I love Lego, don’t you? In my day job, I’ve based entire schemes of work on the creative potential of Lego. Your only limit is what you can imagine and the pieces that you have. It all just fits. Except when it doesn’t; you’re missing pieces or they’re broken after you’ve trodden on them. Worse yet – the hoover. My eldest son has an extensive Lego mass that we affectionaley refer to as ‘the void’ – it swallows up most pieces until we eventually empty the Lego box onto the floor in search of that one piece, forever scarring my knees as I scrabble looking for a flat one or a two by two, maybe one of those transparent coloured pieces that look like round bobbles, or one of those specialist pieces that come with movie tie-in sets and serve no other purpose in the Lego world.
Whilst I may be constructing my own elaborate meta-phor (oh yeah, I went there); with my relatively short time playing X-Wing, I have found that building lists that have a place in the ever-changing meta can be daunting.
Where to start – ships? Upgrades? Even then – EPTS? Ordinance? Crew? Too much. My first post explores looking at ships I love and then adding upgrades via a trial and error method.
My good friend Tom, you can find his blog here, got me into the game between waves 7 and 8; I had lots to catch up on. I have no prior experience of table-top gaming; part of the attraction with X-Wing is the pretty, pretty ships that come pre-painted ( I wouldn’t trust myself painting miniatures) and that the mechanics of the game are simple – you can pick up the basic rules within half an hour or so (I heard that snigger. All of them.)
Not really knowing where to start with wanting to become a more competitive player, I entered a Slow Grow tournament at Dark Sphere in Waterloo, my local gaming haunt. It’s amazing by the way, like an Aladdin’s Cave full of plastic crack.
The tournament is played in three stages (present-continuous tense as it’s still ongoing), each with four games: 50 points, 75 points and then 100 points. For the 50 point round, you are allowed to change your list against each opponent. With the move to 75 points, the list had to remain the same throughout all four matches. The final round (which I’m actually just about to embark on) has to be the 75 point list with a final 25 points added on, this could be in the form of additional ships or upgrades.
Game one – I took Ello Asty, with VI, R2-D2 and Autothrusters. That all comes in at 37 points. I filled the remaining points with a naked Tala Squadron pilot. My opponent was running a Y-Wing with TLT and a Green Squadron A-Wing with Push The Limit, Chardaan Refit, A-Wing Test Pilot and Juke. He took out my Z-95 and I then returned the favour by tabling him. My first real game against an actual stranger and I won. I know. Right?
Feeling cocky, for my next game I played two Green Squadron A-Wings with Push The Limit, Chardaan Refit, A-Wing Test Pilot and Crack Shot. My opponent played two B-Wing Blue Squadron Pilots with Fire Control Systems. This was my first experience of not thinking consciously about the math-wing thing and then paying for it. I’ll expand on math-wing a little later but, for now, my woes can be explained simply as follows:
2 Attack dice (A-Wing) vs 3 Attack dice (B-Wing)
2 Shields vs 5 shields
2 Hull vs 3 Hull
He flew in formation and took my A-Wings apart. Casualty. Hubris.
My next game was against two Y-Wings with TLT. I took Ello and the Z-95 again hoping for a better fair. Zip for me.
Finally, I took Jake Farrell and a Gold Squadron Y-Wing with R3-A2 and TLT to my fourth match. I played against Whisper and a bottom of the range Tie. I have no knowledge of Imperials and can’t remember what was in each build. I do remember winning. That was my first round over and I was 2 and 2; 2 wins and 2 losses. What worked? Finding a combination of durability; getting to know how my ships moved and trying my best to arc dodge into range one wherever possible.
I approached this with what I thought was a little nous. I attempted to come up with a 100 point list that I thought might be both competitive and fun to play and then I would work my way backwards to 75 points.
This is where some guesstimated math wing came in to play. My bass akwards maths looked like this
I’ve actually found a helpful blog by Stay On The Leader that analyses the maths of the dice here. Read it.
What I perceived to be the problems of my local meta were stress, Rebel re-gen and an abundance of TLT. What did I fear? Swarms.
What did I focus on to attempt to mitigate these factors?
I broke down each ship, and in turn each list, as to how many hit points it would be able to take before going down. I then looked at how many hit points I might arguably deliver with each ship per turn (you’ll notice I gave TLT only 1.5 hit points per turn, taking Autothrusters and the like into account).
My chosen 100 point list was
I started where three time world champion Paul Heaver recommended with a Stress Hog (Gold Squadron Y Wing with BTL-A4, R2-A3 and TLT).
If you’ve read my first blog post, you’ll already know my thoughts on Ello vs Poe. That’s 63 points so far, leaving 37 to play with, slightly less if I want to make a bid for initiative.
I thought Two Green Crack A-Wings would fill that slot well, taking my total to 99 points, leaving a 1 point intitiative bid. Crack shot is a cheap EPT that actually counters the the A-Wing’s puny two attack dice well. Through experience, I’ve also found that going for a target lock with these rather than a focus and treating them as fodder helps to ensure they get their hits through.
Paul Heaver’s ‘three pillars’ of squad building (which you can find here) breaks ships down into three categories: turrets, jousters and arc dodgers.
Few lists are composed solely of ships belonging all to the same pillar. Usually, the best lists balance synergies between mixed ship types.
My final list had a turret, two jousters and an arc dodger. I still think the potential synergies here should make this quite a fluid list.
Stripping it down to 75 points wasn’t quite as easy as I’d hoped. My first two attempts at this were Ello and two A-Wings and a Stress Hog with two A-Wings. These were each taken apart easily by my friend Sam’s Tie Swarm. The most durable list seemed to be:
Throughout Round Two, I learned that the local meta was seemingly dominated by Dash (at least for the Slow Grow). This makes a lot of sense; for a beginner, his ability is very forgiving. Why worry about asteroids or debris when you don’t need to? The ‘Super Dash’ build (Outrider Title + Heavy Laser Cannon + Engine Upgrade + Kyle Katarn + Push the Limit) is fairly straight forward to play from the box as long as you’re anticipating the effect of that donut where you’re opponent can get into range 1 and you cannot retalliate.
My first opponent played Super Dash and Jake Farrell. He took out my A-wing and I then tabled him. Triumph. Secret smile as I packed away. Game two – another Super Dash ( I forget paired with what). He tabled me. There’s that hubris again.
Third match saw me paired against Imperial Boba Fett with an Ion Cannon and Vader. Bang. Down. No contest. I stripped his shields, but the Ion Cannon controlled my moves all of the way. Another loss.
Finally, match four – ‘Super Dash’ again with an A-Wing Prototype pilot. I took out the A-Wing early, but couldn’t pin Dash down. There was one point where I had Dash so that he couldn’t escape my TLT or Ello at Range 1, but ultimately, he flew better.
Round One saw me win two and lose two. Round Two – one win and three losses.
A Long Time Ago…
It’s now four months since I entered the Slow Grow and I’m just about to play my first match of round three. Since then, I have played in a Store Championship (I came last out of 18 but got my alt art C-3PO); I have come 30th out of 33 in a Winter Kit and wave 8 has come and gone.
As I approach the final 100 point round of the Slow Grow, I still think there is a clear balance to the final list. I feel quite vindicated with the inclusion of the Green Crack A-Wings having recently heard of the five A-Wing Crack Swarm that won a regional in New Mexico recently. Stay On Target have dedicated a segment of their most recent podcast, A-Winging It, to this (you can find it here, go to 47:55).
Ello seems to go out first, despite the re-gen ability of R2-D2. If I’m to get better at this, I need to figure out why.
I’ll let you know how it works out.