Bouncing Back

The intro…

Hello there and welcome to this week’s blog!

Before I get started I need to apologise a little, I think. After literally MONTHS of waiting, we moved house in the middle of June and since then life has been pretty bonkers. When coupled with my job having changed back since March and my eldest son finishing his exams and working part time (and also learning to drive), the incessant decorating has taken it’s toll on me and I’m starting to feel like it’s affecting the blog a bit.

Now, before you head down that road, no, I’m not stopping. I love the game and I love writing this blog and I think, for me, the two go hand in hand so much that it feels natural. Time is my enemy right now but I also recognise that this busy season isn’t going to last forever. So if it feels like my posts have been a bit rushed of late, like I’ve not put as much time in as I used to, that’s because it’s true. Not because I don’t want to but because outside factors have forced it.

Now of course, this is hobby and real life comes first and all that but that doesn’t mean I can’t be sad about it and feel a bit bad.

Don’t worry though, normal service will resume. At some point. I just don’t 100% know when. But it will, I promise.

Anyway, moving on!

There have been a few more store champs happening around the world but one in particular has been slightly controversial as the store was advised 1 day before the event by AMG that if the 16 player minimum wasn’t met, the Worlds invite was not to be given as a prize.

I know that this information has been implied previously but to get that confirmation (after asking it well in advance I believe) one day before the event feels pretty bad and doesn’t exactly do much for how people are feeling about OP at the moment.

Of course, that 16 player minimum is stated in the store champs kit paperwork but this is the first time someone has questioned it and gone public with the answer. It does still feel like AMG are finding their way with OP in general and I’m hoping that every hurdle and setback helps for the next season to be just a bit better.

Yes, I am an optimist.

I suppose then that I should mention that Store Champs coming up near me (where I am hoping to maybe win an invite!) are yet to pass the magical 16 player mark. So, if you’re free and willing to travel, you can come to Firestorm Games Cardiff’s store champs on Saturday the 9th of September (with food included in the ticket!) and to Firestorm Games Newport’s one on Saturday the 21st of October. Go on, get a ticket, you know you want to!

It feels like as good a time as any to mention that I am actually going away for a couple of weeks and so there won’t be a blog for the next THREE Tuesdays. Sorry about that. I mean, not sorry enough to cancel a holiday with my family or anything but still, I am a bit sorry.

Me, sort of. Hopefully. Also, AI art is weird.

I will be back though and we’ll be all the closer to more store champs in Cardiff and Newport, new ship releases and 2023’s XTC too so there will be plenty to talk about!

For now, though, let’s get on with the rest of the blog!

Patreon Update…

Ok, so this is the last one of these updates for a little while and it’s a bit odd because the cut off for this quarter is TODAY (which hasn’t happened before!). I wanted to give an update about getting things posted out but in all honesty decorating more than half my house over the last 2 weeks while also working has broken me physically and eaten ALL my time and on Saturday I go away on holiday for two weeks.

So, lovely Patrons, your stuff will be posted out (or handed over if you’re local!) when I get back. I promise.

Since I haven’t done it yet, I also can’t tell you who has won the Decimator either but I’ll pop it in the next blog. Probably. Patrons will know though as I’ll send out a message on there.

Anyway, if you’d like to support the blog and get your hands on some lovely shiny things then you can sign up here!

The batrep… (JARGON ALERT!!)

So, following on from no game last week and a loss the week before, I’d had PLENTY of time to dwell on my shortcomings. Or the list’s shortcomings. Or probably a combination of both.

I’d simulated as best I could my list against Josh’s list in Fly Casual (since his list is pretty jousty and if there’s one thing that FC’s AI does well, it’s joust) and worked on some overall strategy for how best to put my list into it. Now, the AI doesn’t make best use of Synchrinised Console and some other things like that but still, it thrown 7 ships at you and while the official dice stats may say otherwise, it often feels like it rolls blanks when they don’t matter and paint when it does while my dice do the opposite.

After a few goes though I definitely got a better feel for what I was doing and felt a bit better overall. It’s quite easy to get disheartened with a list when you lose and I’m very mindful that I have to try and analyse things properly so that I don’t overreact in some way (like ditching the list). Determining whether a loss is down to me, the list or the circumstances (yes, dice. Or my opponent just being better) is pretty much the reason I started this blog in the first place and going over things again afterwards helps me to wade through all that.

Anyway, I was 3 games in with the list with a win, a loss and a draw and with most of my X-Wing stuff is still being at my mother-in-law’s house, I was going to keep trying it.

Ezra Bridger (Gauntlet Fighter) (6)
Shattering Shot (3)
Trick Shot (4)
“Chopper” (Crew) (1)
Nightbrother (0)
Swivel Wing (0)
Hera Syndulla (4)

Ship Cost: 6 Loadout: (12/12) Half Points: 3 Damage Threshold: 5

Han Solo (7)
Trick Shot (4)
Perceptive Copilot (8)
Bistan (8)
Millennium Falcon (0)

Ship Cost: 7 Loadout: (20/20) Half Points: 3 Damage Threshold: 6

Luke Skywalker (BoY) (5)
Instinctive Aim (0)
Attack Speed (BoY) (0)
Proton Torpedoes (0)
R2-D2 (BoY) (0)

Ship Cost: 5 Loadout: (0) Half Points: 2 Damage Threshold: 3

Sabine Wren (TIE Fighter) (2)
Beskar Reinforced Plating (3)

Ship Cost: 2 Loadout: (3/3) Half Points: 1 Damage Threshold: 1

Total: 20

View in YASB 2: https://yasb.app/?f=Rebel%20Alliance&d=v9ZhZ20Z520X419W133W23WWWWWWW448W449W35Y42X133WW54WW77WWWW154Y555X73W475W136W477Y13XW445&sn=Summer%202023&obs=

Now, that’s not to say that I’ve not been tempted to change. I’ve been hearing about Fenn Rau with Swarm Tactics and Bodica for high initiative nonsense but I felt that this iteration needed trying properly first. One thing I’ve felt of late is that Ezra really misses Leia in the list since she helps significantly with the stopping shenanigans. I’ve also thought about Engine Upgrade on Han and various other things but as I mentioned before, time has got away from me and I’m staying with this.

My opponent for this week? Well it’s Mr Steve Boulton, fresh from winning his Worlds invite at Excelsior in Bristol and bringing the same list. Which, quite frankly, is horrible.

Commander Malarus (3)
Cluster Missiles (4)

Ship Cost: 3 Loadout: (4/4) Half Points: 1 Damage Threshold: 2

“Midnight” (3)
Swarm Tactics (5)
Fanatical (2)

Ship Cost: 3 Loadout: (7/7) Half Points: 1 Damage Threshold: 2

“Quickdraw” (5)
Swarm Tactics (5)
Fanatical (2)
Targeting Synchronizer (3)
Special Forces Gunner (0)
Fire-Control System (2)

Ship Cost: 5 Loadout: (12/12) Half Points: 2 Damage Threshold: 3

“Whirlwind” (4)
Fanatical (2)
Marksmanship (1)
Cluster Missiles (4)
Advanced Optics (5)
Enhanced Jamming Suite (0)

Ship Cost: 4 Loadout: (12/12) Half Points: 2 Damage Threshold: 2

Major Vonreg (5)
Lone Wolf (3)
Marksmanship (1)
Deuterium Power Cells (6)
Mag-Pulse Warheads (4)

Ship Cost: 5 Loadout: (14/14) Half Points: 2 Damage Threshold: 2

Total: 20

View in YASB 2: https://yasb.app/?f=First%20Order&d=v9ZhZ20Z266XWW98WWY233X132W181WWWY243X132W181W177W182W113WY490X181W125W98WW186W413Y381X124W125W318W311WW&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

Look at all that i6. LOOK AT IT!

Obviously the Swarm Tactics means that there’s 4 shots coming in at i6 plus Malarus at i5 and, if I’m stupid enough to shoot her, a double tap from Quickdraw. Then you add in all the nonsense this list can do with jams and Malarus’ eyeball conversions and so on. This list is tricksy.

Anyway, it feels like it’s time for those Pre-Flight checks:
Scenario – Scramble the Transmissions
Target/Objective Priority – getting rid of a swarm tactics would be good. I feel like I’ll need to flip some objectives early in order to keep Steve honest. His higher ship count gives him a bit of advantage.
Obstacles – I don’t want a super tight cluster but threatening the Trick Shots (even if I don’t take them) will be useful.
Deployment – I’m still working on this. In the current meta (JARGON ALERT!!), Sabine and Ezra at i3 at virtually guaranteed to go down before most things. Because of that, I’ve been placing Ezra centrally. Sabine then goes to the side, sort of depending on rock placement. Luke and Han’s positions are more dependant on what my opponent has done and I’m still trying to quantify in my brain what works best.

I’m first player for turn 0 and we place objectives, obstacles and ships and we’re good to go!

Turn 1

With the bulk of Steve’s ships to my left, I’m thinking to generally slow roll with Ezra while Luke and Han position to come in from the left. Sabine will cut across and try to pick up an objective or two without dying. I hope.

ROAD 1st Player – Me

Ezra stops while Sabine pre boosts, goes 3 bank right and then rolls left. She can really move!

Luke goes 4 straight and Attack Speed boosts while Han goes 3 straight.

Meanwhile, Steve has turned in with Malarus in my top right (which I expected), gone fast with Vonreg on the left flank and boosted in (which I half expected) and trundled slow-ishly forwards with his other 3 ships (which I did not expect).

Clearly there’s no shooting and no objective scoring so back to planning we go.

Turn 2

This is interesting. I’m concerned by the flank by Vonreg but I need to press on anyway. I’m looking to go fast with Luke to clear the top right rock and claim since I’m guessing Malarus will push in the towards the middle to join the others. I decide to hard turn Sabine left to try and claim the middle. Han will bank in to gun for the lane between the top right and middle rocks. I’m tempted to stop with Ezra again but it’ll keep him stressed past when I want so it’s a 2 straight for him. I just hope Vonreg doesn’t do too much damage.

ROAD 1st Player – Steve

This turn starts off fairly badly. Steve brings Whirlwind up and around the top left rock. Sabine pre-rolls left, then hard turns…. onto the rock. Clearly my pre-move skills need work. Thankfully the roll is a blank so it’s just 1 damage.

Ezra takes his 2 straight. I debate between the reinforce (in case I’m getting smashed up) and the focus (to convert eyeballs if I can use Shattering Shot) and go with the focus. It saves him getting stressed too.

I’m somewhat surprised when Malarus turns back in towards Luke and Han and claims the objective.

Luke takes his 4 straight but doesn’t use Attack Speed or claim but takes a lock on Malarus. Not the plan but maybe I can get lucky there.

Midnight slides in to the middle and picks up the objective while Quickdraw sidles up next to Whirlwind and Vonreg slowly goes forwards and picks up the last objective.

Han 1 banks in and focuses.

Now, truth be told, I’m feeling like this turn hasn’t gone my way so far. Steve has ALL the objectives, shots into ships, Sabine is on a rock and Han should have 2 banked in, not 1. Let’s see how the rest of the turn pans out…

Steve Swarms Whirlwind up to i6 with Quickdraw but neither has anything in range. Midnight takes a long range punt into Ezra but he dodges it and the Vonreg takes a range 3 obstructed shot at him too but whiffs (JARGON ALERT!!). Bullet dodged.

Han shoots into Malarus. At this point I’m cursing because if Han had done the 2 bank, he’d have an obstructed Trick Shot into Malarus (who triggered a charge for free eyeball conversions all turn) instead of a normal one AND Midnight would have been in range for a double tap. Still, Han rolls hot and Steve doesn’t and Malarus loses her shield and takes a hit to hull. Nice.

Steve debates the target for Malarus for a moment and can’t resist Sabine. She may be on a rock with no token but it’s still 2 dice into 5 and no damage is done.

Luke measures for range and it’s 2 so I fire Proton Torps into Mal. It’s all paint and when Steve rolls, it’s all blank and she dies. Wow.

As if to rub slat in the would, Ezra takes a cheeky long range (and unobstructed, curses!) shot into Midnight and, quite unbelievably, nicks a shield. Very cheeky.

End of turn score: 3 (me) – 3 (Steve)

Turn 3

Well that was quite weird. Steve’s dice completely abandoned him there and my failure to get any objectives (when I’d planned for 2) is counter balanced by killing Malarus.

What to do next then? Luke will hard turn left and claim, nice and easy choice there. I plan to pre-roll Sabine left and go 2 straight. Hopefully that’ll put her out of at least some arcs but still in range 1 of the objective to pick it up.

Han will now 2 bank in to go on the offensive and I’ll stop with Ezra since I can’t exactly decide who Steve will target. If Ezra had taken some hits I’d have said him but since he hasn’t, I’m not so sure.

ROAD 1st Player – Steve

Steve starts by banking fast with Whirlwind and my question is answered. Steve is going for Han. Have I messed up here?

Whirlwind’s approach has complicated Sabine’s move since she now can’t roll left so she boosts left instead, goes 2 straight and claims the objective. And prays.

Ezra stops, gets an evade with Nightbrother and then takes a damage to reinforce with Chopper. Maybe Whirlwind is a bluff or a block?

Luke hard turns and claims before Steve dives in for an all-out assault on the Falcon. Whirlwind was NOT a bluff.

Han 2 banks in, just barely missing the middle rock (which would have been an unmitigated disaster) and double focuses.

This turn ends up being VERY interesting and where the game is basically decided. Which was do you think it’s going?

With Whirlwind Swarmed up to i6, all of Steve’s ships will fire before mine. Ouch.

Vonreg starts, knocking 2 shields off Han. Whirlwind goes next but whiffs badly. Midnight follows up and takes 2 more shields. Sabine once again proves to be a distraction and Quickdraw opts for the range 1 shot into the tokenless TIE but only does a single damage and she lives.

Somehow, I’ve faced 4 i6 shots, nothing died and I’ve still got both focuses on Han.

Han fires into Midnight first, rolling ok but then Han rerolling into all paint. Nice. I spend the focus. Steve rolls his greens and Midnight goes down to 1 hull.

I don’t want to fire at Qucikdraw and Whirlwind has a stack of focuses so I take the second shot into Vonreg and again, Steve’s dice are poor as I take both his shields. Ouch.

Luke goes next, using a Force to fire a Proton Torp into Midnight with Instinctive Aim. I’m never too fussed on these shots since you use a Force to do it, leaving you just a single Force at best to mod it. It comes up at 2 hits. Not ideal. Steve rolls 1 evade and Midnight dies. Wow.

Sabine can’t shoot anything so Ezra is up next, opting for the Trick Shot (but no Shattering this turn) into Vonreg. It’s all paint. AGAIN. Being stressed let’s Ezra mod 2 eyeballs with his focus and it’s 4 hits. Vonreg rolls his 4 dice but with no mod of his own, takes the 2 hits and dies. Holy cow.

Steve picks up 2 objective points but man, that was brutal.

End of turn score: 9 – 2

Total score: 12 – 5

Turn 4

Now, there is many an opponent of mine can tell you that I’m perfectly capable of throwing away a game from a winning position. I’m very mindful of this as I work out what to do next.

I’ve taken 3 of Steve’s 5 ships out so far but the last 2 are full health and losing the Falcon would net Steve a very tasty 7 points.

Positioning the Falcon is my main priority here, everything else will have to work out around it. I consider a 4 straight but Quickdraw blocks it if ROAD goes against me. I look at a 3 bank left or even a sloop left (JARGON ALERT!!) to avoid taking him out of the fight. In the end I figure that sending him right, into the clear space, is probably the best move. He’s hurt but not too bad, I can still tank a couple of shots and I’d really like to keep double tapping.

Luke will 1 bank in. Ezra really wants options for actions so will 1 bank left as well. Sabine, now on1 health, is in full ‘run away’ mode. Pre-roll right and 3 bank for her.

ROAD 1st Player – Me

Sabine pre-rolls right and 3 banks, taking an evade for good measure. Ezra banks left and while I consider coordinating Han, I figure that even if he bumps, he can still focus so I claim the middle objective.

Whirlwind managed to hard turn left (which I didn’t even consider) and boosts left linked to jam (Jamming Luke). Eesh. Luke 1 banks and bumps the Whisper, obviously not taking a red focus since he’s jammed). Han’s hard right turn just barely misses Whirlwind, meaning his focus action is white and not red (which is handy!) and then Quickdraw bumps into the Falcon and takes a red focus.

It’s a little risky but since three of my ships can shoot Quickdraw this turn, I figure it’s time to trigger that double tap, especially since Luke is full health and Han is range 0 so it’s relatively low risk.

Han fires at Whirlwind and despite having a reroll and focus, can’t do any damage. Disappointing. The second shot is a range 0 at Quickdraw and despite not being able to mod at all, takes a shield. Ironic.

This triggers Quickdraw who fires range 0 into Han and takes his last shield and puts a crit on (Wounded Pilot). QD then takes her normal shot and this time it’s two crits out of hand and Han double blanks. That’ll be a Damaged Engine and Fuel Leak. Ow.

Luke and then Ezra fire into Quickdraw and remove both remaining shields before Whirlwind rolls 2 red dice at Sabine, range 3 and this time it’s my turn to blank out. I spend the evade but one sneaks through and Sabine explodes.

End of turn score: 2 – 3

Total score: 14 – 8

Turn 5

With Han down to 5 hull and that Fuel Leak looming in there things are now feeling a little closer than they were. I want Han out of danger but still relevant while Luke and Ezra try to finish Quickdraw. Thankfully I cleared her shields so there’s no more double tapping coming in.

I set Ezra a 2 straight. That’ll clear stress and allow me to coordinate Han a double focus. Han will then sloop right to get arc on something. Luke looks to me like he can squeeze in a 4 k-turn (JARGON ALERT!!).

ROAD 1st Player – Me

Alright then, let’s do this. Ezra goes 2 straight, clears stress and coordinates Han. It’s at this point that I notice the Wounded Pilot. I roll and it’s a hit meaning Han takes a stress. Balls. I hadn’t factored that in.

Whirlwind ambles 2 forwards and focuses into a rotate. Luke’s 4-k fits nicely.

Han’s 3 sloop right would have been rather nice but now that he’s stress from that Wounded Pilot, it’s a white 2 straight which bumps into the back of Whirlwind. At least he already has those focuses.

Quickdraw jump bumps into the back of Han and takes a red focus.

Han shoots into Whirlwind with no mods and gets 1 hit. Whirlwind dodges it.

He takes the second shot into Quickdraw with no mods and does 1 damage, leaving QD on 2.

Quickdraw doesn’t get a revenge shot but takes her normal shot into Han and does 2 damage (but no crits).

Luke winds up for a haymaker into Quickdraw and rolls 4 paint out of hand, spending 2 force for 4 hits and Quickdraw dies.

We don’t play out the rest of the turn as I’m guaranteed to pass 20 points and Han dying to a 2 dice range 0 shot is VERY unlikely.

End of turn score: 7 – 1

Final result: 21 – 9 win

The conclusion…

Ok, well, I don’t know that I was expecting THAT!

I will freely admit that I diced Steve here to a certain degree. Losing three 3 agility ships in the first two meaningful engagements is beyond unfortunate. Malarus was a calculated risk for him, sure, but Vonreg and Midnight as an exchange for a few shields on Han was definitely not on the cards in my view. Han’s rerolls almost always went from a green blank to an evade and my hits just kept on coming while Steve’s greens abandoned him.

What’s quite interesting is that we had both listened to the Gold Squadron Podcast last week and listened to X-Wing legend Paul Heaver talk about how to play (or not play) Han and how to play against him off the back of winning the Lone Star Open the previous weekend.

He’d suggested that throwing around 15 red dice into Han would usually be enough to take him low enough in health to finish him off in the next turn. Steve had been thinking about how to deal with Han off the back of a couple of Store Champs where he’d seen a fair amount around and was undecided how to approach the Falcon (but largely deciding to ignore him).

I, on the other hand, had listened to Paul (and, to be fair some other people) suggest that if you’re flying Han with the turret facing the front then you’re definitely doing it wrong and to stop doing that.

Clearly I’d ignored that here. Looking back, the first two games with this list (a win and a draw) I also had the turret facing front. The one time I’ve had it sideways? A loss.

Coincidence?

Well, no, not really. Despite a LOT of reps with Dash Rendar in the YT-2400 with the arc side to side, I’ve struggled with positioning when trying to fly Han that way (on the table but also when simming in Fly Casual). When I thought about it some more, I realised that another pilot I’ve had a reasonable amount of reps with is Rey and where does she want her arc? Yep, to the front.

Is it psychological? Maybe.

I don’t know what it is, whether it’s the ship or what else is in the list but for some reason, despite experience of flying a large base with turret to the side, Han makes more sense to me with his arc to front.

I know I’m ‘in the wrong’ here by feeling this way but what can I say? I’ve got to do what works for me!

To have won the game is one thing but to have done it in (sorry Steve!) a rather convincing manner and having made a couple of choices that, in hindsight, hampered my chances, is, well, many things. Surprising, for one. Pleasing. Affirming. It’s also smoothed over my worries that I was making a bad choice by having Ezra instead of two other ships in the list as is the general trend in the meta right now. It might still be a bad choice, subjectively speaking, but I like the Gauntlet and I want to fly it.

I think that’s about all there is to say for this week. As I said before, I’m off on holiday for a few weeks so I won’t be back until the end of this month. Enjoy your summer (if it’s summer where you are I suppose?!) and I’ll see you back here soon!

The outro…

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Exile Initiates:
Douglas Thomson

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

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