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Monday 8 September 2014

Netherlands National X-wing Tournament 2014

On September the 7th 2014 I was lucky enough to participate in the Netherlands Nationals, held in De Tafelridder, Leiden.  It's a small shop on the side of a canal, with just enough room for 20 X-wing games. Turnout was of about 36 people. Start was at 10:30 and we finished at about 22:00.

First of all, I came in as a foreigner, not knowing anybody and never playing anyone from there. I also have played only three other people aside from my friends and relatives (what I can say, we had a small Regional in Romania).

I had two lists prepared for this tournament:

Soontir Fel + TC + PtL, Vessery + HLC, OGP + Vader + FCS

This list is similar to a list I saw in top 8 US nationals (The only one with a defender), and I think I saw a variation of this list in the actual tournament. FCS on OGP is an odd choice, but in most of my games OGP seems to survive and fire a lot (I use Vader sparringly, on shieldless targets), so 3-4 rounds with FCS seems to be worth it. I also keep the target lock even if I stress the shuttle with a hard 2, which is a big plus.
I didn't take this list because I played with it in a small store championship one day before the big tournament and I lost as soon as I got tired. It's not a forgiving list, each pilot must give his very best, you must be a bit lucky to not have Soontir die in one shot, etc.

I also heard in the small store championship that Falcons with C-3PO might not be so popular, so I was encouraged to play a Phantom list. I took an Echo mini-swarm, which is a list I'm very comfortable with and have lots of fun playing. I prefer Echo over Whisper because of the added maneuverability.

Echo + VI + FCS + Gunner + ACD
Howlrunner + Stealth
3 Academy Ties

Echo's load-out is specifically made to deal with high-agility targets and to mitigate any disastrous rolls.  I also use Gunner to make long-range shots possible, shooting with the Phantom from far away, preferably from behind an asteroid as well. I apply this tactic whenever I expect return fire (especially return fire from high PS) and it gives me the additional green dice to survive a lot of the times. Echo doesn't die prematurely this way.

Round 1 was a bye from the Regionals. I thought it would give me time to take some pictures, see the lists, be less tired ;)  when it counted, etc. In the end, I don't think it was such a good idea. A bye is 150 points, which in a tournament with no elimination rounds means you don't make *any* cut or tie-breaker.


Round 2 was against the player that had to take a bye as well because of me. Sorry man.

Chewbacca + Ptl + Gunner + NN + MF
Gold Squadron Pilot + ICT
Rookie Pilot + R2-D2

The first game was rather bumpy. We set up asteroids on a diagonal of 4, with 2 in opposing corners (think % sign). I take my left corner with my Ties, Phantom middle left, he takes the opposite one. I'm betting for him to go forward, so I turn in with all Ties towards him and try to cross the asteroid belt with the Phantom. He tells me he's a new player, and I immediately start making mistakes (either I relaxed or I instinctively "went easy"). Second round of movement I bank my fighters and the first one bumps a bit on the phantom such that they all bump. His fighters were still away, Chewie going straight and the Rookie with the Y-wing slowly banking. Of course Echo is good with navigating asteroid fields, but she still missed the next turn of shooting. Asteroid placement further delays Echo's voyage. I exchange fire with only my Ties, not taking much damage but slowly chipping away at his ships. After 2-3 rounds of shooting in open space left by the diagonal, he's at 1hull with the Rookie and no shields on the Gold pilot, Chewie untouched. His Rookie is facing away from the battle. I lost no ships until this point so I'm feeling confident and I bring in the Phantom closer (usually it was out of range of the Ion Cannon).

At this point they call 15 minutes and I realize I've been wasting a lot of time, either casually talking to my opponent or taking my time to do my actions. I proceed to go for Chewbacca, because the Rookie was too far away already and the Gold squadron alone wouldn't be enough to win if he destroyed one my damaged Ties. Then the worst thing happened: I bumped the Phantom into his Chewbacca. No shooting, no cloak! He proceeds to take out Howlrunner. Next turn, I bump again (not having the space to K-turn the Phantom). He takes out an Academy. I use Echo to take out the Gold squadron, but I still can't shoot Chewie. I don't even think Chewbacca and Echo ever exchanged fire, but he was on low hp due to constant fire from the Academies. They call again for time, 2 minutes. At this point, I have to give him credit. All he wanted to do was play the game. I did too, but as casually as I had played that game, I still wanted to win if possible. His rookie re-entered the fight, and this time I had a shot on him with Echo. I took him out, it was the last game round.  I won by 15 points. Chewbacca still had 4-5 HP.


I had two wins, but I felt as if I had lost two games. My next opponent had a Whisper mini-swarm

Whisper + VI + RC + ACD
5x Academy Pilots

He had 100 points. I lost this game before we even placed ships. I chose to give him initiative. I don't know what I was thinking, I never had any swarm vs. swarm games. My motivation was that I could see what his swarm was doing and make small adjustments with barrel roll, but this wasn't the case. Having actions is immensely more important in the first range 1 exchange.

He set up in the middle with the Ties, his Whisper in the left, while I was 1in the middle with my Echo and on the right with my Ties. My plan was to avoid Whisper's firing arc with Echo as much as possible, and taking out Ties. I would also take whatever chance I had at shooting at Whisper, preferrably with Howlrunner before Echo. I would not take stress on Echo no matter what.

We met in the middle and he couldn't engage anything with Whisper for a while. Because my Ties were bumping and his were not, my formation lost coherence and I couldn't get concentrated shots on anything. Howlrunner dropped quickly. Echo was shooting from range 3 (his side basically) at Ties, doing 1 damage every time, not triggering Gunner at all. I only managed to kill one Tie when time was called, he killed enough for a full win in the final minutes (Echo + 2 Ties, previously he had only killed Howlrunner, 21-12 would have been a modified win).


I was pretty demoralized after this loss, I did my best but my original mistake cost me too much. I was 2-1, but no real victories. So I wasn't looking forward to my next game, which was

Han Solo + PtL + NN + Gunner + EU + MF
3x Tala Squadron Pilot

Every Phantom player's nightmare. Similar asteroid set-up, but not because of me. I set myself up the same, he deploys the Falcon in opposite corner, Talas in the middle. This time I position properly and on the second round the Ties cross paths with the Phantom perfectly, as it goes to shoot the Talas. My plan is to keep the Talas occupied with the Phantom (hopefully out of Han's range, or at least at range 3 behind an asteroid).

I exchange fire Han-Ties and Echo-Talas. Minor damage on the Ties, 3 shields off Han and 2 shields off a Tala. Han's against an asteroid wall and I know he wants to start shooting the phantom, so he's likely to go 3-4 forward to go over my Ties. I 3-bank with one Tie to block that and proceed head-first with the rest. It's not as potent as with a full-swarm, since out of 4 ties, 1 is facing another direction, 1 is bumped into Han, and I'm left with shooting Howlrunner and an Academy (albeit at range 1). Echo was tucked behind an asteroid at range 3, shooting at Talas, so Han decided to go for the range 1 attack. 3 Hits. I roll 1 evade two focus. Should I evade Gunner by taking two damage? Seems abrupt. I use the focus, he kills Howlrunner with the Gunner extra attack. The Tala only takes one critical (so much for using my Gunner): Stunned pilot, he'll be dead on the next round.

The following round I 4k and 3k with my two Ties and go forward with my out-of-formation blocker (blocking the Tala so he dies). Han banks to go for Echo, then boosts. Echo is moving further away, range 3 behind asteroid, Han is starting to take damage. The next round Han manages a range 2 attack through an asteroid, and he strips only one shield (which I could evade, but I didn't want to trigger Gunner, a no-brainer). Return fire is not so great for him, he takes a Damaged Sensor Array (no action bar - including EU and MF). He's also on 2 HP, but his Talas are trying to mop up the ties (the blocker Tie has agility -1) I disengage Echo and end up taking out the Tala which had range 1 shot on my Ties. The third Tala also drops that round and he concedes.


The previous game gave me confidence and personal satisfaction, I could have gone home that instant and be happy that I won against a Han Solo + 3 Tala, which I wasn't confident that I could do. I was facing

Ibtisam + SW
Roark Garnet + Blaster Turret + Recon Specialist
2x Blue Squadron Pilots

This list was straightforward, but dangerous. Two ships shooting at PS12 is no laughing matter. We deployed in opposite corners with all our ships and met in the center. Roark was further away, but Echo was in formation. I thought I could spare one frontal attack before I starting flanking with Echo.

I lost one shield, but a B-wing dropped that turn. The next turn all his B-wings bumped (no place for K-turning) and I was where I am most comfortable, behind an asteroid shooting Echo at range 3. The next turn his B-wings went after Echo. Two of my Ties turned, the other two (with Howlrunner) went after Roark. Echo disengaged and ended up behind the B-wings, facing away, shooting at Roark at range 3. Roark went down in a single round of shooting from Echo, Howlrunner and a range 1 Academy Pilot, then every ship turned to face the B-wings. One of his B-wings was on an asteroid, but that hardly mattered, because I was at almost full HP on my ships, what followed was a botched mop-up (I forgot not one, but TWO dials in one turn), but I took the full win.


My next opponent had a double Phantom.

Whisper + VI + FCS + ACD
Echo + VI + IA + ACD
2 Academy Pilots

I had no idea what to expect from a list like this, or what weakness I could exploit with an inferior-PS phantom and Tie Fighters. The asteroids left an open space in the middle, where we met. He had set up in the middle, I on the right side. I avoided his Whisper with my Echo like crazy, but since I had initiative he had to avoid my Echo with his Echo as well.

I started blocking decloak paths for Whisper, so that he couldn't get good shots at Echo. I lost Howlrunner in the round she successfully blocked a decloak path of Whisper. Karma i guess. We continued dancing around, me trying my best to avoid Whisper fire, him trying to get me, all around our academy pilots.

He made one mistake (1 hard right instead of 1 hard left) with his Echo, and he chose to barrel roll out of range of my Echo, towards the edge of the map. He exchanged a round of fire for another, because the next turn he could only 1 hard right to not get off the map, and I was at range 1 again. He took evade (don't know why not cloak - maybe fearing the green dice?). I rolled 2 eyes, but used Gunner to attack again. 5 hits. He rolled 2 more evades. I took two shields off.  He made another bank maneuver the following round, and tried to escape, but couldn't barrel roll out of my firing arc because of an asteroid, so he evaded again. Time was called, this was the last round. I had a vague notion that time was almost up, so I was going after Echo with persistence, while keeping his Whisper occupied by blocking decloaks with my remaining two Ties. He was apparently not aware of the time limitation, so it caught him off-guard.

I took Echo out, but he still had a range 1 shot on one of my Academy pilots with one of his. He rolled three focus (he had a focus token). I had one damage. I had to roll two natural evades. I got none. The game ended with me getting a modified win by 3 points. This was a list that would have been very difficult for me to kill outright, but I won on time. This is a new notion for me, since this was only my third tournament.


I ended up with 5th place because of my modified win. My only loss was against the champion, which I can easily disregard :D . I might even have gone different if I didn't choose initiative, at least I would have killed more than a single Tie Fighter. The biggest prize was getting good games against good opponents (excepting the bye and the first game, where I  played miserably) and holding my own. It was also very interesting to see all these new lists. I had heard of Whisper + 5, but it's a beast to see in person. The OGP + 6 was also very intimidating.

I still think my list is fun to play with Gunner and FCS, but I can understand why some people would choose a different load-out. The phantoms I played against go for the range 1 kill, but they have turns where they don't shoot anything but are shot at. If I stick at range 3 with TL+focus, I will get constant but high enough damage output and I can often risk to use a focus on attack. I am seriously considering giving Howlrunner Swarm Tactics, since I can shoot a damaged Tie that might not make it to shoot that round. Stealth Device is about 50% efficient, sometimes it doesn't really matter that you had one extra die, Howlrunner is still dead.

I'm also glad that I brought along my girlfriend to play. She had fun despite being a very tiring event. She ran:

Etahn A'baht
Blue Squadron Pilot + FCS
2 x Blue Squadron Bilot

She had a few very close games and one full win, which is very good considering this was a premiere event, people who showed up probably play much more than she has (so far :) )

More pictures in a Google+ Album

The loot included an acrylic range ruler, target lock tokens and an Alternate Art Chewbacca pilot card.
In the end I had lots of fun and hope to play these guys again. Fly Casual!

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