Not every memorable story leads to a good win but every memorable win has a good story behind it. One tournament, three days, thirteen games, and 450 players provide all the necessary ingredients for a good story, and it is one that I still cannot believe I have the privilege to tell.
But therein lies the heart of the matter. Belief. If there is one thing that encapsulates my experiences at the 2018 X-wing European Championship last weekend, it is the ever present theme of belief and its inherent power to shape the way we process the world around us.
Beliefs are quick to form and hard to change, guiding the way we conduct ourselves in front of others. Beliefs persist even when epic memories fade with time, colouring our perceptions of people and recollection of events. Ultimately, three core beliefs are at the heart of this story.
- Belief in the Community
I have said it many times before and I will say it again: the X-Wing Community is the best international gaming community out there and it is the main reason I play this game. The level of camaraderie, sportsmanship, friendship, and occasional outright silliness never ceases to amaze me regardless of whatever premier-level competitive event that I attend anywhere in the World.
Things were no different at the 2018 European Championships and I can think of no better shining example of positive belief in the community than the outgoing European champion, George Dellapina. He personifies the very meaning of an all-inclusive, open-armed, “I’m going to envelop you in a massive hug of love” community that has endeared him to all of our hearts. He is a genius with a paintbrush, legend with a ship dial, and father to the current World Champion. Seriously, sometimes life isn’t fair is it?
It goes without saying that all 13 of my opponents over the weekend took a page out of George’s book and reinforced everything I believe about this community. I cannot hope to do everyone full justice in the confines of a few short paragraphs but I can at least try, having compiled the personal messages and match highlights into an addendum at the end of this article. Special mention must go to Adam Stainton, a true class act that took his unfortunate loss with the dignity and grace behoving a future X-Wing champion.
2. What Others Believe in You
When you cut through all the rules, templates, fancy dice and endearing space opera theme, X-Wing is fundamentally a game about reading people and understanding their beliefs in you, your skills, and your strategies. Games are won or lost on your ability to convince your opponent into believing that you are doing one thing only to surprise them with another.
However, more importantly, I have come to realise that there is no greater legal advantage you can have in a competitive match than to realise that you have others who are believing for your success, cheering on your every move, and supporting you through thick and thin. Professional footballers call it the 12th man.
Behind every successful competitor, there is a partner sacrificing yet another weekend to watch the kids, a significant other sending words of encouragement over Facebook, a mother watching the streamed game on Twitch with no idea what is happening apart from the fact that her son is pushing plastic ships around at the World championship and cheering every dice roll.
Behind every champion, there is a daughter giving their Daddy a drawing of him flying an X-Wing, a friend giving their mate a bottle of water at the Top table to ensure he’s hydrated, a squadron mate imparting words of wisdom before the final and then bear-hugging every success.
Behind every win, there is a belief from someone, somewhere, some time, that you deserved it and never doubted you could do it.
Therefore, to my wife, family and children, I could not be who I am today and achieve what I have without your belief in me and loving sacrifices all these years. You’ve made me a better man and for that I can only hope to repay a small part of that with my love.
To my Band of Brothers that is the 186th Squadron, your unwavering belief in me and support over the weekend carried me through every high and low, from the pits of despair to the heights of elation. Alex Birt, Andrew Pattison, Andy Brazier, Ben Taylor, Chris Millhouse, Cormac Higgins, Dale Cromwell, Gary Keenan, James Dowdall, Janus Avivson, Jason Cheung, Jesper Hills, Joel North, Jonny Oliff-Lee, Kristofer Bengtsson, Lloyd Boman, Mark Patterson, Martyn Chivers, Matt Button, Mike Dennis, Mishary Al-Faris, Nicholas Yun, Nigel Gray, Oli Pocknell, Paul Owen, Pete Wood, Phil GC, Riccardo Fabris, Simon Tournay, Steve Fase, Thomas Nelstop, Tom Duncan, Tom Tattersall, and Will Haslewood… I salute you all and am honoured to wear the colours!
3. Belief in Something Greater
Last but not least, belief in something greater than just a game is what keeps me going. Personally, being a Christian and my faith in God has helped pull me through countless disappointments and times when I thought I would never achieve anything, let alone some of the hardest life lessons outside of the flippant hobby of pushing plastic spaceships around on a table.
Regardless of what your beliefs are, be they Allah, Buddha, your family, humanity, atheism (or if you’re like Duncan Howard, the purported supreme being that is yourself…), believe in something greater than just this game. Because let’s face it, ultimately, when push comes to shove, being famous in X-wing is like being rich in Monopoly… it isn’t real :) There is so much more to life than just X-wing and putting it in perspective has helped me deal with all the joys and tribulations I have experienced over the past few years.
Personal Messages, Thanks & Game Highlights
Round 1 — Matt Jennings (UK) Corran, Poe & AP-5. It was great to get to know you and it’s amazing to see how far you’ve come in the 6 months that you’ve been playing. Loved the design of your list and AP-5 coordinating Corran to remove stress with inspiring recruit is genius.
Round 2 — Filippo Bosi (Italy) Rey & Lowhhrick. You are one of the pillars of the Italian X-wing community and an absolute pleasure to play. Generous, funny, and the epitome of ‘Fly Casual.’ My Inquisitor still has PTSD after THAT roll of 4 blanks…
Round 3 — Piotr Krzempek (Poland) Nym & Miranda (cluster bombs & experimental interface). One of the dreaded match-ups to my list… how I managed to pull this one out with my Quickdraw surviving to get his revenge on both your ships escapes me. Top player who knocked out no less than George Dellapina himself in the last round of Swiss.
Round 4 — Simeon ‘World Champion’ Dellapina (UK) IG-88 Control Bots “Of Jesper Hills Fame”. None other than the World Champion himself, Sim continued to show why he deservedly wears that crown by engineering clutch manoeuvre after clutch manoeuvre in our game to keep it razor tight. X-wing has a bright (and young!) future if he is at the head of it.
Round 5 — Simrandeep Pone (UK) Foss Palp Aces (mirror match). My only loss of the tournament and the person who mentored me by showing me how to tackle Nym & Miranda. Not just an X-wing legend but a Destiny legend as well, being the losing finalist in Destiny Nationals 2017.
Round 6— Giacomo Pasquini (Italy) Quickdraw & 2 crackshot HLC gunboats. Flew those gunboats like a boss, never letting me focus fire anything down and forcing me to keep switching target priority. Lovely guy to chat with and another integral part of the Italian X-wing community.
Round 7— Bob Dee (UK) Rey, Fenn, AP-5. No surprise, Bob was flying “the list formerly known as Bob’s list,” an ingenious creation that he popularised with success at various System Opens. A true statesman of the UK X-wing community, portraying all the values of sportsmanship, skill, and wisdom. His blog isn’t half bad as well.
Top 64— Andreas Osterroth (Germany) Fenn & Ghost (flight assist astromech). Having gotten a first round bye for Day Two (I finished 18th overall after Swiss) a well flown Fenn & Ghost was not exactly the 1st round match-up I was hoping for. Andreas can claim the (dubious) honour of never having lost to a 186th player before our match (even after multiple attempts by the famous Oli Pocknell) and showed it by flying an enthralling match that was decided by the finest of margins. A few millimetres to the left on a couple of occasions and it would have been a very different game…
Top 32— Chris Cowley (UK) Quickdraw (expertise, sensor cluster), Inquisitor, and Omicron Palpatine shuttle (99pts). This was mostly going to be a game about dice and Chris’s sadly started to go cold for him at the most critical periods in the game. Talented player who is a credit to the Meeples Squadron based in Oxfordshire, each of whom insisted on flying their own takes on popular meta-lists. Special mention must go to his fellow squadron mate, Phil Barber, who took Asajj, Fenn & Sunny Bounder (!) to 6–1 on the first day of Swiss. I salute you both!
Top 16 — Adam Stainton (UK) Nym (double proton bombs) & Miranda. This match will live long in my memory as the most intense and nerve-shredding experience in my entire X-Wing career. The fact that I didn’t succumb to all my pent-up emotions right until time was called at the end just goes to show what a top top gentleman Adam was, constantly maintaining a veneer of calm and generous sportsmanship over what must have been a sea of bubbling tension for both of us. I won’t go into the full details, as they have already been captured succinctly in Phil GC’s award-winning blog but suffice to say, I still do not know how I managed to win this one and deny Adam his rightful place in the Top 8.
Quarter-finals — Simrandeep Pone (UK) Foss Aces (again!) This was never going to be a carbon-copy of our Swiss game and we both tried different approaches, even though I ended up losing the initiative roll again and being given the initiative. I was sad one of us had to lose and I am in awe of how Simrandeep manages to maintain such a high-level standard of competitive play across none other than 2 separate gaming systems. Class act.
Semi-finals — THE Jack Mooney (UK) Fenn (R3-A2) & Ghost. Until very recently, Jack was the highest-placed British finisher at Worlds, having made Top 4 in 2016. An abundance of natural talent wrapped up in such an amicable character is always going to be a recipe for success and respect. Thankfully for us, his lack of practice gives us mere mortals a chance. For those spectating, our top four match was clearly a game of two halves. Jack out-flew me and out-diced me in the first half right until my shuttle died. Then, my Quickdraw refused to roll blanks on the receiving end of 6 consecutive TLT shots and proceeded to live long enough to pull-off the glorious front-back range one double-tap that all Quickdraw players fantasise about. Exploding ball of Fenn, limping Ghost to be finished off by the pesky Inquisitor.
Finals — Wouter Ouwehand (Netherlands) Palpatine RAClo & Quickdraw (Harpoon missiles, advanced optics, guidance chips). It is a testament to the ridiculous strength of the Dutch X-Wing contingent that both the Worlds and European finals this year had a Dutchman in it. Furthermore, all the unbeaten players in the Swiss were Dutch, reinforcing their elite status and somewhat mollifying the fact our current UK national champion is a Dutch Overlord, Faan Langelaan. Regardless, it was an honour to meet Wouter and he did his country proud by literally going unbeaten until our game. Phenomenal player achieving no small feat of taking a Decimator to the final of a major tournament. It was always going to be a tough match for him, as his Decimator did not have the ‘Dauntless’ title, meaning I could block him to kingdom come with the Inquisitor and shuttle combination, shielding Quickdraw from any nasty ‘I’ll Show You the Dark Side’ conditions. A fortuitous alpha-strike exchange between our Quickdraws meant that he was always on the back foot and his Decimator could not wreak havoc on my list.
I count myself privileged to be a part of this #TinyEuropeanMeta and this weekend has been the epitome of that experience. I’ve learnt lessons from everyone in the community and reinvigorated my love for the game, breathlessly waiting to get my hands on X-Wing 2.0 and meet up with future opponents, friends, and arch-rivals in tournaments to come.
After having come so close so many times, I never thought the day would come when I would finally win a major tournament… but with the right beliefs, the belief of others, and the belief in a World-class community, it’s amazing what you can achieve with just a little bit of luck.