This is my tale of travel, coffee, red thunder, more coffee, another red thunder, ice cream and Guinness. Oh, and small space ships.
I have a separate overview of the Yavin Open as a tournament here.
Saturday morning started bright and early. In fact having got into bed at 11pm on the Friday night it was all going well till 1.30am when I heard small feet going into the bathroom followed by a large splash sound. I decided to investigate and there upon the porcelain throne sat my four year old son. Not wanting to get into the disagreement about whose job it is to wipe whose bottom I reluctantly caved in before it even started.
A quick recce of the throne with said small person’s observations revealed that we had “poo sick,” or at least something more runny than normal. This was my first big decision of the day. Do I mention it to the wife or just cross my fingers and hope that there is no reoccurrence, (especially if it is the nightmare scenario), until at least I am in the car and far away. I chose the sensible option and kept schtum. Thankfully I was not driving and it was a road trip, well myself, Man of Monkey, and Chris.
So crawling out of bed just before 5am, I made some bacon rolls and prepared some high strength cold brew coffee for everyone, then jumped into Man of Monkey’s car and off we all went. That being said it’s not that I did not load up on enough caffeine, far from it in fact. After arriving early at the NEC in Birmingham around 8am we muddled our way through the ticket collecting process and registration at the Hilton where the tournament was taking place. This was a lot easier than expected. We touched base with the other two Zombie squadron members taking part and I offered to get Grahame a coffee whilst he registered. On average heart attacks account for 25% of deaths and when I ordered two medium sized Costa syndicated lattes and realised that my ten pound note was not adequate to pay for two, I wondered if I would be shortly joining that statistic.
Whisper Tie Phantom: Veteran Instincts, Fire Control Systems, advanced cloaking device.
Echo Tie Phantom: Veteran Instincts, Fire Control Systems, advanced cloaking device.
Omnicron group Lamda shuttle: Darth Vader Crew
I felt and still do that this is a good squad to combat the current top meta builds of palp aces, triple jumpmasters and swarms. There are a couple of hard counters like PS11 Han or Dengar as well as a decimator with the Vader Gunner combo. I was banking on doing well early on to hit the top tier lists. This is in many ways a high variance list that can still perform against the hard counters if played correctly. I was banking on having played Echo a lot over a year ago to be sufficient in smoothing over the poultry two practice games with the list.
Part of my preparation had been to stock up on Red Thunder. This is a Reb Bull alternative from Aldi which rocks in at 25p and with only a fraction less of the taurine. It also can double as paint stripper, which is handy as this is also cheaper than paint stripper and I have some cans left over and a fair amount of work still to do in the house.
At about a quarter to ten I felt it was time to consume one. The current caffeine count was one large cold brew, a medium mocha at the services and a medium latte presumably made from the rarest coffee beans on earth. I inevitably felt like doing cart wheels along the front of the hall, especially when Christian Peterson was doing his speech to get things started. It was a real struggle to refrain from doing so, (the fact that I struggle to get good straight leg positioning midway through was not even causing concern).
Please note, (especially If I played you), my memory on the day went off kilter and names and lists might be a bit off. Also I seemed to play a lot of people with Gary-esque names to add to the recall problems.
Kannan Ghost, Ion Cannon, fire Control Systems, 2 x recon specialist
Biggs R2 Astro mech
Phantom shuttle Sabine, Lone Wolf
Other than the fact I was as high as a kite on paper I felt this was a simple by the numbers in the bag sort of game. My lack of preparation with the deployment of the shuttle for this match hurt and I was then severely punished by simultaneously being clever and stupid. I used the shuttle to block both Biggs and the ghost but dialled in the wrong manoeuvre choice for Whisper. This left Whisper at range one of the ghost, with only the option of re-cloaking as I had left myself without any targets and despite having a rock available to give me an additional die whisper got one Shotted. Five hits to three blanks and two eyeballs.
The shuttle went down soon after and although dropping the ghost down to just a few hull Echo was soon ionised and swatted. I should have run and re-grouped with echo, but hindsight and clear thinking is a powerful thing.
Omnicron Lambda, palpatine, electronic baffle
Vader, Predator, Engine upgrade, title, ATC
Inquisitor, Title, auto thrusters, push the limits
From what I recall I think I had the initiative and we deployed our various flavour of cows in opposite corners. My simple plan with this was to nuke the palpmobile first as it would make taking the other two out easier. I deployed Echo in the centre and Whisper opposite the palpmobile. Vader and the Inquisitor deployed facing my Doom Cow. I decided to initially engage with my shuttle and used vader crew to drop a shield off his vader then block in the following turn both his aces.
This gave me the time for Echo and Whisper to rake his shuttle and drop it fairly quickly and unmolested. It then proved easy enough to clear up his two aces with the weight of fire and the odd force choke from my Vader crew.
Win 100 – 12
Slim Jim’s sausage wagon was the choice for lunch plus another gold plated Latte courtesy of Graham. We went on a quick tour of the expo trying to spot the worst costume, most unwashed and most likely to be a paedophile. I didn’t take pictures but we found some of each. There was an ice cream vendor in the expo but at £5.00 for two minuscule scoops it was a general consensus you were paying for looking at the pretty lady serving it.
I felt more in the room for this game as the legal drugs may have been wearing off. After my last round blunder at the regionals against this list I was weary. I sent Whisper and the shuttle down one flank, with echo on the other to get in from behind. James sent all his ships to initially engage Whisper and the Doom cow before peeling three off to attack the flanking Echo.
Whisper dropped one whilst the other bugged out. In the meantime Echo ran off allowing Whisper to get in behind whilst the cow slowly mooed forward helping take down the fleeing Kihraxz. Echo then got back in the fight and mowed down the other three between him and Whisper. I did manage to do a silly parking of Echo on a rock after de-cloaking but at that point it did not matter and got away with it.
I had gone crit crazy with the shuttle but MOV was not going to overly matter in this tournament, only full wins would count and the shuttle died late on. I felt I got away with poor positioning of Whisper initially as I could have been swamped and penned in by all five Kihraxz but the threat of Echo alleviated this.
2 X gamma squadron bombers, extra munitions, proton torpedoes, tracers, guidance chips.
Oincon Gunner, Darth Vader crew, determination.
This was my favourite game of the weekend which was a good tactical game. It is an interesting squad and also a hard counter to my list with the Vader Gunner combination. Ideally I would have to engage the decimator with everyone simultaneously and destroy it quickly. I would expect to lose one phantom in the process and the added issue of the fire out put from the bombers would cause issues.
I decided to set up the shuttle as an element for him to chase or joust by placing it in the middle of my deployment zone but facing the right hand side. Gareth set up in the corner to approach from behind with Oincun leading and the Bombers trailing behind. I set Echo and Whisper up in my right corner and sent them down to try and get behind the train and either snipe off a bomber or two or both hit Oincun without getting attacked by the Bombers whilst they all chased the shuttle.
This was trickier than it sounded and we played a game of cat and mouse which ended up circling the board back round to his end. What cost me in the end was de-cloaking whisper and parking on a rock. Although not fatal in the round that it happened it cost me one turn of shooting at the decimator which ultimately proved costly as the game ended with the decimator on four hull and a bomber on two.
At the end I tried to get Echo to escape and look to snipe out the remaining bomber but I couldn’t get out of range three of the decimator when on one hull. Maybe I should have K turned and gambled on rolling four hits as I did have a target lock on it but c’est la vie.
I was now effectively out of the running for the big prize so I had another red thunder and found an ice cream vendor on site charging £3.50 for two scoops of Purbeck ice cream. I chose banana and chocolate. Personally the banana was a bit too creamy for my liking.
Epic fail on remembering his name, even bigger epic in game screw up.
Kannan Ghost, auto blaster turret, Fire control system, 2 x recon specialist
Lando YT1300, Push the limits, Jan orrs, nien nub, engine upgrade, title
Every now and again something so stupefying happens that all you can do is laugh. Effectively having jousted with both Lando and the Ghost, I had destroyed the Ghost and dropped Lando down to half strength with the loss of just the shuttle and shields on Echo. I had Lando just where I wanted him but I took a crit on Echo which gave Echo a stress token.
I’m not sure how I managed the next thing but with my opponent thinking about conceding, (that was something I could have done without knowing but it serves as a good reason not to concede, as you never know when your opponent may do something extremely stupid), I de-cloaked a full health Whisper forwards and manoeuvred it off the board.
I also had dialled in a hard one for Echo leaving it stressed and unable to re-cloak. Lando had six health and I probably needed to land about three crits and the damage deck to be my friend to redeem myself. Sadly not, dead echo and thoughts about kicking a chair and myself.
A massive brain fart due to the over excitement of shutting the game out left me dead and buried. I headed to the Hotel bar, picking up Craig Bradford on route who was having a miserable weekend with dice and got us both a beer. Incidentally the price of two beers, a pint of Speckled Hen and a pint of Guinness was cheaper than two medium sized lattes in the same venue.
I spent a lot of my youth drinking the black stuff and being a real Guinness connoisseur I have great difficulty in deciding whether to buy it these days as it is so easy to get a bad pint of it, especially in a hotel. I asked a random at the bar whether it was any good and said that his mate who always drank it had been drinking it all day. As everything else failed to tickle my fancy I rolled the dice on it. This gave me enough time to bang my head on the marble bar surface three times whilst the pint itself scored a 6.5 out of 10 on the CGR, (Courtney Guinness Rating).
This was enough to merit having another courtesy of bumping into one of the developers I know at Hawk Wargames Drop Zone commander. He was drinking a gin fizz, (or champagne and gin), which I had a sip of and was pleasantly surprised and he refused a can of red thunder in return, (?). I also had a chat with my opponent over one of these beers for about 20 mins which makes forgetting his name even more embarrassing.
Vader, Predator, Engine upgrade, title, ATC
Kenkirk, Palpatine, engine upgrade, gunner?
Earlier in the day we had much delight in listening to Grahame bemoan losing to a 12 year old, Dylan. This was followed by Man of Monkey losing to a nine year old, Dylan’s brother, much to Grahame’s delight. Having ditched coffee for the superior black stuff I had to put my game face on, or at least my appropriate conversation face. No stories of the ‘Love Punch’ or times working in ‘Ray Palley.’
I got the initiative and planned the normal of taking out Palpatine first. We set up in separate corners and traversed towards the middle. I managed to get a reasonable alpha strike in on the Decimator with all three ships whilst Vader trailed a bit behind. I then got wrong footed by forgetting that Kenkirk could boost which left Whisper out of the fight for a bit. Echo and the shuttle managed to destroy the decimator before the shuttle went up in smoke.
Vader then began a game of chase with Echo which I managed to turn on its head with a clever de-cloak and K turn. The hunter became the hunted but Vader kept at range three relative safety. Whisper finally turned up and I managed to box in Vader and chip away before Whisper smoked him.
Dylan did play well and certainly caught me off guard mid game with his manoeuvring of the Decimator which resulted in Whisper going AWOL for a few rounds. As Clive Woodward was fond of stating, “if you are good enough, you are old enough.” Of course I then get lambasted for beating a 12 year old regardless of how good they are, mainly due to my lack of soul. I do have a soul, I often speak to it regularly from which it declares that it is still warm down there and it has not frozen over.
End of Day
With the event only running an hour over time five Zombies had become four as Big Phil had gone off to buy Malifaux due to a hatred of his dice after starting round four 3-0 up and ending the day 3-3. I came in 145th overall with a 3-3 record and awarded myself a trophy as highest ranking Zombie Squadron member. We shuffled off to the Pizza tenet and beer bus in the Hilton car park.
I ordered a ‘Brad,’ which in normal speak was a 10 inch pepperoni pizza which turned out to be the champion of food stuffs for the weekend at the Expo. I even ordered a Guinness from the beer bus which is strictly against my rule of thumb for getting a good pint of Guinness. I did ask for a sample and despite it clocking in at a 4 out of 10 on the CGR, the cheaper price and lack of viable alternatives on offer meant I purchased one. The problem I have always found with Guinness is that its very hard to transfer to a different drinking substance once one has started unless its spirits. I had a bottle of Rum with me for the hotel.
In many ways I felt I fooled myself about my mental capacity at the London Regionals. The whole idea of crawling out of bed pre 5am and jumping in the car at 5.30am to make my way up to Birmingham does in hindsight seem foolish if one wants to play at their best abilities. This was echoed by Man of Monkey and Chris.
I had a chat with Mike Dennis of 186th Podcast fame, (Yavin episode 11 here) at the start of the event who thought my brain might go fuzzy by running both Echo and Whisper and he had the good grace of not saying I told you so when we touched base at some point later in the day. Oddly it was mistakes with Whisper that caused my downfall in each of the games that I lost rather than Echo. I also probably could have salvaged each game with Echo with some better decision making although what happened in game 5 was a hilarious and horrible failure in mental facilities, dropping the ball over the try line in rugby parlance.
Due to the large amount of players and variances in lists the Doom cow, although it functioned well, was possibly not the best third ship. The lack of manoeuvrability hurt me in some games and I was inspired by Gareth’s two bombers. A PS4 gamma squadron bomber with Proton torpedoes, extra munitions and guidance chips would have been a good 24 points to fill the void. I would lose a blocker but gain some additional hitting power against high hull targets and potentially alpha strike a contracted scout off the board if there was a slightly higher than average damage output from Echo and Whisper in the opening exchange.
Maybe taking an easier to fly list or a two ship list would have been a better choice in regards of the travel arrangements. We all agreed, including the wife, (and having quickly checked with my soul hell had not frozen over), that going up on the Friday would be a better idea. Certainly in being fresher for a day of gaming and not jacked up on caffeine would cut out the first round vulnerability and goofy errors that crept in during the day. When you look at the overall expense too there is no point going to all that outlay and just blow it because you are playing badly due to being knackered.
I could have played better in all the games and not just at the crucial gaming changing errors for the most part. Even with an easier to fly list I feel that I would have still dropped the ball at times. All in all I still enjoyed myself and enjoyed flying both Phantoms.
Possibly next time I will just choose Guinness above coffee as I seemed to play better with it as well as it being cheaper than coffee at the Hilton.
Hanger bay to follow, link here when written.