This tournament was hilarious, like so ridiculously crazy that I can't help but laugh. I guess you could call it situational irony because what I expected to happen at this tournament wasn't even close to reality.
I'll start off by saying that life is more than numbers. Numbers can be a strong indicator of success but it should never thought of as the success itself. I had the wonderful experience of serving as a missionary and when I think back on those memories I don't count numbers, I count faces. So yeah, I scored a win-loss of 1-2 at this tournament. That means no improvement from the first tournament, right? Not even close.
Throw the numbers aside for a second and let's look at the experience. Probably more things went against me in this tournament than the first one, but I had fun. In fact, I was having a blast. I arrived happy, made a few new friends, and left enriched both socially and intellectually. And that is a huge step of progress from the memories and emotions of my first tournament experience. But emotions aside, I promised you a battle report. Along with having fun I learned a lot of things, so let's discuss them.
First off, let's take a look at my squad in the same way I did for my first tournament build:
Grey Knight Squad:
Y-wing w/ Horton - 37 Points
X-wing w/ Rookie - 21 Points
X-wing w/ Rookie - 21 Points
X-wing w/ Rookie - 21 Points
4 Ship Rule - Check
Strengths - Strong alpha strike & jousting, giving early criticals, formation flying, dog-fighting, focusing fire on high agility targets.
Weaknesses - Essentially the opposite: squads that avoid an alpha strike, heavily shielded ships, low agility targets.
This build is actually the second version. The first version had no turret and 2 B's with 1 X. But in my practicing, and with some good feedback from a friend, I made some changes. I wanted to fly this squad in formation with the 2 B-wings on point for cover. But I found that it was impossible to do this with 2 and 4 K-turn ships both flying in box formation. So instead I took 3 X-wings which allows for much easier flying. Also, after the initial strike I found that Horton was dying too soon so I gave him an auto-blaster turret as a deterrent. I honestly didn't even plan on using the thing, it was just a well-priced protection policy to prevent Horton from being swarmed close range. That way he could perform strafing runs under less pressure.
Since I built this squad to specifically fly in box formation I practiced long and hard on it. And boy I got pretty good! I could plan a few turns head and learned to properly measure distances in my mind. This allowed me to get that box to where I wanted to be at the right time, especially around asteroids. I felt sure in my skills and in my squad and I had a good attitude going in. So let's look at my competitors.
Game 1 - Loss
You probably guessed the bane of my squad just from reading the weaknesses section. As luck would have it, the first game I played was against an Outrider with a HLC turret. I didn't realize it when I entered the game but I was in for a hard time. I didn't know because I don't have an Outrider myself and so I still had yet to learn how they really worked. But I sure did learn fast! My opponent's Outrider was flown so smoothly and delicately out at an extreme range 3 that Horton never got a lock on him and I didn't get to use my ordnance that game. Moreover, he was able to engage my X-wings on a one to one basis which meant the dice trading was always in his favor.
The second ship in his squad was a B-wing with a very incredible build: Keyan with Navigator and Stay on Target. I had never heard of this build before but it is quite amazing. For the price of taking a stress on himself, Keyan can switch his maneuver dial to any other movement he wants during his activation. Then using his pilot ability, Keyan can use the stress as an offensive focus. The build is essentially a pilot skill grab: the only way to beat it is to have a higher pilot skill than Keyan so that he has to move before you. And my Horton did beat his Keyan with PS 8 to 7 but shucks if Horton could do anything about it. He was built for strafing runs, not for chasing ships. And we all know how unmaneuverable Y-wings are. Here is the mistake I didn't catch while squad-building: I had made an unconscious play for the highest pilot skill and didn't back up that move. I chose Horton because of his ability, not because of his pilot skill. But it is a package deal and since I didn't use his higher pilot skill those spent points were wasted, just like my unfired ordnance.
The third thing that caught me off-guard in this game was my opponent's target priority. Apparently I misjudged the impact of the Auto-blaster Turret. I thought it would just keep enemies away from range 1 but it did more than that. The two enemy ships completely ignored Horton and focused instead on the X's. That is how I learned that the meta game hates auto-blasters. In fact, I believe most players hate it more than they do dice variance and I can understand them. It's one thing to have the dice give you blanks but it is another to have dice forcibly taken from with an auto-blaster or similar ability. I'll remember that in the future.
All in all, I didn't lose to horribly, I will say that. Despite being heavily bombarded from afar and being drastically outmaneuvered I was able to get through half of the Outrider and take Keyan down to 1 hitpoint. But that didn't matter to me. What did matter was that I had fun and I learned a lot. My opponent was a great guy, just like the kind of player I described in my tournament etiquettearticle. We joked, laughed, talked strategy, and congratulated each other on good moves. In fact, he told me after the match ended that he was impressed with my formation flying and that he had to play a lot less aggressively because of it. So all that practice didn't go to waste!
Game 2 - Bye
I came to this tournament for fun and not to win. So please understand me when I wasn't happy that I received a tournament bye in the second round. Other players saw me sitting there and asked me if I had a bye and with no exception every single one of them congratulated me for it. By no means am I saying that I was ungrateful for the free win or for other players being nice to me. But I came to play and not being able to that round was more of a letdown for me than my first loss. And since this was just a 3 round tournament it meant that I got 1/3 less worth on my time and money.
However, it was a good opportunity to put into practice being happy and having a good attitude. If I didn't get to play at least I got to do another one of my favorite hobbies: people watch. And I probably learned just as much about the game in this round as in the first. To be polite to the other players I won't describe them so as to maintain their anonymity.
The first thing I noticed is dice rolling. Some players were rolling dice at the exact same time as their opponents. Now I'm not sure if they meant to do it or not but either way it gave themselves a disadvantage. If you roll your defensive dice at the same time as your opponent attacks then you give them the advantage by making their choices easier. Suppose your enemy is deliberating to use a focus on a Blank-Focus-Hit roll but you roll right then and get an Evade-Evade roll. So of course they don't spend the focus and save it for thier defense. When you reveal your defensive roll before the opponent has made their choice then it removes risk for them and can really expose you. Since we don't want that, here is a step guide to the order of dice rolling:
1) Attacker rolls his attack dice.
2) Defender can chose to use an ability to affect attack dice, if he has one.
3) Attacker chooses modifications to apply to his own dice and declares the result of his attack.
4) Defender rolls his defense dice.
5) Attacker can choose to use an ability to affect defense dice, if he has one.
6) Defender can choose to modify his defense dice and declares the result of his defense.
The second thing I noticed was players' attitudes and how it affected the game itself. I observed an interaction between two people in a match. A player got defensive when their combination of cards was questioned. Instead of just calmly explaining how the rules worked in this situation they arrogantly down-talked their opponent. And while this player's combo was indeed legal in the game, their treatment of their opponent was rude and an angry tension followed both of them the rest of the match. That's not what I call fun or good sportsmanship. We are all learning in this game and head-to-head competition like this should invoke comradely, not bitter feelings.
The final thing I want to mention is keeping track of action tokens. I saw a game where target locks kept getting mixed up and lost because they did not follow ships when they moved during activation phase. Not only did it confuse both players, it wasted valuable match time as they sorted out the actions. So here is the question: whose responsibly is it to maintain target locks? I really don't have an answer because it could go either way. You could argue that those who take actions need to make sure that those actions are maintained. Or you could argue that it is rude for the activating player to leave the enemy's target lock behind when moving a ship. I more lean toward the later of these two arguments but, either way, the point is that someone should take responsibility. When I activate a ship I speak aloud as I perform each step so that I don't miss anything. For example: "I reveal a 3 forward for my Rookie. Your target lock follows him. And he'll be taking a focus action."
Game 3 - Loss
With the second round over, it was time to get back into the action and learn by experience rather than observation. But fate wasn't done with me. In its cruelty I found that in round 3 I was facing another HLC Outrider build. Lol. Man, what are the chances!? Actually the chances are pretty good, that's the cold hard truth of the meta-game. But instead of focusing on the negative I focused on applying what I already learned in round 1. To have any chance of winning this match I mentally noted the things that needed to happen:
1) Not make any movement mistakes or lose actions
2) Catch up to and corner the Outrider
3) Block it and focus it down at range 1
4) Be able to fire my ordnance and make good use of those points
5) Have enough firepower left to be able to take on Corran Horn
Where I shined the most this match was in the initial engagement. I pushed my formation fast and cornered his Outrider on his side of the map. I gave a good spread of firing arcs with my X's so even with his barrel roll he couldn't evade me entirely. And I played a wonderful feign with Horton. The round before I took a target lock on his E-wing even though I knew Corran was going to move out of range. I wanted my opponent to think I was splitting my Y-wing off to chase. But instead on the next turn I slipped Horton right back into formation and he had a perfect shot on the Outrider.
Now remember that I picked Horton for his ability to mitigate the ineffectiveness of ordnance. But statistics didn't work on my side this time as I took the one ordnance shot I got for the whole tournament. I rolled a Blank-Blank-Focus-Focus. Ugh. Using Horton's ability I rerolled the blanks for a result of Blank-Focus. So all in all, my shot only got the one Critical Hit from the proton torpedoes themselves. No matter how much you prepare there is always a bit of risk, that is just a part of the game. And since I understood that I was ok with the miss. It was a great opportunity. I just hope my opponent understood that as well and didn't reinforce in his mind a wrong opinion of ordnance.
Even with a bad miss like that I still could have won the game. My biggest mistake - and the game turner - was the very next round when I forgot that Dash was flying that Outrider. I set up my X-wings for the block but Dash just flew the other way right through an asteroid. My opponent was gracious about it and told me that the best thing to do against Dash is to place the asteroids in the corners so there are less places to hide. At this point I had hurt his Outrider but it was now free to play another round of catch-me-if-you-can and my ships weren't able to keep up the fight. The match was over pretty shortly and thus led to my win-loss of 1-2.
Now that we have taken a deeper look at this tournament I hope you can understand when I say that it was a win for me. I learned a lot about the X-wing Miniatures game and I am excited to start applying that wisdom in the future. I have already started on a couple of ideas to improve my squad and if you want to stick around for the afterwards then you can read about my musings. But this article is already long enough and I thank you for reading. I hope you learned as much as I did. So keep practicing, keep trying new things, and fly casual.
The first thing I did was fix my mistake with Horton. If he is going to be my high PS on the board I need him to be able to deal with other Aces. I considered giving him an engine upgrade but that would take away his action and decrease his efficiency as a ordnance heavy hitter. After a lot of searching I found the perfect fit: the R7-T1 astromech. This gives Horton both the boost and target lock allowing him to shoot torpedoes and dodge opponents. Moreover, it makes it possible for him to take on higher PS ships. The boost action frees up a lot of the error of making a wrong move and gives me better blocking power. And honestly, it is a much better investment of points than R2-D2. Y-wings' low agility and 2 green moves mean you won't get many shield recharges.
The other thing I have look at is the composition of my other ships. Three X-wings are wonderful in general but not so much against Outriders. A much better investment of points would be three Headhunters. Assume both the X's and the Headhunters chase an Outrider and spread their firing arcs so at least one ship gets a shot. That means for 63 points the X-wings get to throw 3 dice at the Outrider. On the other hand the Headhunters throw 2 dice for 36 points, which is a much better investment of points. Concentrated attack dice on X-wings are great against high agility targets, especially Imperial ships. But it is not as effective when the targets are low agility because 2 dice can also do damange. However, I only own one rebel headhunter and don't like to fly it as much. But if they are your cup of tea then consider flying a Rebel Swarm of 3 Headhunters and 2 Prototype A-wings. Keep these ships in your box formation and fly Horton off to the side, giving him better approach vectors for his strafing runs.
Click here for Part 1 & Part 2
Click here for Part 1 & Part 2