First Infinity Tournament: Redcap’s RECON

military-orders-iconYesterday I entered my first Infinity event. My home shop, Redcap’s Corner, hosted a beginner’s tournament using the unofficial RECON missions. This was a great driver to actually start playing. I’ve had a few models for two years now but other than a tutorial by my buddy Steve this summer and another by Alex this Thursday, I’d never gotten them on the table. Only four players showed up, but it was an excellent day of gaming. I’ve totally got it now: Though almost overwhelmingly complex to get started, and I think unnecessarily convoluted in rules presentation as well as jarringly inconsistent here and there in some details and mechanics, Infinity is an incredible game with a ton of strategy and narrative.

Though just beginner games, interesting things happened throughout, so this is a battle report for the day. There are a few more photos in my Flickr gallery.

Wounded but undaunted, my Father Knight leads the charge.

Wounded but undaunted, my Father Knight leads the charge.

Army

RECON is basically half size games. Lists are 150 points, with a single combat group and fireteam permitted, along with some other restrictions. The table is cut down to 2’x3′ and the ITS mission scenarios reduced to match, with all specialists (forward observers, medics, and hackers) able to activate all objectives.

I fight for the PanOceania technological hyperpower, specifically its Military Orders sectorial army. Sadly I chose that sectorial because it looks awesome. Coming from 40k as a Space Marine commander doggedly serving the gothic emperor, I have a special appreciation for religious nut jobs running around in power armor with swords while everybody else is packing oversized rifles, orbital bombardments, and so on. Only after I had a handful of models painted did I come to know that universal consensus is that the faction is really hard to play competitively, and certainly one of the hardest to start with… Most critically, the models are so expensive in game points and you field so few that you just can’t afford to make mistakes. As the kids say: Womp womp.

In any event, I brought the following army list:

screenshot_2016-10-30_07-31-30

I lead off choosing a Father Knight just because the physical sculptures are amazing. I really wanted to field both of mine (blister + Icestorm variant), but putting 2/3 of my points into two models seemed excessively foolish. However, I do think the unit is solid. It’s weird that a strong close combat fighter doesn’t have a Martial Arts skill, but they’re tough models with 2 wounds, 5 armor, and 9 bio-technological shield.

The Fusiliers are my cheapest options for the specialists needed to claim the scenario objectives. I didn’t field a hacker mostly to conserve points and a little bit to minimize the game mechanics involved in my squad. Taking the maximum of three permitted by the sectorial also got me to 7 models (plus the AUXBOT) generating 7 regular orders, which felt viable at 150 points. Anything less I felt was very risky in terms of actually being able to do anything, even before casualties started.

The Spec Sergeant with Auxiliary Bot essentially filled out points I had remaining. The bot wields a heavy flamethrower, which pulls at my heartstrings as a Salamanders-rules 40k player. But it’s also half again faster than standard infantry, which I thought might be handy for a late move on an HVT or similar action.

The last two models were my main strategic army choices. The Crusader has Airborne Deployment L4. The Spec Sergeant Forward Observer has Infiltration and TO Camo. Both give me a way to deploy upfield, obviating spending precious orders just moving models forward. With its boarding shotgun, the Crusader can hopefully run amok in my opponent’s backfield and take out weak order generating cheerleaders, reducing their army’s ability to act. Meanwhile, the Spec Sergeant hides in perfect camouflage until the moment comes to break for an objective it can activate as an FO specialist.

Everybody watching Thursday's tutorial game lead by Alex.

Everybody watching Thursday’s tutorial game lead by Alex.

Round 1

First up was Rae and his Yu Jing in the Exfiltrate mission. With both of us super unfamiliar with the rules, this was a sloppy, slow affair. We only made it through one of the standard three rounds. One notable moment though was actually in deployment, when an Oniwaban with a lethal monofilament close combat weapon failed to infiltrate and had to run up from his backfield. Unfortunately a Ninja did pop up right next to my Father Knight and couldn’t be kept out of close combat. The humble AUXBOT saved the game though in the final actions, just barely managing to tag the charging Oniwaban with its heavy flamethrower and burn the ninja to a crisp before it could grab a civilian.

Outcome: Draw, 0-0 with no civilians rescued and no HVTs claimed. Fortunately for my standings the other table came to a 0-0 draw as well. Most importantly though, coming out of this match I felt reasonably in the groove with the basic mechanics of the game.

Analysis: The AUXBOT was MVP, deployed to guard one of the enemy civilian objectives and doing exactly that to preserve the draw. One note was that the hidden Ninja attack on my Father Knight essentially forced me to reveal my TO Camo Spec Sergeant in my reactive phase in a desperate attempt to stop its charge. Didn’t matter here, but in general that would be unfortunate, wasting the hidden sergeant’s ability to make a surprise shot, late grab for objectives, and so on.

Ninjas, attack!

Ninjas, attack!

Round 2

Next was Alex and his Haqqislam in Seize the Antennas. Fortunately I saw his list Thursday when Tim borrowed it for a tutorial. So I knew to watch out for the sniper, missile bot, and the hacker lighting up my models to call down orbital bombardments.

Also very helpful was a short discussion we all had beforehand about the different tables. Bonsky (the TO) pointed out a slight asymmetry on this map: One deployment zone had a wall closing off an alleyway which was clear on the other side. I got to choose deployment zones, so I chose the side with the extra wall. Partly that would prevent any shenanigans with models appearing near my table edge, running behind the buildings, and seizing the antenna objective in the alley. More importantly, if Alex had the extra wall, it would potentially cripple the effectiveness of my Crusader combat jumping into his backfield by limiting firelanes and hampering movement.

Missile bot.

Missile bot.

That decision had huge impact. Alex quickly seized two of the three antennas and set up a bunch of models in defensive postures around the midfield. However, the Crusader came down right in the middle of his deployment zone and went on a rampage with its boarding shotgun. First it went forward to execute a specialist on the antenna—I was worried about Haqqislam doctor tricks bringing her back if left just unconscious—and then ran back behind the buildings to take out both baggage droids and successfully draw and rebuff fire from one of the rooftop teams. Cutting those three orders from Alex’s next turn put us on much more even footing, and taking out the specialist poised to run up the center toward the next antenna didn’t hurt.

Downed baggage bot.

Downed baggage bot.

Meanwhile, my Fusilier Forward Observers advanced as a fireteam duo toward the central antenna, carefully using the buildings to stay hidden from long range shooting teams on the rooftops. Then they dashed across an alleyway, dodged the incoming fire, and climbed up the objective building. After a brief but intense firefight with the Haqqislam specialist guarding it and the various models arrayed to shoot on that position, they managed to huddle down and seize that antenna.

From there, Alex’s lieutenant made a play for my home antenna, winning the firefight with my Father Knight leaping at the threat. That put me into loss of lieutenant, but I had just enough command tokens for the final turn to convert the resulting irregular orders to regular. That gave me just enough to get it done. Suddenly my Spec Sergeant in hiding revealed himself on a nearby rooftop, slid down a ladder, and ran up to recapture the antenna. At the same time, with the central antenna secured, the Fusiliers jumped from their position and ran through incoming fire from the rooftop enemies to secure the Haqqislam HVT, counterbalancing the loss of my own HVT.

Battle!

Battle!

Outcome: Victory for the Military Orders 8-5, with two and one antennas respectively claimed, and both HVTs secured by the opposing sides.

Analysis: My plan to use the Crusader to take out vulnerable order generating units in the enemy backfield worked perfectly. There was also an interesting decision at the very end to send the Fusiliers either toward the enemy HVT or to clear off a light infantry model on my HVT. I went for the former, which worked out. My rationale was that if the Fusiliers were going to take roughly similar fire along both courses, then clearly I should go for the objective that just required moving into place. Otherwise I’d risk failing rolls and not taking out the enemy model.

The real clutch of this game though was deploying the TO Camo Spec Sergeant very defensively, and holding him hidden until the absolute end. At multiple points I was really tempted to have him pop out for some surprise shooting. But it was much more valuable to still have him perfectly positioned for a last minute critical objective grab.

Checking to see if there's any way to get those pesky Fusiliers.

Checking to see if there’s any way to get those pesky Fusiliers.

Round 3

The last round was a minefield, literally. With a central tech-coffin and its data package as linchpin of the Smash and Grab scenario’s capture-the-flag, Tom had his Nomads deploy mines and crazy koalas (basically a hopping mine) all around it.

I tried to trigger all the mines and koalas at once by dropping my Crusader into the thick of them. But it dispersed and only triggered just enough to get killed, not enough to clear the area. So then my infiltrating Spec Sergeant revealed himself right next to the tech-coffin in slim hopes to quickly grab the data package. He didn’t weather everything that came at him, but did set off most of the remaining mines.

Nomad remote oversees the battlefield.

Nomad remote oversees the battlefield.

With that a Nomad Moran charged onto the objective building but fortunately failed to operate the tech-coffin and retrieve the data package. That gave one of my Fusiliers time to climb up on the building and take down the enemy, but not enough to grab the data package. Unfortunately, a Jaguar was able to use smoke grenades to make his way unhampered to the tech-coffin, operate it (this mission did not require specialists), and run away with the package before I could respond.

With the endgame approaching, the chase was on! I burned my command tokens to make most of my remaining squad run after the Jaguar in coordinated orders. Charging across the rooftops, rebuffing mines and repeated hacking, the Father Knight was able to gun him down from the back in an alley. A Fusilier then grabbed the data package and ran for safety while everybody else set up a kill box on the only path between him and the remaining enemies. The enemy lieutenant that came leaping down was thus easily dispatched, while my defenders also claimed the enemy HVT.

Battle!

Battle!

Outcome: Victory for the Military Orders 6-2, after Tom scored the data package at the end of the second round but I scored at the end of round three when it was worth double for the endgame bonus, as well as claiming his HVT.

Analysis: Sacrificing the Crusader in attempt to trigger the mines wasn’t ridiculous, but I probably should have sent it against Tom’s backfield baggage bots just like I did with Alex. Partly I did not because I thought his units back there were more deadly than they are, partly there wasn’t enough space to ideally position the drop zone template. But mostly I wanted to keep the TO Camo Spec Sergeant hidden to pop up and grab the data package after the mines were cleared. However, in the same position, I would now probably have the Crusader go to reduce the enemy order count, while either a Fusilier ran up to trigger all the mines or the Spec Sergeant did—it being well placed to do so perfectly—and the Fusiliers came in to grab the objective.

Fusilier engaging a Nomad.

Fusilier engaging a Nomad.

Once the Fusilier was in place to grab the objective, I made a conscious decision to not grab the objective right then. My thinking was that I had no remaining orders to take it anywhere, the Fusilier would probably die exposed on the rooftop so I wouldn’t hold it to score anyway at the end of the round anyway, and it would be better to have Tom potentially fail the test to release the data package after he finally got in position. That logic again wasn’t terrible, but I’m not sure I would do it again. The Fusilier might have survived, and the Jaguar’s smoke grenades made it vastly easier than I expected to just walk up and grab the objective since I couldn’t see to respond at all.

At the very end I failed to put my kill box models into suppressive fire mode. It was a longshot anyway for anything to move through them to get at my data package Fusilier, but I just didn’t think about it due to inexperience.

The Father Knight was probably the MVP here, with his very high BTS 9 shrugging off several critical hacking attacks and enabling him to take down the escaping Jaguar, in addition to knocking down several enemies earlier in reactive shots.

Mines everywhere!

Mines everywhere!

Final Results

With two wins and a draw I came out with the best record and most points. I chose for my prize a small gift card and the Druze Hacker special model that came with pre-release orders of the N3 human Sphere book. I figure it’ll make a good HVT.

Druze Hacker pre-release model.

Druze Hacker pre-release model.

Observations

Father Knight especially but the Military Orders overall feel very 40k Space Marine-y: Expensive in points, very robust, pretty good at everything, not great at anything. Also echoing 40k Space Marines, the Military Orders units being religious and thus not retreating when your army is well depleted is probably a boon at this low point value, since you might hit that point pretty quickly.

Initially I was really worried about not having enough orders, but seven is probably reasonable for this format. With a single combat group in RECON the max is 10, and only Alex fielded that many in this event. I didn’t feel overly limited.

Ironically for Military Orders, I may have fielded the greatest number of offensively capable models. I’m not sure about Rae, but Alex and Tom both had two baggage remotes and another one or two remotes also without serious shooting capabilities. In some sense I spent those same points on Fusiliers. The tiniest bit more costly, but with reasonable attacks. Both games were really tight until the end. But both those opponents also hit a point a bit before that where I unexpectedly felt they had more or less run out of ways to come at me and the objectives even though they had a similar number of models on the table. In Tom’s case the active attackers were mostly dead, and in Alex’s most of the remaining models were long range shooters and supporting models in backfield positions. Meanwhile, I had just a few more models still actively running around midfield shooting and grabbing objectives even though the number of casualties weren’t very imbalanced. Despite being super worried about Military Orders not fielding enough models, I wound up running comparatively more of a swarm of relatively basic troopers. As another sign of that, note that I spent 0 SWC, i.e., spent no squad points on fancy equipment. Those extra bodies perhaps gave me a bit more robustness to make mistakes and more depth to have a strong end game. That gels with my experience in other miniatures games, especially at low points. There’s a lot to be said for simply having more bodies—the other army list I considered possibly better but less fun and cool looking was just a bunch of Order Sergeants and the Fusiliers. I was considering that primarily in terms of order generation, but simply having more models running around would also be a strength. In preparing a RECON list, you need to be really careful that you’re not bringing so many cool toys that it cuts into your basic ability to suffer some casualties but still fight and maneuver.

Haqqislam lieutenant just rudely pushes the paramedic aside.

Haqqislam lieutenant just rudely pushes the paramedic aside.

The only special ability among my models I didn’t use was the Paramedic, through poor placement on my part either getting her killed early or just not being in position to resuscitate anybody. I’ll have to work on that.

Everybody else though came through in at least one critical moment by leveraging their unique traits, so overall I was really happy with my army list selection. The AUXBOT preserved the draw in the first round by having a good weapon to reliably defend an objective. The Crusader and TO Camo Spec Sergeant enabled the second round win. The Father Knight earned his points in the final round by being tough enough to shrug off a bunch of physical and hacking attacks to chase down and eliminate the Jaguar carrying the data package.

However, the MVPs for the whole day were my Forward Observer Fusiliers, quietly but significantly making the central pushes without which the second and third round victories wouldn’t have happened. Both times they charged up and onto a central objective, won firefights to clear it off, claimed it, and then moved on to also secure enemy HVTs. That’s pretty good for a pair of 12 point models! They proved more resilient and potent than expected. I’m also really happy with their paint job, so I’m pretty pleased with these guys at the moment.

Fusiliers saving the day.

Fusiliers saving the day.

RECON

Although pretty solid for a fan effort, the RECON packet itself could stand some cleanup. There are some clear presentation errors, such as the Smash and Grab mission seemingly copying some text from the full ITS missions about specialists but apparently not actually requiring specialists to operate the tech-coffin. It’s unclear if that’s an oversight or intentional. There are also at least a few substantive changes needed that we made on the fly. Dispersements should be cut down to match the smaller table. We played it as 8″, but I would probably do 9″ in the future so that you would definitely disperse out of any zone of control effects you intended to apply. The second player should also only be able to use a command token to cut one of their opponent’s orders in the first turn, and maybe none at all.

More subjectively, for beginners the missions probably either need to be chosen carefully or some of them tweaked down in difficulty. The Exfiltrate mission in particular seems just too difficult to start off with. Either the scoring needs to be tweaked (e.g., shift the emphasis between grabbing civilians versus bringing them back toward the former) and/or the exclusion & saturation zone needs to be diminished.

Welcome to the Sphere!

That said, RECON was a great format for my first event. I learned quite a bit about Infinity and am eager to play it more often from here on. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, Redcap’s has a small crowd of regular players on Sunday afternoons, and people sometimes play on Thursday nights. There is a small Philadelphia Infinity Facebook group to hook up with people for those or other meetups.

Again, there are a few more photos from this event in my Flickr gallery.

See you out there!

NOVA 2016 40k Trios

nova-40k-150pxThis year Colin and I assumed direction of the 40k Team Trios Tournament at the NOVA Open wargaming convention. It turned out a huge success. Eighteen teams (54 players) participated, doubling the previous participation record. Everything went smoothly, and we had a great group of players and armies. This is a quick recap of the event.

A few more photos than those here are in my Flickr gallery. There are also many more in NOVA’s official Flickr gallery for day 1 of this year’s convention.

2016 NOVA 40k Trios underway!

2016 NOVA 40k Trios underway!

Trios

NOVA 40k Trios is a somewhat unique format. Players register in teams of three.  Over three game rounds they play a doubles games with each of their teammates, and one solo game on their own. It’s a very friendly format because you’re guaranteed two games playing alongside friends, so relative newcomers tend to enjoy it. Meanwhile, you also get one game to bring out all your toys. That’s actually a big mental challenge, especially for the final solo player of the day. It’s hard to go from playing 1000pts alongside a friend for two games in a row and then suddenly have to efficiently command 1850 points on your own.

In addition, NOVA Trios puts a big emphasis on the theme of the armies and crafting a narrative about why these three forces are fighting together. There’s a separate prize for that, and many teams prepare detailed stories, display boards, and supporting materials to present that background.

A display board themed around a Jurassic Park of Tyranids.

A display board themed around a Jurassic Park of Tyranids.

Updates

For 2016 we made a number of big updates to the tournament. You can check out the full event rulebook for details. In general we put a lot of effort into simply formalizing the event: Fully specified & objective theme scoring, comprehensive mission writeups, and so on, all available online a full nine months in advance. Beyond that, we also added or changed several components.

First we dialed the solo game points down a bit, from 2000 to 1850. Historically Trios has always run very late and delayed the start of the 40k Narrative well into the night. So we shaved off these points to better foster finishing rounds on time. I also believe that playing smaller games reduces many, though not all, of the rock/paper/scissors effects and arguable balance problems present in 40k currently (balance in 40k is a whole other topic—I personally don’t agree that it’s “imbalanced,” but do feel its balance paradigm does not line up with most players’ assumptions and expectations).

Conversely, we also allowed superheavies and gargantuan creatures. I just don’t think it’s realistic to not allow these in standard games anymore. Many factions have access to a big model and rely on them to counter other army designs like deathstars. They’re also a huge part of the product line, with multiple fantastic models available, and players want to use their favorite toys. However, there’s a strong argument that many are undercosted, and many casual players are still not prepared to fight them. Our missions therefore include several penalties. Each superheavy or gargantuan in the opposing army gives a +1 bonus to the roll to determine turn order. In addition, every 2 hull points or wounds taken off a big model awards a victory point. We’ve used these rules in tournaments throughout the past two years. I personally found them a severe disadvantage and stopped fielding my Imperial Knight, while other players felt such models were still worthwhile. So, I think they strike a reasonable compromise, allowing these still controversial models while also reining them in a bit.

NOVA campaign badges marking the shoulders of a Space Marne army.

NOVA campaign badges marking the shoulders of a Space Marne army.

We also permitted 30k armies. A bunch of questions came up about how exactly Age of Darkness armies fit in, but nothing too problematic. With no 30k events scheduled for Thursday, a fair number of Heresy players joined in and brought great looking armies.

To boost those remaining armies that don’t have access to a codex detachment or useful formations, we also added our Quick Reaction Force detachment. It’s basically a way to take an army with a bunch of elites, focus on either fast attack or heavy support, and in return choose your warlord trait and get objective secured. A number of players made use of it, but not nearly so many as to make clear that it’s overpowered.

Finally, we added an individual Warmaster scoring track separate from the team scoring. Players were given a list of achievements for their warlord to accomplish and earn points. The primary intent here was to give something for good players on weaker teams to work toward, something for weaker players getting clobbered on the actual missions to try and achieve, and to bring some narrative flair to the games.

Warlord achievements.

Warlord achievements.

Missions

For some time now we’ve been designing missions around a primary, secondary, and tertiary objective structure, respectively scoring up to 9, 6, and 5 points. The tertiaries are the standard First Blood, Linebreaker, and Slay, but with the latter two doubled in value, and with an additional Victory Through Attrition objective for damaging superheavies and gargantuan creatures. A list of secondary objectives is made available, either for each mission or events as a whole, from which players choose. The goal is that they have to play to the mission, as captured by the primary objective. But in choosing a secondary they can tailor their strategic objectives to their strengths and preferences. For example, faced with a number of primary objectives, a player with few but robust units might opt for an annihilation-oriented secondary. Meanwhile, their opponent with a number of small, mobile forces, might double down on ground control and choose a secondary for claiming terrain or additional objective markers.

The first mission had players placing four objectives, resulting in one in each deployment zone and two in neutral ground. Players then had a choice of scoring those continuously, at the end of their turns, or at the end of the game. This choice enables alpha strike, high mobility, and attrition oriented armies to all play toward their preferred style and strengths.

Booklet presenting the history of the campaign bringing one team's armies together.

Booklet presenting the history of the campaign bringing one team’s armies together.

Next up was an annihilation mission, based around eliminating quartiles of the opponent’s army. For breaking 25%, 50%, and 75% of their army by unit count, players got 2, 4, and 6 victory points. This structure attempts to address some of the imbalances in standard kill point accounting, without incurring complex point cost calculations. The challenge is that armies with many small units, including transports, are inherently at a disadvantage to armies with just a few rock hard or huge units if scoring is done just by counting units removed. My Kingbreakers pretty regularly field ~20 units, so there’s no way I’ll eliminate more units than, say, a Grey Knights army fielding 4 units. In the quartiles system though it’s more balanced: Eliminating just one of those units is worth eliminating ~5 of mine. Importantly, we’re also able to calculate that outcome without delving into tallying up army points, it’s all based around simple accounting of units.

Rounding out the tournament was my take on a Maelstrom mission. I have a separate lengthy discussion about that, but the core idea is removing much of the silly randomness and forced play in GW’s format, while preserving the required tactical flexibility and also giving more strategic control.

This arrangement of missions is not happenstance. We open the day with a relatively simple, standard mission to get people going quickly and give nearly all armies an even chance through the choice of continuous or endgame scoring. Then the annihilation and Maelstrom missions play off each other. The former somewhat favors armies built around rock units, while the latter somewhat favors armies with many highly mobile, small units. You can’t pass through the tournament doing well by having just one or the other, you need to be able to play against your army’s weaknesses.

Dewey (right), NOVA's head of ops, makes time to compete in the Trios.

Dewey (right), NOVA’s head of ops, makes time to compete in the Trios.

Outcomes

One of the big stories from this year’s NOVA is Games Workshop’s return to organized play. The company donated a tremendous amount of product to both the 40k prize bags and the SuperNOVA swag bags. In addition, it provided impressive chainsword trophies to go with the top prizes in each 40k & 30k event, custom sculpted specifically for NOVA. As the first 40k event of the convention, we had the honor to give out the very first NOVA chainsword trophies, carried by hand by Mike Brandt direct from Nottingham in order to be at the event on time, to our Renaissance Trio, the top team from battle points, sportsmanship, craftsmanship, and theme scoring.

40k Trios chainsword trophies, straight from Nottingham.

40k Trios chainsword trophies, straight from Nottingham.

Full final results are available in ODS and  XLSX format. Our winners were:

  • Artists: Team Judicious—Jonathan Fisher, Kris Rader, Jason Baldwin
  • Storytellers: Teams Bellicose and Heinous—Clemente Berrios, Trevor Alen, Michael Hayes; Stephen Duall, Sebastian Duall, Alex Duall
  • Strategists: Team Gallant—Paul Bowman, Jessica Bowman, Dave Penfold
  • Warmaster: Jhason Hardy
  • Renaissance Trios: Team Determined—Chris Bimbo, Steven Pampreen, Jhason Hardy

Congratulations to Chris, Steve, and Jhason, for an excellent effort across all fronts and taking top honors!

Our storytellers, winners of the theme prize, also deserve special mention. The Victory Gamers club from Northern Virginia had two teams enter, and together they put up a massive display board of the two armies fighting each other. They also had an impressive booklet narrating the battle and armies involved. Team Bellicose won the tiebreaker, painting scores from the NOVA Capital Pallette judges, and claimed the prize bags, but all six players deserve commendation.

Victory Gamers' display board.

Victory Gamers’ display board.

Wrap

All told this year’s NOVA 40k Trios was an excellent day of gaming. A ton of great people, lots of cool themes and armies, and many fun games. Again, a few more photos than those here are in my Flickr gallery, and there are also many more in NOVA’s official Flickr gallery for day 1 of this year’s convention.

Currently we expect to lead next year’s NOVA’s 40k Trios again, and would love to hear your thoughts. Participants should be receiving a survey email from NOVA, and we hope you’ll all make use of that to provide feedback, or contact us directly. At the moment we’re not planning major changes, just new missions and maybe some revisions to the Warmaster achievements to make that scoring even more thematic and independent from winning games. See you next year!

Colin (right) and I entering match results.

Colin (right) and I entering match results.

Redcap’s August X-Wing Tournament

rebel-alliance-iconA couple PAGE people made it to Redcap’s X-Wing Tournament yesterday. Fourteen ruggedly handsome rogues, conspicuously clean jackboots, and marketably bizarre aliens came to fight in a very enjoyable event, with lots of interesting squadrons present.

Squadron

I took my new Kyle’s Bees squadron (100 points):

To be honest, the real goal here was just that I wanted to fly some B-Wings and the HWK, probably my two favorite Star Wars ships, after having spent a lot of time flying a YT1300+Y-Wings. The justifying theory though is that the B-Wings are robust, deliver a hard punch, and have solid initial maneuverability in a dogfight. They have barrel roll, 1-turns, and a 2-K, so they can fly. But they take a stress to use the moves, so they can’t really keep it up and can use some assistance to not cripple themselves in doing so. Kyle provides that by flying around generating a focus token to give a B-Wing each round, so they can barrel roll, stress, whatever, and still have a token to use. Meanwhile he also plunks away with the Blaster Turret, which is a solid weapon. The HWK is also fairly durable with its 2 Agility and the Hull Upgrade.

b-wing

kyle

Battle

So went the idea anyway. I’d gotten in one game with these against Matt but had not previously flown this against anybody else. Instead I played some solo games to learn the B-Wings and prep for this tournament. I actually enjoy that, and think it’s good practice. The trick is to choose which side you want to win and play it straight. For the other side you don’t set dials, instead responding reactively as ships activate, being able to see ships’ positions from the previous moves and with full knowledge of the as yet unresolved opposing dials. That’s a huge advantage and I usually lose… to myself.

So it wasn’t clear how solid this B-Wing list was, because I kept beating it with a basic TIEs+Carnor swarm. In addition, as they say: “Look, good against remotes is one thing. Good against the living? That’s something else.” So I was expecting to get clobbered.

Round 1

First game, Ryan G came at me with two TIE Bombers, Scourge, and an Inquisitor. The Bombers and Scourge huddled up in a corner while the Inquisitor came from table center. I started from the corner straight across from the Bombers but immediately flew toward the center and the Inquisitor. From Ryan’s perspective, he wanted to lure me into going against the Inquisitor so the others could joust at me. I didn’t want to joust straight at the Bombers and their Concussion Missiles, so I took the bait.

The Inquisitor though got overeager and came too fast. The Rebels delivered their initial punch and chased him back to the Emperor. In return, the Bombers got in a good strike with their initial missile volley. At this point I was worried, thinking about it in terms of the Bombers blowing away a ship a turn. Even with Extra Munitions though, they could only deliver that punch twice, and only if they got a good shot. The B-Wings were able to turn inside them, take out Scourge in the process, and then whittle away at the Bombers with Kyle acting as bait but also doing his share of damage.

Final outcome: Rebel victory, 100 to 44.

Hunting the Inquisitor.

Hunting the Inquisitor.

Round 2

Next up was Tony S, who literally lives down the street but we only manage to play at tournaments… He brought what I considered a pretty scary swarm of five Y-Wings with Autoblaster Turrets. I’m a big fan of Y-Wings so I knew how durable they are, and getting swarmed by that many Autoblasters isn’t going to go well for anybody.

I started in a corner and Tony basically arranged a line straight across from me. The only real strategic move I made was to again cut toward the center before engaging. I figured if I went straight at him I would definitely get wrapped by the swarm, whereas if I ran left the back of his line would maybe be stuck chasing me and out of turret range. I guess this sort of worked, but we still got stuck in a very messy furball.

From there the B-Wings’ maneuverability let me fly just well enough to never let all the Y-Wings get shots, so they could whittle down ships well but not eliminate them outright. This was a nail biter but leaning my way heading toward the end of time, with one B-Wing splashed versus two Y-Wings. Then, tragically, I got greedy with Kyle. With a hull point remaining, I should have just boosted away with a 3-bank red move to get him totally clear of the mess. I really wanted another shot, however, and he was low on focus so that stress would have been crippling to his continued utility. I thought I could get him just out of range of return fire with a 2-turn, but it came up just a millimeter or two short and he got blasted away. That was a 34 point loss and suddenly Tony was up. However, in the few remaining turns, the B-Wings were able to concentrate fire on one more Y-Wing and take it down, swinging me back just ahead as the game ended.

Final result: B-Wings barely hold the sky, 60 to 56.

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Facing the gun line.

Round 3

In a return to a tradition of ours, third round I faced Colin K and his Ghost + Tycho. I set up in a corner again and he put the Ghost across from me and Tycho diagonally. Unreasonably scared of the Ghost, I ran away from it and went for Tycho.

After that I got sloppy. Frazzled from the very hard fought battle with Tony, I made a bunch of basic mistakes. I managed to set up a solid barrage line against Tycho on the first run at him. But then I completely misgauged a 1-turn, jamming up all my B-Wings and only giving one of them a second shot at Tycho instead of all three.  Then I just happened to be standing exactly where I couldn’t see the stress token on that same misgauged B-Wing, forgot about it, and put down another red move. Colin of course immediately pushed it hard toward the board edge. Kyle got Tycho but the Ghost and deployed Attack Shuttle moved into close range and took out a B-Wing. Still not thinking well, figuring I was losing another ship flying off the board, I basically gave up at that point and made a useless move on the remaining B-Wing.

However, I was wrong again, and the ship both stayed on the board and survived a blast from the Ghost! From there I rallied mentally. Kyle and a B-Wing went after the Attack Shuttle, and Colin made his own mistake, forgetting to apply Zeb’s ability to cancel a crit that turned out to be a Direct Hit splashing it. The HWK then flew bait in a successful guessing game staying out of the Ghost’s primary arc and Autoblaster Turret range, while it and the two B-Wings did just enough long range shooting to drop the Ghost below half strength and score those points.

Final result: Old school Rebels beat those cartoon Rebels 74 to 22.

Bombing run on Tycho.

Bombing run on Tycho.

Round 4

That surprise victory forced a 4th round, as there were now two undefeated players. To finish the day I had to fight at the top table against Zac C and his fearsome squadron:

Unfortunately this was just a bad matchup all around on my end: Totally spent and unfocused from two hard & close games, starving and not expecting to play a 4th game, and facing a much more experienced player, with a setup I’d never considered before, which was easily capable of downing one of my ships a turn.

We more or less setup in opposite corners, and both started flying counter-clockwise around the board edges. I was hesitant to engage, but the Jumpmaster and Scyks split up a bit and I decided to swing in—sooner or later you have to fight! Unfortunately, I chose the wrong target. I went after the large ship, figuring that it’s not super robust, Manaroo passing tokens around was a problem, and it was closer. That just let the HLCs come in toward the rear of my squadron though, and I proceeded losing a ship each turn until the fairly short game ended.

Final result: Scum clobber Rebels, 100 to 0.

Blue Squadron swinging in.

Blue Squadron swinging in.

Outcomes

That total defeat dropped me to 5th place as the players who won a third game in Round 4 gained more points than I had. But I had to be happy with making it to that point, flying an untested list and not having played much this summer.

Also, I beat Colin, and that’s obviously all that matters.

It’s also worth noting that this was the top scoring Rebels list:

  1. Scum (Manaroo + 2x HLC Scyks)
  2. Imperial
  3. Scum
  4. Scum
  5. Rebel (Kyle + 3x B-Wings)
  6. Imperial (3x Defenders)
  7. Rebel
  8. Rebel
  9. Rebel (Ghost + Tycho)
  10. Rebel (Chewbacca + 2x Y-Wings)
  11. Rebel (5x Autoblaster Turret Y-Wings)
  12. Scum
  13. Imperial (Decimator + Firespray)
  14. Imperial (Inquisitor + Scourge + 2x Bombers)

There was actually a notable amount of diversity present among the lists, which is cool to see. No spam squads or cluster of net lists (though a few different ones at the top of the stack). Instead we got just a couple aces, one Triple Defender list, one solitary Ghost, and just a couple Jumpmasters, while a bunch of older ships reappeared—three squads had a YT1300, Y-Wings, and so on.

Colin thinking about it too hard.

Colin thinking about it too hard.

List Thoughts

Like I talked about for my previous tournament list, I place a lot of priority in squad building on simplicity and durability. I actually keep the cards for a slight variation on that Chewie list handy so I can lend them out for new players to try. Newcomer Nick actually borrowed it and flew to 10th place here in his first games with more than the starter box. There’s just a lot to be said for the basic structure both lists share:

  • Durability: A bunch of shields/hull points so you don’t have to fly perfect and never get tagged;
  • Firepower: A bucketful of straightforward shooting;
  • Ships: Enough ships to have options and robustness, not so many as to need fancy formation flying;
  • Trick: A single, simple special ability to augment that durability and firepower.

Beyond basic flying skills, the only special ability I have to work with in this list is Kyle’s focus management. I don’t have to remember Zeb’s infrequently used special ability, or debate spending my Concussion Missiles, or anything like that. A more nuanced list with a good pilot can probably tear this squad apart. But it’s relatively straightforward to fly, and targeted at beating trickier setups that aren’t executed perfectly.

One note about flying is that my standard flight pattern with this list has been to start from a corner, headed at a ~45 degree angle toward the center of the board. Theory is that lets me capitalize on the B-Wing’s maneuverability, spinning off to the left or the right or barrel rolling, and giving less maneuverable opponents a harder time coming at me through the asteroids. It’s quite a change from my Y-Wing list, which I generally literally fly in a box around the board edges.

Also, a sidenote: One of my dials slipped. I had noticed earlier in the day that it has somehow become very loose, and had seen the window moving a bit a few times when I picked it up. Heading into the first attack on Manaroo, it absolutely had a bank selected. Flipping it up to reveal though, it was straight. It didn’t affect that game, but would have been disastrous in other circumstances. I had not heard of that problem before. Definitely something I’ll have to think about how to fix and prevent.

Opposing Thoughts

I was glad to see TIE Bombers revitalized with the new Veterans box. I think they could be solid teamed up with a screening force to keep opponents at some distance.

The 5x Autoblaster Turret swarm is scary, though personally I’d probably drop one in order to put missiles or something on the ships. There’s not a huge difference between 4 vs 5 of them shooting, and in fact you’ll probably get the same number of shots on as you would otherwise, swarm dogfight dynamics being what they are. But having an opening salvo to give at a distance seems like it would be a useful addition.

I haven’t flown against a Ghost much, so it still catches me off guard. It seems big and scary and can definitely krump some ships with its firepower. But ultimately it’s fairly easy to whittle away. I was surprised here by how quickly it went down to half strength once I started really shooting at it. The Ghost doesn’t seem dramatically different in that regard from, say, a YT1300: Packs a good punch, is pretty durable against small jousters, but is quickly eaten up by concentrated heavy fire.

Attack on Manaroo.

Attack on Manaroo.

The Manaroo list is pretty good. I think it actually fits into my basic list structure:

  • Durability: The hull/shield points aren’t high, but agility is solid on all three ships;
  • Firepower: Each ship is regularly putting out 4 attack dice;
  • Ships: Three ships is very manageable to fly but not overly brittle;
  • Trick: Manaroo and the Attannii Mindlink ensure all 3 ships are equipped all the time with focus and evade tokens.

That setup seems a bit exotic and complex because of the number and variety of cards and pilots used, and relative rareness of some. But in practice it’s a single, simple, streamlined ability to execute: You just keep pumping out evade and focus tokens. In that way it’s like this Kyle setup, which is built on a bunch of card interactions but is very simple to play. The “1 trick” guideline isn’t about cards or the complexity of the squadron build, but simplicity and frequent use in play.

That said, I’d love to have another go at it. If I’d focused on the Scyks first and hustled in to engage them inside their turret range and take at least one out early, the battle could have gone very differently. Still tough, but hopefully not as lopsided.

Conclusion

Next up on the X-Wing radar for me is that Saturday, December 10, I’ll be leading a 1-day narrative campaign at Redcap’s. Though I don’t play X-Wing particularly competitively (this is only my third tournament), I’ve run and am running a bunch of innovative narrative events for 40k that have gone well, so hopefully this will be similarly fun. Matt and I have some crazy ideas, so I hope you’ll join us!