Great Ball of Fire!

So, Barnes & Noble did it again; releasing stuff before the official “street date” as part of an alleged deal with their distributor, don’t you love big business?

Despite having a Fireball pre-ordered with my FLGS like a good loyal hobbyist, I ended up acquiring another one anyway (who knows, flying two might be fun) and thought I’d give it a spin last night at the local store. With new points out, it was likely to be a busier night than it has been recently, with less Legion and more X-Wing taking place (there was even an Attack Wing game, but we don’t talk about that game any more!)

The Ship

star_wars_resistance___kazuda_s_ship__fireball__by_adamkop_dcmx2z3

Artist Credit: AdamKop on DeviantArt

Let’s look at the ship first; overall, not terrible. Six hull (reduced to five at setup) with Astromech, Missile, Illicit, Title, and two Modification slots for 26 points. It’s a Headhunter on steroids. Dial isn’t terrible either, blue one forward/banks and two forward, with red three turns and four forwards. No K-Turn ability but the Tallon Roll is nice, not that you’d need it with the ability to turn hard one and then SLAM another one.

Speaking of SLAM; the action bar isn’t terrible, either. Focus, Evade, Barrel Roll and SLAM are pretty nifty on a low-Initiative ship with two attack and two defence dice; even if you don’t use the “Explosion with Wings” ability, it’s a pretty sharp blocker. I could see it being used in the same manner Torrents were used in the 2 Jedi/2 Torrent lists we saw rising to the top a few months ago.

Explosion with Wings

This is an interesting ability; Deal 1 facedown damage card at setup, after you SLAM, flip a facedown damage card to not take the Weapons Disabled. When paired with the Kaz’s Fireball title, you get to choose which card you are dealt at setup so long as it has the ship trait. For me, the no-brainers here are either a) Damaged Engine when paired with an R4 Astromech, or Disabled Power Regulator which turns the ship into an infinite-use Black One.

However, when you have more than one facedown damage card, the little booklet says you have to shuffle them and your opponent picks which one. This bit me hard on the arse last night when a 5 damage Kaz got a Direct Hit! flipped over and ended his day on a negative note. Bear this in mind when considering that last-chance attack; it might not be as worthwhile as you think!

Title

“Kaz’s Fireball”: “Setup: When you resolve Explosion with Wings, you may search the damage deck and choose a damage card with the Ship trait: you are dealt that card instaed. Then, shuffle the damage deck.

You can perform actions of damage cards even while ionized.”

For two points, this is a pretty nifty title; you get to pick which damage card you take at the beginning of the game as long as it has the “Ship” trait; there are several different tactics for this, including (if you have no desire to SLAM anywhere) siphoning out a Fuel Leak or Direct Hit from your deck and reducing the chances of that card ruining your day later on.

The ability to repair damage cards while ionized is also pretty handy; damage piles up on the Fireball and if, like me, you keep using the Disabled Power Regulator crit and then find yourself with a Console Fire or Fuel Leak, you might find your day gets really bad really quickly; being able to clear the Ion and repair a damage? Pretty nice, especially if you have the R1-J5 Astromech aboard.

The Pilots

Jarek Yeager

Jarek

Former Rebellion Pilot. Mechanic. Father Figure.

Pilot Ability: “While you have 2 or fewer stress tokens, if you are damaged, you can execute red basic maneuvers even while stressed. If you are critically damaged, you can execute red advanced maneuvers even while stressed.”

33pts for Initiative 5. Not bad! The ability isn’t terrible either, being able to still move at speed four in a straight line or do those three hard turns around an obstacle even while stressed (though good luck shedding those stresses without an R4 Astromech). Damage card faceup? Why not try a Tallon Roll instead?

I think you take Yeager for the I5 as opposed to his ability, in this case. At three points less than Tallie, however, I think you need to be very careful when considering putting him in the list.

Kazuda Xiono

kaz

Possibly the least likeable protagonist in the entire franchise! Grow up, man!

Pilot Ability: “While you defend or perform a primary attack, if the enemy ship’s initiative is higher than the number of damage cards you have, you may roll 1 additional die.”

Kaz sitting at 40pts is an interesting place to sit for a pilot in the Resistance; Tallie and Greer are both four points cheaper, the soon-to-be released Zizi is the same points, and L’ulo is only three points more; all for ships with equal or higher Initiative. Rookie T-70s are similarly costed, though they crucially have shields to soak those early crits that might sneak through.

Kaz is an interesting pilot: utterly useless against ships that are I1 with three attack or agility unless you fork out on an R5 Astromech to repair that first damage card, but surprisingly effective against Aces (if you can keep them in arc). I flew Kaz three times yesterday, and he was an annoyance (like in the show) to I5 and 6 ships in all three games, right up until the damage started to pile up and suddenly he was dead. He needs to be flown more carefully than I’ve managed so far, perhaps on a flank and use those initial SLAM actions to get into a more advantageous position; running him with anything more than Heroic and Kaz’s Fireball is probably a mistake, though a case could be made for Advanced SLAM if you’re like me and want to be particularly aggressive.

R1-J5

R1-J5

“Bucket”

Pilot Ability: “Before you expose 1 of your damage cards, you may look at your facedown damage cards, choose 1 and expose that card instead.”

Not terrible! If you were looking to put a single Fireball in as an annoyance/blocker, Bucket at 29pts is a steal. Getting to look before you pick which card which card to expose is huge; I wonder if this works with abilities like Rexler or Thane Kyrell? This guy can SLAM about all day and not care about accidentally flipping a Direct Hit or Console Fire or any of those other nasty cards that nobody wants.

Also, he can take an Astromech, which is just weird…

Upgrades

R1-J5 (Astromech)

“While you have 2 or fewer stress tokens, you can perform actions on damage cards even while stressed.

After you repair a damage card with the Ship trait, you may spend 1 charge to repair that card again.”

It’s an R5 on steroids! Being able to repair while stressed may be crucial to the survival of not just a Fireball pilot, but a T-70 or Resistance Transport as well. Better than that, the ability to discard a damage card when it repairs is a great way to keep your ship healthy, especially if it repairs automatically (like, you guessed it, Disabled Power Regulator)!

At six points it’s a bit pricey, but probably worth it if you can manage your damage cards and charges properly, and ensure you’re engaging in such a way that you can get the most out of the repair ability while also ensuring you’re not just going to take that damage again.

Coaxium Hyperfuel

“You can perform the SLAM action even while stressed. If you do, you suffer 1 critical damage unless you expose 1 of your damage cards.

After you partially execute a maneuver, you may expose 1 of your damage cards or suffer 1 critical damage to perform a SLAM action.”

Right now as far as I’m aware, only the Fireball can take this as it’s an Illicit that requires the SLAM action, but I might be mistaken. For 2pts, this isn’t bad as a get out of trouble card, the risks don’t outweigh the benefits and if you only need to use it once to keep yourself from being trapped at range one of a swarm, it’s earned its points back!

Overall Thoughts

I like it. It handles like a Z-95 or X-Wing with a few extra toys to play with. I think we’ll mostly see the Generic as a blocker or swarm ship and Kaz as a pocket ace, though I do hope I’m wrong as Yeager and Bucket both seem to have their place as well.

I think these things need to be kept cheap, Kaz at anything more than 45pts may as well be replaced by an A-Wing (Greer/Tallie with Optics and Heroic is 40, Zizi is 45), and even then I do wonder whether he’s the better choice. Regardless whether a Fireball is the right choice for a list, it’s usually the fun choice, and that’s important in a game that, for me, very nearly got left on a shelf after PAX and not looked at again.

This is what I’ve tried so far, with and without R1-J5:

Kazuda Xiono (40)
Heroic (1)
R1-J5 (6)
Advanced SLAM (3)
Kaz’s Fireball (2)

Fun? Yes. Good? Not in my hands. That said, I was flying with Poe and Nien and I’ve forgotten how to fly Resistance Aces, apparently. Perhaps in a four or five ship list with less upgrades? We’ll see. I’ll probably still favour the RZ-2 over the Fireball competitively, but only time will tell…

I hope you all enjoyed my 1600 word (ouch) review! If any of you got this far, thank you so much! Fly safe, be well, take care of each other, and so on!

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It’s all good fun until your engines explode…

System Open Series: They Did What?

It’s been three days since the announcement regarding the change to the System Open format, two weeks prior to the first System Open in the new season: PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia. Personally I was hoping for an announcement of new and interesting prize support, but what we got went far beyond that…

FFG have turned the entire series on its head. Literally.

Format

Rather than being an Extended format event like last year, followed by a Hyperspace Qualifier, 2020’s System Open Series will be Hyperspace for the main event followed by an Extended “World’s Qualifier”. 5-1 makes cut in the main event, with Top 8 winning an invite to Worlds; any undefeated player in the Qualifier also receives an invite. So while the format may have changed, the qualification requirements remain the same.

But what does this mean for players?

Well, personally it means I’m glad I didn’t put too much effort into developing and testing a list with Corran Horn! It also means we are less likely to see combinations that were considered the staples of Extended events in 2019: Phantoms of any shape or size, Torkil and his scummiest friends, and Inquisitors with Jendon, for example. This has its downsides, however; limited ship availability may limit interest in some corners of the community, and until ship/card rotation is introduced, Hyperspace is not truly a limited format: with every wave it gets bigger until it ultimately turns into Extended anyway (this may be FFG’s intention long-term, but I don’t know).

Personally, I’d like to see R2 Astromechs rotated out of Hyperspace; this may sound odd as a Rebellion and Resistance player, but Regen Jedi need to go away. Put them in a box until something rises to truly compete with them, and then let them back out to play while being priced appropriately. Supernatural Reflexes can also be tossed into the fire, otherwise Precognitive Reflexes really has no purpose, and of the two it’s probably the more balanced card despite the vast price difference.

Of course, any rotational changes will only take effect in January at the earliest; they won’t affect PAX and will likely mean the top tables are dominated by Regen Jedi, Imperial Aces, and some form of Rebel Beef that isn’t Daniel Taylor’s list. Can’t say I’m looking forward to facing off against that with four low-Initiative T-70s, but it’s too late to change my list and get the practice in I need (which is a problem for Liberty Squadron colleagues who wanted to use ships like Jendon or Ketsu), so it’s time to make the best of a bad situation.

At least the prizes are good!

Prizes

No participation prizes for everyone this year, which is kind of sad. I really appreciated the S-Foil and R2 Astromech cards last year, and the free Damage Deck was also really nifty. Plus then there was the Prize Wall and all of its myriad goodies that players could spend their hard-earned tickets on.

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Very Inferno-centric this year; with an Imperial Damage Deck, Inferno cards/cardboard, and Imperial-themed Marksmanship and Swarm Tactics cards. They’re cool but are of little to no interest to me, if I’m honest; if the cards are 1 ticket each again they’ll make handy little trinkets to either sell to recoup some of my ticket costs, or to donate as prize support to smaller events in the region. Last year my main goal was 8 tickets to get myself a frosted Norra Wexley card, because frosted cards are cool, so what do we have this year?

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Oh dear…

It may just be me, but does anyone else feel that frosted generics don’t have the same desirability as frosted uniques? I can’t really see people combining tickets for an Academy Pilot or Hired Gun, for example, it just doesn’t have the same pizzazz as frosted Guri or frosted Quickdraw did last year. Admittedly this may mean that they may cost fewer tickets, or that it’s less likely they’ll all disappear after Round 2; both are good, but I can’t help but feel that this wasn’t the best move. Perhaps they’re saving their more-upmarket prize support for Grand Championships and/or Worlds 2020?

Overall Thoughts

Overall, not feeling too bad about this: eleven games of competitive X-Wing over the course of a weekend is still eleven games of competitive X-Wing, despite any changes FFG may decide to make.

I won’t say I’m not disappointed by the prizes this season, but I know a lot of Inferno Squadron fans out there will be overjoyed; thematic prize support is always good to see, and after Red Squadron last year the change to Imperials is neither surprising nor a bad choice. It’s the frosted cards that surprised me; with so many interesting unique pilots in different ships, it’s a shame that they instead decided to go for the generics; I guess they’re more likely to appeal to people who don’t fly unique pilots?

I’m in favour of the format change; hopefully it’ll add to the prestige of the Hyperspace format as a major competitive format outside of Hyperspace Trials, and hopefully as further waves are released it’ll give FFG adequate incentive to start rotating cards to properly and effectively balance out the format. On the other hand, I’m aware that Hyperspace isn’t held in the highest esteem by some corners of the competitive X-Wing community, and we could see lower attendance figures because of it; I really hope this isn’t the case, because I think a limited-format competitive series can only be a good thing for the overall health of the game – this isn’t to say that Extended doesn’t have its place, of course!

It does make me wonder what the 2020 Worlds format will be, though…

That’s really it from me; what do people think about the format change? Yay? Nay? Don’t care?
Will this be a rousing success or a dumpster fire?
Are you planning to attend a System Open this year? If so, where?

What Makes An Ace?

I’ve been thinking recently about people’s play styles and the list archetypes we know exist out in the wide world of X-Wing. Two of the major contenders appear to be “Triple Aces” or “Ace and Friends” (Or Ace Miniswarm, Ace + 4, call it what you will).

But what is an “Ace”? We’re not talking about a pilot with five or more confirmed kills here, that’s far too real-world for this blog, but in X-Wing terms what is an Ace and what do they do? Is it down to their Pilot Ability? Initiative? Is an Ace an Ace all the time? These are questions that have been rattling round my head for a while now, and I think it’s time to put them “on paper” so to speak…

But first, this happened:

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This blog started in 2011 as a method of keeping track of my 40k games and holding  myself accountable about progression in my hobby. Back then I had a core of readers centred round my local Games Workshop, and when I started blogging about X-Wing at the start of 2.0 this focus changed. My readership may not be huge, but every view I get or every comment I receive is much appreciated – thank you to everyone who graces this pokey little blog with your presence, it means a lot!

What is an Ace?

When I think of Aces in X-Wing, I immediately think high-Initiative ships that can reposition while still benefiting from offensive or defensive dice modification, or ships that can reposition twice to ensure they never take incoming fire while being in a position to capitalise on this the next round (or that round if they are lucky). We’re looking at our Soontir Fels, our Kylo Rens, I5 and 6 Jedi, and to a lesser extent ships like Fenn Rau, Quickdraw or Poe Dameron; though I’d consider these pilots brawlers rather than Aces.

But is this necessarily true? Do Aces have to be High Initiative? Or is it more about positioning and capitalising on it? I put it to a few X-Wing Discord servers and got a variety of responses; many agree with the concept listed above; High Initiative, probably low health, decent options for repositioning and damage output. However, one reply stuck in my mind:

“Anything that is mobile can be an ace; I2 Striker vs I1 Vulture is insane levels of ace.”

If this is true, it turns the concept of the “Ace” on its head; if your opponent lines up and jousts you, even your average T-65 or TIE Fighter can become an Ace so long as it doesn’t just obediently line up and commit to the honourable joust itself. There are pilots whose built-in abilities seem to imply they are built for Ace-style play, speeding up the flank, dropping in behind the enemy, and generally making a mess of things for them. Of  course, some might say this is a “Flanker” rather than an “Ace”, but are the two mutually exclusive? Are all Flankers Aces? Probably not. Are all Aces Flankers? Well that’s where this gets a little muddled and comes down to play style; your expensive Ace isn’t going to last long if they fly up the middle of the board, so it’s probably best to stick to a flank at least early-on.

So who are some of these Flankers who might be Aces but also might not be?

  1. General Grievous:
    grievous
    Grievous enjoys being in something’s flank, or behind it. Throw on Soulless One, and he even doesn’t mind facing the wrong way when you’re shooting at him. He’s got the dial and action economy to get around behind your force and really start wreaking havoc if you allow him. Initiative 4 doesn’t do him any favours against High-Initiative pilots unless you’re using that mobility to block, but against your average block of ships it’s more than enough to make a mess of things.
  2. Kullbee Sperado:
    kullbee
    One of the unloved T-65 pilots from Saw’s Renegades, Kullbee can really shine if people would give him the time of day. The ability to Focus and then link into a Boost before opening his S-Foils means that he gets the best of both worlds; throw an R4 Astromech on him for another two points and next turn he’s able to turn behind an opponent without losing an action and likely be able get a better shot than he otherwise might have. Again, I4 means he’s less likely to be useful against Higher-Initiative ships in this manner, but against Vulture Droids or a TIE Swarm, this ability could prove pretty useful.
  3. Karé Kun:
    Kare
    Who doesn’t love Daredevil being built-in to the ship? And without that pesky Stress token as well? Kare functions much in the same way as Kullbee except she never needs to close her S-Foils unless she wants to barrel-roll, which she may do every so often but not on a regular basis. Throw Afterburners onto this pilot and you get to do that hard-turn boost essentially for free twice per game, freeing up her action step to take a Focus or Target Lock as required (or barrel-rolling if that’s your thing). Once again we’re talking I4, it’s like we’re seeing a pattern here…
  4. Greer Sonnel:
    Greer
    Look at that dial, and that pilot ability! Greer is, probably understandably, my favourite RZ-2 pilot to fly; she can go anywhere, do anything, and will have shots 99% of the time unless I’m flying perpendicular to a target I need to re-engage. The ability to rotate her arc, take a modification, and reposition is huge, but perhaps so is her ability to roll and boost while still rotating her turret. Unlike the others, she cannot benefit from a Talent such as Outmanoeuvre thanks to no front arc (unless you give her Missiles), but unlike the others the Initiative 4 poses less of a problem; she can just zoom and rotate and get the shot regardless where her target ends up.
  5. I’d talk about Temmin Wexley but everyone just gives him Composure and fails his free Boost, so he no longer counts. Sorry Snap!

The pilots above are by no means the only pilots who can be both Flankers and Aces when the opportunity arises, they’re just the only ones I’ve got experience flying and thus am truly comfortable discussing. A special shout-out to the E-Wing (all pilots) should be mentioned as well; the combination of fast and slow manoeuvres plus that hard-one turn mean that it can get up in people’s business from all angles when required. The same can be said for A-Wings of both varieties, and even the lower-Initiative Jedi make effective flankers and can arc-dodge with the best of them (or better in the case of Jake Farrell and Jedi pilots) when required.

So why does “Ace Play” seem to revolve primarily around Initiative 5 and 6 pilots?

I would assume, perhaps erroneously, that it’s due to the prevalence of other Initiative 5 and 6 pilots out there. For example: Howlrunner is not an Ace, for example, but if you intend to deprive a TIE Swarm of its rerolls before it fires you need an Initative 5 or 6 pilot to kill her; usually both, since she’s squirrelly as hell when she wants to be and when Iden’s in play you need to kill her twice to make sure she stays dead. Guri, on the other hand, is an Ace and will look at where you put your I4 flanker, Advanced Sensors roll or boost to avoid your firing arc, and still hit like a tonne of bricks; sad times for all.

This contributes to something of a “No-Man’s Land” between I3 and I5, which is where these interesting pilots with flanking abilities all seem to fall; they’re useful against low-Initiative swarms, but not so great against the higher-Initiative Aces (they get out-Aced?) With the introduction of the Nantex and its ability that makes effective blocking a thing of the past, we’re probably even less likely to see some of these ships in play; a sad day for us all, unless you play CIS, in which case you’re probably cackling away in your evil lair while the Nantex debate continues to burn the internet to the ground…

Having discussed this with others, and re-reading what I have written, I wonder if the whole concept is subjective; what makes an Ace an Ace for me in my list isn’t the same as someone else’s Ace in their list. I’m back flying Wedge/Corran/Luke, for example; none of them are what I would consider Aces, they can be if used correctly, but as a general rule they’re probably brawlers with Ace-like qualities. A Poe/Nien/Ello (or L’ulo) list on the other hand, has more Ace-like qualities despite being similar in playstyle thanks to the way the T-70 and the pilot abilities work, but again they have to be played as Aces to count. I’m sure the same can be said for Darth Vader, Fenn Rau, Sun Fac (boo hiss!) and others.

What is clear in my mind, however muddy the issue of Aces may or may not be, is that there are a few stand-out pilots who you could not accuse of anything other than being an Ace: Anakin Skywalker, Soontir Fel, Kylo Ren are but a few. Keep them out of your opponent’s firing arcs, they’ll fly around like wrecking balls; let the enemy get a decent shot on them, and they go all glass-cannon on you and shatter into a billion pieces.

That said, I’m intrigued about what people think about the lower-Initiative pilots; they’re out there, they’re waiting to be flown, and I’m interested to see what people have to say on the matter!

Thanks for reading!

Palate Cleanser

After the Top Deck Games Hyperspace Trial, I was in a bad place when it came to X-Wing. It hadn’t been my worst performance in the six or seven years since Wave 1 of 1.0, but it was bottom two when it came to fun (February 2018’s event at Wayland takes top spot thanks to things like Harpoon Missiles). I felt dejected, despondent, but most of all, I felt embarrassed – I’d let the whole “Two-Ship Paul” thing become something I prided myself on, and it all came crashing down around me in a torrent of sweat and poor decision-making. It’s probably not surprising to many, especially those who have been in similar situations, that I almost took a several-week long break from X-Wing.

Fortunately I cooled down enough to remember that first and foremost, X-Wing is meant to be about fun. Winning is the icing on the cake, and I can’t go to Worlds anyway! I packed the Jedi away, and broke out a faction I have flown once since arriving in the US – the Rebellion. I briefly considered Resistance, but they’ve always been my more “serious” faction, and that’s how they’ll stay for now.

Why Rebels, you may ask? These guys:

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Rogues Old and New!

These three represent my favourite Star Wars characters, old Legends or new Canon. Sure, Corran is a bit (a lot) of a Mary Sue, but he’s still pretty cool. They’re also three of my five favourite Rebel pilots, and they all have funky official alt-arts (Thane still needs one, and Frosted Norra only comes out on special occasions).

The list itself is pretty simple:

Palate Cleanser

Corran Horn [E-wing]
-Fire-Control System
-Predator
-R4 Astromech

Luke Skywalker [T-65 X-wing]
-Servomotor S-foils

Wedge Antilles [T-65 X-wing]
-Servomotor S-foils
-Predator

Totalling at 191, I have points to spare for toys such as regen on the two T-65s, but I wanted something I didn’t have to think too hard about. And it’s done me a world of good. The Rebel faction doesn’t have any true Aces; those with the Initiative lack the double-reposition without upgrades, and anyone that can double-reposition is I4 or lower (looking at you Jake Farrell!) This list isn’t designed to just joust, though it’s fairly good at it assuming it’s not outnumbered.

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Corran makes for an excellent flanker, as does Luke when you get it right.

The key is to bait and switch. Corran can fly in infinitely-tight circles with the one turn being white rather than red; this allows him to have more time on target with actions; it also makes him effective bait, allowing Luke and Wedge to mop up. Mostly people tend to go for Wedge first, however, which means Corran and Luke do the heavy lifting.

I’m currently 5/3 with this list, so it’s not perfect; I need to learn to fly it better, and it probably needs refining with the nine points I have left. Still, it’s not given me any true hard feelings (though Strikers with Proximity Mines remain a challenge), so it’s doing the job.

I was even taking it to a tournament yesterday, until pride got the better of me, and I decided to shamelessly rip off Jon Fawcett’s list from the Sith Takers tournament held in Stockport on the 3rd of August – the day before my 30th birthday. I felt this might be a sign, and “Two-Ship Paul” wasn’t resting as easily as I’d hoped. I’d even painted a CorSec E-Wing for Corran!

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Be gentle, it’s not finished!

There were only seven of us, and I got the first round bye which kinda sucked, but it meant I got a proper feel of the rest of the competition before my first game.

Which was almost a mirror-match: Luke and Corran vs Luke and Corran. Fortunately I had the choice on initiative as my opponent had loaded up with a few more toys such as Lone Wolf on Corran and Supernatural Reflexes on Luke, which meant my opponent was going first.

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Honourable Joust!

During the first engagement, Luke ate two Torpedoes which dropped him to one Hull. My own rolls were less spectacular, and it was only the double-tap from Corran which levelled the playing field. Unpainted Luke bugged out, followed by painted Luke who used his Afterburners to line up a Torpedo shot and delete his evil and extra-expensive twin. Alas, even with three charges from R2-D2 Luke could not evade Corran forever (mine was larking about on the wrong end of the board and unable to intervene) and he fell.

I could’ve run for 45 minutes, I had a 16pt bid and my Luke was cheaper than his, but that’s not how X-Wing should be played at an event like this. Corran vs Corran, what could go wrong?

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Round and round the gas cloud…

Eventually, with minutes to go both E-Wings were down to one hull. The fateful encounter could not be prolonged any longer. I should’ve disengaged, but that felt like it wouldn’t be a suitable ending to this game; I had to kill Corran, or he had to kill me. It was the only way.

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Standoff…

Unpainted Corran fired first with Focus, Lock and Lone Wolf. One hit snuck through; painted Corran was dead. Painted Corran returned fire, with only his Target Lock to modify. Again, one hit snuck through. Unpainted Corran was also dead.

We looked on in amazement, or possibly horror; the previous 70 minutes had been some of the most stressful and enjoyable play either of us had ever had, and it meant nothing; for the first time since Wave 1 of 1.0, I was going to Final Salvo.

Graham rolled, two hits, some focuses, some blanks. My roll had a lot of focuses and I prepared to congratulate my opponent, until I saw the third hit result. First Final Salvo, first win on Final Salvo. A 200-200 victory.

My second game was against Wedge/Luke/AP-5, and though I managed to delete Luke it came at its own cost; my Luke was crippled and easily finished off by Wedge, who then spent the next thirty minutes chipping away at Corran as he tried to re-engage; leaving me 1-1 with a Bye and 5th out of 7.

Normally, I’d be disappointed with a result like that; nobody likes a bye in 3 round games and I felt I could’ve played both my games better; not jousting Torpedo carriers with Torpedo carriers or focusing on Wedge rather than Luke would be my two lessons to take home from this. That said, it was a lot of fun, and that’s the point of the game, isn’t it?

I may keep this as a backup for games when I just want to chill out with a beer, though Brilliant Evasion is going in the bin. Heightened Perception may be the way forward, possibly for Luke/Wedge 2.0?…

Though I cannot make the NOVA Open due to monetary concerns (moving abroad is expensive), I need to look to the future – there are still Hyperspace Trials to attend, and potentially PAX Unplugged this winter. This list, while fun, isn’t going to do me any favours competitively and only really serves as a reminder of importance and relevance of the Rule of 11. For competitive play, I think I need to go back to the Resistance and investigate the Transport and Pod (the Silver Ace has been experimenting with Finn, he’s apparently A Big Deal), or table the N-1 and see if I can make a halfway decent showing with the Republic.

Although this guy could tempt me towards The Dark Side…

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Thanks for reading!

Fallen Order: Top Deck Games Hyperspace Trial

Yesterday, July 20th, saw 48 people arrive at Top Deck Games in Westmont, New Jersey, for New Jersey’s only Season 2 Hyperspace Trial. It was, shall we say, unseasonably warm – a real feel of 105 degrees Fahrenheit, which in English is…hot.

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I had been uncertain what to fly in the days leading up to the event, and was debating running Anakin/Obi-Wan/Plo Koon with CLT and R2 Astromech; it was fun but had gone 2-3 in testing so it probably wouldn’t hold up competitively. Instead I went back to Anakin/Obi-Wan and made a fatal mistake, not only was I flying on about five hours sleep, I’d dropped the Shield Upgrade from Anakin to retain a bid deep enough to outbid Imperial Aces – this would prove to contribute to my undoing in so many games!

Game 1 vs Keith – Mace, Luminara, Saesee

This was going to be an interesting game; I know Keith from two Discord servers and we’d been discussing the pros and cons of Jedi for a while.

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Keith’s game went…poorly… Anakin and Obi-Wan managed to dodge arcs or shrug off damage when they were targeted. Anakin put in a lot of work, first cornering Mace and removing him, and crucially removing Sense from Keith’s arsenal. Luminara fell next, before Obi-Wan finished Saesee.

Result: 200 – 0 Victory.

Game 2 vs Rob – Temmin, Jess, 2x Blue Rookie

This was going to be a tough matchup, and I’d lost to this list with my triple CLTs last week, so I wasn’t convinced. On the other hand, I was riding a 200-0 victory so I felt anything was possible. The early engagements saw one Rookie fall and Temmin’s shields stripped, and then I start to make mistakes.

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Temmin refused to die for far too long, allowing Jess and the Blue Rookie to put damage on the two Jedi before they could disengage. Both suffered a Direct Hit! as the first damage card dealt, leading to two very dead Jedi.

Result: 100 – 200 Defeat

Round 3 vs Eoin – Soontir, Vader, Tomax

This should have been a relatively decent matchup against fellow expat Eoin; so long as Anakin stayed out of the I6s arcs, I stood a reasonable chance of winning. Vader and Obi halved each other, Vader being far closer to death than Obi-Wan, which was a fairly decent opening engagement.

Then Anakin blanked out thanks to a rookie mistake on my part, and died…

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Obi-Wan vs The World is great, when your opponent has I5 or lower. Against I6 there was only so much he could accomplish, and though he managed to half-point Tomax, he too fell.

Result: 68 – 200

By this point, I think it’s probably something like a hundred degrees in the store, it certainly felt cooler when I stepped outside for some air. I’ve had two stupid losses, I’m tired and a bit discouraged, but if the matchups are kind I know I could still go 4-2 and at least win some prices.

Round 4 vs Cal – Boba/Guri/Zealous Recruit

Another relatively decent matchup! Or so I thought…

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The Fang got crippled early, while Anakin found himself boxed in and immediately dropped down to half points. Though Obi-Wan finished off the Fang, Anakin was destroyed soon after for half points on Boba; Obi-Wan falling soon after.

Another game I screwed up by allowing my opponent to block me. Even with Supernatural Reflexes, Obi-Wan can get predictable, and by now I’m actively considering I might just drop – it’s too hot for me to concentrate enough to fly this list.

A quick trip to Wawa and a 44oz Coke later (I don’t know what that is in litres, but I imagine it’s one or more), and I make the possibly stupid decision to stay and try for 3-3.

Game 5 vs Etienne – Maul, DBS-404, 3x Vultures

This matchup wasn’t one I was looking forward to; I’d been paired against it earlier only to be repaired, and now apparently fate was going to laugh at me.

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Maul was halved early, with DBS-404 the first to fall. This meant Grievous recharged, meaning Maul didn’t die to Anakin, and survived to kill Obi-Wan. Anakin struggled against the remaining ships but was unable to evade them; one clutch manoeuvre took Anakin from 4 health to 1, and just when I thought he was safe, Etienne said “Discord Missile” and, just like that, my blood is boiling as hot as the outside temperature and I’m now 1-4.

At this point it’s eight o’clock and I really should have dropped; but I paid $25 to play six games, so six games I would play.

Game 6 vs Cooper – Poe, Nien, Cova

Another simple matchup, another cluster that I could have and probably would have won had I not been flying like an absolute moron all day.

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A misjudged SNR puts Obi-Wan perilously close to the board edge (I thought I’d done a 5k, I’d dialled in a 5f instead), though next turn he managed to save it by barrel-rolling out and doing a one turn. Poe and Nien were dropped to half points, before Nien’s Autoblasters killed Anakin thanks to one uncancellable critical hit (I hate that card already!)

Result: 68 – 200

Overall Result: 1-5

This story has a moral, and a warning. I would also like to take this opportunity to state categorically that it was my mistakes (or hubris) that cost me games; my opponents were nothing but lovely people, and I apologise to any of them who read this if my attitude (particularly in games 4-6) made the game less fun for them!

Moral: Don’t play tired. Don’t play angry. Certainly do not play dehydrated! If it stops being fun, go home. You’re not doing yourself or your opponents any favours, especially if like me you were a hot and salty mess. It’s better to take the financial hit in “wasted money” and any blows to your pride for dropping, and getting out of the situation that’s upsetting you.

WarningUnless you are a gifted player like PhilGC or Nick Tobin, janky/fun lists like these do not work in a competitive setting! Taking them to a competitive event runs a certain level of risk, and you need to be damn sure you have as much fun losing with these lists as you do winning with them. If you don’t, shelve them and run something boring. Rebel Beef, for example (it’s still out there!)

So what does this mean for me? Well, I think I’m shelving the Jedi for a while. Maybe. I’m hesitant to shelve them entirely, they’re new and they’re still fun, I just think I made a bad judgement call this event. Plus I invested in fancy dial covers and templates when they came out, so it’d be a waste of money to simply discard them (though if anyone wants to make me any offers, I might be open to selling?)

One thing is certain though, I won’t be flying any two-ship lists for a while! Two-Ship Paul is dead! Long live Two-Ship Paul!

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Two-Ship Paul is Dead! Long Live Two-Ship Paul!

A Wargamer Abroad: Settling In

I have now resided in the United States for nine days, and life is proving to be different in some ways and remarkably different in others. For example: in New Jersey there are petrol station attendants who fill your car up for you, and the prices on things do not include tax. The weather has proven distinctly England-like, however; blue sky and sunshine one moment, thunderstorm the next…

Weather and petrol-pump trivia, aside, it’s been a busy nine days. I have, however, managed to get myself down to the local gaming store on the last two Thursdays to introduce myself to the locals. I was nervous; though I’d introduced myself through the local gaming area’s Facebook group, these were new people and as I’ve mentioned in this blog before, anxiety around new people is something I suffer from fairly regularly. This wasn’t going to be Warboar, Wayland, or Dark Sphere, these weren’t going to be my friends from TNX or the 186th members I remain in contact with; all I could do was hope for the best.

I needn’t have worried: Top Deck Games in Westmont, New Jersey is a lovely store. The range of items stocked is large and varied (including Sisters of Battle models for those 40k players who wanted something different), the staff are great and the locals are all lovely people. Originally I hadn’t intended to get any games in during my first week, but applying for for phone contracts, debit cards and Social Security Number is long process that involves an awful lot of waiting around; so last Thursday I grabbed my box with whatever was left in it from the last time I played – which turned out to be Anakin and Obi-Wan.

USA Game #1 vs Mike – Soontir, Vader, 3x Academy Pilots

I’ve played against similar lists with Anakin/Obi-Wan and come out on top, but today The Force was most definitely not with me! I believe that focusing on Vader rather than Soontir first meant I lost ground fairly early on in the game, and struggled to claw it back. By the time the game finished, I had only managed to halve Soontir and Vader and damage one of the Academies. Still, it was a great game and Mike was a fun opponent to play against!

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Two on one, and I still came off worse… Photo credit to Lou Caravelli

Now aware that before I start throwing silly lists around, I needed to get the measure of my new opponents, so this week it was time to bring something a little more ‘serious’ to the table. My variation of the “Danger Zone” list has always been good fun to fly, while also being one of the more ‘competitive’ lists I’ve used this year.

USA Game #2 vs Graham – Anakin& Obi-Wan

This was an interesting game; Graham was running a variation of the list I ran last week, but with Afterburners on both Jedi rather than the Shield Upgrade on Anakin.

The first engagement took place in the centre of the board and went my way; Graham’s dice rolling cold from both ships while L’ulo did his thing and stripped Obi-Wan’s shields in one hit. L’ulo would pay for this insult, however, as he was the first to fall.

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Things are looking rough for Obi-Wan, here!

Obi-Wan found himself surrounded and killed by a vengeful Poe/Nien double-team, and from there it was only a matter of time before an aggressive Anakin was finally hunted down. Graham and I discussed this after the game; had Anakin disengaged after losing his shields rather than turning in to finish L’ulo, he might have survived longer; but ultimately I think removing a ship from the board was the right move to make at that time.

USA Game #3 vs Lee – Iden, Gideon, Del, 2x Nu

This list was an odd one; I’ve never seen low-Initiative Gunboats used without Ion Cannons and the Assault Configuration before, so I was wary of what this list might be able to do; especially if I accidentally wandered into Range One of any Advanced Proton Torpedoes…

L’ulo committed to the engagement too early, though was fortunate enough to avoid the worst of the punishment through initial clever range control and then a lucky overlap. Poe and Nien swung in from the flank, chipping away at Iden and Del before shifting their focus to the Gunboats.

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The board becomes more than a little congested at this point!

L’ulo finally found himself shieldless thanks to Homing Missiles, and began the process of trying to disengage in a way that meant he could still engage; he didn’t play any further role in the battle except to bait the TIEs and eventually die to Iden and Gideon. Poe deleted the two Gunboats in quick succession, before linking up with Nien again and going to town on the TIEs. The game concluded with Del Meeko, who had been untouched for the majority of the game, suffered a Fuel Leak from overlapping an Asteroid and then suffered one sole Critical Hit which put him down for good.

USA Game #4 vs Kevin – Boba/Emon

Firesprays and Bombs. I’ve flown against a similar list flown by TNX Squadmate Jake, but at the time I was using Wedge/Luke which meant I had to adopt a bold but cautious style of play. Now I had half again as many ships, only half as many Torpedoes, and zero Force. Kevin had just annihilated a four Fang list through careful bomb placement, so I knew I couldn’t afford to be too bold; I could joust the list and stand a reasonable chance of coming out ahead, but I wasn’t going to if I could avoid it.

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Thanks to a bold play by Kevin, I’m forced to accept the joust.

Kevin didn’t let me avoid it, and as the ships crossed paths, L’ulo had lost his shields and Emon was down to four Hull. The second engagement saw L’ulo fall to Boba, but Emon fell to Nien who had Tallon-Rolled into his blind spot at Range One.

Nien and Poe went to work hunting Boba, but it was difficult work! I managed to get my dials confused at a crucial moment, leaving Nien out of range and Poe at range one of Boba in his front arc, but fortunately the dice gods were with me and Poe didn’t suffer as much as he should have. Boba did finally fall, but it was touch and go for a moment; Poe was on dangerously low health, and though Nien was still mostly healthy, he’d struggle to catch Boba if the Firespray decided to simply run for it.

 

Four games and three wins in my first two weeks in America, I’ll take that! However, in this case it’s not about the winning at all. My fears have been allayed; there is a local store, the X-Wing scene is thriving, and the local players are all friendly. Furthermore, I’ve got a Hyperspace Trial in about six weeks, which I wasn’t expecting! What more could I ask for?

I’m also tempted to check out the Last Chance Qualifier in October, though that one depends entirely on available funds and wife points… I’d better start being more helpful around the house!

Big thanks to Mike, Graham, Lee and Kevin for the games, and to Lou and everyone else at Top Deck Games for making me feel welcome so far!

The Last Hurrah!

As the time for the great move to the wilds of New Jersey draws closer, I find myself in a position to reflect on the last eight months; arguably the best eight months of X-Wing I have had in the seven years since the game was released. 2.0 rekindled my love for the game, and in a way, for Star Wars in general – I’d still gone to see the movies and I’d dip back into the DVDs or books now and then, but I was less enthusiastic about the franchise in general.

This is not a post to reminisce about my favourite 2.0 memories, I’ll save that for the night before 3.0 drops! This is, however, the opportunity to document my last (possibly last ever) tournament in the UK. I was originally not even going to attend, as I’ve still got a buttload of undergraduate marking to do and I didn’t particularly feel too keen about the prospect of being kicked up and down the tables by people who regularly do just such a thing! However, I started my 2.0 journey at Warboar and it seemed only right to end my UK journey there as well, so off I went to a 13 player event with… you guessed it… two ships.

The List

Anakin Skywalker – R2 Astromech + Delta-7B + Shield Upgrade
Obi-Wan Kenobi – R2 Astromech + Delta-7B + Supernatural Reflexes

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This list isn’t mine; I was intrigued by Nicholas Tobin’s two Jedi list that made it to the final of the Bloomington Illinois Hyperspace Trial; I’ve flown Anakin and Obi-Wan together in the past, but the upgrades were different and giving Supernatural Reflexes to Obi-Wan rather than Anakin didn’t feel right when I saw the games. Still, I wanted to see whether the list had legs (or whether Mr Tobin is some kind of Delta–7 savant). It flies almost exactly the same as “my” (thanks again Sharqqy!) Anakin/Saesee list, except the lack of Afterburners means I could be burning through an awful lot of Force to get into position / out of danger.

Game 1 vs Phil – Count Dooku, 4x Drones with Homing Missiles

I’ve played against this list before, I think I was using Poe/Nien, and I told Phil at the time that the Homing Missiles were a waste of points: low Initiative Drones really want Energy Shell Charges (not that I’ve ever flown them). Phil had actually made a list with ESC, then upon finding out this was his last chance to try and beat me (he’s come close but never succeeded), he went back to the Homing Missiles in case we were paired up – we were.

The first two engagement phases went poorly for Phil: two Drones were reduced to one Hull apiece in each phase, in one shot. This, I believe, put him “on tilt” (I believe is the phrase) as he then proceeded to make some very “interesting” tactical choices in order to get his Missiles off.

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Simplest solution to not die? Ram the only ship that has arc on you!

The Drones were picked off one by one, leaving Dooku alone against two Aethersprites that, thanks to arc-dodging and only taking two shots from Homing Missiles, still had shields. Getting damage through into the Scimitar was difficult at first, as it was cloaked with a Stealth Device, but once that extra evade dice went away, it was all over. Phil conceded with twenty minutes remaining, well-aware that a two-Hull Infiltrator didn’t really stand much chance against two healthy Aethersprites that refused to stay in arc; Heightened Perception or no Heightened Perception.

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“This time we’ll take him together.” “I was about to say that.”

Result: 200 – 0 Victory.

Game 2 vs Henry – Lando Calrissian, Jan Ors, Braylen Stramm

Henry’s list has been described as “that hot mess that Henry keeps somehow flying successfully” – it’s beef, but it isn’t. It’s also something you don’t want to mess up your engagement against, as I have found to my detriment in the past. The last time I flew against this, I was using Anakin and two Generics, and I had Lando down to one hull when I lost, so I knew it wasn’t unbeatable if I didn’t make any mistakes.

So what did I do? Got Anakin killed in the first engagement and left Obi-Wan to do the hard work by himself…

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Obi-Wan vs The World!

This is where the Jedi Master shone; Supernatural Reflexes at I5 moving last meant that Obi-Wan was able to make short work of Braylen and Jan. Unfortunately, Lando proved too tough for the plucky little Aethersprite and though I had knocked down four of his shields, I was unable to put enough damage through without suffering in return.

Result: 113-200 Defeat.

A chat with Henry over a beer at lunch highlighted what I’d done wrong: I’d gotten too aggressive with Anakin, and then the dice betrayed me (as they do when you do something stupid) – six consecutive blank green dice hurts, but you can’t blame variance when you’ve willingly put yourself in that position; though had I managed to kill Braylen and not just wound him, it might have been a different story…

Game 3 vs Ashley – 2x Jedi Knight, 2x Gold Squadron Pilot, 1x 104th Battalion Pilot

I’d seen this list used on Thursday, and it looks fun. I can’t say I like CLT on the Jedi Knight, but from what I saw, lining up that bullseye on anything I3 or lower is a lot easier than you might think and the list certainly has enough red dice being thrown about to really ruin someone’s day if they tried to joust it. Like I might have earlier this year.

So I didn’t. Except when I pushed Obi-Wan and Anakin through the middle of his formation which he’d obligingly split to avoid an asteroid. The Torrents fell early, taking surprisingly long to die (except it’s not really surprising when you consider they have five hull and look at how dice averages work out), followed by the ARC.

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Obi-Wan saw Anakin “killing younglings”, and decided to help!

Two Jedi against two Jedi. Delta-7B against CLT. Ace against Generic. Ashley saw which way the wind was blowing here, and conceded once both Jedi Knight had gone to half points; he simply could not keep the two higher-Initiative ships in arc.

Result: 200 – 0 Victory

Game 4 vs Rob – Deathfire, Lieutenant Kestal, Pure Sabacc and Redline

This was an interesting list, the inclusion of Kestal based on the misconception that a ship could fire a primary AND a turret (thankfully not without Veteran Turret Gunner). I started by playing cagey, staying in Range 1 of my board edge while I wanted to see what Rob would do and chipping away at Deathfire at long range. The mistake came when I misjudged how aggressive Rob would be with Pure Sabacc, blocking Obi-Wan’s lines of retreat and rolling five naked dice into the Jedi Master. Obi-Wan blanked and then exploded. Flying is for Droids, after all.

So, Anakin against the world? I’d hoped to go 3-1, but I figured if this game was enough fun I would be willing to accept that I had made some terrible mistakes and take pride in the 2-2 with a list I’d never flown before. Either way, it was time to see whether or not Anakin was worth the ninety points I’d paid for him.

In short, yes. Yes it was. Deathfire died first, followed shortly after by Kestal. Sabacc gave me a little bit of grief, but his Advanced Ailerons scuppered him by ensuring that no matter what manoeuvre he did (barring S-Loops or K-Turns), I could turn inside him with the Aethersprite’s frankly mental dial.

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Redline watches as Pure Sabacc falls. (The charge token on Redline is a Stress standin).

Catching Redline was a lot more difficult than one might expect, as Rob likes his K-Turns; he was desperate to get the second Torpedo off. Unfortunately he was scuppered by Anakin’s insane repositioning ability.

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Not even Redline can run forever…

With a lot less time left on the round than any of my previous games, Redline finally fell, giving me a 3-1 with a list I’d never used before.

Result: 200 – 98 Victory

I admit I was surprised to go 3-1, though the two 200-0 wins were the most surprising aspect of the event for me. I was a little annoyed that I made two elementary mistakes which got half my list deleted in single engagements, but that’s the risk you take with lists like this – one day I will learn!

As I packed up my things, all I had to do now was see how the 3-0 game was going; if Jake won with his 5 A-Wings, I’d be in third place thanks to MoV. If Simran won with his Anakin/Mace/2x Torrents, I would be in second. Either result would please me, as until now my best 2.0 result at Warboar was fourth (on May 4th, ironically). Simran won his game 41 – 13 (ish), putting me in 2nd place, and giving me a pleasant end to my UK competitive (if you can call it that!) career. What’s more, I think this has set my opinion that the Delta-7 is the most fun ship in X-Wing in concrete! I can’t wait to see what they do with the Eta-2 (here’s hoping for Wave 6!)

So that’s it for 2.0 in the UK (except this Thursday, assuming I make enough progress with marking papers and packing!) I’d like to thank everyone I’ve played against or spoken to; you know who you are! I’d also like to thank the staff at Warboar Games and my fellow TNX’ers for making me feel welcome these last eight months or so! It’s really been appreciated!

As of my next entry, I’ll be a rambling expat diving into the North American meta where the bids are shallow and a fellow named Duncan is on a crusade to win a tournament with every faction! This is both exciting and terrifying! Wish me luck, everyone!