The event doesn’t start for another 36 hours, but I’ve been wired all day; all week, really. As far as I’m concerned, the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Regional Championship at Atomic Empire is already underway. It’s tournament time.
For weeks now, I’ve basically eschewed other games in favor of X-Wing. When I’m taking a rare break from work at the office, I’m loading up the squadron benchmarking tool over at https://xws-bench.github.io/bench/ (It’s far from perfect, but I can run a game in 5-10 minutes). I feel like I’ve barely touched the beta test material I’ve got in hand. My plans to run more event streaming or “Let’s Play” sessions have evaporated. My mind is locked in on Saturday.
I’ve redone my entire carry kit tonight; fitting everything except templates into a smaller version of one of these containers, down from the two to three of those that my supplies are normally spread across. That kit includes exactly two more copies of every token than I need, all the way down to the “nobody uses these” critical hit markers. For the first time since the release of the new damage deck in the updated Starter Set for The Force Awakens, I’ve dug out an old damage deck because it better suits my squad. Dice, tokens, sequential identification chits, ship cards, upgrades, and even that precious plastic card signifying that I’ve earned a first round bye at this event, it’s all packed away in that case.
At this point, you might even say that I’m going overboard. I’ve pulled out extra acrylics to loan to friends that may not have them. Headphones? Packed. Tablet? Packed. Laptop? Likely to be packed as soon as I finish this article. I’m scheming away on how soon I can leave work tomorrow so that our group can hit the road for our six hour drive to up to Durham.
I actively avoided casual games with folks that don’t dive deep into the tournament scene this week. I don’t feel like I handled that well, I struggled to find the right way to say that I couldn’t be anything but competitive right now. They couldn’t understand where my mental state is right now. Hell, I barely can understand it.
I feel like I’m wasting energy, but I can’t slow my pace. I’m going through all the preparation I can, mentally and physically. Staying hydrated. Getting (relative) extra sleep. Go out somewhere for dinner? Naah, pound back a protein shake and keep going. It almost looks like I’m trying to be healthy suddenly. I went from “I go to the gym every other week or so” to “I’m going to get on a machine and run in place for at least five miles on multiple consecutive days” in a failing attempt to settle myself down.
And just like clockwork, I had my pre-big-event existential crisis last night. “This list isn’t good enough… I’m chasing the meta… I can’t seem to win a single ****ing practice game… I’d be better off flying something that I know better, something that comes more natural…”, I had all of that and more hit me. But I know that I’m playing folks that know me, that know my tendencies, and know the list I’m flying (it’s been a holy terror on the local scene this year). So I’m sticking to my guns and by extension to the list I’ve planned for months to play in this event, the Crack Swarm.
This may all sound like a ridiculous amount of build-up and preparation for one (long) day of gaming. In truth, it probably is. But my girlfriend pointed out to me earlier this evening she hasn’t seen me this worked up for a particular cause for quite a while, and it suddenly hit me how much good it has done for me.
All my issues at work, all my stresses, all my cares, they get shut out during all of this preparation. My problems aren’t problems right now. I don’t care what my micromanaging boss in California is nitpicking today. I’m not worried that my hunt for a new job is going slowly. Sticking to my pseudo-diet isn’t a willpower battle right now. Family issues aren’t getting in the way of the rest of my daily life. I’m simply not worrying too much about these things; I’m not ignoring any of them, they’re just not getting any more attention than they deserve. I’ll find another way to deal with all those things next week, but for now I just can’t let them bother me.
I don’t need the prizes – the alternate art Hera Syndulla card, the acrylic Cluster Mine tokens, the challenge coin, or even the exclusive fancy dice (I really would like those, but I don’t NEED them). I’ve already got a set of all of them for running our local Regional. Heck, I don’t even know where I would put the trophy if I ended up winning the whole thing, although I can say that I would probably carry it around with me everywhere for a week or two. And I don’t know that I would (or could) use the bye that would grant me at the next level.
But really, it’s not about the prizes. It’s not about winning. It’s about the experience. It’s about the competition. It’s about finding (or trying to find) a way to win, and doing so against the highest level of competition available. It’s all about the love of the game. And it’s about looking my friends in the eye and knowing that we all gave it our best shots to come out on top, and being proud of one another for that.
If there’s one thing running a blog will tell you, it’s how busy you are. Point in case, I’ve managed not to post a new article for a month. So if you miss me and you’re looking for more frequent updates, I might suggest liking The Tabletop General on Facebook, where I’m apt to post smaller updates on a more frequent basis.
Over that past month, I came away with far more gaming presents for Christmas than anyone should ever get, ordered a sweet new laptop that’s due any day now, and generally didn’t manage to get in ANY casual X-Wing Miniatures or Armada games. So now I find myself freaking out a little bit since the 2016 Store Championship season is technically already underway for Fantasy Flight Games. I’ve got a couple more stores still to call for event listings, but here’s what my upcoming tour looks like thus far:
1/9/16: X-Wing – Wasteland Games – Duluth, GA
1/16/16: Armada – Meeple Madness – Flowery Branch, GA
?1/24/16: Imperial Assault – Giga-Bites Cafe – Marrietta, GA?
1/30/16: X-Wing – Meeple Madness – Flowery Branch, GA
2/6/16: X-Wing (TO) – Giga-Bites Cafe – Marrietta, GA
2/13/16: X-Wing – The Deep Comics & Games – Huntsville, AL
2/20/16: Armada (TO) – Giga-Bites Cafe – Marrietta, GA
2/27/16: X-Wing – Titan – Duluth, GA
3/5/16: X-Wing – Hobbytown USA – Kennesaw, GA
3/12/16: Armada – Hobbytown USA – Kennesaw, GA
OR X-Wing – Galactic Comics – Statesboro, GA
3/19/16: Armada – Wasteland Games – Duluth, GA
OR X-Wing – Sci-Fi City – Knoxville, TN
?3/26/16: Imperial Assault – Hobbytown USA – Kennesaw, GA?
It’s a hard call right now for the March dates. With so many events going on over the region, overlap was unavoidable. While I’d like to support my local community and participate in at least one Armada event that I’m not the TO for, I’d also like to defend my title at Galactic. I would also really like to win an X-Wing event, over any of the others. So that makes the choices between local Armada events or distant X-Wing events tough.
And yes, that is a couple of potential Imperial Assault events you see sprinkled in to the schedule. No, I don’t really play the game, but I’ve heard good things about it, and I’m trying to solidify the local player base. So if nothing else comes up that day, I can at least be a warm body for the event. I’m hoping to at least get to a semi-competitive level in the game over the next month or so.
How would I have time for that? Well, Armada is on notice if things don’t improve for me soon. Perhaps I need to spend more time grinding out the details of the game, or even take a “net-deck” approach as a jump start. As it is, I’m not overly worried about the Armada events, as usual I’m concentrating primarily on X-Wing.
So what’s there to prepare for with X-Wing? After all, my TIE Interceptors did really well last season (snagging a championship title, in fact), and they didn’t get any worse, right? Well… no, they didn’t, but the competition got better. There’s a grand total of five (post-publish edit: six) things that seriously worry me about running them again:
RAC/Fel – While less popular than last year, this combo was the instrument of my demise at last year’s Atlanta Regional, and is generally a tough matchup for me. My default build for the interceptors loses the initiative bid to Soontir Fel (TIE Interceptor), and Rear Admiral Chiraneau(Decimator) pumps out too much damage and just doesn’t die fast enough for me to be comfortable. It’s only 16 damage to knock him out, sure, but with a primary weapon turret, he doesn’t have to stay in firing arc. And with Veteran Instincts (Slave 1 / Millennium Falcon) and Engine Upgrade (Millennium Falcon), Chiraneau can easily decide to slip out of firing arcs with a boost rather than stick around and get shot at.
Crack Shot Swarm – This one is MUCH more likely to be seen. Usually consisting of Howlrunner (TIE Fighter), 2 Omega Squadron Pilots (Force Awakens Core Set / TIE/FO ), and 3 Black Squadron Pilots (TIE Fighter), all equipped with Crack Shot (Kihraxz Fighter / Hound’s Tooth), the Crack Shot Swarm forces you to over-commit with defensive tokens, and will eventually get damage through. On top of that, with 6 TIEs on the board, blocking an Interceptor is near trivial. So to walk into this matchup with a grand total of 3 ships with 3 hit points each, which depend on rationing Focus/Evade tokens to stay alive, I don’t particularly like my odds here. I’ve won my only matchup of these two lists, but it was far closer than I would have liked.
Sith Lords – With last year’s release of the Imperial Raider, TIE Advanced pilots got a major boost. We usually still don’t see anyone other than Darth Vader, but he’s at his best in this list. On top of that, the only thing that makes Soontir Fel any harder to kill is an additional layer of insurance on dice, which Emperor Palpatine (Imperial Raider) is designed to provide. With the potential to load up critical hits with Palpatine and Advanced Targeting Computer (Imperial Raider), Vader usually carrying a trump card of Pilot Skill 11, and an initiative bid for Soontir, this one has generally been a dice-off for me, weighted in the favor of the enemy.
Omega Leader – Generally, my battle plan over the past year or so (as I’ve mentioned here before) is to go punch the biggest threat on the board in the mouth, and pick up the pieces with whatever I had left, because I was confident in my ability to outduel the remainder of the enemy list with just one or two damaged interceptors. Omega Leader (TIE/FO) challenges that theory – he can serve as a supporting piece in the early game, but he gets stronger and stronger as the game goes on, and is a brutal end-game opponent. I haven’t had an opportunity to face him yet, but I’ve witnessed Omega Leader with Juke (TIE/FO) and Comms Array (TIE/FO) go one-on-one with Soontir Fel and absolutely destroy him. Yet you can fairly easily fit two much more threatening ships into the same list, such as your own copy of Soontir Fel fully loaded along with a crew-less Whisper (TIE Phantom). I don’t want to be facing any one of those three as the last ship on the table.
Stress – Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by my local meta and a bit of luck. As I mentioned above, Interceptors really need their tokens to stay alive, and I use Push The Limit (A-Wing / Imperial Aces) like a bad spice habit. Over the past couple years, I’ve not run into a lot of lists with effective stress mechanics, and I usually have found ways to outmaneuver the enemy when there are Tacticians (TIE Phantom) or a Rebel Captive (Lambda Shuttle) on the board. But the relative importance placed on stress at the 2015 world championships will likely garner some copy-cat lists with a suicidal BTL-A4 (Most Wanted) variant of a Gold Squadron Y-Wing carrying R3-A2 (GR-75), as well as triple K-Wing builds with Twin Laser Turrets (K-Wing) and Tacticians – Avoiding the stress areas isn’t THAT hard, but a PTL Interceptor is screwed if it fails to escape, and my defenses are greatly diminished against other attacks in the process. The K-Wings in particular are scary, because they can still fire those TLT’s outside of their primary arc, meaning there is no true blind spot to approach them from.
(Post-Publish edit) Unblockable damage – Without having explored the TIEs in the new Gozanti Assault Carrier much yet, I forgot about this one. Especially combined with something like Emperor Palpatine to guarantee the effect, Wampa (Gozanti) can cut through all of your defenses and hand you a gift-wrapped damage card. Ten Numb (B-Wing) presents a similar danger, especially when given Calculation (Starviper), Marksmanship (Starter set / X-Wing), or a Mangler Cannon (IG-2000 / M3-A). Agile & fragile ships have a lot to worry about from these guys.
With all that said and done, I’m pretty much back to the drawing board, which isn’t somewhere I’ve been for a while – 3x Interceptors with Targeting Computers gave way to Carnor Jax (Imperial Aces) & Sigma Squadron Pilots (TIE Phantom), which gave way to the Interceptors again after Autothrusters (Starviper) hit the scene.
So I’ve got a mental checklist here:
___ High durability. 3 hit points per ship just don’t feel safe to me right now, there’s more and more ways to push damage through.
___ Scum or Imperial – I lean away from playing rebels, there’s not a lot of good matchups for the Crackshot Swarm except for Han Solo (Millennium Falcon) or Dash Rendar (Outrider), neither of which I enjoy playing competitively.
___ High maneuverability – Again, part of this is the enjoyment factor; I’m at my best when I have some sort of tricky way to move around the field unexpectedly. I’m not that great at anticipating exactly where the enemy will go in order to draw out a detailed battle plan 3 turns in advance. I could do it, but it just isn’t a style I’m accustomed to. I much prefer planning on the fly, watching the board resolve itself and fitting my post-move adjustments together like a puzzle.
___ Resiliency to stress – See point 5, above. I want ships that are capable of modifying die results without tokens, that don’t need to stress themselves out constantly to carry out my battle plan, and that aren’t going to wilt the first time “Stressbot”, R3-A2, hits the table.
___ Ability to crack Soontir – Like it or not, Soontir Fel isn’t going away this season. He should slow down and be less of a key component for some of the reasons listed above, but he’s not going away. Regardless of whether or not lists using him reach the cut (not saying they won’t, but thinking worst case), we WILL see him in the Swiss rounds, and he will serve as a spoiler there. If you can’t handle him, it’s going to severely hamper your score for the day.
I don’t have my list finalized for this weekend’s event yet, but it’s going to have to check off at least three of those items for me to consider it, and I’d prefer it if all of the conditions were satisfied. So I’m running….
Major initiative bid, and I think it’s nigh on unstoppable.
More seriously, I’ve had it pointed out to me in the past that calling my shot before a major event isn’t the best of ideas, so I’m going to keep the exact plan quiet until after the weekend.
And for those of you wondering, I’m hearing that Wave VIII (Ghost, Inquisitor’s TIE, Mist Hunter, and Punishing One) is due within the next two weeks, so we’ll have a whole new set of builds to prepare for coming up any day now. Wooohooo!!
Even though I’ve put my TIE Interceptors on the shelf for a little while, my favored playstyle in Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures is a game of re-positioning. In general, I like to attack the enemy from unexpected angles, adding in a touch of action denial and lots of burst damage to be able to quickly take down a key component of the enemy’s force.
I ran a tournament last night, and I only play in those to prevent a player from missing out on a match during a bye round (I select a player for the bye and grant it to them as normal for scoring, but they still get to play a game). Knowing my game results wouldn’t count for anything, I decided to field a ringer list that would attempt to match my normal play style in an untested way.
A large part of this list was a personal challenge to myself to put the TIE Punisher on the table. Unlike the rest of Wave 7 (including the Kihraxz Fighter,Hound’s Tooth, and K-Wing), the sturdy big brother to the TIE Bomber had yet to find its’ way into any list I was willing to field. Despite the impressive total of nine hit points, with only one evade die the Punisher can’t take serious beating. Without firing ordnance, the Punisher is just a fat, poorly maneuvering TIE Fighter, thanks to its’ primary attack value of 2 and awkward dial (no speed 1 turn, speed 2 turn is red, speed 3 turn is white). But loading the ship up with munitions to improve damage output turns it into a real point sink – it’s possible to spend 66 points on Deathrain, as opposed to the 39 allocated to his ship in this list.
Dark Curse is always a pesky target to hit, and often ignored as a result. With under 20 points to spend in an Imperial list, he’s my usual pilot of choice.
Whisper, in the TIE Phantom, is fully loaded and ready for combat. I feel safe lately bringing the Phantom back to the table simply because it isn’t seen as often anymore, so less of the hard counters are seen. Don’t get me wrong, the prevalence of stress in the current game meta still hurts, and a pilot skill 10 Corran Horn in an E-Wing or a pilot skill 11 Darth Vader in a TIE Advanced will still be a major problem, but lately I’m seeing less and less of the Rebel Captive that prevents a TIE Phantom from re-cloaking with Advanced Cloaking Device before taking return fire. Twin Laser Turrets are an issue, but hopefully one that is somewhat mitigated by the Sensor Jammer I have equipped, along with careful maneuvering of the Phantom.
What Deathrain brings to the table in this build is, ironically enough, a similar element of slipperiness to what the TIE Phantom once had prior to change in timing for decloaking maneuvers. I’ve recently come to love what Advanced Sensors and a Boost action can do for IG-2000, allowing you to adjust a planned maneuver before executing it. Advanced Sensors and Deathrain’s pilot ability allows you to drop a mine or bomb token and Barrel Roll before your maneuver, giving a similar adjustment ability. Combining those together allowing you to string together some wicked combinations. Like what, you ask? (You did ask that, right? I’m just going to say you did…)
Let’s say Deathrain is matched up against BBBBZ, 4 B-Wings and a Z-95. Lots of firepower, low pilot skills, BBBBZ hunts down higher pilot skill aces by spreading firing arcs and by attempting to block their likely maneuvers to deny actions. On this particular turn, the enemy lays a trap that would normally do an excellent job of pinning in a TIE Punisher.
A very effective trap is set in the photo above. Deathrain will collide with someone if he dialed in a 1 forward or bank right, either speed 2 turn, a 3 forward, or a speed 4 Koiogran turn, and every one of those leaves him in one or more firing arcs. The unblocked options are speed 3 bank and turn maneuvers, a speed 2 straight, or a 1 bank to the left. Each of these allow the Punisher to complete the maneuver and possibly get off a shot, but no boost action will allow him to both escape all firing arcs and get a shot at the enemy this turn, and only the 3 turn to the left followed by a boost allows the full no-shot escape.
The bad news is that Deathrain selected a 4-K maneuver this turn, which we already said was blocked. So that would normally leave him stressed, taking a range 1 and a range 2 shot from the enemy this turn, and getting no shot of his own. So why did I label the ships as “Victim 1-5”, rather than labeling the B-Wings and the Z-95 Headhunter? Because Deathrain is going to hit every one of these Victims without taking any return fire this turn.
With options to drop his bomb out the front or the rear, Deathrain has a decision to make. Dropping his bomb from the rear will only hit Victim 1, as illustrated above. The front would catch 1, 2, 4, and 5, but could be a bad place to drop the bomb, as completing the TIE Punisher’s maneuver could potentially bring him within range of the bomb. This is mitigated somewhat by his ability to perform a free Barrel Roll maneuver after dropping a bomb, but it’s not guaranteed to be safe.
Even without the imminent collision from this scenario, performing the 4K in place leaves Deathrain in range of his own bomb. Rolling to his left, dodging Victim 1 requires him to slide backwards, which results in still being in range. Sliding forward and to his right, however, Deathrain can escape the blast radius of the bomb, leaving him with only shots from Victim 2 and Victim 4 to deal with (Victim 3 might have a shot too, if the Barrel Roll wasn’t far enough forward). So that maximizes damage dealt, but still leaves us open to return fire.
Let’s look at another plan. Remember when I said the speed 1 bank to the left was still open? Well, Deathrain didn’t pick that maneuver, but he still has it available via an Advanced Sensors Boost action.
It’s important to note here that you can not drop a Bomb token first, then follow that with an Advanced Sensors action – Advanced Sensors are activated before a maneuver dial is revealed, and bombs are dropped when the dial is revealed. So after Boosting with Advanced Sensors, Deathrain has to pick a new spot for his bomb token, if he’s going to drop it. But as you can see, with a banked Boost, your bomb ends up slightly in front of your previous position, and it probably goes without saying that a straight boost would leave the bomb precisely where your ship started the turn.
Since the rear location will hit more ships, we’ll have Deathrain drop it there (conveniently, it still catches Victim 4, as seen above), and then Barrel Roll left to make sure he’s out of Victim 2’s firing arc. Completing the Koiogran turn, our protagonist is now out of any danger of being fired at, and has a range 1 shot at Victim 3.
So let’s review:
Victim 1 – Hit by Proton Bomb
Victim 2 – Hit by Proton Bomb
Victim 3 – Range 1 shot
Victim 4 – Hit by Proton Bomb
Victim 5 – Hit by Proton Bomb
Since I didn’t identify them, there’s an 80% chance that Victim 3 is a B-Wing with one evade die, 20% chance of a Z-95 with two. Three attack dice at range 1 results in 1.5 hits on average, and even with a Focus available, the more nimble Z-95 cancels 1.25 on average, so I’m calling that a hit too. 4 Critical Hits that ignore shields on top of a 3 die attack is nothing to scoff at!
As you probably guessed, I created this perfect storm scenario in reverse, finding a way to make it possible. But in just a handful of games, I certainly saw flashes of potential in the Punisher, and the tricks I outlined here were all used, just not in such a succinct manner. The TIE Punisher may not see competitive play often, but it’s surprisingly enjoyable when just playing for fun.
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!
McCoy participated in a tournament I ran yesterday in celebration of “¡El Sith-o de Mayo!”. McCoy has asked me to write an article about Boba Fett and how he works in X-Wing for the Boba Fett Fan Club, for which he has been a contributing editor since 2007. In return (and perhaps to put a little pressure on me to finish said article), he agreed to provide a battle report of his experiences on the day as a bit of cross-promotion. Nerds helping nerds! Mr. McCoy, the floor is yours.
– The Tabletop General
Bear with me since this is my first battle report and my first tournament win, so I didn’t really keep track of the events as closely as some of the other guys who do this a lot tend to do. I’ve been playing X-Wing for about a year and a half now. For most of that time I flew Echo escorted by a swarm of TIE Fighters and I enjoyed the game a great deal. When the Scum & Villainy faction was announced I was ecstatic because I am a huge Boba Fett and bounty hunter fan, so I knew I would be finally flying him no matter if he was competitive or not in tournament play. The list I came up with after a little play testing was a Boba Fett and IG-88 B build that I call “Bounty Bros.” I’ve changed around maybe six points worth of upgrades within this list, and my first few games I did fly with IG-88 C, but other than that it has been mostly the same list since I first started playing it a few months ago.
Before you ask, yes, I have titles for each ship that do nothing, but they don’t cost anything and I am a true Star Wars fan. Plus, from what I have heard it’s good karma for the dice gods.
I take Veteran Instincts on IG-88 because it gives me more firing and movement options and prevents me from bumping into my own ships. Using the Heavy Laser Cannon can be tricky because it can’t fire at range one, taking IG-88 B’s pilot ability away, so I usually try and keep him farther away.
Fett is the complete opposite – I slam him right into the thick of my opponent’s force, even if I bump them. I know what you are thinking, the Firespray dial only has four greens on it so it is a bad idea to have the Push the Limit upgrade on Fett, but I would retort that you only ever want him going the green one maneuvers anyway to stay within range one of enemy ships. Scum Fett’s rerolls are vital to this list and just as good as an action most of the time, especially when there are multiple ships near him to trigger the ability.
Inertial Dampeners I always save for kill shots, since it makes you defensively vulnerable to take the stress and not have any actions available. But when I do pull the space e-brake, I’m usually able to destroy my target before they can return fire that round. So far this list is 22-12 and it is an absolute blast to fly.
From what I understand this was the first competitive game that David, my first opponent, had ever played of X-Wing but he’s played quite a bit of Star Trek: Attack Wing so he was familiar with a lot of the concepts already. Thankfully, I had initiative so Vader was firing before the Bros; and since the Imperial Raider isn’t out yet, Vader isn’t quite as scary currently as he will be later this summer.
He set up most of his TIEs in one corner, but his Phantom all alone in the other, so I lined up to charge straight at the Phantom, betting on my ability to destroy it before the other ships got within range. His first move was a hard two toward his allies, like I expected, which kept it barely out of range three for me to fire on him. But with an Engine Upgrade on the Firespray it can haul ass, and on turn two I was able to line up shots with both of my ships on Whisper. Fett target locked and double focused and took a range two shot at the Phantom and luckily for me the dice gods smiled and I one-shot it off the table in round two, even with the bonus dice from being cloaked.
After that I felt pretty good and turned my attention to Howlrunner and Vader. Howly went down pretty fast after that and Vader took one shield loss from my IG-88 only to escape in the other direction dragging my target lock with it. Swarm Tactics wasn’t useful due to my pilot skill eight ships having initiative, so I finished off the Obsidian and turned back to eventually chase down Vader and was able to kill him with minimal shield loss to both of my ships.
Despite not having ever faced him before, my second opponent had clearly been playing a while. I have a similar Chewie/Leebo list that I really enjoy flying, but mine is a lot more defensive. This one I could tell was all firepower, but I was confident that if I got down the Falcon quickly that I could chase the Outrider around and hopefully wear it down.
I squared off across from the Falcon and did a short one maneuver on round one to get an idea of where he was headed, then went farther in round two to get Boba in his face. It worked out exactly as I had hoped, I was able to strip the Falcon’s shields in turn two while only taking a bit of damage myself. We traded fire the next two turns but on turn four I had two shots lined up at Chewie and he was gone, leaving an injured IG and Fett at full health to pursue Leebo.
Thankfully I had positioned IG-88 behind the Outrider so as he ran and fired back my Autothrusters kicked in for each combat round, and the dice gods smiled on me once again and the Outrider didn’t roll a single evade during our game. IG took more damage but Leebo was destroyed around the 30-minute mark in the round. Since that turned into such a quick win, we had a chance to step outside of the game for a few minutes and chatted about Clone Wars, Rebels and The Force Awakens until the next round.
This list I was honestly pretty nervous about. In the last store championship that I finished fourth place in, this was the one list that beat me, 100-0 no less. Given that my opponent was also 2-0, my goal was to try and just take one off the table, which of course was IG-88 B since he is by far the more deadly of the two ships. Both my opponent and I both joked about how tired we were and I decided that it would not be a bad idea to line up to joust one another in the opening rounds.
I started with moving each of my ships one forward since he was flying with IG-88 C and I knew that he would be boosting. I also knew that once I was parked in front of his ships, he would have to manuever around me, and given how close to the edge of the board we were on one side and the proximity of asteroids on the other side, I knew mostly where he would be.
Both of his ships were were stressed from using push the limit on our opening volley, meaning wasn’t able to k-turn around behind me. As a result, both of his ships did a soft two in toward the center of the map and bumped into my ships. My stressed Fett went four forward and jumped over the cluster that was forming with a clear firing arc on the now-shieldless IG-88B. My Iggy performed a hard one maneuver to get out of arc on one droid in pursuit of the other. The next turn Fett cleared his stress and slowly banked around back into the fight.
His B went down soon after and I was left to spend the rest of the game s-looping my single hull point B and his damaged C after one another while my Boba played catch up to the other two infinitely more maneuverable ships. Sometimes in a pinch I will opt for a white hard two maneuver even when I’m stressed if I’m near the board edge or an obstacle, but for the most part a soft one with the boost is enough to get him slowly turned around. There was very little firing in the second half of the game. Finally with around ten minutes left in the round I lined up two clean shots on the Aggressor and destroyed it. This match with JT was definitely the closest game I played but also the most fun.
3-0, 600 MoV
I know I’ve come a long way since I started this game but I can’t stress enough that I would play this list even if it didn’t win as often as it does. I can’t wait until Bossk comes out so I can play 150 point game with all three, or I may potentially sub out one of the three bounty hunters depending on what I’m flying against that day. We have players locally that specialize in A-Wings, some in Phantoms, others with X-Wings, so I’m perfectly fine with being that bounty hunter player. At the end of the day the game is about having fun.
The prize for winning the tournament was actually a 4-day MomoCon badge, which I have been going to for the past six years. Regionals is all day that Saturday and there is no way I am missing that Scum Boba alternate art pilot card, but I will hopefully be able to go to the con the rest of the days. I’ll probably be wearing my custom Mandalorian armor some of the weekend and my new Kyle Katarn costume the rest, so I hope to see everyone there!
The day has arrived, and the Star Wars: Armada core sets released today at Friendly Local Gaming Stores across North America. So I declared it a miniature holiday, and went in to pick my two starters up as the shops opened, cracked them open, and ran a series of demo games for anyone who wanted to come by. I played a grand total of four games today, and watched a fifth one.
Perhaps the biggest paradigm shift from X-Wing is that there are no defense dice, only abilities. Combined with that, there are multiple types of attack dice, usable at different ranges and in different situations. So in case you were asking yourself (Google, please pay attention to these phrases): “What is the difference between the Star Wars Armada attack dice?”, or “How many of each result are on Star Wars Armada attack dice?”
Red dice have the longest range. Their faces are: Blank, Blank, Critical, Critical, Accuracy, Hit, Hit, Double Hit.
Blue dice are medium range, and always do something. Their faces are: Critical, Critical, Accuracy, Accuracy, Hit, Hit, Hit, Hit.
Black dice have the shortest range, and do the most damage. Their faces are: Blank, Blank, Hit, Hit, Hit, Hit, Hit & Critical, Hit & Critical.
Contents of the core set
I got a lot of things wrong in the first day’s worth of games, but that’s to be expected when diving in head first to such a deep game. That is going to improve with practice, there’s just a LOT of rules to remember. Generally, my biggest mistakes involved being too permissive about things, such as letting the Redirect defense token move damage to a non-adjacent hull zone, or allowing shots that had valid line of sight, yet weren’t actually in the shooter’s firing arc. But for the most part I feel pretty solid with the basics of the game now.
My foremost thought at the moment is that it’s going to be a wholly different scene from Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures. With X-Wing, I’d say that about 80% of tournament games finish in under an hour. With Armada it’s a different story; even with a hard limit of a six turns in the game, it looks like it will take about two hours to play a game at a full 300 point level. possibly a little quicker for some builds (fighters tend to slow things down a LOT). So tournament play is going to take a great deal more time, and games will need a time limit in addition to the round limit. In turn, I think that makes it much more likely for players to bring big beefy ships that will take longer to kill, (thus being more likely to survive in a game that gets called on account of time) and less of a balanced fleet.
Going back to the Fighter Squadrons, I understand the necessity of including them, but… the implementation is rough. The best way I’ve found to use them so far requires being extremely precise with their positioning, sniping one squadron by placing multiple of yours on the edge of firing range (premeasuring is allowed, remember), but just out of range of their allies, so that they must spend an activation moving to you before engaging.. Yet it’s nearly impossible to adjust the remaining health on a squadron when hit without moving them, since the damage is tracked on their bases, and that does not turn easily without picking the squadron up off of the table to do it. Also, the disparity at this stage between the TIE Fighters and the X-Wings is immense. I know they fill different roles, but… wow. In my final game of the evening, three squadrons of TIE Fighters managed to deal one damage over the course of two turns of shooting. Conversely, my first game of the day featured X-Wings taking a Victory Star Destroyer to the sci-fi equivalent of the wood shed.
Stepping things up to the 300 point level by using two starter sets, I chose quantity over quality for the Rebels, and my opponent showed me how much better of an idea “quality” might have been. Grand Moff Tarkin combined with the Liason crew upgrades made his Star Destroyers able to react MUCH faster to the flow of battle, constantly changing the top dial of his command stack to be exactly the command he wanted to execute at any given time. And the Dominator title, along with a Gunnery Team, makes for a terrifying alpha strike.
Going in to that game, I felt pretty confident about my ability to navigate, so I picked the Minefields objective out of his three selected. Then I proceeded to trigger five out of the six sets of mines. It wasn’t a good game, but it was fun!
Looking at the contents realistically, there’s only about ten upgrade cards that are non-unique in the starter, and I would think some of those would be in the expansion packs too. So I can’t imagine needing more than one of the core sets unless you’re really wanting to play 300 point games right away, and you don’t know someone willing to loan you the other half of their kit for a game.
At this point, I would heavily recommend picking up the game, but to fill out your fleet, I would say to get the expansion versions of the extra ships instead of a second starter. In particular, I’ve pre-ordered the following list from my FLGS to add to my collection:
Without a second core set, the only thing you’ll be short on is dice (X-Wings roll more blue dice than one starter set contains), but there will be a separate dice pack along with the rest of wave 1. As for other supplies, if you’re interested in card sleeves, here’s what you’ll need:
Will all the fit on the table at once? Not in a standard game, no. But it’s really nice to have options. And the extras will look really cool sitting on my desk at work. They’ll fit much better than their X-Wing equivalents.
Armada is a very enjoyable game from what I’ve seen so far, and I can’t wait to see how it evolves. It’s exciting to be in on the start of the game. It won’t scratch my tournament play itch quite as well as X-Wing, and the pace is a little slower, but this is definitely what I would prefer to play when my opponent is a friend. Still going to blow ’em to bits though.
War? … War…??? Awww crap, somebody call an understudy.
Truth be told, four pilots worthy of being Horsemen of the Apocalypse don’t fit into your standard 100 point list for X-Wing Miniatures. But at the same time, I have a hard time bringing less than four ships to a dogfight without a really good reason, or giving up on a theme for that matter.
I can’t get enough of the TIE Interceptor, especially since they got so many neat tricks out of Imperial Aces. It’s probably my video game roots, I spent countless hours of my childhood sitting in front of my PC flying combat sorties in various Star Wars games, and a large portion of that time was spent at the controls of the nimble and vicious TIE Interceptor. Shields were for Rebels and Sith, missiles were the easy way out, and TIE Fighters just didn’t have enough punch for me. The “squint”, as the Star Wars: X-Wing novels soon had me calling it, was always my Imperial ship of choice.
I’ve toyed with the idea of bringing four Interceptors in a list (Royal Guard + Push The Limit), but passing up on all of the excellent unique pilot abilities is too much for me to handle. I like the loadouts available when running three named Interceptors, but the results weren’t pretty, because there weren’t enough hit points in the list. At the same time, properly equipping a pair of those named pilots (because who can choose just one of them?) doesn’t really leave enough points to fit two more generic versions.
My problem was solved when observing a match at a recent tournament for which I was officiating. An Imperial player was mounting an amazing comeback, because his Rebel opponent just couldn’t manage to hit that last TIE Fighter. Upon closer inspection, I realized why; this wasn’t a nameless Academy Pilot, it was Dark Curse, against which no rerolls or focus tokens are allowed, which made the ship very difficult to finish off. That impressive performance made me re-think the role of TIE Fighters, and go back to the drawing board with the Horsemen.
3.5 Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Soontir Fel aka “Death” – 27
Royal Guard TIE – 0
Push The Limit – 3
Targeting Computer – 2
Stealth Device – 3
Carnor Jax aka “Famine” – 26
Royal Guard TIE – 0
Push The Limit – 3
Targeting Computer – 2
Stealth Device – 3
Dark Curse aka “Pestilence” – 16
Stealth Device – 3
Academy Pilot aka “War Junior” – 12
Death and Famine are both equipped with my favorite loadout for Interceptors with a high Pilot Skill. These two ships should take two actions with Push The Limit just about every turn, barring some form of Stress inducing mechanic from the opponent. Combining their native Boost and Barrel Roll actions allows them to dance around and out of firing arcs, or Focus and Evade to reinforce their four evade dice (thanks to Stealth Devices) if they can’t manage to escape. But perhaps more importantly, if you know your basic movement will keep you safe from harm for the turn, there’s the option of taking a Focus and a Target Lock for a deadly shot.
Soontir Fel, “Death” gets even nastier with his special ability, being able to take a Target Lock, then Boost in for a Range 1 shot, and receive a Focus Token for the shot in the process. Meanwhile, Carnor Jax, “Famine”, starves the opponent of Focus or Evade actions by dancing into close range with his special ability.
Then there’s the TIE Fighters, “Pestilence” and “War Jr.”, who perform drastically different roles from the Interceptors. The Academy Pilot provides an anchor to the list. It’s harmless, it’s cheap, but it’s also the easiest thing on my roster to kill. Deploying first at Pilot Skill 1, the Academy Pilot gives me the opportunity to lure the enemy into deploying where I can easily flank them with my other ships which all deploy at Pilot Skill 6 and higher. This ship then serves as bait, as a distraction, to block opposing ships’ movements, and if it manages to survive long enough to shoot, even better! (But as we all know, “War” is good for absolutely nothin’.)
Dark Curse / “Pestilence” can join in as an extra distraction, but he performs very well in a harassment role. At range 3, with a Stealth Device and a Focus Token, Dark Curse is extremely hard to hit, thus earning the title of a pest.
This list isn’t without its’ weaknesses, and in the tournament that I took this list to recently, I went face first into one of them – high PS X-Wings (Wes Jansen with Veteran Instincts and Wedge, to be precise). This build is made very vulnerable by the Pilot Skill boost from Veteran Instincts, especially on someone like Corran Horn in an E-Wing or Wedge Antilles in an X-Wing; a lot of the maneuverability of the Interceptors is negated if you don’t know what the opponent’s maneuver will be, and relying so much on Push The Limit means you can’t take your own Veteran Instincts to keep pace. Y-Wings or HWK-290’s with Ion Cannon Turrets can also make a bad day for the Interceptors, especially if there’s an extra Stress inducing ability in play as well. Marksmanship is immune to the special abilities of both Carnor Jax (Famine) and Dark Curse (Pestilence). Lt. Blount and his Z-95 Headhunter love to see this many Stealth Devices in a list, because he can strip them off even without dealing damage. And while I haven’t seen it done yet, I would think that a well flown TIE Fighter swarm can likely bring down the Interceptors through pure weight of fire.
But of those weaknesses can be mitigated, if not negated completely. For instance, as much as I think of turrets as a hard counter to the list, I’ve gone up against a list containing a Falcon and a pair of Y-Wings with Ion Cannon Turrets and not taken any hits at all. A big key is being willing to give up on taking shots sometimes, and playing defensively instead. Fly this list well, and before you know it you’ll be covering your ship up in kill markings like Soontir Fel (Death) himself.