I Want My Country Back

And no, this isn’t going to be one of those far-right rants about how we need to get all the ‘Immigants out of ur engerland’. Quite the opposite. But I’m going to steal their phrase to make my point.

The EU referendum has brought out a lot of ill feeling. There have been mis-truths on both sides. But through social media reading comments on various articles, you can read the hate and the desire to keep everyone out who isn’t British. And just last year, all this was hate was driven at all immigrants (particularly Muslims) as demonstrated by this vile petition presented to the Government. In the general election the same year, UKIP got 12.6% of the vote share! That’s a lot of people with very right wing views who want to cut the UK off from the world.

But when did we become this vile, hateful, isolationist country with a superiority complex?

One of the things that made Britain great in modern history was it’s willingness to contribute to the European stage. It defended Belgium in World War One. It defended Poland in World War Two. Now we’re just regarded as the sh*theads who invaded Iraq for oil.

We were amongst the first group of Countries in the first wave of enlargement of the EU (a movement formed with the desire to stop further conflict in Europe) in 1973, clearly seeing the need to be part of something greater than ourselves. We were forward thinking enough in the field of civil rights to be a founding member of the Court of European Human Rights and the European Human Rights acts. Outisde of Europe we also founded the Commonwealth.

But now, if the polls are anything to go by, the majority of the public want to say goodbye to years of progress and cut ties with the EU, giving up our seat in Brussels and our chance to change things in the EU for the better.

I want my Country back from the people who want to throw all this away because they are scared of ‘immigrants’ which have been demonised in the media.

What makes Great Britain ‘Great’? It is a Union (like the European Union is…) of four Countries, and many different peoples. The Celts, The Saxons, The Vikings, The Romans, the immigrants from the Commonwealth who came here after World War Two to help rebuild, the Polish people in our factories doing the jobs spoilt Brits don’t want to… we are a mix of many different peoples. We shouldn’t be demonising these people from other Countries- we are them!

I want my Country back from the bile that is our tabloid newspapers- lies after lies in the Sun and the Daily Express about Muslims, whipping people up in to a frenzy! Scandals about people on benefits, giving the Tories social license to cut lifelines to the majority of benefits claimants who genuinely need it, causing indignity and even death to the poor, the sick and the disabled.

tabloidbileVenomous bile in the UK tabloids

I want my Country back from the hatred- people cheering on the bombing of Syria, knowing full well innocent families will be caught in the blasts. Families coming to Europe fleeing our bombs on boats that are not safe to brave the sea, and the same people in the UK crying ‘send them back to their own Country!’

I want my Country back and my democracy back from the Tories. The NHS was founded when the Country was broke after World War Two, and provided free health care for all. But now, perhaps our greatest social achievement is being sold off and deliberately run in to the ground. Inequality is higher than it’s ever been, and public services are being cut and slashed while MPs get huge pay rises, bankers who caused the crash get massive bonuses, and tycoons funnel vast sums of money in to tax havens. Meanwhile, the Tories show utter contempt for our democracy in the underhand ways they act in parliament- for example fillbusting or the way they are changing the law for fracking (see the bottom of my article here.)

I want my Country back from the madness. An MP was murdered last week for trying to make the world a better place. A soldier was murdered in the streets in 2013. This isn’t normal for a developed Country.

Through all the hatred, I think for the first time ever I am genuinely ashamed to be British.

Why the UK Government response on fracking is wrong

If you’re reading this, you probably know what fracking is, and you probably already think it’s bad.

If you google ‘is fracking bad?’ you’ll probably come to the conclusion that yes, it is very bad. In fact, I’m confident if you just google ‘fracking’ you’ll come to the same conclusion.

This article assumes that the majority of evidence shows that fracking is bad, and the UK government should come to the conclusion that Scotland, France, Bulgaria and New York State (amongst others) that fracking is bad and should not happen in this Country. However, if you write to Number 10 or your local loyal Tory MP (not all of them tow the party fracking line but most do) they will issue a standard cut and paste response such as the one to this petition. (Side note, what they safe about gas being the cleanest fossil fuel isn’t strictly true, as it produces more methane.) However, not all Government bodies and institutions agree that shale gas is a safe bet. The Environment Audit Committee raised concerns, and I will add more to this list as I conduct more research.

There is growing evidence that fracking can’t be managed safely and the UK Government needs to acknowledge that, and in this article I aim to collect it all in one place. Please keep checking back as I’ll try and update it when I find more information.

 

The failure of UK regulation

We are seeing failures in our regulation systems before the drilling has even begun! The Environment Agency has been tasked with monitoring our rivers and aquifers (e.g: our drinking water source!) to ensure it’s safe. But they are failing to keep on top of it with all the current contaminants (such as slurry leakage, waste from factories etc.) which you can read about here, here, here and here. Well, surely they are getting more staff to cope with this increased workload? Well, actually no, they’ve had their budget cut and experienced massive job losses. And to quote an incident directly related to fracking, in 2013 Claudrilla failed to apply for (and the Environment Agency failed to remind them) to obtain fracking wastewater permits, something that was only discovered by a Freedom of Information (FOI) request put in by Friends of the Earth.

The Government also has moved the goalposts by changing the definition of fracking legally, meaning up to 89% of proposed wells in the UK may not be covered by the ‘robust regulation.’

Agencies such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are also responsible for monitoring safety on site of oil and gas companies, but as this report shows (backed up by FOI requests), the company Third Energy (who have won planning permission to drill a well in North Yorkshire) have had numerous safety issues raised and failed to act in a timely manner. Nothing seems to have come of it though; the company is still operating normally. This same evidence was presented at the planning application but does not seem to have been taken in to account. And this company will be injecting fluid filled with nasty chemicals through the earth, past the water table level… the mind boggles! Needless to say, I do not feel reassured by regulation.

Another good example of the current industries failure is this picture here taken on BBC North West tonight in December 2014.

gaffer tape

As you can see, the connector is not attached using all of the bolt holes, and they have used gaffer tape of all things! But this isn’t some propaganda war against fracking, a BBC Panorama investigation where they went in to expose this. This was actually taken from a news piece that was felt to be biased TOWARDS fracking, yet this can be seen in the background at 1:59 during the clip (you can watch it here.) If they are this lax with the basics (and when they are expecting their site to be filmed!), they will be cutting corners everywhere!

For further reading, there’s also a report done by a PHD student called Fracking – Minding The Gaps, which you can read here.

 

The environment

The government response also talks about shale gas being a short term thing, stating (from the petition response linked earlier) “Shale gas can create a bridge while we develop renewable energy, improve energy efficiency and build new nuclear.” However, the Government have been slashing solar subsidies and scrapping home insulation schemes. So they are not even trying to follow what they set out in their response!

The Governments own climate change advisers even say with current regulation, fracking is not compatible with climate change targets!

It’s also flawed to say we need a bridge to renewables, when renewables can meet our energy needs NOW. 16 countries currently meet 100% of their energy needs using renewables, and other countries are close or achieving streaks of days where they don’t need to burn any fossil fuels. And with the improvements in technology and reduction in cost for energy storage (e.g: the Tesla battery), renewable energy is getting even easier to use (e.g: store power from solar panels so it can be used at night.) And it’s achievable in the UK! Scotland, enjoying greater autonomy with it’s own Parliament, is now half way there. And it’s not all about solar and wind. Wales has the ‘electric mountain‘, a hydro ‘storage battery’ for when we all go stick the kettle on in the commercials. The government wants a bridge to when the nuclear Hinkley point C comes online, but they could produce the same amount of energy for £40bn less over the plants lifetime. Why build a bridge to an expensive nuclear power plant, when you could just invest in renewable energy projects and save on the price of shale gas extraction sites, processing, gas power stations and the most expensive object on Earth?

But lets play devils advocate and say for some strange reason we do need a bridge to renewables. The Government also claims that fracking is required, because we need to switch to gas as it’s ‘cleaner than coal.’ And while it does contain much less carbon dioxide than burning other fuels, it does contain lots of methane and ethane, which hangs around in the atmosphere for less time than carbon dioxide, but is 30x more potent than carbon. And a recent study has shown that in the Northern Hemisphere, levels of ethane and methane have dramatically increased, tied with the rise of fracking in America.

Carbon capture could play a part in this ‘bridge to renewables’, taking carbon dioxide from sources burned for energy such as coal and storing it in the ground. Except the Government scrapped that project.

 

Erosion of democracy

One of the most horrifying things about the ‘dash for gas’ is the Government is using lots of underhanded tricks and tactics to force fracking on communities, bypassing our elected MPs, local planning committees and the will of the people who put them in to office. Here are some examples below:

  • In 2014, a Government report on the impact of shale wells on communities was published with many parts redacted 
  • The National Parks U-turn. This is something I followed quite closely at the time. In January 2015 (under the collation Government), Labour backed a notion to ban drilling under National Parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI’s) and in areas of drinking water at certain depths. The notion carried and this was passed. I watched it on the news and celebrated. However, the Conservatives got a majority Government in May 2015 (one which is now being associated with election fraud), and began to U-turn this bill. It went to a small committee where only a few MPs were invited to speak (although those that knew it was happening could go and listen), and a vote would only be triggered if enough people yelled “Nay” (in our democracy in the 21st Century) when the bill was mentioned in a rubber stamping session in the Commons. However, a vote was triggered to scrap what had been implemented in January and won, and so by December, the U-turn was complete. They really snuck this one through, and just by coincidence I found out about what was happening (by an email from an activist site) and was able to tell my MP about it.
  • Fast tracking applications/ calling in appeals. In August 2015, it was announced that the Communities Secretary would be calling in shale applications that were in need of fast-tracking, or if they had gone to a planning appeal. This was passed during summer recess, so MP’s would be unable to react to it. Articles here and here. To add insult to injury, Creg Clark (who you would hope would be impartial, given he is managing the planning appeals) then was caught co-signing a leaked letter pushing to get the shale industry going- just two days before the Lancashire shale appeal started!
  • The Government announced an investment of £5.6m on a college in Blackpool to teach fracking techniques while the application for the Blackpool wells was still in appeal
  • Claudrilla have started drilling monitoring bore holes while the Blackpool application was still in the appeal. Perhaps they’ve had a heads up from central Government they will win the appeal? Why else would they risk wasting money on this?
  • The planning application for the KM8 well in North Yorkshire was approved by a Tory dominated committee despite 4,375 objections. The committee talked about the national planning framework, which states they need to consult the shale gas report on climate change- a report not available at the time which minsters have been accused of sitting on! And they are still sitting on it!
  • When the report was finally released in July 2016, it said UK regulations are inadequate to mitigate the effects of climate change. However, the Government said they have since improved the regulations since then, but fail to provide any evidence to back this up
  • In 2015, over 10% of the Chancellors external meetings were with oil and gas companies, whereas just 2 (not 2%, but 2) meetings were with renewable energy companies
  • Licensing blocks were issued in Eastern England, although there is a large gap where the Prime Ministers constituency is! Fracking is good enough for us but not good enough for them!
  • March 2016, in an attempt to win over the public on fracking Andrea Leadsom lies and says that fracking does not contain chemicals that are carcinogenic or causes earthquakes, despite the now widely available scientific research that proves otherwise

Scum GR-75 play test

This is part 3 of 4 on an article on the Scum and Villainy conversion kit.

So yesterday, James and I had our initial play test of this kit at The Grid, and we were both very impressed.

Our lists

James had sunk just over 100 points in to the Death Merchant, a GR-75 with a firing arc and two hard points. He then put most of his points into basic pilots. He ran Talonbane Cobra with Cluster Missiles and Munitions Failsafe, Graz the Hunter, Torkil Mux with Twin Laser Turret then the rest were basic pilots: 2x M3-A Scyk Interceptors and 4x Kihraxz Fighters. All his Kihraxz Fighters had Glitterstim.

I however, had put my faith in to named pilots with lots of firepower. Too much faith- this was my first mistake. I ran Moralo Eval with Heavy Laser Cannon, IG-88A and IG-88C with Ion Cannons, Kavil with Blaster Turret, Veteran Instincts and Unhinged Astromech and Emon Azzameen dripping with upgrades. I also had a basic Kihraxz Fighter, and N’dru Suhlak poised to assassinate from range 2 with Lone Wolf, Cluster Missiles and Glitterstim. For my GR-75, I used the support ship from my previous article. This brings Father and Son Azzameen’s ships totals to over 100 points. I may have got carried away. Did I mention I like the PC game X-Wing Alliance?

SupportShipMy GR-75 build, the Vasudra

 

deathmerchantjamesJames’ GR-75 build, the Death Merchant

 

Setup

Having re-read the epic tournament rules, in my game with Craig we had deployed both obstacles and ships incorrectly. This time, we got it right, which made it easier to make a clear space for the huge ships and larger amount of ships, but also by deploying ships in range 1-2 of the player edge gave us more options for deployment, and to jump in to the action quicker. James took initiative, and placed his GR-75 first. I placed mine opposite, but towards the middle of the mat a little more. I decided I didn’t want to risk getting pincered, so I decided to deploy all my ships in one block, and tackle him head on with my high firepower ships and wall of green dice on my Aggressors. This was my second mistake, and a much bigger one! I chose Aggressors in the first place (especially IG-88C) with Ion Cannons so they could boost across the board and take down the GR-75 together. However, I foolishly thought that without a native target lock or ability to use focus tokens, combined with it’s limited firing arc, the Death Merchant wouldn’t be much of a threat. I heavily underestimated the Death Merchant. This was my third mistake.

I kept Emon Azzameen to one side, hoping to swoop past and drop a Proximity Mine, and N’Dru Suhlak out of the way ready to swoop in beyond range 2 of my forces and assassinate a target with Cluster Missiles.

WP_20160312_001All ships deployed

WP_20160312_002All ships deployed

WP_20160312_003A close up of James’ fleet

WP_20160312_004A close up of my block of ships I was hoping would overwhelm James with fire power. Big mistake!

The Game

As per usual with X-Wing, there was no combat in round 1 (apart from a range 5 shot on Kavil from the Death Merchant) with my large ships edging just 1 forward, and the block of Kihraxz Fighters moving 2 or 3 forward. The attack didn’t hit Kavil, but Bossk did give the Death Merchant a target lock for next time. Round 2 however, the action began to unfold rather quickly.

WP_20160312_005The battle at the start of the combat phase during round 2

James’ ships moved first, and I expected the Kihraxz Fighters to move 2 forward and meet me head on for a range 1 joust, but instead they went 3 forward, and a wave of target locks appeared on Moralo Eval. When it was my turn to activate, IG-88A crashed in to the fighters, causing a 3 car pile up with Moralo Eval and Kavil crashing behind him. IG-88C was able to get an action, and I decided to focus on Graz the Hunter, as he has a habit of sticking round until the end of the game with his awesome pilot ability. To my left, Emon Azzameen managed to get in range, and to my right I had crashed my Kiraxz fighter in to an M3-A, again expecting James to move slower than he did. I used the Vasudra to co-ordinate and give Moralo Eval a target lock, as at this point I was desperate to do some damage!

This round hurt! All 6 Kihraxz Fighters fired on either Moralo Eval or IG-88C, and as the YV-666 only has one green dice it had no shields left on it at the end of the round. I rolled a focus and 2 blanks for the first evade roll on IG-88C, and that about sums up my luck with green dice for most of this game! The Death Merchant fired another shot across the board at Kavil, and this round ended with my Kihraxz Fighter and Kavil with a damage card each, and two of my large ships on reduced shields. James had only lost shields on a couple of his Kihraxz Fighters. James had strength in numbers in a straight up joust, and I paid for that.

WP_20160312_006The battle at the start of the combat phase during round 3

First blood went to me during the activation phase, as I accidentally ran over one of the Kihraxz Fighters with the Vasudra! But James’ used all but one of his Glitterstims, including one he’d put on the Death Merchant this round, and this helped him secure more kills.

My plan had been to keep Kavil close to the the Vasudra, so with a co-ordinate action he’d have a focus to use the Blaster Turret and a target lock to modify dice. But it was out of range, and an unmodified attack against a Kihraxz with Glitterstim was disappointing. I got a few average shots off with IG-88A and Moralo Eval, and as I was out of his arc, I managed to finish off Graz the Hunter with Emon Azzameen. N’Dru was in range, but to close to Kavil to get all his bonuses, and his attack bounced of the Glitterstim’d Kihraxz.

But despite the early kill, this round hurt me more, as Graz had already damaged Moral Eval, and Torkil Mux finished him off with his Twin Laser Turret. The Death Merchant finished Kavil off from across the board, and IG-88C with it’s second hardpoint weapon. His M-3A’s finished off my Kihraxz. I had lost 4 ships compared to 2 of his, and three of my tankiest ships to boot.

WP_20160312_007End of round 4, with dials down for round 5

In round 4 I managed to drop a Proximity Mine under Talonbane with Emon’s choice of templates and got a juicy crit, making him pilot skill 0, and IG-88A took a hammering and dropped to 2 hull remaining. Disheartened by James’ excellent green dice rolling and my earlier major mistakes, I decided to hit the ‘f*ck it’ button and used Tomaas Azzameen to give a Kihraxz Fighter an ion and stress token, with the aim to run it over next round. I believe this was one of two rounds where the Death Merchant was running low on energy, but as nothing was threatening it, it was an easy round to recharge.

WP_20160312_008End of round 5, and the board is thinning out

In round 5, James moved Torkil Mux close to the ionned Kihraxz Fighter, and I ran over and destroyed them both, luckily taking no damage to the Vasudra. I had done a hard 3 turn with N’Dru to get round the asteroid, and luckily missed him with the Vasudra. Emon and N’Dru were able to finish off Talonbane. The Vasudra was the only valid target at this point for James and it’s shields were wiped out.This left me with 2 ships with firing arcs compared to his 5. It was not looking good for me.

WP_20160312_009End of round 7 with dials down for round 8

In round 6, the bottom left Kihraxz Fighter did a K-turn but overshot, and was off the board. One less threat for me to deal with! I used my Tibanna Gas Supplies to get a full tank of energy. I ionned the nearest Kihraxz Fighter, and it crashed in to me and took damage. However, I did the same thing in round 7 and it had a nice range 1 shot at me, and combined with a shot from the Death Merchant, the Vasudra took it’s first damage cards of the game. In round 8 I managed to unload Cluster Missiles on the Death Merchant with Glitterstim (but without N’Dru’s bonus dice), and although I managed to get 3 damage on the hull, it was too little too late at this point, and the Death Merchant used Arns Grimraker to damage N’Dru. He was finished off by an M3-A.

WP_20160312_010The Azzameens are hutned down

The rest of the game was fairly cat and mouse. The M3-A’s were out of range of my rear firing arc on Emon Azzameen, and certainly out of range of my last Proximity Mine, so I decided to try and turn round to use my Cluster Missiles, and get the Vasudra nice and close for support. James was able to repair his ship with WED-15 repair droid as he moved, and the Death Merchant and the M3-A’s took pot shots where they could.

WP_20160312_011The Azzameen’s last stand

During Emon’s last turn, I managed to take down an M3-A that had previously run over an asteroid, but the Kihraxz Fighter I’d previously managed to ion and stress repeatedly finally came round the corner, and Emon was destroyed. Obviously, James had won, but we played on to see how long it would take to destroy the Vasudra. It took about 3 turns with the recover actions I was taking (minus 1 energy for a reactor leak.) Complete destruction!

WP_20160312_013James with 3 ships left on the board

 

Conclusion

All in all, we really enjoyed the game and we really enjoyed the Scum GR-75 conversion kit. More on my thoughts on the kit in a later article, but it felt well balanced, fitted well in to the game, played well and I would have no objection to using it as a regular house rule. I was very impressed with the Death Merchant. As I said before, I didn’t think it would be much of a threat so I left it alone. However, it had at least one shot pretty much every turn, James didn’t run out of energy as often as I thought he would, and the Death Merchant pumped out a lot of damage over the game. Arns was a worthwhile 15 points despite only being used a few times. The whole build is not something to take lightly.

I’m kicking myself for the lack of ships in my build and a few stupid moves I made, but credit must also go to James for playing well. I look forward to a rematch.

Scum GR-75 kit builds

Part 2 of 4 in a series on the GR-75 Scum conversion kit

Following on from my previous article on the custom Scum & Villainy GR-75 kit on the FFG forums, I have been creating some sample GR-75 builds. I’ve not got much experience with ships with hardpoint weapons, so my first thought that most of the kit is redundant as without a target lock action and no Scum ships that give target locks out to friendly ships, there is limited potential to modify dice- and let’s face it; with just a regular sized firing arc at the front of the ship, but with the manoeuvrability of a huge ship, every time something is in arc- you need to make it count!

However, after looking at the hardpoints, I did see some potential, so here for your viewing pleasure are some of the potential builds I have thought up:

The heavy gun boat

HeavyGunboat

This beast comes in at a whopping 105 points, which on the surface seems like way too much. But a naked CR-90 comes out at 90 points, with just it’s primary turret weapon. For the extra 15 points, you’ve filled out every upgrade slot. You can do two attacks per turn (three on the turn you use “Hot Shot Blaster”) and have some dice modification ability thanks to Bossk (as you are a huge ship, you don’t suffer the stress token and don’t get the focus token, but you do get the target lock) and the Gunnery team. If the dice still fail you, the Quad Laser Cannons allow you to spend one energy to fire them again, so you are looking at a potential 4 shots in the worst case scenario. You also have Tibanna Gas Supplies for that turn where you really need some energy for the guns, and automated protocols for free recover and reinforce actions. The Quad Laser Cannons also work really well with Arns Grimraker, as it’s within his range 1-3 restriction, so it’s not the end of the world if a ship dodges your firing arc. Arns works like the Gozanti Dual Laser Turret, so can fire outside of either section of the ships base.

This thing will burn through energy though. Three of your cards cost 1 energy to use, and the Quad Laser Cannons cost an energy to fire and an energy to re-fire if they miss. You may find that Optimized Generators is a better choice of modification, so you can move energy on to the weapons knowing you’ll still be able to get energy for the ship and the other abilities that need it. You probably won’t have much energy left for recover actions, so you shouldn’t miss Automated Protocols too much.

You may also find engaging ships at range 1-2 a bit risky, especially with no agility, a very limited dial, and only a forward facing arc. For an extra 2 points over Quad Laser Cannon, you may find it better to equip 1 or 2 Single Turbolasers, which are rubbish against high agility ships, but allow you to attack huge ships (your ideal situation) or even large ships like Decimators and Falcons at range. If you go for 2 Single Turbolaser, you could easily drop Arns Grimraker and save 15 points, and free up a crew slot for Shield Technician or WED-15 Repair Droid.

 

The light gun boat

LightGunboat

I’m not as keen on this build, as there’s no dice modification apart from attacking again with Quad Laser cannon, but at 59 points it’s a huge ship with controlled regen (thanks to Automated Protocols and Shield Technician.) I want the Black Sun Escort Q-Ship to be a thing. I want Scum GR-75’s with a firing arc to be a thing (it’s so Scummy to stick a firing arc on a transport!) I like the paint scheme on the Black Sun ships, and I’d like to get another GR-75 and paint the logo on to match, but I’m not convinced this is a great use of 59 points.

The Black Sun Escort Q-Ship I think will require proper play testing to find the sweet spot. I’m thinking start off even lighter (GR-75, the title, Single Turbo Laser and possibly Optimized Generators for 48/53 points), keep it at the back to pick on the low agility ships at range, and see how many upgrades I can add before it becomes a waste of points. My issue with keeping it at range is you loose the ability to use co-ordinate and jam actions, which are what make the GR-75 surprisingly useful.

 

The cheap battering ram

CheapBatteringRam

It’s not exactly cricket, but this build is all about overlapping small and large ships, removing them in one shot! It really needs a few ships dealing out ion tokens to pin them in place (Y-Wings with ion turrets for 23 points anyone?) as once they are ioned, they are sitting ducks. With the engine booster, you can cover a decent amount of distance on the board. WED-15 will help you fix the crits, and you might consider a Tibanna Gas Supplies at 4 points to make sure you have enough energy to fix the crits you will take from battering ships with your hull. Automated Protocols and Shield Technician will help protect you from fire from enemy ships, but are optional.

For an extra 12 points, you could take the Black Sun Escort Q-Ship title and an Ion Cannon Battery so you can ion your targets yourself if you so wished. However, don’t be surprised if your opponent makes taking your GR-75 down his top priority if you use that tactic! You might also miss the energy you gain at speed 3 and 4 from the Vasudra title.

 

The support ship

SupportShip

As a fan of the X-Wing Alliance PC game, this is one of my favourite builds as the Scum title and crew are taken from it. This transport is designed to follow your squad in to battle, taking advantage of the modified jam action and also using Frequency Jammer to stress an additional ship. Co-ordinates also come in useful, and my usual party trick of Automated Protocols and Shield Technician help keep the ship alive.

 

Look out for match reports as I test these builds out. Have you tried the Scum GR-75 kit? Let me know your thoughts below.

Vasurda- this is Echo Base. You are clear for take off!

Part 1 of 4 in a series on the GR-75 Scum conversion kit

So I have agreed to an epic game with James in order to playtest the fan made GR-75 scum conversion kit, marked as a stop gap measure to give the Scum faction a huge ship until FFG release one. After a bit of dilberation on who got to fly the scum fleet and gets to do the testing, James came up with the idea of let’s both run Scum. He will test a GR-75 with a title that gives it a firing arc, and I will fly one without. This way, we both get to fly scum, and we get to playtest more of the kit.

Having read through the kit, I’ve found a couple of cards that raise a few questions, so I’ve whipped up a quick FAQ (see below.)

Match report and a full review to follow the game, which will be a new blog post. If any new FAQ items appear, I’ll update them here.

scumgr-75faq1

History:

v1.02: Added clarification on using Bossk crew

v1.01: Added update on Tomaas Azzameen and frequency jammer

v1.00: FAQ created

Epic Play – Epic Fun!

And so the challenge has been completed, and my epic game against Craig has been played at OG Games. Craig fully seized this rare opportunity to play epic, and ran both the Imperial Raider-Class Corvette and Gozanti-Class Cruiser. Unfortunately, this didn’t leave him with squad points for much else, leaving him with Darth Vader with the usual upgrades and four ace Tie Fighters, which he docked on his Gozanti.
I, on the other hand, had abused the Rebel’s buffing abilities, with 4 of my small ships with the ability to buff other ships, and a filthy build on Ten Numb that allowed me to roll 6 red dice with a target lock with help from Jan Ors (see rules queries below.) My GR-75 was quite light, with Toryn Farr to harass the small ships, and Automated Protocols, Shield Technician, Tibanna Gas Supplies and Quantum Storm to keep energy fully charged and the shields fully up.

Setup

We deployed the 12 obstacles on the 6′ x 3′ play area (10x 3D asteroids using bases from the original core set, and 2x custom Class-A cargo containers.) As I only had one epic ship, I immediately had the advantage as my movement wasn’t as restricted, and I proceeded to place most of my obstacles along Craig’s play edge to restrict the movement of his epic ships. As per the epic tournament rules (which we decided to use as they make the game more fun- mainly because epic ships start with full energy), huge ships deploy first, so Craig placed his pilot skill 2 Gozanti in a nice place near the middle edge of one mat. I placed my GR-75 in the middle of the mat, and Craig placed his Raider near the corner of the mat, away from the Gozanti. The fact huge ships are deployed first then put Craig at a huge disadvantage, as I had brought 8 small ships, so I then placed all of these together, with a nice clear run to storm the board and attack the rear of the Raider. The huge ships don’t turn very far or fast (both speed banks are about 30 degrees turn) which would make it very difficult to react to my small ships movement. Craig placed Darth Vader next to the Raider to help defend it, but he was heavily outnumbered.

WP_20160126_001Initial deployment of the ships

WP_20160126_002A close-up view of my ships in formation

The match

For the first two rounds, everything inched forward, going no faster than speed 3. On the second round, most of my ships were able to get a target lock on Darth Vader, and on round three, Craig went 5 forward, hoping an aggressive move would put him in a position to take on some of my ships. Unfortunately, he hit Ten Numb, lost his actions, and was a viable target for my other 7 ships. Darth Vader did not last the round!

WP_20160126_005Darth Vader ahead of my B-Wings with six target locks on him, shortly before his demise!

Craig then managed to land a hit with Ion Cannon Battery on Ten Numb, giving him an ion token. I failed to compensate for this adequately with the left side of my formation, causing Etahn A’baht to crash in to the back of Nera Dantels, and some of the other ships crashed too, denying me actions, and causing some of my ships to be unable to hit the Raider, either due to being out of range or out of arc.
This caused me no end of problems- every single round from getting that ion token, I crashed at least one small ship into another one of my own.
As the rounds passed, I began to chip away at the Raiders aft. I lost some of my synergy with Airen Cracken being out of arc and not able to give free actions having not attacked, and Craig had plenty of energy to both fire his secondary weapons and get a recover action in. The shop owner had been watching and helping us with the epic rules, and pointed out the Raider can attack twice with it’s primary weapon, and said it could attack with the primary weapon out of the arcs at the aft (this is incorrect- see rules queries below.) This did give him some extra shots at me, but as it can’t be used at range 1 this did limit him a bit as I had some ships at range 1.

Meanwhile, the Gozanti crept closer to the action, and my GR-75 was floating around not doing much. Craig got a few pot shots at the GR-75 thanks to the equipped turret on the Gozanti, but I was able to recover the shields without issue. When he got a bit nearer, he was able to deploy two of the docked Tie Fighters. As he removed them from the Gozanti model, one of them flew across the shop and broke! Those docking clamps are well and truly holding those fighters!

Space for the Tie Fighters was limited, and Craig had to barrel roll them to successfully deploy them. Unfortunately for the Ties, as the GR-75 is a higher pilot skill than the Gozanti, the Tie’s were in range 1-2, which gave me a perfect opportunity to do a jam action and give one of the Tie’s two stress tokens. With the Raider’s aft nearly crippled, I had ships to spare to turn round and attack the Tie Fighters. Next round, I was able to jam the second Tie Fighter with my GR-75, and without evade tokens they didn’t last long.

WP_20160126_007The Tie Fighters have been deployed and are advancing!

As the game progressed, I crippled the aft of the Raider, and Craig deployed the remaining two Ties from the back of the Gozanti, to try and intercept me from behind the Raider. I had difficulty getting my ships round to attack the front of the Raider, mainly bumping in to my own ships, but also Nera kept hitting the back of the Raider. Craig was slowly chipping through my ships with the Raider, at this point having removed Ten Numb and Etahn A’baht. I decided to pin the Raider, and charged the GR-75 forward 4, blocking the Raider. I then kept moving forward slowly with the GR-75, pinning the Raider in place for 4 turns so I could get my small ships round. This did mean the GR-75 kept taking a faceup damage card- but so did the Raider’s fore section! Some of them were nasty, to the point where the Raider couldn’t recover shields anymore. Thanks to my automated protocols, the GR-75 kept recharging it’s shields to full between attacks from the Gozanti turret. It really wasn’t bothered about the turret.

Jake Farell cleared the top of the Raider to get out of the way of my other small ships, and was chased by the two Tie Fighters. I left Corran Horn and Jan Ors to deal with the Ties, whilst I struggled to get my other ships in place to destroy the Raiders fore. Jan’s ion turret harassed one of the Tie’s, and Nera managed to focus, get a free target lock from the GR-75 (finally in range to do a cordinate!), and one shot a Tie Fighter with a proton torpedo from her arse (Craig’s green dice abandoned him this game!) Dutch Vander finally finished off the Raider, leaving a damaged Tie Fighter and the Gozanti (which was untouched, and moving on to the second mat we’d not used all game!) We had to end the game at that point, ending in victory for the Rebels. We both agreed we really enjoyed the game.

Man of the match

Man of the match (or in this case woman of the match) has to go to Jan Ors. I put her in the list purely to dish out an extra attack dice, but I only used that ability twice. She got a couple of ion shots on the Raider, reducing it’s ability to recover shields, but she also gave the Tie Fighters a really hard time.

Thoughts on the GR-75

The GR-75 is the only epic ship I own, and I bought it as it looked more useful than the CR-90. I wasn’t wrong! I had a really useful assortment of options at my disposal, but it didn’t appear that threatening (especially compared to Ten Numb who had the ability to do a 5 dice attack.) I’ll be honest, if I was fighting against my list, I’d have been tempted to leave it alone till later. With Craig only flying 5 small ships, I realised Toryn Farr wouldn’t be that useful, and as Craig had Youngster equipped with Marksmanship, I wasn’t in a position to exploit tokens on the small ships at all (all he did was barrel rolls and marksmanship, which to be fair were effective options.) The GR-75 was out of range for most of the game, so it did very little other than take hits from the Gozanti then recover lost shields. I was very wary of taking a faceup damage card from the asteroid by veering to the left to support my ships, so I moved the ship gingerly around it. This meant I was able to do very little with it, but the two jam actions and two or three coordinate actions were helpful. If there were more enemy ships on the board, it would had to have been much closer to my small ships to earn it’s squad point cost. But all in all, it was a lot of fun to play.

Thoughts on epic

As we were playing we were talking to the shop owner, and we think we got the rules on energy wrong (see section on rules queries at the end of this article.) Epic X-Wing isn’t played as much, and the rules aren’t as common knowledge. The way we were playing meant the huge ships had more energy, and we felt Craig was at a disadvantage with two huge ships on the board. If we’d followed the rules correctly, his ships would have been even more nerfed. We concluded that the player with more epic ships is at disadvantage- which is a huge shame as they are a lot of fun to play, and the player shouldn’t be punished for piloting something that takes skill to fly (balancing out energy, multiple upgrades, a new manoeuvre template and trying to line up multiple firing arcs and ranges) and a significant squad points investment. They also suffer as they can’t use focus tokens so it’s harder to modify attack dice, although there are some options available (such as Gunnery Team or using Weapons Engineer and maintaining two target locks.) And I’d like to see more epic games and huge ships on the boards.
Huge ships are very fun despite not being as competitive. A compromise could be players agree to field equal epic points (when FFG update the epic rules to declare how many epic points the Gozanti cruiser is worth) to make it fair, and give people a chance to play their epic ships. For example, if my opponent was to fly an Imperial Raider at 3 epic points, then I’d agree to fly a CR-90 at 3 epic points.
I initially felt that Automated Protocols was over powered, as I was able to do useful actions such as jam, then recover any damage and not waste any extra energy thanks to my Shield Technician. All huge ships have at least 4 shields, and most ships can’t do more than 4 damage, so a single ship can hit a huge ship all day and not scratch the hull with free recover actions. But thinking about it for a few days- that’s the point. These are frigates. A single ship isn’t supposed to be able to take it out on it’s own. And since I’ve been complaining that huge ships are underwhelming, perhaps this is the fix they need to make them competitive. Yes, the fact my GR-75 wasn’t spending energy to perform attacks and was never short of energy thanks to the Quantum storm title helped keep the shields up, but the Raider would have been much more effective if it could target lock, perform a free recover action, and then reinforce!
I also suffered from the usual problem of fielding too many ships with special abilities, forgetting to get free target locks when Dutch did a target lock, and forgot to change some of the hits that Etahn A’baht changes in to crits. It takes some getting used to fielding an epic amount of ships!

Laser line of sight tools are amazing for measuring centre- centre (to see if the blue centre line obstructs an attack on a section or not.)

I personally feel 12 obstacles is too much when huge ships are in play, and this is something I will look to house rule.

Finally, the quality of the docking clamps was a bit disappointing on Craig’s Gozanti. Yes, I know they have to compete against gravity, but if the clamps are so stiff that the Ties have to come out with force which causes them to bounce across the shop floor and break, that’s also a problem!

Conclusion

Thanks to OG games for letting us use a huge amount of space, helping with the epic rules, and thanks to Craig for a fun game with huge ships! I’m looking forward to my next epic game and play testing this: https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/176904-stop-gap-measure-for-sv-epic-ships-house-rules-for-sv-gr-75-transport/

Rules queries that arose

A few things that came up during the game (which I’ll try and get answers for and post here):

  • Can a Gozanti Cruiser use the Dual Laser Turret from either section of the ship? It says you can perform the attack outside of your firing arc, but there’s only a firing arc printing on the fore section. And as the Gozanti only has one ship card, technically it’s not equipped (so therefore not limited to?) to one section of the ship. It specifically says in the booklet included with the Gozanti that the Dual Laser Turret is measured from the closest point of the base, so can be used from either section.
  • Can the Imperial Raider fire it’s primary weapon from the aft arcs? The attack value is only printed on the fore card, so I think no, but the booklet that comes with the Raider is ambiguous and doesn’t specifically say no. This has been clarified by FFG that it can only fire the primary weapon from the fore arc- see page 4, post number 64 on this thread https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/185309-can-the-raiders-primary-weapon-be-fired-from-the-aft-sections-firing-arcs/page-4
  • Do upgrade cards like hardpoints with a printed energy value increase the overall energy limit of a ship? The GR-75 titles are pretty obvious with the + symbol meaning the ship can carry extra energy, but the hardpoints have just a number on them. We were discussing if these hardpoints can hold extra energy beyond the ships base energy value, or if that’s just the maximum value of energy the hardpoints can hold, and this comes out of the ships total maximum energy cost. The hardpoints do increase the energy limit, but only for those weapons (so energy on hardpoints can’t be used to perform a recover action, for example.) This thread covers it, apart from they are wrong about starting energy on weapons in epic tournamanet rules (these have now been changed so you start with full energy on secondary weapons https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/184838-epic-play-energy-question/.) I’ve also checked this with the Grid who sometime run epic tournaments, and they agree this interpretation is correct.
  • Some general confusion over energy transfer. We decided a few rounds in it’s fairly well written in the rules- you gain energy to the ships card in one step, then allocate to the hardpoints in the next. It does seem to nerf the epic ships again though- for example, if the Raider had 5 out of 6 energy on the ship card and it’s hardpoints were empty, then executed a manoeuvre that gained it 3 energy, it would add one energy to the ship card then discard the other 2 energy. It can then allocate energy from the ship card to the hardpoints in the next step, but that 2 energy lost might have been useful to recover shields. Instead, we just let the spare energy go straight to hardpoints (as long as it didn’t exceed the value of the ship card and hardpoints.) Even playing the energy rules in this incorrect (but generous configuration), the Raider seemed a bit lacking.
  • I’ve just read today that you have to spend 2 energy to fire the Raider’s primary weapon a second time. That seems to nerf the Raider even more. It seriously chews through energy!
  • We also got the obstacle deployment rules from the epic tournament rules wrong, which meant the obstacles were more spread out than they should be, restricting the huge ships
  • My filthy build with Ten Numb should only be 5 dice with a target lock unless at Range 1, as I failed to read that expose only works with primary weapons.

The gauntlet has been thrown down!

The buildup to my latest epic X-Wing dogfight

I have an addiction. And that addiction is the Star Wars X-wing Miniatures Game. Those little plastic ships are my crack-cocaine.

I loved Star Wars as a kid, but when it comes to gaming, I’m definitely a late bloomer. My brother and I got coaxed in to a Games Workshop by a man when we were about 10 years old saying “Do you want to play some games?” (sounds a bit creepy by today’s standards) and I’ll be honest- as we had our demo, neither of us had a clue what the fuck was going on. I’m now 26, I still don’t have a clue how the fuck Warhammer 40k works, and I have no interest in a game that I have to build, paint and have to read a rulebook which I could quite easily lodge into someone’s skull every time Games Workshop feel they need to milk their players some more and bring out a new one.

But, by chance, I came across the X-wing Miniatures Game in my local comic book store, then bought it from Waterstones when I had the money for it and said comic book store was sold out! Unbeknown to me, this was just after Wave 2 came out. I honestly had no idea where it would lead, but it was only £30 and I got to play with toy Star Wars ships- so it was worth a go right?!?

It has now exploded somewhat- I own at least one of every Rebel ship bar two, every Scum and Villainy ship, and duplicates of some of them. And as much as I really like pushing plastic ships about the board, what I really like is creating lists- combining ships and upgrades in an ongoing quest to see what works and what doesn’t (much like the Pokemon cards and Beyblades of my youth.)

But I find 100 points too constricting. I play in tournaments and I enjoy it, but I don’t feel there’s enough potential for builds. Support ships, such as Jan Ors in the HWK-290, take up too much of the 100 point limit for my liking, and a 3′ x 3′ board is too small to hide her on. My favourite format is epic dogfight, and without a timelimit- something there’s not as much of written on the internet, and something I’d like to write more of. Which brings me to what this article is all about.

The Story so far

My first ever epic game we don’t talk about anymore! We were still learning the finer points of the core game, and making the odd stupid mistake with the rules. But my friend Luke had just bought a Tantive IV expansion pack, so we tried a 2 v 2 team game (Scum and Villainy vs Rebels.) Two things I would say to anyone thinking about trying epic: make sure you are really comfortable with the core rules, and make sure you have lots of space for your ship cards! If you don’t have an epic ship (like the Scum and Villainy faction) you will need a LOT of room!

My second epic game I played early this year (1v1 with 300 points each), for which myself and Luke travelled to Twisted Comics in Doncaster. The only rules we got wrong is the starting edge and the number of obstacles. This time, I was Rebels and I flew the CR-90. What I didn’t think about was the way the huge ships turn. I placed it right near the edge of the board, and when I turned- well, you can guess what happened with a little under half my squads points. And who won the game…

WP_20150726_001My second epic game setup and ready to go at Twisted Comics in Doncaster

While I had it on the board the CR-90 wasn’t that impressive, and even as the CR-90 sailed past the enemy fleet, I only got two out of four potential attacks off, and it had very little impact on the enemy. The game took about 4 hours, and set-up took ages as we weren’t prepared.

My next attempt at epic, I finally had hold of two E-wing expansions. This time we went to The Grid in Doncaster. I was playing James who had never played epic before, so I took this as a chance to play pretty much all of my favourite ships, dripping in upgrades. Stupid amounts of them. I only had 8 ships in a 300 point match! I think Corran Horn was 44 points on his own (clearly not a smart move in a timed tournament scenario.) I didn’t expect to win, I just wanted to fly some combos I knew would work well and would be fun to fly. Unfortunately, I ran out of points and couldn’t fit in my favourite ship from the film (a Y-Wing.)

WP_20150926_001The ships are put together and obstacles placed, just waiting to deploy ships at The Grid, Doncaster

The result was probably the most fun game of X-Wing I’ve played to date! Although I won, the enjoyment was more down to the fun of highly manoeuvrable ships (such as an A-Wing that could boost and barrel roll and a YT-2400 with a boost) and some of the powerful synergy that the Rebel builds can bring (such as rolling 5 red dice from a B-Wing each turn thanks to Heavy Laser Cannon and Jan Ors trailing behind doing 1 speed moves.) The whole game took about 4 hours again, set-up was much quicker as we’d separated our squads out the night before.

The game got me hooked on epic and the potential to create really devastating combos.

Challenge… accepted!

So with this in mind, I bought the Rebel Transport expansion pack. It looked incredibly dick-ish. Use the jam action to stress enemy ships, then use slicer tools to give them unavoidable damage. What I didn’t realise at the time was as it only has one ship card I can only do one action per turn. But at 30 points, plus 5 points for automated protocols, I can build a ship that is tough, can go round the board giving out free actions to other ships with the co-ordinate action, then ‘heal’ itself by recovering shields. I think for 35 points this will work well. The hard bit is what to sacrifice from my last over-the-top squad to fit it in.

So Craig, who also frequents the new local games store OG Games, has agreed to play me at an epic game. We shall see what horror I can inflict on him with the GR-75. And he is trying out both of the Imperial’s huge ships himself. This could get messy…

Battle report to follow.