So this weekend just gone saw the 10th UK Games Expo hosted at the Birmingham NEC, with a gamut of gaming held at the Hilton Metropole next door.
For the X-Wing Community, competitive and casual, this meant the opportunity for three days of events. The Birmingham Regional ran on the Friday before the Yavin Open kicked off on Saturday, culminating with a cut and a Hangar Bay side-event on the Sunday.
For myself, I intended to play in all three events. Given my recent results I was most looking forward to Hangar Bay. Primarily this was because I've realised Oicunn with Soontir is a step away from the current meta, and while it could probably hold its own against Imperial Aces, I'm seriously up against it whenever I encounter Jumpmasters. In fact, everything I'd been flying recently probably fits that bracket. I couldn't deny a feeling of impending doom. So my strategy was to drop any expectations whatsoever and just concentrate on flying as well as I could.
Having discussed my recent gaming woes at length on the trip to Birmingham, it became clear that I simply needed to get my mojo back a touch, so that became the main objective for the weekend. Slooping back to Hangar Bay, one of my lists would be Dengar, Jumpmaster with Boba Fett, Feedback Z, which would hopefully be the highlight of my weekend. That was the expectation.
So, despite my apocalyptic predictions, I actually had a pretty good Regional. My opening game of the day was against Triple Jumpmasters. Not so good. Settling down, I got stuck in and led with Oicunn. Despite forgetting Isard and my Ion Bomb, I traded Oicunn for two of the Jumpmasters, and played the patient game to grind out the win. First time against Jumpmasters! Big grin :)
Second game was against the Triple Jumpmasters again, but the result was not quite so good. Third was against 8 Z-95s, then fourth was against Imperial Aces, flown by Dave Peet, an excellent player and a good buddy. I was competitive throughout to go 2-2, with the Aces game being one of the best I've played for a while.
Back in the groove with my mojo fully restored, I started the fifth game contemplating dropping in order to regroup for Saturday’s main event. The accompanying mental drop cost the game, but provided a final lesson for the day. As such I walked away with a Hera card and, more importantly, a fully recharged X-Wing battery.
So, Yavin! Long story short I went 3-3, which is better than I had expected, but slightly disappointing having slipped from 3-1, with bad match-ups in the final two rounds. No spangly shield tokens to take home with me, but plenty of mojo, which was always the main thing.
I'd obviously been trying a bit too hard recently, and it was good to let that go. In a total of 11 highly competitive games I only had one difficult opponent, and I still won so boo yah. I played and beat various Jumpmaster lists more times than I lost to them. Throughout the day I relaxed into my natural game again and flew far better for it.
Overall it was another excellent X-Wing event, the biggest in the world so far, and a genuine privilege to be a part of. Big thanks and kudos to Vince Kingston and his team for running such an excellent event. Logistics were near seamless for Yavin, the event exhibiting every positive facet of the game and community that plays it.
It was also a great weekend hanging with the Squadron. The camaraderie was superb, as I’m sure was the same for every other group attending. Many of my squadmates put in some excellent performances, which was a pleasure to be part of for all involved. Plenty of banter was had as we celebrated and commiserated with each other in turn, the true values of the Squadron shining through.
Obviously I can’t not mention 186th Captain Andrew Pattison, swarming his way to ultimate victory. Huge congratulations. Andrew’s an excellent player and a fantastic guy. UK representation at the X-Wing invitational is in safe hands.
Naturally we talked a lot of shop during the event. With the obvious explosion of X-Wing over the past year, there's a much wider field of good players out there. Events are bigger, longer and far more competitive. Lady Luck's fickle fortune feels magnified all the way through from matchup to how the dice fall. This is quite obviously a good thing for the game as a whole, but the competitive scene has definitely morphed into a different beast, far more muscular and attritional than before.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s something to be aware of. Fly Casual is still in full effect and there are plenty of smaller events running. As X-Wing grows I feel confident grassroots play and players will still be looked after and nurtured at events, club and groups up and down the country. A lot of top players are excellent ambassadors for the game and community. This is a natural, organic thing that happens by default rather than by expectation. Long may it continue.
All in all, I had a great weekend of gaming, but was absolutely shattered. No Hangar Bay for me in the end; I wouldn’t have done the game or the other players justice, and I didn't want to kill my buzz. Instead, it was off to the Expo itself to remind myself again why I love being a geek.
Moving on from the weekend, I’m going to be running an awful lot of Scum for the foreseeable future, and am already looking to run something Binayre for Nationals. It’s not that far away but I’m already raring to go, just give me a week or two to recover eh!