If you’ve followed The Tabletop General for a while, or if you’ve taken a scroll through the archives, you’ll be familiar with the custom player vs player campaign for X-Wing Miniatures that I started back in late 2014. After a particularly rough session in January of 2015, I left off with the following note in my recap article: Our campaign will be taking a short break… stay tuned, I hope to start up again in about a month.
*Checks calendar* Uhhh… better late than never?
In my defense, Heroes of the Aturi Cluster interrupted any attempt to revitalize or restart that campaign. HotAC, for the three of you who are just finally making the switch over from Star Trek: Attack Wing, is a fan-made cooperative campaign where a group of Rebel pilots go from random cannon fodder #’s 1-6 to S-Tier juggernaut ace pilots who regularly face overwhelming numbers of AI controlled TIE fighters while racing against the clock to complete scenario missions. The enemies follow a basic script with a touch of randomization for their maneuvers and actions, and it really gives the players a sense of having sheer numbers thrown at them by the Imperial war machine. HotAC addressed a lot of problems I encountered in my first attempt at writing a campaign rule set, and side-stepped others by making it cooperative. If you’re interested in giving it a try, all of the materials are freely available at http://dockingbay416.com/campaign/.
A couple of groups of our veteran players chewed through HotAC campaigns as soon as we could (the structure of the campaign limits the number of players that can be involved at a time), and then a few other local groups formed and played through it too over the following year or so. It’s a fun experience that I highly recommend, but some of the mystery runs out about the time you complete the campaign: It’s pretty easy by then to guess the behavior of enemy ships because you have the charts memorized by then, you’ve exhausted the best combos of upgrades you can find for X-Wings (plus whatever of the turret ships your team decided they like), and the surprise factor is out of the pre-scripted missions; there wasn’t a lot of “I want to do that again” feeling in our groups.
Fast forward to 2017. The past season or so of competitive play has taken its’ toll on the player base, recent new releases like the Scurrg H-6 Bomber, TIE Aggressor, and Auzituck Gunship haven’t met with a great reception (no real nostalgia attached and either under- or over-powered), and we find ourselves in search of alternate formats to revitalize the game a bit, and I thought it was time to dust off that PvP campaign idea and create version 2.
Borrowed from the preface of my rules document in progress:
Welcome to version 2 of the Giga-Bites Café PvP X-Wing campaign.
In version 1, run almost 3 years ago now, the teams were a little imbalanced and I felt like there was nothing I could really do about it as the game coordinator. Additionally, I’ll be the first to admit that I made a few mistakes on ship customization options (we had Green K-Turns before Ryad made them a thing). Despite the blunders made, the experience left for some excellent stories (from the alt-art card created for “Grandma” to the Trench Run-esque heroics of “Trident”), and we definitely wanted to try again one day.
To improve on those issues mentioned above, version 2 leans heavily on the popular co-op campaign Heroes of the Aturi Cluster to standardize the options available to players while still giving you a feeling of being a better than average pilot, and the experience gain structure is mostly standardized in the same way too. Additionally, player factions have been expanded to include Scum & Villainy. While it is a work in progress, my vision of the campaign’s story features the Rebels and Imperials in their ongoing civil war. But to be inclusive to all (and to give myself a tool for balance) I have mechanics in place for Scum & Villainy to act as mercenaries, available to either side in order to even things out when one side has a huge advantage in players or and/or average power for a given game session.
As of right now, this document goes on for 36 pages, and will be longer by the end of the day today. It’s not all a wall of text, 17 of those are prototype character sheets customized for any of the ship types players could reasonably have access to within the first few weeks of the campaign, and a few pages are dedicated to the ship progression charts I’ve created too.
It’s still X-Wing at the core, but the customizations on top of it are getting deep, and I expect to have something as extensive as (if less visually polished than) the Aturi Cluster materials by the time I’m done. For example: Piggybacking off of the HotAC experience system, I spent every minute of my spare time (and some that I couldn’t really spare but did anyway) yesterday deciding what named pilot abilities would qualify for granting extra experience via player assists.
But I’ve never been one to let the ink dry before putting something new to use; we’ve had two sessions now, and the third is planned for tonight. I hope to begin writing again to share some of those session reports with you semi-regularly; even if you don’t end up trying the campaign format itself, I think the individual games will make for fun scenarios to mix things up for casual game nights.
Sidebar: Folks, when you find a special someone who supports your nerdy habits or enjoys them alongside of you, go ahead an do the whole marriage thing. I’m glad to be going through the process now, and will have a new ring on my hand in a little over two weeks. But do yourself, your wallet, and your schedule a favor: elope. Still, we’re close enough to the finish line that I can start writing again and not feel like I’m procrastinating on too many other important things.
To be continued (in less than 2 & 1/2 years [probably])…
Have you ever come across something so hideous, so foul, and so utterly incoherent that was so awful that you couldn’t look away from it? Like a massive car wreck, the terrible thing grabs hold of you and won’t let go till it’s finished. This is the exact experience you’ll find on the Dixieland X-wing Podcast (don’t waste your time if you haven’t heard of it). The podcast is hosted by Tyler (Redacted at his specific request), who also tries to go by his super cool, self appointed, ‘Mandalorian’ name Zerxus Dral. Tyler touts the podcast as a group of trolls, clearly doing a poor impression of the Carolina Krayts podcast, because we all know X-Wing needs one more podcast. The Krayts’ shenanigans are cheeky and fun, while Tyler’s are cruel and tragic. In the first episode at the 6:00 minute mark, Tyler boasts,
“I’ve been trolling Alabama X-Wing Contingent for three months now and nobody’s yet to call me on it”
Well Murder Squad is here now. You are being called on it, Tyler. Alabama may put up with your trolling, much like a parent ignores a screaming child, but we’re bringing out the paddles. Dixieland X-wing’s first episode piqued our curiosity, but after the second episode, they have our attention. One could ignore the poor list building advice, the terrible jokes, the poor audio quality, or the general tone deaf nature of the whole show. The rambling, unedited, mess could be overlooked if anyone could follow the sage advice of our parents,”if you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all.”
Yet the lies about Tyler’s exploits, the incorrect facts, and the misleading information could not be ignored. Nor could the unsolicited bounties and challenges, nor the fact that our names are used in the process. So let’s all put our waders and plough headlong into the muck being spewed out, starting with the most blatant falsehood, from around 58:00 of episode 2:
“Last year at The Deep Store Championship, I had won an event the weekend before in Georgia, with a list, with my list but I had changed out some crew to try and tech against something. Because at that point I had played Sam Talley every… single… tourn-[gagging noise]- it was like, we were like six or seven Store Championship weekends in and I had played against Sam every Saturday to start the day. And one of us would win, and one of us would lose, and we would go on… the winner would go on to be in first or second place at the end of the day and the loser would go on to be, like, tenth or eleventh place. And it was fine, but I was attempting to tech against crack, uhh, crack swarm. So I had something in there to tech against crack swarm. And it didn’t work. In fact it did the opposite of work. That was my worst store championship finish of the season…”
Well, there’s one thing right: it didn’t work. The rest is so laughably false that we’ve dedicated an entire day to setting the record straight. We aren’t sure why Tyler thought it was a good idea to hitch his wagon to Sam’s, but since we’re here now, strap in. He failed miserably in an attempt to change his list to account for one of last season’s most dominant lists and players. He also failed miserably in attempting getting away with lying through his teeth to attach himself to Sam’s coattails, because there’s public proof that he’s just making all of this up. While it wasn’t outright stated that this magical list was on List Juggler and copied from there by the fellow that Tyler made fun of for coming in last at The Deep’s store championship, it was insinuated by the surrounding conversation. Yet oddly enough, searching List Juggler for squadrons appearing at events in Georgia or Alabama shows 40 all time results for Decimators, 23 for Phantoms, and zero of those have the name “Tyler” or “Zerxus” attached to them. So how did this guy copy that list? Our best guess is that Tyler wouldn’t stop running his mouth about how great it supposedly was, and how he would add yet another tournament win to his stellar record with it.
The funny thing about all that public data on Juggler, is that it DOES show other people’s names, what events they attended, and who they played against. Tyler claimed in the quote above that he had played against Sam every Saturday to start the day for week after week. Lets check the data on that. The event he won in Georgia the week before the Deep (February 13th, 2016)? There’s no records in North Georgia X-Wing Miniatures on Facebook of there being a warm up event hosted midweek, so our options of events he could have been referencing there are exactly one: Giga-Bites Cafe Store Championship (February 6th, 2016). Not only did he not win that tournament (James Matchett did), there’s no “Tyler” or “Zerxus” on that list of 49 players at all. Sam Talley is listed with a 5-1 record, and neither of his names are on that list of opponents either. http://lists.starwarsclubhouse.com/get_tourney_details?tourney_id=1122
Okay, so there’s one example, surely we can overlook that as a lapse in poor Tyler’s memory. Let’s figure out where they did play. Surely Sam and Tyler would have faced off at Meeple Madness (January 30th, 2016)? Well, Juggler says otherwise. Sam had a 7-0 record that day, and again Tyler wasn’t one of the opponents, or even one of the 24 in attendance. http://lists.starwarsclubhouse.com/get_tourney_details?tourney_id=1067
Let’s go to the data again then, what other tournament reports do we have that he might have shown up in over that period of “six or seven Store Championship weekends”? Perhaps Wasteland (January 9th, 2016), where we see Sam Talley with a 7-1 record? Nope, 43 players, 0 of them named “Tyler” or “Zerxus”, which makes for at least 42 witnesses that can say he wasn’t there. http://lists.starwarsclubhouse.com/get_tourney_details?tourney_id=992
Or maybe Tyler is just mis-remembering things, and this marathon of decisive games against Sam started AFTER losing to him at The Deep. Conveniently, there’s Juggler data available for the next event in the area, February 27th at Titan Comics. Sam Talley, looks like he dropped after a 4-0 run through Swiss, feeling bad for his peers who hadn’t had a chance to win anything in awhile. Among those peers? Not Tyler. So maybe that’s not the case after all. http://lists.starwarsclubhouse.com/get_tourney_details?tourney_id=1233
It’s so odd, for someone that claimed he plays against Sam all the time at tournaments, there’s only one instance where we know of that ever happening, and it never made an official record.
Still, surely, as paranoid as Tyler is about his identity, his name was scrubbed from these events somehow. That’s perfectly plausible. He was probably there at all of them, and at the other events on those three or four weekends with no public results posted. So on the next episode of Dixieland X-Wing, if we’re wrong about this, please feel free to remind us all what those other events were that Tyler played Sam at. We’re completely open to any facts anyone can provide.
It’s a shame that we can’t even prove how poorly Tyler actually did at The Deep that day, with a list “teched” to account for the eventual champion’s list, because the results aren’t published. Still, because the final score wouldn’t show how it happened, the record wouldn’t show how that Phantom 4k’ed itself in front of the entire TIE swarm; decloaked, actionless, and with no shot . Maybe Tyler was trying to fly outside the box, this being a wave 5 list in a wave 7 meta that hilariously outclassed it, or maybe he just isn’t very good at the game. Normally, we’d let his record that day speak for itself, but there’s no record there. There’s witnesses that can say how bad he failed when Sam and the rest of Murder Squad came to put Tyler in his place and take his home store’s trophy last year as an added bonus, but nothing on List Juggler. Why isn’t there a record there? Well, that’s answered for us later on in the same recording. Quoted from the 1:00 mark of Dixieland’s second episode:
“The Deep in Huntsville intentionally does not upload on List Juggler. Never has, probably never will..because it’s a crutch. What you’re doing is creating a crutch for people who want to see what was run at the event”.
A crutch indeed. Imagine how badly we’d all get beaten, if people knew what we flew, giving them a chance to “tech” to counter it? Or maybe the reason that store never posts results to List Juggler is so that Tyler and his buddies can spout ‘alternative facts’ at a later date without recourse. Anyone who has ever met this man once is due an apology from the universe. But anyone who has ever met this man twice will understand why, because he’ll lie to your face about what happened in your last meeting, and expect you to believe it.
The entire statement we started things off with here is incredibly incorrect. Tyler never won an X-Wing tournament in Georgia that weekend he referenced. He never beat Sam anywhere, much less on multiple occasions. Sam never finished outside a top cut that season, much less as low as 10th’ or 11th place.
But let’s not get bogged down on a two minute segment of a rambling two hour podcast. Surely there were some highlights to this farce of auditory entertainment. Perhaps Tyler’s fascinating take on the FFG panel at Star Wars Celebration Orlando this past April. At about the 1:40:00 mark of episode 2, Tyler states the following:
“I know that at Celebration there had been some discussion with Frank and several of the people from Organized Play because Will and I were in the panel room when the questions were asked repeatedly. That Fantasy Flight was going to attempt to stop doing what their tradition had been for three years. Which is, ‘ok it’s tournament time, it’s time to drop another FAQ.”
Alright, so let’s skip the fact that Frank Brooks wasn’t at Celebration (Max Brooke was the lone X-wing developer in attendance and at the panel in question) and explore what FFG actually said during that day. According to the Chance Cube’s coverage of the event the panel was largely around the ”focus that Fantasy Flight has with this brand on storytelling and theming”, and “They are looking at Star Wars as a whole across all of their games and how they capture the feel of this story telling universe that we all love.”
The second part of the panel focused on Destiny and had a surprise visit by Tiya Sircar, the voice actress for Sabine Wren. The next expansion for the card game was announced and some raffles were given away. A brief open Question & Answer session did take place, but the topic of competitive X-wing was not mentioned in Chance Cube’s report. Let’s not just take their word for it though; Chance Cube is a Destiny focused outlet, perhaps they missed something in their coverage. Surely someone else with an X-Wing focus was in attendance. That someone: Team Covenant, FFG’s golden child. Lucky for us, they were kind enough to live tweet the event, including the Q&A portion. Here’s the lone X-wing question brought up:
Q: will prequel ships be in X-Wing? *applause
A: it would be lovely! Would you like to see it?? *applause* We will talk to people.@FFGames
Noticeably absent from anyone else’s public and published accounts of Fantasy Flight’s panel at Celebration are any facts that supports Tyler’s statements at all. Frank wasn’t there, the panel did not field alleged ‘repeated’ Q&A on X-wing FAQ questions, nor did they announce any such news on their own accord. So did Tyler just lie about what went on in that panel or was he even there? Well it can be proven Sam Talley was in attendance. He updated a Facebook post in the North Georgia X-wing Minis group, similar to Team Covenant’s live tweeting.
Yet again, we are left with another instance where it is easily proven that Sam was at an event, Tyler may or may not have been, their accounts of what happened conflict, and Sam’s is the one that matches other publicly available data. Weird how that seems to be a pattern, huh?
Let’s shift gears and go back to the contents of Dixieland X-Wing podcast. Again and again, Tyler makes such a big deal of “his” triple jumps, like he’s the only person in the world that has enough of a vision to combine three JumpMaster 5000’s and make a list out of them. There was a slight detour where Deadeye Scurrgs were the second coming of those beloved ships (How’d that work out, by the way? We found somebody named “Lok Revenant” on List Juggler that got his teeth kicked in pretty badly), but other than that, it seems like JumpMasters are his favorite thing in the world other than the sound of his own voice. Joe Random with no real game experience might be scared of it, but those of us who know how the game works can see where the flaws and weaknesses are in a given list. Nick White jumped out and provided an example of that. Dixieland X-Wing cohost (and coincidentally, the single voice of any real insight among those ramblings) Corby decided that was a challenge, and that his dismissal and lack of follow-up meant that he was afraid of Tyler’s list.
And just like that, Tyler had another way to leech onto a more recognizable and respected name in the community, and decided Nick was the next bounty target for the podcast’s massive horde of followers to go hunting.
Yeah, gonna be a lot of people chasing that bounty…
For anyone interested in it, here’s an official response from Nick regarding the bounty:
“I made a big claim about Poe vs the hypothetical new trip scout list, and you guys decided to shine the spotlight on me. Sure, it was untested hyperbole. I got no problem admitting I was probably grandstanding there. While Poe wins out by the numbers, there’s a an element of ‘that ship doesn’t get to do anything’ present. Anyone with enough patience could beat a single ship as a result. The point is, Intensity Poe (with the Black One title) is growing more common in the meta and is a hard counter to munitions. He sheds two locks per turn, and the attached repositioning probably takes away the torpedo shot of the one that still has a lock. Sure, you might be able to kill 41 points of Poe in a vacuum, but it has nothing to do with your skill or the viability of that list. In a real competitive setting you’ll still have to worry about 59 points of everything else too.”
The sad thing is, we’re giving too much credit to this amateur hour podcast. Far too much of our time has been spent even acknowledging its’ existence as is, because as we’ve said from day one, it’s garbage. And frankly, while we know there’s more bald-faced and disprovable lies sandwiched between audio glitches and inside trolling jokes that we could tear apart, we’re tired of listening to it to pick out Tyler’s lies from between the constant questions of “did we lose [X]?” and Williams rant of the moment.
So we’re gonna wrap things up instead. If we followed the structure of that podcast, this would be the point where we were picking somebody much more respected in the community right now to place a bounty on, someone to leech onto and attach our reputation to. We could mirror it and throw down a challenge of our own for Tyler and his crew, but given the option between letting him lie and say he won said challenge, or having to actually meet him somewhere to beat him, we’ll take “none of the above”, because we’d rather never see his smug, slimy, shiteating grin again.
So go on, Tyler, spout your nonsense, make up whatever fairy tales and fantasies you want to tell about what you do at home. But don’t try to pretend that you’re a constant presence in Atlanta events, that you’re buddies with anyone in Murder Squad, that you play against us all the time, or that you’re anywhere near the same level of pilot as any of us. Crawl back into whatever hole you came out of, and get our names out of your mouth.
Recently, I asked players in my local X-Wing community for a list of things they wished they knew more about or were better at within the game. I did so with the idea in mind that I would pick one to expand on in length as an article here, as I hadn’t felt inspired to write in a while and knew I was far overdue for new content. But I kept finding myself giving an immediate response to things and the experience turned into a “Dear Abby” column, or as I call it, “Dear General”. An outside observer from another area asked permission to share the whole thing with his local group, and that made me realize that there might have been some half decent information in there. As such, I’m here to share it with all of you.
Wish I was a better judge of when the dice were utterly going to fail me, and when FFG was going to take a nerf bat to half the meta…
Dice will utterly fail you whenever possible. It’s your job to find a way to win anyway. You can negate the impact of failing dice in three ways: throw as many of them as possible, stack modifications, and find ways to make dice matter less such as flying low agility ships that have more health or abilities that do automatic damage.
As to when will FFG take a nerf bat to half the meta, the time required to nerf the meta is directly correlated to the number of cards that define said meta to the point where other cards are near unusable.
Process of events and such. Like what comes first when resolving really complicated combat with lots modifications and such.
What comes first when resolving combat with lots of modifications?
Combat modifications have a relatively simple timing structure that is obscured by the swap of names from attacker to defender between the steps. When you take those names out of it, you get the following:
Player A rolls dice. Player B modifies those dice. Then Player A modifies those dice.
C-3PO (CR-90) is the only currently released card (that I can think of) which specifically breaks this pattern. But Sunny Bounder, the new and forthcoming M3-A pilot , will also fit in to this window, so I guess we have to make things a touch more complicated.
Player A rolls dice, triggers abilities that depend on the rolled result.
Player B modifies dice, triggers abilities that depend on rerolled results.
Player A modifies dice, triggers abilities that depend on rerolled results.
But it all boils down to “the other guy gets to modify dice first”.
When I know there’s going to be a pile up, I wish I was better at positioning my ships to take advantage of it.
Positioning ships to take better advantage of a pile-up:
Attacks / damaging abilities that ignore arc are helpful here, especially on low PS ships. You can use them to initiate said pile-up, denying as many enemy actions as possible, and not worry as much about a loss of damage output because you can target anyone in the scrum.
This is a place where having matching pilot skills in your squadron is really helpful too. One of the most masterful moves I’ve ever seen to demonstrate this was when a local ace was flying his Crackshot TIE swarm last year. I think he was fighting a list including Contracted Scouts, it was something with a big base that moved before him. If all his TIEs moved front to back, left to right, then half of his squad runs in to the scout, losing their shots. The other half would have run in to the back of those, and had range 1 on the enemy, but lost their actions. But by swapping up the order that he activated his ships in (because 5/6 of the TIEs were the same pilot skill), he moved one of the back ships first, and gave it a Barrel Roll into a position where all of his subsequent ships either hit that ship, or one of the ships that had already bumped, preventing any collisions with the enemy. The end result was still no Focus tokens, but 6 range 1 shots on the enemy ship before it could fire instead of 3.
Judging that minute distance between R3 and just out of range.
Judging the difference between in and out of firing range:
Unless you’re 200% sure you’re out of range, assume you’re in range.
Yes, judging this comes with practice. Some people have an eye for it, most can develop it with time. But there’s tricks to be used here. Obstacles can be no closer than range 1 to each other, or range 2 from the board edge. Place one or two of them at the tightest limits of those rules, and you’ll get a visual indicator to help you judge.
This is also a good time to point out that everyone should learn the “rule of 11” if they don’t already know it. It’s on a lot of old blogs and forums from the early days of the game that newer players might not have found yet. The rule of 11 goes essentially as follows: Assume that you and your opponent are lined up directly across from each other, on the edge of your deployment zones. Both ships take straight maneuvers, no barrel rolls or curved boosts. Straight boosts count as a 1 speed maneuver. Add up the speed of all the maneuvers done, plus 1 per move with a small base ship, 2 per move with a large base ship. If that number adds up to at least 11, you’re in firing range. If it doesn’t, you shouldn’t be in range yet.
Figure out the opening for my lists. I’m usually ok once it gets going, but I’ve never had a good plan of where to start and the first couple of moves in a game in order to take advantage of my strengths and my opponent’s weaknesses.
Determining an opening for your lists:
Folks get cutesy about this and it burns them constantly. I loved seeing Palpatine (Imperial Raider) / TIE Defenders pull the infinite shuttle block opening where they would alternate hard stops and blocked moves with the shuttle while their Defenders k-turned back and forth, because I knew it would eventually break down. Sooner or later the angle would eventually drift off, and that Defender would fail to complete the K-Turn because it hit the shuttle. I’d just be circling around and waiting for that opportunity to dash in while the enemy couldn’t bring all of his firepower to bear the next turn.
I can think of four considerations on how to create and adjust an opening, some of which are more in your control than others.
1) Does your list depend on a certain formation? If you need Biggs Darklighter (Starter set) behind Kanan Jarrus (Ghost) and his Tactical Jammer (Decimator, Shadow Caster), or if you’re setting up a “castle”, you’re a bad person. But these and other less deplorable formations can often require more room than you have in your setup area, especially if you don’t want to telegraph which direction you’ll be moving before the game begins. If this is the case, take some time by yourself to put your ships where you want them to end up, and work backwards from there to determine what moves you can do to place your ships in that exact position. Optimally, this can be done in a single turn. If you can’t quite make that happen, maybe you need to consider a simpler formation.
2) How flexible do you want to be? In the previous point, I mentioned not wanting to telegraph the next few moves during setup. This is also a consideration for the opening rounds. If you go zooming toward the obstacle field, and leave your formation right at the entrance of it, with asteroids on either side of you along your firing arc, it’s a pretty safe assumption that you plan on doing straight moves the following round. Similarly, if in the process of assembling your formation on turn one, all your ships end up facing right, you’re probably not covering your left flank with firing arcs on the next turn. There’s something to be said for a simple opening / formation that leaves you options for the next turn. Rebel jousters are known for using a non-committal series of 1-forward opening moves that lets them wait for a turn or two to see where the enemy goes before really committing to anything. And the pinwheel formation is a classic way to keep everything tight and together, but leaving lots of options open for which way to move the squad next round.
3) Where do you want the fight to take place? You’ll have a general idea coming in to the game if you want to be away from obstacles (more room to maneuver with large bases, escape routes with arc dodgers) or among the obstacles (protecting a blind spot, trying to Ion / Tractor the enemy on to something). You’ll also likely have a preferred range band to begin combat, which will dictate if you should be gunning your engines toward the enemy, sliding to the side to keep things as distant as possible for the opening salvo and/or storing up tokens on Gonk / Rey / (etc), or a mixture of the two to allow a flanker like Carnor Jax to take position. Once you see your opponent’s list and where obstacles are placed on the table, this will adjust a little bit, but you’ll have a general idea going in, and you should adjust your obstacle placement accordingly. But
4) What does your opponent want to do? Yes, Howlrunner (TIE Fighter) can vastly boost the offense of a swarm. Biggs protects nearby allies. Manaroo (Punishing One) has to stay close to do her thing now that she’s been hit with the nerfbat. But if the opponent is packing Ion Torpedoes (Decimator, Gozanti, Starviper), Assault Missiles (Slave 1, TIE Bomber, Falcon, Z-95) and Proton Bombs (TIE Bomber, Decimator), perhaps having everyone clustered up all tightly together isn’t such a good plan anymore. So don’t blindly do your default opening. Look at the opponent’s list and identify threats that will be a huge problem. Figure out where THEY want the fight to occur, and whether or not you’re playing into their hands if you stick to the script. If you think this is an issue, then it’s time to improvise a new plan for your opening moves.
Judging bomb drops, both mine and my opponent’s.
This can be a very tricky thing, especially if you aren’t playing against them often. Even though Sabine (Ghost) shoves bombs in weird places, very few ships have the option to slingshot mines into offensive positions and in a reactive manner. So with most ships, you’re only worried about the on-reveal bomb drops. So there’s a little “no-fly-zone” trailing behind those guys. Dance around that, or get aggressive and take it on the chin if you have to, just don’t give the enemy a chance to hit multiple ships with it if you can avoid it.
The part that folks are worried about lately is the mines. Really, you shouldn’t be. My mines are friendly. Hug them, they’ll keep you warm.
With those, you can protect yourself to a limited extent by keeping a loose formation that gives less opportunities to SLAM across a ship. without hitting another one and thus losing their action. Often times, though, when facing K-Wing bombers your best option is to plan for the worst case scenario: They’re going to find a way to hit you with those bombs. You’ve just got to find a way to take them down anyway.
Also, judging when to be aggressive and when to break off.
Judging when to be aggressive and when to break off:
Difficult question, and it depends on many different factors.
What’s the score, and how many shots would it take to make a major change in that?
How much time is left in the game?
Is there an immediate benefit to not being aggressive (such as avoiding a likely block or bomb drop, or improving your action economy by grabbing a target lock as you disengage)?
Is there an immediate benefit to your opponent by you letting off the gas (likely unopposed shots for one or more turns, opportunities to regenerate shields / tokens)?
The game is all about shooting down the enemy’s ships before they can shoot you down, and some degree of aggression is generally required to accomplish that. But one of the biggest boosts to the quality of my competitive play has been learning to be patient when it benefits me to do so.
There’s no easy way to define what that patience needs to look like for a given player, list, or matchup. It’s a balance of risk and reward, immediate payoff vs long term potential, methodical advancement vs unpredictability. And truthfully, it’s one of the things that defines us as individual players of the game.
How to force where the initial engagement will take place.
It’s rare, but sometimes you can’t. Before the advent of final salvo, we’ve seen 0-0 tie games. I’ve played the maneuver game before and completely circled the board completely while looking for an opening to break in to an opponent’s formation. There’s going to be times where you want the fight to be between the board edge and a dense corner of obstacles (or on the opposite side of the board where things are as clear as possible), and the opponent won’t come near you. And there’s going to be times where something nimble like a TIE Interceptor is going to skirt the edge of the board until they catch you, and refuse to come in to the kill zone you’re imagining at the table’s center.
But assuming your opponent is going to be willing to joust with you, forcing the engagement where you want it can be relatively simple: Until your opponent commits to flying into that location, keep it between your ships and theirs. Circle your target area, and make them cut the corner to get into firing range. Once you see them commit, you can turn in to face them.
If both players are doing this and have picked different locations, then I dunno, thumb wrestle and the winner gets 100-0, or something. I just go blow things up wherever they are.
I wish I was better at knowing how all the different upgrades *should* play into my planning. I cannot keep up with all the busyness of those scum lists. I’ve been Dengared-Manarooed-Gunnered-Chipsed to death many times.
When you’re first starting the game, upgrade cards and pilot abilities can create a tangled web of triggers and bonuses that can be mind boggling. There’s simple things out there, like 8 Academy TIE Fighters, or 4 B-Wings and a Z-95. But some lists are built to meld together a fistful of cards into one giant combo. This isn’t exclusive to Scum & Villainy, but it is one of their hallmarks. As new players are just learning the game, one of the simplest things I can suggest is to leave that faction out of the equation entirely until you’re at least moderately familiar with the game.
Because when you run in to the really intense Scum stuff, you’re going to take an automatic tractor beam because you got close to this ship that has a particular pilot. Now you’re on an asteroid, and can’t shoot. You’re going to get shot by that same ship, and this other ship is going to spend the target lock they got for free by doing a green move to lower your agility further for this attack. You’re almost certainly going to get hit by the first attack, and because that ship had a title equipped, you’re going to get another tractor beam token to reduce your agility before the other ship attacks you. Now this is the first time that the second ship has attacked this turn, so this crew says the first damage card you take is face up, which means that the enemy is going to discard this other crew to remove the one upgrade that could keep you alive when we do it all again next turn.
For those reading this and who aren’t familiar, the above example is a real thing. Latts Razzi (pilot, Hound’s Tooth), K4 Security Droid (crew, Most Wanted, Hound’s Tooth), Boba Fett (crew, Punishing One), Greedo (crew, Most Wanted). Ketsu Onyo (pilot, Shadow Caster), Shadowcaster (title, Shadow Caster). That’s 79 points, which gives them room to spruce those two up a bit more or slip in another little ship with them. Folks that have seen all these components before can connect the dots and figure out what’s going on here. But if you consider yourself a rookie pilot at best, and you’re new to these kinds of shenanigans, how do you keep track of it all?
Priority #1 is looking over the opponent’s list before the game and identifying what you don’t understand or haven’t seen before. If it’s a friendly game, ask your opponent what’s going on, and why they’re using that card. Many players will explain the whole thing to you, gamers are proud of their creative combos.
But even then, it might not all stick. After all, you’ve got your own maneuvers to plan, and actions to pick. And you can’t concentrate on your list and theirs at the same time. Nobody can, not really. You might be able to give 75% attention to your own stuff, and 75% to theirs, but you’ll miss something on both sides. This maneuver took you further forward than you thought it would, and you didn’t realize the enemy ships moved so fast, and now you’re in that danger area and the whole death combo kicks off. You just can’t keep track both sides at once.
So you need to learn your own stuff inside and out. “But wait,” you say, “I’m concerned about their janky combos, not my own cards”. And in response, I tell you that you’re right, but we’re laying a foundation here.
You will need to practice your own ships and upgrades until you barely have to think about them anymore. Get yourself so familiar with your list that you could write it all down, hand that paper to your opponent, and play without cards. You should be able to pick your moves before you even look at your dials. Get intimately familiar with what your list can do, and don’t change that list for a while.
Once you know your own cards and ships so intimately that you have to pay them little to no attention, your entire focus can be on your opponent, their ships, and their cards. Don’t pay 75% attention to your stuff, and 75% to theirs. Pay 100% attention to them. At that point, you’ll start having an easier and easier time understanding what traps are being laid for you, how to avoid them, what your priority targets should be, and how to hit them where it hurts.
So, there you have it, folks, Volume One of Dear General. I hope you found something useful in it.
Want to see something discussed in greater depth, or have a similar topic you’d like advice on that wasn’t listed here? Write me in the comments below, or reach out to me on Facebook.
Get comfortable, readers, because I need to tell you a story of a particular game of Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures. A handful of you have already heard it, whether you knew I was in it or not. But it’s a story that has already been told, albeit from a very different point of view. It’s going to take a bit to get there though.
First, let’s set the stage.
November, 2016 – FFG World Championships – Fantasy Flight Game Center, Roseville, Minnesota.
Previously, I’ve not been able to justify trips beyond Regional championships for any FFG games. I couldn’t see paying for travel, hotel, event entry, and the extra overhead of a convention entry to wherever the National championships were held when Worlds was here in the United States. Thanks to not needing that convention badge for entry, it’s cheaper to attend the more prestigious event, seemed like a no brainer to me to skip straight to Worlds. But the timing just hadn’t worked out for me over the past couple of years.
Instead, I had lived vicariously through friends who were attending Worlds, and they had come away with a vast expansion in their knowledge of the games and how they play at a high level. They also came away as a general feeling that our local meta wasn’t up to par when compared to the larger scene, as I noted in the closing remarks of this guest article from last year. That fit with a reputation we had picked up somehow, as traveling players tended to talk a bit trash about the Atlanta X-Wing scene. The oft quoted “They don’t know how to fly Phantoms down there” was half the reason I picked up Cloaks and Dagger, just to prove everybody wrong.
As a group, the Atlanta HWKs wanted to change that reputation. More and more Atlanta players showed up to regional events, traveling much farther away than before. We scoured blogs, podcasts, and forums for reports coming in from more distant ones still. We ran our own ELO rankings for a while. We instituted a local championship series outside of the FFG official events. Eye of the Tiger would be an appropriate theme song for a montage about that year, perhaps in some sort of odd mash-up with Duel of the Fates as Worlds approached.
And this year, I got to make the trip to FFG HQ for Worlds, just as I vowed to do in Sam’s article last year. A few weeks ago, I stated in my subsequent Regional write-up that I had neglected to write an article about my trip. There’s several reasons for that. Being my first time at an event of that size and scope, I wanted to be in the moment instead of taking notes and pictures. My memory only goes so far for the details and having played for three days straight between X-Wing and Imperial Assault, I didn’t know that I could make significant and accurate observations about all of my games by the end of that. And even when I wasn’t playing, I was observing and soaking in other high level games. But now, in order to tell the story I have in mind to share, I have to tell you about how I got there.
Thursday, November 3rd, 2016 :
A whirlwind of a day, thrown completely off kilter by a lifelong friend being in town randomly. Most of my plans for the day are abandoned to see him instead, during which we talk over a couple of beers… reminiscing about the good old days where we’d drive over an hour each way to hold court at the nearest game store, and discussing how much I’ve been looking forward to this weekend, how badly I’ve wanted to prove myself against the very best in the world.
By 6:30PM Eastern, I’m on my way to the Atlanta airport. I reach Minnesota around midnight (Central), and get to the hotel just after 1AM.
Day 1A of X-Wing begins at 10AM. 6 rounds of Swiss play, all players with 4 or more wins are combined with the same from Day 1B and advance to Sunday. My goal is to make the cut to Sunday in X-Wing or Imperial Assault, and I think my odds are better here. As we’re waiting for pairings, the weight of the moment starts setting in on me, I’ve been trying to get into this room for two years, and now it’s time to prove I belong there. I’m flying Dash / Miranda (discussed in more detail in my Regionals writeup), and in doing so I’m running the gauntlet. Every game is intense, highly competitive, and coming down to the wire.
I started my day with back to back games against an archetype that we’d discussed locally, but erroneously dismissed: Twin Shadows (two Lancer Pursuit Craft). We couldn’t have been more wrong about how hard this setup can hit.
I squeaked out a win against the first guy I faced, but in the hands of a National Champion that probably heard a bit about how the previous game had gone from his friend, the second variant of the list takes my lunch money. 1-1, poor MoV, and I’m suspicious that someone bribed the fellow making those pairings (not really, but that was some strange luck in an event this big).
After that, I got a couple more familiar lists. Palpatine in a Lambda Shuttle & TIE Defenders (win), 4 B-Wings (win). MoV is still very bad though, because the games are played really tight, and really deliberately – all four games have gone to time thus far. I expected it, I knew that things would slow down on the big stage, but it still shocked me just how much it did. I still can’t believe I couldn’t finish the B-Wings in time. I’m used to my games being over within 45 minutes, an hour top. Things just don’t go to time in our local events, excepting against certain opponents, which I’m now very thankful for facing in preparation for this pace.
Next up was Dengar/ Bossk. I fought this one hard, but my bomb drops failed me – I blocked Dengar into what I hoped would be a lethal Seismic Charge hit, but he was just a hair too far away. And I just completely overlooked an opportunity to finish him off with Cluster Mines. Still kicking myself three months later for this loss.
At 3-2 now, I’m flying for my tournament life. I’m fairly certain even if I win the next 3 games 200-0, I’m not making the cut to the top 16. Regardless, I need to win my next game to play on Sunday, which I was bound and determined to do. And so I did. It was a seriously close game against something that fits the archetype of “scum garbage” – something that you think shouldn’t work but does anyway, yet I was so into the game and so stressed out that I couldn’t tell you for sure what was in the guy’s list. All I know is that I found a way to win the game. I couldn’t take time to write it all down afterwards, and I don’t have any good photos, might have been Asajj / Bossk, or something like that. I was too excited to take note of it, because I was going to be playing on Sunday.
My initial goal was achieved. I had proven to myself that I could hang at this stage. But now, even burdened with the poor Margin of Victory, how far could I go?
I met up with the other players from our area, some of which had just arrived, some fresh out of the Imperial Assault warm-up event, and others who had fought the good fight in X-Wing but missed the cut to Sunday with 3-3 records. Dinner, a quick drink for some of us, and back to the hotel by 11:30 or so – there was work to be done in the morning.
Imperial Assault kicks off at 10AM, and it’s obvious from the start that I’m outside my weight class here. As a secondary game for me, that’s okay. It’s far harder for me to keep track of IA than X-Wing from the standpoint of documenting my experiences; there are much fewer opportunities to take photos, so I didn’t even pretend that I was going to write about this.
But let’s give it a shot anyway: In rounds 1-6, Stormtroopersshoot stuff. Stuff shoots Stormtroopers. Objectives happen, or sometimes they don’t. Stuff and Stormtroopers die at variable rates. Someone wins.
Man, that was a thrilling battle report, huh?
Anyway, for the second day in a row, I took a loss from a National Champion, and thoroughly enjoyed the game despite it being a stressful loss (I thought I was good with the Bantha Rider, then I saw what he did to me with it…). Nationals are a bigger deal outside the US, and it feels good to play against the best – that’s the whole reason I wanted to be there. I hope I run in to both of those guys next time, and perhaps with time to grab a drink, as they’d probably have gotten along really well. (“A Welshman, a Spaniard, and a southern gentleman walk into a bar…”)
But the big takeaway is that I surprised myself, hanging in to close games and finding a way to win at the last minute as often as not. I finished up with what I consider a respectable 3-3 record on the day, with a new appreciation for how this game is played at a high level, and a few new tricks up my sleeve that I’ve gladly brought back to our local player base. I generally got the feeling that this was how my friends felt in previous years with X-Wing – getting a first look beyond the Regional level and a new understanding of what it takes to be on top.
Throughout the day, I would check my phone for status updates from my friends. We had a couple local IA players make the cut at the end of the day, including the eventual runner-up for the whole event. But it was a tough field for X-Wing, and I found myself realizing that I was going to be our group’s sole representative on day two. Now I had a new goal set out for myself: Regardless of whether or not I made the top 16 cut, I was determined to place as high as possible in the final standings.
We gathered up the troops for dinner and a few drinks (more for those whose days were ended), and a retrospective for all. In the process, we discovered that even for those who missed the cuts, none of us from Atlanta had losing records for any game. It was a big pride moment for us, and those of us who were still in the tournaments were encouraged by our peers to represent us all well. We return to the hotel around 11PM, resting up for the last leg of the event.
X-Wing kicks off again at 9:30AM, and I’m pumped. With the results of Day 1B added in, I’m somewhere around 55th coming in to Day 2. Players could make the cut to the top 16 at 6-2, my best record possible at this point (two out of the sixteen were 6-2), but the Margin of Victory tiebreaker was going to bury me regardless of my record. That wasn’t the point though. I didn’t care that my MoV has me out of reach of the next cut, I was still going to represent my city well, and I had two games to climb as far up those rankings as possible.
Pairings go up for round seven, and I’ve got a doozy in front of me. Palp / Aces, Soontir Fel and Rexler Brath to be precise. I don’t know the guy, but everyone else seemed to, and for good reason. We flew like madmen in that game. I caught him napping early on with Soontir, and managed to hit him with a Cluster Bomb drop that he didn’t see coming, but he rolled well (with some assistance from Palpatine) and limped away, never to be touched again. Even without scoring that kill, it was a net win, because Soontir was flying much more carefully to ensure his survival, which probably kept me alive over the course of the game. I got half damage on his Lambda Shuttle, putting myself into the lead. Then he gets half on Dash, swinging things the other way. We continue our merry chases, Miranda after the shuttle, the Imperial Aces after Dash.
Time is called with no other score changes, but there’s still a chance. We’re in mid activation with Miranda breathing down Palpatine’s neck, a good shot finishes the shuttle off. Rexler was almost certainly about to line up a kill shot on Dash too, but my opponent ends up revealing a move that turns him away from my ship. He says his dial spun on him as he flipped it, but at this level, what you revealed is what you revealed, and I have no way to know that you weren’t guessing I was going to try something desperate to escape (which we had both managed to do a LOT in this match). So I have to hold him to it, Rexler finds himself without a shot, Soontir can’t finish Dash, and Miranda cleans up the shuttle for a 3 point win. I feel bad about it, and told him as much, but I just couldn’t let him change the dial at that point.
And then, some 2,000 or so words of text later, the stage is set. We’re on to round eight; the whole reason for this post. His story on how this game went got shared with me recently, and I feel like I need to share my side of it.
Maybe it’s the fact that it was my last game of the event, maybe it’s because of how it went, but I remember this game with more clarity than anything else that happened that weekend. I recognize my opponent to some extent, and the guy playing right next to him as well, but can’t place them right off hand. If I didn’t know already, with only getting an MoV of 103 out of the previous win, it’s beyond certain that I have no chance to make the cut after this round, and something spurs me to have the following conversation during setup. The exact words are beyond my memory, three months after the fact, but the following paraphrasing is at least close…
Me: “You look kind of familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?”
Opponent: “Maybe? Did you play in the [place] Regional?”
Me: “No, I haven’t played anywhere around [that area]”
Opponent: “Well, I don’t know where we would have met, then.”
Me: “My Margin of Victory has been horrible. It probably doesn’t really matter what our score is, this is going to be the end of the line for me.”
[Opponent takes a side-long look at the guy next to him, who I realize is running an identical list to his, they know each other]
Opponent: “Well, if I win, I’m guaranteed to be in the cut. So… yeah…”
Me: “Well, best of luck to you, but I’m not going to take it easy on you.”
He sort of laughed that off and glanced back at his buddy again. For a second, I thought that laugh was because he might have been covering up for discreetly asking me to throw the match to let him get through to the cut. I’ve got no proof of that though, so I feel remiss in saying it, but the thought was there. Maybe it was his way of breaking the tension of the moment that he seemed to be feeling. Or, now that I’ve heard his side of this, it might have been that he didn’t think it mattered how hard I was playing, this was a sure win for him. And on paper, I would agree with him.
His list is set up to absolutely melt lists like mine. If Kanan catches Miranda in range, he’s guaranteed to deal 4 damage a turn to her with that Twin Laser Turret; Accuracy Corrector takes dice out of that equation entirely and makes for more hits than I have defense dice. 4 damage is pretty likely inside the minimum range for the TLT as well thanks to that big primary shot. And while I have a chance to dodge some of it, he’s got a fairly good chance of dealing 2-4 per turn to Dash instead, with Dash being unable to fire his HLC from anywhere without being fired back at. Meanwhile, this big threat is protected by a regenerating Biggs who benefits from the Tactical Jammer and Kanan stripping my attack dice. This is about as close to a hard counter as you’re going to see anywhere to my list.
I’m playing for pride though, and as such I’m determined to go down swinging. After all, if everything goes absolutely perfectly, I can deal 16 damage in a single turn (Kanan bumps and loses actions, Seismic Charges for 1, full Cluster Mines dropped on a previous turn for 6, Sabine for 1, range 1 Miranda sacrificing a shield for 4, Dash’s HLC for 4). So if something goes wonky, that Ghost can go down from full health in a single round, even without critical hits being a factor. It’ll take a LOT of luck, but it’s possible, and there are way more likely scenarios here that also lead to victory if I can survive long enough to spread it out over several rounds.
Priority #1 though, is getting Biggs out of the way so that I can even shoot the Ghost. The game begins, and we engage at mid field. I get lucky, rolling hot and dealing significant damage to Biggs over just a couple of turns, although I’m taking a beating on Dash in the process. I thought I had a masterpiece lined up to seriously swing things my way with a bomb drop from Miranda. With the X-Wing hurting badly and the Ghost pointing in that same direction, I brought the K-Wing in with a SLAM and dropped cluster mines, hoping to finish Biggs off by clipping him with one token and to leave the others right in Kanan’s path for the next round. Doing a better job than I had with a few of my desperation bomb drops on Friday, I dropped the mines right on target, but he rolled zero damage beyond Sabine, and Biggs remained alive with two more tokens lined up directly in front of his X-Wing. Dash was forced to waste another shot on him, I rolled poorly, and R2-D2 was ejected to leave him alive with one health.
This in turn brought about our first call for a judge, during which it was confirmed that Biggs could fly through and remove both of the remaining tokens before Kanan could hit them, even knowing that he would be killed by the very first mine and even with another blank roll, if I simply chose to activate Sabine. Despite wishing it was otherwise, no objection from me, the ruling makes sense because you don’t interrupt the maneuver to trigger the mines. Kudos to him for having matching pilot skills and finding a way to use it to his advantage and protect Kanan, I often feel like weaving matching pilot skills around are an under-used ability in X-Wing.
So, Biggs down, big time damage on Dash, Kanan at full health, lot of time left on the clock. I’m ahead by 3 points (26 for half of Dash vs 29 for Biggs). I’m not sure I even realized that at the time, but even if I did, it wasn’t useful info. It’s not like I could just haul ass with Dash one more turn to secure a close win, he’s going to get shot at again, and likely be killed. If it’s a bad setup, it might only take one shot.
Miranda can’t solo the Ghost, even if she’s doing constant recovery she loses 3 health per turn. I figure I need to land bombs, turn both guns on him, and have Dash soak up at least two rounds of fire by having Lone Wolf active, taking obstructed fire, and with Focus tokens backing all his rolls, no offensive spending. If it takes him a turn and a half of TLT fire to off finish Dash (2 hull remaining, so that calls for a lot of luck), then Miranda might have enough in the tank to finish Kanan from there. Not knowing exactly how to set this up, I retreat, looking for an opening. There’s not a lot of safe places to go, considering he covers over half the board with his TLT radius, but I do what I can to buy a turn or two by not chasing after Kanan when he’s already flying away from me. In doing so, I set my dials quickly, and keep my brain churning for an answer to what looks like an un-solvable puzzle. I’m not avoiding the game by fiddling with my dial for 5 minutes at a time, staring for a minute or two to decide if I need to barrel roll or not. That’s bush league stuff, underhanded, and against the spirit of the game. I’m not looking for a way to not lose. I’ve been fighting like hell for days now, I’m looking for a way to WIN!
Remember what Sam says: “Make ’em fly with you for a few turns”. If I can catch him stressed by running him through a debris field, there’s no Focus / Evade tokens for him. Dash can’t get an unopposed shot, but if I can get into Range 1, outside his firing arcs, Miranda can. I have one seismic charge and one set of cluster mines left, and I have to make sure they all land. If I can spread the mines out perfectly, I can trigger Sabine twice. I wonder if I can convince him somehow that the healthier Miranda is a better target for a turn and leave Dash alive for a turn longer than he should…
All of those things and more were tumbling through my head, but running out the clock is not one of them. I asked for a time check, but with the measured pace of the last three days of games, that had become a second habit; I just wanted to know where we stood.
Maybe the panicked retreat on my part got to my opponent. Perhaps it was the added pressure as a handful of friends and strangers gathered around to observe what was a tighter game than it should have been to close out the tournament (I don’t know exactly when that happened, just noticed the crowd at the very end of the match). Or maybe he was more aware of the score than I was, and thought I was really going to try and run away for the whole remainder of the match (from memory, I’m estimating 30-35 minutes). Whatever it was, something had my opponent unnerved. When he got the chance to turn around he came after me at full speed. Better yet, rather than cutting the corner and relying on his TLT coverage to have me in range, he came right on in to the corner of the map, cutting off his options for subsequent maneuvers, and in an ironic fashion giving me more of them.
And that was the mistake I had been looking for. I might not win from this position, but it was my best opportunity.
Since Kanan had come in so aggressively, I was able to roll Dash to safety inside his blind spot, keeping him around for another turn. Miranda then managed to SLAM to a safe position just on the other side of his ship, also out of arc, and in doing so to drop all three of my Cluster Mines on the Ghost; although we had to pause for a judge call again so that he could verify that I was positioning them legally. Major damage ensues. And with the Ghost having flown so close to the board’s edge, I had him boxed in; there was nowhere he could go and not be in range of Miranda’s Seismic Charges the next turn without flying off the table, and he would almost certainly bump and be unable to take actions.
The damage all started piling up, and the next thing I know I’ve got a chance to kill him with Dash before any return fire comes in. I’m pumped up again! Without tokens to reduce my dice or evade the damage, a perfect HLC shot can finish Kanan off. I throw out my roll, hit – hit – blank – blank, but that second blank was leaning on an obstacle token, and by the rules MUST be rerolled. I called out the cocked die and picked it up to reroll it results in a hit, and then Lone Wolf allowed me to reroll the remaining blank into what would be a lethal hit.
But in my excitement, had I neglected to ask my opponent to verify that the first die was cocked before I snatched it back up to reroll it, and he objected. He wasn’t trying to pull anything, I knew as soon as he said something that I had moved too quickly there. His tournament life is on the line, so he’s upset, and justifiably so. I feel bad, even knowing that I was in the right to reroll the die, just because I couldn’t prove that it had been cocked and I knew that I rushed that whole sequence. I ask what he wants me to do about it, because I can’t go back and prove that the die is cocked. He says he wants it to be a miss, obviously. I look at the game state, knowing I’m about to lose Dash to return fire, but I know it’s the right thing to do. Sure, it’s a “miss”, my mistake for being in a hurry.
And then, the dice gods smiled upon me for letting that one go. Without any Focus tokens, none of the four TLT shots land more than two hits, Dash proceeds to dodge three of them, and ends the turn with a single hull remaining.
At that point, it’s mop-up. Kanan won’t ever fire again, needing only one hit to finish him off. Zeb pops out right before Kanan gets vaped, but can’t get away from Miranda to chase down Dash. Ball game, 100-26 victory.
Thus ends both of our days. I’m turning to my buddy and saying I can’t believe that just happened, he’s pretty much doing the same. A 6th win and a less-than-stellar 922 total MoV netted me 32nd place overall, out of somewhere approaching 350 players. I wanted to do even better, but I certainly won’t scoff at that result.
In fact, I’m awfully proud of it, and for good reason. But I didn’t share the details here. Not knowing how to best approach writing about what was an awkwardly tense final game, along with being fuzzy on details of some of the other matches, I was content to let it be and just not give any details about my experience beyond that I enjoyed my trip to Worlds and was happy with the final results. No reason to talk about the not-so-nice ending with an obviously upset opponent, when that’s the one match that I’ve got the most clarity on the details of what happened.
However, it was brought to my attention that this gentleman was cordial enough to not use my name (nor shall I use his), but there is publicly posted material of him breaking down what happened in our game from his point of view, which seems to have been distorted by the time between the tournament and his remarks. In that discussion, he stated that he felt that “some of the tactics [I] used were very troll-y”, and that I was seeing what I could do to knock him out of the cut. He insinuates that I should have played the game differently because I had nothing on the line while he had expensive dice and templates that he could still win.
Early in his description of the game, he points out that his constant Twin Laser Turret damage would be a major problem for my “squishy” ships, so he claims that I “naturally just ran away from [him] for 45 minutes”. He goes on to say that I don’t have the correct attitude for this situation, whatever that means. Was I supposed to be tossing him a softball while other folks are fighting their hearts out for that same spot in the cut? Consoling him when rolls don’t go his way? Asking him for a cut of the prizes in exchange for flying off the board perhaps? I assure you, I’ll take my dignity over dice or templates any day, thank you very much.
Throughout his story, he makes it sound time and again like I’m popping in to a wormhole of sorts, teleporting to the furthest corners of the board whenever he moves in my direction, giggling at him like that blasted dog from Duck Hunt. He says he chased me down and engaged again because he didn’t want to “lose to a technicality”. Sorry, man, I guess I should have told you in advance that I wasn’t flying my squishy ships that you match up against so well, a technicality was. </sarcasm> In truth, we might have been disengaged for 4-5 turns at most, at least a couple of which he spent turning around to face me again after the pass where I killed Biggs while I was looking for an opening to attack. Must be a crime in his meta to do anything other than joust like British redcoats lining up for musket fire.
Perhaps just as insulting as the hints that I should have just let him win (“Intentional draws are a thing!”, cried the peanut gallery. “The hell they are, I replied, long before FFG agreed) were the blatant accusations of slow-playing. “[He] definitely thinks that there was an element of that here”. I’m the last person you’re ever going to see intentionally stalling a match for time by not taking actions. If anything, I play FASTER when others might see an opportunity to use delaying tactics. No, I’m not going to fly straight at my opponent when it doesn’t benefit me to do so. Why would I? But most of the time I’m going to have my maneuver dials set before my opponent, even when I’ve got them outnumbered and obviously needing every second they can get in the game. I pride myself in being the type of person that is going to give you a fair shot. So it burns me up to hear, “I honestly think [slow-playing] is one of the main strategies of this list”. You’re dead wrong, at least when it’s in my hands. Or the hands of anyone I associate myself with. I can point you to some potential opponents that can work the clock with the best of them, and to have lumped me in with them is a slap in the face.
As the description rolls on, there are definitely some inaccuracies in the retelling of the sequence of events… I apparently got Kanan to half health and started running away (or was running away from the start, that’s a little unclear in this version of the story), which made him be more aggressive than he wanted to be (I suppose I’m supposed to feel bad about not engaging on his terms?) and that in turn enabled me to get in to position with Miranda to kill Biggs with bombs, which I had to do before I could shoot Kanan. Can I get a flowchart of that sequence? I think it’ll probably look something like the one I made for FFG’s new Star Wars OP Pyramid.
Oh, then he turns around and mentions how those bombs are something that’s “really intimidating for [him], too”, despite this being described as such a good matchup for him earlier in his breakdown. Because that’s consistent, right?
To wrap things up in his version of the story, time was called just as Dash dodged all of Kanan’s shots, ending the match right then and there. My recollection of events said otherwise, as did our final score sheet (100-26). I’ve got a picture of that for posterity’s sake, but I’ll leave that out of the article (and crop it from the photos I did share) since there’s a name on it.
But hey, he sounded like a patron saint (or at least a martyr) of sportsmanship when he said it all his way, so long as nobody paid attention to the details.
Okay, so, I intended this post rant to be an article about what did and didn’t constitute fair play, and perhaps a bit of discussion about when it’s okay to give up so that your opponent can improve their standings in a tournament (short article: “Never.”). It’s morphed in to something else entirely, I’m not sure what I’d call it, but it’s heart-felt and it’s full of truth that I felt like I needed to express.
So I’d like to redirect it in to something positive with my closing notes. Specifically, I’d like to ask all my readers to do a few things for me, and encourage their peers to do the same:
If you’re going to be a part of the competitive gaming community, do so with some dignity. Don’t play the game like you’re never going to see your opponent again, because you’re likely wrong.
Or put that another way, you can get screamed at by a petulant child on a video game console from your couch. Tabletop gaming is a more social matter. Treat it that way, please.
Get stalling and slow-playing out of your repertoire if it’s one of your tricks. That is unsportsmanlike conduct. I don’t condone it, and neither should you. Period.
Remember, while a lot of competitive games involve luck, all competitive games involve skill, from both players. Whether luck didn’t favor you, or you made mistakes, don’t try to take credit away from your opponent when it’s due to them.
Also remember, so long as the rules are adhered to, there’s no such thing as winning on a “technicality”, either you have a higher score than your opposition, or you don’t.
If you’re going to enter a competitive event, don’t ever let off the gas before a tournament is over, or expect anyone else to.
If you’re gonna tell a story, tell all of it, and tell it truthfully.
In regard to that last note and my last opponent in particular, I have to add the following: I bear no ill will toward you over our game. Before I heard your statements, I’d have gladly met you again with a handshake and a genuine smile, I’d even have bought the first round of those local beers you like so much if we were to cross paths in Minnesota again. Perhaps everything was a bit more clear in my memory than it was in yours. Or perhaps it just really stung to take a loss to a list you feel you should have beaten. I don’t want anyone holding a grudge over something silly like that, I’d have a lot of enemies in that case. But instead of being surly over it, I’ll still hold to that offer to buy the first round, because this might just be a big misunderstanding.
I had to make a hard choice yesterday, and it affects a lot of my fellow gamers.
For a combination of a dozen different factors (fatigue, seasonal, personal obligations, etc), attendance had dropped significantly at my FLGS’s X-Wing nights. Where once we had 15-20 players every Tuesday night, now we had 6-8. Seeing underutilized table space, the store’s owner took the opportunity to revitalize the local Warhammer community, putting together a series of events that have filled the place up on Tuesday nights. As a result, as I’ve worked hard to bring back X-Wing players, I haven’t had anywhere to put them. For weeks now, we’ve had no more than 4 games running at a time, elbow to elbow to make that happen. As for the extra folks? A few of us would observe, some would grab a card table and play Destiny, and some folks just turned around and left. I always gave up my spot for someone else to play, because on a given X-Wing night it’s less about the games themselves for me and more about hanging out with my friends.
But realizing that this situation wasn’t getting any better, I spoke with some of the prominent players and agreed to move X-Wing night to Wednesdays. This is a big deal to me because Wednesdays are our Imperial Assault nights. And while we’re at it, let’s go ahead and formally organize Destiny players to gather on Wednesdays as well.
So, the good news is that none of this conflicts with the schedules for these games at any other store in the area, there’s plenty of room available for everyone to play, and I’ll never go without a game of something on Wednesday nights. I’ve got some ideas churning for ways to tie everything together too, having a bit of a “faction war” that spans multiple games. But on the other hand, the players like myself who might have been overextending a bit to get in to all three of these games now have to pick one of the three each week.
I just hope that this works out, because the harder part of this is knowing that this does lock out some of our potential players – I’ve heard from equal amounts of X-Wing players that have said “I haven’t been coming on Tuesdays for a while, and I was about to start coming back, but I can’t make it on Tuesdays” and those that have said “Finally, a night other than Tuesday, I’ll be able to come back!”. I’m sure there will still be pick-up games on any given day, and a few dedicated players will still come in more leading up to major events, but I don’t like giving up table time.
It’s hopefully a good move for the health of all affected games that I make this move. But that doesn’t mean I like paying the cost.
– The Tabletop General
As is fitting for my first post for quite some time outside the occasional sentence or two on Facebook, today’s post has to be prefaced with a story I haven’t told, my trip to Fantasy Flight Games HQ for the 2016 World Championships. I competed in Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures and Imperial Assault, putting up a respectable (if I do say so myself) 6-2 record in X-Wing, and 3-3 for Imperial Assault. I was proud of my entire crew, as all of my friends making the trip at least broke even in every event, and I was happy to represent Atlanta well as the top X-Wing player from our area. And the scary thing about that is that I know I could have done better, because I was still learning my list.
I had been surprised by what I liked (and moreso what I didn’t like) out of the recent releases for X-Wing. The ARC-170 didn’t really move the needle all that much for me, and the Special Forces TIE was underwhelming when looking at competitive play. Despite its’ similarity to the TIE Interceptor, the Protectorate Starfighter just didn’t feel right, and I didn’t like my chances with the Shadow Caster, but I had been trying to make both work, and doing a decent job of it until I ran into the wall that was Dash/Miranda, a terror of the local tournament scene for all of 2016. In frustration, I picked up that list for a few days to see how it worked, what I had been doing wrong against it… and I realized that I really liked it.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!
Of course, that phrase couldn’t be applied to any local group less than the Atlanta HWKs. I stubbornly clung to TIE Interceptors way past their prime. You’ll not find a better wizard behind a wall of T-65 X-Wings than Brendan. And then there’s Saint Eddie, our patron saint of stubbornness and bombs…
Eddie has ascended to a higher plane, or at least a higher latitude, calling Minnesota home now, and plying his trade there with TIE Bombers loaded with ordnance because that’s what he does. But he’s a permanent member of the Atlanta HWKs, and he’s embraced his holy status within our group. So it was with much good-natured joking that our local Facebook group was covered with a smattering of “Hail Eddie” prayers by those of us with bombs in our lists before we began play at our local Regional Championship for the 2017 X-Wing season. I’d been running hot over the past few weeks, tearing up a lot of players that usually have my number, but the blessing of our patron saint couldn’t hurt my chances for the day.
Two powerful ships, each doing what they do best, working together while trying not to stay close to one another. Miranda wants to stay away from Dash to drop bombs with wild abandon, Dash wants to stay away from Miranda to keep Lone Wolf active. HLC deals early damage, bombs in the mid-game, and Miranda serves as the usual closer with her slow and steady TLT damage.
This is a slight tweak from the original version of the list, using Cluster Mines rather than Conner Nets. The Conner Net is a powerful control element, but I was having trouble lining it up in practice, and in addition to their different shape, the Cluster Mines have so much more damage potential that it’s hard to pass them up.
Every time I flew the list over the past few months, I felt like I got better at it, even once I’d been putting basically nothing else on the table for nearly 3 months. So of course, I was bound to discover something new (and awesome) at this event.
Dengaroo, flown by a competent player. Not what I wanted to see today, and oddly enough not something I’ve seen firsthand in quite some time. For those of you unfamiliar (what rock are you living under?), Dengar and Manaroo form an interesting pairing – Dengar has amazing damage output, enhanced further by abilities that require him to load up on stress tokens to the point that he could never imagine taking another action; meanwhile, Manaroo’s usual role is playing keep-away and passing her actions to Dengar in lieu of his own.
I’ve thrown it into the benchmark simulator a time or three, and we put a version of it on the table a few days prior to the event for a practice game, but it didn’t run like this one did. This variant of the pairing that won the 2016 World Championships is definitely more aggressive and front-loaded than others I’ve seen discussed, looking to get enemy ships off the board quickly with the help of the three torpedoes on board that normally go toward upgrades that keep both ships on the board longer.
I did not bring my A-game here. I’ve got a host of reasons, foremost of which being that it was early and I had only managed a couple hours of sleep (very unintentionally). But regardless to the reasons, I didn’t pay quite as much attention as I should have to my opponent’s list. I saw what was there, but I didn’t see what WASN’T there: Engine Upgrade on Manaroo, 4-LOM or Countermeasures on Dengar, all of which should have caused me to alter my approach. Most importantly, without Engine Upgrade, Manaroo is much easier to catch and kill – which would have been enough to cover giving up half points on Dash, and made Dengar much more vulnerable on his own and likely actionless.
Instead, I went head to head with Dengar, hoping to bring him down quickly with bombs, and accepting that the torpedoes would spell Dengar’s doom easily. I almost pulled this off, but the dice weren’t in my favor, dealing only two damage (one of which came from Sabine) on a beautiful cluster mine drop on the big fellow. Dengar escaped with a single point of hull, and I had to get hyper aggressive, fighting not only against my opponent but against the clock as well, something my opponent seemed to embrace VERY heavily. In the end, that got Miranda killed off as well, trying to fight through Manaroo to get to the fleeing Dengar as time expired.
Alright, this I could do something with. Two maneuverable but arc-dependent ships, both with lower pilot skill than my own. Both of these have got some solid damage output, but nothing especially tricky.
I did something with this alright… something bad. I lost Miranda, and early. Coming in for a bombing run, Miranda got herself caught in the corner of the board; unable to SLAM anywhere meaningful. Asajj painted a target and stripped shields, IG-88 lit her up, and suddenly I found myself with just Dash remaining. But hope remained. In the process of trapping Miranda, my opponent’s ships ended up passing each other, rotating in opposite directions around the board and hesitating to turn in immediately, thanks to a pair of cluster mine tokens remaining on the field. With heavy damage already applied to Asajj, I knew this was a winable game.
Dash proceeded to kite around the edge of range, staying as far as possible away from IG-88. My action plan was as follows: Try to get range 3 on Asajj only. If both could fire at me, and a Barrel Roll would change that, escape both if possible. Barrel Roll into range of Asajj and outside her arc if possible. Asajj wouldn’t go down easily with Focus, Evade, and two agility, but with Lone Wolf on at all times and never being afraid to spend one of my pair of Focus tokens, I’ve got around a 90% chance of landing at least 3 hits per turn; no matter how tough the wall, sooner or later the hammer wins. Asajj went down, with plenty of time remaining for one of the other remaining ships to be taken out.
I slipped out of IG-88’s arc and range a couple of times before turning around taking a single jousting run. Perhaps expecting me to slip away again, he approached quickly, using PTL to stack up on tokens and stressing himself. I lost a couple of shields in the exchange, but it gave me exactly what I needed: the opportunity to get a chase position. Counting the score; I led by a single point, but I knew I needed more to climb the standings. Unable to turn around and fire without giving up tokens for multiple rounds, my opponent simply ran away turn after turn, and I was perfectly willing to play the long game there. Two ships, only one of which is shooting, that clock might as well have still had 75 minutes on it.
Again, eventually the hammer wins, and now we’re on the board.
1-1, 182 MoV
At this point, we had an hour break for lunch. I wasn’t feeling great about the results so far, but some food and a bit more time to fully wake up would do me some good. Panda Express was the order of the day, and my fortune cookie read, “HAVE PATIENCE – IT WILL BENEFIT YOU”. This lined up directly with what I had been told by my friends for months now about how to approach flying this list, and it seemed a good omen. I slid it into my wallet for safe keeping.
TIE Defenders have made a major comeback this year, in no small part thanks to the x7 title, conferring a cost discount and free Evade token in exchange for the oft-unused Cannon slot. No blocking maneuvers and no amount of Stress tokens can strip that token from them, they just have to fly fast to get it. That’s dirt simple for even the newest player to do. The tricky part is, sometimes players know when to catch the enemy off guard and go slow. This guy, a fellow Atlanta HWK and “Murder Squad” member, knows how to do exactly that, which sets him a step above the field of players lining up to fly this list.
And it came down to exactly that; my opponent knew when to put on the brakes. Being extremely familiar with me, the way I fly, and having faced a near identical list to my own countless times over the past year, he faked me out by chasing Dash momentarily before swapping targets. This caught Miranda as she positioned for a bomb run where I thought he was going, dead to rights and squarely in his sights.
“I’m gonna hit the brakes, he’ll fly right by.” – Maverick Countess Ryad
I managed to limp away and survive a few more turns, but there wasn’t much I could do to change the momentum of the game. I brought Ryad down with me, and got half credit for the Emperor’s Caddilac, but I was outplayed through and through here.
1-2, 233 MoV
For many tournaments, my day is effectively over right there, play a few friendly games and go home with a participation prize. But I had my pride to play for, and there was still hope.
That hope? Well, I knew we had 77 players in attendance at this event, and that’s a magical number. Under the current tournament rules for X-Wing, any event short of a major convention is set up such that all players with no more than one loss will make the cut to single elimination in a bracket without byes. At 76 players, this can be done with 6 rounds of Swiss play and a top 8 cut. But once you add that 77th person, there’s a chance that the 9th place player at the end of Swiss has a 5-1 record. To accomodate that, the playoffs are expanded to 16 players, letting in 7 players with two losses, using Margin of Victory to decide on those players. My MoV wasn’t great, but it could be worse, and I knew how to save some points. Dash tends to bleed me dry, he is shot down pretty frequently in this list, and gives up half points when he doesn’t die. But Miranda can limp in on one health and still protect all 47 of her points, and can recover health too. I just had to make sure she was the primary target for the rest of the day, and pray to St. Eddie that I wouldn’t mess around and take a third loss in the process of changing my approach.
Here’s something you don’t see much anymore: a B-Wing loaded to the gills. I can see a similar philosophy behind this list’s design and my own, though. A maneuverable end-game piece supported by a heavy hitter designed to make the job easier. If you leave Nera alone and try to pin down Dash while you still have your full force on the board, Nera will make you pay for that. Regardless of which ship you attack first, these two are going to hit you, and hit you hard.
The original “Super Dash”, this YT-2400 has some advantages and disadvantages compared to the one from my list. Capable of 3 “actions” per turn once you have Kyle up and running, there’s a lot of flexibility there, from a Target Lock and two Focus tokens, to a Focus, a Barrel Roll, and a Boost. And there’s an advantage in using Kyle to generate an action, as you can still get his Focus on turns where you otherwise wouldn’t have them thanks to Stress or collisions. On the other hand, being dependent on Push the Limit makes the ship much more vulnerable to blocking, as there are only so many green moves on the dial. And I’ve come to love Lone Wolf lately for the defensive boost it gives.
Running some quick numbers on a head to head matchup between “Super Dash” and Lone Wolf / Recon Spec Dash, assuming that both ships are taking a Focus action (for a total of two tokens each) and “Super Dash” is getting a Target Lock too, “Super Dash” will deal 2.120 damage per turn to the Lone Wolf version. Meanwhile, Lone Wolf Dash will deal 2.270 in return, or if initiative works in his favor so that he can save up a Target Lock while inside minimum range, he can spike that average to 2.500 damage per turn. And at a cost 5 points cheaper than the other version, Lone Wolf Dash is definitely a better deal, assuming that you can keep the necessary distance from the rest of your ships.
So, flying Miranda more aggressively and getting her targeted first only works if your opponent is willing to take the bait. And that wasn’t happening here. Both enemy ships locked in on Dash from the start, and he quickly lost his shields. But at the same time, that B-Wing had nowhere to hide and couldn’t guess where Dash’s blind spot would be; two HLC shots and four twin laser shots had Nera off the board before she could fire a second time.
From there, I flew Dash much more defensively, trying to preserve those points. My opponent had given me initiative, so I couldn’t completely guarantee safety by taking a Barrel Roll into minimum range or outside his Dash’s reach, but I did block him a time or two, and generally stayed behind cover backed by Focus tokens. Miranda did her thing, bombing the enemy into submission, and finishing the match in all of about 25 minutes. I gladly took the extra time to sit down and rest, hoping to turn this into a long day.
I’m used to Fenn and Old Teroch by this point, they’re popular choices in our local meta. Talonbane was a surprise to me though, as I’m accustomed to seeing Manaroo in that slot. So we’re looking at a less durable list, but one that is definitely going to be capable of high damage output if I let them stay close.
So, knowing that my opponent wanted to live at Range 1, I decided to play a game of chase. With Dash, I flew at a right angle to his likely approach lane, and I crept forward slowly with Miranda. Over the next turn or two, Miranda continued to approach slowly, and Dash turned away from the enemy, pointing toward an empty corner of the board. The higher pilot skill ships Boosted and Barrel Rolled into position to chase, sensing an opportunity to pounce on Dash when he had few places to go. And just like that, the trap was set.
Miranda jammed the K-Wing’s throttle to full, adding in a SLAM, and dropping Cluster Mines right onto Fenn Rau, which vaporized his ship. And for the lack of a better description, my opponent simply deflated. Seeing Fenn go up in smoke like that was just too big of a blow to handle, especially having done no damage to me yet.
Preserving points, I continued to play cat & mouse games, but my opponent simply wasn’t as aggressive anymore. I dropped my second set of cluster mines to no effect, as Talonbane didn’t press forward like I expected, but even then they were of use, making him take longer to circle the area in fear of hitting them by accident. Without being charged in upon, and with no defensive tech to help either ship deal with multiple long range shots, the target practice session was a mere formality.
Nom-nom-nom… B-Wings! I didn’t want to see either of my ships stressed, so Stramm was an obvious early target, but Dash / Miranda is just not what this list is designed to deal with. Not worried.
Repeat after me, class…
“12 attack dice are scary. 3 are not”. Good, on to the next lesson.
“Being 25% is no worse than being 100% wrong”. Excellent.
I’m tempted to conjure my inner NFL Analyst on this one and mark up how bad of a position my opponent is in here with X’s and O’s and squiggly lines, but bad positioning happens naturally through the course of a game. The more important and damning point is that we haven’t engaged yet; this is just where he flew himself to. So Dash is a subject of focused fire this turn after the ARC flies into the debris field, but between long range, Lone Wolf, and Focus tokens, all my opponent gets for his trouble is two stress on Dash, and decent damage on one of his B-Wings, marked “1” in the photo above. And it doesn’t get much better from there.
Miranda skirts around the left side, completely avoids all firing arcs except #1, who doesn’t really do any damage. With Lone Wolf in play, Dash isn’t crippled by stress, and it’s not a huge priority for me to clear it. So he zooms up field, and is only threatened by a single B-Wing who isn’t as close as he expected to be if I took a green move. Braylen and B-Wing #3 are stranded with no targets.
The rest of the game follows suit, with both of my ships staying stress free despite R3-A2’s presence, allowing them to reposition away from any really dangerous situations. Miranda drops a seismic bomb when the enemy does get close, and I’m generally picking off lone ships that are taking much more damage than they deal while their allies are just out of range. I kind of feel bad about how lopsided this matchup and similar ones seem to go, but I needed every point today.
4-2, 807 MoV
Position at cut to top 16:
Dinner break, just long enough to freak out a little bit that I’ve clawed my way back in, and realize that as tired as I am, I’m barely past the halfway point if things go well. And, as a hail to St. Eddie of our Holy Ordnance, I drag our crew over to the mexican restaurant we had spotted at lunch, a place named “La Bomba”.
Not exactly your standard Palp/Aces list. Soontir has a standard loadout, but the Countess is tweaked a bit to make her fit, as Soontir is a point more than the Vessery that normally accompanies her. I feel really good about this matchup though; Soontir is very vulnerable to bombs, and I’ve got a bit of intimidation factor on my side, my opponent has seen Dash/Miranda enough to know how dangerous it is.
Using a bit of misdirection to start the game, I wanted to threaten Palpatine’s shuttle early with Miranda, and then switch targets to the other ships when they came to help.
Instead, that just got Dash caught up in a jam. He stripped a shield or two off of Ryad, but took way more damage than I’m accustomed to getting through to him, and I had to pull some desperate moves to keep him in the game. And boy I do mean desperate.
But the cavalry was on the way, loaded for battle. Dash went down, but kept the Imperials’ attention just long enough to set up a bomb run. Remember how I needed one more damage from a cluster mine in round 1 to finish Dengar? Well, that comes back around full circle now… I dropped in a set of clusters onto a slightly Ryad for a shot at dealing —some— damage, and ended up hitting the jackpot instead, 4/4 hits from the two tokens that landed, plus an 5th from Sabine. Even Palpatine’s influence wasn’t enough to keep the Countess alive.
Now, with Dash and Ryad down, and time in the match dwindling, it was all up to Miranda. I knew I couldn’t get Soontir so long as Palpatine was on the field, but finishing off the shuttle was an easy matter. The K-Wing and Interceptor circled the battlefield for a few more minutes, but time elapsed with both on the field, giving me a less than comfortable margin but a win, and that’s all that matters at this point. Oh, and dice. Shiny, shiny, shiny dice.
In contrast to the prior list, this is exactly your standard Palp/Aces list, with the exception of the Guidance Chips added as a joke. It’s boring, but it’s effective. Of note, my opponent looked familiar, and made a comment about not sticking his Chewbacca on a rock this time around. Apparently, we’ve played before, in the finals of a store championship last year.
Fatigue was really setting in at this point, so the game was a bit of a blur at times, and I don’t have any photos to jog my memory or reconstruct things from. What I do remember is that I took one on the chin from Ryad onto Miranda to drop Cluster Mines right in front of her, clipping her with one and leaving two in her path for the next turn. Already stressed from PTL, and with an automatic damage from Sabine and one resulting from the mine, and more coming the next turn, my opponent wanted to avoid the last token, and did so by taking a 1-bank. This kept her from getting an evade token for incoming fire, and she was cleared from the board that turn anyway. But that last token hung around.
Dash goes down. Palpatine is taken out. And now it’s down to Vessery and Miranda, with about 30 minutes to go. The game is mine so long as the K-Wing survives. Miranda has fully recovered her shields, and Vessery is limping around on one hull point, but any Defender is a dangerous Defender. So I play it careful, SLAMing away turn after turn. My opponent is careful as well, doing an excellent job of avoiding the area threatened by my Seismic Charges. I pick up a Target Lock when I can, and throw out an attack when it presents itself, but my primary goals are A: Not losing, and B: Not stalling. You see, there’s a difference between running and stalling, one I think my first round opponent could use to learn. I’m running, but I’m setting my movement dial in about 10 seconds per turn, and never hesitating on my actions. I want to win this game, but I’m bound and determined to do so with a clear conscience. Turn after turn, I dip into the TLT well and come up dry, no damage is getting through. But then my clear conscience was rewarded by St. Eddie, as I had a flash of insight.
You see, my opponent had avoided the handful of mine tokens remaining on the field really well. So well, in fact, that he was able to dart around them and not worry about cutting it close, he knew that he wouldn’t hit them. But he didn’t think about how close he was to them. In my head, I can just see Miranda leaning on the flight controls as she swerves around a debris field and yells at Sabine to hold on… SLAM, right into my own mine token, and the damage from Sabine finishes Vessery off to close the game. I probably would have been just fine flying in circles for another 10 minutes or so, but it felt better to finish it that way.
And here we go again, another Palp/Aces variant… wait, no, no Palpatine! It’s a Christmas Miracle!
Instead, we’ve got a slightly watered down Vessery, paired up with good ‘ol Carnor Jax, he of “thou shalt not token up” fame. Still, 3 health is awfully squishy for bombs blessed by St. Eddie, especially when you have to get in close to do your job.
I’m not sure that any match this late at night could be said to be putting on a clinic, as it was midnight as this game started and mistakes happened on both sides, but I came pretty close to it here. Dash pulled off a beautiful block of both Vessery and Carnor simultaneously, setting up Miranda to clean house on the following turn. Carnor fell to the Cluster Mines, Ryad followed suit soon after- despite assurances from onlookers that using brand new dice was “bad ju-ju”, these things were rolling too hot for me to put them down. So after a long day of X-Wing and looking at a serious uphill climb with a single ship remaining against my full-strength force, my opponent graciously bowed out of the event.
My opponent, perhaps one of the earliest readers of the Tabletop General, ran roughshod over me in round 6 of the 2015 X-Wing Regional Championship in Atlanta, and went on to win that event. Since then, we’ve adopted him as an honorary Atlanta HWK, and we’d yet to have an opportunity to play each other again. That didn’t change the fact that his list, out of everything in the top 16 bracket, was the last thing I wanted to see on the other side of the table.
Dengaroo, flown by a competent player. Not what I wanted to see to start my day, and certainly not to end it.
If you can get either one off the table, the other half of this list falls apart, but that’s easier said than done, especially decked out the way that this one is – Manaroo will be hard to pin down.
Now, a wiser man than I, or one that was a little more on top of things lately, would have written this report while there was still video of the game available on the Twitch channel used for the event. But, it turned out to not be the greatest quality, and the commentator was just as out of it as we were and had nothing to fight his exhaustion over, so I can understand not posting it. That just means that I’m having to reconstruct this match from memory, and it’s even more of a blur than the rest. Still, I’ll provide what I can here.
We started with some verbal sparring and posturing. Nothing serious, mind you, just feeling each other out. It’s late, we’ve had a long day. He’s got a long drive home, and is willing to shake hands and call it a mutual win, I’m not far from the same, and I’m not comfortable with my odds after round 1. The prize allocation is pretty much identical either way, neither of us thinks we’d use the bye for Nationals, but we can’t decide who would get custody of the trophy, and that’s a deal breaker for both of us. So, to the table we go.
In my mind, the decision is made, Dengar has to go. Throw everything I have at him, pick up the pieces I have left, and use that to finish Manaroo. I almost pulled it off this morning, and I think I can make it happen now. Giving him the opportunity to trade 2 shots to my 1 in the end game is a losing proposition, I’ve got to bring him down while I’m taking 3 shots to my 2, or 2 for 2 if I can dance away from Manaroo and keep her out of the engagement. Without R5-P9 or Gonk, Manaroo isn’t such a bad idea to throw a few shots at, but she is a less effective closer, so I don’t mind saving her to the end. I’m also no longer worried about whether or not I need to score MoV from her, as we’ll be done with this long before time is up.
Manaroo, as expected, keeps as much distance as possible, working her way counter-clockwise around the board. In order to put some early pressure on, I feint a chase of Manaroo, combining a Barrel Roll from Dash and a SLAM from Miranda to close the gap before Dengar can engage. In turn, Dengar isn’t as aggressive as I would have liked about positioning for those opening turns, and I don’t see a clear path to him for a Cluster Mine run.
We’re well past the hour where casual onlookers would still be hanging around at table side and making inadvertent comments, but with the TO on one side of the table and the couple of Murder Squad members that I rode with on the other, I can almost feel the tension in the room heighten as the occasional move on my part doesn’t make sense.
For instance, thanks to my sharp push up the field in the opening rounds, I found myself closing in on Manaroo as she turned the far left corner and started coming toward my side of the field. I found myself with a perfect Cluster Mine opportunity, as my K-Wing maneuver dropped me right in front of her position, and able to SLAM across her. With the large base, just about any move I picked that didn’t collide with her would land all three mine tokens, a holy grail of bombing worth up to 7 points of damage. I took the SLAM, headed straight at Dengar, who had yet to activate, and skipped the bomb drop.
A couple times, I do hear commentary AFTER I do something, which I’m pretty much fine with… I just don’t want my opponent to get any insight into what I’m planning, or to feel like something I might have missed was pointed out by an observer, or vice versa. What I did keep hearing was something to the effect of “see, things like that are why we’re sitting over here and he’s playing for a championship”. That got a solid chuckle out of me, as for all I could tell, I was standing there through sheer luck, but at the same time I know this list doesn’t exactly fly itself on autopilot like the x7 Defenders tend to do.
In this case particular case, I have mixed feelings about whether or not I earned that statement. This turn played out exactly like I wanted. Dengar ran right in to Miranda, protecting her from his attacks for the turn. And that set me up for the next round; I didn’t have bombs to waste on Manaroo, I needed to nail Dengar with them. Splitting damage is bad, and bombs go on the most important target. No better position from which to do that than in base contact and pointed at a higher PS ship.
The next turn, that was a bit wonkier and showed that I might have just been lucky after all. With my brain working in a crazy adrenaline-fueled and fatigue-ravaged version of full tilt, I chose a more conservative maneuver with Miranda the next turn, turning back to my right and pointing directly at an asteroid instead of staying straight. This kept me clear of Dengar’s firing arc if he performed the expected Segnor’s Loop, but also meant that I would hit that obstacle for sure next turn, and only one out of the three Cluster Mine tokens landed on target, while at least two would have landed had I not turned. It did damage, but not as much as I wanted. And in a classic example of the mental chess match not going as expected, Dengar chose another maneuver, throwing extra shots at Dash instead, meaning that in hindsight I would have been much better off flying straight with the K-Wing.
At this point, Dash had taken a beating but was still in the fight. Miranda still had one set of Cluster Mines, and decent health. On the other side, Dengar was starting to build up some damage. It was going to be close, but this was a winnable fight. Getting back to basics, I started putting distance between myself and Dengar. With our loadouts, I get defensive range bonuses, he gets offensive ones, so being further away is a better deal for me. In the process, Manaroo ended up being out of the fight once again, which was fine with me; let’s keep that little gun silent.
A damage or two more on Dengar, Dash ends up on death’s door, and then through it thanks to an ill-advised attack while Dengar has Countermeasures active; dealing no damage and giving a free return shot that proves lethal. Panic starts to set in, it’s a serious up-hill battle from here… and then I see it. Lined up perfectly in front of me, I see the right move for Miranda like it was painted on the table for me. Bank right into Dengar’s forward viewport, SLAM across with a hard turn, Cluster Mines dropped, and *BOOM*, Dengar is off the board before he can activate again.
New ball game. Miranda is carrying a little bit of damage, and has expended her mines. Manaroo is at full health, but has very few applicable tricks for this fight. We engage, and Miranda does her thing; point or two of damage dealt per turn, point of shields recovered, point or so of damage taken in return for a net positive result. After two or three turns of this exchange, afraid to get too close with Seismic Charges still available, and facing a long drive, my opponent reached across for a handshake.
We’re due for a rematch in 2018, and who knows what we’ll be flying at that point?
Bombs, man… bombs are crazy. It’s amazing how little serious attention the X-Wing community has paid them over the course of several years, but now they’re suddenly a thing. Granted, these Cluster Mines needed a buff via errata before I was willing to use them, and my predecessors using the list had taken advantage of the new Conner Nets, neither of them having been in the game for long. But now we’re seeing triple K-Wing builds pop up carrying Proximity Mines, Thermal Detonators, and Proton Bombs too.
The field of viable builds feels so narrow with TIE/x7 Defender builds all over the place, and Dengaroo a close runner up behind it, but at the same time things are wide open, and you can find a way to make almost anything work. The following weekend I went undefeated at a charity tournament with a Starviper and two M3-A Scyks (let that sink in for a moment).
Winning this Regional still feels like luck. And maybe it was. But it’s luck I’ll take, and it makes my life easier. With a win here under my belt, I can cancel my plans for a second X-Wing Regional, which in turn will let me attend an Imperial Assault Regional in my own back yard. That is, assuming I can tear myself away from playing Destiny. Because, you know, I have PLENTY of time for another game. But I’ll seriously try to get some writing done too. I know you all miss me otherwise, right?
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures has expanded once again, and the designers of the game continue to add new and unique options to the game. Wave IX brings with it four new ships, none of which feel like rehashes of any others in the game. With thirty-six unique ships now in the game, and somewhere between two and eight unique pilots for each ship on top of the generic options, the fact that these continue to have a distinctive feel and don’t seem to be duplicating existing works is rather impressive.
We’ll start with the latest addition to the Galactic Empire; the Special Forces TIE. Don’t scroll by too fast, because this isn’t just another TIE Fighter. In fact, it has very little in common with its’ ancestor. In maneuvering comparison, the Special Forces TIE has slower moves across the board, 2 out of 3 hard turns are red trades the Koiogran Turns for speed 3 Segnor’s Loops. For roughly double the base cost of a TIE Fighter, the Special Forces TIE drops a point of agility, but doubles in health by adding three shields, has slots for Tech, System Upgrade, and a Missile, and it adds in a rear auxiliary firing arc. This rear arc is an important part of the ship’s identity, as demonstrated by the free title card included with the ship; Special Ops Training allows a second attack from this rear arc, or adding an extra die to your forward primary attack.
One of my favorite ideas so far with the SF/TIE is essentially a gimmick, but it’s fun none the less, and it makes use of some less commonly seen upgrades. Optimally firing 4 times in a single turn with little to no return fire, I call it the “TIE Gatling Gun”.
Here’s how it works: Pick a red maneuver that you probably don’t neccesarily want to do, but will match the speed you think you want this turn. Watch the board develop until Quickdraw (Special Forces TIE) activates at Pilot Skill 9. If your chosen maneuver works out, great. If not, no big deal, change it to something else with Stay on Target (Rebel Aces); your priorities being that your maneuver is red (or becomes read via SoT), you end your move with an enemy ship in both arcs, and hopefully minimizing return fire. Electronic Baffle (Mist Hunter) eats the stress from the red maneuver, and pulls a shield off of you, activating Quickdraw’s ability. He fires forward, and triggers Special Ops Training (Special Forces TIE) to fire backwards. Then, stress token gone, Quickdraw takes an action, and fires two more times in the actual combat phase. Once the shield tokens are exhausted, you fly a bit more conservatively, not being afraid to use Stay on Target (without taking damage from Electronic Baffle unless you REALLY need to) to escape tight spots, and being likely to still have a shot somewhere with the secondary arc.
Next, let’s take a look at the Rebellion’s newest toy, the ARC-170. I’ve heard this ship referred to as an X-Wing on steroids, and the comparisons aren’t completely unwarranted. The maneuver dials match, with one extra green and red on the ARC (2 bank, 4 forward, respectively). Once the free title is equipped, the forward firepower matches. And both can make use of Astromechs. But the comparisons stop there.
The ARC-170 is the first ship in the game to allow both a Crew and an Astromech slot, which opens up a lot of interesting pairings like R5-P9 (GR-75) and Recon Specialist (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom). Like the SF/TIE, the ARC-170 has a rear facing auxiliary arc, but the title on this one works a little differently. The ARC-170 only fires once per turn, with 3 dice forward, or with a free Focus-to-Critical modification backwards. This plays very nicely with one of the pilots, Norra Wexley, who also gets a lot of utility out of the new R3 Astromech. Between the two upgrades, Norra can essentially spend a Target Lock for its’ normal effect, to add a crit behind her, or to add an evade token for defense later in the round; throw in Push The Limit (A-Wing / Imperial Aces) to get a Focus token too, and you’ve got a lot of potential for solid defense that can be switched out on demand for large damage spikes
The meta is still settling in, but the ARC-170s, led by Norra, look to be a strong factor over the coming months for Rebel lists.
Bringing up the rear, we’ve got a pair of Scum & Villainy ships to discuss, both vastly different ships, and what I’m flying the most so far.
I’ve looked forward to the Protectorate Starfighter from its’ initial announcement, seeing it as a re-imagining of my beloved TIE Interceptor. They have a very similar maneuver dial (white 1 hards, lots of green 2’s), enhanced in this case by a speed 2 Tallon Roll. They have matching stats across the board, with the exception of an added hull point on the Protectorate. Where they differ is their usage. TIE Interceptors specialize in eluding the enemy, dancing away from attacks, and hitting hard when the opportunity arises. The Protectorate Starfighter doesn’t believe in that dodgy stuff at all, preferring to go head-on toward the enemy. Nothing makes that more evident than the two (and only two) upgrade cards included with the ship, Fearlessness and Concord Dawn Protector, both of which give benefits for being face to face with your foe.
Throw on Autothrusters (Starviper), and you’ve got a lean and mean jousting machine that can handle itself just fine even if the enemy is running something cowardly like turrets.
Then the unique pilots bring their own tricks to the table, two of which reinforce this jousting mindset even further. Old Teroch acts as a poor man’s Carnor Jax (Imperial Aces), and Fenn Rau lays the hurt on an opponent (an early fun build was using Advanced Proton Torpedoes on him), and is a little less vulnerable than your average ship at close range too.
So as custom tailored to my style as those Protectorates are, surprisingly, they’re not #1 for me in this release. Instead the Shadow Caster, or Lancer Class Pursuit Craft, is my early favorite thus far out of Wave IX. Not quite a full blown turreted ship, the Shadow Caster comes with an auxiliary arc that can be rotated to any given quadrant of the ship, most variants hand out multiple status effects, and depending on how you build it, the ship can do a great job of supporting the rest of your list, or be surprisingly defensive and hard to damage.
Most of the Shadow Caster’s tricks rotate (pun mildly intended) around having targets within a certain range and inside the mobile arc. Sabine gets a free Focus result on defense in that arc. Asajj can give a Stress Token a ship in that arc. And Ketsu can assign a Tractor Beam token inside that arc. Then the Shadow Caster title allows you to assign a Tractor Beam token if you land a hit on an enemy inside that arc. It takes an action to turn your mobile arc, but the Gyroscopic Targeting modification will take care of that for you each turn provided you move fast, which this ship seems to specialize in doing. With straight maneuvers, banks, and hard turns all being green at speed 3, and a 5 straight available with a large base, this ship is built for high velocity combat.
My favorite pilot by far for the ship is Asajj Ventress. So far, I’ve been kitting her out with Push The Limit (A-Wing / Imperial Aces), Gyroscopic Targeting, Latts Razi, Black Market Slicer Tools, and the Shadow Caster title.
In this configuration, Asajj is very tough to harm in a late game duel. Each turn she can stack up a Focus and Evade, assign a stress to a ship that will be attacking her, roll 2 dice on defense, and if that’s still not enough Latts can pop that stress back off for an extra evade. There’s plenty of attacks out there that can get a damage or two through that kind of defense, but if you’ve left Asajj alone until the end-game and she still has all 10 health, you’re going to have a hard time bringing her down.
So that’s the highlights of wave IX, folks, or at least as I see them. All of these ships, the Special Forces TIE, ARC-170, Protectorate Starfighter, and Shadow Caster should now be available at your FLGS, run out and pick ’em up today. And if you’ve got a novel combo I didn’t mention, or think I overlooked something major here, feel free to leave a comment here or reach out to me on Facebook.
The event doesn’t start for another 36 hours, but I’ve been wired all day; all week, really. As far as I’m concerned, the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Regional Championship at Atomic Empire is already underway. It’s tournament time.
For weeks now, I’ve basically eschewed other games in favor of X-Wing. When I’m taking a rare break from work at the office, I’m loading up the squadron benchmarking tool over at https://xws-bench.github.io/bench/ (It’s far from perfect, but I can run a game in 5-10 minutes). I feel like I’ve barely touched the beta test material I’ve got in hand. My plans to run more event streaming or “Let’s Play” sessions have evaporated. My mind is locked in on Saturday.
I’ve redone my entire carry kit tonight; fitting everything except templates into a smaller version of one of these containers, down from the two to three of those that my supplies are normally spread across. That kit includes exactly two more copies of every token than I need, all the way down to the “nobody uses these” critical hit markers. For the first time since the release of the new damage deck in the updated Starter Set for The Force Awakens, I’ve dug out an old damage deck because it better suits my squad. Dice, tokens, sequential identification chits, ship cards, upgrades, and even that precious plastic card signifying that I’ve earned a first round bye at this event, it’s all packed away in that case.
At this point, you might even say that I’m going overboard. I’ve pulled out extra acrylics to loan to friends that may not have them. Headphones? Packed. Tablet? Packed. Laptop? Likely to be packed as soon as I finish this article. I’m scheming away on how soon I can leave work tomorrow so that our group can hit the road for our six hour drive to up to Durham.
I actively avoided casual games with folks that don’t dive deep into the tournament scene this week. I don’t feel like I handled that well, I struggled to find the right way to say that I couldn’t be anything but competitive right now. They couldn’t understand where my mental state is right now. Hell, I barely can understand it.
I feel like I’m wasting energy, but I can’t slow my pace. I’m going through all the preparation I can, mentally and physically. Staying hydrated. Getting (relative) extra sleep. Go out somewhere for dinner? Naah, pound back a protein shake and keep going. It almost looks like I’m trying to be healthy suddenly. I went from “I go to the gym every other week or so” to “I’m going to get on a machine and run in place for at least five miles on multiple consecutive days” in a failing attempt to settle myself down.
And just like clockwork, I had my pre-big-event existential crisis last night. “This list isn’t good enough… I’m chasing the meta… I can’t seem to win a single ****ing practice game… I’d be better off flying something that I know better, something that comes more natural…”, I had all of that and more hit me. But I know that I’m playing folks that know me, that know my tendencies, and know the list I’m flying (it’s been a holy terror on the local scene this year). So I’m sticking to my guns and by extension to the list I’ve planned for months to play in this event, the Crack Swarm.
This may all sound like a ridiculous amount of build-up and preparation for one (long) day of gaming. In truth, it probably is. But my girlfriend pointed out to me earlier this evening she hasn’t seen me this worked up for a particular cause for quite a while, and it suddenly hit me how much good it has done for me.
All my issues at work, all my stresses, all my cares, they get shut out during all of this preparation. My problems aren’t problems right now. I don’t care what my micromanaging boss in California is nitpicking today. I’m not worried that my hunt for a new job is going slowly. Sticking to my pseudo-diet isn’t a willpower battle right now. Family issues aren’t getting in the way of the rest of my daily life. I’m simply not worrying too much about these things; I’m not ignoring any of them, they’re just not getting any more attention than they deserve. I’ll find another way to deal with all those things next week, but for now I just can’t let them bother me.
I don’t need the prizes – the alternate art Hera Syndulla card, the acrylic Cluster Mine tokens, the challenge coin, or even the exclusive fancy dice (I really would like those, but I don’t NEED them). I’ve already got a set of all of them for running our local Regional. Heck, I don’t even know where I would put the trophy if I ended up winning the whole thing, although I can say that I would probably carry it around with me everywhere for a week or two. And I don’t know that I would (or could) use the bye that would grant me at the next level.
But really, it’s not about the prizes. It’s not about winning. It’s about the experience. It’s about the competition. It’s about finding (or trying to find) a way to win, and doing so against the highest level of competition available. It’s all about the love of the game. And it’s about looking my friends in the eye and knowing that we all gave it our best shots to come out on top, and being proud of one another for that.
It’s been about a little over a month since Wave 8 was released for Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures. The new ships made a big splash on the tournament scene as we wrapped up this year’s Store Championships and moved on to Regional events. The Ghost has proven itself a veritable toolbox, capable of serving as a heavy hitting gunship. The TIE Advanced Prototype has seen immediate usage as a cheap and efficient fighter, either as a generic swarm or slipping The Inquisitor into an existing build like Sith Lords and freeing up points to upgrade the other ships in the list. And the Punishing One has quite possibly caused the largest impact, with Dengar fueling my own Store Championship win, and the Wolfpack / “U-Boats” build of 3 Contracted Scouts appearing all over the place. The one ship that hasn’t gotten a lot of love yet is the Mist Hunter, and after a series of questions from my local group, I wanted to find a way to make it usable.
The Mist Hunter / G-1A Starfighter serves as the B-Wing of Scum & Villainy, with base costs in the 20’s, average maneuver dial, 8 total health, 3 attack, 1 evade, access to Crew and System Upgrade slots, a Barrel Roll*, and a Cannon* [*one ship via the title, and only a Tractor Beam]. B-Wings are rarely seen on the table in my local meta lately, and appear in specialized roles when they do – an equivalent of BBBBZ isn’t possible, with the cheapest G-1A weighing in at 23 points. The strengths of the 4 B-Wing lists without a 5th ship that I’ve seen lie largely in having access to a Barrel Roll for blocking arc dodgers, so that’s not going to work here either, as only one ship can have it. The Mist Hunter will need a new approach, despite the parallels to the B-Wing.
As for a stand-alone ship; the M3-A Scyk serves as a cheaper cannon carrier for the Tractor Beam, albeit a much less sturdy one. A generic Ruthless Freelancer with a Fire-Control System (B-Wing / TIE Phantom) does come out to 25 points, allowing it to slot nicely in to a modular build (which scum tends to do easily, as referenced in my article on the Kihraxz). But it certainly doesn’t feature the ship, it would simply be serving as a cog in the wheel.
No, I want to make the G-1A into a headliner, so that meant exploring the named pilots.
The concept: Mess up the enemy’s actions via stress and token denial, then let Zuckuss drop the hammer on somebody 6 attack dice at a time (3 base, +1 for Range 1, + 1 for his pilot ability, +1 for Opportunist).
The execution: Messy. Very Messy. Almost Lionel Messi (sorry, had to slip that one in there for the benefit of a certain pirate).
Facing off against two minimally equipped X-Wings (one of each generation) and Han for my first test-run, I had a lot of trouble getting shots lined up early. Facing an unfamiliar opponent with an unusual list, I had no idea what to expect from his movements. I also got confused early on as to which G-1A was which, and that certainly didn’t help matters. Palob didn’t hold up well under concentrated fire, but Zuckuss managed to do his thing – After stripping shields from the T-70 on one turn, stressing it in the process, and snagging a Target Lock to keep, he rolled up into Range 1 and fired a short range rail gun, 4 hits and 2 critical hits without spending any modifications.
Zuckuss was knocked out soon thereafter, leaving a damaged 4-LOM by himself against mostly full health Han and a pristine generic T-65. Not exactly a great situation. 4-LOM was never intended to be a closer in my design – his role was to help set up Zuckuss’s attacks and then harass and kite another ship out of the fight. But he had all the tools needed to win this battle, and was in prime position to do it.
For about the next 12 turns, 4-LOM worked magic. Each turn, I looked at the board state, and ruled out there the Falcon couldn’t go without landing on an asteroid or risking the table edge. I ruled those out as possible landing spots, and picked a move I knew I didn’t want to make. With Intelligence Agent, I would peek at Han’s dial, then I would watch where the X-Wing moved. Having perfect knowledge of final board state, 4-LOM would barrel roll for extra reach if necessary (snagging a token otherwise), and adjust his maneuver via Stay on Target to get right into Han’s way. Falcon bumps the Mist Hunter, Mist Hunter hands that stress away at the end of the turn… wash, rinse, repeat. But the X-Wing was still a threat. He got off a shot or two, luckily to little effect. But more often than not, I could prevent that shot with the Tractor Beam, placing the lower PS pilot onto asteroid after asteroid, letting them be the damage source that slowly pecked away at the T-65’s shields, and nullifying its’ return fire in the process. And when I couldn’t stop the shot with a Tractor Beam movement, the G-1A’s Evade action came in handy.
Eventually, the Falcon managed to escape the trap with 3 stress tokens in tow, and the X-Wing was taken out in the same turn. Now we had a fair 1-on-1 fight on our hands, in which 4-LOM, as equipped still had an advantage. After circling around to make another attack run while the Falcon cleared stress, 4-LOM went back to work, actively blocking the Falcon onto asteroids when possible for potential damage, or saving up Target Locks on turns that would have a collision, and passing off stress again. When firing -did- occur, Han had naught but his native reroll (soon removed via an Injured Pilot critical), and the Mist Hunter would have a Target Lock for offense and an Evade for defense. With action support for the war of attrition that followed, my scum managed to limp away from the fight victorious.
What I’m trying to express, and feel that I’m falling short of fully conveying, is how much 4-LOM was in control of that fight. I didn’t care what maneuver the Falcon picked, I was going to block it over and over again until I was ready to shoot at it. I came in to this match expecting 4-LOM to be a distraction, a side show and support for Zuckuss. Instead, he took the main stage, and made it his game. It was a pleasant surprise.
On March 15th of 2016, Fantasy Flight Games released new tournament rules documents for all of their games. These new documents included a lot of cleanup and standardization across all game systems – formalized roles for all participants in an event, clear definitions of core concepts and event types, and removal of a few silly draconian rules (such as the total ban on ship modifications for X-Wing). These are all good things. But unfortunately, a very bad thing came along for the ride: Intentional Draws.
The concept of an intentional draw is relatively simple: two players matched up at an event can agree to a tie game, rather than playing the game out. Seems pretty harmless, right? But when you look at the tournament structure and game scoring for these events, you see where it leads to underhanded tactics and poor sportsmanship.
All FFG tournaments start with multiple rounds of Swiss pairings; similar records are paired up, avoiding duplicates. Swiss pairings are considered the best way of finding the top players of an event where time does not permit a full single elimination or round robin structure, because the top players are paired against one another round after round. In a pure Swiss setting, an intentional draw is generally tantamount to resigning (except in extreme cases), because the number of rounds is set such that the leader at the conclusion of Swiss is undefeated.
But FFG events don’t stop after Swiss, except in events with low turnout (16 or less for X-Wing’s “Basic” event structure, 8 or less under “Advanced”). Immediately following Swiss, there is a cut to the top X players (based on attendance) for a single elimination bracket. This cut usually corresponds directly to a tier of prize support, so even if you’re guaranteed to lose the first round after the cut, players still want to make it in.
So going in to the last round of Swiss play, several players have something major on the line. Let’s take a look at how a hypothetical X-Wing tournament would run under both the Basic and Advanced structures. For the sake of simple math and minimal edge cases, we’ll assume a nice even number of 16 players show up (4 rounds of Swiss under either format), and that no modified wins or natural draws occur.
Let’s label our top 8 players after round 3 “Player 1” – “Player 8”. Player 1 and Player 2 have perfect winning records up to this point. Player 2 has been squeaking by all day with the smallest full wins possible in each game, walking in to this game with a 336 total Margin of Victory. Player 1 has been stomping folks all day, and has a near-perfect 560 point Margin of Victory.
Example MoV’s for our other hypothetical players:
Player 3 – 488
Player 4 – 488
Player 5 – 450
Player 6 – 440
Player 7 – 425
Player 8 – 415
Consulting our Basic tournament structure, listed above, there won’t be a cut to a single elimination bracket in this event, instead the standings after 4 rounds will be final. While it is guaranteed that one or the other of them will win the event, Player 1 and Player 2 have huge incentives to take a draw here. Player 2 doesn’t feel like he can win that game, and a draw guarantees him 2nd place; that one tournament point puts Player 2 out of anyone else’s reach. Player 1 stands to gain nothing by not accepting Player 2’s offer, as he is also out of reach of the other players, and wins the Margin of Victory tiebreaker against Player 2. An Intentional Draw is now the “right” play for both players.
Meanwhile, if Player 1 and Player 2 don’t take that draw, 2nd place is up for grabs. A loss for Player 1 could push him down as far as 4th place, as Player 3 and Player 4 are still in striking range of his Margin of Victory with a potential gain of 200 points in a round. And something like a 0-100 loss for Player 2 risks knocking him down as far as 11th place out of 16 with his poor MoV.
Now, looking at the Advanced tournament structure, things get uglier. Going into our 4th round, there are exactly 8 players with at least 10 tournament points from having a record of 2-1 or better. Anything other than a loss locks them in to a spot in the single elimination bracket.
But going back to our breakdown from above, that’s only going to happen naturally for 5 out of those 8 players, 3 of them would drop to a 2-2 record. With 6 players at a 1-2 record coming in to the 4th round, 3 of those players will win their game – meaning Players 9-14 would normally have an outside chance to continue. But he insertion of the Intentional Draw rule says otherwise. Players 3-8 have zero reason to play their games, and instead they can shake hands and turn in their score sheets for 1 tournament point each. It doesn’t matter that they could be caught if everyone played their games out; they were lucky enough to be in the lead, so they get the ability to cut the competition short and say that only the rounds that they already did well in count.
How can this be, you ask? Surely this isn’t really allowed???
The Intentional Draw rule, as written, is currently left open to interpretation. There’s a really interesting reference in the rule pointing back to the section on Unsporting Conduct.
“Collusion among players to manipulate scoring is expressly forbidden” – That seems to be exactly what Intentional Draws are, manipulation of scoring. Proponents of the rule argue that the judge’s presence prevents the term “collusion” from applying here, as the agreement is not made in secret. I’m not sure if I want to laugh at this attempt to lawyer the rules, or ask the player to make sure it isn’t secret by announcing to the entire room that they feel they have the right to decide how long the event runs, and that they’re cutting it short because they’re winning. Cowards.
In case you can’t tell, this rule upsets me greatly. The exact impact on scoring is a little different for each FFG game, but the general effect is still the same – players have an opportunity to advance their position in a tournament by choosing not to play a game. This is asinine, elitist, and exactly the opposite of the old worn out and downtrodden concept of “Fly Casual”.
I’ve seen multiple circumstances in this tournament season where my day could have been ended by a handshake on a different table, where I could pass either player (or at least one of them) had they lost but I couldn’t do anything about a draw. Even worse than that, I dread the idea of having tell a player at one of my events that they had a chance at making a cut, but someone else decided that they didn’t like playing fair. Let’s say that was this hypothetical player’s first tournament where they were doing well, and might have a fighting chance to win it all that day – if someone locks them out via Intentional Draw, they might never show up for another event. So I’m fighting this rule as hard as I can.
Over the past three weeks, I’ve tried really hard to get clarification from Fantasy Flight Games regarding how they intend this rule to be used, and why it was added. I’ve used the contact form on the FFG web page. I’ve reached out to FFG Organized Play on Facebook, and by direct email. I’ve also emailed individual employees at FFG. None of these have been met with any response whatsoever. If, by chance, you happen to be one of the recipients of those messages and didn’t reply, please know that I’m very angry with you.
Meanwhile, a small number of players are claiming that they will not attend the X-Wing Regional Championship I’ll be hosting later this month, because I had originally made it clear that, pending feedback from FFG (see previous paragraph) I would not permit Intentional Draws while I had the ability to interpret it as Unsporting Conduct, because that’s exactly what it is. This stance has since been forced to soften by the usage of Intentional Draw at the Hoth Open, despite the fact that I still have no clear guidance from FFG. Before my stance was changed, I was accused of being a horrible TO for taking this stance. I was told to go play Hello Kitty games since I can’t stand “true competition”. I was told that I should be reported to FFG for this. I was told by folks with absolute zero control over the matter that this would be the last tournament I ever run if I don’t permit Intentional Draws. Nobody seems to understand that I don’t benefit from this in any way beyond knowing that my players, both local, visiting regularly, or coming in for the only time I’ll ever see them at a tournament won’t get screwed over. Gee, that makes me SUCH a bad person.
To my great dismay, I’ve been told that the Intentional Draw rule was invoked by players during the last round of Swiss at the recent Hoth Open event at Adepticon, and the request(s) received permission from FFG officials. I don’t know the precise details, but that gives me no room to interpret the rule as only applying to a Father/Son matchup in round 2 of 8 of an X-Wing event (Because no family conflict happens in Star Wars), or anything along those lines. As a result, I may have to reverse my stance and permit them, under great protest.
Just don’t expect me to disclose anyone else’s current scores, nothing says I have to arm you with the information to make an informed choice about this crap.
And don’t expect me to ever agree to one when I’m playing. I don’t care what I’m risking by not taking your offer; as soon as you utter those cowardly words, that match is to the death.