My turn to add my $.02 worth.
First, as others have said this was a well run tournament filled with a large number of high-caliber players, and I am not just talking about gaming ability. It was such a pleasure to spend time with such a great group of human beings. I was especially pleased to meet Richard Hsu, who I hadn't had the chance to really meet before. I am glad he made the trip all the way out to KC.
Friday afternoon Sean Dorcy and I were looking at builds for Saturday, and I couldn't make up my mind. Lately I have been on an old-school trip, reexamining the old ships and strategies to gauge their effectiveness in the changed environment. I had two lists, a variation on the dual-falcons and a swarm list, and couldn't make up my mind which to run. I decided to run the dual falcon list, as did Sean, but at the last minute (literally) I changed my mind because I simply didn't want two identical builds in the tournament and went with my swarm. This is what I went with.
Howlrunner (Swarm Tactics) : 20
Mauler Mithel (Swarm Tactics) : 19
Black Squadron (Draw their Fire, Shield Upgrade) : 19
Winged Gundark : 15
Academy TIE : 12
Academy TIE : 12
Total : 97 points.
This is a very hard hitting, old-school Swarm Tactics build. Academy TIEs to claim real-estate, blocking my opponent and preventing them from blocking me so I can guarantee Focus for my attacks (and hopefully deny my opponents the same). Black Squadron to pull Critical Hits from important targets, and force my opponent to either ignore those targets or have his damage spread around. Mauler and Howlrunner with Swarm Tactics to avoid the drawback to the low PS on Academy TIEs, and let everybody shoot before Daggers at PS 4 (even though the Dagger may fire at the same time as my last TIE, he wouldn't be able to kill Howlrunner first and deny my Black Squadron the reroll). And Gundark to fire after 4 other TIEs (including Mauler), so that he could put a painful crit or two on a token-less and shield-less target.
I run this squadron in a very precise version of the aperture formation that I learned about from watching Joseph Woodworths excellent youtube video http://www.youtube.c...h?v=tV3kthRngyk. I have made some modifications, in order to more specifically fit it into my gameplan, but if you haven't watched his video you should. It dramatically improves the way Swarms maneuver and fire. Kudos to Joseph not only for the formation, but for putting it out there for the rest of us to learn about it and incorporate it into our games.
My first game was against Richard Hsu. He was running Howlrunner (Swarm Tactics), Mauler (Squad Leader), two Bombers with Assault Missiles, and Backstabber. His victory started with asteroid placement, where he created a funnel to drive my swarm down. When the game began, I foolishly cooperated with him and went where he intended for me to go. As we came into range, my Academy TIEs were out of position to deny him real estate or actions, his bombers were ready to fire, and Backstabber was, well, backstabbing. One round of firing including an assault missile later and I knew I was in trouble and unless something dramatic happened I would simply melt away. I decided to go for a risky K-Turn, despite knowing that he could potentially demolish me if he correctly saw it coming, because if it was successful it would allow me to turn the game around whereas my more conservative options would only drag out the inevitable. My hope was that he would do something else, perhaps surmising that I would not take such a risk. Richard, however, is much too good a player and shut me down completely. 2 turns later I was done, my first game ending in a VERY decisive defeat at the hands of an excellent player. The only bright side? When your opponent is good enough to clobber you so thoroughly, there is a good chance he will go on winning and improve your Strength of Schedule enough to keep you in the running. Fortunately for me, Richard really is that good and he would go 3-1 for the rest of the day, keeping my SoS high enough to ultimately make the top 4.
My second match was against Joe Hensen, running 2A3B. We again set up in opposite corners, though his A-Wings were in position towards the center of the field in order to get in front of his B-Wings and screen them. I brought my formation forward, then swept in at an angle across the table and forward. One of the great strengths of the aperture formation is its ability to not only maneuver with banks and turns without bumping itself, but it is very, very narrow when travelling at an angle and is able to fit in the space between asteroids. My moves were a 3 forward to get into formation, then a 3 bank into the center of the table, then a 5 forward. In those 3 turns my TIEs were most of the way across the table, right in the grille of his A-Wings and R3 from his B-Wings. I don't believe Joe was anticipating such an aggressive charge, because his B-Wings were not quite close enough to the A-Wings to support them well.
The first round of fire saw one A-Wing dead, another without shields, and a B-Wing losing 2 shields. I felt pretty good when I stopped shooting, especially since his A-Wing had no focus and his B-Wings were all at R3, and every TIE in range of his Bs still had their focus. However, 3 B-Wings still roll a lot of red dice, and if some blanks turn up on green dice fortunes can change in a hurry. When he was done shooting, I had lost one of my lead Academy TIEs, the other had 2 damage, and Black Squadron had lost his shield and taken a crit in the process of saving his companions.
The next round I fast moved my entire formation in a 3 bank towards his B-Wings, hopping over his screening A-Wing and forcing his B-Wing formation to bump my remaining Academy TIE. At point blank, with his A-Wing facing away and his B's without focus and firing after all 5 of my TIEs (16 dice of focused, rerolled firepower), this round would devastate Joe's formation, leaving him with one B-Wing with reduced shields and his lone A-Wing, while putting zero damage on my TIEs. The next round I K-Turned, and with Howlrunner's boost to accuracy eliminated the last two ships before they could fire.
I should note that many people would drop after going 0-2, but Joe did not. Because he decided to keep playing, and because he was able to go on and win, my SoS would climb and eventually I would make Top 4. Had he dropped, I would not have so thanks go out to Joe for sticking with it.
This time I faced Jason Somers running Howlrunner with Swarm Tactics, Saber with Push the Limit, Turr Phennir with Veteran Instincts, and Soontir Fel with Push the Limit and Stealth. I was very worried when I saw his list, because with their high PS and enormous mobility his list was in an excellent position to exploit the greatest weakness of my list / formation. Namely, that focused firepower is exactly that, focused, into a very narrow cone. Ships like high-PS interceptors can maneuver out of that field of fire and wreck my swarm.
We began in opposite corners, and Jason ran fast down the side of the table towards my board edge in a bid to force me to reverse my TIE swarm. Since I have mixed PS, forcing my low PS ships to the back of the formation is a very effective way to hamstring my maneuvering. I turned early to counter, and came towards Jason side-on (2 ranks of 3 rather than 3 ranks of 2). On the critical first pass, I made a 3 bank towards his Interceptors (rather than a more conservative straight). Again, while moving at an angle this is a very, very narrow formation with enormously effective firepower in a very narrow cone. My gamble was that I could surprise Jason, and catch an Interceptor in that cone.
Unfortunately for Jason, he miscalculated and landed all 4 ships within that cone. While he was able to maneuver Turr (on the right) out of the killzone, Howlrunner, Saber and Soontir were caught at Range 1 from my focused swarm. Worse, he left Howlrunner in position in order to use Swarm Tactics to allow his Saber to fire before dying, and to provide accuracy, but when we measured at the start of the combat phase the only ship within Range 1 of Howlrunner was Soontir Fel. This was catastrophic, since he was forced to put Swarm Tactics on Soontir bringing his PS DOWN to 8, which meant that my swarm would fire before him. Turr's fire was effective but not devastating, and he rolled out of the line of fire. I had chained my Swarm Tactics through Mauler to Gundark, so I then rolled 10 focused and rerolled dice with Gundark's crit effects before any of his ships could fire. Soontir was killed, with a Blinded Pilot to add insult to injury, and damage was put on Howrunner. His return fire was again effective but not devastating because crits were pulled off their intended targets by Black Squadron. After my last 3 ships had fired, he had lost Howlrunner and Saber had a damaged engine, and he conceded the game.
Round 4 was against Brandon Barthel (mege), and I won't repeat his report from above. I will add that he maneuvered his ships very well, forcing me to reverse my ships (putting low PS at the back). He was also very, very effective at using the asteroids to force my ships to scatter and lose squadron coherence. Ultimately, he was able to drop 3 of my ships but after a well played game on his part he was defeated. His low agility, low speed ships were ill-equipped to deal with a swarm of this type, and despite his considerable skills and the excellent maneuvering on his part the Rebels went down.
First of all, I was shocked but pleased to make the top 4. After losing a game, and especially after losing your FIRST game in Swiss, it is extraordinarily unlikely that you can go on to qualify for the final rounds. Fortunately for me, my opponents were a very skilled group and my SoS, along with the fact that my victories were all full victories, allowed me to qualify.
I drew Dustin Poskochil, who had gone through the qualifying rounds undefeated. Unfortunately, we are awfully familiar with each other's playing style since we play in our league every Tuesday. Regardless, Dustin was running a very similar swarm.
Howlrunner (Swarm Tactics) : 20
Mauler Mithel (Swarm Tactics) : 19
Alpha Squadron : 18
Alpha Squadron : 18
Academy TIE : 12
Academy TIE : 12
Total : 99
His plan was also to leverage initiative to move his Academy TIEs into position to hold ground and deny actions, while using Swarm Tactics to allow his Alpha Squadron Interceptors to hit hard and early. Fortunately for me, his Initiative bid was at 99 points as opposed to my 97 points, so I would hold the initiative. This was enormous, since it negated the large portion of his squadrons strategy and simultaneously made it vulnerable to the same. As we ate dinner, Dustin was very concerned that his squadron would be unable to overcome the drastic reversal of fortunes this represented.
We knew that the swarm v. swarm would eventually come down to a single decisive pass unless one of us were to make an enormous mistake. I did not for a moment suspect that a player of his cailber would do so, and he apparently did not believe I would either, so we set up to more or less move straight towards one another. Dustin did do an excellent job of placing and using the asteroid field to control the circumstances of the first round of fire. With his two Interceptors, he hoped that at R3 he would be able to leverage his firepower advantage to gain the upper hand and eliminate the Academy TIEs that would deny him his initiative advantage.
Our first exchange did occur at R3, as Dustin had hoped. However, the aperture formation again proved very powerful as all 6 of my TIEs were able to fire while one of his was not, and his back row TIEs were only able to reach one of my two APs. More, the opportunity for me to shoot first was very powerful, allowing me to get more value out of my focus than Dustin did. At the end of the round, I had managed to eliminate one Alpha and the one Academy TIE that was in position to "split" my formation, as well as put "Damaged Sensors" on his remaining Alpha. Dustin had also managed to eliminate an AP, and had actually delivered more hits total, but because my Black Squadron TIE was able to draw crits away the AP was the only ship eliminated.
Next round Dustins fears proved true as my remaining AP made it impossible for him to maneuver optimally, and my Initiative bid allowed me to eliminate his Howlrunner before the rest of his swarm could fire. After a devastating round of fire in which I would also eliminate Mauler and the remaining Alpha, Dustin conceded the game.
My final game was against Matt Baugh who had just won a VERY hard fought game against Richard White. He was running a 2X2B list. Two rookies, and two Blue Squadron with Advanced Sensors. The Blues had been decisive against Richard, with high firepower, mobility, and the ability to keep their actions.
Matt set up the arrowhead asteroid formation, in an attempt to confound my swarm, then placed his ships on the opposite side of the line of asteroids. However, the painful lesson taught to me by Richard Hsu was still in the front of my mind. I cooperated with Matt and added asteroids to complete a "line" across the table, with my formation on one side in the corner, and his formation on the opposite side in the opposite corner. I dressed my formation, then did a K-Turn which seemed to surprise those present. I was planning a sweep and pin maneuver that I have used against some of the guys in Bellevue before, but is apparently not widely used.
It worked very well, and when Matt and I came into range of one another I had the board edge on my right flank, the asteroids on my left, forcing my opponent to move directly into my focused fire zone. On the first round of fire at range 3, I eliminated a rookie and put 2 damage on a B-Wing with one damage taken on an AP in reply. On the second round, with all of my ships firing before any of his, I eliminated his other rookie and one of his B-Wings. His remaining B-Wing was unable to fire, since in the process of avoiding my fire he had maneuvered out of position to shoot as well. At 6 on 1, with only 1 damage on an AP and his B-Wing pinned in the corner, Matt conceded the game. Just like with Brandon, his excellent squad and play were largely negated by a list that brought a rock for his scissors. Kudos to him for his great performance that day.
Thanks again to all those who participated and especially those who helped put the tournament on. I got home at 330am, tired but victorious. See you guys at Regionals!
Edit: I am running the same swarm in the Vassal Hi-Lo tournament at Teamcovenant. If anyone would like to see the squad and formation in action, the game logs are posted there.
Edited by KineticOperator, 10 February 2014 - 08:14 AM.