“Biggs, Wedge, let’s close it up. We’re going in. We’re going in full throttle.”
–Luke Skywalker, Star Wars: A New Hope
In less than two weeks, Rebel X-wings and Imperial TIEs will battle for the fate of the galaxy in the X-Wing™ World Championship Tournament!
Today, as we look forward to hosting the world’s best squad leaders at the FFG World Championship Weekend, we’re happy to share an interview with Gen Con’s inaugural X-Wing tournament, Rory Klawien. He offers insights into everything from his tournament-winning strategy to getting into the game as a new player and his take on the first wave of single starfighter expansions.
Interview with Gen Con’s X-Wing™ Tournament Winner, Rory Klawien
Winner of the inaugural X-Wing tournament, Rory Klawien
FFG: What preparations did you take to get ready for the tournament?
RK: Not as many as I would have liked. At Gen Con 2011, I had the opportunity to play the demo for about an hour or so. It was enough to get me hooked and somewhat familiar with a few of the mechanics, such as the “blind” movement planning phase.
I pre-read the rules when they were posted before Gen Con this year. Then, on Thursday, as soon as the Exhibit Hall opened I rushed right to the Fantasy Flight booth and purchased two Core Sets and about six expansion packs. My good friend and opponent in the finals, Jeff Shoemaker, and I spent about an hour reading the rules, setting up the game, decided on our first fleets, and played our first battle. That first battle, my first experience playing Rebel, did not go well for me at all. In fact, you could probably call it a rout. We talked a little strategy and adjusted our fleets. I reduced the upgrades on my X-wings and added a Y-wing. With the fleet changes and a different strategy to deal with the speed of the Imperial ships, the second game went much better and seemed more balanced.
FFG: How would you define the central strategy of your fleet?
RK: My central strategy was to put as many Rebel ships on the board as I could. I knew the Imperial fleets would most likely be large, so I wanted to be sure to limit the difference in the amount of shots each side would have. While I don’t think numbers are everything, the limited time I had with the game before the tournament was not really enough to develop strategies that used squads of fewer more highly experienced pilots.
FFG: Obviously, your strategy worked during the tournament, but did it work pretty much exactly as you had intended and expected?
RK: Honestly, it worked better than I thought it would during the tournament. In part, this was due to the types of fleets I faced. I played all Rebel players during the first rounds of the tournament. A good majority of the fleets fielded only three, highly upgraded ships. This gave me the advantage in numbers. With an extra ship, my fleet had more shots each round to deal damage and more shields and hull points my opponents had to get through to defeat it. Furthermore, with the time limit, a lot of matches can come down to a points comparison to decide the winner. My points were spread out and protected by more shields while my opponents had more points invested in fewer ships.
Because of this, my strategy was often to focus fire on their most expensive ship, usually Wedge Antillies, in hopes of securing a high point deficit in case the match came down to time. Thanks to the high firepower of Rebel ships, however, none of my matches, save for the semi-final, were called on points.
FFG: What were some of the biggest surprises in the preliminary rounds?
RK: If I had not played the demo the year before, I would probably say the biggest surprise is how strategic the game is. Yes, the game uses dice and, yes, sometimes even the best strategy is foiled by these fickle eight-siders, but the use of movement dials and the fact maneuvers are kept secret until they are revealed, and thus too late to change, makes X-Wing every bit as tense, nerve wracking, and exciting as other great strategy games. â€¨â€¨However, the demo had already given me some insight into how fun and challenging this mechanic can be, so my biggest surprise was how useful the Ion Cannon Turret is. I did not have the points to upgrade my Y-wing with an Ion Cannon, but I played against a few of them and can say now that if the tournament had allowed 105 points, it would be my very next upgrade.
FFG: What would you say were the highlights of your preliminary rounds?
RK: I think one of the highlights was how much fun people were having. I can’t even count the number of TIE fighter noises, blaster sounds, and Star Wars movie references that were being spoken during the middle of matches. Every few minutes you would hear someone say, “It came from behind,” as an X-wing was taken out. That is not to say that some matches did not get intense, as I know a few of my own did, but in general, opponents were back to smiles and jokes quickly after the intense moments and between matches.
Players enjoying the action of the inaugural X-Wing tournament
FFG: Tell us about your final match.
RK: The final match was my favorite match of the day, not because it was the final or because I won, but because my opponent my very good friend, Jeff Shoemaker. It was nice to know that if I was going to lose, a good friend of mine was going to win.
â€¨â€¨My strategy for the final was simply “Kill Vader.” I wanted to get Vader out of the fight because I had seen on Thursday how powerful he could be. I knew that Jeff usually came out fast from his deployment zone, so I decided to let him come to me, hopefully leading with Vader, and target him with everything I had as soon as possible.
Fortunately for me, the first rounds went nearly as good as I could have hoped. Jeff started by flying full speed straight forward. In the second round, I turned to face his oncoming ships and hoped that Jeff would advance Vader again, bringing him into combat range. To my relief, Vader continued forward and into the range of all of my X-wings. Of course, Vader got to fire first, but his shot did minimal damage. Then, my three X-wings fired on Vader, and I was able to get through his shields and take him out in the first round.â€¨â€¨My momentary joy in removing Vader from the battle quickly faded over the next few rounds as Jeff started swarming my ships, thinning my shields, and exchanged an Academy Pilot for a Rookie Pilot X-wing. At this point I was certain the game could still go anyway all things considered. Only when I had him down to one ship did I let myself start thinking about victory.
Rebel and Imperial starfighters engage in deadly combat
FFG: From your point of view, how would you qualify the impact of the first wave of single fighter expansions on the tournament?
RK: Well since my final strategy ended up being “Kill Vader” because of how powerful he can be in his TIE Advanced, that should tell you something. The TIE Advanced with its shields and upgrades gives the Imperial fleet some real teeth. Especially when one is piloted by Vader, it can be a game-changer.
On the other side you have the Y-wing. While I used the Y-Wing simply as some extra fire power and a damage sponge, I realized its true purpose when my opponents fielded it upgraded with the Ion Cannon Turret. The ability to control how your opponents will move in the next movement phase should not be underestimated.
FFG: What advice do you have for new players looking to get into the game?
RK: Play it, and play it some more. If you love Star Wars or strategy table top games, you are going to love this game. Don’t get discouraged if the first few matches don’t go your way. Change up a few things and try again. I feel that Imperial forces are a bit more forgiving for the beginning player, as movement is a huge part of the game, and the Imperials have plenty of it. However, there are numerous ship and pilot combinations already available on both sides that should allow a player to find a squad that will work with their play style and strategy and lead them to victory.
X-Wing finalist Jeff Shoemaker (left) and tournament winner, Rory Klawien (right)
Players across the globe have been jumping into hyperspace and enjoying the action of X-Wing. This November 10th, one of them will make an indelible mark upon the game by winning the first ever X-Wing World Championship Tournament. Will that person be you? Join us for the FFG World Championship Weekend and your shot at X-Wing glory!