16 March 2015

Tournament Talk- The Art of the Interceptor by Jeremy Williams

I received an email awhile back from a guy asking me how I thought Autothrusters would change the meta in regard to how tournament players view the TIE Interceptor. Now, I'm no genius, but I know when I'm being asked a leading question. Long story short, I had an idea that this guy already had some pretty solid plans for Autothrusters on a TIE Interceptor, so I asked him if he wanted to write an article about the subject. As you've probably guessed by now, he said yes. 

I asked if he wanted me to plug anything for his trouble, he told me he runs a Facebook group called Pew Pew Pew! and that he goes by Kommander Keldoth on the FFG forums. Jeremy also took home the plaque at his local Store Championship running a couple of PTL Royal Guard Interceptors with Autothrusters and Trelix with Rebel Captive and a HLC. Solid, no? 

Scum and Villainy is upon us! While there are a ton of new toys and lists to be played with in the new third faction, many Imperial players like myself are salivating over one card in particular: a little modification called Autothrusters.

Which sounds like a sweet 80’s hair metal band

Autothrusters is a two point modification that allows you to convert a blank defense die result into an evade result if you are at range three of the attacker or if you are outside of the attacker’s firing arc (i.e. if he or she is shooting at you with a turret). You can only equip Autothrusters on a ship with the boost action though, which limits it to A-wings, the new Star Viper, the new Aggressor (IG-88’s ship) and of course the long neglected TIE Interceptor!

Ever since Wave 4 came out last year the poor TIE Interceptor was laid aside by many Imperial players in favor of the TIE Phantom, a ship that has more mobility options and that hits with an extra attack die. Over all it was a better flanker and shifted the tournament metagame towards high pilot skill turrets as a counter. Meanwhile the TIE Interceptor sat on the sidelines gathering dust… and biding its time.

Autothrusters will give this iconic ship a chance to shine again by making it a turret counter. With that in mind, it’s time to dust off those dials and go back to flight school to learn the art of the Interceptor! Here’s a few of the old rules for flying a squint:

1) Come in at an angle
The TIE Interceptor lives and dies by two things: Green Dice and arc dodging. As we all know those green dice are about as reliable as Darth Vader in a child support hearing. Hence my motto when flying an Interceptor is: If you’re getting shot at you’re doing it wrong.

The last thing you want to do with an Interceptor is go for a head to head jousting match. It is much easier to arc dodge if you approach the enemy from an oblique angle. Being at an angle allows your barrel roll action to carry you farther towards the edge of your opponent’s firing arc.

How Autothrusters Will Change This: Our number one rule will be even truer in the age of Autothrusters. Turreted ships will now have an incentive to get Interceptors in their primary firing arcs (don’t feel too bad for those turrets though, they are merely being thrust out into the same cruel world that all the other ships have had to operate in).

2) Get in close
This rule goes along with rule 1. It is a lot easier to get out of arc when you are within range 1 of an opponent. A ship’s firing arc is just a big triangle and when you are close to an opponent you are close to the narrow end of that triangle. A cunning opponent will hang back at range 2-3 for as long as possible when engaging Interceptors.

The other benefit to being in range 1 is of course the extra attack die that you will gain when shooting at your opponent. Ouch!

How Autothrusters Will Change This: In addition to granting you a blank-to-evade result when you are out of firing arc, Autothrusters also grant you the same benefit when you are at range 3 of any attacker. This has the potential to change things quite a bit. All of a sudden you may have an incentive to play the Interceptor as a range 3 sniper. This makes a certain pilot very happy. His name starts with a ‘K’ and rhymes with Fir Fanos.

Kir Kanos (TIE Interceptor) 24 points
When attacking at range 2-3 you may spend one evade token to add one <hit> to your attack roll.
Upgrades: None

I can see equipping Kir with Autothrusters, Royal Guard TIE title and Stealth Device to create a very hard to hit long range cannon. You can even have him escort a Shuttle or Decimator equipped with Fleet Officer to toss him a focus. Unfortunately the designers at FFG decided not to give him or Lieutenant Lorrir an Elite Pilot Talent upgrade slot. Hopefully Autothrusters can give us a reason to fly some of the more lack luster Imperial Aces Pilots.

3) Know when to bug out

He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.

-Sun Tzu

The last thing an Interceptor wants to do is bump another ship. It is important to remember that an Interceptor is just as fragile as a regular run of the mill TIE fighter, and TIE fighters are basically made of toothpicks, paper mache and the hope of a child. Interceptors depend on their focus and evade actions to survive, often gaining both in one turn with a handy little upgrade called Push the Limit

If an Interceptor bumps another ship, it gets no actions. Accidentally bumping is most common when engaging multiple ships at range 1 (see rule #2) in the fur ball that tends to develop after the initial jousting is over with. In those situations don’t be afraid to use that sweet, sweet 4 straight green maneuver to get the hell out of dodge. It is better to bug out and come around for another pass than to get blown up ignominiously like a lowly Academy Pilot.

4) If in doubt, Turtle up

Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack.

-Sun Tzu

As with any flanker the TIE Interceptor is most effective when flown by a pilot with a high pilot skill, which allows you to adjust your position with your boost and barrel roll at your leisure. Now, not everyone can be Soontir Fel, so it also pays to be able fly an Interceptor with medium to low pilot skill. If you are stuck in a situation where you don’t know what to do, just ‘turtle up’. Push the Limit and grab a focus and an evade token to protect yourself.

Royal Guard Pilot (TIE Interceptor) 22 points
Pilot Skill 6
Upgrades: Elite Pilot Talent

How Autothrusters Will Change This: Remember these guys? They had a brief moment in the meta at the tail end of Wave 3 as a very points efficient flanking ship with a respectable pilot skill of 6. We may be seeing more of them again equipped with Autothrusters. Even if they are outclassed in pilot skill and cannot dodge out of arc, they can hang back at range 3 and be very difficult to hit. The same holds true for Saber Squadron pilots (but hey, why not spend the extra point for a nice pilot skill bump?).

I expect Autothrusters will put a damper on the rampant super/fat turret lists that have been dominating the tournament scene. Not only does it provide a pretty hard counter to turrets, it gives Imperial players a chance to play a flanking ship that isn’t the TIE Phantom. At the end of the day, that’s what makes for good game design: giving the player many viable strategies for how they want to play the game.

13 March 2015

Tournament Talk- Galactic Comics and Games Store Championship

Longtime friend of the bar Nic Murray brought to my attention that he's hosting a Store Championship in his new digs at Statesboro, Georgia's own Galactic Comics and Games next weekend, 21 March 15. You can register in person starting at 10am the day of the tournament or pre-register through this link. The tournament will start at 11am.

In addition to the usual box o' prizes provided by FFG for Store Championships, Nic says that Galactic will also have, and I quote- quality mystery prizes (maybe star wars armada, maybe scum and villainy most wanted, maybe a blockade runner, maybe a rebel transport - come on who doesn't want C3PO as a card for a Fat Han build...am I right? the possibilities are endless and mysterious!). 

In addition, we will be holding an alternate paint contest (all tournament participants will vote and I will take pictures and share with you [and by you, he means me- Clint]!). Top place receives a prize as well (TBD but I can guarantee it will be worth the trip even if you do not play in the tournament).

So that's pretty dope, right? Lots of prizes and a painting contest! Hell, if I didn't live 9 hours away, I'd even head down there. That's a pretty sweet haul and looks like a really nice store to play in!

Nic mentioned they already have some folks signed up, but they can accommodate up to 30 players, so if you're on the fence it might not be a bad idea to go ahead and register, lest you get disappointed trying to get in day of.

Cost is $6 and if you want more info or have questions you want to ask, check out the facebook page they made for the event.

Good luck y'all!

Arts and (Space)Crafts- Custom Debris Templates from Zuckuss!

I received an email from longtime Bikini Aficionado Zuckuss awhile back who wanted to share how to make some awesome debris Templates with the rest of the bar. It's pretty short and sweet, but you can't deny how much more badass these would be to whip out for your games instead of the stock debris shapes, amirite? 

Step 1:

Coat the debris template with grease or Vaseline to reduce sticking of the epoxy. Using a flat surface, tape wax paper to it and the template to the wax paper.

Step 2:

Cut up pieces of your debris. I used a TIE that was replaced by FFG because it arrived damaged. I also grated aluminum foil for the debris particles.

Step 3:

Mix epoxy (I used pour-on high gloss epoxy coating) and pour into template, but do not fill to the brim. I went slowly and added more as needed. Add debris pieces and effects, such as the foil.

Step 4:

Let it cure for 18 hours then, using a razor or X-Acto knife, slowly trim the edges on both sides of the template. The epoxy will be pretty malleable and easier to trim and remove from the template than if you waited the full 24-48 hours for it to cure.

Step 5:

Let the epoxy cure until hard (about 48 hours total) then sand the edges to make it look clean.

Pretty awesome, huh? Bet you wish you wouldn't have pitched your punched-out debris template thingy, huh? I love the idea of pouring the epoxy instead of trying to Dremel or jigsaw out the shapes, because well, I'm pretty much all thumbs when it comes to stuff like that. 

In any case, it shouldn't be that hard to trace the shapes onto some cardstock or cardboard or something and transfer Zuckuss' ideas on to that, right? I gotta say, I'm really tempted to cook up a few of these myself, maybe even with some extra fixins- maybe go a little more three-dimensional or maybe even add in a blinking red LED to one of them like a rescue beacon or something. 

Great stuff, Zuck! Thanks again!

05 March 2015

Two Million Pageviews!

If you'll recall, it took a little under a year and a half for TheMetalBikini.com to hit a million pageviews, it took a little less than a year to get from one million to two million. 

Pretty amazing when you consider how infrequently I've written over the past six months. 

It's funny, about two years ago I was freaking out because TMB had it's 10,000th pageview, now two years later it's two million. That's rad! 

Thanks again for all your support! 

03 March 2015

Tournament Talk- The Evolution of My A-Wing List

When Proton Rockets was initially revealed, the thing that jumped out at me first was the fact that TIE Advanced could now get off a 5 dice Attack at Range 1. Coupled up with the fact that they have a couple of Shields, 3 green dice standard, a decently maneuverable dial, and no real function in the current game I figured they could probably get close enough to their prey without getting pummeled, it might even be a viable tactic to try and play competitively. Or as competitively as I ever get, really.

I played around with the idea a little on (Yet Another) X-Wing Squad Builder, but couldn't come up with anything I really liked. Either I was going to have to run pretty well naked Advanceds other than the PRs, or I was going to have to run a 3-ship list, which at that time was anathema to me.

At some point, I realized that Jake Farrell was born to shoot Proton Rockets. His card text, in case you've forgotten, says anytime he Focuses, he can perform a free Boost or Barrel Roll. So basically, you almost always want to Focus with him anyway, and since PRs need a Focus to fire but you don't actually spend it while firing it, I switched the idea over to the Rebels and started tinkering some more.

Looking at Gemmer, I figured he was a pretty dang good candidate for this Proton Rocket mission too. His card text allows him to roll an extra Agility die when he's in Range 1 of an enemy ship. That's pretty sweet as it more or less gets rid of the extra (primary) Attack die my opponent would be getting while my A-Wing zooms in to touch off those PRs.

After that, things got a little murky, but here are the highlights in something of a condensed form.

For the points, you can make a four ship list with Gemmer and Jake along with a couple of Proto pilots, but either somebody is leaving their rockets back at the arsenal or no one is going to have an Elite Pilot Talent or something. I wasn't nuts about it, but the idea of firing 20 Attack dice worth of Focusable ordnance with no real setup work had me interested. Especially from such a small and maneuverable ship.

A-Wings are fairly hard to hit to begin with, but by giving them a Stealth Device, they get even harder to hit. With all the turrets out there these days, I liked this idea a lot, so Stealth Devices became a must have. Of course, as it turned out, I only had two copies of the card and wasn't all that hot about buying a Firespray just to get more, so it was a cool idea, but maybe not practical to stick it on everybody.

I'd already been considering running Tycho because of my new reservations about a 4-ship list mentioned above, then when it turned out I only had 3 A-Wing miniatures anyway (the expansion I won at Kessel Run, the normal Expansion, and one from Rebel Aces), I was firmly shoved into the corner just before the Evansville Store Championship.

So I've got three A-Wings and two Stealth Devices. I'm pretty well into Jake and Gemmer. Tycho comes along simply because I don't think I can spend enough points to get Arvel or a Green close to 30-ish points before I simply run out of spots to bolt stuff on.

Giving all three of them Proton Rockets and handing off my two copies of Stealth Device to Gemmer and Jake consumed 87 points. Tycho I want to give Push the Limit because of his card text, so now I'm at an even 90. PTL obviously synergizes with Tycho's card text and also because A-Wings have so many different Actions available to them stock, but with him not having a Stealth Device, I'm thinking he needs something else to help him stay alive while trying to get to Range 1 to drop his load. I kicked around the idea of Shield Upgrade or Hull Upgrade, but I couldn't quite talk myself into it. In the end, since he didn't have a Modification anyway, I gave him Enhanced Interface since its only real penalty is Stress and Tycho doesn't care about Stress really, and A-Wing Test Pilot which allowed him to take another Elite Pilot Talent which I wasted on Marksmanship. Gemmer got Opportunist and A-Wing Test Pilot because I only had two copies of the Test Pilot card and didn't notice that Jake can take an Elite because he has the medal on his card stock. Opportunist works well on Gemmer because he has a kind of middle of the road Pilot Skill and A-Wings have so many green maneuvers on their dials he can get rid of the Stress fairly simply. As for the benefit, a six dice Attack from an A-Wing just isn't expected.

I ran that at the Evansville tournament and did pretty badly. Mainly because not only had I never run a list with all A-Wings before, not only because I'd never run this particular list before, but mainly because I straight up hadn't played much X-Wing at all lately.

One week later I was to play in the SC at Armored Gopher, so I went back to work changing things.

First thing, Marksmanship. I already talked about why it had to go in previous articles so I won't rehash again why, but it had to go. I did like the pile of Actions available to Tycho, so I kept the Enhanced Interface but it limits you to something that says, "Action: blah, blah, blah." I started looking around for other "Action:" type Actions and recalled how handy it was to have that option to Boost or Barrel Roll with Jake, so I stuck Expert Handling on Tycho.

I went back and forth on whether to keep Opportunist on Gemmer because Predator would save a point and still give some good results on getting that 5-dice Proton Rocket Attack to be all hits, but in the end, I left him with Opportunist because I just couldn't really think of anything else to spend the points on that I would have saved going to something cheaper than Opportunist.

The point I saved from changing up Tycho, I gave to Jake in the form of Veteran Instincts. So long story long, that's what I rolled at Armored Gopher.

Yeah, so that's where we're at now. Post AG tournament, I still really like the list, despite my results with it. I'd go so far as to say that I like this list more than any other X-Wing list I've ever played. It's just really fun to fly and it's different enough that folks don't immediately know how to play against it. To have all those movement options and stuff is a trip and I honestly believe if I played a lot more, it could be a pretty competitive list. Knowing that the Titan Games tournament is at the end of the month, I'm tinkering around with it again since I've got some time to acquire cards and models and perhaps play a few more games. Autothrusters will probably make it in some form or another on at least a ship or two, but once again, what do you spend the points on you save? I'm still messing around with this.  

I guess the main reason I wanted to write this article was not to bore you all into submission with the evolutionary minutia of an X-Wing list that so far has 1 win and 5 losses, it was to show the process, warts and all, at how I arrived at it. 

I'm not going to get on a soap box and talk about not using "net lists" or whatever- that's up to you guys. We're all into this hobby for slightly different reasons, but when I read forum posts on the FFG boards about how the game is becoming scissiors-paper-rock with Fat Han (which let's be honest is just a revised Han Shoots First) vs. Phantoms vs. Swarms or whatever, it's disappointing to me because this game is not played on paper with stats. There's just so much more to it than that, but now that X-Wing is really picking up some serious steam in the amount of people playing it, I feel like a lot of new players feel compelled to take a net list to be competitive; much like how it is in 40k which is where many of you, me included, came from. 

I feel that this is very much not the case. Maybe that's my own naivete, maybe it's changed over the years and I don't see it, but I still strongly believe it. That Armored Gopher tournament had some really solid, competitive players, and nobody ran a Fat Han. Hell, the only lists that used the same ships were the guys who brought two Decimators and y'all know how differently you can kit those ships out. 

I worry that when these new players see these net lists and see people talking in absolutes about them, they probably feel as though they just traded one set of models for another, but have the same issue. Namely that if you're not running the list du jour, or in 40k terms what is usually the latest codex, you don't have a chance to compete. It kills innovation and creativity and there's so much room for that kind of stuff in this game where the balance is better between factions and does get addressed by the publisher trying to correct past mistakes, that it bums me out when I see stuff like that. 

So by all means, play whatever you want, but don't be scared to try new ideas and figure out ways to make them work. Just because people on the internet don't buy it means nothing. Including me!