Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Star Wars X-Wing Bay Area Store Championship

Do you ever have that feeling that you just came up with a great idea, only to find out that someone else thought of it first?  That must be how Mike felt when he told me that there was an X-Wing store championship for the Bay Area going on.

In case you hadn't heard of what seems to be the fastest growing miniature game around, Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Games is a fast paced, fighter focused, miniature dogfighting game produced by Fantasy Flight Games.  Its starter set comes with almost everything that you need to play the game, from dice, to measuring sticks, to asteroid and space debris, making it one of the most accessible games available.  It has a large collection of pre-painted, medium detail plastic miniatures that come with their own stands, bases with information, and order dials, so the amount of time that you spend preparing for a game is quite minimal.  This might not attract those who are interested in the hobbying aspect of a miniatures game, but with the relatively low buy in cost, you will have plenty of time and money left over to buy, assemble, customize, paint and play that 10 man infantry squad from that grim dark space combat game you love so much.  Or you could just buy the Imperial line of X-Wing miniatures.

On April 11th, 2015, I rode over to Gamescape SF to cover the Elite 8 Tournament of the 2015 Store Championship.  As the name suggests, this was the top eight players from the store tournaments in the area.  They had each won those tournaments to earn a spot at this final championship.   I talked to Bernie, the Tournament Organizer and a player in the tournament about the event and the games that we had played so far.

Bernie had organized most of the tournaments in the area, which hosted anywhere from 16 to 30 people in an event.  In addition to earning the winners a spot in the Elite 8 Tournament, winners in store tournaments registered with Fantasy Flight Games earn a buys in the regional competitions in summer.  These regional tournaments are open to the public, so anyone can register, but you can earn yourself a better spot in the brackets by winning events before hand.  Winners of the regional events can move up to the national competitions at GenCon in the fall, and grab advantageous brackets there, but again, these are open for everyone, so you don't need a seed to get in.  Worlds, in winter, are much the same.
Right before the forces collide

The tournament that I watched held only 8 players, as was fitting for the "Elite 8" name.  Bernie said that it was an easy tournament to judge, since everyone there knew their stuff and had won a tournament in the past.  At that level of competition, gameplay was tight, and no one really had any major flubs or mistakes.  Most players agreed that they game results came down to luck of the dice, and putting yourself in the best position to take advantage of that luck.  I watched a "jousting match" where 4 B-Wings and 5 TIE fighters charged head long at each other, blasting away.  One of the TIEs was able to dodge almost an entire volley of fire from the B-Wings, but got vaped in the last blast.  The TIEs gave as good as they got, knocking out one B-Wing and taking down the shields of the other.  The TIE Phantom coming in from the flank helped the Imperial player to mop up the rest.  Much dice cursing and praising was heard from the different sides, and it was generally believed that they had settled the match.
Right after the forces collide.  Note the lack of B-Wings

The tournament format was one of the most interesting that I have seen in a while.  With 8 players, they had the time to play out two round robin groups, where groups of four players each play the others one time.  From there, the top two players from each group are moved up and seeded into a semi-final bracket, with the winners going on to play in the finals.  With about 30 minutes on the clock, a 3 foot by 3 foot board, 100 points a side and 2 to 6 ships each, the games moved really fast, and people rarely went to time.  There were a few 100-0 matches, and in a game without any objective besides blowing up the other guys ships, that seemed a little surprising.

I talked to Chris, one of the players who just lost to Bernie and had time to chat.  He told me about playing in multiple store tournaments to get a chance to come here and play.  He attributed a lot of his success to luck, saying that when you are playing against another player with the same skill level as you, a lot of the time it just comes down to the dice.  We talked about his start with miniature wargaming, he got his start in Warhammer 40k and Epic as most people did.  He played since the Rogue Trader days, but jumped out around 5th edition.

Since it was International Table Top Day, there were a ton of people walking through the store, and they stopped to ask about the game, how they could learn and how they could get into it.  The start up cost was one of the favored talking points.

The last part of Star Wars X-Wing tournaments that I love so much is the T-shirts.  Some larger Warhammer 40k and Warhammer Fantasy events have participants with club T-shirts.  These are usually customized, and may have the person's name on them.  Star Wars blows these guys out of the sky with their shirts.  The Star Wars brand had been marketed for so many years that the variety of T-shirts available dwarfs any that another game can bring to bear.  About half of the participants sported themed T-shirts, from Yoda quotes to the Oakland dock crane being compared to an AT-AT.  I didn't see the OB/GYN Kenobi joke shirt, but there is always next season.

Seth Oakley is an educator and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who lives in Daly City, CA. He loves costuming, analog gaming and role playing games. He got this job in a bar after making poor life choices and has to work through 85 more articles before Mike will give him his soul back.  If you want Seth to cover an event in particular, leave a comment to let him know.

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