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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Star Wars Armada - Tournament Report: Dave and Adam's 1/23/16

I was lucky enough to not only attend a recent Store Championship event at Dave and Adam's Store outside of Buffalo, NY but to do so with fellow crew member Dano! We had a great time with all the amazing people involved - if you're in the neighborhood you've got to check this incredible store out - and the following is a quick round-by-round report of how the event went for me.

I brought the following list to this Store Championship:

120 - ISD2
026 - Screed
007 - Gunnery Team
007 - Electronic Countermeasures

056 - GSD1
010 - Demolisher
005 - Advanced Proton Torpedoes

056 - GSD1
003 - Insidious
005 - Advanced Proton Torpedoes

056 - GSD1
008 - Engine Techs
005 - Advanced Proton Torpedoes

032 - TIE Fighter (four squadrons)

There were more than a few participants asking why to a few different choices here, so from the top here's a bit of the rhyme if not reason behind the choices.

The ISD is a great ship. I had "firmly decided" before the event that I'd bring two of them with some squadron support, as much for my love of its look on the table and intimidating presence than anything else. Unfortunately for me, my meager skills were not enough to make twin behemoths sing the way I wanted them too. One would generally get focused down before the other could add its weight to the fight and I just didn't feel like I was appropriately pushing them around. This was a theme that would come back to haunt me.

All the Gladiators were included basically on Dano's insistence. He had come over the night before to get a couple tune ups under our belts before the event and asked me why I wasn't using them if - in his opinion - I was so capable at maneuvering them. Without any good answer for this, I decided on bringing them in lieu of the extra Star Destroyer and a couple squadrons. Speaking of squadrons, it is no secret to anyone reading this that I'd had a less than shining attitude towards trying to fight either Rhymerballs or plentiful Rebel bombers without a large investment in counter-squadrons. With that in mind I decided on a meager deflection force with the hope being I could slowly feed individual TIE Fighters into the fight, not to destroy the opposing squadrons but to occupy some of those dangerous bombers long enough to get the job done with my ships. Overall, the idea was to move quickly and commit hard - not necessarily early, but decisively at that elusive "right moment".

Whether this line of thought holds any water will be a topic of lots of discussion moving into the future of this Wave 2 environment we're all playing in. Regardless, without any experience pushing this particular list around on the table - but plenty pushing around the individual pieces - I decided in the wee hours of the morning that this was what I'd bring. Before I get into the first round, I'll make one clarification regarding the GSD upgrade choices.

The most common comment remarked that it was odd to see Engine Techs on any ship without it first being on Demolisher. I absolutely agree with the idea that it is a fantastic upgrade on a Demolisher, however I wanted a ship besides Demo to be my "blocking" unit. GSD require close range, obviously, and that's a tall order against speed 3 or faster ships. The Engine Tech'd Gladiator's primary role was to get into exactly the right position in front of whatever circling lines Rebel opponents tried to set up. It was more than a bit of a sacrificial unit, and I'd always felt that Demolisher's full potential was wasted as a mere ram/speedbump ship. Better to have another ship get that extra scooch of movement provided by Engine Techs that constantly hurl Demolisher to its death. In the end, I'm not sure this was entirely true, as I lost two crucial shots from Demolisher due to its absence. However, it is tough to gauge how much longevity was gained for Demo in doing so, or how many extra shots from the Engine Techs Gladiator were gained because it sported Engine Techs.

Round one pitted me against Alex, a fantastic guy and a skilled opponent. He brought a VSD1 with Screed and all the trimmings to both drive squadrons and fire Assault Concussion Missiles. In addition, two GSD - one fully-tricked-out Demo and another with ACM - flanked the VSD1 in deployment. The true strength in Alex's list came from a devastating Rhymerball, however, so I knew my work would be cut out for me without much in the way of squadrons.

You can see in the image above how the first turn started panning out in our Precision Strike objective. I was the second player. His ships moved in tight formation, while Demolisher tried to get across the table and onto their flanks as fast as possible. Alex's Rhymerball moved straight across the table as well, trying to set up some real savage pain for the Insidious and Engine Tech GSDs.

Not wanting the Rhymerball in the middle of the table, and hoping to utilize the medium-range black dice of Insidious, I slowed and made a hard 1-speed turn for the table edge. The ISD moved to "front" the fleet with some help from its blocking Engine Tech GSD while the Demolisher continued its long, speed-3, drive-through-all-the-asteroids-because, path to the side of the VSD. At this point I was very nervous of what that Rhymerball would be capable of.

A couple turns later, and the TIE Fighters are able to tangle a few dangerous bombers up, outside the reach of Dengar's Intel. In addition, a saved navigation token and a navigation command combine to launch the Insidious on the left to speed 3, keeping it just enough out of harm's way to survive, but certainly out of the fight. The Engine Tech GSD blocked and caused some damage, but the ISD and Demolisher cleaned up. Alex was a true competitor and certainly the game could have gone either way.

The round two game pitted me against Paul with a Rebel list focusing heavily on squadrons. A Yavaris, Assault Frigate with squadron command upgrades, and two CR90B with SW-7 Ions represented the ships he'd push. I won this bid for initiative, unlike the first game, and opted to go first. I chose his Dangerous Territory objective, but it was by no means a simple choice. (By the way, Paul's great write-up of his experiences can be found here.)

I committed my first grave error of the tournament at deployment, assuming my Star Destroyer would have the speed to make a battle of it while collecting objective tokens if deployed in a corner. In previous experience, with two ISD, cornering them had never been quite as painful as this would ultimately become. After starting all four ships at a noncommittal speed 2 (it really is the speed of the indecisive) the Demolisher and Insidious on the right dropped to speed 1 in an attempt to get outside the likely trajectory of the Assault Frigate. The Engine Techs also dropped to speed 1, but used Engine Techs even at speed 1 to some benefit. I was probably too intent on getting the three tokens I'd deployed. Dangerous Territory is not the most unforgiving objective, but I'd seen plenty of games come down to 45-points before, so decided to grab them with the ISD on the way to the fight.

After nabbing a few of his own tokens - man those laterally moving Rebs are good at nabbing tokens - you can see in the above picture that the Assault Frigate is getting close to being cut off while Yavaris is positioning itself for the big activation. The two CR90s had been really booking at speed 4 and found themselves a bit out of the fight, luckily for Insidious and Demolisher; who happen to be on the left and right nearest to the AF respectively. The squadrons had begun pecking at the ISD at this point, but without great results. Paul did a great job beginning to set up the attacks, while I did a poor job positioning the TIE Fighters to block.

The blocking, Engine Tech GSD went down to the fire of Yavaris and some squadrons, as well as a shot from the Assault Frigate if memory serves. The ISD should have moved into the path of Yavaris, rather than behind it for the token, and it would pay for this later. More importantly Yavaris, which might not have otherwise escaped, would escape with significant damage! Certainly though, the Star Destroyer was doomed at this point although it had yet to keep a single damage card. Rieekan's Assault Frigate was clearly trapped, but not before having helped greatly with squadron positioning before the TIE Fighters could set up any meaningful wall.

This game ended with Paul's squadrons bringing down the ISD after a couple turns of concentrated fire - very impressive! The rest of the final turns can be summed-up in that way Armada games sometimes do, with two fleets moving away from each other. Paul was another fantastic opponent and he went on to face Dano in the final round - poor guy had to tolerate both of us! I thought I'd learned hard lessons here, but my final game would prove otherwise.

Finally I played Matias and had what most sane people would refer to as an insane game with him. I'd never met him before but we got along like you'd expect two weirdos to. Somehow references to, ahem, "rear"-to-mouth came up in describing ship placement as well as extended discussions on respecting unusual name spelling/pronunciation. (For the record Judson is abbreviated to Jud not "Judd" and Matias is Ma-tea-us, not Mat-eye-us.) I was having too much of a good time to be very diligent with the photography, but I once again played first and picked his Minefields objective.

His fleet was a tricked-out Demolisher and a tricked-out Relentless (Ozzel riding along) with a naked Raider, all there to support the efforts of a beastly Rhymerball, and he set up all the mines within a space of approximately two distance templates in the center of the board. I deployed the GSD in the middle and the ISD off to my left.

That final game ended in a tie with 18 (if memory serves) margin of victory going to Matias. Deploying my ISD, once again, in a corner meant that it was used even less in this game than the second. My three GSD were able to bring down a naked Raider and Demolisher, but both of our ISD were left essentially unscathed. Even considering the 32 points of TIE Fighters he'd taken down, I actually was pleased with the squadron play this round, blaming Matias' excellent play and my own Ozzel-like ineptitude at controlling my Star Destroyer on the result.

Over all this was an amazing event. The staff of Dave and Adam's is outstanding, as is the location itself. The entire crew playing there was fantastic, and I can't wait again for another Buffalo event. I hopefully finally learned my lesson and will in the future make sure that if I'm spending 120 on an ISD it gives and receives fire during the course of a game - or at least one or the other!

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