Start of 2.0, Uk System Open, the meaning of X-wing and what happens when your local store shuts.
This article has chopped and changed a lot since conception. I’ve not really posted anything for a fair bit, mainly due to lack of time and not quite being motivated to put a finger to keyboard. The past year of 2.0 for the Zombie Squadron as a whole has been a giddy ride of ups and downs.
The advent of 2.0 sent a buzz of excitement around the squadron and even brought a couple back in from the cold. During August 2018 we started mocking up dials and bases once the points dropped and information was available. All sights set on UKTC 2018 apart from Tom, who had booked to go to a small invitational Q kit or something in Minnesota on the same weekend.
UKTC 2018 was not quite the giddy heights of the year before when two of our teams went 5-1 and 4-2 but was fun all the same. The exciting bit was keeping tabs on Mr Forstner in the cut at the Coruscant Invitational. I managed to get home, walk through the door, say hello to the wife then watch Tom in the final and lift the trophy. A fantastic day for Zombie Squadron. There was a real sense of pride in watching our friend and fellow Zombie win an invitational event attended by the Worlds best players.
New cardboard, the same plastic
I felt FFG did the best possible way of converting 1.0 to 2.0 with the upgrade kits. Splitting Resistance and First Order into their own factions was a smart and engaging development too. Initially, I was only going to get the Empire and Rebel conversion kits, but I added Scum in, then wilted and grabbed Resistance and First Order as well. Thanks to eBay and a stash of GW models courtesy of my younger self. The Galactic Republic and CIS are still waiting though. I find both attractive but not ready to drop the cash on them yet although my eight-year-old son is getting more interested in the game and wants his own ships.
“I think you will like these factions to play with. These are the ships you are looking for.” That’s Christmas sorted then.
My only gripe on the side of retailers was that after the initial upgrade kits and new core set hit the market, there was little in the way of new product, (if you ignore the resculpts on the Fang and Y-wing), until wave 3 hit around March. Unless you could drive a lot of new players to pick up the game you were not going to be selling much between September 2018 to March 2019. Most players were waiting on wave three and the new factions to hit to buy stuff. Whilst X-wing sales won’t keep a game store afloat on its own, (trading card games like Magic and Pokemon are the main drivers for this), every little helps in a market of fine margins.
Also if you add into the mix players deciding to cut back on the number of factions they own for a whole variety of reasons, X-wing loses a bit of the cash cow status it was in First Edition. I’m sticking to five, others have reduced to two or three.
A month or so prior to the UK system open our local game store went under. Ibuywargames had been on the slide for a while with the quality of in-store events declining and lack of stock on the shelves for all games systems. We bought local, but when there stops being stuff to buy on the shelves, it gets tricky. Its position on the outskirts of the town centre did not help with the changing climate of the British high street: less footfall, rising rents and business rates, as well as road works on Chertsey Road and Woking town redevelopment. The business model of Ibuy was no longer tenable in 2018 and 2019 compared to 2015. This sadly will probably be a trend for some independent games stores moving forward.
A fair number of us had pre-orders for wave three placed at Ibuy and those pre-orders went down with it. Fortunately, the excellent folk at Warboar games in Bromley swooped in to cover all the Ibuy X-wing pre-orders. I was initially writing this about 6 months ago and sadly Warboar has also recently closed shop. I don’t know the whys and wherefores but they seemed to be doing everything right like Dice Saloon for example: decent onsite café, hot food, play area and plenty of stock for all games systems. Warboar also really supported the local gaming communities in a great way as well as local charities. My own uninformed speculative conclusion could only be that the rent for the store and business rates in the area became crippling.
Business rates in the UK are a tax on business premises set by local councils. Councils primarily use it to plug the gaps in central funding and money raised from council tax. Business rates used to be set by central government. It becomes a vicious circle as more shops disappear from the high street, the councils then raise the rates to cover the shortfall thus causing more businesses to fail. Car parking charges too are becoming a deterrent.
Some are being more proactive such as Newport Pagnell on the outskirts of Milton Keynes. In an effort to save their small local high street, they made all on-street parking and car parks free to increase footfall. It is apparently working.
A New Venue
A week after Ibuy shut for the last time, Zombie Squadron marched into its new local venue at the Woking Conservative club, dubbed Woking X-Wing on facebook. Not related to the Conservative political party, which initially got some members concerned until the free car parking and the cheap bar was pointed out.
This has been a great move. New members have joined and we now have a nice relaxed environment to play in. We played a short league through August and September and have now decided to run tournaments again.
UK System Open: a valuable lesson.
We managed to get 15 players there this year and whilst only Tom made the cut this time round, hitting the top 16, it was a great group experience. The meal on Saturday night at Frankie and Bennys topped it off.
From a personal perspective, I learnt that playing X-wing at an X-wing event was not everything. Sitting 3-2 and fancying going 4-2 for no real reason, Graham spoke some words of wisdom to me, (it wasn’t that South Africa would win the World Cup either).
“Round 6 won’t start till 9 o’clock. Whilst I like to play well, I’m more here to hang out with my mates, talk shit and have a laugh. There is nothing to play for and you won’t get a decent bite to eat if you do.”
The penny dropped and we set off to Nandos, which was full. Pizza Express didn’t want the custom as they were shutting at 10pm but Frankie and Bennys were up for it if we were out by 10.30pm. We saved a spot for Tom (sitting at 5-0), pre-ordered for him, and he lost quickly to join us.
It was a pleasantly surprising better hour and a half a Frankie and Bennys than rolling dice in my pants.
I’m going to slide in my gripe about the running of the UK system open. the venue was great and any issues with pairings or judge calls were dealt quickly and sensibly but the round pairings took too long. I feel they do have to get a better system of result compilation if wanting to run 500 plus player events. We had massive waits between rounds, then once pairings were announced you had next to no time to find your opponent and get to the table and set up. I don’t mind the wait so much, but its the unfeasible small amount of time we were then given to find your pairing, table and set up for the game.
The prize wall also needs some thinking about.
That said I enjoyed the weekend and would still go again.
Back in the saddle
I didn’t get to play in a tournament again till the end of August. I managed an event down the road at the new store in Basingstoke, The Gaming Den. Undoubtedly worth popping down there for an event. Well run and friendly atmosphere. Plus the parking on Sunday was £1.00 and a 3-minute walk away.
Whisper with Jonas and two more barrage bombers made an appearance but I went a miserable 1-3 on the results side of things. All the games were close and what was telling, for both my travel companion Brendon and I, was that not playing any tournament X wing for several months had left us tournament rusty. Mistakes in the heat of the moment proved costly. Food for thought, moving forward.
And moving forward we have decided to run tournaments again. On Saturday 16th November we are Running a 32 player 5 round Extended event at our new venue. The Chertsey Road Memorial Tournament 2019 will be our end of year event and hopefully, another event in the first half of the year will also become a fixture.
When we were discussing whether or not to run events again back in March and April I was on the side of not bothering. We didn’t need to raise any funds and its probably not worth the effort.
“What if its for Charity?”
“Yeah, I’d do it then.”
And so we managed to find a local version of Make a Wish, called the Fairy Godbrothers, whom each year raise money to send a sick child to Disney land or the equivalent. The support from the X-wing community has been fantastic too with Pro-tech models and Cog O Two providing Prize support free of charge.
The journey into 2.0 has been bumpy, but we have come out the other end with a stronger community. Second edition is not without its faults but generally, everyone is enjoying it.
In many ways, we have gone full circle. Zombie squadron started out as Woking 1st Founding games club with a physical venue in Woking. We migrated away from our venue and by and large became based at Ibuywargames. I never had an interest in being part of running a physical gaming club again, yet here we are. Running is a strong word, all I did was make a few phone calls and do a bit of schmoozing.
Probably without having a squadron based local community , when the store shut, it could have ended X-wing being played in the area. Having a group focus on a new playing venue really helped in avoiding that scenario. So now we have some new members, beer is on tap and we have a large venue to talk shit and shout “natties!”
Bring on 2020!
It was also great to see local tournament circuit legend Ollie Pocknell win Worlds 2019 a couple of weeks back. I’ve had the pleasure to play Ollie a few times back in first edition and always get to enjoy a chat with him at events. Not only a great player but a great ambassador for the game.
Well done Ollie!