The, um, pre-intro..?
Welcome back lovely people! This week’s entry is an interesting one (meaning long!) even if I do say so myself!.
Before I get started I just want to quickly highlight a new addition to my site. Reasons behind it are on the page itself but a quick overview is that I’ve put together a page of curated links to various X-Wing related content. It’s by no means exhaustive (there’s another place for that, a link for which is included on the page) but it’s more of a list of what content I personally enjoy and consume most.
It does just include blogs and podcasts currently. Streams will be added later!
Dylan’s Picks (no, I couldn’t think of a better name!)
Ok, on with the show!
The true intro…
Just to bring you up to speed, I’m currently playing in the second Vagabond Open, a 7 game tournament where each game you use a different faction.
So far it’s going…. Ummm …. Below average I’d say (and that’s being kind to myself). I’m 0-3 but have played against 3 really top players and so I don’t feel too bad about it. None of the games were a walkover and I feel that for the most part I have a decent account of myself despite the end result.
Since I found myself in the bottom 10% of players I hoped (expected?) that my match up for this week might be a little more on my level (i.e. an average player). More on that in a moment.
A quick side note (it’s relevant, honest) – normally I write these posts up in the following format:
Picking a list
Opponent & list
This week though I’m mixing things up. Oh yeah. Why? All will become clear…
You see, this week my matchup *may* inform my list choice and so, logically, I can’t talk about the list and why I picked it without taking about my opponent.
Looking back at last week’s post, I closed with this:
What will next week bring? At 0-3 I should be paired with someone as average (ok, below average!) as myself and at least have a bit of a shot at picking up a win
Now, clearly I have upset someone at Tabletop.to because not only did it pair me with someone who is 1-2 (whereas, as I understand it, I should have been paired with others at 0-3, my guess is that it was an odd number and I was the lucky chosen one!), It paired me up with the rather legendary Phil GC. Yes, he of Such An X-Wing Hipster fame. The very same Phil GC who wrote a blog series about achieving a 67% win rate (and did so). The Phil GC who took Fenn and Guri ( a list with a total of 11 health including just 3 shields) to WORLDS and got to the top 64 with it. At Worlds. With 11 health. Ridiculous!
Second side note (not as quick as the last one though!) – I will state clearly here something that may not have been clear from the above paragraph and also the last 3 blogs. When I am paired with a renowned player (someone who is ‘x-wing famous’) I consider it an honour. It’s exciting. And the thing is, it doesn’t normally happen. You see, I’m not a player who travels for tournaments. I generally just play at my local store and then go to the UK System Open where, due to not being a great player, my chances of being paired with a top player past the second round gets progressively worse.
So while I’ve probably (definitely) made it sound like I didn’t want the match ups that I’ve had (which, from a ‘chance of winning’ standpoint is kind of true) in fact I have been very pleased with being able to go up against these guys, see how they play, chat to them in person and try to learn from them.
Ok, back to the point. I’m playing against ANOTHER top player.
Phil got in touch and we arranged to play on Friday night (which is perfect, as it gives me time to prepare and practice beforehand and time to write it up afterwards).
This left me with a question:
Do I continue with my strategy so far (browse the remaining factions, pick one at random and find something interesting) or do I get out a list that I’m practised with to at least give me a fighting chance?
While I was still in the process of mulling it over (i.e. other life stuff was happening and the deadline wasn’t close enough to make me really have to think about it yet) something else happened. I received the following message from Phil:
Firestorm want to stream our game on friday. You up for it.
I’m sorry, what?! Firestorm Firecast want to stream this?
After picking myself up from the floor I agreed (because, of course!) and we chatted a bit more about the game and blogging and streaming. Phil mentioned that he’s been on stream before (quite a lot I think?) and has played against other bloggers before but never both of those in the same game.
Me? I’ve never done either and here I am just bimbling my way through it.
I will mention at this point that at the end of this post there will be links both for Phil’s blog about this game (which he’s also posting today. Go BLOG TUESDAY!) and also for the recording of the game by Firestorm Firecast.
All words that I never thought I’d be writing into a single sentence (about myself at least).
Anyway, back to the point. A list. Right.
The additional (self applied) pressure of the game being live streamed and recorded for all eternity has helped me to make my mind up. I’m going Rebel and I’m going something I know.
Does that mean it’ll be good? No. Probably not. I’m not going to go ‘super try hard mode’ because a) that’s not my style and b) I’m still prioritising fun over effectiveness. So the debate which raged on in my head for a good few days the last time I played a Rebel list doesn’t even come up now. I’m not taking the 5 X list, I’m taking Dash.
If you’re not aware, I’m a huge fan of the YT-2400. I spent a good 4 months honing and tweaking lists based on it around Autumn last year (all recorded in posts here from around September to November if you want to check the archives) and had prepared to take it to the System Open only for them to change the primary format to Hyperspace. I still took Dash to play on day 2 (because I knew I wasn’t making cut!) but, due to prioritising my time with finding and practising a Hyperspace list for the main event I was lacking practice and didn’t do as well as I’d have liked with it.
Anyway, regardless of results, I love the ship. I’ve had my model repainted recently by a VERY talented member of our squad. I really can’t wait to get it on the table.
P.s. if you want to commission my mate Dan to paint something for you drop me a message. He’s yet to set up a Facebook page or anything like that (despite my nagging him to do so!!) but I can put you in touch if you fancy something nicely painted!
The last time I played a Vagabond match I paired Dash with Lando and made a bit of a mistake which, in the long run cost me the game. That mistake was firstly being in the wrong place and I then followed that up by using the red barrel roll to get out of it two turns in a row (with the help of Contraband Cybernetics). Dash never cleared stress before being destroyed and unmodded 4 dice shots are incredibly inconsistent.
So, a little tweak to the list and I arrive at this:
Dash Rendar (91)
Expert Handling (4)
Perceptive Copilot (8)
Shield Upgrade (6)
Ship total: 109 Half Points: 55 Threshold: 6
Lando Calrissian (79)
Nien Nunb (5)
Jyn Erso (2)
Millennium Falcon (3)
Ship total: 89 Half Points: 45 Threshold: 7
View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Rebel%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z39X120WWW54W165WWY43XWWW52W40WWW154&sn=Unsaved%20Squadron&obs=yt2400debris0,yt2400debris2,gascloud4
Lando can move (a blue if possible) and either double mod himself or single mod and boost or take an evade (which triggers the title ability for better defence). OR Lando can give Dash a reposition (pre or post dial reveal) and then Dash can take a double focus, choosing to take one as an evade if needed. It’s just 2 ships but it’s flexible and, if I play it well, can be effective.
The down side? Multiple incoming shot focused fire. In one of my test games I lost half of the Falcon in exchange for 2 shields on 2 different ships. It struggles against swarms as even 2 dice shots can regularly sneak damage past the low number of green dice.
With all that said, it’s still fun and a double modded Dash at range 2 is NOT something that any ship wants to see.
My first couple of tests went….poorly. I got hammered firstly by the FOcho (JARGON ALERT!!) and then 4 i3 TIE/SF’s. I will admit that at this point, I had a little wobble and almost abandoned the list. Phil is going to be rather better at the game than the AI and I don’t want it to be all over in 20 minutes without even taking a shield off a ship.
I left it and went back. I tried again. This time it spawned 5 CLT Jedi. And, changing my opening and tactics slightly, I beat it. Then I took on 3 Resistance Falcons followed by 4 E-Wings and beat both lists with 2 ships still alive. Ok, that’s better.
A few more practices and some experimenting and I’m set. Well, as set as I can be.
With just hours to go I’m informed who the guest commentator is for the game.
It’s world champion Oliver Pocknell.
Again, it really is an honour to be in this position. Playing against an X-Wing legend on live stream with the world champion analysing and commenting with expert opinion. I’m just feeling rather out of my depth and genuinely just want to make sure I don’t embarrass myself.
Still, it’s made for a rather more interesting (although rather long, sorry!) intro to this post than normal (for me at least!) and I have the added bonus of being able to review the game later with expert opinions and try to make sure that I improve my game next time. If I can bring myself to watch it, of course!
The Batrep… (JARGON ALERT!!)
Right, massive intro over and done with, let’s get on with the real meat of this post. The game.
I open Vassal and join Phil and the guys who are streaming in a Discord chat and I take a look at Phil’s list. My heart sank a little if I’m honest.
Grand Inquisitor (52)
Passive Sensors (3)
Mag-Pulse Warheads (6)
Ship total: 61 Half Points: 31 Threshold: 2
Ship total: 40 Half Points: 20 Threshold: 2
Fifth Brother (42)
Passive Sensors (3)
Homing Missiles (5)
Ship total: 53 Half Points: 27 Threshold: 2
Seventh Sister (43)
Ship total: 46 Half Points: 23 Threshold: 2
View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Galactic%20Empire&d=v8ZsZ200Z169XW240W311Y171X75WWY394X204W240W100Y170X204WW&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=
The TIE Advanced v1. I don’t have a good record against them. In fact I seem to recall a game against Russell (one of the guys at my local store) and what sticks in my head is that pretty much every turn he ended up with tons of tokens (including Force) and with 3 agility (and 5 at range 3 obstructed) they feel rather unkillable despite only having 4 health.
The chat before the game is how this is an interesting matchup and how it’ll be interesting to see how the two different styles of ships contrast against each other. At this point I’m still wondering how on earth I’m going to take 4 of these down before I get critted to death.
I HAVE re-watched the game (so there’s no excuse for getting details wrong) but I’m also low on time and so some details may not be perfect. Sorry!
With a 2 point bid I decide to give Phil first player and we start placing obstacles.
Now, I am not (nor have I ever claimed to be) an expert. Very far from it. In practice games my general strategy has been to spread obstacles out because while Dash can just straight up ignore them while moving, asteroids shut down firing when debris and gas clouds don’t. Also the Falcon is a big ship and I want big-ish lanes to move around.
We then place forces. Phil goes with a square formation on his left side. I place opposite with Lando and more to the middle with Dash since I already plan to hard turn both in the first turn.
Looking back now, I had ALREADY made a significant mistake by placing where I did. I do not want to joust Phil’s list. We both know that. And so by placing opposite I have to turn away. However, the obstacle placement being what it is, I’m already going to be pointing myself towards the restrictive corner with an asteroid.
Anyway, I hadn’t really realised this at the time and happily dialled in the hard turns.
Phil also revealed hard turns for all his v1’s and boosted.
At this point i’m a little torn (not good for turn 2!). Do I skirt the obstacles to delay the engagement or do I turn in? I decide to stick with what I’d normally do and go straight and see where Phil is heading.
The v1’s bank turn en masse and straight boost although the Grand Inquisitor bumps the boost and stays a little further behind the rest.
So it looks like we’re engaging along my left board edge. With all those v1’s moving before my ships bumping is going to be an issue.
I send Dash 3 bank to get around the asteroid early. Moving over it doesn’t matter but if he lands on it he can’t shoot so I want to get that out of the way early while shots are at long range.
Lando takes a 1 forwards and I deliberate whether to barrel roll Dash (to give more/better movement options for next turn). I decide not to and try for a lock on something since he isn’t being shot at this turn. Nothing is in range so I lock the debris.
Meanwhile, Phil’s ships have all sauntered forwards. Staying at long range for one more turn.
Range 3 has been breached though and shots are fired. Dash fires at the closest v1 and (unsurprisingly) does no damage. The v1 returns fire and plinks off a shield. Typical.
Back to planning and now I have some decisions to make. Dash is getting blocked this turn. I know that. Phil is too good a player to allow me to move freely with Dash’s 4 dice gun and back that up with mods. The question is, can I minimise the impact? I decide to go 1 forwards with Lando in order to give Dash a Barrel Roll and hope that gets me clear.
Phil moves his ships. The Inquisitor ends up near the board edge (blocking a 3 bank for Dash), Fifth Brother sits in behind him (to be able to shoot the blocked Dash) and takes a lock while Seventh Sister and Grand Inquisitor follow up behind.
Hmmm… I move Lando first to give Dash the barrel roll, hoping that I’ll bump Fifth Brother and reduce the incoming shots. Sadly, that’s not how it worked out. Dash still bumped the Inquisitor meaning he was now looking at taking two range 1 shots plus a range 2 from the Grand Inquisitor. With no mods.
We start shooting and, well, it isn’t great (but could have been worse). Dash tanks a few shots, losing just 3 health from the 3 attacks. My attacks were even less effective with neither Dash nor Lando getting any damage past Phil’s green dice.
Back to dials we go. I look at the screen. I’m 90% sure that 1 bank for Lando will fit. It’s risky though but I still go for it. Dash now hopefully has the opportunity to turn out of the traffic jam with a 3 hard turn and put himself somewhere useful.
Phil starts moving his ships and it appears he’s going all in on Lando. Seventh Sister steams in for the block while the other 3 ships converge their firing arcs in that direction. Lando moves and, obviously bumps Seventh Sister but, worse than that, lands on the rock. And takes a damage from it. Well. Crap. No shooting for Lando this turn I guess.
Dash fires on the Grand Inquisitor and lands 2 hits and a crit. The v1 unexpectedly blanks out, reducing it to 1 hull. I wait with baited breath for the crit. It’s a Blinded Pilot. Useless.
Phil unleashes 3 shots on Lando, strips shields and crucially, the first crit out of the pack is a Hull Breach. Super, super harsh. It’s followed by a few more and Lando (who started the turn at full health) is now at 6 hull having taken 7 damage in all.
I suddenly start wondering if I’m going to be wiped out before the clock runs out (let alone the +2 turns).
We’re at dials again and I’m at a loss of what to do. I give Lando a 3 hard turn to try and get out of dodge while Dash takes a 1 forwards to try and hit something else while being ignored.
Phil works his magic again and, with the help of Sense on the Inquisitor (which he’s been using regularly, I just didn’t mention before) lines up blocks to not only keep Lando stuck in that corner but still on a rock. I roll for the rock. It’s an eyeball. Phew! Realistically though, Lando is still toast this turn.
The firing begins. The Grand Inquisitor doesn’t have a shot and Dash can’t get any damage through with his while Lando is still parked on the rock twiddling his thumbs.
The other v1’s take their shots but only get one more damage through. It’s another Weapons Failure though, meaning that Lando now has a 1 die pea shooter. He’s alive though!
Dials again and I need to try and find a way out for Lando. He gets a 3 hard while Dash takes a 1 forward to keep targets in arc.
Phil uses Sense again but this time on Dash, using the information to send the Inquisitor in for a block. He also manages to block Lando’s escape with Seventh Sister while Fifth Brother K-turns to stay on target.
Time to fire. Grand Inquisitor has no shot, leaving my ships to fire first. Lando rolls his single red die at the Inquisitor who evades it easily. With Dash I have a choice to make. A range 2 shot at a full health Seventh Sister (who has 2 force) or a range 3 shot at the 1 health Grand Inquisitor who has 2 force and an evade. Also my shot is unmodded. It’s lose-lose choice in my mind.
I have to try and get some points though and fire at the Grand Inquisitor. 3 hits. Phil rolls. Evade and 2 eyeballs. He’s fine.
With all but 1 ship either bumping or facing the wrong way I’m hopeful that Lando will survive another turn.
Phil rolls with Fifth Brother and gets 2 hits and a crit. Lando blanks. The crits start coming out and the second one is a Fuel Leak, triggering an extra one (damaged sensor array) which will leave Lando on one health once the last crit comes out which is…. a direct hit. Lando’s dead.
Ummm. Ok. There’s no way back here now. It doesn’t even look like I can recover much MoV. It’s bad.
Needing to get some distance in I give Dash a 3 hard (although I considered heading over the debris and see what happens. Can’t block me there!)
Phil uses Sense (again) and uses the Inquisitor to block (again). Now the rest of his forces start to angle in on their prey, taking locks as they go.
Dash moves and, predictably, is blocked. Sad Dash.
I plink a shot off at the only v1 in range but it’s range 3 behind a rock and I’m unmodded. My odds are poor and that’s how it plays out.
Phil returns fire and takes Dash’s last shield and 1 hull, leaving him on 5 health.
Planning time again I’m struggling to find a way out of trouble. That hyper mobile Inquisitor (or rather, Phil’s skills and experience) is telegraphing my every move and Sense is allowing it to be fine tuned with a boot or barrel roll every time. I consider a hard turn right, towards the board edge, to thrown things off but I’m concerned that I’ll get boxed into that corner again and the asteroid there is making it less appealing.
I set a 3 bank, not hopeful that it’ll work but really not too sure what else I can do.
Phil uses Sense, the v1’s all move and now I’m blocked and the two ships behind me are double modded. Great.
Dash has nobody in arc so it’s all of Phil’s ships to shoot. Well, two of them anyway. The Inquisitor is blocking and Grand Inky is still too far away. The other two combine to put 3 damage on, taking Dash to just 2 health.
Back to dials we go and it’s time to pull out the desperate measures (well, actually I think that probably should have happened 5 or 6 turns ago. Or perhaps 2 or 3 days ago!). I set a 1 hard right and hope to catch Phil off guard.
I should have known better. Phil’s ships move in. The Inquisitor sails off into the sunset while his squad mates press the chase with Phil covering my move, sending Seventh Sister around the debris.
I move Dash and I’ve managed to stop short of bing in Seventh Sister’s arc but I’ve still got 2 incoming shots. Dash takes his double focus and closes his eyes.
Phil fires the Mag-Pulse which the Grand Inquisitor which hits, causing one damage (taking Dash to 1 health). It’s a crit though and it’s a loose stabiliser meaning that next turn (if I last that long) I’m stuffed regardless. The jam removes my focus tokens while the deplete means my (possibly, or rather, probably) last attack will be rubbish.
With my brain slightly on tilt I go for the Grand Inquisitor for my shot (when either of the ships at range 2 would have been better targets) just by virtue of the fact I wanted to take something off the board. I rolled my dice and got 3 hits. Phil rolled and got evade, eyeball and 2 blanks. Spent a force to turn the eyeball and spent the evade to get off scot-free.
To finish the game Fifth Brother fires a Homing Missile at Dash. I decide not to take the 1 damage (obviously) and take my chances on the dice.
Phil rolls 3 hits and a crit out of hand (thanks dice!) and then spends the two force to add a crit. In response I rolled natties (JARGON ALERT!!) but it was far too little, far too late. Dash burns down with a bit of a whimper. I check the clock. We hit time but, as with all Vagabond games, it’s 60 mins plus 2 turns. Still, at least there wasn’t time left on the clock.
Final result: 31 – 200 loss.
The Conclusion… (part 1 – the game)
Ok, where to start. Firstly, that is the most comprehensive defeat I’ve had on Vassal (and I’ve had a lot of defeats now!) and probably including real life games going back a fair while. The chat before-hand with the guys who were streaming and commentating suggested that I had a decent chance with the list I had against the v1’s but in the end those 3 agility with token stacking/force meant I did almost no damage the whole game. I really, REALLY hate those Inquisitors. Really.
In the post game chat I said that I felt like the difference in player skill was evident and, while the guys disagreed I have to say that having watched it back (not easy!) I didn’t play the game well. Forgive my using British terms (since I know a good few Americans read these posts) but it felt like a football match with the current Liverpool side taking on a Sunday league pub team full of middle-age overweight blokes. The passion and enthusiasm might be there but the skills aren’t and they’re just proud to be on the same pitch.
As was mentioned in commentary, a hard turn with Lando when Dash was behind the asteroid early on would have put one of my ships behind Phil’s list a turn later (assuming that he would then turn on and focus fire on a single target which, with just 2 dice guns, would be the logical thing to do). That would have put me in a better position. However, tying myself to ‘the trick’ of using blue moves on Lando for extra action economy meant that I limited myself when I didn’t have to. It also doesn’t help that I didn’t get the bump on the Fifth Brother to reduce an incoming shot but, these things happen.
Overall I’m pretty disappointed with how I played this. On one hand I feel that I could have done better (I mean, Lando only fired twice the whole game and one of those was with 1 red die) but on the other it feels like I could play this match up (as in both the list and opponent) 10, 50, 100 times and not win any of them.
The conclusion… (part 2 – the experience)
This was my very first experience of playing on stream. I was rather nervous in the lead up to the game, trying to keep my mind on other things until about 20 minutes before. Once we got started though I actually mostly forgot that my every move was being analysed and discussed by the World Champion and other experts I was able to just enjoy the game (well, mostly!).
I think that if I was ever invited to be on stream in person I might struggle to keep focus in the same way but to be honest, I’m not sure that’s going to be an issue I need to deal with!
This wasn’t my first experience of playing a top player (even in this tournament, bizarrely!) but, as per my general experience with X-Wing opponents, Phil was a really great opponent and I enjoyed being able to play and chat with him before, during and after the game. Thank you Phil for being an awesome human!
The, umm, post conclusion..?
Overall I must admit to feeling a bit deflated about how things are going recently. That’s 4 losses out of 4 in this tournament and between both tournaments it’s 6 losses in a row and 9 in my last 11. If I was a boxer I’d probably have been advised to retire by now.
I play this game for the fun and for the social aspect. Yes, it’s nice to win (and it’s hard to lose over and over) but no matter how badly the game actually went I had the opportunity to get to know some awesome people and get a great experience in playing against a really really top player. Hopefully I can learn some things from this and do better in my next game. That, though, is all on me.
Before I go I should give you the links I promised.
Link to youtube – https://youtu.be/pUXb6Be0QMk
Link to Firestorm Twitch – https://www.twitch.tv/videos/648977994
Phil’s article about the game – https://suchanxwinghipster.wordpress.com/2020/06/16/once-more-with-theme-ing-lets-be-bad-guys/
This post has been enormous and I apologise for going on for so long but between all circumstances to do with this game (Phil GC, Oliver Pocknell, Firestorm stream) I feel like I wanted to record as much as possible, even if it’s only for my own future reflection.
It’s fair to say this Vagabond Open isn’t going fantastically well in terms of results but I’ve met some top people and played some great games. Maybe next week I’ll manage to get a win? Probably not though…