Last time we talked about Star Wars: Armada, I was telling you all about the new toys that the evil forces of the Rebellion added to their fleet in the wave 1 release. Today we’re going to spend some time looking at the forces of order – The keepers of the peace, the long arm of the law… the Galactic Empire.
Doing more with less in true good guy fashion, the Imperial forces only included a single capital ship and a handful of fighters in the core set. New options for the existing ship are available in the Victory Class Star Destroyer expansion, and much needed reinforcements are available in the Imperial Fighter Squadrons pack. Additionally, a new class of capital ship has joined the Imperial fleet, the swift and deadly Gladiator Class Star Destroyer.
While not as fast as the Rebel’s CR90, the Gladiator can cover a lot of ground quickly, it can be extremely maneuverable, and it packs a punch when it gets to its’ target, as it carries more short range black dice than any other ship in the game. Yet with only one less hull and one less shield per zone than the new Assault Frigate Mk II, it’s no walk in the park to take a Gladiator down.
As Imperial players can already attest to with the VSD I, getting off a shot at short range using black dice can be devastating, but is easier said than done. That’s where the Gladiator’s title cards, Insidious and Demolisher, both come in handy. Contrary to other title cards, which seem to all change the role of the ship depending on which you take, both Gladiator titles seem to reinforce its’ role as a flanking ship. Insidious allows you to fire your black dice from further away than normal if attacking the rear hull zone, while Demolisher gives you the unique capability to make one of your attacks after you have executed a maneuver. I tend to take Demolisher on mine thus far, and to great effect (more on that further down). Insidious is a good deal cheaper, but I feel it will be much less effective; because it’s really hard to stay within medium range and behind a target that is moving away from you, you’ll usually be out at long range before you have an opportunity to fire.
Admiral Screed will probably be the Commander of choice for fleets that lean heavily on close range attacks. He allows you to remove a die that you have rolled to change a die to a crit, including the hit+crit face on black dice. That means you can potentially turn a hit and hit into a hit and a crit, a hit and a miss into a hit and a crit, or even two misses into a hit and a crit. Should you be so inclined to use Assault Concussion Missiles, that can in turn add an additional two damage on to your results.
But my money says you won’t be using those Assault Concussion Missiles. Instead, you’ll be more likely to take the new and Gladiator pack exclusive Expanded Launchers card if you’re going to fill that Ordnance upgrade slot. Same damage expected on an average roll (from the forward arc), a much higher ceiling, and that many more opportunities to trigger Admiral Screed off of a blank die.
The last upgrade card which is available only in the Gladiator is Admiral Chiraneau. Yes, X-Wing players, THAT Chiraneau. His ability is a little different in this incarnation though. What this card allows you to do is move your fighter squadrons activated during a Squadron command at low speed, regardless of the fact that they are already engaged. For ten points, this is an incredibly expensive ability, so don’t just take it for the heck of it. I don’t personally think it fits as well on the Gladiator. You’re going to want Chiraneau on a ship that is going to be doing all squadron commands, all the time, such as a Victory Class Star Destroyer with the Corrupter Title (more info on that below). There’s a devastating tag team partner for Chiraneau waiting in the Imperial Fighter Squadrons expansion too.
Going back to my original description of the Gladiator, I mentioned that it was pretty fast and maneuverable, even though its’ top speed is only 3 and it has no more than two total points of yaw at any speed. What gives, you ask? Engine Techs. Available in the Gladiator and Nebulon B Frigate expansions, Engine Techs allow you to make an additional speed 1 maneuver on any turn that you resolve a Navigate command or spend a Navigate token. And the Gladiator’s speed 1 maneuver includes two clicks of yaw. Chain everything together, and you can go from speed 1 to a temporary speed of 4 inside of a single turn, with a maneuver of – / I / I / II, an extra click at any one joint along the template, and combine it with the Demolisher title to take one of your shots after either the original move or the followup from the Engine Techs! Bonus combo: Don’t have a Navigate dialed up or token available? Keep an eye out for the Veteran Captain upgrade later in this article.
One last upgrade of note in the Gladiator: Sensor Team. Also found in the Assault Frigate Mk II, the Sensor Team upgrade lets you spend a die to change another die to a facing with an Accuracy result. This is potentially very useful on a ship like the Gladiator that doesn’t have a lot of potential for Accuracy results. Example: Your Gladiator II fires from the side arc, and rolls (Miss), (Hit+Crit), (Hit+Crit) on its’ black dice, and (Miss) on the red. Sacrifice the black Miss to turn the red Miss into an Accuracy, and block the Defense Token of your choice to make your damage count.
Moving on. The Victory Class Star Destroyer expansion, like both the Nebulon B Frigate and CR90 Corellian Corvette, have a large amount of overlap with the version from the core set, but there is a huge assortment of cards in this pack, including several upgrades that are unique to this pack that serious players are going to want. So don’t pass up on this pack just because you bought two core sets, because you’ll be missing out on several power cards.
Corrupter and Warlord, the two Victory Star Destroyer title cards in this expansion, allow you to tailor the combat role you look to fill with your ship. Corrupter beats you over the head with its’ core function, making TIE Bombers faster. It’s not all that impressive on its’ own, but if you include Admiral Chiraneau, from the Gladiator, suddenly that extra range makes for a vicious little combo to move your TIE Bombers away from enemy squadrons and make a bombing run on an enemy capital ship all at once! Warlord is best suited for the VSD II and its’ collection of blue and red attack dice – every die in that pool has a potential to roll an accuracy result that can be turned into a hit; and don’t forget that the double hit is a valid choice on a red die.
Admiral Motti is an all purpose passive upgrade for your capital ships, giving them all extra hit points. He’s also the cheapest Commander available to the Empire; there’s something to be said for that when you’re looking at a mandatory component.
Ion Cannon Batteries are an interesting upgrade. Triggering from a blue critical hit, they either strip a command token from the target, or deal an extra damage if no tokens are available. I can’t see myself using these often, as I don’t personally value what they bring to the game, but I’m glad to see more critical effects that can be used without needing the target’s shields to be down.
Director Isard can really give you an edge in a battle of big ships with high command values. The enemy has Concentrate Fire commands stacked up 3-deep on one ship, and nothing but Engineering commands on the other? I think we just picked our priority target!
The last upgrade only available in this pack is Flight Controllers. It’s not quite as useful, only working when you’re issuing a squadron command, but the Flight Controllers are essentially an extra copy of Howlrunner, handing out bonus anti-squadron dice. And yes, the effects stack for that activation if you have Howrunner around too.
Believe it or not, we’re still not done with upgrades worth having out of the Victory Class Star Destroyer, although the rest of these all exist in at least one other expansion too (other than the core set).
Overlapping with the Assault Frigate MK II, XX-9 Turbolasers and Veteran Captain are both new cards we haven’t discussed yet. The XX-9 upgrade can be brutal for finishing off a ship – they let you deal two face-up damage cards instead of just one, but they don’t actually deal any more damage, so it’s an investment in luck. Veteran Captain is almost an auto-include for me on any Assault Frigate or Victory Star Destroyer I have room for it on. For three points, you get a single command token of your choice at one point in the game. This doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re working with a big command stack, you never know when you’re going to REALLY need a navigate token to speed up or slow down. Imperial players that are used to having Moff Tarkin hand those tokens out but want to experiment with other Commanders will be especially thankful that they have a Veteran Captain around.
The last new card in the VSD expansion, overlapping with the Nebulon B Frigate, is Intelligence Officer. It allows you to pick a defense token that you really don’t want the opponent to spend, and make them face a hard choice as to whether or not to sacrifice it. At 7 points, for such a powerful ability, I think it’s costed right; yet I think it’s too expensive for me to use in my personal fleets.
Now for the Imperial Fighter Squadrons expansion. Similar to my recommendations regarding the Rebel Fighter Squadrons, you’re probably going to want two packs of these, even though there’s duplication of ships, as you’re getting even more TIE Fighters. Unlike with X-Wings though, considering how cheap the TIE Fighters are, that’s actually a good thing. If you didn’t get a second core set, you NEED more TIE Fighters.
My personal favorite addition among the generic ships is the TIE Interceptor (insert fake shock here). Compared to TIE Fighters, they are a touch pricier (3 points per squadron) and just as fragile, but they are a little faster and they absolutely spray out damage. With four Anti-Squadron dice and Swarm for rerolls and eligibility for Howlrunner’s bonus, you’ve got a lot of potential on offense. Perhaps even meaner, both Swarm and Howlrunner’s effects happen on Counter attacks too!
TIE Bombers are the definition of a specialization for a specific combat role. They’re cheap, durable, and relatively fast, but they’re absolutely useless against anything other than a capital ship. Can’t hurt enemy squadrons (average of 0.5 damage), can’t escape them, and can’t keep them tied up either.
TIE Advanced squadrons are in an awkward position. The most expensive of the Imperial generics, the TIE Advanced will do less damage to other squadrons than regular TIE Fighters (thanks to the lack of Swarm), and even with a black Anti-Ship die, will do only marginally better than TIE Fighters and TIE Interceptors against capital ships (thanks to the lack of Bomber). What they do have going for them, though, is they have relatively high health, and Escort, allowing them to use that health to shield other squadrons from enemy fighters.
There’s also a neat little trick you can do if you combine those TIE Advanced with Soontir Fel. Just like the other TIE Interceptor squadrons, Soontir has Counter 2, which makes the enemy want to attack something else if they can. But Fel is a master of taking shots of opportunity, and if an enemy makes an attack that isn’t against Fel, he deals one point of damage to them automatically. So let’s review: TIE Advanced have escort, you have to shoot them, and relatively high hit points. Soontir Fel hits you if you shoot anyone other than him. Seems like a recipe for success, no?
Next up is Major Rhymer. He’s a little less defenseless in dogfights, but it’s still nothing to be happy about. What Rhymer brings to the table, however, is that he is a leader of men. Specifically, he’s a leader of men who want to take down capital ships. He allows nearby squadrons to fire at capital ships at Close-Medium range, which is just a touch longer than distance 3, as opposed to the normal distance 1 limitation. That makes it much easier to deal significant damage without having to spend so much effort to chase the enemy ships down.
Next, let’s take a look at Darth Vader. He’s the most expensive squadron in the game so far, beating out his son by a point (Spoiler alert, I suppose?). For that cost, he dishes out a lot of damage, but I don’t know if it’s really worthwhile. Average of 3.25 against fighters, 1 point average vs capital ships (with a crit-less version of Bomber). On a scale of silence to sheer joy, I give Lord Vader a “meh”.
Last up on our list, instead of Howlrunner as the TIE Fighter ace, we’ve got Mauler Mithel, a pilot who apparently apprenticed under Captain Oicunn (that’s an X-Wing joke, for those of you paying attention). Any time he moves into an engagement, every enemy squadron engaged with him takes a damage. It’s a neat ability as it is, but it didn’t really jump out at me until I looked through the rest of Wave 1 and saw Admiral Chiraneau. Mithel’s ability would trigger each and every time you activated Mauler via Chiraneau, dealing a damage to every enemy fighter in range turn after turn. It’s pricey to get them both (25 points in all), but if you’re already building around Chiraneau, Mithel is well worth adding on.
So what do you think? Do you agree with my evaluation that the good guys got more toys to be excited about? Did I leave out your favorite Wave I element or combo? Let me hear about it in the comments! And if you missed it, don’t forget to check out the Rebel version of this Wave I Armada review!
– The Tabletop General