Finish Strong?

The Intro…

Here we are, week 7 of the Vagabond Open. The final week. In the last Vagabond I went with the tactic of leaving Rebels (my favoured faction) until last, hoping that my opponent would have left their least favourite faction until last. That’s not what happened and Kevin Shaw had done the same as me and played Empire (his favourite faction), handing me a loss in the process.

This time I didn’t really have any plan or strategy in terms of which faction to play when. I will admit that I panicked slightly when paired with Phil GC and wanted to fly something I was familiar with, going with Rebel that week and therefore removing it as an option in future games.

What this all means is that this week, there’s no choice in faction, it’s CIS. And CIS is not a faction I like.

Filthy Drioidses!!

When the two newest factions were announced and released Cai, being a big fan of the Clone Wars series and era, was very keen to buy into Republic. Realistically CIS was going to be more expensive to buy into (being of a swarmy nature) and we already had 4 factions at the time. As a result, we didn’t even consider getting into CIS. Locally one or two players started to pick up ships but, with the numbers needed it took a while for them to buy the ships they wanted and then actually get used to flying them. As a result we’ve not seen a huge amount of CIS play at our local store, meaning my experience against them is also limited.

Over time the local guys got used to the ships and got better with their droids and the rest of us began to see how powerful they are. Then the Nantex was released and now I wasn’t just frustrated by CIS (for always having calculates and ignoring or even taking advantage of rocks) but now I was also confused by what these ships could do.

So yeah, overall, my view on CIS is a little tainted.

Enter Vagabond Open.

I HAVE to fly a CIS list (I mean, I could drop to avoid it but I don’t want to do that!). Last time I just picked a proven list (that won a System Open) and tried it out. It went terribly. I lost droids faster than I was able to put damage onto enemy ships and the whole experience was painful. This of course didn’t do much to alter my view on the faction – for good players it’s broken, for bad players it’s just bad (EDIT: inexperienced with droids is probably a better way to put it. Not just bad!).

Sometimes though you have to try and separate yourself from your biases. I’ve been trying to do that with dice results by checking Lady Luck after a game to try and see if the dice rolls were actually as bad as I thought (because we rarely ‘blame’ a win on dice, right?). This helps me to check whether what I’m feeling is confirmation bias or not and in future make better decisions (can’t blame green dice if you’re not rolling any!) and, hopefully, improve.

So this time around maybe I should dig a bit deeper into CIS, try to understand it a bit more and see if I can make a decent showing with it.

First port of call – the Sear swarm. I think of this as the ‘vanilla’ droid swarm. 7 vultures and Captain Sear with the TA-175 tactical relay. I tried it a few times in Fly Casual. First of all, the vulture dials are weird. The mix of blue/red moves and the short k-turn and Talon rolls (JARGON ALERT!!) are nice in theory but tricky to get used to. Also Vultures seem to die very quickly for me, far more quickly than when I play against them (back to that confirmation bias!). That’s more than likely to do with how I play them though. After a couple of games I’m winning against the AI but I can’t say that I really like the list.

Next up – 5 Hyenas
A mix of Trade Union Bombers with a Bombardment Drone and DBS-404 loaded up with Plasmas, Discords and a DRK-1 probe droid. The list was suggested by Dan Eggs, an experienced CIS player. He hadn’t played a game with it, just theory crafted the list together. I tried it. I flew it terribly. Many droids died.
Scrap that (for me, at least!), What’s next?

Occasionally I’m intrigued by a list that Fly Casual pulls out of the bag and test it myself. This is what I tried next – 5 Petranaki Aces (in the Nantex) with Crack Shot and Marksmanship.
I tried it, I liked it, it was fun. Yes, the ships can pop quite easily but if you can land the bullseye then 3 dice (or 4 at range 1) with turning crits and cancelling evades can do some tidy damage. The tractor shenanigans (tractor myself, move myself, transfer the tractor to my opponent, move my opponent) actually made getting bullseye much easier than I usually find it.
It stays on the list.

At this point I chatted with Dan again and he seemed slightly offended that I had Nantexes (Nantices? Nanti?!) without Ensnare. He suggested a list with 3 Nantex and Grievous.
I tested it. I liked it. Long story short, I won a lot of Fly Casual games with it (like, a LOT). I had to play it a lot because getting my head around the timing and other details of reposition, when the turret turns, etc took me a while to really ‘get’. Once I got it though I made good use of it.

Decision made.

General Grievous (44)
Outmaneuver (6)
Impervium Plating (4)
Soulless One (6)

Ship total: 60 Half Points: 30 Threshold: 4

Stalgasin Hive Guard (34)
Ensnare (12)

Ship total: 46 Half Points: 23 Threshold: 2

Stalgasin Hive Guard (34)
Ensnare (12)

Ship total: 46 Half Points: 23 Threshold: 2

Stalgasin Hive Guard (34)
Ensnare (12)

Ship total: 46 Half Points: 23 Threshold: 2

Total: 198

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Separatist%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z305X126WW207W229Y353X248Y353X248Y353X248&sn=Unsaved%20Squadron&obs=coreasteroid2,coreasteroid5,core2asteroid5

Grievous bombs around looking for opportunities to dive in for an Outmanoeuvre shot while the Hive Guards dive in and move things around. I found it to be pretty effective once I got the hang of it.

After probably 15 or so reps with the list (in Fly Casual) I’m as prepared as I can be before the game. The only list I had issues facing was a triple Resistance Falcon list. This information becomes important later…

The Batrep… (JARGON ALERT!!)

Which brings me nicely on to my opponent. This week I have been drawn against Paul Westwood. Being a regular of Firestorm in Cardiff, we have actually crossed paths before (possibly even twice?) at tournaments in the Newport store. He’s a very good player, that much I know already. Not the easy win I was hoping for at the end of this tournament!

We start a voice chat while I open up Vassal and all the other nonsense I have handy for a game that I’m intending to blog about.

I take a look at his list. Damn.

What is the exact thing that a list based on the Tractor mechanic doesn’t want to see? Yes, it’s 3 big base ships. Not only that, it’s 3 named Upsilons.

Major Stridan (61)
Biohexacrypt Codes (1)
Captain Phasma (5)
Heavy Laser Cannon (5)

Ship total: 72 Half Points: 36 Threshold: 6

Lieutenant Tavson (64)
Biohexacrypt Codes (1)

Ship total: 65 Half Points: 33 Threshold: 6

Captain Cardinal (62)
Biohexacrypt Codes (1)

Ship total: 63 Half Points: 32 Threshold: 6

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=First%20Order&d=v8ZsZ200Z251X202WWW183WW10WWY289X202WWWWWWWY282X202WWWWWWW&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

I’ve got a small bid and we have a crossover in initiative. I decide to make Paul first player so that I can reposition my ships after his which I hope might help.

Before we start Paul had to suddenly run off to do something urgent. Even with these extra few minutes to think about what I was facing I had no idea how to approach this list or what I could do to combat it. I know I want to get behind them because they can’t easily turn. I also know that I don’t want to be ANYWHERE near those 4 dice guns, especially at range 1.

By the time he comes back I’m still not much the wiser. What I do know is that those big bases don’t want clustered obstacles so when we start placing I consciously group them together as much as I can. I’ll try to draw them over into the area with the Naxtexes while Grievous will shoot down the edge and get behind them. It’s not great but it’s the best I’ve got. At this point I’m wishing I had a list with a bit more health but, I have what I have and I’ve got to try and do what I can with it.

Once obstacles are done we place ships and are set to go.

I set all the Nantex to hard turn right while Grievous takes a 5 straight. The yellow Hive Guard takes a tractor to drag himself forwards and rotates his turret right.

Paul’s Upsilons all 1 forwards and lock each other to take future advantage of the Biohexacrypt Codes.

So far, so good. I set all 3 Nanxtex to 2 forwards and focus while Grievous gets another 5 forwards.

En masse Paul hard turns all 3 Upsilons towards Grievous. Oh crap.

Grievous completes his move and I bank boost in, hoping it gives me options to get out of a jail I shouldn’t have let myself be in.

At this point I need to take some action. If I lose Grievous I’m sunk. Yes, this build for him is tanky, but It’s still risky being in the wrong place with those 4 dice guns around.

Yellow and red both hard turn to face the middle and then tractor themselves to avoid obstacles next turn. Blue banks in but doesn’t tractor.

For Grievous I contemplated the 3 bank very briefly. It would probably put him in range of at best one (at worst 3) of the Upsilons. I decide it’s not worth it even though it would put me behind them the following turn. Y’know if he’s alive.

I chicken out and instead set a hard 1 left.

Paul starts moving ships. Tavson, stays where he is while Stridan and Cardinal both bank towards Grevious.

Gulp.

Grievous turns and barrel rolls away and forwards. I resist the urge to take the linked focus because I think I’ve dodged arc and I don’t want to be stressed next turn.

Thankfully it’s worked and Grievous has dodged the (proverbial) bullet (or literal laser). No shots and we’re back to dials.

At this point I’m a bit stuck. I know that Tavson is a trap. Not just in this game, but in any. Shooting him means just handing him more and more actions, giving him better mods for offence and defence.

But.

The other two are facing the wrong way and will take at least 1 turn to get back around. I feel it’s an opportunity.

Yellow banks in, tractors (staying where he is) and focuses, red goes straight, tractors (rolls left) and focuses, blue goes straight, tractors (forwards) and focuses. I set Grievous a 5 straight.

Paul banks Tavson in and reinforces. Stridan hard turns and coordinates a focus to Tavson (like he needs more actions!). Cardinal hard turns and jams the focus off the blue Nantex.

But it doesn’t end there. The end of Activation nonsense means that after I’ve finished throwing tractor tokens around we end up like this:

Greivous has dodged arc and the 3 Nanxtex all have shots on Tavson. All 3 take their shots and, somewhat predictably, their 2 dice guns get zero damage through.

Tavson returned fire at blue (since he was jammed and tractored. 4 hits. I roll greens. 1 evade. Ouch. Needless to say, this engagement hasn’t gone in my favour.

Looking back, I wondered if I took the wrong opportunity. Sending everything at the turning Upsilons would have put me in a better position to get in behind them next turn. That said, there was a LOT of distance to cover and it may have landed me in a terrible position.

Either way it was really good flying by Paul, minimising the weakness of the Upsilon (turning) by turning guns in such a way to keep threatening my ships.

We’re back to dials and I need a plan.

At this point I made decisions I’m not happy with. In my head I’ve got the opportunity to get around the back of Tavson. I turn my ships in left. Red fits by the banking Tavson (who also reinforces to the rear), takes a tractor to move forwards aaaaaand that was a bad move because now I have to rotate my turret away. Damn.

Orange turns and bumps Tavson. I can still do teh tractor nonsense though but do I want to? I can’t shoot Tavson and my turret is pointed left so no other shots. I decide to take the tractor and move forwards which just clears. I’m now not bumping Tavson but I have to turn the turret away.

Blue turns and, not being in and arcs just takes a focus.

Paul’s i4’s hard turn again with Cardinal blasting over the gas cloud and picking up a strain.

Grievous takes his 2 bank, clears stress and boosts to avoid Tavson’s arc.

With Grievous not having a shot, Stridan and Cardinal both fire at the tractored yellow Nantex and wipe it out before it gets to shoot.

Blue shoots at Tavson and gets 1 damage on.

This is not going well. 1 Nantex gone, one on 1 health. In return I’ve done 1 single damage. One. Bad, bad, bad.

It’s dials again and, to be honest, my head’s gone a little at this point. I’m frustrated at not doing any damage and want to do something, anything, before all my ships are wiped out. I set everyone to hard turns and wait and see.

Tavson takes the opportunity to exit and goes 3 forwards before blue hard turns and tractors a roll to his left and focuses. Red then turns, tractors himself a roll towards the board edge and turns his turret inwards. Cardinal 3 banks into Tavson’s place and reinforces and Stridan hard turns around the gas cloud and jams blue’s focus token away.

Grievous hard turns around the asteroid and I debate for a LONG time over whether to roll defensively away or boost aggressively in. I chose violence and linked it to a red focus.

Stridan fires and wipes the final hull point off the poor blue Nantex. Cardinal then fires at Grievous and strips his shields.

Grievous the fires but goes for Stridan over Cardinal because a) being outside of his arc means Grievous’ ability is active and b) Cardinal has a reinforce while Stridan is unmodded.

The red Nantex also has Stridan in arc (just!) and between them they take 4 shields off him.

So I’ve lost another ship but at least I’ve started making some headway on something, even if it’s too little too late.

It’s time for dials again and I’m a bit stuck again. Ideally I want to sloop (JARGON ALERT!!) with Grievous but he’s stressed so it’s a no go. I’m expecting Cardinal to either stop or do a 1 forwards and for Stridan to sidle up next to him with a 1 bank so it’s likely that a 5 straight won’t fit either. I decide on a 3 bank so that I’ll pass over him if he goes forwards but it’s likely a bump. The last Nantex gets a bank to try and stay on target as I need to try and claw back some MoV.

Tavson hard turns around the rock and is still out of the fight (thankfully!) but makes an indirect contribution by coordinating a focus onto Cardinal. The Nantex banks and takes a focus. Cardinal does indeed red stop before Stridan 1 banks next to him and focuses.

Grievous takes the bank and bumps into Cardinal. It’s not ideal but at least I can still shoot Stridan. Looking back I should have done the 2 bank and not 3 because if I was likely to bump either way then at least a 2 bank would have cleared his stress. Oops!

Cardinal can’t fire (the Nantex has managed to arc dodge, just!) so Stridan takes a shot at Grievous and scores hit, crit (a Stunned Pilot). Could have been worse. Grievous and the red Nantex both fire back at Stridan but only manage to land 1 hit between them. He’s still not at half points.

By now the timer has sounded and we have 2 turns left. There’s no way I win this game, absolutely no way. So there’s a new objective. Get half points on Striad for a little scrap of pride.

The thing is though, Grievous is in a terrible place. Stressed and facing the wrong way. Bad, bad, bad.

Grievous gets a 2 bank to clear stress and hopes to get a decent turn in next time. The Nantex hard turns around the rock.

Tavson hard turns around the rock and focuses. The Nantex turns around his rock and looks like he’s evaded Tavson’s arc and so doesn’t tractor so he can stay closer to Stridan and keep his turret where it is.

Cardinal and Stridan both go 2 forwards and reinforce rear while Grievous takes his blue bank and barrel rolls.

The Nantex is the only ship with a shot and gets 2 hits. Paul’s greens abandon him on this occasion but the reinforce reduces it to 1 hit and I’m still chasing half.

We’re on to planning for the last turn and it looks like my goal is slipping away. I set the Nantex to hard turn 3 and Grievous to hard turn 1.

Paul (sensibly) sends Tavson 3 forwards and coordinates a reinforce to Stridan. The Nantex turns and tractors forwards, turns arc to front and focuses. Cardinal goes 2 forwards and jams the Nantex’s focus off before Stridan goes 2 forwards and focuses.

Grievous turns and rolls but it’s essentially pointless as he’s so far out.

Once again the Nantex is the only ship with a shot. Stridan has managed to just avoid the bullseye arc so it’s just a 2 dice shot at range 3 with a reinforce and a focus.

Predictably, I do no damage and the game is over. It’s a 0 – 122 loss for me.

The Conclusion…

Ho – ly cow.

Shocked Cow is shocked. Me, less so but still a little.

I was expecting a tough game when I saw the list, yes, but a thrashing like that and scoring zero points? No, I did not expect that.

I certainly made mistakes and trying to get through 36 health with mostly 2 dice shots into ships with reinforce was always going to be hard but I had expected to do a bit better than this.

Ironically if you’d have asked me while I was picking a list if I was expecting to do ok with CIS I’d have given a quite categorical ‘no’. But, having put time in with the list and actually having done pretty well with it against Fly Casual’s AI, I am a little disappointed in the final result.

In retrospect Paul played this really, really well. He denied me any clear opportunities to get in behind, put ships in good positions to get shots on me and, with time running out, played smart moves to prevent me getting points.

Yes it was a bad list match up but Paul still had to work for the win and he did it very well.

We chatted a little about dice results since it felt (to me!) like he’d rolled a lot of hits and I rolled a lot of blanks. Interestingly when we pasted the log into Lady Luck I was surprised to find the following results:

Statistically speaking nearly all of our results were average. What made the difference is when those results came. A couple of times Paul rolled multiple hits and I rolled blank greens in return. On other occasions Paul rolled one or two hits and I evaded them all. Annoyingly I didn’t screenshot the Game Tape tab which shows it better but you can see from the graph tab that Paul was putting out much more damage than I was despite our dice rolls being comparable by the end.

On the whole I think that if I played the game out another 3 or 4 times then I’d be getting closer to a good result but that’s the nature of tournament play. You only get one shot at each game!

Anyway, that’s the last I’ll see of CIS for a little while at least so I’ll put it out of my mind and carry on with my life. At the very least I feel like I’ve got a better understanding of the Nantex and how it works for the next time I face it.

Looking ahead to what’s next, well, actually I’m not sure.

There’s a Vagabond Open 3 starting next week which I’m not currently signed up for due to putting my name down for the Sith Takers league season 2 (which currently has no start date). While I wait for that to kick off the Sith takers have arranged a knock-out competition which I have also signed up for. So, just the one game there! 😂

In terms of real life? Well, there is a development there. The Firestorm Newport store championship which should have taken place in April is happening on the 8th August but has been moved to Firestorm Cardiff as there’s a LOT more space and tables can be safely distanced. It is a Hyperspace tournament and so, after many weeks of playing Extended I find myself back at the place of needing a list with limited options. I know many people really like Hyperspace but personally I find that the limitations on ships and upgrades tends to push me towards more boring list choices. I don’t know why really, there are some really interesting HS lists, just not with ships I own/like!

The added complication here is the upcoming points change which could end up trashing any plans I make (like the January one did). This means I’m tempted to compose a few lists but in turn means I’ve less opportunities to test, tweak and practice them. Why does it always seem to work out this way for me?!

Me, looking at options for lists.

Hopefully I’ll be able to pick a list quickly enough to get some games in (real ones, well, Vassal/TTS. Not against AI I mean) before having to commit.

Anyway, whatever the points change brings you can be sure of one thing – I shan’t be flying CIS!

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