The Prototype Toronto League’s 6th season had been a blast. I’d played 7 awesome games vs shrewd and capable opponents in the regular season and there I was sitting in the top 8 (To find out about the PTL click here and here.)
While many of the top 8 were fierce and awesome opponents, the one I feared most of all was my pal Kelvin. Kelvin’s skills with fast ships and mini-swarms and/or aces are locally hailed. He can make it a nightmare to kill his high-evade ships and plink you to death. Over the last four seasons we’d played each season. In the first two, I crushed him, and in the last two, he served me up curbstompings with my best lists against his.
The 8 played through the top spots over a few weeks. I managed to win mine and, lo and behold, who should it be left standing but Kelvin. I told myself that I didn’t have to win, just acquit myself well.
What was I going to fly?
The league’s rules entail that no named pilot card can be played more than once a season. I’d played my favourite fast high-PS ships (Whisper, Echo, Maarek, Fenn, etc…) but the Tie Strikers had just come out so I decided to play a couple of them. Kelvin had used his favourite high PS guys too, so I expected him to play generic Defenders, his double Trando Slaver plus a third ship list, or 5 crack a-wings (which he’d used to reduce my favourite list to spacedust to sprinkle on his cereal two seasons back).
I needed ships that could carry a long game and I was hell-bent on trying the new stuff! I picked Sabaac and Countdown – Sabaac for the oomph and Countdown to last.
I needed 2 more ships. I thought about Carnor but Party Buses would just kill him and I already had fragile Sabaac. So I hit upon the idea of busting out ol’ Dark Curse to withstand Zuckussing or sustained fire from multiple ships.
Hey look, that left just enough for Ryad! I wanted to avoid getting double-stressed with Ryad so I opted for Predator instead of PtL and I could skip the conventional Twin Ion engine.
That left me with 4 points hanging, and if I wanted a bid, then just 3 to spend. I decided I wanted the bid. What to do with 3 points? A bolt of inspiration hit– a hull upgrade on Countdown! Oh yeaaah, without focused fire within a single round he would take forever to kill on account of his pilot ability. So there it was coming in at 99 points:
Dark Curse (16)
Ryad w/ Predator and X7 (35)
Countdown w/ Adaptive Ailerons and Hull Upgrade (23)
“Pure Sabaac” w/ Adaptive Ailerons, Lightweight Frame and Crackshot (25)
The appointed day for our two-hour final came. Some trash-talk to start and then we revealed, Kelvin brought,
5 Green Squadron A-wings with Thrusters, Refits, Titles, Crackshot and Trickshot.
I had my work cut out for me!
Range 3 would be bad for me. Also, exchanging shots through obstructions would be awful. So I needed a range 2 or 1 contact in an open space. Kelvin’s end of the board, my left side and my right would be good. I’d go for an enveloping strategy and try to get good time on target. Keeping Sabaac out of arc of most of his list would be the trick. I decided to ‘pootle‘ (as my friend Phillip would say – he’s British) around my side of the map, and spreading out, hope to draw out his position and keep my lanes of attack open.
I sent Countdown out to the left and ‘pootled’ away with barrel rolls and ailerons putting my other 3 in the middle while he slowly turned out of his corner.
He did straights across his end, heading for his left (my right corner). Now he would either have to K-turn his lot of ships or turn in before that leftmost (from his view) debris. I decide he would K. So I brought Countdown in fast to shooting range and moved the others up for the next round. Countdown and 2 of his As exchanged fire at range 3, with no damage on either side.
My moves now were so obvious that I was a little scared that there was something I was missing. Kelvin had little choice himself tho: 2 banks or 2 turns. I decided he’d bank the lot. So I would slip Countdown (who was already close) in tight to dodge arcs, bring Ryad in with a 3, hard 3 with Mr. Curse and Sabacc (on my far left).
Sabaac was the real question because he had frames, range 2 and 3 would end up the same for his defence. I could also aileron with a 1 and program a 1, keep him out of Kelvin’s range and hold Sabaac in reserve. What was it to be? Commit him and maybe lose him in 1 round? Hold him back and maybe miss the opportunity to remove an A-wing from the board with my four guns? I made a gut decision.
My nerves were screaming at me, there were too many guns on Sabaac! Oh noes, I shoulda done the other thing! Shooting begins: I decide to target Green #5 with Sabaac, Ryad and Countdown who has him at range 1. Dark Curse doesn’t have him in arc and so misses at someone else instead, but strips a token.
Success! I get #5 off the board before he shoots anyway! I cringe at the return fire. Sabaac takes 2 hits and a console fire crit.
Countdown dodges one shot, and activates his ability to avoid a hit and a crit on another. He’s stressed now, which likely means he won’t shoot next round cause he has to turn around.
Now what to do? Kelvin could K-turn his guys to keep many potential targets in view, bank towards Sabaac, put someone on chasing down Countdown or split his ships among those goals.
I decided he’d go for Ks for most of his ships to keep them focusing on a target. Fearing a block from one of them on Sabaac I programmed a sloop, with an aileron away from his ships he’d be comfortably behind the A’s for a round maybe two. Invincible Ryad (still fresh as a daisy) would K-turn into the Debris and shoot the A’s (she has predator, remember), and in the next round could K again.
Dark Curse would 2 straight into the A’s, so as to be able to hard turn in the subsequent round and chase A-Wings. Countdown would run away to try for better position in a subsequent round.
Rookie mistake! Despite the crit token, I forgot the Console fire! Sabaac dies!
“I’m not used to these ships,” I console myself. Good news is Kelvin’s done exactly what I thought he would, with the addition that one A-Wing bumps Sabaac (before he exploded) and fails to turn. Some fire is exchanged and no one is hurt. I’m set up nicely for the next couple of rounds. I decide to chase the lonely A-Wing with Dark Curse and Ryad. Meanwhile, Countdown will kite the A’s until I can get him position.
Dark Curse and Ryad take Green #3’s shields.
I K-turn Ryad. Countdown ailerons, hard turns and barrel rolls away from the greens. I bank Dark Curse and barrel roll him for three arcs on the wounded Green #3. It’s a mistake, we kill the wounded ship, but, the remainder of Green Squadron has range 3 shots on Dark Curse with rocks in between, triggering Trick Shot. Dark Curse takes a hit and a crit that reduces his agility by 1.
It’s now 3 on 3, but Dark Curse is almost dead. Kelvin is in a great position for an attack run on Countdown with his remaining Greens. Ryad is still at full health. I decide to turn into Kelvin’s ships and use Dark Curse to attack before he is destroyed.
I push Dark Curse just through the debris (so Trick Shot doesn’t trigger), with Ryad and Countdown on his wings. Dark Curse survives thanks to his ability and lucky dice, Countdown takes 2 damage (he’s at 2 hull thanks to the upgrade) and Green #4 loses a shield.
I don’t see the self-block coming, and for a second round Kelvin has all range 1 shots as I program the wrong s-loop on Countdown (stupid confusing new dial!). I get Mr. Curse out of all arcs but one, and Ryad does her thing. Kelvin puts all shots on the stressed Countdown who therefore can’t use his ability…. and whiffs! It’s a brutal piece of bad luck for Kelvin. Countdown puts a crit into Green 4 and Ryad takes Green 1’s shields.
I get Countdown out of the danger zone with a green straight. Ryad turns 3 into the fight. Dark Curse does a 3 K-turn. One A-Wing stays in place to shoot (self-blocking again) and the other 2 bail to re-position. Dark Curse pops the very wounded Green 4, Ryad smashes Green 1 down to one hull, and I lose Dark Curse in return – his luck having finally run out.
Kelvin brings his A’s about and focuses. I bring Countdown around to fire and Ryad banks 1 to keep arc (still at full health and unafraid of little A-wings). Ryad shoots down the wounded A and Countdown misses. No return shot for Kelvin.
Kelvin 1 turns in, I turn Countdown into range 1 and Ryad is blocked. Countdown takes 1 damage with his pilot ability and deals 1 damage to green #2.
It’s clearly my game to lose at this point. Kelvin declares that he’s going to get the Striker before he dies. Ryad is facing the board edge and I have to turn her slowly to get her out.
Kelvin goes on the run and I give chase. The fast little Green Squadron mostly outmaneuvers Ryad for many rounds, she gets a range 3 shot here or there and plinks him down to one hull. I play very cautious with Countdown, ‘pootling’ about, keeping him alive, refusing to give Kelvin the satisfaction cuz I’m a meanie.
The audience (including the judge) begins to jeer and trash-talk us: “Finish it, Finish it!” and groans everytime I barrel roll Countdown out of range 3 shots.
People are clearly getting hungry. By keeping them here, I am violating their human rights presumably, but I’m playing Imperials! The weak Senate cannot help them and every last Rebel scum must be expunged.
On turn 24, Kelvin’s heroic Green finally gets into a good position for an attack on the Striker, carrying a TL from many moons ago.
He turns in and boosts, Ryad comes in too fast and is blocked. Countdown ailerons 1 forward and 1 turns missing the rock by a hair and faces down the last hero of the Rebellion. Countdown shoots, gets big reds and the focus-less Rebel is space dust!
Good game Kelvin! helluva match! I’ve won, but I don’t know that I’ve acquitted myself well. Those 2 rounds of lucky dice really saved my ships, while I made some clumsy mistakes. Nevertheless this was one of the most fun matches I have ever played in 2 plus years of X-wing. Thanks to my pal Kelvin, our antlers locked for almost 2 hours straight!
That ended another awesome Prototype Toronto League season and I want to thank those who helped with the final: Kelvin for being a consistently top-shelf opponent, Alan for judging and helping to position ships when my hands got too shaky, Tim for such an excellent photolog and the audience who turned up to watch. Most of all, I want to thank the members of the Prototype Toronto League for being the best damn gaming community I’ve ever been a part of.
Props, people, you are an elegant crew of gentlefolk. May your engine glow never dim! I wish you all a Happy New Year!