On a cold, dreary Sunday our two warriors stepped from their four-wheel drive, off-road vehicle onto the damp macadam of Lichfield’s long-stay car park. Across the road was the crucible, Titan Games, a charming and old-fashioned game shop in a timber-framed terrace.
The store was another winner – well-stocked, friendly staff, and really conveniently placed for car travelers – plus, right around the corner from a McDonald’s, the milkshakes of which would prove key to sustaining us through the day.
Sadly, Sam couldn’t join us today, so it was just James and I. There was another friendly face, though: Paul, whose Ackbar-led fleet had won the previous day’s tournament at Shadow Games.
Against us were four admirals of great renown and valour:
Paul – Rebels, led by Admiral Ackbar
- MC80 Mon Calamari Cruiser Defiance
- Two Mk. II Assault Frigates, with Gunnery Teams
- Tycho Celchu
Paul (a second Paul) – Imperials, led by Admiral Motti
- Imperial-II -class Star Destroyer
- Imperial-I -class Star Destroyer
- Gladiator -class Star Destroyer Demolisher
- A Firespray and an Aggressor – both unnamed.
Graham – Rebels, led by Admiral Ackbar
- Two Mk. II Assault Frigates
- MC30C Scout Frigate Foresight
- Jan Ors, three A-Wing squadrons, and an X-Wing squadron.
Dan – Imperials, led by Admiral Screed
- Imperial-II -class Star Destroyer, with Gunnery Teams, Electronic Countermeasures, X17 Turbolasers, etc…
- Gladiator -class Star Destroyer Demolisher
- Gladiator -class Star Destroyer
- Dengar and several TIE squadrons
In the first round, I was set against Rebel Paul, James was to take on Imperial Paul, whilst Graham and Dan faced off on the third table.
Our lists were unchanged from the day before, and we’d had our practice now – today, no quarter would be given.
At least, not intentionally.
James had a solid start to the day. However, it didn’t look that way at first. Here’s his own description of how the match went:
Okay, so in my first fight I was the second player and he chose ‘Opening Salvo’, an interesting decision as I had more ships then he did, but I wasn’t complaining. I knew my ISD wouldn’t be able to out-position his two ISD‘s so I just aimed mine at his and hoped my dice didn’t fuck me. I positioned Insidious at an angle to make sure I could fit the rest of my fleet around the obstacles and so that hopefully I could get it round the back to deal out some damage.
My first mistake was to angle Insidious too far out when really it wasn’t going to get much thrown at it with my ISD there anyway, and it ended up not getting a single shot out, making my second player advantage a little slimmer. The second mistake was to remember that I had a second player advantage when I got my first shot off with my ISD; Paul offered to let me keep the token and use it next round but the rules are clear that it has to be the first shot so I didn’t take him up on that. However, my opening shots with the other two GSD‘s were able to add black dice into their pool allowing me to use my ACM‘s at long range. I targeted his ISD1 as it can deal out more damage at close range and I wasn’t planning on letting him past.
My third mistake was to position a GSD blocking his ISD2, I thought he would target my ISD in order to go for the win but instead he blew my standard GSD out of the sky so he could move past. This made the game effectively 5 rounds as we couldn’t do anything to each other in the 6th round that would have any impact on the game. However his Demolisher, that was quite loaded up with upgrades, didn’t manage to slow down in time before flying off the edge of the board, and I went from a loss of about 30 points to a win of 68.
James’ second game was somewhat more one-sided. Facing off against his second Paul of the day, he went up against the Ackbar menace. Attempting to replicate an incredibly risky tactic he had seen employed in the previous round, James stormed his Star Destroyers past the minefield and directly at the head of Paul’s Rebel column, hoping to stop it in its tracks. But his timing was out, and as he tried desperately to engage the Rebels on their weak frontal arcs, he fell short – and the punishment from the Rebel broadsides was unrelenting. Imperial iron gave way to Rebellious fury as ship after ship succumbed to overwhelming firepower. As the guns abated, all three Rebel ships remained – and all that was left of the Imperials was smoke and ashes. Paul’s 400-point margin of victory gave him ten tournament points.
Finally, James took on Dan’s Imperial fleet. Dan had, thus far, been put through the ringer, having suffered two nasty defeats already. James spared no sympathy, however, as he dismantled Dan’s vessels with extreme prejudice. With a numerical advantage of four ships to three, James set his guns and missiles blazing and stole a hefty victory, although he lost the Demolisher in the process. Nine tournament points in the bag, taking him to sixteen in total.
My first battle was against Rebel Paul, and I hope you will forgive me if I indulge in a little additional detail. I had seen Paul fight the day before, and he was a formidable tactician. He had flattened every fleet he had come across, and I was eager to face him today for the challenge. There had been talk that his Ackbar-led fleet was unstoppable, unbeatable, immortal – I wanted to prove that there was no such thing. Don’t get me wrong, Paul is a great guy who fights hard with a good fleet – but I needed to know if I was up to the task. And I knew that if I fared as poorly against him as everyone else, I would have no hope of seizing a win on the day.
He deployed his minefields to deter the approach of my sharp-prowed fleet. I placed my corvette, Instigator, on the far, far left of my deployment zone, and at maximum speed – this would be key later on. He deployed his vessels in a standard column, going from my right to my left with the Defiance, his MC80 Assault Cruiser, at the front. I set my flagship and the Relentless, my Imperial- class, to the right of the Instigator, going straight ahead, whilst I placed the Demolisher much further over to the right, angled towards the middle of the Rebel column – and carefully positioned to navigate through the minefield.
Everything then happened very, very quickly. In two turns, the Instigator crossed the entire map, ending up directly in front of the steadily-cruising Defiance. The Defiance slowed to avoid a collision, as the rest of the Imperial fleet sped towards the Instigator’s position. The Relentless headed straight for the side-arc of the Defiance and unloaded with her entire frontal battery as the flagship Gladiator cruised around following the path of the Instigator. The approaching Rebel Assault Frigates were too far distant to affect the engagement meaningfully, and the three Imperial ships tore the Defiance to pieces. The Instigator was lost, but her gallant crew had done their jobs admirably – stalling the Rebel line of advance and pinning the Rebel flagship in place for eradication. My flagship dealt the killing blow with a brutal short-range delivery of heavy ordnance.
Meanwhile, the Demolisher slowed to a cautious advance through the minefields, before rushing up into the middle of the Assault Frigates. She didn’t remain intact against the two larger ships, but she put a crippling blow on the lead vessel, leaving it to be finished off by a volley from the Relentless. The surviving Rebel ship was largely untouched by the fighting, and departed towards the relative safety of the minefield. As the wounded Relentless desperately slowed to avoid leaving the combat zone, and then again to avoid a rogue asteroid, the battle ended with a solid Imperial victory – I took nine tournament points, with which I was very happy.
I should note here that, although I was pleased with the victory, to his credit Paul didn’t make a single mistake. He was a tough opponent to crack, and it was only the fact that I employed such a risky, incredibly aggressive strategy that I was able to do the damage I needed to do to win. When James tried to replicate it in the next game, Paul had already learned and adapted, and promptly took James’ fleet apart.
My second game was against Graham, who had secured a strong victory against Dan in the first round. Our ships each prepared their guns for a brutal opening salvo, and brutal it was. The Relentless suffered heavy damage in the earliest stages of the fighting, and this was worrisome – the Relentless wounded was worth as much to Graham as any other ship dead. However, she pulled away from the combat and set her damage control teams to frantic repairs, whilst my flagship Gladiator and Demolisher devastated Ackbar’s flagship; the Demolisher suffered heavy damage in the process. Without their admiral’s expert gunnery tactics, the Rebels’ fighting strength was diminished. Their Scout Frigate swept into a nasty crossfire between my flagship and Instigator, and was wrecked in the final stages of the battle. The Relentless repaired the last of her damage, and the score was tallied – I gained eight tournament points, with two to Graham.
The final fight was as climactic as it should have been. I faced Imperial Paul, and everything was to play for. He had suffered a minor defeat to James, but had trollied Dan, and now needed to beat me by a margin of victory of 70 points or more to take first place.
Two Imperial- class Star Destroyers was a threat I’d not faced before, and with Motti in command they were tough old beasts to kill. They approached at high speed, whilst my own fleet deployed in a tight cluster at low speed, to avoid unnecessary damage from a nearby minefield. The two Demolishers got stuck into each other quite quickly – Paul’s near-crippled my own, whilst mine put the wallop back on his, before rushing forward into the frontal arc of his ISD-I. My flagship finished off the Demolisher before also rushing into the front arc of both the ISD-I and the ISD-II. This was my first mistake of the battle.
My Demolisher was finished off casually by the enemy ISD-I, and the ISD-II put a devastating blow into my flagship. The Relentless was still slowly navigating around an asteroid, too distant to help. But my flagship survived, and in turn put both her forward and her broadside torpedo tubes into the ISD-I. My flagship sped between the two larger vessels, desperately trying to escape retribution. Set on their course, Paul’s two capital ships moved into engagement range with my own, and here, the Relentless shined. Unabashed by being outnumbered two-to-one, she launched salvo after salvo into the approaching aggressors, and she lived up to her name – she took their return fire like a champ. By the time they were nose-to-nose, she was ready to really go to work on them – in a single volley, she finished off the ISD-I at close range. Her crew cheered, and her admiral excitedly moved her forwards, forgetting – like the big stupid idiot he is, that she was yet to make a second shot against the enemy ISD-II, one which would surely have finished the beast off. This was my second mistake of the battle.
Charitably, Paul allowed me to make a side-arc attack against his flagship, it in turn delivered a frontal assault into the rear of Relentless. She survived – barely – and was now departing the scene, hoping to avoid further punishment. And as she did, I made my final mistake, the one that would ultimately cost me the match. As Relentless‘ damage control teams set to work, I had the option to repair her hull, or regain some shields. A lone enemy Firespray was loitering abeam of my proud vessel, and I was, foolishly, not convinced that I would clear the guns of Paul’s rapidly-turning ISD-II. I regained shields on one side only, and Paul’s firespray subsequently attacked the opposite side, delivering exactly as much damage as was needed to kill Relentless and swing the match to his favour.
With tension, we calculated points, and after some double-checking of our maths, the score was settled – Paul had won with a margin of victory of 69 points. One solitary point short of the seven tournament points he needed to win the day. I am not even making this up.
Dan had an rough day, having lost all three matches and having been tabled in two of them. He finished in sixth position, but hopefully he has learned what he needs to learn to come back another day and really bust some heads.
Graham finished in fifth, which surprised me to an extent, as he was a great player – very thoughtful, very deliberate and very focused. I worked hard – damnably hard – to defeat him, but his final match against Rebel Paul went against him.
Rebel Paul finished in third place, and played well all day. Defeating a rival Ackbar list can’t be easy, and he tabled James with fairly ruthless efficiency. However, I should imagine he was still fairly pleased after his tournament win the previous day.
Imperial Paul came in second, but only by a single tournament point (a common theme, it seems). He was a fantastic, incredibly sporting player – as was everyone – and he fought very, very hard indeed. In truth, I feel that with a bit of refinement to his list he could be unstoppable. Further, had he not flown his own Demolisher off the board in his first game, the scoreboard would have looked very different.
James placed fourth for the second day in a row, but had a great time doing so. He was, admittedly, a little hungover again today, so it will be interesting to see what happens when he manages to stay sober – I imagine he’ll do rather well indeed.
I managed, by the skin of my teeth, to win. I was inordinately grateful to receive a pewter medal for my victory, but, in truth, I felt a little sad. The fact that it had come down to a single victory point in the last game, and then that I had won by only a single tournament point, left me feeling like this was an undeserved victory – almost as though I had won on a technicality, or by default, where Paul had been the better player.
I was proud of my performance in my first two games, but my blunders in the final game were crippling and unforgivable. I actually made a fourth mistake that game – turning my Instigator into the forward arcs of Paul’s ISD-II needlessly, handing him yet more victory points. And had I not gotten carried away with finishing off the ISD-I, I might have remembered to make my second attack and finish off Paul’s flagship, and everything would have changed.
However, as it was my sixth game that weekend – and I was already on a sleep deficit – my blunders were perhaps to be expected. I have made the promise to myself that I will simply do better next time, stay focused, and make sure that I really earn my victories.