As April draws to a close, so too does the first round of the NHL playoffs. As always that means my mind is stuck on the ice, and not necessarily the gaming tables as much as it should normally be.
While my Oilers remain in contention for the draft lottery instead of the postseason, I still have some favourites to follow every year. Chicago and Los Angeles both put up a great effort, getting off to some bad starts in their respective series despite some moments of strong play. Chicago could have won both games 1 and 2, but shot themselves in the foot and had to come back from 0-2 to beat the Blues in six games.
LA had similar troubles, digging themselves a five goal deficit in game 1 before storming back and making a game of it. They also led 2-0 in game 2, before giving up seven straight in an ugly, ugly game. After dropping a back and forth game 3, they were facing the dreaded 3-0 series lead. Thankfully, they were finally able to sustain their A-game and came all the way back to win (convincingly) in game 7.
Damn, that’s some good old fashioned grit and determination on display in the West. What the hell does this all have to do with tabletop gaming, you ask? Well, the story arcs for my go-to teams in hockey’s second season parallels my own personal narrative in terms of X-wing tournaments. Some of you may be sick of hearing about X-wing (I swear I’m still diligently reading my Horus Heresy and buying all the Forge World I can get my hands on… just gotta get around to playing it more!) but hey, it’s what I’m playing these days so if I don’t talk about it then it will be a pretty darn quiet place around here!
So back to the store championship run. As I have said before, the first couple of events went OK but not great. 2-0 starts at Mission and Myth Games in Calgary both ended in tears for my Rebel scum. Games 3 and 4 at Mission were both lost by a single shot, as I had my opponents on their final hull points when I finally lost. In the end, I was simply too focused on the early “alpha strike”, trying to get out to an insurmountable lead and then coast to victory, which is really not as viable in X-wing as it is in games like 40k (or even Attack Wing, via Kirk/Picard Federation builds). You almost always have to take the long view — you know, Alpha Legion style.
I didn’t really learn my lesson in time for the Myth Games event, as I took a gimmicky Rebel list that was partially designed just to show off my painted models, and partially designed to mess with other elite Rebel builds, which is what I heard was pretty common in that city’s meta. Roark with Ion Turret, Wedge with Swarm Tactics and two naked B-wings was ridiculous overkill in terms of shooting first, and didn’t really have any legs past those first engagements. I squeaked by with two minor wins in incomplete games (60 minute rounds just don’t cut it), but really the list wasn’t doing what I expected it to do. Against a dual Firespray list with Dark Curse, everything fell apart and I got smoked. Dice kept it from being as close as it should have been, but it was 99-0 and once again dropped me out of the final tables.
I knew it was because I was flying way too aggressively early, not planning far enough ahead, and also not building a list with the endgame in mind. Winning is all about putting yourself in good positions, flying a capable list that has some options for re-positioning (via boost and barrel roll), and for the love of midichlorians don’t try to tackle everything head-on. Flanking is often a great strategy to force your opponent to break formation, and as my Myth Games list couldn’t really function properly outside of formation, I was unable to do this much myself and ended up being very vulnerable to blocking, flanking, and all those other things that good opponents can throw at you.
I’m glad that I stuck to it and found a way to get back to good fundamentals. Playing some practice games with Ward went a long way, as we both ran similar lists in back to back matches that went completely opposite ways. First game I cruised to an easy win, while the second game saw Ward flying like a wizard and rolling dice like a god. At times he sacrificed firepower for positioning, and it always left me in a real bad spot down the road. Seeing the difference between rusty, out of practice Ward and the proper, head in the game Ward was like night and day. I don’t mind losing when I feel like I learned something, and Wardo really set a good example for me heading into the final store championships event of the season.
My winning list that I took to Thunderground had two Blue Squadron B-wings with Fire Control Systems, backed up by Chewbacca with Push the Limit, Nien Nunb, Engine Upgrade and the Millennium Falcon title. Chewie was all about options; he can do a huge number of action combos, cover a lot of ground and boost into/out of range and arcs, and tank like a boss when he needs to soak damage and grind out victories. Meanwhile the B-wings hurt like hell, and if Chewie makes enough of a nuisance of himself, the opponent can’t just pick on the durable B’s without causing himself other headaches. Both Chewie and his escorts had a good mix of early game offense, along with the durability to survive multiple exchanges and contribute well during the endgame. With boost and barrel roll options, I had all my fundamentals covered nicely and the list was very rewarding to fly. There were several turns where I gave up a chance at focus/target lock stacking for a barrel roll into a better position or simply to safely disengage instead, and it almost always paid off. Previously I might have sacrificed positioning for that short term offense, but you don’t always have to take those risks. Sometimes you can play it safe and reap the benefits for a few consecutive turns.
There’s a lot of stuff between now and the June 21 regionals in Calgary, but I’m really looking forward to it all. The big ships, the new X-wing cards from the Transport set, old gaming buddies coming out of the woodwork to play X-wing… lots of good vibes the last little while, and it should keep on going for May/June.
Oh, and the podcast is still going strong. Episode 4 will be up this weekend, so by all means subscribe to the show via iTunes or your software of choice, like the Hobby Night in Canada page on Facebook, and get caught up before the new episode goes up Saturday! We talk a lot about Malifaux, which is exactly what my 40k followers will want to hear, I’m sure! Don’t worry, the first few episodes have a lot of 40k 😉