Tag Archives: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures

And now, the rest of the story…

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.

Friday:
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.

You know, I think we would have paid more attention to these things locally if we had just put it on the table once, simply because it looks intimidating!

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).

The distance between the bomb tokens and that Shadow Caster will henceforth be known as one “second round loss”. (If you’re in the US, don’t worry about it. It’s a Metric unit).

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.

Can I borrow my comments on this game from another article where basically the same ships did pretty much the exact same thing wrong, or would that be considered lazy?

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.

Saturday:
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, Stormtroopers shoot 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?

Here we see some majestic Snowtroopers in their natural habitat, Echo Base.

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…”)

No translation required, this says “I just kicked your ass, but we had fun playing” pretty clearly.

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.

Sunday:
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.

When I finally committed my second set of mines, dude saw the SLAM/drop  coming. This would have been so much easier on my stress levels had Soontir turned the other way for me.

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.”
[pause]
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:
Kanan Jarrus – 38 (Ghost)
Tactical Jammer – 1 (DecimatorShadow Caster)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)
Jan Ors – 2 (Rebel Aces)
Accuracy Corrector – 3 (Starviper / IG-2000)
Ghost – 0 (Ghost)

Biggs Darklighter – 25 (Starter Set)
R2-D2 – 4 (Starter set)
Integrated Astromech – 0 (T-70Heroes of the Resistance)

Zeb – 18 (Ghost)
Chopper – 0 (Ghost)
Phantom – 0 (Ghost)

             

                           

                         

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.

(Image cropped to remove score sheet.)

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.

Now accepting donations for a copy of Photoshop.

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.

*deep breath*

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.

But now an apology might be in order first.

– The Tabletop General

2017 X-Wing Regional Championship – Macon, GA

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…

Hail Eddie, full of grace. Our ordnance is with thee. Blessed art thou among bombers, and blessed is the fruit of thy bomb bay…

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.

My Build:

Dash Rendar – 36 (YT-2400)
Lone Wolf – 2 (YT-2400)
Outrider – 5 (YT-2400)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290, TIE Phantom)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Slave 1, Lambda Shuttle, YT-2400)

Miranda Doni – 29 (K-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
Extra Munitions – 2 (K-Wing, TIE Punisher)
Cluster Mines – 4 (K-Wing, TIE Punisher, Imperial Veterans)
Seismic Charges – 2 (Slave 1TIE BomberIG-2000)
Sabine Wren – 2 (Ghost)
Advanced SLAM – 2 (K-Wing)

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.

Round 1

Opponent’s list:

Dengar – 33 (Punishing One)
Fearlessness – 1 (Protectorate Starfighter)
Advanced Proton Torpedoes – 6 (TIE Bomber, B-Wing, Ghost)
Plasma Torpedoes – 4 (K-Wing, TIE Punisher, Punishing One)
4-LOM – 1 (Mist Hunter)
Overclocked R4 – 1 (Punishing One)
Glitterstim – 2 (Hound’s Tooth, Kihraxz)
Guidance Chips – 0 (Inquisitor’s TIE, Punishing One, ARC-170)
Punishing One – 13 (Punishing One)

Manaroo – 27 (Punishing One)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing, Imperial Aces)
Proton Torpedoes – 4 (Starter set, X-Wing, Y-Wing, B-Wing, TFA Starter set)
Gonk – 2 (Punishing One)
R5-P8 – 3 (Punishing One)
Glitterstim – 2 (Hound’s Tooth, Kihraxz)
Guidance Chips – 0 (Inquisitor’s TIE, Punishing One, ARC-170)

List commentary:

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.

              

                         

                       

The match:

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.

Rough start to the day.

Result:

29-100 loss

Standings:

0-1, 29 MoV

Round 2

Opponent’s list:

IG-88B – 36 (IG-2000)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing, Imperial Aces)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Slave 1, Lambda Shuttle, YT-2400)
Fire-Control System – 2 (B-Wing / TIE Phantom)
Glitterstim – 2 (Hound’s Tooth, Kihraxz)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)

Asajj Ventress – 37 (Shadow Caster)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing, Imperial Aces)
Latts Razzi – 2 (Shadow Caster)
Black Market Slicer Tools – 1 (Shadow Caster)
Shadow Caster – 3 (Shadow Caster)
Gyroscopic Targeting – 3 (Shadow Caster)

List commentary:

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.

 b          

                         

                           

The match:

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.

Result:

100-47 win

Standings:

1-1, 182 MoV

Aside:

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.

Round 3

Opponent’s list:

Countess Ryad – 35 (Imperial Veterans)
TIE/x7 – (-2) (Imperial Veterans)
Twin Ion Engine Mk. II – 1 (TIE Punisher)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing, Imperial Aces)

Colonel Vessery – 34 (TIE Defender)
TIE/x7 – (-2) (Imperial Veterans)
Juke – 2 (TIE/FO)

Omicron Group Pilot – 21 (Lambda Shuttle)
Emperor Palpatine – 8 (Imperial Raider)

List commentary:

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.

             

                           

The match:

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.

Result:

51-100 loss

Standings:

1-2, 233 MoV

Aside:

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.

Round 4

Opponent’s list:

Nera Dantels – 26 (Rebel Aces)
Fire-Control System – 2 (B-Wing / TIE Phantom)
Mangler Cannon – 4 (M3-A, IG-2000)
Plasma Torpedoes – 4 (K-Wing, TIE Punisher, Punishing One)
Extra Munitions – 2 (K-Wing, TIE Punisher)
Deadeye – 1 (A-Wing, TIE Advanced Prototype)
B-Wing/E2 – 1 (Rebel Aces)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290, TIE Phantom)

Dash Rendar – 36 (YT-2400)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing, Imperial Aces)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Slave 1, Lambda Shuttle, YT-2400)
Kyle Katarn – 3 (Rebel Aces)
Outrider – 5 (YT-2400)
Engine Upgrade – 4  (Millennium Falcon / Hound’s Tooth)

              

                            

                           

List commentary:

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.

The match:

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.

Preserving points via Morse Code – keeping Dashes together.

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.

Result:

100-26 win

Standings:

2-2, 407 MoV

Round 5

Opponent’s list:

Fenn Rau – 28 (Protectorate Starfighter)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing, Imperial Aces)
Concord Dawn Protector – 1 (Protectorate Starfighter)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)

Old Teroch – 26 (Protectorate Starfighter)
Fearlessness – 1 (Protectorate Starfighter)
Concord Dawn Protector – 1 (Protectorate Starfighter)

Talonbane Cobra – 28 (Kihraxz)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing, Imperial Aces)
Glitterstim – 2(Hound’s Tooth, Kihraxz)
Engine Upgrade – 4  (Millennium Falcon / Hound’s Tooth)

             

                          

List commentary:

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.

The match:

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.

Miranda: “Come a little closer, I’ve got some bombs for you too!”

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.

Result:

100-0 win

Standings:

3-2, 607 MoV

Round 6

Opponent’s list:

Blue Squadron Pilot – 21 (B-Wing, Rebel Aces)

Blue Squadron Pilot – 21 (B-Wing, Rebel Aces)

Blue Squadron Pilot – 21 (B-Wing, Rebel Aces)

Braylen Stramm – 25 (ARC-170)
Gunner – 5 (Millennium Falcon, Slave 1)
R3-A2 – 2 (GR-75)
Alliance Overhaul – 0 (ARC-170)
Vectored Thrusters – 2 (ARC-170)

             

                           

List commentary:
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.

The match:
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.

Congratulations, you have spread your arcs out to get off a couple of shots. In return, you’ll get torn to shreds over the next half hour.

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.

Result:

100-0 win

Standings:

4-2, 807 MoV

Position at cut to top 16:

13th place.

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”.

Round 7 – Top 16

Opponent’s list:

Countess Ryad – 35 (Imperial Veterans)
TIE/x7 – (-2) (Imperial Veterans)
Twin Ion Engine Mk. II – 1 (TIE Punisher)
Lone Wolf – 2 (YT-2400)

Omicron Group Pilot – 21 (Lambda Shuttle)
Emperor Palpatine – 8 (Imperial Raider)
Collision Detector – 0 (Special Forces TIE)

Soontir Fel – 27 (TIE Interceptor)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing, Imperial Aces)
Royal Guard TIE – 0 (Imperial Aces)
Stealth Device – 3 (Slave 1, M3-A
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)

               

                           

                           

List commentary:

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.

The match:

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.

Not the best setup I’ve ever done…

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.

Living on the edge!

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.

Result:

64-54 win

Round 8 – Top 8

Opponent’s list:

Countess Ryad – 35 (Imperial Veterans)
TIE/x7 – (-2) (Imperial Veterans)
Twin Ion Engine Mk. II – 1 (TIE Punisher)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing, Imperial Aces)

Colonel Vessery – 34 (TIE Defender)
TIE/x7 – (-2) (Imperial Veterans)
Juke – 2 (TIE/FO)

Omicron Group Pilot – 21 (Lambda Shuttle)
Emperor Palpatine – 8 (Imperial Raider)
Collision Detector – 0 (Special Forces TIE )
Guidance Chips – 0 (Inquisitor’s TIE, Punishing One, ARC-170)

List commentary:

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.

The match:

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.

Result:

100-53 win

Round 9 – Top 4

Opponent’s list:

Countess Ryad – 35 (Imperial Veterans)
TIE/x7 – (-2) (Imperial Veterans)
Twin Ion Engine Mk. II – 1 (TIE Punisher)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing, Imperial Aces)

Colonel Vessery – 34 (TIE Defender)
TIE/x7 – (-2) (Imperial Veterans)
Adaptability – 0 (Mist Hunter)

Carnor Jax – 26 (TIE Interceptor)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing, Imperial Aces)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)

List commentary:
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.

The match:

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.

Result:

100-0 win

Round 10 – The Final Match

Opponent’s list:

Dengar – 33 (Punishing One)
Lone Wolf – 2 (YT-2400)
Plasma Torpedoes – 4 (K-Wing, TIE Punisher, Punishing One)
Zuckuss – 1 (Mist Hunter)
Overclocked R4 – 1 (Punishing One)
Glitterstim – 2 (Hound’s Tooth, Kihraxz)
Counter-Measures – 3 (YT-2400)
Punishing One – 13 (Punishing One)

Manaroo – 27 (Punishing One)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing, Imperial Aces)
Plasma Torpedoes – 4 (K-Wing, TIE Punisher, Punishing One)
Latts Razzi – 2 (Shadow Caster)
Unhinged Astromech – 1 (Most Wanted)
Burnout SLAM – 1 (Heroes of the Resistance)
Engine Upgrade – 4  (Millennium Falcon / Hound’s Tooth)

List commentary:

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.

Hat tip to the amazing artwork from Paul La Rue. I was there for the game this was commissioned for, and this is way more exciting.

                           

                         

The match:

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?

Girlfriend: What is it? Me: It’s a major award!

Epilogue

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?

– The Tabletop General

X-Wing Miniatures; Wave IX thoughts

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”.

swx54_quickdraw                    special_ops_training

electronic_baffle                           Stay_On_Target

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

norra_wexley                     push-the-limit

alliance_overhaul                          r3_astromech

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.

fearlessness                          concord_dawn_protector

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.

old_teroch              fenn_rau

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.

asajj_ventress                    latts_razzi

shadow_caster                          gyroscopic_targeting

push-the-limit                           black_market_slicer_tools

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 TIEARC-170Protectorate 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 Tabletop General

Frenzy before the storm

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.

img_20160305_110510731.jpg
Crack Shot. It’s a hell of a swarm.

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.

img_20160514_133643460.jpg
One of many practice games. I’ve definitely learned how to lose with the Crack Swarm. Still working on doing so graciously.

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.

img_20160519_234850871.jpg
Traveling light. I had to dig deep to find the TIE Fighter dice bag for templates.

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.

img_20160514_112505306.jpg
Jake Ferrell is no Soontir Fel, but he makes a decent proxy for training purposes.

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.

img_20160515_190039766.jpg
New high score! But the scale still says TILT…

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.

Howlrunner – 18 (TIE Fighter)
Crack Shot – 1 (Kihraxz Fighter / Hound’s Tooth)

Black Squadron Pilot – 14 (TIE Fighter)
Crack Shot – 1 (Kihraxz Fighter / Hound’s Tooth)

Black Squadron Pilot – 14 (TIE Fighter)
Crack Shot – 1 (Kihraxz Fighter / Hound’s Tooth)

Black Squadron Pilot – 14 (TIE Fighter)
Crack Shot – 1 (Kihraxz Fighter / Hound’s Tooth)

Omega Squadron Pilot – 17 (Force Awakens Core Set TIE/FO)
Crack Shot – 1 (Kihraxz Fighter / Hound’s Tooth)

Omega Squadron Pilot – 17 (Force Awakens Core Set TIE/FO)
Crack Shot – 1 (Kihraxz Fighter / Hound’s Tooth)

img_20160514_114644632.jpg
Have to prepare for that inevitable mirror match.

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.

So bring on the competition. I’m ready. Are you?

– The Tabletop General

To the Death

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.

Breakdown_16
Number of players at each record on a round by round basis, assuming that all games end in a full win for one player.

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

Basic_16
The kid gloves option.

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.

Advanced_16
The “we came to play” option.

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.

Intentional_Draws

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.

– The Tabletop General

Payback at Vendetta: An X-Wing Store Championship

Chaos. Pure, undiluted chaos. The kind that Scum and Villainy thrives within. That’s what you get when a new wave of ships and upgrades releases in the midst of the Store Championship season for Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures. Two days between “okay, you can sell these now” and a tournament, zero time to find a comfortable and competitive build. Sure, you can theorize all you want, players can proxy what content has been revealed, but nothing prepares you for the chaos of the new meta.

I’d had plenty of chances already this season at a Store Championship win, but I fell just short over and over again. I placed second with my Dual IG-2000 build, as well as with a borrowed Crackshot TIE Fighter Swarm. And I barely missed more cuts than I’d like to admit, not liking where my favored builds fit in with the current opposition and not having better ideas that I was comfortable flying.

But I knew that Wave 8’s release was my ticket to the top. As soon as he was revealed, I started cranking on a Dengar build; which was refined more and more as additional upgrades were exposed. I was bound and determined to make him work. And what better frenemy to team him up with than Boba Fett himself? Not being certain of where Dengar would end up, I played Boba frequently in casual games with minimal upgrades, overloading a Bossk that served as a stand-in for the Punishing One. I knew whatever my final build was, Boba should stay lean and efficient, with the primary goal of being an early game threat and allowing Dengar to close out the match.

Boba_Fett              Dengar

I managed to get in exactly one practice game between release and the next tournament. I had thrown iteration after iteration of the list at a friend, and it all sounded great. In practice, I lost out to a list consisting of three Trandoshan Slaver YV-666’s, and rather badly. I had hampered myself greatly by relying on stressing Dengar via Experimental Interface to trigger “Gonk” every turn, which gave me great potential for late game regeneration, but in turn it limited my mobility greatly, and I never reached that late game state.

Gonk                         Experimental_Interface

With little time to refactor, and no time to practice, Experimental Interface came off, and I had nowhere I wanted to put those points on Dengar, so over to Boba they went. Lean and mean became lean-ish, flexible, and REALLY mean, as those 3 points became the Navigator that he would later use to great success.

My build:
Dengar – 33 (Punishing One)
Punishing One – 12 (Punishing One)
Predator – 3 (TIE Defender / Kihraxz / Ghost)
“Gonk” – 2 (Punishing One)
R5-P8 – 3 (Punishing One)

Boba Fett – 39 (Most Wanted + Slave 1)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Engine Upgrade – 4  (Millennium Falcon)
Navigator – 3 (Lambda Shuttle)

Boba’s loadout is minimal, and essentially all about giving me options. I flew him with a similar mindset to how I would fly a TIE Interceptor in days past, giving up the ability to combine a Boost and a Barrel Roll, but getting an arguably better option to avoid blocks in having the Navigator and Engine Upgrade. I could easily dodge arcs by flying past an opponent and utilizing my auxiliary arc instead, and frequently would find myself with full modifiers in combat thanks to a simple Focus action and his innate pilot ability.

Navigator                           engine-upgrade

Dengar, on the other hand, is set up for maximum damage output across the board. Usually moving last or close to it with a Pilot Skill of 9 and a native Barrel Roll available, he can potentially set up some unopposed shots that still have Predator to modify them. When he’s in the thick of the fighting, Predator can modify both his attack and counterattack, and R5-P8 (lovingly known as “R8-P3” and “dickbot”) can also toss in an extra damage here and there. “Gonk” and his regeneration ability was the icing on the cake. Without extra action economy from Experimental Interface, “Gonk” can’t trigger often and didn’t provide any passive boosts like Bossk or Tactician could, but a single shield recovered equates itself to a half cost Shield Upgrade, and there’s potential for recovering much more than that over the course of the game.

R5-P8                         Punishing_One

So how did it all work?

Round 1

Opponent’s list:
Manaroo – 27 (Punishing One)
Attanni Mindlink – 1 (Punishing One)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)
R5-P8 – 3 (Punishing One)

Serissu – 20 (M3-A)
Wingman – 2 (Z-95 Headhunter)
Stealth Device – 3 (M3-A / Slave 1)
Tractor Beam – 1 (Mist Hunter)

Guri – 30 (Starviper)
Attanni Mindlink – 1 (Punishing One)
Virago – 1 (Starviper)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
Fire-Control System – 2 (B-Wing / TIE Phantom)
Cloaking Device – 2 (Mist Hunter)

List Commentary:
Holy Scyks, Batman! What a way to kick off Wave 8!!! Cloaking Device, Manaroo, two Attanni Mindlinks, R5-P8, and a Tractor Beam, all in one list. This thing is sneaky good on defense, because the list can generate up to 6 Focus in a turn, has defensive rerolls, and can move Target Locks off of the easiest target to hit.

Manaroo              Serissu

Attanni_Mindlink                           Tractor_Beam

The match:
I caused some serious confusion right out of the gate by not engaging immediately. Instead, I ran my forces perpendicular to the enemy, creeping along my board edge, all the while building up shields on “Gonk”. As I had hoped, in addition to preparing for late game regeneration, this also gave me time to find an opening where my opponent would be out of position and unable to fully engage.

IMG_20160319_105545775
Ready to turn in and attack, only Guri can get to a firing position from here.

While a great defensive plan against a swarm of ships with just a couple attack dice each, my opponent’s build was vulnerable to attacks that could surge for high damage, which Boba and Dengar were more than happy to provide. Having the ability to fire just about anywhere, I gave very few hints as to where Manaroo’s tokens should go each turn; I could usually just pick the easiest target and fire away. And while the Tractor Beam could increase the damage output of the other ships, it didn’t play a large role, and the Scyk was basically helpless on its’ own.

Result: 100-0 win
Standings: 1-0, 200 MoV

Round 2

Opponent’s list:
Gold Squadron Pilot – 18 (Y-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)

Ezra Bridger – 20 (Ghost)
Rage – 1 (Punishing One)
Dorsal Turret – 3 (Ghost)
Phantom – 0 (Ghost)

Kanan Jarrus – 38 (Ghost)
Ion Cannon Turret – 5 (Y-Wing / HWK-290)
Tactician – 2 (TIE Phantom)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)
Reinforced Deflectors – 3 (Ghost)
Ghost – 0 (Ghost)

List Commentary:
Moar chaos!!! My first look at a Ghost (of many, I’m sure). This thing packs a punch, and I have no idea how to expect my opponent to fly it.  I’m just glad there isn’t room for it to have much support. I expect Ezra to stay onboard for as long as possible for the extra stress and Ion potential, especially against my large ships. The Y-Wing can wait, I’ve got to get that behemoth off the table, stat. Then I’ll figure out what to do with Ezra after that.

Kanan_Jarrus_Ghost              Ezra_Shuttle

Reinforced_Deflectors                           Rage

The match:
So of course, seeing the Ion Cannon, Tactician, and ability to double tap them, what do I do but serve myself up on a platter? I honestly expected to be in Ion range, but I thought my opponent would have turned to face me rather than give up unopposed range 3 shots. So my Punishing One that was supposed to race by ended up right in the enemy’s sights. Dengar took several damage from a primary, an Ion in the end phase, and two Stress tokens to boot. The obvious move from there was to swing out to my left with green maneuvers to start clearing that, but I couldn’t afford to be obvious now, as the Ghost packed too much of a punch if I stayed in arc, and could send me off the board if I wasn’t careful about my facing. Not really needing modifiers to do damage against a ship without evade dice while packing Predator, I kept the stress and stayed ot of harm’s way.

IMG_20160319_123109582
It turns out that folks find Boba Fett’s presence distracting.

Big and beefy, especially with the added defense offered by Reinforced Deflectors, the Ghost took a while to chew through, but every damage card stuck, including more than a fair share of Critical Hits. Battered, but not beaten, Boba and Dengar converged on the Y-Wing, downing it quickly before Ezra could engage. The rest of the game was a game of keep-away. Ezra was forced to commit blindly each turn to his move and actions, and spammed Rage whenever possible. But with higher pilot skill and repositioning abilites, I could kite him indefinitely. With Boba already under half health (largely thanks to the turn pictured above), I let him score the finishing blow while Dengar re-Gonk-erated to save points.

Result: 100-23 win
Standings: 2-0, 377 MoV

Round 3

Opponent’s list:
Prototype Pilot – 17 (Rebel Aces / A-Wing)
Chardaan Refit – (-2) (Rebel Aces)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)

Blue Squadron Pilot – 22 (Rebel Aces / B-Wing)
Tractor Beam – 1 (Mist Hunter)

Blue Squadron Novice – 24 (T-70 X-Wing / Starter set 2.0)
R2-D2 – 4 (Starter set)
Integrated Astromech – 0 (T-70 X-Wing)

Warden Squadron Pilot – 23 (K-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
C-3PO – 3 (CR-90)

IMG_20160319_140313922
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List commentary:
As opposed to the previous two lists, this doesn’t look too different compared to what this guy might have been running prior to wave 8’s arrival. There’s nothing that sticks out to me as being scary here. Still, I don’t want to underestimate what it can do, he’s 2-0 for a reason, and he just beat another Dengar build in the hands of a seasoned vet.

The match:
I want this guy’s dice checked. I had a hard time reading the results (he had painted in all the symbols to be able to identify them as his dice), but he was legitimately rolling the results he claimed. And they were ridiculous. I don’t think his T-70 (masquerading as a T-65 model) ever rolled less than 2 hits and a critical hit, usually before any modifiers were applied.

I always have trouble against newer players that don’t do what “makes sense”, because they tend to surprise me and take the move I had struck off of my list of possibilities. Knowing that he was newer, I tried to stretch his coordination, and dragged him through the asteroid field while charging up Gonk again. Instead of actually doing anything of note, though, I found myself struggling to engage safely, having a hard time turning Boba in to start the fight. And when I finally did, those hot dice bit deep.

IMG_20160319_143152676
That T-67.5 had Boba’s number.

Boba Fett went down quickly, and Dengar followed right behind, only taking the A-Wing and B-Wing with them. I’m still scratching my head and wondering if I remembered to assign all my shield tokens at the game’s onset. I know I did, and I’m not trying to take anything away from my opponent, he did a good job of concentrating fire, leaving me with few maneuvering options, and never giving me a good shot at the “right” target. But I’m still trying to figure out where all that damage came from.

Result: 40-100 loss
Standings: 2-1, 417 MoV

Round 4

Opponent’s list:
Wedge Antilles – 29 (X-Wing)
BB-8 – 2 (Starter set 2.0)
Integrated Astromech – 0 (T-70 X-Wing)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)

Jake Farrell – 24 (Rebel Aces)
A-Wing Test Pilot – 0 (Rebel Aces)
Proton Rockets- 3 (Rebel Aces)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)

Tycho Celchu – 26 (A-Wing)
A-Wing Test Pilot – 0 (Rebel Aces)
Proton Rockets – 3 (Rebel Aces)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)

List Commentary:
So here I stand, knowing I need a slam dunk to make the cut, and it’s my old friend InstantAequitas back for another chess match. This would be my third time facing this exact same list, and I wasn’t happy about it.  Last time I squeaked by with a crackshot swarm, and the game before that he made Dual IG into Solo IG before I realized combat had started, and then made it IG-0000 quickly thereafter. There’s enough of an alpha strike in his list that one of my ships is going to be crippled or even dead in the first round of combat, and for the first time all day I’m not holding all the trump cards in pilot skill. Bleh.

The match:
In our previous games, he’s played a cat and mouse game with me, daring me to chase one A-Wing or the other while Wedge creeps up unmolested. The first time, I took the bait. The second time, I left the A-Wings in my dust and ran Wedge over before turning back to engage his flankers. Today, he risked no such thing, committing Wedge to the joust right away; no divide and conquer for me.

IMG_20160319_152300507
Getting ready for the joust.

Looking back on it, he tipped his hand in the photo above – Tycho, on the left, didn’t use Push The Limit to double up on tokens in the opening turn, despite the fact that Jake did. I was looking to quickly down Wedge again, and keep the A-Wings from dropping their missile payload on me, so I surged forward with both of my ships, and Dengar moved into Tycho’s way with a Barrel Roll, while Boba already had Jake’s likely path covered. Sure enough, I caused a collision with Jake (I had initiative), but Tycho’s speed 5 Koiogran Turn dropped him down right behind Dengar, and still able to perform actions. Even having blocked an A-Wing, Fett got absolutely blasted, taking a Damaged Engine crit in the opening round of fire. Meanwhile, I scored all of a single damage on Wedge in the exchange.

My luck would improve from there, however, as Tycho’s heavy payload was spend, Jake flew out of the fight temporarily to set up his next attack run, and Wedge just plain missed after a K-Turn of his own; and I cleared his shields with return fire, the subsequent round would see Wedge removed from the board. Tycho did a good job of harrassing me, but green dice eventually fail, and Tycho dropped at the same time as Boba Fett.

Dengar, who had taken significant damage already, was trying to dodge away from Jake, who was being his normal shifty self and still had his rockets. Flying into the corner of my opponent’s deployment zone, I pulled out the one big trick I had up my sleeve – that beautiful white Segnor’s Loop to the left let me nestle precisely into the corner. A quick survey of my health showed me as having full hull and one shield; I played the odds and recovered a second with “Gonk”, meaning it would take three damage to score half points for my ship. Jake had covered all options, taking a straight maneuver in case I had turned right instead and continued to flee – and this left him unable to escape my firing arc at Range 1. Knowing that he couldn’t score a kill and would be taking two shots in return, Jake took a Focus and Evade, and fired his rockets out of desperation, dealing two damage and leaving me just above half health. And that’s where Dengar unleashed hell. 4 die counter-attack, stripped tokens, dinged shields. 4 die attack, no more A-Wing. A hearty handshake followed, for what was yet another great game between us.

Result: 100-47 win
Standings: 3-1, 570 MoV
With 18 players in attendance, the format for the day was 4 rounds of Swiss, with the top 4 players continuing in single elimination. In 3rd place after the 4th round, it was time for a quick meal break, then on to the cut.

Semi-Finals

Opponent’s list:
Poe Dameron – 31 (Starter set 2.0)
R5-P9 – 3 (GR-75)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)

Ezra Bridger -20 (Ghost)
Phantom – 0 (Ghost)

Chopper – 37 (Ghost)
Accuracy Corrector – 3 (Starviper / IG-2000)
Autoblaster Turret – 2 (Most Wanted)
Zeb Orellios – 1 (Ghost)
Ghost – 0 (Ghost)

List commentary:
Here it was, the oft discussed “cannonball” build. So long as Ezra stayed docked, anything that found itself at Range 1 of the Ghost could find itself taking 4 unblockable damage in a turn.

autoblaster-turret                           Accuracy_Corrector
Ghost_Title                           Phantom_Title

On top of that, a regenerating Poe was floating around out there. The Ghost needed to be my first concern, but Poe might be the bigger priority to kill.

The match:
My opponent, whom a few weeks back had chased my IG-88 for half an hour with Miranda, was (to my knowledge) brand new to flying large based ships like the Ghost. So seeing an opportunity to do so, I dared him to fly in to the asteroid field – I wanted clean shots at the Ghost while Poe was still out of the picture, and what better way to do so than with the VCX on a rock?

IMG_20160319_173649124
Boba has a clean approach between the rocks, but does Chopper?

That didn’t work out for me. Chopper cleared the turn with scant micrometers to spare, and blew Boba’s shields off within the turn, not caring the least bit about what anyone’s dice said. But I put some damage back on the Ghost, and resolved not to be caught like that again. With the new ship now dodging subsequent asteroids, I shifted my attention to the T-70, who found himself nose to nose with Boba. Poe proceeded to roll four Focus icons for his attack, and boldly spent the token, a risk that would prove to not pay off. He dealt damage, certainly, but it was the last I would take for the game. Two quick blasts from my ships chewed into the X-Wing’s hull, and a blocking move by Boba left Dengar with a sure kill shot.

I then spent a couple of turns kiting the Ghost. Just like on a Firespray, the side arc of the VCX is big and (natively) defenseless. With a pair of ships that can move quickly, don’t have to point at their target to fire, can reposition themselves with actions, have higher pilot skill than the enemy, and all the patience you’d ever need, Chopper’s health slowly ticked away. Ezra made a momentary appearance to little effect, he never got to roll attack dice. Chopper would meet a similar fate on the following turn.

IMG_20160319_181253225
Ezra is blurry because he’s exploding.

Result: 100-23 win

Final Round

Opponent’s list:
Prototype Pilot – 17 (Rebel Aces / A-Wing)
Chardaan Refit – (-2) (Rebel Aces)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)

Blue Squadron Pilot – 22 (Rebel Aces / B-Wing)
Tractor Beam – 1 (Mist Hunter)

Blue Squadron Novice – 24 (T-70 X-Wing / Starter set 2.0)
R2-D2 – 4 (Starter set)
Integrated Astromech – 0 (T-70 X-Wing)

Warden Squadron Pilot – 23 (K-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
C-3PO – 3 (CR-90)

List commentary:
Pop quiz, don’t look, but what’s the first word of the name of this article? I’ll give you a hint: It’s something Dengar is famous for. If you said “Payback”, you’re right and you cheated, because I’m more than 3000 words in at this point; I had to double check the title myself. You could turn this in for a term paper in some courses (X-Wing 101?).

Anyway, the point is that it was time to get revenge for my earlier loss. Nothing new about the list itself, but I wasn’t about to mess around and play coy. I smelled victory and this Rebel rabble was all that stood in my way.

The match:
I wanted the joust. The straight up, my stats beat your stats, damn the torpedoes joust. But he set up on my left flank, and I didn’t want to run Dengar down that edge. So I took the opposite corner, and picked a spot at mid-table for the engagement. I wanted to focus fire and down something early, but I was more concerned about not taking a ton of damage either of my own ships.

I rolled in toward the engagement point, and realized Boba might be in a world of hurt. If I came straight in at my opponent, there was no way for me to adjust the Firespray to be out of anyone’s firing arc. So I studied the field, and spied an out, banking in and taking a Boost out the side of his formation. This worked ALMOST perfectly; I didn’t want to shoot the A-Wing with Boba, but  it was my only option. A questionable move and Boost by the A-Wing had left it with no shot, no tokens, and facing an asteroid; perhaps he was looking for a block, but all he got was a hail of blaster fire from Fett instead. The B-Wing had a blindside hit available on Boba, but couldn’t hit Dengar. The X-Wing, on the other hand, could only shoot Dengar. Damage got spread across both squads, and I was happy – I now had multiple targets that could be focused down within a turn, and was in a great position to press that advantage.

IMG_20160319_184759154
I literally kissed my dial, and that still somehow didn’t give away what was about to happen.

Looking back on the previous game, the X-Wing had taken damage early, and my opponent had prioritized moves for shield recovery. Having gotten the free counter-attack from Dengar, I got some damage there, I expected him to fly defensively. That left me free to pour fire into the other ships, and I concentrated fire on the K-Wing, making quick work of it – as the only turret in his list, I felt I could outfly him and play the long game so long as that steady damage went away. In the exchange, I took a bit more damage on both my ships, but the X-Wing obliged me by giving up shots in exchange for health; and I can tank a solo B-Wing shot or two on these big fellows.

Shields only hold up so long, though, and my opponent’s dice were still hot, so Dengar was hurting and carrying several damage cards. I managed a couple of dodgy moves, and got a free shot off on the B-Wing, stripping a couple shields. Then my next move brought Dengar face to face with that ship, and clinging to life with a single hull. I imagined that would be a possibility when planning the turn, and thought I could barrel roll out of arc to safety. Looking at the Blue Squadron Pilot’s firing arc, however, it was too close to call. Not having a lot of practice with the JumpMaster yet, and not having played the Outrider in a while, I couldn’t tell if I would make it out or not. I couldn’t risk it. I was bound to lose that ship, and took a Focus, planning to go out with a bang like Dengar should….

… and then I flipped Boba’s dial, and his conservative slow 1 Forward movement. The clouds parted, a choir of Mandalorians began to chant, and Boba sprang into action. Navigator. 4 Forward. Boost around the asteroid. Throw some naked dice. My turn to roll hot. Shields down, scratched the hull. Dengar takes the opening, and vaporizes the B-Wing, surviving the turn. Crisis averted.

IMG_20160319_191510608
There used to be a B-Wing in front of the Punishing One. Boba, to Dengar: “You owe me.”

The A-Wing was eliminated easily soon after this, having taken several damage in the early exchange. but our nemesis in the X-Wing was long since back to full health; and a single attack could potentially finish off either of my ships. So with no time limit in the match, I went on the full defensive, zooming around the field and building up a few shields via Gonk where I could, firing shots of opportunity, but generally just trying not to die.

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A-Wing down!

Eventually, the X-Wing cut the corner enough to catch up, and my ships wouldn’t be escaping. Shots were exchanged, and shields were traded; all three survived the initial fire thanks to Gonk’s recovery. Dengar didn’t have a lot of options for a move this time, and just prepared himself for another exchange. It was now or nothing.

Boba and Dengar both unloaded into the X-Wing, who managed to barely survive by ejecting R2-D2 via Integrated Astromech. The lone remaining enemy then finished the Punishing One off. I wish I could say that’s when something epic happened. But the X-Wing was out of arc, so no counter attack. R5-P8 failed to come through too. So the ending wasn’t storybook. But with no regeneration available, a single hull, and a legendary bounty hunter still on the field, that X-Wing wasn’t long for this world. Boba was my closer, nothing like my plan. But I had my vengeance, and my win.

IMG_20160319_194729204
“Payback, it’s not just for Dengar anymore.”

Final thoughts:
I was so happy to be a part of the chaos, learning on the fly about what these new ships were capable of and how folks would equip and maneuver them. I’ll take that over an established and exhausted meta any time. I’m impressed with the Ghost and the Punishing One, the jury is still out on the Attack Shuttle, and I’m looking forward to seeing the Mist Hunter and TIE Advanced Prototype in action. Now I’ve just got to pick a regional to drive to…

IMG_20160319_195707579

– The Tabletop General

FCB at Wasteland (An X-Wing Store Championship)

Making an appearance in the first local Store Championship of the year forStar Wars: X-Wing Miniatures, I faced a difficult choice in list construction. As I discussed in my previous article, I have a feeling, looking at the new threats coming in the Wave VIII releases, that my beloved Interceptors are no longer going to be viable to stand on their own. More and more counters for their abilities are appearing in new ships. And while I wanted to try something new and make use of the recent releases, I haven’t had enough time lately to test the builds that I might bring. So I split the difference and compromised, bringing Soontir Fel and Carnor Jax equipped as normal, but substituting in Omega Leader as a splash of the new tricks.

Soontir Fel -27 (TIE Interceptor)
Royal Guard TIE – 0 (Imperial Aces)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
Stealth Device – 3 (M3-A / Slave 1)

Carnor Jax – 26 (Imperial Aces)
Royal Guard TIE – 0 (Imperial Aces)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
Stealth Device – 3 (M3-A / Slave 1)

Omega Leader – 21 (TIE/FO)
Push The Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)
Comm Array – 3 (TIE/FO)

Omega-leader                     Comm-relay

The change from a Royal Guard Pilot (Imperial Aces)  to Omega Leader did several things for me:
1) My lowest Pilot Skill is 8, up from 6 with the RGP. I’m almost guaranteed to see at least a portion of my opponent’s setup before deciding on mine, thus allowing me to control the area of initial engagement.
2) I shave a couple points, allowing me to win initiative bidding against other PS 8 and PS 9 pilots.
3) Omega Leader has proven recently to be a great counter to token-based ships like Soontir Fel, who shows up often in our local meta.

With 43 players in attendance, we would be having 5 rounds of Swiss play followed by a single elimination bracket of the top 8 after Swiss. I settled in for a long day of X-Wing.

 

Round 1

Opponent’s list:
Poe Dameron – 31 (Starter set 2.0)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
R5-P9 – 3 (GR-75)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)

Red Ace – 29 (T-70 X-Wing)
Comm Array – 3 (TIE/FO)
R2-D2 – 4 (Starter set)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)

Gold Squadron Pilot – 18 (Y-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
R2 Astromech – 2 (Starter set)

List commentary:
No pressure here, I’m just facing last year’s champion for this event to start the day. I hadn’t seen a competently flown T-70 in a tournament setting yet, and this was going to be a heck of an introduction. The TLT equipped Y-Wing I don’t consider much of a threat compared to the others, as any one of my ships should be able to out-duel it in the end game. I also was able to breathe a sigh of relief, as I expected the Y-Wing to be a “Stresshog” variant carrying R3-A2 (GR-75), as was the case in the mostly identical list on the next table over. The T-70s were the threat; both had regeneration abilities, and while neither was taking multiple actions each turn, each could get the equivalent benefit of multiple actions per turn.

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The initial approach. Poe, in the right-hand X-Wing, was about to get a surprise block that didn’t phase him in the least.

The match:
My opponent, like any good Rebel player, slow-rolled his approach. And I have been working on my obstacle placement and controlling the engagement. As we entered firing range, my opponent faced a choice: splitting his squad to fly around an asteroid, or committing to moving to my left, while I was approaching from the right. So right out of the gate, I had created a unique opportunity for myself. Only Poe could safely turn to my right. With Poe bumped up to a higher pilot skill and being dependent on Focus tokens for his regeneration abilities, I gambled that I might be able to block him in and score a quick kill. Carnor and Omega Leader tokened up and prepared for combat, while Soontir, who had been closer than the others, pushed ahead and used his actions to boost and barrel roll to where Poe would be if he took the bait. This gave me either 3 shots at Poe while he had a focus, or 2 while he didn’t. I got the block, but the dice didn’t treat me well, and I didn’t deal significant damage.

The next turn, I scrambled for position, as all my ships were stressed and pointed the wrong way. I attempted another block on Poe with Omega Leader, but came up empty this time, and would be relying on his Target Lock on Poe to keep him safe. No such luck, as Poe rolls 4 natural hits; which Omega Leader thankfully avoided with a hot roll of his own and an evade token. On the next turn, Poe got yet another Range 1 shot off, for 3 hits and a crit, naturally. Omega Leader wasn’t so lucky this time, and took most of the damage.

Meanwhile, with Poe isolated and hunting down the TIE Fighter, my Interceptors had switched to a target of opportunity in Red Leader. The dice gods smiled on my opponent, and I never managed to really get a solid hit. With R2-D2 and the persistent Evade token, what little damage I managed to put through just wouldn’t stick.

Omega Leader finally shook Poe off of his tail, only to be downed by the pesky Y-Wing that was circling the field, and this slow moving game was now an uphill battle. Taking stock, killing the Y-Wing would be the easiest target, but wouldn’t get me a win on its’ own. Red Leader just wouldn’t go down. So Poe had to go. After a few turns of positioning, I finally got a good attack run going, and blasted Poe off the table with a couple rounds of consecutive fire, putting me into “Modified Win” territory. Unfortunately, to make sure I got Poe off the table, Carnor had to spend his Focus token, and he would have needed it to stay alive through Red Ace’s return fire. With Dameron off the board and given enough time, Soontir Fel could have (eventually) won that battle. Unfortunately, time ran out during the very next turn, before I could recover from Carnor’s loss.

I don’t feel like I did anything especially wrong in this match. I changed targets several times between the X-Wings, but I hadn’t actually hurt either of them so it wasn’t like I was spreading damage out. But Omega Leader never really had an impact other than as a decoy, and his ability didn’t help.

Result: 37-61 loss
Standings: 0-1, 76 MoV

 

Round 2

Opponent’s List:
Commander Kenkirk – 44 (VT-49 Decimator)
Seismic Charges – 2 (TIE Bomber / IG-2000 / Slave 1)
Ysanne Isard – 4 (VT-49 Decimator)
Emperor Palpatine – 8 (Imperial Raider)
Engine Upgrade – 4 (Millennium Falcon)
Lone Wolf – 2 (YT-2400 Outrider)

Soontir Fel -27 (TIE Interceptor)
Royal Guard TIE – 0 (Imperial Aces)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
Stealth Device – 3 (M3-A / Slave 1)

List commentary:
Standard Fel, we know the drill there. But the rest was interesting. A Decimator, without Gunner (Slave 1), and without Vader (Lambda Shuttle)? That doesn’t seem like nearly as much of a threat as most other builds. With a higher PS across the board, I couldn’t be caught off guard by those Seismic Charges. With Isard and Kenkirk, it would be slower chewing than normal, but the Decimator would eventually die.

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Attempting to hunt down the enemy Soontir (far right) before Kenkirk could engage. If Omega Leader had gotten off a shot this round, my entire day likely changes.

The match:
My opponent deployed his Decimator in the corner, and I set up my squad as far away as possible, hoping to tempt him in to splitting his force. He obliged, and placed Soontir directly opposite my trio. With the Emperor involved, Soontir would be hard to take down, but it seemed a great opportunity to at least put a point or two on him. And I didn’t want to be trying to eat through all of Kenkirk’s hull while his escort felt 100% safe to engage from the rear.

I didn’t manage to hit him though, on the first pass, the second pass, or any subsequent ones. And I chased him for far too long. Again, just like in the previous game, Omega Leader took some damage early on and flew around as a liability for the rest of the match, simply trying to save points.

There was a very tense period, about 7 turns in, where my opponent managed to block my Soontir with Kenkirk, creating a traffic jam in the middle of the field, and dropping a seismic charge all at the same time. Omega Leader narrowly avoided death via bomb, and my Interceptors were corralled nicely for his Soontir, who thankfully didn’t manage to do any harm. We played “chicken” there for several more turns, as I couldn’t read what he planned to do; turning in to him would continue to bump if he bumped me to stay still, flying straight would either bump or place me on an asteroid, and turning away from him would bump into him again if he chose to move past me.

About the time we finally broke the standoff,  a warning was called for the end of the round I swapped targets – with no time to chase Soontir further, I needed to score points, and fast! But I wasn’t fast enough – time was called while the Decimator was still two hit points above half health, leading to my first ever 0-0 tie, and making my chances of making the cut look extremely slim.

Result: 0-0 tie
Standings: 0-1-1, 176 MoV

 

Round 3

Opponent’s List:
IG-88B – 36 (IG-2000)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Lambda Shuttle / Slave 1 / YT-2400)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)
Advanced Sensors – 3 (Lambda / E-Wing)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
IG-2000 – 0 (IG-2000)

IG-88C – 36 (IG-2000)
Mangler Cannon – 4 (IG-2000 / M3-A)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)
Advanced Sensors – 3 (Lambda / E-Wing)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
IG-2000 – 0 (IG-2000)

List commentary:
This looked familiar, yet very strange. In fact, swap the Mangler for an Ion Cannon (Firespray/B-Wing/TIE Defender/M3-A) and add in Glitterstim  (Hound’s Tooth / Kihraxz Fighter), and it would be identical to the way that I’ve run IG-88 to relative success over the past few months. The strange part about it is that my opponent has run IG-88 x 2 almost exclusively since their release a year ago, and I’ve never seen him use this configuration. The combo of a seasoned player and a more effective (in my opinion) version of the list could spell trouble for any slim hopes I had for the day.

img_20160109_135009534.jpg
Going robot hunting…

The match:
The downside of my opponent’s familiarity with other loadouts for IG-88 was a lack of a full toolbox for this one. I expected several hijinks with the Advanced Sensors / Push the Limit combo because there’s so many  ways that I use them to my advantage, and it surprised me to not see them here. And on top of that, the dice were my friend in this match. Several times I chose to spend a token to evade a mediocre attack, only to risk a more damaging shot that would end up failing to connect at all – you could read it in my opponent’s body language (and inventive verbal language) how badly he missed the Fire-Control Systems (B-Wing / TIE Phantom) that he would normally have equipped.

Carnor Jax bit the dust fairly early on, as he represented a large threat to my opponent’s token-based offense and defense, but not before one of the Aggressors was nearly destroyed. The other scum ship was dispatched quickly thereafter, as Soontir was his normal beastly self and Omega Leader showed up on offense for the first time all day, but my opponent did manage to sneak a pair of damage through onto Soontir in the process.

That’s where things got a little screwy. With plenty of time remaining in the match, and having mostly lost hope in the game and in salvaging his own run at a finish near the top, my opponent began flying very erratically, not even pretending to look for a shot. I thought for all the world that he would intentionally fly off the board in his frustration. But not wanting to give up points by doing something stupid, I remained patient and looked for good shots, which came up empty time and again. Then the turns began moving faster. And faster. Until I eventually made a mistake, in which I used Soontir’s second action to Barrel Roll into what I thought from across the table would be a better chase position, but found myself staring at an asteroid I couldn’t clear the next turn with any green maneuvers.

My opponent saw this predicament and pounced, turning back into the fight. Omega Leader bumped the Aggressor, and was unable to fire at it. And Soontir had to keep his stress, taking a speed 1 hard turn right into the sights of IG-88. One HLC shot later, and suddenly I’m losing this game. Omega Leader had to put the team on his back, and was barely able to finish the enemy off in time. It was quite frustrating to my opponent, the only action he could do that would matter was Boosting, as Omega Leader’s Target Lock prevented all other effects. But without spending that lock, all I could do was hope to eventually beat 3 evade dice with 2 focused attack dice. It eventually happened, but it took far too long for my comfort.

Result: 100-69 win
Standings: 1-1-1, 307 MoV

 

Round 4

Opponent’s list:
Wes Janson – 29 (GR-75)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
R3-A2 – 2 (GR-75)
Integrated Astromech – 0 (T-70 X-Wing)

Luke Skywalker
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
R5-P9 – 3 (GR-75)
Integrated Astromech – 0 (T-70 X-Wing)

Wedge Antilles – 29 (X-Wing)
R2-D2 – 4 (Starter set)
Predator – 3 (TIE Defender / Kihraxz)
Integrated Astromech – 0 (T-70 X-Wing)

List Commentary:
It’s like clockwork. Every time I come to a major tournament, I’m destined to play this guy. Our one stalwart defender of the T-65 X-Wing, I’ve played this game or ones like it out more times than I’d like to count, and it still amazes me that I might come out ahead if we go back over the results of the whole series. Wes always leads the charge, generally backed by Luke and Wedge, but there’s occasionally a different pilot mixed in. At most, an initiative bid lets me see Wedge’s move before Soontir’s, all of my other ships are moving completely blind. And in lists past, such as Cloak and Dagger led by Carnor Jax, even that wasn’t an option. Wes strips a token and/or double stresses an Interceptor via R3-A2, and then the remainder of the squad clobbers the defenseless ship over the next turn or two. Things get even rougher now with Integrated Astromech potentially adding 3 extra hit points into the list for free. It’s always an interesting cat & mouse game flying arc dodgers, and in this matchup I don’t feel like I’m the cat.

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This is the part where the rebels realize that they took the bait in expecting Soontir to fly into their kill box.

The match:
Some games, though, you’ve just got it. You’re in the zone, or as game designer David Sirlin (http://www.sirlin.net/) puts it, you’ve got “Yomi” (the ability of players to know the mind of the opponent). This was one of those games. My opponent wanted Soontir dead, and wanted him dead badly. So I denied that combat. Soontir flew straight by my opponent on the left flank, and never once let himself get caught in Wes’s arc, or much of anyone’s for that matter. Carnor Jax and Omega Leader, on the other hand, settled in with a couple of side-slipping barrel rolls to the right, and got beautiful strafing runs on the Rebels as they turned in vain to track the Baron. With Wes falling to a rapid sequence of unusually accurate attacks, Soontir then turned to engage. At that point, all trickery went out the window, and I could rely on sheer firepower to overwhelm the remaining enemy ships. It was quick, it was brutal, and I couldn’t have done it much better had I been setting my opponent’s dials for him.

Sorry, dude.

Result: 100-0 win
Standings: 2-1-1, 507 MoV

 

Round 5

Opponent’s list:
Ten Numb – 31 (B-Wing)
Mangler Cannon – 4 (IG-2000 / M3-A)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Advanced Sensors – 3 (Lambda / E-Wing)

Gold Squadron Pilot – 18 (Y-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
R3-A2 – 2 (GR-75)
BTL-A4 Y-Wing – 0 (Most Wanted)

Poe Dameron – 31 (Starter set 2.0)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
R5-P9 – 3 (GR-75)
Integrated Astromech – 0 (T-70 X-Wing)

List commentary:
Do I have to play this game? Really? Every one of these ships has something about it that makes it brutal for my list. The Y-Wing can apply multiple stress tokens to anything it can shoot. Ten Numb moves after I do, and can deal unblockable critical damage. And Poe moves after I do, has that ever-present regeneration mechanic that he never leaves home without, and that pesky ability to modify multiple results off of a single token. Short of a swarm of Feedback Array (IG-2000) equipped Z-95’s, or a Decimator carrying Vader (Lambda Shuttle) and a Gunner (Slave 1), there’s not a lot of things that my Interceptors like less than what was about to come across the table at me.

img_20160109_165330671.jpg
Missing: One B-Wing. No reward if found, just happy to report it missing.

The match:
What I had in my favor, however, was experience. I had seen this player before, but she was relatively new to the game. She made comments about being surprised at how well she had done for the day, and I didn’t know it at the time, but a strong win would have put her into the cut to top eight for single elimination. I wasn’t about to let her have that strong win though, because I was close enough to the top table to do mental math and know I had a shot depending on what happened in front of me. I didn’t control my own destiny, but a loss would doom my day.

Going back to our first game of the day, and the importance of setup, I placed a few obstacles up field and near her deployment zone. I wouldn’t know where Ten Numb and Poe were going until after I had finished setup, but I had a pretty good idea based on the Y-Wing’s deployment, and formed my exact plan on the fly after seeing her final placement. And then, knowing that the general plan for Rebels against arc dodgers is to approach slowly and maintain a wide field of fire, I picked a likely point of transit for Ten Numb past an asteroid, did my mental guesswork, and sent Soontir off to the races up that flank.

My opponent obliged me with slow and deliberate movements, leaving her with no option to safely turn in Soontir’s direction as she approached the asteroid, and being caught off guard by my aggressive approach. This resulted in an unopposed shot that stripped a shield or two off of the B-Wing before the entirety of our forces could engage. This is always a clutch moment for me – with 3 ships I have to get really lucky to clear a B-Wing in a single turn, but sneak in a point or two extra on another turn and it’s a much more manageable task. And when you’re playing Interceptors, limiting Ten Numb to a single shot is pretty much the best hope you can have.

Well, that’s not entirely true. You can also hope for a shield that will soak up that crit, which Omega Leader conveniently had. Ten Numb came off the board right on schedule, and then we went to work on the rest of the list. Next up, Y-Wing, can’t risk taking any more stress than it had already applied. From there, I played more cautiously, knowing I had a win in the bag without a major screwup, and knowing my actual margin of victory no longer mattered. But Poe didn’t put up too much of a fight, only taking Carnor Jax down with him.

Result: 100-34 win
Standings: 3-1-1, 673 MoV

 

The cut:
As I stated coming in to round 5, I didn’t control my own destiny. I was pulling hard for a friend to win his match (still going at the end), and only realized afterward that I shouldn’t have been so excited for him – he was playing an undefeated player so his opponent was in the top 8 players regardless of outcome, but his win blocked me out of the playoffs. Instead, I ended my day in 9th place out of 43.

img_20160109_180552796.jpg
My force for the day, along with my prizes (the pilot cards are all custom jobs by the event’s TO).

Full tournament results, including the winning lists, can be viewed on List Juggler.

I can certainly point to a couple of mistakes I made over the course of the day, the biggest one being that I didn’t swap targets to go after Kenkirk earlier in round 2. And perhaps I was just a little too aggressive with Carnor at the end of round 1. But all in all, I’m fairly happy with this as the first run of the season, and having gotten this out of my system, I can move on to some new and exciting builds for the rest of the season. And what a busy season it will be…

– The Tabletop General

2016 FFG Store Championship Prep

If there’s one thing running a blog will tell you, it’s how busy you are. Point in case, I’ve managed not to post a new article for a month. So if you miss me and you’re looking for more frequent updates, I might suggest liking The Tabletop General on Facebook, where I’m apt to post smaller updates  on a more frequent basis.

Over that past month, I came away with far more gaming presents for Christmas than anyone should ever get, ordered a sweet new laptop that’s due any day now, and generally didn’t manage to get in ANY casual X-Wing Miniatures or Armada games. So now I find myself freaking out a little bit since the 2016 Store Championship season is technically already underway for Fantasy Flight Games. I’ve got a couple more stores still to call for event listings, but here’s what my upcoming tour looks like thus far:

1/9/16: X-Wing – Wasteland Games – Duluth, GA
1/16/16: Armada – Meeple Madness – Flowery Branch, GA
?1/24/16: Imperial Assault – Giga-Bites Cafe – Marrietta, GA?
1/30/16: X-Wing – Meeple Madness – Flowery Branch, GA
2/6/16: X-Wing (TO) – Giga-Bites Cafe – Marrietta, GA
2/13/16: X-Wing – The Deep Comics & Games – Huntsville, AL
2/20/16: Armada (TO) – Giga-Bites Cafe – Marrietta, GA
2/27/16: X-Wing – Titan – Duluth, GA
3/5/16: X-Wing – Hobbytown USA  – Kennesaw, GA
3/12/16: Armada – Hobbytown USA  – Kennesaw, GA
OR X-Wing – Galactic Comics – Statesboro, GA
3/19/16: Armada – Wasteland Games – Duluth, GA
OR X-Wing – Sci-Fi City – Knoxville, TN
?3/26/16: Imperial Assault – Hobbytown USA  – Kennesaw, GA?

It’s a hard call right now for the March dates. With so many events going on over the region, overlap was unavoidable. While I’d like to support my local community and participate in at least one Armada event that I’m not the TO for, I’d also like to defend my title at Galactic. I would also really like to win an X-Wing event, over any of the others. So that makes the choices between local Armada events or distant X-Wing events tough.

And yes, that is a couple of potential Imperial Assault events you see sprinkled in to the schedule. No, I don’t really play the game, but I’ve heard good things about it, and I’m trying to solidify the local player base. So if nothing else comes up that day, I can at least be a warm body for the event. I’m hoping to at least get to a semi-competitive level in the game over the next month or so.

How would I have time for that? Well, Armada is on notice if things don’t improve for me soon. Perhaps I need to spend more time grinding out the details of the game, or even take a “net-deck” approach as a jump start. As it is, I’m not overly worried about the Armada events, as usual I’m concentrating primarily on X-Wing.

So what’s there to prepare for with X-Wing? After all, my TIE Interceptors did really well last season (snagging a championship title, in fact), and they didn’t get any worse, right? Well… no, they didn’t, but the competition got better. There’s a grand total of five (post-publish edit: six) things that seriously worry me about running them again:

  1. RAC/Fel – While less popular than last year, this combo was the instrument of my demise at last year’s Atlanta Regional, and is generally a tough matchup for me. My default build for the interceptors loses the initiative bid to Soontir Fel (TIE Interceptor), and Rear Admiral Chiraneau(Decimator) pumps out too much damage and just doesn’t die fast enough for me to be comfortable. It’s only 16 damage to knock him out, sure, but with a primary weapon turret, he doesn’t have to stay in firing arc. And with Veteran Instincts (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon) and Engine Upgrade (Millennium Falcon), Chiraneau can easily decide to slip out of firing arcs with a boost rather than stick around and get shot at.
    Rear-admiral-chiraneau        Soontir_Fel_Alt_Art
  2. Crack Shot Swarm – This one is MUCH more likely to be seen. Usually consisting of Howlrunner (TIE Fighter), 2 Omega Squadron Pilots (Force Awakens Core Set TIE/FO ), and 3 Black Squadron Pilots (TIE Fighter), all equipped with Crack Shot (Kihraxz Fighter / Hound’s Tooth), the Crack Shot Swarm forces you to over-commit with defensive tokens, and will eventually get damage through. On top of that, with 6 TIEs on the board, blocking an Interceptor is near trivial. So to walk into this matchup with a grand total of 3 ships with 3 hit points each, which depend on rationing Focus/Evade tokens to stay alive, I don’t particularly like my odds here. I’ve won my only matchup of these two lists, but it was far closer than I would have liked.
    Howlrunner                 crack_shot
  3. Sith Lords – With last year’s release of the Imperial Raider, TIE Advanced pilots got a major boost. We usually still don’t see anyone other than Darth Vader, but he’s at his best in this list. On top of that, the only thing that makes Soontir Fel any harder to kill is an additional layer of insurance on dice, which Emperor Palpatine (Imperial Raider) is designed to provide. With the potential to load up critical hits with Palpatine and Advanced Targeting Computer (Imperial Raider), Vader usually carrying a trump card of Pilot Skill 11, and an initiative bid for Soontir, this one has generally been a dice-off for me, weighted in the favor of the enemy.
    emperor-palpatine                     Advanced_Targeting_Computer
  4. Omega Leader – Generally, my battle plan over the past year or so (as I’ve mentioned here before) is to go punch the biggest threat on the board in the mouth, and pick up the pieces with whatever I had left, because I was confident in my ability to outduel the remainder of the enemy list with just one or two damaged interceptors. Omega Leader (TIE/FO) challenges that theory – he can serve as a supporting piece in the early game, but he gets stronger and stronger as the game goes on, and is a brutal end-game opponent. I haven’t had an opportunity to face him yet, but I’ve witnessed Omega Leader with Juke (TIE/FO) and Comms Array (TIE/FO) go one-on-one with Soontir Fel and absolutely destroy him. Yet you can fairly easily fit two much more threatening ships into the same list, such as your own copy of Soontir Fel fully loaded along with a crew-less Whisper (TIE Phantom). I don’t want to be facing any one of those three as the last ship on the table.
    Omega-leader              Juke
  5. Stress – Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by my local meta and a bit of luck. As I mentioned above, Interceptors really need their tokens to stay alive, and I use Push The Limit (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces) like a bad spice habit. Over the past couple years, I’ve not run into a lot of lists with effective stress mechanics, and I usually have found ways to outmaneuver the enemy when there are Tacticians (TIE Phantom) or a Rebel Captive (Lambda Shuttle) on the board. But the relative importance placed on stress at the 2015 world championships will likely garner some copy-cat lists with a suicidal BTL-A4 (Most Wanted) variant of a Gold Squadron Y-Wing carrying R3-A2 (GR-75), as well as triple K-Wing builds with Twin Laser Turrets (K-Wing) and Tacticians – Avoiding the stress areas isn’t THAT hard, but a PTL Interceptor is screwed if it fails to escape, and my defenses are greatly diminished against other attacks in the process. The K-Wings in particular are scary, because they can still fire those TLT’s outside of their primary arc, meaning there is no true blind spot to approach them from.r3-a2                     Tactician
  6. (Post-Publish edit) Unblockable damage – Without having explored the TIEs in the new Gozanti Assault Carrier much yet, I forgot about this one. Especially combined with something like Emperor Palpatine to guarantee the effect, Wampa (Gozanti) can cut through all of your defenses and hand you a gift-wrapped damage card. Ten Numb (B-Wing) presents a similar danger, especially when given Calculation (Starviper), Marksmanship (Starter set / X-Wing), or a Mangler Cannon (IG-2000 / M3-A). Agile & fragile ships have a lot to worry about from these guys.Wampa       Ten-numb

With all that said and done, I’m pretty much back to the drawing board, which isn’t somewhere I’ve been for a while – 3x Interceptors with Targeting Computers gave way to Carnor Jax (Imperial Aces) & Sigma Squadron Pilots (TIE Phantom), which gave way to the Interceptors again after Autothrusters (Starviper) hit the scene.

So I’ve got a mental checklist here:

___ High durability. 3 hit points per ship just don’t feel safe to me right now, there’s more and more ways to push damage through.

___ Scum or Imperial – I lean away from playing rebels, there’s not a lot of good matchups for the Crackshot Swarm except for Han Solo (Millennium Falcon) or Dash Rendar (Outrider), neither of which I enjoy playing competitively.

___ High maneuverability – Again, part of this is the enjoyment factor; I’m at my best when I have some sort of tricky way to move around the field unexpectedly. I’m not that great at anticipating exactly where the enemy will go in order to draw out a detailed battle plan 3 turns in advance. I could do it, but it just isn’t a style I’m accustomed to. I much prefer planning on the fly, watching the board resolve itself and fitting my post-move adjustments together like a puzzle.

___ Resiliency to stress – See point 5, above. I want ships that are capable of modifying die results without tokens, that don’t need to stress themselves out constantly to carry out my battle plan, and that aren’t going to wilt the first time “Stressbot”, R3-A2, hits the table.

___ Ability to crack Soontir – Like it or not, Soontir Fel isn’t going away this season. He should slow down and be less of a key component for some of the reasons listed above, but he’s not going away. Regardless of whether or not lists using him reach the cut (not saying they won’t, but thinking worst case), we WILL see him in the Swiss rounds, and he will serve as a spoiler there. If you can’t handle him, it’s going to severely hamper your score for the day.

I don’t have my list finalized for this weekend’s event yet, but it’s going to have to check off at least three of those items for me to consider it, and I’d prefer it if all of the conditions were satisfied. So I’m running….

(Censored) – 99 points
(Censored upgrades) – 57 points
(“Cheat” card) – negative 80 points

Major initiative bid, and I think it’s nigh on unstoppable.

More seriously, I’ve had it pointed out to me in the past that calling my shot before a major event isn’t the best of ideas, so I’m going to keep the exact plan quiet until after the weekend.

And for those of you wondering, I’m hearing that Wave VIII (GhostInquisitor’s TIEMist Hunter, and Punishing One) is due within the next two weeks, so we’ll have a whole new set of builds to prepare for coming up any day now. Wooohooo!!

– The Tabletop General

Dancing with Deathrain

Even though I’ve put my TIE Interceptors on the shelf for a little while, my favored playstyle in Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures is a game of re-positioning. In general, I like to attack the enemy from unexpected angles, adding in a touch of action denial and lots of burst damage to be able to quickly take down a key component of the enemy’s force.

I ran a tournament last night, and I only play in those to prevent a player from missing out on a match during a bye round (I select a player for the bye and grant it to them as normal for scoring, but they still get to play a game). Knowing my game results wouldn’t count for anything, I decided to field a ringer list that would attempt to match my normal play style in an untested way.

“Dancing with Deathrain”

Whisper – 32 (TIE Phantom)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)
Sensor Jammer – 4 (Lambda Shuttle)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Advanced Cloaking Device – 4 (TIE Phantom)

Deathrain – 26 (TIE Punisher)
Advanced Sensors – 3 (Lambda / E-Wing)
Proton Bombs – 5 (TIE Bomber / VT-49 Decimator)
Proximity Mines – 3 (Slave 1 / IG-2000)
Extra Munitions – 2 (K-Wing / TIE Punisher)

Dark Curse – 16 (Starter set)

Total: 99 points

A large part of this list was a personal challenge to myself to put the TIE Punisher on the table. Unlike the rest of Wave 7 (including the Kihraxz Fighter, Hound’s Tooth, and K-Wing), the sturdy big brother to the TIE Bomber had yet to find its’ way into any list I was willing to field. Despite the impressive total of nine hit points, with only one evade die the Punisher can’t take serious beating. Without firing ordnance, the Punisher is just a fat, poorly maneuvering TIE Fighter, thanks to its’ primary attack value of 2 and awkward dial (no speed 1 turn, speed 2 turn is red, speed 3 turn is white). But loading the ship up with munitions to improve damage output turns it into a real point sink – it’s possible to spend 66 points on Deathrain, as opposed to the 39 allocated to his ship in this list.

Dark Curse is always a pesky target to hit, and often ignored as a result. With under 20 points to spend in an Imperial list, he’s my usual pilot of choice.

Whisper, in the TIE Phantom, is fully loaded and ready for combat. I feel safe lately bringing the Phantom back to the table simply because it isn’t seen as often anymore, so less of the hard counters are seen. Don’t get me wrong, the prevalence of stress in the current game meta still hurts, and a pilot skill 10 Corran Horn in an E-Wing or a pilot skill 11 Darth Vader in a TIE Advanced will still be a major problem, but lately I’m seeing less and less of the Rebel Captive that prevents a TIE Phantom from re-cloaking with Advanced Cloaking Device before taking return fire.  Twin Laser Turrets are an issue, but hopefully one that is somewhat mitigated by the Sensor Jammer I have equipped, along with careful maneuvering of the Phantom.

What Deathrain brings to the table in this build is, ironically enough, a similar element of slipperiness to what the TIE Phantom once had prior to change in timing for decloaking maneuvers. I’ve recently come to love what Advanced Sensors and a Boost action can do for IG-2000, allowing you to adjust a planned maneuver before executing it. Advanced Sensors and Deathrain’s pilot ability allows you to drop a mine or bomb token and Barrel Roll before your maneuver, giving a similar adjustment ability.  Combining those together allowing you to string together some wicked combinations. Like what, you ask? (You did ask that, right? I’m just going to say you did…)

Let’s say Deathrain is matched up against BBBBZ, 4 B-Wings and a Z-95. Lots of firepower, low pilot skills, BBBBZ hunts down higher pilot skill aces by spreading firing arcs and by attempting to block their likely maneuvers to deny actions. On this particular turn, the enemy lays a trap that would normally do an excellent job of pinning in a TIE Punisher.

 

BBBBZ Trap
Victims 1-5 set our scene, having already moved this turn in an attempt to block Deathrain in.

A very effective trap is set in the photo above. Deathrain will collide with someone if he dialed in a 1 forward or bank right, either speed 2 turn, a 3 forward, or a speed 4 Koiogran turn, and every one of those leaves him in one or more firing arcs. The unblocked options are speed 3 bank and turn maneuvers,  a speed 2 straight, or a 1 bank to the left. Each of these allow the Punisher to complete the maneuver and possibly get off a shot, but no boost action will allow him to both escape all firing arcs and get a shot at the enemy this turn, and only the 3 turn to the left followed by a boost allows the full no-shot escape.

The bad news is that Deathrain selected a 4-K maneuver this turn, which we already said was blocked. So that would normally leave him stressed, taking a range 1 and a range 2 shot from the enemy this turn, and getting no shot of his own. So why did I label the ships as “Victim 1-5”, rather than labeling the B-Wings and the Z-95 Headhunter? Because Deathrain is going to hit every one of these Victims without taking any return fire this turn.

Deathrain Bomb Options
Deathrain can drop his bombs from the rear as normal, or from the front of his ship.

With options to drop his bomb out the front or the rear, Deathrain has a decision to make. Dropping his bomb from the rear will only hit Victim 1, as illustrated above. The front would catch 1, 2, 4, and 5, but could be a bad place to drop the bomb, as completing the TIE Punisher’s maneuver could potentially bring him within range of the bomb. This is mitigated somewhat by his ability to perform a free Barrel Roll maneuver after dropping a bomb, but it’s not guaranteed to be safe.

Deathrain 4K locations
Deathrain can choose to Barrel Roll to either side after dropping a bomb and before completing his maneuver, giving him 3 potential final locations (plus wiggle room on the roll).

Even without the imminent collision from this scenario, performing the 4K in place leaves Deathrain in range of his own bomb. Rolling to his left, dodging Victim 1 requires him to slide backwards, which results in still being in range. Sliding forward and to his right, however, Deathrain can escape the blast radius of the bomb, leaving him with only shots from Victim 2 and Victim 4 to deal with (Victim 3 might have a shot too, if the Barrel Roll wasn’t far enough forward). So that maximizes damage dealt, but still leaves us open to return fire.

Let’s look at another plan. Remember when I said the speed 1 bank to the left was still open? Well, Deathrain didn’t pick that maneuver, but he still has it available via an Advanced Sensors Boost action.

Deathrain Bomb After Boost
After Boosting with Advanced Sensors, Deathrain has new options for where to drop his bomb.

It’s important to note here that you can not drop a Bomb token first, then follow that with an Advanced Sensors action – Advanced Sensors are activated before a maneuver dial is revealed, and bombs are dropped when the dial is revealed. So after Boosting with Advanced Sensors, Deathrain has to pick a new spot for his bomb token, if he’s going to drop it. But as you can see, with a banked Boost, your bomb ends up slightly in front of your previous position, and it probably goes without saying that a straight boost would leave the bomb precisely where your ship started the turn.

Since the rear location will hit more ships, we’ll have Deathrain drop it there (conveniently, it still catches Victim 4, as seen above), and then Barrel Roll left to make sure he’s out of Victim 2’s firing arc. Completing the Koiogran turn, our protagonist is now out of any danger of being fired at, and has a range 1 shot at Victim 3.

So let’s review:
Victim 1 – Hit by Proton Bomb
Victim 2 – Hit by Proton Bomb
Victim 3 – Range 1 shot
Victim 4 – Hit by Proton Bomb
Victim 5 – Hit by Proton Bomb

Since I didn’t identify them, there’s an 80% chance that Victim 3 is a B-Wing with one evade die, 20% chance of a Z-95 with two. Three attack dice at range 1 results in 1.5 hits on average, and even with a Focus available, the more nimble Z-95 cancels 1.25 on average, so I’m calling that a hit too. 4 Critical Hits that ignore shields on top of a 3 die attack is nothing to scoff at!

As you probably guessed, I created this perfect storm scenario in reverse, finding a way to make it possible. But in just a handful of games, I certainly saw flashes of potential in the Punisher, and the tricks I outlined here were all used, just not in such a succinct manner. The TIE Punisher may not see competitive play often, but it’s surprisingly enjoyable when just playing for fun.

– The Tabletop General.

Guest Battle Report – 2015 X-Wing World Championships

12232979_10104973718445210_1531483691_nToday we have a special guest battle report from Sam Talley. Sam is a local X-Wing player who has really stepped his game up in 2015, winning a Store Championship, going undefeated in swiss rounds on his way to an 8th place finish at the Atlanta Regional Championship, and generally being a holy terror in the local tournament scene. I’ve yet to see him playing in his Mandalorian armor, seen to the right, but the man’s got street cred among us gaming nerds.

I had the pleasure of throwing some “net list” tests at Sam during his preparations for Worlds, so he was kind enough to document his experiences to share here on the Tabletop General. Read on for his take on the biggest X-Wing tournament of the year!

My List:

Dash Rendar – 36 (YT-2400 Outrider)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Slave 1 / Lambda Shuttle)
Outrider – 5 (YT-2400 Outrider)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)

Gold Squadron Pilot – 18 (Y-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)

Gold Squadron Pilot – 18 (Y-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)

100 pts total

Theory and Playstyle:

Previously I had flown Corran Horn (E-Wing) / Chewie (Millennium Falcon), but I was too scared to bring Corran to the table. He was simply dying to quickly to concentrated Twin Laser Turret(TLT) fire for me, and after hearing all the hype from other National level tournaments about the TLT, I knew I’d want to try it out. The 4 TLT lists seemed too boring a play style for me, so I tried to pair it with something else. I landed on Dash. I liked his mobility and carrying a Heavy Laser Cannon(HLC) with 4 red dice gave me at least a chance to hit any target. The biggest weakness of this list was the donut holes on all three ships. I developed a strategy of jousting with autothruster (Starviper) equipped arc dodgers, using the main arcs of all three ships. I would keep the Y-Wings in front of Dash to block incoming high PS ships and keep them out of range the Outrider’s blind spot.

Against swarms or other turrets, my plan was to get my opponents to chase me through a dense obstacle field that I would build in the center of the map. I love this strategy and had used it to great effect with Chewie. I practiced as much as I could and watched all the youtube videos I could find of other major tournaments. However, I wasn’t in love with this list. I liked it, but I just didn’t truly love it. Still, I was prepared as I could be and I just hoped it would be enough.

Game 1

Horton Salm – 25 (Y-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
R5-P9 – 3 (GR-75)

Tarn Mison – 23 (GR-75)
R7 Astromech – 2 (E-Wing)

Miranda Doni – 29 (K-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
Advanced SLAM – 2 (K-Wing)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)

I saw this line up across the table from me and felt very good about the matchup. Tarn would be a annoying, but my turrets should still push damage through, and Horton dies as easily as any other Y-Wing. Miranda would be tough end game if I had to duel her with only Dash because of the shield regeneration, so I just had to keep one of my Y’s alive with Dash. My goal was to kill Horton first, then see where the game took me. We engaged in the middle of the map and the first shots went my way. I got all my shots on Horton and got him down to one hull. Dash lost a few shields, but I was ok with the trade since I could PS kill Horton at the start of the following turn. My opponent played it smart and got Tarn and Horton within range 1 of Dash, and away from my Y-Wings which had moved to engage Miranda on the table edge. Dash barrel rolled to get a shot and avoid Tarn’s arc. I rolled one hit, 3 blanks. I would’ve Rec Spec’d for a double focus if not for the barrel roll action, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Ok, so I need for my opponent to roll a blank green die, easily done right? Wrong. He rolled the evade, Horton lived. The exact same rolls would continue for the next turn. Horton wasn’t even using his focus tokens for R5-P9, using them to push more damage into Dash. My dice totally abandoned me this game. My HLC shot refused to kill a one hull Y-Wing for two straight turns, all the while his TLT continued to land every shot. Tarn finally got into the mix and started landing every red die. What did Dash do? He blanked every evade die as well. In an exchange where Horton should have died easily so that Dash could then run around Tarn, everything went wrong for me. Horton continued to live and do damage and Tarn rolled hot on attack dice, while my evades went super cold. My Y-Wings had to actually circle back to finally kill Horton, but by then it was too late. Salm had lived two turns too many, putting too much damage on Dash, and Tarn easily finished him off before he could do Dash things and run away. I got one hull damage on Miranda but then he started to regen her shields and Tarn turned around onto my Y’s. The R7 made Tarn unhittable for this game and I went on to lose quickly in 25 minutes, with a final score of 34-100.

My opponent was rather sporting, understanding how lucky he had been to keep Horton alive for so long and offered to buy me a beer later in the day. This was the hardest loss of the day. I love playing X-Wing so much that even loosing a close match can be very enjoyable, but this game was over too quickly. The dice didn’t let the match get into the tense, dogfight endgame that makes competitive play so much fun. Ah, the joys of a dice game. However, in an eight round tournament, you’re always going to have that one game where the dice go cold, and hopefully another game where they can’t miss. So I did my best to re-focus and prepare myself for the next game.

Result: Loss 34-100, record 0-1

Game 2

 

Talonbane Cobra – 28 (Kihraxz)
Predator – 3 (TIE Defender / Kihraxz)
Hot Shot Blaster – 3 (Most Wanted / IG-2000)
Engine Upgrade – 4 (Millennium Falcon)

Palob Godalhi – 20 (Most Wanted)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
Bossk – 2 (Hound’s Tooth)
Wingman – 2 ( Z-95)
Glitterstim – 2 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

Torkhil Mux – 19 (Most Wanted)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
Greedo – 1 (Most Wanted)
Glitterstim – 2 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

This list is a bit of mess, so many upgrades on 3 ships. However, seeing random Scum lists would become a theme for me. My opponent acknowledged it wasn’t quite a top tier list, but he was there to fly and just have fun. My biggest fear was having Talonbane get too close and really tear my ships to pieces. However, his set up made it easy for me to avoid that. I put my ships in a corner as he set up in the middle, with Talonbane furthest from me. He got caught behind the HWK’s and I was happy to joust him, with my Y-Wings in the front, guarding Dash’s donut again.  The HWK’s did their shenanigans, but with Recon Specialist, I’m okay with Palob taking a focus. I traded Dash for Palob and Talonbane and then the Y-Wings easily handled Torkhil. It was a fairly easy, short match. I was back on track.

Result: Win 100-52, Record 1-1

Game 3

IG-88 A – 36 (IG-2000)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Slave 1 / Lambda Shuttle)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
Crackshot – 1 (KihraxzHound’s Tooth)
Glitterstim – 2 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

IG-88 B – 36 (IG-2000)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Slave 1 / Lambda Shuttle)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
Crackshot – 1 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)
Glitterstim – 2 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

This was a very entertaining game. I did my best to built a tight asteroid field and we set up in opposite corners. My opponent and I both played it carefully and deliberately, circling each other for half the board. When we finally engaged I managed to get my arcs of all three ships onto A. IG-88 A popped glitterstim, but I still stripped 3 shields. Dash lost 3 shields as well due to A’s crackshot, but overall I was happy with the positioning and the exchange. The next turn was the game changer. He intentionnaly ran his aggressors into one another and stalled them in place. Dash, not expecting this, bumped one and had the other inside his donut. It was a great move by my opponent. I didn’t see it coming and my 4 straight move wasn’t enough to clear. While Dash didn’t take too much more damage, losing his offense for that turn hurt. The Y-Wings stayed close in and put 2 more damage on A with their main guns, but A took off running the next turn. Realizing chasing an Aggressor with Y’s was a terrible idea, especially with Dash not in a good pursuit vector either, I switched to B. A continued to hide into the mid-game, as B duked it out solo. I managed to drop B’s shields with the HLC, only for him to regain it with A’s ability as he killed the first Y-Wing. It was a great move to have A in this game, it really saved my opponents MOV. Time was running out, and with Dash’s shields gone, my only hope was to kill A and hope for a tie. B still had his glitter/crack combo in store and used it to finish off Dash, but only just after Dash managed to kill A. B then quickly finished my lone Y-Wing and took the game. It was a very close affair and my opponent knew how to handle his ships. I just couldn’t keep the pressure up on A, but I was happy with how I flew overall. [Editor’s note: Practice games against 2x IG-2000 did some good!]

Result: Loss 50-100, Record 1-2

Game 4

Super Dash
[Editor’s best guess on the build]
Dash Rendar – 36 (YT-2400 Outrider)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing / Imperial Aces)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Slave 1 / Lambda Shuttle)
Kyle Katarn – 3 (Rebel Aces)
Outrider – 5 (YT-2400 Outrider)
Engine Upgrade – 4 (Millennium Falcon)
Proton Rockets – 3 (Rebel Aces)

Tala Squadron Pilot – 13 (Z-95)

Tala Squadron Pilot – 13 (Z-95)

Tala Squadron Pilot – 13 (Z-95)

Now at this point I was still mathematically alive, I just needed to go on a run. I’ve been on hot streaks before and having lost games in this tournament early put me in an easier position moving forward to win. I was still cautiously optimistic setting up for game 4, the last match before our meal break.  

This was the closest I came to a mirror match all day. He had the action economy on his Dash, while mine had the pilot skill advantage. We built a tight debris field and lined up to joust each other. Of course I had no intention of actually jousting and turned my formation at the very start with the hope of dragging the Talas through the debris fields. It worked and my opponent gave chase while his Dash flew around their flank. The Talas broke their formation and were picked off one by one by my turrets. His Dash chased my Y’s, but did not concentrate fire on a single target. I destroyed his Dash, having 1 shield left on my own, a shieldless Ywing, and 1 hull Ywing. It was a huge error for MOV purposes, letting me save all of my points on the table. Although, judging by the 16oz beer he chugged mid game, I honestly think he was kinda drunk. But… Hey! A win’s a win. Now it was time for that meal break and to regroup for my epic 4 game win streak!

Result: Win 100-0, Record 2-2

Game 5

Omicron Group Pilot – 21 (Lambda Shuttle)
Emperor Palpatine – 8 (Imperial Raider)

Darth Vader – 29 (TIE Advanced)
TIE/x1 – 0 (Imperial Raider)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Advanced Targeting Computer – 5* (Imperial Raider)
Engine Upgrade – 4 (Millennium Falcon)

Soontir Fel -27 (TIE Interceptor)
Royal Guard TIE – 0 (Imperial Aces)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)
Targeting Computer – 2 (Imperial Aces)
Stealth Device – 3 (M3-A / Slave 1)

This was one the few enjoyable, high level games I played that day. My opponent was an Aussie, the twin brother of the Super Dash player who would end up making the top 8. The targeting computer on Soontir was an uncommon sight and gave me the slight hope of being able to actually hit Soontir for once. However, my strategy for this type of list is to joust with the main arcs, hope to bump with the Y-Wings to protect Dash’s donut, and target Vader first. My opening was strong, changing the plan on the fly, I actually pushed Dash forward and managed to get the block on Vader, stalling him onto a debris field. The Y-Wings stripped his shields and did 1 hull damage, leaving Vader with 2 hull remaining. I knew had to destroy Vader in the next turn because then he’d simply turn and run and I’d never get a second chance. Also, Soontir’s targeting computer was really paying off in this match up, as he jumped in close and started to waylay my Y-Wings with accurate 4 dice attacks. So Vader 3 banks, keeps his stress and was hoping to get enough distance from my ships and hide behind another debris field. Here’s my chance, a hurt, actionless Vader in range of my turrets. The debris field pays off for the extra defense dice, along with Palpatine, and Vader doesn’t get touched that turn. Soontir continues to wreck my Y-Wings unchecked and now the shuttle has closed in and has joined the melee. I had a window of opportunity and I missed it. I won’t call that bad luck or dice though, my list building was more at fault here. As the top tables’ use of R3-A2 or Tactician will show, stress is the real way to counter an arc dodger. Stress kills Soontir, not a bunch of turrets. Dash did manage to kill half of the shuttle before he succumbed to the slaughter, and those 14 points would later proved to be rather important in the overall standings.

My slim hopes of going 6-2 were smashed, but my pride was not. I still had that to fly for.

Result: Loss 14-100, Record 2-3

Game 6

Serissu – 20 (M3-A)
“Heavy Scyk” Interceptor – 2 (M3-A)
Mangler Cannon – 4 (Scyk / IG-2000)

Guri – 30 (Starviper)
Virago – 1 (Starviper)
Autothrusters -2 (Starviper)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Sensor Jammer – 4 (Lambda Shuttle)

Palob Godalhi – 20 (Most Wanted)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)
Bodyguard – 2 (Starviper)
Blaster Turret – 4 (HWK-290)
Moldy Crow – 1 (HWK-290)
Stealth Device – 3 (M3-A / Slave 1)

Recounting this game is actually painful for me. The list is such an oddball assortment of scum. I flew perfectly, keeping all of his ships at range. I avoided the blaster turret and Palob’s ability and allowed only Guri to fire for four straight turns. My reward: my opponent’s evade dice went hot and he evaded ALL of my shots. I ignored Guri and attacked Palob, but his combo of endless focus, stealth device and serissu worked to perfection for him. To give you an idea of how the match went, his HWK hit my Y-Wing at range 3 twice with his single dice main weapon attack. We actually kept track and I totalled 3 whole evade results rolled on my green dice. It was incredibly frustrating to fly perfectly to your plan and still lose. I eventually managed to take down Serissu, but Guri had finally moved in to close range on my Y’s and started tearing them apart. It was such a unique, some might say random, list. It’s not something you expect to see at this level of event. Honestly, who puts stealth device on an HWK?

I still had hope to end the day at a respectable 4-4. Some players might roll over with my record, but I didn’t travel a thousand miles to roll over. Bring on the next match!

Result: Loss 26-100 Record 2-4

Game 7

Black Sun Ace- 23 (Kihraxz)
Crackshot – 1 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

Black Sun Ace- 23 (Kihraxz)
Crackshot – 1 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

Black Sun Ace- 23 (Kihraxz)
Crackshot – 1 (Kihraxz / Hound’s Tooth)

Syndicate Thug – 18  (Most Wanted)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
R4 Agromech – 2 (Most Wanted)

Yet another Scum list, my fifth of the day. Y-Wings don’t really care about Crackshot and those Kihraxz don’t stand up well to concentrated fire. I did my standard opening of pretending to joust and running my opponent through the obstacles. The Kihraxz did not begin in a tight formation, and became even more drawn out as they attempted to chase my turrets down. I picked them off easily enough, only losing Dash’s shields.

Result: Win 100-26, Record 3-4

Game 8

Jake Farrell – 24 (Rebel Aces)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)
Autothrusters -2 (Starviper)
Proton Rockets – 3 (Rebel Aces)

Tycho Celchu – 26 (A-Wing)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing /  Imperial Aces)
Autothrusters -2 (Starviper)
Proton Rockets – 3 (Rebel Aces)

Wild Space Fringer – 30 (YT-2400 Outrider)
Tactician – 2 (TIE Phantom)

At first glance this list made me a bit nervous. Those proton rockets could do some real damage if they got too close to Dash, but the Fringer is rather toothless without a cannon. My opponent explained his list as being designed to specifically hunt other arc dodging aces. Since we were meeting at 3-4 records, his list building strategy was going as equally poor as mine. As the game progressed, the Fringer did his best to crash in and block my formation. It was mostly ineffective, but the A-Wings did manage to launch both Proton Rockets into Dash. However, using both actions for Target Locks and Focus on offense left the A-Wings defenseless against the Y-Wings. Jake went down early, followed by the Fringer. Dash managed to limp away on one hull while the Ywings covered his escape. One Y-Wing managed a block on Tycho and the nimble A-Wing crumpled under the other Ywings TLT fire. I had won.

 

Result: Win 100-26, Record 4-4.

Final ranking after swiss: 110th out of 298; 822 MOV

 

I had fought back from 2-4 to an even record and could return home with my head held high. With slightly better luck I could have gone 5-3, but I still no right to consider being anywhere near the top tables. I did my damnedest to practice and prepare for this tournament, but the lack of a real warmup tournament really hurt me. I just didn’t get to see enough of wave 7 played on a high level. The biggest lesson I learned was about stress. R3-A2 or Tactician was the way to combat aces like Corran Horn, Poe Dameron, Darth Vader, or Soontir Fel. The Twin Laser Turret gets so much stronger when their targets don’t have any defensive actions to keep them alive, even if they do have Autothrusters or Emperor Palpatine. Of course, I didn’t learn this lesson from my own games as I somehow mainly faced haphazard scum lists. But watching the top 16 was not only entertaining, but educational. While the lists were quite diverse, but the one new strategy from wave 7 was mixing the TLT with a stress giving mechanic. In my opinion, that’s how Paul Heaver took his third straight World Championship. Going forward, along with the rest of the old Meta mainstays, a wise player would be smart to prepare for these strategies and tactics. I myself, plan on trying out TIE Fighter swarms loaded up with Crackshot.

At least until wave 8 drops and everything changes again.

A big thanks to Sam for sharing his experiences! As is our yearly ritual now, Sam and the other locals who made the trip up to the frozen tundra are leading the charge for more competitive play in our area, and more often. With only a month and a half until Store Championships begin for 2016, we’re already starting to ramp up, with competitive mini-tournaments for the veterans, and a rookie league for the less experienced pilots. Wave 8, as Sam alluded to, is on the horizon, and I can’t wait to see what it does to the meta going in to the new year. The only thing I’m sure of for next year is that there will be one more General on the ground at Worlds!

— The Tabletop General