Back to Basics

I’m not going to talk about the UK or Texas System Open, mainly because everyone else already has and I neither attended nor watched the streams of either beyond dipping in and out. Instead, this is going to kind of be one of those touchy-feely entries about mental health, with some X-Wing thrown in.

Let’s start with the X-Wing!

As people in Milton Keynes and Texas descended on (four) hundred-plus events, ten of us arrived at Showcase Comics in Swarthmore for a casual event. I’d been itching to try Zizi competitively, so I put a version of the “Poe’s Angels” list together that included her rather than Zari Bangel.

Please bare with me when it comes to names and lists, I seem to have misplaced my notes…

Game 1 vs FO Swarm

Eight TIE Fighters, with Shields, and Target Locks, and Midnight. I hate flying against swarms in the first place, the mental disconnect is still there despite a year to learn my lesson and beating the last two TIE swarms I faced (I still suck against Droids, though!)

Disengage brain, engage joust-mode.

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What’s wrong with this approach, I wonder?

Suffice to say, this game went poorly. I half-pointed everything except one fighter, in return for getting shot off the board. Two dice primaries aren’t enough against TIEs, even if you concentrate fire and have Advanced Optics. If I’d had five A-Wings rather than three, or four T-70s rather than one, things might have been different; that has been a recurring theme for me over the last few weeks.

Game 2 vs Braylen, Ten, 2x Red Squadron Veterans

This matchup was more my thing; Greer ended up moving before the B-Wings but I moved after everything with the others. Poe nearly got badly hurt early on by landing at range 1 of two X-Wings, but that handy Black One title (that I only decided to add on the way to the event) got him out of trouble. Fortunately by this time I’d remembered how to play the game, had got over my mental disconnect from Game 1, and sought to give this one my all.

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The B-Wings were the priority, once they were down (and Ten took some killing), mopping up the X-Wings was reasonably simple. My opponent did very well, and I really liked his list (his B-Wings had the new S-Foils) despite my loathing of B-Wings since their release in 1.0.

Game 3 vs Andrew – Dengar, Fenn Rau, Nom Lumb

Two I6s, moving after Poe. Wonderful.

This was always going to be rough, and it was. Fortunately Dengar’s Torpedoes bounced off Greer the first time, and didn’t manage to kill her the second. Then Fenn died and the hunt of Nom Lumb began. This. Was. A. Mistake.

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In hindsight, I should’ve tried to kill Dengar first. Nom Lumb took too damn long to kill for a ship of his points, and once I had him on the defensive I should’ve switched it up and let him spend several turns trying to re-engage while I ambushed Dengar. The lesson was learned, however – I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again.

Game 4 vs Marcelo – Fenn Rau, Boba Fett, Nom Lumb

Another Fenn/Nom list, but this time I was moving second.

Boba declined the joust while Fenn and Nom both accidentally wandered into suicide range of three A-Wings (range 2 and 1 respectively) and while Fenn decided discretion was the better part of valour and bravely ran away, Nom suffered for his mistake.

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Hunting Fenn down was relatively simple with Poe moving second, which then left everyone vs Boba. Boba was, as per usual, a pain in the behind to kill and I sacrificed half of Poe stupidly in the last turn by blocking his arc-dodge barrel roll with Zizi. Losing half on Zizi would have hurt my MoV less than half on Poe, something I need to remember next for next time.

2-2 overall, and 7th out of 10 thanks to my rather shocking MoV from the first game. Happy I maintained a neutral win-loss ratio, but disappointed I wasn’t in the 4th-6th bracket I wanted to be in.

Now, onto the touchy-feely bit…

I’ve not had an anxiety attack for a while, which I am thankful for, but X-Wing is still often a source of anxiety for me. After that first game, in which I got comprehensively spanked again by a TIE Swarm, my personal monologue was filled with thoughts such as “why did you bother?” or “you wasted how much money getting here?” Though I wasn’t quite tempted to simply walk away from the event, which I’ve not felt since the Top Deck Games Hyperspace Trial last July, had my second game gone as disastrously wrong, I might have done.

So…why does this happen?

X-Wing is meant to be fun, and 99% of the time it is. The issue with anxiety, however, is that it can ambush you at the worst possible moment. Long-time readers would know I had an anxiety attack on the way to a casual tournament which then made me very nervous about attending the 2019 UKSO, thankfully people (many I’d never met) convinced me and I had a grand old time without any emotional hiccoughs; in hindsight it was £200(ish) well-spent on hotel, travel and ticket.

Except this year I want to try Worlds… The thought of spending probably the equivalent of £200 on ticket and flights to Minnesota without food or accommodation scares me enough, but potentially scrubbing out of the Last-Chance Qualifier and spending the rest of the long weekend feeling miserable while everyone else has fun is frankly, terrifying. That’s a lot of money to believe you’ve “wasted” if things go poorly…

Let’s also not forget that at some point after turning 18, I’ve learned to hate flying. Mainly thanks to the turbulence on the TransAtlantic crossing; you’d think being in a long-distance relationship for nine years would’ve cured me of that, but nooooooo!

Fortunately the Liberty Squadron guys are a supportive bunch, and hopefully I’ll see familiar faces from the 186th and TNX as well (this means you Mr UKSO Top 8 Paul! 😉 ) I don’t doubt I’ll have a wonderful time, regardless of result, with those guys around to keep my spirits lifted and, failing that, keep the spirits flowing at the bar afterwards 😛

So, what to fly? Well, I’ve got eight(ish) months to practice!

I’m thinking 5A or Quad-70s is probably the way forward; they’re solid reliable lists which don’t rely on strategic or tactical genius to do well with at an event. Having identical dials means I don’t have to worry about accidentally bumping ships while trying to maintain a loose formation or letting someone get too far out in front/left behind. The Luke/Thane/2x Red Veterans list from Texas is also intriguing, though I’d need to acquire and repaint a fourth T-65 (which would also probably force my hand on stripping down the Rogues again in favour of screen-accurate T-65s).

Ultimately the key to success is practice, and flying something simple may well be the way forward; if I can learn to fly it well basically with my eyes closed, fatigue shouldn’t factor into any game results. The basic lists might not ever get any screen time on streams, they might not look great on YASB, and they won’t attract any “ooh”s and “aah”s on Discord, but there’s something to be said for keeping things simple.

If only they hadn’t broken Composure on Snap for my PAX list…

I’ve ranted on for over 1200 words now, probably about nothing particularly important, so I’ll close this now. If you’re going to be at Worlds, or thinking about it, let me know: the more people I “know” there, either through real-life, Facebook, or Discord, will probably make my experience be so much better!

Thanks for reading!

Journey to PAX Unplugged – System Open the Second

Back in April, I attended the UK System Open, which I believe remains to this day the largest X-Wing event ever. Things did not start well, having purchased (well, re-purchased) my ticket during a low point in my competitive X-Wing career. I finally settled on a list, a modified version of the “Danger Zone” Resistance list, but my five play-test games had not gone particularly well, leading me to believe I was making something of a mistake. Fortunately the event went reasonably well, going 3-3 in the main event and ending up 299th; a score I hope to better (since I doubt there’ll be 299 players) at the Philadelphia System Open hosted at PAX Unplugged in exactly one month.

Annoyingly, System Opens in the US appear to be connected to larger events, meaning you need a ticket for the event and the tournament, bumping up costs fairly significantly. Fortunately, I live close enough to the event that I won’t be needing a hotel, otherwise we’d be looking at a pretty expensive weekend!

So, tickets bought, what to fly? I’ve got three weeks to practice, since my FLGS has X-Wing nights on Thursdays and the last Thursday it’ll be closed for Thanksgiving (and all that yummy Turkey); it’s not a lot of time to conjure up a new list and get the reps in, so I’ll likely be resorting to an old favourite. But what?

  1. Danger Zone is a competitor; it served me well in the past but that was before the points change, having become more expensive since then. That said, without Trick Shot on L’ulo, it probably still comes in below 190 points to ensure I move second against most things. Nantices and deep-pocketed Imperial Aces/Jedi will probably still outbid me, so I can probably play with whatever points I have left (Autoblasters on Nien, perhaps?). Still, that’s one list I’m reasonably confident with, though my competency with Resistance Aces has never been anywhere near 100% and this room is going to be as tough as the UKSO was, but with tighter margins between below average, average, and above average player skill.
  2. 5x RZ-2s is always a solid choice; they served me well at Highlander Games despite not a whole lot of practice beforehand, and are definitely my backup option should nothing else pan out. Though running without a bid still feels weird, if I can block a Nantex and deny its action, I stand a decent chance of bringing it down with focus-fire if I need to. Crucially, this list is also less susceptible to Torkil Mux shenanigans than many of my other lists.
  3. 4x X-Wings, be they T-65 or T-70 variety. Simple to fly, reasonably manoeuvrable, and tanky to boot. Biggs with some Red Veterans with Selfless or four Black Aces with Heroic are my current ponderings; the latter’s I4 giving me the opportunity to trade simultaneous fire with meta staples like Grievous or Chertek should I need to, while also giving me options to outflank or arc-dodge lower-Initiative pilots should the need arise. Only problem is, I’d need a fourth X-Wing and the required cards/tokens (I left all of my generic bits back in the UK because I was on a Unique pilots-only rampage at the time).
  4. Rebel Aces, whatever that may be. I’ve currently got a few ideas how to run this; all of them involving Wedge and Luke (who should, in my opinion, star in every Rebel list) with one or two friends. I’ve got ideas about Torpedoes and Jake Farrell, upgrade-lite with Jake and Arvel Crynyd, or throwing Thane Kyrell or Corran Horn into the mix and running a three-ship build of some form. Though all of these appeal to me one way or another, the Torpedo-throwing shenanigans of Wedge/Luke/Jake probably appeals to me most. The issue is I am uncertain exactly how to engage with it, so I will probably choose one of the other options simply for simplicity’s sake, and for the sake of my own psyche and/or ego when it comes to playing the game and probably getting it wrong.

Of the above, the only thing I haven’t tried yet is the four X-Wings; mainly because, as I said, I don’t own four. Though I could get a fourth and repaint it in the white/orange scheme we’ve seen in Rise of Skywalker teasers; there’s also rumours of a white and green variant of the same pattern, but that’s based off marketing material for toys, and Hasbro has to make their money somewhere!

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It’s bold, I’ll give it that!

It should, however, prove reasonably simple to fly; so long as I stay in formation and don’t self-bump (which I’ve not done for a while unless I was blocked by someone else). The old “One-Forward to Victory” should work, right? My main concern with this list is the likelihood of getting Initiative-killed by aces (or Torkil’s mates); even a T-70 is likely to die in one round under concentrated fire. The Selfless/Biggs damage-spreading of the Rebel variant means things might survive longer, and I can afford R2 Astromechs on 3 of the 4 ships, but that’s not necessarily a good idea either…

So as you can see, I’m in a dilemma…

I don’t even know what the 2019/20 Season’s prize support will be like, so beyond a 3-3 win/loss ratio, I’m not sure what I’m aiming for! What goodies do you have planned for us, FFG?! I’d quite like to finish my Red Squadron card collection, I need Jek Porkins and Garven Dreis (I foolishly bought a Wedge earlier this year); I also enjoy frosted cards, though knowing my luck they’ll be for ships I don’t own or fly! Anakin, Poe, and Norra need frosted friends!

Speaking of Anakin; I haven’t been enjoying Republic since my move to the US, so I sold them all. It was a rough decision, and I regret it a little bit because I really did have fun with the Fine-Tuned Controls shenanigans, but with so few events locally that are easy to get to without a car, I need to concentrate on lists that will do well rather than ones that’ll just be fun to fly. That may mean moving further away from ace lists and towards more generics, which isn’t the way I want to play X-Wing, but at what point do you start to sacrifice fun for competitiveness?

In other news, with the release of Epic, I’m really excited to try the new Aces High format: a furball situation reminds me of the good old days when I was in an X-Wing vs TIE Fighter/X-Wing Alliance clan/gaming group and we used to have weekly online melee combats either internally or against other groups. Perhaps when PAX is done with, I’ll dive into making some fun Aces High builds for certain points values, see what I can come up with, and whether or not temporary alliances built over the tabletop survive the crucible of battle!

Finally, I purchased, read, and finished the new Star Wars novel (Resistance Reborn) yesterday; which details the gathering of new assets for the Resistance in the immediate wake of The Last Jedi; it was a good read, and brings several older characters back into play (General Rieekan, Wedge Antilles and Norra Wexley to name but three). Makes me hopeful that someday we’ll see Resistance Wedge/Norra, and maybe, just maybe the T-85 will get it’s own official model…

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It’s not the prettiest in the X-Wing line, but it might make a good showing…

Check back next week to see what I decided, and whether or not my first week of testing fills me with confidence or leaves me thinking I’m going to crash and burn like Porkins into the Death Star…

Tiny But Mighty – Highlander Games Hyperspace Trial

First, I’d like to thank everyone who commented on Facebook after my previous post: it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who feels that way at times, though I was surprised at some of the names I was seeing – people who I had always known were good at the game, who are still (in my opinion) better players than I am were in the same boat – it was a rather humbling experience!

In said article, I said I was going to try 5 RZ-2 A-Wings. They’ve been…hit and miss over the last few weeks; I’d won a handful of games and lost a handful of games, usually to better players with more optimised lists (looking at you Andrew and Zach!), and was reasonably confident. Confident enough to take it to a Hyperspace Trial? Not really, but I hadn’t practiced with anything else recently so I didn’t have a choice; my fellow Liberty Squadron member Nick and I bundled into the car at 7am for the two hour drive to North Jersey and the town of Boonton (pronounced “Bontoon” for some reason) for six rounds of pew-pew. Two other Liberty Squadron members joined us, Paul (there must always be two, apparently!) and Brett, and we settled down in what looked to be a fairly tough room – made all the tougher by the presence of one Duncan Howard; the man who has won four Hyperspace Trials this year with four different factions; he’s not a man, he’s an X-Wing machine!

Round 1 vs Brett – Obi-Wan Kenobi (CLT), Plo Koon (7B), Mace Windu (7B)

Round one and paired against a squadmate, typical!

The initial engagement went my way despite a mistake or two; half of Greer for half of Mace, of course Mace could run and regen like a coward, and he did. Tallie and Greer evaporated under concentrated fire in subsequent turns as I tried to put damage through on Mace, finally killing him.

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I failed to put any meaningful damage on the others before time was called; Obi-Wan having lost one shield and Plo having lost two but regenerated both. On my side, I had half a Zari who was desperately lucky to be alive!

Brett actually felt the need to apologise for winning, something I thought was a little odd; he’d outplayed me and won fair-and-square, but that’s just the nice guy he is!

Result: 72-180

Round 2 vs Kristoff – Nien Nunb, Finn, Cova Nell, Greer Sonnel

Resistance Beef, wonderful! This wasn’t going to be a fun matchup, I could tell. I’d have to hit and run hard to get the most out of the RZ-2s, dogfighting would be a nightmare, especially if my opponent kept his ships together.

Which he didn’t…

Finn fell early, the lack of Perceptive Co-Pilot meaning he got to trigger his ability once before proving that he’s not so much of a “Big Deal” after all, but things soon swung back against me; Greer and Tallie were crippled getting half points on Nien with their rear arcs.

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The Recruits are both battered down to half points before the kill shots are put on Nien and Cova, leaving Greer vs 5 A-Wings. That became four A-Wings as Zari was killed trying to put the final hit on evil Greer.

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Time was called as we placed dials, and evil Greer failed to escape for a 200-120 victory.

End of Round 2 and I’m 1-1. Already equalling Top Deck’s Trial, one win away from Warboar’s escapades and two wins away from what I would consider a completely “worthwhile” day of X-Wing given the travel times involved.

Round 3 vs Kevin – Darth Vader, Soontir Fel, Scarif Base Pilot

Imp Aces, not what I wanted to face!

I jousted the Scarif Base, deleting it in two engagements, losing half points on Zari and a Blue in the process. Vader soon found himself boxed in through cunning use of Barrel Roll-Rotate, the unmodded shots finding chinks in his plot armour, but not before he guns down two A-Wings.

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Soontir proved untouchable all game, and I had lost my lead. I needed Vader to die, and with two healthy A-Wings left, if he did, my opponent would have to get lucky with Soontir to grab the victory back. My moment came with five minutes left on the clock, an unmodded range 3 shot into Vader put the Sith Lord down, and my opponent conceded – Fel was flying away from the A-Wings, and now with a 30-ish point advantage, he knew he’d never catch them in time.

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Result: 200-116

2-1, I am very pleased with myself right now!

Round 4 vs James – Heff Tobber, Blue Scout, Benthic Two-Tubes, Magva Yarro

Ugh, four U-Wings! I wanted to hate this game, but James was a lovely guy, and actually a lot of fun to play against. Failing to block Benthic through my own greed meant that the Leia carrier survived turn one, which hurt a lot in turn 2. We would later discuss this, and we agreed that Leia surviving was huge for him; he suggested I should’ve come in from the side rather than straight jousting, but I think had I just prevented the distribution of Focus tokens, the effect would’ve been the same.

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I flew my arse off (James’ words) to try and claw back as many points as I could, and at no point was there a point where I knew I would lose. Heff fell, leaving it 2v2, but Greer couldn’t put damage through to get the final hit on Magva. Time was called and a half-pointed Greer breathed a sigh of relief, and I immediately went to find myself a bottle of water.

Result: 2-2 and 23rd place out of 42

Round 5 vs Mario – Sinker, 104th Battalion Pilot, 4x Gold Squadron Troopers

This matchup didn’t fill me with confidence, the Sinker Swarm has proven it can dominate most matchups, and I’d never flown against it. I knew Sinker had to die first, but I also knew it was common to deploy him on the far side of the formation, and Torrents are a pain to kill.

So when my opponent deployed Sinker on the near-side, I was a little perplexed, but it made my job easier! Using the RZ-2’s blistering speed I closed the gap in two turns, half-pointing the isolated Sinker in a single engagement. Gunned down the following turn as he tried to flee, Sinker contributed nothing except a distraction, though I lost a Recruit in the process – still trading up, however!

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Fate is fickle, and a series of blocks and natural hits left Tallie a smoking wreck, trading down for a measly Torrent not even worth 2/3 of her points. Still, I bounced back, dropping another Torrent to one hull with a Loose Stabiliser and killing the second Arc. Now it was a game of cat-and-mouse between RZ-2s and their Torrent pursuers.

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Time is called as we place dials down for one last engagement. The damaged Torrent dials a two turn, dying as he completes the manoeuvre. Concentrated fire brings down a second in the same turn, leaving one healthy Torrent out of arc to attack anything and bringing the game to an end.

Result: 175 – 119

3-2 and I’ve already reached my goal! Three wins makes this my most successful Hyperspace Trial and ties the UKSO for “proper” event win/loss ratio! I am over the moon at this point, but I don’t let my excitement get away from me – the 3-2 bracket is looking pretty tough, and I’d need some luck if I was going to go 4-2!

Game 6 vs Andrew – Kath Scarlet, 2x Bounty Hunter

This was going to be an interesting game; Firesprays have a lot of health, a lot of firepower, and are more manoeuvrable than you think. They’re also something I don’t want to block, as it gives Kath rerolls, and enemy rerolls are bad!

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Andrew’s evade dice were cold for the first few engagements, the one evade he rolled I apologetically Crack Shotted – I usually don’t like Crack Shot, especially in situations like that, but as he said “you use what’s good” and I wanted to go 4-2 as much as he did. The first Bounty Hunter was halved and the second lost its shields in exchange for half points on a Blue Recruit.

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Subsequent engagements saw both Kath and the other Bounty Hunter halved for half-points on Zari, I was constantly trading up. The Bounty Hunters’ luck finally swung, and I started losing A-Wings at a worrying rate. I finally managed to put both Bounty Hunters down with minutes to spare, for my fourth win; making this my most successful major tournament ever!

Result: 200 – 120

As the results were collated, I reflected on the one year since 2.0 was released. I’ve had more ups and downs in one year than I think I ever had in 1.0, but I also think this is a good thing; it means I love the game again. I wouldn’t have felt bad about going 1-5 at Top Deck had I not known I could do better, had I flown a “proper” list or if I’d just spent a little longer thinking about my manoeuvres.

Finally the results were posted:

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Seventh place with an MoV of 1360 and a SoS of 0.49 (I still have no idea how that works), edging Round One opponent Brett by the cost equivalent of Tallie, securing my place in the Top Eight and giving me all sorts of prizes! Unfortunately, I cannot compete in today’s Top Cut due to a family wedding, but I’m not too proud to admit I was not looking forward to playing Duncan Howard (Second in Swiss) in the Top Eight game. Lovely guy, wouldn’t want him wiping the floor with me, however!

My dropping puts Brett into Seventh (sorry) and fellow Liberty member Paul into Eighth; I expect one of you to win it! Also big shout out to Sol Guerrera who came top in Swiss; he and several of his New York buddies have adopted me as one of their own through interactions in Discord and at the Top Deck Hyperspace – I honestly don’t know what I was worried about when I moved, everyone here is lovely!

I’m going to finish with this, an obligatory swag post:

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I’m probably going to take a break from RZ-2s for a while; I still haven’t flown the N-1, the Resistance Transport/Pod, and I kind of want to try Anakin in the Y-Wing as a Torpedo carrier; I don’t expect he’ll be any good, but it’ll be funny!

Or Precognitive Reflexes Luke…

I digress! Thank you to everyone for your continued support; without it, I probably wouldn’t be playing X-Wing competitively, and certainly not writing about it!

Until next time!

 

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!

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!

 

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…