The intro…?

Well, here it is. Probably the least likely post I was ever (and I really do mean EVER) likely to write.

WARNING! This post is VERY LIGHT on X-Wing content. It’s a completely self-indulgent piece to celebrate just how many words I have written down.

Time for some back story…

You see, when I was in school I was actually reasonably academic. Nothing spectacular but I did pretty ok. But my thing was more sciency stuff. Chemistry, Physics and Maths were my A-Level subjects and I then went on to Cardiff University for a degree in Chemistry (which didn’t really go to plan but that’s not a story for today…).

When I chose my GCSE subjects I prioritised these sort of subjects and dropped ones that were more essay style. When writing essays for English I would turn in work 5 or 6 pages long while others in my class were 8 to 10 pages (and no, it’s not because I had small writing). Responding to essay questions certainly wasn’t a strength of mine and so subjects like History and Geography got dropped like a hot rock (see the geography link there!). Going back even further to 8 or 9 years old, I remember writing some stories for school (and a couple for fun) but even those were pretty short.

Of all the ‘why are you telling us this?!’ moments I’ve had in any of my blogs, this might well be the biggest. And so I will explain.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is my 100th blog post.

Yes, against all the odds I have managed to put out a blog (and sometimes two!) every week (well, apart from when on holiday) for almost two years. Two. Years.

The main bit…

When I started the blog I just wanted a bit of an outlet for all the X-Wing related thoughts swimming in my mind. I had found a great game that I enjoyed but more than that, I’d discovered an amazing community, both locally (in person) and globally (through the inter-web).

The thing is, would there be any point? I’m not a top level player. I’m not even a good player, actually. All the other blogs I read were experienced players who were talking through the finer points of list building or how well they had been doing in various tournaments around the country.

‘Who’s going to take the time to read the nonsense I’ll put out? Who would even care what I have to say? Maybe I shouldn’t bother. It’s probably a waste of time’. These are the thoughts that plagued me as I began to put things together.

I wrote things. I saved them. Deleted them. Re-wrote them. Edited them. And after several weeks of being pretty back and fore on the idea I came to a few realisations.

Firstly, if I am doing this for any reason other than for myself then it wouldn’t be sustainable. Maybe people will read it, maybe they won’t. Will I feel rejected if nobody reads it? In order that to be a ‘no’ (or at least a ‘not really’) then there had to be a bigger purpose than just ‘doing it for the likes’. Don’t get me wrong, I like the ‘likes’ and I love comments and conversations even more (and especially the friends I have made from these conversations). But this had to be for me. Something that would help me even if nobody read it at all.

Writing that down and reading it back it feels like it’s coming off as a bit selfish but honestly I know that if I was writing something just for the sake of trying to be ‘X-Wing Famous’ or a name that people recognise then the whole thing would fall on it’s face in fairly short order. I’m not looking for either of those things. I’m just trying to help myself get a little better at the game and maybe someone else might find some value in that too. Which leads me to my next point….

Secondly, (and seemingly in contrast to the first point) I should try make some contribution to the community. Like I said, just putting out content for try and be a ‘someone’ just for the sake of it, well, it won’t last. There are so many people in the X-Wing community who contribute SO much (like Gold Squadron Podcast, YASB, Sith Takers, Fly Better, the list goes on). The least I can do with my head full of thoughts is try and contribute too. Even it’s just a short blog.

While I was starting to plan the site and put things together, the blog wasn’t actually the main focus. I had been active in the online X-Wing community (i.e. Facebook groups) for about a year leading up to when I launched and one thing that slightly bothered me was abbreviations and nicknames. Some I knew. Things like FCS (Fire Control System), HLC (Heavy Laser Cannon) or TLT (if you’ve only ever played 2.0, don’t ask a 1.0 player, you’ll trigger them). But there were ones that I was now hearing on podcasts or reading in blogs that I had no idea about. FLGS? Natties? Jank?! What the heck does all this mean?

Some I asked about, others I googled. Being honest, not knowing this stuff made me feel a little bit like an outsider. Like I was only ‘in with the in crew’ if I knew it. And it felt bad. So I decided to compile a list. A list of phrases, acronyms or nicknames that people could reference. And so the X-Wing Jargon Buster was born. It isn’t much in the grand scheme of things and a good chunk of it was contributed by others (all credited on the page!) but it’s my contribution to the X-Wing community. Being inclusive is important, no, vital to growing our community which is something we all want.

Thirdly, it should be honest. I’m not a great player, I’m pretty average. But then, by definition really, most players are. I’m sure that only a small-ish percentage of all X-Wing players globally actually take part in competitive tournaments and of those who enter a smaller percentage still regularly make top cuts and win things. So a HUGE majority of X-Wing players are average at best. Does this make these people less valid? Do our opinions count for less than the people who top swiss or play on stream often? Absolutely not.

Opinions should be welcomed and discussions should be encouraged. When I started writing I wanted to highlight the fact that I’m not a great player. In fact my first ever post majored on the fact that I was just an average guy with no background in tabletop gaming who was drawn in by cool looking Star Wars ships. As well as the Jargon Buster I felt that there was a space among the other existing (very excellent) X-Wing content for someone who isn’t playing at the top tables or finding the next new meta-defining (or breaking) list. I’m just someone who likes pushing plastic space ships around a table with friends. Like I said earlier, pretending to be someone or something that I’m not just wasn’t going to work, it had to be honest.

Lastly and perhaps most surprising of all, I actually seemed to have quite a lot to say. Once I started writing I found it difficult to stop. I had thoughts and ideas and had started splurging them all out onto my keyboard.

Me, sort of.

By the time I was ready to go live with my very first post I had 3 completed posts and 2 more in progress. I had rather surprised myself! Would I have anything to write about once those were done though?

I doubted it very much at the time but somehow here I am, still churning out semi-coherent nonsense. And actually, I’m really enjoying it.

I have to admit, I was quite nervous when I started but that sort of excited nervous like when you’re starting a new job or something like that. I took around 3 or 4 weeks to figure out which WordPress theme to use, find images I liked and how to lay things out. I agonised over word choices and memes. I read and re-read and edited and chopped and changed and read again but finally, I was ready.

I had picked a date to post out my first blog entry, a strategic one that I thought was a great idea. It was Tuesday the 20th of June 2019, the day of a points update from FFG. ‘What a great idea’ I thought to myself, ‘loads of people will be on Facebook (the only place I posted to start with) and lots of people will see it’.

This theory quickly evaporated as post after post started appearing above mine, both before (speculating) and after (celebrating/commiserating/berating) the points were released and my blog post was lost in amongst it all. Oh well, it’s fine. My expectations were already reasonably tempered (see the first point above) and I resolved to carry on.

I was actually excited to post out my second blog and it took quite some restraint to wait a little while before getting it out there. I decided to give it a week. In my head I had maybe planned for once a month but I couldn’t wait a whole month before putting out the next one. I just couldn’t. My choice of the points update Tuesday had now stuck (for no real reason at all) and this arbitrary self imposed timetable has stayed around ever since. BLOG TUESDAY!! Is my thing. I’m nothing if not consistent, even to my own detriment sometimes.

Anyway, one post followed another and somehow I kept having things to write about. Lists, tournaments, experiences, life and then, eventually, a global pandemic.

Lockdown brought a brand new dynamic to, well, everything actually. Specifically to X-Wing though it had totally shut down all in-person gaming and, with the exception of two days last year and one day at home, I’ve not picked up a template since. Like a lot of people this pushed me into online X-Wing and what a journey that has been.

As a result of entering online tournaments played on Vassal and Tabletop Simulator I’ve played games against some real X-Wing legends. Players who I would literally NEVER have got to play against in real life when you consider the only tournament I’ve ever travelled to is the 400+ player UK System Opens. Yes, some were actually there in the room but while I’m bringing in a rather lowly 1-5 record (true story), these guys are making cut.

I’ve played against legendary X-Wing blogger Phil GC, Gold Squadron Podcast‘s Marcel Manzano, System Open winner Martyn Chivers, all of the Firestorm Firecast trio of Nic, Dom and Pond, jouster of legend Dale Cromwell, System Open runner up (TWICE!!) and online X-Wing cut maker extraordinaire Akhter Khan, oh and WORLD FREAKING CHAMPION(!!) Oliver Pocknell

Did I lose them all? I can see why you’d think yes but in fact no, actually I won two of them. If you want to know which ones though you’ll have to go trawl through my old posts (mwahaahaaa!). But the winning or losing didn’t actually matter (ok, maybe the winning mattered a little bit), the experience of playing against really great, top level players was incredibly valuable and getting to know these guys as more than just names you see at the top of TTT events was awesome.

I even played on stream a few times (shout out to Firestorm Firecast and the Sith Taker Streams!.

All these experiences and new friendships would never have happened had I not decided to ignore my fears and take the plunge in starting the blog.

The conclusion-ish…

Before I wrap this totally X-Wing content free and completely self indulgent post I’ve got some stats in case you’re interested (you’re probably not but I’ll do it anyway for my own records) thanks to WordPress/Jetpack. Some of them I found rather surprising.

Total word count (all posts, including this one) – 303,456

Average word count per post – 3043

Total views – 36, 827

Highest page view – 1309 (Jargon Buster)

Bearing in mind I started this blog thinking that nobody would care and that I’d probably run out of steam after a few months at the very most, these view figures blow me away. Can I honestly say I’d have been going this long if NOBODY had read ANY of my posts? Probably not. And so it seems fitting at this point to say thanks. To you.

Whether you’ve read every blog multiple times or this is the first one, the fact that you’ve taken the time out of your day (even just once!) to read what I’ve got to say is a very humbling thought indeed. If you’re someone who I now converse with or have met because of this blog then I’m so thankful we started talking because of it and I appreciate you very much.

So, 100 posts and I’m still going. Nobody is more amazed than me. Something that I know about myself is that I’m very much a ‘start things off’ person but less of a ‘finish it well/keep it going’ person. I’ve started but not finished DIY stuff at home, Couch to 5K, work in the garden, etc. But this? This I’ve kept up. Must be because I love it I guess (unlike DIY).

And so here’s to many more BLOG TUESDAY!!s. How many exactly is anyone’s guess but while I’m still playing and I have the time, I’ll keep them coming.

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!