Player Profile is a series of articles in which R2-EQ looks at players in the X-Wing community. Many people would like to get to know the person behind the player, and in X-Wing not only are the players renowned for being “nice guys” but they are often quite characterful when you scratch the surface.
Today I interview R5Don4, known as Don in real life. I met Don when I attended my first X-Wing Tourney way back in the Kessel Run days. He was the guy who advertised the event on the FFG forum. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have attended. After meeting Don, I started to use the Star Wars Gaming Ontario Facebook group to find out about local events. He’s a tireless promoter of the game, a very nice guy and an excellent player. I thought it appropriate to start this article series with Don who’s been there since day 1 of wave 1 and growing the game in Southern Ontario like no one else around.
Real Name: Don
Home Base: Hamilton, Ontario
Faction of Choice: Imperials
Playing Since: Wave 1
Tournaments Played: 37 and counting
Tournament Results: Let’s just say it is more than a dozen wins at this point but it gets harder all the time because the average skill level is getting higher all the time.
Who was your favourite Star Wars character growing up?
I’ve got around 92. That’s a Kenner reference son. My favorite characters were the usual suspects, Bounty Hunters, the troopers, Cantina freaks, the droids, Jabba’s goons, the Heroes… all the background characters that have stupid EU names. I will go on record that I am a big Hammerhead fan! But I do tend to gravitate toward the same characters again and again and again.
For those not aware of Don’s “92” reference, here you go:
So which character do you gravitate towards? All 92?
Stormtroopers, so many Stormtroopers, I must own at least a hundred miniatures of those guys. Jawas, IG-88, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, I really like them all. I seem to latch on to the Kenner Action figures I liked as a kid.
I remember when my mom gave me my first Return of the Jedi Action Figure, it was Klaatu. When I saw the back of the card and all the other possibilities she could have gotten me I was so pissed I was in tears.
Everything else looked so cool. Yep, I was a real spoiled little pussy about it. Good thing she didn’t get me General Madine! I think my eight year old brain would have exploded.
What was your favourite ship?
Always loved the Imperial ships that were designed for Return of the Jedi (Lambda and Interceptor). Thought the Falcon was the coolest thing ever, because you could live in it. I had a strange fascination with motor homes because of it. Like a mobile tree house.
When did you get into X-Wing and how did you hear about it?
I followed SWX from the very, very first public announcement that was made at Gencon 2011. I pre-ordered my first core in Oct 2011, it was supposed to come out in June 2012. In June 2012 I pre-ordered 2 copies of each of the 4 expansions. Didn’t get delivery until the rest of the world in September 2012. I was very envious of the lucky bastards who picked up advanced copies at Gencon in 2012.
Do you get to play X-Wing regularly? How often do you get to play?
I play as often as possible, usually at least once a week I’ll get a couple of games in. Right now I’m closing in on 300 games against other people, but I often run games by myself, playing both sides. Probably my ratio is down to about 1:1 for every game I play against someone vs playing solo. At one point it was closer to 1:3.
When you play solo, do you use AI rules, or just logical dial settings?
I always just try to fly my best on both sides, like if you were playing Chess against yourself. Make the best decision and see how it plays out.
How does it help improve your flying skills?
For one, it improves my familiarity with the spatial ratios on the table. It also allows me to develop strategies for squads against other popular or widely acknowledged strong builds, gatekeepers if you will, of the meta game.
Why not give Vassal a try?
I enjoy the table top experience very much. I like to use my miniatures and templates and dice and everything else that makes up the game for me. Michel “Muon” Juneau has done amazing things developing the Vassal Module for X-Wing from what I’ve seen in video recaps. Xbox has really spoiled the world for computer game interface though. In the past I have played other games on Vassal and while you are able to connect with really good players, the best ones out there, it isn’t the same as playing in real life.
You started out as a rebel player in wave 1 but switched over to the Dark Side, why?
His name is Soontir Fel, ha but there was a bit more to it. I always intended to be an Imperial player, but in Wave 1 the TIE Swarm was the obvious squad to beat.
What worked great at taking it down was 4X’s . When the stakes for winning were the Wave 2 ships (during the Kessel Run), I had to play what would win. The Millennium Falcon was given to the top 4 at Worlds in 2012 and one of them ended up on eBay selling for $200.00! See, for anyone not familiar with that time, there was a delay with Wave 2 ships; shocking as it may seem, FFG had a production delay. To make up for it the Kessel Run events were supposed to be an appeasement to the fans of the game chomping at the bit for new ships. Every Kessel Run event worldwide was supposed to happen simultaneously on the weekend of December 15-16, 2012. There was a bit of a logistical issue here in Canada getting the event kits to the stores in time and as a result we had the luxury of having our events spread out over a couple months so I was able to attend 5 Kessel Runs winning 3 of them and taking home 5 ships total. Having access to the Wave 2 ships ahead of most other players, I tended to enjoy using the Imperial Wave 2 ships immensely, while the Rebel ships… not as much.
The Falcon was way too easy to win with, never giving a hoot which way you were pointing. The A-Wing was good for a laugh, but the 2 Attack dice didn’t do it for me. The reliability of 4 Attack dice that I enjoyed so much on X-Wings was too good to pass up on Interceptors and Firesprays. I played the aforementioned Soontir quite heavily through the Wave 2 era. I searched for what could be paired with him that could pull as much weight as he did.
When Wave 3 hit, I was pretty messed up figuring out the new ships and how to combine them with the older waves. I couldn’t get anything to gel. Then I stumbled upon a list that seemed to magically evaporate enemy ships off the board, of the likes I hadn’t seen before, and wouldn’t see again until the Phantoms came to town. Combining Soontir with Trelix/HLC and a Doom Shuttle became my squad and I played it in many tournaments just because I wanted to see how far it could go – it went pretty darn far for me! I think it went like 16-0 or something crazy like that.
Are there other games you play, if so what are you favourites?
Well back in 2004 as a tie in for the DVD release of the original trilogy, LFL had Wizards of the Coast produce the aptly named Star Wars Miniatures Game or Star Wars Minis as it was to become known. I played that game pretty regularly through its full official production run, and fizzled in the post Wizards Fan made set years. That was when I first started to attend competitive tournaments and eventually organizing them. I never played any collectible card games, or other miniature games before. I did play RPG’s when I was a young teen but really focused on character creation and combat with not much actual Role Playing to speak of.
What were two of your most memorable games of X-Wing?
Most memorable games are the ones where you make discoveries or you can showcase discoveries to other players and watch their reaction. Like the first game I played with Turr Phenir against Armorgear7, he thought he had Turr cornered and dead to rights, Turr did his thing, shot one of Armorgear7’s ships in the face and then ran away without taking return fire.
I guess my sweetest games are when I get a rematch against someone who I’ve had get the better of me in the past and then I can pull out a win over them, especially if either of us is playing the same squad.
I really love seeing players evolve and improve over the course of a few tournaments. It makes for a much more interesting tournament scene when there are many strong players and I don’t feel like I’m wailing on noobs all the time. Locally, I suppose I have earned a bit of reputation as a competent player. I still find it quite odd, when pairings are announced at an SWX tournament and my opponent will shout @#$!! when they hear they’re paired against me. Odder still is when an opponent apologizes profusely for winning a match against me!
I think that’s from the respect people have for you Don. How did the Facebook group come about?
I admin the facebook group Star Wars Gaming Ontario. It’s been around since 2007 and was originally called Star Wars Miniatures Toronto. It was created for organizing local events for the WotC Star Wars Miniatures game I mentioned earlier. We slowly grew to level off at about 27 players during the first 5 years.
When I started going to X-Wing events, it only seemed natural to mention it to get players to join so they could find out about upcoming events. Now, there are over 300 members and counting. It’s still doing it’s thing, keeping the player base aware of events so that I can selfishly attend them.
When I would go camping as a kid, I loved making bonfires. A flame from a tiny spark, which I had to blow on to get going, would eventually become a raging pyre six feet tall. Now, the Facebook group feels like a bonfire in full swing. I just keep throwing wood on it and it keeps on going. These days I can finally relax a bit. I don’t feel like I need to attend every single event for fear that the flame will suddenly go out.
No more blowing, just more wood, flaming everywhere, gotcha. Seriously though, thanks for all your efforts!
Have you seen an increase in the number of players who play X-Wing since it’s release?
X-Wing has maintained a good consistency of attendance. I organized the first SWX tournament in the area at Hammercon IV in Nov 2012. We had 8 players I think, which was pretty good considering no one had ever played in an X-Wing tournament before and there was no prize support and entry cost was I believe $20 a person to attend the con. After that in December were the Kessel Run events and of course those had really strong attendance, with some events having over 20 players. I think the only time I’ve gone to a tournament and it was a total bust was the morning after a huge December snow storm and no one showed. The TO bought himself a core set and a few expansions to give me at least one game, which was pretty cool of him, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.
What other things beside the FB group do you do for X-Wing that people might not know about? I know you do a lot of promoting and organizing behind the scenes and I’m interested to know.
I try to support the game by attending as many events as possible first and foremost. As long as I can get there by public transportation, I’m usually good to go. As far as other endeavours, the FB group is a pretty big part of it. I try to keep my pulse on what is going on locally and around the world of X-Wing and share it with the other local players.
Through those efforts I was tapped to help the organizers of the Store Wars tournaments as a Player Adviser and of course that culminated in helping promote and doing whatever I could to help out with the Canadian SWX Nationals.
In Hamilton, where I’ve lived for a few years now, I’ve recently been given the chance to help organize events at Black Knight Games as a Standard Bearer for X-Wing. I’ve enjoyed creating some off beat events in the break between Nationals and the beginning of Store Championships. The first is a variation on the Furball Format which is a really fun way to play where you control small squads that usually only consist of a single ship against many opponents at the same time. The second one, is a charity event on Dec 28th to help out the Hamilton Food Share, it should also be a real blast.
X-Wing is great because the possibilities for game play are so broad. Personally, I don’t really care for the Epic format for tournaments but I think the Epic ships are great for Scenario play. I think that is where the long term future of the game will be.
You think that scenario play will become more prevalent in the future? How so?
All of the Original Trilogy (OT) movie ships were released as of Wave 3.5, for most people that have any interest in the game that is really all they have any concern for. They have no interest in Scimitar Class Bombers, W-Wings, I-Wings or whatever letter you want to shape a ship like – if it wasn’t in the movies they don’t want to buy it, period.
Wave 4 and beyond is going to appeal to a much smaller consumer base. FFG sells a lot of X-Wing. It made up of 1/3 of all their sales was the figure that I heard. It sells out everywhere and is impossible to keep in stock. The segment of the consumer population that is buying the ships for competitive organized play is actually very small, I’d guess it’s even minuscule. Most people just play at home on a strictly casual basis.
Competitive play needs a constant infusion of new elements every so often or you come to a point where a certain build will dominate the meta and competitive play becomes stale. It’s a solved state, where everyone is playing a very narrow segment of all the possible builds because the best builds have been figured out. Casual or scenario based play does not go down that road. For scenario play, when things become boring you just change up the scenario.
So where does this leave the game in say five years? I have no idea what the competitive game will look like then and to be honest I don’t know if I would want to. Scenario play with the Original Trilogy ships on the other hand, for me that will never get old. Playing Epic format in straight up head to head kill ‘em all format, to quote my friend Chris Engler, “leaves me crying like a four year old who has spent too much time at an amusement park and just wants to go home.”
Scenario play, on the other hand, is a very pleasant and easy to understand format to introduce the game mechanics to a new player. They don’t have to build lists, they have objectives to meet that they can achieve, it can be set up in such a way that it’s a balanced experience, whereas competitive play is the opposite.
Once a player is familiar with the game, you can mess around with list building, but meeting objectives and using the special scenario effects are great ways to keep even experienced players guessing. A new game within the game.
What Squads are you thinking of running in wave 5?
Can’t wait to build some squads around Ruthlessness and Fleet Officer. As far as the Decimator and Outrider ships themselves, I’m not excessively jazzed to play them, you know – turrets. I think turrets in general are good for game balance, because I can play someone brand new to the game, set them up with turreted ships and have a very challenging game that I could very well lose despite my perceived experience advantage. I always thought of turreted ships as Easy Mode, where I’d rather play with the difficulty set on Hard Mode, but not Super Hard Mode which is nothing but naked Hawks and Y’s.
If there was one thing you love about X-Wing most of all, what would that thing be?
What I really like about X-Wing is the differential between the best and worst versions of the same ship are not continentally enormous. The base stat line, with the exception of the Falcon, are always identical. Even though Darth Vader is a great pilot, he doesn’t take down entire squads by himself, sometimes he might, but he can also be blown up like any other ship out there. Jay Little did a really great job creating the core game.
Thanks for that Don and keep up the good work.