Let The Past Die Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Generic Pilots

This is all quite new to me. I’ve never done a tournament write-up, mostly owing to the fact that I don’t really have much to say on the state of X-Wing, past or present. I’m generally a mid-table player, going anywhere between 2-4 and 4-2 in most of the events that I’ve attended. No real upsets over superior players, but no crushing losses to write about also. The only tournament I ever won was a gimmick format that allowed me to run over the competition with Crack Shot Defenders back in 1.0 edition. That is, until last weekend, at the first Hyperspace tournament of the year, a lovely little event hosted by The Game Shop in Aldershot and run by Phil GC. There are a couple reasons for this, but most of it comes down to the list I used, and the way my hand was forced.

Some preamble. As of time of writing, the X-Wing game is facing what I consider the first major gamechanger since the introduction of the 2.0 overhaul. On the 9th of January FFG announced a couple changes to the Hyperspace format to make it a little more than just Extended lite. This involved dropping any ship which has yet to be re-released for 2.0, along with a couple of mainstays and a lot of upgrade cards. As an Empire fan for life, this meant that pretty much 60% of my options were culled in one fell swoop, leaving only the TIE Advanced x1, the TIE Reaper, the TIE/ln Fighter, the TIE/sk Striker and the VT-49 Decimator.

Ouch. Obviously, while I support the current intention behind the new Hyperspace format, I can’t lie and say that I wasn’t looking forward to flying at least one Interceptor at the upcoming System Open. I wasn’t expecting to get my beloved Defenders into Hyperspace, even with the upcoming re-release, but the idea not being able to fly my favourite pilot – Soontir Fel – left me a wee bit salty. As a player, I tend to like two kinds of lists: either all arc-dodging Aces, or Defenders with some backup. I like my ships to be able to dance, boosting and barrel-rolling around enemy arcs of fire and generally throwing three-dice attacks about. Lists that go fast and die hard, hopefully killing the opponent before the green dice betray me. Each ship a different character that the opponent has to figure out on the fly. Darth Vader has been a decent mainstay since 2.0 rolled around, and while I’d still be happy to play him even without the repositioning option of Afterburners, the rest of my options felt a little bit lacking.

SweetJP

Archive footage of me flying literally anything.

The Decimator would be my go-to, pumping out big damage and generally being a big dumb fun ship to fly. However, while the Decimator has seen some decent builds as of late, pretty much all of those options are lost to the Hyperspace void. Loading up on Force users feels like a one-trick pony and it doesn’t solve the Decimator’s general problem of being a laser magnet with no defences. So that’s out.

All that leaves me with is the Reaper (suffers from the same problems as the Decimator with less health), the Striker (high damage potential, but I find they burst into flames immediately), additional TIE Advanced (I find non-Vader pilots to be underwhelming) and the TIE Fighter. It’s weird to say that, as an Imperial player, that I dislike the TIE Fighter. It’s the core of Empire lists and the main threat in the series since forever. The aesthetics are gorgeous, and it make such a fun screaming noise as it flies. I’ve also never had fun flying them.

I dislike flying lists with too many ships because I find that flying so many generic pilots reduces the character of each ship, not to mention my inability to keep them in formation, and the idea of those ships being two-dice attack nothings made of tin foil holds no enjoyment for me. Massed Strikers and TIE Advanced feel like they would have the same problem, just with a little more health and attack per ship. The named characters on the Striker and the Advanced are nice, but they’re more suited to leading a swarm rather than being part of an elite strike force. And the last time Vader went out with two named TIE Fighters, the Death Star was destroyed.

In short, I’d lost my favourite ships and had to make do with lists I wasn’t even sure I would enjoy flying. I realise that a lot of this is my own personal hang-ups, but at 10pm frantically trying to put lists together for a tournament two days away that I wouldn’t even have time to practise with, it was easy to feel a little down. That said, I did have a saviour, in the form of the First Order.

swz18_preview2

Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen

 

Aldershot Hyperspace List: 188 points.

(80) Kylo Ren [TIE/VN Silencer] Advanced Optics

(48) Omega Squadron Expert [TIE/SF Fighter] Fanatical, Fire Control System, Special Forces Gunner

(30) Omega Squadron Ace [TIE/FO Fighter] Fanatical

(30) Omega Squadron Ace [TIE/FO Fighter] Fanatical

Lame knock-offs that they may be, the First Order do a lot to ease my complaints with the Hyperspace selection.

The Silencer is just the Interceptor with some shields and a target lock, and Kylo can dance with the best of them. Repositioning and firepower, everything I like. Between Force tokens, Focus and Optics, Kylo can turn most attacks into three hits and still have some resources left if anyone takes a pop at him. I’ve mostly flown Blackout in the past, but while it’s fun to strip 3 defence dice off a ship with his ability and Outmanuever, it’s a rare occurrence and not a game plan.

The TIE/SF has lost my preferred pilot of choice (Quickdraw), but even without the double-tap it’s still a surprisingly hardy little ship that can take a knock and pour on damage before it gets blown up. I also really enjoy its dial, even if the 3-Sloop makes its turning options somewhat limited. Being able to fire out the back is a treat too.

The TIE/FO is still a two-dice nothing made of tinfoil, but with a shield and Fanatical in hand both defence and offence feel a little more assured. Pilot Skill 3 on these lads and the SF allows them to maintain the job of blocking, while also shooting before swarms. I could have upgraded to named pilots, but I wanted to keep a decent bid so Kylo could do his thing and also, keeping these guys light meant that my opponents weren’t gaining that many points from taking them off the table.

The basic list idea is this: TIEs control the field and whittle off health, setting up for Kylo to sweep in and finish them off with fully modified shots. At 80 points with a 12-point bid, Kylo is the endgame objective; both to points fortress and dance around shooting whatever is left standing thanks to the power of moving second in initiative. If Kylo was targeted, bludgeon targets with the SF and pot-shot with the FOs and pray that weight of dice would do the job.

Twenty-eight players rolled up into Aldershot, four of which being myself and fellow Zombie Squadron members: Tim, Nick and Graham, flying Scum, Republic and Scum respectively. To organiser Phil GC’s delight, it seemed the recent shake-up had created a decent diversity of lists: I believe that bar CIS and their robot friends, every faction had decent representation. Excuse me while I play a tiny fiddle for the death of the Sear Swarm. Anyway, the first tournament after the Hyperspace shake-up, and I believe, of the year. So, how did it go?

swx68_preview3

Kylo isn’t flying this one, therefore, evil.

Game One: Simon Bedford and his TIE Silencers.

This was a test. A test that I accepted to stand victorious against my past. A list that fit my usual preferences, one that; if I owned three TIE Silencers, I would probably be flying a similar version of myself.

The Silencers came screaming straight out of the gate, Blackout leading the pack and looking to get around the back of my ships. Unfortunately, Blackout completely overshot my boys, and with Kylo on his tail he lost two shields for the pleasure. In the opening shoot-out, the TIE squad chipped the shields from one Silencer and dealt it a Loose Stabiliser, while the Test Pilots stripped the SF of its shields in their first barrage.

A greedy Target Lock instead of a Focus saw the SF go down in flames thanks to Blackout. Kylo chased the uninjured Silencer, and with the help of an FO dropped it to two hull remaining. With two Silencers halved and my SF lost, I was ahead as we returned to a neutral state, staying that way until Kylo got the flank on Blackout and nailed him with four hits to take him off the field. One of the Silencers suffered a Console Fire from a lucky FO shot, informing the ending state of play. With Focus into Boost being such a prevalent move by my opponent, the FOs were able to intercept and hold them in place when they tried to clear the Stress in the closing turns, Kylo rushing in and finishing them off for the game.

Final Score 200 – 48

Y wings

Not pictured: Kylo just out of frame

Game Two: Jamie Booker (Flying Bantha Squadron) and his Rebel Alpha Strike

This list had one trick, but it was a good one: Dutch hands out locks, then everything gets lit up with Protons. Naturally, Kylo would be their first target, and I flew accordingly. Both sides went fast out of the gate, Kylo splitting away from the TIEs to get behind the Y-Wings and harass them, and Luke separating from the Y-Wings to get a flank on the TIEs.

Unfortunately, a misplaced Boost left Luke sitting directly behind an asteroid with the swarm drifting towards him. Kylo baited the Y-Wings into advancing, only to 1-Turn and Barrel Roll away from the maximum range of the torpedoes. Original target lost, Dutch took aim at the FO sitting behind another asteroid, only for the torpedo to completely whiff, only earning one hit that was nimbly dodged by the FO, who proceeded to knock off Dutch’s shields.

Tempting as it was to go all in on Luke, doing so would leave my back open to the Y-Wings, and as the Son of Skywalker would need a turn to get back into a decent position, I turned the FOs towards the Y-Wings while the SF S-Looped to set up a kill box for the following turn. Dutch ran headlong into an FO, and while Norra had gone slower and picked up a Focus, she was still sitting at range one of both FOs. With Dutch stuck in place, Kylo raced back towards my deployment zone, boosting out of torpedo range once again.

The next turn, and I knew Kylo was going to catch at least one torpedo. Dutch was still locked onto him, and Norra could shift hers from the FO she’d damaged previously. But I was about to have shots on every angle of the Rebel fleet. The FOs K-Turned, ready to swoop back in the following turns. The SF went slow and steady to drop the Stress, a plethora of targets to choose from in its sights. The Y-Wings similarly slow rolled, with both of them taking Focus. Which I wasn’t about to complain about. A fully modded 4 dice attack on Kylo was far better than two with only Target Locks attached. Luke crept forward, R2-D2 patching the damaged shield into life. With his uncle’s guns down, Kylo turned in, putting himself at range two of both Y-Wings but earning a range one shot on Luke. And boy was that significant.

Kylo took the torpedo like a champion, only losing one shield with a little help from the Force. When it came time for Kylo to shoot, he put four hits into Luke, who wasn’t able to manipulate fate so easily. The Dark Side was strong on the table, as the SF put three more damage into Luke. A pot-shot from the undamaged FO also went through cleanly, slaying the hero of the Rebellion. Norra was taken to half health, suffering a Weapons Failure in the process.

The Y-Wings weren’t long for the world after that. Norra fired her torpedoes into the SF to take it to half health in a last act of defiance, but both ships were promptly torn apart from all angles.

Final Score: 200 – 24

x wing battle

Ooh boy, do I have mixed feeling on this match.

Game 3: Alex Birt (186 Squadron) and his X-Wing swarm.

Here’s the thing: I went into this match expecting to lose. I’m pretty sure I’m 0-3 in tournament games against Alex, and, to be blunt, five X-Wings is a scary list. Fifteen attack dice, ten defence dice and thirty hull to chew through. They’re all Pilot Skill 2, so the area control and blocking game was all in the hands of a very skilled player, who had already bested my squad mate Nick in a narrow 14 point win the round before. So yeah, I was somewhat nervous.

The X-Wings started off gracefully syncing up, but the TIEs were somewhat wobbly and the SF sitting at an angle as they formed the triangle. Disgusted with such a shoddy formation, Kylo left them to die, preparing himself to get behind the enemy fleet and do everything himself.

As the two swarms came together in the asteroid field, I realised that at least one of my ships was probably going down. One X-Wing would push forward to limit space while the others blasted my bumped ships to death. The generics were going to have to knuckle down and prove their worth.

The SF got clear, but not clear enough. One FO slotted neatly behind an asteroid, while his brother in arms faced down an X-Wing at range one and the firing line of Rebels behind him. FO #1 gave his life valiantly for the cause, burning his Focus to put two hits and a Loose Stabiliser on the X-Wing he was duelling with. Revenge was swiftly taken, the FO slain in a barrage that also dropped a shield from the SF.

The SF went alone to tackle the incoming X-Wings, the FO turning about to catch the pilot his brother had wounded. Kylo swung in from behind with a Tallon Roll, fixing a straggler (#5) in his sights. He removed its shields, the SF chipping another away from X-Wing #3. It was heavily damaged in return, losing all but one point of hull and suffering a Wounded Pilot.

The SF was dead, that much was clear. But I could make sure it went out swinging. A 5-Forward got him clear from the K-Turning X-Wings, but also sitting at range one of one of their stragglers, if I could get the dial turned backwards. I took my Focus, and rolled to see if the SF’s injuries had crippled it. Blank, no Stress, and I spun the dial to face the fresh X-Wing target, #1. Kylo ran in from behind, hoping to pour as much damage onto this one as possible. They made a good fist of it, with two lots of attacks coming up all hits. But the X-Wing came out the other side with two hull to spare, and the SF was removed in kind.

Kylo was going to hit another ship this turn. He was Stressed from getting into position, and there were simply too many X-Wings about. But turning left allowed him to camp behind some debris and left me with a K-Turn open the next turn, if I could remove the heavily wounded X-Wing #2. The FO S-Looped to form a rudimentary pincer attack, which paid off in the form of a dead X-Wing. A lack of incoming shots and the power of the Force allowed Kylo to get away scot-free from the trap that had been prepared for him, K-Turning into place the following turn.

I say with a certain amount of gravity that this was the decision that won me the game. This is also the start of Alex’s dice turning on him. X-Wing #4 K-Turned behind the First Order. Numbers 3 and 5 sat in front, waiting for Kylo. #1 fully turned itself about, ready to return to the fight. Alex expected Kylo to follow after the FO with a 2-Turn. Kylo went straight forwards, finishing up alongside #3 and sitting at range one of both #5 and #4. A Boost took me to range two of #4, but #5 still had to die, or I was about to take some serious hurt.

Kylo rolled four hits. No Focus or Force modifiers, he just did it. And like that, there was no more #5, two blank results facing Alex. #4 seemed just as shocked as us, only earning one hit after rerolling his blanks into blanks, which Kylo promptly ignored.

The X-Wings scrambled to catch Kylo but he was long and away, breaking out of the pincer and away from consequences. The FO came up from the bottom, ready to pop some shots into #1 and taking it to its last point of hull. At this point, the computer system running the tournament crashed, along with the timer. While Phil raced to recover the scores, Alex chased half points of Kylo, as doing so would equal the X-Wing he had just lost.

Kylo T-Rolled again, aiming down #5 with the FO chasing #1 into the corner. Alex took a gamble by also Tallon Rolling #1 onto debris to get off whatever shots he could. Once again, Kylo landed four hits and once again, a X-Wing blanked out on defence, dropping #5 to only two hull remaining. There was no damage elsewhere, as while #5 hit Kylo hard in return, he dodged all three hits with only a Force Token as the cost. #1 earned only a single hit, even with a Target Lock to guide him.

With the restored clock ticking down, two wounded X-Wings vanished into space, a heavy day of losses for the Rebellion.

Final Score: 160 – 93

glactic republic1

This format would probably be way different if the Torrents were allowed in.

Game Four: George Barker (Eagle Squadron) and his Republic list.

The last game. One more win, and with my high MOV throughout the day, I probably had this in the bag. Once again, my bid allowed Kylo to move after a bunch of arc-dodgers and a heavy hitter.

The first target was Ric Olie and luckily, George was happy to oblige, sending him screaming off ahead of the pack, Kylo sweeping in and lancing him from the side. With only an Evade token to protect him, Ric lost his shields and suffered a Fuel Leak. Obi-Wan caught the SF and knocked two shields off, while Odd Ball attempted to hit a FO at range three through debris and came out short against weight of dice. The Jedi were simply too slick for there to be much in the way of counter-damage, although Plo Koon did lose a shield.

The SF broke away from the pack, looking to pump damage into Odd Ball, Obi-Wan S-Looped to keep him in sight, landing at range one of the FO that had turned in to block the Jedi. Plo Koon and Odd Ball followed his lead, putting three arcs of fire on the plucky TIE. Ric went for a 3-Bank, repairing the Fuel Leak damage. The SF was hammered by the ARC and lit up by the precise shots of the Jedi, but it hung to dear life with only one health remaining, nailing the ARC for three damage in revenge. Obi-Wan was blindsided by the FO, drawing on the last of his Force tokens to only suffer the loss of his shields.

While the SF was almost certainly going to get shot down before it could shoot again, it had one last thumb in the eye of the Republic. A red 1-Turn sat it neatly in front of Odd Ball, blocking any potential 1-Forward moves and frustrating Plo’s ability to slip through the asteroids on either side. The FOs continued the trend, the one that had damaged Obi-Wan 3-Banking to limit his Stress reduction options, and the other bringing guns to bear on Odd Ball.

Obi-Wan careened forwards and landed on an asteroid, suffering a damage to take him to half health. And while Odd Ball got away with a K-Turn, Plo similarly smacked straight into the SF. Ric was out of position to do anything, still hugging the edge of space. But while the SF died in a blaze of glory, his sacrifice allowed the FO to strip Odd Ball of two hull. The power of the Force allowed Plo Koon to knock the other FO to half health as well.

The undamaged FO sat in front of the ARC, ready to slow it down and not get shot in kind. The damaged FO performed a K-Turn, staring the Jedi down, joined by Kylo. Obi-Wan and Plo moved in for the kill, leaving enough room for Odd Ball to leapfrog past my FO.

I did make a small mistake involving the damage cards for the FOs here, getting the FO numbers mixed up, meaning that instead of a half-health ship, I had a dead one. My mistake completely, and thanks to George for being understanding about it. It was an honest mistake though, and the game continued with me down a ship.

Fortunately, Kylo was always out for blood, dodging Plo Koon and Odd Ball’s attacks and slaying Obi-Wan in return. We moved into the close of the game. The FO crept around a piece of debris, ready to intercept Plo if he turned left. He did, but not enough, while Odd Ball K-Turned again and Ric turned inwards to join the battle. Kylo roared forwards to meet him.

Once again, Kylo took enemy attacks with aplomb, ignoring all attempts to kill him and placing a Stressed Pilot onto Ric, while the FO was chipped to half health by Odd Ball. In the following turn, Kylo T-Rolled to catch Ric in his sights and finish the job. It didn’t take long for the ARC’s lack of defence dice to crumble under weight of fire after that, leaving only Kylo and the FO to lock down Plo. The game finished in a joust between Jedi and Sith, Kylo dropping to half health but eliminating Plo in the process.

Final Score: 200 – 93

I was sitting pretty, and with the only player that could catch me on MOV losing in his last game, I was left standing at the top of the mountain, winning a box of fancy alt-art cards, some see-through Stress tokens, but also a Lego Microfighter. Given the work that the SF had done in every game and the strength of the First Order overall, I would have been remiss to pick anything but the diddy SF for my ‘work’ desk.

lego75194_1

This mad lad is currently hanging out with the entire cast of Smash Bros.

I know that this article mostly draws attention to Kylo’s exploits on the table, but I’m putting that down to that fact that, when he acted, it was always in a big, explosive manner. But there are a hundred unrecorded little moves by the TIE squad that really helped swing each game, from chip damage to shot survival, to simply getting in the opponent’s way. FFG’s statement of intent with Hyperspace seems to be to shake players out of their ruts, and honestly, the system seems to have worked. I really dislike taking what feel like unremarkable lists of no-name pilots, and yet I’ve managed to win a tournament with one. I’m still looking forward to trying out three Silencers, but when the System Open comes around, I’ll probably be flying these Omega Squadron boys once more.

– Jamie –

 

 

 

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