Vagabond Open – The Sequel

The intro…

Welcome to this week’s blog!

After a week off from the end of the first Vagabond Open to learn TTS it’s time to dive in headfirst to the second event!
The first one ran very well and the ‘use a different faction for each game’, while challenging, was clearly very popular with 50 people having joined the Vassal tournament (10 more than last time) and another 50 joining for TTS (a whopping 34 more than the previous one).

Pairings day is now Monday and you have until the following Sunday to get your game played. I waiting with baited breath to see who I’d been paired with and was delighted to again be paired with someone ‘new’ (to me, someone I’ve never played) – the illustrious Phillip Pond.

Phil is based out of Basingstoke (along with rather a lot of other very good players) and is involved in the very excellent Firestorm Firecast so (as he put it) is “very much used to my games being publicly scrutinised”. We got in touch to arrange a day to play and with Phil having a busy schedule (including playing in the final of the Nordics Vassal league!) we settled on the Sunday night. This worked out well for me since I’d put absolutely no thought into what list or even what faction I would play.

Time to put that right.

Initially I thought about playing the exact same lists and in the same order as the first tournament to see if I could improve.

I also considered taking the same approach as one of my previous opponents (though I can’t remember who and can’t find the conversation either! Maybe I imagined it?!) took in the first tournament of playing 5 identical ships at around 40 points each.

Another consideration was asking people to suggest lists and use a random number generator to pick.

Or do none of those and just find what’s good and use that.

So. many. options.

As ever (for me), reps would be important, not necessarily of the exact list but I work better with at least *some* idea of what I’m doing. By the time I got around to properly thinking about it, it was Saturday. Oops.

In the mean time I had played around with a few lists that had been suggested to me from last week. In the back of my mind though I think I do at least want to stick with the faction order I used previously but not necessarily the same lists. I think that I should apply the lessons I learned off the back of some of the more challenging games (use familiar ships, don’t necessarily take strong meta lists) and so that puts some of the lists out of the running.

This mouse is so relatable

When thinking about playing Resistance I thought about the list that Chris Stevens took to the System Open this year and made it to the top 32 with (no mean feat with almost 500 players in the room including many of Europe’s best). It’s 4 of the initiative 3 Red Squadron T-70 X-Wings each with Heroic and a Hull Upgrade (and S-foils, of course).

Red Squadron Expert (44)
Heroic (1)
Hull Upgrade (5)
Integrated S-Foils (0)

Ship total: 50 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 4

Red Squadron Expert (44)
Heroic (1)
Hull Upgrade (5)
Integrated S-Foils (0)

Ship total: 50 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 4

Red Squadron Expert (44)
Heroic (1)
Hull Upgrade (5)
Integrated S-Foils (0)

Ship total: 50 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 4

Red Squadron Expert (44)
Heroic (1)
Hull Upgrade (5)
Integrated S-Foils (0)

Ship total: 50 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 4

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Resistance&d=v8ZsZ200Z257X172WW164W175WWWY257X172WW164W175WWWY257X172WW164W175WWWY257X172WW164W175WWW&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

I flew it a couple of times in Fly Casual and it’s certainly a solid list. The T-70’s hit hard and the dial is much better than it’s predecessor with 3 additional blues and a 3 Talon Roll as an alternative to the 4K. Here’s the question though – do the extra 2 health over the T-65, the bump in initiative and the addition of Heroic make up for having an extra ship on the board? In all honesty I don’t really know. I’m sure there’s someone out there who has research this or looked into the stats but I haven’t. All I have to go on is my experience with both lists and to be honest, it’s tricky to call.

Either way, I can’t play the T-65’s if I’m playing Resistance and while there are some more interesting lists and ships in the faction (5A and Farmer’s Fireballs spring to mind), I’m not practised with any of them and so, as vanilla as it is, Red Squadron are my guys this week.

I get a couple more reps in on Fly Casual with the list before Sunday night but I’m starting to wonder if my tactics against the AI will stand up against a human opponent. Time to find out I suppose!

The batrep… (JARGON ALERT!!)

Phillip and I try to get in touch over Discord but it seems that it’s having none of it and we eventually shift over to using Facebook to call.

We begin setup and I mention that this is about the fastest that I’ve got a game ready when my laptop decides that it’s also having none of it and hangs. Now it’s always a little bit embarrassing as an IT professional when your own equipment falls over for no discernible reason but when it’s seconds after saying ‘this is the quickest I’ve been ready for a game’ then it’s almost like it’s doing it on purpose.

Anyway, a reboot and 15 minutes later we are back to where we were and I can try and concentrate properly on what’s ahead.

Phillip has brought droids.

Captain Sear (45)
TA-175 (9)
Soulless One (6)

Ship total: 60 Half Points: 30 Threshold: 4

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Trade Federation Drone (19)
Grappling Struts (1)

Ship total: 20 Half Points: 10 Threshold: 2

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Separatist%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z308X239WW229Y279XW208WY279XW208WY279XW208WY279XW208WY279XW208WY279XW208WY279XW208W&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

He’s brought them because he hates them and wants them out of the way but little does he know that my experience against droids is limited and my record against them is terrible. I’m just never too sure on how to approach them.

During obstacle placement I purposely place rocks on my side of the board, as far as possible from his droids and try to make an area where I can go and not have to worry about droids turning into turrets on rocks.

Phillip places all his forces first and puts them in a 2 x 4 block in the middle of the deployment area. Very neutral.

I deploy to my right side in a staggered block, ready to bank turn in if/when the opportunity arises and with everything placed we are ready to start.

Being that I don’t want him to reach the rocks I decide to start fast and set all ships a 3 forwards.

Phillip’s droids all move 2 forwards as he waits to see which way I’m heading.

Turn 2 and now I realise that maybe 3 forwards was too fast. I’ve committed to a lane which has a very small escape route (between the gas clouds) but know that in turn 3 I’m going to be getting a lot of bumps. Damn. Still, it’s too late to change that now. I set all ships to 1 forwards to make sure that my front ships aren’t in range of all the droids.

Phillip reveals dials with varying turns as he steers his force towards mine. He bumps a couple but it’s not too important since they’re still outside of firing range and Networked Calculations will cover those who are in.

This time we are in range for a couple of shots though. The front two T-70’s both fire range 3 obstructed (with a focus!) on the front Vulture droid but nothing gets through.

Phillip returns fire with the single droid with a shot, range 3 through a gas cloud on the the closest (and now unmodded) T-70. 2 red dice against 4 green. Guess what. 2 hits for Phillip, 1 evade, 1 blank and 2 eyeballs for me. A shield gone. This is not the start that I had hoped for.

Back to dials and now I have a dilemma. Here is where I’m expecting blocks. I consider trying a 4K (JARGON ALERT!!), first with everyone, then with the front ships, then with the ones closest to the board edge before deciding to accept my fate and set them all to 1 forwards. Hopefully they won’t ALL bump.

Phillip starts revealing dials and it’s slightly unexpected. One droid comes from behind the gas cloud for the block while everyone else hangs back a little. There are still a few bumps and so not as many calculates as I’d have expected though so maybe that will help?!

With 2 modded and 2 unmodded shots I concentrate fire on the orange Vulture (that’s not the one that’s bumped if you can’t see the colour markers on the ships) and it takes shots from all 4 of my ships to wipe out that single 3 health, 2 agility droid.

In return the swarm opens fire on the red T-70 which is now unmodded and bring it all the way down to 2 health.

Yep, 1 20 point droid for almost all of a 50 point T-70. I’m very glad at this point that I’ve got Hull Upgrade on there. This is not good.

On to the next turn and I know this is where it’s going to start to get messy.

The almost dead (red) T-70 gets a 4K, the other front T-70 (orange) will take a 3-talon roll to try and get out of the scrum. The back two (blue and white) will accept their fates with 1 forwards and 1 bank respectively.

The vultures swarm in and, even with bumps pick up a reasonable number of calculates.

I move my ships and, between bumps and stress manoeuvres get no mods. I don’t like it but it’s what I expected and, as far as I can see, is unavoidable.

Might as well just ignore the top half of the board!

Again I concentrate fire, this time on the only droid that has my almost dead T-70 in arc. I wipe it out but AGAIN it takes all 3 shots to do it. The orange T-70 (who talon-rolled) fires on the droid at range 1 and gets 2 damage through, not quite killing it.

The droids return fire, focusing on the white (closest to board edge) T-70. This time their combined fire takes it from full (8) health down to 3. Thankful to still have 4 ships on the board, we go back to dials.

Finally Sear (the most valuable ship) is coming into range and so I decide to try and get some real points scored.

The wayward T-70 (orange) takes a 1 forwards, intending to talon roll around the gas cloud the following turn. The red T-70 takes a 1 forward to clear the stress, knowing that it’ll probably bump while the other 2 both get 4K’s.

Phillip start moving his ships and it’s a real mess of a scrum. On the plus side he has only 1 calculate between everyone.

I move the orange T-70 and boost and then the red T-70 and bump. White makes the 4K with no issue and then I move blue.

Something weird happens. It completes the move and sits like this:

Impossible!

The ship doesn’t flash to indicate a bump but when you zoom in, the ships are clearly touching. There are no pixel in between. After a short discussion we agree it shouldn’t fit and I 4K the ship back to it’s original position and move a 1 forwards to bump.

This is definitely NOT a good position to be in.

Orange can’t shoot at anyone but the other three all fire on Sear and between them manage to take just a pathetic 2 shields from him.

‘Angry Sear’ returns fire and scores 4 hits (including at least 1 crit). I roll greens and blank out. Heroic (finally!) come in to play and I re-roll to… evade, blank. Oh well, it’s better than nothing I suppose.

The firing continues and I finish the round with ANOTHER T-70 at half points (that’s 3 of them now) but this time I got nothing in return. It’s not going great.

Dials again and it’s finally time for the orange T-70 to dive in and do his thing with the 3 Talon-roll. Blue gets a 3 forwards to (possibly) get out of the fight while red and white will 1 forwards and try to focus down Sear.

Phillip moves his forces and while they are finally a little more spread out, they’re still close enough to cause white to bump.

With 3 ships facing Sear and one of them finally having a focus they all fire but Sear survives on 1 health.

DAMMIT SEAR!!

The blue T-70 with a vulture in range 1 as it’s only target fires and promptly deletes the ship in one shot. Thank you mods.

It was at this point that Phillip remembered – he hadn’t been remembering TA-175. Ah.

A shower of calculates hit the board and it was time for the droids to return fire. And it was beyond brutal.

Sear fired first and took the red T-70 from 2 health to 1 (phew!), not too bad. The blue droid was now gone but his legacy of calculates had spurred his comrades on. The white droid hit the white T-70 and got 2 crits through (structural damage and damaged sensor array) taking it to 1 health. Then the remaining 3 droids all fired on the almost full health orange T-70. And wiped it out. 7 health ship – gone.

and the T-70 is GONE

Riiiiiight. Ok. Ummmmmm……

The timer has gone during the bloodbath and so we now have 2 turns to go. I try and do a quick tally of ships and points but at this point I just feel that I’ll be doing well to still have any ships on the board after 2 turns. Of my 3 remaining ships, two are on 1 health and the other is on 3. Phillip has Sear and 1 vulture both on 1 health but his other 3 vultures are full health.

It doesn’t look good.

It’s dials now and I give red a 4K, blue a 3 talon and white a 1 bank, just to mix things up a bit. Nobody ends up with mods. Phillip moves his ships and, with more bumps along the way, gets 2 calculates.

I can’t 100% remember the order that I fired in but in this turn I got that last damage onto Sear (finally!) and took out the 1 health droid.

In return though I lost BOTH of my 1 health T-70’s. Bleuch.

As we go into the last turn I get it into my head that wiping out a droid without dying might get me enough points to win (spoiler – I was wrong).

Assuming that the droids will coming in fast to try and bump I go for a 3 bank and hope for the best.

Phillip moves the droids. The approach in a line (well, sort of) and all calculate. I move my only ship…and bump.

Now, in a way, I’m happy with this. I’ve denied 2 incoming shots but still have something in arc to shoot at. It would have been better to have a focus though.

I roll red dice and get 2 hits. No matter what happens, it’s not enough.

Phillip rolls and gets eyeball, evade and then spends the calculate to prevent me getting half points.

The droid returns fire, rolling hit, eyeball and spends his buddy’s calculate to make it 2 hits. Again, not enough to finish the ship off. I roll greens and get blank, evade to make it 1 damage.

We are all done and the final result is a 140-175 loss.

The conclusion…

Looking back over the game I’ve identified several mistakes that I think, had I not done, may have made the game closer (but being realistic, probably not changed the result).

First – deployment. I wasn’t paying attention. I placed my ships to avoid engaging near rocks BUT had I noticed properly where Sear was in the formation I’d have gone in the other corner. The obstacle deployment was better (bigger gap between) and he’d have had to pull out some major manoeuvres to get Sear to the back.

Second – also deployment. I staggered my ships (rather than a standard 2×2 block) for banking BUT I didn’t make sure that there was enough space for them to pass between each other. This would have made the difference in the turn where the 4K didn’t fit. A massive, potentially game changing difference. Maybe.

Third – first turn. I purposely went 3 forwards to make sure I made ground towards where I wanted my first engagement to happen but what that did was box me in. I know that gas clouds (even with the January changes) have less consequences than other obstacles but my default is to still avoid going over them. I boxed my ships in to that area twice over by going that fast first turn and also not fully considering the option of going over them in later turns.

Having chatted the game over afterwards I feel that I was always going to struggle to overcome Phillip’s strategy. He didn’t care about being on rocks, he just wanted to ‘jam me up in a car park’. and it worked. I spent most of the game with no mods and that is bad.

A few weeks ago someone mentioned about a website called Lady Luck which analyses the dice results. Now, I’m not great with looking at stats but checking afterwards one thing was clear – for both of us, our dice were on fire.

We were both WAY over expected results for hits with Phillip being over on crits as well.

But what I find most interesting is the graph:

More specifically, the top left one. If I’m reading it correctly, our converted rolls (as in, with a focus or calculate) were relatively even for the first half of the dice rolls but as we got into it and Phillip was able to deny me actions with bumps the advantage swung his way and stayed there.

Mods. They’re important.

At no point did I feel the game was unwinnable and, considering how accomplished a player Phillip is, I’m happy with that. I really enjoyed the game and finally feel like I’m comfortable with using Vassal (without asking for help. Mostly) and Phillip was a great opponent. I hope we can play again some day!

An interesting thing is that now pairing are done on a Monday I actually know who I will play in the next game at the time that I’m publishing the blog. Losing my first game isn’t entirely unexpected but as Phillip and I were chatting he started mentioning some of the people who had also lost their first game and would therefore being in the same bracket as if he lost. There are some big names in there. And I lost.

I’m not going to say who I’ve paired just yet. You’ll have to come back next week to find out!

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