The road is long, with many a winding turn or in fact mainly straight but with a max speed of 50MPH if you’re lucky. Whilst taking a detailed study of the M6 Motorway and its surroundings, both at night and during the day, I popped in to UK nationals while I was at it.
The venue was worth the trip. A large hall with a high ceiling allowing for good air circulation and plenty of gaming space with an onsite cafeteria in the gaming hall. This was constantly manned allowing for a relatively smooth acquisition of food and drink substances. The tea was overpriced and the filter coffee ghastly but there was a Costa Coffee ten minutes’ walk away, although quite busy. The food was reasonable as I heard good reviews about the chicken burger option, (chips slightly negative), and personally enjoyed the bad boy chicken burrito. It was effectively a chicken biryani stuffed into a wrap but the quantity and quality was worth the seven pounds and fifty pence price tag. My pound sign has stopped working on my keyboard, (its ten years old and was free), hence the wordiness.
For the most part, (I’m blaming my slightly younger travelling companion), we dined on the finest offerings from that well known Scottish food Vendor Macdonalds. Not quite super-size me but in just over a 24hour period we hit the establishment four times. I felt I had the moral high ground at the M6 Toll services on the way up at 10pm by only having a raspberry flake Mcflurry. We returned here on the journey home for MacDonald’s No.5, not quite Chanel No.5 but the grilled wrap of the day was deemed the healthy option.
Darth Vader tie Advanced: Veteran instincts, Title, Advanced targeting computer, Cruise Missiles, engine upgrade
Quickdraw Tie FO/SF: Veteran Instincts, Fire Control systems, Cruise Missiles, Guidance chips, Title
Pure Sabaac Tie Striker: Lone Wolf, Title, Light weight frame.
I actually did a little bit of research on meta wing and this combination of ships finished two store championships in the States in first and second place, (one 1st Swiss, 2nd cut then2nd swiss 1st cut). One was 28 players, the other 32 players. The differences were either having Vetrean instincts on Sabaac or Trick shot and targeting Synchroniser on Quickdraw. In hindsight, especially having used the Quickdraw Sabaac targteting syncroniser combo earlier in the year a fair bit, this would have been a better option.
Having practiced formation flying with Sabaac in store championships it was odd to use it as a flanker and as a result find it harder to fly. Having not used the list prior to the event I feel that this would have been borne out in play testing rather quickly. Lone Wolf rarely triggered and I found the constant forward travel of the striker problematic. When flying in formation it was easy to bump with the aileron move into a friendly ship to get more control. I often found I would take a shot then need to totally reposition for a few rounds to get another shot without being shredded.
Oddly I didn’t really miss Lightweight frame on Quickdraw. The only issue though is if he is the last ship standing then his durability is somewhat limited without it. The trick is to keep Vader out of trouble for the end game. The 1 point Initiative bid turned out to be pointless as I didn’t face any mirror matches of high PS imperial Alpha. They were about, but not across the table from me.
Vader, as I knew, was quite solid.
The Result: 92nd 3-3 736 MOV
Two big wins, two losses by a couple of points and a narrow win set me up against Quad TLTs in round six. A reasonable win here would leave an outside chance of making it to the top 4-2 positions and the cut. Sadly Glen made a good feint with his Ys and I gambled on a hero or villain shot rather than barrel roll to relative safety with Vader. Vader then melted and Sabaac proved to not be the silver bullet against Quad TLTs that I felt he might be prior to the event. At this point in the day I knew he wasn’t, but he had a chance to redeem himself and failed.
Still I was happy overall and had six great games in the Swiss. Probably my overall highlight was getting to play against Mishary Al-Faris the Yavin Open Winner in Hanger bay the next day. I swapped out Quick Draw and Sabaac for Soontir and Deathfire which proved quite interesting.
That’s right, the Hash tag doesn’t work either. In fact if I want an @ sign, I have to press the “ symbol.
What would have been more useful would have been to properly read Deathfire’s pilot ability before the games started. I missed out on the reveal dial and drop an action bomb part. I loaded Deathfire up with cruise missiles, cluster mines, extra munitions and long range scanners for 26 points, possibly the best 26 points in the Imperial armoury having flown it a fair bit now. I wish that I had taken it instead of Sabaac. Annoyingly I toyed with the idea earlier in the week when I decided to drop the Vader and double aggressor build but felt it would be safer to go with a ship I had flown recently.
At the end of one of my games my opponent discussed with me that he felt I had intentionally slow played him early to mid-game when I was in front on points. I countered, that although I was up on points, from a positional point I was in a bad spot. Vader was down on one hull and Pure Sabaac was totally in the wrong place and having to pick up the slack due to Vader limping with a weapons failure too. That and my opponent’s area denial was very good, thus causing me to think particularly hard as to where my ships needed to go.
I possibly should have stated the honest truth about not being smart enough to think of doing that. Having spent the entirety of my Rugby career in the dark recesses of the front row, (in the early days it was truly dark and grim unlike today’s sanitised game), it’s difficult to break the habit of trying to run around and constantly hit something or someone. The ball was very often a secondary objective, much like any opportunity to destroy a ship.
I Speakmanised it later in my head and looked at it from his point of view. There were two instances where I spent a fair amount of time pondering where to go and how to reform. I had a point where the maneuver that I had dialed in for Sabaac would have been foolish to follow through with, (possibly dead Sabaac), but changing the aileron maneuver would get me out of it but maybe on a rock and possibly foul up where I wanted to go with Vader. I took a while, maybe too long, working this out.
The game naturally sped up once more ships dropped, Sabaac naturally first, and we got 14 to 15 rounds in before the seventy minute mark when there were just three ships left and the maneuvers were all quite obvious and we got 4 or 5 rounds in in the last five minutes. I lost but had no complaints as a two health Quickdraw tried to snatch a win by chasing an unlikely kill on one of the other two ships.
Oddly there is a good and elegant section on Episode 30 Of the Carolina Krayts podcast, (1hour 40mins), about when people feel that they have been slow played and have not been. I respect my opponent for discussing it as he would likely know I would moan about it in a blog, see above.
What I personally learned from it is that on the two or three occasions in the past when I felt my opponent was possibly deliberately slow playing near the end of a game, they most likely were not. They just had tough decisions to make when the game could go either way. The fact once they have done the maneuverer and it is where I thought it would be is not proving that they slow played it. They could be thinking through a multiple of options, including what you feel is the right one as well as planning future moves and interactions.
Speed of dial setting and taking choices to reposition is subjective and in itself may even have localised metas in terms of speed of play. In this instance looking from his point of view, I feel that maybe I did fanny about with pure Sabaac too long at times over the course of this game and the weekend. This was not intentional and I pointed out it was down to his good positional play that made me have to think hard.
Interestingly Dion from Gold squadron has collected some data from about 80 live stream games and the average number of rounds in a game which goes to time is eleven.
Do games need to have a longer time limit?
Three of my games went to time at Nationals, (including slow play), and it seems that over the past year or so that more so of my matches or games at events that I have organised have gone to time. I’m not saying that we need significantly longer but would an extra five minutes be sufficient to allow for proper closure on the majority of games?
There are more area denial and board control elements in the game now and positioning is becoming really key despite intel agents and Nym with advanced sensors. Add to that other effects that can chew up time like “i’ll show you the dark side,” and a couple more minutes would ease some of the time pressure when resolving these effects. Possibly in terms of these big tournaments an extra five minutes would help in regards to the fact that you do not get much in the way of a proper set up time. At both Nationals and Yavin the clock started running almost as soon as you got to your table. Set up can take five minutes easily out of the game.
Its getting difficult to even have an ice breaker conversation with your opponent before the game at these events, even if it is just the normal, “traveled far, staying local or have you been to one of these before?”
Hanger Bay and Pods
The organistaion of the prize wall and pod/hanger bay system was very efficient. Such a huge improvement from the minor fiasco at Yavin where the organisers got caught out by the swathes of players wanting to play x-wing on day two having been eliminated from the main competition. The only issue perhaps for us as gamers is to how we treat playing in these side events in terms of casual or normal. One gripe I heard was of three guys deciding to play fluffy jank lists in a pod and a fourth player who came along and agreed to it, rolled out Dengar Nym or the like and trolled the pod for the win.
One person’s jank is another person’s meta list. It’s a hard one as every persons playing experience and requirements is subjective. I was grateful that Mishary rolled out his Parattanni list he had been using for most of the year. If he had put three X-wings down it would, to me, have devalued the experience. On the other hand for someone else it could have married up perfectly to their vision of casual X-wing as they push their Tie Punisher squadron across the board.
Our local gaming store has started what it calls a casual league. To most the casual part seems to be inferring on the fact that you don’t need to turn up every week, but some interpreted it as casual list or three B wings and a U-wing with fire control. Tom clearly missed the memo on our Zombie chat about bringing your UK team championship list and trolling a noob with it. Still, he tabled our triple scout player to much amusement.
Return to Liverpool?
I made an effort to speak to the two chaps from Esdevium to say how much I preferred the venue to the NEC in Birmingham. If perhaps they could transport it there so I didn’t have to endure the worst part of the M6 motorway a return visit would be on.
Perhaps the most important part. There were many solemn faces trudging about the venue wracking their brains about a decent alternative to natties. I agreed with Mr Birt from the 186th podcast that it needs to be no more than two syllables yet what alternative could there be?
Now and again, and for some thankfully few, the cry of natties could be heard ringing in the echoey chamber. They were, as it turns out, doing it all wrong. Misinformation from across the pond much like weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, means that you have to ask for natties in a proper, ritualized way.
“Save me Duncan!”
Then Duncan may or may not heed your request and the relevant natties will appear. We have experimented with other idols this side of the pond like “Pocknell” or “Jesper” recently but they have proved to be false idols in terms of natties. As it turns out, after much research, it looks like Duncan does actually save.
Closing thought 1
If you do have to celebrate “Natties,” celebrate with Jazz hands as you say it.
Closing thought 2
Time to buy a new keyboard
Links to stuff