Friday, 14 October 2016

Do a Barrel Roll!

This is going to be a very brief blog because there's not really a whole lot to say and I plan on not outstaying my welcome.

Vectored Thrusters and Turrets.  It's a thing.  Try it.

If you think of all the turrets that are around they're either short-ranged bubbles like Autoblaster Turret, Dorsal Turret etc, or they've got that 'donut' you don't want people to get into.  And when you think of the sorts of ships that get turret slots they don't really have much in the way of maneuvering options - Y-Wings, K-Wings, HWKs etc don't go in for arc dodging very much.

Without Vectored Thrusters your Autoblaster Turret's 'bubble' is easy to avoid.
Vectored Thrusters fills this niche very nicely.  Whether it's with Autoblaster Turret on Kavil to make your deadly bubble nearly 3 times larger with barrel rolls, or whether it's Twin Laser Turret on Miranda Doni to keep your enemies at arms length or dodge out of arcs... Vectored Thrusters on turrets is a thing.  Your turreted ships don't care about where their arcs are - they don't need to boost around 45 degrees to get a shot they just need to manage their range to targets and go where opponents can't shoot at them.  Vectored Thrusters is very good at that.

Vectored Thrusters more than doubles the area you can threaten, even with just a Range 1 turret!

  • Kavil (Y-Wing) - Veteran Instincts, Autoblaster Turret, Vectored Thrusters (29pts for a PS9 Soontir Fel killer)
  • Miranda Doni (K-Wing) - Twin Laser Turret, C-3PO, Vectored Thrusters (40pts for a regenerating Twin Laser Turret that can barrel roll out of range 1 or SLAM away in an emergency)

That is all.  You can go now.  I told you it would be brief!

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Attani Mindlink - The Next Big Thing?

Pacific Rim was a shitty movie.

I know that Guillermo Del Toro has a lot of enthusiastic fans who think the director can do no wrong, especially among the science fiction guys who consider him to be 'one of us' but I'm afraid that when it comes to Pacific Rim I have to call bullshit.  Hellboy was great and Pan's Labyrinth is a masterpiece, but I'm not having elite two-hundred feet tall mechs defending the earth from an extra-dimensional invasion by utilising the ultimate power of a good right hook.  

For those fortunate souls who haven't yet seen Pacific Rim: the premise is that giant alien monsters are emerging from the sea and the best response that all of earth's scientists and military minds can come up with are:

1) build a wall around the ocean.  That's a wall.  Around the ocean.  All of the ocean.  And the same moviegoers who think Donald Trump is a barking lunatic for wanting to build a wall along the whole of the US/Mexico border are perfectly happy to suspend disbelief about building a wall AROUND THE ENTIRE OCEAN.

2) if the wall doesn't work we'll just punch the monsters in the face.  It's a weird macho John Wayne revival where even the biggest problem humanity has ever faced can be solved by just smashing a bottle over Godzilla's head and sliding him along the bar in a saloon.

Seriously, it's like Gullermo Del Toro watched some of the trashiest mechwar anime's and just decided "yeah that's what I want to spend $190m dollars remaking in a really dark, confusing and loud way".   Plot?  Nah.  Character development?  Nah.  Fight scenes where you can see what's happening?  Nah.  It was just dark and noisy.  I actually saw Pacific Rim in IMAX and the only thing I got out of that movie experience was a pounding headache. 

Anyway, this blog isn't intended to mark a change in direction to becoming a movie reviews website.  I'm bringing up Pacific Rim because one of the many, MANY, things about it that made no sense at all is that pilots of these huge mechanical battle robots have to be able to form a psychic link in order to drive them, with one pilot controlling the left side of the mech and the other controlling the right side.  Not just any two people can get in and drive these mechs either, by the way, instead the survival of the human race depends on finding people with these incredible psychic connections who can pilot the mechs.  Its a really deep bond that's very rare to find, so the Americans have a pair of brothers driving their mech, for instance, while the Australians have a father & son partnership.  

And if you don't have that sort of close family bond with somebody then you just have to hit each other with sticks for thirty seconds, after which you're apparently good to go.

Pacific Rim, everyone..

Anyway, finally getting around to X-Wing I want to talk about Attani Mindlink, which is basically an Elite Pilot Talent that mimics the same psychic connection between pilots that makes Pacific Rim the incredible cinematic masterpiece that it is.  Attani Mindlink arrived in the Punishing One expansion in Wave 8 but because everyone has been so distracted by what Deadeye can do in Contracted Scouts, or what Lone Wolf can do in Dengaroo, I think the potential of Attani Mindlink has kind of gone under the radar a little.

The promise of what Attani Mindlink can deliver plays right to the core of many successful X-Wing strategies - it's action economy in the same sort of way as Push The Limit.  If any one of your ships takes a Focus action then everybody gets a Focus token, meaning they're free to do something else as well with their own action.  The downside is that any stress gets shared about as well so you have to be careful a]to avoid planning red maneuvers for multiple ships in the same turn but the payoff of that action economy is more than worth it.

I first ran into Attani Mindlink in competitive use just before the UK National Championships, with it appearing under the control of innovative local player Dan Sellen.  Dan had used Attani Mindlink as the glue to hold together a squad of relatively unfashionable ships - a Y-Wing, a HWK-290 and a StarViper.  Setting my elite TIE Swarm down across the table from this squad I had all but assumed the win was in the bag before a dial had even been placed in anger... a HWK and a StarViper?  Puh-lease, this is easy meat.  I did win that game due to Dan placing his StarViper in a bad spot on the initial engagement so I could kill Guri before she ever fired, but even after that great start the rough time I had chasing down his two remaining ships did enough to teach me that there was lot more to his squad than met the eye.

  • Kavil (Y-Wing) - Attani Mindlink, Dorsal Turret, Unhinged Astromech Plasma Torpedoes, Guidance Chips (32pts)
  • Palob Godalhi (HWK-290) - Attani Mindlink, Twin Laser Turret, 4-LOM, Cloaking Device, Stygium Particle Accelerator (32pts)
  • Guri (StarViper) - Attani Mindlink, Virago, Fire Control System, Autothrusters (36pts)

As well taking Focus actions Dan gets extra use of Attani Mindlink from either Palob or Guri's pilot abilities, giving him a ton of freedom about being able to take a lot of other actions instead/as well.  It means Guri is free to boost or barrel roll, or that Kavil can take a Target Lock for his torpedoes and still focus the dice up.  I've met Dan's squad again a couple of times outside of tournaments, not playing my TIE Swarm it must be said,  and been well schooled each time so I've developed a healthy respect for the list and the action economy of Attani Mindlink.  

Since seeing what Dan has been able to do with Attani Mindlink is has long been on my list of things I wanted to try out, especially with the Protectorate Fighter coming in Wave 9.  This is what I put onto the table when I got the chance...

  • Kavil (Y-Wing) - Attani Mindlink, Dorsal Turret, Unhinged Astromech Plasma Torpedoes, Guidance Chips (32pts)
  • Fenn Rau (Protectorate Starfighter) - Attani Mindlink, Concord Dawn Protector, Stealth Device (33pts)
  • Guri (StarViper) - Attani Mindlink, Virago, Fire Control System, Black Market Slicer Tools (35pts)
I replaced Palob Godalhi, with the brand new threat of Fenn Rau.  The intention of this list is to try and get in close and be as aggressive as possible, which suits me.  Fenn Rau, Guri and Kavil (with his Dorsal Turret) all get bonuses for being at Range 1 so get in close and just roll as many red dice as possible and punish the opponent.  

I immediately found it a powerful list but also an interesting one to play with as you have to plan ahead quite carefully to manage the best times to pull those red maneuvers and give everyone stress.  I opted for Stealth Device over Autothrusters primarily because there's not really much synergy between Autothrusters and Fenn Rau's desire to get right in the face of the opponent and found that extra green dice consistently useful considering how that I could get a couple of Focus tokens onto Fenn if need be.

It was a real blast to play, getting into point blank range and hurling all those red dice at your opponent, and when they were rolling back and I had five green dice and a free Evade?  I felt pretty safe.  Although I won most of my games with this list I did feel, though, that it was a step below the really great squads.  When Kavil found himself a long way from the fight he could take a long time to get back, especially to range 2 for the Dorsal Turret, and the limitations of Guri's dial were a little too much once I started getting stress every turn from Asajj Ventress in her Shadow Caster.

And then I saw the lists that were published for the UK Team Championship.

The UKTC (to shorten it) is going to be held 9th October 2016 and sees players forming teams of three players who each bring a team from one of the three factions.  One very interesting wrinkle about how the UKTC is organised is that they've required players to submit their lists in advance and then made them all public knowledge ahead of the event.  And this is what the former UK National Champion Jesper Hills is bringing to the table...
  • Fenn Rau (Protectorate Starfighter) - Attani Mindlink, Concord Dawn Protector, Autothrusters (32pts)
  • Manaroo (Jumpmaster 5000)- Attani Mindlink, Plasma Torpedoes, Unhinged Astromech, K4 Security Droid, Black Market Slicer Tools, Guidance Chips (36pts)
  • Palob Godalhi (HWK-290) - Attani Mindlink, Blaster Turret, Dengar, Cloaking Device (30pts)

Basically this is my squad list, but better, and really demonstrates that I'd taken Dan's original squad list in the wrong direction when I dropped Palob instead of Guri.  The Plasma Torpedo I had on Kavil reappears on Manaroo, and with her larger base and Barrel Roll action she answers the problem I had with Kavil getting separated from the fight because she's much faster.  She also carries the Black Market Slicer Tools that I placed on Guri.  The Dorsal Turret on Kavil moves over onto Palob in the form of a Blaster Turret, and Palob's ability to steal a Focus stands in for the extra Focus that Guri can gain at range 1.  

You can see all the ingredients that I had in my list except that they're moved around a bit and probably work that little bit better.  Manaroo and Palob both have abilities that work nicely with Attani Mindlink (you may not have realised that when Manaroo moves her Focus tokens at the start of combat it will trigger Attani Mindlink to give her a focus back) and they also disrupt the opponent's plans in ways that my Kavil/Guri list doesn't.

I'm going to be giving Jesper's version a try in the near future and will be paying close attention to how well he does with it in the UK Team Championship next weekend.  Attani Mindlink has the promise to be an excellent upgrade and if Attani Mindlink has got the attention of a player of Jesper's calibre when he could have played the likes of other Scum options like Dengaroo or Triple Jumps, or that of fellow 186th Squadron member and Yavin Open winner Andrew Pattison who had good success at UK Nats with the last iteration of this Mindlink list, then maybe it's going to herald the dawn of a brave new world!

Pacific Rim is still a shitty film, though.