Thursday, 22 November 2018

Herdy Gerdy - Reporting Back from 3rd at the Nerf Herder Open

Not too long ago I managed to snaffle some last minute tickets and go along to the 3rd Annual 'Nerf Herder Open', which had moved from it's usual home to my nearby store due to ever-expanding popularity.

The Nerf Herder Open is a UK charity event to support the children's ward at Hull hospital and each year it grows in size and profile, helped in no small part by the fact that it's last two winners have gone on to be crowned European and World Champions!  Two years ago it was George Dellapina who took the inaugural nerf herding crown, and then second time around it was Dellapina the Younger on his way to being the last 1st Edition World Champion.

Having outgrown it's original home the Nerfs had been Herded over to Element Games, and 132 of the UK's top players were in attendance to test their mettle in the first big UK event for Second Edition.  World Champs, European Champs, National Champs... Nerf Herder promised a stacked room of tough competition but also, as a charity event, a bit of a more relaxed atmosphere.  Perfect X-Wing conditions, in fact.

I'd recommitted to trying to get to more big X-Wing events for Second Edition so getting in at the ground floor for Nerf Herder was an opportunity I didn't want to miss out on!

And what did I play?

Wretched Hive / Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Pretty much 100% of the credit goes to Dan Slobodian for this squad.  After the Spanish Nationals weekend I happened to pop along to Element Games and alongside the locals who were busy trying to work out why the Spanish list was so good I felt like Dan had quietly already gone one further with his squad by managing to squeeze in four strong ships with only minimal compromises made.  The second I saw what Dan had on the table that evening I did a double take and the potential for a four ship Scum squad stayed with me long after I'd left.

Because I'm an awkward man I then spent the next few weeks trying out every possible combination I could think of to avoid playing Kavil and thus copying Dan's list slavishly.  For long time it was my trusty Scum Han in the Falcon, this time with Hotshot Gunner to cover the rest of my team.  If it wasn't Han Gunner then it could be Old Teroch, or Torani Kulda, or a cheap Guri, or Sol Sixxa, or Talonbane Cobra... a real strength of Scum is how many solid options there are!

The day before Nerf Herder the indecision became too much.  I threw in the towel and decided to play my Junkyard Falcon list after all, then headed out for a last evening of practice games.  It took about two hours to knock the Junkyard Falcon out of me.  Playing against a Scum list with Kavil I was just routinely getting hammered with four dice attacks every turn, and I just couldn't seem to leverage Nym's bombs the same way that I had done in the past.

Junkyard was out and Kavil was in.  I'd never played the squad with Kavil before so I was heading for a trainwreck... I'd just have to work it out on the table.

ROUND ONE - Matt Farr - Fenn/Teroch/Torani Kulda

Round One is brought to you by this gif...

Somewhere during the opening engagement against Matt going horribly horribly wrong for me I said something along the lines of "Yeah, I don't believe in this list at all.  Mechanically it's really strong but I don't think there's enough play in it to outfly people".

As opening statements go this one turned out to be a **teensy** bit off base.  Spin forward to 36 hours later and I'd tell anyone who was within 10 yards of me that the squad is really good and I completely believe in it, that it's mechanically incredibly strong and that once I found out where the 'play' was I spent rounds 4 onwards flying it pretty darn well.  But we're getting ahead of ourselves, now, and this is still round one.

It was a disaster.  Matt flanked Fenn in like a champ, Teroch stripped Palob of his tokens and then Torani Kulda did Torani Kulda things and I was rapidly down to just 4-LOM and Kavil against all three of Matt's ships.  Fortunately 4-LOM turned out to be a total hero and hauled me back into the game, repatedly bumping and stressing the Fangs while I got the last couple of damage onto Torani then turned my guns onto Teroch.

From being way way behind after the initial engagement I now had my two best ships trying to reel Fenn in as he wriggled on the end of the line.  Mist Hunter title probably bought me this win - it was critical in crab-walking to bump Fenn, and then later it allowed me to reposition and 1-turn to keep guns on Fenn while still keeping him in Range 1 of 4-LOM to sustain double-stress.


ROUND TWO - Richard Nicholas-Pearson - Fenn/Palob/4-LOM

Of all my games this one is the haziest and all I can do is piece together what I can tell happened in the couple of photos I got from the game.  

Richard deployed his team on opposite flanks but I was able to funnel Fenn Rau back over into the rest of his team then trap him in a killbox.  He went down fast.  His Palob got a little bit separated and I just ground his 4-LOM down before rounding the remainder of my squad to finish off the HWK.

I think this one was pretty straight forward after I managed to scare Fenn Rau away from exposing my flank, but I seem to remember Richard wasn't happy with his green dice so maybe that made it a lot easier than it should have been?  Like I said, I'm really hazy on this game.


ROUND THREE - Anthony Horstead - Wedge/Luke/Jan

Out of 9 rounds of X-Wing that I played at Nerf Herder Anthony was the only opponent I faced who wasn't running Scum - he was also the opponent who most deserved to beat me, even including the semi-final that I actually lost!  What I hadn't noticed before starting this match was that Anthony was sitting atop the standing table with a massive MoV of 741.  If I'd clocked that I might have been a little more cautious about just laying it all out for him on the initial engage for his X-Wings to alpha strike me in the face.

TBH that's being a little unfair on myself.  I was actually super-cautious about his alpha strike potential and very aware that Kavil would be struggling to get his target locks onto Luke or Wedge.  In approach I played it very cagily and kept my distance for a couple of turns,then when I judged the moment was right, and that I didn't think Anthony had seen the potential for it, I Advanced Sensored a Barrel Roll from 4-LOM then 3-banked him into a blocking position right in front of Anthony's X-Wings.  The medium base had actually thrown me across & forwards more than I expected and I was right up there blocking his big straight or banks that would have seen him racing in for the target locks... the positioning was fantastic.

Artists Impression
Then Anthony revealed a 1 Forward, Luke rolled in half a centimetre from 4-LOM's face, Wedge hopped in behind, and 4-LOM took 12 red dice to the face and was dead before he even knew what had hit him!

The game descended into a fierce brawl and I gave as good as I got, but without 4-LOM's knife-fighting skills I was behind the entire way.  That lasted right up until the last turn of the game, when Anthony's untouched Luke traded Proton Torpedoes with Kavil to wipe my Y-Wing off the board but take 3 damage back, then blanked out when my stressed Jakku Gunrunner rolled 3 natural hits at range 1.  

Luke went from hero to zero in two shots and I'd won.  By sheer goddamn raw brawling power and with an utterly enormous slice of luck.  But I'd won.


ROUND FOUR - Robert Ramm - Drea/2xSkull/2xJakku

Robert Ramm was part of the UK's all-conquering team at the recent European Team Championships and although he hailed from a neighbouring store - Harlequins just 50 miles up the road in Preston - I'd seen his Drea-fuelled squad tearing it up on the Element Games stream a couple of times.  I was pretty happy about the matchup as the Fang Fighters he's relying on are made of papier mache, but given how I was only on 3-0 by sheer blind luck I was ready for my run to end.

It didn't, and in the approach I formulated to this match - a variation on the plan that had almost worked in the last game - I found my secret formula for how to fly my squad.  I slow-rolled my way out of the corner, and when I say I slow-rolled I mean I slow-rolled.  Right down to dirty tricks like barrel-rolling 4-LOM in behind the Quadjumper then reversing the Quad back onto him while the HWK stopped, I just waited and waited and waited - I wanted it to be Rob's Quadjumpers that were in the rocks and I definitely wasn't going to be flying into there to go and get him!

Rob obliged me, fronting his Quadjumpers up through the rocks while the Skull Squadron pilots tried to flank my corner-hogging position.  Judging the right moment I stopped my slow-roll and leapt forward into an engage, to decisive effect.  A Quadjumper melted to no effect and the next turn I bagged a Skull Squadron Fang that got all tangled up in all my control effects - range 1 of 4-LOM, range 1 of Palob.

With the fight happening in the right place, and in a tight mass where all my control effects were active and my lack of speed wasn't a factor, it was incredibly one-sided.  I think Rob was another opponent who felt like his green dice betrayed him but I think the way I'd been able to force the engage meant I was a strong favourite to win regardless of the dice.

After three rounds where I felt I didn't deserve to be on 3-0 everything had finally clicked for me in round 4.


ROUND FIVE - Ian Kafka - Boba/Teroch/Palob

You can watch the whole of this match on stream at First Earth. 

Looking across at Ian's squad I was mostly happy with the matchup.  By this time in the tournament I had faced enough Fangs to know that Teroch wasn't going to be a problem, and I know I can maul Palob down.  Boba was going to be my problem but I decided not to waste much energy worrying about him at first - I was going to focus on getting to the point where I could go after Boba and that meant Teroch was my big problem.

I deployed with a similar formation to the one I'd used successfully in my game against Rob Ramm but advanced a bit faster, especially with Kavil.  This was a bit of a repeat of my first round, when Matt Farr had threatened to flank with Fenn and I'd pushed him back into the rest of the squad.  This time I used Kavil to bully Teroch off the flank and back into a killbox next to Boba.  Rather than keep running with Teroch Ian finally cut back in to get his guns online for the engage, but unfortunately that meant Teroch ate a big Proton Torpedo shot from and then Palob and the Quadjumper finished him off.

Although I was really happy with how I'd executed my plan and bullied the table for the opening engage it's about here that I have to say that Ian's dice made the rest of the game completely farcical.  Everything I threw at him landed with crits while Ian couldn't have rolled an Evade if you gave him 100 dice.

With Teroch gone I swung all my guns onto Palob and the HWK went down in a hail of laser fire on the very next turn.  Boba tried to make a game of it but there's only so many times you can reroll blank evade dice into more blank evade dice and stay on the table.


ROUND SIX - Geoff Ball - Boba/Palob/2xJakku

This final round saw me paired against my friend Geoff, who was just as surprised to be on a 5-0 record as I was.  With qualification for the Sunday already locked down we had very little to play for other than a theoretically 'better' matchup in the Top-16 tomorrow morning.  Even though we were technically table 1 in a prestigious tournament this game played out a lot more like beer & pretzels X-Wing than you'd maybe expect considering the occasion.

And anyway, it didn't take long.  My slow roll opening carried me halfway across the table then Geoff backed up his Quadjumpers to try and range control the engagement and I saw my opportunity to leap forwards.  It worked perfectly for me - Geoff's Palob was caught way out of position trying to flank where my slow-moving squad used to be and I pounced on his Quadjumpers as they moved forwards again to clear their stress.

I smashed into Geoff's disorganised squad like a sledgehammer, annihilated his Quadjumpers and then tied Boba up with bumps, tractors and stress.  It was massacre and my cleanest win of the day as I only gave up half points on Kavil in return for sweeping Geoff off the table.


TOP-16 - Phil (X-Wing Dad) - Boba/Fenn/Unkar

Before I headed home on the Saturday I found Phil and we traded the short form version of what we were playing - I knew his pilots and he knew mine but we didn't share the complete squad lists.  After spending Saturday despatching Fangs, Firesprays and Quadjumpers in various configurations I hadn't lost much sleep over what Phil would have in store for me.  It's X-Wing so you can always lose any given game and we were in the Top-16 of a big tournament so I knew that none of my opponents would be slouches, but there was nothing in his squad that I hadn't already beaten a couple of times already.

That it was such a familiar opponent meant I could deploy and approach an engagement just doing what had already worked so well in rounds 4-6... and it worked again here.  The Fangs and Quadjumpers are just so scared of the damage and control I can kick out - especially Kavil's big range 3 Proton Torpedoes arc - that I could just bully the table and force Phil into responding to my moves.  Kavil once again hared up the flank as quickly as he could (which ain't that quickly, but seeing as the rest of my squad are tortoises too it's all relative), and that ultimately forced all Phil's ships to turn away and run.

To be honest I think this had probably been Phil's plan all along - in running away he was baiting me into the rocks and Boba's rear arc - but it also been my plan too and the way it worked out put me in the box seat.  Phil's Unkar Plutt comes with Contraband Cybernetics that allow him to put in a second turn of tractor beam shenanigans after either a sloop or reverse, but against me Unkar used his Cybernetics to just throw a second reverse move trying to get away from Kavil's big gun.  It was only a temporary reprieve, though, and once it had burned its illicit charge the Quad had to come forwards and meet its fate anyway.

In turning Fenn and Boba away into the rocks Phil had passed up on dealing a lot of damage.  I fed him 4-LOM to Boba's rear arc and was certainly fortunate to get away with only losing 2 shields (I think I got 3 natural evades on 4 green dice), but that was a beating I'd been prepared to sacrifice for the table position and now Phil was down to 2 ships while I'd only only lost 2 shields.

My guys regrouped then turned their control effects on Fenn and once again I demonstrated that I've just got too much nasty stuff for the Fang Fighters to deal with.  They don't like tractor beams, they don't like having Palob steal their tokens, they don't like taking stress tokens, and they don't like being hit with fully modded Proton Torpedoes either.  

Fenn wriggled and squirmed but was likely a dead man walking long before an unlucky Disabled Power Regulator saw him Ioned onto a rock for lethal damage.

That left Boba Fett and although I'm sure I would have won from the position I was in it was made into a formality by Boba's dice once again crapping out.  That Phil's game ended to taking four damage from a Fuel Leak-Direct Hit combination of crits after rerolling blank-focus green dice into blank-focus just sums it all up, really.


TOP-8 - Colm Browne - Drea/3xKimo/L3-37

It's not really possible to look at Colm's list and not think "OMG that fits?".  He gets three big bruising Kimogilas with Drea Renthal providing them rerolls.  That's all fine... that he gets an Escape Craft with Tobias Beckett on top as well???  Jeez.

I was not looking forward to this game at all.  In case you've not done the maths yet there's 39 hull sitting across the the table from me, and those bullseye arcs will put an end to Palob and his token stack pretty darn quickly.  And on top of that those 3 Kimos take up a massive amount of table space and can be so hard to fly around.  The one downside I know they've got is that the Kimo's are super-clumsy and can't turn for toffee.  It's a weakness I've watched other squads expose, but not one that my squad of geriatrics are likely to be able to take advantage of.

Bowing out against a good player in bad matchup in the quarter finals isn't a bad way to go. 

But what do we say to the God of Death?

"Not today."

Tobias Beckett gives Colm control over most of the asteroid placement and he built up a diagonal wall that boxed me into the corner I deployed in while he had all the space in the world to plan his approach and maneuver his big hogs.  I responded by going back to my ultimate turtle opening and baiting him as far forward as possible so the rocks would interfere with his k-turns after the initial engage.  While that occupied 4-LOM, Palob and the Quad I sent Kavil out on a mission to get in around the flank of the Kimo's.

After a cagey opening and some careful positioning from both Colm and myself, the battle lines were drawn...

...and then the dice meant I won.

TBH I think I got my side the engagement spot on while Colm fluffed his a bit and managed to bump a couple of his Kimo's on the first turn of firing while Drea was out of range of providing rerolls.  But even so, the fact that after two rounds of firing I'd killed one Kimo and badly wounded a second at the cost of only losing 1 shield token was better than I could reasonably expect.

The second Kimo went down then I turned on Drea and Colm had seen enough, conceding the game before it unraveled any further.


SEMI-FINAL - Adam Shipley - Boba/Palob/2xJakku

You can watch this game in full on the First Earth stream.

I'd beaten basically this same squad 200-26 when I played Geoff at the end of day one.  While I was playing Adam the same matchup was being played out in the other semi-final, where Dan Slobodanian also rapidly mopped Geoff up.

I lost this game, though, and the reason I lost is mainly because I screwed up enormously.

The opening engage was really favourable for me - Kavil got brutally hammered and was lucky to live but I got right in among Adam's ships and destroyed Palob and a Quadjumper.  The first pivotal thing that went wrong was I failed to kill his second Quadjumper as it responded to all my best attacks with pure natural Evades.

The second pivotal thing that went wrong was that, with the Quadjumper still on the table a turn longer than expected, I was completely blind to the threat that he was going to walk Palob off the board with his tractor beam.  How blind was completely blind?  Blind enough that I would move my own Quad into the perfect position to tractor Adam's quad into a harmless spot and instead just give it a tractor token and didn't move him.  Palob was forced off the board and at the time I felt like it had been inevitable, but watching the stream back I had every chance to stop it.  Crap.

It changed the game.  With Palob gone and Kavil almost dead the points were suddenly really close and although neither Adam nor I took time to properly work them out we both came to the conclusion that Adam was probably slightly ahead on points, but we didn't really appreciate just how delicate the balance was.  

Maybe in the semi-final of Worlds we'd have played differently but Adam and I both chose to go out on our feet by hurling dice.  When he was ahead he chose to leave Boba in range and kill Kavil rather than run away, then when I was ahead I chose to press ahead and go for the kill rather than slam on the red stops/reverses and take the win.  My naked aggression cost me the win as a damage from an asteroid was the difference in Adam taking half points from my Quadjumper.

In the end a paltry 5 MoV decided a game that should never have been close as I should still have had all 4 ships on the table.  

My winning streak was at an end.


Justice was done eventually though, as the originator of my squad, Dan Slobodian, went on to crush Adam in a joust-off in the final to secure the Nerf Herder trophy for our Scum squad!

You can hear both myself and the Nerf Herder champion Dan Slobodian talking about the event and our squad on the latest 186th Squadron Podcast.  Well worth a listen!

3rd Place in the stacked room of UK luminaries? Very happy indeed, and big props to Dan Slb for both winning the thing and for feeding me his potent squad creation. Thanks also to Carl Walker and Tim King for creating and organising and running this fantastic event (and raising some stonking cash for charidee) and making the difference in raising £4,000 for the hospital!

I had a great time, I chatted to a lot of people who've only ever really been names next to profile pictures online up to now, I played some great games, and I lost an incredibly close game... what's not to like? Overall did far far better than I expected considering that I was playing a squad I'd never played before round 1 on Saturday morning.

Except, I realised overnight that I had played it before... that combination of pilots was actually one of my 'Wretched Hive' casual lists in 1st Edition. The rules of Wretched Hive were there had to be four named Scum pilots and none of them could be 'good', so in 1.0 that meant it looked something like this...

Wretched Hive 1.0
  • 4-LOM (27)
  • Palob Godalhi - Attani Mindlnk, Dorsal Turret (24)
  • Unkar Plutt - Spacetug Tractor Array, Primed Thrusters (20)
  • Kavil - Attani Mindlink, Synced Turret (29)

So in the conversion to Second Edition the list gained:

  1. 4-LOM buffed (action economy, extra hull, better dial)
  2. Palob buffed (2 dice basic turret, Jam, boost etc)
  3. Jakku Gunrunner buffed (can move Medium bases)
  4. Kavil buffed (dice out of front arc, better dial)
  5. FREE Moldy Crow token-stacking title & 3 dice main gun
  6. FREE Han Solo action economy
  7. FREE Advanced Sensors
  8. FREE Mist Hunter title
  9. FREE Proton Torpedoes with Extra Munitions

That's a lot of buffs and free gear!

The one big takeaway for me from my deep run into the tournament with the Scum list is that it felt incredibly forgiving... like a Paratanni level of being able to shrug your shoulders when bad things happen and just win anyway.  I said in my interview after round 5 on stream that the list had pulled me to 3-0 and that's completely true: I was awful with it and it just refused to lose.  Round 4 onwards I basically shouldn't have lost because I worked out how to play it, and the only reason it wasn't a mirror match final was because I threw my semi-final away with a major mistake.

Remember us?
We used to complain about how Attani Mindlink meant you were able to get actions even if you got bumped or stressed or whatever - ss long as one ship got free everyone was ok.  In this list everyone is self-serving that sort of thing.  Palob is stacking his tokens up in advance and still steal tokens, Kavil can turn any direction to clear stress and still get focus and an extra dice on his attack, 4-LOM with Advanced Sensors can't be stopped from taking 2 actions and passing you a stress.  Yeah Kavil and Palob have rotate arcs not turrets, but so long as you're halfway planning ahead that's still getting you shots 90% of the time.

It's really, really dirty.  One list shouldn't be able to joust this hard, have this much action economy, this much toughness, this much control AND be resilient to opponent's plays.  Playing Kavil felt like playing Attani, playing 4-LOM felt like playing Commonwealth Defenders... overall it just felt like I had too many advantages.

Come January I expect this list to cost over 220 points and you have to give up the Quadjumper. 

Until then I, for one, welcome our new Scum overlords!

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

"They hate this ship!" - Junkyard Falcon @ Element Games - 29/9/18

This past weekend I returned to my local battleground of Element Games in Stockport, UK for the second wave of their launch celebration events.  There's no prizes as such on offer other than bragging rights from another early opportunity to butt heads with some tough opponents as the standard in the store is pretty high with several of their local team the Sith Takers having some international X-Wing success as well as domestic.

I was still playing my Junkyard Falcons list but had, in fact, not played a single game with them since the last time I was at Element just a couple of days after release.  I'd made a couple of minor tweaks since then by dropping the Rigged Cargo Chute from Han Solo to add in 4-LOM crew and a Crack Shot on Captain Nym.  My squad looked like this...

Junkyard Falcon
  • Han Solo - Trick Shot, 0-0-0, 4-LOM, Greedo, Lando's Millenium Falcon
  • Captain Nym - Crack Shot, Dorsal Turret, Proton Bombs, Seismic Charges, Trajectory Simulator, Genius, Havoc, Hull Upgrade
  • Palob Godalhi - Elusive, L3-37, Moldy Crow

The two cards that came in to replace Rigged Cargo Chute had the following logic:
4-LOM - Han spends a fair bit of time looking for a big 4-5 dice attack to really punish the opponent, but when he's throwing lots of dice it's frequently the case that the opponent is throwing a lot of green dice as well as the shot is obstructed and often R3.  4-LOM allows me to turn off some of the dice mods on those green dice and push more damage through when the opportunity comes up.
Crack Shot - there's no logic for Crack Shot, it's probably awful and I should just have upgraded Nym's Hull Upgrade to a Shield Upgrade.  Unfortunately you only get 9 shield tokens between the Core Set and Lando's Falcon and a Shield Upgrade would mean I have 10 shields in my squad.  So screw it, I'll try Crack Shot out even though I'm pretty sure Traj Sim means most people are staying well away from sitting directly in front of Nym anyway.  
Otherwise the list is unchanged as my main lesson from last time out was that I just needed to stick to the plan and not waste Han on some damn fool idealistic crusade.  I really wanted to prove that this was better than a 3-2 squad!  

My big concern, though, was that the rest of the Element guys would have been getting in plenty of game time and the metagame would have stepped up while my list was essentially unchanged.  I'd been fortunate enough to play against a bunch of aces on my first day there but if they'd moved on to bigger and tougher ships then my bombs would be devalued and it would be a lot tougher going.

ROUND ONE - Jack Mooney
(Whisper, Captain Jonus & 2x Scimitar Bombers)

Well if I wanted a tough start to the day it couldn't get much tougher than facing Jack Mooney, who was top 4 at Worlds a couple of years ago and routinely goes very deep into massive X-Wing tournaments.  That habit of being very good at X-Wing includes the System Open that saw Jack qualify for Coruscant and he was at Element for some last minute practice before he flew out to FFG HQ.  Jack had been talking to Tom Reed to prep for Coruscant and I recognised this list as what Tom had played against me on release day, so I knew it was a tough opponent.

My main objective in approaching Jack's squad was to use the threat of Nym's bombs and Palob's focus-stripping to neuter the Bomber's joust, and to be honest that worked absolutely perfectly.  I hurled Nym forward and tossed a bomb out the front, then slow-rolled and threatened to send a second bomb into Jack's formation if he continued his joust and actually engaged.

That threat was too much for Jack and he banked away to head down the flank, but I'd called that play too and Nym rolled right in behind the fleeing bombers.  Meanwhile over the other side of the table Han had sucked Whisper into an engagement then left her in his dust.  For the time being both Han and Whisper would have to work hard to get back into the fight than that left Jack's bomber formation exposed.

The only thing that had really gone wrong for me was that Palob was now stuck following Nym around the battle and so he kept bumping, which meant his front arc never got into the game and he was always plinking away with his Dorsal turret.  That made actually killing the TIE Bombers really slow going, but as they were trapped like fish in a barrel down the flank I at least had time on my side.  Captain Jonus went down first, then as time was ticking down on the round I had one Scimitar Squadron Pilot with 1 hull left and one with half damage on him.

That was the good news, the bad news was that Whisper had caught Han in his sights as he tried to come round into the fight and the Falcon was now badly limping too.  In the final round of combat the Falcon exploded to the very first Barrage Rocket I'd let Jack get off all game, while I was unable to peck an extra damage point onto either of the Scimitars in return.

It had been a game that we both agreed Nym had bullied the entire time and yet as we counted MOV up it turned out I'd lost!  Killing Jonus and only getting half points on one Bomber wasn't enough to offset the loss of the Falcon as all of Jack's points were tied up in his really expensive Whisper, who was still in pristine condition.

LOSS 59-68 (Dead Han)

Except, of course, I'd actually won.  We messed up counting the MOV and I should have scored half points on both the remaining TIE Bombers instead of just one of them, which would have made the score 76-68 in my favour.  I didn't think of that until two days later. Doh!

As it was I headed down into the loser's bracket, although I was still very happy with how I'd played and felt like a little bit of better luck would have seen me win the game clean by taking off one of the Scimitars.

ROUND TWO - Kris Main
(BBB & Kyle Katarn)

So remember how at the top of the day I said I was worried about running into ships with lots of hull?  Well here's three B-Wings with Hull Upgrades.  Well, this was a steak that was going to take a lot of chewing.

Fortunately for me I think Kris wasn't quite up to speed on Second Edition squadbuilding and he'd made a few mistakes, most notably loading his B-Wings up with Predator and Tractor Beams instead of giving Kyle Katarn his vital Moldy Crow title.  He also seemed inordinately scared of my bombs considering he was running big chunky B-Wings and Nym was able to split his formation in two by pinning a Seismic Charge between a couple of asteroids.  That made life a lot easier and I was able to chew through a couple of B-Wings before the other two ships really made it back into the fight.

Even so, it was taking a good long while to actually kill all these things and it was only in the last rolls of the day that I managed to clear the third B-Wing off, then fell 1 damage short of killing Kyle to make it a clean sweep.

WIN - 178-28 (Half Palob)

ROUND THREE - James Clark
(Howlswarm & Sloanebus)

The Sloanebus (Admiral Sloane on a Lambda Shuttle) grabbed a lot of people's imagination after it did so well at the Gold Squadron Classic last weekend so there was a couple of players here running variants on this idea, with James preferring to bring a couple of Crack Shot TIEs instead of a third named TIE like Gideon Hask (my preferred version).  After the very carb-heavy meal of B-Wings in my last round I was happy to have a bit of a TIE salad as a palette-cleanser and this played very squarely into the bracket of 'things I should be able to beat'.

It was a third game on the bounce that was decided by Captain Nym forcing my opponent into abandoning a joust.  James' TIEs turned away from an initial joust to scoot along his back line, leaving Sloane's shuttle without fighter escort.  That played nicely into Nym's hands and he planted a Seismic Charge between two rocks to discourage the TIEs from turning in on his flank, then turned to rip into the Lambda shuttle with help from Palob.

With her TIE escort k-turning themselves into a mess as they tried to adapt to Nym's switch in direction Sloane's shuttle melted in two turns of fire and I was well ahead.  

As Howlrunner and her TIEs finally scrambled back into the fight I was waiting and began to pick them off.  I was so comfortably in charge that I was able to count coup a little bit and took the opportunity to show off by damaging a third TIE to just one hull left rather than killing Howlrunner.  James was surprised by my play but I did it knowing full well that I could wrap up 3 damaged TIEs with one Genius-placed Proton Bomb on the next turn.

Captain Nym beats TIE Swarms.

WIN - 200-37 (Half Nym)

ROUND FOUR - Mike Wilson
(BBK & Kyle Katarn)

This was like watching evolution in action as pretty much the same squad I had beaten in Round Two came back around in an improved form in Round Four.  Gone were the wasted points on unneccessary upgrades that I'd seen earlier, and in their place came the fantastic Moldy Crow title and a crafty Warden Squadron Pilot with Barrage Rockets, bombs and Sabine Wren crew.  This would be another test of my squad's ability to eat through a lot of tough ships before they could bring my team down.

It turned out that also gone this time around with that Kris' reluctance to just plow on into my bombs had been replaced by Mike being prepared to just take it all on the chin with his B-Wings and wade into a fierce brawl.  This was a new experience for me as most of my opponents have chosen to duck away from Nym's bombs but fortunately I had planned ahead for this and was ready to take advantage.  Han Solo had spent most of today watching from the sidelines as Nym and Palob cleaned up but in this game Mike's play brought Han right into the mix as he scooted in close to the melee to hurl all his red dice into the B-Wings through the rocks.

There had briefly been some B-Wings down at the bottom of this picture...
That added concentration of firepower on my part made all the difference to how quickly the B-Wings went down.  When other opponents have ducked away from Nym's bombs it's also meant them ducking away from focused firepower and it's created slower games where I get a strong tactical position but have to whittle targets of opportunity down as I can.  By heading on through the bombs Mike took away that tactical advantage I had been enjoying, but unfortunately just replaced it with some face-melting red dice from Palob and Han to add to Nym's bomb threat.

The B-Wings went down fast and hard, then Kyle followed the turn after that to leave the K-Wing alone against my whole team.

WIN - 200-37 (Half Nym)

After four rounds Colm Browne had gone 4-0 with his version of the Sloaneswarm that I'd met in Round Three, while I was in second place with the best MOV of the 3-1 players (and technically should have been on 4-0 myself, although the whole day would have been different if I'd gone into the winner's bracket after Round One so could just as easily have been on 1-3).  

The tournament semi-officially ended at that point as a bunch of people took the opportunity to head off early, while half the room stayed on for one last round.

ROUND FIVE - Vlad Bogdanov
(Wedge, Luke & Thane)

As many of the more successful players bowed out and gone home I was paired up against Vlad as we were among the last 3-1 players still in the room.  

This game was up on the stream and you can watch it on Twitch!

The short form version of the story is that it doesn't go very well for Vlad at all.  He suffers the same problem most of my opponents had in having Nym wreck their engagement plan and then pretty much losing the game before he can come up with a Plan B.  His X-Wings turn away from having to fly into a engagement where they'd lose all their shields to a couple of Seismic Charges and be fired upon by my whole squad, but my team fell in behind them and quickly took the X-Wings apart anyway.

WIN - 200-37 (Half Nym)

Well, it turned out to be a bit of an odd day for the scoreboard but I'm pretty sure I won.  

Maybe?  Like... I think so?  

I played five games and I won them all to finish second with a 3-1 record before an extra round was played after half the room went home and I was sitting on top of the scoreboard with 4-1.  Having still won all five games but accidentally recording that I'd lost one when we added the MoV up wrong.  Like I said... it was an odd day.

So was I 5-0?  Was I 4-1?  Was I 3-1 and the last round didn't count?  Did I win?  Was I second?

Whatever was true about the standings didn't really matter a whole lot as there were no prizes on the line.  What mattered was I was a lot happier with the outcome than I was when I finished 3-2 last time, and I was certainly much much happier with how I had played during the day.

I came into the day worried that my lack of table time would see the Junkyard Falcons fall behind the development curve, and also worried that I had only found success first time out against aces and wouldn't be able to handle tougher ships with lots of hull.  Both those things turned out to be untrue and in fact I feel like I learned a ton about why the Junkyard Falcon is good, the problem it causes for the opponent, the reasons it wins, and also what opponents are likely to do to try and counter it.

And it's still a TON of fun.

4-LOM was ok, nothing special, think I used it twice because a lot of the story of today was Han being a long way from the fight due to opponents turning away from my engage.  Crack Shot was garbage, as expected, I think it got used once all day.  I'd really like to try Dengar in the Falcon gunner slot but I'm a point short (Greedo + 4-LOM + Crack Shot = 5) and I don't see much fat to trim elsewhere so I'm sticking with what I've got for now and will just wait for somebody to push me into changing it by laying in some heavy defeats.

And finally, because more people seem to be starting to track this sort of thing after the clean break to Second Edition, my rolling Win/Loss records:

  • Junkyard Falcon Tournament Record: 8-2 (80% win rate)
  • Junkyard Falcon Total Record: 19-2 (90% win rate)

So far so good!

Monday, 17 September 2018

"The Spark That Lights The Fire" - Second Edition Launch Celebration Tournament Report

Well... how was it for you?

Thursday was the day that X-Wing Second Edition was released and hopefully most of us have had the chance to indulge ourselves with the new game.  Personally I've had two days to froth wildly about X-Wing, having taken Thursday itself to spend the day playing X-Wing as much as humanly possible at Element Games in Stockport, UK before returning to the store 36 hours later for their Launch Celebration tournament.

We were going to be playing 5 rounds of swiss and, although I'd spent the last couple of weeks posting Ten Squads in Ten Days there was was really only one ship I wanted to fly...

  • Han Solo - Trick Shot, 0-0-0, Rigged Cargo Chute, Lando's Millenium Falcon
  • Captain Nym - Dorsal Turret, Trajectory Simulator, Proton Bombs, Seismic Charges, Genius, Hull Upgrade, Havoc
  • Palob Godalhi - Elusive, L3-37, Moldy Crow
The Junkyard Falcon was probably the one of the Ten Squads in Ten Days that I got most excited about when writing my blog about it, but if you paying real close attention you'd have noticed that I did say that I hadn't actually shared my latest version.  This is my latest version, trading the Trandoshan Slaver for Captain Nym.  In truth the Slaver's never done anything wrong and hadn't dropped a game but I just love playing with Rebel Nym and his bombs, and they certainly have proven a huge help in games against both Aces and Swarms.  The amount of board that Nym can control with a single Seismic Charge is enormous, especially as he now has the old Rebel Nym ability to delay when they detonate.

I spent Thursday playing a sample of different squads but everything I played that wasn't the Junkyard Falcon just felt flat to me.  This is what I was pining to play the whole time and so as Saturday morning rolled around there was no real decisions to make ahead of the Launch Celebration event.  All I had to do was pack up my stuff and head over to join the party!

I don't really believe in doing tournament reports but as we're all trying to gobble up every bit of Second Edition information I'm afraid you'll have to indulge me this time...

ROUND ONE - Simon Fullalove
(Rear Admiral Chiraneau & two Sienar Specialists)

The TIE Aggressor is pretty low on my list of things I like in 2nd Edition but as we were setting up Simon told me that he'd run four of them in 1st Edition so it's obviously pretty comfortable territory for him to be in.  His full list looked like this...

Chiraneau had Focus mods for days, with Vader, Kallus, Fifth Brother all sitting on top of RAC's own pilot ability.  It felt like a lot of overkill to me but there was no doubt that I didn't much want to be getting caught in Chiraneau's way too often because the crits would be flying.  I didn't really have much gameplan for this one, and mainly I was just curious to see if Simon had found something in the TIE Aggressors that I hadn't even though to look for.

Unfortunately for Simon I think the answer probably turned out to be 'no' and the focused firepower of my list was too much for the Aggressors to take.  Simon got a couple of Cluster Missile shots off, but without any real dice mods behind them they only served to scratch a bit of paint before the pair exploded on back-to-back turns.  Each time I was 1 damage short of killing them, but then had a bomb handy the next turn to finish the job.

That left Rear Admiral Chiraneau in his command ship and my fleet swarmed in on him. Two things happened of note: first of all I completely forgot about Vader and decided to leave Palob on 1 health without a Focus token... duh!  The second thing was that an early Hull Breach and Fuel Leak on the Decimator led to it's sudden and unexpected demise as Han dealt him EIGHT damage with one shot!

This is an all-new thing for 2nd Edition in how Hull Breach interacts with cards like Direct Hit and Fuel Leak to stack more and more crits, which are now capable of being another Direct Hit or another Fuel Leak!  In poor RAC's case a Fuel Leak sparked a catastrophic chain reaction...

WIN: 200-93 (Palob dead, half Nym)

ROUND TWO - Lee Duncan
(Whisper, Rexlar, Duchess)

All the fives, Lee was bringing a trio of Imperial Aces at Initiative 5...  

Unfortunately for Lee I think my squad is really well matched against aces and as his ships hared down the flank at top speed a single Trajectory Simulated Seismic Charge created all sorts of problems that I don't think he ever recovered from.  Both Whisper and Duchess cut their attack runs short to avoid getting into range of the asteroids if my Seismic Charge went off and that meant Rexlar got separated, with the TIE Defender eating fire from all my ships and losing his shields.

One Seismic Charge turned this...
From this point Nym was just able to control the flow of the game with his bombs as he pinned the Seismic Charge in place for several turns, forcing Whisper and Duchess to split up and leave the fight, while Rexlar ate a Proton Bomb on his way out of the back of the battle.  It all meant that Lee's forces were now spread all over the map and I was able to pick them off one by one.  Whisper went first after Palob drained her tokens away then Duchess made a brief escape bid before Han reeled her in.

...into this!

By the time Rexlar found his way back into the fight he was 1v3 and no match for all my anti-ace trickery.  Between Nym's area control, Palob's token stripping and Han's ability to overwhelm green dice with big hits I think my squad is just really good against aces.  I've also got 180 degree arcs on my ships so there's a lot to try and arc-dodge, which also meant his Outmaneuver talents weren't ever doing anything against me.

WIN: 200-36 (Half Nym)

ROUND THREE - Will Pintar
(Boba, Palob, Quadjumper, Autopilot Drone)

I'm going to spoil the outcome of this game right off the bat by saying that Will went on to finish the day as winner with an unbeaten 5-0 record.  I'm telling you that because I want to talk about his squad a bit and I want you to have the information that it's proven to work really well.

  • Boba Fett - Fearless, Marauder, Han Solo, Perceptive Co-Pilot, Seismic Charges
  • Palob Godalhi - Elusive, L3-37, Moldy Crow
  • Jakku Gunrunner
  • Autopilot Drone

Even setting up against it I could tell this was by a distance the best squad I've had to play against in Second Edition, with very few glaring weak points for me to expose.  His Boba Fett has rerolls, double Focus tokens, can boost AND have double Focus tokens (thanks to Han Gunner), and even finds room for bombs - he's a really tough cookie.  Will had poached my own very successful Palob build after I wrote about it last week and I knew firsthand just how tough that was to kill, and his investment in a Jakku Gunrunner and Autopilot Drone were both things that I had to think carefully about how I approached and jousted.

So, the lonely Autopilot Drone without a Falcon... what's the point in that?  You just run across the back edge until it blows up and take the free 12 points advantage, right?  Well, maybe... but with 3 Banks & Barrel Rolls that thing IS fast so you'll need to run into one corner of the map or the other to be sure to avoid it.  Do you want to start the game on turn 3 boxed into a corner with your opponent able to maneuver at will into position around you?  I know I don't.

I spent most of my deployment time worrying about how best to deal with the Autopilot Drone (at which point, of course, it's already disrupted me enough to justify the spot in Will's team) and decided to just go right ahead and blow it out of the sky before it got to me.  This was partly based on bad information I got from the other gentleman in the room who told me that if I shoot the Drone it won't blow up and deal splash damage (Will informed me of my error a couple of turns in, as I destroyed it).

To be honest, even though I didn't really have a concrete plan for this matchup when I deployed one rapidly formed in the way Will played his Gunrunner and Palob by slow-rolling them across his own back line of the table.  With Boba flanking fast and hard it gave me the opportunity to speed into the middle of the table, despatch the Autopilot Drone, then head right out the other side and chase Palob and the Quadjumper while Boba was stranded on an empty side of the table.

To be honest it all worked pretty well at first and by turn 3 the Drone was toast and I was nicely positioned in the middle of the table and ready to put Boba in my rear view mirror.  Then it unravelled rapidly.  I misjudged Will's intentions and instead of turning his Palob to engage my Nym & Palob he banked & boosted in on Han to double-team the Falcon with Boba's rear arc.  I compounded that mistake by firing off a pointless Proton Bomb with Nym to where I thought Palob was going to be, and then made a bad call to blow my Seismic Charge up that had been cover for Han against Boba, dealing a damage to Han in the process.

That sheer avalanche of self-inflicted bad times meant Han went from hero to zero in no time and the Falcon was off the board!

I had a bad feeling about this.

I wrapped up he Quadjumper no problem but now it was a wounded Nym and wounded Palob vs Will's wounded Palob and full health Boba.  I was well behind.  Nym went down then Will's Palob followed and now it was Palob v Boba, man to man, one ship each (except his ship cost double my ship and had 9 health while mine only had 2 hull left).

I had a really bad feeling about this.

And yet... and yet... Palob began to claw his way back in.  A red stop first put Palob in Boba's blind spot and then got him into place behind Slave I. The plucky HWK was able to strip Boba's shields and start shipping damage cards in return for just 1 damage back.  Better yet, Boba was heading towards a corner of the board and would have to spend a turn swinging around, once again exposing his side-arc blind spot.  I just needed to survive a turn and I could pounce so I dialled another red stop (to recharge Elusive)... but was still millimetres inside R3 of Boba as Will dialled a 1 Forward into the corner.

Boba sniped Palob's last hull point away and the dream died.  

LOSS: 98-200

I tell you want, though, start that duel again with Boba and Palob both on full health and I think Palob has the tools to take Boba down despite the fact he only costs half as much!

ROUND FOUR - Justin Read
(Wedge, Luke, Ten Numb)

Justin was one of my first opponents on Thursday morning when Second Edition was still being madly unboxed by the players around us.  I won those two games pretty comfortably but Justin took the defeats on the chin, learned his lessons, and returned today with an improved version of the list.  
  • Luke Skywalker - Instinctive Aim, R2-D2, Proton Torpedoes, Servomotor S-Foils
  • Wedge Antilles - Swarm Tactics, Proton Torpedoes, Servomotor S-Foils
  • Ten Numb - Heavy Laser Cannon

What has changed since we first met is that Justin took an R5 repair mech off Wedge to fund upgrading his Advanced Proton Torpedoes to Proton Torpedoes.  That makes his list punch that much harder and was definitely an improvement on what he played on Thursday, but I was still confident that I was going to be able to sweep him up.

The opening engagement went almost perfectly for me, with Han putting a ton of hurt onto Wedge while Nym and Palob pounced on Luke.  Both X-Wings were immediately hurting and in a ton of trouble and nearly dead, although closing their S-Foils they were both able to slip away to fight another day, with Luke using R2-D2 to regenerate his shields.

That left Ten Numb isolated and vulnerable but I made a couple of bad decisions with Han that really hurt me - first K-Turning without thinking that my arc wouldn't be facing forwards, then giving Ten Numb a second stress token with 0-0-0 that he just used as fuel for his dice mods. It was a couple of facepalm moments that meant the game was still live by the time Wedge and Luke rejoined the fray and my early advantage had disappeared in a run of slightly iffy dice rolls.

(I don't like to complain about dice rolls, and my lesson for this game isn't "I rolled bad dice" but that I flew Han very badly.  Even so, a bit of average dice variance would have meant I was still far enough ahead to close it out).

Wedge and Ten Numb traded for Nym and Palob and we were down to a Han vs Luke showdown.  Han had the superior Initiative and more remaining Hull so I felt I had the boss of the engagement... but it didn't work out that way.  As we re-engaged I was able to read Luke's arc well enough to boost into a Range 3 shot that was out of his arc, but to no effect, then on the next turn luke closed in and barrel-rolled to stop me boosting by him.  

It was all coming down to a bunch of dice and with Luke's force mods I was now behind in the game - Han did no damage then Luke rolled Hit/Hit/Crit/Crit to take Han down and complete Justin's revenge!

LOSS: 159-200

ROUND FIVE - Jacob Kalnins

Jacob had the sort of squad that I was really hot on when I first started squadbuilding for 2nd Edition but today I have no faith in whatsoever - the metagame seems to be far too brutal and bruising for this sort of delicate synergy to make an impact.  After meeting Justin for a return leg I had also previously played Jacob on Thursday and utterly annihilated his squad, so I had to be careful I wasn't in for a revenge double bill.
  • Soontir Fel - Juke, Stealth Device, Afterburners
  • Deathrain - Barrage Rockets, Proton Bombs, Seismic Charges, Trajectory Simulator, Ablative Plating
  • Lieutenant Sai - Director Krennic, ST-321

Unfortunately for Jacob it was another slaughter as Nym and Palob proved once again just how destructive they are to aces.  

As Soontir Fel flanked in from the far side of the table Nym hurled a Seismic Charge into the middle of the table then held it there while Palob ducked around the other side of an asteroid to cut off Fel's escape route, with a lucky long range shot sniping away the Stealth Device.  

Blocked in by Palob on one side and Sai's shuttle on the other Soontir had no choice but to just fly onwards into the waiting Seismic Charge with grim acceptance of his fate... only small pieces of his Interceptor came spiralling out on the far side.

While this had been going on in the centre of the table Han Solo had swung the Millenium Falcon around on a long arc and was now hurling red dice into Deathrain with wild abandon from the far side of a debris field.  The Punisher was badly injured and fell on the next turn, although not before he and Sai had left Captain Nym clinging to life on just his Hull Upgrade- that switch from Ablative Plating proved it's worth right here!

The game was over as a competition but Jacob wanted to see if he could at least bag the MOV from Nym before his Lambda exploded.  But with a Tallon Roll, then on the next turn a slow bank and Barrel Roll, Captain Nym showed he had just enough piloting chops to stay out of trouble and join in the killing frenzy instead.

WIN: 200-36 (Half Nym)


So I finish on 3-2, although with the best MOV of the 3-2 players as both my defeats were close while my victories were very comfortable.  I'm happy.  More importantly there's a clear trend in the win-loss record that I think I can address: in two of the games I tried something new with Han and I lost both games while in the other three games I played Han the way he's supposed to be played and won them all with room to spare.

Mental note: stick to the plan!

I still love this squad, there's still nothing else I've seen that I want to play instead and it's a ton of fun.  After 20-odd games my record is now X-2 with the two defeats today being my only losses with any iteration of Junkyard Falcon so I believe in it... I've got my forever squad (for now).  

The only change I think I want to make is to drop the Rigged Cargo Chute from Han.  In those 20+ games I've only dropped it a handful of times and it's always turned out to be a bad idea... it's just never what I want to spend my action on.  What I spend those 4 points on I don't know, and the Greedo point is up for grabs too.  So that's 5 points... a Talent for Nym?  Proton Bombs for Palob?  Cluster Missiles for Han?  4-LOM crew on the Falcon?  Find another point somewhere and bring Dengar gunner?  All options to explore but I feel like I'm going to be playing enough games with this squad to at least give them all a try.

One of the Ten Squads in Ten Days that I blogged about was the Quad K-Wings with an array of bombs and Barrage Rockets.  That list made it to 4-1, only losing to eventual winner Will Pintar.  When I wrote about the squad I said I wasn't sure if it was good or not.  Seeing it on the table... it's good.  It's damn good.