Imperial Assault is a game I got into more-or-less on a whim. I keep an active online “Wishlist” for my family (who are not gamers) and my wife picked up the core set for me for Christmas when it first came out. Not even two years later, Imperial Assault now completely occupies my “main game” slot. Like all expandable games, Imperial Assault has gone through its initial period with limited options but now the game is really starting to hit its stride in terms of diverse options for tournament squads. The local scene for Imperial Assault is small but dedicated and we had nine people show up at Black Knight Games (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) this past Saturday for the second regional championship event of 2016 in the greater Toronto area. Here is a quick summary of who attended and the themes of their lists:

  1. Dave C. – Agent Blaise & Cross-Trained Troopers (Imperial)
  2. Jon C. – Agent Blaise & Spies (Imperial)
  3. Patrick C. – Repulsor Tank & Royal Guard (Imperial)
  4. Chris E. – Trooper Spam (Imperial)
  5. Chris M. – General Weiss & Troopers (Imperial)
  6. Evan M. – Bossk, HK Assassin Droids, & Wing Guard (Mercenary)
  7. Jon N. – Luke, Lando, & Echo Base Troopers (Rebel)
  8. Ron N. – Troopers & Royal Guard (Imperial)
  9. Andrew S. – Troopers & Royal Guard (Imperial)

I was surprised to see that many Imperial lists. Time was that Rebels were considered the strongest faction with the Luke/Leia combo being among the strongest lists but I think the “Deadly” surge ability on the ISB Interrogators has made people shy to take high-cost heroes with white dice on defense. It will be interesting to see how the forthcoming Grand Inquisitor will shape the scene since he has that same ability; I anticipate a lot of lists built around him.

I was pleased that nine players showed up as that number of people, under the basic tournament structure, compelled four rounds of Swiss pairings with no cut. Jon C. chose to use his Store Championship bye so I decided (since I was the de-facto TO) not to use the one I earned a few months ago at Board Games Central’s Store Championship. If I had, that would have meant that three people would have had a bye in the first round of a nine person tournament which may have caused havoc in later rounds.

I was running the following squad, which I refer to as “Vader’s Finest (Vader not included)”:

  • Stormtrooper (Elite) x2
  • Snowtrooper (Elite)
  • Heavy Stormtrooper w/ Targeting Computer
  • Imperial Officer x2
  • Rule by Fear

ELITE TROOPERS WERE THE CORE OF MY SQUAD

I had been playing almost exclusively with a Luke/Leia “Wonder Twins” list in tournaments which I enjoy using very much. However, with the prevalence of HK Assassin Droids and the increased number of game effects that can compel the re-rolling of dice and removal of Dodge results I was wary of leaving my fate in the hands of the white die. The current list of scenarios benefits squads with more figures and this Trooper Spam list shows up with 13 in total (in contrast to the 9 in my “Wonder Twins” iist). The Command Deck I went with was as follows:

  • Covering Fire
  • Disorient
  • Element of Surprise
  • Grenadier
  • Inspiring Speech
  • Lock On
  • Negation
  • Of No Importance
  • Planning
  • Rally
  • Reinforcements x2
  • Set a Trap
  • Take Initiative
  • Urgency

Not much in that Command Deck should be surprising. Cards with the Trooper keyword are quite strong and broad in application so I was confident that I would seldom be stuck with cards in hand that I could not use. The only such situation that I could foresee as relatively likely would be my Imperial Officers leaving play before I could use Inspiring Speech.

Round 1 vs. Jon N. (Battlefield Engineering)

Jon and I know each other well having met initially through the local X-Wing scene. Jon, to his credit, was a big booster for this tournament and encouraged several of those that showed up to participate despite being relatively new to the game. We had actually practiced against each other the evening before the tournament so we knew each other’s squads well. Jon was running the sole Rebel list at the event:

  • Luke Skywalker, Hero of the Rebellion
  • Lando Calrissian, Charming Gambler
  • C-3PO, Human-Cyborg Relations
  • Gideon Argus w/ Combat Suit
  • Echo Base Trooper (Elite) x2
  • Rebel High Command

LUKE & LANDO: COULD THEY WORK TOGETHER?

The offensive output of this squad is surprisingly high. A focused Lando rolling two green and one red (after Gambit) hits hard and the EBTs swapping out a blue die for a red when up close can also be devastating… and then there’s Maude, er, Luke. I won’t say much about this game other than everything serendipitous went my way. I drew all the cards I needed to be the most effective, rolled just enough blocks to keep Troopers holding vital components alive with one or two health remaining and Jon got the short end of the stick to the same magnitude.

I will highlight one moment that was relatively inconsequential but amusing. Gideon and Threepio were hiding in a corner in contemplation of controlling one of the vital components that a recently-defeated Luke had been holding. The turn before, I ran up a lone Snowtrooper to contest it. I had done one damage to Threepio and the Snowtrooper had no more than two health remaining. For my first action the next round that same Snowtrooper (who was adjacent to both Gideon and Threepio) shot at Gideon and then played Grenadier on the square he was in which wound up killing the Snowtrooper and Threepio. Themeatically, I envision that playing out like this: The Snowtrooper pulls the pin on the grenade but Gideon, ever the grizzled veteran, cold-cocks him with the butt of his blaster. The grenade drops to the ground and rolls away and Threepio, in an attempt to be helpful, picks it up and shuffles back to Gideon saying, “Sir, would this item be helpful to you in your current struggle?” and then BOOM!

Round 2 vs. Andrew S. (Reprogrammed)

Andrew had already won a Regional event a few weeks prior in Mississauga at X-Planet Games. He is relatively new to the tournament scene but is a very calculating player. He was running an Imperial trooper list but of a different variety than mine:

  • Elite Snowtrooper w/ Vader’s Finest
  • Snowtrooper
  • Elite Stormtrooper
  • Royal Guard
  • Imperial Officer x2

POST-NERF, ROYAL GUARD ARE STILL GREAT!

When playing “Reprogrammed” the scenario VPs earned by programming remotes are particularly important and heavily affect the tempo of the game. Each side is essentially given two of the remotes and that third remote mid-board is vitally important to secure. A difference of 2 VPs around does not feel like much but compounded over the typical 4-5 turns that a game takes that 8-10 VP differential is critical. I started this game in the exterior deployment zone, which I like to do when playing with figures that can surge to focus themselves like Elite Snowtroopers can.

I have not seen Royal Guard used very much in the tournament games I have played since they were nerfed but Andrew used them masterfully. He parked one of them a few squares away from the spot where the mid-board remote token gets deployed and clumped troopers around it. My attack rolls were often yielding good amounts of damage and surges but that extra block granted by Sentinel (don’t call it “Protector”) really reduces the efficiency of a series of two-die attacks. Andrew wisely secured remotes (including the one in the centre) with troopers and ran the figures holding them off so they were safely earning scenario VPs while simultaneously denying me the opportunity to gain VPs from eliminating a squad. I lost this round but, for my personal quest for a nationals bye, all hope was not lost as Andrew had already won one at a prior event. For those that may not know, an individual is only allowed to win one bye at a FFG Organized Play tournament. If one places first in a second tournament, the bye is passed to the player next in the standings. If I could win out I had a chance.

Round 3 vs. Evan M. (Deception Game)

Evan is a fixture at Black Knight and is someone with whom I have had the pleasure of playing many games of numerous descriptions. Evan and some other BKG regulars have played through several Imperial Assault campaigns and only recently took up skirmish. I assisted Evan in building his list which he wanted to centre around Bossk. He liked the idea of Bossk and a bunch of Trandoshans but I talked him into using HKs in the following list:

  • Bossk, Born Hunter
  • C-3PO, Human-Cyborg Relations
  • Gideon Argus
  • HK Assassin Droid x2
  • Elite Wing Guard
  • Devious Scheme
  • Temporary Alliance, A Common Threat

LIZARD-MAN AND ROBOT-MEN PACK A HECK OF A PUNCH

Evan’s squad was daunting to have to face in a straight-up fight like Deception Game with no activations really needed to dedicate to securing objectives or interacting. I started with my usual opening move of using the Imperial Officers to nudge the Heavy Stormtroopers forward and then fanning out the rest of the troopers including shooting the door with the Elite Snowtroopers to try and get focused. To my surprise, Evan shot down the door and came at me with one of his squads of HKs. It gave him the early advantage as he killed my Imperial Officer who had the red token on him but my Snowtroopers were able to heal the rest of the damage they put on one of the squads of Elite Stormtroopers that hung back. I ended up taking out the HKs and, despite their defeating my unit with the red token, I felt that this was a good trade.

Evan brought Bossk into the middle passage and I went at him with my Heavy Stormtroopers. I scored a 5-damage hit which Bossk dodged but, fortunately, I had Lock On in hand and got the damage through. Evan then retreated Bossk and, wisely, parked him next to C-3PO. I threw everything I had at Bossk over the next 2 turns and I do not think I am exaggerating to say that I had to take 10 shots at Bossk with troopers to finally finish him off. This round went to time and, fortunately for me, I had 3 more VPs than Evan to squeak out a win. Had I not played “Of No Importance” when one of my units was defeated this game would have been decided by 1 VP!

Round 4 vs. Ron (Constant Motion)

Ron is another regular at Black Knight Games who I know mostly through playing X-Wing. Ron, despite having played only one game of skirmish, threw his hat in the ring and came out to this event. I had leant out a fair bit of my collection to others so Ron, unfortunately, had to pick from some of the dregs. He had a good selection of figures but I fully acknowledge that his Command Deck was sub-optimal. Ron’s squad consisted of:

  • Elite Stormtrooper x2
  • Snowtrooper
  • Royal Guard
  • Probe Droid
  • Imperial Officer x2

I find, out of all the active scenarios, I am the worst at Constant Motion. Regardless of the deployment zone I wind up with, I always seem to do a terrible job of garnering scenario VPs. This game was no different. Much like in my game against Andrew, Ron clumped troopers around his Royal Guard to great effect and had the corridor with the objective tokens locked down. I thought I was going to lose the game and give up 12 VPs at the end of the round but, thanks to Elite Snowtroopers being able to ignore difficult terrain, I was able to control 1 objective and keep Ron’s VP total under 12 for the round. I believe the score going into our final round was 36 to 32 for Ron but I was able to finish off the Royal Guard which got me to 40 VPs. I pulled this one out of the fire but Ron played an excellent game.

Concluding Thoughts & Lessons Learned

After four Swiss rounds, Andrew was the only undefeated player. Dave and I were both 3-1 but I had a slightly better strength of schedule. Andrew had already won a previous regional championship so, by the power of the two sweetest words in the English language (de-fault), I was able to snake the bye card which I fully intend to use at Gen Con in a few weeks at the North American championship. Andrew was gracious enough to give me the trophy that he earned but I do not feel right displaying it without some sort of disclaimer:

I am quite fond of the trooper squad I ran at this event. It is a significant departure from the Luke/Leia list I have been running but having that many figures really makes the objective-heavy scenarios easier. Because this squad does not have a single main figure like Luke around which the entire strategy is based I am never unduly concerned about losing a particular figure unless it is the last one in a group (which I then cannot bring back with Reinforcements). The way that Ron and Andrew used Royal Guard in our matches really makes me want to include them in my squad. Back in the days of the dreaded 4×4 list the Royal Guard were the offensive unit that everyone feared but the change to their abilities makes them best used as a damage sink. In each of the respective games I played against them I do not recall Ron or Andrew making more than one attack with the Royal Guard and used them almost exclusively for protecting figures around them.

There are a few cards in my Command Deck that I am considering cycling out. “Covering Fire” is foremost among them. While it looks great on paper, often enough I need my troopers’ surges to even do damage to a target of priority so I found that I was not stunning figures like Bossk and Luke as often as I would have liked. Perhaps the lesson is to not play “Covering Fire” unless at least one of your squads of troopers has Focus. If I rotate in a pair of Royal Guard I will likely replace it with one copy of “Parting Blow.”

I am also considering ditching “Set a Trap.” I love the theme of the card and I consider it more of a “get outta here” effect than one that garners a free attack. I had the chance to play it a few times and it did not get me what I wanted out of it. Again, I will take accountability for likely not playing it optimally. I think I will replace it with “Against All Odds.” This trooper squad needs all the help getting Focus it can so a zero-cost way to do so is never a bad thing.

I DIDN’T GET WHAT I WANTED OUT OF THESE CARDS

I am planning on playing in the North American championship event at Gen Con in a few weeks which should be a very interesting scene as the Mos Eisley Cantina map will have dropped out of tournament legality less than a week beforehand, being replaced by the Coruscant Landfill. Additionally, the Grand Inquisitor and Obi-Wan Kenobi will be freshly tournament legal, as well, so squads will need an answer for that. My trooper-based squad will be particularly vulnerable to Obi-Wan’s “Alter Mind” ability which will make the missions based around retrieving objective tokens significantly more challenging.

Overall, I was pleased with the turnout we got at this event. Around the greater Toronto area, it is fair to say that there are few people that have made Imperial Assault their “main game” when it comes to tournament play. The online registration for 2016 Canadian Nationals event (which encompasses X-Wing, Imperial Assault, Star Wars LCG, A Game of Thrones LCG, Warhammer Conquest LCG, and A Game of Thrones LCG) went live this past Monday and X-Wing’s initial 64 slots sold out in literally two minutes. By comparison, Imperial Assault had 32 slots and (as of July 13th at 8:00 PM) there are still 12 spots remaining. I am encouraged that we will have at least 20 people but that comparison between those two tournaments is reflective of how the Imperial Assault scene is, in general, compared to other games. There is indeed an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great tournament games from Fantasy Flight and many folks I know are torn between several games because there is only so much time to devote to playing at a competitive level. If your preferred event at Canadian Nationals is full consider Imperial Assault!

Official Standings

After four Swiss rounds with no cut the standings in the tournament were as follows:

  1. Andrew S.: 4 wins & 0 losses with a 1.5 strength of schedule (SoS)
  2. Chris E.: 3 wins & 1 loss with a 1.6875 SoS
  3. Dave C.: 3 wins & 1 loss with a 1.3125 SoS
  4. Jon C.: 2 wins & 2 losses with a 5.4375 SoS
  5. Evan M.: 2 wins & 2 losses with a 1.6875 SoS
  6. Patrick C.: 2 wins & 2 losses with a 1.5 SoS
  7. Jon N.: 2 wins & 2 losses with a 1.5 SoS (Patrick had a higher extended SoS)
  8. Ron N.: 1 win & 3 losses with a 1.6875 SoS
  9. Chris M.: 1 win & 3 losses with a 1.3125 SoS

It’s a new year and I’m really looking forward to Imperial Assault coming into its own. While it’s fair to say that IA is still playing second fiddle to X-Wing in terms of which Star Wars-themed tournament game people are gravitating towards, with the recent release of Return to Hoth (along with the Dengar, Leia, General Sorin, and Echo Base Trooper expansions) IA Skirmish feels like it’s close to having the right amount of options that all three factions will have viable tournament lists. The recent errata to Royal Guard, Imperial Officer, and Rebel Saboteurs look like the right types of changes to bring the 4×4 and Saboteur-spam lists down enough that they aren’t categorically dominant strategies.

This year, my focus will be on Mercenaries. Remember the name: Mercenaries. There is no faction in Imperial Assault called “Scum & Villainy.” As a side-rant, I think “Scum & Villainy” is among the stupidest names for a faction I’ve ever heard. Nobody would ever self-identify as “scum.” You may as well go all the way and call the faction “The Bad Guys.” Dumb. But I digress… The Mercenary faction’s characters, theme-wise, are the most interesting to me. Bounty hunters, aliens, and beasts are the kind of squad I want to play.

This week I’m going to try out a squad that is very much a “cult of the new” to see how I like some of the units from the latest wave. I really like the named bounty hunters so I went with Dengar as the basis for the squad which I am giving the name Natural Born Killaz:

  • Dengar, Ruthless Killer (7)
  • Gideon Argus (3)
  • HK Assassin Droid, Elite (11)
  • Hired Gun (4)
  • Nexu, Elite (6)
  • Wampa (5)
  • Punishing Strike (2)
  • Temporary Alliance, A Common Threat (1)
  • Last Resort (1)

 

I’ve designed this squad around the idea of applying harmful conditions and using Dengar and Punishing Strike to apply different conditions that fit the situation best. Dengar, the HKs, the Nexu, and the Wampa all have ways to give conditions so I should be able to get good value out of Punishing Strike (not that Dengar needs it as he can apply whatever condition he desires). Dropping the Hired Guns and Last Resort would allow me to bring a pair of Tusken Raiders that have access to Weaken but I want to try it out with the Rodians first. I could do the same by dropping Gideon for C-3PO and still retain access to giving focus but having access to Planning with Gideon is something I want to keep for the time being.

I will put Last Resort on the Nexu. I just find the idea of a Nexu rigged with explosives too funny not to use. My opening play will be to give the Nexu focus and have it charge out and attack a target of priority. With a 3-dice attack it will likely be able to do damage to anything it wants if no dodge is rolled and, with the elite Nexu having “Bleed” built in, I don’t have to rely on surges to apply a harmful condition. Being able to stun a vital enemy character figure will pay dividends and having the Nexu parked next to the same will, even if it is defeated, cause some extra damage with Last Resort.

The Wampa is the biggest wild-card in this crew. I really want to try it because it’s such a beat-stick. I decided to go with the regular Wampa initially but I intend to try the squad with the elite and swap out the elite HK Assassin Droids for their regular version since the points are the same (i.e. three points difference between the regular and elite on both).

Having an attack that does a minimum of 4 damage on the elite Wampa is impressive but losing Priority Target (“Figures do not block line of sight for your attacks”) on the regular HK Assassin Droids feels like I’m losing a lot. With the range that the HKs have with Blue-Blue-Yellow, being able to truly pick your target is among the biggest motivation to take them.

Command Deck

For the first time in a long time I didn’t feel like I was making tough choices when putting together this squad’s command deck. Perhaps that means I’m missing something important but that will remain to be seen. I was particularly surprised that my command deck came in at only 12 points. Ordinarily, I find getting to 15 is not something I even have to think about. This is, no doubt, significantly due to only having one command card tied to a character, that being Dengar’s “Payback,” and that card only being two points. Here’s what I’m going with:

  • Command Card
  • Dirty Trick
  • Element of Surprise
  • Fleet Footed
  • Negation
  • Payback
  • Planning
  • Price on Their Heads
  • Pummel x2
  • Rally
  • Roar
  • Strength in Numbers
  • Take Initiative
  • Urgency
  • Wild Fury

I feel a little over-invested in the two creature/brawlers and having four cards in there just for them (Roar, Wild Fury, and Pummel x2) but the damage those two could yield makes it feel like it’s worth a try. The one card that I have that I feel could catch opponents by surprise is “Strength in Numbers.”

All of my units, except for the HK Assassin Droids, can be used in concert with another unit with this card’s abilities:

  • Dengar: Gideon, Hired Gun, or Wampa
  • Gideon: Dengar, Hired Gun, Nexu, or Wampa
  • Hired Gun: Dengar, Gideon, Nexu or Wampa
  • Nexu: Gideon, Hired Gun, or Wampa
  • Wampa: Gideon, Hired Gun, or Nexu

Gideon and the Nexu is the duo that I find the most compelling. Assuming there’s the space to do so, Gideon could give the Nexu focus, move it two spaces, and then the Nexu could move its own six spaces and then Pounce. That gives the Nexu a threat range of 11 squares with a focused attack from which it will be tough to hide.

In terms of damage output, I feel like this squad has a lot to offer. Where I feel it may struggle are the two current tournament missions that require figures to use interact, those being Battlefield Engineering and Reprogrammed. Having two non-sentient units may be problematic.

I’m authoring this portion of this post on a Sunday evening so I’m going to pause my writing here and resume after my Tuesday night IA night and report on how this squad performed in its initial outing.

Aftermath

It is now Tuesday evening and I just returned from my LGS. My friend Kon and I played two games on Training Ground using the “Reprogrammed” scenario. Kon has been running a Kayn Somos list for a while and he’s really got down the positioning of the troopers and breaking up their movement between attacking so that they’re not unduly clumped and susceptible to attacks with blast. I’ve been running various Saboteur lists so it’s a tactic that has been used a lot locally. Kon’s list was as follows:

  • Kayn Somos, Trooper Commander (10)
  • Heavy Stormtrooper, Elite (8)
  • Heavy Stormtrooper (6)
  • Stormtrooper (6)
  • Imperial Officer, Elite (5)
  • Imperial Officer (2)
  • Targeting Computer (1)
  • The General’s Ranks (2)

Neither of us remembered the rule that says each deployment card can only have one attachment so Kon had both the Targeting Computer and The General’s Ranks on the Heavy Stormtroopers.

I lost both games which didn’t come as a big surprise to me. I liked the theme of my squad but it was definitely a hodge-podge that needs to be streamlined. I have to say that I really came away liking the HK Assassin Droid Elites. I’ve played a lot of games with Saboteurs so I’m very fond of Priority Target. Having them with such great range (more than a 2-in-three chance of being accurate from 7 squares away or closer) was attractive to me but the deadly Heavy Stormtrooper units had the rock to my scissors in that department with extra defense from 4 or more spaces away. This matchup aside, I really liked the way this unit performed. Six health each is a little squishy but I was pleasantly surprised at how well their attacks performed.

Dengar is a figure I’ll need to spend more time figuring out. Theme-wise, I really like his abilities and the way he can cherry-pick conditions to apply but his having only a two-dice attack makes him a little underwhelming. He’s definitely not a heavy hitter, damage-wise, and at only 8 health he’s not someone you want front & centre. I’m going to stick with him but I need to use him more on the periphery.

I was very disappointed at my ineffective use of the Wampa. The Heavy Stormtrooper units just made mince-meat out of him. In two games he only got to attack once. I definitely think that having two single-figure creature units in one squad is too many eggs in that basket. I’m going to try and see what I can squeeze in to this squad by dropping one of them.

Kaiju Games in Etobicoke held an Imperial Assault tournament today so I came down from the mountain into the outskirts of the Big Smoke to see how I’d fare. While X-Wing has been my main game since it came out in 2012 I have to say that Imperial Assault is garnering more of my interest these days, despite the embarrassment of riches we have with new X-Wing ships. Imperial Assault is still in its relative infancy but we’re just starting to get to the point where the amount of options available are facilitating variety in the lists that people are fielding.

Although, thematically, I like the Mercenary faction the best I haven’t invested the time to find a list I like that I feel would do well at a tournament. I did some early experimentation with IG-88 that I’d like to revisit but I’m clicking more with Rebels based around elite Rebel Saboteurs and Luke Skywalker. Before Wave 2 of Imperial Assault figures was released I was running this list:

  • Luke Skywalker
  • Diala Passil
  • Gideon Argus
  • Rebel Saboteur (Elite) x2
  • Rebel Saboteur
  • Balance of the Force

I liked the list but the one Deployment Card I never felt like I was getting enough production out was Diala. She has great surge abilities but having the green die in her attack instead of the yellow die really cuts down on the frequency she can use them. Giving her focus, obviously, would help but using Gideon to focus Luke to give him a “traffic light” (i.e. one red die, one yellow die, one green die) dice pool for a Sabre Strike with built in Pierce 3 as opposed to giving the same dice pool to Diala for an increased chance to surge for Pierce 3 is simply a better option.


The Elite Rebel Saboteur. Way more better

The other unit that had me questioning it was the regular (or “grunt” as I’ll refer to them as herein; shout-outs to all the Monsterpocalypse alumni out there) Rebel Saboteurs. When I hold up the grunt to the elite for this unit, it’s staggering how much better the elite version is for two points. Simply stated, for 7 points as opposed to 5, the elite Rebel Saboteurs gain the following:

  • 6 Health instead of 4
  • Blast 2 on surge instead of Blast 1
  • Priority Target (Figures do not block line of sight for this figure’s attacks)

Having a white die for defense is really riding the lightning. When the dodge comes up it’s as more of a psychological advantage than anything. When a defender rolls 3 block on a black die to prevent 3 of 4 damage that never is as emotionally deflating as seeing that dodge come up to negate the entire attack. However, if it isn’t the dodge coming up the white die doesn’t offer that much protection.
In my experience, six health with a white die on defense is the difference between being able to absorb one above-average hit that most units can produce and two. In the games I play it’s uncanny how often six health figures take 5 damage and live for at least one more round because of that last point of health. For the elite Rebel Saboteurs to be at this level of health is, over time, giving them one more round on the board compared to the grunts.

Blast 2 on the elites is an ability that is feared whereas Blast 1 on the grunts seems like more of an inconvenience. Combined with Overload, that can multiply to Blast 4 or even higher than that if you are really lucky. Opponents wise to this will place their figures in a way that prevents you from using blast but, depending on the mission, leaving those empty spaces can be the difference between being able to move in a way that helps you attain mission objectives because you’re not losing squares of movement by moving through enemy figures and not. Sure, getting around highly defensive figures with Blast is great but anything that disrupts the way your opponent positions figures is a boon. Blast 1 on the grunt Rebel Saboteurs is an annoyance whereas Blast 2 on the elite version is a game changer.

While I feel that the two points extra is well worth the investment for the extra health and blast alone, it is Priority Target that really makes the elites sing. This ability increases the range of this unit dramatically and makes it much more difficult for your opponent to screen more valuable figures from attacks. The elite Rebel Saboteurs live for combat in hallways that are two squares wide where they can stand behind their colleagues and lob grenades at whomever they choose with impunity instead of having to mow down from front-to-back.

In the squad I have listed above, I found I was using the grunt Rebel Saboteurs as objective holders more than anything else. They’re not all that bad at doing that with their Speed of 5 but I thought I could put their points to better use. Straight up, I swapped them out for R2-D2 and C-3PO. Just having two activations for 5 points is a benefit in and of itself. If I could get 3 focus tokens over the course of a game out of C-3PO I’d feel like his points were justified. R2-D2 was the droid I was really excited about using. Being able to just draw a command card for an action when adjacent to a terminal is almost too good to be true, especially considering that controlling the terminal is not a requirement for this ability. Terminal Network, his named Command Card, takes this a step further by deeming you to be in control of both terminals on the board until the end of the turn regardless of whose figures are adjacent to the terminals. In real terms, his ability and Command Card combined could mean that you draw four command cards between his activation and the end of a round while limiting your opponent to one. Think about it. That’s you drawing 1/3 of your remaining 12 command cards over the course of one turn. The options that should open up for you are staggering.

By dropping Diala, the grunt Rebel Saboteurs, and Balance of the Force, my squad looked like this:

  • Luke Skywalker
  • R2-D2
  • C-3PO
  • Jyn Odan
  • Mak Eshka’rey
  • Gideon Argus
  • Rebel Saboteur (elite) x2

I hadn’t played Skirmish with Jyn or Mak before so that would be a bit of a learning experience. Having eight different activations would likely mean that I would be taking activations a fair bit while my opponent passed. With three figures (Artoo, Threepio, and Gideon) that are heavily focused on support I didn’t see this as a big problem. In three turns I can give two figures a focus and likely move Artoo next to a terminal which is exactly what I want to be doing so if I can accomplish that without having to make hard choices all the better for me. That’s the theory, anyway. Let’s see how it worked out.

Command Deck

The Command Deck is what makes Imperial Assault interesting. The choices made in terms of what is included in the Command Deck completely contextualize how you approach your squad and go after objectives. With R2-D2 in this squad, gaining access to Commmand Cards is something this squad should excel at. The Command Deck I put together for this squad is as follows:

Character-Specific Zero-Point Cards Other Cards
Etiquette and Protocol (2) Celebration (0) Explosive Weaponry (1) x2
One in a Million (2) Devotion (0) Lock On (2)
Son of Skywalker (3) Element of Surprise (0) Slippery Target (2)
Terminal Network (2) Expose Weakness (0)  
  Fleet Footed (0)  
  Rally (0)  
  Take Initiative (0)  

 
When I’m considering Command Cards I usually take the approach of considering all the character-specific cards first and then see how many points I have left over. My squad has six unique characters so it wouldn’t have been possible to take all of their named cards. I can’t think of a reason ever to not take Son of Skywalker so that one was just automatic. I wanted to include each of R2-D2’s and C-3PO’s cards to try them out. That left Mak, Gideon, and Jyn as potential inclusions.

Gideon’s “Take it Down” card has never been one that I have been able to make work. The fact that Gideon needs to be adjacent to the figure to pull it off is what I find challenging. I tend to keep Gideon back leading from the proverbial hill since his built-in abilities both work when within line of sight. An additional attack is well worth three points but I decided to leave this one in the toolbox as I’m unaccustomed to having Gideon in the thick of things.

Mak’s Shadow Ops card has one of the most disruptive abilities amongst the current pool of Command Cards by keeping the opponent from playing command cards until the end of the round. Jyn’s One in a Million card, by comparison, removes all of the opposing figure’s defense dice when she uses her Hair Trigger ability. Both are great but I opted for Jyn’s card. Between One in a Million, Element of Surprise, and Lock On, I have three cards to disrupt my opponents’ defense dice in various contexts which, an idea of which I am a fan.

Round 1 vs. TIE (Imperials) at Kuat Station (Incoming Transmission)

Yes, his name was Tie and he was actually wearing a tie. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call commitment to a bit. TIE was running a 39-point Vader-centric force with a considerable amount of damage output:

  • Darth Vader
  • Imperial Officer x2
  • Stormtrooper (elite)
  • Heavy Stormtrooper (elite)

Of all the current tournament scenarios I think I have played Incoming Transmission the most. The up-ticking of the VP value of the relay stations can make them extremely valuable but I tend to try and claim them as early as possible. Even at the end of turn 1, if you can grab two of them that’s 6 VPs which can be a big difference-maker.

While I definitely had the activation advantage in this match, Vader was definitely my biggest concern. Tie used his officers early to move Vader out into the open. While using them to move Vader up-field didn’t surprise me what did surprise me was his choosing not to pass while he had fewer activation than me. This allowed me to load up Jyn and Luke with focus from Gideon and C-3PO. I was able to take down Vader near the start of turn 3 and my MVP for that feat was Jyn. While Luke and my Saboteurs did the heavy damage on Vader, Jyn’s Hair Trigger ability stunned Vader a few times and limited the Officers’ ability to move him around. Tie began to retreat Vader, likely in contemplation of holding down one of the relay stations and claiming it at 9 VP, but Jyn got in a lucky hit and took down the Sith Lord.

That gave me a huge early game advantage but, points-wise, this game was decided by less than half a dozen or so points. Although I had more activations, many of my one-figure Deployment Cards are relatively squishy. This game went to time and I was able to hold off the troopers to win.

Round 2 vs. Chris (Imperials) at Ord Mantell Junkyard (Most Dangerous Game)

I played Chris once before at a small tournament at my local store where he ran a list very similar to mine with the only difference being a unit of Rebel Saboteurs instead of R2 and 3PO (which weren’t released yet at the time). Chris is a really strong player so I knew that he would know what not to do against my list as he was very familiar with it. He was running a very similar list to Tie at 40 points:

  • Darth Vader
  • Imperial Officer x2
  • Stormtrooper (elite) x2

This was, upon reflection, not the mission I wanted to have with the force I brought. While many of the missions compel you to make a choice between attacking enemy figures and achieving objectives, in Most Dangerous game it’s a straight-up fight and they are one and the same. Not surprisingly, Chris chose to make Darth Vader his bounty hunter unit and I made Luke mine. While Luke is not a slouch in the damage department by any means, Vader’s “Brutality” ability meant that I had to be very careful about how I placed my figures as, unless I rolled Dodges, Vader could easily take out any of my units in a single attack, other than Luke at full health.

I made a mistake with Jyn by putting her in a position where I thought I could use her “Hair Trigger” ability against an advancing group of Stormptroopers but I kept forgetting that the enemy figure has to be in Jyn’s line of site at the start of its activation, not at the start of an action. I was fortunate to get off an attack before she was defeated but it was a rather inconsequential hit on a Stormtrooper that was relatively far away and I had to use my surge for accuracy when I would have rather stunned the figure, all things considered.

I can’t really say much more than that Chris out-played me in this round. He never once ended his figures’ activations adjacent to each other so my Saboteurs didn’t get to use blast. He timed his activations well and managed to dispatch Luke on turn 3. By using his officers to push Vader up-field and then keeping them back he forced me to make the hard choice between running up to his officers and subjecting myself to Vader or hanging back and getting taken apart piecemeal. It also didn’t help my cause that he drew both of his Reinforcements cards early and the two Stormtroopers that I managed to defeat came back right away. After Luke went down the rate at which Vader was obtaining points was just too fast and I wound up losing something like 47 to 4, the only points I earned being from two turns of Luke (my bounty hunter) being alive.

At the risk of diminishing Chris’ excellent play, this was a bad match up for my squad. This scenario garners a player the most points, obviously, when the bounty hunter deals the death blow to a unit. Setting up a series of attacks whereby Luke would deal the final blow to a unit of elite Stormtroopers is practically impossible to plan for and the only single-figure units are either the Imperial officers, which would only be worth 4 points as opposed to 2, and Vader himself. My squad, by contrast, has five single-figure units with 6 health or less, which Vader can feast on.
I have to share one funny and memorable moment from this game. I had R2-D2 camped out by the terminal closest to mid-board. Chris moved Vader up during his activation to block my controlling the terminal and contemplated attacking but didn’t want to risk a 1/3 chance of R2 dodging it so he chose instead to use Force Choke instead. I’d love to know what R2-D2 being “choked” looks like. I can just picture Artoo saying, “Dude… I saved your ass against the Trade Federation at the Battle of Naboo!” Oops, sorry… Prequels reference (slaps own hand).

Round 3 vs. Lanny (Rebels) at Ord Mantell Junkyard (Mind of its Own)

Lanny was the only other Rebel player at the tournament but he chose to go the way of the Wookiee with the following 40-point list:

  • Chewbacca
  • Gaarkhan
  • Gideon Argus
  • Rebel Saboteur (elite) x2

I like to refer to this scenario as the “Zamboni Laser.” I’ve played it a few times and I’ve never seen the laser actually defeat a figure but the way it shortens the board has an interesting effect on the game. Key to winning this scenario, in my opinion, is getting VPs by controlling the terminal closest to the laser for the two turns you’re able to do so before it gets behind the laser.

Before we had even deployed, I decided that I was going to forget about attacking Chewbacca unless I had a plum opportunity with either or both of Lock On or Element of Surprise in my hand to take away the possibility of a dodge. In these area control missions, I find that trying to take down a high-health unit just turns into an activation tar-pit that distracts me from trying to attain mission objectives. I was glad to see Chewbacca lined up behind the door as that suggested to me that Lanny’s intent was to have Chewie attempt to control the terminal closest to the laser. Something worth mentioning is that I had the good fortune of drawing Terminal Network in my opening command hand. My hope was, with one squad of Rebel Saboteurs, to bait Chewbacca into contesting for control of the southern terminal and keep him away from the larger battle taking place on the other end of the board and snake 5 VPs with Terminal Network.

Before I’d even drawn that card, I was hoping I’d be able to use Terminal Network after the laser had passed that terminal but I am glad I chose to use it on turn 2. While there is definitely a sense of urgency in terms of the proximity of the laser, the reality is that most games of Imperial Assault only last 3 or 4 turns and, despite R2-D2’s “Lucky” ability I didn’t want to risk his to be defeated before I had a chance to use such a great card.

On the other side of the board, I had Wookiee problems of a different nature. I made the mistake again of putting Jyn in a location where she didn’t have line of site to the figure that she wanted to target with Hair Trigger. Fortunately, after Gaarkhan’s charge attack, Jyn still had one health. Lanny played Furious Charge later that round after Luke had delivered a Sabre Strike so the prospect of finishing off Jyn and taking a swing at Luke was no doubt enticing. Fortunately for me, I had One in a Million in my hand and was able to Stun Gaarkhan, thus reducing his attacks by one. My Saboteurs then moved in and finished him off and I was lucky again to have had Celebration in-hand. I lost Jyn in the process but I was happy with the trade.

As I alluded to earlier, I used R2-D2’s Terminal Network card to gain 10 VPs at the end of turn 2. That was, essentially, a 15-point swing as Chewbacca had gained control of the other terminal and, based on figures alone, neither of us were controlling the other terminal. At this point I was ahead 22 points to 5 which isn’t insurmountable but eliminating Gaarkhaan that early took away a considerable portion of Lanny’s offensive output. For the rest of the game we more-or-less traded figures being eliminated but I wound up winning on time with only Chewbacca remaining in the opposing force which had me at 39 points (14 points due to controlling two terminals for a turn and using “Celebration” when Gaarkhan was defeated) and Lanny at around 20.

Round 4 vs. Jon (Imperials) at Kuat Space Station (Data Heist)

Jon is someone I see often at my local store (Black Knight Games). We usually play X-Wing and there is an odd dynamic whereby I beat him most of the time in casual play but he beats me most of the time when we meet in a tournament. I was hoping, selfishly, that the same phenomenon wouldn’t turn out to be true in Imperial assault as I think we’ve only played four casual games of IA with me winning three of them. Jon brought the following 40 points of Imperials:

  • AT-ST x2
  • Imperial Officer x2
  • Royal Guard

As you can see from Jon’s list above, it was a little janky. I had never played this scenario before but it struck me as one whereby you would want to leave a unit or two with significant combat capability near the data core to run in once the door opens and have enough staying power to defeat whatever your opponent moves in. We both seem to have had this idea as he parked one of his AT-STs right outside the door and I had both my units of Saboteurs and Luke very close to my door.

I had the corner deployment zone and I put Artoo in a spot where, despite his 3 movement, he could get into adjacency with either terminal with a little push from Gideon’s “Tactical Manuever” ability. I thought Jon would try and use his other AT-ST to try and block my access to the terminal closer to the middle of the board but he used his offers to have it come down towards the other terminal. When it came time to move R2-D2 I had the other terminal secured with Jyn. Although Jyn was staring down an AT-ST barreling down the hallway she rolled a timely dodge which, minimally, ensured that she would live out the round and be controlling one terminal. Jon had his two Royal Guard controlling the other terminal so I moved R2-D2 up to it so that neither of us were controlling it.

Given how much R2-D2 can contribute to this mission, I was a little wary of throwing him to the wolves so early but by being the only player controlling a terminal after the first turn meant I could open my door and be fairly certain of 10 VP. Jon could have potentially used his officers to move the Royal Guard into the room through my open door but that would have just resulted in them standing there with no choice but to absorb attacks from my figures in the area so, instead, he chose to have them attack R2-D2. This did, unfortunately, defeat my beloved loyal astromech but he had served his purpose before his little droid soul was ferried to The Maker.
One of my squads of Saboteurs was able to put a heavy beating on to the Royal Guard and, by surging twice on the same attack wound up being able to bring an already-damaged Royal Guard to 7 damage and using blast twice to do four to the other which, with blast on a subsequent attack, I was able to finish off the squad.

At that point, with the Royal Guard defeated, I had one of my Saboteurs adjacent to the mid-board terminal controlling it. Jon moved in his AT-ST in contemplation of shoving the same Saboteur away from the terminal which would have meant he controlled it. I was very fortunate, however, to have Slippery Target in-hand and used it to scoot into the alcove and block Jon from controlling the terminal. I pulled a similar shenanigan on a subsequent turn when Jon pushed that same Saboteur away from the terminal and I used Son of Skywalker to have Luke cross the board to block control of the terminal. In that instance, the card should have been called “Run, Luke, Run” as I used all his actions to move a total of 20 squares.
The end of this turn again had me controlling one terminal to Jon’s zero so his other AT-ST had now spent two turns not having contributed as his door was not opened. This garnered me 20 points from the scenario and, at that point, Jon started moving his other AT-ST into the fray. Luke was able to do a Pierce 6 Sabre Strike on one of the AT-STs which hobbled it significantly and Jyn, with a lucky Hair Trigger attack, was able to finish it off which put me at 42 points to win the game.

I will fully acknowledge that my list was better suited to deal with this scenario that Jon’s. Although I thought R2-D2 would play a bigger role in this scenario my figures’ mobility and the sheer number of activations I had made it such that I could simply cover the terminals better.

Conclusions & Lessons Learned

The “Most Dangerous Game” scenario is definitely the active tournament scenario that my squad will have the hardest time winning. By contrast, the ways that R2-D2 can accelerate the acquisition of Command Cards and control terminals had a much bigger impact on the game than I thought it would Going in I saw Artoo as more of a 3-point gimmick but that little droid can be the lynch-pin of any scenarios focused on controlling terminals.

By contrast, I don’t feel like I used C-3PO to his maximum potential. I think I used him too much like Gideon whereby he’d give his focus and then drop back. Even though he’s a non-combatant, he’s designed to be near the action adjacent to a colleague. I feel like I consistently got the focus out of Threepio that I wanted but I completely forgot to make use of his “Distracting” ability to remove surges from attacks targeting friendly figures adjacent to him. The adjacency to friendly figures is also necessary for his “Cower” ability which, although less reliable, makes for a better chance of Threepio staying alive. By keeping Threepio hidden as much as I did, I also kept myself from being able to use his Command Card which requires bothe the friendly and hostile figure to be in line of sight. Upon reflection, this could confer a highly effective offensive boost if, for example, I used it on Luke and Vader after Luke had already attacked Vader that round.

I definitely didn’t miss Diala or the grunt Rebel Saboteurs or Diala. Jyn did a lot for me over the course of the afternoon. I need more practice to makes sure I’m getting the most out of her Hair Trigger ability but she is a slippery eel that can be extremely disruptive. Her surge abilities are each “two-fers” that can both be used out of turn with her Hair Trigger ability. Jyn is also surprisingly more survivable with her “Nimble” ability essentially adding a block to each side of the white defense die. For five points, I’m glad to have included her in this squad.
I was surprised to see as little from wave 2 fielded today. Apart from Tie’s Heavy Stormtroopers my two droids were the only wave 2 figures on the table. I was actually hoping to face Boba Fett!

Three wins and a loss was good enough to get second place in this six-person tournament with a record of 3-1. I can’t think of anything I’d like to change about this squad, to be honest. Threepio is definitely the figure that I need to go way and use more to get the most out of him.


#GAMERFACE

Here’s hoping that this is the start of a more robust IA tournament scene around here!

Store Wars, 2015 X-Wing Event #3: X Planet

Posted: 1st August 2015 by wapcaplets in Battle Report, Gaming, X-Wing

While most of the gaming world is talking about Gen Con 2015 and all the excitement that entails, 18 of us who did not make the trip to Indianapolis showed up at X Planet Games in Mississauga for the third event of the 2015 Store Wars tournament series for X-Wing. It was a beautiful day outside and X Planet’s new location has a bright and spacious in-store play area perfect for a tournament of this size. I decided to take an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to my list from two weeks ago and brought back Chewbacca and Leebo:

  • Chewbacca (Push The Limit, Jan Ors, Kyle Katarn, Millennium Falcon)
  • Leebo (Determination, Mangler Cannon, Recon Specialist, Outrider, Anti-Pursuit Lasers)

 

The only change I made to the list from two weeks ago is that I switched the Anti-Pursuit Lasers from Chewbacca to Leebo. I don’t know precisely why but the games I’d played so far with this pair saw Leebo in and amongst the thick of things more often than Chewbacca. I think this is in no small part due to the YT-2400 having the 3-hard turn on its maneuver dial which the YT-1300 does not. When it gets a little crowded, the Leebo can get around small-based ships and stay close whereas the YT-1300 either has to bump or stay more on the periphery with a bank maneuver. As I’ll speak to in more detail below, I think making the swap from Chewbacca to Leebo was the right choice.

Round 1 vs. Vijay (Imperials)

Vijay has embarked upon a mission to fly Soontir Fel in 100 matches. I overheard him talking to someone else at the tournament saying that he was somewhere in the 70s. As everyone knows, Fel is among the best ships in the game if not the best. Few ships that have been in the game as long as Fel as see as much play consistently and, with the advent of Autothrusters, he’s actually gotten better as time has gone on. Vijay’s list departed from the two-ship meta and was as follows:

  • Soontir Fel (Push The Limit, Royal Guard TIE, Autothrusters, Targeting Computer)
  • Captain Oicunn
  • Omicron Group Pilot (Darth Vader)

Going into this match the ship I was most worried about was Fel. The “Doom Shuttle” didn’t concern me too much given how my list is built to mitigate critical hits but having that automatic damage coming from a ship that wasn’t a priority target could be troublesome. All of our large-base ships met in the middle and Oicunn got some free collision-based damage on Chewbacca. I wasn’t too bothered by this because taking one damage from a collision meant that the Decimator wasn’t firing at that same ship.

Fel did what he often does and stayed out of arc and gave out a lot more damage than he took on thanks to his Autothrusters. I managed to do two damage to him but no crippling critical hits from Leebo’s Mangler Cannon were forthcoming as Chewbacca did all of the damage. I then committed a horrible gaffe that definitely made things much harder on myself than they should have been. One of Vijay’s ships scored two critical hits on Leebo and I completely forgot to use his ability on both and sustained a Direct Hit and a Munitions Failure. By the time I realized game state had changed so it was too late to adjust and I had to play out the rest of the game with Leebo only having his primary weapon.

I managed to destroy the Doom Shuttle but lost Chewbacca. Leebo had taken some big hits and I had to rely on a hail-mary range 1 shot on Oicunn to take him out but needed three hits including a critical that did two damage and it didn’t come up for me. Oicunn then just plowed into Leebo to do the last point of damage and victory was Vijay’s.

Result: Loss 24-100

Round 2 vs. Roger (Imperials)

Although I lost in the first round my MOV was sufficient for me to be a few tables up from the bottom so my Swiss gambit had begun as it had so many times before. Roger was a relatively new player and was flying a list that hearkened back to the days of Wave 1:

  • Darth Vader (Swarm Tactics)
  • Howlrunner (Swarm Tactics)
  • Academy Pilot x4

On paper, this list could be very annoying to a two-ship list. With correct formation flying, this list can have four ships shooting at Skill 8 or higher and, with Howlrunner’s ability, the number of hits landed could be hard to overcome. Roger let me know that he only had half a dozen or so games total under his belt and that this was his first tournament. Being able to judge the maneuver distances in this game is such a big part of doing well and Roger was still very early in this journey and had some tough encounters with asteroids and Leebo’s Anti-Pursuit Lasers. I was able to win this match by attrition and, by focusing fire on one TIE per turn, was able to get the best of the swarm.

Result: Win 100-0

Round 3 vs. Steven (Imperials)

Steven also flew a swarm-ish list but more in-line with the current meta:

  • Patrol Leader (Gunner, Darth Vader, Engine Upgrade)
  • Academy Pilot x4

I’ve faced lists like this before and the lesson I’ve learned is that it’s often more important to simply reduce my opponent’s overall number of shots available per turn than to get too distracted by the most intimidating ship on the roster. For this reason, I decided to not take any shots on the Decimator until the TIE Fighters were all gone. While this meant that the Decimator was able to fire with impunity, it was important for me to not let the swarm get in the way of either of my ships, particularly Chewbacca who takes a very predictable movement path to get his focus/evade/evade token stack from turn to turn. Without actions, Chewbacca’s survivability goes way down, as does Leebo’s without his access to two focus tokens from the Recon Specialist.

This plan worked well and I was able to take out all of the TIEs and still had one or two shields remaining on Chewbacca and Leebo with all of his hull. Because of the way ships bunched up in the middle I had to split up my ships and Chewbacca had to keep a stress and fly though an asteroid to get back in the fight but I was fortunate enough to avoid taking damage.

Steven concentrated fire on my shieldless Leebo and risked using Vader twice. Leebo’s ability in concert with Determination paid off in spades and I pulled a “Pilot” critical hit both times. Something important to understand about Leebo’s ability is that if he eliminates a critical hit using it and that same critical hit represents all the damage that Leebo would have taken from that attack the timing is such that Gunner does not trigger because Leebo is deemed to have “taken damage” even though he winds up subverting it entirely. Leebo suffered a Structural Damage (-1 Agility) critical hit shortly thereafter but by that time Chewbacca was fully-engaged in the fight and a Decimator at half-damage simply can’t keep up without being able to evade any hits.

Result: Win 100-0

Round 4 vs. Shereef (Imperials)

Simply stated, Shereef is a wild man. He’s studying engineering at Laurentian University which is in a city called Sudbury. Sudbury is a four hour drive from Toronto in clear traffic and, during the last Store Wars series, Shereef would leave Sudbury at 4:00 in the morning to come to a Toronto-area tournament that same day. He’s placed high enough in regional-level tournaments in Canada and Australia to be the proud owner of two sets of the marbled X-Wing dice so you know any game against him is going to be hard-fought.
Shereef is also unwaveringly committed to the TIE Phantom with Echo being his pilot of choice. While many of us (myself included) threw them in the proverbial trash when the change to de-cloak went live a few months ago Shereef instead chose to adapt to the change and kept flying Echo to great results. Shereef’s list today consisted of:

  • Echo (Veteran Instincts, Recon Specialist, Fire Control System, Advanced Cloaking Device)
  • Rear Admiral Chiraneau (Expose, Rebel Captive, Gunner, Mercenary Copilot)

While definitely within the current two-ship meta, Shereef’s list is definitely his own brand. Expose is not an often-seen upgrade at the tournaments I attend but I was interested to see how Shereef would make it work. When I flew Phantom/Decimator lists with regularity I would take Whisper with Gunner for maximum damage potential but Recon Specialist on a Phantom is a great choice, too, as it allows for greater defensive capability. The change to De-Cloak definitely would mean that Phantoms would have less of an opportunity to arc-dodge and, with my dual turret list, that ability is of considerably less efficacy.

The way Shereef flies Echo is really compelling to watch. I had Chewbacca and Leebo one behind the other close to the left board-edge. Shereef was able to use Echo’s curved De-Cloak template to dance around a debris field like a maypole and was continually frustrating me by getting 5-dice defense rolls. But, as green dice are apt to do eventually, those blanks reared their ugly heads and I was able to take away both his shields with a lucky shot through an obstacle from Chewbacca.

I was definitely making Echo my target of priority and fired no shots on Chiraneau because Echo would have certainly be able to shred one of my ships to ribbons if I just ignored her. A few turns later, I had positioned my ships in such a way that Echo had no shot and, as such, would not be able to take a free cloak action. I suspected Shereef would have just cloaked up but, instead, he barrel rolled south to get at range 3 of Chewbacca. I suspect he was hoping that by barrel rolling towards the back of his base he could get Leebo in arc and get the free Cloak action but that was not the case. With only 2 defense dice and no tokens, Echo was destroyed, much to my relief.

At this point I was confident that I could whittle down Chiraneau but carelessness on my part put me at a considerable disadvantage in a few turns. Having not fired a shot at Chiraneau yet that game, I forgot about his Rebel Captive. Chewbacca was sitting there with a stress (as his PTL/Jan/Katarn combo is dependent on it) and, instead of shooting at Chiraneau with Leebo first (who had no stress) I shot with Chewbacca and took on a second stress. Shereef was quite the sportsman and offered to let me swap the stress between the two ships but, given that it was round 4, I chose to take my medicine.

Unfortunately, the next turn I did the very same thing which left Chewie sitting within range 1 of Chiraneau with only a focus token instead of two evades and a focus. Chrianeau had about 8 hull remaining and, with Expose, scored 4 hits on Chewbacca. I was starting to get concerned but thought that if I could roll an evade (or even a focus) and get one more shot in on Chrianeau and do at least two damage I would be able to finish him off with Leebo. In hindsight, I should have converted the focus I got from Kyle Katarn into an evade. I wound up rolling a blank on defense and Chewbacca died without firing a parting shot.

I thought I had blown the game. Chiraneau’s Expose/Gunner combo was yielding consistently high results on offence and, with Leebo only rolling three dice on offence, I was worried that I would get behind on the damage curve. Fortunately, the Mangler Cannon helped out a great deal and, two turns later, I had Chiraneau down to 3 hull and he suffered an “Injured Pilot” critical hit which got rid of Expose and his ability to turn a focus into a critical hit. I was able to do green maneuvers to keep my actions but I was perilously close to the map edge and had to do a hard 1 to be sure I would stay on the map. Unfortunately for me, with the Rebel Captive on Chrianeau, this essentially meant that I would never have an action for the rest of the game as I had two stress on Leebo and would always be getting one each turn from the Rebel Captive. Leebo got Chiraneau down to 1 hull after an extremely clutch roll of two natural evades to take no damage.

At this point, Chrianeau had one hull left to Leebo’s two and the two ships were coming around the opposite sides of the same asteroid. At this point, I thought my goose was cooked. I figured Chrianeau would to a 2-bank or 2-turn around the asteroid to get a range 1 shot on Leebo but, to my surprise, Chiraneau did a 3-turn and collided with Leebo.

Anti-Pursuit Lasers to the rescue. One hit rolled, one dead Chiraneau. I could not believe that the last damage dealt in this harrowing game was dealt by APL.

Result: Win 100-51

Conclusions & Lessons Learned

With my MOV score, my 3-1 record was able to bring me into second place by 13 points. I should just change my online handle from wapcaplets to U-Boat or something because this is becoming a regular occurrence for me to submarine my way into a podium finish after a round 1 or round 2 loss.

While this will help my overall cumulative Store Wars score considerably, I really need to stop making those early-round gaffes that put me in submarine mode in the first place.

It was interesting to face four separate Imperial lists but only face one ship with Autothrusters the whole day. I certainly feel like I got the better end of the Rock/Paper/Scissors battle in this tournament. Three of the lists I faced invested in Vader (two of them with Gunner and Vader on a Decimator) to help create critical hits but that’s what Chewbacca and Leebo are best suited to deal with. I’ll definitely take the points and run but I do feel fortunate that the list I took serendipitously countered a significant portion of the critical hit-based strategy that three of my opponents brought to the table.

A big congratulations goes out to Vijay, my first round opponent, who went 4-0 on the day to win the tournament as the only undefeated player with a very non-meta list. I was particularly chuffed to see Vijay win the day by defeating the Super Dash & Corran Horn list that I hate so much. Kudos, Vijay!

Store Wars, 2015 X-Wing Event #2: The Dragon

Posted: 19th July 2015 by wapcaplets in Battle Report, Gaming, X-Wing

The 2015 Store Wars circuit continued yesterday with an event at The Dragon in Guelph. Without a doubt, the current meta heavily features two-ship lists. Until the rules change to how the Cloak action works, I did really enjoy flying various builds with Whisper (TIE Phantom) and the various Decimators. In the last Store Wars event I switched out Whisper for Soontir Fel which allowed for a more kitted out Rear Admiral Chiraneau than I was accustomed to flying with Whisper but I didn’t fly it to very impressive results.

Something I am seeing more and more of within this two-ship meta is a pilot skill arms race of sorts with one or both pilots having skill 8 or higher through frequent use of the Veteran Instincts elite pilot upgrade. This includes but is not limited to tandems like Han Solo/Corran Horn, Rear Admiral Chiraneau/Soontir Fel, and Boba Fett/IG-88. For this tournament I thought I’d try and put together a durable list with decent firepower that wasn’t particularly concerned with going first. I saw a recent blog post on Team Covenant that I liked the look of which I tweaked a little and went into the tournament with this list:

  • Chewbacca (Push The Limit, Jan Ors, Kyle Katarn, Anti-Pursuit Lasers, Millennium Falcon)
  • Leebo (Determination, Mangler Cannon, Recon Specialist, Outrider)

 

The list that inspired mine had the Heavy Laser Cannon on Leebo but I decided to go with the Mangler so that I wouldn’t be subject to not being able to fire if ships got into the range 1 “donut hole” that the HLC creates. Given the high pilot skill meta and the popularity of giving ships (particularly those with large bases) the Engine Upgrade modification I didn’t want to lose for a lack of being able to shoot back.

The Anti-Pursuit Lasers are a bit of a white elephant in this list. With everything that I had on both ships they came to 98 points. I wasn’t really worried about an initiative bid since I didn’t anticipate having to even consider it with two pilots at skill 5. Neither of my ships have System upgrade slots and my crew slots were fully populated. There are no 2-point missiles and the only modifications that I could afford were Anti-Pursuit Lasers and Tactical Jammer. Neither of those seemed like options that would come up very often so I just decided to throw the APL on Chewie instead of letting the points go to waste.

I was transparent in my last tournament blog about my intense dislike of “Super” Dash Rendar so I was wary of seeming hypocritical with two ships with 360 degree firing arcs. I have flown very few times with the YT-2400 so I decided to give it a go, particularly after hearing others speak of the effectiveness of Determination on Leebo. In my use of Decimators I have been lukewarm on Determination as it often feels highly situational. In concert with Leebo’s ability (“When you are dealt a faceup Damage card, draw 1 additional Damage card, choose 1 to resolve, and discard the other”) it feels much less serendipitous as Leebo is fishing for Pilot cards whereas you’re simply hoping a Pilot critical will come up with a Decimator.

This list was also a two-turret list that didn’t make me want to throw up in my mouth when I looked at it. With their relatively low pilot skill I’d have to be careful about bumping and losing actions as these ships would both be of greatly decreased effectiveness without them. The PTL/Ors/Katarn combo on Chewbacca can, over turns, ensure that Chewbacca has two Evade tokens and a focus every turn which enhances his already high survivability. With RecSpec on Leebo, he also becomes highly effective on offense and defense and could even convert a focus to an Evade with Chewbacca’s Jan Ors.

It Pays to Have Friends Better at the Game Than You

So while the list above was what I brought to the tournament, that was not my initial build. Originally I had Leebo kitted out with a Gunner instead of Recon Specialist thinking it would be great to get multiple shots with the Mangler. Well, idiot, unless you’ve somehow crammed IG-88 B’s robotic brain into your Outrider the Gunner is essentially a five point Wookiee tourist since the Outrider title doesn’t allow for use of a primary weapon attack. I’d like to say that I realized this before the tournament on my own but it was pointed out to me by my friend Chris while we were in the car on the way to the tournament. Fortunately, I realized that I also forgot my damage deck so I had to go back to my house, anyway, before heading to The Dragon so I was able to pick up the RecSpec and APL. Cripes.

Round 1 vs. Darren C. (Scum & Villainy)

Darren is one of my favourite people to play against at tournaments. We’ve wound up playing against each other at the last two tournaments we’ve been at with us each winning one so this was our rubber match. We both laughed when we heard our names paired so I was looking forward to a fun match. Darren has been running with a Boba Fett/IG-88 list of various stripes and today went with the following:

  • Boba Fett (Veteran Instincts, Mangler Cannon, Tactician, Inertial Dampeners, Engine Upgrade)
  • IG-88 B (Veteran Instincts, Advanced Sensors, Mangler Cannon, Inertial Dampeners, Autothrusters)

 

This was a slightly tweaked list from two weeks ago wherein there was a Heavy Laser Cannon on IG-88 B and an Ion Cannon on Boba Fett. For this match-up I liked this list better as the Mangler Cannon’s critical hit-generation was of little concern to Chewbacca and even Leebo had his ability and Determination to hopefully cancel any critical hits that came his way.

One valuable lesson I’ve learned in a two-ship meta is to not split fire. As hard as it may be sometimes, I find it’s best to pick a target and concentrate fire on it until it’s gone. There is not a two-ship list out there that can consistently recover from being down one ship for more than a turn or two; I wanted to be on the positive side of that equation. I decided to focus fire on Boba Fett. IG-88, being more agile, would be harder to hit and Autothrusters would just compound that fact. I had to be mindful of that Boba Fett would be doing everything he could to get within range 1 of me for all those re-rolls on attack and defense.

We chipped at each other’s shields for a few turns but Leebo’s Mangler Cannon really heated up once Fett’s shields were down and I scored an Injured Pilot critical which removed Boba Fett’s pilot ability, therefore making it much more lucrative for me to engage Fett at Range 1 with Chewbacca. After a few turns of bumping into Leebo I managed to take down Fett and, from there I was able to take on and defeat IG-88 with less urgency since I was getting two shots every turn to his one.

I fully acknowledge that my red dice were on fire this game but, as they say, it’s better to be lucky than good.

Result: Win 100-0

Round 2 vs. Chris V. (Scum & Villainy)

Chris is one of the Hamilton players and he and I have played many times. Chris always comes up with very creative and lethal lists and pilots them extremely well. In all the times we’ve faced each other in tournaments I only recall beating him once so I knew this would be a tough match. Chris has been flying a dual-Aggressor list a fair bit lately and brought this version of it to The Dragon:

  • IG-88 B (Veteran Instincts, Autoblaster, Ion Cannon, Accuracy Corrector, Autothrusters, IG-2000)
  • IG-88 C (Veteran Instincts, Autoblaster, Flechette Cannon, Accuracy Corrector, Autothrusters, IG-2000)

 

I know Chris is very good at getting up close and personal with the Autoblaster and, combined with the Accuracy Corrector, that’s damage I didn’t want to be taking frequently. I tried to get too cute and set up my ships at 45 degree angles to each other for a turn of staying put but this was a folly. Being so focused on the Autoblaster I forgot entirely about the Ion Cannon and had Chewie pointing off-board with an Ion after turn 2. I elected to keep the stress to turn inwards but the tactical gaffe compounded over several turns. I went as far forward as I could to try and get out of range of the Aggressors but was just in range and they double-teamed Chewbacca until he was gone a few turns later. Although Leebo was more-or-less at full strength Chris was avoiding practically all of my shots and took Leebo down in short order.

Autothrusters are an upgrade that I am really going to have to give stronger consideration towards if I continue to fly this list. Being able to shoot in a 360 degree arc with 2 ships is very powerful but Autothrusters slow down the effectiveness of shots outside of the primary arc considerably. Autothrusters, when they can be used, essentially takes one of your defense dice and gives all of the blanks an evade symbol. That’s doubling the odds of rolling a natural evade and, if you have a focus token and spend it on defense, that equates to a guaranteed Evade result.

Chris was consistently making great use of the boost/evade ability that IG-88 C provides to simultaneously get within range 1 to get at least 2 guaranteed damage on me with Autoblaster and, in return, I was having most of my shots canceled. Statistically, here are the odds of what a 3 agility ship with an evade token (but not a focus) can expect to roll on defence with Autothrusters in effect vs. without Autothrusters (assuming defending at range 1-2):

Evades With Autothrusters Without Autothrusters
0 0% 0%
1 or more 100% 100%
2 or more 90% 76%
3 or more 49% 32%
4 11% 5%

The 90% chance to cancel 2 or more evades is what shuts down my list, particularly Leebo since he is relying exclusively on a secondary weapon which gets no additional dice when at range 1 which is where Chris’ IG-88s with Autoblasters live. It will be very challenging at pilot skill 5 to keep ships with Autothrusters in my primary arc but it’s something to which I’ll need to devote significant thought as the dual-Aggressor list is popular right now.

Result: Loss 0-100

Round 3 vs. Ron N. (Scum & Villainy)

Ron is another one of the players local to me that I’ve played a few times. He’s relatively new to X-Wing but has become highly competitive in a short amount of time. This time Ron was running the following Scum & Villainy list:

  • Boba Fett (Veteran Instincts, Autoblaster, Recon Specialist, Engine Upgrade)
  • Syndicate Thug (Blaster Turret, R4 Agromech, BTL-A4 Y-Wing) x2

 

When Scum & Villainy came out they gave me a reason to want to fly Y-Wings again, particularly the various Salvaged Astromech upgrades. The BLT (yes, I know it’s “BTL” but I can’t help but call it a BLT) title card remains a bit of a puzzler for me. The turret weapons on Y-Wings always felt right-sized to me because they mitigated the fact that Y-Wings maneuver like shopping carts. Getting two attacks is definitely powerful but having to keep your targets within the primary arc of a Y-Wing feels daunting.

The combo Ron put together with the Blaster Turret and R4 Agromech is interesting, though, and makes up for not being able to use Recon Specialist or the Moldy Crow title to have extra focus with which to activate and make use during the same attack.

  

We lined up our ships on opposite corners of the map and I was seeking to turn both my ships 90 degrees centre-wise after a few turns. We met in the middle of the obstacles we set up and the opening salvo had his three ships firing on Leebo with Chewbacca just a bit too far to contribute to the fight. I thought I was in trouble but Leebo rolled evades like a champ and sustained minimal damage. I chose to concentrate fire on a Y-Wing and was able to take one down and managed to remain out of arc of the other one for many of the subsequent turns until it was destroyed.

Something worth noting in this game was that every hull damage I dealt to the Y-Wings was a critical hit. It was just silly. I expected to get more critical hits than usual with the Mangler cannon on Leebo but my attacks from both Chewbacca and Leebo were routinely yielding multiple critical hits. In my effort to take down the Y-Wings Chewbacca had sustained significant damage and the board looked something like this right before the last turn:

Ron had sustained a Console Fire critical hit card the turn before which reads: At the start of each combat phase, roll 1 attack die. On a (hit) result suffer 1 damage. Action: Flip this card down. Ron declared focus as his action and placed two focus tokens next to Boba Fett and picked up his A-Dice for what could have been the finishing shot on Chewie with the Autoblaster. Before he rolled I said, “OK, roll for your Console Fire.” Ron rolled a hit and Boba Fett died before he had a chance to take a shot.

I was in a bit of a moral quandary here because, although Ron had forgotten about the Console Fire, I felt like a bit of a stooge by not reminding him that he had a console fire before he declared a focus action. We had already started cleaning up and I said that I felt bad about the way the game ended so we ret-conned and set the ships up again and assumed Ron had used his action to flip over the Console fire and rolled it out. Selfishly, I was not as concerned about whether I’d win or lose at that point but was more in a mindset of scrounging for MOV points as losing Chewbacca could wind up being meaningful in the final standings. Luckily, without a focus token, Boba only scored 1 hit on Chewbacca (he had 2 hull remaining) and I was able to finish off Boba Fett that same turn.

Result: Win 100-0

Round 4 vs. Colin (Rebels)

Going into the last round I was 2-1 with a 400 MOV. The top table had two players who were 3-0 with the winner of that match receiving first place with certainty. I had a chance at second place if I came through with a stronger MOV score than whoever lost at the top table. My list would really have its mettle tested in this final round as I was facing two high skill pilots that are definitely top-tier:

  • Han Solo (Predator, Recon Specialist, Jan Ors)
  • Corran Horn (Veteran Instincts, Fire Control System, R2-D2, Engine Upgrade)

 

I decided before the match began that I was going to ignore Han entirely and focus fire on Corran. This version of Han Solo wasn’t as tanky as the “Fat Han” builds with C-3PO and R2-D2 so I figured if I could take out Corran without losing too much off of Chewbacca or Leebo I’d be in pretty good shape to take down Han. In the initial exchange I only took one shield off of Corran which I knew he would gain right back the next round with R2-D2. I stuck to the plan, however, and eventually wore Corran’s shields down to zero but wasn’t able to poke through to the hull and he evaded quite a few of my shots. I thought I was in trouble when the board looked something like this:

I forget exactly where Han was but he was somewhere to the west off-screen per the depiction above. Chewbacca’s primary arc is there to illustrate that Corran Horn was definitely at range 3 to Chewbacca. Whether or not Leebo was in Corran’s arc was hard to tell. If he was in, he was barely in. I expected Colin to boost to get Leebo into his firing arc and wind up where the ghosted version of Corran is in the above screenshot which would still have him at range 3 to Chewbacca and at range 1 to Leebo. Instead, Colin did a barrel roll south which put him at range 2 to Chewbacca. Corran took his shot on Leebo and scored a few hits taking him into his hull but I then fired back and was able to take out Corran, much to my relief.

Even with Corran off the table the game was far from over. At this point, Han was only down two shields so I was far from being in clean-up mode. At this point my squad’s damage mitigation abilities really paid off. Han took some shots on Leebo and scored a critical hit. I drew two Ship cards so, while I was hoping to see one that said Pilot, I was at least able to pick Weapon Malfunction which reduced my primary weapon by 1 which is pretty much inconsequential to a ship with the Outrider title. The next turn, Han fired again on Leebo and I was able to pull a Pilot critical hit and discard it wholesale. By this time I was through Han’s shields and dealt a very timely Blinded Pilot to Han which really put me ahead on the damage curve and I was able to take out Han before he finished off Chewbacca or Leebo.

Result: Win 100-0

Conclusions & Lessons Learned

Enemy, thy name is Aggressors with Autothrusters. I feel like this list accomplished everything it needed to in terms of not crumbling against higher pilot skill but that game against Chris in round 2 illustrated, more than anything, that Autothrusters stop my list’s damage output dead in its tracks. At present, the only ships eligible to take Autothrusters are Aggressors, A-Wings, StarVipers, and TIE Interceptors, with TIE Punishers forthcoming. IG-88 is uniquely poised to get the most out of Autothrusters as it can live for many more turns taking a ping of damage compared to any of those other ships. As challenging as it will be, I will need to come up with ways to keep IG-88 in my primary arc at range 1-2, particularly against dual-Aggressor lists.

Although it’s a small sample size, my experience today had this list either winning convincingly or losing catastrophically. Keeping ahead of the damage curve is essential for this list as the game against Chris proved. That’s hardly an epiphany but some lists I’ve played that included the pre-nerf TIE Phantom were able to come from behind against superior numbers by arc-dodging; this list can’t do that.

I don’t think there is anything I’d tweak with this list. Chewbacca and Leebo’s abilities are such that I know I will not suffer momentum-killing critical hits like Blinded Pilot except in corner cases against Rexler Brath. I think I either need to fly Chewbacca more into the midst of things or switch the Anti-Pursuit Lasers over to Leebo. All day, only one ship collided with Chewbacca but I can recall frequent collisions with Leebo, particularly in my game against Darren.

I finished the tournament with three wins and a loss with a 600 MOV which was good enough for second place after four Swiss rounds. This is definitely a list I’d fly again.

Always With The Magnets

Posted: 10th July 2015 by wapcaplets in Gaming, X-Wing

Now that I’ve owned some of my X-Wing ships for over two years, signs of wear and tear are occurring. One component of my ships that is particularly starting to deteriorate is the small tube of plastic connected to the ship into which the flight pegs are inserted are cracking and/or loosening to the point that they don’t rest snug on the flight pegs anymore. With a modest investment in some magnets, however, this can be easily fixed.

For small-based ships, all you need are some ring magnets and stainless steel balls. Measurement-wise, the ring magnets I’ve seen used and used myself have a 1/4” outer diameter, 1/8” inner diameter, and a 1/8” thickness. There are likely many places online and in-real-life where you can buy them but I got mine from a site called K&J Magnetics (their SKU# R422).

To go with the ring magnets you’ll need some 3/16” stainless steel balls. K&J sells them but, because they’re relatively heavy for the size they are, will only ship them via UPS to Canada. However, within five minutes of searching on eBay I was able to buy a bag of 100 from Hong Kong which, to my door, was under $10.

Adding the magnets is easy. First, simply super-glue a steel ball to the plastic peg coming out of your ship. Then, clip the thin nub at the top of a flight peg off and glue the ring magnet onto it. For my first few I clipped the entire nub off and filed the top of the flight peg flat but this actually made affixing the ring magnet harder. While it’s best for the ring magnet to sit as flat as possible on the flight peg it’s not vital for it to be perfectly level. I found leaving a millimeter or so of thin peg helped keep the ring magnet on the peg better while the glue was drying.

Once the glue has dried, simply place the steel ball into the ring magnet and you’ve got a ship resting on a pivoting joint like so:

Not only is this a more hale and hardy flight peg but it allows you to have some fun and “pose” your ships during game play. I find that all the ships being perfectly aligned at 90 degrees in three-space gives them a bit of a stagnant look. Being able to put them at dynamic angles gives some life to them. For example, here are four Rebel ships as they sit on their stands out-of-the-box:

Here are the same Rebel ships with magnets installed and re-posed:

Seeing those two pictures side-by-side reminds me of the stoic, posed family photo and then the “OK, do whatever you want” photo. Here are some Imperial ships in the same contrasting scenarios:

I have seen some large-based ships tricked out with larger magnets but I’m reluctant to do that to mine. With the exception of the Aggressor, the larger ships are heavy enough to fall over unless you have a really strong magnet holding it in place. That doesn’t seem to bother R5Don4 but that guy is a bit mental.

Yesterday was the first event in the 2015 Store Wars tournament series for X-Wing. For those reading this that may not know what that is, six stores in Ontario between St. Catharines and Mississauga are working together to hold a twelve-tournament series (two at each store) where players earn points cumulatively based on how they place in each tournament. The top 16 players by point standings will take place in an invitational “finale” tournament in the fall (disclaimer: I haven’t seen this officially announced by the Store Wars organizing body yet but I’m told by those more informed than myself that this is the plan).

The Hobby Kingdom in Burlington was the location and 20 people showed up to fight it out. Last year, I ran a bunch of different lists for Store Wars but in the tournaments post-Store Wars I ran lists comprised of various Decimators and Whisper. I haven’t flown a Phantom since the change to de-cloak and don’t anticipate my doing so but I did like the way those two ships flew together so I’m using the following as my baseline 99-point list for this year’s Store Wars:

  • Rear Admiral Chiraneau (Veteran Instincts, Engine Upgrade, Ysane Isard, Rebel Captive, Gunner) – 63 points
  • Soontir Fel (Push the Limit, Royal Guard TIE, Autothrusters, Shield Upgrade) – 36 points

  

A primary consideration for this list is to counter the following Dash Rendar/Corran Horn list out there (which I facetiously refer to as “Easy Mode”) that are the dominant strategy:

  • Dash Rendar (Push the Limit, Engine Upgrade, Kyle Katarn, Outrider, Heavy Laser Cannon)
  • Corran Horn (Veteran Instints, Engine Upgrade, R2-D2, Fire Control System)

  

Both Chiraneau and Fel configured as above have the ability to boost into Dash’s “Donut Hole” when equipped with the Heavy Laser Cannon and having Veteran Instincts on Chiraneau can, theoretically, give him the ability to boost out of Corran’s arc, assuming he survives that long! I agonized over taking Veteran Instincts or Determination on Chiraneau. I had one glorious game with a Decimator when Predator discarded three Pilot critical hits in the same game but it’s been more often the case that I’ll go an entire tournament without a Pilot critical hit coming up once.

The good news with this list is that my Fel build will likely remain unchanged. Some have told me to take a Targeting Computer instead of a shield, which I may try at some point but I like the security of being able to cancel that one fluke end-of-the-round range 3 obstructed critical hit against which I roll all blanks on defense with Fel.

Fel at 36 points also is cheaper than the typical Whisper I would take at 45 points, equipped with Gunner, Veteran Instincts, Advanced Cloaking Device, and Fire Control System so that allows for more configuration options on the Decimator with which I will likely experiment over the course of the tournament series.

Round 1 vs. Nelson C. (Imperials)

I’ve seen Nelson at a few tournaments before but we’ve never played against each other so I was glad to get to play a new opponent. A big part of what I like about Store Wars is that it gets everyone out of their local scenes to more outlying areas and you wind up playing people that you don’t see every week. Nelson commented that he had a grudge against a list similar to mine so he was definitely fighting with a purpose. His list was as follows:

  • Colonel Vessery (Heavy Laser Cannon, Lone Wolf) – 44 points
  • Kath Scarlet (Mangler Cannon, Gunner, Predator, Engine Upgrade) – 56 points

  

The Mangler/Kath combo did very well for Nelson early on and left Fel with three stress on him and down his shield after the initial exchange. I had a chance to recover but Fel rolled all blanks to a token-less HLC shot that yielded three hits. Vessery’s green dice kept him on the board with one hull remaining for the rest of the game. Even with Fel gone, I think I still had a decent chance to win by boosting in Kath’s side-arcs but having to defend against two ships with a 0-agility Decimator is a tall order, particularly after suffering a Blinded Pilot in an early round which had a chance to finish off Vessery.

Result: Loss 0-100

Round 2 vs. Phil B. (Imperials)

Phil, who came all the way from Pickering to play, was relatively new to the game and a real pleasure to play. His list was a throw-back to the days when TIE Interceptors were brand new:

  • Soontir Fel (Push The Limit, Royal Guard TIE, Stealth Device, Autothrusters) – 35 points
  • Carnor Jax (Push The Limit, Royal Guard TIE, Hull Upgrade, Autothrusters) – 34 points
  • Dark Curse – 16 points
  • Night Beast – 15 points

  

  

Simply stated, Phil being new to the game contributed heavily to how this match turned out. That is said without a shred of arrogance as we were both at the bottom table having sustained 100-0 defeats the prior round. Phil lined up his ships at more-or-less equidistant intervals along his table edge to which I responded by lining up Chiraneau and Fel directly opposite his Fel. An unfortunate collision into his own ship left his Fel token-less and he was taken out promptly. From there, fortune was cruel and dealt Jax a Blinded Pilot and I was able to boost Chiraneau out of Jax’s arc for three or four turns before Jax got a shot off. Eventually it came down to Jax on his own against Fel and Chiraneau and, while Autothrusters did their job and made the task take quite a few turns, I was able to win without losing a ship. This was important because I would need very strong margin of victory on my remaining matches to have a chance to make the top 8 cut.

Result: Win 100-0

Round 3 vs. Darren C. (Scum & Villainy)

Darren and I have played each other a few times and he’s an opponent against whom I really enjoy playing. The last time we played was about a month ago at a tournament at Black Knight Games where he was flying a list similar to the one he flew today:

  • IG-88 B (Veteran Instincts, Inertial Dampeners, Autothrusters, Advanced Sensors, Heavy Laser Cannon) – 50 points
  • Boba Fett (Veteran Instincts, Ion Cannon, Tactician, Inertial Dampeners, Engine Upgrade) – 50 points

  

The last time Darren and I played I was running a list with Fel, Vader, Dark Curse, and an Academy Pilot and we went the whole game until the very last turn without a single ship dying when he took down Darth Vader to win. My mistake that game was trying too hard to get into range 1 of Boba Fett and his re-rolls on defense were what kept him alive. This build with Boba Fett was compelling because, at every range band, he punishes you in some way:

  • Range Band 1: Re-rolls on attack and defense from Boba Fett’s ability.
  • Range Band 2: Stress handed out from Tactician.
  • Range Band 3: No bonus green dice versus the Ion Cannon.

I gave Darren the initiative and he started by placing IG-88 in a corner and I responded by deploying Fel in the opposite corner. He surprised me by placing Boba Fett in the corner opposite to his IG-88 so I placed Chiraneau right next to Fel. The initial exchange went very much in my favour. I was able to remain at Range 3 with Fel and avoided an Ion Cannon shot and, between Chiraneau and Fel, was able to take down Boba Fett before IG-88 crossed the board and made a meaningful contribution to the fight.

There was one moment in this match when I felt my head really took over my natural inclination and showed, in some small way, that I’ve gained a speck of wisdom over the past year. Fel had already lost his shield and IG-88 B fired the HLC at him after a S-Loop. The attack yielded two hits and I rolled one evade and two blanks but had an evade token left. I almost instantly declared evading both shots but reflected for a moment and opted not to use the evade token and sustain one normal damage to have the attack end. Although this was fully 1/3 of Fel’s remaining hull it wound up being the wise choice as it not only ended the attack but, given the placement of the ships, made it unlikely that Fel would have to even defend another shot for two more rounds as IG-88 had made an S-Loop to be in position to shoot at Fel at all and would need to clear stress before being able to turn again. At that point, I had Chiraneu and Fel both behind IG-88 and, a few turns later (after an unfortunate asteroid landing on IG-88’s part) finished off the Assassin Droid for the win.

Result: Win 100-0

Round 4 vs. Mike W. (Rebels)

Mike was running a Super-Dash list that had the Dash build I expected to face but a different supporting ship than Corran Horn:

  • Dash Rendar (Push the Limit, Heavy Laser Cannon, Outrider, Engine Upgrade, Kyle Katarn) – 58 points
  • Ten Numb (Mangler Cannon, B-Wing/E-2, C-3PO, Veteran Instincts, Fire Control System) – 42 points

  

I’ll just come right out and say it: I hate Super Dash. What I hate even more is that I built my list specifically to counter it and it Dash still cleaned my clock. I have not encountered any ship that so thoroughly turns every lemon thrown at it into lemonade. Even with Rebel Captive handing out stress Dash just smiles and turns it into a focus token with Kyle Katarn, not caring if he collides with obstacles or ships. It did not help the Chiraneau suffered a “Damaged Sensor Array” critical that kept me from being able to boost within Range 1 of Dash and the HLC just whittled me down bit by bit.

I managed to take down Ten Numb but it was too little too late. Fel got in one lucky shot on Numb but then suffered the Damaged Engine critical and couldn’t clear stress by making the 2 hard right maneuver and just kept taking an unavoidable critical hit every turn until he died.

Result: Loss 42-100

Round 5 vs. Rick W. (Scum & Villainy)

Rick was flying a two-ship Mercenary list that made some unconventional but innovative choices:

  • Guri (Push the Limit, Virago, Autothrusters, Advanced Sensors, “Hot Shot” Blaster) – 42 points
  • IG-88 B (Push the Limit, Advanced Sensors, Heavy Laser Cannon, Seismic Charges, “Hot Shot” Blaster, Auththrusters) – 56 points

  

This list made frequent use of an ingenious combo with Push the Limit and Advanced Sensors that I’d never seen before. Here is the precise wording for those upgrades for reference:

  

The combo Rick was using went in this sequence:

  1. Declare use of Advanced Sensors before revealing a maneuver; perform an action.
  2. With Push the Limit, take the free action after the action performed in the previous step and receive a stress token.
  3. Reveal a green maneuver and remove the stress from the previous step.

This allowed for risk-free two-action turns where it didn’t even matter if the ship making use of the combo wound up colliding with a ship or obstacle because no denial of actions would take place. I fully intend to steal this idea.
As far as this game goes, there’s not much to tell and I have to acknowledge that I played very poorly. I decided to go after Guri first and focused fire on her with both Fel and Chiraneau. Despite keeping Guri in arc and managing to remove her shield and reduce her agility by 1 her Autothrusters completely shut down the Admiral and timely use of the Hot Shot Blaster took out Fel. I did not help myself by completely forgetting to use Autothrusters and Rebel Captive for the whole game and, once I lost Fel, decided to concede as I did not like my chances taking out a full-strength IG-88 with a Decmiator that had already lost its shields. Remembering to use those abilities could have made for a very different game.

Result: Loss 0-100

Conclusions & Lessons Learned

I must have gone back and forth a dozen times as to whether I would put Determination or Veteran Instincts on Chiraneau when I was making this list. I build it specifically to counter Corran and Dash and valued the pilot skill 10 highly but being able to cancel a critical hit one time in four should increase the survivability of the Decimator. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve flown Decimators with Determination at tournaments and gone the whole day without having any critical hits come up with the Pilot keyword yet, today, the very first critical hit I suffered was Blinded Pilot which had heavy costs and that same critical hit reared its ugly head in round four.

Obviously, a 2-3 record is a disappointment, particularly knowing the mistakes I made. It’s embarrassing to have forgotten Rebel Captive and Autothrusters as many times as I did in round 5. This phenomenon in isolation confirms that I am out of tournament shape. In my first match, although I lost, I made inerrant use of everything that required active memory (Gunner, Rebel Captive, and Autothrusters) but as the day wore on I got more and more mentally tired and things started to slip. If I’m going to have a decent showing for the rest of Store Wars I am going to need to be more disciplined.

42

Posted: 23rd June 2015 by wapcaplets in Announcements

Comic Book Collection For Sale For a Cause

Posted: 8th February 2015 by wapcaplets in Life

A friend-of-a-friend of mine has had some real hard luck. He’s in his 60s and has spend his life working for a variety of non-profit organizations. Spiritually rewarding work, for sure, but it hasn’t left him with a lot of money in what should be his retirement years. Within the past year, both his wife and his best friend have died so he’s had a rough time of it. He was the executor of his friend’s will and has a comic book collection. I’ve made an inventory of the comics and am looking to sell them and 100% of the money will go to this individual to help with his day-to-day expenses.

A complete inventory of the comics is here: http://tinyurl.com/kasgh5m

It’s mostly stuff from the 1980s and 1990s. Here are some highlights of what’s there:

  • 119 of the 120-issue run of “Groo The Wanderer” on Epic Comics
  • Complete original run of the Watchmen
  • Lots of Usagi Yojimbo
  • Flaming Carrot Comics

Obviously, my preference is to sell everything as one big lot but if there are any books there you’re interested in drop me a PM and we’ll work something out. Also, if you know any comic collectors that would be interested please let me know.

Thanks!

The Big Bruiser & Little Weasel

Posted: 7th December 2014 by wapcaplets in Battle Report, Gaming, X-Wing

I have to admit that the release of Wave 5 for X-Wing was not one that had me overly excited. Of course, trying out new ships is always a fun experience but I didn’t have any particular nostalgia for the Outrider or Decimator like I did for the TIE Interceptor or TIE Defender. It doesn’t help that the upcoming Scum and Villainy are among the most highly-anticipated ships and their being announced before Wave 5 was even released stole their thunder.

Once I got them in my hands, however, the possibilities that existed for the Decimator really intrigued me. Having a large-base ship for my beloved Imperials with a 360-degree primary firing arc was definitely attractive but the maneuver dial was particularly compelling:


The VT-49 Decimator’s red-free maneuver dial

Not having a K-Turn option really makes the Lambda challenging to pilot but I don’t see this as a significant negative on a ship with a built-in turret weapon. The overall maneuverability is fantastic on this ship with absolutely no red maneuvers and every feasible maneuver between distances 1 and 3 except for the 90-degree right turn at distance 1. The green maneuvers at only distances 2 and 3 are interesting. Having this ship take on stress would only come from external effects like Rebel Captive or Push The Limit so the need to clear stress isn’t as important. Also interesting about the Decimator is the three (count ‘em) three crew slots available.


Captain Oicunn: collision specialist

I decided to give Captain Oicunn a try. I’m a little out of practice with large-base ships so I figured that I may as well take one that confers me a benefit for overlapping other ships. I had a few builds with Oicunn that I liked but I was indecisive as to what I wanted to take with him. I often take one featured ship and a mini-swarm to accompany it. I could have taken Howlrunner with Swarm Tactics and two Academy Pilots but that seemed a little predictable. Three TIE Fighters only have a combined offensive output of six A-Dice and I wanted something with a little more punch. I decided to go with a fully loaded Whisper as an accompanying ship. This made me a little apprehensive as a two-ship list is a lot of eggs in two baskets but, minimally, I liked the theme of a big, lumbering gun platform and sneaky insect buzzing around causing havoc. My final squad list was:

The Big Bruiser & Little Weasel

  • Captain Oicunn (Mara Jade, Ysanne Isard, Gunner, Determination) – 55 points
  • Whisper (Veteran Instincts, Gunner, Advanced Cloaking Device, Fire Control System) – 44 points

With zero agility, the Decimator needs to make its impact felt early because it’s going to take a lot of hits and likely be destroyed. I was looking for anything I could to increase its survivability. Determination seemed like the most economical choice. Since 25% of the damage deck’s critical effects have the Pilot keyword, I liked the prospect of canceling one critical in four on the Decimator (statistically, at least). Ysanne Isard (Imperial only. At the start of the Combat phase, if you have no shields and at least 1 Damage card assigned to your ship, you may perform a free evade action) felt a little expensive at four points but any automatic damage reduction still felt like a good idea.

My Whisper build is not anything new and has been seen frequently. I liked that I was able to get the squad to something I felt would be effective at 99 points so that I’d likely get to make the initiative decision. I took this squad to a small tournament of six people at Just By Chance Games in Waterloo, Ontario.

Game 1 vs. Brian (Rebels)

Brian was playing in only his second or third game ever and brought a list that hearkened back to the days of Wave 1:

  • Wedge Antilles (R5-P9, Shield Upgrade)
  • Luke Skywalker (R2-D2, Shield Upgrade)
  • Dutch Vander (Ion Cannon Turret)

Selfishly, I was grateful to be playing someone a little less experienced as I knew my squad had a lot of moving parts that required active memory. I don’t get satisfaction from pwning noobz but I figured the mistakes I was bound to make would be easier to overcome against a less-experienced opponent. Brian was a gentleman and fun to play against but he was unfamiliar with the synergy his squad could use to be most effective. He never used Dutch’s ability once, for example, but that was because he didn’t really know how it was meant to work. He ionized Oicunn effectively but brought his X-Wings in too close which was to my benefit as my Decimator wound up staying put after the ionization, doing collision damage to Luke, and stressing out both X-Wings. This allowed for Whisper to come in from behind and lay heavy damage on Luke and Dutch with no retaliation.

Some mistakes I made that I needed to correct were that I forgot at least once to give Oicunn a free evade action at the start of combat and also being too conservative with my use of Whisper’s focus token given that she had Fire Control System and Gunner. Although Wedge didn’t cause me too many headaches, he could have been destroyed one turn earlier had a spent a focus token. I was able to win this match 100-0 with 2 hull left on the Decimator and Whisper untouched.

Game 2 vs Dave (Rebels)

I’m embarrassed to say that I forget the name of my round 2 opponent so I’ll refer to him as Dave for ease of readability. Dave was running a Rebel swarm that I thought would be very troublesome before the game started:

  • Blue Squadron Pilot (B-Wing/E2, Tactician)
  • Blue Squadron Pilot (Fire Control System) x2
  • Prototype Pilot (Chardaan Refit)
  • Bandit Squadron Pilot

Five-ship Rebel lists are scary, particularly when they include 3 B-Wings with that much firepower. I was very concerned that they would shred the Decimator early. My game plan was to fly the Decimator right at the B-Wings and take out one or two, confident that Whisper’s superior maneuverability and firepower could deal with everything else.

This game was a living metaphor for how my squad was supposed to work which must have been extremely frustrating for Dave. For starters, on the second turn I destroyed the Prototype pilot in one salvo from Whisper with two hits and a Direct Hit. My Decimator’s shields went down quickly but in the ensuing attacks four critical hits were deal to me; three of them had the pilot keyword (which were nullified entirely by Determination) and the fourth was inconsequential (Minor Hull Breach; not bad for a ship with no red on the maneuver dial). Dave’s attack dice also betrayed him at a key moment when he had both a B-Wing and his Headhunter at range 1 and those seven attack dice yielded zero net damage (one hit total cancelled by my free Evade action from Isard).

Because the Decimator gave the B-Wings so much stress they took a long time to turn around and got in relatively few shots. By the end of the game my Decimator had only one hull left and Whisper was untouched for another 100-0 victory. I cannot over-emphasize how lucky I was to pull that many “Pilot” critical hits which certainly made all the difference.

Round 3 vs. Spencer (Rebels)

Spencer was running another five-ship Rebel list of a slightly different flavour than Dave:

  • Biggs Darklighter
  • Blue Squadron Pilot x2
  • Prototype Pilot (Chardaan Refit) x2

I figured that what worked against Dave should work against this list so I flew my Decimator right at his squad while Whisper came in from the flank. Spencer flew his ships in a square formation as opposed to Dave who deployed his ships in a line and that worked out much better for Spencer. With his A-Wings in the front he ensured that, when I collided with his block of ships, I wouldn’t be able to leap-frog the group so his B-Wings would get some solid range 1 shots. The Decimator took some heavy hits and I only pulled one Pilot critical card out of the three or four that I suffered which included one Direct Hit. That Direct Hit turned out to be a huge difference-maker in the game as Spencer did just enough damage to destroy my Decimator before the end of combat. Had that critical been anything other than a Direct Hit, ceteris paribus, I would have had the Decimator for one more round and it would have handed stress to four of his ships.

After Oicunn bit the dust I had a heck of a job ahead of me as all of Spencer’s ships were still on the board. I made a valiant effort and took out Biggs and one of the A-Wings but I mis-calculated a turn, collided with one the B-Wings, and was a sitting duck with only 2 agility dice. Spencer definitely made the right decision to concentrate fire on the Decimator early in the fashion that he did. Even though Whisper was still a gigantic threat it was very challenging to stay out of five ships’ firing arcs which eventually caught up with me.

Chardaan Refit Rant

I’ll just come right out and say it: Chardaan refit is broken and should be banned from tournament play. In general, I hate components in point-build games that give negative point-costs and allow players to over-cost squads. I used to play Pirates of the Spanish Main when it was an active game and they had “Ransom” crew members that did something similar to Chardaan Refit but their net effect was that they became auto-includes in every fleet and just artificially increased the number of squad points people brought to every game.

Broken is not a word I throw around lightly and I get annoyed when others use the term incorrectly. Most of the time when gamers cry “broken” what they really mean is “I wasn’t anticipating that tactic, it was too effective against me, and I take no accountability for not having planned for it.” I feel justified in calling Chardaan Refit broken, though, because it facilitates a way for Rebel swarms to have more than 100 points in their squad with no opportunity cost.

Before I continue, let me be clear that I’m not accusing my opponents that used Chardaan Refits today of doing anything untoward or unsportsmanlike. Rules is rules and they played according to the rules. That being said, I’ll use my round 3 opponent’s squad as an example as to why Chardaan Refit is broken.

The perceived cost/benefit when taking Chardaan Refit on an A-Wing is that one is yielding the use of that ship’s Missile slot in exchange for two extra build points. However, for Rebel swarm squads that are making use of low-cost A-Wing pilots the Chardaan Refit is an opportunity to get something for nothing. Consider the list that my round 3 opponent took:

  • Biggs Darklighter (25 points)
  • Blue Squadron B-Wing x2 (44 points)
  • Prototype Pilot x2 (34 points)

That is a 103 point list which, prior to Chardaan Refit, would not be viable. Missiles would never have been a consideration in that list so having Chardaan Refits occupy the Missile slot of the Prototype Pilots is not altering the tactics of this list in any way. Now, simply by adding Chardaan Refit to both A-Wings, a 103-point list is legal with no counter-balancing disadvantage. For this specific list, the Chardaan Refits were the difference between taking Biggs and a Rookie Pilot. One might be tempted to say that three points isn’t that big of a difference but I’d disagree. With three extra points I could have given my Decimator a Hull Upgrade which, in that game, would have kept it alive for one more round and had a significant impact on how the game went after the point at which it had been destroyed in actuality.

I’m not a game designer so I won’t make reactionary suggestions as to how Chardaan Refit could be changed to make it viable but this example alone illustrates that, in the context of lists that never factored Missiles into their tactics, Chardaan Refits are literally a broken game component since they allow for squads of greater than 100 points to be legal for tournament play without any counterbalancing.

Conclusions

Overall, I really enjoyed my first experience with the Decimator. I play Imperials almost exclusively and when I do fly Rebels I usually fly squads made up entirely of small-based ships so the Millennium Falcon is not something I’m used to using. I must say that after the first round or two of not having to worry about whether or not my opponent’s ships were in my primary arc made me think, “Hey, this is nice. I could get used to this” and “No wonder people play Fat Han lists so often.”

I’ll be interested to try out some variations on this theme and what I’m most looking forward to exploring is which ships to take as support for a Decimator. I expect that, over time against opponents of approximately equal skill, the Decimator will not survive until the end of the game at least half of the time. The difference between winning and losing will be how effective the balance of the squad is when the Decimator leaves the table.