Road to Regionals Part Three: Know Your Enemy

This is the third in a series of posts where I prepare myself for a month of Regionals in the UK. I explore my fears about list building and the Regional Meta of January 2017.

Is there such a thing as X-Wing Hipster Chic?

Do X-Wing Hipsters exist?

Am I scared of being an X-Wing Hipster?

Unfortunately, the answer to all of these is: yes.

X-Wing’s a fun game, right?

After listening to the episode XLIX of the Kessel Run where they explore FAQ 4.2.2 and share their thoughts on the nerfing of Deadeye, I can’t think of a more saltier brand of  space chips. I didn’t finish listening to the episode after they began talking about how this FAQ would bring about the return of TLTs and how they hated average Joe buyer who was only interested in Heroes of the Resistance and flying re-genning Rebels with their ‘one forward to victory‘.

Prior to this, I loved the podcast – I haven’t returned to it since. Saltier than Brian Salt who lives in Salt Village, just north of Big Salting, feasts on salt and has sacrificed his children in the name of the Salt Almighty that He might be pleased and rain salt down upon us.

What was that Super Hans?

super-hans

I can’t deny that I have asked questions about the Imperial Veterans and Heroes of The Resistance expansions – they definitely present a move towards being able to take things out of the box with little else needed to help bolster the list; is this a good or bad thing?

FFG have a job to do, surely sets like these bring older players back into the game whilst also introducing new players. Surely an influx of players can only keep the game fresh?

Yet, this got me thinking – was I so offended by the Kessel Run‘s rant because it was holding up a mirror? Had Chumbalaya and Cowboy Kenny exposed my inner anxieties about being that guy and playing an it list?

Brief tangent about language (feel free to skip this paragraph): I first expressed my worries about being that guy when writing about my experiences of playing Dengaroo at Warboar. I had been using the phrase at school about two months earlier because I was struggling to express to the boys in my classroom how not everyone had been enjoying their brand of banter; ‘Don’t be That Guy would be something I would regularly say to them. I would like to think I am, in someway, responsible for it’s transference to the field of X-Wing, but then memes travel in all sorts of circles.

high-fidelity

It took me a while to realise that, in my head, there are two things my opponent will be thinking when I place my ships on the table.  I want to make it clear that the phrase ‘…in my head’ is all important here.  This does not mean that I believe the following of my opponent, it means that my head will distort reality and filter in the following:

Oh that’s an interesting list.

Translation: how long ago did you netlist that?

or

Oh that’s an interesting list.

Translation: it won’t take me long to beat it, you have little creativity and I will make you suffer.

Very rarely have I actually encountered these people. They are not only a reflection of my anxieties and my fear of judgement; but worse than that, I worry that, deep down, they might be me.

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I feel torn between both Rob and Barry in High Fidelity here.

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An anecdote: a Friday night in October. Tom and I are out with our respective families and it’s the beginning of the three day World’s 2016 tournament. We try our best to restrict our chat to other things that our children might be interested in, managing a pitiful seven minutes before I mention something to Tom about his Biggs double Arc list that he is working on.

Later, we’re eating dinner at a diner outside of the British Museum and word comes through via the Bothan spies as to what Heaver is playing at Worlds. Three time world champion; meta defining; Stay on Target, Boba Fett (now Bo Shek) card creating. This.

Lancer-class Pursuit Craft Asajj Ventress

  • Push the Limit
  • Latts Razzi crew
  • Black Market Slicer Tools
  • Shadowcaster title
  • Engine Upgrade

Y-Wing Syndicate Thug

  • Twin Laser Turret
  • Unhinged Astromech

Y-Wing Syndicate Thug

  • Twin Laser Turret
  • Unhinged Astromech

I don’t see it.  I might be a bit too green but I can’t quite figure it out. I cannot criticise Heaver, and that’s not my intention here.  If I could fly half as well as him on an off day – wow. I’m not saying it’s a shit list (it’s not). I just don’t get it.

They say Heaver drinks the blood of freshly sacrificed players at a fountain in FFG HQ; that he draws his power from the force; that he makes slides of possible meta encounters and how to best counter them (only one of those is actually true – I’ve seen photos of the fountain).

I don’t know what to believe

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Heaver still came 15th in Swiss and was then knocked out of the Top 16. I know I’m not of the skill level to get that far.

My big question: what was Heaver expecting that made him bring this? What does it counter? What does it do best?

The TLTs seem as though they would counter Defenders pretty well and Assaj works by handing out stress without even needing an action or having to attack. It’s fairly solid, just uninspiring.

David Sutcliffe, of Stay On The Leader writes about netlisting here. As always, David articulates my thoughts better than I can currently mumble through them.  Whilst I risk alienating any readers I have by explaining my neuroses of bringing a list to a tournament, David categorises players as netlisters and innovators. Though netlisters might well be looked down upon by innovators, David argues,

Right from the very birth of ‘netlisting’ it was a tool for innovators as much as one for those who wanted to shortcut the process of innovation. A good innovator LOVES working with a rigid metagame where he knows the squads he’s going to have to play against, because he knows what he has to innovate a solution for.   If other people aren’t netlisting then your local metagame is very uncertain, and it’s very difficult to plan for an uncertain metagame.

Though I fear being labelled a netlister rather than an innovater, having read Sutcliffe’s article, I feel a lot more comfortable about it.

Dee Yun of Mynock Squadron summarises it well,

I’m a pragmatist…I know it works, why wouldn’t I take it?

Arguably, the meta is more diverse that it has been since the release of Wave 9, FAQ 4.2.2 and the brief snippets of Wave 10 we have been given (in physical form rather than previews). Contextually, any further analysis of Worlds 2016 data (I did aready have a brief exploration of this here) might prove fruitless when considering how this might map the meta for the upcoming regionals.

As James Dowdall of the 186th ironically dubs the UK a ‘silly little European meta’.

Luckily, List Juggler has a collection of all things X-Wing tournament related. It’s incredibly easy to get lost in this nebulous space slug cave; nonetheless, here is my exploration of the meta from the last six international tournaments recorded.

Starting with the Clevaland Regionals on 7th January, I have filtered the lists for all to show the top four in Championship rankings.

Cleveland Regionals 7th Jan.png

Next is the Krakow Regionals on the 8th January

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Next is the Sacremento Regionals on 14th January

Sacremento Regionals 14th Jan.png

Polish Regionals on 14th January

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Springfield Regionals on 21st January

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Dublin Regionals on 21st January

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What does this all mean? Data only becomes data once you have made some conclusions, otherwise, it’s simply numbers and words. Well…

Based on the collection above, I have made the following observations:

  • Triple Defenders are definitely the most popular list, appearing 5 times in the top 4 across six regionals
  • Paratanni comes in a close second, appearing 4 times in the top four across six regionals.
  • Dash and Miranda appear twice, but in the same final.
  • Bombing Ks appear once
  • Common Wealth Defenders (Palp Mobile, Vess and Ryad) appear only once
  • Dengaroo appears only once
  • Fangaroo appears only once
  • Bossk with Gunner, Hotshot Co-Pilot and Dengar appears only once
  • The most popular pilot is Col. Vessary, appearing 7 times in the top 4 across six regionals
  • Fenn comes in at a close second, appearing six times
  • Miranda appears three times across six regionals

What do I expect to see over the next month?

I’m predicting Parattanni and Defenders, with a creep back from Dash and Miranda now that the TLTs have returned and are making an impact on the high PS re-positional aces.

Perils Ahead

I’ve been playing Fangaroo since Wave 9 dropped – it seems the most logical thing to go with it for the next month? Right?

I straight out love Attanni Mindlink and I’ve been experimenting with it since Adleraan.

I’ve been playing the 97 point version of Fangaroo because I wanted the chance to give initiative away (you can read about my reasons for that here), but now Parattanni seems to be the dominant form of not only Mindlink use but Fenn too and it comes in at 100 points, I can spare two points for Feedback Array.

So at 99 points, My Fangaroo looks like this

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Massive thanks to Alex Birt of the 186th Squadron for helping me come to this decision about the list – you’re a true gent.

I’ve taken this list to four tournaments (that’s just under 20 games competitively) and practised with it most Tuesday nights for months.

Some problems I’ve encountered come from the combination of VI, Hotshot Co-pilot and Gunner. The main problem here is who do you protect?

Try this

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You must remember to use Roo to pass tokens to whoever is apparently the most vulnerable.  If your oppponent is using Gunner, they may well be relying on you to make a difficult decision that makes you spend tokens. With Hotshot Co-pilot, that decision is made for you; the card reads

When attacking with a primary weapon, the defender must spend 1 focus token if able.

‘If able’- if you have one, it needs to go regardless of whether you want to spend it or not.

Fangs face a real difficulty here, they have no shields to protect them from crits. Where you might want to protect yourself from taking a beating with Gunner by letting that one hit through – Vader crew can still activate anyway – here comes the crit.

What of Parattanni? I have practised and practised against this – it’s efficient and nasty. Who should your priority be?  Blair Bunke of Scum and Villainy writes a good post on this.  I’ll leave it here for you.

Triple Tap?

By now, this list has surfaced too

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 10.08.22.pngScreen Shot 2017-01-26 at 10.12.09.png

The triple tap is born. exploiting th wording of IG88-B, that does not include the phrase ‘you cannot perform another attack this round’; it’s a list that seemingly relies on rewarding failure.

Use Bossk to fire with the Mangler and then use Dengar crew to re-roll your dice in order to maximise your potentially of missing. Then choose IG88-B’s ability to activiate the first Gunner effect; then actaully use Gunner.

It’s not infallable, but it does exploit a rule. Is it broken? Maybe.  You can still mess up your opponent’s plans by letting the first hit go through – no IG88-B, no Gunner. Easier said than done – especially if you have a ship without shields to take some of the heat.

Know your Enemy?

I began this post months ago but it has been a long and cold Winter.  I called it Know Your Enemy because  I wanted to explore how the meta might affect list decisions for regionals. There was part of me that always knew that the enemy was, in fact, me.

I am my most judgemental opponent. Not you. Me. The fear kicks in and then it’s fight or flight.

That’s not to say that if we pass tables in the next few weeks that I want you to take it easy on me – that would be an injustice to both of us. I write this really because I know there are more people out there who approach list building with the same agonising indecision.

Take it easy on yourselves and fly better.

In case that was a little too avuncular, hopefully not condescending, here is a final thought from Barry:

bird

Road to Regionals Part Two: Target Priority and Meta Exploration (With a Dash of Hubris)

It’s another one where I catch up with my lost missions and evaluate what I need to get my head around before the busy Regionals season #itsgettinghothinhere #Xwing #Fangaroo

This is the second post in a series where I explore how my play has developed, evaluating my performance in preparation for the impending Regionals Season (You can read the first in this series here). Actually, the first Regional event has happened at IQ Gaming Huddersfield.

The final was Tom Reed Vs. Paul Smith, with Paul flying Corran Horn with PTL, R2-D2, Fire Control System and Engine Upgrade; Miranda with Sabine, TLT, Connor Net, Ion Bombs,  Extra Munitions, Homing Missiles and Advanced Slam. Tom’s list was Ketsu Onyo with Push the Limit, Shadow Caster title, K4 Securty Droid, Glitterstim and Engine Upgrade; Assajj Ventress with Push the Limit, Latts Razzi, Glitterstim, Black Market Slicers and Gyroscopic Targeting. Paul took the win with Corran and Miranda – well done to you both!

It appears that double Shadowcasters are definitely a thing right now, as are the return of re-genning Rebels. Who would have thunk that handing out Corran Horn cards as part of the top prizes in Summer Kits would lead to Corran’s return in force? Well? It’s almost like someone is trying to gently shape the meta in the background. Like there are opposing factions in a war of attrition where nobody really knows what’s going on except a shadowy woman in a monkey mask on a holographic projection.

emporor
A monkey, you say?

Taking a brief tangent, this series allows me to lay some ghosts to rest with unfinished posts where I had an idea but didn’t get a chance to fully finish it off.  For instance, I haven’t yet published my exploration of World’s Meta or expressed congratulations to Nand Torfs properly. I meant to, I even sent a draft to Tom (fellow Sparkle Motion Squadron and player).

sparklemotion.gif
How could I not include this?

2016 Worlds finished a fortnight ago, with Nand Torfs, a Belgian from Ego Squadron, taking the title with a variant of Dengaroo.

If you didn’t know the winning list, it’s

Jumpmaster 5000 Dengar

•Lone Wolf

•Zuckass

•Overclocked R4

•Glitterstim

•Punishing One title

•Countermeasures

Jumpmaster 5000 Manaroo

•Push the Limit

•Gonk

•R5-P8

•Seismic Torpedoes

•Feedback Array

•Engine Upgrade

Congratulations to Nand – you flew well! Up until Top 4, I was rooting for Benjamin Lee of the 186th Squadron (Fangaroo), and then Thomas ‘Jack’  Mooney (Fat Han and Jake).

I’m still allowed to call myself European – Nand, you did it, Dude. Nice.

Contextually, the events that led up to Worlds 2016 – FAQ Version 4.2.2 and the release of HOTR mean that the analysis of Worlds meta data might not be that useful when considering how this might map the meta for the upcoming regionals.

DeadEye.  Let the hate flow. The vitriol. All those triple jump contracted scout loo boats (stick another adjective in there somewhere). Everybody gets delusions of grandeur.

This year’s meta (via Major Juggler) was as follows:

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-17-24-32

This year’s Worlds top 16 was incredibly diverse:

•3 x Palp Defenders

•3 x Dengaroo

•1 x Double Lancer

•1 x Deci Whisper

•1 x Triple Defenders

•4 x TLT

•1 x Triple Scouts

•1 x Palp Aces

•1 x Han & Jake

•1 x Mindlink Scum

•1 x Coran & Miranda

•1 x Lancer and Y-Wing TLTs (Hi, Paul)

That’s two Rebel lists, six Imperial lists and a whopping eight Scum lists. With the FAQ and the HOTR not yet being tournament legal, how much can this be a reflection of the meta to come?

English Nationals 2016 – the top 16 lists contained a total of 13 Jumpmasters (ships, not lists)? The dropping of an FAQ two weeks before Worlds that nerfed triple jumps must have hit hard. I listen to many X-Wing podcasts and they often talk about the skewed UK meta and how they can’t understand why there are so many Triple Scout variants. One of those belonged to current UK National Champion Duncan Callendar.

With this in mind, the meta is a huge beast, much like the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. Who knows what will happen? I make predictions for a return of the Falcons (VI Rey), with lots of Poe, followed by Dengaroo and Defenders. Now the Alpha Strike of the triple jumps has gone, we’ll see more TLTs too (so that’s K-Wings and Y-Wings) [shuddering to think of having to play against 4 TLT Ys; even the new Braylen Stram as a replacement Stresshog. Will Fangaroo go away? hmmm…]

Anyway. Target Priority (with a dash of Hubris)

Tom and I played at a tournament as part of the Tabletop Games Convention in Tring on 22nd October. I went 3 and 1 for the day with my newly modified Fangaroo listScreen Shot 2016-11-21 at 17.27.57.png

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I’ve dropped Black Market Slicers, taking it down to 97 points. We were both guilty of not making any sufficient notes for the day. By the time I got to Game Three, playing Tom againt his Rau-lob-Roo Link list, we were both at 2 and 0 and we knew that our progression for the day would depend on the victor.

We play so often against each other in practise sessions, but we rarely get to play in a tournament setting.  Tom mis-played where to decloak Palob in round two, leaving him open on a rock and unable to attack. I took advantage with both Teroch and Fenn, leaving him a ship down. By the end of the match, I had lost Teroch, but I still had Fenn and Roo.  I had learned a valuable lesson about taking ships out of play when they were bleeding and I used it to good fashion here.

I finished second place, losing first place by 46 points, the exact amount that I had lost in my final game against Ed (who also had a Fangaroo list, but no Mindlink and came in at 96 points).

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I finished 2nd, Tom came 3rd and we celebrated over a pint and some rather posh freshly made pork scratchings.

My best perfomance yet.

The following weekend, Tom and I played at the Conquest Tournament in Shoreham. After our success in Tring, I can safely say that we both approached this tournament with a little swagger.

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Game One Olly Pocknell

0-100

Oliver’s list

YT-1300 – Han Solo (old Han, but Younger Han)

  • Predator
  • C-3P0 crew
  • Luke Skywalker Crew
  • Millennium Falcon Title
  • Engine Upgrade

K-Wing – Miranda Doni

  • Long Range Scanners
  • Twin Laser Turret
  • Fenn first to die
  • Teroch
  • Manaroo landing on rocks; misjudged 1 turn
  • Three times misjudged
  • Not even half points
  • Complimented my flying – 45 mins

I’ve written before about the intimidation I feel when placed against an opponent that has:

A) a store championship range ruler

B) regionals dice

C) a 186th Squadron T-shirt

I can go one further than this: Nordic Nationals Champion Oliver Pocknell.

Round One. Sad face. Heavy sigh.

If game one were an episode of Peep Show, the script would be as follows.

‘Haven’t we met?’

‘Maybe, I don’t think so.’ [I’m 99.9% certain we haven’t but I’m being far too polite and hoping he’ll go easy on me].

‘Yeah. It’s possible. I know of you.’ [uneasy laugh from me and a smile from him].

Oliver begins to talk me through his list:

‘It’s a rather chubby Han’

‘A Fat Han?’

‘Yeah, it’s a Fat Han. He’s been at the pies’.

[Dammit. He’s really jolly, somewhat nice, cracks jokes and is still intimidating. I’m too scared to try to be funny. Can’t look like a dick. Can’t look like a dick].

‘So yeah, do you know how Han and Predator work?’

[I nod. Eyes like a rabbit in the headlights].

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‘The card says that you can re-roll the dice that you can, so I’m likely to Predator and then use Han’s ability.’

[Got it. Er…better ask a question to make it look like the panic hasn’t set in].

‘Could you do it the other way round? Han’s ability and then Predator?’

[Don’t be stupid, of course you fucking can’t. Ask any question except the really fucking stupid one with an obvious answer].

I talk to him about my list. He’s seen it. He knows what it is. He’s one of the few members of the 186th not running something similar.

‘So, a pretty scary match up for both of us.’

[Yeah that’s a statement, not a question. He means it. I might have a chance on this].

‘Yeah, but there’s only one of us that’s a National Champion’.

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There it was. The bantha in the room. He smiles. I give him initiative. The rocks end up looking fairly symmetrical.

You’ve already read the score. It’s not like I’m posting a spoiler or anything. I’m writing this from the Bye chair (for the first time in months).

I’ve been practising my opening and I feel it’s pretty solid with this list. The approach works much like Dengaroo, play the Fangs up front and keep Roo on the back foot, passing tokens and hopefully target locks.

With this match-up, range control is key. I want to get Fenn into range one but if it’s range one of Han, that’s a potential four hits. Of course, if it’s range one in arc, Concord Dawn kicks in and I have a guaranteed evade. At the same time, if I’m out of arc, the Autothrusters kick in. Worse than that, if I evade the first round of fire, Luke will kick in and that’s really tough, especially if you’re relying on the green dice.

Since the release of Wave 9, I’ve focussed heavily on controlling my range, making the most of repositional abilities and then moving wounded ships out of the fight to enable recovery time. Given my success of coming 2nd at the tournament in Tring last weekend, I felt that I really had a secure grip on these.
Not this game.

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The first 45 minutes were pretty tense. The first round of combat saw Teroch in range one and in Miranda’s arc, with Fenn just short at range two. To the left of these two, Han has a shot on both.

Somehow, Fenn manages to survive an attack from Han with only one damage. He uses this to attack Miranda and with focussed fire from the two Mandolorians, she’s down to one shield.

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After Miranda’s TLT attack on Fenn, he’s now down to two hull. This should have been the point where I flew him out of there on the next round. Should.

I actually attempted a 2 talon roll and didn’t make it, stressing all. I’d planned for this eventuality and given Fenn a green manoeuvre but it still meant the guns from Teroch were facing the wrong way.

Fenn was down two rounds later. I used him to block Han successfully, but it was the TLT that did it again. At that point, Miranda had successfully regenned her way back up to three shields.

Meanwhile, Roo spent two rounds landing on a rock, followed by another on a debris’. I rolled two hits for each of the rocks, taking away the final shield. The debris stressed everybody.

It wasn’t long before Teroch exploded, leaving Roo with her plasmas to try and make an impact on Han, who still had three shields left.

My target priority had been wrong the entire time. If I had gone after Han, the risk would have been greater, but at least I would have been looking at a potential half points on the Falcon instead of this right now:

 

Consolation Brownie? Check.

Roo died in a rather anti-climactic fashion on the 70th minute.

I knew my mistakes. Roo’s landing on the rocks were a real kicker. Despite this poor flying,

‘Your opening was spot on and for the first 45 minutes, it was pretty hairy’.

Smiling assassin.

Game Three  Nathan 100-47

Nathan’s list was

Lancer-Class Pursuit Craft Ketsu

  • Fearlessness
  • Dengar crew (for the re-rolls)
  • Black Market Slicer Tools
  • Anti-Pursuit Lasers

YV-666 Bossk

  • Fearlessness
  • Gunner
  • Tactician
  • K4 Security Droid
  • Engine Upgrade.

I needed a win, I got a win. IT WAS BRUTAL. Fearlessness on both big base ships was tough and I was lucky with my dice rolls. Fenn had a Console Fire crit and only two hull remaining; the stress from Tactician and Ketso stopped me from being able to flip it three times – each time I rolled a blank.

I finally got my act together and used the Plasmas from Roo to take out Bossk, leaving Ketso with 5 hull to take down. When I did mange to get Fenn in a good position – I had a target lock at range 1 and managed a stupid succession of five crits including 3 Direct Hits, Stunned Pilot, Loose Stabiliser and Console Fire.

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Fenn can be a bit of a dick at times.
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I’ve never seen so many crits in one go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game Four Ben Cooper 22-100

YT-2400 Dash Rendar

  • Push the Limit
  • Kanan crew
  • HLC
  • Outryder title
  • Anti-Pursuit Lasers

Two Rookie T-65s affectionately called Shorty and Lofty.

The first round of combat saw me get shorty down to two hull so I decided to focus my fire there. My priority should have been taking out Dash as quick as possible; Fenn and Teroch were both very vulnerable to the HLC and target lock. I knew about the donut hole, but I just didn’t focus on it.

The things I got right in game three, I got so very wrong in game four. It’s unusual to see a Dash build that does not have Engine Upgrade, but Ben correctly blocked both of my Fangs, using APL to knock off a few points for two rounds.

Whereas game three and the previous weekend at Tring I would have used a bait and switch strategy, or at least moved ships out of play when they were damaged, this time I made poor decisions based on trying to desperately secure a much needed win. I was unable to see the wookies for the ewoks (or something like that).

So there you have it. I finished 11th and Tom finished 13th.

Three things to learn from this

  • Target priority
  • Obstacle placement (I will explore this in a later post)
  • Keeping things in arc with Roo to take opportunities with Plasmas (should I choose to keep them with this list).

What of Tring? Does it mean that we have got significantly better? Well, yes. Does it mean that we are champions of Tring? No. On that day, on that afternoon, out of those 16 people, we played better than 13 of them. That is all.

Do our failures at Conquest mean we have gone backwards? No. I made some silly errors and learned some serious lessons about target priority.

I still managed some loot for the droid.

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He didn’t have a Recon Specialist before, he does now.

Road to Regionals – Part One: Initiative and Positioning (bring the Sparkles).

I’ve been far too lax and the droid is cross with me. Super cross. He wants you to know how to learn from my mistakes before Regionals.

I have this curious sense of déjà-vu (how satisfying are the corresponding accents in that word to look at and to say?).

This has been another period of lost missions. September, October, November – it’s all been such an assault on the senses. Like a wookie on heat.

I have played in four tournaments over the last two and a half months; Wave 9 has dropped; a startling FAQ kicked in just before Worlds nerfing triple jumps; I came SECOND IN A TOURNAMENT AND GOT MY CORRAN CARD; Ben Lee of the 186th Squadron made it into the top 8 of Worlds; triple jumps got nerfed (semi-nerf for Biggs); HOTR came out; triple jumps got nerfed; We have a new World Champion in Nand Torfs with Dengaroo; triple jumps got nerfed – Sparkle Motion Squadron was formed (Me, Tom, Lloyd and Paul – FO).

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With this dawning of a new era, I feel re-invigorated and ready for battle.  Like the Greek audiences watching tragedies and experiencing catharsis at the downfall of the protagonist, I am ready  to start anew.

This will be my first in a series of blog posts where I explore how I refine a list and what I learned about it through battle.

When I embarked on this blog (call it a journey, if you will), it was because I wanted to get better at the game; I felt the need to evaluate based on my poor performance at tournaments. In the interests of authenticity, I feel it appropriate that I focus on what I have actually learned over the last two months and how I intend to get better in time for the busy Regional Season that kicks off now(ish) – although my first Regional will be at Exeter on the 28th January. I’m hoping for a better fair than my result of 79th at the last Regionals I attended at Warboar in May (you can read about it here).

Fenn Rau, isn’t he the new hotness right now?

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I’m reliably informed that’s Manaroo in the picture.

Whilst defending Alderaan, I was experimenting with Attani Mindlink, using Manaroo, Palob, a Binarye Pirate with Feedback Array and N’Dru Suhlak with Cluster Missiles. It was a list that I developed with Tom (although it was entirely his idea). I had planned to stick with it, replacing the Z-95s with Fenn Rau.

 

 

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Image appears courtesy of Nicholas Yun.

Since then, Andrew Pattison (Yavin Open Champion 2016, 186th Member and creator of the Patti-swarm) has been on the 186th Podcast talking about the power of Attanni Mindlink (follow the link for Episode 17); David Sutcliffe has written two posts via Stay on the Leader (you can find them here and here) and most importantly, Ben Lee took Fangaroo all the way to the top 8 of Worlds with an ill-timed Damaged Cockpit crit causing problems for Fenn Rau at the early stages of the game.

Well, What Have we here?

The first battle that I failed to report was the Well, What Have We Here Summer Kit at ibuywargames in Woking (October 16th).  This was my first run of Fangaroo in a competitive setting, I went two and two – my highlights were as follows.

My preferred take on the power house that is Attani Mindlink:

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Call it Bort-link (via Alex Birt of 186th), Fangaroo as it’s more commonly known or maybe ever Benn-aroo now, This list comes in at 98 points. I found that BMST is a good psychological threat, but there is an intitiave bidding war that comes with this list, more on that later (shhhhh. Come closer and I’ll tell you the secret…just not yet)

I won games one and two, tabling my first opponent who used a list involving the Shadow Caster and two Y-Wing TLTs, each with Unhinged Astromech. My next opponent, a Palp Aces list with Carnor and Countess Ryad, another win trading Teroch for the rest of the list.

luke-cave

Game Three, I was paired against Pete Wood of the 186th.  This was a mirror match – with Pete playing his own take on Fangaroo.  Rather than the plasmas on Roo, or BMST, he had Feedback Array – putting the list at 96 points.

(Ready for that secret about initiative? The secret is to give initiative away so that you can really capitalise on Fenn’s arc dodging capabilities).

This is where I first learned the perils of being given initative. The green X-wing youngster that I am, I thought that having initiative was the best thing as it gave me the opportunity to shoot first, especially in mirror matches – right? Right?

200_s

If you were listening to the Mynock Squadron’s report on Worlds, Ben Lee is interviewed very briefly and he explains the importance of having such a high intitiative bid. Try this sequence:

Player A has initiative (me)

Player B Does not (Pete)

Player A at the beginning of the combat phase uses Old Teroch to delete tokens from Player B’s old Teroch and then uses Manaroo to pass tokens around.

It is now Player B’s turn, he uses his Old Teroch to delete tokens from Player A’s Old Teroch but then passes more tokens around with Manaroo, therefore not being bothered by the actions of Player A moments ago.

Player A now has an untokened Old Teroch.

Thanks intitiative.  No. Really. You’re too kind.

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It really was a mirror match.

Things were looking good when, despite me having intitiative, I managed to explode Pete’s Old Teroch. Things were looking even more positive when I managed to use Roo to fire the Plasmas and get a few hits off of Pete’s Roo.

Then what went wrong? I blame my flying really. My opening was strong, I managed to cause Pete some explosions, but then for three turns I flew Roo over an asteroid or debris, losing actions or stressing my other pilots, or both.

This was a tight game that I thoroughly enjoyed but I know I could have flown better. Pete congratulated me afterwards, telling me how tight the game was. Had I flown Roo better, I would have had a much stronger chance of winning.

Game Four Sim 0 -100 (Loss)

Sim’s list was:

Tie Defender Colonel Vessery

  • Juke
  • Tie X/7

Tie Defender Countes Ryad

  • Push The Limit
  • Twin Ion Engine Mk II
  • Tie X/7

Delta Squadron Pilot

  • Tie X/7

By this point, the pressure was severely mounting and my brain was entirely frazzled from Game three.  I know Sim really well, and we regularly meet at Dark Sphere on a Tuesday night; Sim had even told me that he knew what to do against a Fangaroo list because in his most recent bout at the UKTC 2016 because of our practise sessions.

It’s fair to say that I approached this game with some trepidation.

Sim and I didn’t even need to explain lists to each other.  I was 98 points, he was 100. We fist bumped each other good luck.

fist-bump

My further memories of this game are interspersed with parts of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi that Ian was playing in the background (thanks again Ian, it made the day awesome).

With the initial round of firing, I had managed to knock Sim’s Delta down to one hull with with Fenn and Old Teroch at range two.  Some extremely lucky green dice had, once again, saved my bacon.

As we set up for the next movement activation phase.  It looked a little like this:

Screen Shot 2016-10-18 at 15.13.52.png
What would you do?

I set Old Teroch with a Two Talon Roll left, hoping that he would be able to strip somebody’s tokens.  I then set Fenn with a one turn left to compliment this, hoping I might be able to reposition him for a good range one shot.  Roo, I gave a three bank right, hoping to get her into a good position with the target lock and then either use BMST or take a focus.

By the start of the next combat round, it looked a little like this.

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I had managed to get Teroch to strip Vess’ tokens and I didn’t reposition Fenn any further because I assumed that Teroch could still shoot at the Delta and Fenn would be able to shoot at Vess.  If all else failed, I hadn’t passed along the target lock from Roo, so she would still be able to fire her plasmas at Ryad, right?

Right?

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Take another look at what happens when you apply each of my firing arcs.

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Fenn misses Vess.

Teroch misses the Delta.

Roo can only muster two attack dice at range three on the Delta or Ryad, who each still have an evade token as well as possibly a focus.

Now look at what happens when you apply the Defender firing arcs

Screen Shot 2016-10-18 at 14.39.07.png

Bye Fenn.  Not even the Protectorate Dawn title can get you our of this.

From this point on, my play was as messy as Lucas’ 2011 remastering of Jedi.  I can sum it up with one final image.

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Yep.  That horrid alien dude that verges on some sort of racist stereotype.  Take a good look at it.

Sim was angry with me, and rightly so – I had a win in my grasp and fluffed the angles, not only once but thrice; all in one turn. Teroch was the next to explode. I couldn’t even manage to get Roo to knock out that final hull from the Delta.

Once a secret is known, it cannot be unknown

My positioning in this tournament was shoddy at best.  I have gotten better at anticipating where my opponent will be heading, but the finer details of where my ships will land in relation to obstacles really escaped me at this tournament.

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Fenn hugging a rock after an ill thought out manouvre.

In both games two and three, I misread a 3 speed turn and landed Fenn on a rock. Luckily with game two, I didn’t roll a hit and was able to sort myself out to win the game.  With game three, I flew Roo over two debris cluds at the beginning of the game and rolled a crit with each one.  I then moved her over a rock and rolled a hit. In the combat round before that, I rolled five dice against Pete’s Roo via Fenn’s ability and came up with two focuses and three blanks – I had not tokens so re-rolled all of them with a target lock.  I managed three hits on that total.  Please don’t think I’m blaming my dice – had I flown better, I wouldn’t have had Roo go over a debris cloud and not be able to pass on the focus tokens.

Having the inititive bid is something Tom and I have been discussing at great length lately,  mainly because I anticipate seeing lots of people bring Fenn and I’m going to want to shoot first. My experiences here tell me that I’ve been having the right conversation, but for the wrong reasons. I don’t want initiative – what would be the point in that? I would be giving myself away, when really, what I want is to place Fenn last and have him in prime position to take advantage of his range one five dice ability.

The list is strong, but my judgement was off. If I am to stick with this, and there’s a fair chance of that – I need to strip it some more.  The first thing to go is Black Market Slicer Tools. Although I wasn’t to know this until two more tournaments later, I needed to strip away the Plasmas on Roo too, favouring Feedback Array and then taking the list down to 96 points.

What next? Asteroid placement. I have a plan.

 

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The droid got three bits of loot, with an additional packet of tokens being awarded for the paint job.

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With that, I will leave you with the original ending of Jedi – enjoy.

Embracing Variance

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Stay on The Leader published an article titled: “In my experience there’s no such thing as luck” – Variance, TIE Interceptors & Novak Djokovic, in March that’s been on my mind this week.

In the only way I know how, here’s my response.


Thanks for the awesome article, which is also analysed in Episode 19 of the Mynock Squadron Podcast, which you can find here.

 

(I am your) Father’s Day

I wanted to spend a moment reflecting on being a father and fly casual.

I wanted to spend a moment reflecting on being a father and fly casual.

We bought our eldest son the original core set, Imperial Aces and the Millennium Falcon expansion when he turned eleven, that was eight months ago. Prior to this, I had wanted to be a table top gamer from afar but had never committed to a game.

Now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time

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When I was about 10, my own father bought me Hero Quest. I was a real sucker for marketing and it was the early 90s – I wanted to wield the Barbarian’s ‘brode sode’; I wanted to be the dwarf with his kick-ass axe; I really wanted to be like Stuart.

My parents split when I was seven and my mum introduced me to her boss’ son, Stuart, as a way of helping me cope. His folks had been divorced for a long time and he was in his early teens, to my mum this seemed like a no brainer.

Stuart was a big gamer, a Red Dwarf fan and massively into Star Wars. I didn’t know it when I began writing this but I’ve just found another shadow that I haven’t thought about in nearly 20 years. Tangent.

I’m not going to go into the symbolism or Freudian readings of Anakin/Darth/Luke, I’d be saying nothing new and/or original.  The parallels of sons becoming fathers from Boba to Jango and failed father figures (Hi Obi Wan!) are rife throughout the saga (and yeah, maybe that is a prediction about Ben Solo’s eventual redemption) but that’s not why I’m writing this.

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Long story short: my attempts at painting the Hero Quest characters failed miserably; I was too young to really understand any of the rules and living in Hounslow didn’t really support a culture of fantasy games. It wouldn’t be until 20 years or so later that I would find X-Wing really affected my relationship with my children.

The Force is with you young Skywalker, but you’re not a Jedi yet

I’ve seen quite a few starter games in stores whilst playing competitively over the last few months and often, these involve a father and son. In the most recent episode of the Mynock Squadron podcast , Together we can rule the galaxy (you can find it here), Kevin Eide discusses the values that he wants his children to have from gaming, exploring both sportsmanship and fly casual.

When I played at the Womprats tournament in Aldershot (you can read about it here), one of the competitiors, Dan, bought his son along and we all joked about what we might do if placed against him. Many a truth(FEAR) is said in jest – what do you do in this situation? To simply let him win would be an insult, right? To go in lasers blazing would just be wrong.

When I began playing with Oz, I would beat him by accident. I didn’t want him to think that I was letting him win and my own poor relationship with my father had left me useless at navigating what should be a ‘fun’ experience.

Oz would put his lists together without reading the cards and then forget to use them throughout the game. As I got better at X-Wing, I tried to explain this to him and would offer to go through his upgrades to help make a list. He declined. It wasn’t stubbornness; he wanted to be independent and work it out for himself.

Each game would end in tears (not mine).

I could go through a number of bad dad moments where I have regretted a decision made over ‘rules’ and the concept of ‘Well, he needs to learn…’ I still think about each of these now. Especially today.

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It wasn’t until I listened to Doug Kinney discussing Fly Casual that I completely changed the way I played with Oz. I had heard a friend discussing Magic: The Gathering with her son:

For the next 45 minutes, I’m no longer your mother – I am your sworn enemy.

Though I laughed, I didn’t want this to be me.

My most memorable game was when I bought us each a Tie Phantom and we had a mirror match. This was, and still is, the only time I have played Imperials. The ships were fresh out of the box and neither of us knew how to use the cloaking device.

We set out the mat, our rocks and our formations. The biggest difference was how I presented this to him as us being on an even playing field. As we experimented with how to de-cloak and such, we planned together where the best outcome for our ships would be.

This was what had been missing: an exploration together.

More than a hobby, Oz and I have begun to paint our ships and play together in a way that I didn’t manage with my dad. Our youngest, a toddler, needed his own little X-Wing set (hello Micro Machines); he rolls my dice for me when we play at home.

The reason many talk about the welcoming community of X-Wing is because it genuinely exists. I’ve seen it online and through playing. When I think about the father that I want to be and the values that I want to instil in my children, it’s the one who solves things with my children, an adovcate for them. X-wing helps me do that right now.

I think I’ll try to get a game in later.

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My youngest sitting alongside me painting his Tie Advanced with ‘Darth Layder’ inside.

Cracking Formation Flying

My thoughts on #flying a #swarm in #formation #XWing #AWings #Flybetter #itsgettinghothinhere

tumblr_n8d4475Yl41s44y43o1_500The time is now. I’m not saying my training is complete or anything, but I’m ready to start learning how to fly a swarm. A-Swarm.  You know the one, the Chihuahuas. [Shudders. Sad Face. Heavy Sigh].

I now have 5 Green Squadron personalised A-Wings (thank you, Liam), each with Adaptability, Chardaan Re-fit, the A-Wing title card, Autothrusters and Crack Shot. Obtaining each of these cards was a feat but let’s simply say that I will never need to buy a Kihraxz Fighter again.

In case you’ve missed it, the surprise list that sprung up (yeah, that was an intentional small dog pun) as a result of some of the new Wave 8 upgrade cards was the 5 A-Wing Crack Swarm. It comes in at 100 points and consists of five of the following

Green Crack A-wing

I feel a bit giddy. An A-Wing list that is truly competitive and doing the rounds. When listening to the Nova Squadron Radio Podcasts analysis of the Regionals lists (you can find this episode here) it turned out of the swarms that did make it through to the cut, the A-Wing Crack swarm had a greater chance of all other lists of being the top list. Because A-Wings.

My first blog post professed my undying love for these babies and explored the idea of a four strong A-Wing list that was a riff on the traditional Green-Arrow list (you can find it here).

This is different. Really special. I could try to push in another dog-pun but I’ll simpy say the path to learning how to fly a swarm successfully has no short cuts (Sorry).

If you’ve seen me attempt to fly my swarm in formation, you’ll know why I’m writing this post. When we bought our son the Core Set in November, he instantly picked up the Imperials and left me to take on the Rebels. It’s been the same ever since. My own Imperial ships have barely ever touched a playmat. No Vader. No Soontir. No Imp Aces. Nadda.

Just paws for a moment and think about that. It’s like I’ve skipped a massive step and I will never become a truly competitive player until I can grow some more. It’s really ruff. (I’m actually going to stop now).

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Where to start? Well, I’m going with an A-Wing Swarm, so I need to know the dial. There’s no 1 forward or bank, but that’s the only thing that is pretty much missing. The A-Wing was in Wave 2 so segnor’s loops and talon rolls hadn’t yet been introduced to the game.  There’s a whole lotta green there too.

Paul Heaver’s Turn Zero articles are also an excellent source when considering how to approach your game. Part One focuses on asteroid placement (you can find it here).

Which rocks? I tend to bring the biggest rocks as I’m accurate with my flying 95% of the time. For the London Regionals, I took two large asteroids and one piece of large debris.  This meant that if I should mis-judge and end up on top of the field I could still get off a shot.

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When I played in my first competitive tournament, I saw my opponents measuring where to place their rocks with real precision. I thought it a little pretentious at first; I had always thrown them down casually with some thought on making it awkward for my opponent, I hadn’t really considered how I could make the rocks work for me as well.  By placing my first rock as close to my corner as I can using the range rulers, I know exactly where the rock is and how best my ships can navigate around it.

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What about rocks two and three? Well, this tends to vary for me depending on what ships my opponent brings; whether they are large or small base ships; whether they are flying a swarm, jumpmasters and so on – there are too many variables. What I can say right now is that a safe bet is probably placing a rock in the centre and then another directly opposite your first rock.

Read Paul Heaver’s article – it really does help.

The third Turn Zero article, Mastering Ship Placement, pretty much does what it says on the tin, you can find it here.

To simplify things, your goal in the opening round of conflict in X-Wing is to have all of your weapons pointing at the opposing ship you want to destroy first.

This is the best advice. No joke. I would always advocate focussed fire when assessing your opponent’s list and where you need to eliminate the biggest perceived threat.  My biggest mistakes have been in splitting up my swarm too early or arranging them so that they unintentionally bump early on.  There are two videos that I would really recommend watching when it comes to flying your ships together, they’re both from Sling Paint.

 

I love the look of the pinwheel formation, but I’m really not there yet. I found this awesome graphic on the Bell of Lost Souls: Swarm Theory Part 2

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There’s also some really useful diagrams and advice in Earning Your Wings Part 7: Formation Flying taken from the FFG forums.

So how do I begin to make this my own? My starting point was actually Vassal. I grouped four of ships together using the advice from the Slingpaint video, separating them by the width of a range ruler.  I know, my A-Wing crack swarm will have five ships altogether but I’ll get to that. Patience.

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Starting in the corner buys you some time to assess how your opponent approaches the game, you can then use this as a opportunity to set the pace over the next two rounds.

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A one turn puts you here, with a four forward clearing your four ships of the rock you placed at range two.

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If you compare this to starting with a two turn,

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Then moving with a three forward, you end up at the same distance from the edge of the board but slightly closer in.

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How about that lovely diamond-like formation? take a two bank

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Perferct diamond. No bumpity bump.

I haven’t even begun to think about what to do with the little dude at the bottom of the screen.  Well I have, but I’m not putting everything here.  The A-Wing swarm is an entirely different beast to the Tie Crack Swarm, especially as this often involves Howlrunner or an anchor ship (Hi, Lord Vader!).

I’m beginning to get my head aroud the rule of 11.  Watch the video below

For now, the easiest thing to remember is that you need to move a total distance of 11 spaces before you can throw dice at each other. That’s a total of 11 between each side of the board.  So moving 1 forward is actually moving two spaces after you take the base into account; 2 forward is actually three spaces after youtake the base into account and so on.

This will become much more relevant when I evaluate my game playing against Sim below.

How has my swarm worked in actuality?

So far, three losses and one win. I managed to beat Lucas’ Imperial Aces list which consisted of

TIE Advanced -Darth Vader (29)

  • Adaptability (Increase) (0)
  • Engine Upgrade (4)
  • TIE/x1 (0)
  • Advanced Targeting Computer (1)

TIE Avanced Prototype – The Inquisitor (25)

  • Push The Limit (3)
  • Autothrusters (2)
  • TIE/v1 (1)

TIE Interceptor – Soontir Fel (27)

  • Push The Limit (3)
  • Autothrusters (2)
  • Royal Guard TIE (0)
  • Stealth Device (3)

This was my first time flying the list. As we set up, I perceived the Inquisitor to be the biggest threat because of his ability to stop my Autothrusters and his additional range bonus ability. Lucas attempted to use him to get me to split the swarm, I feinted this as a counter and managed to take the Inquisitor out after boxing him in.  After that I wasn;t sure whether to focus on Soontir or Vader. I assessed that Soontir would probably be the bigger threat in the end game. I think I lost two A-Wings at this point. I did manage to take out Soontir and then Vader.

100 – 60

I then lost to Janus’ (Jesper) Hill Bot list (88B & C with PTL, Advanced Sensors, Mangler on B and Tractor and HLC on C). Janus beat me but I still managed half points on B. I also learned a valuable lesson about not using my target locks too early.

I also lost to Pablo’s Rebel Aces build which had Biggs, Ten Numb (with the Autoblaster Cannon and some ordinance I can’t remember – sorry). This was simply poor flying on my part. I split the swarm far too early.

The game that I have found really taxing and particularly enjoyable over the last few weeks was against Sim’s Imperial Aces. This list was identical to the one above and is also Nathan ‘The Kid’ Eide’s list that he played in the Hoth open.

This was only a 60 minute game and we started fairly late. This was my most present and alert when flying the swarm and I wish that I had taken some photos. I have re-created a moment taken from the game in images from Vassal below. Again, I began the game thinking that the Inquisitor needed to go down first. I kept my formation tight and by round three, we were ready to shoot. Whether Sim was aware of it or not (I’m sure he was), he played using the rule of 11 really well. Sim spent the game maintaining his shops at a consistent distance of range 2, stopping autothrusters in most instances from all of his attacks. He turtled up well throughout and I found it really hard to break down his defences.

What did I learn? Although I was planning my manouveres well, I wasn’t consciously blocking until round 3 of the game. Once I got my arse in gear, I managed to do this with a cheeky K-Turn.

Firing Arc Inquisitor.pngThe Inquisitor has its pick of three separate range one targets, but when you look at my firing arcs in comparison, it’s going to, potentially, be hit three times and with eight dice.

Firing Arcs on Inquisitor.png

You guessed it, he took out the A-Wing directly in front and managed to survive another round – but he only had one hull left afer I was done. He was gone in the next round.

I knew my job was blocking after this, but I really didn’t concentrate my fire enough and kept switching targets between Vader and Soontir. When the timer had gine off at 60 minutes, I still had three A-Wings left, Sim still had Vader and Soontir. I’m quite certain Sim had the upper hand but it was really fun. This was my first game since Regionals where I felt fully on the ball during every round.

I’m playing at the I Am your Father’s Day tournament in Stevenage on the 3rd July and Scum ships aren’t allowed. I think I’ve found my Rebel list.

I’ll leave you with this final image, uncanny isn’t it?

a-wing swarm movements

R2-D2, you know better than to trust a strange computer!

Here is a round up of the blogs I have found the most useful as a Green Rookie #Xwing

This post is a little bit different from my usual. I was talking with Tom about blogs that I had read and found really useful and it seemed that we had been reading different sites.

I wanted to share some links to blogs that I have found really useful as a complete beginner. A Green Rookie.

In no order of importance

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Stay on the Leader It’s well worth having a read through this blog, especially going back and having a look at the post on Wave 8 meta and pilot skill, you can find it here We all know that the meta is a transient beast, but I found the data in this really useful. The blog summarised a lot of my thoughts on the move from seeing lots of ps2 ships to ps4 to counter the triple U-Boats and explored the staying power of Crack-Swarms.

The post on Variance is also excellent. I find it befuddling when I see players shaking their hands before rolling their dice, probability is probability, right? It doesn’t work that way, does it? This article was explored in the most recent episode of the Mynock Podcast and it underlines most of my thoughts when people complain about dice. They are something that is integral to the mechanics of the game but they do not give us an excuse to whinge.

I think the article sums up a Reddit user’s frustration (rubsnick) perfectly here:

The root of rubsnick frustration isn’t just that the TIE Interceptors were bringing variance into his games, it appears. Rather it seems like it was bringing variance that he wasn’t really psychologically prepared for, and when it went against him he felt betrayed by his dice and the game.

Next up is Treatise on Starfighter Tactics

treatise.pngI find the information on this site to be logical, well thought out and easy to understand. I especially identify with the posts Evaluating 2015 and Thoughts about Losing. Here I find this anonymous poster to be frank and honest about their performance and how to improve via evaluation. The Q & A section is well organised and all list/upgrade queries are met with constructive feedback.

I’m also a fan of the Starviper and liked the approach in this article.

Not Such a Bad Pilot

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The meta analysis of Nova Regionals and Store Champs in this post is stellar. I also found the exploration of the ethos behind Fly Casual in this post to be quite intriguing. I love the X-Wing community online, in and around London. I have not ever been a table top player before and I hold this mantra dearly. I wonder what your thoughts are?

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Tom’s blog, Confessions of a Mid-Table X-Winger, inspired me to get off my arse and write a blog of my own. Thanks, Tom.

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Finally, the 186th Squadron launched their own website recently. You can find it here. The site seems to be growing by the day and I haven’t met an unfriendly member yet.

So there you go. Have a read and let me know your thoughts.