Erin comes face-to-face with the power of the swarm list in the top cut of the System Open. What can he do about it? The answer might be simper than you think…
Sunday morning greeted an excited bustle of players outside the Ballroom of the Bankstown Sporting Club.
Twenty-nine squadron leaders across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore had battled their way into the top cut of the inaugural Star Wars: X-Wing Australian System Open Series, and it was now down to the knockout stage of the tournament. Make it to the top 8, and you would net yourself an invite to the World Championship.
My Scum and Villainy list had carried me this far; between Ketsu’s tractor-beam shenanigans and Kavil and Old Teroch’s ability to pile on damage to other ships before most of them had their turn to fire, I had done relatively well against lists with a low ship count, but struggled against swarms of 5 or more ships.
Ketsu Onyo (70)
Shadow Caster (3)
Old Teroch (56)
Dorsal Turret (3)
Veteran Turret Gunner (8)
I hoped that there was enough magic left to get me that little bit further.
Wellington’s Paul Johnson lined up his Republic Sinker Swarm (“Sinker” in an ARC-170, four Gold Squadron Troopers flying V-19 Torrents and Ric Olie in is Naboo N1 Starfighter) on the opposite corner to my ships and hugged the northern board edge whilst sending Ric down the eastern lane. Unlike many of yesterday’s opponents, Paul was fully aware of the havoc that tractor tokens could wreak upon his swarm, and gave the central asteroids a wide berth.
Unfortunately 5 hull per Torrent was just a little too much to chew through during the first engagement and I was unable to destroy one before being fired back at.
On the next turn, Ric dived in too close, and was summarily deposited onto a nearby asteroid for his troubles. Paul self-bumped Sinker to keep him in position in front of Ketsu, denying her 5K-turn, while everyone else ripped into Kavil. A Hull Breach on Ketsu soon afterward allowed Ric to pile 5 faceup critical damage cards on her in one shot; the game ended with Kavil gone, Ketsu on one health (and crits for days), and only one Torrent destroyed. I wished good luck to Paul, who would go on to face Jaren Foss in the Top 16 round.
So, there it was. Time to pack up the three amigos who had done so well to get me that far, and put some TIE fighters on the table for the secondary tournament: the Hyperspace Qualifier. While each game continued to give the players prize tickets that they could redeem for promotional art pilot cards and acrylic tokens, those going undefeated for the remainder of the Qualifier could also win an invite to Worlds.
A first round loss in the Top Cut gave those of us joining the Hyperspace Qualifier a first round bye; four more to go – anything’s possible, right?
My Hyperspace list was a take on the popular Inferno Squadron TIE swarm:
Swarm Tactics (4)
Iden Versio (40)
Del Meeko (30)
Swarm Tactics (3)
Gideon Hask (30)
Academy Pilot (23)
The reason I’d put Swarm Tactics on Del was to even out the points across the TIE fighters; putting this on Iden Versio was a popular choice but would have made her almost one and a half times more expensive than the next pilot down.
I shook hands with Peter from Sydney and set my swarm up to pit against his Imperial Aces – Soontir Fel, Dath Vader and Maarek Steele.
Peter spread his three aces down the eastern board edge; after a first couple of turns of hiccups getting my TIEs in and out of formation, I turned in to the centre of the board to start herding cats. Aware of the dangers of being caught in arc, a game of cat-and-mouse ensued with Peter keeping Maarek out of the line of fire and me gradually herding Soontir around the board and into the northwest corner. Up until the final round, shots had only been traded at range 3, with no one being able to land a hit. Time was called just as Peter managed to surround the swarm; Soontir failed his Predator reroll and put one damage onto Howlrunner, while Darth Vader’s burst of critical damage was nullified by Iden Versio. My return fire put a grand total of one damage into Vader, and so with only one damage apiece and no points scored, it was down to final salvo! Unfortunately for Peter’s ace list, this meant only seven dice to my swarm’s twelve; final score: two hits to Peter, nine for me.
Next up was Grant O’Dwyer (of Imperial Propaganda fame), piloting Kylo Ren’s TIE Silencer and three Crack Shot Omega Special Forces TIES. Grant managed to surround the swarm by positioning Kylo in the Northwest corner and the three TIE/SFs in the North, East and Southeast sides.
I decided to go for the northernmost TIE/SF before the other two could get into position; once damaged, I switched direction to the southeast one. It worked; the northern one disengaged, hoping to draw my fire, while I honed in on my new target. A quick K-turn later, and I had all four enemy ships in front of me and no longer had to worry about being flanked, for a few turns at least. Two of the TIE/SFs went down, as did one or two of my TIE Fighters; It was a close match but fortunately I won out on points.
First Order seemed to be the flavour of the day as Michael O’Connor and I began our round 4 match.
My TIES rushed up the western board edge for Lt. Tavson’s Upsilon Shuttle while Kylo and Quickdraw came in from the east.
With 6 shields and 6 hull, I couldn’t quite take the shuttle down to half-health on the first engagement and was forced to break up the swarm in order to deal with the likely prospect that it would perform a hard stop the following turn; four of them K-turned behind Tavson while Iden and Howlrunner swung right to fend off the coming attacks from Michael’s two aces… right in front of Tavson’s main guns. Fortunately for me, Swarm Tactics boosted Wampa to fire before Tavson and the combined barrage of the four TIEs smothered the shuttle before it could fire. After that, applying consistent pressure on Quickdraw became top priority – even if I managed to strip her shields to prevent her bonus attacks, her Fanatical talent meant she could still pack a punch all the way into her death throes.
Quickdraw was dispatched at the cost of two of my TIE fighters, and the game ended with Kylo still on the board vs Inferno squadron at roughly half-health.
Round Five was to be the last round of the evening; the System Open final round was underway and so everyone undefeated at four games in the Hyperspace Qualifier so far was to be given an automatic bye for the Sixth round.
My opponent was another JAWA, Alex Sandoval, who had also been eliminated from the top cut and seeking to redeem himself in Hyperspace. Another First Order squadron leader, he had also brought Tavson, Kylo and Quickdraw; however crucially Quickdraw was fitted with Concussion Missiles and a Fire-Control System instead of the Special Forces Gunner. This was bad news for me – landing an area of effect attack on a close-packed swarm such as mine could cripple it in one hit.
Alex set Quickdraw and Tavson up opposite Inferno Squadron in the northwestern corner and made a run for the northeast, while Kylo circled clockwise around.
Just as Tavson was rounding the northeast corner obstacle, I dove in for the shuttle, which coordinated Quickdraw into taking a target lock on Del as it started taking fire.
I couldn’t afford Quickdraw getting her Concussion Missile away; the next turn, the swarm suddenly swung hard for the northern board edge to head Quickdraw off. The change in direction caught Alex off guard; expecting me to concentrate on Tavson, he also had banked his shuttle in at high speed expecting to bump the swarm, but only managed to collect Iden in his front grill.
Too close for missiles, Quickdraw switched to guns but was met with a hail of fire from the swarm; with her one and only bonus attack, she managed to trade for half points on Wampa and Howlrunner as she went from being a state-of-the-art starfighter to a spaceborne colander.
I K-turned what ships I could and prepared to go after the shuttle; Kylo could at best be dissuaded from charging in but I had little hope of catching him in arc with multiple ships. With Kylo nibbling hull points off the TIEs left right and centre as I chased Tavson, it was down to who could win the damage race; a final round shot from the Academy Pilot Who Could managed to put the final laser bolt in Tavson’s hull and the shuttle went down!
And just like that, it was over. 5-0 in the Hyperspace Qualifier and an invitation to the X-Wing World Championship!
Fifteen of us had managed to snag invites: six others who had gone undefeated in the Hyperspace Qualifier, and the top 8 players in the System Open; of these, ultimately “XY” Lim would go on to beat Akhter Khan to take out the inaugural title of Australian SOS champion.
Across 11 intense dogfights over two jam-packed days, I had met and battled against some amazing players, winning through thanks to a combination of tactics, the synergies of two very awesome lists, and more than a little bit of luck.
As a first-time traveller to a national-scale event, I can thoroughly recommend going to one if you haven’t yet. On the competitive side, each time I was paired against a more difficult opponent, I felt that my ability and grasp of the game also rose to meet the occasion. Off the field, it’s been a fantastic opportunity to get to know the rest of the JAWA crew better and meet and swap stories with all of these other fantastic people who have come to share the same passion of Star Wars and tabletop/board gaming.
Hope to see you all next year!