This blog is called Stay on the Leader and for me the leader I’ve been trying to hang onto the coat tails of is Tom Reed. The Reed family already have a former UK National Champion in their ranks with father, Craig, and after a fantastic 2016 they can now also count the Italian National Champion among their number. To date this year Tom has bagged no less than 5 Store Championship titles, 3 Regional Championships, won the Kashyyyk Open and now the Italian National Championships as well. His Worlds ticket is booked and one more title is firmly in his sights at the end next month.
That makes me very pleased to be able to hand over the reins of this blog to special guest columnist Tom and let him share his globe-trotting ‘X-Wing Italiano’ experience with you…
(Full Pairings, Results and some Squad Lists from the Italian National Championships can be found at http://nerdando.com/report-x-wing-national-event-2016/)
One Fantastic Community: One Fantastic Title
This past weekend myself and a small team of Brits took our second trip to Italy - this time we were over for the Italian Nationals. On our first trip, for the Kashyyyk Open, Wave 8 had arrived in Italy only hours before the first games kicked off which gave us a big advantage as we’d been able to play the new ships for weeks ahead of the event. Triple Jumps has been massive in the UK and against the understandably underprepared Italians it hit like a train. That advantage of extra practice with Wave 8 meant we actually ended up making the final game of the Kashyyyk Open an all-Reed affair between myself and my brother Scott!
Although we had taken their Open slot on the first visit we were warmly welcomed by the Italian players and invited back for their National Championships. This time around, with the element of Jumpmaster surprise well and truly gone, we expected a really tough weekend in Italy. The gaming scene over there is very well developed, with a huge Warhammer and 40K scene, and X-Wing has been growing steadily. We certainly didn't expect to have such an easy time of it.
The trip started Friday morning with a 2 hour drive to Liverpool for a flight over to Pisa. I hate flying. As in: hands-on-the-seat-in-front-window-down-white-face-ignore-the-cabin-crew, really, really hate flying - but I thought it would be worth it. With that ordeal over, and a great pizza in Modena on Friday night, I could drop into X-Wing mode for Saturday.
|Seeing this at the airport... maybe a good omen?|
The first experience that morning set the theme of the weekend: breakfast in the hotel was the first chance to re-encounter some of the Italian players and the welcome was fantastic. Our Italian hosts could not have been more welcoming. The X-Wing was great, but it was their warmth and generosity which justified every cent penny spent to get there.
Arriving at the venue this happened again and again - handshakes and, erm, kisses on both cheeks from the guys we had met at the System Open and loads of the ETC guys. But once greetings were exchanged and stories swapped, we settled down for the serious stuff.
Yes, It Was Jumpmasters
I had got on the Triple Jumpmasters bandwagon early which gave me the chance to tinker with the list during the gap between Store Champs and Regionals. The R4 Agromech nerf changed things a bit but I've been flying my current list for a good long while now and had a lot of success with it despite the nerf. The only change I made was a decision to drop the list from 99 to 98 points. As events were to prove, this was a good move:
- Contracted scout - Plasma torp - Extra munitions - Overclocked R4 - Deadeye - 4 Lom - Guidance Chips (33)
- Contracted scout - Proton torp - Extra munitions - Overclocked R4 - Deadeye - Boba Fett - Guidance Chips (34)
- Contracted scout - Plasma Torp - Adaptability - K4 Security droid - Guidance chips (31)
Early in the season I'd experimented with a pure "Bumpmaster" designed to block other Jumpmasters and prevent them for getting their torpedoes away. Over time I'd decided that it was better to use one of the Jumps as a potential blocker which could also get actions in even when banging up against other Jumps and still provide a torp threat, which is where the K4 Security Droid version came from. Adaptability lets me drop my PS to ensure I can bump and the K4-Security Droid gives me a target lock to fire now that I’m not using Deadeye. Critically, a 2 point initiative bid put me ahead of most other Jumpmaster lists.
|The raiding party of Brits are ready to go!|
(L-R) Nick Barker, Rob Derbyshire, Scott Reed, Tom Reed, Craig Reed
Round 1 vs Maurizio Cignoni
Not the start I wanted: Carnor Jax and the Inquisitor in the same list, with a Tie blocker to top it off. The game started well and the initial engagement went to plan so within 3 or 4 turns the Tie had met its end. But that was where the good stuff ended. Out-flown, out-thought and a 100 – 12 loss. If nothing else, this confirmed my view of the Italian scene - it's highly competitive with a bunch of skilful players. Maurizio managed a turn where he dropped Jax into the only spot I had not blocked and followed it with a 3 Turn to sit next to all my ships. Maurizio deserved the game right there and all credit to him.
So far, so not worth 800 miles in the air. By the end of the game, I knew I was up against it for the rest of the day...
Loss: 12-100 (0 Wins, 1 Loss)
Round 2 vs Daniele Prejano
Probably the nicest opponent you could ever hope for, this guy had presented the Reed family with a light up engine Soontir Fel when we visited last time - it's pretty cool - and it was a pleasure to share a game with him. Unfortunately for Daniele this was a mirror match where his U-boats were set up to kill aces and mine were designed to kill his. With the initiative advantage I could bump his ships and I set up the initial engage where I was firing 3 torpedoes to Daniele's 1. That tells the story of the game, which I closed out by only losing my single torpedo Jumpmaster. Back in the room!
Win 100 – 31 (1 Win, 1 Loss)
Round 3 vs Rob "Bob Dee" Darbyshire
Well it had to happen - two of the travelling contingent meeting each other. With all 5 of us travelling Brits on 1-1, there was a good chance of facing one of our own and it happened to Bob and I.
Bob was also running Triple Jumps and the game was similar to my second round in the sense I had initiative and made it count. I managed to control range on the first exchange and came out better. The dice were fairly unpleasant to Bob which made the gap bigger than it should have been, but I was glad of the MOV as due to a poor game 1 I was playing catch up.
Win 100 – 16 (2 Wins, 1 Loss)
Interlude - The Heat
I think it was about this point that the phenomenal heat of the day was really taking its toll. You know it's hot when you see an Italian sweating - those guys normally wear their padded gilets in 27 degree heat but were very much in t-shirt and shorts mode for Nationals. Our travelling party of Brits were taking turns to do trips to the shop fridge to get armfuls of cold water bottles! We were dropping about half a litre of water every hour. There's a lot of (slightly overstated) advice about food and hydration offered to tourney players, but this time it was bang on. I've known some heat in my time but to stay mentally focussed in the unavoidable heat was tough.
Round 4 vs Adriano Grassi
With the prevalence of Jumpmasters this was to be my only test against a mini Crack Swarm. Adriano wasn’t running with any PS 1 academy pilots, but this bunch came with a fully tooled up Tomax Bren whose missiles scared me – not as scary as a plane ride, but still scary. Spacing out the rocks during asteroid placement and splitting my ships allowed me to approach from three different angles and make use of the available space and this was a game where I was careful to ensure I had actions. In the end I did manage to get the block I needed, resulting in Tomax dying without firing a missile. This was decisive and allowed the turrets to mop up with everything in close proximity whilst bumping Adriano’s Ties out of their actions.
Win 100 – 32 (3 Wins, 1 Loss)
Round 5 vs Simone Provenzano
Another Palp Aces list like the one I faced in the first round, but this time Darth Vader was standing in for Carnor Jax and Simone’s shuttle was equipped with an Engine Upgrade which Simone was carrying to counter any escaping Manaroos. The asteroid placement again helped out here and meant the left half the board was very obstructed with two clear firing/ moving lanes. I stalled by self-bumping until the shuttle committed down my left flank before racing for those lanes and closing the space off. Again, the blocks paid off and Vader’s lack of Autothrusters really told as even my 2 dice turret shots chipped him down. On the other side of the board Simone’s attack dice abandoned him leaving me with a good win against a skilful player.
Win 100 – 0 (4 Wins, 1 Loss)
Round 6 vs Tony Petriconi
Of all the round 6 draws I didn’t want (just behind having to duel it out with a family member) was this matchup. Tony and I had been exchanging regular messages about the game and Jumpmaster options since I was over there for the System Open, so the prospect of knocking out a good friend wasn’t a nice feeling but something that’s part of the game. Again, this was a Triple Jump mirror match in which the choice to drop a point to 98 came good and, again, I milked the initiative advantage for a decisive edge.
Win 100 – 34 (5 Wins, 1 Loss)
Interlude: Tourney Dinner. Really?
After the games on day 1, we had ourselves an X-Wing first and an absolutely stunning event. That night, most of the competitors in Nationals sat down for a group meal put on at the sports complex we had been playing at. This was stunning - two courses of pasta and some amazing meat, cheese and bread malarkey, all accompanied by plenty of sparkling red wine. Three of our UK team hadn't managed to make cut and didn’t need to be sharp in the morning, so let’s just say they “took full advantage of the hospitality”.
It really goes without saying that it was good; we were eating in Italy, where serving a bad meal will see the chef and his family exiled, but to see X-Wingers from all over the country come together like this to eat and drink together was a special thing. It was very similar to the camaraderie we enjoy in our friendly domestic scene, with the teams mixing, sharing a drink or two and demonstrating what a fantastic community we have. It is often said that the community sells the game, and it was a genuine delight to see that this isn't limited to the UK.
I genuinely wonder if the way the game is designed contributes to this - the cards are open, the dials remain hidden only for a few moments and the players often have to work together to move ships.
Day 2: Ship Gets Serious
With 80 players in Italian Nationals there was a cut to top 16. I'd spotted a lot of Dengaroo, Party Bus and Triple Jump builds in the cut which gave me some confidence - I'd had a lot of experience against those builds and thought I could at least approach the games with a tested plan.
Top 16 vs Marco Peloni
Potentially my best performance of the weekend: a starter against Dengaroo. I managed to get some good range control and force the early expenditure of counter measures. With that gone the Plasma Torpedoes made the dent that the Proton Torpedo needed to remove the Punishing One title with Boba Fett, which probably secured the game.
Win 100 – 48
Top 8 vs Roberto Savino
This was the scariest moment since my loss in Game 1 on Saturday, for a number of reasons: Defenders are tough, Palpatine is always bad news and there was, weirdly, a bomber shuttle carrying Rebel Captive. Roberto had also beaten my Dad by 4 points in Round 6 to qualify so I knew he was handy! I knew that if I could get through the game, I could approach the rest of the builds in the event with confidence.
This was an extremely strange build that on first look shouldn’t work, but it really did. Tomax Bren with Rebel Captive, Hull Upgrade and Crack Shot became more of a problem then I expected. With a bit of much-needed luck I landed Blinded Pilot and Direct Hit criticals which later put me in the driving seat, leaving 2 Jumpmasters to get torpedoes off at the Defender and eventually secure the win. It was a tricky match which proved that peculiar, but good, builds can go a long way even in a meta heavy environment.
Win 100 – 64
Top 4 vs Alessandro Marmorini
Every player who wins a major event has some luck along the way and mine came here. This was another Triple Jumps match and the first I didn’t automatically get initiative against. Luckily the dice gods smiled on me and gave me the single hit I needed to choose initiative and go first. Unfortunately it went wrong very quickly for Alessandro, who I think was trying something new that didn’t quite go to plan: a barrel roll towards me left one of his ships millimetres inside range three of two missile boats and effectively handing me the game right there. However he reacted like a champ and was an absolute joy fly against.
Alessandro’s one of the big characters of the lively Italian scene and it was a privilege to play him.
Win 100 – 0
Ah. I made the final. That's good.
Final vs Dante Stefanucci
Another Dengaroo build from Dante, this time without Recon Specialist but with torps on both Manaroo and Dengar, which made for a matchup I was fairly happy with. Steaming up the left side of the board after stalling twice I made Manaroo turn back along her board edge, and that meant that when the initial combat took place with Dengar she was within range two and Lone Wolf could not trigger. Again the Plasma Torpedoes did the leg work for a Proton Torpedo and I used Boba to strip the vital title. After initially looking fairly behind in the match up, the lack of title and my positioning won out and Dengar was removed, leaving far too much for Manaroo to do on her own...
And I'm the National Champion of Italy! It's been a really good year for me, but to take a National event is amazing. It was super hot in there, which perhaps explains why my eyes got so sweaty at that moment.
Win 100 – 33
As well as the all-important trophy for winning the National Championships I've been spoiled by my Italian hosts on both visits, who had arranged custom-painted ships to be added to the prizes for both the Kashyyyk Open and the Nationals. I think you'll agree that they all look fantastic, and if anybody ever manages to prise the Jumpmasters from my hands then I look forward to getting them onto the table as soon as possible!
A Galaxy Not So Far, Far Away
With the ETC, cheap flights into Europe, the prospect of more System Opens and a European Championship it looks like the larger European community is going to get more and more chances to meet and play, and I couldn’t recommend it more. If you can spare the time and the money (and I reckon this 4 day trip cost about £250 including flights, hotel room and car hire), then please, get out to a foreign National Championship. There's the chance to make a holiday of it or just enjoy a weekend with the lads. The experiences we’ve shared and friends we have made go to strengthen the X-Wing ethos that is the same - but different - in countries hundreds of miles apart.
All in all, massive thanks to my travelling buddies, my opponents and, most of all, to the wonderfully inclusive, friendly, funny, talented Italian community! And their chefs.
Now, let me settle down to prepare for some Intercontinental X-Wing at Worlds!