Friday, 26 October 2012

X-Wing: Political Escort Take 2 Battle Report

After a relatively quick (but not rushed) first game of X-Wing, we decided to swap seats and try the same mission with the opposite factions.  Considering that I had suffered two comprehensive defeats in a row playing as the Empire, I looked forward to getting a win on the board with the obviously overpowered Rebel Squadron.  All pilots and upgrades were the same as in the previous game, the details of which you can find here.

I decided to place the Y-Wing covering the shuttle on my left, while the two X-Wings were more central.  My plan was for the Y-Wing and shuttle to plough straight forward through whatever forces were ahead of them (there's no risk of ship to ship collision in X-Wing.) Getting the shuttle off the table should take six turns or so, so durable Y-Wing was the best bet for escorting it.  I presumed that Adam would similarly spread his forces across the table, not knowing exactly where the shuttle would be heading.  Therefore, as he moved to congregate on the shuttle, the two X-Wings should be able to come in from my right, using their superior firepower to knock out any Tie or Advanced they come across without too much return fire.

Philistine that he is however, he decided to forgo anything as sophisticated as a plan and massed the two Tie Advanced and a Tie straight across from the shuttle to bumrush the Rebels!  Still, assuming the shuttle made it past the first wave, it should have a couple turns grace while the Imperials manoeuvre to get back into firing position, giving me enough time to thin their numbers.

Rebel deployment, with some menacing Tie Advanced opposite

Things started much as you would expect, the shuttle and Y-Wing went straight for the opposite table edge, the Y-Wing putting a target lock on a Tie advanced.  The X-Wings both swung round slightly to my left, one target locking a Tie and the other Focusing.  The Imperials mirrored the Rebel manoeuvres, Darth and co heading towards the shuttle, while the basic Tie and Backstabber moved closed in on the X-Wings. 

Things get crowded after the first attack run on the shuttle

Shooting, mostly at long range, was a mixed bag.  Neither Darth or his two wingmen managed to put out any damage, but took none in return from the Y-Wing.  Garven Dreis used his one Proton Torpedo attack at long range, to put two damage onto the Tie opposite (one more would blow it up completely,) but Wedge failed to finish it off.  Worse was to follow for him, as some poor defence dice stripped him of his shields following attacks from Backstabber and the other Tie.  Still, it's Wedge, he's in all three good movies, he isn't getting taken out by some fluky dice, is he?

Turn two and I was expecting the shuttle to take a beating.  There was nothing for it but to keep moving forward again, the X-Wings continued moving round to my left.  The Imperial right slowed slightly and put the shuttle into medium range, while Backstabber and the other Tie moved round behind Wedge and Garven.  A quirk of the movement step in X-Wing is that both players decide their manoeuvres each turn blind i.e. you don't know what your opponents is going to do before you commit to what your ships will do.  I gambled that Backstabber would move the similarly to the previous turn, so moved Wedge on a longer left turn.  Instead of this however, Backstabber pulled a tight right hand turn and moved up into close range against Wedge's rear arc.  Not good.

The shuttle desperately limps on towards the board edge

Vader and his two wingmen combined to knock out four of the shuttle's shields, although it could have been worse.  The Y-Wing tried immobilising one with its Ion Cannon, but the attack was evaded.  Next up the Wedge and Garven attacked, but caused next to no damage, instead taking a shield off Vader.  Backstabber then attacked Wedge, rolling four attack dice (two for his normal attack, one for close range, one because he was behind Wedge.)  The net result was one damage and one critical hit.

Ship damage in X-Wing is handled with an elegant little card deck.  For each hit not negated by defence dice or shields, a damage card is dealt face down to that ship.  Most ships have three hull points, so can take three normal hits before going kaboom!  If a critical hit is rolled and not negated, the damage card from the same deck is dealt face up, counting as one damage, but also causing an additional effect.  As Wedge didn't have any shields left and rolled nothing on his defence dice, he got one face down damage card and one face up. Unfortunately the result was:


Three damage from one attack was a bit extreme, but that's what happened.  Losing a ship wasn't totally unexpected, but I was annoyed to lose Wedge instead of Garven.  Not only is his special ability much more useful, but Wedge still had his one off proton torpedo attack to make, something I was hoping to use next turn.  I was a bit distracted by that result, so I can't remember if I blew up the other Tie Fighter on my right or if it simply crashed into an asteroid.  Regardless, a rookie Tie Fighter would show up next turn.

Turn three and things looked a bit grim for the Rebels.  I thought it possible to still get the shuttle off the table if I could reduce the amount of fire it would take this turn.  I planned to get Garven's X-Wing close to the Tie next to Vader and have the Y-Wing immobilise the other Tie Advanced (Vader has a high pilot skill, so regardless he would be attacking before either of my own ships.)  The Y-Wing did immobilise the Tie Advanced, but it hadn't moved very far, so was still able to attack the shuttle.  Garven also fluffed his own attack.  At the end of the turn, the Shuttle was down to a single hull point.

Seeing the writing on the wall, I decided to try and at least take Vader down with me by putting Garven at point blank range to his rear.  However, as Vader had the highest pilot skill on the table, he moved and performed his actions last, so was able to double barrel roll out of Garven's arc of fire. Foiled again.  (Although, when flicking through the rulebook yesterday, I discovered you can't perform the same action twice in a turn, so technically this was an illegal move.  Grasping at straws, I know!)

The nearby Tie missed with his attack, so it was up to the Backstabber to finish off the Senator's shuttle.  I only hope that Jimmy Smits was onboard.

He really bugged me in the that last film

Another enjoyable battle.  Adam pointed out that the two attacks against Wedge were fluky in the extreme, I think that is the only damage card that inflicts extra damage, so it was an unusual result. Still, that's what you get with dice and cards.  In retrospect, I think I should have bunched up my ships and tried to take out the Tie Advanced early on.  The regular Tie can't reliably put out the same damage as the Advanced, so even with respawning Ties, it would have been a easier fight in the later turns.

I'm really enjoying the whole X-Wng experience.  As I'm the only one at the club with a copy, I'm really tempted to get another started box.  Not only would it let me field the "Tie swarm" (eight Ties,) but it is also a lot cheaper than buying the ships and the extra dice pack separately  you really need more than three of each dice.  However, that will have to wait for the moment.  I've decided November needs to be a frugal nerd month.  I'm only allowing myself to buy the essentials; bases, paints, magazines, a new brush or two, different flock, some flags and decals, maybe a rulebook or two.  Like I said, essentials.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

X-Wing: Political Escort Battle Report

Another run out of X-Wing at the club this week.  This time we tackled the first scenario from the rulebook; Political escort.  The rebel squadron are tasked with protecting a senator's shuttle as it makes it's way across the board, the Imperials simply have to destroy the shuttle.

We decided to explore list building in the game.  Picking the recommended 100 points limit, Adam again commanded the Rebels while I took the Imperials.  The Rebel squadron looked like:

Wedge Antilles (X-wing)
- R2 F2 Astromech
- Marksmanship Skill
- Proton Torpedoes

Garven Dreis (X-Wing)
- R2 Astromech
- Proton Torpedoes

Gray Squadron Pilot (Y-Wing)
- R2 D2
- Ion Cannon Turret

The Rebel douche-bag-in-chief, Wedge Antilles!

At 100 points, the Rebels essentially have a choice of four poor-to-average ships or three really tooled up ships.  Adam went with the second option, picking two named pilots (both of whom have a special ability,) Astromechs for everyone and some special weapons. Significantly, both X-Wing pilots had fairly high pilot skills, so would be able to move after most of the Tie Fighters, but fire before them, a significant advantage.  A quick tip Adam pointed out for any rebel players, R2 D2 in a Y-Wing is just nasty ( the ship has a hefty three shields, but by not making any stressful manoeuvres  R2 restores a lost shield each turn - I've not been able to put a scratch on a Y-Wing yet!)
The Imperial player has a little more freedom at the 100 point level.  You could actually fit eight basic Tie Fighters into a list, poor pilots admittedly, but they would put out a lot off attack dice nonetheless   Practically speaking, you're limited by the number of ships you have available.  I have three Tie Fighters and two Tie Advanced so that's what I went with. Seeing that this was Adam's second game (and that he won our first game,) I decided to go for the big guy straight away, Vader:

Darth Vader (Tie Advanced)
- Marksmanship Skill
- Cluster Missiles

Storm Squadron Pilot (Tie Advanced)

Backstabber (Tie)

Obsidian Squadron Pilot (Tie)

Academy Squadron Pilot (Tie)

Vader. What could possible go wrong with Vader?

Vader's ability is that he can perform two actions each turn, so he could maximise his attacks by using say a target lock and Marksmanship  defend himself with two evade manoeuvres  or a combination of both.  Backstabber aside, the other pilots are fairly average; the Tie Advanced is still a match for the X-Wing however and numbers should tell with the normal Tie fighters.  That's the theory anyway.

The shuttle in this mission should take six turns to cross the table, but with six shields and six hull points, it's able to take a fair bit of punishment.  The Rebel pilots can also pull a specific action to increase the shuttles survivability.

Set-up.  What on earth is Backstabber doing way over there?

The Rebels started with all three of their fighters surrounding the shuttle and they started to move across the board.  Each ship can make one action after it moves, the Rebels can Focus (change certain dice results when attacking or defending) or put a target lock on an enemy ship (reroll any dice you want when attacking.)  The lead X-Wing focused while the other ships acquired locks on Imperial ships.

Vader and a Tie started on my left, the other Advanced and Tie were in the centre while Backstabber started out wide on my right (he gets bonus attack dice when attacking from outside a ships fire arc - the clue's in his name!) All my ships advanced towards the shuttle, Vader swinging in from the left, Backstabber from the right.  At this point I realised that Backstabber was a bit too far out on the right.  Some long range shots didn't do much damage on either side.

Turn two saw the squadrons close drastically while the shuttle moved slightly to my left.  My plan was to try and take out one (or preferably two) ships on the first pass, before swinging round to give the shuttle a bit of a doing in later turns.  Adam branched the two X-Wings off to my left while the Y-Wing moved the middle of the table.  Attacks were fairly effective this turn, Adam stripped Vader's shields and damaged a couple Tie Fighters, while I Took the shield off Garven Dreis.
Turn three saw a continuation of the moves in turn two.  Little actual damage inflicted on the Rebel side, a couple shields taken off the Y-Wing and one off Wedge.  The Rebels were much more efficient, taking out the Obsidian Tie and putting some damage on Vader, meanwhile Vader's wingman took some damage flying over an asteroid.  A quirk of the scenarios in the rulebook is that destroyed Tie Fighters reappear next turn, albeit as the lowest skilled pilot.  Actually, I'm not sure if this rule applies if you're using your own squadrons - I have a big list of questions I need to put up on the FFG forum.

Turn four, I've got a bad feeling about this

Turn four and Vader actually decided to do something!  Unloading his Cluster missiles at point blank range, Garven Dreis becomes nothing more than debris.  Damn that was satisfying.  As the two squadrons had flown past each other, the Imperials did some drastic manoeuvring to get the shuttle back in range.  Meanwhile, the Y-Wing carried on straightforward  regaining it's shields as it went and immobilising the Storm Squadron pilot with his Ion cannon.  Wedge swung round to line up vader and his wingman.

Imperial forces desperately try to take the shuttle down...

At this point, I remembered that we were playing a mission and not a "blow everyone up" game.  The shuttle would be clear of the table in another two turns, so everyone swung round to get it back into range.  Both Tie Advanced put target locks on the shuttle, Backstabber just put himself in attack range and a rookie pilot arrived on the table right in front of the shuttle.  Sadly all that firepower managed to do was knock a couple shields off.  To make matters worse, Wedge, at close range and with a target lock, took Vader out in one devastating attack - no amount of desperate  flicking through the rulebook was going to bring him back!

...before it disappears off the board for the win.

I still had three ships lined up on the shuttle, but wasn't able to even dent it before it left the table.  I think Adam took out another Tie, but by that point I'd accepted that this one game had passed me by!  Don't quite know how I'm going to explain this one to the Emperor.

Despite a (partly self-inflicted) defeat, I had a really enjoyable game.  Adam said he enjoyed it too, but I imagine victory helps with that!  Victory and defeat were clearly caused by choices made, not through any card results or poor dice rolling (although I had a little of the latter.)  I can't even accuse the squad Adam chose of being broken or overpowered, Garven Dreis' special ability and two of the Astromechs were completely unnecessary in this scenario.  In contrast, my tooled up Vader cost a third of my points and didn't come close to paying them back!  I should also point out that once we started, this game took just over an hour to play through, yet we weren't rushing through turns and took some time out to look up and discuss rules.  X-Wing has some elegant little rules that make the game flow very quickly.  So quickly, that we decided to swap squadron and have another game.

Looks complicated?  Not as much as you'd think

We also managed to set aside one of my original concerns about X-Wing, the sheer number of manoeuvre templates in the game and just how fiddly they would be when the board gets crowded.  You can see from the pictures above that both squadrons were tangled together pretty quickly, but there really weren't any issues in moving ships, checking fire arcs or range.  Even the number of tokens on the table, and there were a fair amount, didn't cause more than minor confusion, "whose target lock token is this anyway?" but I think with a bit more attention on my part, even that wouldn't have occurred.

There's still the other report for me to write up, but I think that's enough typing for one day.  May the Force be with you...

NaH nah NaH nah Nah nah, NAnananananaNa NaH nah NaH nah NAAANNNAA nAAAAA NAAAAAA, NAH Nah nah NNAAAHHH Naaahhh....

Monday, 22 October 2012

Prince of Thorns - Two Minute Review

Although I've not managed much gaming lately, I've still ploughed through plenty of books. The latest fiction book I finished was Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, a fantasy released in 2011.  By many measures, PoT is your standard fantasy fare.  Starting not quite in medias res, we meet the protagonist, Jorg, in the company of a criminal gang, burning their way though a rural village.  The pacing is fairly quick and we soon discover more about Jorg's past, the associated tragedies and how he ended up where we found him.

Put simply, PoT is character driven fiction, specifically one charater, Jorg.  If you don't take to him fairly quickly, you'd be as well putting the book down and not bothering.  In fact, you could read the first two or three chapters in a bookstore and decide before even buying the book.  So what's so engaging about Jorg?  Well, his age and situation aren't what you might initially expect, he has a fairly odd view of the world that is really engaging, but what grabbed me was that he (very early in the book) makes an undead wight run away in terror!  How he manages it is one of the questions that drew me in.

The author has adopted a very easy, flowing style of writing, something that has become very common recently, and combined with the fast pacing, I found that the pages just flew by.  In this respect, Mark Lawrence has a lot more in common with Kristen Cashore or Peter Brett than with more "wordy" authors like Peter Hamilton or Iain M Banks.  So don't expect to need a dictionary here, the depth comes form the dialogue and Jorg's internal monologue.

There were a couple issues to get past before I could fully enjoy PoT.  Firstly, Jorg has a copy of Plutarch he enjoys reading.  Now this is the Plutarch, so what's he doing in a fantasy world?  Hmmm, not sure if this is clever or lazy on the authors part.  It only really affects the plot directly once, so at the moment it feels a little unnecessary, but that may change over the next two books (because, obviously, every new fantasy has to be a trilogy or a quartet or a series or something!)  Secondly, PoT is written in the first person i.e. I did this, I think that...  Not that this is a huge problem, indeed it is almost mandatory given how Jorg explains his view of the world, but it does lessen the tension somewhat as you know the hero can't die!

Despite that, PoT is a highly enjoyable, highly readable little fiction.  If you need a quick fantasy fix, and you could easily read this in an afternoon, I'd heartily recommend picking this up.  Better yet, have a quick read of the first chapter on Amazon, PoT continues like it begins.

Friday, 19 October 2012

X-Wing: A very, very brief battle.

For the first time in a few weeks, I managed to get along to the club for a game of X-Wing with Adam.  We opted for a straightforward dogfight, as opposed to one of the missions, at a slightly lower than recommended point level.  So I came up with two forces with a named pilot in each, along with a couple gadgets.

Adam randomly selected the Rebel squadron and had Biggs Darklighter in his X-Wing, along with a generic X-Wing and Y-Wing.  I controlled the Imperial Squadron with Maarek Stele (fans of the Star Wars post film books will recognise this guy) in his Tie Advanced, another Tie Advanced and three Tie fighters with differing pilot skills.

Sadly, as I was late arriving, we were stuck in a poorly lit area of the club.  Consequently, I couldn't get any decent pictures, but for what it's worth, here's the table after about five turns.

I had taken out Biggs Darklighter with some extraordinarily lucky dice, but barely scratched either of the other ships.  The rebels had destroyed my generic Tie Advanced and put the hurt on a couple of the Tie fighters.  All in all, things looked to be heavily in my favour, but in the next couple turns Adam discovered the Ion Cannon on the Y-Wing and started pumping out shots with that, immobilising one ship each a turn.
A couple turns later, I had put Maarek's Tie Advanced far too close to the table edge and as soon as he was immobilised with an Ion shot, he flew straight off the board!  Emperors Hand my arse.

So I had hoped to put up a proper report on what was an absolutely great game, but lack of pics and notes kind of made that difficult.  Kudos to Adam for being a great opponent (he is far better than I at remembering rules and effects in games, so much so, he was correcting my mistakes after a few turns!) We may have a rematch next week, so I'll get the Mrs to set up the camera for me to get some better pics.  If you're at all interested in Star Wars: X-Wing, I heartily recommend you check out the rules and a gameplay video on the FFG site, the WWPD blog and some great posts here and here.

Sorry if this post has been a bit lacking in content, like I said, I had planned for more. Expect better in the near future (I'm on holiday!!!)

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Time for a new Blog title?

Two weeks without a post has got me wondering if it's time to change the title of the blog.  Too Much Free Time is a bit on an in-joke with a couple of friends.  Back a couple years ago when I changed jobs a couple times and wasn't working regularly, I would joke about not getting anything done because "I had too much free time."  Meaning that although there were plenty of hours in the day, I didn't get much painting/modelling/gaming etc done.  Faced with t'internet, tv, computer games, diy, studying (a bit,) housework, sport, I was really busy, but not accomplishing much.

Over the last month or so however, my painting/modelling/gaming inactivity has been due to much more mundane reasons, mainly work.  I've been in a new job for the last few months and recently the hours have been cranked up!  I've also been drafted into my old cricket team who, frustratingly, play on the same night as the club.  Although, to be fair, it's been great fun getting the bat out again!

Things are looking up, however, for the next couple weeks.  I've a game scheduled at the club next week and we're planning an RPG session for the weekend after next (wives & girlfriends permitting!)

Finally, I've fallen back on the age old gamer habit of resorting to spending cash!  Recent additions to the nerd pile include X-Wing with the first wave of expansions, the Iron Kingdoms RPG from Privateer Press and the 40K Chaos codex.  Extremely happy with all three purchases, X-Wing will get a proper run out next week.  If I can manage to take some photos, I'll get them posted next week.