Teaching an old dog new tricks

The intro…

Welcome to my blog! I hope you’re well and that life, whatever it currently looks like for you, is good.

The last 2 months have been weird. Clearly. People have found many different ways to keep contact with others and try to be as normal as possible. Whether it’s Zoom or Facetime or Skype for meetings or mass bingo games or Kahoot for online quizes, people have been finding ways to stay connected and entertained.

X-Wing is no different. When this all began the full extent of my digital X-Wing knowledge was using Fly Casual (which I use to test out lists and setups). I wanted to stay involved with X-Wing and connected to a community and so I asked a friend to teach me Vassal. We connected through Discord and he talked me through a whole game from setup to finish including some handy shortcuts and basic game etiquette.

I had pushed myself into doing this by signing up for an online tournament that Steve Boulton had set up – the Vagabond Open. Technically it was two tournaments – one using Vassal and the other using Tabletop Simulator (since some people use only one or the other, not both). The tournaments finished last week and Steve has already set up a follow up tournament – Vagabond Open 2 – Covid Wars. Again, there are two tournaments set up in TTT (ot TTO? which do people use?!), one for Vassal and one for TTS.

I’m finding that my furloughed schedule is actually quite busy as both my kids have school work to do and the challenge of keeping them focused is quite time consuming. One game a week has been enough to keep the balance between practice and playing and actually spending time with my family.

So when I saw that the Sith Takers were organising an ongoing tournament which, after a few games would split into mini leagues, I was intrigued and a little torn. I want to join but can I commit to 2 games a week? I click the link to look at details and immediately see a snag. It’s on TTS.

Now, I DO actually have TTS. It was on offer a little while back and thought to myself ‘yeah, why not’ and bought it. I subscribed to the X-Wing module and opened it up. I have to say, that’s about as far as I took it (apart from flipping the table of course!) as it didn’t make immediate sense. Plus I was already using Vassal at this point and so mentally just put it to one side for ‘later’ (i.e. an indeterminate period of time, like with DIY jobs and the washing up).

But now the Sith Taker tournament had got me thinking. If I learn TTS I could join it, couldn’t I? Maybe I could?

After last week’s blog I had a comment from the very awesome Chris Burnett and he mentioned that at some point we should have a game. Chris and I are friends on Facebook and have the odd chat about X-Wing things (which started some time last year off the back of a few of my blog posts). We actually met in person earlier this year at the UK System Open (which feels like a REALLY long time ago now) for the first time and so he’s a bit more than ‘just an X-Wing friend’ in that respect.

Anyway, I got talking to Chris and I agreed, a game would be great, but at that time it went into the aforementioned ‘later’ stack of things. Then the two pieces of information collided. What if I could learn TTS AND have a game against Chris? Could he teach me?

I got in touch and made the suggestion/request and Chris very kindly accepted. He has quite a few games going on but had a free evening and so we arranged a time to play.

Chris is actually involved a few tournaments and so I asked if there was anything in particular that he’d like to practice against in preparation for them but his answer was ‘any old jank is fine’ or words to that effect.

Cool.

Off the back of last week’s game where I rather messed up with Dash and Lando, maybe this was time for some adjustment.

Bonus points for a Star Wars meme!

Having talked last week about Lone Wolf vs Expert Handling and how Lone Wolf would be more helpful in defence I ended up taking (spoilers if you haven’t read last week’s blog!!) a red barrel roll followed by clearing stress with a blue move and then another roll followed by a 3rd roll using Contraband Cybernetics. It went badly, of course and got me re-thinking which Talent would benefit Dash more. This was my opportunity to test that out.

That also meant that Contraband probably isn’t needed (Dash’s only red is a 4k which I rarely use) and so I have some points left over. After sifting through various options for both ships I just end up popping Hull Upgrade on both to finish with this:

Dash Rendar (91)
Expert Handling (4)
Perceptive Copilot (8)
Hull Upgrade (5)

Ship total: 108 Half Points: 54 Threshold: 6

Lando Calrissian (79)
Nien Nunb (5)
Jyn Erso (2)
Hull Upgrade (3)
Millennium Falcon (3)

Ship total: 92 Half Points: 46 Threshold: 7

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Rebel%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z39X120WWW54W164WWY43XWWW52W40W164WW154&sn=Dash%20%26%20Lando%20v2&obs=

I no longer need to keep Dash outside of range 2 of Lando to make sure Lone Wolf would trigger but I’m also not tied to him as I’ll happily give Lando 2 actions since Dash gets a double focus. If I can pass off a focus & evade to Dash (Perceptive Co-Pilot and Jyn Erso enabling that to happen) and then roll or lock with Dash then all the better but it’s not essential.

Ok, I’m good to go. On to the game!

The batrep… (JARGON ALERT!!)

Game time rolls around and Chris and I connect for voice chat over Discord. He leads me through joining a game in TTS before then showing me how to generate a squad, link dials, show grids and all the other things you do to get a game set up.

Now I did have a little bit of a head start here as earlier in the day Chris had sent me a really helpful video on how TTS works and I’d watched it a played about a little bit.

We got everything set and I was then able to concentrate on Chris’ list. Interesting. It’s an adaptation of the very popular (and good) Rebel Beef list from last year. Wedge and Ten Numb are still in but Cassian in the U-Wing has been swapped for K-2SO and Braylen Stramm downgraded to a Blade Squadron pilot with Selfless.

Blade Squadron Veteran (42)
Selfless (3)

Ship total: 45 Half Points: 23 Threshold: 4

Ten Numb (48)
Crack Shot (1)
Stabilized S-Foils (2)

Ship total: 51 Half Points: 26 Threshold: 4

K-2SO (46)
Crack Shot (1)
Pivot Wing (0)

Ship total: 47 Half Points: 24 Threshold: 4

Wedge Antilles (55)
Crack Shot (1)
Servomotor S-Foils (0)

Ship total: 56 Half Points: 28 Threshold: 3

Total: 199

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Rebel%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z75X130WWWWWWY74X116WWWWWW313Y390X116WWWWW140Y5X116WWWW142&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

That’s a lot of health for me to try and get through with 2 shots per turn and a lot of 3 (possibly 4) dice incoming shots. I need to try and split them somehow and pick someone off to level the playing field a little and avoid getting Dash boxed in.

Obstacles go down and forces are placed and we look like this when ready to reveal first dials.

DISCLAIMER – It took a few turns before we found the screenshot function. Except it wasn’t the screenshot function (even though it made a sound like a picture being taken). As such, after the first couple of turns I have no pictures and the damage done per turn is a little bit of guesswork. Future tip – screenshot on TTS is Shift+F11.

K-2SO moved before I pressed the button….

My initial thought was – try and bring them into the middle. Lando REALLY doesn’t want to hit any obstacles but hopefully the spacing is enough for me to manage ok.

I turn both ships left while Chris takes the ‘standard Rebel’ 1 forwards with everyone.

Turn 2 and I want to turn Dash in now rather than wait another turn and risk getting boxed in later. Lando will go forwards to fill the space Dash leaves.

Chris’ forces keep with the straight manoeuvres but uses barrel rolls to reshuffle his formation ready to turn in.

Back to dials we go and I now need to make sure I pace correctly. Too slow with Lando and I’ll need an extra turn to get around the rock. Too fast with Dash and I’ll be isolated and lacking Lando’s support action. I give Lando a 3 forwards while Dash goes 2 forwards then takes a precautionary barrel roll out to give me better turning options next turn.

Chris begins his turns with the B-Wings turning and rolling, K-2SO using a pivot to turn 90 degrees and Wedge hanging back with a 1 bank.

This turn is tricky. Depending on how aggressively either of us move we may or may not engage this turn. Lando goes 3 hard around the rock (but just 1 action since it’s not blue) While Dash takes a neutral 2 bank in and waits to see what the B-Wings do.

The B-Wings both turn in with banks while K-2SO moves 1 forwards to clear his stress and then Wedge continues his slow turn around the debris.

Yes, I switched to top-down view here. I’m still undecided.

It turns out that Dash just about has the Blade B-Wing in range. It is range 3 and obstructed though and I fail to get any damage onto it.

Onto the next turn we go and now is when I get a little wary. I have some options with Dash and, hoping to avoid being blocked, dial in a 4 forwards. Lando is a little simpler but I still have to try and decide between a 1 forwards and a 1 bank. If Chris turns on Lando then I could be taking a few close range shots. But If Chris focuses on Dash then Lando may be too far out and have to take the long way around the gas cloud. I settle on the 1 bank.

Chris starts moving ships and it seems he’s played a little conservatively. Everyone moves 1 forwards with the B-Wings barrel rolling out towards Lando.

I move ships and have a choice to make. Wedge is dangerous. I’d like to focus on him first but since he hasn’t moved yet I don’t know where he’ll end up. I don’t want to fire on different ships since I only have 2 shots per round. Lando’s best shot is the Blade B-Wing and it looks like Dash can reach him too so I end up with Lando with a focus while Dash has a focus, an evade and a lock on the Blade B-Wing.

Wedge moves 1 forwards and locks Dash.

Here’s where I run out of screenshots and so things get hazy, shots and damage-wise. Sorry!

Between them Dash and Lando put 4 hits through onto the Blade B-Wing, taking him to half and in return I take 1, maybe 2 damage on Lando. Not a terrible trade, I’ll take it.

Since I’ve no images and the details are a little vague I’ll finish the batrep as more of a summary. It’s not necessarily how I like to do it but needs must and all that.

From here Dash starts to circle the centre of the board while Lando creeps forwards to keep targets in decent range. Chris goes all-in on Lando and ‘tokens up’ ready.

Wedge put some fire into Lando before Dash obliterates the Blade B-Wing on his own. Lando returns fire on Wedge and gets 2 hits through before Ten and K-2SO put a bit more damage onto Lando.

So yeah, this is what you get when I have no images for a batrep. Sorry

Again, I think I’ve come out on top here in terms of trading damage but Chris’ list has more health to trade with in the first place…

In the next turn Dash continues his circuit around the board while Lando tries to follow. Wedge and Ten keep tracking Lando while K-2S0 waits on the edge of the furball. Lando survives Wedge’s shots and in return he and Dash combine to finish Wedge off. Before the turn ends though Ten and K-2SO put more damage onto the Falcon and it’s enough to wipe him out.

So in terms of ships and points, it’s roughly even, half of each list is down. The thing is, Chris has 2 shots per turn and 1 target while I have the opposite.

As the clock ticks down I trickle some damage onto both ships while being unable to focus purely on one or the other, all the while Chris is chipping away at Dash.

Dash being chipped away.

The timer goes as we start planning for what will be the final turn. Here’s the dilemma.

At the time I thought this:
If Dash takes 2 damage he’s at half points and I lose. Even if Dash takes no damage, if I don’t get half points on either ship then I lose. I would need to put 2 damage on the U-Wing or 3 on the B-Wing (It turned out that this wasn’t the case, more on that later).

Ideally I need to pick a target, have mods and avoid getting shot by both. But with the position I’m in, that’s not happening. I dial in a very optimistic 3 hard turn and wait.

Chris moves his 2 ships. Hmm. I go to move Dash, he stays where he is. Chris and I spend about 5 minutes thinking this is a glitch and trying to manually get a template and place it before realising that the system is right, the manoeuvre doesn’t complete. I mean, I was expecting a bump, just not where it is.

It’s not a total disaster though. K-2SO can’t shoot Dash but Ten can. What is bad though it that I’ve got no mods. I need to deal 3 damage to Ten and take none myself.

It’s all on the dice.

I roll the red dice. it’s 3 hits. Chris rolls his single green…

it feels like forever.

…….

Is it working?

It’s an evade. Ten Numb is NOT halved. Damn.

Chris then rolls his red dice for the return shot. 1 hit and 2 blanks. Yay!

Then he spends his lock. Damn.

He rerolls 2 and gets, well, something. Enough to make it 2 hits.

I roll the greens and get…

Blank and eyeball. But I have no mods, Dash get halved and the game is finished.

The final score is 101 – 146 to Chris.

The conclusion… Part 1

Looking back at the points properly, if Dash hadn’t taken any damage in that last turn, I win 101 – 92. This is why it’s important to know your win condition. I don’t know that there was a way to avoid being shot by both ships in this case so it’s quite likely that the outcome would have been the same but still, my thinking was wrong during planning and it could have made a difference.

Having said that, it was still very close. Closer than it maybe should have been as the dice variance swung one way and then the other but generally favoured me if I’m honest.

In terms of the list I feel that this iteration of the list is slightly better though, with Dash getting the option of consequence free barrel rolls before or after moving giving me greater freedom than normal. It’s not a huge change in the list but it did feel quite different.

Both times I’ve played this list my opponent has opted to go for Lando over Dash as first target. In my mind I would put Dash as the bigger threat due to the 4 dice gun and being able to ignore obstacles but I can see that Lando feeding him free actions makes him even more dangerous and removing the (89 point!) support ship makes Dash easier to take down, especially once he stops getting evades from Jyn crew.

So yes, this list is yet to win. But it’s been close and, more importantly, it’s fun. I like these ships and I think with a bit of practice I can start getting results with them. I’ll stick it out a little while longer at least!

Except for winning at X-Wing. That is still hard.

The conclusion… Part 2

So, TTS. What’s my verdict?

I like it. It’s just 1 game so far but I feel that it’s more intuitive than Vassal and with the 3rd person view it looks and feels more like proper X-Wing (although I find top down view easier for planning).

It does have it’s down sides though. Finding a game is easier in Vassal since the X-Wing module is self contained. Once you’re in and you see the ‘lobby’ it’s clear how many people are online and who is looking for a game.

With TTS you need to pre-arrange a game one way or another (whether that’s as part of a tournament or via the TTS X-Wing Discord channel) to know that someone is there ‘waiting’ for you. Then if you ARE joining a game (that’s already been arranged) there can be rather a lot of rooms to load and while you can search (if you know the name you’re looking for), when I played it still didn’t work as smoothly as I feel it could have.

Even knowing my opponent was online and having the name of the server to search, it still took me a few minutes to be able to join and get started. I don’t know if this is a regular thing or if it was just a busy time to play. Maybe someone who plays it regularly could let me know?

Moving forward I think I need some more games with it but I’m happy with both platforms. Both have their own pros and cons but I’m fine either way and glad to be ‘opening my horizons’ to more options for X-Wing play moving forward.

Inspiration, blah blah, etc

It will NEVER replace the real physical game though. Everything that has gone on recently and having to find alternatives has reinforced to me that being physically present and playing against a person with our little plastic ships is special and shouldn’t be taken for granted

Somewhat more normal service should resume next week with the second Vagabond Open kicking off and me (sort of) knowing Vassal a bit better than I know TTS.

See you next time I hope!

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