09 August 2013

Sean's Lengthily Titled Article Regarding How To Recruit Your Wife/ Friends/ Etc. to Play X-Wing Miniatures

Long time readers will remember me talking about Sean. He's one of the guys I play X-Wing with over Google Hangout and off the top of my head, I'm pretty sure of the people I'm still friends with, I've been friends with Sean longer than anyone else. We go quite a ways back me and him, we've made several terrible/ good movies together, saw Public Enemy in concert together (in 1991, no less), cohabited in Austin, TX for awhile, played (poorly, for the most part) on the high school golf team, wrote a couple of punk songs, wrote a couple of rap songs, you name it pretty much. At this point, by my math (which means the following figure will be highly suspect), I estimate we've been friends for somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 years. 

In any case, he mailed me an article today that's very much a TheMetalBikini.com Friday-type article. It's sort of an editorial, sort of a comedy bit, sort of a primer for how to get people to try X-Wing, but it's all Sean. Well, with a bit of editor-style comments thrown in by yours truly. 


Despite the fact that your Blogmaster General is an obvious X-Phile, I have been unable to persuade him to engage me in a round of X-Wing since June 1 when I annihilated his 4 X-Wing setup to claim last place (despite winning 2 of 3 Swiss rounds [see other articles discussing the uncharacteristic methods of scoring used]) at the Regionals we attended (I still feel as though I came in dead-ass last, but whatever). Since I have been unsuccessful at drawing the Eye of Sauron away from Netrunner, Elder Scroll (it's Elder Sign, smarty pants), Arkham Horror, etc., for the last 2 months and also because my incessant whining (Stop It! Stop Whining!) has thus far been ineffective, I decided that before my DTs got any worse, I needed to branch out, do some networking, and find other folks to play X-Wing with. And by other folks, I mean my wife and brother-in-law.

Now if you’re like me and the guy pouring the drinks, you probably don’t get out much. And if that is the case, you have exactly two options: (1) figure out how to get your wife (or other random family members) to play X-Wing with you or (2) play MMORPGs until you are served with divorce papers (and frankly, why quit then?). Option 2 is just passé, so I recommend going with option 1. The trouble here is that much like Luke Skywalker’s trench run in the first Star Wars movie (meaning the one they made first, not the first one like Episode I or whatever, you know, a New Hope…Episode IV, I guess they call it now, unless they’ve changed it again or something), you have just one shot at destroying the Death Stare. You mean Death Star; that’s a typo right? No. I mean Death Stare: the look that is capable of destroying any chance that you will ever get your wife to play X-Wing with you again after you demo with the wrong list and accidentally annihilate her chances of having any fun by giving her only a one in a million shot at beating you. So what do you do to successfully defeat the Death Stare? Isn’t it obvious? You need the Secret Plans. And guess what? I found the Secret Plans and I’m going to share them with you.

While I’m sure it goes without saying, I discovered the Secret Plans the same way that all men discover anything, really…by being an idiot. And so it came to pass that after about 3 or 4 weeks of trying to persuade my wife to let me teach her how to play X-Wing, my lamentations finally paid off! Having given little thought to what lists to put together for a demo, I quickly thought that a 50 point list with X-Wings and TIEs sounded good, since those are the ships that come with the Core Set. And since X-Wings are a bit more offensive than TIEs, I set my wife up with Wedge and Rookie Pilot which is an even 50 points, and I set myself up with Night Beast, Winged Gundark, and Howlrunner with Swarm Tactics for an even 50 points. My reasoning told me that 2 ships versus three ships is pretty even and that Wedge is a beast, and I could just train my TIEs on Rookie and give Wedge some shots and have a nice easy game where my wife could shoot at my TIEs with Wedge and kill me real good. Alas, my reasoning was wrong. (See being an idiot, above). On the first turn we flew straight at each other from across the table. On the second turn, my wife performed 1-banks in opposite directions (inexplicable, right?), splitting her ships, exposing her flank, and removing all my ships from her firing arcs. So here I am with range 1 bulls-eyes on Wedge with 2 TIEs and the same range 1 bulls-eye on Rookie with the TIE on the other side. What am I going to do? Pass? Letting somebody win is one thing. Just not playing the game so that someone else can win: now that’s something else. To make matters worse, I tried to guess maneuvers that would take me away from her ships, and I guessed wrong, leading to a situation where she continued to have her ships at point blank with her having no shot. A few bad die rolls by my wife, a few good die rolls by me. Game over. She never even hit me. She made one movement error at the beginning of the game and it was unrecoverable for her as a beginner. So that was a bad trainer list. My bad. I saw the Death Stare was pretty darn close to being in range at that point, so I had to think fast. I needed to this salvage this situation quickly, so I climbed into my escape pod and that’s when I discovered the Secret Plans.

Feeling I had just a fleeting chance to fix this whole mess, I switched off my targeting computer (those things just eff things up anyway) , quickly issued a mea culpa, observed this was a silly list to start with and suggested something with less of a nuance to its maneuverability might be more fun. And by less of a nuance to maneuverability, I meant one and only one ship, specifically: the fastest hunk-a-junk in the galaxy with the pilot most equipped to communicate thoughtfully with women, i.e. Chewbacca. We were playing 50 points, and since Chewie is just 42 points, I skimmed through the upgrades and decided on Gunner and Marksmanship, arriving at an even 50 points. I played the same Imperial list that I had played against the ill-conceived two X-Wing list from the first game. This time, the results were strikingly different. Without needing to worry about the firing arc, my wife was able to shoot every round. Because she had the Gunner upgrade, if she rolled her reds really bad and missed, or if I rolled my greens really well and she missed, then she got another chance. Because of Chewie’s card text she could never take a face up critical damage result and she had a lot of hull and shields to keep her on the board long enough for a fighting chance to legitimately take out some TIEs, which she eventually did do, of course, and with 5 hull left to boot. By the time it was over, she had had a good time, learned how to play the game, and felt that the game was fun and worthwhile, and has been willing to play again. At the same time, it was actually challenging for both players and while I didn’t play as aggressively as I might have played against he who shall not be named, I didn’t just give it away either. So despite a very poor start to my battle plan, I managed to stay on target and defeat the Death Stare.

The next week, I had the opportunity to extend my network of X-Wing Acolytes when my wife suggested I train my visiting brother-in-law in the ways of the Force, i.e. to play X-Wing. He is a regular gamer, but had never played X-Wing before. Since it worked so well in destroying the original Death Stare, I set us up with the Secret Plans again in the hopes of not having anything so gratuitously unoriginal as a “Death Stare II” or whatever. One concern I had with the Secret Plans was that I feared they were a little unbalanced in favor of Rebels (considering how badly my wife beat me with that list), so I wanted to give the Secret Plans another shot to see how they would work out. In another shining example, the Secret Plans proved themselves to be just as balanced as anything else, as my brother-in-law and I played to a draw. The game ended with Winged Gundark (PR 5 with initiative) firing at Chewie and taking his last hull, which resulted in Chewie (who is also PR 5) being able to return fire and take Winged Gundark’s last hull to eliminate both ships from the table. While I did hedge a little against my wife, I played my brother-in-law straight up. It was a fair fight and it went down to the wire, with both of us sweating the die rolls on the last couple of turns. It worked out to be really fun, with a lot of good action and a very satisfying conclusion. My brother-in-law really enjoyed it and told me that he is definitely going to buy the game.

Ultimately my observations are that the Secret Plans are good for training players in a quick 50 point round of X-Wing that involves some decision making, while limiting the chance for the beginner to make unrecoverable tactical errors. The use of Chewbacca with Gunner enables the beginner to focus on learning the movements, actions and attack algorithm, while being forgiven for simple maneuvering errors. The 360 degree YT-1300 arc ensures that your trainee (or Padawan if you are dorky enough to think that word is cool, but hey…at least it isn’t “youngling”, right? The horror. The horror.) will almost always have a shot and that the great majority of the time will be able to damage your TIEs. While the trainee will perhaps take a good deal of damage, he will not have to suffer the effects of critical damage and has plenty of hull and shields to withstand a number of rounds of play. At the same time, the trainee gets exposure to the need of your TIEs to have the YT-1300 in their firing arcs to fire, the extra actions (evade, and barrel roll) that the TIEs can take, the TIEs need to K-turn when appropriate, and the nuances of maneuvering that come along with using the smaller ships, as well as the way card text and upgrades work on ship selection. Both my wife and brother-in-law, despite their inexperience, quickly observed (on their own without my prompting them) that the goal of taking out Howlrunner was paramount and Howlie was the first to go down in both of these games). By the end of the game, I thought we had covered most of the basics and that they had a good understanding to build upon for future sessions. This setup allows you to expose the trainee to elements of the game that the trainee doesn’t need to initially focus on, and that you can supplement as your trainee gets more comfortable with the core mechanics. Additionally, the trainee has to focus on only one ship to get the hang of things, but it is a good enough ship that it can hold its own without being blasted into oblivion. The Secret Plans play pretty fast and are, I think, quite a bit of fun even for someone with a fair bit of experience playing the game. I think the Secret Plans are certainly not the only list out there that can be a good list for teaching, but I found the Secret Plans particularly effective, action-packed, and fun, and not nearly as ill-conceived as the two X-Wing setup that I led with. I am sure that one could substitute Gunner and Marksmanship for something like Luke Skywalker: Gunner and Veteran Instincts and probably have the same style of experience. I recommend the Secret Plans as a training list for folks that you may want to initiate into the ways of X-Wing, and particularly for those who may not have a lot of gaming experience and need something that gives a good amount of well-rounded exposure to the elements of the game, while being simultaneously fun and forgivable in its style of play.

So if your friends are bored of X-Wing, and if no one else can help, and if you can get your wife to play, then maybe you can beat…the Death Stare.

I love it when a plan comes together (especially if it's a Secret Plan).

That last line is especially poignant as today at lunch after skim reading Sean's email regarding this article, I got a notification that Toyota of Louisville (KY) favorited a Tweet I wrote last weekend.

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