New Toys goes to the Fantasy Flight Store Championship 2017, Part Two: The tournament

You can see my list for the tournament here.

As you might guess from the recent dearth of posts on this blog, tournaments and my attendance at them have been sparse lately, so when this store championship was announced, I was hyped, especially with the new mini wave legal.  Not playing a skirmish match since my weekend of woe months previous and being two hours away was going to stop me.  I drove in the night before to build the list and woke up early the day of to finalize the command deck.

I even made it out for a quick round of disc golf beforehand.  I lost my Big Z Nuke on the seventh hole and was looking for it until I could no longer spare the time.  Consider it an ill omen.

Against J, Better IG-88 and Focused Hunters on To Your Stations!

J was running a Focused on the Kill IG-88 list with hunter (Onar Koma with Prey on the Weak and elite Weequay Pirates) and focus support (Jabba the Hutt, C-3PO and Gideon Argus), and he knew the map well enough that he could build it from memory.  Yup.

Not much happened the first round but positioning.  My HKs took control of the two upper turrets while his Onar and Iggy moved to the lower turret.  J’s Weequays hid, he built focus and that was all of note.  We finished the round 6 to 3 in my favor, pure objective points.

Things opened up in the second round at the intersection between the doors when J finally opened his.  Iggy couldn’t finish Trip 0, and he ran for the protection of the HKs who keep him safe for the rest of the game.  The Weequays worked together to finish BT before he could take a shot, but the HKs took vengeance by acing one with Scavenged Weaponry and leaving the other on one health that Chopper took with a Ram.

This was a critical trade.  I came out ahead one point, but more importantly J was out two of his four hitters, the other two out of position at the lower turret.  His massive focus game is much weaker, too, as Iggy doesn’t need the help.  I have a solid hold on the two turrets, especially with reinforcements from solid close-range units like Shyla, my Onar and Trip 0.

I’m confident I had the advantage and could have forced him to come to me.  I didn’t.  I sent Shyla to contest the third turret against his Onar.  It ended poorly for her.  Onar hit back harder, and a Blazing Iggy finished her.  A focused Gideon finished Chopper, and we ended the round 20 to 23 in his favor after I score more objective points.

The killing continues in round three.  Iggy somehow finished my Onar by throwing only two green and five red dice at him, and my HKs sniped Gideon and Threepio and before running back to the turrets with the assistance of some move-boosting command cards.  Also, my Jawa bit it.  I’m not really sure what he did otherwise.  I scored objectives again, and the score is 31 to 35, still J’s favor.

For a brief moment I saw a chance in round four when the HKs put in work by finishing Onar with help from an Assassinate and put me at 38 points.  He has just Jabba and Iggy left, and Iggy’s kind of far away.  Maybe, just maybe, if I can keep everyone alive this round, I’ll win.  But no.  Iggy races right up in an HK’s face and drops Heightened Reflexes and Assassinate to super kill him.  Forty to 38, his favor.

For a loss, I’m feeling good.  I overextended in the second round when I had the advantage but was competitive and had a shot at winning.  There are only 15 people at the tournament.  I could still make the cut, take home some swag.

Against Other J, Jawa Rainbow and Droids on Line of Fire

Yes, J was running four regular Jawa Scavengers and two elites, and yes, they were painted the colors of the rainbow, but when you consider this same man has run a six Nexu list, also all the colors of the rainbow, and a double Rancor, Bantha (possibly inverted) list, it really doesn’t seem that strange.  Anyway, because the Jawas only count for 14 points all together, he fills out the list with R2-D2, Chopper, BT, two elite Probe Droids and a regular for a total of twelve activations.

I felt great about this match, especially as I passed a few rounds and watched his Jawas rush for the crates.  It looked like open season for the HKs as they had a long, clear line on them and opened it by sniping an elite Jawa.  BT trundles along, eager to take advantage of a Missile Salvo.  The rest of my force moved up through the door to take control of the center, and he responded by moving in his Probes.  His BT taps my Onar for 5, and that’s the round, 3 to 0, my favor.

J opened round two with Utinni!, so things are definitely going to happen.  Onar couldn’t finish his BT even with Rush and put himself in a position for a beating from everyone at the intersection.  Dueling Missile Salvos have drastically different results.  His killed my Jawa and damaged Chopper and Onar.  Mine damaged R2 and a regular Jawa and missed his elite Jawa.  The HKs did their thing and killed a regular Jawa, but the second Jawa survived with a second dodge on the reroll.  Violence continued in the intersection.  My Onar and Chopper and his regular Probe all dropped, and I conceded when last round was announced.  I had no more activations, and the score was 13 to 8, J’s favor.  I had no chance to score more points, and he hadn’t even activated most of his Jawas and their Utinni! points.

It was a frustrating match to not even go to a third round where more death would have ensued, but that was our fault for running for food and starting late.  I don’t know if I could have pulled it out if it had played longer.  Even against three-health Jawas and five-health Probes, I was spreading my damage and not finishing figures off.  I probably made a significant tactical error again by focusing too much attention on the low-point Jawas, and not on the droids who could actually hurt me.  Sniping HKs should have been enough against them, but I overreacted to the possibility of them scoring objective points on the crates.  Oh well.  Live and learn for the next time I face such a popular list.

Against E, Hera’s Hunters on Spoils of Crime

Another classic hunter list (Shyla, Onar, two elite Weequays, Jabba) but experimenting -with Hera this time.  Neither of us made a real play for the crates, so the action centered on the violence in the space between our deployment zones.  I opened the action by, as was my wont this tournament, by overextending and sending Shyla in deep to knock out a Weequay with the help of Heightened Reflexes.  For her efforts, she was pulled in by E’s Shyla and finished off by her, an Onar working Extra Protection and Hera on Stimulants.  My Onar knocked out a second Weequay, finally using Prey on the Weak but was rewarded by receiving  exact lethal damage from his Onar.  The HKs chipped in some damage but not enough to finish anyone.

The trades were not good.  I was down two of my hitters in exchange for just two Weequays, but I have initiative, and BT is in position to rock his Onar with Tools for the Job.  But E has Negation.  That’s game there.  His Onar Rushes my Jawa to finish it and knocks out an HK with his attack.  I could have activated the last HK to try and chip out the last damage on Hera or a Weequay but prefer to target the already activated Onar instead.  Onar goes down and so does my unactivated HK.

Some other stuff happened en route to his 40 to 14 victory, but I’ll not bore you with the mop up.  Suffice to say, the game was lost on that Negation.  That’s why you play it.  I’m definitely not saying that I would have won with initiative, especially down Shyla and Onar, but knocking out an unactivated Onar and keeping two units would have made things a fair bit more competitive.

Bye

And so I suffer my worst loss of the day in receiving a bye.  Truly, not playing at all is the greatest disappointment.

Lessons

I really need to work on overextending and recognizing when I have the advantage and forcing the opponent to come to me.  I need to build better lists.  I need to expect Negation and Take the Initiative and how hard they can bone me if I position too optimistically.

Thoughts on the new toys

0-0-0 is feast or famine.  If you can start your activation next to a target, Invasive Procedure into a focused attack is absolutely brutal.  The trouble is setting that up.  Even with a list trying to move enemies around, it never worked out.  Perhaps with some Officers pushing Trip 0 around, he could make something happen, but that wasn’t my list.

BT-1 is a glass cannon.  Even with ten health, he withers under focused fire, but he can allow two-shot kills on Onar before then.  I think the Missile Salvo is a bit of a trap.  Three attacks is fun, but without a surge for bonus damage, they split the damage too much without finishing units.  It might be more useful in a list with a lot of blast or Vinto to add the last few points of damage.

Navigation Upgrade (the permanent command card that grants movement points to droids) could be great with BT and his partner, but the tempo hit of spending an action on it was too much and left the card in my hand every time I drew it.  I never drew the other new command cards, so there’s nothing to say for them still.

C1-10P is fun, but I just don’t see a place for him.  I didn’t contest terminals much, and they seem generally less powerful with the heavy use of Jabba and Black Market allowing extra draws regardless.  Ram is cool, I guess.

Not much to say about the elite Jawa Scavenger.  He can punch through more damage than you’d expect, but he’ll probably die first.  But that’s not why you run him.  Bring in the droids and then just open doors and go for objectives and terminals.

Thanks

Thanks to my opponents.  Thanks to my wife for giving me the weekend off and staying with the boy.  Thanks to the guy who came to his first tournament and ran Darth Vader without his coming upgrade.  Thanks to my friends who came over for games that evening and let me win two of our three games of Knizia’s Samurai and both games of Inis.

Advertisements

New Toys goes to the Fantasy Flight Store Championship 2017, Part One: The list

It’s time to come clean. I only play skirmish at tournaments. To really be competitive, I’d probably have to buy doubles of big boxes to get two the two sets of elites I need, and that’s not worth it. That’s also fine. I find Imperial Assault has a solidly casual atmosphere that is aware it’s playing a dice game and can be supportive of the guy who runs six Nexu lists.

Most of the time this laid back attitude is no problem, but sometimes it leads me down dark paths as I bring lists that pack in as much of the newest releases as possible rather than something I might have tested once. With that in mind, I present New Toys.

Prey on the Weak goes on Onar, and Scavenged Weaponry starts on the HKs. It fits in every new model but Hera Syndulla from the latest wave, and only misses Trusted Ally from the skirmish upgrades. If Fantasy Flight wants droids to be viable, I will play droids, especially when so many of them are also hunters, probably the best trait in the game right now.

Not much to say about the list itself in this post. The analysis will come in the tournament report. It’s a pretty standard hunter list with the droids glommed on. It could probably be better  with C-3P0 switched in for 0-0-0 and someone else for Chopper, but good wasn’t necessarily the goal. There was a definite push strategy to the list. 0-0-0 can be brutal if he starts the turn next to a target, lackluster otherwise with melee and a speed of four. Shyla, Onar and Chopper all provide some pushes to get enemies in range.

Nothing too exciting with the command deck otherwise. Plenty of standards (Take Initiative, Negation, Element of Surprise), hunter synergy (Assassinate, Heightened Reflexes, Tools for the Job), movement pumps (Hit and Run, Opportunistic) and new droid synergy (Navigation Upgrade, Shared Experience, Targeting Network).

Look forward to the tournament report in the next day or two.

The Dunwich Legacy Files: File the Third: Curse of the Rougarou

Follow along with my Rex Murphy and D’s Zoey Samaras at ArkhamDB.  Do be aware that these deck have been through Blood on the Altar and both print-on-demand scenarios and contain spoilers as a result.

“Professor Armitage!  Professor Armitage!”  Rex banged at the heavy door.  “Come quickly.”

The old man opened the doors, still wiping the sleep from his eyes.

“Mr. Murphy?  How late is it?  Did you find Warren?”

“No time to explain.  There’s a rougarou in Louisiana.  We’re going to find it!”

“I’m sorry.  A what?”

“No time to explain!”

Rex grabbed the aged professor by the arm and pulled him out in to the street in the direction of the train station.

***

Zoey stepped gingerly and watched as her foot sank almost to the knee into the fetid muck of the bayou.

“This place smells of rot and death,” she said.

“It’s the bayou, ma cherie.  You should enjoy the local color of this fine state while you can.”  Rex breathed deep.  “Ah.  Smells like America.”

Zoey narrowed her eyes.

“Go.  Find the beast so that I may kill it.”

“Okay.  Come on, Dr. Milan.  Let’s go investigate.”

“What are you doing here?” Zoey demanded.  “I saw you felled by that beast at the university.”

Doctor Milan shrugged.

“I got better.  Mr. Murphy asked me to come.”

“Hurry, Dr. Milan!  There are clues to be found!”

“I guess I’ll see you later then.”  Dr. Milan glumped through the bayou after Rex deeper into the wilderness.

Some time later, shortly after the fifth time that Rex declared a broken twig made it look as though a rougarou had passed through, Dr. Milan spied lights.

“Careful, Mr. Murphy.  Those lights could be anyone.”

“Hello!” Rex called, stepping out from Dr. Milan’s cover and discovering a cabin patched and repaired innumerable times.  “We are searching for clues as to the whereabouts of a rougarou!  Could you offer any help?”

A shriveled man stepped out, holding a shotgun at his side.  Thin suspenders laid across a bare chest of tight, weathered skin.

“Eh?  Sounds French.  You’d best go ask that voodoo woman, Esprit, about that.”

“I think they prefer ‘following the loa’ to ‘voodoo,’ but thank you for your help.  Where could we find her?”

“Back in the bayou.”

“Thank you.  Say, that wouldn’t be a rougarou trap you have there?”  Rex asked pointing at a rusted thing on the cabin’s wall.

“Sure.  What’re you offering?”

Rex rooted through his pockets desperately, looking back at Dr. Milan who still cowered in the brush.

“I have these berries.  Found them in the underbrush.  They taste good.”

“Hmm.”  The old trapper picked at a curly hair on his chest.  “I do make my living with this trap.  Can’t be much of a trapper without a trap.”  He stroked the metal.  “But you make a good bargain.  It’s yours.”

“Thank you kindly, good sir!” Rex rejoiced.  “We’ll take care of that rougarou for sure.”

The trapper pulled the trap from the wall and threw it at Rex’s feet.

“Enjoy.  Don’t go getting your hand caught in it.  It’s got a tendency to stick.”

Rex rushed back to the brush and out to the bayou with his new tool, Dr. Milan going more slowly, carefully picking his way around the deepest points.

“We have to find a woman named Esprit,” Rex announced.  “She knows how to find the rougarou.”

“Lady Esprit?” a police officer asked.

“Maybe.  Who are you?”

“He’s a police officer.  He offered his assistance when I explained our cause.”

“‘To serve and protect.’  That’s my motto.”

“Isn’t it every officer’s motto?”

“No.  Pretty sure it’s all mine.”

“Hm.  You were saying about Ms. Esprit?”

“Lady Esprit?  She doesn’t live too far from here.  Not five minutes, if I remember right.  She knows things.”

“Lead the way, officer.”

The shack the officer led them to was a rough thing, barely in better condition than the trapper’s home, but its smell was something else, overpowering even the bayou’s rot.  The odor was heavy smoke but with something lying just underneath, something that burned at the nostrils.  Before Rex could knock at the door, a woman’s voice commanded him “Come in.”

Rex walked in, and Zoey followed.  The others stayed outside.  Somehow the inside was both larger and smaller than expected from the outside.  While Rex had the off-balancing sense that the inside dimensions were longer and wider than outside, the walls were filled with shelves, themselves filled with jars and vases and totems innumerable.  Smoke permeated the room, making Rex’s eyes water, but he could not see its source.  He could only see the vaguest silhouette of a woman sitting deeper in the cabin.

“We’re looking for a rougarou,” he said.

“Yes.  The story of our suffering has spread.  Will you kill it?”

“I should think so.  Ms. Samaras here has already demonstrated herself a dab hand at the old violence.”

“Good.  I believe that the only way to remove this curse is to kill the accursed.”

Rex nodded.  “Sounds right to me.”

“And I am sorry.”

“Oh?  For what?”

“For your friend.”

“Ms. Samaras?”

Zoey maintained her usual mask, but there was a twitch in her cheek that Rex had never noticed before.  He made to reach for her, but she turned on him with fire in her eyes and he stayed his hand.

“Go.  Kill the rougarou to save yourselves.  If you should be in pain, come to me, and I will do what I can.”

Outside Zoey released a long-held breath ragged at its edges.

“Zoey?  Are you okay?”

Zoey grabbed Rex by the shoulders in a grip far stronger than he had expected.  Her fingernails dug deep into his flesh.

“Do not get in my way, little man, or there will be blood.  Where is the rougarou?  This curse will be released.”

“Maybe try New Orleans?  Lots of people for a rougarou to kill there?”

Zoey snorted and bounded off through the bayou, the police officer just barely keeping pace.

Rex took a second to adjust himself.

“Did she seem different to you?”

Dr. Milan shrugged.

“I don’t really know her.”

“Not a little longer in the tooth?  Not coarser of hair?”

“Maybe?”

“In any case, we need to do our part in killing this rougarou.  I’m going to set up my rougarou trap.”  He looked around.  “This looks like the sort of place a rougarou would walk through, right?”

Rex dropped the trap to a dry place and dropped some leaves over it.

“I guess we wait now.  How long do you think we’ll have to wait?”

Dr. Milan winced at a piercing shriek in the distance.

“Either a very short time or a very long time.”

Rex had only the briefest moment to register the blur of grey as it flew past before there was a clatter of metal.  The blur turned into a rolling ball before it stopped in a splash of brackish water.  The thing that emerged was something like a wolf but something too like a bat but something more vicious, more vile than any of them.

“Begone beast!” Rex shouted from a safe distance and behind cover.  “Or taste my blade!”  He rattled a fire ax but not so much that the rougarou might see it.

The beast gave a moment’s pause, head swiveling, but another shriek of rage came from whence it had come.  It gave a final sniff before loping away.

Zoey and the officer followed not long after.

“Did you see it?  Where did it go?”

Rex pointed toward some unhallowed country, and Zoey roared off.

“Well, I think we did our part, yes?” Dr. Milan asked.  “No one would blame us now if we leave the rest of the work to Ms. Samaras.  She does seem much better suited to it than us.”

“But there are clues to find!  Now we have seen the rougarou and its path.  We will be able to learn so much more about it now.  Let’s go into New Orleans.”

It wasn’t long after Rex and Dr. Milan were looking into the unique horrors of the disarmingly named Garden District that another howl pierced the air.  They could not tell whether it was Zoey or the beast.  Leaving Broadmoor for the bayou, they heard the howl again and thought they caught sight of something moving at a ferocious limp.  Dr. Milan demurred from investigating any closer.

“Where did it go?” Zoey demanded.  Both men jumped at the voice appearing behind them.

“Where did what go?” Dr. Milan asked tentatively.

“Do not toy with me, fat man,” Zoey threatened.  “You know what I seek.  I thought I had found a foe worthy of my steel, but instead it runs from me.  I hunger for blood, and yours will do.”

“Now, now, Zoey,” Rex stepped back.  “It may please you to know that we have been investigating the beast’s tracks in New Orleans, and I think we have learned some things of interest.”

“What?” Zoey demanded.

“Well,” Rex stepped back again, “it might not be so beastly as you think.  There appears to be some humanity left in it.  We found one of its victims, and it seemed to use a fork and knife in eating the body.  That does not seem too beastly to me.  Perhaps you could talk to it?  Maybe it won’t run from you so quickly if you aren’t hacking at it’s limbs with a machete?”

“Talk?  I desire blood now!”  Zoey raised her blade high.  Rex stepped back again only to stop against a tree.  Dr. Milan ducked into the turgid water only to feel something large pass along him.  There was a splash of water, and the water grew dark with blood.  The heavy thing fell away in the current.  Dr. Milan opted not to look too close after it.  “Perhaps that will sate me.”  Zoey pushed through the water.

“Where do you think that officer got to?” Rex wondered as Dr. Milan wiped scum from his face.

“I don’t think I care to know.”

“Hm.  Feel like doing some investigating?”

“Eh.”

“Okay.  Then we’ll wait.”  Rex looked down at his leg.  “Though I might just step out to deal with this leech.”

It wasn’t much longer that Zoey returned.

“Perhaps it will be easier to seek another solution to our difficulties with the beast,” Zoey admitted.  “Most of the work has already been done.  It has been contained by your trap, and we have weakened it.  Also I risked madness in a forsaken place, but I found this binding stone that may calm it.”  Zoey revealed a small stone that shone iridescent in the moonlight.  “And I understand that you have learned a great deal about this curse.”  Rex stood straight and nodded at the compliment.  “There may be another way after all.”

A thing of tentacles and teeth and skin of puss erupted from the bayou’s waters, something not native to this or any land.

“Go!” Zoey shouted.  “My frenzy comes upon me again!  Find the solution to this quest.”

Dr. Milan was already running, and Rex ran to catch up, Zoey’s battle cry ringing in his ears.

“What do you think you’re going to do with that stone?” Dr. Milan asked when they were far enough that the sounds of battle were not so clear.

“I don’t know, but I trust that the answer will reveal itself when the time comes.”

Somewhere nearby was the sound of snuffling and rolling in mud, metal clanging against stone.  It smelled of wet dog.

“I don’t think I can do it,” Rex whispered.

“Just throw it.  See what happens,” Dr. Milan whispered back.

Rex gave the binding stone an underhanded toss and ducked to the side in case the rougarou could follow its origin.

The sounds of thrashing and violent howls of pain started even before Rex could duck all the way down.  He closed his eyes tight, but it only made it worse as his imagination filled in the edges of what could possibly be happening, what could be coming.  In his mind he saw the rougarou jamming broken claws into his belly, but Rex still could not bear to open his eyes.

Finally the sounds stopped.  There was the light tread of small feet rapidly disappearing and a faint shout of “Don’t let it take control.  Control the curse as I could not.”

Rex stood up and brushed himself off.

“Huh.  That wasn’t so bad.  Assuming Zoey is still alive, I think we did pretty well.”

He kicked at the rougarou trap, closed on nothing, its rust hidden behind blood.

“I think we learned a lot down here.  I’m sure it will help us a great deal as we investigate the disappearance of Dr. Rice.”

The Dunwich Legacy Files: File the Second: Extracurricular Activities

Follow along with my Rex Murphy and D’s Zoey Samaras at ArkhamDB.  Do be aware that these deck have been through The Essex County Express and both print-on-demand scenarios and contain spoilers as a result.

“But my head still hurts,” Rex complained, touching the spot gingerly.

“You fell.”  Zoey pressed forward without looking back.

“It was very traumatic.  Do you think the damage could be permanent?”

“No.”

“Where are we?”

“Miskatonic University.  Dr. Morgan says that this is where Dr. Rice works.”

“Yes.  Did Henry not tell you?”

“I can’t remember.  I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning,” Rex whined.

“You should investigate the Humanities Building.  Dr. Morgan says that is where Dr. Rice teaches classes.”

Rex looked a little more cheerful at the news.

“That does sound a good place to look for clues.  What will you be doing?”

Zoey tested the edge of her machete.  A bead of red rolled along the metal from the lightest touch of her thumb.  She nodded grimly.

“Preparing for war.  This place stinks of evil.  Are you with me, professor?”

“It doesn’t stink of evil.  At least, not compared to Dartmouth.  Absolutely smells of cheap alcohol and reeks of inferior cologne.  Would never set foot on its campus myself, but I don’t see anything wrong with spending more time with such a formidable woman.”

Dr. Morgan moved a step closer toward Zoey and leaned in close to investigate her machete as well.  She barely noticed.  Rex was about to say something about impropriety but reconsidered.  Both of them were stronger than him.  He left for the Humanities Building.  Upon opening the door he saw a familiar, round, sweaty face.

“Why, hello, Dr. Milan.  What are you doing here?”

“I work here, Mr. Murphy.  I’ve told you that before.”

“Have you?  I’m having trouble remembering things.  No matter.  I’m investigating a mysterious disappearance.  Would you like to come with me?”

Dr. Milan shrugged.

“Why not?  Better than office hours I’m sure.”

“Absolutely.  Have you heard anything about a Dr. Warren Rice?”

“Haven’t seen him today.  Maybe the janitor knows something.  He knows everything about everyone on campus.”

“Interesting.  Maybe we should look in the library for clues.”

Dr. Milan shrugged again.

“Okay.”

It was a lackluster, directionless search.  The Orne Library was immense.  The lights were few and weak.  If he needed to read something, Rex had to bring it to a window.  Sometimes he knocked at a wall and listened for an echo, suggesting a secret room, or closely studied a page for possible cryptograms.  He found none.  When Dr. Milan noticed that Rex was looking at him, he idly fanned the pages of some tome for secret scraps then went back to leaning back in a comfortable chair.

Dr. Milan gave a start.

“Did you hear that?”

“What?”

“Sounded like screaming outside in the quad.”

“Nope.  Didn’t hear a thing, but it sure is hard looking for clues.  Maybe you could tell me what this strange solution is?  I’ve been carrying it all day.”

Dr. Milan was sweating more but took a look at the beaker of transparent green fluid in Rex’s hand.

“Looks like some plant derivative to me.  A chlorophyll solution, maybe?”

“Fascinating.  I think you’ve identified the solution.  Let’s keep looking.”

Some minutes later Rex came eagerly up to Dr. Milan.

“I believe I’ve discovered the janitor’s name.  It’s Mulligan.  No word yet on his given name, but some call him ‘Jazz.'”

“Any word on where he is?”

“Not yet, but it won’t be long, not at the rate we’re finding these clues.  Let’s head out to find more.”

Crossing the Quad, Rex and Dr. Milan ran again into Zoey and Dr. Morgan.  She was covered in blood.

“Are you hurt?  What happened?” cried Rex.

“The war came to us.  He called himself a wizard, and we are called to tolerate no magicians.  I felled him where he stood.”

“We felled him,” Dr. Morgan amended.  “It was a team effort.”

Zoey gave the man at her side a long look, but before she could say anything, the sound of an explosion knocked the group to the ground.  An unnatural scream, like metal against glass, closely followed.

“It came from the Science Building,” shouted Dr. Morgan already rising to his feet and extending a hand to help Zoey.  “We must go.”

“Do we have to?” Dr. Milan asked, still on the ground and covering his head with his hands.

“We must,” Dr. Morgan repeated.  “Look, there is an innocent in front of the building.  It looks like the janitor.  We must save him.”

“Another clue!” shouted Rex.  He pulled Dr. Milan to his feet and began to sprint toward the Science Building.  Zoey and Dr. Morgan passed him on the way.

Gasping, Rex stopped before the man.

“Are you ‘Jazz’ Mulligan the janitor?” he asked between breaths.

“Who’s asking?”

“Rex Murphy, reporter for The Arkham Chronicle.”

“Never read it.  Prefer The Atlantic.”

“They do some fine journalism.”  Rex finally caught his breath enough to stand up straight.  “But perhaps you could come with me and help me investigate a mystery.”

“Why?”

“Well, there is that.”  Rex pointed toward the basement Alchemy Labs.  Something with too many teeth and too many mouths and arms and legs that bent where they shouldn’t was emerging from the broken door.  Its limbs and tail flailed wildly, and again there was that terrible sound of metal on glass.  Zoey had already engaged it, nimbly dancing past its wild blows and sinking her blade into its exposed flesh.  Every time metal met abomination, it gave a scream but did not slow down.  Dr. Morgan stood just out of range and shouted encouragement and complimented her form.

“Huh,” ‘Jazz said evenly.  “Don’t see that everyday.  What do you need me to do?”

“If it was birthed in those labs, perhaps we shall find its doom there, too.”

“And what can I do?” Dr. Milan asked, finally arriving.

“Distract the beast.”

“Oh dear.”

Rex and the janitor ran past the beast as Dr. Milan was struck by its wicked tail.

The lab was in ruins.  Those students and professors who could still stand, struggled to put out fires and comfort the fallen.  Amidst the wreckage one flask, spitting and smoking like a witch’s cauldron, caught Rex’s eye.

“Perhaps this will help,” he said.

“Probably won’t make things worse,” ‘Jazz’ said.

Rex grabbed the bottle and rushed out of the lab.  The beast was at the Quad now.  It was moving slower from Zoey’s blows but was still far from dead.

“I’ll save you!” Rex called.  He swung the flask as a woman had once down to him with a glass of wine when he had attempted to remove a particularly large piece of lint from the back of her dress and save her embarrassment.  The liquid splashed harmlessly on the grass.  Rex looked around.  No one had noticed.

“I’ll save you!” he shouted.  This time his aim was true.  Liquid coated the creature’s back.  If its shrieks before had been terrible, this now was unearthly.  Its back arched at an impossible angle, and its hideous limb slapped at the liquid where a sizzling sound had begun.  The sizzling only grew louder as it expanded to those slapping arms and legs.  It wasn’t much longer until only bones remained.

The Dunwich Legacy Files: File the First: The House Always Wins

Follow along with my Rex Murphy and D’s Zoey Samaras at ArkhamDB.  Do be aware that these deck have been through The Essex County Express and both print-on-demand scenarios and contain spoilers as a result.

“Where could Warren be?”  Dr. Henry Armitage looked over his shoulder to the door as though expecting his friend to be summoned at the mention of his name.  “He’s late, and the food is growing cold.”

“A mystery!” Rex Murphy exclaimed, hopping to his feet.  “I most graciously offer my services to resolve this case.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a mystery,” Dr. Armitage tried to restrain his friend’s enthusiasm.  “He is only a little late after all.”

“Are there any clues as to where he may be?”  Rex pressed.  “Perhaps someone who may know something about his whereabouts?”

“Warren could be at the university still.  I seem to recall him having a late Latin class sometime during the week.  Francis would know better than me.”

“A witness!  Who’s Francis?”

“Dr. Francis Morgan.  He has been spending his time at some gambling den or another in the city.”

“Gambling, eh?” Rex asked.

“Vice?” Rex jumped at the voice.  It was Dr. Armitage’s chef, Zoey Something Exotic.  It was the first time that Rex had heard her speak and only the second time he had seen her since she had served the soup.  Her voice was as cold and hard as the hull of an icebreaker circling Canada.  She held a cleaver at her side in a way that made Rex want to sit down and cross his legs.

“I guess.  But Warren ought to be at the university.  If you are going to insist on looking for him, you should start your investigation there.”

“You may know libraries, Dr. Armitage, but I know investigating, and my nose is telling me we’ll find clues at this den of iniquity with Dr. Morgan.  To the gambling parlor!”

“Yes.  The holy will descend amongst the wicked and set aright their wrongs through blood and sinew and bone.”  Zoey began to make her way toward the door, knife still in hand, apron still across her chest.

“No doubt, I would appreciate your company,” Rex reached out a hand to slow the chef but pulled it back at Zoey’s steel glance, “but maybe, perhaps you might consider changing your clothes.”

“What is wrong with my clothes?”  Her voice did not lose its edge.

“It could arouse less suspicion,” Rex said weakly.  “The blood, for example.”

Zoey looked down.

“Hmm.”

She turned and walked away.  Rex collapsed back into a chair and stroked his mustache, trying to push it back up.  Some minutes later she returned in a long, velvet, burgundy dress.

“Delightful.  Such a lovely color.”

“It hides the blood.”

Rex laughed until he realized Zoey was not laughing with him.  Then he noticed the discolored spots near the hems.

“Well then.  Let’s get going.  We’ll be back with Dr. Rice before you can learn to use chopsticks,” Rex promised Dr. Armitage.

“Have fun.”

Several times during their walk into the city’s center Rex attempted to draw out Zoey in conversation, but no topic, not the adventures of Ernest Keen, not the works of G.W.M. Reynolds not anything, held any interest for her.

They arrived at La Bella Luna, and Rex felt himself underwhelmed.  It looked like any other restaurant on the block.  He thought there might be men standing outside with hats pulled low over their eyes and rifles bulging under their coats or at least more lights.

“Go ahead,” Rex said.  “I’m going to look for some clues out here.”

Zoey had already walked in.  It was decadent but cheap.  Every surface was covered in velvet, but it was only a thin layer nailed down over unfinished wood.  The exposed wood of the chair  was unevenly stained with black shoe polish.  It smelled like sin.  Yes, there was gluttony at the bar and avarice at the tables and lust for the women showing too much skin.  There was wickedness here.  Zoey’s hand itched for its blade, but she restrained herself.  She must fit in, not arouse suspicion until necessary, as Rex had said earlier.

She went to the bar.  The bartender poured her a glass of wine.  There was only the one vintage.  Zoey sipped and spat it out.

“Cheap,” she growled.  “Better sold to a surgeon for sanitizing wounds than drunk by any human.”

She felt a heavy, unmanicured hand on her shoulder.

“That’s not how a lady should act,” a voice like graveled threatened.  “And if you’re not a lady, then I don’t need to feel bad about this.”

Zoey felt his second hand jab deep into her kidneys.  The bartender pointedly was looking away.  The blood was rising, but she continued to restrain herself.  It wasn’t yet time.

“Look over there!” she shouted and pointed wildly past the bar.  She was not very good at running away.

“Where?”

Fortunately, the thick man was not very smart.

Zoey hurried away while he looked and almost ran into Rex in the lounge.

“I have found so many clues!” he enthused.  “First, I found this business card that says Dr. Francis Morgan, Professor of Archaeology, Miskatonic University.  Then someone said they knew Dr. Morgan.  Then someone else said they saw him go in back.  Then I won at blackjack, and I didn’t even have to cheat.  You might say it’s my lucky day.  How did your investigation go?”

“Fine.  Let’s go in back.”

“Great.”

The club looked more full, more violent as the pair made their way to the back door, but no one stopped them.  They found themselves in a dark hallway with three other doors.

“What about this one?”  Rex asked.  He looked.  “Nope, it’s an alley.”

“This one,” Zoey said pointing.

“Why?”

“It smells like blood.”

Rex shivered.  “You would know best.”  In a quieter voice he said to himself, “Buck up, Rex.  What would Ernest Keen, the Boy Detective, do?  No time for fear now.”

He opened the door.  Even Rex could smell the blood now.  Paintings were slashed, books and glass were scattered across the floor, but sitting oblivious to the ruin around him, laughing listlessly at two unconscious bodies, was a man whom Rex could only hope was Dr. Morgan.

“Dr. Morgan?” Rex asked.  “I have some questions about the whereabouts of Dr. Warren Rice.”

The man just laughed.

“Let me try,” Zoey said, pushing Rex aside.  “Dr. Morgan, it’s time to go.”  The man gave no response.

Somewhere outside Rex heard someone shout “They went in back!” and too many pairs of feet running in the outside hallway.

“Do please hurry,” he whimpered.

“Dr. Morgan,” Zoey shouted.  “It’s time to go.”

He blinked.  “What?”  He looked around.  “Oh dear.”

The door collapsed in, and the thick man from the bar and another four not so different in shape from him burst in.  Zoey pulled the professor up with her left hand and finally allowed her right to find its blade.  Now it was time.  Now was the time for the reaping.  A vicious blow felled the first thug.  A second soon joined him.

“Help me!” cried Rex across the room.  Zoey could not see him past the swarm of men and their punching fists and kicking boots.  Gladly.

Zoey pulled the thick man from the bar back by his shoulder and threw a fire ax to Rex.  “Now we will see what a lady truly does.”

“What am I supposed to do with this?” Rex cried again for her attention.

“Defend yourself, man!”

Rex wound up like Babe Ruth at the plate and took a wild swing at the first of his opponents.  “Ahhh.”  The man laughed joylessly as it went harmlessly past.  The second did not laugh as it connected with his skull.

“Oh dear.”  His standing enemy still with shock, Rex bolted for the door.

“There’s no time!  More are coming!” Rex shouted back to Zoey.  “Run!”

Rex was back in the hallway.  The way was clear.  He was so close to the alley and escape.  Just one more move.

But then one of those odd little twists of fate happened, those little things upon which so much depend.  There was a wet spot in the hall.  Some drink had been spilled on delivery, and there had been no time to clean it and no one to demand proper sanitation.  Most of the drink had absorbed into the wood, just another stain, but some remained.  It was into this paltry puddle that Rex stepped.  His foot slipped, and before he could catch himself, Rex fell and hit his head on the floor.  It was too much, and he felt himself disappear into unconsciousness.

Zoey heard the thump outside and sighed.  There was no more time for reaping.  She, too, ran, pulling the still-dazed professor behind her and picking up Rex as she passed him.  The thick man, the only one of the thugs remaining, gave chase, throwing punches when he could, but it was not enough to slow Zoey.  She escaped into the alley and the night.

“And stay out, bird,” the thick man cried from the door.

Weekend of Futility: Game of Thrones

So I went one and two at the Imperial Assault tournament.  That’s fine.  It’s not my main game.  It’s a dice game.  Whatever.

Sunday, though, is Thrones at the newly christened Grey Duck Games & Toys, and it’s the only store championship I can make this season.  It is my only chance to win that handsome Ser Robar Royce mat.  I get my game face.  I pack “I Want A Do-Over” with location hate for Night’s Watch and Baratheon nonsense.  I leave the boy.  I am ready.

Against M, World Champion Lannister, Wolf

And I open against this jerk literally running the World Champion deck with no updates from the intervening three chapter packs or deluxe box.  I set up The Arbor.  Nothing else matters.  Right?  He sets up less well with The Hound, Arya Stark, Red Cloaks and some economy.  I feel good.  Then he dupes Tywin Lannister off A Noble Cause and finds the dupe for Arya.  My hand’s expensive, even with Arbor and summer gold off Calm Over Westeros, and I opt not to drop any of my hitters since it’s obvious that I’ll be digging for Varys to clear the dupes for Valar.  House Florent Knight clears out the Red Cloaks.

The rest of the game is me playing defense to slow it down while I dig for and fail to find Varys.  Two Time of Plenty and two “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” and one A Gift of Arbor Red only find me Varys on plot seven when it was far too late.  While I dick around, M gains renown on Tywin and pokes power challenges with Arya while grinding my board with Tears of Lys (claiming King Renly’s Host and Brienne of Tarth’s dupe) and Put to the Sword (claiming Renly Baratheon).  It could have ended earlier, but I managed to pull the good Eddard Stark for intrigue from twelve cards in the second round.

The only other small win I managed came in the fourth round when I dropped a Knight of Summer and Rattleshirt’s Raiders to try and remove some of the Bodyguards that M had found to further protect his hitters.  Of course he had Ward for the Knight.  I toss the Raiders alone into a military challenge anyway.  M debates for a while, thinking that I’m trying to trick him into putting power on the Knight before I take him back with Confiscation, but ultimately blocks it.  No.  I’m taking him back now.  The Knight has Nightmares, loses his strength buff, and the Raiders remove Ward.  Cute.  It gains me a second knelt character who quickly goes to claim.

Losing to a four-month old deck is not how I wanted to open the tournament, but you don’t get to choose how you open the tournament, do you?

Against J, Expensive Night’s Watch, Fealty

Qhorin Halfhand arrives in setup with a Practice Blade.  I have something less good.  Then Benjen Stark drops with some Haunted Forests, but that’s okay because I Arbor Red draws Varys out of hiding, and a Margaery Tyrell with a Lady-in-Waiting gives me a body post-wipe.

He drops his Valar on the second plot to clear Margaery, and that’s pretty well game there.  I get too many bodies on the table, and even though J is playing plenty of economy, he can never drop more than two characters at a time.  Military keeps the pressure on, and the game’s over on the fourth plot.

Against C, Lannister, Banner of the Watch

I set up The Arbor and Paxter Redwyne.  That was possibly the one thing I did right all game.  He sets up The Wall and stuff, which is pretty great, but I have a chance to blow this game wide open in the first round because I hold Put to the Torch.  He opens Time of Plenty to my Calm Over Westeros.  He drops Jaime Lannister and a Ranging Party, his only two military icons, and I drop Syrio Forel.  He makes his challenges, and I coyly wait to pass military and stealth to Paxter, my only other character on the board.  Then C plays Nightmares on Syrio, and I can’t push the military anymore.  There goes that plan.  It was going to be so good, too, because Paxter was going to reduce the cost and everything.

Oh well, I’ll do it in the next round.  No.  Now Syrio’s Craven.  And Varys drank the Milk of the Poppy.

Fine, I’ll Torch the Wall in the third round after my Valar clears out his defenders.  No. Now the Wall has a dupe.

Well, maybe I’ll Torch the dupe, and he’ll do something dumb when I play Political Disaster.  No.  He does not discard The Wall.

So The Wall is only knelt once in five rounds, and Winter Festival gains him another two power.  Tywin in the third round really wasn’t necessary.

Against T, Lannister, “The Rains of Castamere”

You know what feels good?  Setting up The Arbor and playing Marched to the Wall as your first plot to get rid of a duped Tywin.  You know what feels terrible?  Still managing to lose the game.

He only trips Harrenhal and uses it to bounce in The Hound, killing my Lady-in-Waiting, but leaving an empty board against my House Florent Knight.

Big Cersei Lannister comes out alone on the next plot against my duped Renly Baratheon.  You may think that’s the most important play of the round, but you’d be wrong.  The important play was his Isle of Ravens.  The first Tywin is recycled.  The Hound bounces in again but is only claim to protect Big Cersei.  I prefer to let Harrenhal kill him.

Little of note happens in the third round except for the second Tywin recycling.

The game starts to open up in the fourth round for him.  Hear Me Roar! brings in Tywin and Relentless Assault, allowing Cersei two intrigue challenges and two power.  The third Tywin is recyled.

I find Varys in the fifth, but it’s too late.  Another Relentless Assault gets Cersei her two power, and Harrenhal drops Tywin whose renown with Jaime’s finishes the game.  He drew Tywin four times.  Granted, he had an early Casterly Rock and Time of Plenty was played twice, but he drew Tywin four times.

Seriously now.  I set up The Arbor in three of four matches and managed to lose every single one of them.  My only win was the game I never saw The Arbor (perhaps coincidentally, also the only game Varys successfully cleared the board).  I need to do something different.

Thanks

Thanks to my opponents.  Thanks to J for opening Grey Duck Games and continuing to support Thrones.  Thanks to M for the alt Roseroads.  Thanks to my wife for watching the boy the second day in a row.

No thanks

No thanks to my inability to win a single game I set up The Arbor.

Weekend of Woe: Imperial Assault

I used to be super dad and bring my son to tournaments, feeding him grapes during matches and otherwise letting him crawl until he wandered too far and I needed to chase him down and pull him back, but that has not been so possible since he began walking and reaching well over the table and pulling games and toys off shelves.  Now he has to stay home with his mom, and that can be tricky when she has to work half the weekends in a year.  However, my wife had this past weekend off, and wouldn’t you know it?  There wasn’t one but two tournaments, on separate days even.  Imperial Assault on Saturday and Game of Thrones on Sunday.  She was okay watching him both days, and I was free to game all weekend.  I was hyped.

So my weekend of woe and futility began.  Enjoy.

The list

Despite my success with “Luke Skywalker, Rancor Whisperer” at the Minnesota regionals, I was looking to try something new.  The thought was building a counter list with plenty of stun to slow down the Rancors and new Lukes I was expecting.  I couldn’t quite get it right in a Rebel build and settled on building around General Sorin.  Seemed a lot more interesting since the release of Advanced Com Systems.  The rest of the list came naturally from there.  Regular HK Assassin Droids since they had destroyed me in my top 4 match, elite Jet Troopers to finally get some use out of the Vehicle command cards, and Vinto Hreeda and an Imperial Officer to fill out the space.

Behold.

fulton-army

Let’s not spend too much time dwelling on the command cards.  I screwed them up hard.  Reinforcements doesn’t even work on elite Jet Troopers, and Overcharged Weapons only allows a single attack even with two units of Jet Troopers, both of which I only realized in match.  That’s what you deserve when you build your list the night before.

fulton-command

The tournament

It was held at the Fulton Taproom, a nice change from the Fantasy Flight Event Center and local game shops.  The tables were plenty big, the beer was tasty and it was reasonably quiet until they started ringing the gong for tours.

Against P, Mercenary Hunters on One Man’s Trash

Always good to start your tournament with a match against the champion of the Nebraska regionals.  He ran the same list (two elite Weequay Guards, elite Gamorrean Guard, Vinto Hreeda, Jabba the Hutt, Onar Koma and Devious Scheme and a command deck full of damage and defense die removal) that won him that tournament, and it was an absolute slaughter.

I felt good at the start.  Sorin focused everyone he could in the process of blowing open the door to the objectives while P settled for hiding his Weequays without even attacking his door.  I took the initiative on the second round, and it promptly all fell apart.  I sent my Jet Troopers in to scoop far objectives with their mobility.  P ignored the objectives and went right for the throat, killing one of the Jet Troopers and getting everyone else up close.  My Vinto made a desperate dash through the hallway to attack Jabba and open a new front, but a focused Weequay one shot him before he made a roll.

I scored 16 points on objectives in the third round, while Onar knocked out Sorin.  Didn’t feel like I was making a match of it because I wasn’t.  P continued to move in, and Gamorreans did work knocking out an HK and another Jet Trooper.  I managed to kill a single Gamorrean (my only) before he reached 40 points purely through murder.

A final score of 40 to 20 flattered me because I was absolutely ineffective and never did anything to give me a chance to win the game.

Against E, Imperial Defense on To Your Stations!

E says that he only began playing skirmish a month ago.  That’s good.  He also beat the runner up at the Nebraska regionals in the last round.  That’s bad.  He’s running a defensive Imperial build (elite Snowtroopers, Royal Guard, two elite Jet Troopers, Captain Terro and Zillo Technique) that liked keeping units close for extra blocks from the Royal Guards and healing from the Snowtroopers.  It’s definitely different from the offense I faced last round.

We start slowly.  I send most of my units to the far, lone station while Sorin and the HKs hang back with their guns pointed at the intersection between the doors.  E sends Captain Terro toward the far station and a Royal Guard races to claim one of the top two stations, but the majority of his forces stay in formation and move through the door into the intersection.  One of his Jet Troopers snipe one of mine, but it’s quiet.

Next round my HKs tear into the formation with focus, but they’re a tough nut between the defenses of Zillo and Guards and heals.  Still, a few Snowtroopers and a Jet Trooper fall on his side in exchange for a Jet Trooper and Vinto whom I had pushed too far ahead.  E is a little ahead on points here but makes two crucial mistakes in this round.  One, he pulls the Guard off the station to support his forces.  Two, he doesn’t push his forces any closer to the HKs, leaving them free to continue attacking from a range he can’t match.  The match was only decided by five points.  Holding the objective for another two rounds or halting the slaughter of my HKs could have won him the match.

I take initiative in the third round, and the HKs continue their bloody work, claiming three Jet Troopers with Sorin’s assistance.  Captain Terro kills one of my Jet Troopers in return and has a chance to win on the Royal Guard activation if one can kill a Jet Trooper while the other claims the objective, but the Guard can’t punch through.  The match is just narrowly mine.

Against M, Mercenary Hunters on Lair of the Dianoga

Now I get to face the runner up in the Nebraska regional, playing the same list as P earlier but switching HKs for the Gamorreans.  I was glad to see the map since I had seen before what HKs can do with the space but not so happy to see them in his list as well.

We both focus on the dianoga in the first round, but M begins advancing his units, sending a Weequay and Onar down the near hallway while the rest of his Weequays and Vinto go the long way around.

I lose two Jet Troopers before the dianoga falls in the second round, but it’s a comedy of errors.  I have never seen worse dice.  If M looked worse for it, it’s only because he rolled more.  A focused Onar couldn’t make range four on Sorin in the second round and is blown away by two HK attacks before he could try again.  M’s HK rolling an extra red with Tools for the Job couldn’t finish the dianoga’s last four health and gift wraps the glory of the kill and extra points for my Vinto, with me barely coming out ahead 14 to 11.

The third round is wholesale massacre.  I negate M’s attempt to steal the initiative and immediately one shot the Weequay who had been accompanying Onar.  My Jet Trooper manages nine damage in a single activation through Overrun and a finishing blow on an HK.

Unfortunately, M’s third round is even better.  Critically, one of his HKs manages to one shot a full-health, unactivated General Sorin at nine range.  It was ridiculous, even considering he removed Sorin’s defense die, but fair considering how poorly the dice had treated him earlier.  That effectively ended the match as Sorin was primed to order an HK to kill another Weequay.  His Vinto knocks out my last two Jet Troopers through Bolt Slinger, and that’s game.

So that’s my day.  I go 1 and 2 and place terribly since the organizers were experimenting with MoV.  But I had fun.

Lessons

Elite Weequays have better range than you’d expect and pack a punch with Hidden’s extra surge.  With the Hunter command cards, they’re probably the best groups in the game right now with HKs and Alliance Rangers close behind.

HKs are brutal, especially when they can recycle focus, but Sorin probably isn’t quite worth it.  He’s nine points of support with Advanced Com System and only a single activation.  Gideon and C-3PO are fewer points even through Mercenary’s Temporary Alliance, more activations and more flexible focus.  The stun never mattered.

Murder is a perfectly acceptable way to score points.

Read the bloody command cards.

Thanks

Thanks to my opponents.  Thanks to my wife for spending the day with the boy.  Thanks to P for hosting somewhere new.  Thanks to M and P for the excellent custom point trackers.  Thanks to Eat at Sandy’s for brilliant fries.

Swag game

d72326ed-e553-4367-9506-0d7633a355ef

Luke Skywalker, Rancor Whisperer goes to the Fantasy Flight Regionals 2017: Part 2: The Tournament

For a discussion of the preparations and list choices, go here.

A half hour before I leave I am still collecting the command cards and finding the figures and fifteen minutes before I leave I am packing a backpack with diapers and cheese sticks and chapati but I arrive on time.  Eighteen other people are there, and somehow I am the only one to bring a toddler.  Fortunately, the timing works out that he’s just starting his nap when I arrive.  Unfortunately, the pairings go up, and my first round is a

Bye

Not how I wanted to start the day.  It’s a win, but I came to play and the first round would likely be the only one my son would sleep all the way through.  Still, it’s a win, and with nineteen competitors and a cut to the top eight, I only need to win two of my next three to advance.  I get fries and wander around the tables.  I see a lot of Mercenaries and a lot of the new units and a lot of Assassinate.  See a beautiful little back and forth where Ferocity allows a Rancor a final attack only for a focused Onar Koma to play Extra Protection off that and finish the Rancor off.  My practice partner from Friday is playing the same list against a double Rancor, Bantha Rider, Jabba list.  He sits back and gains power from On a Diplomatic Mission until the very last round where a super pumped new Luke and Obi-Wan run down a Rancor and finish it.  Fifteen minutes before the next round starts, my son wakes up.  I immediately start feeding him to keep him happy, and it works.  The pairings go up, and I am finally playing my list for the first time.

Against N, Mercenary Hunters and Gamorreans on To Your Stations!

N’s list is fascinating, not something I had considered at all.  Jabba the Hutt, Shyla Varad, Vinto Hreeda, Greedo, two elite Gamorrean Guards and Devious Scheme.  He splits his forces immediately, sending Shyla and Vinto to the single far station while the rest move to the double station.  I send all of mine to the double stations.  It’s all maneuvering the first round.  The bleeding begins the second round.  I lose a Weequay Pirate.  He loses three Gamorreans, but damage is piling on Luke and the Rancor.  It starts falling apart in the third round.  Shyla moves up and knocks out the Rancor, and Luke follows soon after.  I only get Greedo in exchange.  By round four N is on 33, and I’m on 28.  I’m able to finish the last Gamorrean and Vinto and could win if I can hold the station for the round, but that’s a joke.  Shyla is too much and murders the Weequay on it.  Gideon falls soon after to give N the win.  I’ll probably need to run the table to make the top eight and earn those shiny red and yellow dice.  I can do that.

I was outplayed in the unit game but kept it close in the objectives.  The name of the game was power attacks and stacks of command cards.  Element of Surprise, Assassinate, Tools for the Job and Jabba-assisted focus allowed near one-hit kills and demonstrated that a trained Rancor and new Luke were a bit more fragile than I had hoped.  Talking about it after the game, N convinced me that Shyla is worth a closer look.  She is perfectly comparable to Obi-Wan in terms of durability, and her abilities are fun.  The boy is mostly content to stay close and munch his lunch.

On to the next one.

Against Z, Mercenary Sampler on One Man’s Trash

Z is local, and I’ve played him a few times.  That’s good because my son has realized he knows where we are and has no problem wandering out of eyesight.  The gameplay is a bit staccato as a result of me having to run into the main game room every other activation to pull the boy back.

Anyway, this game was won early on a difference in strategy.  Z’s setup suggested an early push into the corridor to attack me from the rear, and his play soon made that clear when only a single group of Weequay Pirates made a lonely push against the door.  Again, I opted to push for objective points hard but sent my Rancor down the hallway to block it up and slow him down.  Z had made the earlier play of Onar destroying the Rancor, and I was wary but had no choice.  The cards never came together for him, and the Rancor was able to knock out a Weequay and Bossk on a Parting Blow before being taken down by Onar through an Order Hit from Jabba with points only gained through Pickpocket earlier that turn.  That was fine though because I gained twelve points on crates that turn and he had yet to open his door with most of his figures still near the distant hallway.  Vinto with a crate rolled my only dodge of the day to survive a blast from the Weequays, a few more kills and two more crates and that was the game.

There were some lucky rolls for me to just get enough to knock out Bossk with the Rancor and for Vinto to survive his attack, but as I wrote earlier, Z’s fatal mistake was to overcommit to the corridor, leaving me generally free to take crates unmolested.  The Rancor prevented any flanking attack and delayed his turn toward the crates and that was that.  Hard to keep up with twenty points on objectives.

Against D, Twins with Rangers and Smugglers on Surveillance

If I win this, I’m in the cut.  I’m feeling good.  Also, my wife arrived and was able to take the boy.  I can concentrate.

The first round is mostly positioning.  We both send the bulk of our forces to the end of the map far from the deployment zones.  With an early Son of Skywalker, I see a chance to get my Luke up against his at the end of the round and turn the tide early.  It will mean keeping my Luke facing his and Leia and the entire group of regular Alliance Rangers at the beginning of the round, but the initiative is passing to me.  He could have Take Initiative, but I’ve finally drawn Negation and feel okay with the risk.  I chip ten damage onto Luke and end the turn.  He does play Take, and I cancel it, and that should have been the play of the game.  I activate Luke first, and his Luke rolls dodge on both my attacks before I have to retreat.  Cripes.  His Luke moves in for the kill and does most of the damage but can’t finish it and tries to run away.  Parting Blow finishes him.  A Ranger has to burn Grenadier to finish Luke and even us out, but I’m feeling good.

Now Vinto gets to work.  He pops in and out of cover with Opportunistic and Hit and Run, and Boltslinger is nuts.  Over the next few turns, without ever targeting them and with Rancor cleave assist, he is able to knock out the elite and regular Alliance Smugglers, both before activating, and an Alliance Ranger.  The game goes to time, and we stay mostly even on the cameras, but his only kill is Luke.

Three and one.  I’m in the cut and even make second seed as N, my only loss, went undefeated to go top seed, and Z, my third round opponent, took four seed.  Cool.  Now I have a chance at that Bossk point tracker, but it’s all gravy from here.

Top 8 against J, double Bantha, double Weequay on Gaining Favor

I’m feeling good about this match up.  Straight up the Rancor beats the Bantha Rider, just so long as it reaches the choke point in the center of the map first.  I feel less great after a focused Vinto is knocked out by a Gamorrean through a combination of Element of Surprise, Wild Attack and Grisly Contest.  Luke is able to take revenge and knocks out the entire group of Gamorreans and wounds a Weequay but takes way too much damage in the process and is forced to run until the second Weequay hunts him down.  His Bantha moves in to control the choke point, and I’m really not feeling great.  My only advantage is my lead in patron favor until J grabs three in the third round alone to tie us.  The fourth round begins with J at 36 to my 31 after finally knocking out that choking Bantha.  I have initiative, and J is my first opponent all day to not have Take Initiative.  My Rancor activates first to race into the bar and gain favor with the last patron to give me ten points and the win.  Woo.

Objectives all day, every day.  The point tracker is mine.

Top 4 against J, Mercenary Sampler on Lair of the Dianoga

It’s a close match in points when I manage to kill the dianoga (13 to 12 in his favor), but in everything else, it’s his match to lose.  Vinto goes down early after managing no damage on the dianoga and only a single point of damage on his Rancor, and my Rancor follows soon after, sniped by regular HK Assassin Droids and elite Weequays.  I’m able to sneak my remaining forces through the hallway and kill Jabba for the first time after seeing him in almost every other match and even a few other units, but Luke goes down when he can’t manage a surge for pierce 3 to kill the last HK.  Not that it matters.  He was holding Crush with his Rancor in range.

His list was much better suited to the map.  With the range on the HKs, J didn’t need to cross the sewer.  He could wait for me and snipe at his leisure, forcing me to reroll all my good defense.  It certainly didn’t help that I didn’t have a clear strategy once the dianoga went down.  Perhaps pushing Luke and Vinto through the corridor early while the Rancor and Weequays went for the dianoga and across the sewer would have been the right play.  Deflect and Boltslinger would have feasted on five health HKs.  Whatever.  I had a lot of fun and won all the swag and traded for a green and white die.  That’s a pretty good day.

Lessons

Play for objective points.

New Luke and Vinto, Deflect and Boltslinger, are the real deal and excellent pipping in the final points of damage.

Hunter command cards are brutal.  When the upcoming droid wave comes out, be prepared to tech hard against HKs and IG-88 if you’re not running them yourself because they will be brutal with all the new command cards and existing hunter ones.

If your list is clearly at a disadvantage on a map, perhaps try a different strategy than running into their attacks.

Unless you have a good reason, never not train your Rancor.  And probably not even then either.

Thanks

Thanks to all my opponents, especially those who tolerated my son and my runs from the table to retrieve my son.  Thanks to the TO and judge.  Thanks to J for spending his bye showing my son cute kitten and owl videos.  Thanks to M for the dice trade.  Thanks to my wife for coming for my son.

Swag game

ff273955-0364-4df1-b1e9-c2989495134e

Luke Skywalker, Rancor Whisperer goes to the Fantasy Flight Regionals 2017: Part 1: Preparations and the List

You know what the best time to start preparing for a Regionals tournament is?  Two days before the tournament begins, and by preparing I mean playing my first skirmish games in any context since shortly after the release of Wave 7.  I only remember that because someone was trying out a full Force User list with a brand new Obi-Wan Kenobi at the last tournament I attended.  Two maps have rotated in since then.  If nothing else, I figured I ought to at least play them and learn the rules.

So I made my way to the regular Thursday casual session and brought along a fairly unimaginative Rebel Twins list of classic Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Loku Kanoloa, Gideon Argus, C-3PO and two regular Echo Base Troopers.  Nothing fancy.  Luke offers punch and rerolls.  Leia offers focused fire and command card recycling.  Loku is some cheap, long-range attack.  Gideon and Threepio are support, and the Troopers are solid.  There’s a lack of trait synergy for command cards, but I splashed in some Spy cards for the control.  It’s fine, but it didn’t really excite me.

I lost the one match I played that night.  He was playing a Mercenary Alliance with a Bantha Rider and new Luke Skywalker as its hitters.  The map was To Your Stations! at the ISB Headquarters.  I made an early play for the two grouped stations and managed to focus out the Bantha Rider that came up to block the hallway fairly easily through classic Luke, Leia and the Troopers.  I was feeling good.  I had knocked out one of his major threats early and was ahead on points with control of two stations earning me more every round.  I could sit back and wait for him.  Unfortunately, new Luke showed up and ripped right through everyone.  This would be a theme in my testing.

Some guys were meeting up for further testing on Friday, and I joined them, not the least reason being that I still hadn’t played the Anchorhead Bar.  This time I brought the list I was excited about: Kayn Somos with Advanced Com Systems, two Dewback Riders with Feeding Frenzy, elite Jet Troopers, regular Snow Troopers, an Imperial Officer and Zillo Technique.  The Riders were the punch, and Kayn and command cards like Call the Vanguard and Ferocity let them just keep punching.  Jet Troopers were backup punch, and Snow Troopers could run for objectives and clear Stun.  The Officer could do his thing.  The list offered a lot of additional activatations and could really focus fire on single units, something I was particularly concerned about considering the recent ravaging by new Luke.

I was wrecked worse this time.  He was running a Rebel List with new Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi, elite Alliance Rangers and support.  We played both missions on Anchorhead Bar, and they both went similarly.  In the first mission I conceded before he lost a figure.  I rushed my units out to grab the crates in Line of Fire, and the Alliance Rangers plinked them from a distance, grabbing a kill or two but mostly just softening me up for Obi-Wan and new Luke to come in and finish them off.  The Pierce was brutal.  I may as well have not rolled dice at all for how many times my blocks stuck around.  We played Gaining Favor next, and it felt pretty similar.  I was more careful to take cover from the Rangers, but new Luke and Obi-Wan just came in and did work.  I was able to knock out Obi-Wan with an attack from Set a Trap, but he won on objectives.

So, for the second time in as many days, I was starting over from the beginning.  The list was fun, but my Riders weren’t sticking around.  I made mistakes and was careless in getting them in range of enemies.  Feeding Frenzy never really came into play, and I could play with those points, maybe a second Imperial Officer or upgrade a Rider into Captain Terro.  The point is, the list could be good but needs time and work, and I had no time.

In three games of testing I had learned one thing: I needed to kill new Luke.  I considered going back to an old list with the SC2-M Repulsor Tank for the double attack but dropped it as too slow and fragile.  I considered a Mercenary sampler anchored by Jabba the Hutt, but it wasn’t pretty enough.  Around 7 the morning of Regionals I admitted failure and the need to join him if I couldn’t beat him.  I decided I needed to run new Luke.  Then I began to consider the team I had first lost to.  I found a similar list that seemed to provide a good framework to build from.  New Luke with Motivation and the Bantha Rider was potent, just kept Stampeding, but I didn’t want to run the Bantha.  Following the scoring change, swarms seemed a lot less viable, and I was more concerned about single heavy targets.  I switched the Bantha and Devious Scheme for a Rancor and tweaked the command cards.

Behold.  The list.

 

regional-squad

The core of this has already been covered: new Luke with Motivation and the Rancor.  Luke is the Rancor whisperer.  It moves when he says.  It feels better when he says.  It shakes off Stun, something I was very afraid of coming in, when he says.  Then they hit you hard.  They are both fairly durable, as well.  So long as the Rancor is Trained, it’s rolling two black dice, and new Luke can hit and run.  Weequay Pirates and Vinto Hreeda are both just solid groups and great filler at their slots with the bonus of sharing the Hunter and Smuggler traits which both got a lot of love in Jabba’s Realm.  New Luke and Vinto also have wonderfully similar abilities to send single unblockable points of damage and distribute as needed.  Gideon is the same solid support he always is.  Temporary Alliance and Beast Tamer need no explanation.

Behold.  The command.

regionals-command

The first theme of my command deck is extra activations.  There only five cards and six units in my list.  I need to get every attack I can out of them.  Ferocity, Parting Blow, Pummel and Son of Skywalker all allow this.  I was particularly proud of the inclusion of Parting Blow.  Who cares if your Rancor is Stunned if new Luke is going to motivate him out of it immediately?  It never actually worked out that way, but the card had a huge effect every time I played it.

The second theme is extra movement.  Only Vinto has a Speed higher than 4, and my two biggest hitters are melee.  They need to get in there.  Hit and Run, Opportunistic and Urgency all fill this need.

The third theme is making my attacks count.  Imperial Assault is a dice game.  Bad players rely on them.  Good players mitigate and control them.  Element of Surprise, Hard to Hit, Heightened Reflexes and Stimulants all add attack dice, remove defense dice or allow rerolls.  Those are good things.

The rest?  Cripple was a meta call.  If I ran into new Luke or the Rancor or Banthas, I wanted them to stay put.  If you’re not playing Take the Initiative, you’re playing wrong or wonky, and Negation cancels their Take the Initiative.

I was still sorting figures and finding cards twenty minutes before I left, but I had a list.  A list had never run and four figures I had never played but a list.

Hunting Parties and Entourages Seeking Royalty goes to Winter Draft 2017 Championship, a tournament report

winter-draft-2017

First tournament since the Battle of the Trident in November is a draft tournament, but that’s okay because 1) draft is a blast and 2) I’m not that excited about heading face first into a spread of Baratheon dominance and Lannister Harrenhal nonsense.  Twenty-three people make it out to the Fantasy Flight Event Center, including a crew from Wausau and a handful of people I didn’t recognize.  Cool.  Draft pods were seven and eight people, but the tournament was four-round Swiss with cut.  Feeling good.

The drafting  It was an inauspicious opening.  My very first draft was Bodyguard.  It’s fine.  Saves remain good, but the card lacks excitement.  It was an omen of the rounds to come.  The most exciting card I take in the first round is The Red Keep, but enough Baratheon filler comes around that I feel good about having at least one house.  Tyrells start to roll in with the second pack.  Still no bombs, no removal, but I ought, at least, to have an efficient deck.  Third pack opens on Eddard Stark, Wolves of the North style.  I have no Starks thus far, being disappointed to pass on Wardens of the North earlier, but there’s no question.  Drafted.  Catelyn Stark, Wolves of the North flavor, and Ser Edmure Tully appear in the next pass, and the brother is taken.  It’s late, but they’re worth it.  I grab a Ser Rodrick Cassel, too, a hand or two later.  I’ve got my bombs now, but for the life of me, I can’t find the Stark filler to round them out.  Baratheon continues its steady trickle of filler, and Tyrell begins to offer the big bodies in Blackcrown Knights, Randyll Tarly, Brienne of Tarth and Margaery Tyrell.

I have a decision to make.  Tyrell, Power of Wealth to Baratheon, lacking the cards to make it Stark, or a Tyrell, Treaty to Baratheon and Stark.  I opt for Wealth.  The best cards are in Stark, but they’re expensive and awkward against The Pale Mare.  The low end of Baratheon is fine, the top end of Tyrell is good and the mid is solid for both.  It’s a hard decision, but the right one, I think.  Deck is easy enough to make, cutting Knights of Summer late when I realize that Feast or Famine negates them by itself, and the deck is ready.

Interesting, my draft pack has two too many cards.  Two extra commons are at the bottom of the pack.  Terrified for a moment that I somehow screwed the earlier rounds up despite no one coming up short, but that is thankfully not the case.  R randomly pulls two to keep the draft going.

Against S, Greyjoy, Wealth to Tyrell

Feel great at getting a six card setup.  Feel less great when Euron Crow’s Eye comes down first turn and grabs a King’s Road on the pillage.  It gets better though, as Filthy Accusations and a Pulling the Strings into Filthy Accusations keeps him neutered for the rest of the game.  The Pale Mare wins it for me as S overextends on awkward cost slots and loses The Knight of Flowers and Alerie Tyrell to my King’s Hunting Party.  None of my biggest bodies drop, but that’s fine.  Euron can’t get up, and power challenges lead me to the win.

Against J,  Night’s Watch, Protectors of the Realm

Feels a lot like the first game.  J gets a fat board early by popping two King’s Roads and has a Ranging Party, Lyn Corbray, duped Jaime Lannister and chump while my board looks much thinner.  Two military claim is taken on Feast or Famine in that first round by means of a stealthy Roseroad Patrol enabled by a King’s Hunting Party and critically takes the dupe off Jaime.  Slow play into the Pale Mare on the third plot to kill a new Ranging Party and Jaime against no losses on my side.  It’s the beginning of the end.  Shireen Baratheon and Even-Handed Justice keep the Ranging Party down, a lack of economy slows any possible comeback and power challenges win me the game.

Against C, Baratheon, Treaty to Stark and Greyjoy

Fourth? tournament game against C.  Fourth loss.  That’s fine.  He’s really good.  Another six-card setup but an otherwise slow start.  I set up Tobho Mott’s Armory, and he drops Chamber of the Painted Table.  He has Fiery Followers, I have Edric Storm.  We play around The Pale Mare, and most dominance ends in a push.  C has an early edge in Sansa Stark, core flavor, and a bigger edge in The Seastone Chair, forcing me to protect all military challenges, even kneeling King’s Hunting Party to chump challenges.  My only edge after Edric dies to The Pale Mare is The Red Keep to protect me on power challenges and keep me in the draw.  Power is piling on his card, but I’ve dropped Blackcrown Knights.

We’ve gone around the horn on plots, and C goes for it.  Gendry sans power and Victarion are on the board with a pile of small bodies, and A Feast for Crows is his plot.  If I can survive the turn and get back to The Pale Mare, I have a shot, small as it may be.  I blow it.  C overcommits on intrigue to force a kneel on a Royal Entourage, but Nightmares sets him straight.  Pro play.  Entourage remains standing to defend the military.  Then I forget Seastone is there and let it go unopposed.  I scoop when Seastone targets my Blackcrown Knights.

It wasn’t much of a chance, but reconsidering the phase, I could have won dominance and kept the game going to The Pale Mare, but C would have been on 14, and Victarion likely would have remained on the board.  Like I said, not much of a chance but a lot better than what I gave up.  Lesson learned.

Against T, Targaryen, Treaty to Lannister and Martell

Win this one, and I’m pretty confident of being in the cut at 3 and 1.  No problem.  The third six-card set-up of the day.  T is playing high control.  He drew a second Filthy Accusations for his plot deck and found at least two copies of His Viper Eyes (one of which pulled Randyll Tarly), which are pretty useful when you’re playing to Valar Morghulis.  It’s not too devastating, as I was playing to my own Pale Mare, but that Ser Ilyn Payne that survives is a problem and keeps me from repopulating with Margaery Tyrell and Courtesan of the Rose.  Blackcrown Knights and King’s Hunting Party force the early Valar on the plot reset, and I’m actually feeling a little good.  Power levels are pretty similar, but I actually have a military icon on my board and am whittling T down.  Then he plays House of the Undying.  I drop Nightmares for a one-turn reprieve.  A one-turn reprieve is not enough.  Khal Drogo shows up on the next turn, and a popped House of the Undying nets him Blackcrown Knights and Brienne along with all the bodies he could possibly need.  Three unopposed challenges, the power challenge, renown and Blackcrown grab him eight power in a single phase, winning him the match.

Not proud to say I hit the table at that, a first time for Thrones, but that was that.  I was out.  Considering it later, if I had counted everything, it would have been better for me to let him pop the House earlier.  He wouldn’t have had quite enough power without the good Khal’s second military and renown, and if he had found the means, the Nightmares would have been better served on the Blackcrown Knights.

Oh well.  Cut and tournament win next time, whenever, whatever that may be.

Thanks to R for hosting another fun tournament and for his final fan alts and generally great prize support.  Thanks to all my opponents.  Thanks to my wife for watching the kid today.  Thanks to everyone who asked where the kid was.

Lessons

Don’t forget about The Seastone Chair.

Control can work in draft.

Nightmares is still good.

Royal Entourage still isn’t good, especially when your intrigue game is light, but they are great targets for Little Bird.

Roseroad Patrol is a lot better in a format where you don’t have to worry about strength getting much higher than six, and they’re backed by King’s Hunting Party.  And uncommon Muster the Realm.

Pulling the Strings was a second Filthy all tournament, and that’s just fine.

Swag game

fullsizerender