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. In X-Wing, the players are renowned for being “nice guys” and often can be quite characterful when you scratch the surface.
Today’s interview is with Wapcaplets, known as Chris in real life. I met Chris in Toronto where we faced off playing in an X-Wing Escalation Tourney. In my loss to Chris I learned how not to fly X-Wings and how a good player with TIE Interceptors will punish you. If you’re ever lucky enough to have a game with him, you’ll see he is a true gentleman and a credit to the community. So without further ado, let’s get to the interview.
Real Name: Chris Engler
Home Base: Hamilton, Ontario
Faction of Choice: Empire / Scum
Playing Since: Wave 1
How did you fall in love with Star Wars?
I was five years old when Star Wars came out in 1978. Star Wars is so ubiquitous to me I can’t even remember where I was when Star Wars first entered my consciousness. Except for a few isolated snapshot-type memories from when I was a toddler I can’t remember a time when Star Wars was not in my memory.
Who did you identify the most with in Star Wars growing up?
If I had to put it down to one character I’d have to say Luke Skywalker but I’d attribute that primarily to the fact that he was the default protagonist in A New Hope. That, and he flew an X-Wing. I loved that ship. When I was 5 I wanted an X-Wing for Christmas more than anything and my parents got it for me.
It’s hard to even quantify or put into words the amount of unadulterated joy I felt when I first held that toy. Even at that age, though, I was more fascinated with the universe and its possibilities than any one character. I loved the Mos Eisley Cantina scene and, before it was fleshed out, wondered at what each of its denizens’ stories were. I also have a special affinity for Jawas and Tusken Raiders as those were my very first Star Wars action figures.
Did you play any Star Wars games before X-Wing?
As a child I had the Parker Brothers “Escape from the Death Star” game which I remember enjoying quite a bit.
I religiously collected the original Star Wars Customizable Card Game by Decipher in the late 1990s and, although I never got much of a chance to play it as I would have liked, I loved it in all its thematic clunkiness. I played some D20-based Star Wars RPGs but never dove into it whole hog. I don’t know why but I had a hang-up for the longest time about playing RPGs in a world based on a movie or TV show. I long felt it was all so much mimicry but now that those universes have been fleshed out so much I can fully enjoy playing in those settings. I have tried the Edge of the Empire RPG in a session run by Toronto GM par excellence James Binnie and enjoyed it very much.
I know you play Bloodbowl, which is a fantastic game. Can you tell readers about your involvement, your favorite team, and perhaps a good story or anecdote?
I remember first reading about Blood Bowl in White Dwarf when it was brand new. My gaming group at the time was into Rogue Trader (The original Warhammer 40K miniatures game) and I suggested trying Blood Bowl but nobody wanted to deviate from WH40K. I didn’t re-engage with it until 2009 when my local store at the time (Battlegrounds in Milton) became an independent GW stockist and a bunch of us tried it out. It was hilarious because we were all learning as we went and we were all terrible.
I played the plastic Orcs that came with the box set and kept trying to run John Madden Football-style plays. I met Craig “Spazzfist” Thompson-Wood through a gamer meetup site who was a Blood Bowl veteran of many years at the time and he pretty much taught me how to play Blood Bowl properly.
I’ll share a funny story from a few seasons ago in our league at Black Knight Games. I was playing in my last game of the regular season before the playoffs. I had clinched a playoff spot so, much like real-life football, I was only really playing for seeding and trying to make sure my key players didn’t get injured. There are “Special Play” cards that can be used in the game that trigger highly disruptive in-game effects. My opponent played a card called “Eclipse” which gives all players on the pitch (regardless of how developed they are) the statistics of a rookie Goblin. In X-Wing terms, imagine a game effect that turned every ship on the board into Bandit Squadron Pilots with 1 hull remaining and one fewer Attack dice (yes, even your Fat Han). It was late in the game, the score was 2-1 for me with no possibility of my opponent scoring, I was tired, and I wasn’t paying attention. There was a player prone on the ground so, as my last action for the turn, I declared a “Foul Action” (literally kicking a player when he’s down in an attempt to injure them with a chance of having the player doing the kicking being ejected from the game). What I didn’t realize was that the prone player was on my team, not my opponent’s. To this day I maintain that there was an Eclipse and I couldn’t see. Thankfully, the rules specifically prohibit fouling your own players.
You also play Malifaux. Are you a miniature painter? What do you love about that game?
I am a miniature painter and I’d categorize myself as someone that can produce average-to-good miniatures at table-top standard. I enjoy playing with painted miniatures but I view painting as a means to an end. I can’t see myself painting a miniature that I wasn’t in contemplation of using in a game.
What I love about Malifaux is that it is a game that was designed for scenario-based play from the ground up and that you construct your army list after you know your scenario objective. I find this makes for more interesting army (or “crew” as they’re called in Malifaux) lists because you’re not trying to cover your bases in the same way you often are in other games. I have won games of Malifaux with no figures left on the table at the end and, conversely, I’ve lost games wherein I’ve tabled my opponent. Combat is still a very big part of Malifaux but unless you’re conducting your models in a way that accomplishes your scenario objectives you’re not going to win. I also don’t play Malifaux competitively but enjoy doing one-off “story” encounters that are heavy on theme and often unapologetically unbalanced in the name of fun.
You are a “hardcore gamer” when it comes to this subculture and you travel to play games. What major events do you usually attend? Do you get to travel a lot?
I don’t know about the “hardcore” moniker but I would definitely call myself a dedicated gamer. When I’m playing games I’m in my “happy place” so I try and do it as much as I can. I really enjoy playing against different people and the best way to do that is to travel to events. Blood Bowl has a real tournament culture and, if you run a tournament, the best way to get people to come to yours is to go to other people’s tournaments. Fortunately, with Blood Bowl, most places where I go to tournaments are near someone I know where I can crash for a night or two so they’re easy on the budget.
I have been to a few of the bigger gaming events. I went to the Chaos Cup in 2012 and 2014 which is currently held just outside of Chicago. Chaos Cup is the US Blood Bowl “major” tournament and it attracts 60-100 players (or “coaches”, as they’re called) from all over the world. This past year I went to Adepticon which is also near Chicago and it’s one of (if not the) biggest miniatures conventions in the US, if not the world. I went there primarily to play X-Wing and played in a 33-person tournament which was, by far, among the more modestly-sized events (by comparison, the Warhammer 40K team tournament had 600 or so participants). I usually only get one or maybe two opportunities per year to do a “pay for a hotel and take time off work” type of gaming trip like Adepticon but I will definitely go back.
Let’s give a plug to your blog (http://www.engler.ca) What are the sorts of things you enjoy talking about on there?
I’m a very undisciplined blogger and definitely go through spurts. I write about pretty much anything but mostly about gaming. I used to be a lot more disciplined about doing battle reports and it’s something I need to get back into the habit of doing. I like posting them publicly for anyone interested to read but, selfishly, I find they’re valuable as they compel me to re-visit the games I played and examine what I could have done better.
I’m a big fan of Team Covenant’s positive vibe, their online videos and their website (an excellent X-Wing resource). You know those guys personally. Can you tell readers how your relationship started?
Team Covenant is a great organization run by an equally great group of men. I first heard of them back in 2010 when my main game was Monsterpocalypse which, for the record, is the best game a certain game company that has a skull wearing a tricorn hat as their logo ever made. It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t more of a commercial success as it’s in torpor now and, very sadly, an unfinished masterpiece.
I was web-searching for Monsterpocalypse related items and came across a trailer for a DVD they made that was an in-depth tutorial on how to deconstruct and play the game. A year or so later, they held the first ever “MonCon” in their home base of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 2012 and 2013 I (along with Spazzfist) made the trip down to MonCon and, while it was a relatively small event for around 20-30 dedicated people, it was the most fun I’ve ever had at a gaming event and spawned friendships across North America that I maintain to this day. I would love to get back down to see the TC crew in person again and it would be even better if it was to attend an X-Wing or Imperial Assault event.
There is a comic called Spazz and Wappy which appears to be filled with inside jokes. Can you talk about who Spazz is and how that comic came about?
Spazz is coming up a lot in this interview, isn’t he? In case it wasn’t obvious, Spazz is the same person as the aforementioned Craig “Spazzfist” Thompson-Wood. Craig created the Spazz & Wappy comics leading up to MonCon 2012 as a parody of his and my preparation to attend at compete at that event. Spazz is Craig and Wappy is me (a bastardization of my “wapcaplets” userID that I use pretty much everywhere). The Spazz and Wappy universe is very strange. Storylines are centred around games but the line is always blurred in terms of whether we play the games or whether we exist in the same universe as the games. Spazz and Wappy are caricatures of the two of us that have their roots in truth but are exaggerated. Craig isn’t as haphazard as Spazz and I’m only about 50-75% as mean as Wappy on any given day. Apart from being the in-life person on which Wappy is based I have nothing to do with the comic’s creation or execution; it’s all Craig! I will say, though, that I have been recognized once by a stranger as a result of the comic. At Gryphcon one year (at an X-Wing tournament) someone came up to me and asked, “Are you Wappy from the comics?” I was incredulous at the fact that I was a Z-list internet celebrity for one fleeting moment.
How did you get your alias of Wapcaplets?
Honestly, it’s quite a shaggy dog story without much of a payoff. I’ve put about the shortest version I can muster on the “About” page of my blog: http://www.engler.ca/blog/?pag
Have you gotten into any other Star Wars games besides X-Wing, like Armada, Imperial Assault or Card Games?
I tried the Star Wars LCG but it just didn’t click with me. I’ve intentionally stayed away from Armada. It looks awesome and I’ve heard nothing but good things but I know that if I dove into Armada I’d essentially have to give up X-Wing simply from a time perspective. I have picked up Imperial Assault, though, and I really am liking the skirmish mode.
On to X-Wing, how did you get into X-Wing Miniatures?
No real surprises here. I check Fantasy Flight’s website pretty much every day as I like a lot of the games they make and when I saw that they were making X-Wing that was enough to get me to try it. To be fair, theming something around Star Wars is enough to get me to try almost anything. Fortunately, the game they came up with is great and something that I really latched on to and have stuck with.
Do you get to play X-Wing regularly? How often do you get to play?
My local store (Black Knight Games in Hamilton) has an X-Wing casual play night every Tuesday so it’s not often that I go more than a week without the opportunity to play, which is great. Black Knight holds a monthly tournament as do about half a dozen other stores in easy driving distance so I’m fortunate to live in the midst of a thriving X-Wing scene.
What is your favorite list to fly? Do you have a favorite ship?
My favourite list throughout winter and spring of 2015 was an Emon Azzameen list where Emon had Intelligence Agent, the Andrasta title, and three bombs. I changed up which bombs I took which also contextualized his support ships which were usually Z-95s of various descriptions. I just love Emon’s ability and how it makes bombs so much more effective.
Before that I flew several variations of a Whisper/Decimator list which I found fun because the ships could not be more opposite in terms of how they are used on the battlefield. I will go on record and say that Emon Azzameen and Darth Vader are my favourite ships.
I remember you telling me about Vassal. How often do you play X-Wing on Vassal, and has it helped your game?
I used to play on Vassal a lot more when the X-Wing scene was more embryonic. Lately, since there’s so much live X-Wing going on around me, I haven’t gravitated towards Vassal. That being said, I would highly recommend that everyone try Vassal at some point. It’s a bit of a learning curve at first to get the interface down but it’s such a great learning tool.
Even if you aren’t playing games, Vassal is an invaluable tool to help you plot out opening maneuvers. Once you learn the interface, it’s very easy to try out, rewind, and re-try opening moves with a high level of precision and a shorter amount of time (compared to setting up and moving IRL models). You can tell the guys at IRL tournaments that have practiced on Vassal because they’re opening two or three turns often involve needle-threading maneuvers that I can’t help but think were the result of careful planning.
There are a lot of very good players on Vassal. If you subscribe to the notion that among the best ways to get better at a game is to play against people much better than you then try out some of the guys on Vassal; they’re aces. The one thing Vassal won’t do, however, is prepare you for timed tournament play. Vassal can be a bit fiddly and time-consuming so maintain a healthy balance of IRL play to keep your turns snappy.
If I’m any good at judging maneuver distances at all, it’s because of Vassal. Honestly, I feel like that skill is deteriorating within me and I’d like to get back on Vassal to sharpen it. I’ve heard some people say the opposite so I guess it can depend on how your brain is wired but it really helped me.
Do you stick to one faction, or do you jump around?
In the days of Rebels and Imperials only I played Imperials well over 80% of the time. When Scum came out, I played them exclusively until about two weeks ago. I tend to stick to one faction for a prolonged period of time.
You recently placed very well playing in the 100 point X-Wing Tourney at Adepticon. Can you talk about that?
Autothrusters were still really new at that point and I had it in my head for the first game that they allowed you to re-roll a defense die as opposed to turning a blank into an evade. It’s hard to say whether that cost me the game or not but it did mean that one of my IG-2000 ships would have, minimally, had one more round of shooting which could have made a difference. But, that did have me paired lower which definitely contributed to my having a higher MOV in my next three games which was the difference-maker between 3rd and a non-podium finish.
Do you have a most memorable game of X-Wing that sticks out in your mind?
Just last night we had a two multi-player games of Furball going at Black Knight. That was pretty awesome. Arfive Donfour showed up a little later than the rest of us and had apparently consumed an entire 2 kilogram bag of sugar as he had boundless energy and was running back and forth playing in both games simultaneously a la Bobby Fischer. Also, like Bobby Fischer, he cleaned up.
When you play, what’s the attitude you have with you, what are the things you think about?
I just try and remember that I have a duty to my opponent to play in a gentlemanly fashion. I also feel that, in a competitive event, it’s every player’s obligation to play to the best of his/her ability. There is a difference between “flying casual” and playing like you don’t care.
If there is one thing you love most of all about the game, what would it be?
It sounds corny but I’d have to say the player community. I think it strikes a great balance between people that play to win but also play to have fun. In all the tournaments I’ve played I can only remember one time where I had an opponent whose temperament detracted from my enjoyment of the game. That’s a pretty good average in over 200 games played.
In terms of the game itself, I’d have to say it’s the maneuver dials and templates. In general, free-from miniatures games (by which I mean those not on a grid where precise distances are important) all have the potential to get bogged down when there is a clump of models that have to move amongst each other. X-Wing’s movement mechanics are so elegant that clumping is rarely a big problem and isn’t nearly as time-consuming as other games.
You mentioned you love running a Scum list using Emon Azzameen. How do you feel about the new faction?
I collect all three factions. Fantasy Flight is very crafty at the way they package their upgrade cards that makes it all but mandatory to buy everything to get all the upgrades, but at least they do have cool freebies. I mean, $80 was a lot to pay for the C-3PO crew card but at least it included the free Tantive IV paper weight.
I very much enjoy the new Scum & Villainy faction. I really feel that they nailed it in terms of making them feel sneaky and underhanded and I particularly liked the way they breathed new life into ships like the Y-Wing. About the only thing I don’t like about the faction is the name. Nobody would self-apply the terms “scum” or “villain.” They should have been called Bounty Hunters, Mercenaries, or something along those lines.
Where do you see the meta going right now?
Well, I’ll have to cop to not showing up prepared for class as I haven’t read up on the next wave of ships so I don’t have an informed opinion on what the future will hold. What I hope to see is a return to seeing more diverse lists at tournaments. The damnable misery of an open-ended expandable game is that there’s always a “glory days” period before the game’s options aren’t largely explored and people are fielding widely diverse lists to see what works. Now that we’re almost three years in, there have been dominant strategies identified and the diversity of lists had narrowed, in my observation. Candidly, I can’t even offer a solution. Retiring models is never a popular option and re-costing can also be highly contentious. So I dunno. Lame answer on my part.
That was a great interview Waps. Is there anything you’d like to say as we wrap things up?
Thanks Chris. Keep flying casual and may the force be with you!