On the 26th March we ran the 2016 Athena Games Store Championship, with a regional bye for the winner. With a field of 45 players running everything from Tie Fighter Swarms to the Emperor Palpatine on a shuttle it was one of our largest Star Wars X-Wing events to date! We asked the tournament’s victor, Owen Appleton, to write a little on his list, his matches and his experience of the day…
I showed up moderately nervous to my first tournament, about 1.5 cups of coffee over what I needed, and early as I was not sure how things ran. There was a lively crowd, many of whom clearly knew each other, but people were generally very welcoming and chatty. I was felt good about my list, which had performed well against the group I usually play with (but whose patience with it had been pretty much exhausted). It was:
Gold Sqdn Y wing, Twin Laser Turrets
Gold Sqdn Y wing, Twin Laser Turrets, BTL-A4 title, R3-A2 (AKA the *&%?!! Stresshog)
Blue Sqdn B wing, B wing/E2, Tactician
Blue Sqdn B wing, B wing/E2, Tactician
So all told, 32 health spread across four ships, each with 16 total shields or hull. The possibility of rolling to attack seven times a round, the potential to deliver 4 stress a round, and everyone with just a lonely green agility dice. In fact so much stress I bought a bag of courtesy stress tokens for my opponents in case they ran out!
I was moderately confident of a mid-table result, as the list is frankly kryptonite to many popular builds. It is also a blunt instrument, that does not require a great deal of finesse to fly. It is deeply irritating to fly against, and whatever you lose, the survivors are pretty much independently viable. In addition, it is not massively action dependant and tolerant of deliberate or accidental bumps. You get shot a lot, and lose a lot of shields, but it is not the end of the world.
I started out against an extremely friendly chap with Scum Lone Wolf Boba and two TLT/Unhinged Syndicate Thugs. Boba was built to be very much action-independent, but stress still hurts (no boost so the Engine Upgrade was not useful) and the B wings can dish out a lot of damage. As I found is often par for the course with this list I lost one ship they focussed while the others cleared them off. His TKLTs could do not hurt me fast enough and I had a greater weight of fire.
I faced HLC/FCS Brobots next, which was pretty brutal. I set up in a corner and they (to my surprise) set up opposite me. IG88B was closer to the table edge with IG88C inside of it. Moving forward I dropped a lot of stress on B, which makes Brobots crumble pretty fast. Stressed to block its trickier manoeuvres, B went down fast, removing his cannon-gunner effect. C fared little better, as boost-to-evade was also not possible when stressed. It was 100-0 though I think the robo-twins would have done much better if they had popped glitterstim for the first shooting round, but I think people forget quite how many times my list can hurt you if all guns are brought to bear.
Next up was a Dash/Ghost build. Dash took one bad barrel roll into range, and it picked up a bucket of stress and then went down like a lead balloon. The Ghost did better and with Hera crew, surprised me with a K when stressed, but zero agility vs a lot of red dice ends only one way. I tanked several 4 red dice shots, but put in two many hits in return for the chopper-piloted VCX-1000 to cope. Chopper dished a few stress, but it was not the end of the world.
At 3-0 I was feeling pretty good, but at the same time I was now on the top row of tables and looking around at some pretty nasty lists. The Swiss system was only going to put me up against ever better opponents as I progressed. So I lined up opposite a smiley and friendly guy called Dan, with some optimism.
It didn’t last.
Dan’s list was more brutal than my own, and probably the nastiest surprise in wave 8. His Triple U boat list (generic Jumpmaster/deadeye/guidance chips/ordnance) was imposing in size and potential impact. Having PS advantage over me it set up right opposite me and charged my regular T formation. At this point I realised my sturdy brawlers were about to be rolled over in incredibly short order. Caught at range 2, three torpedoes with TLs and an extra hit from guidance chips vaporised my poor Stresshog before I ever got to shoot back. I had started to feel the tiny plastic Stresshog pilot was used to being focussed first turn, and seemed to have come to terms with being the team bait ship, but I felt some real resentment from the mini as I took it off the board.
In an attempt to respond I pushed forward to try and get into range 1 and avoid more ordnance, but then I discovered part two of the U boat’s pure evil. Two dice natural turrets hurt my 1 agility ships, especially at range 1. I was not manoeuvrable enough (and at a PS disadvantage) so could not dodge the initial ordnance pass. I was not agile enough to take the turret hits. And the white s-loop just added insult to injury. That said, through perseverance and high health to start with, I managed to just about take out one Jumpmaster and got another to half health. I lost, but got some MOV back, and I was pretty certain everyone else would lose to that list too.
At 3-1, sobered but still in the game, I matched up with a Dengar jumpmaster list backed by IG88B. I decided to take a risky move and just ignore Dengar at first to avoid the return fire. With a much lower PS I could not dodge out of Dengar’s arc, and I’d already seen I could hammer IG88s to scrap. Without backup, I could spread out and hit Dengar from different angles, mitigating his pilot ability. Plus, dealing some stress stopped him using the awesome ‘Gonk’ (I challenge you not to say that out loud when you read it!). I lost two ships but it was still a decent win.
By the last (sixth!!) round of Swiss people were excited, but equally you could see they were flagging. I was starting to think I had a good chance of making the cut. I got picked to fight a Decimator-Fell list and was feeling not bad about it. Then there was a technical issue which required be repaired, and going from a list where stress would hurt Fell and the Decimator had no agility, I found myself opposite pretty much what I thought would be my nemesis pre-tournament. A swarm.
This swarm was piloted by a leather clad nutcase. Certainly a nutcase as he chose to fly RecSpec/TLT Miranda Doni and 5 z95s all day. I think at this stage he was pretty mentally broken, and rather than being clever, basically charged my small formation with his larger one. In retrospect I should have turned away and tried to break him up, but in reality what I did was delete a Bandit Z95 in the first shot then try and take out Miranda. While she ran and regenerated, the four remaining Z95s battered me. I should have spread out the stress to stop the swarm K turning, and I paid for it. I managed to kill Miranda at the end for improved MoV, but it was another loss.
So going into the cut, I figured I had a chance but not certainty. There were plenty of good players left and my record was not stellar. A harried Rufus (the TO) came out with the list, and once the mob dissipated a bit I saw the Swiss rankings. While positions 6 to 13 all had twenty points, I managed to be top of that pile, and comfortably into the knockout phase. For my first ever tournament, this felt like a good achievement, but I can’t pretend the prospect of three of more games didn’t also exhaust me in advance. Clearly others agreed, as after the ranking were announced and first set of prizes distributed, three of the last eight dropped out, including Freddie’s Miranda/swarm list, which had just defeated me. This left me in the odd position of getting a Quarter final bye. So I managed to rest a little, get my head together and watch Darren’s Darth and three Tempest list achieve a monumental victory against the triple U boat Jumpmasters. Clever bumping and three green dice per ships took down the big based Scum ships, and suddenly things were shifting.
I was then set to play the lower ranked of the Quarter final winners, in this case Darren and his TIE Advanced list I’d just watched giant-killing. We set up in opposite corners, both advanced a round then turned in. I immediately turned a B wing onto an asteroid, clearly the tiredness catching up with me, though the mistake was early enough I was not punished too much for it. I managed to put stress and put damage on two tempests while Darth rolled out of arc. Next turn it descended into a massive centre pileup but I took down a tempest. Vader went down to focus fire and shortly after we traded a B wing for a Tempest. I managed to forget to set a dial for a far-off gold squad Y wing resulting in my opponent flying it off the board but, the remaining Stresshog and B wing did enough, and I managed the victory.
So onto the final. I couldn’t really believe it, but suddenly I began to feel quite confident, because while very skilful, Leighton, my opponent, was running the PalpAces list. I always felt this was one I had a good chance against, as once I get stress on Vader or Fell, they tend to suddenly become quite crunchy, even with Palpatine leaning his thumb on the scales of probability.
To my surprise, Leighton set up the Lambda and Vader in one corner and Fell in the other, with me being slightly to the Fell-side of centre. I advanced on him in formation, and he tried to blast past me on one side. I turned to try and catch him, and he evaded me, so I did the unthinkable and K-turned a Stresshog back toward the table centre, as well as one of the B wings while the other B chased Fell. A B wing took an r1 Fell shot but survived, and the K turned Stresshog and the TLT Y wing managed to take out Vader, while on of the B’s got a stress on Fell. All four of my ships set up a kill box that blocked Fell’s escape and he went down. The Lambda battled on, but decided to deny kills to the stress aces by ending the game by gloriously flying off the board.
Reaching the end was a weird mixture of elation and exhaustion. It is certainly a marathon not a sprint with this many players in the tournament. My list did admirably, but it was one very tolerant of my own mistakes, and like I said, not an instrument of finesse. More a big spikey club with STRESS poorly carved into one side. However, I had a brilliant time, the organisers were great and the Athena venue was really ideal (support your FLGS folks!). I’ll be back for the regionals to use my shiny bye card, though I imagine the going will be even tougher then!
The Athena Games X-Wing Regional Championship will be on the 2nd July 2016. Tickets will be £15 and you can get them online or instore! The Store Championship was also streamed on the day, which you can watch here.