This past weekend, I went to a regional tournament for this little tabletop game I play called X-Wing. As Steven puts it, you push little plastic spaceships around an oversized mousepad for an hour until one of you loses more ships than the other. This is going to be a (probably not quick) write-up of my first Regional experience.
I’ve been playing this game since June 2015, but I took a rather long break (about 8 months, I would say?) from the actual competitive field from around February 2016 to October 2016. I first went to Excelsior on October 6, 2016, and I haven’t looked back. As a side note, everything good in my life recently has stemmed from Excelsior; both my new friends and my boyfriend are all due to that little spaceship game. In fact, Steven’s one of the hosts of the Birmingham Barons X-Wing Podcast, so if you’re looking for some more information on the game, or if you’re looking to listen to one of the best X-Wing podcasts out there (and trust me, I’m not being biased here at all!), give them a try.
I’ve attended one store championship before, at Excelsior back in July 2017, but I had never been able to attend any of the regionals, even though several are within day-trip distance, because I work Saturdays (oh, the joys of being part-time without a “big-girl job”). I asked off for Saturday, February 3, however, because there was a regional taking place in Atlanta, Georgia, and I wanted to experience it.
I will say that there really isn’t a good way to prepare for a regional, or really any competitive game. You can play with your friends and acquaintances all you want, but nothing is going to prepare you for everyone you might meet at a bigger tournament. Some people are going to be better than you, and some people are going to be much worse than you. The majority of them are going to smell.
That’s something I was warned about, but wasn’t actually prepared to encounter: the smell of 134 nerdy men all crammed into one room. (There were 138 participants in total, but only four of us were women.) By the end of the first round, the entire store started to smell absolutely rank. By the sixth and final round, it was almost like being smothered.
I ended up going 2-4 for the day, placing 96th overall (again, out of 138). I’m just happy I ended up in the top 100. My original goal was to be in the top 50, and I should have had an easy 3-3, if not 4-2, but my dice rolls in the first two matches were just absolute and utter garbage, which ruined my chances of getting anywhere. For the most part, I was happy with the matches I played. The majority of them required thinking. When a match doesn’t require thinking on your part, it’s either because you’re steamrolling someone or you’re being steamrolled by someone. Only two matches ended up that way for me, my second match (which I lost) and my last match (which I won in about 20 minutes).
I found that the hardest thing to do was keep my temper in two particular areas: dice rolls and BS lists. I’ve played a lot of games; maybe not a lot of games with my current list, but I’ve played a lot of games. I’ve never had my dice betray me so completely before, and that was hard to sit and watch the game spiraling quickly out of my control when I knew I was better at flying than the other person. They would make mistakes and I could not capitalize on it because the dice are fickle and betray you when you need them the most. As far as BS lists go, there were several that would have one killable ship to lure you in and then you could spend the rest of the match chasing their last remaining ship across the board only to have time either run out or they would destroy your final ship, too, winning the game for them.
My proudest point of Saturday is that I never went 0-100. That means I never went a single game without killing one or the majority of the other player’s ships. (Each ship is worth a particular point value; I was usually able to kill all but one of the other person’s ships before they shot me out of the sky.) I wrote down the names of everyone I played against and what lists they ran against me, so I wouldn’t forget what I played. Because believe me, by the time 6:00 p.m. rolls around and you’ve been playing non-stop since 10:00 a.m., you’re lucky if you remember your own name, much less all the lists you’ve played over the day. I’ll be looking over the lists that were flown against me to see if there’s anything I’d like to incorporate in a future list of mine. (Although I didn’t even come up with the list I ran on Saturday; that honor goes to Joel and Steven, with some slight tweaking from Andrew.)
So what did I gain from this experience?
- Some people don’t want to play the game, they just want to curbstomp you as hard as they can. They’ll put together the most meta lists in order to put you in your place and keep you there.
- Don’t be afraid to call the judge. It’s always better to have a neutral, third-party witness than to have one or the both of you be salty about the outcome of a game for months to come.
- Keep an eye on your opponent. You want to think that nobody will ever cheat, but the fact remains that there are some people who will take any opportunity to get to the top of the board. Don’t let them, if at all possible.
- But most importantly, have fun. Don’t beat yourself up over the small things, and don’t let yourself get too worked up, because then you’re just setting yourself up for failure in future rounds.
Would I do this again? Absolutely. Would I make sure I had more flight time on my list before I went into a tournament as big as this again? God, would I. I played all six rounds of Swiss, and did not make the cut, but I was perfectly okay with that. One of the Barons, Andrew (who runs the podcast along with Steven and Joel and also is the owner of Curled Paw Creatives, which provides high-quality acrylic templates and game tokens for not only X-Wing but other games as well along with posters and prints and more), ended up making the top 16 cut and playing until one in the morning, after which he won the whole freaking regional, going 10-0 undefeated to take home the top prizes.
This weekend was incredibly fun (and I ate way too much the entire time, because snacks and water are a MUST!), and I am a little sad I can’t go to the regionals that are coming up in the next few weeks. Steven and several of the Barons are going to the Nashville Regional this upcoming weekend, as well as the Covington, LA Regional two weeks after that. I, as unfortunately stated above, work a minimum-wage retail job and can’t afford to ask off on Saturdays or else I’ll risk being unable to pay my rent or my bills. I’m hoping that by the time the regional season comes around again, if not by the time the store championship season comes up this summer, I’ll have a “big-girl” job of working Mondays through Fridays and can have weekends all to myself for the first time since high school, if not longer ago.
I know this isn’t the type of thing I usually post here, but I figured I’d take a chance. If you’re at all interested in X-Wing, I’d say take a trip to your local comic shop and see if they’ve got anything there for you. It’s a pretty great community overall (of course, there are the creeps and losers, just as in every hobby). Maybe we’ll even meet across the table one day.
And as always, keep reading.