Thursday, 26 October 2017

"It's True. All Of It." - FAQ 4.40

The new and long-rumoured FAQ is here (I've been holding off updating my Scum Buying Guide since June, because I was sure it was imminent at any point).  You can read the full FAQ here..

In among the usual batch of rules clarifications there are five major pieces of errata that seek to rein in some of the most dominant pilots and squads in the metagame.  So let's have a look at what those are and how they might impact things going forward.


Advanced SLAM

The major impact of this nerf is that you can't use your post-SLAM action to drop a bomb, and that hits K-Wings pretty hard.  Warden Squadron lists had gone anyway but this means they won't be back, but Miranda has been a major part of the metagame all year.  Missile-toting Miranda is fine.  Bomblet Generator Miranda is fine.  Clusters/Conners Miranda may be able to work with Experimental Interface to still bomb post-SLAM at the cost of a stress token.

Firstly, Miranda doesn't like to be stressed - her dial doesn't have much green on it and she's a bit of a sitting duck while she destressrs.

Secondly, though, I have to believe that the benefits of the perfect Cluster Bomb run are worth that stress token.  For me the single biggest question after this FAQ is how much it actually takes Miranda's precision bombing out of the game.  I think she can ride it out with a loadout like this...
  • Miranda Doni - Twin Laser Turret, Cluster Mines, Extra Munitions, Bomblet Generator, Sabine Wren, Experimental Interface (49pts)

Still a TLT, still regen, still bomblet Generator, still Sabine damage, still Cluster Mines and even still Cluster Mines after a SLAM if you need to.  Just the threat that you COULD slam-bomb is something the enemy has to deal with.

Plenty of other people seem to think that Miranda is dead, so maybe I'm wrong.  We'll see, though, and it seems to me like she retains 90% of her existing functionality.  Historically several strong lists and pilots have found ways to shake off a lot of nerfs that don't utterly nail them.


Speaking of nerfs that utterly nail them... wowsers.  The Genius nerf comes in two parts: you can't bomb token if you bumped, and you have to discard the bomb upgrade to do so.  

But you have to discard a bomb upgrade anyway, right?  What's the big deal?

You didn't have to discard Bomblet Generator to use Genius.  Now you do.  That's a huge crimp on the existing Nym builds, especially the Scum one which loved to just bash into opponents and drop bombs anyway then ignore the damage.  Captain Nym is resourceful and will return in new ways I'm sure, but the Genius/Bomblet combo was sickening and it's been very heavily nerfed.  Hurrah!


Attani Mindlink

Restricting Attani Mindlink to just two ships is a ~50% power reduction in most cases.  A three-ship list would get 2 bonus focus tokens, now it only gets 1 bonus focus token.  It's a big hit, even if it is flavourful (in the lore a Mindlink is a unique two-person bond).

We've come a long way from my first 'is Mindlink the next big thing?' blog to it getting a massive nerf and of all the nerfs on the list this is the one that makes me sad.  I'm so glad that the competitive applications of Mindlink are gone, because without a doubt it was too good, but I'm sad that it won't be available to help otherwise interesting but ineffective Scum builds get onto the table.  

I'll be fine with house-ruling this errata away in non-tournament games if my opponent wants to bring some janky Mindlink scum to the table.

Is Mindlink completely unplayable in competition now?  No, I don't think so and especially on ships like Guri and Palob who can get their focus token without using an action.  I can still see lists where you Mindlink two of the three ships, but you'll usually want those to be tough ships so the Mindlink benefit isn't broken as soon as your weakest ship goes down.

You can even almost still run Palobtanni with Palob and Asajj Mindlinked and PTL on Fenn (it's 101 pts with TLT on Palob).  I think we'll find that there is still a place for getting a free focus token for just a 1pt EPT, but no doubt we'll see it a lot less often.

Finally... if you're a scum player and down in the dumps about the Mindlink nerf then allow me try to shine a ray of sunshine on your day.  One thing Mindlink definitely did do was limit Scum squadbuilding options.  The benefits of Mindlink were so strong that it locked you into playing three Scum ships with EPT slots and decent dials, and that meant that a load of Scum pilots and ships were left sitting permanently on the shelf.  Because you were Mindlinking your whole squad there wasn't even room for them to sneak in as your third ship for a bit of variation, they just basically ceased to exist as options.  

Restricting Mindlink to two ships gives you back the license to play whatever you want as the third ship, and just in time for Thweek to arrive in Guns For Hire!


No Torpedoes.  No Astromechs.  Wow.

FFG have never ripped icons off the upgrade bar of a ship before, but never has it been more deserved.  After 18 months of squatting over the game in one form or other it's time to give people a break from Jumpmasters for a bit.

Are they basically dead in all forms?  Manaroo and Tel Trevura are done, I think.  Dengars pilot ability is still very good, though, and with Punishing one and the like Expertise and K4 Security Droid he can still deal damage.  I think Dengar really feels the loss of the astromech slot more than the other pilots do, as throughout his career Dengar has always leaned on his trusty droids to help him out, but it R5-P11, Unhinged Astromech, or Overlocked R4.  Rumour was that the Punishing One title would be errated to give him that astromech back and if that happens in the future then I think Dengar can be a real force, but until then he actually feels (whisper it) a bit overcosted.

Clearly NOT overcosted, though, is the Contracted Scout.  The Scout has lost the torpedo threat and it's lost the Attani Mindlink and R4 Agromech action economy, but you still undeniably get a lot for your 25pts when you buy a Contracted Scout.  With Intel Agent aboard it's still the premiere blocker in the game, and with Rigged Cargo Chute and Cad Bane it has the unique ability to 'sloop & poop' bombs and garbage out onto unsuspecting opponents.  Look out for crafty Scum players bringing a Contracted Scout as their third ship.

Biggs Darklighter


It felt like this could be coming.  When Lowhhrick arrived with Selflessness he felt to me like a Biggs replacement rather than a Biggs complement.  If I had to stick $100 down on a theory I'd suggest the playtesters had said you couldn't have Lowhhrick and Biggs in the game at the same time but the developers said 'we'll wait and see what happens'.  If that's the case then it's not really any coincidence that Paul Heaver jumped on the list at the first opportunity and made sure the Biggs/Lowhhrick combination was jammed down FFG's throat in a way they couldn't ignore.

Biggs goes from being a permanent shield over his team to having effectively a one-time 'Super-Selflessness' effect that protects his team for the duration of a combat phase.

There's three things to say about this change, I think.  Firstly this is a MASSIVE downgrade in what Biggs does.  Squads that previously spent the whole game trying to keep Biggs alive and hide behind his green dice (like Kanan Biggs) just don't function any more.  Biggs is going to take a massive hit in how much he gets played.

Secondly, he's still actually not that bad for 25pts.  A one-shot super-Selflessness is still a very good ability, especially in a squad that also has other damage redirection effects like Draw Their Fire, Lowhhrick, Rex, or actual Selflessness.  In short... I think a squad like Fair Ship Rebels is still actually pretty decent, and may even get slightly better in the metagame if the bombers are dropping out a bit.  Don't go ceremoniously shredding your Biggs Darklighter pilot cards just yet.

Thirdly, for the first time it really matters that Biggs is in a T-65 X-Wing.  His ability isn't going to carry him through the game s he just hugs his teammates close - he's going to have to sweat that dial and make his X-Wing deal some damage.  That also means this nerf might finally have opened up the chance for a proper X-Wing buff.  There's a missing SKU that we don't know about in the production run... we've had Force Awakens Han and Chewie to refresh the Millenium Falcon, maybe a release of The Last Jedi version of Luke Skywalker will refresh the T-65?  It's a hope.  

A New Hope.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

"So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause" - A first look at the Empire's new Gunboat

I've spent a long time resisting talking about previews and spoilers for upcoming expansions, just because I always fear that once you start down that path forever will it dominate your blog.  There's so much new content coming down the pipe that trying to blog about it all just winds up turning you into 'the new content review guy'.

The new Alpha Class Star-Wing expansion (hereafter referred to as 'the Gunboat') is going to be an exception because as the most hyped and long-awaited ship released since the Millenium Falcon in Wave 2, I know that a lot of eyes are on it.  It's come at an important time for the Empire as well, with Imperial fleets struggling in the current metagame.

So is the Gunboat the saviour of the Galactic Empire?


There's something I want to show you right away about these pilots...

The way that the costs ramp up on these things is one of the steepest curves of any ship, certainly of anything the Imperials have been given recently.  At +8 cost on the base Nu Squadron Pilot, Major Vynder is one of the few pilots to be costed more than +6 on base and that puts him in illustrious territory with the likes of Darth Vader, Soontir Fel and The Inquisitor.  Even outside of the top Imperial pilots Vynder finds himself rubbing shoulders with the likes of Fenn Rau, Dengar, and the PS9 Poe Dameron.

And Major Rhymer in his TIE Bomber, who has the dubious privilege of being the only pilot in the game to be costed at +10 on his base generic (if you ignore the unique case of the Outer Rim Smuggler).

I'm confident that Major Vynder's pilot ability is not on a par with the likes of Fenn Rau or Darth Vader's ability, and so I'm pretty sure Major Vynder is more like Major Rhymer and significantly overcosted.  You're paying a very heavy tax for the ability to SLAM at PS9 (with Veteran Instincts) and I think in most metagame environments that tax isn't going to be worth paying.  

I think Vynder's actually going to be a lot like Whisper's TIE Phantom, in that he's looking out for points in the fluctuating metagame when he's going to be the last person moving and thus able to leverage his SLAM into arc-dodging and extra damage.

It's a similar story as you go down the list: +6 pts on base price for Karsabi is the same you have to pay for Quickdraw, Captain Nym or Miranda Doni.  Is Karsabi's ability as good as theirs?  No, although the gap is maybe a bit closer.  The Rho Squadron pilot is at least priced in line with a lot of other 'Generic with an EPT' pilots, but then it's also worth pointing out that pretty much all of those type of pilots have been rotten.

What this pricing structure is telling us to do is to focus on the Nu Squadron Pilot.  Either it's the only one of the pilots costed appropriately and the others are overcosted, or (if you flip the argument the other way) the other pilots are costed appropriately and the Nu Squadron is undercosted at 8pts less than it's top pilot.  

Whichever version you like the sound of, it's the Nu Squadron that seems most immediately attractive to me.

I'm flat out very disappointed in the Gunboat's dial.  

I understood all along that the fact it had SLAM would be a limiting factor on how maneuverable it was, but I hoped that two years on from the K-Wing we might get something more adventurous.  I expected to see some powerful red moves on the dial, like a 3 K-Turn or Tallon Roll, or even a hard 1 turn (if the Upsilon Shuttle can do it, this can!).  

I wanted to see the developers playing with how red moves and SLAM interacted with each other, but no, we got it played very safe and just a small incremental improvement on the K-Wing.  Without the K-Wing's turret the Gunboat really needs ways of swinging its firing arc about and it's just missing the option to stress itself to get where it needs to be.

I think it's also possible that players are overvaluing the potential of being able to SLAM through 180 degrees and still fire.  In theory that's a bit like how a TIE Defender is able to pull a white k-turn and swing around it's guns, but in practice those SLAM turns throw your firing arc way off to the side and they do it in a very predictable way.  SLAM is going to be most valuable for rapid engage/disengage attacks and for enabling differing attack vectors for the opponent to worry about.  

Are you going to turn in tight to engage his front, or try to SLAM around the outside of an asteroid to hit him in the flank?

All told there's nothing wrong with the Gunboat's dial.  It's fine, I guess.  It's just... it's a bit boring.  Imperial players don't like boring dials.  The TIE Striker got to play around with s-loops on top of it's ailerons movement and it's fun, the Gunboat just gets the Wave 1 T-65 X-Wing dial.


The Gunboat's style of play is probably going to be heavily influenced by the two titles available to it, a lot like how TIE Defenders are driven by either /x7 or /D titles.

The OS-1 loadout emphasises more missiles, and it also allows you to fire them after a SLAM action has given you a Weapons Disabled token.  How good is that?  Well, I think the answer is probably 'not as good as you'd immediately think'.
  • Firstly if we're prioritising the lower PS Nu Squadron Pilot then you're faced with the age-old problem of how to move into target lock range without the opponent then either moving either into range 1 or out of your arc.
  • Secondly the OS-1 restriction on only firing on things you have a target lock on rules out some of the better options you could equip to sidestep that problem of target locking the right target.  Unguided Rockets, Proton Rockets, Deadeye and even Targeting Synchroniser are all things that won't help you out.  You'll have to do it the hard way.
  • Thirdly OS-1 naturally creates an expensive ship as you have to buy the title, and then the missiles.  If you're not using the cheaper pilots (in order to avoid all the problems already noted) then you're doubling down on the problem that Major Vynder is already overcosted before you even start loading him up with missiles!  You can make a threatening Major Vynder at PS9, but you're paying a lot to do so.

  • Finally, although the OS-1 title lets you fire a missile after a SLAM you're struggling to actually mod those dice and make them all hits.  The SLAM was your action so you can't target lock, but if you had Long-Range Scanners you could target lock the turn before then SLAM in and fire, though you wouldn't have focus.  If you have Advanced SLAM then you could focus, but you'd need to have target locked the target already without the help of Long-Range Scanners, and the same is true of Guidance Chips.  It feels like you need two mod slots to really make OS-1 count, and without them you're paying through the nose for missiles that you can't even use to their potential.

I don't like the OS-1 title very much, but I do like the XG-1 title quite a bit more.  Like the OS-1 title it lets you fire after you've SLAMed, but this time it gives you cannon slots to equip.  The only big problem is you're limited to firing with cannons that cost 2pts or less, but I imagine that's because having a swarm of these things whizzing about with Ion Cannons would have been deeply unpleasant to play against.
  • XG-1 is cheaper than OS-1, and the cannons you can fire when you've SLAMed are cheaper than missiles.  The XG-1 title naturally keeps your cost down while the OS-1 title naturally pushes it up.
  • The XG-1 title doesn't require a target lock to fire, so all those problems of range and picking the right target that will still be in your arc, which OS-1 suffers from, go away.
  • The big downside for the XG-1 title is that it just doesn't deal very much damage!  Instead of smashing people down with missile strikes you're tickling them with a Flechette Cannon or annoying them with a Jamming Beam.  Given that the Gunboat only has 2 primary red dice it really needs some added firepower and if you're planning on SLAMing then the XG-1 title doesn't give you that.  

There is an interesting 'third way' for the Gunboat, which is to use XG-1 but not worry about the SLAM-firing trick and just equipping a more expensive cannon, like a Mangler or Heavy Laser Cannon.  This concept buffs the Gunboat's red dice output, and with the HLC attached it's shipping damage much like if it had missiles.  The downside with this version is that you're not really making much use of the Gunboat's 'unique selling points' of the Reload and SLAM action, but it's certainly an effective-looking option.


I'm going to leave you with an example build for each of the Gunboat pilots which each address how I'm trying to solve the ship's problems (and I think the ship really does have problems).

Nu Squadron Pilot is a really efficient little points package, but I think it's problems are that it only has two red dice and whether you fit missiles or cannons it struggles to really take advantage of it's two unique actions: Reload and SLAM.

Missiles or Cannons.  Missiles or Cannons.  Missiles or Cannons.  Which to choose?

  • Nu Squadron Pilot - Harpoon Missile, XG-1 Assault Configuration, Flechette Cannon, Long-Range Scanners (25pts)

To my mind this is the best of both worlds.  Bringing a Harpoon Missile with Long-Range Scanners gives your Gunboat the opportunity to deal damage while pairing with a Flechette Cannon and the XG-1 loadout gives the option to both control with stress and stay on target with SLAM while still firing.  And because you're not trying to OS-1 SLAM & fire your missile you'll always be launching it with a Focus token for the dice mods.  The combo of missiles and cannons means your opponent will always be trying to guess whether you're trying to disengage with SLAM to reload more missiles or SLAM around to harass them with the Flechette Cannon.  

At 25pts each you've got the option to bring a squad of four of these (or subtle variations on this loadout) and that sounds like quite a powerful squad.

The Rho Squadron Veteran doesn't really let you fit four into a squad but it's nicely priced for running three.  I think the Rho's low PS means it suffers from most of the same problems as the Nu Squadron when it comes to running OS-1, but it can be a good spot to explore the Heavy Laser Cannon build.
  • Rho Squadron Veteran - Crack Shot, XG-1 Assault Configuration, Heavy Laser Cannon, Linked Battery, Long-Range Scanners (32pts)

This build likely flies quite a lot like the HLC Brobots do, sweeping in and out with SLAM setting up long range Heavy Laser Cannon shots rather than trying to stay on top of the target turn after turn.  With 12 heavily-modified red dice a squad of three of these has got some hard-hitting jousting potential, although I think it will struggle against opponents who can successfully manage their range, especially if they can stop the Gunboats from properly disengaging to bring their big cannons back around for another pass.

The three extra points you pay for Lieutenant Karsabi really only gets you one thing, and that's the option to avoid the post-SLAM firing restrictions of either XG-1 or OS-1 by taking a stress instead.  So the first thing we can say is that we're taking Karsabi because we expect to SLAM a lot, and the second thing we can say is that we're taking Karsabi because we're going to use weapons that don't really work with XG-1 or OS-1.  If you're not fulfilling both those requirements then take a Rho Squadron Veteran instead and save 3pts.
  • Lieutenant Karsabi - A Score To Settle, XG-1 Assault Configuration, Ion Cannon, Linked Batteries, Long-Range Scanners (30pts)

My big issue in building for Karsabi is that his abilities kind of drives me into loading up expensive weaponry (either Cannons >2pts, or expensive missiles) and yet I'm paying a premium for him already, which is why I've tried here to keep the rest of his cost down and use him as a frustrating control ship.  You're paying just 30pts for a frustrating Ion Cannon carrier who 'man marks' a more valuable opposing player out of the game.  You could use Mangler cannon or Heavy Laser Cannon for more damage, add Advanced SLAM for more dice mods, but the costs start to spiral quite rapidly.  A cheeky Cruise Missile might even be a nice addition if you've got the points, just to give him some teeth.

Finally, Major Vynder.  As I explained at the top of this blog I think you're paying a high premium for Major Vynder being able to SLAM reposition at PS9, so it makes sense to have a build that will leverage that strength.
  • Major Vynder - Veteran Instincts, Harpoon Missile, Extra Munitions, OS-1 Ordnance Configuration, Advanced SLAM (37pts)

High PS means you can SLAM and target lock something and be confident it's there to fire at so it's really supporting you going the missile route, but it also means you'll need Advanced SLAM to be able to take that target lock action.  I've included Extra Munitions just so that Vynder can double-tap his missile strikes back-to-back without having to run away and Reload half the time.  

37pts is expensive, and in a metagame of PS10 pilots and turrets the value of a PS9 SLAM is uncertain, both offensively and defensively, but if you're looking for the type of build that really maximises what Vynder brings to the table then I think this is it.


I wasn't one of the players who has been frothing at the mouth for the Gunboat to be added to the game, which means I'm hopefully able to avoid looking at it through rose-tinted spectacles.

My initial response was that it just wasn't good enough especially in a metagame dominated by high-PS bombs and turrets.  I don't think that's a particularly controversial statement to make because, to be honest, there's not many non-turreted ships that are good enough right now.

On further reflection I still think that most of the Gunboat builds have more weaknesses than strengths, but I have come to have a bit of respect for just how much you can cram onto a Nu Squadron Pilot for their cost.
  • Low-PS generic pilots aren't doing well right now.
  • Ships jousting with their primary firing arcs aren't doing well right now
  • Firing ordnance at low PS is awkward
  • Ships with just 2 primary red dice aren't doing well right now

But despite all those points against them maybe, just maybe, I can see them working.  That 25pt Nu Squadron Pilot build I made with the hybrid Harpoons & Flechettes... I actually wouldn't mind throwing four of those onto the table and seeing if they could go.  They're quick, they're pretty tough, and they throw stress tokens out to annoy aces.  The big question is whether they can reliably get their Harpoon Missiles off and actually kill things or just buzz around and annoy them.

I just wish the Gunboat had a more challenging maneuver dial, because I feel like even if they're good they're not ever going to be particularly exciting.   And that's a shame.

Monday, 16 October 2017

"Are we blind? Deploy the garrison!" - Escalating Murder H's

“…Sienar System's basic TIE fighter—a commodity which, after hydrogen and stupidity, was the most plentiful in the galaxy…” 
Corran Horn
I've been playing X-Wing for close on two years now (my first games came in the Christmas-New Years break in 2015) and yet for all that time it turns out that this past weekend was the first time that I've ever played anything other than the standard "100/6" (100pts, 6 asteroids) Deathmatch format.

I found out at quite short notice that my local store was having an Escalation tournament, and managed to quickly rank up enough Good Husband Points to be able to attend.  That gave me about 48 hours to work out an Escalation list!

For those unfamiliar, the rules of an Escalation Tournament are as follows:

  • You begin with a 60pt squad.  
  • After each round you add an additional 30pts to your squad.  We were playing 60-90-120-150 over four rounds of Swiss.
  • You cannot remove or move any pilots or upgrades between rounds, you can only add new pilots & upgrades.
  • You must field at least 2 ships (so entering round 1 with a 60pt Millenium Falcon is out)
  • Maximum 8 of a small ship, 4 of a large ship (so no, you can't play 11 Academy Pilots and Howlrunner!)

Having never even paid attention to an Escalation event before I was going to have to get up to speed pretty quickly.
  • Scum - the obvious reason to take Scum to Escalation would be Attani Mindlink and just let those free Focus tokens stack up over 150pts of ships.  Tentatively I worked out that I could open with Fenn Rau and Manaroo (32 + 28pts with Mindlinks), then step up to 90pts by adding N'Dru Suhlak and some toys for Manaroo, then maybe finish up the last two rounds with a Contracted Scout and Old Teroch.

The trouble with the Scum route was that I thought a load of people would be taking it, and anyway I didn't want to fly those guys.  On to the next faction...
  • Imperials - I quickly hit on a 60pt list that I really liked in Imperial.  I knew that Omega Leader would be fantastic in a game with fewer ships as his target lock covers a bigger % of their list, and either Quickdraw or Colonel Vessery would make a solid partner.  The trouble I quickly ran into was where to go with my squad from there. Escalation steps up in 30pt chunks but the strong Imperial aces are all 31-39pts (from Inquisitor up to Whisper) so it just seems like a poor fit for how Imperial squads would want to do it.  I could sidestep that by running a cheap round and adding the likes of Deathfire or Pure Sabacc to save points for a proper ace in the next round.  Alternatively I could bring proper aces in but compromise on their loadout somehow.

Whichever route I chose it felt like the Escalation format was forcing me to take some suboptimal Imperial choices just to match the 30pt steps, so I moved on to Rebels...
  • Rebels - the same logic that told me Omega Leader was great in a low points game worked to tell me that Captain Rex was good in a low points game as well - there's fewer enemy ships you've not stuck Suppressive Fire on, so you've nerfed a bigger % of their squad.  Captain Rex was cheap and that let me load up a pretty good Miranda Doni for the 60pt squad so it was looking good.  Then I realised that the 30pts limit that had crippled the Imperials was actually perfect for the Rebels.  I could add Lowhhrick in the second round, then Biggs, then finish the squad off with Jess and wind up playing Fair Ship Rebels with Miranda!

That was... that was just evil.  If I took that to a presumably pretty casual Escalation event I'd probably win it, but I wouldn't be having much fun doing so and I sure wouldn't be making many friends.

I couldn't bring myself to do it.

With time running out I want back to the drawing board... what did I want to fly?  I wanted to fly TIE Fighters.  Ok then, let's fly some TIE Fighters...

"Murder H's"

I really liked my opening round at 60pts, that was very strong with Omega Leader and a very dangerous Quickdraw.  I expected a lot of players to have some weak first rounds by bringing in some near-naked ships they wanted to upgrade with the second set of points in the second round, and I planned on taking advantage of that with a strong first squad.  The second round was probably my weakest, though, as I brought in Howlrunner and an Academy Pilot but didn't really have the numbers to take full advantage of her rerolls.  

The third and fourth rounds just ramped up my jousting firepower and Howlrunner value, and the objective would be to try and brawl my way through and deliver Omega Leader into the endgame.  If I could get lucky in my second round I felt like I could have a chance.

Time to put that theory to the test.

ROUND ONE vs Rob (Mindlinked Asajj & Inaldra)

This had worked out quite well for me.  Rob was probably my toughest opponent in the room so meeting him in my strong first round, when his Mindlink squad was just getting going, was perfect timing.  

But no, wait!  For reasons known only to himself the store owner had been sitting and chatting with two more X-Wing players instead of sending them over to the tournament, so seconds after revealing our first dials it was announced that the tournament was going to restart with the extra players in.  Curses, my favourable matchup against Rob disappeared up in smoke...

ROUND ONE vs Marcus (Ryad & Omega Leader)

It turned out that my initial suspicion that a lot of people would take Scum in Escalation was well-founded, and in fact Marcus and myself were the only players who WEREN'T running Scum & Villainy squads.  

I deployed Omega Leader up in an apparent joust with both Marcus' pilots then flanked with Quickdraw.  My plan of a 3 bank into the table then a 4-forwards Cruise Missile shot worked perfectly and Marcus' Omega Leader walked straight into it - target locking my own Omega then eating a Cruise Missile coming in from his side.  His TIE/fo limped away from that strike and died the next turn, leaving me two-on-one against Ryad's tanky /x7 TIE Defender.

A couple of good calls from Marcus saw Ryad keep pressure on my Omega Leader as I tried to disengage to restack his Evade and Target Locks, and I was lucky to finally escape around an asteroid.  Once I had escaped though, Omega Leader and Quickdraw soon swung back around with Ryad's predictable moves in their sights, and I finally took the win.

WIN: 60-0

ROUND TWO vs Rob (Mindlinked Inaldra, Fenn & Asajj)

The perfect timing of facing Rob when my squad was strongest had been flipped on its head and now I was facing him in my weakest round, when he had enjoyed a massive power boost by adding Fenn Rau!  This was perhaps Rob's strongest round because he wasn't far off the power level of a full Paratanni squad, just with Inaldra instead of Manaroo playing the role of the cowardly focus-stacker who sits at the back.

We deployed in opposite corners and I threatened to hare across the diagonal lane to hunt Inaldra.  This is where I think Rob made his big mistake and pushed Asajj too far forwards down the flank.  We've all been put into a tough spot by Asajj as she circles around the outside of the fight, but where Rob had taken her meant he had a tough choice to make - either continue to head round the flank but have to fly around the outside of the asteroid field and not contribute to the fight, or cut inside but be going head-on into the fight.

Asajj (ship removed) pays for getting caught up in the muddle
Rob cut inside and I made Asajj pay for that decision.  The first round of firing Omega Leader chipped away at Fenn, then on the second turn I bumped Asajj and laid into her with everything I had.  Some rotten green dice on Rob's part mean Asajj took a real beating and ran away with just 1 hull remaining, her arc facing the wrong direction and unable to move it due to both a Weapons Failure and a Damaged Sensor Array.

I spent a couple of turns failing to trap Fenn Rau before killing Asajj when she finally looped back around into the fight to finally take control of the game.

Uh-oh, I spoke too soon.  Over two turns I lost three of my ships as killing Asajj had let Fenn and Inaldra slip in behind me.  Now it was Quickdraw alone against Inaldra and the wounded Fenn Rau.  I slooped away from Fenn and fed him my Cruise Missile shot... that finished the Mandalorian off but Fenn stripped away Quickdraw's shields in return, then Inaldra chipped in another point of damage!

This was touch and go.  Two hull left on Quickdraw against an undamaged Inaldra.  One mistake and I could be wiped away.  It was going to be a knife-edge finish.

But I didn't make a mistake, and switching between rear arc and front guns made my flying unpredictable enough that I was able to shake Inaldra off my tail then spin round and deliver the final kill shot of a game that had swung back and forth throughout!

WIN: 90-56

That was two rounds played, and they'd both been some of my most enjoyable X-Wing I'd ever played!  
The 60pts round is a lot like cutting straight to endgame, with predicting your opponent's moves while being unpredictable in your own moves being hugely important.  The duel against Rob had been one of the most back-and-forth games I've ever had, from assuming I was going to lose to getting great dice and forcing Asajj out of the game, to suddenly being left with Quickdraw as my only ship and then duelling it out against Inaldra.  It was a game I'd won with a big sigh of relief!

ROUND THREE vs David (2x Trandoshan Slaver, Cartel Maruader, Jakku Gunrunner)

After sweating bullets to win my second round match this one turned out to be a pretty routine win.  Adding my first two Black Squadron Pilots gave me the firepower to dominate a heads-up joust against David's Scum squad, removing one of his Slavers before it could fire then ripping into the second one after I k-turned behind him.

If you ever play against a TIE Swarm... try to avoid doing this.
David threw me a curveball when his Spacetug Tractor Array meant Omega Leader flew onto a rock and the Cartel Marauder tried to pounce, but the rest of my TIEs rode to Omega's rescue and destroyed the Kihraxz.  The Quadjumper went on the next turn and the final Slaver was left with the full might of the Imperial fleet sitting in his rear-view mirror.

WIN: 120-12


ROUND FOUR: Marcus (Ryad, Omega Leader, Inquisitor, Carnor, Tomax)

I have to trust the TO's tale that Cryodex threw up a bit of a fit and gave Marcus and myself duplicate pairings for the final round.  It could be because Escalation rules meant we were playing an additional round of Swiss over what was required for the number of players, but whatever the reason I would be spending my final round up against the complete aces loadout of my first opponent.

Marcus' list really illustrated why I'd avoided the aces, because in packing in five big names to his list he'd had to make some big compromises in loadout.  Omega Leader was standard, Ryad now had Push The Limit, and Carnor Jax was pretty typical with PTL and Autothrusters but the others two were a bit more unusual.  Marcus was running Tomax Bren as a support ship with Fleet Officer and Cool Hand (so he handed out Focus tokens with Fleet Officer then gained an Evade thanks to the stress) and Inquisitor was loaded as a piledriver with Swarm Leader.

Misjudging the turn, Marcus has already removed my rash Academy Pilot
Marcus' squad may have been unconventional but I was nervous of jousting against so much firepower at a higher PS, and when we deployed in opposite corners and began an approach across the centre of the table my plan was to hang back just out of range then try and dash forwards to create blocks and disrupt all Marcus' action economy.  He was flying Ryad as his leading edge but then brought Inquisitor and Omega Leader up alongside... I'd misjudged my distance with the poor Academy Pilot and he got annihilated by The Inquisitor's 5-dice Swarm Leader attack, then I put the hammer down and we closed for the joust proper.  

This reminded me of that big mad dogfight in Return of the Jedi, with ships hurtling towards each other!
All I needed from this turn was to have most of my ships on the table when it came to my turn to fire, and with a little bit of fortune Marcus' dice turned cold at the right time and all but one my ships escaped unscathed, while we took out the big threat of The Inquisitor's Swarm Leader!

I had the boss position now...
That was the bit of luck I needed, and now I was able to k-turn half my forces behind Marcus' aces while blocking them up as they tried to maneuver away from my swarm.  Two turns later and somehow I had all my ships positioned behind all his ships, guns blazing as the aces frantically tried to evade the swarm of TIE Fighters.  

The one downside was that I'd managed to put damage on pretty much all of Marcus' ships but only the Inquisitor had actually died, then just as it looked like a window was opening up for Marcus to steal back onto the offensive it was over, with Carnor Jax, Tomax Bren and Countess Ryad all landing right in my gun sights and dying on the same turn.

It was all over.

WIN: 100-27

Four rounds, four wins, and it felt awesome to get the classic TIE Fighters onto the table - I'd genuinely forgotten how much I enjoyed their flimsy charms!  Real men don't need to bring more than 3 Hull and a change of underwear to a battle...

And it was some fitting prize support too, with my Crack Shot TIEs and Omega Leader winning me... some alt-art Crack Shots and Omega Leader!

Thanks to everyone who took part, it was a really enjoyable day and maybe I should be playing some more X-Wing that's not so slavish to the 100/6 in future?