Circling Vultures

A strange thing happened. Due to outside circumstances (namely me having to take something to someone to hand the somethings on to someone else) I got to game night. Yes, again. Yes, I’ve now lost count of how many in a row. We are in unprecedented times.

Except it was half a game night. Since I wasn’t supposed to be there I hadn’t committed in my mind to going but somehow I still managed to take my case along with the aforementioned something. I had also possibly mentioned to one of the guys that maybe I might potentially be there and that I might maybe, possibly like to fly against his droid swarm.

And so I did. Sort of.

You see, I was on a short timescale since I needed to ‘be at home for the kids’ or whatever so as a result a very short game would have to do. (clearly I’m joking here, the kids can take care of themselves…. no, that’s not the joke. I take my parenting role very seriously. It’s myself that I don’t take seriously.)

My opponent for the evening was Paul. Paul is just about the only regular that we have who has been coming to Firestorm longer than we have. As well as being a veritable font of X-Wing knowledge and overall great player he also works at the store (sometimes meaning he can’t play) and organises all of the store’s leagues and tournaments. Additionally he’s a great guy.

Anyway, I know what you’re thinking (no, not ‘why am I reading this drivel?’, the other thing), and yes, you read it right. I asked to fly against a droid swarm.


Well, I’ve never flown against a proper CIS droid swarm, it’s pretty strong and quite popular in the meta (JARGON ALERT!!) at the moment and even though it’s definitely not what Dash wants to see across the table, I need to know how to fly against it.

So what was the list? Well, it’s a lot of strutty vultures plus Sear and a Hyena. The full list is:

Captain Sear (39)
TA-175 (5)
Impervium Plating (4)

Ship total: 48 Half Points: 24 Threshold: 3

Techno Union Bomber (26)
DRK-1 Probe Droids (5)
Landing Struts (1)

Ship total: 32 Half Points: 16 Threshold: 3

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0:

A strutty vulture

And my list? Well, currently I’m at 3-0 with Jake as Dash’s wing man so he keeps his place as I try and get a decent number of reps in with the A-Wing, particularly with a 1 day tournament coming up in just 10 days time.

Having realised my Snap Shot/Crack Shot blunder from last week I alter Jake’s build slightly, dropping both and adding in Composure following a comment from someone on Facebook who pointed out that if you can’t complete a barrel roll you can still take a focus and then activate the Vectored Thrusters ability from that focus action. ‘Get out of jail’ territory.

Dash stays the same as before, including the slightly optional Shield Upgrade and the very optional Rigged Cargo Chute. Incidentally Paul very kindly gave me a cardboard for rigged cargo so I no longer need the slightly dodgy paper one we made the other week. Top man.

Dash Rendar (98)
Lone Wolf (5)
Bistan (14)
Perceptive Copilot (8)
Shield Upgrade (6)
Outrider (14)
Rigged Cargo Chute (4)

Ship total: 149 Half Points: 75 Threshold: 6

Jake Farrell (36)
Composure (1)
Outmaneuver (6)
Proton Rockets (7)

Ship total: 50 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 2

Total: 199

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0:

So back to what I talked about earlier, wanting to face this list. I feel that a 2 ship list versus a swarm is generally not a favourable match up (for the 2 ship list, clearly). The risk of being pinned down and having your health plinked away by shot after shot is very high. Do I have a plan to deal with it? No, not really and that’s why I want the game. For me, I really have to be in the situation before I can figure out how to get out of it or better still, avoid it before it gets bad. Preferably the latter.

So with all that swirling in my head and just 45 mins on the clock, we begin.

Obstacle placement goes ok for me I feel. The more I think about it, the more I believe that there isn’t really a bad obstacle formation for this list. The only thing Dash cares about is not sitting on a rock (which prevents him shooting), everything else is fine. Jake is manoeuvrable enough to get around most things ok, provided I’ve not screwed up the approach.

With obstacles placed we deploy forces, all of Paul’s first. He puts the lot of them right in the middle, 2 rows of vultures with Sear and the hyena facing in towards the vultures on either side.


I place Dash off to one side and Jake to the other.

X marks the spot. Sort of.

I will say at this point that I don’t know whether I was overly aware of the shorter time or unsure how best to approach the droids but I did NOT open in the way that I normally would.

All the vultures took a 2 forwards while Sear and the hyena took 1 hard turns to drop in behind the formation.

Dash and Jake both took 1 hard turns in towards the center of the board.

In the next turn the vultures took another 2 forwards with one landing on the debris and flipping the struts. Until this moment I hadn’t really fully considered that the obstacles were basically invisible to Paul’s list too (with the exception of Sear). Hmmm.

Meanwhile Jake had taken a 4 forwards, tried to roll right (towards the board edge), failed it, taken a focus (from Composure) and the tried (and succeeded) a bank boost and handed a focus to Dash.
Now for some strange reason I had hard turned Dash again so he’s now facing the middle of the board, head on with the approaching vultures. Hmmm.
With a focus banked and ready I try to measure for a lock, partly to see if anything can shoot me. They can. Oops. Now I can’t turn my turret for my action. Double oops.

What on earth am I doing?!

The front 3 vultures all have range 3 shots while my arc is side to side and I can shoot nothing.
I take the lock on a vulture but I am shooting nothing this turn.

How I was feeling

The vultures fire and Dash tanks all 3 shots. No damage. Nice.

But now what?

By turning in not only have I failed to get anything in target, I’ve put myself in a rather difficult position with both of my ships. Dash now has to pick a direction. The 3 bank is tempting but very blockable. Anything else except for a 1 hard is going to put me rather too close to stuff so a 1 hard turn it is. But which way?

Turing left puts me towards the probe droid (not that it’s a huge issue) while turning right puts me close to Jake for the free focus and also means I don’t risk landing on the rock in the left corner (meaning I can’t shoot again). Yeah, I’ll do that.
Jake HAS to do a 2 hard turn to stay on the board and to drop the stress so that’s fairly straightforward.

The Vultures move forwards in a staggered approach, spreading arcs well. Jake does his 2 hard move and rolls into Dash, handing out the focus tokens again. Dash takes the 1 hard right and the barrel rolls to keep out of range 2. It’s a red roll but I have a plan for that.

Dash fires at the locked vulture. Hit, eyeball and 2 blanks. Spend the lock – hit, eyeball. Spend a focus for 4 hits. Not bad.
Paul rolls evade and eyeball, spends a calculate. Vulture not dead.


Dash fires his second shot at the next closest vulture. Crit, hit, hit, blank. Paul rolls evade, eyeball, spends a calculate. 1 crit gets through, structural damage. Vulture not dead.

Double Hmmm.

Jake doesn’t have a shot (a recurring theme in most of my games with him so far) so the vultures begin shooting.

Now, there are 2 ways to look at how this went. On the one hand, Dash was fired at by 8 ships, had just 1 focus for defence and no access to use Lone Wolf and took just 4 damage. The other way to look at it is that ideally 2 of the vultures would be dead and Jake should have been contributing more on the red dice side of things.

Anyway, the turn ends and now I have more hard decisions.

I’m herding myself into a corner. That is not good.

The droids turn in on where I’m very clearly headed and calculate up.
Jake takes a 2 hard turn around the debris and rolls away to give himself a focus. I debated boosting in towards the droids to actually try and shoot (and maybe set up a bullseye shot to shoot prockets (JARGON ALERT!!) next turn) but I bottle it and stay at the edge.
I move Dash 2 forwards to lose the stress with a blue move and then drop the lock by landing on the debris using the outrider title ability before taking a focus.

Very ominous…

Dash shoots at the damaged vulture. Nothing gets through. He takes a shot at the second damaged vulture, 1 damage gets through and it survives. Why won’t they die?!?!

Jake has no shot (AGAIN).

The the vultures start to fire. It’s not as bad as I’m expecting as I’ve managed to avoid the arcs of a lot of them (with Dash at least). Dash tanks 5 shots taking 0 damage (even without Lone Wolf) but Jake loses his shields when the vultures with no arc on Dash take consolation pot shots shot at him.

Now I’m really in trouble.

Looking at the board it’s clear what Paul is likely to do. Push the vultures forward, possibly blocking with the front one and lining the rest up to hit Dash. Jake is in trouble too, potentially sitting in several arcs and already at half points.

Time to get creative.

The Vultures move forward en masse and calculate with no attempt at blocking. Jake smashes out a 5 forwards before rolling in towards a vulture (I know! risky!!), giving himself a focus and boosting. It puts him out of every arc except one. Not bad.

Dash takes a 1 hard RIGHT (I know! SUPER risky!!), dodging most of the flock of vultures and then does a red barrel roll right, moving back as far as possible and praying that it’s not too close to the edge to fly off next turn.

Dash has dodged all but 1 firing arc. Jake almost dodged them all but that too vulture has him by about 2mm.

It’s oh so risky!

Unfocused Dash has just 1 shot and fires at the single vulture. And misses. The vulture shoots back…and misses.
The too vulture shoots at Jake…and misses.

At this point I have got half of 2 vultures for 20 points. Paul has got half of Jake for 25. As we start planning the timer goes off. This is the last round of what feels like a VERY short game.

Paul turns everyone in on Dash and calculates up.

Jake takes a 2 bank to clear stress and boosts around the debris. It’s pointless at this stage but practicing the reposition will help long term.

I pick up the 2 hard template and pray.


Only just but it’s on and he isn’t dead. Yay!
The drawback – I’m still stressed so can’t focus.

I managed to miss the most vital detail for this picture – IT FITS!

Dash takes a shot at the closest vulture and does 1 damage, taking a 3rd vulture to half points. Jake has no shot.


And now the vultures begin to circle.

As it stands I am winning. I’ve destroyed 30 points and lost 25. If Dash can take less than 3 hits I win. Never tell me the odds!

Sear fires – 3 hits. Dash rolls, 2 evades. 1 damage is through. The vultures then start to roll and it’s almost all hit, hit or hit, eyeball and the damage trickles through and hope fades away.

With 1 shot to spare Paul has 4 damage on, taking Dash to half and scoring 75 points, taking him to 100 in total.

As we pack up we chat a little about the game. Paul believes that with another 30 mins of game I would have had a decent chance (but Paul is always very kind in his evaluations. I’m less convinced). The dice could swing the other way and vultures had to start popping some time and Dash’s position at the end would have led to a 4 forwards to get some distance in while the swarm turned around. With a few guns off the board and Jake coming in behind with outmanoeuvre and Proton Rockets it could have started to improve.

In reflection I made some very poor choices. Turning in to face off in turn 2 was a bad move. I think that splitting my 2 ships and making sure Dash had the freedom of space of the left had side of the board would have been far more beneficial. Since Paul.would have almost certainly chased Dash I could have brought Jake in behind to threaten Sear.
Variance played it’s part too. I think that there’s a good chance that on another day at least 1 maybe 2 of the Vultures would have gone down, improving my odds the longer the game went on.

As much as it’s annoying that I’m now at 3-1 with Dash & Jake I’m glad I faced this. I feel like I’m better prepared and have some thoughts on facing swarms in general and, while it’s certainly a tough matchup for my list I didn’t at any point feel it was unwinnable (despite flying like an idiot). Any swing in variance could have cost Paul several vultures and while they are cheap in terms of how many points that earns me, the longer the game goes on, the more he loses and the harder it is for him to out damage onto Dash.

So with just 1 game night between now and the store tournament I feel a little more prepared in what to do (and what NOT to do) and that can only be good, right?