The intro…

Welcome back! Life in general is still just as weird as it’s it’s been for the last few weeks but time at home with my family has been really great, especially the last 2 weeks of the ‘Easter Holidays’ where there’s been no schoolwork for the kids to do at home.

X-Wing wise, the Vagabond Open is continuing apace and somehow it’s now week 4. To be honest it’s been slightly disastrous so far but this time I’m feeling a little more prepared.

You see, off the back of last week’s game I decided that zero preparation was probably not the best way to proceed. Because, of course it isn’t.

I’ve already blogged a while back about knowing yourself and using that knowledge to improve. What I know about myself is that, among other things, I play much better when I know the list. Now, I know that sounds obvious, and even now typing it out it sounds stupid but hear me out. Some players are able to pick things up quickly, put a ship on the table and play it effectively straight away. Or put together a bonkers combination of upgrade and/or pilot/ship ability and wreck face with it in their first game. Some people’s brains are just wired that way.

Mine isn’t. I know that about myself and that’s ok.

Over the last year or so I’ve seen new players pick up the game and play it very well in a reasonably short amount of time. I’ve been frustrated about that at times, feeling like I should be better at the game and be able to win more games. But my brain just doesn’t work like that. Over time I’ve come to understand and accept that my mind isn’t as tactical as other people.

But rather than looking at my weaknesses I need to focus on what my strengths are. I feel that once I’m in the scrum of engagement that I tend to do better, that I’m better when reactive rather than proactive.

So with this knowledge about myself I can come up with a plan. Find a list, make a plan for how to open and then see where it goes from there. Part of the reason I like the Fly Casual app so much is that it’s (relatively) quick to set up and play and even though the AI isn’t the best (it ALWAYS takes a focus!), If a list or opening isn’t any good then it will punish you.

Back to the point, after last week’s debacle, I decided to engage my brain properly and make some more effort. I would pick a faction, find a list and practice it in Fly Casual several times. Yep, sounds like a plan.

So, first thing. Pick a faction.
I still had the following available to choose from:
First Order

I wasn’t ready to unleash Rebels yet and out of the remaining factions FO is the one I know least and being on a 3 game losing run I’m not sure it’s the best idea to go there yet. That makes it between Republic and Empire.

Having helped Cai put Imperial lists together over the last few years I feel that, while not particularly strong with it as a faction, I’m familiar enough to go with it next.

Ok, faction picked, but what list?

Some of the strongest ships in the faction are ‘acey’ ships with emphasis on positioning which isn’t the strongest part of my game. So what other options are there?

At the System Open this year Cai took 2 lists (one Hyperspace, one Extended) based around the VT-49 Decimator together with some TIE/ln TIE Fighters. In the lead up to the event we worked together on finding openings and strategies for how to open so I’m at least a little familiar with how they move. Sounds good, now to put something together properly.

Cai’s list was Captain Oicunn with the title, Intimidation, Admiral Sloane, Death Troopers, Proton Bombs and Fifth Brother gunner along with 4 Academy Pilot TIE’s. The idea is to smash into things with the Decimator which can then still take an action and shoot at it. If any TIE’s are taken out then the attacker get stressed (with Admiral Sloane) and hopefully is close enough to Oicunn’s Death Troopers to make sure it can’t remove that stress. As a bonus, Sloane means that shots against stressed ships get a free re-roll.

I like the idea but I’m concerned about getting a bump with the Decimator consistently. With the main ‘trick’ of the list involving offering up TIE’s to be destroyed in order to give my opponent stress I’d also ideally like an extra TIE in the list.

With these points in mind I played about with some options, dropping some upgrades from Oicunn in order to free up 22 points for that extra ship. After a bit of testing and trying different things I decided to drop Oicunn to the initiative 2 Patrol Leader and strip upgrades back to just Admiral Sloane and Death Troopers. This left 8 points. There’s no point having a bid but it’s not enough to add Fifth Brother which would add a very useful Force point. In the end I went with Shield Upgrade (because it’s cheap and it increases the threshold for half points) and the title (because if I do bump I still get an action). The list looks like this:

Patrol Leader (67)
Death Troopers (6)
Admiral Sloane (9)
Shield Upgrade (3)
Dauntless (4)

Ship total: 89 Half Points: 45 Threshold: 9

Academy Pilot (22)
Ship total: 22 Half Points: 11 Threshold: 2

Academy Pilot (22)
Ship total: 22 Half Points: 11 Threshold: 2

Academy Pilot (22)
Ship total: 22 Half Points: 11 Threshold: 2

Academy Pilot (22)
Ship total: 22 Half Points: 11 Threshold: 2

Academy Pilot (22)
Ship total: 22 Half Points: 11 Threshold: 2

Total: 199

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0:

Ok so I’ve managed to catch the basic essence of what Cai was doing with his list (stress opponent’s ships and keep them that way) but adding in an extra TIE to the mix. I tried it out a few times on Fly Casual and it was working well. Ok, I think it’s ready to roll!

The Batrep (JARGON ALERT!!)

Vagabond Open pairings get announced on a Wednesday morning so I opened up the TTO page to find out who my opponent was. I had been paired up with Tony Cameron, another new person to get to know! We got in touch over Facebook and arranged a day and time to play but also talked a little about how we got into the game and it turns out that he has actually only been playing X-Wing since late last year. Not only that but he had attended the System Open as part of Tin Squadron, the group that Chris Burnett (who I finally met in person at the SOS) is part of too.

We arranged to play on the Friday night which gave me a little more time to hone and tweak my list and tactics before the game.

When Friday arrived we got Discord set up and got chatting, in fact it actually took us half an hour to get the game set up and ready as the conversations flowed.

I took a look at Tony’s list.

Knave Squadron Escort (50)
Proton Torpedoes (13)
R3 Astromech (3)

Ship total: 66 Half Points: 33 Threshold: 3

Knave Squadron Escort (50)
Proton Torpedoes (13)
R3 Astromech (3)

Ship total: 66 Half Points: 33 Threshold: 3

Wedge Antilles (55)
Proton Torpedoes (13)
Servomotor S-Foils (0)

Ship total: 68 Half Points: 34 Threshold: 3

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0:

On the positive side, it’s just 3 ships. On the negative side it’s 3 ships with Proton Torps and 2 of them are 3 agility, something that my 2 dice attack TIE Fighters are going to find a bit tricky.

We get the game set up and after placing obstacles I put down all of my ships and then Tony places all of his and we line up like this:

Now, this isn’t ideal for me. I know he was rather unlikely to straight up joust but this setup means he is going to try and draw me to the middle where my Decimator will struggle to navigate the obstacles. If I send in the TIE’s without it though I won’t get any of the benefits from Sloane or Death Troopers. Having said all that, there is a nice big lane right across the middle which I should be able to navigate the Deci into, switch the turret sideways and be able to have my choice of shots.

We set dials for the first turn and then kick off the timer. One hour plus 2 turns is that standard we’re using in this tournament.

I set the TIE’s to go 3 forwards and the Deci to go 2 hard in towards them while I wait and see what Tony’s ships are doing.

They all go as fast as they are able and the E-Wings, using a combination of the ship ability and the R3 Astromech, take Locks on the Deci and 2 different TIE’s.

Obviously, there’s no shooting and we start planning the next turn.

I decide to keep the TIE’s straight to go around the gas cloud to their right while the Patrol Leader takes the opposite hard turn to fall in behind them.

Tony’s E-Wings take banks in towards my forces and boost while Wedge goes straight and then boosts in, looking to fall back and let the E-Wings engage first.

We’re still too far away to shoot so it’s back to dials for the next turn.

What to do now? Banking on meeting in the middle I need to turn my ships to face them but there’s a gas cloud in the way. I set all TIE’s to hard turn, the front ones 1, 2, 3 in order. The rear two take a 1 and 2 respectively with the closest to the gas cloud hoping to barrel roll right to get around it.

It doesn’t go very well. The two right-most TIE’s are the only ones that I get right, the others all bump. Thankfully the 1 forwards from the Decimator fits and I reinforce to the rear just in case something gets in range.

The E-Wings scream forwards and bank boost putting them closer than I’d like but still only in arc of 1 of my ships. Oh dear.

Thankfully only the closest E-Wing has a shot but fires a Proton Torp at the Decimator. Tony’s roll isn’t the best and with no focus available spends the lock to reroll, ending up with 3 hits. The Decimator has 0 agility so no dice to roll but the reinforce cancels one.

My range 3 return shot from an unmodded TIE Fighter goes as you would expect.

Dials again and now I may have an issue. The E-Wings look to be focusing on the Decimator. That’s not really what I want. The thing is, now that I’ve started turning my TIE’s it’s going to be hard to turn on them to make them think twice about chasing it down. What I don’t want, though, is another turn where I take damage without giving any out.

With that in mind I decide to hard turn the front TIE in the bump chain and then give banks to the two behind it to put them between the 2 closest gas clouds. The TIE that barrel rolled last turn gets a 2 bank to try and bump the cloest E-Wing while the last TIE just gets a bank left to get out of the way of the Decimator who goes 3 forwards to put some distance between it and the chasing E-Wings.

The E-wings close in on the Patrol Leader while Wedge turns into the middle, not having expected most of the TIEs to be facing him. He takes a focus and links a boost (as foils are closed) and manages to evade arc of 2 TIEs but is still in arc for 2 others.

Wedge takes a shot but as the foils are closed, even with his pilot ability reducing the agility he only gets 1 damage onto a TIE. One E-Wing missed arc on the Decimator but the other has arc and a lock and fires it’s second Proton Torp volley. Again the roll isn’t great even after spending the lock and with the Deci reinforced to the rear just 1 damage goes through.

The return shot from the Patrol Leader is terrible (a recurring theme through the game!) and with no mods, no damage is done.

Two of the TIEs fire on Wedge and manage to do 1 damage each, stripping the shields.

On to the next turn and now a choice. Chase down Wedge or turn on the E-Wings? Given the position of the TIEs it’s a bit of a no-brainer. It’s Wedge. I can’t turn on the E-Wings fast enough and leaving Wedge to pick off ships from my flank would be a mistake.

What’s tricky now though is that my ships are all out of formation and so it all needs a little extra thought, particularly in terms of the order that I need to move ships.

Going back to the point I made in the intro though, this is where one of my strengths lie. It’s time to react.

A mix of hard turns and barrel rolls hard Wedge into a killbox while one of them simply takes a K-Turn (JARGON ALERT!!) to get back into the fight later.

The Decimator continues going forwards and takes a reinforce again. I had considered turning in to the middle at this point but would then have had to decide between the reinforce and rotating the turret and really I just need to keep it alive long enough to get the TIEs back in range to defend it (or at least harass whatever’s killing it!).

The E-Wings predictably chase the Patrol Leader while Wedge, with very limited options due to the stress, takes a 4 forwards (which is white) over the gas cloud which (sadly for Tony) gives him a strain. With no action he can’t reposition or take a token, has no TIEs in arc and is looking at taking 3 shots at least. Sad times.

The E-Wings fire on the Decimator and between them do 3 damage, taking now to 11 hull.

The Decimator fires back but again, no tokens to mod with against 3 agility ships at range 3 just isn’t going to do anything.

The TIEs fire on Wedge and, with the benefit of Admiral Sloane rerolls, the T-65 explodes.

Dials again and even though the reinforce is helping to soak up damage it’s now a race. Can I do anything (and I mean, like ANY damage at all!) to these E-Wings before the Decimator blows up? Well, certainly not where I am, no.

With a mix of banks, hard turns and a 5 forwards for one I start sending the Academy Pilots into the action. The Decimator gets a 2 hard turn to go around the rock and reinforces again.

The E-Wings move forwards, keeping pace with the Patrol Leader. Close enough to fire Torpedoes while far enough to not be taking much damage in return.

They fire and this time it’s a bit more brutal. Crits start landing and even though the reinforce limits damage a Hull Breach followed by a Fuel Leak triggers a crit chain and reduces it to 7 hull. Ouch.

My TIEs manage 3 return shots on the same E-Wing and between them manage 1 damage. This could be tricky.

Dials again and now I need to try and swarm the TIEs in and draw focus. I can’t remember exactly what moves I set but I spread the TIEs across, meaning that at least one E-Wing would be taking some sort of shot. Again, the Decimator forged forwards to get some distance from the Rebels.

The E-Wings sped forwards but one rather overshot. Tony had thought that the Decimator had a red stop on the the dial and assumed I might try for a bump. He boosted to start turning around but this left it with no shot this turn.

The only E-Wing with a shot fired and while only 1 damage got through it was ANOTHER crit which turned out to be ANOTHER Fuel Leak.

Again the Decimator fired and AGAIN it did no damage. Four of my five TIEs had shots but between them managed to do NO damage at all to the E-Wings. Great.

Time for planning again but this time I felt a little more confident. The one E-Wing HAD to do a hard turn. He won’t want it stressed so it’ll have to be a 2 or 3. This means I can send some TIEs in and should be able to get a range 1 shot onto it. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll also get a block on the other one.

I set the dials for the TIEs and send the Patrol Leader straight up the board again, keeping distance.

Tony reveals the first move. It’s a 2 bank with the E-Wing closest to the edge and it doesn’t make it. The ship overlaps the edge of the board. In slight disbelief I watch as Tony deletes 66 points worth of ship. He’d thought that it would make it. It had only lost 1 health. It feels so harsh and before I can say anything else Tony moves his last remaining ship.

Reflecting now I regret not saying anything. I wish I’d spoken up and suggested that the bank be changed to a hard turn. This is a tournament but it’s very much a casual tournament. In person I would have. I don’t know why I didn’t. I know that, were the roles reversed, I wouldn’t have accepted that offer but I certainly would have appreciated the gesture.

The E-Wing fires and pushes 2 more damage onto the Deci, reducing it to 4 health.

The Decimator fires and, once again, does no damage. This time though I have 3 TIE fighters on hand, two of them at range 1. They all fire and Tony’s green dice finally succumb and between them the 3 TIEs do 4 damage including a Console Fire crit.

With the timer having sounded a little while ago this is definitely the last turn.

Quite sure that Tony will continue after the Patrol Leader, I send it on a hard turn around the rock and reinforce to the rear to help it survive.

The TIEs all turn into a loose conga line with the E-Wing in the middle, hoping to block it.

Unfortunately I miss the block as the E-Wing sails clean past and takes a focus, hoping that a combination of double modded shot and Fuel Leak will spell the end for the Decimator.

The Knave Squadron Pilot fires but even with a lock and focus scores just one hit, putting the Patrol Leader on 3 health.

The Decimator doesn’t have a return shot so the TIEs start shooting but Tony’s green dice come back to form and every shot is evaded and the game is done.

The Post-Mortem…

In the end the score (168-45) isn’t as close as the result feels. I know that sounds ridiculous when I still have every ship on the board but overall I feel that with more time (and with the second E-Wing still on the board) that I would have really struggled to win a damage race with just TIE fighters. The Decimator was really on borrowed time once the crits started coming.

What my Decimator probably would have looked like by the end of the match.

Overall I like this list. I don’t think I flew it particularly well in this match and some circumstances through the game didn’t particularly go in my favour, namely Proton Torps and a lack of stress on the E-Wings. Then again, Wedge straying into my killbox and an E-Wing fleeing the battle balanced that out. As a result it’s a little difficult to say how good this list is but either way, it’s quite fun to play and figuring out what to do when my opponent focuses on the target I don’t want to lose (the Decimator) is an interesting challenge.

Tony played well, picked the right first target and did well in chasing it down. Unfortunately for him his red dice weren’t great and this (along with consistently taking a reinforce) meant that the Patrol Leader lasted WAY longer than he arguably should have.

We discussed after the game how we both find it harder to judge distances on screen versus on an actual physical board and how different the game feels. It was again good to use Discord to voice chat and it was a really great game.

So now the next big question – what faction next week? First Order? Republic? Or Rebel?

Comment with suggestions and I’ll be back next week!

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!