Friday, 19 February 2016

Black TIE Ball vs Hoth Sthuff

The Snow Is White!
It's All-Skype Fight Night!

Stylus here, plain as the snow fields of Hoth.

Kraken here in bold. Also in Black TIE. 

Hoth Sthuff

Following the success of my last squadron, based on pilots from A New Hope, I went ahead and built a triple X-Wing group of pilots who appeared in Empire Strikes Back (can you guess how my next list will be themed?)

Slightly less name recognition for these guys:

  • Janson - who at least got to be named, appear on screen and harpoon an AT-AT walker.
  • Hobbie - who was named twice, but never seen - although apparently he was the pilot who had the temerity to question Princess Leia's exit strategy ("Two Fighters Against A Star Destroyer?")
  • Tarn Mison - no, I've never heard of him either. He's on the cutting room floor, but is by all accounts, a Hoth pilot. Why the hell didn't they use Zev "Rogue Two" Senesca? At least he had lines, face time and a death scene?
But enough movie quibbles, these three don't synergise quite as well as the Yavin crew, but their individual abilities and upgrades work well together. Hobbie can stress out his targets, then spend a target lock and shed his own stress. Tarn can acquire target locks, then spend it on defensive re-rolls. Janson doesn't bring anything special, other than a high pilot skill and the always-useful R2-D2. But his Squad Leader will allow his wingmen to gain target locks, as I sense this is becoming quite a theme.

And finally, Integrated Astromechs for all (bet I forget to use them), and Proton Torpedoes for all (because I need to wash the taste of that Advanced Proton Torpedo debacle).

Black TIE Ball


I am not what you might call a natural army builder. Can't find synergies in a list, can't remember to use them if I select some by mistake, feel generally negative and morally superior to power players by way of compensating for having lost. 

What I can do is stick very strictly to WYSIWYG, and that's where I was coming from with this list!

It's my spin on a classic TIE swarm, with four named TIE pilots and some chump in a marginally tougher bucket. Backstabber to flank, Scourge to take advantage of any wounded enemy, Howlrunner to keep everyone else shooting properly, Mauler to get in close and ugly and the TIE Advance to scare Stylus and soak damage. 

(Originally, the list was the same TIE pilots with a fifth cheapy TIE guy who was going to have to be proxied, but the postman brought the Advance at the last minute and I felt honour bound to deploy it!)

Yes, I should give a shout-out to the retailer who made all this possible: The Outpost, who offer around 20% off hobby stock and have a nifty green/amber/red ordering system for X-Wing stock (most stockists either seem to have an item or not, and you have to just randomly visit and take your chances). Anyway, my latest order was being held up by the late arrival of one particular item. Not really their fault, but they had my order express delivered to me, to ensure they met their 14-day delivery deadline. And lo, it arrived the morning of the battle. Recommended!


I set my wee squadron in a neat line in the top-right corner: Tarn, Hobbie and Janson (I'm afraid the map has Tarn and Hobbie mixed up, so I'll refer to them herewith as Tarn-HK and Hobbie-TM).

Although the slightly-off line formation is a pretty accurate of the cack-handed way I laid them down.

I went for a tight swarm pack with Backstabber on the side ready to split off. It was quite neat on deployment, and that was as far as it remained so.

Turn 1

I begin with a cautious advance, with a Straight-2 for all X-Wings (keeping them in formation with my awesome flying skills). Everyone takes a focus action, although it's all moot at this range.

My awesome flying skills are quite limited. Scourge and Howlrunner bumped into the back of Mauler, not that it made any difference at this range thankfully. So much for the tight formation flying - the Red Arrows we are not.

Turn 2

My X-Wings bank gracefully to the right, and we have range! I decide to stay on target and throw every Target Lock I have against the TIE Advance. It then takes no less than three salvoes of Proton Torpedoes in the face.

I also use R3-A2 to stress him out, but by that point, he's blown to smithereens, so probably has enough stress in his life.

First blood to me! Although I now don't have a torpedo to my name.

Seems like a fair swap to me. Cheap at the price, even, all that explodable gear for a natty starfighter. In exchange, I gash a shield off Wes, which is sort of pointless given that his R2 unit is going to put it right back within seconds.

Worse, Mauler has taken a crit to his ship from some asteroids, and will have to fix it before he can declare any more actions. 

Turn 3

On the assumption that I ought to get firing arc on something, I slow-advance Tarn-HK and Janson, while sending Hobbie-TM into a K-turn.

Howlrunner collides with an asteroid at this point, which at least means he's staying in formation - Mauler was parked on the same one a moment ago. 

Mauler's neat K-turn, made with adrenaline, leaves him in a nice place but unable to capitalise on it. Backstabber is now staring down the barrels of Hobbie Trademark. In the event, I graze Wes and Hobbie with scattered fire. 

I had the vague intention of using Janson's Squad Leader ability to let Hobbie-TM take a Target Lock, which he could then use to shed his K-turn stress - but, of course, Hobbie-TM goes before Janson, which leaves him stuck with his stress. So much for synergy (were I not so bound to theme, I would have included Dutch Vander in the list to give away Target Locks).

Anyway, my options aren't great: Tarn-HK has arc on nothing; Hobbie-TM plinks a hull off Mauler; and Janson gets one from Howlrunner.

Turn 4

It's getting to be a right train wreck in here, and I'm amazed I got away with only one collision. Hobbie-TM banks right, shedding stress but bumping his squadron leader. Tarn-HK banks right and now Janson has a go at the Koiogran Turn.

Backstabber bugs out temporarily, whilst Howl collides with Mauler. Scourge sits in the middle of everything cackling.

My shooting isn't super effective this time (although to be fair - across the whole game, my attack dice were rolling hot), but it's enough to remove the damaged Mauler Mithel.

Mauler slaps some hurt on Wes before dying, at least, and Scourge tweaks Hobbie's shields off.

Turn 5

Completing the set, now Tarn-HK K-turns and places himself at the far end of the melee. Hobbie-TM banks slightly and still ends up bumping a TIE. Janson advances a Straight-1 to shed his stress (and recover a shield! I'd actually forgotten about that until Kraken reminded me).

Howlrunner flips a K and then knocks on Hobbie's hull. Backstabber is now quite well placed for some leisurely backstabbing, and does pretty well, taking that newly regenerated shield back off Janson. Scourge is nowhere useful, but has pushed the limit for evasion and focus and is therefore scot free of hits.

Hobbie-TM is still out of arc, but both Tarn-HK and Janson can target Howlrunner. Janson is even at Range 1, so unleashes a barrage of shots that disintegrates the lead TIE.

Turn 6

Both Janson and Tarn-HK close the gap on Scourge (Janson gaining another shield in the process), and with two ships committed, I send Hobbie-TM away on a long flanking move to try and recover his position. Unfortunately I drop Hobbie-TM squarely on an asteroid and he's down to his final point of hull.

I like having fewer ships, easier to manage. That said, I forget that Scourge is still stressed and try too tight a turn, so Stylus gets to swing him round the other way, keeping him nicely in the sights of the X-wings. 

I have a good round of shooting, but Scourge has a good round of evading, and I only manage to take off two hull points. Still, it's looking good from my side, and nothing short of a disaster could stop my victory.

Turn 7

Disaster strikes! Hobbie-TM fails to move himself off the asteroid and loses his final point of damage.

('Not to worry', you may be saying, dear reader - all I need to do is activate my Integrated Astromech, sacrifice poor R3-A2 and save my last point of damage ... well, I told you I'd forget to use them)

So with two counts of stupidity, I lose one of my X-Wings. Meanwhile, my surviving two ships appear to have forgotten how to shoot at close range. And now Backstabber is sneaking his way back into play, plinking off a shield from Tarn-HK as he uses his favourite kind of attack.

With only two counts of stupidity, I'd still be back in deployment. Now, I'm in a world of hurt - Scourge is falling apart at the seams, despite his excellent evasion, and Backstabber has a lot of fairly hardened pilots still to kill even if he's in a good place to do it.

Turn 8

Following my strategy of asteroid-seeking diversions, I send Janson away from the fray, under the ludicrous assumption that he can out-turn a TIE, and confident that Tarn-HK can deal with the last hull point on Scourge.

Backstabber, however, is at close rear range and gets a full swathe of hits! Get out of that, Tarn or Hobbie or whoever you really are. 

Four shots! I evade nothing and poor Tarn is done for (because yet again, I forgot that he could have shed his astromech to preserve his last point).

Oh dear, from a winning position, to being outnumbered 2:1. I've still got that old magic.

After several turns of whittling, it's been nice to have an explosion-free turn. From feeling very much the inevitable loser, I've found my New Hope, and have decided that the Empire should indeed Strike Back.

I'm putting Tarn back into his box when I suddenly remember the reason I took him in the first place: with the declaration of attack, Tarn-HK got Target Lock on Backstabber, and R7 allows him to spend that Target Lock to re-roll any number of attack dice.

I quickly put Tarn-HK back where he was and force Backstabber to re-roll all his dice. Only two hits - I'm still in the game! Tarn-HK celebrates his Lazarus-survival by blasting away at Scourge,

So that particular confidence wasn't Stylus's weakness after all, and Scourge (who was further up the field and definitely in arc, unlike the map shows) goes pop. Bloody Returning Jedi types, spoiling all my fun.

And now it's 2:1 in my favour.

Turn 9

The map may not show Janson hitting an asteroid, but rest assured he does so.

Mapping an asteroid field is nearly impossible, you know. That's why I keep hitting so many.

I continue to bank him around gracefully, party to recover the shields I'm losing. Meanwhile Tarn-HK pulls a K-turn (so Backstabber can no longer stab him in the back) and opens up on his nemesis, taking off two hull.

Jousting is not the strong point of TIEs, I fear. Not in a swarm of one, anyway.

Turn 10

My plan is to switch around the healthy Janson for the limping Tarn-HK, and so the former continues to bank left, while Tarn-Hk accelerates out of the fray.

He doesn't quite accelerate enough - Backstabber pulls a short K and keeps him at long range, but my determined plinking can't quite reach. 

Turn 11

More of the same here: I think Janson is now back to full shields, even with the number of asteroids he hit (one on the way in, one on the way out). Tarn-HK continues to flee, but at a more leisurely pace to shed his stress.

I'm still hammering away fruitlessly on Tarn from behind, and he keeps dodging with his anti-target-lock gag. Bah.

Turn 12

I'm not sure why Tarn-HK continues to zoom away now - I think I was getting asteroid-shy, and was just happy about plotting a course that didn't clip any,

Janson is a bit more aggressive, and though he doesn't get arc on Backstabber, he manages to throw on a Target Lock.

I'm going to have to rely on tight turns and good dice to get behind Janson and finish him before Tarn gets back in range. Tricky, but not impossible.

Turn 13

Unless, of course, you don't really know how big any of the turns are and then declare one in the wrong direction anyway. It's probably just the natural magnetism of the asteroids drawing me in.

Tarn-HK pulls another K-turn, just to make me nervous about leaving the table edge. Janson turns sharply to the left for a perfect flank shot on Backstabber, and blasts away his last hull.

Good shot Janson!

Back At The Cantina

Two wins in a row! Talk about staying on target! Clearly there is no need to pore the upgrades and ship types for the best squadron - just pick a movie and go with it!

In truth, I got a little bit lucky - not only were my attack dice rolling above average (or at least, coming good when it mattered), my opponent Kraken was sporting enough to take a list that matched my meagre Imperial collection, and so limited his options. I feel obliged to play the Empire for our next bout, or at the very least, splash out on a TIE Phantom.

I don't know - the list didn't feel limited, but my flying definitely did. After a few games, I'm starting to feel the restrictions of Skype, as I'm still guessing a bit as to what mavouvers will work and where the asteroids really are. It's a bit like watching a fledgling Skywalker being shocked by a training probe. Once I take the helmet off and actually get in the room, I might be slightly more useful. 

In terms of how the ships did, I know the X-Wings are out of vogue at the moment, but they make very hardy fighters with good combat output - perfect for a beginner like me to wrap my sleep-deprived head around (even if I do forget the handful of rules).

For the pilots, I think the best was the lowly Tarn Mison - his pilot ability, when combined with R7 Astromech, saved at least three hull points, and actual destruction.

Wes Janson probably did the most in terms of actual damage output, and he certainly soaked up a lot of shots that R2-D2 subsequently recovered, but I don't feel I was able to use his pilot ability, or Squad Leader, to much effect. At best, his ability forces the target to use its evade/focus token, or lose it anyway, but with TIEs, that's usually the default option, as they can take so little damage. Maybe he'd do better against bigger, tougher ships that want to hold their tokens (or more agile ones that wouldn't need to spend them).

Poor Hobbie was probably the least handled, which is a shame, because I was looking forward to his stress-shedding ability the most. The only time I was able to combine it with the stress-inducing R3-A2, it became irrelevant. I was thinking about going for an easier synergy, and sticking the Targeting Astromech on him (essentially giving stress-free K-Turns, with a bonus Target Lock), but using the stressbot seemed more of a challenge.

Howlrunner is ever popular in the netlists, but I failed to use her ability at any point. Nobody was ever shooting near her, thanks to my various failed aerospacenautics. Backstabber, I like, he almost turned the tables for me, but the otherwise I was mostly struck by how feeble TIEs are. When I'm flying them, anyway. 

Although that said, I was surprised to see how quickly the X-wings did get beaten up. I kept thinking 'oh, dammit, another turn with just one or two hits', but it adds up pretty fast. You've got the numbers to lose a ship or two and still keep the upper hand, the Imperials are pretty persistent. 

Still, that's all the X-Wing pilots tried out. Now off to the victory party - I need thome hoth sthuff baby tonight!

The Midi-Chlorian Count

And we're back to our irregularly-scheduled Star Wars trivia. Today on The Midi-Chlorian Count, since he didn't make it into the Hoth squadron, here's Zev Senesca!

Or "Rogue Two", as he repeatedly called himself.

You'll know him as the eagle-eyed Snowspeeder pilot who found Han and Luke after they went camping overnight, and then got splatted in the subsequent Battle of Hoth.

Anyway, he played by a pretty successful actor, Christopher Malcolm, who has on his CV Brad Majors in the original Rocky Horror Show and Saffy's Dad in Absolutely Fabulous.

And if you don't recognise him from that, he was also Jennifer Connelly's rather hapless father in Labyrinth:

"I don't know what this is - the prop department just gave it to me to hold."

And if you're looking for more subtext regarding Labyrinth, the press cuttings around Sarah's room indicate that her mother ran away with a young actor who looks just like... The Goblin King, David Bowie. Way to go, Starman.

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