Dare to go Squadron-less?

Video if you prefer not to read the article.

 

It can be very tricky to go without squadrons.  Essentially, any list that doesn’t include any squadrons is taking a huge gamble, and it usually isn’t worth the risk.

Taking even two TIE Fighters or Z-95s is a minimal investment of points, and can make a huge difference when you are facing a squadron heavy build.  This is a major reason why you simply don’t see many squadron-less fleets these days.   It’s just too easy to spend 14-30 points to ensure that you are at least mildly prepared to deal with a majority of lists…  and since virtually every list out there uses squadrons at least in part – it’s almost a given that you HAVE to take some squadrons.   Almost…

But going without squadrons can give you all sorts of awesome benefits as well!  Lets talk about some of the benefits.

Single Strategy – For starters, you can build a singular strategy around your ships – weather it’s a full-blown broadside list, a hard charging Star Destroyer list, or something else designed without squadrons in mind, you can focus more on a single idea.

Command Dials – You only have to worry about planning 3 commands, instead of 4, effectively reducing the choices you have to make, and giving you less chance of picking something wrong.  (Although this is also a double edged sword if your opponent is running slicer tools – more on that later).

More Points! – The most obvious benefit is that you have more points to spend on the bulk of your fleet!  That means more ships, more activations, more dedicated anti-ship firepower, and more points for upgrades!

If you want to make a squadron-less fleet work you are going to need to embrace a few key concepts.

Survive – You need to be able to withstand lots of extra poke damage.  A-Wings like to poke and they are cheap.  B-Wings with bomber command center and Yavaris are the worst.    You won’t have an easy way of shutting these squadrons down, so you’ll need to outlast their barrages.   And if you manage to get rid of their ships, the remaining squadrons STILL get to shoot during the squadron phase, since the winner isn’t determined until the end of the round.   You might defeat your opponent only to have their remaining bombers finish you off as well.

Chase –  Relay has been a tremendous boon to fragile carriers.  Flotillas, Quasars, and even a really mean Yavaris can now hang in the back and issue commands from safety.   You’ll need some speed to be able to chase them down and take them out. Try to use ships that can go faster than speed 2.

Table – When your opponent has serious squadron power, the best way to shut them down is to table them.  This isn’t always easy, due to flotillas using scatter, or a single Star Destroyer running engineering every turn.  You’ll need to have a list that has the speed and firepower to catch every ship and table them.

Kill the Flotillas – Since you have no squadrons, it’s especially harmful if an opponent hits you with Slicer tools, so if possible, activate your 1-Command ships first, and prioritize killing those flotillas if you can.  They activate squadrons, can be housing a Bomber Command Center, and are hard enough to kill – you don’t want them getting away and using Relay to finish you off.

Be prepared to lose badly– Even a really well designed fleet with no squadrons is going to lose.   Alot.  If you are going to do this, keep that in mind.  You are gambling here.   Winning will be fun, but facing a swarm of bombers will hurt.   And people run them often.

Bad Ideas

Some ideas tend not to work too well.  Even though at first glance, they might seem like a winning solution for a squadron-less build.

Quad Laser Turrets – A single counter die is only going to do an average of half a damage, each time you are attacked.   This on it’s own isn’t enough to stop a bomber build, especially considering how most bombers have high hit points.  This need to be paired with other cards to work better, and also need to be on every ship.

Cluster Bombs – It sounds attractive, but it’s also expensive to get enough of them to outfit your whole fleet.  Plus it’s a one time use.   On the plus side it can’t be braced or scattered, but chances are, a low health Tycho will simply fly away or go after a ship that has already spent it’s bombs.  As much as I’d like to try to really try these in a heavy environment, there simply isn’t enough reason to use them now.

Single Raider with Impetuous – This title isn’t “bad” but if you are expecting a single raider with this title to stop the enemy squadrons you are going to be in for a disturbing truth.  Enemy squadrons will almost never put themselves in a position for you to shoot at them if this is your one threat.  Either they’ll activate during the squadron phase (after you’ve already gone), and fly out of your firing range, or they’ll activate ahead of you with a squadron command.  To make this title really shine, you need some way to lock down enemy squadrons, and for that purpose you should have chosen the Instigator.

Quasar 2 – The red anti-squadron die is unmatched currently in terms of range and number of squadrons it can hit.   And sure, you can give it Kallus to potentially hurt aces – but at the end of the day you are taking the game’s best pure carrier, and not bringing any squadrons for it to….. “carry”.  I just have a huge problem with that level of inefficiency.

Ideas that can work:

Lets talk about a few ideas that are more reliable and have a better chance to be effective in a variety of circumstances.

Raider 1 – The Raider 1 is a great ship, possibly the BEST ship in the game for this purpose.  It is fast.  It can roll 2 black dice.  It has two titles that specifically deal with Squadrons.  It can take the perfect combination of Flechette Torpedoes and Ordnance Experts to seriously lock down any large group of squadrons.   Consider running several of these.   Best part is they still work well against ships, unlike some other anti-squadron specific options.

Kallus – Dude is amazing for dealing with squadrons.  Combos well with Flechettes but works just as good without them.   And you get to pick the color – so if you really need that accuracy to stop the scatter, or you want the reliable damage from the black, or maybe you are going for the hail mary red die with the double hit… you can chose whatever you need!  And he’s only 3 points, so even if you end up not facing uniques it’s not a terrible waste.

CR-90A – It has alot of things going for it that help make up for the vulnerability that having no squadrons will give you.  It’s fast.  Very fast.  It has alot of red dice, so it can reach pretty far.  It has access to some good upgrades like the TRC.   And it’s cheap.   You can run a ton of them and squadrons will have a hard time keeping up with you, while you pelt their carriers from long range with TRC blast after TRC blast.

Toryn Far – If you are going rebels, you likely aren’t going to mass ships with double black anti squadron dice – so you’ll probably get alot of use out of her.   As a bonus she also helps make Quad Laser Turrets slightly better, so if you are on the fence about that idea, she can help push you over.  And she works against ships too!

 

Every time I try a list with no squadrons, I always know that I am taking a huge gamble, but i suppose that’s part of the fun.   Ideally you hope to get paired up against someone with a counter-squadron build – perhaps someone with a handful of non-threatening squadrons – perhaps with escort, or counter.  But if you can pull off a win against a heavy squadron list – it’ll be worth the anxiety!  Happy Flying!

 

Holiday Giveaway! Win a Legion Core Set!

Win a Legion Core Set!

Since the holidays are nearly upon us, I have decided it is time for a contest!   The winner of which will receive a gift card to miniature market for a Legion Core Set!  What contest you ask?

Painting Contest!

In preparation for what will likely be a WHOLE lot of painting, I’ve decided that I want to see some of the best paint jobs that everyone has to offer!   I’m going to let this contest run until after Thanksgiving,  and the winner will be announced during the weekend of Nov 24-26th, 2017.  Your paint job can be any FFG miniature!   I will be picking the winner myself, but you entries will get bonus points if it’s a Star Wars product – so while I am open to entries of Runewars, and other games, I’m really looking for Star Wars paint jobs.  X-Wing, Armada, and Imperial Assault will be my main focus.

I’m looking for the best paint job, but will totally give bonus points for a great photo, so the more work you put in to your presentation, there better!   Backgrounds, setup, and great lighting will help!  You’ll need to register on my forums, and if you have any trouble doing that, contact me on my youtube channel.

The Rules:

  • Submission must be your own work.
  • You must register on the forums to post.
  • Submission must be posted to the forums for all to see.
  • Submission must be of an FFG Miniature, such as X-Wing, Armada, Imperial Assault, etc.
  • Submission should be posted in the appropriate section of the forums.  (X-Wing photos should be posted under the X-Wing section, etc).
  • Entries should be posted under the title : Paint Contest – followed by a title for your submission.
  • Entering gives me your permission to use your name and pictures in promotional postings and videos – (Announcing the top 10, announcing the winner, etc).
  • The final day to enter is 11/23/2017
  • Contest MAY be cancelled or rescheduled if there are not enough entries.   If I feel there are so few entries I reserve the right to adjust the terms or time of this giveaway.  The idea is to have many paint jobs show up for the viewing pleasure of everyone.

The winner will be announced the weekend following Thanksgiving, just in time for the December Holiday Season!  The winner will receive a gift card in the amount of $72.00, (Miniature Market currently has the Legion Core Set listed as ($71.99).  I reserve the right to make adjustments to this contest as necessary(Perhaps the price changes, etc).

 

Legion Wave 1!

Star Wars Legion Wave 1 is finally revealed! AT-STs and Snowspeeders!

Episode 8 Trailer is here!!!!

If you haven’t already seen the latest trailer for Episode 8 – stop what you are doing and go watch it right NOW!

 

Seriously though it is amazing.  There are some spoilers for the general plot of the film, but I don’t think it’s ruining anything.   If anything I think it’s setting you up for some misdirection.   I did a couple videos about it last night.   First I did a reaction video, which shows both the trailer and me watching it for the first time.

After I had some time to process it I was able to do a scene by scene breakdown, which can be found below.   Some of the big takeaways from this trailer are as follows:

  1. Rey and Kylo Ren are of similar Strengths
  2. Luke is afraid of Rey’s strength, and perhaps reluctant to train her due to that fear.
  3. Snoke wants Rey’s strength and apparently succeeds at getting her.
  4. Kylo Ren is NOT as committed to the Dark Side as many thought – There IS still good in him.
  5. Ren and Rey may join forces at some point during this movie
  6. We are finally getting a good space battle(At least 1)
  7. Finn Vs Phasma is going to happen and it looks fantastic!

This trailer focused more on the force users than our military folks, which is fine with me…. but since trailers have a tendency to mislead you as to the movies true content, we don’t know how much will focus on the Jedi, and how much will focus on Poe, Rose, and Finn.

This trailer left out a lot of information too.  For example the lack of Benicio Del Toro’s “DJ” was a significant omission.   Also there really wasn’t any mention of other important characters such as Rose, Hux, or Ackbar.   Leia didn’t speak, so we still don’t know much about how significant her role will be, but we know it’s going to be a tear jerker regardless…

Here is my breakdown.

Tickets also went on sale last night.   I got one for the 7 PM showing on Dec 14th and it feels so much more real now!   Are you as excited as I am?

 

Episode 8 Trailer coming soon!

Rumor is that the Episode 8 trailer is going to be coming to us this coming Monday, Oct 9th!   Multiple leaks now seem to confirm this, and I discuss it more in this video.

Are you guys as excited as I am?   I’m going to try to stream a live reaction.  Granted I’m not always the crying type so I don’t think it’ll be like what you’ve seen before, but who knows, maybe it’ll be a bland trailer with information we already know from the merchandise, or maybe it’ll have some surprises!

 

What are you most looking forward to?

Hoth Terrain for Legion!

Just wanted to share some pictures of my finished Hoth Terrain for Star Wars Legion!  It’s taken me probably about two months to create all of the terrain pieces.  Here are some pictures!

I also ordered the playmat from Deep-Cut Studio, which I used for the surface.  The AT-AT is from the old WOTC game, the explosions are a Bandaii Tamashi Nations effect, (Plastic pieces for posing action figures), and all the rest of the miniatures are from Imperial Assault. I cannot WAIT for Star Wars Legion to finally come out!

I’ve documented my progress in a series of videos.  If you haven’t checked them out yet I suggest you do!

If you just want to jump to the final video, that’s part 10!

Concentrate Fire – My Favorite Command!

I suppose the title says it all here.   Concentrate Fire is probably my most heavily used command and I just love it, but it’s not perfect.  Maybe I favor it so much because I tend to enjoy games that end quickly?   Maybe it’s an aggressive play style?   Maybe I’d rather destroy an enemy ship before it can shoot me back?   You know what they say, the best defense is a good offense!

I actually think it has something to do with the types of lists I fly.  I used to really favor the CR-90 with Turbolaser Reroute Circuits, but have since gravitates more towards being a serious fan of the Arquitens.  What do a lot of my favorite lists have in common?

Small Ships

Small based ships tend to have a lower number of attack dice, and they also tend to cost a lot less than medium or large ships.   The types of small ships I tend to fly most often are ships that are cheap and have red dice in multiple firing arcs.  A CR-90 with a concentrate fire, can effectively double it’s side arc dice at long range, or add 50% to it’s front shot.  That’s not a bad amount of firepower if you’ve got some way to counter the risk of rolling blanks.  The Arquitens on the other hand, also can double their front shot, but only gain 33% to the side shot.   However, either ship can run TRC to mitigate a single bad result, but the Arquitens have the unique advantage of being Imperial and therefore having access to Vader – an incredibly strong commander where Red Dice are concerned.

Large Ship Disadvantage

Large Ships using concentrate fire, on the other hand, have a significant disadvantage when compared to small ships doing the same command.  A Large ship may be rolling anywhere from 4 to 10 dice already, and getting one extra just isn’t that much of a big deal.  At long range, an ISD may only add 20% to it’s dice count, which is much less, but the closer they get, the less impactful a concentrate fire command feels.   Imagine rolling 8 dice and your command only gives you one more…   Typically by the time an Imperial Star Destroyer, or Liberty MC-80 gets you within medium range, you are going to die regardless, so one extra die isn’t going to matter much.  For large ships, navigation is often far more valuable, considering they can use it to ensure they line up shots and guarantee using the dice they already have.

My Wishlist

How would I fix this balance?  Any fix I come up with for this would have to make Large ships more desirable than they are now, in my mind, while not making medium ships overpowered since they have the ability to take disposable capacitors.  I think a new commander or new officers could help this idea out.

Admiral Lee would act similar to Motti for the rebels.  This is only a rough example for the card, he may have to cost more, and I may have to scale back his benefits… perhaps providing nothing for a small ship in this case.   Maybe an extra reroll for medium, and an extra die for large… but this is just to get the ideas flowing.

For the Empire, I went with a single ship option.

I made him an officer and costed him at a whopping 15 points.   He can give an ISD 3 additional dice when doing a CF, so a total of 4 extra dice for a long range attack.   I might have to make him Large Ship Only.  Something like this would really make an ISD threatening!  But I fear if he’s not restricted to large ships, people might simply put him on a Victory and call it a day.

 

Either way, as it stands right now, I feel Concentrate Fire is best and most efficient on small ships, and since you can field so many MORE of them, it adds up to ALOT more dice overall.   I would love to see some serious incentive for Large Ships to start taking Concentrate Fire more reliably!

 

Future Editions of X-Wing…. Someday?

Have you ever thought about what happens if FFG makes an X-Wing 2nd Edition?   I’ve thought about it alot!  I’ve even made an  April Fools Joke earlier this year!  And while I don’t expect they’ll do a full blown 2nd edition of the game any time soon… I do think it’s certainly a possibility in the future.

So what would happen if they actually did announce a 2nd edition? I got to thinking about this and I came up with a list of 10 things I would have changed if I could re-design X-Wing.   Naturally I’d incorporate these changes into a new version of the game.

But what about leaving the 1st edition in the dust?  Should 2nd edition be compatible with the 1st edition?  It’s a difficult question to answer, because in order for a game to thrive, it has to be selling product.   But how can a game sell product if everyone is simply using their old “version 1” ships?

I think for a 2nd Edition to sell well, and to be accepted by the people, it would need to do several things.

Remember the Love

First, it would need to be a return to what made people fall in love with X-Wing in the first place, at least in some regards.  Thematic dog-fighting, flying amazing looking miniatures in space, and everyone near you “Oogling” your game with awe and wonder.

Fix the Flaws

Second, it would need to fix the design flaws in the original first edition.  I covered much of this in the “Top 10 Fixes” video above.  FFG tends to learn very well from past mistakes and I have no doubt they would be able to pull this off without much difficulty.   Each new game that comes out tends to improve on what worked, while discarding aspects that didn’t work.

Slightly New Feel

I also believe that a 2nd edition would have to “Feel” different.  Whether it’s ship bases, movement, larger ship models, or something all together new, like focusing on the 3D aspect of space flight.  This need to have a new twist that the original doesn’t have.

Minimize the Tokens

One problem with X-Wing and several miniatures games, are the number of tokens involved.  The less tiny cardboard chits you need to put on the play surface, the better it’s going to be for everyone.

Change in Scale

A change in scale may also be helpful in creating a positive play experience.  Maybe scale, as it applies to ship size, but also maybe scale in a sense of the number of ships you can have on the board.  Typical X-Wing games tend to have 2, 3, or 4 ships, but can have a maximum of 8, (though 8 ships is an extremely rare occurrence).  Suppose a new version of X-Wing has only 1, 2, or 3 ships on the board at any given time?

Reduce the Playtime

One draw that games like Magic the Gathering, and Destiny have, are that they can be played in a short amount of time.  By reducing the scale, reducing the tokens, and adjusting the game, FFG might consider reducing the average playtime from an hour, to somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.  Shorter games don’t necessarily mean less fun either, because you can get more games played and even change up your list.  This would also reduce the setup and teardown time.

 

I’m not even convinced that X-Wing is going to have a 2nd edition any time soon…. but if they do I hope they check this article out first!

Rapid Launch Bays – So Delicious!

Rapid Launch Bays has easily got to be one of my favorite cards in the game.  It  allows squadrons to be carried into battle on board a ship and “Launch” directly into the heat of combat.  And while it’s not exactly a “New” card, I do want to talk about just how much I love it!

One of the early things I didn’t like much about Armada, was that enemy fleets had to start the game with squadrons deployed.  Considering that some squadrons are fast, and some are incredibly slow, it never made that much sense to be.  Why would rebels launch A-Wings and a YT-1300 both at the same time while being at maximum distance from enemy contact?  When this card came out it was a breath of fresh air.  Finally, I could have a more thematic battle, with ships launching directly into combat.

Flight Commander is practically an auto include on any ship using Rapid Launch Bays.   It allows you to MOVE first, get into position, THEN drop your squadrons, and immediately shoot.   From a certain point of view, it allows any ship to be as dangerous as a Demolisher.

The usage of this card was also clarified recently.  You don’t actually have to activate the ships that you deploy with this card – allowing them to shoot and move so long as you activate them afterward with some OTHER ship.  You have options!   You can drop some X-Wings, activate ONE of them, perhaps one other ship, and leave the rest of your deployed ships for another activation or perhaps even the squadron phase.

My favorite squadron to use with Rapid Launch bays is probably B-Wings.  Their speed of 2, originally made them incredibly difficult to use effectively.  As a bomber with 2 anti ship dice, you REALLY want these guys up close and personal to enemy ships, and Rapid Launch Bays gives you the ability to deploy them right where you want them.   If you position yourself correctly, you can even drop these trusty bombers so they avoid enemy engagements, allowing them to ravage your enemy’s hull right away!

You can combo this with the Yavaris if you play your cards right.   Dropping some B-Wings at close range of an enemy flagship that has already activated, might be a situation where you want to leave the B-Wings un-activated, if you’ve got a Yavaris nearby that can allow those now close-range B-Wings to double tap.  This is a risky move though, because to do this means you are giving your opponent a chance to react, so you may find your Yavaris destroyed, or your B-Wings engaged by hostile squadrons before they can bomb the enemy flagship. So if you plan to drop your prized bombers in your opponents face, you need to consider how your opponent will counter them before you waste an opportunity to hit them directly.

Rapid Launch Bays can also be used against pesky squadrons.  Suppose you are playing as the Empire and your opponent has a named A-Wing that is stopping all of your best laid plans, and is able to Scatter when you try to attack them, narrowly avoiding death!   Dropping a Boba Fett at range 1 of the enemy’s most annoying squadron might yield you a great opportunity to deal an unavoidable damage, which might be just what it takes to finally get rid of Tycho Celchu or Shara Bey!

 

I generally try to use Rapid Launch Bays on ships that can drop 3 or more squadrons, but also ships that have the mobility required to get them into a good enough position to do so.  Flotillas aren’t bad in this case on either side. It gives them some threat that they may not have otherwise had, and their speed, mobility, and squadron value while all being mediocre, are all balanced well considering their low cost in this case.

For the rebels, I’ve found the Assault Frigate Mk2 tends to be the most well rounded carrier, and works very well as a Rapid Launch Bay platform.  The Empire has several options, with the ISD 1 having the largest potential capacity.  I’ve even tried to use the Raider with Boba Fett before, as a single option, and while not optimal, it still works somewhat interestingly, due to the fact that you can stock a squadron token and still use it, rather than needing to plan a full squadron dial to make this work.

So between the form and the function, Rapid Launch Bays is one of the best upgrades in the game.  It makes the battles more thematic, and really can change the tempo of the way squadrons perform.   I love it and I hope you do to!

 

 

 

How Deadly will the Mandalorians be?

I need to talk about the Mandalorian Gauntlet squadrons that are going to come with the Chimaera expansion for Star Wars Armada.   First off, I’ll admit that we can’t fully see all of their information, but it’s not what we can’t see, but rather what we CAN that’s giving me some cause for both excitement and concern. 

First off, in terms of balance and symmetry, the Empire has been down a ship since the core set.   Now with a refit of the Imperial Star Destroyer, it likely feels like the Empire may be down TWO ships, if you look at this as still being the same model, despite the new versions.  So I’m pleased to see that the Empire is actually gaining a +1 advantage in terms of squadrons.

I’m also happy to see that we aren’t getting bombarded with squadron packs this time around.   This game, for me, has always been first and foremost, about ship-to-ship combat, with squadrons simply one aspect of many.   But for a long time, it felt as though squadrons had so many more options than even ships.   So I’m happy to see only a single squadron make it into the game this time around.  I’m not against adding new squadrons, I’d just like the variety of squadrons to better reflect the points limit on squadrons of 1/3rd your fleet.   I’d effectively like for you to have twice as many ship options as squadron options.  This wave reflects that balance.

The Squadron itself looks strong.   With 7 hull it’s not going to be eliminated easily.  There are two included in this pack, seemingly a generic and Gar Saxon.  Saxon appears to have Rogue and another keyword which I had originally mistaken for Escort.   The symbol is roughly similar to Escort but clearly something else.  If this new keyword is strong I have to wonder if it is also on the generic.  We haven’t seen the dice yet, but we can expect them to be strong considering the reputation of Mandalorians and their ships.  I’m expecting these new squadrons to be amazing.

But I am slightly worried about this new Gauntlet squadron’s cost.   Not the points cost, but rather the $50 price tag on the Chimaera expansion itself.   If this turns out to be one of the best squadrons, that will effectively incentivize some people to buy three of them to run 6 Gauntlet Fighters.   If that proves to be a winning strategy, it represents a very uncomfortable trend for this game.

 

Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe there won’t be much incentive to take more than two.   Hopefully even if there is, we can just borrow one or two from a friend.   The worst case scenario would be for their point cost to warrant you taking 8 or 9, then some one buys 5 Chimaera expansions and wins worlds with a build that some might consider pay-to-win.  I hope that won’t be the case.