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!

02 March 2015

Tournament Talk- Armored Gopher Store Championship

As I mentioned last week, I ran up to Armored Gopher in Champaign-Urbana Illinois for a Store Championship this past Saturday. I went up last year, had a great time, so once Sean (who lives in relatively nearby Matton) got the info for this year's tourney, we decided to hit it again. 

After running my 3 A-Wings list in the Store Championship here in Evansville and seeing how it played, I decided to tweak it just a little bit for reasons I mentioned before. Here's what I decided to go with for the AG Store Championship. 

So the only real difference is Tycho- I traded out the not at all synergous (probably not even a word, but you get what I mean) Marksmanship, yes, even before reading Punning Pundit's article on the topic, and replaced it with Expert Handling. Why you ask? Well, with the cards I have available (though I did borrow one copy of A-Wing Test Pilot from Sean for the tournament), it was the best option for giving Tycho some extra moves. It seems like overkill, and while tomorrow I'm going to talk a little more in-depth about why I think I lost (whoops- sorry, spoiler alert!), the long and the short of it is Tycho is the only ship in the squadron without a Stealth Device, so keeping him out of the line of fire to begin with is the best way to keep him on the table. Being able to Boost and Barrel Roll does that pretty effectively most of the time. 

So slightly re-tooled list in hand, Sean and I made it to Urbana with a few minutes to spare. We saw a couple of familiar faces from last year we caught up with briefly, then it was time to start. 

My first opponent was none other than the guy who won this thing last year, but was also top four at Gencon Nationals. You might remember him from me talking about him on here and he even wrote an article for me after the Store Championship event last year. His name is +Nick Jones and he's pretty good at this X-Wing game, yo.

Nick was running a Scum Boba and Scum Kath list. I don't remember all of their upgrades (hopefully he'll fill in the blanks in the comments) as I'm still not all that familiar with the Scum stuff. We faced off and while I managed to kill Kath off with a Range 3 A-Wing shot (after unloading two tubes of Proton Rockets on her), Boba had his revenge on everyone except Jake Farrell who managed to jump, jive, and wail his way right off the board edge. Ugh- how embarassing. Good match and the A-Wings didn't do too bad against these big, maneuverable, decked out Firesprays. 

Second match I drew another big ship list. Grant was running a pair of VT-49s. I remarked how this match was funny because it was literally the largest (non-Epic, obviously) ships against the smallest ships available in the game. 

Again, I apologize for not remember the exact details of my opponent's list, but as I recall Grant was running one of the VTs as a Patrol Leader and the other was being driven by Captain Oicunn. I do recall one of them had Vader, Crew Member on board- the Patrol Leader VT if I remember right. Captain Oicunn had a Rebel Prisoner on board as well as some other upgrades. Once again, I managed to get one of the big ships off the table, but not both before my A-Wings were waxed. Note I didn't say I actually destroyed his ship- Vader self-destructed his subordinate's ship with a Hull point left to dig the shields off of somebody- Gemmer probably. Another match loss for the good guys and I'm 0-2 after two. 

Much like the Evansville Store Championship, my suckitude rewarded me with a bye, though Nick told me later I shouldn't have had it- apparently somebody else went 0-2 as well, but had less points than I did, but in any case, I bye'ed out of the third round, so also like last time, I walked around and took some pics of the other folks playing. 

I didn't catch the guy in the Chicago Wolves jersey's name, but the tall guy on the left (he really is that tall- that's not like a perspective error) was named Tyler and he ended up winning the whole shebang with a TIE Swarm and accompanying Interceptor. I didn't play either of these cats, so I don't really know what went down in their match. Wolves was using Dash and Corran Horn if I remember right. 

The guy on the right is Robert and I played him in the opening round last year. He was rolling a bunch of Zs and a YT-2400, the guy on the left I believe was named Joel. I didn't play him, but he said he started out reading the Bikini. I thanked him for the compliment! He was running a similar squadron to Robert, but instead of Dash, he was running a tooled up Tycho. This match was hilarious to me because inevitably, it ended up with the Z's snarled into a hairball that resembled a pretty amazing traffic jam. 

The table behind Robert and Joel was Nick playing another guy I didn't play against. I think his name was Patrick (again guys- if you're reading this and I've gotten your names wrong, please correct me in the comments!). Patrick was also running a dual Decimator list, though I have no idea how he had them kitted. 

Moving back, Rusty in the black Harley T-shirt was running a Shuttle, Firespray, and a TIE Fighter. Again, didn't play him, no idea how they were outfitted. He was playing my second round opponent Grant who only has his hands in the frame of this picture. 

The game next to them, the guy taking a picture of me taking a picture, which desperately makes me want to take this article in and Inception-like tangent, but I'm going to keep it on topic, was Mark who was playing against my pal Sean. Sean is in the red shirt trying hard to pretend like I'm not totally disturbing him. Mark was flying 3 B-Wings, all with HLCs and Fire Control Systems. There's still some points there, but since I didn't play him, I'm not sure what other tricks he had up his sleeves. Sean was rolling a list that I'm pretty sure was the same as what he sent me via Hangouts on Friday. Assuming that's true, here's his list- 

Sean ended up going 2-2 on the day, which put him probably around 5th place with that list. He was well impressed with Jake and Gemmer, so it's not just me!

I'm sorry to say there was one other table with guys playing that I somehow completely forgot to take a picture of. There's no reason I didn't take a pic of them- it was totally unintentional! I didn't even notice I'd missed them until I was writing this article and realized I'd missed my 4th round opponent in these bye round pics. What it was, there were the tables against the wall, but there was another lone table across the aisle that guys were playing on too. I totally forgot to take a pic of the guys on that table. I ended up playing one of them in my final round, the other player was using a dual Aggressor list. I didn't catch his name unfortunately. 

Last round rolled around and I was actually going to be playing again. I took on a guy using a vanilla Decimator with a couple of Phantoms carrying Imperial Agents. He had driven over from Springfield (Illinois) and his name was Patrick. 

This match ended up being kind of hilarious to me. His Imperial Agents allowed him to look at my maneuvers, which with the Phantom's cloaking ability, allowed him to then decide whether or not he would move then Decloak or Decloak then move, or just move. That fact coupled up with Jake and Tycho's ability to move then boost or barrel roll, or in Tycho's case boost and barrel roll, made for quite the little chess match of us trying to avoid each other's firing arcs. 

I can't really explain to you why, but for some reason I thought it'd be fun to go after the Phantoms first. Hey, it'd been a long day and I'm not that good at this game to begin with, all right? In any case, if you have been wondering whether or not shooting Proton Rockets at a Cloaked Phantom will result in much, I can confirm it doesn't although I did manage to burn off some shields with my silliness. 

What's perhaps more surprising is even after screwing around with the Phantoms for about half of the game, I did manage to smoke that Decimator off the board. Gemmer managed another six dice attack using PRs along with her Opportunist skill, but I didn't roll as well this time and only managed 5 hits instead of the max 6. I believe it was Tycho who actually finished him off. Jake had been lost to a well-timed barrage from one of the Phantoms. This match ended in a draw as there were only 9 points separating us when we ran out of time- Jake as I run him is 31, the Decimator stock is an even 40. 

If you're assuming we didn't stick around long after because I'd placed so badly, there was a little more to it than that. At the start of the second round, it began snowing. 

This pic I took at the start of the last round

Nick invited Sean and I to go play some boardgames with him and his crew, but unfortunately we declined on account of the snow and the fact that we had about a forty-five minute drive back to Mattoon. Of course, that hour ended up being more like almost two hours because of the snow and also because the Fighting Illini had a basketball game let out around the same time we were trying to get out of town. Long story long, we finally made it home around 10pm including a stop by Taco Bell. We did end up playing that new Elder Sign Expansion, Gates of Arkham, with BC which ended horribly with our party being devoured by the awakened Yog Sothoth. 

Now, I live about two and a half hours southeast of Sean. The snow was still falling pretty steadily and I briefly considered heading home late Saturday night on account of the fact that the snow was being forecasted to fall all night and at least all morning Sunday morning. In the end though, I was just too tired and wasn't at all enthusiastic about trying to drive home in the snow that late at night, so I relented and stayed the night. 

Anyway, I wake up at 8am and there's like 6-8 inches on top of what the snow plow guys had removed at like 3am. Knowing the forecast had changed and now central Illinois was supposed to get snowed on pretty much all day and then some, I decided to get while the gettin' was good and took off for home. 

That's Illinois state road 130 just south of Charleston. Completely snow-free road a mere 24 hours prior, it was pretty much that about 40% of the way home. I didn't get the speedometer above thirty-five the first two hours I was in the car, and was below 30 for probably at least 45 minutes of those two hours. I did finally make it back to Evansville, so it's all good though my shoulders are sore from gripping... the... wheel... so... tightly. 

With the bye, I ended up going 1-2-1 and just like last year, had a great time despite the result. According to their big wall calendar, it looks like AG has X-Wing on every other Thursday night, though there are some other game stores around where folks play X-Wing too if that time slot doesn't work out for you. 

I really can't say enough good things about the guys at the tournament. There were no arguments, nobody was stalling for time or any of that nonsense though it was most definitely a competition. Good bunch of dudes and if you're in that Champaign Urbana area and want to play some great opponents, not only skill-wise, but also in attitude and demeanor, I highly recommend you search these dudes out. Solid folks, yo! 

Last thing, Nick mentioned that Titan Games in Champaign is running a Store Championship on the last possible day which apparently is 31 March. I'm not sure if I'm going to make it up for that one or not- depends on some work stuff. In any case, if you're around the area and things haven't panned out for you the way you wished they would in the Store Championships this year, or you want to get some Scum games in before flying them in an Organized Play tourney, Titan's doing the late tournament deal. 

I purposely didn't talk much about how I flew and why I lost and all- there's a reason for that. And by that I mean I'm going to talk about it tomorrow. As the old cliche goes, you learn more from your losses than your wins, and using my A-Wing list these past couple of weekends, I've learned a lot! Lols. Tomorrow I'll do another of those "Why Did I Lose?" articles like I've done in the past. Hopefully you'll not only see why my games went the way they did, but maybe it'll also help you dissect your losses so you can build upon them in the future. 

Thanks again to Nick and Armored Gopher for putting on another fun Store Championship. See y'all next year!

27 February 2015

Store Championship at Armored Gopher (Urbana, IL) TOMORROW!

Yup, barring any late developing Midwestern winter storms, yours truly will be at the Store Championship presented by Urbana, Illinois' Armored Gopher on Saturday (tomorrow, at time of writing). I have no idea if they still have open slots or not, but Sean called and got us signed up only yesterday, so you're probably good if you're on the fence about going.

If you're in the neighborhood, stop by and say, "Hi!". Or if you're lucky enough to draw me as an opponent, pick up a few easy points, lols. Tourney starts at 2:00pm according to Sean. We might be there a little early.

Hope to see y'all there!


X-Wing Kickstarter- Dynamic Colored X-Wing Template Sets

I know, I know.

You already have a really dope set of acrylic templates.

Yup. Now you're pulling out your credit card for another

Are those sweet or what, y'all? The thing's already funded, and the campaign doesn't even end until 7 March. Note also they're doing some pretty nice looking translucent acrylic tokens too. Looks like you can hook them up as a set or in the form of add-ons. Oh, and they're selling non-slip inserts for the bottom of your ship's bases.

I'm in for at least Mandalorian. How about you?

Big ups to +Clifford Holm for bringing this to my attention!

24 February 2015

Guest Article- Against Marksmanship by Punning Pundit

Against Marksmanship:

Hello hello! I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion about the card Marksmanship recently, and sat down to write a really annoyed missive about it. Our barkeeper, Clint, kindly agreed to host my thoughts here.

Before I dive in: online, I tend to go by “Punning Pundit”, and I’ll give 5 house points to anyone who can tell me- based on my cognomen- what my Major and Minor were in college.I blog about Class Warfare and Video Games over at Indignant Desert Birds, and tweet about the same stuff, and my dog Branson. I’ve been playing X-Wing since Christmas eve 2011, when my then-GF bought me the core set. Dear reader, a year later we were married.

So: I kinda hate Marksmanship. Probably more than it deserves, which is odd, given how much hate it does deserve. It’s the sort of card that looks good until you get to know the game better, and then you realize how little it actually does for you. The designers were still figuring the game out when they made the card, and players tend to only use it when they’re new.

Lets take a look at the text:
(3 points)

Action: When attacking this round, you may change 1 of your (eyeball) results to a (crit) result and all of your other (eyeball) results to (hit) results.

In effect, it uses your action to create a sort of pseudo-Focus. The biggest difference between Marksmanship and spending Focus on offense is that Marksmanship turns 1 (eyeball) into a crit. Because the action is not actually a focus action, it can’t be stolen by Palob Godalhi, nor can Carnor Jax prevent its being taken as an action, or spent as a token. Nor can it be banked by Mody Crow, passed around by Garven Dreis, or negated by Wes Janson.

Lets go all the way to the basics: this game is won by rolling enough more successes on red dice than your opponent rolls successes on green dice to account for every hull that your opponent has- and doing it faster than your opponent does the same thing to you. (As an aside: that sentence would be a lot easier in algebraic notation, or written in Latin/Greek. Sorry about that).

Lets take a break for today’s asterisk.

(Credit: some guy on YouTube)

When building a squad, points should be spent either on doing damage to enemy ships, or mitigating damage your own ships are taking. The Marksmanship action does not improve the odds of a hit more than a Focus action does. Instead, it marginally improves the odds that, if you cause your opponent to suffer damage, it will be a critical hit.

This seems like rather over-valuing critical hits. By way of comparison, look at the Heavy Laser Cannon and the Mangler Cannon. The HLC does 4 dice at ranges 2 and 3, converts (crits) to (hits)- before dice are modified- and costs 7 points. The Mangler Cannon tosses 3 Dice at ranges 1-3, converts 1 (hit) to a (crit) at any point before the defender rolls dice, and costs… 3 points less than the HLC. This tells us that a critical hit is worth significantly less than a fourth attack die.

Don’t get me wrong: All things being equal, I’d rather roll 3 (crits) than 3 (hits). But unless your name is Ten Numb [Most of this article has a giant asterisk next to it “unless your name is Ten Numb], those (crits) won’t actually make it easier for you to hit another ship.

Does the Marksmanship action give you a better chance to hit than the Focus action does? Nope. At least- not for any single attack. And if you roll an attack with no (eyeball) results, you’ve actually done worse than you would have had you instead chosen the Focus action- Focus tokens can be spent on defense as well as offense.

Crits are good though, right? Well yeah! They can annoy the heck out of your opponent. But for a crit to land, it has to A) Be against your opponent’s unshielded hull, B) Not be the final single damage that kills your opponent (so: a “direct hit” crit that dips your opponent into negative 1 hull is kinda wasted) C) Not be against Chewie.

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that spending 3 points for the option of taking the Marksmanship action is overspending for the privilege of putting crits on your opponent. Compounding that, you’re also being a lot less flexible on defense.

Feeling a bit Numb from reading all this?

(credit: a different guy on YouTube)

If all you wish to do is modify your roll, Predator offers a lot more flexibility, does not require an action, costs the same amount of points, and can be combined with a Focus token to convert any straggling (eyeballs) into (hits).

When might Marksmanship be a good idea? I might put Marksmanship onto a build that was going to fire twice in one round, when it also had access to other ways to modify dice. For instance: Coran Horn, with Fire Controll System, and Marksmanship is not the worst thing I’ve ever heard of. I might slap Experimental Interface and an R2 unit on there, just for extra funsies. And then moan that I’ve just eaten half my list on a single ship with 5 hp.

Or maybe: Ibitsam + FCS, Marksmanship, E2 (modification), and Gunner. It will shave 6 points off the Corran build, and cost you 2 PS. Notice, though, that you could get rid of Marksmanship and Gunner in favor of Crew!Luke, and get very nearly the same chance-to-hit, be action independant, and it will actually save you a point.
For super trolling, try: IG-88B + FCS + HLC + Marksmanship + IG-2000.

Remember: you’re not paying for the privilege to turn an (eyeball) into a (crit), but rather for the privilege of turning (eyeball) into (successes) on more than one attack. Frankly, in all the times I’ve run Buzzsaws, it’s been extremely rare for me to need a focus in addition to a pair of target locks on a pair of attacks. Since the FCS/Gunner combo is action-free, it works even when you’ve been blocked. And yeah, writing this post just made me realize how awesome Crew!Luke is.

The StarViper expansion comes with a card called “Calculation”, which will do much of what most of us want Marksmanship to do, and only costs 1 point. It’s still a very situational card (but wonderful on Ten Numb. Pairs so well with an Ion Cannon on Ten Numb that it’s ridiculous.)

So Marksmanship: it takes an action to for marginal gain, uses an EPT, and leaves you incredibly vulnerable in your defense. Marksmanship: It’s a trap.

(I tried very hard to find something with “Ten Numb” and “trap”, but alas.)