The second annual “No, I am your Father Christmas” X-Wing Tournament – Sponsored by ibuywargames and hosted by a lesser known team by the name of Zombie Squadron (or something like that…), was never not going to be a fun event. 32 players signed up – old friends, old foes and those who travelled from a little further afield – for five rounds of moving miniature Disney-licensed ships around a 3’x3′ area.
Having gone off the boil a little when it comes to X-Wing, it was my first tournament in a long while and, after making some hideous mistakes and basic rules errors in the two games I played a week or so before, I didn’t hold particularly high hopes for my performance. Still, the pressure was off and I wasn’t expecting anything more than a fun day playing with toys.
Let’s get to it.
(Optional musical accompaniment comes from Childish Gambino’s ‘Awaken, my Love!’ – an album I’ve been listening to on repeat since it was released before the weekend)
Rule 1, when it comes to list building, is this: You have to like what you fly. Simple. Yes, there might be some meta-busting lists out there, and yes, there might be different mathematical equations that can determine the most efficient ships you should take, and yes, there might be whatever the latest winner of Worlds flew (it definitely wasn’t Dengaroo was it, captainjacksbutt?) but ultimately none of that matters if you’re not loving what you’re flying.
First, I love my Fenn Rau so much I wrote an article about how I spent a whole day painting him. He was definitely in the team. Second, I have always loved flying the Jumpmaster. With its crazy good dial and its ravishing beauty, it’s always been a blast to field. From a tactical perspective, too, both ships offer a lot of manoeuvrability and variety (and, of course, Manaroo is an excellent way to help Fenn hit his 5-shot attack and maybe even survive…).
Atanni Mindlink has, as you will know, been very popular lately and it’s pretty easy to see why. I leave all that theory with other authors on this website but, needless to say, it was about time I got a bit of the action.Whacking Mindlink on Fenn and Manaroo put me at 57 points. Well, Fenn needs his Autothrusters and his Title, of course, so I was really at 60. Turns out you can fit quite a bit of ship in a list when you don’t take all that many upgrade cards. Boba Fett, for example, costs 39 points basic and, with Mindlink, would plug that 40-point hole in my list quite nicely. Thing was, I’ve flown the Firespray quite a lot already – it was Kath’s big booty that got me into collecting and playing Scum in the first place – so I looked elsewhere.
I didn’t need to look too far. Having sat quietly in its box since its purchase, the Shadowcaster was starting to wonder whether it would ever see the light of Tatooine’s twin suns. Coming in at 38 points (with Mindlink), Asajj seemed like the natural choice. With a fairly tasty pilot ability (that might well help against other Mindlinkers and those who enjoy Pushing Limits) and featuring an exquisite dial, I was starting to wonder whether I might have a new favourite ship. Plus, I even had 2 points to spend on an upgrade!
Cool! I built a list. Now, I’ll just Google it to see whether anyone else has had this idea…
Okay, well I guess it’s hard to have an original idea these days. But, after 6 hours of frantic painting on Saturday (couldn’t even get it finished… note: the Shadowcaster is really, really big) we had a list that we were going to enjoy flying.
Round 1: Waking Up
Simran flew Chiraneau in his Deci with Vader, VI, Gunner and Engine Upgrade, alongside Whisper with Kallus, VI, Fire Control System and Advanced Cloaking Device.
Having spent a somewhat inebriated evening with friends, I didn’t get nearly as much sleep as I would have liked. After traversing the A3 with bleary eyes and a pounding headache I arrived to sit, giant mug of coffee in hand, opposite my opponent in Round 1. Not altogether in the best frame of mind, I formed a sort of hazy game plan that revolved around not dying and blowing up my opponent’s ships. Seems good.
I deployed, as I would for much of the day, with Manaroo dead centre, Asajj on the far left and Fenn on the far right. With his ships deployed opposite Fenn, I quickly decided that this was a joust I would not be taking. Fortunately, the bait was taken by the Imperials as they launched themselves forwards along the right hand table edge. Fenn unceremoniously ducked behind an asteroid and barrel rolled towards my board edge. Hoping to open the jaws into which my opponent would fly, Asajj sped forwards up the left edge and Manaroo trundled slowly into the centre of the table.
Keeping most of my guns trained on the Decimator, with only Asajj getting too close for comfort now and again, I was able to bring it down in a few rounds. Vader helped, of course, as he force choked his way through a load of Imperial officers in order to deal some criticals to Fenn. My ace survived, fortunately, and lived to provide some much needed manoeuvrability as my squad chased Whisper around the table.
Asajj took a good four turns to clear a Damaged Sensor Array and a Weapons Malfunction but, as she did so, was able to put the occasional stress token on Whisper with her auxiliary firing arc, which seriously hampered the Phantom’s effectiveness. Eventually, the Scum and the Villains would surround the hapless Imperial who, without a shot on that particular turn, could not trigger his cloaking device.
Round 2 – A Proper Razzing
Zombie Squadron’s Phil flew (deep breath…): Poe with BB-8, Push the Limit, Sensor Cluster, Black One and Autothrusters; Jake Farrell with PtL, VI, A-Wing Test Pilot, Chardaan Refit and Autothrusters; and Jan Ors with an Autoblaster Turret, Adaptability and Vectored Thrusters.
Having now had enough coffee to be declared legally awake, I had no excuses for any mistakes. Looking at all the little synergies in Phil’s list made my head hurt, though, so I just plonked my ships on the table in much the same manner as before and told myself not to worry too much. Basically, he was flying some very mobile and efficient ships. I chose to bide my time and let him make the first move.
Phil started with a whole load of cool little manoeuvres on the far right of the board, dodging, dipping, ducking, diving and dodging into a line which he flew towards the centre of the playing field. Again, Manaroo trundled up the middle, handing out focus. Again, Asajj swung into the centre from the left flank. But, unlike last time, Fenn blitzed it towards my opponent’s board edge, potentially posing a threat to the HWK in the back corner. As my ships made neat little circles around the asteroid line across the diagonal of the board, Phil sent Jake after Asajj. Given that he was Pushing the Limit every turn, Latts was able to get to work here, saving 3 damage (at least one of which was critical) over the course of this game. This was a fight Jake would not win.
At the same time, and having had enough of trundling, Manaroo launched forward to block Poe as he made his way through the asteroids. Without any tokens, the Hero of the Resistance was at the mercy of Fenn as he swung in from the right flank, feinting away from Jan’s Autoblaster (I like my evade dice, thank you very much). Landing a hefty blow, as 5 dice are wont to do, Poe was finished off by Manaroo’s turret as he K-turned behind her the following turn. With the world against her, there was little Jan could do as my ships advanced towards her corner.
Round 3 – Arc, Arc, Baby
The excellently nicknamed “Hazard” Wall brought Miranda Doni with a TLT, Nora Wexley with Push the Limit, BB-8, Title and Nien Numb, and Thane Kyrell with R3-A2, Vectored Thrusters, Title and Chopper.
Hazard had driven over from Swindon with a group of friends and, because of his week working night shifts, was perhaps the only man in the room more tired than I was. Despite some absolutely atrocious dice at critical moments, he kept his head up and stayed positive throughout this one. That’s what excellent opponents are made of.
Thane and Nora deployed dead centre opposite Manaroo, with Miranda on their right being deployed opposite to Asajj (on my left). Fenn would once again be hoofing it up the right flank. This time, Asajj did not turn into the centre, but posed enough of a threat by flying straight to push Miranda towards the middle. Thane turned towards the Shadowcaster, while Nora headed in the opposite direction to take a look at what Fenn Rau was up to. Thanks to the difference in mobility between Fenn’s Starfighter and the Rebel Arc, I was able to bypass Nora almost entirely and, keeping her at Range 3 after a successful first pass (which landed some unfortunate crits for my opponent), Fenn zoomed across to deal with Thane’s stressbot.
I knew I didn’t want R3-A2 around for long – those stress tokens are problematic at the best of times, even more so when you’re Mindlinked up. Having made Thane my priority, Fenn actually got quite badly caught out by Hazard’s use of Chopper to ignore the Arc’s stress tokens so he could take his free actions. This put the Rebel scum in range one of Fenn and allowed him to deliver a nasty couple of crits via his auxiliary arc. The ace survived, however, and remained tight enough to Miranda to avoid getting caught out by her TLT. After Asajj finished off Thane, and Manaroo delivered the final blow to Nora in the centre of the table, Fenn & Co. were able to close Miranda down having suffered minimal damage due to Hazard’s ability to roll a lot of blanks.
Ultimately, Hazard was let down at times by some poor rolls but, even so, he had his work cut out for him here. I had brought a lot of hit points to the table and, as he divided his force, it was hard for him to land as many shots on my ships as I was landing on his. With consistent damage being put on the low agility Arcs while the Rebels ponderously repositioned, my opponent was left with limited options.
Round 4 – A Game of Chess
Ollie flew Rey in the Millenium Falcon with Finn, Expert Handling, Kanan and its Title, alongside Corran Horn with Push the Limit, Fire Control System and R2-D2.
Having now spent a lot longer on the top tables than I was comfortable with, I was glad that my long-anticipated loss would be at the hands of the 186th Squadron’s Ollie “Gentleman-and-a-Scholar” Pocknell. Another excellent opponent, he brought a tangible positivity to the table and was good enough to educate me on what when wrong for him and what went right for me in a post-match debrief. See, the thing was, I didn’t lose. Somehow.
The starting positions were much the same as they had been against my first opponent of the day. His Big Ship Little Ship started in the far right corner, with my ships deploying as before. This time, however, Ollie charged straight down the flank at Fenn, leaving the Shadowcaster with quite some distance to cover before becoming relevant. With the realisation that Fenn would not be able to duck out of this fight, the bait had to turn in and launch himself into Range 1 of Rey for the best chance to do something useful. Well, it turns out that Rey and Finn work incredibly well together, particularly when, as Ollie did on multiple occasions early on, you convert your initial single blank evade dice into two evade results after Rey’s re-roll. Mildly frustrated at not having done all that much damage with his 5-dice 1-inch punch, and taken an almighty slap in the face in return, Fenn had to fly verrrrrry carefully for the rest of the game to keep his 1 hull point intact.
Ollie certainly had the best of the first engagement, and the following few turns flew by as my brain went into overdrive to keep it from all falling apart. In brief, Rey had to disengage from the scrum, having been knocked down to 3 hull points after falling foul of an unexpected blocking move by Manaroo on top of having to deal with the stress dished out by Asajj. With the Falcon escaping into the bottom left of the table, my three ships focused on catching Corran in a position where R2-D2’s regen powers could not help him. Chasing Fenn (a decision Ollie regretted, he told me afterwards) the Scum caught Corran as he was forced to K-turn while approaching his table edge. Ultimately, Ollie said afterwards, he played too aggressively with Corran and regretted not targeting Manaroo earlier in the game.
With Corran gone, all that was left was for my ships to turn and re-engage the Falcon as it crossed the centre of the table. It was, ultimately, Fenn that made up for his earlier failures and delivered the killing blow.
Tactically speaking, this was one of the most enjoyable games of X-Wing I think I’ve ever played. Something just seemed to click. With a calm demeanour, a holistic view of the playing field and a readiness to make moves that would benefit me in the long term rather than the short, I felt like I was playing a game of chess. ‘That’s how it’s supposed to feel,’ Ollie pointed out. Oh.
Game 5 – The Final Countdown
Zombie Squadron’s Tom Forstner, rarely seen without his trusty Decimator, brought Chiraneau with VI, Hotshot Co-Pilot, Engine Upgrade, Rebel Captive and Gunner, alongside Marek Steele in an X7 Defender with Juke and a Twin Ion Mk2 Engine.
I’m going to precede this by saying that I had never managed to beat Tom – falling foul, on numerous occasions, of his Decimator/Whisper combo and his excellent tactical awareness. ‘You’ve beaten one Chiraneau already today,’ I told myself, ‘stop your bitching and get this final over with. No I don’t care how tired you are. Shut up.’
When I was done speaking to myself I put some ships on the table. The set up was almost identical to the previous game, with Tom placing both of his ships in the same corner Ollie had occupied. Again, the hope was that I could use my mobility to encircle enemy ships in the centre of the table if they committed aggressively. Fenn acted as bait once again, drawing Tom’s squad down the right hand side. Firmly in the sights of the Decimator’s Hotshot Co-Pilot and Gunner, Fenn fled into the centre of the table.
The eventual realisation that my ace would have to stand his ground at some point was not particularly welcome. Chiraneau’s crew and pilot ability combined to land a big early hit on Fenn which left him limping a little. A five straight manoeuvre, with a boost for good measure, got the Scum pilot out of dodge, but not before he’d landed a significant blow on the Decimator. With Marek slightly out of position, and stressed thanks to Asajj, Manaroo was able to block Chiraneau for 3 turns in a row with her de-stressingly good green 1-turns, all the while staying alive by shifting Tom’s target locks onto Fenn, who was out of the fight at this point. I thought I was just giving Fenn extra focus every turn but, thanks to Tom knowing the rules better than me, I was actually making an ingenious play (thanks, Tom!).
With Asajj now swinging in close behind the repeatedly blocked Decimator, Chiraneau’s life span became very limited. Latts got to work once again, staving off two crits in the ensuing scrum, before the Imperial ship was turned to space dust. All that was left for the Scum to do was to trap the remaining Defender. Asajj’s stress helped to limit Tom’s options and Fenn rocked up, once again at the last minute, to steal the glory with a kill shot.
There were a few factors that worked in my favour in this game. Firstly, Rebel Captive didn’t present as much of a problem as I had anticipated, what with the vast quantity of green manoeuvres available to my ships. Secondly, the weight of red dice and hull points in my list meant it was tough for Tom to deal with my ships before I could chew through the Decimator. All in all, this was another excellent game with a host of difficult decisions having been made on either side of the table. I consider Tom to be the best player never to have won a tournament and, unfortunately, it will remain that way at least for a little longer.
So, I guess I won a thing. That’s nice.
Maybe it was the list I took – its action efficiency, flexibility and resilience allowing me to deal with a variety of lists at a tournament where the meta was incredibly hard to define. Maybe it was my tiredness-induced Zen-like state of mind which, by alleviating any pressure on, or expectations of, my performance, allowed me to approach each game with a clear head. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t lose a single ship all day.
Or, maybe, I just got lucky.
Until next time, Merry Christmas!