Come back to what you know…

Before we begin…

Last week I got a notification from the WordPress app on my phone which, if I’m honest, caught me a little by surprise.

So yeah, it’s been a year! In fact, having looked back my very first post was on the 20th of June so I actually missed it by 10 days. How very me. This is in fact post #55. If you’d have told me this time last year that I’d still be doing this and would have posted this many blogs I’d probably have laughed at you. Politely, of course, but still…

Anyway, if you’ve read any of my posts (and you’re reading one now, so that certainly means you!) thanks so much! Through doing this blog I have met so many new people (some of them even in person!) and I have grown in my understanding of the game (though that point is more up for debate than the first). This community is amazing and I feel honoured to be a part of it.

Anyway, enough of the soppy nostalgic nonsense. You want to see if I got beaten again!

The intro…

Welcome back!

I’m currently playing in the second Vagabond Open on Vassal and, following last week’s result I am now 1-4 following my second game streamed by Firestorm Firecast.

As I’ve mentioned before (many times!) This tournament’s rules mean you play each game with a different faction. 7 factions means 7 games and I now have 2 left:
Empire and CIS.

This leaves me in a rather tricky position. I’m not massively into either faction, with us (my son Cai and I) not actually owning any CIS ships. Cai plays Imperial quite a lot though and what little experience I have comes from playing against him and also by helping him form tactics and openings.

With both left to play clearly I need a list for each one and that’s where things get tricky.

For CIS I’m a bit torn. I have tested a Sear swarm. It’s effective (against the Fly Casual AI at least) and I know it’s a strong list. It’s popularity may have dropped off since January but I’d say that’s mostly out that down to Sear being taken out of Hyperspace and most events (until lockdown hit!) being this format.
These Vultures can rain fire and having TA-175 on Sear means if you lose a ship you’re probably getting lots of mods just in time to shoot.

While thinking about other options a friend sent me a list to try which was 5 Hyena bombers with a mix of initiatives and a sprinkling of plasma and discord ordnance. He said he hadn’t tried it out but when looking at it he had no idea how to approach it as an opponent.
I tried it. I got smashed up. I concluded that this doesn’t necessarily make it a bad list, it’s more that I’m inexperienced with droids. Very inexperienced.

I put a pin in it for now.

So what about the Empire? Again, I’m a bit torn. I’d sort of like to try out the list that Phil GC beat me with a few weeks ago. What’s stopping me is that:
a) the ships are fragile
b) I’m not an ‘ace’ player (I know the i3 Inquisitor isn’t technically an ace but it’s a low health, high agility ship with reposition and potential token stacking which makes it very ‘acey’ in my book)
c) I’m not as good as Phil.

It is tempting though.

A few weeks ago it was Cai’s birthday and I’d managed to get hold of 2 Alpha class star wings (I know!!). He promptly put together a list with both in and we played a game. I did win (with Dash and Lando) but man, those ships can alpha strike (JARGON ALERT!!). He SLAMMED in fast and hit me with 2 modded Proton Torpedo shots in the first engagement and came away with 4 crits and 4 hits between them before I was properly ready to engage. We tweaked the list a little and managed to add an Academy Pilot to join 2 Nu Squadron pilots and Lt Sai. It still needs testing and tweaking but it’s definitely interesting even if it isn’t good!
Another option is what I used in the first Vagabond tournament, a Decimator Sloane swarm.

So.many.choices!!

This week has been a strange one for us as my wife has now gone back to work (from home) whereas I am still off. This means I am now trying to ‘encourage’ (force/blackmail) both the kids to get their school work done and so my practice time (in fact my time in general) has been somewhat diminished.

Add to this my list indecision and what I ended up with was STILL not knowing which list to run 7 hours before the game. I know for some people that isn’t a problem but for me getting reps and understanding/remembering triggers is important.
I found a spare hour and tried the Four Inquisitor list. Annoyingly whenever I tried to fire Homing Missiles and the AI chose to take the hit, Fly Casual crashed out. I tried again and just didn’t fire the Homing Missiles. It didn’t go well. Granted I was facing 4 B-Wings with Selfless but losing 3 health from one ship in my first engagement was enough to put me off it quite quickly. I’m not great with these ships.

The day wore on and, just 1 hour before the game I tried the Gunboat list. And got smashed up. I messed up a couple of the SLAM moves and paid the price, losing one Gunboat before it had even fired. Feels bad. Another list bites the dust.

Still, my failure helped to focus me. 10 minutes before the game I decide to revert to something I know (well, sort of) and, even though I’ve not practised with it, I go with the Decimator Sloane swarm.

90’s throwback!

Patrol Leader (67)
Death Troopers (6)
Admiral Sloane (9)
Shield Upgrade (3)
Dauntless (4)

Ship total: 89 Half Points: 45 Threshold: 9

Academy Pilot (22)
Ship total: 22 Half Points: 11 Threshold: 2

Academy Pilot (22)
Ship total: 22 Half Points: 11 Threshold: 2

Academy Pilot (22)
Ship total: 22 Half Points: 11 Threshold: 2

Academy Pilot (22)
Ship total: 22 Half Points: 11 Threshold: 2

Academy Pilot (22)
Ship total: 22 Half Points: 11 Threshold: 2

Total: 199

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Galactic%20Empire&d=v8ZsZ200Z216XWW27W14WWW165W147Y229XY229XY229XY229XY229X&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=gascloud2,gascloud4,gascloud6

It’s not spectacular but I’ve found it to be pretty effective once TIE’s start dropping and my opponent’s ships are stressed.

With my opponent messaging me to say he’s ready while I’m still closing Fly Casual following my devastating loss with the Gunboats I guess I’m ready to go!

The Batrep… (JARGON ALERT!!)

That brings me nicely to the subject of my opponent.

I first knew this would be a great game when, in response to my making contact in the Vagabond match maker group (which still sounds like a dodgy dating site in my head) Tyler Samplonius (which is, quite possibly, the most epic name I have ever heard) posted this as his reply.

Yep, this is going to be fun! We get online, connect via Discord and Tyler immediately apologises in advance for the noise his kids will make during the game. I tell him it’s fine, Cai is sat next to me playing Fortnite on his Xbox and so I apologise in advance for any talk of floppers or slurp fish (no, I have no idea).

I spawn in my list and, quite hilariously, I’ve copy/pasted the YASB link of the Gunboat list and not the Sloane swarm. Oops!

After a quick correction I have the right list loaded and take a look to see what Tyler has. Hmmm…..

Kylo Ren (76)
Advanced Optics (4)

Ship total: 80 Half Points: 40 Threshold: 3

“Blackout” (63)
Fanatical (2)

Ship total: 65 Half Points: 33 Threshold: 3

Sienar-Jaemus Engineer (51)
Ship total: 51 Half Points: 26 Threshold: 3

Total: 196

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=First%20Order&d=v8ZsZ200Z236XW186WWY237X181WWWY286XWW&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

Triple Silencers. Yuck. It could be worse I suppose, I could have brought the slow and lumbering Republic Y-Wings to this game (if I hadn’t used them already of course. You know what I mean!). Still, catching those ships in arc with enough fire power isn’t going to be easy. Especially if I want to keep within range 3 of the Decimator to get mods once the stress starts flowing. Tyler has the bid and gives me first player (I assume to be able to arc dodge with his i1 Silencer. It does mean that I now have 5 ships that move before any of his though. Blocks aplenty!).

We’ve both brought gas clouds and they all get placed, followed by all my TIE’s. Still trying to figure out how I’m going to approach this game, I place them just right of the middle, aiming to send them up the central lane to have options once the Silencers inevitably start engaging/disengaging alternately. I don’t go with a standard 2 x 2 block (because there’s 5!) but take a staggered 2/3 formation. And I don’t really know why. The lane wasn’t going to be wide enough and I just made trouble for myself right from the off.

Anyway, Tyler’s i1 Silencer went down in his right hand corner. I placed the Decimator outside of the obstacles to my right before Tyler places Blackout centrally and Kylo opposite the Patrol Leader.

In terms of where to engage I wasn’t really sure. I conceded (in my mind) that with the Silencers being able to go really fast and disengage almost at will that even if I did pick an area to engage Tyler could just ‘nope’ out of it. With all obstacles being gas clouds there wasn’t anywhere that would be really terrible to engage (except for somewhere with the Decimator pointing off the board edge of course) so I’ll head for the middle and pick targets as they come up.

An even spread of Silencers across the board.

Having chosen to fly down the middle I stick with the plan. I’m expecting Kylo to turn in and run away but I’m not sure about the other two. Four of the TIEs will go 2 forwards while green will hard turn in to avoid the gas cloud further on and tuck in behind later. I’ll send the Decimator forwards and try to judge the moves to be able to turn into the middle in either of the lanes between clouds. Hopefully.

Tyler moves his ships and Kylo does indeed hard turn in but is also joined by Blackout who looks like he wants to flank me eventually. Meanwhile the i1 Engineer is looking to sneak in between some gas clouds. He’s probably bait to reel me in while the others flank but since he’s more points than 2 TIEs I’m inclined to bite at whatever I’m fed.

Obviously there’s no shooting and so it’s on to planning again.

I think that Kylo will skirt his board edge and so there’s no need to worry about him yet. I can’t decide where the i! will go but I want to make Tyler think twice about the flank with blackout so it’s bank moves for the AP’s (while I’ve still got space to move freely). This does put them further from the Patrol Leader (who 4 straight’s, shooting for the gas cloud gap) than I’d like though but I’ll deal with that next turn.

Tyler’s i1 comes between the clouds but nopes out of the joust with the TIEs. Kylo 5 straights and boosts in, still keeping his distance. Blackout has gone more cautiously than I expected and rolls out to the board edge.

This time there are shots but range 3 obstructed on a Silencer with a 2 dice TIE fighter…draw your own conclusions there.

Back to dials we go and now I have some choices. The Deci will turn in now to get into the fight. I have to commit one way or another and so I gamble on the i1 Silencer turning in while I expect Kylo to shoot right past towards Blackout. To do this I bank all the TIEs back in to the middle. It puts me at risk of some pain from Blackout but part of this list is actually losing TIEs, handing out stress and getting rerolls from that.

In doing this I actually send 3 of my 5 TIEs over the gas cloud (YOLO!) and someone only come out with 1 strain. Cool.

Tyler sends the i1 on a bit of a suicide mission, turning in on the Deci. He has also stressed himself in the process. Blackout angles in as expected and has range on the green TIE for a free shot. Kylo rather unexpectedly turns in. Interesting.

Time for a proper engagement! Or so we thought. Blackout whiffs (JARGON ALERT!!) his shot on the green TIE before Kylo opts for the range 2 shot on the yellow (orange? gold?!) TIE over the Deci and just a single hit goes through.

The i1 Silencer tanks 2 shots (one of them a 4 dice range 1 from the Deci) to take zero damage.

Ironically, my piddly 2 dice TIE’s fire on Kylo at range 2/3 respectively and manage to sneak a damage on.

So that’s 1 damage each in the first engage. Hmmm….

Dials again and now I have to work some stuff out. I know that focused fire is best (especially when you’re using 2 dice guns) but I have to cover my bases because these bloomin Silencers could be pretty much anywhere. In my favour though is the fact that Kylo is in a bad spot. He definitely doesn’t want to be knife fighting, especially with a great big Deci close by and end up Force drained and blocked. That said, at the time of the game I was a little unsure what to do and so I went for a combination of going for blocks (blue and white), position for next turn (K-turn with red and yellow) and getting some shots in (green and Deci).

I get the block on the i1 (which the Deci then bumps into but I don’t mind too much as the title still lets me take an action. I chose a focus but later wished I’d rotated arc. Wow, this is a long bracketed passage!) but screw up the distance on k-turn with yellow and my angles with, well, just about everyone.

Kylo dodges left and then boosts around the gas cloud to evade teh Deci’s arc (you know, the one I almost rotated) while Blackout comes in hard for an opportunistic shot.

I will admit now, I had forgotten Blackout’s pilot ability. Yes, Tyler took the range 1 obstructed shot at the strained TIE. He did a grand total of 1 damage. Wow.

I shoot at things and miss, Tyler shoots at things and also misses. It’s becoming a running theme of this game.

As we go back to dials I have taken 1 shield off Tyler’s list and he has put 2 damage into mine.

So, what to do now? Yellow needs to turn (but is stressed from the failed K-turn) so hard turns right. Green, blue and white turn to spread some arcs towards Kylo/the i1 while red decides he wants to play chicken with Blackout. Or maybe block him. We’ll see. As for the Deci? Well, that’s a funny story. In all my planning of the TIEs I just picked up the Deci dial and dropped it on the board. Yep, I forgot to set it. Oops! Thankfully it was a fairly harmless 1 bank that wouldn’t bump. Lucky me!

Tyler’s i1 decided to get out of Dodge with a 3 bank and boost while Kylo took a 2 hard and rolled into the cover of the gas cloud before Blackout also hard turned and ran into the red TIE (Tyler had also forgotten about Death Troopers meaning Blackout kept his stress which would also limit his dial next turn. Woop!)

Not a huge amount of shooting happened here as you might guess. Blackout, the i1 Silencer and the yellow and white TIEs ALL didn’t have a shot.

Kylo shot range 1 at the green TIE and missed (how??!?). The Patrol Leader and blue and green TIEs all fired at Kylo. And missed.

The plucky red TIE took his range 3 shot at the i1 Silencer and got a damage on. Ironic.

So to summarise, there still been just a total of 4 damage done all game. ALL GAME! And it’s 2 each. And no points have been scored. What is happening!?

Back to planning we go and now I need to figure out some sort of a plan. Kylo is worth the most points and so if I can get half on him then I’ll be making some progress. My Deci isn’t in a fantastic spot but having the turret means I can turn to leave while still pointing at things so I set it to hard turn right. The yellow TIE needs to do something this gamebut is still stressed so he gets a bank around the gas cloud to try and be useful next turn. With the rest of the TIEs I try and spread arcs to cover where I expect Kylo might go.

Tyler’s i1 Silencer turns around the gas cloud and lines up to shoot the Decimator. Blackout banks to lose his stress but clips the cloud (and takes a strain) while being unable to reposition to get the Deci in arc.

Kylo goes where I didn’t expect him (although I don’t know why I didn’t expect that) and moves to evade as much incoming fire as possible. Poop.

With both Blackout and Kylo having nothing in arc the Patrol Leader fires on the strained Blackout and manages to strip his shields (finally! damage done!). The white and blue TIEs have arc on Kylo but (as I expected) no damage gets past the green dice.

The i1 Silencer rolls at the Decimator and lands 3 hits. I roll my single green in response and blank out, losing 3 shields.

Early in this round the 1 hour timer went. Yes, we’ve taken an hour. It’s crazy. A total of 9 damage has been done and zero points have been scored. This is possibly the strangest game for points scoring I have ever played.

From this points we have 2 full turns to go. I’d better start shooting stuff!

Fed up of pinging shots off at Kylo I decide that my best chance is to hammer some damage into Tyler’s other two ships since he needs to chase points too and they’re at least pointing towards me. Green, white and blue start to swing around the gas cloud while red hard turns to get another turn inside of the cloud next turn. The Deci 1 banks right since I think I’ll still have arc on one of the ships I’m gunning for.

The i1 Silencer comes forwards before Kylo talon rolls (JARGON ALERT!!) and Blackout hard turns and boosts in.

Yep, something is missing. Can you tell what?

Kylo fires from range and plinks a hull from the green TIE, taking it to half points (Yep! Actual points scored!). Blackout finally gets his butt in gear and, helped by his pilot ability, gets 2 hits onto the yellow TIE to kill it. More points scored.

Time for revenge.

The Deci fires range 1 at Blackout (and somewhat regrets taking a Reinforce over a focus) and gets 1 damage on, taking him to half points too. The i1 Silencer fires at the Deci but misses. My TIEs are somewhat poorly placed to shoot this turn and I think (meaning I’m trying hard to remember) that the two range 3 gas cloud obstructed shots on Blackout were rather easily avoided.

So points scored in this turn. Guess what? Tyler scored 33 points (1 dead TIE, 1 half) and I scored….. ALSO 33!!! (for half of Blackout).

HOW IS THIS HAPPENING!?

Into the last turn and I need to try and do something decent.

In killing that TIE Blackout earned himself 2 additional stress tokens so he’s not going to be getting mods ever again which is good to know.

I hard turn the Deci towards the board edge to present the rear arc with some shots. I turn the remaining TIEs in towards Blackout and his i1 buddy, hoping to score some decent hits.

Tyler puts the i1 AND Blackout onto the gas cloud and both get strained while Kylo (who I considered trying to block with blue) takes a 3 bank and boost to come in to kill something.

Please ignore the MASSIVE red TIe in the pic (wish I’d noticed my mouse was hovered over it when I took the screenshot!) but I (rather annoyingly!) managed to miss arc completely with 2 of my TIEs which could prove to be decisive.

Giant Academy Pilot CRUSHES ALL IN HIS PATH!!!

Kylo wipes out the 1 health green TIE before both Blackout AND the i1 Silencer fail to land ANY damage onto the white TIE.

The Decimator lives up to it’s name an puts 3 damage onto the i1 Silencer (leaving it on 2 health) before the red TIE (the only remaining one with a shot!) puts 2 more damage through to finish him off.

No arcs shown here but you can see that green is gone though his stress token lives on.

After well over an hour of very little points scoring, a LOT happens in that last round and after consulting YASB it’s an 84-44 win for me.

The conclusion…

Another win! Yay!

This has to be one of the more absurd games I can remember playing in (in terms of points scoring). Aside from the rather interesting dice variance, the fact that until the last 3 turns we had only done 2 damage to each other FOR ALMOST AN HOUR was just ridiculous. Add to that the fact that when we DID eventually do more damage (by the end of the penultimate turn) we were DRAWING on MoV! Right up until the last turn or two the game could have gone either way. It’s just crazy.

Tyler was a fantastic opponent, quite how he kept focus with his young kids talking to him very regularly (every time he told me his dials were set his son asked ‘so you’re done dad?’) I’m not sure. I don’t know I could have done it!

I mentioned variance before and, in trying to improve myself as a player I am now regularly using Lady Luck to check the dice rolls after a game. I do this because as a newer player I definitely fell into the habit of blaming the dice for a loss and my brilliant skills for a win. You don’t grow with that mind-set. Writing these blogs helps me to analyse what I did, what mistakes I made and whether I could have made different choices to improve outcomes. Yes, dice are dice and if you’re regularly in a position where you’re relying on good rolls (or bad ones from your opponent) then you’re certainly not improving as a player.

I’m definitely not at the stage of being able to look at a situation or possible engagement and think ‘statistically speaking, if I do X move then I’m expecting Y damage on average’ and change my approach to give me the best chance. Some people can. Maybe it’s something I’ll get my head around eventually.

What I CAN do is look at my dice rolls and see whether I rolled better or worse than statistically expected and judge my performance with this information.

Let me start with raw numbers:

What I can see here is that my green dice were almost exactly average. Fine. Tyler’s red dice were slightly above average. Also fine. Tyler’s greens, well, they were good. Converting 10 focus results shows that he regularly had enough focus/force tokens to use. Where it’s telling is when you look at my red dice results. In rolling I had a shade over average for hits and under for crits. I rolled above average eyeballs and the conversion rate shows that I had tokens available to use a lot.

When you compare the converted numbers though, my 35 converted hits were significantly higher than Tyler’s 19 converted hits. I had more ships and so I guess the higher numbers are expected. The hits after rerolls (and same for focus after rerolls) appears to show that Sloane didn’t have a huge impact in terms of boosting my attacks.

Does all of this give the full story? No, not really. But what it shows me generally confirms how I felt during the game. I wasn’t in control of the game. I didn’t have a firm plan and I flip flopped between targets throughout the game. My dice were good/lucky and on the whole so were Tyler’s until the last couple of turns.

Yes I made some decent decisions but it was more that I was reacting to the situation each turn rather than having an overall plan (which I certainly didn’t!) to deal with the list.

Yes, I won but it was more by luck than judgement as the saying goes and I shouldn’t think myself some tactical genius for doing so.

So with 1 last game of the Vagabond Open to go and a points change just around the corner (maybe) maybe it’s time to start thinking about a list that I can take to an actual tournament and spend some time with. Who knows, maybe soon we’ll even be able to start playing for real?!

This blog is supported by thegamingplace.co.uk
Links from cards mentioned in the post will take you to the relevant page to buy that card from their website. These links are sponsored.