Back to the drawing board

The intro…

Welcome! (or hopefully, welcome back!)

Just a quick recap about what’s been going on. I’m playing in the second Vagabond Open on Vassal. The format of the tournament is that you play each game with a different faction. I have to say (having now had the experience of 11 games in it) that, as a format, it doesn’t suit me. I definitely benefit from having practice with a list and tweaking it as I go, building tactics against different archetypes and learning what to do (and what not to!).

Therefore a tournament where I’m forced to pick a different faction (and, obviously, an entirely different list) certainly is a challenge for me.

My record so far confirms that. I’m 0-4 so far although in my defence, I’ve played against some really top players. 3 of my last 4 opponents attended Worlds last year and the other had played a tournament final just days before our game. Feels harsh man.

On one hand it’s been tough losing the 4 in a row. Even when games are good fun and the result is close, losing consistently does bad things to your mind and it takes some mental strength to get past that and keep going.

On the other hand I’ve gained experience against top tier players. Some have been closer than others and the lists weren’t exactly top meta lists but still, the experience has been incredibly valuable and I’ve been able to get to know some amazing new people and (hopefully!) grow my knowledge of the game and learn from it all.

Last week’s game (and blog post) was a significant one in a couple of ways. Firstly because, well, Phil GC (a legend of the game, incredible blogger and a gentleman to boot). Secondly because I was flying against another blogger which is awesome because I get to actually read about the game from my opponent’s perspective (which, in my opinion at least, is a very rare and valuable thing). I’d say that I probably learned as much from the blog as I did from playing the game. Lastly I had the terrifying honour of having that game put on stream by the Firestorm Firecast and have a certain Mr Pocknell (the World Champ dontcha know) commentate on it.

All bonkers.

I got hammered, yes, but hopefully I’ve learned some stuff from it. Even if I don’t, I have got to know some amazing new people and I really hope that some time soon it’ll be possible to meet them in person somewhere.

So, have I stepped up to the challenge? Results would say no, probably not but the real proof won’t be in the games I’m playing in this tournament. The games that I’m playing with lists that are either thrown together at short notice or lists that I’m unfamiliar with will always be hit or miss. There are so many factors in these games such as opponent skill level and list (which could be anything from jank to meta (JARGON ALERT!!) ) so, combined with my unfamiliarity with my own list it becomes quite hard to gauge.

No, the true test will be how (or whether) I apply these lessons once I get back to ‘normal’ X-Wing. Whether it’s online or (eventually) in person I need to take the new experiences into games where I’m using lists that I have reps with and see how that works out.

Anyway, that’s enough self reflection nonsense, let’s look at this week.

Here I am at 0-4, not a great record and (save for someone on 0-3 who appears to have dropped out?) bottom of the ladder. Ouch.

With the factions I have left I’m considering a few different options.
For Empire I’m giving serious consideration to the list that Phil played against me last week. Those Inquisitors are tricksy (but fragile) and the combination of missiles and a little Sense carrier is quite potent.
For First Order I’m thinking to use the trusty 5 SF list I played in the last Vagabond Open. It’s chunky, puts out consistent damage and flies like ships that I know well.
For CIS, well, I’m not 100% sure. I tried a Sear swarm in testing but it feels a bit dirty. Endless calculates, blocks and struts mean I’m almost always getting at least some shots onto something and, if I blocked it, it’s got no mods for attack or defence.

On the Sunday evening pairings were announced and, rather incredulously, I’d been paired with Mr Nic Harris. Yes, the Nic Harris that runs the Firestorm Firecast. The very stream that I had played on just 2 days before.
Nic also has the very unfortunate position of being 0-4 so I suppose being paired wasn’t all that unlikely! We get in touch about setting a day and time to play.

At this point, I’m still not sure what list or even what faction I want to use but what I DO know is that with Nic having streamed my game against Phil last time, I don’t want to use the Inquisitors against him. I think that having had the opportunity to watch them in action and discussed what they can/can’t/should/shouldn’t do would likely reduce how effective I could be with it.

So it’s FO or CIS.

I chatted with Nic a few times over several days with both of us basically saying ‘I don’t know what to play’.

I tried the Sear swarm, I tried the SF swarm, I tried the Inquisitor swarm

Nope, there’s no link other than the last sentence made me think of these lyrics. And of course, there’s Baby Yoda.

I genuinely wasn’t sure what to pick.

Having originally arranged to play on the Friday Nic contacted me to ask if we could do Thursday instead. Bringing the decision deadline forward helped to focus my mind and Nic informed me that he’d settled on a list. He also said he didn’t mind telling me that it included a Falcon and a Jumpmaster.

Hmmmm….

I thought that this information might help but my knowledge of Scum pilots is quite limited (other than there’s a LOT of them) and so I was none the wiser really.

I made the assumption that the Jumpmaster would be flown either by Dengar or Nom Lumb which, with them being i6 and i1 respectively, didn’t help with a guide on initiative.

I’m vaguely aware of a recent Dengar build which can double tap (JARGON ALERT!!) and so, not wanting to have 3 health droids being popped with alarming regularity, I finally decide to go with the 5 SF list.

Omega Squadron Expert (34)
Fanatical (2)
Advanced Optics (4)

Ship total: 40 Half Points: 20 Threshold: 3

Omega Squadron Expert (34)
Fanatical (2)
Advanced Optics (4)

Ship total: 40 Half Points: 20 Threshold: 3

Omega Squadron Expert (34)
Fanatical (2)
Advanced Optics (4)

Ship total: 40 Half Points: 20 Threshold: 3

Omega Squadron Expert (34)
Fanatical (2)
Advanced Optics (4)

Ship total: 40 Half Points: 20 Threshold: 3

Omega Squadron Expert (34)
Fanatical (2)
Advanced Optics (4)

Ship total: 40 Half Points: 20 Threshold: 3

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=First%20Order&d=v8ZsZ200Z285X181W186WWWWY285X181W186WWWWY285X181W186WWWWY285X181W186WWWWY285X181W186WWWW&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=coreasteroid3,coreasteroid4,coreasteroid5

It’s a proven list with consistent damage output from Advanced Optics and, as the game progresses, Fanatical and a dial that I’m comfortable with apart from missing K-turns (but sloops will do). If I’m using it right then I shouldn’t need either of them anyway.

During my usual ‘is it ok with you if I blog about this game?’ conversation Nic just casually replies:

So, yeah, looks like I’ll be on stream again!

You never play on stream before and then it’s twice in 2 games!

Streamed games, apparently like actual London Buses

It’s time to put that out of my mind though as I prepare myself for the game with some more test sims. I run the 5 SF list a few times in Fly Casual and I’m generally happy with what I’m doing and how to play it.

Now I just have to try and play it well against an actual person.

The batrep… (JARGON ALERT!!)

Thursday rolls around and I take myself off to the dining room to get set up for the game.

While I load up Vassal I join Nic, Phillip and Dom in a Discord chat and we get ready for the stream to go live. I take the opportunity to look at Nic’s list. It isn’t exactly what I expected.

Han Solo (Scum) (54)
Trick Shot (4)
Qi’ra (2)
0-0-0 (5)
Rigged Cargo Chute (4)
Lando’s Millennium Falcon (3)

Ship total: 72 Half Points: 36 Threshold: 6

Fenn Rau (68)
Fearless (3)

Ship total: 71 Half Points: 36 Threshold: 2

Autopilot Drone (12)
Ship total: 12 Half Points: 6 Threshold: 2

Nom Lumb (38)
Ion Cannon (6)

Ship total: 44 Half Points: 22 Threshold: 5

Total: 199

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Scum%20and%20Villainy&d=v8ZsZ200Z89X133WW55W63WW96WW152Y97X121WY96XY400XW11WWWWW&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

A tricked out Han? Yep, I sort of expected that but, as I’ve mentioned before, not knowing my way around Scum very well the actual ins and outs of the upgrades are pretty new to me. Also, the Scum Falcon is cheaper than I thought. Like, a lot.

Nom Lumb? Yep, expected. The Ion Cannon seems to be stapled to him since it adds a front arc weapon, an element of control and comes in at just 44 points despite ALL that health. In all honesty, annoying as he is, I’d still rather see Nom Lumb than Dengar.

Autopilot Drone? Again, not entirely unexpected since I knew the Falcon was in play. At this point I’m sort of glad I didn’t pick droids for it to smash into and then blow up to hand out crits.

Fenn Rau? Ummm….. didn’t see this coming. I don’t know why. I could have assumed that the Falcon would come in at less than 100 points (54 base cost though!?! That’s a big difference from the Rebel version!) and that a Jumpmaster that isn’t Dengar would be cheap. But I did not expect a 71 point Fearless Fenn to be cruising around the board trying to roll 5 dice at me at range 1.

Hmmm….

Time to come up with a plan, and quickly.

The lessons of last week’s game are in my mind:

  • Turn 0 is a thing
  • Target priority
  • Think about where to engage
  • Think about how to approach
  • Don’t freak out at being on stream.

Nic has big ships with turrets, I don’t want to let him easily skirt the edge but also don’t want nice easy lanes to navigate through the middle.

We place obstacles (and, looking back, I didn’t end up with rocks where I maybe should have. I can’t think why now though) and it’s time to place ships.

Nic places Nom Lumb facing across his board edge in the corner that I placed the rock. He’s kind of already nullified the only rock I ended up placing in a corner. Damn.

With the Drone starting docked in the Falcon it’s my turn to place my whole list before Fenn and Han deploy.

Thinking that I want to engage in or near the large open space to my right I deploy the 5 ships in a staggered block just inside range 1 of the edge.

Fenn starts right next to Nom Lumb facing me and Han goes more central but also facing sideways.

My target priority is tricky. Fenn can deal the most damage but it’s likely that he will keep some distance before coming in. The advantage I have here is that with my turrets set backwards I don’t need to turn around. Han and Fenn are worth the most points but my experiences against Nom Lumb so far have all been with him as a blocker and, with Advanced Optics in the list, I want my focus tokens. In the end I’ll shoot at what he offers up but Nom Lumb and/or Fenn are where I’m looking.

With that in mind (and to see what he’s trying to do) I set all 5 ships a 1 forwards and roll towards the board edge to give me more space to turn in later.

Nic has Lom Lumb bump into Fenn to keep him roughly where he is before Fen banks and barrel rolls into the middle and Han goes forwards along the board edge.

It’s fairly non-committal all around and obviously no shots this turn and so we’re back to planning.

I decide to go with 1 forwards again to see where Nic is headed. If I spook Fenn he’ll just 5 forwards and boost away. Han is still a bit far away so it’s looking like Nom Lumb will be first target.

Nic moves Nom Lumb slowly forwards before Fenn moves forwards and rolls and Han hard turns in and locks a debris.

Again, no shots so it’s time to plan again.

It seems like Nic is leaving his options open with Fenn. Skirting and rolling away. I dial in ANOTHER 1 forwards, looking to bank in next time and go for the lane between the corner rock and debris.

Nom Lumb keeps slow rolling forwards while Fenn again banks and rolls away while Han heads up the board.

Once again no shots but I think next time there will be. It’s time to bank in. I set the front row a range of 1-3 banks and the second row 1 and 2 banks. Focuses for everyone.

Nom Lumb hard turns towards my TIEs and focuses. Fenn hard turns and rolls towards Nom. Han YOLO’s over the debris (thanks to Qi’ra) and, after some deliberation, takes a lock on the nearest SF.

Finally, we’re going to shoot.

Han fires at the locked SF and scores a hit. Given the choice to spend the focus I decide to take the hit and keep it for offence.

Lom Lumb is just out of reach from the yellow SF but red fires and registers 2 hits which Nom Lumb neatly evades. The blue SF fires at Han and pushes a hit through to plink a shield off.

Nom Lumb fires and gets a single shield off the red SF.

Back to dials we go and now it’s time to pick a target to focus down.

Knowing that Nom Lumb is a good blocker I’m assuming a 3 bank is what he’s aiming for and I’m fairly confident that 1 forwards will be safe from bumping.

Before anything moves Nic launches the Drone from the Falcon and coordinates a lock which the Falcon takes on the debris (meaning he can ignore it). Nice moves.

Nom Lumb goes the 3 bank as expected and takes a focus.

I move my front SF. No bump.

No bump!

Focuses all round. Your move Nic!

Han sails over the debris and focuses in a flank position while Fenn takes a 5 straight with a boost & focus to angle in on the same flank as Han.

Han fires at the blue SF, hoping to lay the foundation for Fenn. Sadly (for Nic at least!) Han rolls blank, eyeball and spends the focus for 1 hit which the SF evades.

Crucially, Fenn has just missed arc on the blue SF so he only has a range 2 shot at the white one behind. Close one.

Freaking close.

Fenn rolls hit, crit into the white SF and I roll blank and eyeball. With shields at full I decide to take the hits and keep the focus for attack. At the very least it’s 2 steps closer to activating Fanatical and that focus might come in handy later.

Now it’s my turn. Fenn is a very tempting target and is definitely in range for at least 2, maybe 3 of my ships. Nom Lumb is sitting right there though and is the only ship in arc for at least 2 of my SF’s so I begin there.

The first shot strips 1 shield and the focus. The second shot scores 3 hits, putting him at 5 health. I can’t miss the opportunity to try and smash the Jumpmaster, Fenn will have to chase me if he wants to score points and I can shoot from rear arcs.

The other 3 SF’s rain fire onto Nom Lumb and between them score exactly the right amount of damage to take him off the board.

Nice.

This puts me in the (slightly unfamiliar) situation of being ahead but not only that, my positioning is pretty decent too.

Back to planning and it’s relatively simple choices. The red, green and blue SF’s all get a 3 forwards. Blue will clip the debris but it’s better than breaking formation. He takes a stress and rolls a crit for his trouble while the other 2 take a focus. Orange (or yellow? Gold?!) will need to bank around the rock (and in doing so bumps into green) but white, he’s my trump card. Fenn is stressed and will need to try and clear that. I know a 2 hard is blue (as is a 2 bank). I gamble on Fenn wanting to chase me by taking a left turn and give white a 1 bank to go for the block.

The Drone has banked and coordinates a lock to Han. After my ships move Han hard turns and focuses before Fenn attempts the 2 hard left and bumps into the white SF.

Yes!

That move leaves Fenn without a shot but Han promptly strips the rest of white’s shields.

White doesn’t have arc on Han and nor does anyone else. Blue is the only one with ANY shot but 2 dice unmodded into Fenn was never going to be doing anything useful. No damage done by me and we go back to dials.

It’s brought up in the commentary at this point that Fenn is in a tough position. He can’t disengage to his right because the Autopilot Drone is about to explode. He could go straight to disengage but he’s slightly behind on points and wants to chase.

From my view, Fenn was always going to turn left and chase something down.

I send the white SF 2 forwards to hop past Fenn and take a focus. Red, blue and green all go 3 forwards while orange goes 4, almost (but not quite!) hitting the rock. Normally I’d have gone 1 forwards with everyone to try for range 1 shots but I really don’t want Fenn at range 1 of me and if I can keep Han away until Fenn is dealth with then it’s all the better.

Fenn does indeed go hard 2 left and then takes a focus & boost to try for range 1. Han hard turns in and takes a focus over a rotate as he believes he has white in the side arc.

Han fires at the white SF and, with a lock from a previous turn scores 2 hits. White blanks out, leaving him on just 1 health.

Fenn shoots at the (full health) green SF who is at range 1 and rolls hit, hit, eyeball and 2 blanks. Nic elects not to spend the focus and save it for defence.

The SF’s return fire and, between the 3 of them having the bonus of Advanced Optics, get 3 hits past Fenn’s green dice, reducing him to just 1 hull left. White takes a pot shot at Han but doesn’t do any damage.

Overall, I’m happy with that turn.

I want to try and finish Fenn off now so dial in bank moves for everyone. The 3 SF’s skirting the outside of the rock take banks while orange 1 banks the other way to avoid hitting it. White 1 banks (since he picked up a Damaged Engine last turn) and hopes that he’ll survive to shoot at Han.

Han hard turns towards the white SF to bring his side arc to bear and takes a focus. Fenn goes 3 forwards and takes a boost & focus, trying again to get someone in range 1.

Again Fenn has missed range 1 by a narrow margin but he has managed to dodge green’s arc.

Han fires and puts the white SF out of his misery. Fenn fires at the red SF and takes his 2 remaining shields. The SF’s return fire but this time Fenn’s green bail him out and he manages to get the exact amount of evade results he needs for all 3 incoming shots.

Frustrating.

Back to dials now and I have to just keep trying to get that last damage onto Fenn.

Red and blue take 3 banks (but annoyingly red bumps blue which denies him the focus) and green 2 banks. Orange takes a slightly suicidal 2 hard towards Han to give him something to think about, taking a stress from clipping the debris in the process.

Fenn moves straight and bank boosts with a focus again, hoping to dodge arcs and catch the red SF. Han hard turns in, also clipping the debris to get stressed and taking the crit too.

Han fires at orange but does just 1 damage. Fenn fires at red but, deciding not to spend his focus on attack, red evades. Blue and red fire on Fenn and this time there’s no avoiding the relentless accurate fire of these ships and Fenn burns down.

Time ran out during planning for the last turn and so, in keeping with the 60 mins +2 rounds guide, there are just 2 turns left. Time to get some points off the Falcon.

I set fast moves for red, blue and green, hoping to catch the Falcon with at least 2 rear arcs while orange banks away from the debris while trying to keep arc on Han.

Han hard turns in, over the debris (picking up a second stress token) to get a range 1 arc on green.

Han fires but it’s blank, blank eyeball and even spending the calculate from 0-0-0 does no damage to green.

I’ve got just 2 shots into Han but between them I get 4 damage past Nic’s green dice, reducing the Falcon to just 5 hull.

It’s now the last turn and so I set my dials to try and get as many arcs on Han as possible and finish him off. Green banks towards the board edge while red and blue turn in and orange 1 banks away.

Han hammers 4 forwards to try and evade arcs and gets a calculate with 0-0-0.

Han fires but the red dice are terrible and Ni c registers no hits.

I have 3 shots on the Falcon, all with a focus but where Nic’s red dice failed him, his green dice don’t and in the end I get just 2 hits onto Han, leaving him at 3 health.

Game over and the final result is a 163 – 60 win for me!

The conclusion…

Well… right. Where to start?

First of all, it’s finally a win! Yay!

Secondly, it’s a good win. Having listened back to the commentary of the game, Nic was favoured for the match up as long as he could leverage the power of the i6 pilots while bumping with Nom Lumb. Obviously the first (meaningful) engagement robbed Nic of his blocker and, while I never like taking damage, allowing hits through on my ships (rather than spending focus on defence) kept my damage output consistent with Advanced Optics and headed me towards activating Fanatical which allowed my already reliable damage output to become even more effective. Once I had forced Fenn to chase me to catch up on points the circumstances swung in my favour and the fact that I didn’t need to turn the ships around meant I would always (well, mostly) have arc on his ships AND have a focus to enhance my shots. I don’t know the maths but at range 2 with a 2 dice attack I was registering 2 hits most of the time.

I try not to obsess over dice results too much but when it comes to Vassal I like to put the log into Lady Luck and see how my dice compare to what I ‘should’ (statistically speaking) have got. This helps me to not just blindly blame my dice if it hasn’t gone well.

For the most part these numbers look fairly average for both Nic and myself, nothing too far outside of the norm. Except for my hits. My actual hits were high (expected – 22.87, actual – 27) but Optics (and, only on one occasion but still there, Fanatical) bumped that up by 10 to 37. That is crazy. This list just keeps going up and up in my estimation.

Overall I’m really happy with how I played the list. So much so that I’m now actually quite sad that I (well, Cai!) sold our FO ships as I’d now rather use this list in a physical tournament than I would the 5X list that I’ve practised with.

If we ever get back to actual real life games maybe I can borrow stuff.

Ummmmm……

As for being on stream, I actually managed to mostly forget about it once we got started. It was great having the time to idly chat with Nic as we set dials and it just felt like any other game.

Whether that would be the case being on stream at a real life tournament I don’t know. Maybe some day I’ll be good enough to find out!

If you are interested in watching the game then you’ll find it on Twitch here and later on it’ll be on YouTube here too.

So here I am at 1-4 and 2 games to go to close out the tournament. It’s definitely been a fun ride and I’m looking forward to my last 2 games. I just need to decide what lists to use…

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