This Australian podcast has got better as these guys have become more confident – with episode three, they’ve really hit their stride.
The FAQ exploration throughout the show is pretty good but the highlight for me, and all A-Wing enthusiasts – there is an interview with Alex Cook at around 1:23:00, winner or the Tasmanian Regionals with an A-Wing Crack Swarm. This is followed by an interview with Morgan Reid.
I finish my final draft of this a week and a half after the event; I feel really very mixed about my results. This marks the third tournament where my final place is within the top 16. I came 14th at the Womp Rats: Back to Beggar’s Canyon (you can read about it here); 15th in the Dark Sphere Slow Grow (you can read about it here and here) and then coming 15th here(you can read about it in this post).
Does that mean I’m no longer a rookie? Can I progress to a mid-table player? Tom, am I coming for your crown?
If I feel good about the result and I can see some real progress in my rankings, why has it taken me over a week to write this post? Even then, the main body of it was written on the day – so why couldn’t I just get it finished?
Since my post exploring David Sutcliffe’s thoughts on Variance, I have really been evaluating my own relationship with the game. My main conclusions from Sutcliffe’s article are that variance is:
neither a good nor a bad thing, simply a different play style and way of understanding the potential risk factor of the game;
something to use to your advantage when you increase the competitive tournaments you attend.
I feel really privileged that David responded to me with the following:
You can’t escape it entirely but you can decide how much you want to minimise it, or risk big losses to chase big wins.
Thanks David. With this in mind, I began the day with asking myself the following question:
What does Success look like?
Keeping the balance between flying casually and being competitive
Winning at least two games out of 4
Loot for the droid
Unless I commit to winning (with or without my A-Wing Crack Swarm), I have little chances of ever improving.
What list did I take?
Five of these.
I’ve named them Phoenix Squadron, they are: Phoenix (Orange); Inferno (Blue); Flame (Pink); Blaze (Yellow) and Flare (Red). You can read a bit more about my naming of the squad here.
Game One David Cooney 50-80
David’s list was:
T-70 – Blue Squadron Novice
Y-Wing – Gold Squadron Pilot
Twin Laser Turret
Y-Wing – Gold Squadron Pilot
Twin Laser Turret
z-95 Bandit Pilot
z-95 Bandit Pilot
As we set up and David explained his list, the abundance of PS2 ships there filled me with joy. I would definitely be shooting first and was happy about this; I saw no need to lower any of my ships to PS2. I weighed up the biggest threat, assessed that it might be a waste to focus fire on the Y-Wings initially and so went straight for the T-70.
I managed this fairly successfully and the T-70 exploded in the first round of combat. Due to my placement of ships, I then needed to decide if I was going to focus fire on a Y-Wing or Z-95. Flare had already lost her shields to a Y-Wing, so this is where I concentrated my focus. The Y-Wing was down within two more rounds, but Flare suffered and became a ball of flames without using her Crack Shot.
Some poor planning left Flame overlooking a rock if she were to enter the combat, so I took a risk and flew her out of the asteroid field, she later finished the game on full health.
Inferno, on the other hand flew over a rock and lost a shield.
It was around 45 minutes in when I realised that my potential victory depended on numbers. As it got to the 60 minute mark, I had two A-Wings left and David outnumbered me with two Z-95s and a Y-Wing.
In the final round of combat, it all rested on Blaze, who had the final shot and a target lock a Z-95 with only one hull left. First dice roll, she rolled two focuses. Second dice roll, she rolled two focuses. With this, David then used his Y-Wing to take me out long range with a TLT. Thanks Blaze.
Game Two ‘Johno’ Swarm 80-0
John’s list was:
Tie Fighter – Howlrunner with Swarm Tactics
Tie Interceptor – Avenger Squadron Pilot PS3
Tie Interceptor – Alpha Interceptor x 2
Tie Figter – Academy Pilots x2
In the opening of the game, Blaze tried to fly off the board. I had set her up with a two hard turn to the left instead of the right. I showed this to John immediately and he was very forgiving. How did I repay him?
The gap in the middle is where one of the interceptors was before Phoenix, Flame and Blaze used their Crack Shots to take it down.
After this, it was a bit of a spaghetti junction in the middle, where my As proceeded to block John, taking out another Interceptor, before moving onto the Tie Fighters. You may think I was a little mad to leave Howlrunner for so long, actually, the blocking caused her to separate from the squad at more than range 1, therefore not allowing her re-roll abilities to proc.
By the end of the game, all five As were still on the board and John still had one interceptor left. Crazy, huh? When it works and you can spend all of your Crack Shots, it really does work.
As the game ended, John asked me what he should have changed and at the time, I wasn’t as clear as I am now as to why the win went off in the way that it did. My answer then was ‘Variance, we both played well but I think my dice were luckier’. I still think this but I will elaborate a little later as to how I should have been more critical of our (my) performance.
John Kane 68 – 40 (win?!!!)
K-Wing – Miranda Doni
Twin Laser Turret
A-Wing – Jake Farrell
A-Wing Test Pilot title card
Push the Limit
Attack Shuttle – Sabine Wren (adds boost action)
Chewbacca crew card
Twin Laser Turret
By this point, I was as ready as I could ever be to take on John. He had beaten Tom earlier in the day and he has a rep that is a little intimidating, especially for a rookie like me.
I’ve not played against a K-Wing in a long time, but I saw it as something that I really shouldn’t take on. My plan was to aim for Sabine or Jake, then aim for the remaining Sabine or Jake, hopefully leaving enough space (and time) to avoid Miranda and take some unavoidable damage. I wanted a win but I didn’t expect it.
John played Sabine up front, keeping Miranda to the side and leaving Jake at the back and out of reach. As Sabine began to dole out some fairly consistent damage with her TLT, killing Inferno before she had a chance to use her Crack Shot; I concentrated my fire here first. Surprisingly, I managed to use my Crack Shots from Phoenix and Flame and she was out.
Next up, Blaze made a dash forward, hoping to tempt Jake out from his spot in the back corner of the mat. Jake used his prockets to smack Blaze in the face, one shot and down! That will teach me for attempting a manoeuvre that was mid-way between a block and a bait and not really pulling off either.
Whilst this was going on, Miranda had crept her way within range of my remaining four A-Wings, with John using her ability to lose shields and increase the shots fired via the TLT. This was actually where I managed to take advantage and leapt on a Miranda who was more vulnerable than usual.
By the end of the game, Jake was still alive but so were Phoenix, Flame and Blaze.
Steve Majer 0 – 100
Lambda Shuttle – Omicron Group Pilot
Emperor Palpatine crew card
Tie Phantom – Whisper
Fire Control Systems
Advanced Cloaking Device
Tie Advanced X1 – Darth Vader
Adv. Targeting Computer
Tie/x1 Title card
Let’s be clear: Steve schooled me.
I went into Round four knowing that I was doing better than Tom, being two and one. I felt the tension, especially when I found out my opponent was Steve Majer. You know the one – awesome personalised ships Steve Majer (You can see his firespray and Z-95 here, they’re really precise and subtle).
I have faced and beaten Palp Aces style lists before with my A-wings and with my Rebels list at the London Regionals (you can read about it here). I knew it was possible to emerge the victor but I also knew it would be a real feat.
I made the decision early on to go for Vader. I couldn’t see that my ships would make that much difference to the Phantom when cloaked and I perceived the shuttle to be a bit of bait that I didn’t want to tangle with.
It’s clear that after Blaze failed so spectacularly in game three when trying to bait Jake that this was not a good idea. Clearly, Flare wasn’t paying attention as she gave it a second try.
I wanted this
I would have been happy with this
Actually, what I got was this
An over-exaggeration? I can’t. Even. Afterwards, Steve and I joked that the A-Wings had no clue what was happening. They spent the game chasing Vader, whilst the invisible Phantom kept popping them off.
Steve’s thoughts were that I shouldn’t have split the swarm at the beginning, I’m still not sure whether this was a good idea or not, but I’m willing to trust his judgement. I know the major mistake (sorry Steve, I couldn’t resist that one) was to allow Flare’s daredevil tactics at the beginning; I should have let Vader come to me.
When I return to my success criteria for the day, I managed to achieve all four of my goals.
How did naming and colour coding my squadron help? At least twice during the day, I would look at the board and try to figure out where to move ships, then I would remember the plan. What dial was I holding? Where should that dial go? There were other times where I instantly went for the dial I wanted.
After looking at my analysis of my ship play, it seems Blaze has a fairly odd personality emerging. She blanked out at the end of game one with her target lock on the Z-95 and then later got killed by Jake in game three. She also tried to fly off of the board at the beginning of game two.
What about my strength of Schedule (SOS)? This was 40, in comparison to those I played, David (game one) finished 4th overall with an SOS of 45; John finished 28th with an SOS of 30; John Kane finished 10th with an SOS of 41 and Steve finished 5th with an SOS of 30. What does this all mean? I got consistently better as the day went on, so my opponents became progressively harder. In a scenario like this tournament where game four fatigue kicks in, the chances of a win become fewer.
My biggest lesson was that I seem to have clicked with my player style. I know that when I try to be more aggressive, it just doesn’t work for me (yet).
In games three and four, my non-committal of a ship’s movement in an attempt to bait out my opponent caused a ball of flames. I know now that I really need to focus on developing my abilities as a blocker and reading my opponent’s potential movements. I played John again at Dark Sphere two days after the event, he beat me twice in a row, with me rarely focussing fire enough. Not only this, but we discussed how I might take advantage of Adaptability more.
I rarely put the PS of my As down, this is something I need to experiment with. I’ve also toyed with the idea of using Predator on two of the ships upfront, lowering their PS to 2 and losing the Autothrusters to account for the difference in point costs.
Am I ready to stop calling myself a ‘rookie’? Not yet.
I decided to devise callsigns for my A-Wing Crack swarm. Thanks for the help from @theryanfarmer #Mynocksquadron
Note: This post was originally part of my battle report for the Wave IX tournament at ibuywargames, Woking (You can find the full report here). It was a lengthy post, so I decided to cut this. In the interests of my own evaluation process, I have decided to include this as a separate post (selfish, I know). Subsequently, you might recognise some of the text below.
Whilst getting to grips with how to fly an A-Wing Crack-Swarm (you can read about my thoughts on formation flying here), I came across the latest Mynock Squadron Podcast, Firespray and Pray (you can find it here, jump to 32:00) and Ryan Farmer has given each of his A-wings in the swarm different callsigns: Dragon, Mynock, Raptor, Tackle and Tex (each inspired by the different Mynocks). He has painted them individually and kept stats on each of them. Ryan addresses the concept of confirmation bias, fully acknowledging that he may well be ‘setting them up for positions of success and failure’.
Ryan has even created personalised cards for each ship with a justification of their names.
I could go for Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy. This doesn’t fit, not to mention the embedded racism and xenophobia. Well, there’s the Ghostbusters: Venkman, Spengler, Stanz, Zeddemore and Slimer. I have the lego kit for this, thus making it easier to remember who is who for the first few games, but I have no Slimer.
Then there’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Leo, Raph, Michelangelo, Donatello and Kasey. I’m actually tempted to go with this, but I’m not fully committed.
I started to think about mythical beasts and went down two routes
•Beasts of the ground: Black Dog, Hydra, manticore, Wendigo (this one is awesome by the way, possessing humans and turning them into canonballs), Orthros, Cerberus
•Winged Beasts: Phoenix, Griffin, Sprite, Wraith, Roc, – drop Sprite for Shade
I began searching for creatures from Star Wars (both Canon and Legends) that would lend themselves to a squadron of A-Wings, it went a little like this:
Varactyl – even the still looks like bad CGI
Vynock – a subspecies of Mynock
Hssiss – or Dark Side Dragon.
Mantigrue, or Condor Dragon – they eat Ewoks, don’t you know?
In the end, it was when I was searching for Starbird, that I came across this:
Then it suddenly seemed straight forward:
It might seem like I’m making more work for myself, but actually, I think it’s an important psychological step when getting to grips with various formations of a swarm. I have to add: as an experiment, I kept a log of which ships performed which actions and exploded (or not) as a way of evaluating my performance and getting to know my list. It was only when writing this report that I assigned each ship (previously denoted by my target locks A-E) with the titles above.
Does it make a difference? Here are some observations from my first tournament using this list:
Game one (matched against 2x Tie Defenders and a Tie Bomber) I didn’t forget to use Crack Shot, but I didn’t get to use them on Phoenix (A), Inferno (B) or Flare (E).
It was Phoenix (A) who turned the wrong way in the penultimate round against the jumpmasters in game two.
Game three (matched against 4 Baffaloes) Phoenix (A) went down against Baffaloes, along with Blaze (D), it was Inferno (B), Flame (C) and Flare (E) that held out and won the game.
Phoenix (A) exploded with the direct hit in game four (matched against thee T-65s).
Inferno (B) died without using Crack Shot in two separate games.
Flame (C) was the only one to land on a rock all throughout four games.
Did you notice the same pattern? Phoenix. She’s mentioned a lot.
It could simply be a reflection of how I move my ships. For instance, if Phoenix (A) is placed first and given an upfront position, she is more likely to see the action, right? Flame (C) and Blaze (D) might well be mentioned less as a result of simply being the Green Squadron equivalent of fodder. Maybe.
What I’m interested in now is what if my personification of the ships leads me to make different decisions about placement and strategy.
Here is my battle report for Win Wave IX at #ibuywargames #Xwing #itsgettinghothinhere #flybetter #Awing
Returning to Woking is always a treat for me, chiefly because of the history related to War of the Worlds. I love the 1953 Byron Haskin adaptation, the Orson Welles urban myth radio broadcast; the Jeff Wayne musical. It all begins in Woking
Returning to Woking is always a treat for me, chiefly because of the history related to War of the Worlds. I love the novel; the 1953 Byron Haskin adaptation; the Orson Welles urban myth radio broadcast; the Jeff Wayne musical. It all begins in Woking and they’ve gone to town – check the martian.
As an aside, my favourite part of the novel is where my hometown, Hounslow, is taken out by an obnoxious gas,
As I did so a second report followed, and a big projectile hurtled overhead towards Hounslow. I expected at least to see smoke or fire, or some such evidence of its work. But all I saw was the deep blue sky above, with one solitary star, and the white mist spreading wide and low beneath.
Semantics are really important. Language is really important. I spend a lot of time exploring symbolism and figuraitve language in my day job. I like a good idiom more than most (though I try not to talk in them as often as I can). When it comes to the Chihuahua swarm, I couldn’t quite figure it out. Why Chihuahua?
It’s because they spend the game biting at your ankles and wear you down.
Thanks, Tom. I get it now. The A-Wings lack somewhat in bite without (p)rockets; there is no denying it.
It’s been just over a week since I published my thoughts on flying an A-Wing Crack swarm (you can read about it here), this would be my first time flying the list competitively. For those of you unsure of what the list comprises of, it’s five of these:
I was listening to the latest Mynock Squadron Podcast, Firespray and Pray (you can find it here, jump to 32:00) and Ryan Farmer has given each of his A-wings in the swarm different callsigns: Dragon, Mynock, Raptor, Tackle and Tex (each inspired by the different Mynocks). He has painted them individually and kept stats on each of them. Ryan addresses the concept of confirmation bias, fully acknowledging that he may well be ‘setting them up for positions of success and failure’.
I think it’s an interesting experiment.
With my love Rebels and the inclusion of A-Wings in the Phoenix squadron, I came up with the following names:
It might seem like I’m making more work for myself, but actually, I think it’s an important psychological step when getting to grips with various formations of a swarm. I have to add: as an experiment, I kept a log of which ships performed which actions and exploded (or not) as a way of evaluating my performance and getting to know my list. It was only when writing this report that I assigned each ship (previously denoted by my target locks A-E) with the titles above. I have made some observations in the final part of this post that prove fairly interesting.
(As an aside, I had a really detailed breakdown of how I came to give the ships in my squad their names. It made my post too long so I’ve published it here instead).
Game One Craig Bradford 0-100
Tie Bomber – Scimitar Squadron Pilot
Title Card – Tie Shuttle (allowing two crew slots but losing missile and ordinance)
Systems Officer Crew
Fleet Officer Crew
Twin Ion Engnine Mk.II
Tie Defender – Colonel Vessary
Title Card – Tie/D (allowing an attack from a secondary and primary weapon once per round)
Tie Defender – Rexler Brath
Title Card – Tie/X7
Think about it – your opponent sets up in front of you and has two crew cards that you’re unfamiliar with; you’ve heard about these Vessary and Rexlar characters and you think to yourself ‘Well, they’re PS8 – they’re clearly my biggest threat, that’s where I need to focus my firepower.’ Wrong. WRONG.
Yeah, that much wrong. It was two rounds before the end of the match when I realised how the Scimitar Squadron and its crew fulfilled a vital role in the synergy of this list.
Veteran Instincts brings Vessary up to a PS8, therefore allowing you to have him shoot before Rexler if given the opportunity. Here’s a plausible sequence of events: Vessary gains a focus token beacuse of the Fleet Officer on the Scimitar Squadron, this means that his action is probably going to be a target lock. Using the Tie/D title he uses the tractor beam and has a target lock to adjust the dice, ensuring that the defender loses an agility and is then moved into a better position for the next sequence of attacks. Now, consider Vessary’s ability:
When attacking, immediately after you roll attack dice, you may aquire a target lock on the defender if it already has a red target lock token
Your defender is likely to have a target lock because the of the Systems Officer when the Scimitar executed a green manoeuvre, therefore triggering Vessary’s ability for when he makes his attack with the primary weapon. Let’s not forget, you’re already missing an agility dice because of tractor token. Your opponent rolls the dice for Vessary and uses the acquired target lock to re-roll where necessary. This is potentially without having spent that focus token gained from the Fleet Officer.
I opened fairly slowly but by round two, we were jousting. I attempted to use two greens, Phoenix(A) and Inferno(B) to block the defenders and didn’t quite manage it. Had I moved them four forward instead of three, the first round might have gone differently. This goes back to my needing to master the rule of 11 which, belive it or not, I was thinking of at the time.
At range 1, Inferno was subject to the Tie/D from Vessary, losing an agility through the tractor beam and then being reduced to one hull before then being attacked by Rexlar. Inferno explodes without getting to use her Crack Shot.
The rest of the game was fairly similar after this. It’s very, very rare that I blame my dice, but both green and red came up with an extroadinary amount blanks throughout. Not only this, Craig did an excellent job of keeping me at range two, therefore disabling my Autothrusters.
I didn’t forget to use Crack Shot, but I didn’t get to use them on Phoenix (A), Inferno (B) or Flare (E). They were dead too quickly.
I managed to get two hits on the bomber and to knock the stealth device off of Rexler (Craig drew blanks this time).
Game Two Tim Farmer 48-100
Triple Jumpmasters (note: not triple scouts)
Contracted Scout #1
Contracted Scout #2
This is only my second match up against triple jumpmasters, and my first using the A-wing swarm. Our lists were each at 100 points and I won the roll for initiative. Being as Manaroo is a PS4, I decided to use Adaptability to raise the PS on all ships.
I went into this fairly pessamistically, with my one aim to take out Manaroo and hope for partial points on the others. I changed my opening position so that I had three greens up front and two flanking behind.
“This isn’t a war,” said the artilleryman. “It never was a war, any more than there’s war between man and ants.”
The most valuable thing I learned (by accident) from this game was to get the two scouts to spend their torps early. In this instance, my ships were all focused and I managed to use this to fend off the alpha strikes. By round three, I had lost Inferno (B) and Blaze (D) but they had still been involved in fight and had used their Crack Shots to help take down Manaroo.
Incidentally, I have since learned another way to get your opponent to spend their ordinance early on in the game with (hopefully) minimal damage to your own list. If I had put an evade on all of my ships early on, this would have protected them well and forced my oppoenent to potentially waste their torps.
As Manaroo went down in a ball of fire, one of the Scouts took out Flame (C). My biggest mistake in this match was when I placed the dial for Phoenix as a left 1 turn instead of a right 1 turn. This actually took her away from the fight, not allowing her a shot on the scout with only three hit points left. I still got in another two hits with Flare (E), but had I not mis-dialed (I want it to be a verb that should be applicable in this situation), I might have just had one scout left to deal with. I know that I wouldn’t have won the game, but my MOV would certainly have been different.
As a result of this, they went down – Phoenix and then Flare.
“With wine and food, the confidence of my own table… I grew by insensible degrees courageous and secure.” [no prizes for guessing what John, Sim and I did for lunch…]
Game Three Mike Manners 100-40
Herd of Wild Baffalos [sic]
Omicron Group Pilot #1
Darth Vader crew
Omicron Group Pilot #2
Omicron Group Pilot #3
Omicron Group Pilot #4
What a list. Each Baffalo comes in at 25 points, but the total hit points (five shield and five hull per ship) comes in at 40.
Three games in and I felt like I knew the list fairly well. I stuck with the same opening formation but I felt somewhat like the underdog. Realistically, I knew that with each Baffalo at PS2, if I played this tactically and just focussed fire, I could be in for my first win – but that’s a lot of work to do.
This was my most challenging game of the day and my most stressful, but it was also a lot of fun. I couldn’t decide whether to go with the ship that had Sytems Officer or Vader crew first. Rather than taking a focus or evade, I set each ship up with target locks and tried my best to keep them at a distance of range one or three to maximise range bonuses on the dice or avoid tactician taking effect.
It was actually Systems Officer that went down first, with Phoenix (A) and Blaze (D) taking hits, but not going down yet.
I still had five As to close in on the Vader shuttle and did so. It was after this that Phoenix and Blaze sacrificed themselves. They flew well but it was their time.
With Inferno (B), Flame (C) and Flare (E) left, I now had two shuttles to take down and a win was in my sights. After my unfortunate experience with round 6 at the London Regionals (you can read about it here), where I had a win pretty much in the bag and then forgot to use Crack Shot on several occasions, I wasn’t going to become complacent. I turned to Mike and told him the game wasn’t won just yet, even though I knew my points were now 10 more than his left on the mat.
It was only in the last few minutes of the game (Honestly, it was like minute 72!) that I managed to take down the final shuttle and with three green squadron pilots still in play. Pew. Pew.
Game Four John Wainscott 34-100
I’ve only ever played John once before at the Aldershot Store Championships back in March (you can read about it here). For this final round, we were both at two losses and a win. We had fun and, I hope, entertained those playing upstairs. John’s list was:
Rogue Squadron (Apparently)
T-65 – Wedge Antilles
T-65 – Wes Janson (after you perform an attack, you may remove 1 focus,, evade or blue target lock token from the defender)
Adaptability (takes him to a PS9)
T – 65 – Luke Skywalker
Neither of us played particularly well here. I forgot to use Crack Shot in our first exchange of combat, John forgot to use Wes, Predator, R2-D2 and R3-A2. This was a the tine of our game for the next 75 minutes.
Inferno (B), for the second time today, was the first to die and she didn’t use her Crack Shot. Flame (C) landed on a rock.
Phoenix died from a direct hit (she used her Crack Shot before this).
Laughter and woe. There were some instances where Autothrusters were my real saving grace.
I managed to focus fire on Wedge and took him down. I was really close to an explosion on Skywalker too but then John remembered the integrated astromech.
He won and came 6th in the overall tournament – well played. Even with both of us forgetting the merits of our list, he still flew better.
Twirling for Freedom
So, 1 and 3. I’ve played this list a few time before today but I actually feel I know a lot more about it as a result of my losses today. I have emerged from the crucible, cathartic and ready to begin anew.
“We will peck them to death to-morrow, my dear.”
Weaknesses of the List
Unlike the Tie Crack Swarm, the A-Wings are more expensive and lacking in bite in comparison for what you get. What’s more, there is no Howlrunner to enable re-rolls. This means that you need to use target locks to help those shots go through, leaving you potentially vulnerable when defending.
Crack Shot Use it or lose it. Though this is five points of your list – it’s essential. If a ship explodes before given the chance to use it, you are in a very weak position. My advice would be to use it when you have the chance as the ships are too fragile otherwise. When faced with lists like Imperial Aces where you wil regularly see a ship turtle up, this makes your job all the more harder.
Autothrusters An experienced opponent will exploit your Autothrusters. Your optimal ranges are one, for the bonus attack dice, and three for the bonus agility dice and Autothrusters. I spent the day trying to get a real handle on the pace of the list – this meant that it wasn’t until games three and four that I had managed to read my opponents correctly and gauged the ranges accordingly.
Aces When matched against high PS, there is a greater need to think about arc-dodging and/or blocking. Although I wasn’t paired against him, Tom Duncan was also at this tournament; he gave me some excellent tips about the psychological factors of this to work. Maybe I’ll expand on this in another post.
Game One Not managing the attempted block and then jousting in round two of combat.
Game Two I’m still pretty cross with myself for putting the dial down the wrong way before the end of the game. Phoenix fled rather than fighting and it was all down to my silly human error.
Game Four I enjoyed it too much, we played for fun, with neither of us remembering our EPTs or abilities. At this point, John was 1 and 2, as was I. Had I not gone silly, I might be writing a different report.
What of the Callsigns? Here are some observations:
Game one – I didn’t forget to use Crack Shot, but I didn’t get to use them on Phoenix (A), Inferno (B) or Flare (E).
It was Phoenix (A) who turned the wrong way in the penultimate round against the jumpmasters in game two.
Game three – Phoenix (A) went down against Baffaloes, along with Blaze (D).
Phoenix (A) exploded with the direct hit in game four.
Inferno (B) died without using crack shot in two separate games.
Flame (C) was the only one to land on a rock all throughout four games.
The emerging pattern is that Phoenix has a lot to answer for.
What of the droid? John and Tom made some generous donations to his hoard. Have a look.
Being in the top 64 wins you an alt art Hera card. It also means you’re not in the bottom 36. Guess where I came…
What does being in the top 64 mean?
You get an alt art Hera card.
And you’re not in the bottom 36.
This was a conversation I had with Tom a few nights before the regionals. I think it’s a good starting point for this battle report. I’m not writing this as someone who came in the top 64. In fact, I ranked 79th out of 92. Tom fared much better and did us both proud coming in at 58th against oppoenents such as James Dowdall and Jesper Hills of the 186th Squadron (you can read his battle report here).
I don’t believe X-Wing is a game that is entirely dice dependent, if that were the case, how is it possible that Paul Heaver has won three World Championships? Why do members of the 186th Squadron often come in the top 8, if not win the competetive tournmaments they enter around and out of London? Dice are involved sure, but they are a factor in a game of variables rather than THE factor when it comes to winning or losing (Indefinite vs definite article).
In my last battle report for the Womp Rats tournament in Aldershot (you can find it here), I stated that I had been practising and honing my Den-Bot list since the launch of Wave 8. Though I am pleased with it, as we all should be when we have devised a list of our own making and evaluated it through practise and tournament play, I began this week feeling concerned that the list was too fragile. It had only 17 hit points before it would go down and though I feel like quite a practised blocker, I’m still only developing my arc dodging skills. I know that Bro-bot lists have only 16 hit points, but they also have Autothrusters on both ships and three agility dice.
I gave it some thought and when I came across a Chopper build with the synergy of Fire Control Systems and the Han Solo crew card (playing against Andrew at the Womp Rats tournament last weekend), I felt I wanted to play around with this idea. Here’s what I came up with:
I prioritised certain aspects of my Lothal Rebel build such as an Autoblaster turret to protect myself at range 1 and the Hera Syndula crew card that would allow an element of unpredictability when stressed.
I felt somewhat inspired by the A-Wing Crack Swarm that won the New Mexico Regionals last month and tried to fit it in with the remaining 58 points of my list. Each A-Wing comes in at 20 points, with my Lothal Rebel build being 42, I needed to drop the Autothrusters from one of them.
I’d now gone from 17 hit points to 28 with the protection of autothrusters on two of my four ships. What had I lost in the deal? My Dengar build had his revenge attack, and 88B had the gunner ability – I’d swapped aggressive and fragile for zippy, tricksy and tanky.
I’d also come up with quite a nice and fluffy Rebelsthemed list with the exception of Han Solo (they could still work him into an episode).
It’s been two months since I started playing competitively. In my first tournament, I made the mistake of playing a list that I hadn’t had the chance to test-run. This week, Tom had very graciously spent some time throwing some competitive lists at me on Vassal but this was my first time that I would play my Rebels list in person.
There were 100 registered for this tournament and 97 turned up on the day. By the end, there were 92 still remaining. Unintentionally, I was the first to register and had a jolly good chinwag with Mark Radford from Marquee Models in Harlow.
Game One There is a point in every tournament where you know you have been drawn against an opponent that you will not win against; Tom (my Tom, not Duncan) would later play Jesper Hills (who would then go on to win the Regional), my time was now, against Tom Duncan and his seven Tie Fighter Crack Swarm.
I had played against Tom (Duncan, not my Tom) and this list in the first round of my first competitive tournament at the Aldershot Games Shop Store Championships in March (you can read about it here). The main difference was that Tom was flying six Ties then and seven now. his list was: Howlrunner and three Black Squadron pilots, each with Crack Shot and then three Academy Pilots.
Howlrunner poses the biggest threat as she allows the others to re-roll when in range 1 of her. Tom gave me an expert lesson in how to block your opponent, which I then carried with me through the rest of the day. I managed to play Tom for around 65 minutes out of 75, I felt this a personal triumph.
Despite him completely tabling my list, I did manage to take out Howlrunner and then Tom’s personal favourite ship, Dropsy. Another personal victory.
34 – 100 to Tom (Duncan, not my Tom)
Game Two Craig flew Omega Leader with Juke, Stealth Device and Comm Relay; Carnor Jax with PTL, Autothrusters, Royal Guard Tie and the Twin Ion Engine Mk II and Echo with Veteran Instincts, Fire Control Systems, Advanced Cloaking Device and Intelligence Agent.
I tried a different tactic here, still starting with the Lothal Rebel at the side but my plan was to push him forward, using his four dice attack and utilising Fire Control Systems and Han.
I kept my distance of Carnor and focused my fire on Echo, who I managed to take down in the first few rounds of combat. Craig became wise to the FCS synergy of Han on the Rebel and then kept switching his attacks on the Ghost between Carnor and Omega Leader. My first big mistake here was to change my target lock from Carnor to Omega – what was the point in that? I wouldn’t be able to modify the dice as Craig was working his target locks on me well.
My next mistake was with where to position the Rebl and ended up on a rock. Bad move.
38 – 100 to Craig.
Game Three Nadeem flew Darth Vader with Veteran Instincts, Advanced Targeting Computer, Engine Upgrade and the Tie/x1 title; Kath Scarlet with Veteran Instincts and Tactician, and a Scimitar Squadron Pilot with Extra Munitions, Plasma Torpoedoes and Proximity Mines.
This is where I hit my stride with the list and began to think about my qualities as a blocker. This involves much more conscious thought of where your opponent will go and aiming to position yourself there, taking your actions but denying them theirs if you predict correctly.
I started my intial move slow, seeing where Nadeem might position himself. It became clear that he was saving Vader for the end game, so I took the decision to focus all power on Kath.
This worked – I couldn’t believe it when the Firespray went down. Nadeem placed his Proximity Mines well, ensuring that they were in a place where I would have to go over them – luckily, the red dice were kind to me. I had already knocked some shields off of the Tie Bomber and so manged to take this out next when it flew into range one of the Lothal Rebel. This left all of my ships in pursuit of Vader.
Nadeem took care of the Ghost first, and then took out an A-Wing. Pew. Pew.
The remaining 25 minutes of this round were really tense, with bith A-Wings chasing Vader until the klaxon was sounded.
38 – 35 to me (a modified win, but a win nonetheless).
Game Four – Sam’s list was called Troll.
Let me tell you about my list: Captain Kagi? he’s a dick. Carnor Jax? He’s a dick. Omega Leader? He’s a dick. – Sam
Sam had Captain Kagi in a Lamda Shuttle with Sensor Jammer and Emperor Palpatine; Carnor Jax with PTL, Royal Guard Tie, Autothrusters and Stealth Device and Omega Leader with Comm Relay, Juke and the Twin Ion Engine Mk II.
By this point, I’d lost two games and had a modified win. I had a beer in my hand and a burger was on its way to me from the bar. Sam was very forgiving of me scoffing my way through our game. Thank you, Sam.
What happened afterwards was incredibly quick. There’s a running joke about Glitterstim being a stimulant (I know, I just killed that, right?) It turns out the beer and my modified win (not to mention the bacon cheeseburger) actually helped my focus. I used the Lothal Rebel to block, positioning my A-Wings behind it and protecting them to ensure they got their actions. This resulted in a spaghetti junction that halted Sam’s ships and allowed mine to fire from behind the Rebel.
100-41 to me (I know, right?!)
The leader board placed me at 62nd before the beginning of round 5. So close.
Game Five Bro-bots (B & C) with PTL, Advanced Sensors, Intertial Dampners, Heavy LAser Canon on B and Mangler on C.
I have to start by saying that this was the most stressful game of the day. I’ve given it a lot of thought since and I know that I have myself to blame for my lack of a win here. Before I go any further, I think it only important to add that I believe whole heartedly in the fly casual ethos of the community but there were points in this game where I knew that my decision making was not right. I was too lenient on my opponent despite desperately wanting a third win.
Ultimately, my opponent continued to forget to take actions and then asked if he could still take them throughout the entire game. I should have been firmer. When it continued, I could have called the TO, but then nobody wants to be a dick, right? It was only as I began to say no that his demeanor started to change.
There was also a point where my opponent pulled the Damaged Cockpit crit that had reduced his PS on 88B to 0. You move first, you shoot last. I forgot to pull him on it, I should have been more alert. Because of this, he took out one of my A-wings. I later pulled the Blinded Pilot crit with the Lotahl Rebel ‘After your next opportunity to attack (even if there was no target for an attack), flip this card facedown.’ and then promptly landed on a rock with my next round – meaning I couldn’t atack for two rounds.
He beat me, but not necessarily because he flew better – because I wasn’t firm enough to say No. Maybe it’s because it was game 5 and I’d had only 3 hours sleep. Maybe it was because I had started by being nice to a player who had told me he had only just put the list together the night before. I don’t blame him, I am responsible for the loss here. Damn shame though.
I managed half points on each of his bots.
50 – 100 for my fifth round opponent.
Game Six By far the most fun I had all day.
I’m giving up on this game, I’m gonna play something else. like Game of Thrones – something that doesn’t involve any dice! – Phil
Phil’s list was Garven Dreis with R2-D2 and a Shield Upgrade; Red Ace with R5-P9, Comm Relay and Autothrusters and Kyle Katarn with the Moldy Crow title, Jan Ors crew and a Dorsal Turret. This is a list that I think works really well together. Both Garven and Red Ace have re-gen capabilities, which was later my undoing. Garven can hand out his focus tokens to a friendly ship rather than simply spending them, if it’s passed over to Red Ace with R5-P9, it can then re-gen a shield. Red Ace gains an evade token the first time she loses a shield each round and gets to keep it with Comm Relay. Kyle Katarn can give out focus tokens to those who need it and Jan Ors can give out Evade tokens. It’s quite nice and friendly really, they all look after each other.
I set up with flying my A-wing off of the board. I’ve only ever done this once and I’m gonna put it down to it being game six. I revealed my dial and then showed it immediately to Phil, who could have demanded I do the manouvre, but simply changed my dial to an inconvenient direction. How nice is that?
What happened next reduced me to a quivering wreck of apologetic nervousness. Phil’s dice rolls were incredibly unlucky bu he rarely took a target lock. In comparison, my A-Wings did nothing but take target locks as their actions so that I might be able to re-roll and help to push through the damge from only two attack dice.
Red Ace was the first to get caught in the Rebel’s firing line and really suffered a five dice attack at range one. It then took another blast from an A-Wing and was out.
Next was Kyle Katarn, who also fell foul of the Rebel and then an A-wing.
With Phil despairing, I told him that I had lost games where I had had a similar advantage. Each of my A-wings had only one hull (two at best) and the Rebel had only one hull left.
The Rebel was the first to go, leaving three A-Wings to pursue Garvin. There was a point where I had him down to one hull and he then regenerated a shield; this was the beginnig of the end. Over a really challenging twenty minutes, Phil moved re-genned his way to safety and then killed two of my A-wings. In the final round, I took a ballsy move and did a 5k turn over a rock with only one hull left. I could have slow played but that’s just poor sportsmanship. I went on for a position where I thought I would have a chance to get a shot off. What happened? You’ve probably guessed, I rolled a hit after going over the rock.
What went wrong? I’m actually really happy with my flying but I know exactly why I lost – Phil told me so – it was Crack Shot. I couldn’t knock off enough damage because of R2-D2 but I kept forgetting to use Crack Shot. Had I managed that, I would be in the top 64.
Before I go any further, I want to take a moment to thank Jason Grimwood and his staff for such an awesome day. There was a charity raffle with all proceeds going towards Chartwell Cancer Trust – Tiger Children’s Ward. This helped to raise over £1650 on the day and it was great to be a part of it. There were some amazing prizes including lots of lovely X-Wing swag. I came away with Star Wars Guess Who? (Yeah, I did!)
Well done to all involved.
The final ended at gone 2am and Jesper Hills won with bro-bots. Jesper posted a breakdown of the lists from the top 16, you can find it here.
What now? I can’t blame the dice for my poor decision making or my lax manner with Crack Shot. I need to get better. Six games in one day is a lot, mistakes are made. I could beat myself up over it, or I could simply learn to fly better.
In the most recent episode of the 186th Squadron Podcast, Mike Dennis mentions that he has spent so much time playing competitively that he hasn’t had a chance to play fun lists he has had in mind. I completely identify with this. I’ve wanted to run the A-Wing Crack swarm for just over a month but have been too busy refining Den-bot. My Misthunter hasn’t yet seen or felt what a playmat is.
I have some tournaments over the next few months but nothing as big as Regionals. It’s a bit gutting to think of how close I was to getting into the top 64 after round four; I only have myself to blame.
I still like this list. Most importantly, with my two wins, they were because I remembered to use Crack Shot.
I can get back to having some fun now, seeing what works and what doesn’t, saving up for that Crack Shot tattoo for the back of each hand.
This is my final post where I look at the progression of my first competitive list from start to finish in the Dark Sphere Slow Grow Tournament.
Introducing this post is a bit of an odd one. It is my final post where I look at the progression of my first competitive list from start to finish. You can read about how I got on in the first two rounds of the Dark Sphere Slow Grow tournament here.
This is also the second part of a two part post that explores what I have learned playing X-Wing over the last four months. You can read my first post on this, titled Games Where I got Schooled (Part One)here.
Before we go any further, here is the list I was playing for this third round of the Slow Grow tournament at Dark Sphere, Waterloo.
Lesson our: Listen when your opponent explains their list to you
This final lesson is about knowing the strengths of your list and knowing how to cause your opponent aggro. Ask your opponent about their list if you don’t know what their pilots do or about their upgrades. They’re unlikely to be secretive or think you’re cheating; the cards are all on the table. Ask questions.
I’m not saying ‘Don’t fly casual’, but I am saying ‘Pay attention if you want to fly better and win.’
How does this apply to the final round of the Slow Grow?
My first game of round three was actually really intense, practically a mirror match. Chris flew: Poe with Predator, BB-8 and Autothrusters; a stresshog and Miranda in a K-Wing with C-3PO and TLT. As we set out our rocks and positions, I decided to treat my A-Wings as Canon fodder, playing them up front and trying to use Crack Shot to cancel any evades that might come my way.
I aimed my offensive at Poe being as this was the first Poe I had come across without R5-P9 or R2-D2.
Both Y-Wings stayed out of the game pretty much until Poe had gone down. The ensuing face off between my A-Wings and Y-Wing and Chris’ Y-Wing formed a pretty nonsense war of attrition taking all four ships out of the game. This left Ello and Miranda. Both re-genning rebels in a dogfight that lasted the remaining twenty minutes of the game. With both ships still on the board at the end of 75 minutes, we worked out that my Ello was worth 37 points and Chris’ Miranda was worth 38. A modified draw there then.
Game Two didn’t start well, I had forgotten a base so had to buy a ship before starting. Yep. That kind of a no brainer that I have only myself to blame for.
Keep your distance, but don’t look like you’re trying to keep your distance
I played Alex, his list was a Tie Advanced Prototype with the Inquisitor; Carnor Jax; a pilot skill 3 Tie Fighter and a pilot skill 2 Tie Advanced. Secret plans and clever tricks were afoot with this list that really left my ships in a mess.
Take Carnor, for instance. No seriously. Take him. Like away.
Carnor’s ability reads: ‘Enemy ships at Range 1 cannot perform focus or evade actions and cannot spend focus or evade tokens’. Thanks for that. Winner. (Check your sarcasm radars if they’re not beeping right now).
How about the Inquisitor? ‘When attacking with your primary weapon at Range 2-3, treat the range of the attack as Range 1’.
Defensive range bonuses? None.
Autothrusters on Ello? Denied.
On reflection, it seems that Alex’s list was actually the worst thing I could have come across, it had lots of counters to my ships that seemed rather action reliant. On top of this, I really didn’t fly well. Alex flew better. Alex won.
The real turning point was when I misjudged an angle and flew my Y-Wing onto a rock. Funnily enough, had I not done that, I could have taken a target lock; I could have attacked. What I did was render myself defenceless. Wide open.
I still had Ello for the end game but against three aces, it wasn’t ever going to end well for me.
100-0 to Alex
Game Three of the Slow Grow Third Round: Simon played a Stress Hog, Two Green Squadron Pilot A-Wings each with PTL and Juke and Tarn With R5 (or R7, I think it was R5. Let’s say it was R5. Or R7. Some Astromech). Another similar list to my own.
100 – 0 to Simon
This was my best flying. I knew the dials and used my ships to block and consciously think ahead. My ships fulfilled their potential as arc dodgers yet I still finished with my ships floating in small pieces wildly through space.
So where did I go wrong? The initial engagement was really tricky for my first Green Squadron Pilot, I misjudged where he might go and he landed in line of Simon’s two A-Wing firing arcs.
My plan was to use the A-Wings in an attempt to block Juke. I remembered to use Crack Shot on both ships in order to force a hit through being as Simon wanted to save both his focus and evade tokens to maximise the potential of Juke taking effect. This worked on the whole, but trying to get damage through on ships that have three green dice, a focus and an evade token is incredibly hard when you only have two attack dice. Chipping away.
Ello was the first to go down. I deliberately tried to play him at range 3 to make the most of Autothrusters but I stupidly ended up in range of Simon’s Stress-Hog. This resulted in me having two stress tokens to clear, I knew he would be out from that point. I managed to make Ello last another two rounds because I really did make the most of his role as an arc dodger. In the end, it was Juke that nailed Ello. A stressed Ello is an unhappy Ello.
I know my flying has improved. The problem isn’t my ability as an arc dodger, it’s the concentration of where my fire power was going.
When I first started playing, I was clumsier, I hit asteroids more and I flew off of the board 1 in 5 games (I guesstimate) but importantly, I began each game by identifying my main threat and concentrating my firepower in that direction. During the course of the Slow Grow, I practised and honed my flying but at the sacrifice of offensive tactics.
Am I likely to play this list again? Who knows? I don’t necessarily think the list is at fault. I put it together before Wave 8, so it might not be reflective of the current meta, but it still containse an arc dodger, two jousters and a (locked) turret. I also encountered similar variations during this round of the tournament.
It is now that I realise that I’ve been playing the list wrong. I held the stress hog back to maximise the use of TLT, using the A-Wings as fodder because of their high agility count and 4 hits taken before they go down. It occured to me that what I should be doing was use the Y-Wing for it’s tanky capability, especially in this match up. I pitted Y-Wing against Y-Wing, when atcually what I wanted to do was double stress the A-Wings and stop my oppoenent’s actions taking place. It might have been unlikely that I would have got a shot through because of the high agility count, but the stress is what mattered here.
What do you achieve with an end-game where you have only a Stress-Hog? Zip. Nadda. In the last few rounds, I had a lone Green Squadron pilot (without Autothrusters, I might add) hanging in for a further three rounds, dodging firing arcs and then chipping away at one of Simon’s Green Squaron pilots until my pilot inevitably got caught.
What was the big lesson? When you’re opponent explains their list to you, identify the threat and then focus on how you might counter it. This doesn’t mean simply put all of your egg-ships in the same basket but it means think carefully about how you might deploy the separate elements of your list and for what purpose. Game One – Miranda Vs Ello in the end game? Really? When was she going to go down? I should have used the Stress-Hog sooner and taken her actions away. Game Two, I should have focussed more on taking out Carnor. What would have done that? Stress-Hog. Game Three, I really should have stressed at least one of the A-Wings.
The current meta in my area sees those U-boats creeping in, leaving little room for Stress-Hogs. Right now, I can’t help but see many missed opportunities in this and they’re all Y-Wing shaped.