Tag Archives: Tabletop Games

Hidden information, bluffs, and dirty lies

What’s the harm in a little lie?

Earlier this week, I was playing a game against one of the up & coming members of our local X-Wing Miniatures group. He has a really cynical and self-deprecating sense of humor that can cause players to underestimate him at times, but I’ve observed enough of his progress over the past year or so to know better and not take that bait. I had specifically sought him out for a game to test my list against the triple K-Wing build (see below) that he had grown fond of, and which had been used just days before by another player to win the 49 person Store Championship event at my home store. His first two turns were simple; all 3 K-Wings took slow forward movements, maintaining a tight formation and waiting for me to come to him. In planning for the third turn, he turned his maneuver dials  over and over, and took the time to sarcastically say aloud, “This is the part where I pretend I’m doing something different”. And then, of course, he did something different, laying on the throttle and surging ahead with all of his ships.

A white lie, a bluff, or playful banter, you decide what to call it. I normally would have thought nothing of it. But on this day, it struck a chord with me, because I had recently read a rant about a very similar situation. In the story, while practicing for an X-Wing Store Championship, a player was shocked and angered by his friend outright lying about his maneuver for the turn. Player A, our angry protagonist, had moved one of his ships, and Player B said something along the lines of “You played it right. I’m glad I decided not to take [X maneuver], because that right there would have blocked me. and probably killed me.” Player A acted on this information, and took a Boost or a Barrel Roll to re-position his ship, and Player B proceeded to turn over his dial to reveal that exact maneuver, the final position of which was now free and clear of enemy ships. Player A was mad enough about this blatant lie to take his campaign to the internet and call for such underhanded tactics to be banned from the game entirely, and I was surprised to have seen that the suggestion garnered no small amount of support from others.

All three of the Fantasy Flight Games lines that I actively play right now (X-Wing, Armada, and Imperial Assault) rely on hidden information to some degree, and all three handle it differently. In X-Wing, each ship plots its’ maneuver in secrecy, and there are a limited number of game effects that allow you to influence, modify, or spy on this information. Armada lays out all its’ cards on the table (literally), but each ship secretly plans a series of commands to execute over the course of the game, and there’s certainly some bluffing and strategy added by these to positioning and the order of ship activation, which is left up to each player to decide each turn. Imperial Assault shares the mechanic of freeform unit activation order, and adds in a customizable deck of Command cards that can hold nasty surprises for your opponent – extra attacks, sturdier than expected defenses, rapid repositioning of units, or even hidden explosive traps.

This hidden information is what makes the game exciting. Dice are always going to be random, builds are a combination of a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors and an optimization problem. But tactics and secret plans are what truly make these games fun. With the right surprise move, you can clutch victory from the jaws of defeat. But all the power of your hidden information can be ruined by a bad poker face.

A sigh of relief at an enemy’s move in X-Wing can cause them to move right into your way with a Barrel Roll. Measuring carefully to ensure your Armada fighter squadrons are right on the edge of activation range for a Squadron command next turn can allow your opponent to react to that threat by moving his own squadrons out of reach, or into a covering position for a capital ship. Reaching for your hand of Command cards can make an opponent rethink his order of actions in Imperial Assault in order to minimize the impact of a Parting Blow or Overcharged Weapons.

Overcharged_Weapons                       Parting-blow

In Imperial Assault, it seems that it is rare for both players to have “beginning of round” effects to play, but it is possible for both players to do so, and the player with initiative that round has to go first.  Take Initiative is a very common card to see in Command decks, and it has been explained to me that if the player with initiative uses a copy of that card, it blocks the opponent from doing so. But otherwise, there’s no reason to want to do it – not only does it prevent you from using it on a future turn to actually steal the initiative token, it forces you to leave one of your deployment groups out of action for the round. I make sure to ask frequently if my opponent has any effects to play before I play mine (as per the normal sequence of the turn), hoping that they might interpret that as that I have something to play after their window has closed, and getting them to waste the card if they have it. But more importantly, I want to make sure that when I do have it, they don’t (correctly) assume that I have the card when I ask if they have any effects to play first.

Take-Initiative

Giving mixed signals regarding game actions impact on your future plans helps cover up for when your reactions are legitimate. Pausing as though considering an interrupt ability in a card game can give away that you have it available, but can just as easily be a bluff to make the opponent cautious. Perhaps you won’t fool your opponent about what you are doing right then at that moment, but you might be able to truly make it a surprise when you do act upon the opportunity in question.

“Table talk”, mind games, bluffing, and braggadocio are to be expected in a competitive environment. Plastic stormtroopers and starships are boring; it’s the mind across the table that I’m there to compete against. And if you expect me, or anyone else, to not try to get in your head a little bit, knock you off balance, and make you second guess your actions in game, you’re silly. Lie to me, and I’ll lie to you. Then we’ll let the dice figure out who told the better lies.

— Sidebar —

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Not affiliated with any acronym based groups.

The following is the K-Wing build I was referencing, made popular via a relatively good showing at this past year’s X-Wing World Championship. Capable of stressing a ship into oblivion, pouring out 6 TLT shots per turn, and containing a steady late game threat in Miranda, this build is currently the bane of my existence. It’s not fun to play against and it’s not particularly fun to play with, but in the right player’s hands it’s deadly. And if all goes well, I’ll end up playing against it tomorrow. Yay!

Miranda Doni – 29 (K-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
C-3PO – 3 (CR-90)

Warden Squadron Pilot – 23 (K-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
Tactician – 2 (TIE Phantom)

Warden Squadron Pilot – 23 (K-Wing)
Twin Laser Turret – 6 (K-Wing)
Tactician – 2 (TIE Phantom)

– The Tabletop General

Armada FAQ changes

Like a daring raid on the Death Star II’s shield generators, we never saw this one coming. Fantasy Flight has quietly released a FAQ update for Star Wars: Armada, and it carries with it some major changes to the rules, or at least how they have been interpreted until now.

The Hyperspace Assault scenario has been clarified so that any fighters that cannot deploy legally are destroyed, but this won’t be an issue moving forward because you won’t see fleets without more than one ship at the 300 point level once wave one releases (rumored to be happening as early as today).

Additionally, the Most Wanted scenario has been clarified to only grant bonus attack dice to ships. It was a big eye-opener for us at our first tournament when someone (correctly) claimed the bonus dice for their X-Wings, making this a much more brutal scenario than intended.

The biggest change in my eye is to addition of attack dice. Specifically, abilities that add dice to the pool can be triggered regardless of range restrictions. That means that if an effect or ability (like the Opening Salvo objective card, or the Dominator title) can add black or blue dice to the pool, they are applied at medium or even at long range. However, there is a caveat: the ship must have dice available to it at that range originally, so a CR90 B still cannot attack at long range, even if a game effect could add red dice to its’ pool.

Attacks triggering from the Counter keyword receive bonuses as normal. That means that your TIE Interceptors are definitely going to want Howlrunner around.

And speaking of Fighter Squadrons, your point allowance is based off of the total allowed, not the total spent. So even if you’re only spending 290 points in a 300 point game, 100 out of your 290 spent can still be allocated to fighter squadrons.

The full FAQ document is available here. Personally, I think these are all changes and clarifications that needed to happen. But let’s hope these kinds of changes come with a bit more pomp and circumstance (read: announcement) going forward. And stay tuned, perhaps we’ll have some new ships to play with soon!

– The Tabletop General

Munchkin Madness

Munchkin – noun, ( often initial capital letter)
1. a small person, especially one who is dwarfish or elfin in in appearance.
2. a power gamer who plays the rules of a game themselves as a competitive game, seeking to be the most powerful player in a group.
3. a dungeon exploring card game about a collection of munchkins (see definition #2) attempting to out-do one another in a race for power.
Last week, shortly after a refreshingly competitive game of Boss Monster (a better experience than my previous review) I had the pleasure of playing the most competitive game of Munchkin that I’ve seen in quite some time, and it served as a pleasant reminder as to how fun (and crazy) this game can be.
The core game functions just fine on its’ own, but with dozens of variants and expansions, there’s something for everyone in the Munchkin Portfolio. This past Christmas, I gave various members of my family game night group different versions of the game to suit their interests and personalities, like Munchkin Cthulu, Munchkin Legends, Munchkin Booty, and The Good, The Bad, And The Munchkin. Now everyone has their own flavor of the game, but we can get together and mix them all in for a zany mega-game!
DuckOfDoom
The basic premise of Munchkin is that each player represents one of several heroes exploring a dungeon searching for treasure and experience in a race to be the first hero to reach level 10. During their exploration of the dungeon, players will find powerful (and frequently hilarious) magic items, trigger random curses, and fight a vast array of monsters. Or as the game’s creator, Steve Jackson, describes it: “Go down in the dungeon. Kill everything you meet. Backstab your friends and steal their stuff. Grab the treasure and run.”
Combat is very abstract, each monster encountered has a level and potentially a few minor rules to modify what the players’ combat options are. The player who discovered the monster fights it by comparing their own level and any bonuses received from items they have found in the dungeon, with the monsters (usually) winning ties. Players can request and receive assistance from other players by offering a share of the monster’s treasure, or be screwed over by opponents luring additional monsters into the fight.
The game really calls to players of pen & paper RPG games, as much of the game’s humor consists of inside jokes, such as being able to bribe the Game Master with food to gain a free level-up, or the surprisingly specific overwhelming tide of enemies 3,872 Orcs represents. Other jokes in the game are a little more universal and subtle, such as the magic item Kneepads of Allure – the effect is useful (higher level players cannot refuse your help requests, unusable by Clerics), but when you think about the item’s name, the card’s artwork, and the restrictions on the card… it suddenly clicks what is “really” going on there.
KneepadsOfAllure
The game is certainly functional with two players going head to head, but that can get boring and one-sided in a hurry. What makes the game fun for me, especially looking back at my most recent game, is the interactions and politics between players. Stabbing someone in the back (at times literally, a la the Thief class card) at a crucial moment can be a great way to take or keep a lead in the game. But offering to help your peers can make just as much of a difference, especially when done wisely.
Here’s a great example: Last week, one of my opponents found themselves facing a really nasty monster that would almost certainly kill their character. All players in the game had seen that I had recently drawn a “Humongous” card, which would let me make the monster much bigger and meaner, and I had a few other cards in my hand too. I offered to help in the fight, and promised that I would keep the player from dying, but instead of the usual 1-2 cards that players offer for help, I wanted all of the monster’s treasure (a substantial four treasure cards).
The other two players not involved in the fight looked things over, and decided that their characters would be enough to help the active player win the combat even if I played the “Humongous”
modifier, and they didn’t want me to get all that treasure. But at the same time, nobody wanted their characters to be killed if I had further tricks up my sleeve. I coughed pointedly and revealed a “Wandering Monster” card from my hand, which would let me add an extra monster to the fight from my hand, which still had a few other cards that nobody else had seen. After great deliberation (and a few prayers), they joined the fight without me, calling my bluff.
WanderingMonster
Unfortunately, I had no monster to add to the fight, and couldn’t defeat the whole team. Using what options I did have, I shrank the monster instead of buffing it, taking some of the treasure away from the group, disrupting how they had planned to split the rewards. My actual plan had been to make use of my Wizard’s ability, Charm Spell, to make the monster go away (but not count for levels) after having buffed it up for additional treasure, allowing me to trade the four cards in my hand for six new treasure cards. But the politics and shenanigans involved in what actually happened was worth missing the opportunity (I say that mostly because I eventually won the game, albeit with much more difficulty than I expected).
wizard
I still have my reservations about the basic game from a competitive standpoint – in the match referenced above, one player never had an opportunity to win at all; but he could play “kingmaker” and help decide who would win, and that turned out to be really fun for a random one-off game. So it’s not an every game-night caliber purchase, but with a good group, Munchkin can be a great change of pace, and a lot of fun. 
– The Tabletop General

Armada Incoming!

The latest Star Wars game from Fantasy Flight Games, Star Wars: Armada is officially set to release next week. I’ve been chomping at the bit to get my hands on this one. The only reason why I haven’t posted much about it is that Fantasy Flight tends to do a really good job of previewing their own content, revealing exactly what components from a given ship that they intend to reveal, and showing in detail how those components work within the game. But today’s release announcement also provided a link to the Learn To Play Armada PDF as well as the Armada Rules Reference PDF. Now, for the first time since Armada’s announcement, more information was released than was reviewed, and there’s finally a place for me to add my own observations and notes about things that stand out to me.

Here’s some of the things I’ve found that seem noteworthy:

Setup
In a standard game with a 6’x3′ play area, ships and obstacles cannot be placed within 1′ of the short board edges. That makes me wonder if we will see tactics involving use of the board edges for a clear maneuvering lanes.  Perhaps the scenarios will force players into the center more often than not.

All ships have their initial speed set as they are deployed, before any further ships are deployed. So the first ship on the table is going in 100% blind.

Squadrons are deployed in pairs, and do NOT have to be in the deployment zone, but they do have to be close (range 1-2) to a capital ship. This gives you a little bit of flexibility, and means that some of the ambush scenarios may involve squadrons being really close to the enemy from the start of the game!

Measuring
The range ruler can be used to premeasure at any time. The navigation tool can also be used freely during the “Determine Course” step, but inserting the tool into the guides on your ship locks in your decision.

Capital ships will maneuver appropriately. It’s kind of obvious from looking at the maneuver template, but it’s explicitly stated that nothing can allow you to yaw (click the maneuver template) more than two points away from straight at any single point. Only fighters will be able to take tight turns and zip around the battlefield.

Although none exist yet, the base dimensions are already specified in the rules for large ships (with Victory Star Destroyers being Medium ships, for scale reference). That tells me that they’re probably coming sooner than later.

Scoring
The “Second Player” wins in the case of a tie score at the end of a 6 round standard game. And scoring is based off of objectives achieved and ships destroyed, points remaining does not matter. This may possibly a rare occurrence, but it means that a player that chooses to be “Second Player” with an initiative bid can force the opponent to come to them.

Tactics
If your ship’s chosen maneuver causes a collision with another ship, the speed of that ship is temporarily reduced by 1 to a minimum of 0 until it doesn’t overlap. Then both the ramming ship and the final ship overlapped receive one damage. Combine that with the fact that you can’t spend defense tokens when your speed is 0, and I see a potential way for swarms of cheap ships like the CR90 Corellian Corvette to overwhelm a juggernaut like a Victory Star Destroyer, but it wouldn’t work as well on an Assault Frigate or a Gladiator Star Destroyer. (Pending probable FAQ clarification on whether you check the ship’s speed dial or the reduced value).

Line of sight is required for squadrons to be engaged. Which means if there’s an asteroid or a ship between your TIE Interceptors and my Y-Wings, I’m free to move them away, regardless of range. Fighters can ignore obstacles for movement purposes, and obstructed shots remove one attack die, which in some cases makes those fighters immune to capitol ship attacks (looks like all capital ships except the Nebulon B Frigate in the initial launch only has one anti-squadron die) This leads me to believe that squadrons hiding out among obstacles and debris fields will be a valid tactic for fighter builds, especially in scenarios that involve controlling a particular portion of the playing field.

Hopefully we’ll be able to put some of these thoughts into action on the table soon! I’m ready to play! (insert obligatory “pew-pew-pew” noises here!)

– The Tabletop General

FCB 2015 X-Wing Championship

As I mentioned in the prior article discussing my current tournament list for X-Wing Miniatures, I played in the first Store Championship event of the year in my area this past Saturday. This was a huge event, almost on par with last year’s Regional Championship. Players came from all over the southeast to kick off the tournament season. The top tables tended to have local flavor, but the visitors made a strong showing too. We had 36 players in all, which meant 6 rounds of Swiss pairings, followed by a 3-round playoff for the top 8. We also had a small online following, as the venue streamed a featured table throughout the day. (Three recordings: Opening match, bulk of the tournament [Most of one of my matches is recorded at around the 8:06 mark, but ], and final two rounds.) [Edit: These recordings have since been lost in an account transfer.]

Here’s a quick rundown on my list as a reminder:

Cloaks and Dagger

Sigma Squadron Pilot – 25 (TIE Phantom)
Sensor Jammer – 4 (Lambda Shuttle)
Stygium Particle Accelerator – 2 (TIE Phantom)
Intelligence Agent – 1 (Lambda Shuttle / HWK-290)

Sigma Squadron Pilot – 25 (TIE Phantom)
Sensor Jammer – 4 (Lambda Shuttle)
Stygium Particle Accelerator – 2 (TIE Phantom)
Mara Jade – 3 (VT-49 Decimator)

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

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I forgot to take a photo of just my ships, so pretend the B-Wing isn’t here (it wasn’t for long).

Round 1

Opponent:

Keeyan Farlander – 29 (Rebel Aces)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Slave 1 / Lambda Shuttle)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing / Imperial Aces)

Blue Squadron Pilot – 22 (B-Wing)

Gold Squadron Pilot – 18 (Y-Wing)
Blaster Turret – 4 (HWK-290)

Bandit Squadron Pilot – 12 (Z-95 Headhunter)
Cluster Missiles – 4 (TIE Advanced / A-Wing)

List commentary: This is an interesting list for the current meta that includes so many two ship builds with a Decimator / YT-2400. Keeyan is ready to pump out lots of damage with that HLC, and the Cluster Missiles on the Bandit are good for chewing into a Decimator early, since none of the hits can be evaded. At the same time, Keeyan is the only ship in this list that is really threatening, nothing else has late-game power.

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We were hurried, so this photo turned out blurry, but it’s what I’ve got.

Battle: I almost lucked into a bye here, as my opponent had pre-registered but was running late. He got there about 2 minutes after the round start, so we rushed setup and started a separate timer, not that I thought it would be needed. 75% of his force hit the table before any of mine did, so I deployed away from him with my Phantoms, making sure I had time and room to maneuver around before we got into range.

Looking at the setup, my number one concern was downing Keeyan, he’s one of the biggest threats to my build. But I didn’t need to worry too much. Hoping to see Carnor stroll into firing range, my opponent got aggressive with Keeyan,  and gambled with an early Push the Limit. Instead, all he got out of it was being stranded in front of an asteroid and stressed, as I was having none of it. The next turn, he guessed wrong as to where the Phantoms would go, and ended up still stressed and pointed away from the combat. The time it took him to recover meant that I had  several turns of free reign against the remainder of his list. The Bandit got his missile off against Carnor, but 2 x 3 attack dice unmodified vs against 2 x 4 defense dice with focus & evade was a futile effort.

Starting roughly around the time that the photo above was taken, things went really far downhill for my opponent, as I was able to isolate one ship per turn, first the Blue Squadron B-Wing, then the Y-Wing, then the Z, and then lastly Keeyan. Each of the three generics died very quickly, being the subject of focused fire from my entire squad. As I mentioned in my design considerations from the previous post, the Phantoms fired before any of those three ships, and not a single one of them survived to return fire. Keeyan was a little tougher to nail down, but it was only a matter of time.

Record: 1-0
Margin of Victory: 200
Post-match standings: #6 out of 36.

Round 2

Opponent:

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

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

Captain Kagi – 27 (Lambda Shuttle)
Sensor Jammer – 4 (Lambda Shuttle)

List commentary: Being an out-of-town player, I hadn’t seen this individual in several months, and I’d never seen this build. But I could tell immediately that this was one of the worst matchups I could have encountered on the day. It was a really well assembled squad that was using the same concepts as my own, but had an additional component that I hadn’t considered in Kagi. His Carnor Jax was identical to my own. Soontir always has mean damage output with this build, and Kagi served as an anchor to the list and made my targeting computer on my Interceptor next to useless.

(Photos from this match didn’t come out)

Battle: I lost the initiative roll, and might as well have packed up then and there. Killing his Carnor Jax was going to be lynchpin for a full victory, but without the ability to pin him down with my own, that would prove near impossible. He maneuvered his interceptors superbly, and was frustratingly unpredictable with his Lambda as well. At the end of the game I had landed two hits on Soontir, and one on Carnor Jax, and that stubborn Lambda had done at least that much damage to himself by running over asteroids.

The pace of this match was extremely slow. Each of my opponent’s Interceptor activations took 2-3 minutes as he considered what to do, where to boost/roll, etc. I considered changing targets and chasing down the shuttle, but I realized that I wouldn’t have time to kill it. In an attempt to kill ANYTHING, I got aggressive on the last turn with my one remaining ship, and ended up losing it too.

Record: 1-1
Margin of Victory: 200
Post-match standings: #25 out of 36.

Round 3

Opponent:

——

Whisper – 32 (TIE Phantom)
Fire-Control System – 2 (TIE Phantom / B-Wing)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Advanced Cloaking Device – 4 (TIE Phantom)
Tactician – 3 (TIE Phantom)

Rear Admiral Chiraneau – 46 (VT-49 Decimator)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Rebel Captive – 3 (Lambda Shuttle)
Mara Jade – 3 (VT-49 Decimator)
Engine Upgrade – 4 (Millennium Falcon)

List commentary: This fellow was from the same area as my previous opponent, which meant that once again things were showing up that weren’t present in our local meta. Veteran Instincts on the Rear Admiral is not something I would have expected to see. I understand where people are going with it, but I’m not a huge fan of Mara Jade & Rebel Captive on the same ship – if one is working, the other isn’t; I’d prefer to do something that makes one work all the time.

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Not displayed: the inadvertent crotch-shot that was uncomfortably featured in the uncropped version of the photo.

Battle: In my hurry to get back into the fight, I didn’t think things through all the way in deployment, and Chiraneau boosted up for a turn one shot that didn’t do much good. Whisper, on the other hand, hung back far out of range. I’ve always felt that elite Phantoms would do well held back as a reserve force, only committed once the opponent had been weakened a bit or pulled out of position, but hadn’t seen it done much. I wasn’t about to take that chance though, and I committed Carnor to an attack run while my Phantoms did their thing with the Decimator. It turned out to hurt me in the short term, and help me in the end.

He flew Whisper masterfully and skirted right by Carnor, who had used PTL for a focus/evade combo, expecting to be slugging it out with the Phantom that turn. Now Whisper was headed for my Phantoms who were still dancing with the Decimator, and Carnor Jax was across the map, stressed, and pointed the wrong way! Meanwhile, my Phantoms were running into trouble, getting stressed repeatedly by Mara Jade. Since I don’t use the Advanced Cloaking Device, my maneuvers are really limited when I need to clear stress, so I had to do some really funky stuff to get shots and keep myself alive until.

At one point I evaded Whisper’s arc with a Phantom by doing the unexpected, a green maneuver to right up against the table edge, facing off, and a cloak action. Whisper pointed the wrong way as I’d hoped. The next turn, Intelligence Agent told me where Whisper could cover with his shots, I decloaked to the opposite side, pulling the template back as far as possible, which left me exactly enough room for a hard 1 turn to remain on the table and pointed back into the fight with Whisper likely in arc. My other Phantom turned back in with a surprise K-Turn and covered the same area from another direction, and by this point Carnor was re-entering the fight. No matter where Whisper decloaked and moved, he took at least two attacks. He elected for offense, failed to hit, and took all three shots in return, giving a small scale preview of the fireball that the Decimator would look like soon after.

Record: 2-1
Margin of Victory: 400
Post-match standings: #10 out of 36.

Round 4

Opponent:

——

Bandit Squadron Pilot – 12 (Z-95 Headhunter)

Biggs Darklighter – 25 (Starter set)

Wedge Antilles – 29 (X-Wing)
Predator – 3 (TIE Defender)

Luke Skywalker – 28 (Starter Set)
R3-A2 – 2 (GR-75)
Veteran Instincts – 1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)

List commentary: This list, or a variant thereof (usually swapping Luke for Wes Jansen) is a tried and true standard for this player, a local who could fly this to the top table of most local tournaments in his sleep. Luke is a better choice for an end-game dogfighter thanks to his defensive ability, whereas Wes (with VI) is normally used to strip off defensive tokens ahead of Wedge coming in for a kill shot.

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Use the Force, Luke!

 

Battle: Against the first opponent of the day whom I see on a regular basis, this turned out to be the best match of X-Wing I’ve played in months; although some hot & cold dice rolls didn’t make it seem that way. He knows his list well enough to fly it in his sleep, which means his focus in game is strictly on the movements and actions of the ships he’s flying against. Never leaving home without a PS9 and PS10 X-Wing, my opponent normally licks his chops when he sees TIE Phantoms, but these weren’t the Phantoms he was looking for.

One of this player’s strength is his patience. He never bolts forward early for a close shot, and never splits his forces, choosing instead to approach slowly and make sure that he can’t be outflanked. To force the issue, I deployed in a corner, and moved along my board edge with Carnor Jax, sending the Phantoms up the neutral board edge and cloaking them. Two turns later, Carnor banked in, with the option to boost left or right to commit to the fight a denied flank based on my opponent’s moves. His Bandit, at PS2, turned towards Carnor. Seeing this, at PS3 I engaged my Phantoms, who decloaked towards his forces and had hard-turns dialed up. I had taken the bait, as the rest of his squad turned to face the Phantoms; but range bonuses and focus/evade combos were too much for the X-Wings to overcome, and Biggs took heavy damage on the turn, falling to the first shot of the next.

From that point on, Intelligence Agent was in range, soon to be followed by Mara Jade, and things spiraled out of control for the Rebels. The limited dial of the X-Wing / Z-95, combined with a persistent stress mechanic and psychic barrel-rolling blockers meant that I could essentially escort his last couple of ships around as long as needed, never taking shots from them, and never allowing actions.

That anecdote is a prime example of how the whole day went on the whole; I was constantly surprised, but generally able to recover, relying on the maneuverability and defensive options of my list to keep everything alive (if just barely), and bursting for high amounts of damage when a target presented itself.

Record: 3-1
Margin of Victory: 600
Post-match standings: #5 out of 36.

Round 5

Opponent:

Academy Pilot -12 (Starter set / TIE Fighter)

Academy Pilot – 12 (Starter set / TIE Fighter)

Dark Curse – 16 (Starter set)

Commander Kenkirk – 44 (VT-49 Decimator)
Proton Bombs – 5 (TIE Bomber)
Ysanne Isard – 4 (VT-49 Decimator)
Hull Upgrade – 3 (Imperial Aces)
Ruthlessness – 4 ( VT-49 Decimator)

List commentary: Danger! Danger! With Proton Bombs and Ruthlessness, Kenkirk was equipped to potentially wipe out my entire squad in one turn. I had the firepower to take the Decimator down in two turns (one with some fortuitous critical hits), but at table 3 on round 5 out of the 6 Swiss rounds, I couldn’t afford to take a big gamble and come up empty. To be guaranteed a shot at making the cut, I had to win at least one game, and score decently in the other.

wpid-img_20150110_192627804.jpg
This is a little game I like to call “avoid where the Decimator is going and where it just was”.

 

Battle: Fearing the effects of both the Proton Bomb and Ruthlessness, I spread my ships out a lot more in this game. Even keeping that in mind, the Decimator was able to strip Carnor’s Stealth Device with a good shot and damage a Phantom in the process, meaning that the failure to roll one more evade result cost my list almost 20% of its’ hit points.

Where I managed to come out ahead is that TIE Fighters work fundamentally different from the Decimator, they needed to stay close to me and pointed at my ships to do anything, while the Decimator didn’t care about facing for shooting, and wanted to move close for bomb usage. As a result, I took advantage of this aggressive play and caused my opponent to split his forces for several rounds. In the turns following the picture above, I was able to isolate both of the Academy TIEs while Dark Curse and Kenkirk struggled to get back into the fight. (Carnor is alive in the photo, just off his flight stand to allow a bump with back of the Decimator). Both Academy Pilots were dropped quickly.

Time got away from both of us in this match, so once I heard a warning of approximately 5 minutes remaining, I realized the Decimator wouldn’t drop in time, and my target priority shifted to killing Dark Curse while keeping my ships alive. I succeeded at both by a hair’s breadth, scoring 40 points for the 3 TIE Fighters, and getting full credit for each of my 3 ships limping away with 1 hull remaining apiece.

Record: 4-1
Margin of Victory: 740
Post-match standings: #4 out of 36.

Round 6

Opponent:

Corran Horn – 35 (E-Wing)
R2-D2 – 4 (Starter set)
Fire-Control System – 2 (B-Wing / TIE Phantom)

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)

List commentary: The Outrider is a tricky ship to fly against. If you don’t trap it early and put a lot of damage on it, it’s really tough to bring down late in the game, because the entire table is open for his maneuvers, and he’s essentially getting three actions per turn. Corran Horn, with his ability to attack twice in a turn, is a great choice to escort Dash, because he can punish anyone that comes in close enough to hit Dash safely inside the Range 1 dead zone that the Heavy Laser Cannon gives the Outrider. Against other players I feel okay about the matchup. But this was in the hands of someone who had been sitting at the top table all day, and I’d learned to respect heavily over the past year.

wpid-img_20150110_204031864.jpg
Look, Ma! No shot!

 

Battle: This one probably took more time to look up the points on his list and talk about than it did to play. I was afraid of losing the Phantoms early, and held them back, but committed Carnor to try and grab some quick damage on Dash. Unfortunately, I couldn’t squeeze into range 1, and had to settle for turtling up with focus/evade, but to no avail, rolling poorly on defense cost me the ship immediately. I think the Phantoms might have taken a shield or two off of Dash, but it wasn’t anything to speak of. I was trounced solidly within half an hour, and on account of my own aggression to boot.

Record: 4-2
Margin of Victory: 740
Post-match standings: #8 out of 36.

Into the playoffs, by 5 MoV points over 9th.

Quarterfinal Round

Opponent:

Corran Horn – 35 (E-Wing)
R2-D2 – 4 (Starter set)
Fire-Control System – 2 (B-Wing / TIE Phantom)

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)

List commentary: Look familiar? Having beaten me solidly in the previous round, my opponent became the #1 seed for the playoff, which meant we had to play an immediate rematch.

Battle: This time, I changed things up on him a little bit, and I went hunting Corran Horn. You can see how that worked out for me on the video recorded here [edit: video is no longer available]. This had been a long day, so I was tired, but I was hyped up and excited to have a chance to knock out a ship early. Those factors combined to cause me to forget my bonus attack die for both of my Phantoms on the first round of shooting, which meant I lost a Phantom and Corran lived 3-4 more turns, getting off another shot in the process. Let’s just say I’m still kicking myself over that now, 4 days later.

Final Record: 4-3, 8th place.

Final thoughts

I was very happy with the performance of my list, and how I flew it. Looking back on my wins, I pulled off some slick moves that I wish more than just my opponent and I could have seen. Looking back at my losses, I realized that I need to take my time and not try to force opportunities in bad matchups to cause a bad game to become a horrible one.

The Phantoms aren’t done yet, there’s plenty more tournaments in this season.

For those of you who took the time to read this far through, I didn’t get a lot of in-game shots, having been playing at the time, but here’s a gallery of some of the other photos I managed to snag on the day.

— The Tabletop General

Cloaks and Dagger

I play high risk / high reward lists often in X-Wing Miniatures, but I do so utilizing high pilot skill ships that like to dodge firing arcs, like Dash Rendar, Soontir Fel, or Whisper. Still, I sat down recently with the idea that I wanted to make use of the generic TIE Phantom pilots.

For a short moment, the high PS versions of the Phantom, Echo and Whisper, were the kings of the battlefield, especially when upgraded with Veteran Instincts. Moving late in the phase allowed players to dodge arcs fairly well, and recloak with Advanced Cloaking Devices immediately after the shot when they couldn’t escape. But the prevalence of turrets and the general meta shift to higher pilot skills made Phantoms an expensive gamble. The Phantom’s primary weakness is how squishy they can be – one bad roll of those 4+ evade dice can mean your ship is toast.

TIE Phantoms tend to be very fragile compared to the points that are invested in them, glass cannons at their finest. Being cloaked means you’re not shooting (assuming you’re not using Advanced Cloaking Devices as is usually the default on the higher PS versions), and on the turn you cloak, you’re not going to have a focus token to back those dice up with.

Still, there’s an alternative approach to flying Phantoms that I haven’t seen often – giving up on the Pilot Skill battle. The Phantoms hit hard without any need for offensive upgrades, they’re the only ship in the standard game to have a base Primary Attack Value of 4, which is enough to deal damage consistently even without lots of modifiers, and their maneuverability gives them lots of opportunities to get quality shots. Phantoms have the rare Sensor Upgrade slot that has so many nifty utility options. And they have ways to improve their action economy and maneuverability. So I set out to find a way to make low PS Phantoms more survivable, and include multiple of them in a list along with some legitimate support, and just see what the results would be.

After a few practice runs, I’m very pleased with my latest build, even though it makes me EXTREMELY nervous to commit to using it in a tournament environment. With a total of 11 hit points across 3 ships, it’s not exactly durable. But the synergy is great, all of the ships are extremely maneuverable, the list can play defensively if needed, and each one of the ships can pump out a frightening amount of damage.

Cloaks and Dagger
(Or as one opponent called it, “The Spanish Inquisition”)

Sigma Squadron Pilot – 25 (TIE Phantom)
Sensor Jammer – 4 (Lambda Shuttle)
Stygium Particle Accelerator – 2 (TIE Phantom)
Intelligence Agent – 1 (Lambda Shuttle / HWK-290)

Sigma Squadron Pilot – 25 (TIE Phantom)
Sensor Jammer – 4 (Lambda Shuttle)
Stygium Particle Accelerator – 2 (TIE Phantom)
Mara Jade – 3 (VT-49 Decimator)

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

* Targeting Computer will be replaced with Autothrusters upgrade from the Starviper once released.

Without any difference beyond Pilot Skill between the two generics, I chose Sigma Squadron (PS3) over the Shadow Squadron (PS5). I find it extremely rare to run in to opponents running ships in the 3-5 pilot skill range, generic pilots are generally a 1 or 2, and named pilots are almost always pilot skill 6 or higher. Spending the extra points on Shadow squadron just didn’t make sense, and it frees up extra points to be spent elsewhere in the list.

The PS3 for the Sigma squadron is an interesting spot: It’s high enough to be easily blocked in by fighters, but I don’t actually find myself cloaked all that often in the list, so that’s not a huge problem. But at PS3 it does maneuver after and fire before the cheapest generic variant of every other small based ship in the game, as well as finding itself just above the danger zone for Predator (TIE Defender).

For those of you reading along at home that don’t necessarily know how this list is put together, I’ll break down some of the key interactions:

Carnor Jax’s Pilot ability essentially cancels any Focus results the opponent rolls for anything so long as he’s alive and close, excluding those who take Marksmanship (X-Wing / Starter set). So his role is to get up close to the enemy, and stay there, taking shots of opportunity but mostly just staying alive. If he can avoid being shot and stay close, I have him barrel roll/boost closer. If his positioning is great already, focus & possibly target lock. If he’ll be shot at, PTL for Focus and Evade, standard Interceptor survival tactics.

Carnor_Jax

The Sigma Squadron Pilots want to hang back out of range, and pounce once Carnor is engaging. They hit REALLY hard, but can’t take a lot of punishment compared to other ships.

Sigma-squadron-pilot

I keep the Phantoms alive with a couple of key pieces, Stygium Particle Accelerators (free evade when cloaking or decloaking), and Sensor Jammers (remember, Carnor Jax is blocking focus actions).

Stygium-particle-accelerator                           Sensor-jammer

Once the Phantoms are in the combat, then really fun things start happening. Even with a low pilot skill, Intelligence Agent tells me all I need to know about where the enemy will be moving, and I can adjust my plans accordingly by cloaking if I won’t have a shot, or decloaking appropriately if I’m cloaked at the time.

Intelligence-agent

But Mara Jade is the real killer. The VT-49 Decimator, the Lambda Shuttle, and the Slave 1 can all make use of Mara Jade’s stress ability to shut down the enemy temporarily, but of the three, only the bounty hunter can really get behind the enemy. Phantoms, on the other hand, are really good at that. And once you’re pointed away from a Phantom and stressed too, it’s going to be nearly impossible to shake them off your six! That spells death for anything, doubly so for ships without a turret.

mara-jade

Speaking of turrets, more play testing will be required (I’m sure I’ll get plenty over the upcoming Store Championship season), but so far this list has already eaten one YT-2400 Outrider alive, and I like my chances to continue that streak. The big thing that worries me right now is the rather popular Decimator, which has the hull to soak the damage these ships will dish out, the speed and maneuvering options to escape kill zones, and the high quantity of firepower in a turret to be able to blast these ships down. In particular, Rear Admiral Chiraneau, quite possibly the most popular of the VT-49’s pilots, isn’t hurt nearly as badly as other ships by the Sensor Jammers (he will usually be able to convert a focus via his ability).

It’s a dangerous list to fly, especially in the face of a meta that seems primed to negate the effect of its’ maneuverability. I’ve run up against a couple of hard counters like Marksmanship, Han Solo (Crew), and Keeyan Farlander, but it’s rare to see multiple ships that can easily prey upon my list, which means proper target priority to go along with 11-14 attack dice per turn generally takes care of business, and I trust my ability to deal with the stragglers with any one of the ships in my list even when I’m taking losses early in the match. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of the list thus far, and since I can’t stand playing a boring list; the edge-of-your-seat flying that Cloaks and Dagger requires is just what I need right now.

In a week and a half of mostly competitive testing, this list has a record of 6-1-1* (restarted a practice match due to a vast miscalculation, had nothing to do with the list, just with how I opened). It has torn apart a defensive Leebo build, out-dueled Decimators, alpha-striked Corran Horn off the map, had Keeyan Farlander with a side of Wes Jansen for a light lunch, and run circles around a few other random pairings. Its’ one true loss involved a mis-play with Carnor Jax, causing him to get wiped off the map by an HLC shot that I didn’t think the opponent would be able to get; the Phantoms soldiered on alone and took revenge on Dash Rendar , falling two hits shy of taking Chewbacca out as well.

The real test starts in little less than 12 hours, when this build makes an appearance at the first of many X-Wing Store Championships in my area. I can’t wait to see how it goes; but with 6 to 9 rounds to play, don’t expect a battle report too terribly quick. Just saying.

– The Tabletop General

 

Armada preorders

I can’t tell you how excited I am about the upcoming release of Star Wars: Armada. I spent countless hours over the years playing Star Wars: Rebellion, and this game has a very similar scale and feel to it, but with some beautiful tabletop miniatures. Imperial Star Destroyers defending a vital space station from an assault fleet of Rebel Nebulon-B Frigates and starfighters? Sign me up twice please!

I’ll have lots more to say about it once I can get my hands on the game, which appears to launch on or around April 22nd, 2015; but today I just wanted to let you all know that I’ve found an amazing deal on the base set for the game. Star Wars: Armada on Amazon is currently going for only $53.96, a far cry below the $99.95 MSRP price (Edit: This deal has since been taken down). Now, with that being said, I still believe heavily in supporting your Friendly Local Game Store, and I’ll personally be buying one of everything at retail for that exact reason, but I probably wouldn’t have purchased a second core set without this deal, and I’ll be using that set as a loaner to get more people into the game, and get more people to buy it locally. It’s a win-win in my book.

– The Tabletop General

Resistance is Futile OP2; Battle Report 3

Time to see how well my memory is holding up. I’m almost a week overdue for posting this one, but it’s been a very busy week. Last Saturday, I played in the third of at least five instances of Resistance is Futile OP2 I’ll be entering this month for Star Trek: Attack Wing. For those of you who aren’t familiar with them or just want to refresh your memory, here’s a link to the scenarios.

And for the rest of you who just need a minor refresher or just didn’t feel like clicking the link, the basic gist of the scenario is that each player brings a Borg and a Rebel (Non-Borg) fleet, and alternates between the two playing against an opponent with the opposite configuration. My lists were similar to those from the previous event; this venue does not use the 3 ship minimum or 50 point ship maximum, my Borg configuration doesn’t change much, and since luck would have it that I didn’t get to play my Rebel list in the prior event, I still wanted to give that exact same list a spin.

Simple Shape Steamroller, v3.1

Borg Octahedron – 40 (39)
Tactical Drone – 3 (2) (Borg Sphere 4270)
Magnus Hansen – 1 (0) (Queen Vessel Prime)
Hive Mind – 1 (0) (Avatar of Tomed OP prize)

Borg Sphere – 38 (37)
Drone – 0
Borg Missile – 6 (5) (Tactical Cube 138)

Borg Sphere – 38 (37)
Drone – 0

Total: 120

Pre-discount total: 127

Again, I couldn’t get my hands on a copy of the Tactical Drone from Scout Cube 608 for a free (and useful) unique captain. The only difference between this list and the previous one is that I dropped the Borg Queen captain off for the Borg Missile – this event was held before the prior ruling was reversed by Wizkids and the Borg Missile dealt multiple Auxiliary Power Tokens in addition to destroying shields without defense dice, making it a must-have card to deal with the high defense versions of the USS Enterprise E.

Rebels Without Causes

Resource: Flagship Independent (Romulan) (10)

USS Enterprise-D- 28 (27) (Assimilation Target Prime OP Prize)
William T. Riker- 4 (3) (Assimilation Target Prime OP Prize)
Rebellion – 5 (4) (ISS Defiant)
Julian Bashir -2 (1) (ISS Defiant)
Tasha Yar – 2 (1) (ISS Defiant)
Quantum Torpedoes – 6 (5) (Assimilation Target Prime OP Prize)
Fire All Weapons – 7 (6) (Assimilation Target Prime OP Prize)
Dorsal Weapons Array – 2 (1) (Prakesh Resistance is Futile booster)

USS Enterprise-E – 32 (31)
Flagship Independent (Romulan) – 10
Jean-Luc Picard (+1 Tech version) – 5 (4) (USS Enterprise-E)
Attack Pattern Omega – 3 (2) (USS Defiant)
Adm. Maxwell Forrest – 3 (2) (Enterprise NX-01)
Elizabeth Shelby – 2 (1) (USS Yeager Collective booster)
Hikaru Sulu – 3 (2) (Constitution class Enterprise)
Tom Paris – 4 (3) (from the USS Voyager)
Dorsal Phaser Array – 7 (6) (USS Enterprise-E)
Tactical Station – 4 (3) (Stargazer OP Prize)
Multi-Adaptive Shields – 5 (4) (USS Raven OP Prize)
Enhanced Hull Plating – 4 (3) (Enterprise NX-01)

Total: 119

Pre-discount total: 138

As I mentioned previously, this list was unchanged from my prior build. The plan is still to send the Mirror Universe Enterprise-D in with weapons ablaze, and sacrifice it to weaken/eliminate anything that would give the Enterprise-E trouble.

Round 1

The TO for this event played the scenario to the letter of the law. Since I was leading coming in to the event, I was to play Borg against the runner up from the prior month’s Rebels.

Opponent:

USS Enterprise-E, Kirk (8), Cheat Death, Flagship (Ind. Romulan), Tom Paris, Elizabeth Shelby, Seskal, Dorsal Phaser Array, Tactical Station
USS Voyager, Mr. Spock… (?)

Not a good start, memory failing right from the start. I couldn’t begin to tell you what was on that second ship, and for some reason I only have photos of the Enterprise’s cards. What I do know about this build shows the ugly side of having to get your hands on prize ships and buying certain otherwise unused ships to make an optimal build; not having the USS Raven prize ship or an Enterprise NX-01, this player didn’t have access to the Multi-Adaptive Shields or Enhanced Hull plating that really make the Enterprise-E a hard nut to crack.

Battle:

In addition to not having photos of the Voyager’s build, I didn’t give it much time to work. It wasn’t that much less powerful than the Enterprise, and it was rolling way less defense dice, so it had to go first. My opponent did a good job of concentrating fire, and brought one of my spheres right to the brink of death just as I finished Voyager.

I still had two other ships at full strength, so I wasn’t worried about the outcome of the match, but taking one more hit and losing that ship would be a serious blow to my score. Knowing that I couldn’t keep that sphere alive through another round of shooting, I retreated it at full speed. I moved perpendicular to my opponent’s line of travel as opposed to away, thinking it would be easier to reach range 3 and be out of his firing arc than escape beyond range 3 within arc. The Enterprise had a couple Auxiliary Power Tokens on it thanks to my Borg Missile, so I figured he could be taking a green 1-bank to clear a token, so I dropped another ship right in the path of that maneuver, hoping to stop it short so that my damaged ship would be out of arc and beyond the Range 2 shot from his Dorsal Phaser Array.

wpid-img_20141115_135516855.jpg
Just before the failed retreat – the sphere closest to the Enterprise is the crippled one, see damage cards at bottom right. Octahedron takes a 3 to the East in a blocking maneuver, damaged Sphere moves 4 North. It almost worked…

I guessed right, the Enterprise revealed a 1-bank, and my plan worked out perfectly, but wasn’t enough; the sphere was still within Range 2 by about 2 centimeters. Sphere goes boom, Enterprise followed it shortly afterwards. It was a win, but not as clean of one as I had hoped for.

Round 2

This one was bound to be trouble. Now I had to use my untested Rebel list against someone that scored well with their own Rebels in Round 1.

Opponent:

Borg Tactical Cube 138, Tactical Drone (rerolls), Borg Ablative Hull Armor x 2

Borg Sphere, Tactical Drone (rerolls), Flagship (Ind Klingon), Feedback Pulse, Scavenged Parts

I might be missing a point or two off of his list, but at the same time, I think he was a couple points short of a complete build.

wpid-img_20141115_144359964.jpg

Battle:

Trouble, indeed. I spent the first couple of turns approaching slowly, trying to prime Riker with a couple free actions to take once he reached the combat. My opponent, expecting something tricky out of me, danced sideways for a couple of turns in hopes of screwing with that plan. We had to call the judge over for a ruling on how Riker’s free actions functioned, which took a couple of minutes (apparently my opponent and the Wizkids rules committee share a pitcher of Kool-Aid, since they ruled this week that his Free Actions don’t count as Actions). With the Sphere was out front for a moment, I hoped to deny a turn of shooting from the Cube on the initial engagement. On the turn we should have all entered into firing range, I took a 1-reverse maneuver with both ships. Unfortunately, I misjudged the range, and didn’t get a shot with the Enterprise D, and the Enterprise E’s shot was reflected by the Feedback Pulse. Then we had another delay while we got a judge’s ruling on Feedback Pulse (because “round down” doesn’t mention a minimum of 1 damage anywhere).

wpid-img_20141115_145518708.jpg
Right before I did the hokey-pokey in hopes of a 2-on-1 round of shooting.

Next thing I know, the Sphere has retreated behind the Cube, the Enterprise D has been blown off the map, and I’m trying to burn through 25 hit points of Borg Cube, with each move turning out to be a short chess match as we attempted to outguess and outmaneuver one another. Between my slow approach, the two rule debates, and the planning phases that took too long, I ran out of time before I could score a kill. The Enterprise E, as I ran it, wins that game with another 3 turns, and wipes the Borg entirely with another 4-5 after that. But there just wasn’t time in the match, and this one went to the Borg.

Round 3

Time to make up some lost ground. Being the higher ranking of my pairing, and wanting to further explore my Rebel fleet, I chose to play them. My opponent, not owning any Borg, had a rag-tag band that I didn’t know what to expect from.

Opponent:

USS Yeager, Khan (8), Photon Torpedoes …?
Enterprise-D, Kirk (9), Photon Torpedoes, Cheat Death …?
Bioship Alpha, Bioship Alpha Pilot, Quantum Singularity…?

Again, poor memory and no notes. I keep thinking I’ll get better about this, but with this odd format there were too many lists floating around and being swapped to keep track of who had what on which ship.

Battle:

This time, my Mirror Universe ship did its’ job, going in with guns blazing. Without a big Borg ship to outclass its’ hull, though, Rebellion was wasted, causing me to take a little extra damage, and not deal as much as I had planned on. The Yeager turned away from the fight (not being experienced with it, my opponent forgot it had no rear arc for torpedoes), and the Bioship teleported out with a few scratches just as the 3rd ship fell. My Enterprise E battered the Yeager, but took a couple of turns to do it (Picard had named Species 8472, the most threatening of the factions present), and the Bioship came back with a vengeance for the Enterprise D. There was no escape for Mirror-Riker, he went down in flames before Picard could arrive to finish up. Again, losing a ship at the last second hurt my overall score.

Final Thoughts

Oddly enough, a 1-2 record on the day scored me third place out of eight – while the battle points are used for the overall event, fleet points are used for scoring the individual events here, with a bonus granted for winning matches. Apparently, completely wiping my first and third opponents, and not being totally destroyed in my second match, I squeaked in a couple points ahead of the rest of the pack. The first place player on the day didn’t make it to the first month’s event, meaning that I still have a solid lead for the series. If I had to have a mere decent showing, this was the way to do it.

Bonus photos:

wpid-img_20141115_134709121.jpg

 

wpid-img_20141115_140808543.jpg

wpid-img_20141115_140748113.jpg

wpid-img_20141115_140643734.jpg

 

Back to the drawing board for my Rebels, and on to the next event!

– The Tabletop General

Resistance is Futile OP2; Battle Report 1

After holding serve at my home venue and kicking in the metaphorical door last month as I introduced myself to a couple new groups with a surprising amount of success (4 wins and 1 fellowship prize out of 5 appearances), we’re now in to month two of the Resistance is Futile organized play series for Star Trek: Attack Wing, and I wasn’t going to be taking anybody by surprise this time around. The first OP2 event in the area was this weekend. The TO for this series doesn’t use the scenarios provided by Wizkids (as per the preference of the usual group there), and instead held a basic 3 round tournament using the new suggested tournament format recently published by Wizkids.  This event was held at 120 points, single faction fleets (fleet pure), with no other objectives beyond destruction of the opposing fleet. Setup included of a planet and/or a set of obstacle tokens at the discretion of the player with initiative.

I had four different fleets designed coming in to the event, with the intent of choosing which to use based on who else was attending the event. I had builds for Mirror Universe (very suboptimal in fleet pure play, suitable against newbies), Vulcans (surprisingly decent), Federation (Tried, true, and tough, but less effective with the 50 point limit on ships), and Borg (lethally efficient). Surveying the group, there were 6 players (including the TO) present, most of which I would call tough competition, and I knew that there would be at least two fleets consisting of three Species 8472 Bioships, a very interesting matchup for Borg, so I brought them out to play with a near-identical build to the list I used in my first RiF OP1 event in the prior month.

Simple Shape Steamroller, Take 2

Borg Sphere – 38
Drone – 0

Borg Sphere – 38
Drone – 0

Borg Octahedron – 40  (generic version of Queen Vessel Prime)
Tactical Drone – 3  (from the Borg Sphere)

Total: 119

Borg Fleet in formation
The Borg “Cheesing” for a photo at the start of round 2. I love the detail from my new camera on this shot!

This version of the list drops Magnus Hansen from the Octahedron, giving me a 1 point initiative bid – with the lower quantity of maneuvers available to Borg, I didn’t want my opponents throwing out a planet token that would be extremely difficult for me to maneuver around. I was soon to learn that I had it backwards, I wanted that planet token!

Round 1

Opponent:
Enterprise E, Picard(8) …?
USS Yeager (Collective blind boosters), Mr. Spock …?
USS Voyager, James T. Kirk (8) …?

wpid-img_20141109_134258790.jpg

I didn’t think to take notes on what was where in my opponents’ lists in this event, but this was pretty close to what you would expect out of these three ships – Defensive upgrades and Dorsal Phaser Array on the Enterprise E, utility upgrades on the Voyager, and the Yeager set up as a relatively cheap torpedo boat. The list did clock in at 119 points as well, and my opponent won the roll-off for initiative and proceeded to drop a planet token in the center of the map. Not what I thought I wanted to see, but then I realized that I didn’t have any reason to come around the planet, and I could use it to split the enemy fleet.  The opponent deployed at an angle (as per the photo above), lined up to skirt by the planet and pointed directly at my ships. Unable to move directly towards my opponent, I feinted as though I would pas the planet on the other side, then halted and waited behind the planet. Sure enough, Yeager and Voyager cleared the planet on the turn of engagement, but the Enterprise didn’t make it around. If I recall correctly, one of the Federation ships got a shot off, but the other didn’t manage it. Three Borg ships returning fire took care of the Yeager and dented the Voyager. With the two remaining Federation ships separated, it was only a matter of time before the Borg swarm could burn down Voyager. Shelby made it a little harder to take down the Enterprise E, but it’s not as tough of a nut to crack with a 50 SP limit.

Round 2

Opponent:
USS Voyager, Picard(8)
USS Reliant, Kathryn Janeway
USS Enterprise Refit
Federation Attack Fighters

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Oh, look! More Federation! This was an interesting build, and the only fleet out of 6 to bring more than 3 ships (if you count the fighters). This build worried me a bit, mostly because I couldn’t figure out what the idea was for Janeway on the Reliant. Still can’t, really, I’ll have to ask its’ creator next time I see him. I also knew that with Fighters included, there was enough dice here to make a battle of attrition less than optimal – I would only shoot before the Enterprise, and Borg ships aren’t THAT hard to burn down with focused fire. With the initiative, I placed a planet token, knowing now how Borg like having cover. The idea was to force the opponent make an attack run near the planet, deny as many shots as possible, and follow behind them once they turned around.

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Borg science vessels hide from the warmongering Federation assault fleet. The Octahedron was REALLY good at hiding, currently off of its’ base here due to my tight formation.

This worked out even better than I could have hoped. From the position above, there were no shots this turn, but the opponent  couldn’t move all his ships in the same direction the next turn. Without focused fire on one of my ships, I knew I had this one in hand.

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Target acquired!

 

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You thought the Enterprise was going down first, didn’t you?

The survivors proceeded to turn and run away. I could catch them, but I was barely able to clear the Reliant before the time was called in the round, and the Federation Fighters survived. That was a little odd, but it didn’t do any harm or change the outcome in any way.

Round 3

Opponent:
USS Voyager, Mr. Spock
USS Yeager (Collective blind boosters), Clark Terrell
Enterprise E, Picard(9)

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Oh, look! More Federation! Again! It seems that somehow the Federation fleets had taken care of Species 8472 all afternoon. Either that, or they were scared, so I now I was up against the TO, which meant that coming in with 220 of 240 possible points, a solid score would win the event even if I lost the round.

I got a planet to shield myself behind again, but I messed up my deployment in this round and couldn’t get all three ships behind it without risking going off the board. Now I was just trapped in the corner! As a result, my opponent was able to focus fire and quickly destroyed one ship, and heavily damaged a second. Had he pressed the advantage, he had a good shot to survive, but he split his shots on a crucial turn and took shields off of the healthiest ship instead of destroying a second ship, and the extra damage he received in return proved to be his downfall.

One B’Rel, please! Thank you!

Here’s a handful of bonus photos from the other matches at the event:

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With one event down, it was time to go back to the drawing board and finalize my first pair of fleets for the real OP2 scenario being run the very next night. No rest for the wicked!

– The Tabletop General

Flight Academy – Setup and Gameplay

Most of my articles concerning Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures and Star Trek: Attack Wing make assumptions about you as the reader; usually that you understand the game or that you’ve played a similar game before, but that you might not have seen the particular facet of the game which I am writing about. In today’s article, we’re going back to the beginning, and I’ll be assuming you’ve never played either game. With any luck, the “Flight Academy” series will become a go-to guide for when somebody searches “how do you play X-Wing Miniatures” or “how do you play Star Trek: Attack Wing”.  Today I’ll be covering setup and basic turn structure.

For the purposes of this article, both game systems work in exactly the same way unless otherwise noted. There are exceptions to almost every rule I’m about to describe in both X-Wing and Attack Wing, but this guide will give you a head start and form the basis for your understanding of the game.

While there are plenty of variants out there for more players or even solitaire games, a game of Attack Wing or X-Wing begins with two players agreeing upon a size of game to play based on a number of points, with 100 points being a suggested standard size. Each player builds a fleet of ships and optional upgrades from their collection; each card has a cost printed on it that counts against the points they have available. Each ship card has an “upgrade bar” which contains a quick reference as to what upgrades that ship may have equipped to it, not all ships can carry all items. Once all of your points are spent (or at least as close to it as you care to get), you’re ready to play.

The standard play surface is a 3 foot by 3 foot area, which may have a few obstacles placed on it; asteroids or a planet token perhaps. Players set up their fleets on opposite sides of the play area, within 4 inches of their edge of the field. This 4 inch distance is known as “Range 1”, and can be easily measured with the appropriately marked section of the 12 inch range ruler included with the base set of each game. Each ship will have a skill level associated with it, either from the pilot (in X-Wing) or the captain (in Attack Wing). Ships are placed onto the field in ascending order of skill, with different rules to break ties in each system. Once all ships are placed, the standard turn cycle begins: Planning, Activation, Combat, End/Cleanup.

In the Planning phase, players secretly select the maneuvers that each of their ships will be performing this turn. This is the part where you’re trying to outguess your opponent’s moves, as all players are simultaneously making their plans, normally without any solid information as to what the opponent will do. Each ship class has a maneuver dial associated with it, which shows all possible moves for that ship. For each ship in play, the controlling player takes a movement dial of the same class and turns it to the move of their choice for the turn, and places the dial next to the ship. The moves listed on the dial all have a direction, a speed, and a color. The direction indicates the shape of the movement template that will be used by that ship, the speed indicates which of multiple sizes of that template will be used. The color of the maneuver reflects how much effort is required to perform the maneuver. White moves are considered normal, and have no effect on the ship. Red maneuvers are difficult, and put the ship into a stressed state (represented by a Stress Token or an Auxiliary Power Token) if it is not already in that state, or is considered illegal if the ship is already stressed, which is rectified by allowing the opponent to choose a legal move for that ship. Green maneuvers, on the other hand, are easy to perform and remove one of the aforementioned tokens if one or more have been previously assigned to the ship.

Once both players have completed their planning for the turn, and all ships have a dial assigned to them, the activation phase begins. Ships are activated one at a time in ascending order of skill, in the same order that they were deployed (unless some game effect has modified their skill). During the activation, the maneuver dial for that ship will be revealed, the matching template will be placed at the front of the ship’s base, and the ship will be moved to the opposite end of the template. If the maneuver removes a Stress token or Auxiliary Power Token, it does so immediately.

Each ship moves and takes its’ actions one at a time. Players cannot change their selections on the maneuver dial once this process has started without an ability that specifically allows it, so there are bound to be some collisions eventually. The lower your skill, the sooner you move, and for low skill ships, the board looks mostly like it did before the activation phase began, making collisions more and more likely as the phase progresses.

Obstacles are handled differently in each game, and can have effects such as causing damage to the ship, preventing them from firing that turn, or causing them to not be able to take actions that round. If a ship’s final position would overlap another ship, it’s movement is shortened until it no longer overlaps a ship, perhaps not moving at all, and that ship is not allowed to perform actions for that turn. On the other hand, higher skilled ships have more information about what the board will look like during the combat phase, and can use that knowledge to their advantage when selecting actions; ships that are safely out of sight can take purely offensive actions, while ships that don’t have targets available to them can attempt to take defensive actions.

Assuming that no collisions have occurred, and that the ship has no Stress/Auxiliary Power Tokens, the ship may perform one Action after moving. Each ship’s card will have an Action Bar with multiple symbols on it denoting what actions the ship may take by default. Examples include acquiring a Target Lock, taking an Evade token, or taking a Focus/Battlestations token (same effect, different name per system). Many upgrade cards have text that begin with the phrase “Action:”, which may be used for the effect that follows instead of taking an action from the Ship card. In addition to the ship’s normal action, many ships and upgrades allow Free Actions, which are additional Actions that can be performed freely at this time (before or after the standard action). The only constraint is that no Action may be performed multiple times by the same ship within a turn. The process of revealing a dial, moving, and taking action(s) is repeated with the un-activated ship with the lowest remaining skill value on the field until all ships have been activated.

Now comes the part you’ve been looking forward to; it’s time to blow some stuff up in the combat phase! Once again, skill values come in to play to determine the order in which ships are resolved, but this time it’s reversed – highest skill shoots first. There are plenty of individual instances that modify this (weapons with no defined firing arc, or with specific range restrictions), but in general each ship may fire a single shot with their primary weapon at a target inside their forward arc (marked on the ship’s base) up to 12 inches away (the length of the standard range rulers).

The attacking ship nominates a target and rolls attack dice equal to their ship’s primary attack value, plus one extra at Range 1 (within 4 inches). The results of this roll can potentially be modified by effects from upgrades or actions taken during the turn (such as re-rolling miss results by spending a Target Lock). If there are any dice displaying a [Hit] or [Crit] result after modifications, then it’s on to the target to try to dodge the shot, otherwise the attack has automatically missed.

If there were [Hit] or [Crit] results from the attack (there’s usually at least one), the target then rolls defense dice. The number rolled is equal to their ship’s agility, plus one extra at Range 3 (and another extra if the shot crosses an obstacle of some type other than another ship). The defending ship may potentially modify their dice (such as spending a Focus/Battlestations token to convert the corresponding results to [Evade] results), and each [Evade] result cancels one [Hit] or [Crit] result, starting with the [Hit] results first. If there are at least as many [Evade] results as there are [Hit] and [Crit] results, the shot has missed. If any dice are uncanceled, then the defending ship takes damage. Starting with the [Hit] results first, each point of damage removes a shield token, if any are present, or deals one card from the damage deck to the ship. [Hit] results are dealt face down, [Crit] results are turned face up and have some additional effect. In either case, each card counts as one point of damage, and when the damage allocated to a ship meets or exceeds its’ hull value, the ship is destroyed.

Once all surviving ships have had their opportunity to shoot (regardless of whether they actually got a shot off or not, it’s pretty common to have someone without a legal shot), we move to the End/Cleanup phase. I phrase it that way because it’s technically two separate steps, there are lots of effects that can be triggered “at the end” of the turn from upgrades and abilities, but it’s simply a timing opportunity, nothing distinctly happens there without those abilities. After any of those effects have been resolved, tokens which last through the end of the turn (Focus/Battlestations, Evade, Scan, etc) are removed. Target Lock Tokens, and Stress/Auxiliary Power Tokens remain in place, as these abilities have continuing effects. Cloak Tokens are a special case in Attack Wing, they must be removed if flipped to the red side, or may be removed voluntarily if the controlling player wishes to do so.

After the Cleanup phase is completed, the next turn begins with another Planning phase. The game continues through these steps until one player reaches the victory conditions for the scenario (usually wiping out the opposing force), or until time runs out for the game. If there isn’t a specific scenario in play that says otherwise, the player with the most points of ships and upgrades still active in the game wins the match.

So there you have it, the core rules for both Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures and Star Trek: Attack Wing in well under 2000 words. Keep an eye out for future editions of Flight Academy, in which I’ll be discussing things that AREN’T in the rulebook: hit probabilities, the concepts of action economy and list economy, basic list archetypes, and so on. If there’s a concept you’re curious about, or want more information about, by all means, let me know and I’ll be glad to add it into the series!

— The Tabletop General