Organised Play – Changes Ahead?

I wasn’t actually going to write an entry this week, mainly because I believe everyone is fed up with me talking about four T-70s and how I don’t feel at all prepared for the System Open at PAX Unplugged on Friday; I was going to do a writeup for that next week, followed by a year-in-review style post that I imagine a few other bloggers will be doing, and then diving into Star Wars Legion in the New Year (FLGS had 40% off all FFG products for Black Friday, I really couldn’t help myself!)

But then I saw this:

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Courtesy of X-Wing TMG 2.0 Discord

No more Hyperspace Trials!

It looks like most FFG OP events from now on will be Extended affairs, with the exception of the System Open Series. This is an interesting change from FFG, especially since last year the majority of events that led to a Worlds Invite were Hyperspace format.

Why has this change occurred?

Obviously this is all pure speculation, and the FFG OP people will be putting an official announcement out in January, but personally I believe this has something to do with simplicity: every six months, points change and the people at FFG have to decide what is or is not Hyperspace-legal. This could mean a ship is introduced or removed the week before an event, or the points changes might ruin a list entirely; while these changes need to happen to keep the game from stagnating, this isn’t going to make many players happy!

It could also be something to do with the fact that these are qualifier events for the World Championships: Worlds is an Extended-format event, as we all know, and it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to have the main qualifier be a different format if there were no other major competitions of that format (Hyperspace Cups suddenly becoming not-Hyperspace being a case in point here!) By mixing up the formats this way, Hyperspace remains a premier-level competitive format, but doesn’t impede or restrict people’s ability to practice with lists for bigger events; the world is now the X-Wing player’s oyster, with all 65 currently available ships ready to be used (except maybe the poor TIE Aggressor…)

Note: The cynic in me also wonders whether FFG just wanted to put Hyperspace on the back-burner so they didn’t have to worry about rotation.

So what does this mean for local events?

Well, prepare yourselves for more Phantoms, Defenders, Torkil & Friends, etc. On the other hand, this might not necessarily be a bad thing despite my own misgivings about certain aspects of Extended, which are actually more problems with game design than anything else (looking at you here, Tractor!); people are free to fly whatever they want, which can promote a wider range of diversity in the meta, or they can gobble up the newest and best net-list and still come dead last, proving that player skill is still a thing in this game.

What does it mean for me?

Honestly, not a whole lot!

I own exactly four ships that aren’t Hyperspace-legal under the current system: E-Wing, K-Wing, HWK-290 and YT-2400. I honestly can’t see myself using the YT or the K-Wing any time soon, but I’ve had a lot of fun with E-Wings since 2.0 came out, and flying Jan Ors next to Wedge Antilles to give him a 5-dice attack at Range One is always fun.

Ultimately, Hyperspace lists are still competitive even in Extended environments, so this shouldn’t be a problem for anyone who prefers their list on the more restricted side (someone remind me of that next time I see Defenders, Quadjumpers or Ketsu on the board!) It just means people will be playing against a much broader range of ships on a more regular basis at official events.

Though I was (and remain) a staunch supporter of the Hyperspace Format and prefer it to Extended, this can only be good for the competitive scene going forward.

Journey to PAX Unplugged – The T-70s went in Two by Two!

Time until PAX Unplugged: 24 days

Regular playtesting sessions remaining: 3

Last week’s playtesting efforts have been…eventful. I took four T-70s to Top Deck on Thursday (well three T-70s and a T-65 standin) to test the four Black Aces out. The first two games I won fairly comprehensively; once against Republic Beef that had been thrown together at the last minute, and once against a tanky Rebel five-ship list. This made me feel quite good about my choice of list, especially since the legendary Dylan Jones had offered to send me the required pilot cards from Wales for free; I wanted to put that on the blog now in case further playtesting takes me away from T-70s, so THANK YOU DYLAN! (Sidenote, his blog is a pretty good read, people should check it out!)

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At I4, a T-70 can do almost anything. It can joust, it can flank, it can arc-dodge. It’s truly multifunction!

Of course, that’s when things took a turn for the worse. Against a Scum beef list I struggled to put damage through against ships with three agility, and successfully defending against a Fearless Talonbane Cobra at Range 1 is almost impossible. That defeat was swiftly followed by a matchup against one of the current meta staples – Jendon TAPs; again, I failed to push any significant damage through. Though infuriating, this game taught me a valuable lesson about the T-70; it can’t turn for crap when against something as nimble as a TIE or Delta-7.

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Trying to dodge these things is like trying to smell colours… Glitterstim is the only way!

So suddenly I’m 2-2 with the list that I’d had a lot of confidence with that morning. The early successes had been comprehensively stomped on, and I was about ready to call it quits on the Quad-70 idea already. Annoyingly, I’d just purchased my fourth and opened it, so I couldn’t refund it; so I was honour-bound to keep trying, and refine the list if possible.

Enter shenanigans:

  • Blue Squadron Rookie
  • Lieutenant Bastian
  • Jessika Pava
  • Temmin Wexley w/Composure

Comes in at 199pts, and has some fun interactions. The issue is, with Jess in the picture, I want to fly in the block which might not be strategically sound; I also don’t really like I1 and 2 pilots (despite my success with A-Wings) as they’re susceptible to being Initiative-killed. That said, as a jousting block, it’s pretty reliable; Snap should have a focus/lock 9 times out of 10; Jess gets re-rolls, and Bastian should always be able to focus then acquire a lock.

First game with this list, played on Friday, was against Hera w/Saw, Luke w/R2-D2 and Braylen – 100% pure jousting ridiculousness. It was a mess. Luke died early, but then I suffered horrifically at the hands of Hera who wouldn’t stop rolling maximum damage. Quite heavily on-tilt, especially at my evade rolls, this game ended quickly. Perhaps targeting Luke first was a mistake, I should probably have tried to get Hera out of the picture (though with Reinforce that’s easier said than done). The second game was against Poe and 3x RZ-2s, and this game swung in the opposite direction: my opponent couldn’t escape the kill-boxes made by the four T-70s, and lost all three RZ-2s without killing a T-70 before conceding; not believing Poe could fight his way through three healthy T-70s before the timer ended.

So 2-2 with four Black Aces, 1-1 with the Resistance 1234 list. Not exactly heartwarming statistics with such a limited timeframe before the event. On the other hand, I can learn from my mistakes; one consideration is to exchange Heroic with Crack Shot on the Black Aces, use their higher Initiative and (hopefully) line up the bullseye to put the hurt through on those three-agility ships (especially those Inquisitors); obviously this means no defensive re-rolls, so they lose something in terms of tankiness, which I’ll probably need against lists with multiple I5 or 6 ships…

I’m going to keep trying with the T-70s, but I can’t help but think that my dislike of crew carriers like the Resistance Transport has hamstrung my ability to do well with a list like this; Cova Nell with an Ion Cannon might be a good replacement for the fourth T-70, for example. That said, I’m not prepared to sacrifice my gaming enjoyment for performance just yet (though I may regret those words if I don’t enjoy the event!)

I still have backup lists available, both for the main event and the Hyperspace Qualifier on Day 2. All I know is that to progress to the Elimination Rounds, I need to go 5-1 on Day 1. I’ve never gone 5-1 in swiss before: my best was 4-0 with my Headhunter Swarm way back when, and 4-2 at Highlander. Still, it’s doable, I suppose! Still no sign of a Prize Support article from FFG, which isn’t helping, but I can be patient for another week or so; when I know what I’m fighting for, I’ll know whether to keep struggling through with a list I’m not 100% comfortable with or to abandon it for something I’ve had more practice with.

Until then, I’m going to trawl through YouTube for streamed games involving four T-70s to get an idea how to deploy them, how and when to engage with them, and so on. Admittedly most appear to be based around three Red Experts and Jess Pava, which helps for the 1234 list but less for the four Black Aces who don’t necessarily want to joust everything they come across…

In other news, apparently several Corran Horn lists made the Top Cut at the Spanish Grand Championships; maybe my Wedge/Luke/Corran list isn’t as non-competitive as I initially thought it might be! I’ll keep it packed and ready to go, just in case, but for now I’m going to be sticking with the Resistance and hoping I can a) settle on a list and b) learn its foibles and quirks before the 6th.

Wish me luck, folks!

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…

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…

Is Fun Wrong?

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

So yay! Right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. Yes they do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bob gets it!

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

Finding Your Niche and Flying What You Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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