of the 600+ players at the System Open, I expect there’ll be something along the lines of 200 Average players, 200 Below-Average players, and 200 Above-Average players. If I’m lucky and only get matched against fellow Average and Below-Average players, I might stand a chance. If I get matched against some Above-Average players, I might be able to learn something.

Ultimately, it’s too late in the day to start making changes (though I may drop Trick Shot from L’ulo and run at 185). As I grow more comfortable with the list, I might improve. And as I said in my last entry, the goal is that fancy frosted Norra Wexley card. I can lose eight games running and get that (though alcohol may be required for that to be an acceptable outcome!)

I now need to pack my bag ready for tomorrow, get together the bits a squadmate is borrowing, and print out my lists. I think I’ll watch Carson Wray’s version of the list (HLC and Afterburners on an Elusive Nien) vs Dee Yun’s TIE Swarm for ideas of how to engage properly with this list!

I remain optimistic about the weekend; not about the victories, as I know I’m not made of the material that Hyperspace or Open Champions are made of, but of the fact the event will be a chance for eleven games of X-Wing with friends I’ve known for years and friends I’ve not yet met.

Thanks for putting up with this demi-rant, and I hope to see many of you bright and early on Saturday!

Journey To The System Open: Eep!

After a particularly negative day’s play of X-Wing back in February, I considered refunding my System Open ticket. There were several factors involved, including family obligations and my impending move to the United States. Mostly, however, I decided not to go because I wasn’t enjoying X-Wing and a small tournament had already led to one anxiety/panic attack; what was a six hundred person tournament going to do to me? It simply seemed safest not to go.

Then I played in the Warboar Hyperspace Trial and had oh so much fun flying Wedge and Luke. I didn’t do terribly well, made silly mistakes against PhilGC, Alex Birt, and Lloyd Boman (who are all phenomenal players in my opinion) that cost me potential wins, and got diced in the sixth and final game (up yours Proton Torpedoes and Ello Asty!) This started that nagging wheel of doubt turning again; had I made a big mistake in deciding not to go? Was I cutting myself off from the local community and the community at large for not going? I began to think I was, especially given the outpouring of support from the community, including promises of drinks, a wingman for the day, and help finding a quiet corner if I should gave an attack; I was genuinely touched by these sentiments, especially since many of them come from well-known players in the community, but for over a month I stuck to my guns. By that time I’d refunded my ticket already, there was no chance of going.

Then, when playing at Warboar last week, someone pointed out there were still tickets left.

I debated it for several hours, and originally wasn’t going to go, until it dawned on me that this is possibly my last chance to play properly competitive X-Wing in the UK. With that in mind, I checked tickets and hotel prices, and within thirty minutes I was somewhat poorer, but going to the System Open with my TNX fellows.

What am I getting myself into? Zombie Squadron actually just wrote a fantastic article as I typed this one, which sets out how best to prepare for and survive a big event. I’ll probably be saving that to my iPad and taking it with me next weekend to ensure I’ve

So the ticket is bought, the terror is real, and I have no list. Luke and Wedge are fun, but they are by no means good. I might fly them in the Hyperspace on the Sunday, but for the Saturday I thought I’d need something that might actually work.

Enter the Jedi Order.

Having dabbled with Anakin/Ahsoka and Anakin/Obi-Wan just to see if they had legs (spoiler alert: they don’t), I took to searching for a semi-decent all-Jedi list, and found it in Anakin and two Jedi Knights in Delta-7Bs with R4 Astromechs. It’s like flying three 1.0 X-Wings in terms of health, but with Force-based shenanigans to up the ante. Games one and two I won, against Fel and twin Punishers and Rebel Beef respectively. The third and fourth games I lost, mainly because I got too aggressive with Anakin and once he’s dead, the Jedi don’t really stand a chance of catching ships that are bigger, faster, and moving after them (Initiative 3 really hurts!) They might be fun, but I’m not sure a full-Jedi list is a viable competitive list.

That said, they did look pretty once I’d repainted them:

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Simple repaints: Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka.

So that’s the Jedi out. What else do I have? Rebels and Resistance. Could I borrow another faction? Yes, but that’s not something I really wanted to do: flying something I’m not comfortable with seems silly, and being responsible for ships I don’t own is simply added stress that I neither want nor need. However, I found myself in this position anyway as I was asked to repaint some ships for my fellow TNX-ers! I do enjoy painting though there are certainly better painters out there, and sadly I don’t get enough time to do it most of the time but this gave me an excuse to break out the brushes and run down some more of my supply before I move; I doubt paint travels well internationally!

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Orange ships in an orange tub for Denny! Painting TIE panels sucks!

Painting Denny’s ships allowed me to focus on being creative, something that meant I came up with some interesting but terrible lists. It was while browsing through memories on Facebook that I came across an article that Joel North had written about attending your first tournament; I’ve always been a fan of his blog (though this was for the 186th blog), as it’s an incredibly honest account of his X-Wing journey, and the same point stuck with me last week that did all those years ago, a point I have made on this blog and in person: fly what you enjoy flying.

So what do I enjoy flying?

The System Open is an Extended event, and the only Extended ship I both own and have any experience with is the E-Wing. Is it fun to fly? Yes. Am I good with it? Probably not enough to be a viable choice. Which means we’re digging into the Hyperspace stuff: old favourites that have been staples since December or even before.

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Norra Wexley, my #1 Y-Wing pilot. Deserving of an alt-art card of her very own…

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…like this but less “Jurassic” (Thanks Omer!)

If I’m going to survive this event, I need a list that’ll be fun for eleven games. A list I can enjoy losing with eleven times. Much as I love Norra, and acquiring that frosted card will be my goal for the weekend, I’m not sure I have a list involving her (or possibly any Rebels) that I’ll enjoy using. Rebel Beef is a very broad meta call, but not one I feel that determined to make.

So, Resistance it is. I could fly Trip-70s or Resistance 5s; both lists I enjoy, and both now meta staples (I remember when three T-70s in a competitive list was considered absurd back in 1.0, how times have changed). The main benefit here, for me, is that recently I’ve had a nasty habit of blanking out, and with Heroic stapled to anything that can take it, that’s much less of a concern.

I’ve seen a few variations on the above list archetypes; one I particularly like the idea of substitutes Ello Asty in Trip-70s for Temmin Wexley with Composure. I’m a big fan of Snap in general, and the potential ability to get double-modded shots every turn without stress intrigues me. And if he doesn’t fail the boost, he can block or arc-dodge to his heart’s content. I’ve also seen the AAXX archetype substitute Ello and Nien for Poe and Bastian, and I’m a big fan of Greer Sonnel’s ability to rotate her arc for free when she completes her move, thus preventing her being stressed at an inopportune moment (or being unable to rotate thanks to Panicked Pilot, for example).

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Greer is such fun to fly, and an interesting character, too!

Whatever I choose, I’ve got to do it soon and get some practice in! Then some more practice. Then I need to get everything painted. And then I need to pack. My lists need printing. And then a whole host of other little things that need to be done before Friday morning…

Help…

Is Fun Wrong?

A few weeks ago, I made a post about flying what you love, and throwing together fun lists. On the back of his Warboar Hyperspace victory, PhilGC has apparently taken this idea to heart and taken two silly yet effective lists to Hyperspace Events at Aldershot and Brighton. I’m pleased my thoughts hit home with someone, and a fellow TNX member spoke to me on Sunday to say that my thoughts about flying what makes you happy, especially what you’d be happy to lose with, has reinvigorated his love of X-Wing.

So yay! Right?

You’d think so, but what happens when the list that’s fun to lose with, stops being fun to lose with? What happens when, thanks to how X-Wing is mainly organised around competitive play, your fun list means you’re spending £10-£20 (sometimes more) to wallow on the bottom tables and eliminate you from any chance of benefiting from the prize support that you’ve paid for?

Recently, my love of X-Wing has plummeted. After taking a week away after the Warboar Hyperspace Trial thanks to work, last week saw preparations for Warboar’s Wave Championship this weekend, and turned into the worst week for me since the release of 2.0. Lists that look fun on paper haven’t been when they’ve been put on the board, Phantoms are still a negative play experience, only half the Republic stuff made it to the UK for release (thanks Brexit!), and overall my faith in the game just entered a flat spin. Continuing the flat spin analogy, if you’ve seen the movie Top Gun, my enthusiasm is Goose.

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It’s all good fun until you’re crushed by your own ejection seat…

There will be people out there who will ask what I expected flying two ships (and two small ships at that), and they may be right. There will be others who will likely say “just fly better” or the infamous “git gud”, as if that’s a thing that a player can miraculously do. These comments amount to being told “your fun is wrong” by players (or worse, armchair Admirals) who believe their opinion has more weight or importance than yours (newsflash, it doesn’t) and think that your choice of ships, upgrades, or tactics is fundamentally flawed just because they wouldn’t do it; a concept I first came across thanks to the D&D show Critical Role, where viewers regularly criticise the players for their characters’ choices. Yes my list might not be optimised, or even actually competitive, and God knows I’ve made mistakes, but in other games variance has been king. Losing can be crushing for a player’s morale, and variance is a core part of the game, but kicking someone when they’re down even unintentionally is what drives players away.

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Thrawn’s secret to success? No armrests on his chair!

An acquaintance on Discord was discussing this issue with me as I typed the first part of this entry and tried to find that image of poor, unfortunate Goose, and they suggested that taking a “jank” list to an event is fine so long as the player understands that they cannot expect their opponents to be flying a similar list, and that said player really has no grounds to complain if they get trounced. On this, I agree; players need to be aware of what they are getting into and to modify their expectations appropriately; the Rebels didn’t complain about unfair match-ups prior to the Battle of Yavin, so why should we?

Which then begs the question. What is fun? Where do we derive our own concepts of “fun” from? Do players play to win, and derive their fun from the glory of victory? Do players play for the social aspect of X-Wing and get their fun from discussing the game? Do players play simply for the sheer joy of pushing plastic spaceships around the board making pew-pew noises?

Yes. Yes they do.

Fun is about as subjective a concept as any, as unique as any individual person. My fun, is coming up with fun lists that make people scratch their heads and think “what does that do?” or “why?” The fun of a prospective World Champion might be challenging the top players in the country for seventy-five minutes of high-stakes X-Wing. Dave from accounts might just want to play a game or two over a beer or three on a Friday night.

None of these are wrong, and they need not be mutually exclusive.

The danger to fun comes when the expectations placed upon a player (usually self-inflicted) are not necessarily realistic; for example, I had loads of fun at Hyperspace when I knew I’d not be making the cut and would be happy to win one just game. I had much less fun yesterday when I decided I was a contender for Wave Leader (I needed three wins and I needed TNX squadmate Dan to not win any). I then won one game (against a swarm, so I’m learning!), screwed up the second (maybe not learned as much as I’d hoped…), and got variance-ed to death in the third – result, pretty unhappy X-Wing player! Had I flown a list that wasn’t “for fun”, I might have actually contended, and if I hadn’t even considered the Wave Leader position, I might have enjoyed my day more.

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Me on Saturday; clinging to my enthusiasm, shattered like Goose’s cranium…

The same has thus far been true of the Republic faction: the Jedi don’t seem to be…for lack of a better word, worthwhile. I understand that making Jedi powerhouses would be a nightmare for game balance (and sales), but they currently seem predominantly geared towards supporting ARCs and Torrents and that…doesn’t feel right? Weren’t Rebels meant to be mutual-support faction? Again my expectations for the faction were inaccurate, possibly even unrealistic, so they’re currently no fun – hopefully when Guardians of the Republic finally arrives, the extra characters included might make flying three Jedi worth a shot?

I’ll be spending this week stripping down my ships again for repainting, not sure what schemes I’m doing yet, but I know for sure that regardless how my ships perform on the board I can always be proud of how they look; painting is fun when I have time to do it, so if flying repainted and unique ships is where I now choose to find my fun, I don’t see how I can go wrong!

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Bob gets it!

After that, maybe I’ll try Scum out. See what this Boba/Guri malarkey is about…

Embrace the Silliness: Warboar Hyperspace Trial

Yesterday, Warboar Games in Bromley held London’s first Hyperspace Tournament. 76 people had bought tickets, there was allegedly a long waiting list for players who had unfortunately been unable to acquire tickets in time. It promised to be a day of challenging play, good laughs, and hopefully a degree of success for everyone involved. The event was also raising money for the Chartwell Cancer Trust, and I believe totalled about £600 in overall donations across the course of the day.

Last article I wrote, I talked about flying what you loved, and the response on Facebook was great: one comment being along the lines of “fly something you enjoy losing with”. The list I chose, I had flown four times ever – on Thursday. I wanted to do something stupid, something akin to the twin E-Wing list, and it was suggested I might enjoy Luke and Wedge with all of the trimmings: I figured it’d be fun, and I’ve actually not flown Luke in 2.0, so I gave it a go.

The List, aka “The Silly List of Silliness”

Luke Skywalker T-65 X-wing
Supernatural Reflexes + Proton Torpedoes + R2-D2 + Afterburners + Servomotor S-foils
Wedge Antilles T-65 X-wing
Lone Wolf + Proton Torpedoes + R2 Astromech + Afterburners + Servomotor S-foils

Two ships, loaded to the gills, promising raw hilarity or pure disappointment. I’d originally flown with Outmaneuver on Wedge for -2 Agility when outside of an opponent’s fire arc, but with the number of Falcons, Firesprays, Special Forces TIEs and RZ-2s I expected to see, it didn’t seem worth it. Lone Wolf would provide me a handy reroll which might make the difference between living or dying.

I even went back, acquired myself a pair of new T-65s with the flappy wings, and did custom paint jobs for them both:

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Corran Horn (Luke Skywalker) and Wedge Antilles custom T-65s and dials.

I went in to the tournament with a goal: have fun. If I won a game, I had a moral victory on top of an actual victory. If I went 3-3 which was my original goal, I would have more than proven myself in my own eyes, and could walk out of the event proud of myself. My TNX squadmates, of course, all thought I was insane, as did several others, but they agreed that I had to fly something fun.

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Speaking of TNX, we’re an attractive bunch, aren’t we? Note 186th/TNX Member Ben Lee distancing himself on the left 😛

So, let’s dive into the action, shall we?

Game 1 vs Raihan – Wedge Antilles, Luke Skywalker, Dutch Vander

Raihan’s list scared me. Wedge with Swarm Tactics, Luke with Heightened Perception, and Torpedoes EVERYWHERE. If I got this wrong, I was going to suffer, and suffer hard.

Raihan’s first Torpedo Luke was…lacklustre. He rolled one hit, then a second hit with the reroll from his Target Lock. My Luke evaded both, then dealt four damage back with his own Torpedo. Wedge suffered at the hands of Raihan’s Wedge, being half-pointed in one shot, while only dealing two shields’ worth of damage to Dutch.

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Initial engagement over, Luke and Wedge disengage.

Begin the engage/disengage and regen routine. Every time shields went down, the ship disengaged to regenerate them and swung back in. Dutch did not last long, and Wedge was hunted down; bringing my Wedge’s shields back down and half-pointing him again in the final volley before being destroyed.

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Alone and outnumbered, Wedge’s days are numbered…

Result: 200-40 Victory

Round 2 vs PhilGC – Poe Dameron, Nien Nunb, Ello Asty

Not the list I wanted to be playing against the UK’s most famous X-Wing blogger with, and not the list I expected him to be using. This game was rough, and a mistake I made very early on led to a sound defeat:

Having learned never to straight joust, I tried to get clever. I figured letting Phil move first would mean Luke could arc-dodge everything, and in theory that is correct. UNLESS that person has Nien Nunb. Letting your opponent go first lets him do his shenanigans (which I think FFG really need to address and I say this as a Resistance player), meaning that no matter what you do, he’s got a double-modded shot back at you.

I should have gone first, aimed straight at Nien with both ships, deleted him with Torpedoes and then run the hell away. That would have been what I did if I’d been running an Alpha Strike list, but I didn’t, so I got hammered.

Still, I killed one of his ships, and it wasn’t an un-fun game (that would come in Round Six and also involved Nien Nunb), and I’m glad I finally got to play Phil. I know he’s already written his article and has his own thoughts on this game, but I haven’t read it yet!

Result: 63-200 Loss

Round 3 vs Lloyd Boman – Fenn Rau, Boba Fett, Autopilot Drone

Oh if only I’d had Predator rather than Lone Wolf, I could have made Lloyd move first! This is the same list Paul Full-On flew at the Magic Madhouse tournament, and I was determined not to get a measly twelve points this time.

Step one: slow roll until the AP Drone explodes. That done, I could engage at will. We flew round and around in circles, either arc-dodging or failing to put telling damage on one-another for what seemed like an eternity. Boba got halved, then Luke, then Wedge was in trouble. Then Boba was in trouble again. It was an enjoyable game, both of us with two ships we needed to fly extremely carefully in order to get the best from them.

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Boba and Fenn are a lot less scary when they can’t shoot back!

Sadly, as the game drew to a close, I made two fatal mistakes. Failing to go for the block on Fenn meant Wedge ate a range one shot and died, though he’d half-pointed Fenn in doing so. Likewise, I second-guessed myself and changed my mind on a dial so that Luke didn’t block Boba onto his own Proton Bomb, but ate it himself.

Still, it was a hard-fought and ridiculously good fun game, and Lloyd is always a pleasure to play against!

Result: 110 – 200 Loss

Game 4 vs Chris – “Howlrunner”, Iden Versio, Del Meeko, Gideon Hask, “Wampa”, Academy Pilot

Swarms are the bane of my existence, though fellow TNX squadmade Chris is an excellent chap and a good player, so I wasn’t too displeased to see it in front of me. I knew I was going to have to be cagey.

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Luke circles the debris as bait while Wedge flanks.

For about forty-five minutes we danced around each other, neither of us landing any telling blows on the other. Chris kept the swarm together for the most part and seemed to be intent on Luke’s downfall, especially following a miraculous Supernatural Reflexes barrel-roll into two turn that fit comfortably between two TIES), which led to his eventual defeat.

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Luke and the TIEs flew around this debris so often they got dizzy!

While Luke circled the debris, Wedge did what Wedge does best; delete TIE after TIE. I missed Outmaneuver, but the Lone Wolf re-roll meant I wasn’t spending locks when I didn’t need to, and not taking damage when I couldn’t afford to. The game ran to time, with Iden and Gideon fleeing back towards his board edge.

Result: 148-0 Win

Game 5 vs Alex Birt – 6 Mining Guild TIEs and Outer Rim Pioneer

Second swarm of the day, third member of the 186th, podcast host and all-round nice chap; Alex Birt.

This game was so much fun. I made a horrific mistake and got too bold with Wedge far too soon, earning him a painful death too early in the game to make a critical contribution to the outcome of the match.

What happened next though, was insane. Luke went on some kind of dark-side rampage or something, deleting TIE after TIE (one a one-hit KO with his S-Foils closed after a K-Turn), and generally wreaking havoc. At one point, Alex was certain he was going to lose.

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Having prodded the hornet’s nest, Luke runs for it.

Sadly, no matter how many Supernatural Reflexes plus Afterburners hijinks you can do while recharging shields with R2-D2, the charge system means that eventually you will run out and you will get hurt.

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Re-engaging, Luke passes through the formation to deny all but one shot.

Eventually time ran out, Luke was half-pointed with no hope of regeneration, and Alex took his remaining three TIEs and rather wisely ran for it. A last-minute snap-shot to try and half point a damaged TIE failed, and the result was a loss.

That said, this was easily the most fun I’ve had a) with this list and b) against a swarm. For that, Alex has my eternal gratitude.

Result: 109 – 134 Loss (Reported as 135 because I can’t count)

Game 6 vs Andy – Ello Asty, Nien Nunb, L’ulo Lumpar, Tallisan Lintra

This game was rough. The list I fly detests variance, and variance is what I got (although bent over by the dice gods and spanked would also be appropriate). As I said last article, dice shaming devalues your opponent’s efforts, so I won’t blame my dice as the sole reason I lost, but then four Proton Torpedo shots (so sixteen dice with rerolls) only deal three shields’ worth of damage to one ship (which rolled a total of six evade dice thanks to Wedge), the maths simply do not add up.

I had four or five uninterrupted turns of shooting into the backs of two fleeing T-70s, and just couldn’t put the damage through. My opponent, on the other hand, seemed to lack that particular issue, and was landing hit after hit after hit on Luke and Wedge despite my best efforts.

In the end, I deliberately flew a one-health Luke into a rock (I didn’t actually have much choice) in order to end the game on my own terms.

Result: 57 – 200 Loss

Final Thoughts

2-4 was more than I could have asked for with this list. I also didn’t feel that any of my match-ups were unwinnable: I lose to Phil through mistakes I made, I lost to Lloyd due to mistakes I made, and I lost to Alex due to mistakes I made. We won’t talk any more about Game 6. Obviously Phil, Lloyd and Alex all definitely deserved their wins based on the fact they’re fantastic players, but my mistakes didn’t help my chances of winning.

Overall, I came 42nd; lower than I’d like but higher than I expected. I’m told Phil won the event overall and is now going to World’s, if this is true, well done sir!

I’d like to thank Jason for running the event and my opponents for all being so very, very awesome!

 

Finding Your Niche and Flying What You Love

Tournament Season is upon us! For competitive X-Wing, there is a veritable smörgåsbord of events for players at every level of skill and ability; Quick Build and Narrative events for newer players, Wave Championships, and Hyperspace Trials and System Opens for the more experienced player. It’s certainly an exciting time to be a member of the X-Wing community, though the tournament scene is definitely approaching a level of saturation which could cause attendance levels at events to drop thanks to conflicting dates.

Which brings me to the point of this article; where do players fit in?

I’ve spoken about preferring Hyperspace to Extended, my reasoning being that it is easier for me to learn my own ships and the ships my opponents might take if I’ve only got to deal with four or five per faction. Others prefer Extended because they like the variety. This is fine, people are allowed to prefer one over the other, but it can lead to some confusion and possibly even feelings of apathy or dislike towards one format over another.

I’m now finding I feel slightly apathetic towards Hyperspace. It’s difficult to say exactly why I feel this way, but since the points update in January I am struggling to find a list I can settle with. I used to favour the Rebel Alpha Strike, but recently it has been providing diminishing returns (or in some cases, zero returns) as Torpedoes are less reliable for the points, and X-Wings remain rather squishy when targeted as part of a concentrated attack. Likewise, my Resistance Ace list has been going downhill: I just can’t make it work for me any more. It is for this reason that recently I’ve tried a different tack: brute force tactics:

Four X-Wings, either T-65s or T-70s, flying in a group and bludgeoning my opponent to death with concentrated fire. Great, right? Not really. For whatever reason; be it poor dice, bad lists, or tactical ineptitude, I’m still under-performing.

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My ships have all been doing excellent Biggs Darklighter impressions, recently!

Worse than performing poorly, I am not enjoying myself. I’ve always been a proponent of flying what you love, and until recently the X-Wing (whether T-65 or T-70) was the love of my X-Wing life. Now, I’m not so sure; as a base-line ship from which to ensure the remainder of the game is balanced, the X-Wing feels perfect. As a ship able to batter its way through a TIE Swarm or a fistful of Y-Wings with Ion Cannons and Veteran Turret Gunners, probably not so much. So what can I do? I’m sure there are people out there who will say “fly something different”, but that’s not always possible: I don’t have the hundred or so pounds that I’ll need to throw at a new faction, nor do I have time to practice; the local Hyperspace Trial is this Saturday.

So, I’ve decided that, sod it, I’m not even going to try to be competitive; I’m going to put together for poops and grins, and if I win a few games, I win a few games. If I don’t, well, I’m sure burning my dice will pretend to help…

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We all remember the burning Dark Elves when Age of Sigmar was released…

The above is in jest, of course I’m not going to burn my dice, no matter how much I think they may deserve it at times; dice-shaming devalues the efforts of your opponent(s), dice aren’t exactly cheap, and burning plastic is dangerous! That said, I might rotate my current dice out for the set from the 2.0 core set, they can’t be quite so cursed, can they?

So what’s next? I’ve got two days to pick a list that’s going to be fun to fly on Saturday, ready for 8am Registration at Warboar. What are my options?

I’m considering a Resistance list designed to outmanoeuvre swarms, though I know that’ll struggle with aces. I’ve also got a handful of ace lists up my sleeve, which will probably suffer greatly at the hands of 5+ ship lists. One of which is probably going to lose horrifically regardless what I face, but will at least look cool on the table!

Either way, I’m taking a list that I hope will be fun and will cause the minimum amount of salt when I inevitable get my ass shot off the table! Until then, I’ve got some painting to do…

X-Wing & Wellness: Looking After Number One

This is going to be one of those touchy-feely blog posts that not everyone is going to want to read, and one of those posts that’s going to be rather difficult for me to write: I don’t talk about feelings often (which really annoys my other half), and opening up to a bunch of strangers on the internet is not always a good idea. Despite this, events transpired this weekend that make me think that this is a subject that needs to be discussed, as it probably affects more of us than we’d think…

Post-Points Malaise

I was so hyped for the points changes, the change in Redline’s cost (limiting/changing what he could fly with) and the loss of Sloane or Vader on a Phantom were, in my opinion, things that needed to happen. A little bit of change never hurt anyone, right? Oh how wrong I was. In order to keep what I considered a “competitive” bid on my Resistance list, I had to drop Poe’s Torpedoes; only to find that apparently 189pts is not likely to be enough of a bid for I5 any more. Over the last week, I’ve seen several lists coming in at the 185 level, which some would argue is ridiculous, but on the other hand is probably the key to ensuring you’re moving on your own terms. The five test games I played last Thursday saw me lose twice to two Rebel 185/186pt lists courtesy of fellow-TNX member Dan Bouckley, and acquire three wins against three Rebel lists, including a twin Falcon list flown by my good buddy George, who, when asked about how the points changes had affected his twin Firespray list, said:

“I’m that sad that I’ve gone Rebel!”
– George, 2019

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E-Wing price drop? Corran Horn approves!

Going 3-2 was proof that the list had some legs, but I was missing those Torpedoes a lot. Poe simply lacks reliable punch, and adding a Heavy Laser Cannon (at the time) didn’t seem entirely worthwhile. Either way, punch or not, I was confident that it might perform quite well at Saturday’s Hyperspace tournament at Magic Madhouse in London.

Saturday…

I’d known in advance that Saturday wasn’t going to be a walkover: I’d gone undefeated (narrowly) last time I was there, but now there would be twenty players rather than five, and at least a quarter (probably closer to a third, looking back at it now) of those were members of the 186th Squadron getting practice in before the Hyperspace trial season starts: members who I have known and enjoyed playing against for years such as Simon Tournay, Steve Fase and Lloyd Boman; and players who I knew by reputation only, like Paul Full-On. Still, I was confident I could probably get two wins out of the four games, maybe three if I was lucky, and I was looking forward to the event immensely…

Then I had an anxiety attack at Woolwich Station… The first one in about eighteen months.

Anyone who’s had an anxiety attack knows that they aren’t pleasant experiences; there are myriad reasons for them, and though there are enough common symptoms for the internet to generate a list, each one is as unique as the person having it. When the episode abated after what I assume was a few minutes judging by how far the song playing on my iPod had progressed, the smart thing to do would have been to turn around and go home: I’d not paid for a ticket, only the travel expense of getting to Woolwich (which would hardly break the bank if I turned around and just went home).

Foolishly, however, I decided I was fine. I wanted to play X-Wing. I wanted to see my friends. I was going. So I went.

Game 1 vs Paul Full-On: Fenn Rau, Boba Fett, Autopilot Drone (185pts)

I’ve played this list before (with L3-37 and/or Han Gunner), and I’ve beaten it. Not with Paul flying it, and I had Torpedoes, but it should have at least been a lot closer than it was. Unfortunately the bid of insanity proved to be at least a factor in my undoing: I was moving first, allowing Paul’s arguably deadlier vessels to move with full knowledge of where I was and what actions I had taken. Though the AP Drone died (as it does) and I’d stripped Boba’s shields, the dice gods apparently were against me, and I couldn’t get those hits through to even score half points on Boba or Fenn (who had eaten a Hull Breach from the Drone exploding) in order to brutalise Poe (who had bumped it) in one volley.

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A bad place for Fenn, but far worse for Poe.

In the end, it was a 200-12 defeat, almost humiliating in its brutality and probably the worst loss that I’ve suffered since my first game of 2.0. Paul claimed his dice were rolling hot, and at times they were, but I hold my hands up and admit that I was thoroughly out-played, starting at the list-building phase!

Game 2 vs Joachim: Luke Skywalker, Wedge Antilles, Grey Squadron Pilot

Joachim had gone the other way to Paul, coming in at 198pts with all of the torpedoes he could fit into the list. Again, this was a list I knew I could beat, but now that little voice in the back of my head was telling me that it wasn’t going to work like that. That my list didn’t work, that his list was better, so on and so forth.

The little voice proved correct: I made mistakes when my opponent didn’t, and ultimately, though a T-70 is an amazing ship, it doesn’t like taking multiple Torpedoes to the face. I managed to score half points on Luke, but rather than finishing him off, opted to attempt for half points on Wedge and the Bomber (I failed), prompting a second defeat 200-33.

Game 3: Bye

I was pretty fed up by this point. The voice in my head wouldn’t shut up, telling me I wasn’t good enough, that I should quit X-Wing. I’d not been made to feel like this by the game since February 2018 when I went to Wayland with a completely sub-par triple T-70 list. Until now, barring the hiccough that was my first competitive 2.0 game, 2.0 had been kind to me. I had intended to leave, but my phone was dead and Stratford is like a maze, so I wasn’t getting back to the station alone without it.

I’d also begun to wonder what the points change had actually accomplished, and was getting a little bitter about it. For example: Yes, Proton Torpedoes had risen in points, but the Y-Wing had dropped by roughly the same amount of points… Wedge and Luke, who I’d expected to rise in points a little, had remained the same. I’m not sure if this was me projecting my annoyance at myself onto FFG, but that game had shown me that as far as Hyperspace Rebels are concerned, not a whole lot has changed… I was also furious at whoever had reserved a place and then not turned up, guaranteeing four people would lose out on one game’s worth of play; it didn’t matter to me that they might have gotten lost, or that the snowfall had prevented them attending, they were a convenient target for my anxiety-spawned ire, simply because they were not there.

Connor, a good friend of mine from the late and great GW Bexleyheath, had attended the tournament with me and insisted on getting a beer into me. I’d considered it after game 1, but had decided against it, not wanting to trigger another attack. As it happened, maybe I should have done that in the first place: with a pint of Guinness inside me, I started to cheer up; I walked between the games, seeing how the people I knew were doing, and actually started to enjoy myself. Kevin, the other TNX representative at the event, thought that it was the sitting down and chilling out was what helped, and he may well have been right! I think there was no one reason as to why my mood began to improve during those 75 minutes, but it was nice that I had people looking out for me.

Game 4 vs John: Wedge Antilles and Lando Calrissian (188pts)

Outbid by a point! I was beginning to wish I’d gone for the 199 Torpedo option, or dropped Pattern Analyser on Nien Nunb to go at 184 and control who went first! Again, this was a variation of a list I’d beaten before, but I was not confident of the outcome when we put the models down.

The opening engagements were satisfyingly brutal: Ello was half-pointed on the same turn as Lando, and would spend the rest of the game limping around the board on one hull having suffered a Hull Breach, Damaged Engine, and as Fuel Leak. Nien Nunb and Lando finally obliterated each other under Simultaneous Fire. Poe disliked moving before Wedge, though he did get a few craft blocks in, until the two faced each other at range one, with Ello flanking Wedge for support, just in case.

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Mexican Standoff

Poe fired first, and killed Wedge with three hits and a crit (which I’d hoped would be a Weapons Failure, but alas, no dice). Wedge fired next, and a two health Poe can’t survive four hits even when rolling two evade dice, let alone one. The smoke cleared, Wedge and Poe were dead; giving me a 200-161 victory, and leaving Ello Asty to venture home alone; on fire with bits of his ship hanging off.

Somehow, the bye and this victory put me at 11th out of 19. On the journey home, I reflected on my day, what I’d done right, and what I’d done wrong. Often when a player is having a really bad tournament, you might hear them say that their first mistake was turning up; this definitely felt like my first mistake, and in hindsight I probably should have just turned around and gone back home as I mentioned earlier. On the other hand, what would that have accomplished? I’d have been at home alone had another attack happened, while at the event, there were other people around me who would be able to help.

Reflection

What I have taken from this episode is this: I’ve possibly started taking X-Wing too seriously again. I’ve got tickets for Warboar’s Hyperspace Trial in March and the UK System Open in April, and I think I may need to seriously reconsider my attendance at these events; if this is what happens at a small twenty-person event, imagine what it could have been when there are more than a hundred (or five hundred) people packed into the same venue?

I also need to re-evaluate why I play and what I fly: I’ve long maintained that I fly the ships/pilots that I enjoy regardless how good they are (mostly aces), maybe that needs to change; perhaps I need to reinvest in another couple of Headhunters and run a Rebel swarm, or something sufficiently tanky that will survive even my most incompetent strategies.

I generally need to take better care of myself, too: get more sleep/maintain a regular sleep schedule, eat and drink less junk, and so on. Spending less time in front of computer screens and going for longer walks is something I always promise myself in the New Year, but January is awful weather-wise, and by the time it warms up and the some comes out, I’m already submerged in bad habits.

I get the distinct feeling that I’m not going to find any answers quickly; this is going to be one of those things that requires a fair amount of soul-searching. What I do know is, the T-70s are being put to bed for a while, and I’m going to find something silly to try for the next few weeks: that should at least give me an indicator of whether I still enjoy flying or not!

Thanks to everyone who will read this, especially those who helped me out on Saturday, and apologies to Paul, Joachim and John if your games against me weren’t the most enjoyable of experiences: hopefully reading this will help you understand why!

I also hope that anyone else in similar circumstances will read this and realise that they are not alone: that there are people out there who are fighting the same fight, and that together we can win!