A bit of a ramble…

The intro…

Welcome to this week’s blog!

It’s a little bit of a weird one this week so apologies in advance if you were looking for something a bit more normal from me.

In terms of news there’s been some big tournaments this past weekend. There was a store championship in Kirton which was won by the unstoppable Dom Flannigan (is that three now? Or four?!) but since he’s already got his invite, the winning ticket pass passed down to the lovely Mr Richard Greenaway. Congratulations to you both!

There was also a Worlds Open Qualifier at the London Grand Tournament which was… interesting. The event itself was won by Robin Farndon who gets an expenses paid ticket to Worlds and with the top 4 (I think?!) also getting their invites (and I image maybe a roll down or two? Not quite sure about that one). The reason it’s interesting? Well, in the last couple of years the London GT has definitely lagged behind the other major UK WOQ (Worlds Open Qualifier) the UK Games Expo in terms of numbers. This year though it’s got a little more extreme with only 27 players on the day.

What bothers me about this? Well, a couple of things actually.

In terms of size it isn’t really much bigger than some store champs that have happened lately. It does have significantly better prize support though, not least the expenses paid ticket and the 3 other invites.

I think the biggest thing for me here is that AMG have been quite explicit in their wording of whether Store Champs with less than 16 players can award a Worlds invite as a prize, quoting competitive integrity as a reason to not issue an invite if not enough players participated. I get that, that’s fine. Principally though I can’t then understand how multiple invites can be awarded at an event which has less than double the number of players.

Now please hear me, this isn’t anything against the organisers of the London GT, far from it. I know that clarification was sought and received from AMG that it was ok to go ahead as ticket sales had been slower than anticipated (classic X-Wing players leaving it late…) and the organisers of the GT had reduced the available space for X-Wing to allocate it elsewhere, as is their right. Tickets were eventually capped at 32 and that sold out but drops on the day brought it to 27. Disappointing for everyone I’d say.

My issue here is with AMG and for two reasons. Firstly, because the invite issuing thing feels a little bit like double standards. Maybe I’m being a little bit overly critical here but since AMG allowed time for several store champs to proceed before finally clarifying their stance (and making it a rather hard-line stance, given that the lack of clear communication was on them) they’ve painted a target on their own back here in my opinion.

The second thing is also a criticism of an AMG strategy, namely the one that seems to issue WOQ’s only (or maybe mostly is more accurate, in case there’s any I don’t know about) to existing gaming conventions.

I don’t want to go into this too deep as I’ve talked about it before but really, the numbers speak for themselves. The UK Games Expo seems to have increased in size this year, getting 97 players (which is a lot, obviously) but the London GT getting roughly half the number of players we got for the very first Welsh Open in Cardiff this year and significantly less than the 120-odd tickets for the 2024 Sith Taker Open which sold out in a matter of days has GOT to say something and I think it’s something AMG need to listen to. And that’s just in the UK. The Milan WOQ this weekend also had a low turnout and I think one of the usually big US tournaments (I want to say Gencon but I’m not sure?) split the swiss into day 1 and 2 and had pretty low turnouts for both..

Players want to play. The thing is, gaming conventions, while having some clear pros (like having someone else sort out a lot of the admin work), the additional costs passed on to players (like convention passes and inflated hotel prices) when combined with not enough notice (although this year has been an improvement on last year…) seems to be putting people off. I even saw a comment from someone based in London saying that the London GT is not an easy place to get to. From London.

My concern is that AMG will see this as a decrease in demand and clearly in business, that’s bad. The truth, though, is that the demand IS there. The Sith Taker Open alone proves that. Let’s be honest, between a 27 player tournament and a 120 player one, which one is likely to need a higher level of player to win? How does that stack in terms of competitive integrity?

Don’t get me wrong, I know from passed on information that the LGT was a real shark tank of a room and you REALLY had to be on your game to get anywhere near the top. I’m not intending to take anything away from those who did well and got invites, I guess I’m just highlighting that there’s room for improvement for the OP structure, in my opinion, at least.

I’ve also seen that the prize support was excellent and that it was really well run and fun was had. All positives, obviously.

Overall, while it’s easy to be critical of AMG about OP overall, we have to remember that 18 months ago it looked for all the world like it was a thing of the past, never to be seen again. I suppose it’s a little entitled of me to criticise them at all really.

We may have to journey though some things before we get some sort of OP structure that works well and we’re happy with but let’s face it, AMG are under no obligation to have an OP structure at all. The important thing from a community point of view is to keep attending events and keep feeding back to AMG what we think about them.

Anyway, that’s MORE than enough of me being a negative Nancy, let’s crack on, shall we?

Patreon Update…

Holy cow, how are we here already?!? Yes, the end of Q4 of 2023 is almost here and I really feel like it very much snuck up on me!

I’m ready for it though and the gifts for my supporters are either already in hand or winging their way to me as we speak. (edit – they arrived today!)

First of all though I’d like to ask a question. I’ll be honest. I’ve removed and re-added this section several times while putting this post together and even now I’m unsure about leaving it in but I’m taking the ‘it never hurts to ask’ view on things here.

It’s coming up to 2 years that I’ve been running my Patreon for the blog and quite a bit has changed in that time. I was never in this to make money, I just wanted to shift the blog to a faster and more reliable platform and send people some cool swag. Having it pay for itself would mean no awkward conversations with my wife over how much money my hobby was costing us.

Why do I say that? Well before I hit the next sentence I wanted to be clear on my intentions thus far.

I am planning to go to Worlds in 2024. Coming from the UK, this is not an inexpensive trip and in all honesty, spending this amount of money on a holiday just for myself (i.e. without my wife and kids) is not something that I’d ever expected to do to this scale. A weekend trip in the car to the Sith Taker Open? Cool, sure. Quality time with my son in Milton Keynes for a System Open? Great. Flying over to Chicago for 5 or 6 days with a hotel and eating out while playing games with friends and strangers? Uhhhhh…..

Christmas is coming and my birthday has just recently been and I’ve specified for anyone who normally gets me anything that money for the Worlds fund is what I’d like.

So look, what I’m getting at here is that a little extra Patreon support might go a long way to bridging the gap between what I’ve saved and what it’ll cost.

As ever, I don’t want anyone to feel ANY obligation to chip in and if you would like to give a little support then please understand that you aren’t tied in forever and ever, You could join 1 month and then drop out and it’s absolutely, perfectly fine. Honest. I would be hugely grateful.

So, to facilitate this I’ve added a new ‘Worlds Support’ tier which doesn’t come with any physical gifts. It’s an extra option purely for this purpose and is one that incurs no costs on my side (except for Patreon charges but whatever). Of course if you DO fancy getting some shiny swag, you’re welcome to look at any of the other tiers.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough about myself, it’s time to look at the swag! Here’s a picture of the alt art cards for this quarter.

Yep, some nice work here by Dan Eicher with my beautifully painted T-70s!

If you would like to give support, whether specifically for Worlds or just in general then you can sign up to my Patreon here. If you’re even giving it consideration then thank you, you’re amazing.

The main bit…

If you’ve got this far and you’re thinking to yourself ‘is he talking about a game this week?’ then I can tell you that the answer is no. Sorry. There was a birthday in the family and we were invited to go for a BBQ (at the end of September! I know!!). The weather did have something to say about it but while the food was done in the oven and not on a grill, we still had a nice time and celebrated together.

It was a little disappointing to not be able to get down to Firestorm to play, especially given that I wanted to try out a new list in person, but let’s face it, real life has to come first. Even when we’d maybe rather it didn’t. Or at leasst was on another night. Anyway, I digress.

So what am I going to talk about? Well, after a little taster last week, I’m going to talk a bit about the XTC.

In case you don’t fancy reading that post, let me give you the short version. I am captain of the Welsh team and now that everything is locked in, planning for the tournament is well under way!

Picking the team was an interesting task this time. Last year was, in all honesty, quite the rush job. I had 8 days from being confirmed as captain to the team entry deadline. I had realised as well that my knowledge on Welsh players was somewhat lacking. I reached out to several people I’d never met or spoken to before and sought to make links with new people.

This year I wanted things to be different.

Now, I know I’m not a top table player but before I was captain I was aware of the XTC and what it was but it had felt like it was never an option to be a part of. I know that different countries have different selection processes and while I’ve no wish to criticise any previous players or captains, it felt like it was not a particularly inclusive process.

Last year I didn’t have the time to do that but this year I did.

Some time in January I started circulating an application form for people who might be interested to play. This for included questions on location and heritage as well as experience and play preferences.

Now let’s be honest here, Wales, in most arears, is a bit of an underdog. We have a population of around 3 million people and about the only sport we excel at on the international stage is rugby (although football has had a decent go in the last few years). As with anything, this is reflected in the available player base to pick from. The bigger the county, the more players you’ll likely have which you can select from.

Over a period of a few months I had a number of applications although, I must admit, not as many as I’d maybe hoped for.

Definitely less than this many.

I’d thought about running a relatively short form online TTS tournament to narrow down selection, rather like the USA has done over the summer, but it was clear to me by August that this wasn’t going to be necessary.

Of all the criteria that I could be using to pick players, highest on my list was character. I wanted a team of good people who I could trust to represent Wales well whether winning or losing.

I get that picking the ‘best’ players is the normal way to go but honestly, in a game of virtual plastic spaceships that we play for funsies, surely having a good time is the priority, right?

Another factor was that teams were able to pick (but limited to) 2 ‘mercenaries’ in the roster. People who don’t necessarily qualify to play for that country but who were willing and available and for whatever reason, not playing for their own country (like for example if their country isn’t entering a team).

Again I could have started looking around for the ‘best’ available players but again I’d rather have as many genuinely Welsh linked players as possible (not that my players aren’t good!).

Another factor was inclusion. I didn’t want to necessarily have the exact same group of people, I wanted others to have the opportunity to get involved in a truly international X-Wing event.

And so, I (finally!) proudly present the Welsh team for XTC 2023!

Phill Blackmore (aka X-Wing Dad) is a Scouser turned Welshman and a well known fixture in the northern scene. He returns to the team this year and is flying our Republic list.

Also returning to the team is Firestorm Games Cardiff’s resident TO extraordinaire Rebecca Westwood (aka the Pink Princess). Although normally a Rebel or Resistance player she’s taking on our Imperial list for this year.

Next up is Gareth Nottingham. Another Cardiff resident (and Firestorm Womp Rat), Gareth represented Wales in the 2021 XTC (the first online one) and is back this year and flying our Rebel list. He’s recently become a father so could be available for playing at any time of the day!

The first newcomer to Team Wales is Peter Lake who, although residing in the Basingstoke area, qualifies for Wales through family. He’s our First Order player and is flying a list he’s been doing alright with of late!

Our second debutant is somewhat of an X-Wing legend, all round amazing guy and a pillar of the X-Wing community – Lord Steve Boulton (see Steve, I can be nice!). Also qualifying through family (or as I like to think of it – the Vinnie Jones rule) he is a regular at Firestorm Games in Newport and will be our Resistance pilot.

Our first substitute player is another returning one – Dan Barringer. A Cardiff local, Dan took the role of substitute last year and, as far as I know, is the only Welsh player to boast a 100% winning record in the XTC! He volunteered to be sub again this year but is already lined up to be stepping in early.

And then there’s me. I also have a 100% XTC record but it’s not one to talk about! I’m mostly here for the admin and the pairings but who knows, maybe I’ll get a game in!

So that’ our team for this year. Next question – who are we up against?

As I posted up last week, the groups were drawn once all teams had paid and registered.

Now clearly I’m most interested in group B since that’s where Wales has been drawn. The seeds in our group are Scotland (who recently won the in person WTC in Belgium) and Ireland (that’s all-Ireland, a combined North and Republic team). Hellas (Greece) and Columbia make up the remainder of our 5 team group.

If you’re interested in other countries this Challonge page has all the groups as well as the schedules for the group stage.

For tournament results there’s a Longshanks page for each group. Ours for Group B is here in case you’re interested but it’s still going to be a couple of weeks until it has any data in it. It does tell you which scenarios are being played though!

The last thing to mention that you might be interested in is the full list of lists which are being used. As you can imagine there’s a lot of top meta lists in there but also a few with some interesting wrinkles which might change how they get paired up as the matches progress.

Of course, all lists are now locked so with 2 weeks until the first matches start happening it’ll be interesting to see how matchups go because as the meta (JARGON ALERT!!) changes and strategies are found to combat certain lists, we’re all stuck with what we’ve picked, for better or worse!

The conclusion…

When it comes down to it, XTC is an amazing celebration of the game we love. Players coming together to represent their countries and play for pride and bragging rights and stiving to be champions of the world.

There will be plenty of streamed matches and if nothing else, I hope it captures the imagination of the X-Wing community and re-engages those who have lost interest of late or found themselves lacking the time to be as invested in the game as they’d like.

As part of the hype there was a ‘Spicy Podcast’ by England captain Oli Pocknell, Pirate player Liam Baker and Irish player Conor Holmes in which they ran down each group and have made predictions on who will qualify and where each team will finish.

Group B is discussed between around 6 mins and 20 mins. Most notably, both Oli and Liam believe tht Wales will finish bottom of our group.

Ouch.

What we do have on record though is both of them then agreeing to chug a Cement Mixer shot for each place above last that we finish.

Of course it’s just a bit of friendly banter but it makes for great motivation for us and also builds they hype around the tournament and the game as a whole.

I love the fact that this tournament exists and am incredibly honoured to be a part of it. I can’t wait for it to get started!

I think that’ about it for me this week. I’ll be back with at least one game next week (maybe two?!) as I build some reps for the Newport Store Championship coming up on the 21st of October. Normally I’d promote tickets for the event here but this week we’ve actually sold out! That’s 20 players heading to sunny* Newport for some X-Wing and fun times!

*I can’t guarantee the sunshine. And definitely not in October.

If you want to find out if any tickets become available then you can check out the Facebook event page for it and get your name down. If you already have a ticket then I’ll see you there!

I’ll see you back here next week then!

The outro…

Thank you so much for visiting my blog, I hope you’ve enjoyed it! If you’d like to support me in continuing my X-Wing blogging adventure there are a few ways you can do that.

You can follow my social media accounts for updates

If you’re looking to buy some gaming ‘stuff’ and don’t have a local gaming store, you can use my affiliate link for Firestorm games. They’re great!

If you would like to directly support the blog then please consider becoming a Patron! I would be forever grateful!

A MASSIVE thank you to my wonderful Patrons for their ongoing support for the blog and enabling me to give away shiny things!

Exile Initiates:
Douglas Thomson

Exile Rookies:
Ben Kennedy

Exile Veterans:
Mark Beor, Daniel Barringer, Michael Bird, Steve Boulton, Jason Desmarais, Darin Schwarze, Alex Peters-Bean

Exile Commanders:
Kevin Larsen, HasNolo, David Bryan

Exile Legends:
Rebecca Westwood, Admiral_Ackbar47, Phill Blackmore, Chris Fear, Jamie Howard, Sean Oakley, James Humphery, Opi-Wan Kenobi

You are all amazing humans!

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