Rebellions are built on…

The intro…

I can’t quite believe it’s here already. The seventh and final round of the Vagabond Open. It’s certainly been a bit of a roller-coaster. There have been two areas that I’ve found especially tricky.

The first is using Vassal. I’m now at tournament +1 games using it (so, seven before playing this one) and I have to say I’m STILL trying to get to grips with it fully. I feel that games have been a little slower than they could have been because I’m fumbling around for keyboard shortcuts or right-click menus. Add to that my dial mess-ups and finding it hard to judge distances it’s certainly been a steep learning curve. Each game I play brings me a little closer to being confident with it and actually thinking more about the game than about the platform I’m using to play it. I’ll get there eventually.

The second thing, which I have already mentioned in previous blogs (and you’re probably sick of hearing about!), has been the faction aspect. Each of the seven games using a different one.

I don’t want bang on about this again except to say – it’s finally here. Week 7. The only faction left? Rebels. My beloved, familiar Rebels. Yes, of course I know that I could have played them ANY time. At some point I just got it into my head that a decent strategy would be to leave the faction I’m most familiar with (and, therefore theoretically, strongest with) until last in the hope that other people have done the opposite and I’d have a better chance of picking up a win.

Solid plan, right?

So what will I actually play?

Well, once my round 6 game was done I started to think about it and quickly narrowed my options down to two lists.

First, the one that I’m most practised with recently – 5 T-65 X-wings. I’d been flying this list in person before the whole lockdown thing started as preparation for two upcoming Hyperspace tournaments (Firestorm Newport store champs and Firestorm Cardiff Prime). I had a decent record with it including my very first Vassal game. I know the list, there are no bells or whistles I need to try and remember and no tricks to set up. Just put the ships on the board, point and shoot.

But.

My heart lies with the YT-2400.

I have the chance to get out the (virtual) YT-2400 and (try to) blow things up. Following the disappointing performance at the System Open and inspired by a stream game that Stevesd123 shared with me via Reddit, I’ve started playing about with a cut down Dash (without the title!!) paired up with Lando in the YT-1300.

Since the points change in January there are a few ways to build it out but the basic premise is that Lando moves first and either double mods himself or gives an action to Dash (reposition or focus) before Dash then moves and smashes things up with his 4 dice gun. The thing is, I don’t have the reps with this specific list and, while both ships have a fair amount of health, they also both have the potential to melt very quickly if I mess things up.

So here’s my choice – boring (but reliable) or fun (but risky)?

Okay, it’s not a HUGE decision but still…

This week pairings were announced a day early (since I guess all games were completed early maybe?) and so I got an additional day to work things out. I’d been paired with Kevin Shaw, someone I’ve never met which is always great. I do love the opportunities I get to get to know someone new.

This meant that I wasn’t playing against anyone in the local store chat group so I thought I’d go ask for opinions. The general feedback was the same as I was feeling – 5X a bit boring, two pancakes more fun.

Ok, decision made. With a current record of 2/4 (wins/losses) I’m not exactly gunning for top spot here, and so fun is the order of the day. The next question is the exact build.

As I mentioned earlier, my introduction to this list was watching a streamed game from around November last year. I’ve talked about it before but just in case you’re curious, the link is here.

The list was Dash with Expert Handling and Perceptive Copilot and Lando with Jyn Erso and Nien Numb

Since then points have changed, and so that list coming in at 187 points means there’s more space in the list for toys. Yay!

Part of the input from my fellow Exiles was info from Dan Eggs about a matchup he’d watched using Dash & Lando just the day before. That list was built out as above but had added the Millennium Falcon title to Lando and Agile Gunner to Dash. I decide to add the title to Lando but I have to say, I’ve never been really sold on Agile Gunner.

Now, after many a conversation with Chris Stevens while looking at building a list with Dash before, he is a very big proponent of Lone Wolf on Dash, particularly for use in defence. You see, Dash is pretty squishy (for such an investment in points). In fact he’s only 1 health more than an ARC-170 but considerably more expensive. He does have 2 agility (rather than the ARC’s 1 agility) but it’s almost impossible to prevent damage getting through and he REALLY hates crits. Over the last few months I’ve definitely become a fan of Lone Wolf as it’s bailed me out a few times.

Now, I don’t particularly like that you have to drop Expert Handling to get Lone Wolf on Dash but to be honest, if I’m going to use Lando’s ability to give Dash a (red) barrel roll then I’ll just have to make sure that Dash then takes a blue manoeuvre to clear the stress. Either that or use Lando to give a focus and then do the red roll after Dash has moved and already has a token.

That leads me to the main tactic of the list. Lando’s ability means that if you take a blue move you can give a ship at range 0-3 an action. Nien Numb means that he has quite a lot of blues on the dial which makes that easier.

Now, Lando can either give himself double mods (focus & lock) or double on defensive mods (focus & evade). The title means that if you have an evade then you can re-roll a green on defence which helps even more. OR, Lando can give an action to Dash.

That opens up a lot more options. I guess the optimal result would be to give a lock and then Dash can focus on his own activation. The beauty here is that Perceptive Copilot gives 2 tokens and Jyn Erso (on Lando) means that one of those can be an evade. So you’ve now got lock, focus and evade on a 2 agility, 4 attack ship. Lovely. Alternatively, if Dash is in trouble, Lando could give a focus action and the combo of Perceptive and Jyn means Dash now has 2 evades and then when he activates could potentially take a red barrel roll to get some distance in.

Lone Wolf can come in to play by my moving Lando first in order to pass off that action and then moving Dash second and (hopefully!) put him outside of range 2 of Lando. That will then give me a re-roll on either attack or defence, whichever seems more important in the situation.

It’s simpler than it sounds, honest!

There are more combos in there but they are all going to be quite circumstantial in how they are applied but in short, this list requires more thinking and good planning, particularly compared to the 5X option.

Thankfully I’m quite experienced with flying Dash and the YT-1300 isn’t too dissimilar. What I DO have to remember is that I don’t have the title on Dash which removes red tokens when he flies over obstacles and denies a defender extra dice when obstructed. Also, Lando does NOT like flying over obstacles. Provided I keep all that in mind, I should be ok.

Decision made, it’s fun over efficiency.

The batrep (JARGON ALERT!!)

Pairings were released a little early this week and on the Tuesday evening I found I’d been paired with Kevin Shaw. I don’t know Kevin but after a little chatting it seems that he’s visited Firestorm in Newport before and was thinking about attending the Cardiff Firestorm Prime that would have taken place just over a week ago where I also would have been.

For some reason my Vassal wanted me to run the content checker (even though it came back with no updates) so we had a little time to talk while getting set up. It turns out that Kevin has also left his favourite faction until last. Typical…

I take a look at Kevin’s list and, well, crap.

In testing my list the archetype I’ve had most issues with is swarms. Multiple incoming shots versus 2 targets means I have to get above average attack results to start dropping numbers.

Is Kevin’s list a swarm? Well, technically no, not really. But it is 5 ships with more health than a swarm and presents the same problem – multiple targets and multiple incoming shots.

Nu Squadron Pilot (32)
Fire-Control System (2)
Advanced SLAM (3)
Xg-1 Assault Configuration (0)
Autoblasters (3)

Ship total: 40 Half Points: 20 Threshold: 4

Nu Squadron Pilot (32)
Fire-Control System (2)
Advanced SLAM (3)
Xg-1 Assault Configuration (0)
Autoblasters (3)

Ship total: 40 Half Points: 20 Threshold: 4

Nu Squadron Pilot (32)
Fire-Control System (2)
Advanced SLAM (3)
Xg-1 Assault Configuration (0)
Autoblasters (3)

Ship total: 40 Half Points: 20 Threshold: 4

Nu Squadron Pilot (32)
Fire-Control System (2)
Advanced SLAM (3)
Xg-1 Assault Configuration (0)
Autoblasters (3)

Ship total: 40 Half Points: 20 Threshold: 4

Nu Squadron Pilot (32)
Fire-Control System (2)
Advanced SLAM (3)
Xg-1 Assault Configuration (0)
Autoblasters (3)

Ship total: 40 Half Points: 20 Threshold: 4

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Galactic%20Empire&d=v8ZsZ200Z164X113WWW104W144W232Y164X113WWW104W144W232Y164X113WWW104W144W232Y164X113WWW104W144W232Y164X113WWW104W144W232&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

Yes, it’s mainly 2 dice shots but with locks and the ability to Advanced SLAM and potentially be double modded I could be taking some consistent damage.

Still, they are just 2 agility and Dash’s 4 dice shots which could potentially be double modded could do some good work here.

Finally Vassal is ready and we get the game set up. Once obstacles and forces are placed we are ready to get going.

I’m expecting the Star Wings to advance quickly and what I ideally want to do is to get them to split up or bump to reduce their effectiveness. I also want to take advantage of Dash’s pilot ability (while you move you ignore obstacles) to try and drag them where they don’t want to go.

First things first though, hard left turns for both ships. Away from the oncoming force.

Kevin reveals 3 forwards for the 4 ships in the corner and they all SLAM another 3 forwards. The one facing the board edge hard turns to tuck in behind.

Clearly there’s no engaging this turn and so back to dials we go.

Kevin is advancing how I’d expect but the 3 forward, 3 slam has covered slightly more distance than I thought. This time I will hard turn Dash around the debris and send Lando 3 straight to try and make sure I keep the Nu’s out of range so that I don’t need to waste an action rotating my turret.

As expected the Alphas go fast, 3 forwards and SLAM 3 bank.

Dash turns and focuses, Lando goes forwards, takes a focus as his free action and (just in case) an evade as his main action.

The ships are still too far away and so the turn ends.

Now seeing as I had been a little short-sighted with where Lando had ended up, he would need to take a bank turn around the debris as a hard turn would put him on it. Dash would angle in to the middle of the board.

The Alphas continued forwards but this time didn’t SLAM, just taking focuses instead.

Lando turned and gave Dash a double focus action. The angle looked ropey for a banked boost for his own action so he just took a pointless focus.

Dash took a 3 bank turn in and with focus already in hand I made a decision to barrel roll right to try and get one of Kevin’s ships in range.

I did get it in range and a shot modded with a focus yielded 3 hits. Kevin rolled his greens and rolled blank, eyeball, evade and then spent his focus to evade 2 of them.

This choice would turn out to be rather important as the game progressed. But more on that later.

So now it’s planning but my choices are fairly straightforward. Lando will hard turn right to start coming in to the fight, Dash needs to lose the stress so it’s a blue 2 forwards for him.

Kevin starts moving ships and I realise I have a problem. The Alphas all 3 hard turn and then SLAM towards Dash. Two of them SLAM over the gas cloud meaning they can’t take advantage of the Advanced SLAM but the other three all take locks on Dash.

Lando turns. It’s white so just 1 action this turn. I consider a boost but a stright will put me a bit close to the gas cloud for next turn and a bank will mean I can’t shoot (since my turret is side-to-side). He takes a focus instead.

Dash takes the 2 forwards but there’s a problem. A big one. He’s in range of all 5 ships, range 1 of the front one and locked by 3 of them. Grudgingly I barrel roll him away and forwards but this means he’s stressed AGAIN and has no attacking (or defensive) mods. Bad times.

Engagement begins and both Dash and Lando fire on the Nu they can both hit, stripping it of shields.

Kevin returns fire. Dash has managed to avoid shots from two of them by virtue of being at range 3 (just a quick FYI – Autoblasters is range 1-2 and they all have weapons disabled from the SLAM meaning they can’t fire primary weapon. The Alpha’s configuration allows it to fire a cannon weapon even with weapons disabled)

Kevin puts 2 damage onto Dash and as we go back to planning I realise that I could have spent my Contraband Cybernetics charge to have had an action that turn. Damn.

Back to planning and I now have to consider some options. Is Kevin going to chase down Dash or turn on Lando? Probably chase Dash, that’s what I would do in his position. So I’ll try and put Lando in a position to do some damage. But what about Dash? He’s stressed. Again. He’s going to be chased and that’s bad. Maybe now is the time to use Contraband? I give Dash a 4 forwards and wait to see.

Kevin’s ships swarm forwards faster than I’d have expected (given 3 of them were stressed) but while the front two look like they’re trying to block Dash moving a blue 1 or 2 forwards (giving me hope!), the others hang back a little.

Lando hard turns right to try and get side arc on something and takes a focus. (side note – this was NOT the right move. a bank turn would have given me a free actionso I could have been closer to the enemy ships, rotated turret and had a focus with the benefit of being better placed for the next turn. Oops!).

Dash. Ah, Dash. I spend the Contraband charge. He goes 4 forwards, jumping over the blockers but still in arc of one of them. I make another rash decision and barrel roll to the right, evading arc of two now and putting an obstacle in the way.

But

and it’s a BIG butt

He’s now double stressed, no mods and no ships in arc. Great.

Lando shoots but only takes a single shield from the closest Alpha.

The 3 ships with shots all fire on Dash but even with added green dice for range and the gas cloud 2 damage gets through to remove his last shield.

Back to dials we go but the writing is already on the wall. So far I’ve hit 3 different ships but not halved any of them whereas Kevin is 2 hits away from getting half points on a double stressed Dash who is pointing at a corner.

So yes, of course Dash has to turn and, to try an get distance it needs to be a fast one. Meanwhile Lando needs to try and get some shots on target before the timer runs out. That previous hard turn has screwed things up a bit though. I decide to dial in a 3 hard turn, hoping that I don’t clip the gas cloud.

Kevin’s Alpha’s start moving to spread arcs/turn around and unfortunately it appears as though Dash may be in some bother.

Lando hard turns and does indeed hit the gas cloud. Crap. Dash takes the hard turn but doesn’t bump (which, having thought about it afterwards would have at least meant that one of the incoming shots would have been cancelled out). No, Dash ends up sitting directly in front of two of the Alphas (in bullseye of both and range 1 of one).

Lando frustratingly doesn’t have anyone in arc. Dash fires at the range 2 Alpha and even unmodded takes 2 shields off.

It’s Kevin’s turn to return fire. Two ships are out of range. One takes a range 3 pot shot through a gas cloud. You can guess how that went.

But the two bullseye Alphas fire and between them put 4 damage past my green dice. Dash is in serious trouble.

Before we get the next planning phase the timer goes off. We have 2 turns left. Can I salvage ANYTHING from this game?

My options are limited as I try and assess the game state. Dash is halved and in a bad way. Lando is undamaged but until now hasn’t been close enough to do much damage. Kevin’s forces are looking pretty healthy. I stripped shields from 1 of them but that’s not enough for half points. Another two have 1 shield down and the last two are untouched. Even if I could half 3 of them (for 60 points) that’s only just enough points to compensate for Dash (56 points for half) but then Dash has to hope for a miraculous escape.

I give Dash a hard turn because a bank will likely take him off the board. I make it a 3 hard just to be sure I make it. I give Lando a 3 bank to cover some distance and hop there’s something I can shoot.

Kevin starts to move his ships. VERY unfortunately, he turns a full health ship hard 2 to block Dash but doesn’t make it and it’s destroyed by flying off the board. It’s unfortunate but at this point it isn’t going to swing the balance of the game.

The rest of Kevin’s ships angle in towards Dash, looking to finish him off this turn.

Dash takes the hard turn and *just barely* clears it. A block there would have put him off the board. He’s still stresses and so no actions. Again.

Lando takes the 3 bank, takes a lock with his free action and a focusw as his main one. It’s time to fire.

Dash and Lando combine fire on teh Alpha that Lando locked (closest to the gas cloud). It’s the most convenient shot that both can make but annoyingly it’s one of the currently undamaged ones. Between them they get 3 damage through to strip it of shields but it’s still 1 hit short of half points. Again.

Kevin’s ships open fire on Dash. I can’t remember exactly how many shots it took but it wasn’t all 4. Not only that but the crits started to roll and and a Panicked Pilot meant that when Dash became a burning fireball of death he had 3 stress tokens, 2 locks and 3 other crit tokens.

So long Dash…

So it’s time for dials in the last turn of the game. There’s absolutely no way back now and I’d kind of like to avoid losing half of Lando to preserve some MoV points. With that in mind I decide to take a (hopefully) unpredictable 1 bank left.

Kevin’s ships all move in slowly and take locks. Lando creeps forwards and bumps into one of them. At least I’ve eliminated one incoming shot.

Lando fires unmodded at the only ships he can hit and after all dice are rolled somehow manages the single damage needed to get half points.

Kevin’s ships fire and, despite them all having locks and Lando being unmodded, take 3 shields off. Lando is safe(ish) and the game is over.

Kevin has destroyed Dash while I’ve got 1 and a half Alphas (although Kevin did one of those himself!) making it a 60-111 loss for me.

The conclusion…

Well, crap.

My immediate thoughts after the game still stand now. That one greedy barrel roll early on made a huge difference. I can’t say it cost me the game because, honestly, it’s a little disrespectful to assume I’d have won if Dash wasn’t stressed. What I DO know is that he would have put out some more damage if he’d had a focus and would have escape a couple of shots if he’d had an evade. That one choice in turn 3 (which gained me…1 shield off a Star Wing) combined with Kevin turning his forces in when he did meant that 111 points of ship did rather less work that it should have and if I’m honest, I’m pretty mad at myself for doing it.

Still, the real question is this – will I do it again? Because this is the real crux of the matter. I made a mistake. I identified it. Will I repeat it?

Logic says ‘no, of course not!’ but in fact I did something similar on day 2 of the System Open this year, just 3 months ago. Getting Dash stressed when flying with the title on is one thing (since it lets you remove a red or orange token after flying over an obstacle) but doing it without is straight up suicide.

What it amounts to is that I saw an opportunity and didn’t fully (or correctly) assess the risk. THAT is what I need to learn.

Also, I now REALLY fully appreciate the option of Expert Handling over Lone Wolf in this list. In this game it would have made a very significant difference. The number of times I wasn’t able to pass Dash an action from Lando’s ability because he was stressed was really very infuriating.

Having said all that, in chatting it over with Kevin afterwards I discover that this is a list he has played (in one form or another) since some time during 1st Edition. He is very experienced with it and so I should probably go a bit easier on myself now that I know this. He also mentions that he was expecting to face 5 T-65’s so going with the other list I had considered probably wouldn’t have helped very much, if at all.

Kevin was a great opponent and lovely to chat with. Hopefully some day we will actually meet at a tournament since he’s considering attending the Cardiff Prime with the rearranged date in September.

The…umm…..post conclusion?!

And so that brings the Vagabond Open to a close! My final record is a rather underwhelming 2-5, putting me at 29th out of 40 (although some players are lower than me because they haven’t completed games).

If you’re really interested, here’s the TTO link – https://www.tabletop.to/vagabond-open-on-vassal/ladder

How do I feel about it? Well, a bit mixed.

Let’s start with the negatives (since I’d rather finish on the positives!). I lost more games that I’d have liked. I mean, nobody likes to lose any games really but being realistic I’d have liked an approximately 50/50 record. I think that 3/4 would have been a realistic target so I guess I wasn’t that far off.

I lost with Rebels (which irritates me the most) and with Resistance and Republic (which are 3 factions I own and have played to a lesser or greater extent since 2.0 released) but won with Empire and First Order (which I don’t play). It feels very strange!

It’s definitely been interesting to shift from list to list but very much a challenge. The only game I really struggled with was using droids and the fact that you play a list and then drop it hasn’t really helped me develop. Building lists with unfamiliar ships has been probably the hardest part of it all.

Now the positives. Far and away the best thing has been getting to know new people. Yes, I’ve faced a couple of ‘familiar’ faces but on the whole I have expanded my circle of X-Wing friends by 5 people and I love that. I really hope to meet them in person some day as that’s one of the very best things about Organised Play X-Wing.

I’ve learned Vassal! So many times I’ve opened it up, downloaded updates and watched the ‘how to’ video but without having a game organised to ‘force’ me into doing it I have just given up each time, intending to come back later. With Vassal being the only way I could get a ‘proper’ game in against a real person I have picked up a skill which will help me to develop in the future. I hope anyway!

I have learned about new ships. There are a lot of ships in X-Wing and many of them I have NEVER flown. Sure, I’ve flown against a lot of different ones but it’s not the same as planning a turn with one yourself. Knowing how a ship flies (and what actions it’s likely to take) helps me to fly better against it and that can only help me to improve.

Having a regular scheduled game to keep up my X-Wing skills has been really significant. I do have someone else at home (my son Cai) who I can play it with but between all 4 of us in the family being at home full time during this lockdown and not a lot of space to spare (with our ‘at home classroom’ space in very regular use) we haven’t actually gotten our ships out since lockdown began. I might have to do something about that!

With the tournament over and the next one not due to start for over a week I’ll need to find something to write about for next week’s blog!

If you’d be interested in joining the next tournament, the Facebook event (and details are here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1175973109417714/permalink/1175986482749710/

The TTO signup pages are as follows:

For Vassal – https://www.tabletop.to/vagabond-open-2-the-covid-wars-vassal?fbclid=IwAR3LnPSeTZWGRJcBTyBhMaM3l-GnVWUpG8GFJU5_Uv2uE4p4qNUozNnam_s

For TTS – https://www.tabletop.to/vagabond-open-2-the-covid-wars-tts?fbclid=IwAR10RN83HP2-XYwyICfHyIIWGXQMajOk8gH8rzeOboXDQhjeRxLHRVwyYl0

It’s free to play (and no prizes, only pride!) and a great way to make contact with new people. Maybe you’ll be paired with me (and get an easy win!!)

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