28 February 2014

Wishlisting the Future of X-Wing Miniatures

I get emails and stuff occasionally asking if I know anything about the future of X-Wing Miniatures- what ships are coming next? Will we ever see a Pirate/ Trade Federation/ Old Republic/ Yuuzhan Vong/ Black Sun faction? Will they make a Star Destroyer? A Death Star?

As I've mentioned before, I have no inside scoop on any of this stuff, no sources or loose lips. I do have a ton of dedicated readers that hook me up with info almost as soon as it breaks, but nah, I don't have any insights on what's coming down the pike that are special or secret or whatever. 

That said, I thought it might be kinda fun to spend this Friday talking about what might be, what could be, and what shouldn't be. Now, this could go on for a loooong time, so for this installment, I'm just going to list one for each and maybe if y'all seem to dig it, we'll talk about more possibilities later on down the road. 

What Might Be
Y'all know that the big ships are coming. Assuming that they sell as well as everything else in this game, it's not impossible that more big ships might be produced for X-Wing Miniatures. 

When the Corvette was announced and revealed at GenCon last year (big ups again to Lord Fancypants who hooked me up with the pics that ran here), I didn't immediately think, "Oh, now they'll make the troop transport from Empire." Of course, they did, but being an old X-Wing for PC player, I assumed the sister ship would be an Imperial aligned Nebulon B Frigate. 

I still vaguely remember the first time I ran into one of these things in X-Wing. If I remember right, and I may not- it's literally been 20 years and several thousand beers ago, it came up as a medical frigate. At the time, we all kind of went, "Oh, ok. It's just a medical frigate. Let's bust this thing up." 

Then all those green-yellow shots started coming at us like raindrops and I was dust in a matter of moments. Holy mackerel that thing had more guns than the FBI, yo. 

From a model design point, I would imagine that troop transport and the 'Vette would be much simpler to get right for this game, but man I'd love to see a Nebulon B turn up sometime down the road. 

Why is this just "might be"? Well, there's always a chance that the big ships don't sell well for some reason, or maybe this Epic game format they're being created for ends up being a huge turd or maybe people just don't dig it for whatever reason. I don't know, even as kinda non-plussed as I am/ was about the transport, I'm sure I'll still buy one, but the Neb B? Well, I might break my personal "Don't pre-order" rule for that one. 

What Could Be

All right, so now that Katarn's been made, are there any other Expanded Universe, video game guys, with semi-famous ships? 

Helloooo Outrider. 

I never had an N64, but I had friends that had Shadows of the Empire which I somewhat remember playing. A lot of speculators thought this ship might find its way into Wave 3 or Wave 4, but obviously it hasn't made the cut yet. Probably because it really is pretty close to the YT-1300 at least asthetically, if not in how it would function in the game. 

Sure, it's different, it's guns are a little different, etc. etc., but for the X-Wing Miniatures streamlining treatment, it's probably not that different. Still though, it's a popular ship, Dash Rendar is a popular character, and FFG would be silly to leave money on the table like that if there's a demand for the ship.

Will we see it? I don't know, anything's possible and the Rebels don't really have the myriad of ships the Imperials do when it comes to starfighters. For those reasons, I'd say there's a pretty good chance of a YT-2400 appearing on shelves at some point or another, but I think we'll be more likely to see the Neb B. 

What Shouldn't Be

Another Faction sounds like a good idea on paper for some folks, but a couple of things I think make this really unlikely to happen- 

That's the first and probably most significant one. Remember that bit from the Core Set rulebook? 

I know there's been lots of discussions about what "eras" or whatever that FFG has the rights to produce stuff for, I also remember looking around at the time (i.e. about a year ago or so) to see if what people were saying had any validity- namely that FFG could only produce Episodes 4, 5, and 6 stuff. At the time I couldn't find anything that seemed to back up that claim, and with Wave 3 and 4, obviously they either 1) Own the license to produce Star Wars game stuff outright or 2) Also have the EU in addition to 4, 5, and 6. 

In any case, I doubt we'll be seeing another Faction any time soon. Above passage from the rulebook aside, where would you start? This is one of those things that I don't think you can please fans on. What I mean by that is if you produced, say for example, the Yuuzhan Vong, there's going to be a whole subset of people that are pissed you didn't make the Black Sun. Of course, if you switch them, it wouldn't fix anything in this sense and if you made them both, then somebody would be pissed off that you didn't make Pirates too. Or Talon Karrde or the Lady Luck or whatever. 

I feel pretty much the same way about the Old Republic and the Trade Federation and I'm not too uppity to say it's anything but my own personal bias, and by bias I mean that I like the old movies better than the Prequels. Now, I'm not going to go on and on about how much the Prequels sucked- it's been done to death a million times on the internet already and you know how I feel about covering well-trod ground, but I will say those movies ostensibly were about a dispute between a goverment and a trade federation. A friggin' trade federation, yo. I mean, am I watching a Star Wars movie or the friggin' East India Trading Company in space? Heavens to Betsy, Guv'nuh! The Republicans are raising the tariffs again! The old movies had a Death Star, these things have the "Roger, Roger" guys. Come on. 

Anyway, yeah, you could make Old Republic stuff and Droideka Ships or whatever they were called (don't bother correcting me in the comments- I don't care, ok?) and as much as it pains me to say it, I could see it happening. At least, I could see it happening if FFG actually did decide to make more than just the 2 Factions currently available.  

I'm sure you're thinking, "Ok, point taken- but hells bells, we're already down to stuff like the TIE Defender and the E-Wing. How are they gonna keep this ball rolling?" 

New movies, y'all. They comin' either next summer (I mean next, not this- 2015, in other words) or next Christmas, depending on which reports you believe, so we really only have a wave or two left before that new stuff starts coming out. Another big ship here, a collection of scenarios there, and a packet of alternate pilots and/ or a Rogue Squadron box similar to Imperial Aces and we could easily be on the doorstep of Episode 7. 

I'm also not one of those people who thinks a game has to have a million factions to be successful, deep, or popular just like I don't necessarily think just because a game has one hundred pages of rules in it, it's super tactical. Again, just my opinion, but I don't see what adding a third, fourth, or fifth faction actually adds to the game. I've mentioned on here before that I'm not all crazy over the EU stuff- most of it I'm pretty lukewarm on with a couple of exceptions, so I kinda wonder about the ROI on doing something like a Yuuzahn Vong faction would be compared to something that I see a lot of people clamoring for like a linked campaign of some kind. 

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27 February 2014

Tournament Talk: The Irreverant List

All right, so any possible respect I might have gotten from the competitive/ veteran gamer elite of the X-Wing Miniatures scene for being part of the duo that created APLs and Ionzes is about to soundly get flushed down the toilet with this article. Know that going in if you're one of those listy, math-centric people this article is probably going to make you want to burn down my house or something equally hyperbolic.

So in the days leading up to the tournament last weekend, Sean and I were messaging about our lists and of course, I was reading y'all's comments in regard to the list-centric articles I was running and as you'll recall, there was a whooooole lotta talk about B-Wings, BBXX, et cetera, et cetera, so naturally I wanted to come up with something that was tooled a bit into facing that meta.

Of course, that meta wasn't present at AG, but I didn't know that, so this happened anyway.

Other contributing factors in this decision making process included Sean's as usual, dead-on conclusions based upon my weird unwitting hipster logic, an email I got from a guy in England asking me why the Advanced gets such a bad rap, and the Swarm, Again article when I kinda forced myself into thinking about other possible Imperial Swarms, regardless of how effective they might or might not be. 

So would 4 Advanced each with a Missile loadout be competitive? 

Again, I'm unfortunately in conjecture territory here, but I think it could be, yes. 

The Advanced gets a bad rap for several reasons, but I think the actual reason is because it doesn't fit into the plans of most Imperial players since the game was released. It's too expensive to fit into a traditional Swarm list (except for possibly Vader- pretty much anything you say about the Advanced is prefaced with, "Except for possibly Vader"), it hasn't got the moves or the guns of the Interceptor, and while it features the ability to carry Missiles and sport a Shield value, I don't think many dedicated Imperial players really care about either of those things, generally speaking. 

It didn't seem like a terrible idea to me in light of the BBXX meta though. Advanced are more maneuverable than either of those ships in a stock, unmodified sense, and their ability to sport Missiles offsets their 2 Attack to a certain extent. I picked the loadout I did because the Clusters are effective against ships with only one Defend dice while the Concussions do better against ships with 2 or more green dice. 

Truthfully, when I flew it in a couple of test games against Sean the night before, the list flew better than I thought it would. Maybe that's because I was expecting it to fall flat on its ass, so anything better than that seemed like a surprising success, or maybe it's not that bad of a list. In any case, I was kind of pleasantly surprised that a 4 Advanced list seemed at least plausible, if maybe not still completely viable. 

In-game it performs pretty much how you'd expect- with three green dice at their disposal, TIE Advanced are tough to hit, and when your enemy does manage to hit, the 2 Shields go a long way to keeping you in the fight. The problem of course, is the low damage potential, but you can offset that with the aforementioned Missiles. I found that trying to fly up the flanks to get some Target Locks before turning around and then Focusing on the guys I Target Locked wasn't impossible to pull off and as you're overly relying on those Missiles doing some big things for you (read down at least a couple of ships), it's an absolute must you fire them Focused and TLed. 

Moving such a maneuverable ship at PS2 is kind of a nice thing as you can set yourself up to a certain extent, and the Advanced really does have a pretty good dial. The only red maneuver is the 4 K-Turn, and aside from the 1 Banks you see on the TIE Fighter dial, I never really found myself wishing for a particular move on the dial like I do sometimes with Y-Wings, Shuttles, or HWKs. 

I knew going in the main thing this list would have trouble with would be TIE Swarms, so it didn't help much that I ran into the eventual Store Champion as the TIE runner of choice, but post Wave 4, I'm thinking this list may drop a set of Concussions and a set of Clusters to include a load of Assault Missiles to help with Swarms and as that last Advanced will only have 3 points to spend on Missiles, Ion Pulse Missiles seem like a good fit. Probably wouldn't have been night and day different or anything, but I might have at least downed a couple of TIEs had I gotten off an Assault Missile shot at some point. 

So look, once again, I'm not saying this is some huge, meta-shattering list, but I do think it would fly decently well against the current Rebel meta, or at least has some potential to, so maybe give it a fly and see how it treats ya. 

26 February 2014

Tournament Talk: The Sleeper List, Part 2

Yesterday I ran part 1 of an article by Sean describing his APLs and Ionzes list. Here's the part 2. 

The strategy here is one of blocking and ionizing. Your ideal situation is to lure a ship (or several ships) into overlapping your YT base and to then use a nearby HWK to repeatedly ionize that ship. After you have impacted an opponent’s ship, you can effectively stand still with your YT by performing repeated 1-straight (or even 1-bank or 1-turn and sometimes higher) maneuvers since you won’t be able to clear the ship you’re blocking, and force the ionized ship to repeatedly do 1-straight white maneuvers into your YT’s base. This results in a repeated cycle of your YT and one (or more) of your enemy’s ships being in base contact (essentially) and unable to fire upon one another, while simultaneously allowing your YT to roll a red die and do a point of damage 50% of the time, outside of combat. I don’t know if it’s like shooting ducks in a barrel or bobbing for APLs. But I think it’s probably both. Probably both is happening at the same time. A basket of fruit. A box of chocolates. Is it Christmas or Valentine’s Day?

The great thing about this build is that low PS is a great benefit as far as your Outer Rim Smugglers are concerned. Though it may seem counterintuitive, this list runs best against higher PS pilots. The reason the Outer Rim Smuggler’s low PS is a benefit is that at PS 1 the Outer Rim Smuggler moves before almost every other ship in the game. There are only 3 ships that are capable of moving before it, and in a tournament setting where you run against an opponent’s 100 point list containing other PS 1 pilots, you still have a 50/50 chance (coin flip) of having initiative and moving before those ships too. When you move first with the YT, you maximize the circumstances under which Anti-Pursuit Lasers can be triggered, since you can fly into the path of your enemies and either let nature take its course or force them into your YT base with an ionizing HWK. And if that doesn’t convince you, keep in mind that the YT base is quite large. It is often quite difficult for your opponent’s ships to perform maneuvers to take those ships beyond the YT’s footprint. This is particularly true when your opponent is fielding a swarm or synergy build which requires his ships to be closely proximate with one another. So sit back and get ready for a pleasant flight through the trash heap. 
The odds of successfully navigating it are low, and that’s good because you’ve got them right where you want them.
The interesting thing about APLs and Ionzes is that you really don’t care about hitting enemy ships, and in some situations you will be trying to do just that. What you are trying to accomplish is exactly as depicted below. 

My first match of the tournament ended this way. Wedge and my YT were touching each other face to face. I continued to ion Wedge with my HWK and he continued to perform one straights into my YT because *he had to*. My YT continued to perform 1-straights into Wedge. Each time I successfully ionize Wedge he takes a damage and each time he hits my YT base he has a 50% chance of taking 1 damage. Meanwhile Wedge can’t shoot at me because my HWK is behind him and my YT is in contact with him. You don’t have to do this for too many turns until Wedge is dead.

In order to take full advantage of this build, asteroid placement and deployment are of key importance. You really only need half of the field of play to work with since you’re going to be crashing into people and not moving around a whole lot. I recommend trying to get the asteroids clumped on one side as much as possible and then deploying mostly on the other side. This will give you some room to move with your big base YTs. In deployment of your ships, ideally, you do not want to leave your YT without a nearby HWK that can ion for it. What you likely want to do is split into two teams of one HWK and one YT each. My favorite method of deploying is to put one team fairly near a board edge and run that team basically straight up the table as quickly as possible, while placing the other team at a 45-ish degree angle toward the line the other team will be travelling down and running them forward quickly to come in on the flank of the first team. This results in a nice “clump” of humanity over near a table edge which is just about what you want. Whatever you do, you want to try to close with your opponent as quickly as you can. Also, do be careful not to get your HWKs over too close to the board edge at the beginning. They have an unforgiving dial and you might run one out of play if you’re not careful, since you will have to perform a lot of red maneuvers with them to be effective. And you will have to keep them in the mix since they have no K-turn and are hard to get back into the action if they wind up out in the nether regions of the play area. Basically, you want the HWKs on the periphery of the battle, usually interior of the scrum, so leave them more toward the interior of the table. Doing so effectively means your HWKs will need to lag your YTs a bit so that they can take a peripheral course around the main battle.

If you do it right, your opponents ships will get stacked up and they’ll either overrun you because they didn’t really realize what your list was going to do or they will flat out run right into the black hole that is this list. Appreciate that one of your YTs is very likely going to get hit at range 1 multiple times in the first round or two of combat, but just try to remember that it has 10 hull and shields and at range 1, your YT shoots back with 3 attack dice…AND can shoot in any direction. Try not to sweat all the damage it takes too much because it will probably get harder to hit once you get your list into character. Most ships that are facing the wrong way and ionized don’t shoot back. What you do not want to do is pull a K-turn early on with your YT. You will want to do it. You will be getting shot up pretty badly by Wedge or whoever. But don’t make that K-turn. Just don’t do it. Sure, maybe there’s a point in the game when you have to, but you will want to keep banging into your opponent as long as you can. And that means sticking it out and repeatedly pulling 1-something maneuvers to crash you into the ship in front of you any time you can take advantage of your outer rim ion-APL oscillator.

Another thing to remember in this setup is not to underestimate how powerful and important the HWK is. Whether you are running this list or defending it, I cannot emphasize the utility of the HWK with Ion Turret enough. It’s only 21 points and it has a lousy maneuver dial, but people are likely to underestimate it, and it has 2 agility dice. It’s not that easy to take down, and often your opponent will fixate on the YTs. Remember that to a HWK firing an Ion Cannon there is usually no difference between range 1 and 2. It has a very challenging dial, but you are likely to get a lot of mileage out of the Ion Turret. Don’t be afraid to take red maneuvers with your HWK when you need to do it. Far better to have an unfocused shot with your Ion Turret than to get your HWK out of position. Even if you wind up losing both YTs, you could still pull this thing out with those HWKs, so don’t be that worried about using you Outer Rim Smugglers to tank for you. That is what they are there for. And in this list more than any other, you expect them to take a beating both from enemy fire and repeated collision. Remember to TL with your HWK when you are at range 3 since you can’t use the Ion Turret at that range.

If you’re running against it, in my opinion, I think the thing to do would be to take out the HWKs first. The weaknesses in APLs and Ionzes are: (1) the YTs’ low agility and (2) the HWK’s lousy maneuver dial. That’s really about it. If you fly against it, what you want to remember is that anyone running APLs and Ionzes should want to engage you immediately and to get into close quarters. One of the reasons this list works so well is that, often, X-Wing matches begin with everyone flying hard at one another right off the bat. That strategy plays into your hand if you are running APLs and Ionzes. One way to limit the effectiveness of APLs and Ionzes is for its opponent to spend some time flying around casually to force APLs and Ionzes to come to him instead of permitting himself to be drawn into a repetitive standstill. In so doing, an opponent of APLs and Ionzes can force the HWKs to fly around a little bit and once that happens, it can be hard to get the HWKs turned around and back into the mix because of the challenging dial.

In conclusion, APLs and Ionzes is a well-rounded list that is not immediately recognizable and operates differently than what your opponent may expect. It is good enough to be competitive against a wide variety of lists and unusual enough that many opponents won’t be ready for it. It has a fairly high durability (30 total hull + shields), multiple ways to limit your opponents maneuverability (Ionization and large base blocking), damage outside of combat and a way to cycle it (Ionization coupled with APLs), and 4 rebel ships each with the ability to shoot in 360 degrees. How ya like them APLs? It is weird, unusual, unsexy, and utilizes some ships that many people have probably never tried out or flown against, but that is exactly why you should give it a go.

So grab some Outer Rim Smugglers, throw on a couple of APLs and Think Different.

Hell. Now I sound like “The Man.” What is meesa saying?

25 February 2014

Tournament Talk: The Sleeper List, Part 1

Remember how I said I was going to talk about the lists that Sean and I ran in the Store Championship we played in last weekend? Well, much to my surprise, Sean wrote an article about his list for me. As Sean is one wordy son-of-a-gun, I'm breaking it into two parts that'll run today and tomorrow. Enjoy! 

The Sleeper List (by Sean)

Look up there at the top of your web browser. What do you see? This website is called www.themetalbikini.com. The story behind the name is one for another time, but the reason the name is not what you might expect for a blog about X-Wing Miniatures has largely to do with the dynamic that arises when your Blogmaster General and I freestyle associate with one another. I have said this once before, but it warrants repeating that the man behind the bar is an irreverent hipster. Myself, I’m an erudite skeptic. There is a lot we would disagree about (including the philosophy of BitCoin), but we usually don’t get that far because of one of our mutual degrees of concomitance: our disdain for “The Man”. And by “The Man”, I mean “The Meta”, which I guess you might think of as “Meta-Man” or whatever. In any event, we don’t like The Facebooks and we sure as hell don’t like that dude, “The Man”, I mean. He is bad. He should be in detention.

So as you might guess, when it comes time to discuss what lists we’re interested in trying out, you can bet the family fortune that the lists we all know and love will be met with nothing short of egocentric hubris. I mean, seriously? Like, I’m going to take a Swarm, or Han Shoots First, or a Dagger Squadron with Advanced Sensors list to a tournament? That’s like wearing the tee shirt for the band to their concert. Or referring to that actor guy as anything other than Marky Mark. You’ve got to be kidding me. All the cool kids are doing it. Ergo, it wicked sucks. In our simultaneous quest for style and any conceivable way to turn the meta inside out and fold it around over backward on itself, our love coalesced upon a most unusual list: two Rebel Operatives (HWK-290) with Ion Turrets and two Outer Rim Smugglers (YT-1300) with Anti-Pursuit Lasers, which I ran at the Armored Gopher Store Championship on Saturday. Now, I know what most of you are doing. You’re scratching your head, squinting your eyes or raising your eyebrows, and saying to yourself the same things that people said at the tournament on Saturday: things like, “there’s a list you don’t see very often” or “that’s an unusual list” or even “I’m scared. What is that? Aaaaaghhghhgh! HELP ME!!!”. Well, you’re right on all accounts. And, for me, that’s part of its charm. I would like to call this list “the Committee to Re-elect Arvel Crynyd….SHhhhit!!” or “CRASH!!” for short, but that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is it’s “APLs and Ionzes”. It sounds like a basket of fruit, and you’ll get one thrown at you for playing it. Sign me up.

Like the man serving the Sangria, I tend to believe that X-Wing Miniatures is quite balanced and that while there are several lists that might not match up too well for one side or the other, on the whole, most any list can be competitive in the right circumstance. The problem is that not every list can be competitive against every other list, and that creates a real dilemma at tournament time. One reason I think that people run swarms and have run swarms since day one is that swarms are good against everything. While there are certainly lists that can break swarms, there are no real “swarm-breaker” lists that are just going to send a swarm home in a couple of turns. The only real “weakness” of a swarm list is the ability of the player to fly it. I mean, yes, it has low damage and no shields, but if you can fly it well, you are always going to be competitive no matter what someone else throws at you. However, I think we could all agree that there are lists that are not so well-rounded. For example, I love running “Soontir, Vader, and Turd, Oh My!” but it has got some big holes in it. Its weakness is that it has low hull and shields and that its strength – fantastic agility and maneuverability – is easily thwarted by turret attacks or lists that can readily get shipsinto firing position. There are lots of ships that can do either or both, and since younever know what someone will bring to a tournament, I would consider “Soontir, Vader, and Turd, Oh My!” to be largely DOA in a tournament setting, because soontir or later, you’re going to fly against someone who is fielding something that is tailor-made to beat it.

Because X-Wing Miniatures has no real “best list”, (meaning something that is just unbeatable), the two ways one can try to get a competitive advantage in a tournament setting are (1) be the most skillful pilot with a well-rounded list or (2) do something that no one else is doing with a well-rounded list. APLs and Ionzes was derived as an attempt to promote the latter.

I ran APLs and Ionzes in the Armored Gopher store championship over the weekend and got second place...missing first place by a hair. APLs and Ionzes was dominating against two different Wedge, Luke, Biggs lists, and it performed very well against a seven (7) TIE swarm list featuring Howlrunner and Dark Curse. Against the X-Wings, I lost zero ships in the first match and destroyed all 3 of my opponents X-Wings. In the other X-Wing match, I lost one Outer Rim Smuggler and destroyed all 3 X-Wings. In the TIE
Swarm match, my opponent downed a HWK and an YT, and I downed Howlrunner (with Determination and Shield Upgrade) and two (2) Academy Pilots. The match was called for time after 75 minutes with my opponent having taken down 50 points of my ships and with me having taken down 47 points of his. I lost that match (to the eventual winner of the tournament) but APLs and Ionzes was very competitive against his well flown seven (7) TIE swarm, and this match easily could have gone another way.

Ok, so let’s see what we have here. Lengthy exposition: check. Self-serving, gratuitous proselytization: check. Now it’s time for the feature: What is APLs and Ionzes and how do you fly it? OR If you prefer: Master Qui-Gon, sir, I’ve been thinking, what are APLs and Ionzes?

APLs and Ionzes is composed of two (2) Rebel Operatives (16 pts.) with Ion Turrets (5 pts.) and two (2) Outer Rim Smugglers (27 pts.) with Anti-Pursuit Lasers (2 pts.). Under the new math, that adds up to a cool 100 points. The Outer Rim Smugglers are PS 1 and the Rebel Operatives are PS 2, so expect to be doing a lot of moving first and shooting ast. There’s really no room for changing anything around. It’s 100 points and all of them are put to a task, so there’s really no changing it around without totally changing the list.

If you are going to be flying this list (or against it), these are the primary things you should keep in mind: (1) The only other PS 1 pilots in the game today are Alpha Squadron Pilot (Interceptor), Academy Pilot (TIE fighter) and Prototype Pilot (A-Wing); (2) APLs and Ionzes sports four (4) ships that can fire in a 360 degree arc; and (3) Any time an enemy ship executes a maneuver that causes it to overlap the YTs base, Anti-Pursuit Lasers let you roll a red die and on a filled explosion symbol or un-filled explosion symbol the enemy ship takes 1 damage.

So then, how do you fly it?

You'll have to stop back by tomorrow and see what up with that. Peace!

24 February 2014

Store Championship 2014- Armored Gopher (2/22/14)

So as y'all know, I got to play in a Store Championship this past Saturday. I'm going to spend a few days talking about it as there's quite a lot of material I want to share with you. Today, I want to talk about the competitors, tomorrow I'll talk about the lists Sean and I ran and how well they performed in the matches. 

It was not nearly this sunny- I forgot to take a pic of the store, so I got this from their G+.

Last we'd seen on their site, the Store Championship for X-Wing was to start at 12:00pm with registration starting at 11:00am. Sean had already pre-registered us, so we rolled in around 11:30 and found there'd been some confusion about the starting time. I guess on their Facebook they'd stated the SC was to start at 11am. In any case, there were like 6 of us there including Sean and I, so once we rolled in and wandered around staring for a bit, the Tournament Organizer got the ball rolling and paired us up. 

My first opponent was a guy named Robert- 

Robert's a super good guy. And by good guy, I mean he's a huge Star Wars fan and also a dedicated dad much like yours truly. How dedicated is the guy? He has his kids' names and birthdays tattooed on his forearms in Aurbesh. That's right. If that doesn't make him the effin' man right there, I don't know what does. 

"Did anybody bring mats with them? No? Ok. We'll use some green felt(?!?!?)"

Robert was rolling a 3-Ship Rebel list featuring Wedge, Luke, and Biggs. I was running a 4 TIE Advanced list and commented that I felt like a poser flying Imperials with an Alliance tattoo on my chest. He laughed and said he felt the same as he has a Gear on his right shoulder. 

We had a solid game with only a little bumping and grinding. In the end, I managed to wipe the Rebel terrorists and moved on with a handshake to my next opponent. 

My second match was against a guy who (I think) worked at AG named Kevin. As our game went until time was called, I didn't get a chance to take a picture of Kevin, but here's a shot of his arm and part of his Godzilla T-Shirt. Kevin was also a nice guy who said he'd been playing a ton of Star Trek Attack Wing lately and was a fellow vaper.

Kevin was also using Biggs, Wedge, and Luke. He managed to off 2 of my Advanced while still having three of his ships on the table, then I went on a nice little run that culminated in those remaining Advanced flying around with 1 hull point each for like 30 minutes. Highlight of the match for me was a 2-hit Range 3 Primary shot that jacked a Focused Wedge for his last two Hull Points. If you didn't quite hear me, I took two attack dice and offed a ship with three Defense dice and a Focus to roll. It just goes to show kids, it's like Wayne Gretzky said- "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

In the end, it was a lightly cooked Luke I think, still left for him and my single Advanced running away as much as possible which resulted in a Modified Win on points for Kevin. 

My last match was against the eventual Store Champion, Nick, so you kinda know already how our match turned out. 

Yeah. So he didn't get that plaque because I beat him... :) 

Nick was running a classic TIE Swarm featuring Howlrunner, Dark Curse, and five Academy Pilots. For somebody who claimed to have only started playing X-Wing a little while ago, he sure flew it well! It was kismet that Nick won 1st since the 1st place plaque and card box featured the Dark Curse pilot card artwork and he was the only guy who was actually using Dark Curse in his squadron at the tournament. 

Nick was also a super nice guy and while I managed to get him to fly into the rocks and disrupt his formation and stuff, I just couldn't ever really capitalize on any of the collisions or lost Actions. Long story short? Nick pushed all four of my Advanced away without losing a single ship. I managed to land hits on a few of them, but couldn't produce any substantial results. 

All in all, I had a great time Saturday. I ended up tying for 4th place which got me one of those cool acrylic range rulers and we all got that alt art Ten Numb card. Sean came in 2nd, which earned him the swag I got and also a Rebel themed card box. He very nearly beat Nick losing by only three points when the game was called on time. 

We all hung around and talked for a bit after the match and really probably could have spent another hour or two talking X-Wing and stuff, but I was starving as we'd eaten at like 9:30am that morning and things wrapped up around 5:30pm, so Sean and I said our goodbyes, split, and got some grub. 

Before we left though, I got to meet another reader of TMB.com named Bill who had emailed me awhile back when I first mentioned the AG Store Championship. Bill and his pal were in the store playing some X-Wing, but weren't interested in the tournament itself and completed the clean sweep of super nice players I met at AG on Saturday. I wished we could have hung out and talked more as everyone was so cool and interesting to chat with, but there just wasn't time during the tournament. I swear, if my time ever frees up on the weekends, I need to go on like a Metal Bikini tour of mid-west gaming joints just to meet and hangout with some of y'all in your game shops. 

After we got back to Sean's, it was still relatively early so we decided to play some other games. First up was Small World which Sean had brought to the Regional last summer, but we didn't have time to play it then. That game is kinda like X-Wing in that it's fairly easy to grasp the rules, but there's a deep end of the pool level of gameplay strategy that makes it surprisingly fun and cerebral. Sean won, but the highlight for me was rolling the extremely light (I'm talking like made out of balsa wood or something here) die and having it actually come to rest on it's corner as the conjunction of patterned tablecloth and extremely light die resulted in the most awesome of physics results.

That's right folks- I rolled a d6 that came to rest on its corner. And yes, I was all like, "Do NOT move- I gotta get a picture of this!"

After Small World, I ran out to the car and broke out my copy of Elder Sign. Ben and I play Elder Sign over Hangouts sometimes when we don't have the time or gumption to break out everything necessary to play X-Wing, but Sean has yet to acquire a copy so he was curious to check it out. If you've never played Elder Sign, it's a cooperative game from FFG who also makes a boardgame called Arkham Horror. Elder Sign is kinda like a lighter, faster Arkham Horror, if you're familiar with AH. If you dig Lovecraft and want a coop game that's relatively quick and fun to play even alone, check it out sometime. It's also available in a pretty authentic form for iOS and Android

Sean rolled Mandy Thompson and Sister Mary, I went with Jenny Barnes and Amanda Sharpe. We managed to seal up ol' Yig in like seven turns, which was pretty amazing and lead to me repeatedly saying, "Well, that hardly ever happens." Obviously, my old Elder Sign nemesis, The Curator, never came out.

For serious- if you're not running Harvey Wallbanger and this dude shows up just go ahead and start putting the game away. Also cursing. 

Good times and a fun way to end a long day of gaming fun!

Can't say enough good things about the tournament, the store, and the participants. The guys I played against were knowledgeable of the rules, didn't waste time, and exemplified great sportsmanship that X-Wing Miniatures players in general are known for. Folks were also well impressed with my Urban Lasercraft templates and tokens. As I told the folks who commented on them at the tournament, Will from UL was running a special at one time that if you mentioned TMB.com in your PayPal comments when you placed your order, you got some free stuff. I don't know if he's still doing that, but I'd sure give it a shot if you decide to buy. The link above takes you to his store page, this link takes you to my review of the tokens, and this link is to the templates. Both have a whole bunch of pictures and whatnot.

When I made it back to Evansville today, I was telling my folks about the tournament as they were at the house watching my boys since the wife was working today. I told mom dukes about only 6 people turning up and she was curious as to why that was. I'd wondered the same thing myself as I figured the turnout for X-Wing in a college town like Urbana would be significant. The store owner had seemed a little disappointed with the low turnout and unlike the Edwardsville Regional last summer, we didn't have tornadoes and a power outage to blame. 

I could be completely off-base here, but it seems like X-Wing players in general aren't the competitive miniatures gaming types. Are there some? Of course, but as a whole, I just don't really get that impression based on my own experiences from meeting people in person, reading comments on here, and the emails I receive. Now, that could be a function of TheMetalBikini.com not really catering to the hardcore tournament X-Wing players, or maybe it's a relatively accurate cross section of the demo who plays this game. In any case, I'm curious to hear what your thoughts are on this subject- did a lot of folks turn up for your X-Wing Store Championships? It sure seems like a lot of people play this game- there's all kinds of activity on the big messageboards regarding X-Wing and there's now a bunch of other X-Wing-centric sites out there besides mine too. Are my experiences an aberration or the norm in your opinion? 

Sidenote- I've had a couple of people email me asking about other Store Championships. I've looked on the FFG site and can't seem too find a directory or schedule of Store Championships. Do any of you guys know where I can find one? If so, do us all a solid and post a link in the comments. 

Changes coming to TheMetalBikini.com

As today's article will be the two hundred and, uh, somethingeth post on TMB, I gotta tell you- I need to do something to get stuff organized around here. I've gotten a couple of emails the past two months especially from readers who kindly and gently suggest that the content of the site is fun, informative, and entertaining, but the way that the site itself is laid out, and the organization of the articles themselves is atrocious. 

I'm going to attempt to address that in the very near future.

As you may recall, back when I was having my domain snafu, I created a backup of TMB. I'm going to apply a couple of different templates over there to see how things turn out. If I come across a couple of good ideas, I'll post some links to them and you guys can check them out. As I've said before- I'm no web designer. That's a big reason why TMB is still hosted on a Blogger blog rather than an actual host. Well, that and because I'm kinda cheap and hosting on Blogger incurs me virtually no cost regardless of bandwidth, traffic, etc. 

In any case, if y'all feel like giving some feedback and stuff on the new layouts, please feel free. I'll post up some links when I get some candidates for TheMetalBikini.com v2.0 going.  

And if you're one of those frustrated readers who got into all this a little late and find it easier to Google X-Wing topics instead of banging your head against the bar to find what you're looking for here, give me a little time and hopefully this will all get MUCH easier pretty soon. 


21 February 2014

I'm off!

All right, y'all. I'll be leaving for Mattoon here in an hour or so to play in the Store Championship at Armored Gopher tomorrow. Follow me on g+ for some pics and stuff of the trip and the tournament, or wait until Monday and I'll post up a summary of the weekend's festivities.

Hope to see some of y'all there!


18 February 2014

Tournament Talk: 3-Ship Rebels vs. 4-Ship Rebels

Tournament Talk is a new thing I'm trying on here where we talk about game meta and what's prevalent on the X-Wing Miniatures Tournament scene. 

While browsing around the forums and stuff reading up on the current tournament scene, I ran across a lot of discussion and a bit of a meta shift that I wanted to talk about a little bit on here regarding Rebel builds and whether they should be 3-Ship builds or 4-ship builds. 

First, let me just say that I didn't get the impression that either is exactly what you'd call dominant right now. During Wave 2, rolling 3 named pilots with high PS values was pretty popular. Han Shoots First of course was the main representative of 3-ship builds, but there were (and still are from what I saw) a lot of Wedge, Luke, and Biggs type lists getting played a lot too. 

And for good reason- most of the time, you can take just about any named fighter pilot's card text and stack it up against the various upgrades or Elite Pilot Skills and it becomes pretty obvious pretty quick which is better- the card text. Sure, there are exceptions, and ideally you have both, but in general, if you're looking at sticking an Astromech in the backseat of Red Squadron, it isn't going to equal Luke Skywalker for the points. 

That card text can give you the foundation of your in-game strategy too, obviously. A lot of folks try to create strategies that will inflict their gameplan on their opponent, but just as important I think are the strategies that address your own shortcomings as a player as well. 

Having trouble downing your opponent's ships? Throw Wedge or Han out there. Having trouble staying alive? Try flying Luke or Chewie for a game or two. Losing Actions due to collisions? Try mitigating that by flying somebody who passes around tokens like Garven Dreis, Dutch Vander, or Lando. 

Even though this is kind of a Rebel-centric article, you can apply that same line of thinking to your Imperial squadrons too- if you're still having trouble picking smart maneuvers, take Boba Fett with or without a Navigator, if you have trouble killing stuff with TIE Fighters, let Backstabber or Mauler Mithel do some dirty work for you, and so on. 

Identifying where your game is lacking can be difficult, but it's a skill like anything else and with some careful analysis and removal of bias via objectivity and data, you might be surprised where you're actually losing your games. I talked about this a loooong time ago in an article called, Why Do You Lose? If that topic seems interesting to you, give it a read. 

Back on topic though, 4-Ship Rebel builds are coming into popularity for fairly simple reasons- namely more ships is more durability, more guns, and overall more forgiving to fly. 

I've mentioned before that I tend to gravitate towards 4-Ship builds. I can't exactly explain to you why, but I just seem to play better with a couple of 2-Ship fireteams on the table instead of whatever combination of 3-Ships I can come up with. Again, maybe it's for you, maybe it's not, but as this style becomes more popular, it's something that's going to turn up more. 

So your typical 4-ship list has a multitude of ways it can be setup because of the fact that X-Wing is fairly balanced for the points. I've flown 4 X-Wing builds before (remember my Regionals list from last summer- Wedge, Luke, Rookie, Rookie), 2 X-Wings and 2 Y-Wings, all kinds of stuff, but there are a few things I try to do when I make a 4-Ship build. Maybe they'll work for you, maybe they won't, but it's some food for thought if nothing else. 

First, I try to keep the ships fairly even points-wise. I talk about the 33 point thing on here a lot, so naturally I try to stay away from creating single ships that cost more than 33 points. While that's not possible with some of the Big Ships, it's not to hard to pull off with the fighters. By not investing a ton of points in a single ship, then skimping on everybody else, I'm trying to do a couple of things- one, I'm trying to not paint a giant target for my opponent to focus on with that expensive ship, and two, ideally I'd like all of the ships in my squadron to be capable when necessary. In other words, instead of having one monstrously effective ship and three weenie ships, I'd rather have 4 ships that can all hold their own, at least on paper. Of course, this line of thinking is also part of the reason I wasn't a fan of the HWK for so long, which I've since recognized as a mistake, so take that for what it's worth. 

Secondly, if possible, I try to make all of the ships the same Pilot Skill. It's not something I do every single time, but if I'm just kind of lost or I'm going to play against people I don't know or whatever, it's not a bad trick. Pilot Skill's effect on movement and shooting orders makes such a profound difference in this game, by having four ships all at the same PS, you instead can pick what order in which your ships move and shoot. This isn't just a great idea for the new player still trying to get his head around Pilot Skill- it can also help a cagey vet make good contextual decisions outside of the Pilot Skill mechanic, at least to a certain degree. 

Having multiple ships at the same PS almost virtually assures going last or close to it (you're likely to be at PS 2 or PS 4) in the Combat Phase if you're the Rebels, but you do gain that advantage of picking the order your ships fire, which can be a pretty big benefit. Moving in teams or formations becomes easier too as you can at least choose the order in which your stuff moves, which sometimes can be the difference in a collision or not. 

If shooting last isn't enough of a downside for you, bear in mind too that picking low PS pilots virtually assures you'll be locked out of all those fun Elite Pilot Talents. The introduction of Modifications dulls that pain somewhat, but if you hang your hat on stuff like Push The Limit, you'll likely have some trouble adjusting at first. 

Almost inevitably, whenever I'm building one of these 4-Ship lists, I'll end up trying to decide between the lower PS generic pilot and the higher PS generic pilot. Which one do you choose? Well, it depends, but generally speaking, I pick the lower. 

In my experience with Rebels, going at PS 2 is usually the same as going at PS 4. Obviously it isn't, but since not that many people field Obsidians rather than Blacks or Academys, I find a lot of times it kinda doesn't really matter. Your mileage is going to vary on this of course, but in my neck of the woods, it's been that way more than it hasn't. Just to make this perfectly clear for everyone, PS 2 is NOT the same as going at PS 4. There are lots of people taking PS 2 ships in tournaments, so going at PS 4 is important now. Ok? 

It also kind of depends on the ship itself that I'm taking. With X-Wings, for example, the point difference between two Rookies and two Reds is a set of Proton Torpedoes, a Shield Upgrade, or a couple of Astromechs. Sometimes those upgrades play into my overall strategy better than having a PS of 4 rather than 2. Again though, it's pretty contextual with what's going on in the rest of the list. If we were to start talking about A-Wings, I might take the Green over the Prototype because the Green has an Elite Pilot Skill slot. Of course, if I didn't really have the points left to spend, I probably wouldn't. There's no real hard fast rules for this, at least in my book. 

All that being said, just because you're shying away from named pilots and taking stuff all at the same Pilot Skill, you can still come up with some pretty diverse lists. Take this one I just made up for example- 

That's not a terrible little list right there. The B-Wing is a little more expensive than what I like, especially compared with the other ships in the list, but it does have Advanced Sensors and an HLC, so it ain't exactly a soft target. Rebel Op is in there to provide some ion support (and was originally Roark, but then I traded him back in to get some points to give the B-Wing a HLC instead) and hopefully appear to be a soft enough target to draw away some shots from the B-Wing. The Y-Wing has an Ion Cannon Turret as well, and the X-Wing sports just an R2, but really, what else does he need? In any case, just the ships alone leave you with 20 points for upgrades, so if you don't like the way I have mine kitted out, you certainly have some room to play around with something that would work for you. 

Oh, and if you click the image, it'll take you to the list itself on +Geordan Rosario's Yet Another X-Wing builder. Don't know why it took me nearly a week to realize that'd be a good way to present stuff like this- visual image, but access to the list too via link. Duh. 

Anyway, like everything else with this game, a 4-Ship build may not be for you, but if you've been struggling with the limitations of 3-Ship builds, give it a day in court and see how you perform. 

17 February 2014

Tournament Talk: TIE Swarm, Again

Tournament Talk is a new thing I'm trying on here where we talk about game meta and what's prevalent on the X-Wing Miniatures Tournament scene. 

So I did some browsing around and reading over the weekend and decided after getting some good-natured ribbing about playing the wrong side in the upcoming Store Championship I'm going to be playing in, I'd talk a little about the Imperials today. 

As near as I can tell, the Swarm is still the king. 

Sure, sure. There are other Imperial builds, but from what I read, the deeper you go in tournament results, the less you see the Trelix or Kath Scarlet and 4 or 5 TIEs build, the double or triple Firesprays, a bunch of Shuttles, or the small side elite ship builds. 

So why is that? 

There's so many variables present in trying to figure stuff like this out, I don't think anybody can make a real conclusion, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's the result of Falcon lists still being pretty popular. Swarms are sort of the natural counter against low-count, big ship builds. This seems to be starting to change- I saw a lot of good, competitive Rebel lists that were low PS, four ship builds rather than 3 ship builds with named pilots and high PS (something I'm likely going to talk about in tomorrow's article, by the way), and as that pendulum swings away from the Falcon, I think you'll see more Imperial players branching away from the Swarm. 

Of course, they're also pretty damn effective against low-count, small ship builds too. Simply put, Swarms just bathe the enemy in blaster fire, inflicting the death by 1,000 papercuts deal, y'know? It doesn't hurt that your basic TIE fighter is actually pretty hard to hit straight up, and also pretty maneuverable. 

I talked about Swarms before, has anything really changed much? 

First, I see more references to the larger 7-ish ship count Swarms than I do the 5 or 6 ship builds with more named guys. Again, I'm not saying I'm some big chronicler of the tournament circuit, just telling you what I see. Most of them look pretty close to what the guy who won the Star Wars Weekend thing back in May was running- 

Talking about this list for a moment, there's not a lot of tricky stuff going on here- Howlrunner has her buffing ability and the Stealth Device makes a difficult ship to hit even harder to hit. Backstabber has his own outside firing arc shenanigans, then the rest of the squadron? Nada. 

So why does this list work so well? 

The math involved for one- sure, it's a bunch of plain Jane TIE Fighters, but until we get some Modification or pilot skill that lets somebody attack more than one target per Combat Phase, stuff like a 7 ship Swarm is always going to be at least somewhat viable because it's hard to dole out enough shots to kill it before it kills you, assuming of course you aren't flying 7 ships too. Yeah, TIEs only have 2 Attack dice, but when you get to roll those two Attack dice up to 7 times in a single combat round, something is bound to drop eventually. 

I think it's also important to remember that a ship in X-Wing with damage is basically the same ship undamaged when it comes to it's stats for Attack and Defend. Sure, Crits change that, but I'm just talking about regular damage here- the point I'm trying to make is a TIE with a single hull point still Attacks with 2 red dice and Defends with 3 greens. There's no drop off until you stick it with a crit (and there may not be then either- depends on the card) or kill it completely.

Partial damage also has no effect on scoring in a tournament- you could have every single ship of yours on it's last legs and your opponent still won't get a dime for his trouble- only stuff that's dead counts. As such, an opposing player has to either try to focus fire on specific ships in the Swarm to score points, or he spreads his fire to the most opportune target at the moment, but the Swarm player being the guy with (probably) the more maneuverable ships determines that target a lot of the time. Sure, it's totally possible to one-shot a TIE Fighter with an X-Wing, but let me ask you this- how often would you say that happens? I've always been forthcoming with not being the Genghis Kahn of X-Wing tactics, but with those three Defense dice stock, I doubt I'm the only person who rarely one-shots a totally healthy TIE with an unnamed X-Wing. Has it happened? Sure. Does it happen enough that I'm comfortable banking on the notion? Like to the point where I'm in my planning phase saying to myself, "Ok- so I'll Straight 2 and wipe that TIE Fighter out, then maybe next round, I'll Bank 1 to the left and come up behind this other guy..." Ehhh, no. Frankly I'm not. 

Ok, so if TIE Swarms are so great, why is it Rebels are getting played more in tournaments post Wave 3 release? 

I think partly it's variety- the want or need to try something different, to be the guy that isn't using the flavor of the month or the net list du jour or whatever. I think a bigger part though is the fact that flying 7 ships in any kind of coherent fashion is pretty effin' difficult. 

Again, look at that list that Bergstrom beat Kinney with- there's nothing fancy pants about that list. There's no unbeatable combo, there's no amazing synergy, it's a list you've seen on tables since the game came out. There's no surprises there other than what the guy driving it can pull, but that's my point- that dude can drive it really, really well apparently. 

Can a Swarm be run effectively with other components? 

To be honest, I didn't see a lot of people discussing this, so I'm well into conjecture territory, so take the following for what it's worth- 

For the points, you could roll 5 Scimitar TIE Bombers each with a four point missile loadout. Would that work in a tournament setting? It'd likely depend on who you ran into. Against a Han Shoots First list, it probably could, depending on which Missiles you picked and who was actually driving the Falcon. I think it might work decently well against some of these B-Wing heavy lists for basically the same reason- it's a 1 Agility ship and if you take Cluster Missiles, you're probably going to hurt it fairly bad. 

Of course, after that, you're back to having a ship with 2 Attack dice and less moves and Defense than a TIE Fighter. Maybe you've crippled your enemy in the first couple of rounds, and if you're good at flying Bombers, you can maybe even finish them off with just those 2 Attack dice. 

For the points, you could roll 5 Alpha TIE Interceptors, three of which could also be sporting Stealth Devices, or if everyone going at PS 1 doesn't float your boat, what about 4 Alphas with Turd Ferguson sporting Push The Limit? That might be fun to play with. I've mentioned this somewhere else before, but with Pilot Skill being what it is, but fielding ships all at the same Pilot Skill does have a certain appeal to it since you can pick whatever order you want to move and fire with your ships. I'm not going to go so far as to say I feel like I've won games because of that, but there are times it certainly doesn't hurt to be able to contextually select who is doing what rather than letting the PS values do it for you. Yeah, this would apply to the Bombers above too, but I just now thought of mentioning it, so that's why I didn't say it up there. 

A TIE Advanced Swarm- ok, ok. I know- everyone hates the Advanced. I'm still going to talk about it for just a second though, all right? A TIE Advanced Swarm is tough because of the way the points spread- no matter what, you're not getting more than 4 Advanced as the Tempest is 21 points, which is a rough number because it leaves you with soooo many unused points trying to get to 100 that way. You can move them up to Storms, but then that kinda seems like a bit of a waste. 

What I think is perhaps the happy middle here is sticking with the Tempests, but throwing some missiles on them. If you're paying attention, you know that any of the four point Missiles on these Tempests make them 25, and of course four of them gets you to 100 rather neatly. Is it better to have four Advanced with Missiles or 5 Bombers with Missiles? Well, it depends on if your target survives. I think four Advanced are a lot more likely to dogfight a couple of ships down than 5 Bombers, but again- I'm completely talking out of my firmly in theoryland ass here. Or, you could be perhaps the first ever person to roll out four Tempests each with a Shield Upgrade. It might be tough to kill much on the other side, but 3 Agilty, 3 Hull, and 3 Shields is going to be hard to take down and remember- you only need to kill a couple of X-Wings on the other side of that table to get a Match Win if you don't lose any of your own ships in the process. 

I think a big appeal of the TIE Swarm is it's just so Star Wars. A bunch of nameless, faceless dudes screaming at you in TIE Fighters? It doesn't get much better than that. Well, unless you're the guy facing it. I groan inside every time I sit across the table from somebody with a TIE Swarm and worn-out dials because I know it's going to be a tough fight. It's like playing golf against somebody who packs a 2-Iron; you know if he can hit it well enough to carry it, he can hit anything else in his bag too. 

As for advice on facing the Swarm, lots of people will tell you what not to do (namely, don't "joust" with them), or to go after the obvious force multiplier (usually Howlrunner), but few will actually tell you what to do. I've complained on here before about this kind of advice- anybody can tell you what not to do, it's much harder to tell you what you should be doing instead. 

The main thing a Swarm opponent needs to keep in mind is that the Swarm is powerful when it can attack as a whole, therefore you have to try and find ways to fragment it. All of this can be easier said than done, and against a really strong opponent, it may be really, really difficult, but I think it's the best advice that can be given concerning Swarms- do your best to break them up. 

You pretty well know regardless of PS how a Swarm is going to deploy- bunched up. Sure there may be a rover in the form of Mauler Mithel or Dark Curse or Backstabber, but most of that Swarm is going to try and stay right on top of one another and probably Howlrunner. You can only affect Obstacle placement so much, but try and get a nice pile in the middle of the table to give yourself some cover, but also to make him actually maneuver the Swarm. If you let him fly in straight lines, K-Turn, and fly straight again, you're likely not going to last long, so make him maneuver. Make him turn and bank. Maybe he can do it without colliding, but maybe he can't either. Most Swarm formations resemble a brick, and collectively kind of handle like one. You can exploit that if you can maneuver your own stuff pretty well.

You can also try to use the cover to force him to make decisions. A TIE Fighter shooting through an Obstacle is likely to do absolutely nothing to the target on the other side. Make him choose whether to get an open shot on you, but breaking formation or staying in the brick and giving you an extra green die. I don't know if any of y'all are hockey fans, but in the USA v Russia match, the US Goalie, Jonathan Quick showed Datsyuk a very tantalizing 5-hole in the shootout. Datsyuk had gone high and scored on Quickie in the previous attempt, so Quick shows him this huge 5-hole, Datsyuk bites, and Quick snaps his legs shut because he was expecting it. You can do stuff like that too- leave a ship sticking out behind a rock that a couple of his TIEs could flank, but the rest of the Swarm cannot. He might just break them off and go chasing after you. At that point, even if you lose the ship, his guys are still going to have to fly back to the rest of the Swarm to get back into formation or he'll play the rest of the game with a much less effective Swarm. 

Lastly, mix up the spacing on your ships in both the X and Y axis. The Swarm is forced to move as one for the most part, but you're not. You don't have to go screaming at him full-tilt with Straight 3s and 4s, ships all deployed as far forward as possible in a line. If you're using small ships, you have enough room to deploy a pair of them one in front of the other in your zone. Or maybe don't set up with them pointing perfectly straight forward. Try deploying on the outer edges of your deployment zone and angling your ships at a 45 towards the middle of the board and flying them that way. 

Is any of that a sure-fire way to beat a Swarm? Nah, none of it is, but like in Jedi when Lando said they needed to get closer to the Star Destroyers and Ackbar got all googly-eyed (well, more googly-eyed) at the idea, sometimes you gotta choose between the rock and the hard place.