How not to fly Droids

The… intro?

Nope! No preamble this week, we’re straight into the action.

It was week 2 of the Vagabond Open and I’d been paired with Ben Barber, someone I’d never played against or interacted with before. An opportunity to make a new friend! We contacted each other and arranged to play our game on Friday night. In these strange times it was nice to have something actually in the calendar.

But what to fly?

I’d flown Resistance last week so that was out of the running and I’m still not ready to give the Rebels a run out. I asked my fellow Exiles for some advice on lists to use and (among others) it was suggested that I try out Duncan Howard’s System Open winning list from Fort Worth – A CIS swarm with a mix of struts and no struts, and a smattering of missiles. Cool.

With time running out (well, I had around a day until the game) I decided to run with it and maybe try and get some practice in with it and understand how it works.

Here’s the full list:

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Discord Missiles (4)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 24 Half Points: 12 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Discord Missiles (4)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 24 Half Points: 12 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Discord Missiles (4)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 24 Half Points: 12 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Ship total: 19 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Ship total: 19 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Techno Union Bomber (25)
Plasma Torpedoes (9)
Landing Struts (1)

Ship total: 35 Half Points: 18 Threshold: 3

Techno Union Bomber (25)
Plasma Torpedoes (9)
Landing Struts (1)

Ship total: 35 Half Points: 18 Threshold: 3

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Separatist%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z279X224W208WY279X224W208WY279X224W208WY279XW208WY279XWWY279XWWY324X234WWWW237Y324X234WWWW237&sn=Vagabond%20-%20CIS&obs=

Getting some meaningful practice in didn’t really work out as I’d hoped and all I was able to do before Friday evening was try it out twice in Fly Casual. It wasn’t ideal since FC doesn’t have the Discord Missiles but at least I’d have some kind of knowledge of the dials.
The first game went rather poorly. The AI picked 5X as a list and while I did manage to dish out some damage, my list was destroyed with 4 T-65’s left on the board. Not great.
I played another game, this time FC picked a list of 5 TIE Bombers with Barrage Rockets and possibly something else. This game went much better and I felt like I had a better handle on how to approach the opposition ships.

Ideally I’d have liked (and had the offer but not the time) to play against a friend on Vassal to get some guidance through a game but alas, it was not to be. My preparation, poor as it was,

The batrep (JARGON ALERT!!)

Friday evening rolled around and I set myself up ready for the game. Ben and I made contact through Facebook before moving to voice chat on Discord. I have to say, Discord works really really well and it makes the process of playing online so much smoother and interactive, especially in terms of being able to get to know someone a little and making jokes/having some banter which can be difficult to do over text chat.

Ben had set up a room ready and so I joined in and saw the list.

Ah.

Dan Eggs had told me about a ‘swiss army knife’ of a list that he’d played against in his first round match and had been very difficult to deal with. Yes, you guessed it, this was the list that Ben was flying.

How I was feeling about the matchup.

Worst of all, from my point of view of course, this list included a TIE Punisher with Trajectory Simulator, Proton Bombs and Seismic Charges.

Soontir Fel (53)
Predator (2)

Ship total: 55 Half Points: 28 Threshold: 2

Cutlass Squadron Pilot (36)
Trajectory Simulator (6)
Proton Bombs (5)
Seismic Charges (3)

Ship total: 50 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 5

“Pure Sabacc” (44)
Crack Shot (1)

Ship total: 45 Half Points: 23 Threshold: 2

Fifth Brother (42)
Passive Sensors (3)
Homing Missiles (5)

Ship total: 50 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 2

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Galactic%20Empire&d=v8ZsZ200Z179X127WWY193X114WWWWW69W71WY210X116WWWY394XW240W100&sn=Vassal%20Tournament%20Imperials&obs=coreasteroid2,coreasteroid3,coreasteroid4

So with obstacles placed and not much of an idea of what to do with these droids (or swarms in general really) I set up in my left hand corner and braced for the game to come.

Ben placed the Punisher and TIE Advanced opposite my forces while Pure Sabaac went in the middle of the board and Soontir on my furthest right, clearly looking to flank.

My first priority was the Punisher. One Trajectory Simmed Proton Bomb out of the front was inevitable but if I could take it out before the second charge gets used then I can shift my focus elsewhere.

How to range control though? If it didn’t have the TS then I’d go 5 forward but now wasn’t sure. I set all my ships to 3 forwards to try and see how things would pan out.

Ben moved the Punisher forwards 1 while the TIE v1 hard turned in behind it. Sabaac drifted in to the center of the board while Soontir shot off down my right flank.

The next turn is where things started to go wrong. I set my vultures to 5 forwards, hoping that it would get me clear of the inevitable Proton Bomb from the Cutlass Squad Pilot. I set the Hyenas to 1 forwards just in case Sabaac decided to dive in and fully flank my swarm.

The Punisher duly launched the fully expected Proton Bomb and I started to move my ships.

Maybe I won’t hit it?

Oh dear.

The bomb would hit every vulture.

Every. Single. One.

Emergency! EMERGENCY!

I started dishing out crits. It wasn’t good. 2 console fires, a weapons failure, a wounded pilot, fuel leak and damaged engine.

My life

The Punisher took a red stop while the TIE v1 hard turned to move along side the Punisher while Sabaac angled in towards the Hyenas and Soontir continued on the long way around to the battle. Activation was done and now we were on to engagement.

Now it was my turn for shenanigans. I launched Discord Missiles from 2 of my vultures, one straight and one banked to try and trap the TIE v1. I decided to keep the last Discord in the hope that this vulture might survive to the next turn.

Evade those you filthy Imps!

The shooting started. It was bad.

I can’t remember the exact rolls or targets but between Sabaac, the TIE v1 and the Punisher I lost 2 vultures. In my return shots I took 2 shields off the Cutlass and an opportunistic 1 hull off Sabaac.

So in the first turn of engagement I had traded 2 vultures (plus crits on another 4) for…. Zero points. Ouch.

I knew this game wasn’t likely to go well (even before I saw the list Ben was flying) but still. So far this was going worse than I’d expected.

On to the next turn. At this point it seems I managed to TOTALLY FORGET about Proton Bombs having 2 charges. Because, of course I did.

I can’t remember exact moves (I missed taking a screenshot at the start of the turn which, as it turned out, means I missed what quite a few ships did) but I sent in one droid for a bump on the Punisher, the left-most 2 droids took hard turns right while the back 2 both took a 2 bank right.

Oh it was so bad.

The Hyenas both went forwards and then rolled right linked to a target lock on Sabaac.

The Punisher took the 1 forwards and picked up the Buzz Droid. Then the TIE v1 turned right to try and avoid the other Buzz Droids but bumped into the Punisher and picked those ones up instead.

Sabaac bumped into a Hyena which, fortunately for Ben, meant he wasn’t getting shot this turn. Soontir finally got into range to shoot something before it was too late.

Again, I can’t remember the exact shooting details but this is how the board ended up after the turn was done.

Well, crap.

My list had been utterly devastated. Between the Proton Bomb and shots from the Punisher and TIE v1 I’d lost another 3 vultures with the only damage done to Ben’s forces was 1 hit on the Punisher by his own bomb. Soontir had put a crit onto one of the Hyena’s too, a Structural Damage, just for laughs.

From here on in it was pure comedy.

The Punisher dropped a Seismic charge and wiped out both Buzz Droids (not that they were likely to do anything else anyway).

I turned the Hyenas hard right to hopefully throw Ben off. It sort of worked in that Ben wasn’t expecting it. Unfortunately the one with Structural Damage bumped into Sabaac and then got smashed by Soontir at range 1 (the only shot he took all game!). The other had cleared and took a barrel roll to try and get away.

The last vulture moved 2 forwards to clear a stress but had no shot. At the end of the turn I remembered the console fire. I bet you can guess what happened….

So here we were. The timer had gone and to try and keep some semblance of pride all I had to do was keep the Hyena alive for 2 more turns. Could I do it?

I hard turned the Hyena onto the rock, intending to rotate next time.

Ben stopped the Punisher so that the TIE v1 could pass and chase after it while Soontir and Sabaac started turning around. I thought I was clear of danger but guess what?

That’s right. Fifth Brother had range and a Homing Missile charge left. Ben took the lock. I had the choice of taking a hit PLUS a crit (from Fifth Brother’s ability) or take my chances with the missile.

Do I take 2 guaranteed damage (one of them a crit)? Or take my chances on 4 red dice with 2 greens to defend with?

What would you do?

I decided to chance it.

Ben rolled. Crit, hit, hit, eyeball. He spent the lock and rerolled the eyeball. Into…. a crit. And then spent Fifth Brother’s 2 Force charges to add a crit.

Ah.

My green dice would defend me though, right?

Cool.

Of course. Betrayed.

So there it was, a rather brutal loss. At least I’d managed half points on the Punisher, making it a 25-200 loss to me.

The…. outro?

I feel like a conclusion isn’t really needed with these Vassal games. Primarily because most of these lists I know I will never fly again so there’s no need for me to refine anything about them.

What does need refining is me. More specifically how I fly and adapt to situations and maybe understanding my opponent’s tactics. Picking a different faction for each game is quite the learning curve and one I’d never have embarked on without the current circumstances being what they are. I’ve simply no interest in flying most of what’s outside of the factions that I favour but being forced to play them is certainly stretching me as a player. My only experience of any of them is playing against them and translating my knowledge doesn’t seem to be something I can easily do. I can’t simply pivot from what I know into a brand new list and/or archetype and expect it to all just be ok.

It’s been an opportunity to learn about how to play in a different way. That might normally be done on a casual game night against someone I know and who would help me or guide me in what tactics I might use or how best to approach particular ships. This is different. Yes it’s a casual, no pressure tournament but it’s still a tournament with placings and with that comes a certain amount of pressure to put in a decent showing. I definitely wouldn’t expect any help or advice (on game related points anyway, technical Vassal knowledge is another matter) from my opponent in games like this any more than I would at a store tournament.

In this game I wasn’t only new to CIS but also to flying a swarm. That’s right, I’ve never* flown a swarm before.

*That I can recall anyway…

So looking back, what chance did I have? What this does is inform my next decision. What list to fly next week? Well, something not hugely dissimilar to what I’m used to would be a sensible start. Either that or find something early and get in a LOT of practice with it.

I know which of those makes more sense. Since when has that ever stopped me though?

On the plus side Ben was a great opponent. He helped me with shortcuts when I needed them and forgave my slowness and clumsiness as I fumbled my way though the game. Being able to voice chat over Discord REALLY makes this a better experience and if you’re able to do it during this time I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Looking forward to the next match, have I got any idea what to fly? Well, maybe but off the back of writing this I’m already considering changes. What will it be? You’ll have to come back and find out!

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