Sunday, November 29, 2015

Armada: Imperial Squadron Dream Team

Killing Rebel squadrons and ships all day.

I just wanted to say off the bat that this post will be primarily about Imperial squadron tricks.  The whole thing with Imperial squadrons is that I think they fit under two distinct categories:  Really strong anti-squadron mechanics, or really strong Rhymerball tactics for anti-ship madness.  While you can do something like mass fighter swarm and just go all out with Howlrunner and a billion TIEs, I think there are some things you can do differently that can completely change the way you look at squadrons.

Let me show you my version of Imperial Aces:

The meaning of quality over quantity.

First, I want you guys to meet Dengar, the newest addition the Empire through the Rogues and Villains expansion.  Dengar has arguably some of the best benefits for the Empire because he's fast, durable with Brace/Scatter, and has overall strong stats with 3 blues, Swarm and a black dice vs. ships.  It's important to know that he has Swarm because he gets the full bonus from Howlrunner and other guys nearby with Swarm.  Ideally, you want to take everyone with Swarm if you have Howlrunner nearby because she makes them absolutely ridiculous with her free damage boost and re-rolls.  What makes Dengar great especially is his Intel, making everyone within distance-1 of him Heavy; thus allowing your units to move freely as long as he's alive.  We will get to his other greater ability in just a little bit, but making enemy ships Heavy plays really heavily with..

Mauler Mithel.  Mithel basically does Area of Effect (AoE) damage to everyone that he's in contact with.  You got a bunch of fighters clumped up together?  He comes Mithel to apply 1 damage to everyone he lands on.  With Dengar nearby freeing up his movement, he can essentially move every round to do damage where ever he pleases.  Being a natural TIE himself, he gets 4 blue dice and a re-roll when Howlrunner is nearby, and you can bet your ass that his movement and free damage is going to make people upset really quick.  When players get mad at Mithel, they naturally want to throw dice at him until he goes away.  Unfortunately for them, he now has Counter 1 Dengar, Howlrunner's extra dice + re-roll, and attacking anyone other than Fel does 1 unavoidable damage back to them as long as Fel's engaged.  Alright, so forget Mithel, let's attack Fel instead..

Soontir doesn't care if you attack him.  If you just happen to have TIE Advanced in the fleet with Escort nearby, you can make people extremely angry that you have to attack them first.  This basically means that every time you try and attack one of these guys above, you have to hit the 5 HP TIE Advanced while Soontir does free damage to you.  If you finally manage to get to Soontir, just remember that he now has pseudo Counter 4 with a re-roll for everyone that wants to attack him.  You can bet that I'll burn all my Brace and Scatter tokens just so multiple ships can take what is essentially free Interceptor attacks with a re-roll bonus.  If you think about it, it's almost as if you're getting hit by imaginary TIE Interceptors for free.  Talk about value.  That's just asking to get your lower HP ships AoE'd to death by Mithel next round.  Most of the time, you might not even care about the TIE Advanced and just throw out Interceptors for consistent, big damage with speed-5 alpha strike, an improved Counter, Swarm and Howlrunner's effect in full blast.  When this combo here works, it really works.

Now that you're feeling good about your squadrons, let's check out the Fireball.

Rhymerball + Firesprays = Fireball

OK, so what you have here is basically a walking ball of death to ships.  The most important thing to note here is that Rhymer gives all of these Rogue and Bomber ships medium range on their anti-ship attack dice.  That's basically the same threat range as if you're moving as speed-5 ship that can attack freely in the squadron phase.

You'll see Dengar in here as well mainly because he's probably the best overall ship the Imperials have due to his resiliency, tokens and Intel.  Unlike the previous combo, Intel here specifically frees the updated Rhymerball from being tied up by other squadrons.  Sure, the Firesprays are already pretty tanky and throw out pretty good dice with 3 blues (Dengar's Counter 1 basically gives them 4 dice), but the Intel allow them to chase enemy ships without hindrance, and from insane threat ranges.  Realistically, if you're taking say: Dengar, Rhymer, Boba, and 4x Firesprays, you're going to be throwing 9 blue dice and 2 black dice at ships from medium range, all of which have the Bomber keyword.  That's more powerful than every single capital ship in the game right now, and there's a reason why the squadron I just named costs 134 points on the nose.  It's simply murderous.

When you throw together the total hull points here on all the ships, you're looking at something like 39 hull points with some tokens to spend.  That's a lot of hull to chew through and with good placement, Dengar can make sure that he's freeing up your squadrons continuously.  Even if Rhymer does not get to attack, as long as he's providing the aura for the range bonus to the Firesprays that will be moving during the squadron phase, that's all that really matters.  It's almost an absolutely surety that you will beat most players in the damage race if this ball of death goes around unhindered.

As you can see, the Fireball is why a lot of the Vassal meta (international meta) has had a hard on for squadron lists.  If you run into Rhymer and Firesprays without any kind of squadron support, you're just going to lose the game.  Period.  As soon as you venture out of the deployment zone, the Firesprays will be in range to apply damage.  That's how far they can reach and the damage they are capable of is absolutely bonkers.  The best thing that you can do here is to kill off Rhymer ASAP, try and tie up as many Firesprays as possible and keep them on you while you concentrate on destroying the enemy fleet.  Understand that the Fireball costs 134 points, which is more than an Imperial Star Destroyer.  Know that if Rhymer is dead, their threat range drops dramatically because Firesprays are only speed-3.  The tough point here is you need a squadron counter that has a big enough threat range and can deal enough damage to alpha strike Rhymer dead.  A-Wings and Interceptors with squadron commands instantly come to mind.

Hold onto your hats folks, this is only the start of Wave 2 and we're already seeing some craziness.

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