Tuesday, 9 February 2016

"Watch Out For Ground Fire" - Taking the T-70s to a Store Championship

Hot on the heels of my little dabble with competitive X-Wing in my last blog, the Store Championship season came to town and it was time to step up the plate and test my mettle.  I was sticking with a 3x T-70 X-Wing list, as I'd played before, but in the intervening week I'd changed my list almost completely.

After my success of going 2-1 first time out I'd had another evening of playing against my mentor, Dan, in which I lost every single game.  Some by a small margin, some comprehensively, but as is always the case you learn much more from defeats than you do from victories and I had gained a new perspective on the weakness of my fast-moving squad of T-70 Aces: they needed to get lucky.  

Ok, well, maybe that's harsh.  They didn't get to get lucky to win, but they definitely couldn't afford to get unlucky.  By putting all my points into a couple of highly maneuverable pilots I was pulling off some flashy moves, but I wasn't really affecting the actual dice rolling side of the game that much and time and again it cost me games.  A small run of bad luck with the green dice... my ships exploded.  A small run of bad luck with the red dice and my ships wouldn't destroy any of my opponents... and then they'd explode.

With a following wind I danced around the table like a butterfly, stinging like a bee.  All too often those insect roles would be reversed, though.  Heading into a serious tournament I wanted to refocus a little and settled on a more steady list of T-70 X-Wings (after briefly flirting with bringing Wedge's T-65 into the mix), featuring a couple of characters you might recognise from my Beginner's Guide to the T-70 blog.

T-70 X-Wing
Poe Dameron / Veteran Instincts / R5-P9 / Integrated Astromech
(35 points)

T-70 X-Wing
"Red Ace" / Comm Rely / R2-D2 / Integrated Astromech
(36 points)

T-70 X-Wing
"Blue Ace" / BB-8 / Integrated Astromech
(29 points)

It's a budget version of Poe Dameron, leaving the Autothrusters on the side to play Integrated Astromech and save two points for elsewhere in the team.  That sacrifice enables me to bring in two solid performers: "Red Ace" is the most resilient T-70 build, while "Blue Ace" is arguably the most maneuverable and one of the best close quarters dogfighters available.

If all I do all day is face K-Wings and Twin Laser Turrets then I'm going to miss those Autothrusters badly, but if I avoid those then I'm almost certainly better for making the switch to better pilots without the Autothrusters.

In testing I really liked putting Lone Wolf on Poe but it makes the list 101 points and forces a compromise somewhere else, plus while Poe flying out on his own with Lone Wolf is very strong it did force me to run the squad in two seperate attacks or give up on the Lone Wolf bonus.  All told, Lone Wolf was set aside for the more traditional Veteran Instincts.

Round One: vs Andy ("Super Dash")

Andy was running the popular combination of "Super" Dash Rendar in his YT-2400, and Corran Horn's fully-loaded E-Wing.  This brings two tough ships to the table and basically his plan is to force you into trying to kill Corran while Dash Rendar uses his pilot ability to run loops around you, ignoring asteroids, picking you off with his unique 360 degree-arc Heavy Laser Cannon.

The Good News: I've played against this list before in practice, so I've a plan (I can't catch or pin Dash, so kill Corran).

The Bad News: I've lost every single practice game regardless of having a plan.

Andy set up on his right-hand corner with both ships while I was central and opposite with my ships.  I knew Dash held the advantage if we fought near asteroids so I wanted to take the fight into a clear area in the middle of Andy's side of the board.  On the first turn we both raced forwards, then arced in towards each other on the second turn and opened fire.  "Blue Ace" took a beating very quickly but limped on while I focussed all of my firepower on Corran Horn.  That focush paid off in the second round of shooting as I punched through his shields and dealt a very nasty Critical Hit - a Damaged Sensor Array that meant Corran couldn't perform any actions until it was fixed!

This was bad news for Corran as Andy's whose whole build is intended to maximise his actions with Push The Limit.  Without the ability to Focus and Evade the E-Wing becomes a pretty vulnerable target with nearly 50pts riding on just a measly few Hull points.

The crit was a big help but I still wasn't feeling too good about my prospects of victory  It was taking too long to bring Corran down and the damage from Dash's cannon was starting to add up... Blue had already sacrificed BB-8 to keep his X-Wing in one piece, and now Red Ace and Poe had taken a few hits too.  The good news was that the damage was getting spread around as I kept feeding Dash a different target each turn, but damage was damage and at this point a solid hit from the Heavy Laser Cannon could easily cost me a valuable ship.

Then Andy made his mistake.  Rather than continuing to turn Dash in his circular loop around the fight and keep up pressure on me, he turned away.  Those two rounds before Dash was able to swing back around and rejoin the fight were enough for me to finally kill Corran while he fiddled with his Sensor Array, then also time to reform my squadron and regenerate lost shields on both Red Ace and Poe.  It was now a full X-Wing flight vs a single YT-2400 freighter.

Pew, pew, pew!  Pew, pew some more!  Dash was done.

100-0... this X-Wing lark is easy!

Round Two: vs Vader/Soontir/Palpatine

0-100... this X-Wing lark is really hard!

This round I played against the resurgent Darth Vader in his TIE Advanced with the sexy new Advanced Targeting Computer from the Imperial Raider.  Accompanying the dark lord of the Sith was the cream of the Galactic Empire: Soontir Fel in his trademark Interceptor and the Emperor himself aboard a Lambda Shuttle.  It's a really solid list and annoying as hell to fly against: with the Advanced Targeting Computer and Emperor Palpatine the dice are constantly being subtly pushed to favour your opponent so you've really got to get lucky and have your own dice overperform to be fighting on an even footing.

I've practiced against this list as well and in the practice game I tried to take the Shuttle down first... that took too long, though, and with Vader and Soontir crawling over my back my ships melted away before the Shuttle went down.  But I had a new plan: Darth Vader must die.

He set up in a defensive position in one corner of the table and I raced straight at him, closing hard and focussing fire onto Darth Vader while Soontir danced away onto my flank.  Vader slipped away towards the middle of the table and my X-Wings struggled to follow him as I'd come in too hot and couldn't turn around easily.  While I jockeyed to reposition  behind the TIE Advanced I left my ass exposed and the Lambda shuttle crawled out of the corner and began taking shots with it's surprisingly-effective 3 red dice.

I stripped Vader's shields down in the next round... but it proved expensive as Vader had "Blue Ace" in his sights and a bad batch of green dice meant X-Wing exploded unexpectedly into a ball of flame.  "Red Ace" and Poe Dameron chased Vader into a corner while Soontir and the Lambda struggled to get around to help and I felt confident of evening the odds, but then in three rounds of two of my X-Wings unloading on the cowardly Vader I didn't deal a single damage to the shieldless TIE Advanced.  It was simply too hard to fight past the Focus and Evade tokens on top of 3 green dice AND the Emperor's insidious ability to manipulate the Force and flip dice his way.

So Vader lived to fight another day and now as Soontir Fel and the Shuttle rejoined the fight another round of truly awful green dice saw Poe Dameron evaporate.

"Red Ace" vs a fully armed and operational Palpmobile squad.  It didn't take long.


Round Three vs Chris (Falcon & two B-Wings)

Chris was bringing the venerable YT-1300 to the table, with Chewbacca in the pilot seat but a ton of extra firepower from bringing both Gunner and Predator as his Elite Pilot Talent.  Chewie was flanked by a pair of B-Wings with Fire Control Systems.  I'd played against something like this and wasn't that scared: I know my T-70s outclass the B-Wings, and if Chris had downgraded Han Solo to Chewbacca then I was confident I could outclass the YT-1300 as well, once the B-Wings were out of the way.

As we converged our ships into an enormous bumptangle(tm) in the centre of the board I rapidly destroyed one of his B-Wings and began removing shields from the second B-Wing to boot.  This was going precisely to plan.

But I'd miscalculated.  Yes I was right to not be scared of the B-Wings, but Chewbacca hit like a truck and my boys were in real trouble.  The combination of Gunner and Predator meant that he could roll his dice, reroll them with Predator to get a good score, then if I somehow managed to avoid taking a beating he'd just try again!  I'd definitely underestimated just how reliable Chewie was at dealing damage (at Range 1 he gets 4 hits 65% of the time)!

I'm not sure if it was a game-winning play from Chris or if I would have lost anyway: the turn after we had all bumptangled(tm) everyone into everything I was planning how were going to untangle.  It looked like Chris's moves were very limited - his B-Wing was bumped up against the side of the Falcon and would have to probably either 3 Forward or turn to the Left, either of which I could cover and finish it off.  His Falcon was also stuck with both Poe and " Blue Ace" in front of it and an asteroid as well - he'd probably have to scream forwards at full speed and just deal with hitting a rock.  I programmed my moves to follow him and... he just deliberately bumped both his ships so they didn't move at all!  That meant my ships, which were flying into the space I assumed his ships were going to vacate, also bumped up... disaster!  This meant no Focus for Poe, no target locks, no anything.

Trapped at point blank range against the B-Wing without his Focus token Poe Dameron threw his hands up in despair and simply exploded.  Trapped at point blank range against Chewbacca my "Red Ace" took a beating and lost the last of his shields then had to throw R2-D2 under a bus just to keep flying.  I made sure we untangled on the next turn and took down the B-Wing but as we disengaged to opposite sides of the board and lick our wounds it was clear I was behind - I needed to deal 12 damage to Chewbacca before he did a combined 5 damage to my two remaining X-Wings.

My one hope was to try and tie him up on an asteroid and unable to shoot so I flew a long loop around the edge of the table to put rocks between us, but Chewbacca could turn too tightly and his turret arc meant that he didn't even really need to bother with the asteroids.  Finally I realised I simply had to get lucky and turned my X-Wings in to roll the dice and see what happened... "Blue Ace" stripped Chewie's shields before exploding, then next turn "Red Ace" dealt 4 damage and left the Falcon close to death... before exploding.

Chewie hit like a truck in that game.   Like.  A.  Truck.   Autothrusters might have helped a bit in this matchup but probably just recognising that crucial bump turn was going to happen would have made the difference as the margin of defeat was so small.


Round Four vs Bob Dee (Corran Horn & 2x A-Wings)

It became rapidly obvious that Bob is a real veteran of X-Wing and has been to dozens, if not hundreds, of tournaments.  We had a really enjoyable game that really reaffirmed how much I'm enjoying entering the X-Wing community.  Unfortunately for Bob, lovely though he is, he was running a Rebel squad that he was rapidly losing faith in, which featured two heavily-loaded A-Wings and a compromised Corran Horn.

Green Squadron Pilot / A-Wing Test Pilot 
 Push The Limit / Juke / Proton Rockets / Autothrusters

That hefty A-Wing loadout came in at 29 points apiece for his two ships, leaving him just 42 points for a Corran Horn with R2-D2, Fire control System and Veteran Instincts.  Looking at a list I'd never played against before I decided that I was primarily scared of his range 1 Proton Rockets - if I could avoid those then I felt like his A-Wings were going to lack firepower and I could take his list down.

Setting up roughly opposite each other we screamed past at full speed, winging each other's ships but not doing any real damage, then both squads turned around for a second pass.  Screaming in again we traded my "Blue Ace" for one of Bob's A-Wings, while the other A-Wing lost it's shields.  Better yet, my ships came out of this pass in better positions and now "Red Ace" was right behind the second A-Wing and Poe was behind Corran Horn.

Bob did the only sensible thing... he ran away.  For the rest of the game.  "Red Ace" chased the A-Wing across the table but couldn't land the final point of damage, while Poe Dameron chased Corran Horn into another corner but couldn't get anything meaningful to land against Corran's high agility and his R2-D2 shield regeneration.

At the last minute I switched Poe onto the A-Wing to try and bring it down to claim a win but it was in vain and time was called with the score at 29-29 - Bob's A-Wing and my "Blue Ace" exactly matching each other in cost.  I'll claim a moral victory for having been the one chasing the win for the second half of the game, but unfortunately a moral victory doesn't actually get you any more points!

Across the table Bob was post-match dissecting his squad, and we agreed that he simply had too many points invested into A-Wings that spent most of the game running away because they're too valuable to risk in combat.  Neither Juke nor Proton Rockets had been of any use in the game, and if you remove those 14 points from the list then it could have been a whole Z-95 Headhunter and a pair of Crack Shot elite pilot talents instead, and then the game might well have gone differently.  But then, as Bob said, once you take the Proton Rockets away from the A-Wings you've no reason to be running A-Wings at all!  It was just a bad list, and I'd been unlucky not to claim a clean win.


Round Five vs Andy (Vader/Carnor/Palpatine)

Into the final round and fighting to finish in a reasonably place for my first tournament.  I had one last opponent standing in my way: Andy, who was running a slightly different version of the Imperial list that had crushed me in the second round of the day.  Fantastic.  As best I could judge it, Andy had traded Soontir Fel down to Carnor Jax and removed Darth Vader's Engine Upgrade in order to give him Predator over Veteran Instincts, and put a Tactician onto the Lambda Shuttle with Emperor Palpatine.  I was pretty sure these changes made his list worse, but I still needed to turn around a 0-100 drubbing at the hands of a similar squad so felt the odds were against me.

The first engagement, next turn we all bumped up in a big muddle of ships where Vader is now.
Andy started with the typical slow inching out of the corner from his Shuttle while I raced across the table, then on the second turn all three of my X-Wings converged on Darth Vader as I kept faith with my plan of targeting him as the weakest link in the Imperial list.  I managed to shake Vader up a bit but his return fire on "Blue Ace" was withering, leaving my X-Wing down to just 2 Hull after a single round of fire!

 "Uh oh", I thought, "here we go again".

The next turn I predicted he would try and create a bumptangle(tm) and hauled back on the throttle to give myself shots, while both Carnor Jax and Darth Vader bumped up against "Red Ace" and "Blue Ace" respectively.  I took more hits but didn't lose a ship, and now would come the critical moment as we attempted to unpick the tangle of ships with our next maneuvers.

Remembering how much I'd been blindsided by Chewbacca refusing to move out of a bump in the third round of the day I plotted moves that would, I hoped, frustrate his efforts to pin me down and instead put me in clean space... and it worked perfectly!
  • First to move: the Lambda Shuttle predictably shunted forwards but bumped into Darth Vader, going nowhere.
  • Second to move: "Blue Ace" activated a daring 3 Bank move that sent him around the far side of the shuttle, then his unique hard turn Boost action allowed "Blue Ace" to spin around and bring the tail end of the shuttle into his firing arc.
  • Third to move: "Red Ace" flung a Tallon Roll away to his left, putting him in position to sweep in behind wherever Vader and the Interceptor went with their moves.
  • Fourth to move: Carnor Jax made a slow turn into the space "Red Ace" had just left, and right inside "Red Ace"s firing arc.
  • Fifth to move: Darth Vader turned hard around the front of the shuttle and back towards his lines, now facing directly into both "Blue Ace" and "Red Ace".
  • Last to move: the one thing that hadn't gone perfectly - Poe turned hard but couldn't clear his move before bumping into the back of Carnor Jax.  He'd only be taking fire from the Shuttle, but it was Range 1 and he'd have to hope to get away with it.

After the 'bumptangle' resolved - Blue is behind the shuttle, Red has completed his Tallon Roll while Poe is behind Carnor.
Nobody died in the shooting that followed but those maneuvers of mine had set up how the rest of the game would unravel.  Andy's Lambda was now out of the fight as we scrapped behind it, Carnor was facing the wrong way with both "Red Ace" and Poe right behind him, and "Blue Ace" had come back around to ambush Vader and the Shuttle.  The thing is, I knew from bitter experience that Vader is like a cockroach that refuses to die so I didn't want to leave it to "Blue Ace" to get the job done, and this time Poe followed Vader around to make sure, leaving Carnor Jax to "Red Ace".

Sending Poe to help finish Vader off worked worked, and with a spectacular three blank green dice... Vader was down!

Better yet, the next turn saw Carnor Jax so desperate to lose "Red Ace" from his tail that he jinked onto an asteroid... and right square in the range 1 sights of "Blue Ace".  Suddenly Carnor was down too!

There's a TIE Interceptor-shaped hole right on that asteroid there.  Good shooting, Blue!
The Emperor ran (well, it's a shuttle, so if he ran then it wasn't running fast) and my X-Wings hunted him down.

You know that bit in "Revenge of the Sith" where Mace Windu has the Emperor at his mercy but gets distracted by Anakin and ultimately the Emperor turns the tables and kills the Jedi?  

Well that's not what happened this time.


After my drubbing against a similar squad earlier in the day I have to say that this result felt REAL good.  I'm sure Andy's list was worse for the changes he made, although I understood the choice of Carnor Jax because he was a bit frustrating in denying Focus tokens to Poe.  The triple-blank the saw Darth Vader removed was unlucky, but then he was down to 2 Hull with two X-Wings at point blank range behind him, so there were good odds that he was going down that turn.

Final Record: W2-D1-L2
Overall Points Score: 303-229


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I have never played and my son wants the game. I was unsure if I should allow him to play but I feel like it seems pretty harmless. Some of the games out there tend to scare me and make me concerned about how it might effect my child's brain development. They need more research here.

    Kourtney Heard @ Hansen Adkins

    1. I've been playing the game for a while now and would liken it to Chess (except that the pieces are more expensive). The game is easy enough to learn but requires a lot of effort to master. It has a fairly large following but I find the competitive environment to be far less toxic than other miniatures games.