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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Star Wars X-Wing - Store Championship: K-Wing Combat at the Curio Cavern

By Mitch Reed 

With the temperatures outside making Hoth seem tropical I headed back to the Curio Cavern to check out their store championship and see who would take home the top honors.

I showed up around 9 PM and saw that windows were full of condensation, a sign that some hard gaming was taking place that day.

However, I sadly missed the other 28 players who started playing at 11AM, in what turned out to be a long but fun day of playing X-Wing.

When I arrived the top 4 players were busy playing their semi-final games. As the semifinals were going on I spoke to the Game Master Stephanie Shaw who filled me in on the day’s events.

The Store Championship, which filled up quickly, consisted of 32 players playing in a Swiss format tournament consisting of 5 rounds of games for each player.  When the dust settles on these 150+ games the top 4 players play each other in two 75 minute long games and the winners of these two games go onto play one another in the un-timed championship game.

I asked Stephanie how the store championships compares to the weekly Tuesday tournament which she also runs. The answer was what I expected, the laid back style of the Tuesday event is replaced by a friendly but very competitive tournament despite most of the field being the same regulars who show up each Tuesday. Stephanie was impressed that as a GM she only had to make two rulings all day and the players who showed up knew the rules very well.

Speedy (L) and Derek (R) play their semi-final match-up 

As our conversation turned from info about the tournament to how our favorite hockey teams perform the first of the semi- final games ended and I had the chance to speak with Sean Howard from Washington DC.  Having just lost his final match he was able to answer some of my questions despite his playing six games over the last ten hours.

Sean showed up with Darth Vader and Lieutenant Colzet in two Tie Advanced fighters featuring the usual X1 upgrade goodies with Omega Leader and Wampa to round out his list. Sean said he faced a lot of Rebel lists with those deadly Twin Laser Turrets all day and did not see as many Palp-mobiles as he expected.

In the last game his dice ran cold (it does happen) and he was just not able to beat Marcus McAllister and his K-Wings.  Being a dedicated Imperial player, Sean mentioned how excited he was for the release of Wave VIII from Fantasy Flight Games; with the Tie Inquisitor and the Imperial Veterans joining the Empire’s Navy on the table top.

Missing the beads, however what would the ship do to get them? Show us your torps?

As Sean and I wrapped up our chat the other semi-final game between Derek Tokaz and Speedy Coveny ended with Speedy advancing to the finals. Both of these guys are Curio Cavern’s regulars who played in one tough match.

When asked about one of the toughest list he faced that day Derek mentioned a list with four Y-Wings with TLT’s; immediately I was glad I was not able to sign up in time for this tournament. Derek also custom paints some of his ships and has one nicely done up to celebrate Mardi-gras.

Just in case you forget your crew member skills...

So with our final two players set, Marcus and Speedy went about setting up their game; if the previous seven games tired these guys out they were hiding it well with both players showing confidence in the lists and tactics that brought them this far.

The fans were in their seats for the final game

What struck me first about this match-up is that it featured five K-Wing’s!  With Speedy taking three to maximize firepower and Marcus having two, preferring to take ace pilots each with a robust load-out.
Marcus McAllister's list, sorry about the shine blocking out the Connor Net Card

 Speedy's List

Both players performed set up with very little chatting, it was obvious that both of these players knew the rules very well and where busy thinking of their tactics for the championship game.

Starting positions

The game started like a heavyweight boxing match with both players looking to place themselves into a position of advantage that would take advantage of the strengths of their lists.

Both players saw their forces heading to one corner of the table and soon the game of position was over and led to the first shots of the game being taken.  At first the dice gods were not kind to Speedy and about this time I notice how great a K-Wing with Miranda Doni is; with the ability to remove red die from an attack top regenerate a shield.  With TLT’s, losing a die on one attack makes little difference and will keep this K-Wing in the game for a long time.

Speedy chases Marcus to the table edge 

As the corner scrum played out I really took notice of the style of each of the players.  Marcus has methodical almost mechanical style of play whose demeanor showed nothing but confidence in each move. On the other hand one could tell that Speedy’s mind was always running and I am sure he was running a mental check list of every decision he could make each turn and its most likely outcome.

Corner duel plays out..

Watching two others play can be as boring as reading about two other people playing, however I found the game riveting and each player made flawless moves and tried to out-duel one another.
As the action moved to a run along the length of the board each player was once again trying to establish a superior position over the other while trading shots.

Outcome of the corner fight, 2v1, Miranda is on the right
Marcus must have used Miranda’s ability to regenerate shields on over six consecutive turns as the other ships in each formation were taking hits that slowly whittled down their shields and hull points which paid off in each player losing a K-Wing on consecutive turns.  Speedy was down to two nicked up ships, however Marcus seemed to keep Miranda at full strength.  
Race down the table

As the ships moved across the table, Speedy had a maneuver that changed the game, by expertly using his SLAM to block the movement of Miranda.  If this negatively impacted Marcus’s plans it was hard to tell as he kept working his game plan showing no signs of distress.

Excellent use of the SLAM by Speedy

It was at this time I saw how Speedy thought over each turn; he looked at his K-Wing blocking Miranda and thought about what move to make next for some time.  Does he keep blocking? Drop a bomb?  What was Miranda going to do next?  I am sure these questions bounced around in his mind with the pros and cons of each possible movement of the dial being dissected.

With Miranda blocked, both players thought hard of what to do next

The action soon continued with the K-Wings rounding the corner like thoroughbreds in a horse race.  Speedy started to use his bombs and was able to ionize Miranda and following up with a seismic bomb to damage Miranda.  Miranda plodded on, taking some hull damage but adding shields each turn.

Around the bend here they come. with an Ion Bomb 

The game was tense at this point however both players knew that the end was near.  Speedy’s ships were taking damage too quickly to stop Miranda.  The last two turns of the game Marcus was able to knock out both of Speedy’s K-Wing’s and a championship was won.

Down to 1v1, note the fans on their feet

I have to say that this was an amazing game that each player showed why they were the last two remaining standing.  Dice ran hot and cold, however each player made flawless decisions that posed a challenge to their opponent.  It could have gone either way, and when I asked Speedy what he would change about his list he replied quickly with a confident “Nothing”.

Badly damaged, no escape was possible, Miranda closes in for the kill

After his win Marcus said he was planning to play in another store championship the following week, while Speedy plans to wait until the next championship at the Curio Cavern scheduled for 5 March.
My hats off to the final four players, you certainly showed me two things as a new player; 1) I have a lot to learn to get better at X-Wing and 2) I hope I never play these guys.

2016 Curio Cavern Store Champion Marcus McAllister (R) and GM Stephanie Shaw (L)

After the game I spoke with Speedy for a while an asked him about his notebook, which I noticed when I played him a few weeks ago and saw him looking at before the game.

Speedy told me the he records every game and how his list performs against it in order to tweak things and to learn from mistakes and capitalize on techniques that work.  Maybe this is something I should try one day.

Speedy's notes; much of this was used last week to prove Einsteins Wave Theory

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