We are about 30 minutes into the car journey when we come back around to talking about X-Wing. Gary starts to say something about the army list he is bringing, but hesitates. “I’m not really sure how much to say about how I’m going to play. We could end up playing each other.”
“Oh, come on,” I say. “We’ll keep it friendly, and sure what are the odds of us playing each other anyway?”
I have broken my rule about competitive play, and we are on our way to an X-Wing Store Championship, about an hour and a half from Cork. There isn’t any ‘local’ play in Cork, making it a reasonable enough drive to the nearest store that supports X-Wing. And that’s on Sunday, when traffic is negligible.
I’ve written about competitive play before, and how getting involved in a more ‘serious’ level of M:TG ended with my being put off the game for a long, long time. The trip to Limerick was in many ways, a big commitment. Of course we could have, and probably should have, gone on any other Sunday when the same store hosts casual X-Wing play. But doing things by half measures is a lot less fun. If you’re going to do something, do it in the way most likely to result in disaster. Which is something I never say, but a philosophy that a casual observer might swear I live by.
It being a Sunday morning, I did my best to bargain Gary up from a 9.15AM start, to a little later, but despite my best efforts, we still arrive at the store far too early, and use the opportunity for a pre-game coffee. On returning to the store it’s buzzing; filled with locals chatting, and unboxing swathes of wonderful ships I had never even see in person, let alone played against. The rest of the crowd being local, the store owner (Gary Jackson of The Gathering), introduced myself and Gary to everyone before the tournament. This was the first sign that maybe X-Wing was different, and genuinely had a good, fun, and friendly tournament scene, as I have heard online before.
Throughout the day, opponents would apologise after destroying my ships, freely give me advice, feedback after games, and in one instance, an upgrade card to improve my army list. After four games in a row (more than I had ever played in a week, let alone one day) I was exhausted, but completely won over. Playing at the store championships had really opened up the game, letting me see lists, ships and opponents I would not have otherwise. The big revelation though, was that it was possible to play at a competitive level and not come up against opponents who suck all the fun out of a game. I came 12th of out 12, and I would be happy to do it again tomorrow.
Except for the first game, of course, where I drew Gary as an opponent, and had to abandon my one good strategy, having gone over it in detail with him on the journey up. Hilarious though it was, that did suck.