Monthly Archives: September 2014

X-Wing Epic Play Game Review Part I: The Point of No Return

Back in 2012 I was fortunate enough to attend Star Wars Celebration VI with Stinky Cheese. One of the things I was most looking forward to was checking out a miniatures game that Fantasy Flight Games was about to release: Star Wars X-Wing. Swinging by their booth we drooled over the preview models, picked up a copy of the core game (foolishly skipping the expansions) and, within hours, had our fighters battling it out on my kitchen table.

I immediately fell in love.

Over the next several months I bought another core set and consumed the new waves as they were released. At Gen Con 2013 I ran to the FFG booth in the opening minutes and waited nervously in line until I had secured the new releases. Later that weekend was when they made the official announcement about epic/cinematic play and debuted the first “huge ship” models, the CR-90 Corvette (the first ship shown in the SW saga) and the GR-75 (of “escape from Hoth” fame). We, of course, gawked over the display, marveling at how gorgeous the models appeared.

Over the next several months more details emerged about the huge expansions and the new Epic Tournament format. Tons of speculation (read “arguments”) could be read on the forums as to how viable the expansions would be and if their overall impact on the game would be positive. One of the sticking points for many of the hardcore miniature gamers was FFG’s decision to use a “relative” scale which is smaller than the fighter’s 1/270 (FFG’s rationale for this can be found here). Overall I remained tentatively optimistic. And, one year after I put my nose print on the glass case at Gen Con, I finally got to man the bridge of the CR-90 and give epic play a shot.


Game Overview

Scenarios: CR-90 “Point of No Return” Campaign Scenarios 1, 2b & 3b

Imperial Objectives (all scenarios): Disable 1 section of the CR-90

Players: Mr. Cupcake, Metalhead, Pawatrooper, Stinky Cheese, Pookie and Shart Storm. In Scenario 1 I took the helm of the CR-90 (the only Rebel ship). For the succeeding games we randomized the teams.

Note: I’m only providing a cursory overview of the squadron lists and objectives as the former has assignments that are fixed and the latter is directly copyrighted material that I don’t want to post completely online. The full details of the scenarios can be found in the campaign booklet provided with the Tantive IV Expansion.

Scenario 1: Imperial Victory

Rebel Objective: Survive 6 Turns

Rebels: 1xCR-90 Corvette

Imperials: 6xTIE Fighters

This game was pretty straight forward. The Imps closed in on the Corvette, got inside the turbo lasers’ minimum range and chewed up the hull. The zero agility of the CR-90 pretty much allowed the TIE’s to cause damage with impunity, especially when they got to Range 1. The one moral victory was splashing two TIE’s with the “cowcatcher” effect when I executed a bank that they didn’t expect. It wasn’t enough, though, as the fore section was crippled early in Turn 5’s Combat Phase.

Scenario 2b: Imperial Victory

Rebel Objective: Escape off neutral board edge.

Rebels: CR-90, 2x X-Wings & 1x B-Wing

Imperials: 3xTIE Fighter, 2xTIE Interceptor, 1xTIE Bomber and 1xTIE Defender

This game went rather poorly for the Rebellion. The fighter screen moved forward and got one, solid volley off before the Imperials shot past them. This was exacerbated by an unfortunate overlap that blocked on of the X-Wing’s Koiogran Turn and, for all intents and purposes, put it out of the game. The rest of the fighters did their best to come about, but couldn’t prevent focused fire from virtually every Imperial fighter that crippled the fore section in turn 4 or 5 (can’t remember exactly).

Scenario 3b: Imperial Victory

Rebel Objective: Fix the Hyperdrive

Rebels: CR-90, Wedge Antilles, 1x B-Wing

Imperials:

Group 1 – 2x bombers, 1xLambda

Group 2: 3x TIE Interceptors

Group 3: 6x TIE Fighters

This was a really fun scenario to run. It involved an escalation of force by the Imps as Groups 2 and 3 arrived several turns into the game. In retrospect it was also the scenario where the Rebels did the best job in working toward their objective, especially considering we were not doing energy management correctly and the scenario heavily depended on energy management (see below). They also did an excellent job keeping their fighters shooting and splashed several Imperial ships, including the Lambda shuttle and several TIE’s.

Scenario 4: (not played, ran out of time)


Campaign Summary

The biggest thing we noticed was that the tactics for the Imperials over the campaign got fairly repetitive: ignore the fighters, close with the CR-90 as quickly as possible and focus fire on one section. In each game the Corvette was put out of commission with relative ease (3b being the closest it came to victory). This prompted us to review of the rules1 and it turned out that we mishandled the energy steps (see below), most likely due to the fact we were using printouts from a squadron builder that obfuscated/confused the energy rules.


Mistakes We Made

  1. The Reinforce action can be performed FROM any section ON either section.
  2. The CR-90 should have rolled for potential damage when it collided with the TIE’s.
  3. CR-90 secondary weapons do not allow for the additional Defense Dice from extended range (caught this mid-game).  For example, the “hard points” upgraded with Turbo Laser and Quad Lasers, which is why the Turbo Laser has the rule that the target doubles their agility.
  4. When allocating energy it is placed on the Ship Card up to the maximum amount of energy then can be assigned to upgrade cards up to the card’s energy limit. The Energy Steps include:
    1. Gain Energy: Place the energy on the SHIP Card
    2. Allocate Energy: Move energy from the SHIP Card to any Upgrade Cards (up to the energy limit)
    3. Use Energy: Use any upgrade abilities that have the word “energy” (once per card per turn, secondary weapons still fire in the Combat Phase)

Primary takeaway: use actual game components should be used for the first pass at new expansions.


First Impressions

The campaign itself does have some merit and was, for the most part, a ton of fun to play through. Next time I will definitely play it using the optional rules for “non campaign play” where players are given freedom to equip the CR-90 as desired. This would allow the Rebel player to equip quad lasers in the fore and aft sections, something that I believe would help it fight off enemy fighters.

As for aesthetics I think the huge ship scale held up quite nicely with the fighters. The ship is big enough to look impressive and the detail is so exquisite you can’t help but cut it some slack. That being said I am still interested in doing a test game with the Kenner CR-90 and some modified movement rules (or simply let the model move in a set path) as it does look a lot more epic next to the fighters.


Part II – The Hurricon 2014 JDL Challenge (coming soon):

In the next few weeks we will have run a JDL Challenge using the Epic Play Tournament format I will post a recap as well as final thoughts and impressions of the huge ships. Stay tuned!!


Notes

1There is a standing rule in “The Bunker” that we are not a book club. If a rule isn’t known and can’t be looked up quickly we make our best ruling and drive on with the game. This sometimes leads to errors, but it also prevents things from becoming too bogged down. There’s plenty of time to read between games and make adjustments for the next time.

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Bf4 Death From The Skies 74 1

Another great video from our Digital Czar, Stinky Cheese (playing as JPBaseballGamer). Be sure to like and subscribe his channel!!

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Battletech Part I – Aynsley’s Angels Take the Field

Logo finished

About a year ago I was finally introduced to Battletech. I’ve always been aware of it, but getting started always seemed like such a daunting task given the scope and breadth of the universe and the game that bears its name. My first game was a “boot camp” run at a fairly obscure convention, GenCon, where I sat across from Stinky Cheese and we were walked through a few rounds of the game. About a month later we got to play a fantastic “King of the Hill” game at a local convention where each of the eight players ran an Atlas. In turn 3 Stinky Cheese was kind enough to perform an alpha strike on my mech (that is when you fire every single weapon in a single round, which is not an insignificant amount of firepower when performed by an Atlas) resulting in an Autocannon 20 hit to my cockpit that reduced my pilot to a smear on the smoking crater where once my mech’s head rested atop it’s shoulders.

Just recently, many months after that unsettling encounter, we finally got to play again at a game night co-hosted by the Lakeland Role Playing Guild and Lakeland Tabletop Games Club. Over the course of several emails we outlined a basic scenario focused on teaching the system using the Introductory Rules and involving two lances. I was asked to build one of the lances and have a backup lance just in case the level of participation called for more units. My primary lance, apparently, was actually a “star” and so the backup lance was fielded. It should be noted that I had the option of using Pookie’s lance, but, given that he landed on the opposite team, I didn’t feel comfortable running mechs selected by an opponent, so I stuck with my original, second choice. After we randomly assigned the mechs on our side (aka “the side of goodness and righteousness”) I ended up swapping with Stinky Cheese as he was a little hesitant about running a light/reconnaissance mech. About turn two I realized the keenness of his foresight. We’ll get to that later.


Game Overview

GM: Metalhead

Scenario – Breakthrough: Attacker’s goal was to advance North and leave the battle area with as many mechs as possible in order to move toward the off-table site of the “MacGuffin”1. Defender’s goal was to reduce attacking mechs to heaps of molten steel.

Play Area: Four map sheets with a canyon network in the South, woods in the Northeast and an open plain in the Northwest over-watched by two hills.

BattleTech-Aug14

Defenders: Omega Paladins

2xCrusader CRD-3K

2x Crusader CRD-3R

(I have no idea which were which as they looked the same to my amateur eye, but they were piloted by Preacher, Gigabyte, Pookie and Crafty)

Attackers: Aynsley’s Angels*

Sketchy (LRPG’er) piloting an Atlas AS7-D

Paratwooper piloting a Trebuchet TBT-5N

Stinky Cheese piloting a Catapult CPLT-C1

Mr. Cupcake (yours truly) piloting an Assassin ASN-21

*Our team name was made up on the spot by Paratwooper and a few minutes later our namesake had a team logo/crest sketched out (more of her art on DeviantArt, wafflemaker9000). Our opponents’ lance had a well defined history and an official crest hand-painted on their mechs by a third party who wasn’t present. Given that nobody at the table actually produced their work of art we determined that it was inferior to our impromptu back story and we mocked their lack of originality. (Psst…don’t tell them that the mechs were actually quite well painted and the logo was pretty boss, too).


The Game

After a quick strategy huddle the game began with each team simply placing their mechs in the first row in the North/South. We went heavy on the left flank and they formed a loose skirmish line covering the width of the board. On turn one we won the initiative (the least important initiative roll of the game and the last one we won that night) and they moved first with the teams alternating until all mechs had moved. They decided to consolidate two mechs on the right and Crafty sent her mech up our left flank, opposite my light mech. There was no combat for that turn or the next couple as we all jockeyed for position. Paratwooper and Stinky Cheese were able to secure vantage points and I hunkered down in a valley while I waited for the Atlas to catch up.

At this point the turns get a little fuzzy on exactly what took place in the turn sequence, so I will summarize. Most of the mechs came into Long Range Missile (LRM) range and started to exchange pot-shots while continuing to maneuver for an advantageous position. This was not easy shooting as the difficulty of the firing was requiring rolls mostly of 10-11 on 2d6. Damage was minimal with only a brief moment of excitement when a critical hit was rolled, but failed to be confirmed. From our side most of the shooting was done by Paratwooper and Stinky Cheese, though I did get a whopping 3 points of damage on Crafty before scuttling back to my hiding place. At the end of the middle turns we had some scratched paint on both sides and the battle was beginning to take shape.

From a strategic standpoint we were not looking too good, mostly due to our lance composition. The scenario required a lot more speed on our part than my lance was capable of mustering (though, in my defense, I had no idea of the scenario when I built the lance). The Atlas, which soaked up most of our Battle Value (the points used to build lances), was still lagging too far behind to add much weight to the battle. This is not a criticism of Sketchy’s tactical acumen, she was doing her best to get weapons into the fight, it’s simply the nature of an Atlas. They are slow, ponderous beasts bristling with weapons of virtually every class covered by the game. This gave our opponents time to secure some key terrain, especially when Crafty achieved the high ground on the left flank (Northwest quadrant) that gave her a field of fire covering the open ground that we had to cross. This prevented me from completing a flanking maneuver that I was desperately trying to execute. Which leads me to another flaw – my inability to go toe-to-toe with any of the opposing mechs. The defenders lance was composed of four mechs of equal, moderate strength where ours was more of a combined arms approach (recon, assault and two fire support). Their lance was a lot more forgiving for mostly new players as it lacked the reliance on a highly coordinated attack. Bottom line: I was beginning to doubt our chances.

In the final turns of the night Stinky Cheese inched his way to the right flank and Paratwooper made a bold move by sprinting forward and alpha-striking an enemy mech standing in some water. This triggered an alpha strike from his opposite as well as Crafty and some flanking missiles launched by Pookie and his file partner in the Northeast quadrant. Much to all our surprise relatively little damage was done for the amount of munitions expended and Paratwooper was left in the open and fully operational.

As the night wound down heat synchs where in overdrive from a LOT of shooting and the mighty Atlas began to emerge from the shadowy depths of the mountain canyon. Will it be enough to breakthrough? Will Aynsley’s Angels carry the day and fight on toward the mighty, glorious and most treasured MacGuffin? Stay tuned to find out!!!


Notes

1During the initial scenario brief I assumed that a “MacGuffin” was some sort of in-universe commodity, so didn’t put much thought into its origin. As the game commenced I finally asked what the hell it was and learned that it was not so much a “commodity” as it was a way of releasing the GM from any responsibility to come up with an actual objective. It was quite entertaining…at my expense. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin

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