Joining us is Kevin Pederson, captain of Protea Prockets the Star Wars X-Wing Team and today we chat about their experience representing South Africa in the international X-wing Team Championship.
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Who are the Protea Prockets?
So basically, we’re the best of the best X-wing players in South Africa. Now I’m joking. We like to think we the best of the best. There are lots of good players out there in South Africa and we are the ones who volunteered to represent South Africa for the X-wing Team Championships. We had a bit of a selection process where anybody willing to commit to it because it is quite a big commitment to be available to play, at strange times, at least once a week and stick to a list that you were going to fly for a good two months. There’s a bit of commitment involved there. First of all, the first thing we said is who actually wants to be involved and we put that out to the whole community, we’ve got a WhatsApp channel that we use. We flooded both Joburg and Cape Town, which are the main two cities that play X-wing when we asked them who wants to be involved. Of those who’s put their hands up, we then went through a voting process to say, of, I can’t remember exactly how many people say 15 people were the seven people who are actually going to be selected as team members.
So in X-wing, there are seven factions and therefore we needed seven players, one to represent each faction as the XTC rules. On top of that we have two subs who can replace a team member at any one point in time, should something happen to them, it’s just it’s not a tactical sub, it’s more of this player can’t play, for some reason, whatever, so we’ve got two subs as well. That basically is the team structure.
Meet the Players
There’s me who’s playing the Galactic Republic (think prequel Anakin, young Obi-wan), which is Kevin Pedersen, then Brandon Carter, we have playing First Order (think Kylo Ren). Brandon and I started our X-wing, “career” together, we’ve been playing for about five years and when we first decided to play X-wing, we learned the game together ourselves. We’ve been good friends for many years.
Then we have playing Resistance (Poe Dameron, Rey) is Charlie Cloete. He’s our only person from Joburg who actually made it into the team. He won a massive tournament’s internationally recently, a few months ago, so he’s actually worldwide famous. And if you’d speak to some of the other teams internationally, they know Charlie, but don’t know any of the rest of us, which is quite cool. They’re all scared of Charlie.
Then we have Pierre Lopes, as the Rebels (original trilogy, Luke Skywalker, Wedge etc) player. We have Michael Wells as the Scum and Villainy (the bounty hunters, Boba Fett, Bossk, Dengar) player, we have John McAlery as the Imperials (original trilogy Darth Vader, tie fighters) player and we have Peter Hayward finally is playing Separatists (the prequel trilogy roger robots). So they’re the seven main players, and then as subs, we have Nick Worsley and Carl Visagie as our two subs. That’s the team of nine.
What is the XTC?
The way it works is at the beginning of the week, you are given a team to play against and then the two captains of those teams get together and there’s a rigorous matching process where we decide who’s going to play against who, and each team member will play against one of their team members.
The strategy behind pairing.
It’s almost a game within a game as it were. I’m not going to explain the pairing process, right now, because it’s quite complicated, but it’s very fair, and it’s something that they’ve worked out over the years of organising the XTC. A lot of whether you win that round or not is down to the pairing process actually because obviously you’re thinking you’ll have teams that your faction will be really good against and you want to play against them, and vice versa. You have ones that are weak against them, they want to fly against you, so it’s how do you manipulate the pairing so that you get many good matchups compared to tough games for your teammates.
European Team Championships
It used to be the European Team Championships and included lots of different games like Warhammer Fantasy, Warhammer 40k. There was the army one that was there, anyway, there are lots of tabletop miniature games, basically. And they got people from all over Europe together and held these two tournaments in one big place. Then I think about a year or two years ago, it turned into the World Team Championships because then we started having people from America and Australia also wanting to join in. So it became the World Team Championships but still with all these different game systems.
This year, because of COVID we obviously can’t meet in person so it’s turned to remote and therefore each game system has broken off and done its own thing. The X-wing one is called the X-wing Team Championships (XTC). It’s the worldwide tournament, a team tournament should I say. It’s not an individual tournament, it’s a team tournament. That’s the one difference to normal X-wing, I would say.
Why did you want to compete?
I think it’s because we can! It’s always been so difficult to get to international tournaments, obviously, the expense alone of just flying to these places. It’s a lot. If you do want to fly abroad and spend that money, then you’ve got to convince your wife that you’re going there for games and not for shopping, right? That alone is a challenge.
I think this is the first time we would have been able to have so many people commit to a tournament. Even if you look at just a local tournament down at your local store, you might struggle to get like 15 or 20 people even to a local tournament. To have at least a minimum of seven people willing to fly to Europe, to play in a tournament would be nigh on impossible in South Africa, I would think. It’s very unlikely anyway.
Now it’s remote, it doesn’t cost us anything to travel, we’ve all got the equipment we need to do this. It’s just a matter of applying and representing South Africa.
How are your matches going?
We are just entering round four now. We’ve already had three rounds, each round is a week-long and we play against different country each week. We’re in a group of eight teams, we play seven other teams. The teams were played first, the first team we played was Iceland and we narrowly lost that ground, although we shouldn’t have there was there some controversy around one of the games where the game should actually have gone to South Africa, it was too late to intervene and it actually went to Iceland, so they won that round for free.
Then after that, we played Scotland, we won that one four-three.
Last week, we played Germany, who is one of the favourites, for the tournament, and again we narrowly lost that one four-three. Each round so far has been extremely close and been very enjoyable. I think we’ve actually surprised a few people with how good we are.
Where are you on the standings?
We’re pretty much mid-table so far. But again, there are still four more rounds left and I think we’ve faced two of the harder opponents in our group.
This week, we’re playing New Zealand, so the time difference there is going to be quite an issue. Going to have quite a lot of late games and games over the weekend, because of the time difference there. The matchups this week, look good, I think they look okay. New Zealand hasn’t particularly been doing well in the tournament so far. We feel confident this week that we’ll get the win here.
How can fan keep up with the team?
Most X-wing players are part of the International X-wing Whatsapp group and we post updates there. There is a website called thextc.space, so if you go on to that website, on the homepage itself, it’s got a listing of all the games that are that week, which is being streamed and it says who’s actually streaming them. You can go on there and have a look at what games you can watch, like today (Wednesday) six games are being streamed, tomorrow (Thursday) nine games are being streamed for example.
Our local streamer.
Most of our games are streamed by a local here in Cape Town, Arnie Nel. He has his own Twitch and YouTube channel. I think he prefers YouTube these days over Twitch. He streams live to YouTube so most of our games will be streamed by Arnie. When there are overlaps, usually one of the other streamers around the world will pick it up so you can watch all our games live. Obviously, with it being on YouTube, they’re there until they take them down, so they’re there for quite a while.
The first game is tomorrow night (Thursday), that’s actually me. I’m playing one of the team members tomorrow night. We have three on Friday and three on Saturday. We should know the result by Saturday afternoon.
Advise for new & returning players?
I would strongly advise going down to your local friendly gaming store and playing games there that’s the best way to learn is to play against other people.
If you’re brand new to the hobby then there’s lots of content on YouTube on how to play the game right from the basics. There’s this channel such as the Gold Squadron podcast channel, which really walk you through the baby steps of how to play the game.
Honestly, the best way to learn is, if COVID, allows getting down to your friendly local gaming store. There are always people there willing to help. We’re actually a very noob-friendly community we like helping new people. We’re not like some of the snobby nosed Games Workshop crowd. I know because I used to be in that crowd, not anymore, I’m an X-wing purist now.
We love helping the newer people learn the game and we don’t just curb stomp them, we do actually walk them through how to play the game because we always like to grow communities ourselves and it’s always nice to see new people come in.