Saturday, August 29, 2015

GenCon 2015 Tournament Report

This is a repost of my tournament report from the 2015 GenCon Nationals tournament.  I thought i'd post it here to make it easy for me to find again.

Tournament Notes

As there has been a lot of interest in the Armada tournament at GenCon, I thought I would type up my experiences. (I didn't have much else to do on my flight home anyways)

I'd played in a couple of small tournaments (like 6 players) and done well, but really didn't know how I would do with the competition at GenCon. I'd been practicing a lot with variations of lists built around 2 Assault Frigates. I really like the way they play using the combination of mobility, toughness, and firepower. Having their best firepower on their broadsides really changes the way that they play and the tactics that you can employ. I spent some time practicing maneuvers and found that I could fly them in a train, with one in front of the other. With a Navigate token handy I could even move the frigate in back past the front frigate when necessary. I also found that Garm Bel Iblis was a fantastic admiral. The versatility that you gained by having a store of tokens gave me a nice toolbox to work with and use a first turn Navigate command to get positioned where I wanted. I think I may have been the only one at the tournament using Garm. One of the judges mentioned that he was pleased to see Garm being used as he felt Garm was under appreciated. I'd tried pairing the frigates with corvettes, escort frigates, and fighters. I tried lots of fighters and no fighters, but felt a small number of fighters with a third ship provided me with the most consistent performing fleet and one that could compete with most any opponent.

My list:

Assault Frigate Mk II A. (Always the lead ship)
- Enhanced Armament
- Gunnery Team
- Intel Officer

Assault Frigate Mk II B
- Enhanced Armament
- Paragon
- Garm Bel Iblis

CR-90 A

Tycho Celchu
2x A-Wing

Advanced Gunnery
Fire Lanes
Dangerous Territory

Like most others at GenCon, I was bummed that wave 2 wasn't available, but really pleased to be playing in the tournament. In talking with others before hand, there were a fair number of players who were pretty inexperienced. They lacked opponents near their homes and so hadn't gotten many games in. I walked a couple of them through the process of selecting objectives and figuring out initiative. Everyone seemed very friendly and pretty curious to see how the first big Armada tournament would go. I was really hoping for a top 8 finish as I thought the prize support looked really cool.

As I walked around and checked out the other fleets I felt that I saw a pretty good variety represented. There was an even mix of Rebels and Imperials, although I was surprised to not see more fighters than I did. I had really expected fleets built around Ryhmer or Gallant Haven/Yavaris. Both of those fleet styles were there, just in smaller numbers than I expected.

Round 1
My first opponent was playing a Vic 2, a Vic 1, and a Demolisher Glad with 3 Tie fighters and various upgrades. He had me go first and I opted to play Dangerous Territory. (For awhile I had been using Jaina's Light and really wished I had kept it in my list for this very reason). I ended up using my CR-90 to grab a couple of objectives while I moved my whales to engage his destroyers. Well, let's just say that I really bunged up my maneuvering and ended up putting my lead Whale in front of his Vic 2. Between that and Demolisher, it had gotten really beat up. I went to activate first and get the whale out of trouble and around the Vic 2, but in my zeal to grab objectives I had put the CR-90 in a spot that blocked my escape! This led to the loss of both of those ships. It was a disaster of my own making that my opponent took full advantage of. I lost pretty badly to say the least (2-8), with my only points coming from some objectives and killing his TIEs, while he killed a whale and the corvette. My opponent was a good player and friendly, which ended up being a theme for the weekend. This was not the kind of first round I had hoped for and my chances of making the top 8 were dwindling quickly.

Round 2
Fresh off that stinging loss I moved down to something like table 24 for round 2. My next opponent was one of the newer players that I had helped before the tournament began. He was playing 2 Nebs, 2 Corvettes, Luke, Wedge, and a pair of X-Wings. He chose to go first and picked Dangerous Territory. He had Yavaris on one of the Nebs and hoped to use it to hit with Luke and Wedge while the other Xwings ran interference. My greater experience level made that tough on him and I managed to completely wipe him out in 4 rounds for the 10-0 victory. We ended up talking for a bit about the game and he got a few pointers to use going forward.

Round 3
I was now feeling a little better about my chances, but could see I had a tough match up ahead of me. I was playing against 2 whales and 2 corvettes led by Mon Mothma. The whales both had Enhanced Projectors which I hadn't faced before. For the third time I would be playing Dangerous Territory and I was again wishing for Jaina's Light as I was the first player. He deployed all 4 of his ships at full speed and with 3 on one flank and one on the other. I deployed my line in the middle as typical. I caught a lucky break when he misjudged his speed and overflew one the objectives. I was able to take advantage of his speed and position my gun line in his path, while my corvette ran for the objective that he missed after picking up 2 others. By flying my whales in a gun line I was able to dictate the match and was doing a job beating up on his ships. He had managed a fair bit of damage to my rear whales shields, but a timely Navigate command let me jump it past the lead whale to a safe position. His Enhanced Projectors were doing a great job keeping him alive and thanks to me mis-playing my Intel Officer and rolling a bunch of blanks I only managed to due 5 hull damage to his flagship. It was a great, tense match. I pulled it out near the end by destroying both of his corvettes for a 7-3 win. He ended up complimenting my flying and felt that I had managed to fly circles around him. He also left the game with a new respect for Garm whom he hadn't taken really seriously. Timely use of my free tokens had made a really big impact on the game. In the end he was a good player and we had a good chat about the finer points of whale driving.

So, despite failing miserably in my first match I ended the day with 19 tournament points and in 14th place. I felt that if I could continue winning I might have a good shot at the top 16 and maybe even the top 8 finish I was hoping for.

Round 4
I started the day on Table 7 against an Imperial player and the only 2 ship list that I faced. He had a Vic 2, a Demolisher, and a blob of TIEs including Howlrunner, Mithel, and Soontir. I knew my A-Wings were pointless against that mess and they really weren't a big threat to my ships. I probably should have held them back and saved myself the tournament points, but instead I used them as a one shot missile to damage his Demolisher's shields before I shot it. It worked, but the Awings were wiped out shortly afterwards. He had gone first and chosen Fire Lanes, which was a bad idea for him. I was easily able to dominate the objectives with my broadsides scoring 165 points over 4 rounds. I used the corvette as Demolisher-bait and made short work of both that and his Vic. The game ended in round 5 with me getting nearly a 400 point MoV and the 10-0 win. Suddenly the top 8 didn't seem out of reach!

Round 5
Despite the crushing 1st round loss I had made it all the way to table 3 in the final round. I was both surprised and pleased. Tables 1 and 2 were full of no-fighter imperial builds, but at table 3 I was matched up against another Rebel player. We both knew that 1st place was out of reach, but decided that we were playing for the top Rebel fleet in the tournament. He had 3 Nebulons, including Salvation and Redemption, and a corvette backed up by Tycho and 2 Awings. He went first and chose Advanced Gunnery, which made my Paragon happy and his Salvation scary. I started moving my whale conga line to move around one of his flanks while he moved slowly forward. In this case going first betrayed him as I was able to position my gun line so that his Nebs had to move into my full broadside. It didn't go well for the Nebs. I was able to tear him up pretty good. In the final turn I had an awing with a single hp engaged with Tycho who also had a single hp. He took 3 anti-squadron shots at it and whiffed, before the awing and Tycho finally killed each other. It seemed insignificant at the time, but the small point swing of killing Tycho became really important. I managed a 9-1 victory in the final round giving me a total of 38 tournament points.

I was feeling really pleased with my comeback in the tournament and thought I might end up 3rd or 4th depending on how the top tables went. I also thought probably having the top score for a Rebel fleet was pretty cool While we were waiting for the other games to finish I gave my opponent some pointers on how to beat builds like mine as he was planning to attend Worlds and hadn't been doing well against double whales. When the judges posted the final scores I avoided the initial mob of players checking them out. One of them walked over, shook my hand, and congratulated me on 2nd place. My jaw about hit the floor. I went over and checked it out and sure enough my 38 tournament points were good enough to tie for second and I had the MoV tie breaker by just 8 points! I really couldn't believe it.

All in all the tournament was really well run and the players were a good group to play games with. As has been mentioned there were quite a few dropouts along the way. I think most of those were newer players or those that didn't understand how long the event lasted. GenCon tournaments are far more likely to attract casual players. From what I saw though, the play level in the last 2 rounds was really high level.

Some general thoughts:

A lot has been made of how few fighters there were on the top tables at the end. There are reasons for that which have been covered elsewhere, but it doesn't paint a whole picture. The Gallant Haven/Yavaris/Bwing player did really well day 1 and went 3-0. I know he finished top 16 and maybe top 8, but I'm not sure. So it's not like a fighter list couldn't do well in a major tournament. Right now the action advantage is a big deal, but much like TIE swarms in xwing, people will figure out how to deal with it. Fighters allow for excellent concentration of firepower and as players learn how to maneuver better to deal with being out activated, fighter heavy fleets will do better.

Screed is really popular.

Garm should be more popular.

There were lots of double whale builds, but not a lot of the run as a gun line. It takes some practice, but is really effective. I actually tested triple whales, but couldn't keep the formation together in a way that I liked. I think practiced formation flying will be a thing when playing Armada at a high level.

A-wings are an amazingly versatile and effective fighter.

I probably could have just gone with 2 Mk B whales. I actually like the Mk A for the little bit of extra front/rear firepower, but other upgrades like Jaina's Light or a second Intel Officer would have been more useful.

The CR-90 did almost zero damage in the tournament. But it was still really valuable. It grabbed plenty of dangerous territory objectives and let me manipulate activations that forced opponents to move into my whales broadsides.

A couple of Imperial players showed up in uniform. That was awesome. Makes me want a Rebel fleet officer uniform..

The prize support was really cool. I wonder what they will have at Worlds.

I'm sorry if I got long winded, but it's a long flight home. I hope it was an enlightening read.


  1. Nice write up. I took out 2nd at the Australian Nationals using Garm. Overall, I find most people see him as a more defensive admiral, rather than mass damage. I wouldn't run him unless I had at least two 3 command vessels though.

  2. Thanks for the write-up, sounds like a fun event. Out of curiosity, you mention sharing tips on how to beat double whale lists. Any advice gratefully received, it is a build I struggle against!! My initial thinking is manoeuvre to block the conga line with a Gladiator, and then hammer the parking lot with my Victorys.

  3. Blocking the front of the line is definitely a good tactic. Getting in front of or behind the the line can keep you out of one of the ships arcs and that makes a big difference.