A little while back, Trevor ran an Escalation tournament for X-wing at Mission Fun and Games. This was the first time many of us used the Escalation format, and due to time constraints we had to skip the 60pt round, resulting in three games of 90/120/150. In the end, it was a great way to spend a holiday Monday!
For my list, I really wanted to try out some Z-95s and an E-wing. I had a little bit of practice with the Headhunters, but I had yet to squeeze the E-wing into a list. They really are an odd duck, with a great statline (3/3/2/3), the barrel roll action (pretty rare for Rebels, although less so once the YT-2400 drops), good upgrade slots and an above average dial which gets a LOT better with an R2 unit… But they really do cost an arm and a leg.
Like most agility 3 ships, they really benefit a lot from Push the Limit for focus/evade, and with Advanced Sensors and an R2 unit, you can do this before moving and then clear your stress immediately. You can also use it to take actions before ramming intentionally, a tactic that I exploited immediately and to good effect in game 1. Pretty darn handy, but at a price — 39 pts for fully loaded Etahn, the cheaper of the two pilots which offer the slot for PTL. His special ability to turn hits to crits for himself and his friends can potentially make it worth the cost, depending on what critical damage cards your opponent draws.
Round 1 – 90 pts
To round out the squad, I decided to try an increasingly fat Chewie. He started with Predator (passively allows him to re-roll 1 attack die, 2 if the enemy is PS1-2), plus C-3PO and the Millennium Falcon title. This gives Chewie a huge amount of durability, as Goldenrod can always guess 0 natural evades from the dice and usually give him a free evade, to go along with the evade action he can afford to take when he has passive accuracy boost via Predator. Overall, very tanky and a stark contrast with Etahn, who dodges arcs and stacks tokens for his durability. Check the full list below:
The first game went swimmingly. I didn’t like the draw, Turr Phenir with Veteran Instincts and Stealth Device, alongside a pair of shuttles with Fire-Control Systems and Heavy Laser Cannons. Wow, that’s a lot of firepower at 90 points! We set up in opposite corners, and I was just hoping to dodge arcs and/or evade shots long enough to outmaneuver the shuttles.
In the end, I got one round of shooting to soften the lead shuttle before they could turn into position and fire back, and then after that I was able to take focus/evade combos on Etahn and bump the lead shuttle, which possibly never got a shot off all game when I think about it. Phew! By himself, the shuttle in back was going to have a really hard time getting through the 3 agility plus defensive tokens before dying, even with 4-dice attacks and free target locks every round. Two shuttles pumping out that many red dice would have been a very different story…
So with the lead shuttle wounded and unable to fire, I switched all firepower to the rear shuttle and started hammering him quickly. Meanwhile Turr maneuvered into flanking position. At one point he clipped a rock, taking damage and robbing him of a shot and his action for the round (not to mention the free barrel roll he needed to get out of Etahn’s fire arc). This mistake cost him big time, as Etahn was able to finish him off then and there. At this point, it was a wounded Etahn and untouched Chewie against a banged up shuttle pointing the wrong direction. Didn’t take long to mop up the 89-0 win.
Round 2 – 120 pts
The second round featured another pretty scary matchup, and not just because my opponent also put up flawless victory in the first game. Jason was packing one of the ships I rarely ever see, but always fear — Carnor Jax. With his ability to shut down my focus/evade actions, Jax would severely limit my list’s ability to dodge incoming fire. And with a pair of Defenders and another Turr Phennir, Jason definitely had a lot of firepower to throw my way. I think Jason had stealth on both his interceptors as well, making them even tougher to hit. This matchup could possibly go bad if I didn’t deal with Jax immediately!
Luckily, at 120 points I had more room to beef up Chewie and throw in some Z-95s. They are cheap, easy to overlook, and like the common TIE fighter easily worth their 12 point price tag. And with Etahn potentially bumping their shots to criticals every turn, the humble Z’s could definitely do some work against ships with their shields stripped away by Etahn and Chewie who shoot first. Overall, I really liked the 120 list I ran here.
Turn 1, Chewie tried to boost up and take a hail Mary shot at Jax, but instead loses a couple shields for his trouble. Turn 2, all guns point at Jax and I pray for the dice gods to smile on me. Turr and Jax hammer Etahn pretty hard, but in return Chewie fires at range 1 plus a target lock, and causes a pair of direct hits to Jax! Etahn follows this up with a hit and crit against Turr, which turns out to be another direct hit. Wow, both of these expensive interceptor aces dead already!
At this point Etahn has 1 hull remaining and bugs out, while the remainder of the ships engage at range 1. I don’t quite kill a Defender before it lays into a Bandit, killing him. The Defenders definitely make it interesting, dishing out a lot of firepower to anyone who got in their way, but they can’t finish anyone else off before getting dropped by the three remaining Rebels. 119-12 win for the terrorists.
Round 3 – 150 pts
For the final round, I probably would have tossed down another pair of Z-95s, but I don’t actually own that many yet. I have a few more on the way, but they won’t arrive until whenever Rebel Aces drops. Instead, I throw down Biggs and an Assault Missile for the Falcon. You never know when you’re gonna face a swarm. Hooray for crowd control!
The enemy squadron at this point consists of Han with VI, Navigator, Luke Skywalker in the gunner’s chair and the MF title; Dutch with R7 and Ion Turret; 2x Blue Squad B-wings with Sensors; and a Bandit. A pretty flexible list, but overall I felt pretty good going in. My list had a lot of synergies, more capacity to reduce incoming fire, and hopefully enough firepower to drop his B-wings quickly. I expected a pretty messy game.
The opening rounds went pretty well, with Chewie taking a bit of fire from the B-wings in exchange for a lot of damage on those B’s. Dutch and Han deployed pretty far away on the opposite side of the board, so they didn’t factor in much at the beginning. Some sloppy flying on my part (bumping a few times and clipping rocks with my Z-95s, which took damage every single time) meant I had to spread the offense around a little more than I would have liked, while Biggs also meant that my opponent couldn’t shoot where he wanted to either! Hooray for unfocused, ineffectual attacks!
Definitely some not-so-great moments there. Things did clean up over time, with a B-wing landing a sneaky K-turn and getting a TL/focus shot on Etahn at range 1. He missed having Biggs in his arc by fractions of an inch. Luckily the dice bailed me out; triple focus to evade when I had a token to spend. I played pretty conservatively after that, going for some long-term plays and ensuring I didn’t lose anybody I didn’t have to.
So the support ships took a beating after this point and quickly it was down to Dutch and Han versus the world. Even Biggs was somehow still alive, although shield tokens were pretty much non-existent for either of us! As the game progressed, we both had to split up a bit and take some scenic routes across the table. For the most part I was doing the chasing, and putting out more damage than I was taking. Han just couldn’t get through Etahn’s defenses, and shooting at Chewie and his pile of health wasn’t much better. With C-3PO and R2-D2, I could also ignore a few hits per turn without losing any accuracy. Just a bad situation for Han to be in.
Eventually I landed a couple of crits on Han, including the dreaded injured pilot, and there was just no way he was going to do anything meaningful before the noose closed around him. The next turn Han was likely taking 4 volleys of fire, with just 5 health left. We shook hands and that was that.
So in the end I had 4 ships that had each taken a couple of hits, and only one of my Z-95s in the graveyard. 150-12 final score. Do I get bonus points for conserving ammo? Chewie forgot to use his missile 🙂
As the dust settled, it was pretty clear that I had finished in first place for the event. With 3-0 and just a pair of Bandit Squadron Z-95s shot down, my margin of victory was through the roof. This was my first event since they got rid of Strength of Schedule, and obviously I played to that early on. Chewie was a huge point sink, and Etahn played defensively is no easy kill either. So those points were going to be very hard to extract from my list, while I could pump out some rather high quality shots in return. There were a few cases where Chewie rolled 3-4 criticals at a time, thanks to his re-rolls and Etahn’s ability allowing another hit to turn to a critical. A bit lucky, for sure, but the list was designed to generate a lot of crits and it certainly does that. If your opponent keeps drawing direct hits, that’s just gravy!
So a successful outing by all measures. I got the wins, had a lot of fun, and for my efforts I was able to take home an alt Biggs card. Perfectly appropriate, since the man with the epic pornstache pulled off the impossible and survived the game where I used him. I’ll definitely look forward to the next Escalation event, as the expanding list format (where you can add cards every round but never remove them from your roster) really presents some new challenges, and you end up playing differently in each game throughout the day. A great system, and I’m glad it’s a part of the official tournament rules PDF.
Well, that’s it for now! By all means give Escalation a shot if you haven’t done so already. It’s a great little twist on an already kick-ass tabletop game. As always, comments and questions are both welcome and encouraged!