Kaiju Games in Etobicoke held an Imperial Assault tournament today so I came down from the mountain into the outskirts of the Big Smoke to see how I’d fare. While X-Wing has been my main game since it came out in 2012 I have to say that Imperial Assault is garnering more of my interest these days, despite the embarrassment of riches we have with new X-Wing ships. Imperial Assault is still in its relative infancy but we’re just starting to get to the point where the amount of options available are facilitating variety in the lists that people are fielding.
Although, thematically, I like the Mercenary faction the best I haven’t invested the time to find a list I like that I feel would do well at a tournament. I did some early experimentation with IG-88 that I’d like to revisit but I’m clicking more with Rebels based around elite Rebel Saboteurs and Luke Skywalker.
- Luke Skywalker
- Diala Passil
- Gideon Argus
- Rebel Saboteur (Elite) x2
- Rebel Saboteur
- Balance of the Force
I liked the list but the one Deployment Card I never felt like I was getting enough production out was Diala.
She has great surge abilities but having the green die in her attack instead of the yellow die really cuts down on the frequency she can use them. Giving her focus, obviously, would help but using Gideon to focus Luke to give him a “traffic light” (i.e. one red die, one yellow die, one green die) dice pool for a Sabre Strike with built in Pierce 3 as opposed to giving the same dice pool to Diala for an increased chance to surge for Pierce 3 is simply a better option.
The other unit that had me questioning it was the regular (or “grunt” as I’ll refer to them as herein; shout-outs to all the Monsterpocalypse alumni out there) Rebel Saboteurs. When I hold up the grunt to the elite for this unit, it’s staggering how much better the elite version is for two points. Simply stated, for 7 points as opposed to 5, the elite Rebel Saboteurs gain the following:
- 6 Health instead of 4
- Blast 2 on surge instead of Blast 1
- Priority Target (Figures do not block line of sight for this figure’s attacks)
Having a white die for defense is really riding the lightning. When the dodge comes up it’s as more of a psychological advantage than anything. When a defender rolls 3 block on a black die to prevent 3 of 4 damage that never is as emotionally deflating as seeing that dodge come up to negate the entire attack. However, if it isn’t the dodge coming up the white die doesn’t offer that much protection.
In my experience, six health with a white die on defense is the difference between being able to absorb one above-average hit that most units can produce and two. In the games I play it’s uncanny how often six health figures take 5 damage and live for at least one more round because of that last point of health. For the elite Rebel Saboteurs to be at this level of health is, over time, giving them one more round on the board compared to the grunts.
Blast 2 on the elites is an ability that is feared whereas Blast 1 on the grunts seems like more of an inconvenience. Combined with Overload, that can multiply to Blast 4 or even higher than that if you are really lucky. Opponents wise to this will place their figures in a way that prevents you from using blast but, depending on the mission, leaving those empty spaces can be the difference between being able to move in a way that helps you attain mission objectives because you’re not losing squares of movement by moving through enemy figures and not. Sure, getting around highly defensive figures with Blast is great but anything that disrupts the way your opponent positions figures is a boon. Blast 1 on the grunt Rebel Saboteurs is an annoyance whereas Blast 2 on the elite version is a game changer.
While I feel that the two points extra is well worth the investment for the extra health and blast alone, it is Priority Target that really makes the elites sing. This ability increases the range of this unit dramatically and makes it much more difficult for your opponent to screen more valuable figures from attacks. The elite Rebel Saboteurs live for combat in hallways that are two squares wide where they can stand behind their colleagues and lob grenades at whomever they choose with impunity instead of having to mow down from front-to-back.
In the squad I have listed above, I found I was using the grunt Rebel Saboteurs as objective holders more than anything else. They’re not all that bad at doing that with their Speed of 5 but I thought I could put their points to better use. Straight up, I swapped them out for R2-D2 and C-3PO.
Just having two activations for 5 points is a benefit in and of itself. If I could get 3 focus tokens over the course of a game out of C-3PO I’d feel like his points were justified. R2-D2 was the droid I was really excited about using. Being able to just draw a command card for an action when adjacent to a terminal is almost too good to be true, especially considering that controlling the terminal is not a requirement for this ability.
Terminal Network, his named Command Card, takes this a step further by deeming you to be in control of both terminals on the board until the end of the turn regardless of whose figures are adjacent to the terminals. In real terms, his ability and Command Card combined could mean that you draw four command cards between his activation and the end of a round while limiting your opponent to one. Think about it. That’s you drawing 1/3 of your remaining 12 command cards over the course of one turn. The options that should open up for you are staggering.
By dropping Diala, the grunt Rebel Saboteurs, and Balance of the Force, my squad looked like this:
- Luke Skywalker
- Jyn Odan
- Mak Eshka’rey
- Gideon Argus
- Rebel Saboteur (elite) x2
I hadn’t played Skirmish with Jyn or Mak before so that would be a bit of a learning experience.
Having eight different activations would likely mean that I would be taking activations a fair bit while my opponent passed. With three figures (Artoo, Threepio, and Gideon) that are heavily focused on support I didn’t see this as a big problem. In three turns I can give two figures a focus and likely move Artoo next to a terminal which is exactly what I want to be doing so if I can accomplish that without having to make hard choices all the better for me. That’s the theory, anyway. Let’s see how it worked out.
The Command Deck is what makes Imperial Assault interesting. The choices made in terms of what is included in the Command Deck completely contextualize how you approach your squad and go after objectives. With R2-D2 in this squad, gaining access to Commmand Cards is something this squad should excel at. The Command Deck I put together for this squad is as follows:
|Character-Specific||Zero-Point Cards||Other Cards|
|Etiquette and Protocol (2)||Celebration (0)||Explosive Weaponry (1) x2|
|One in a Million (2)||Devotion (0)||Lock On (2)|
|Son of Skywalker (3)||Element of Surprise (0)||Slippery Target (2)|
|Terminal Network (2)||Expose Weakness (0)|
|Fleet Footed (0)|
|Take Initiative (0)|
When I’m considering Command Cards I usually take the approach of considering all the character-specific cards first and then see how many points I have left over. My squad has six unique characters so it wouldn’t have been possible to take all of their named cards. I can’t think of a reason ever to not take Son of Skywalker so that one was just automatic.
Gideon’s “Take it Down” card has never been one that I have been able to make work.
The fact that Gideon needs to be adjacent to the figure to pull it off is what I find challenging. I tend to keep Gideon back leading from the proverbial hill since his built-in abilities both work when within line of sight. An additional attack is well worth three points but I decided to leave this one in the toolbox as I’m unaccustomed to having Gideon in the thick of things.
Mak’s Shadow Ops card has one of the most disruptive abilities amongst the current pool of Command Cards by keeping the opponent from playing command cards until the end of the round.
Both are great but I opted for Jyn’s card. Between One in a Million, Element of Surprise, and Lock On, I have three cards to disrupt my opponents’ defense dice in various contexts which, an idea of which I am a fan.
Round 1 vs. TIE (Imperials) at Kuat Station (Incoming Transmission)
Yes, his name was Tie and he was actually wearing a tie. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call commitment to a bit. TIE was running a 39-point Vader-centric force with a considerable amount of damage output:
- Darth Vader
- Imperial Officer x2
- Stormtrooper (elite)
- Heavy Stormtrooper (elite)
Of all the current tournament scenarios I think I have played Incoming Transmission the most. The up-ticking of the VP value of the relay stations can make them extremely valuable but I tend to try and claim them as early as possible. Even at the end of turn 1, if you can grab two of them that’s 6 VPs which can be a big difference-maker.
While I definitely had the activation advantage in this match, Vader was definitely my biggest concern. Tie used his officers early to move Vader out into the open. While using them to move Vader up-field didn’t surprise me what did surprise me was his choosing not to pass while he had fewer activation than me. This allowed me to load up Jyn and Luke with focus from Gideon and C-3PO. I was able to take down Vader near the start of turn 3 and my MVP for that feat was Jyn. While Luke and my Saboteurs did the heavy damage on Vader, Jyn’s Hair Trigger ability stunned Vader a few times and limited the Officers’ ability to move him around. Tie began to retreat Vader, likely in contemplation of holding down one of the relay stations and claiming it at 9 VP, but Jyn got in a lucky hit and took down the Sith Lord.
That gave me a huge early game advantage but, points-wise, this game was decided by less than half a dozen or so points. Although I had more activations, many of my one-figure Deployment Cards are relatively squishy. This game went to time and I was able to hold off the troopers to win.
Round 2 vs. Chris (Imperials) at Ord Mantell Junkyard (Most Dangerous Game)
I played Chris once before at a small tournament at my local store where he ran a list very similar to mine with the only difference being a unit of Rebel Saboteurs instead of R2 and 3PO (which weren’t released yet at the time). Chris is a really strong player so I knew that he would know what not to do against my list as he was very familiar with it. He was running a very similar list to Tie at 40 points:
- Darth Vader
- Imperial Officer x2
- Stormtrooper (elite) x2
This was, upon reflection, not the mission I wanted to have with the force I brought. While many of the missions compel you to make a choice between attacking enemy figures and achieving objectives, in Most Dangerous game it’s a straight-up fight and they are one and the same. Not surprisingly, Chris chose to make Darth Vader his bounty hunter unit and I made Luke mine. While Luke is not a slouch in the damage department by any means, Vader’s “Brutality” ability meant that I had to be very careful about how I placed my figures as, unless I rolled Dodges, Vader could easily take out any of my units in a single attack, other than Luke at full health.
I made a mistake with Jyn by putting her in a position where I thought I could use her “Hair Trigger” ability against an advancing group of Stormptroopers but I kept forgetting that the enemy figure has to be in Jyn’s line of site at the start of its activation, not at the start of an action. I was fortunate to get off an attack before she was defeated but it was a rather inconsequential hit on a Stormtrooper that was relatively far away and I had to use my surge for accuracy when I would have rather stunned the figure, all things considered.
I can’t really say much more than that Chris out-played me in this round. He never once ended his figures’ activations adjacent to each other so my Saboteurs didn’t get to use blast. He timed his activations well and managed to dispatch Luke on turn 3. By using his officers to push Vader up-field and then keeping them back he forced me to make the hard choice between running up to his officers and subjecting myself to Vader or hanging back and getting taken apart piecemeal. It also didn’t help my cause that he drew both of his Reinforcements cards early and the two Stormtroopers that I managed to defeat came back right away. After Luke went down the rate at which Vader was obtaining points was just too fast and I wound up losing something like 47 to 4, the only points I earned being from two turns of Luke (my bounty hunter) being alive.
At the risk of diminishing Chris’ excellent play, this was a bad match up for my squad. This scenario garners a player the most points, obviously, when the bounty hunter deals the death blow to a unit. Setting up a series of attacks whereby Luke would deal the final blow to a unit of elite Stormtroopers is practically impossible to plan for and the only single-figure units are either the Imperial officers, which would only be worth 4 points as opposed to 2, and Vader himself. My squad, by contrast, has five single-figure units with 6 health or less, which Vader can feast on.
I have to share one funny and memorable moment from this game. I had R2-D2 camped out by the terminal closest to mid-board. Chris moved Vader up during his activation to block my controlling the terminal and contemplated attacking but didn’t want to risk a 1/3 chance of R2 dodging it so he chose instead to use Force Choke instead. I’d love to know what R2-D2 being “choked” looks like. I can just picture Artoo saying, “Dude… I saved your ass against the Trade Federation at the Battle of Naboo!” Oops, sorry… Prequels reference (slaps own hand).
Round 3 vs. Lanny (Rebels) at Ord Mantell Junkyard (Mind of its Own)
Lanny was the only other Rebel player at the tournament but he chose to go the way of the Wookiee with the following 40-point list:
- Gideon Argus
- Rebel Saboteur (elite) x2
I like to refer to this scenario as the “Zamboni Laser.” I’ve played it a few times and I’ve never seen the laser actually defeat a figure but the way it shortens the board has an interesting effect on the game. Key to winning this scenario, in my opinion, is getting VPs by controlling the terminal closest to the laser for the two turns you’re able to do so before it gets behind the laser.
Before we had even deployed, I decided that I was going to forget about attacking Chewbacca unless I had a plum opportunity with either or both of Lock On or Element of Surprise in my hand to take away the possibility of a dodge. In these area control missions, I find that trying to take down a high-health unit just turns into an activation tar-pit that distracts me from trying to attain mission objectives. I was glad to see Chewbacca lined up behind the door as that suggested to me that Lanny’s intent was to have Chewie attempt to control the terminal closest to the laser. Something worth mentioning is that I had the good fortune of drawing Terminal Network in my opening command hand. My hope was, with one squad of Rebel Saboteurs, to bait Chewbacca into contesting for control of the southern terminal and keep him away from the larger battle taking place on the other end of the board and snake 5 VPs with Terminal Network.
Before I’d even drawn that card, I was hoping I’d be able to use Terminal Network after the laser had passed that terminal but I am glad I chose to use it on turn 2. While there is definitely a sense of urgency in terms of the proximity of the laser, the reality is that most games of Imperial Assault only last 3 or 4 turns and, despite R2-D2’s “Lucky” ability I didn’t want to risk his to be defeated before I had a chance to use such a great card.
On the other side of the board, I had Wookiee problems of a different nature. I made the mistake again of putting Jyn in a location where she didn’t have line of site to the figure that she wanted to target with Hair Trigger. Fortunately, after Gaarkhan’s charge attack, Jyn still had one health. Lanny played Furious Charge later that round after Luke had delivered a Sabre Strike so the prospect of finishing off Jyn and taking a swing at Luke was no doubt enticing. Fortunately for me, I had One in a Million in my hand and was able to Stun Gaarkhan, thus reducing his attacks by one. My Saboteurs then moved in and finished him off and I was lucky again to have had Celebration in-hand. I lost Jyn in the process but I was happy with the trade.
As I alluded to earlier, I used R2-D2’s Terminal Network card to gain 10 VPs at the end of turn 2. That was, essentially, a 15-point swing as Chewbacca had gained control of the other terminal and, based on figures alone, neither of us were controlling the other terminal. At this point I was ahead 22 points to 5 which isn’t insurmountable but eliminating Gaarkhaan that early took away a considerable portion of Lanny’s offensive output. For the rest of the game we more-or-less traded figures being eliminated but I wound up winning on time with only Chewbacca remaining in the opposing force which had me at 39 points (14 points due to controlling two terminals for a turn and using “Celebration” when Gaarkhan was defeated) and Lanny at around 20.
Round 4 vs. Jon (Imperials) at Kuat Space Station (Data Heist)
Jon is someone I see often at my local store (Black Knight Games). We usually play X-Wing and there is an odd dynamic whereby I beat him most of the time in casual play but he beats me most of the time when we meet in a tournament. I was hoping, selfishly, that the same phenomenon wouldn’t turn out to be true in Imperial assault as I think we’ve only played four casual games of IA with me winning three of them. Jon brought the following 40 points of Imperials:
- AT-ST x2
- Imperial Officer x2
- Royal Guard
As you can see from Jon’s list above, it was a little janky. I had never played this scenario before but it struck me as one whereby you would want to leave a unit or two with significant combat capability near the data core to run in once the door opens and have enough staying power to defeat whatever your opponent moves in. We both seem to have had this idea as he parked one of his AT-STs right outside the door and I had both my units of Saboteurs and Luke very close to my door.
I had the corner deployment zone and I put Artoo in a spot where, despite his 3 movement, he could get into adjacency with either terminal with a little push from Gideon’s “Tactical Manuever” ability. I thought Jon would try and use his other AT-ST to try and block my access to the terminal closer to the middle of the board but he used his offers to have it come down towards the other terminal. When it came time to move R2-D2 I had the other terminal secured with Jyn. Although Jyn was staring down an AT-ST barreling down the hallway she rolled a timely dodge which, minimally, ensured that she would live out the round and be controlling one terminal. Jon had his two Royal Guard controlling the other terminal so I moved R2-D2 up to it so that neither of us were controlling it.
Given how much R2-D2 can contribute to this mission, I was a little wary of throwing him to the wolves so early but by being the only player controlling a terminal after the first turn meant I could open my door and be fairly certain of 10 VP. Jon could have potentially used his officers to move the Royal Guard into the room through my open door but that would have just resulted in them standing there with no choice but to absorb attacks from my figures in the area so, instead, he chose to have them attack R2-D2. This did, unfortunately, defeat my beloved loyal astromech but he had served his purpose before his little droid soul was ferried to The Maker.
One of my squads of Saboteurs was able to put a heavy beating on to the Royal Guard and, by surging twice on the same attack wound up being able to bring an already-damaged Royal Guard to 7 damage and using blast twice to do four to the other which, with blast on a subsequent attack, I was able to finish off the squad.
At that point, with the Royal Guard defeated, I had one of my Saboteurs adjacent to the mid-board terminal controlling it. Jon moved in his AT-ST in contemplation of shoving the same Saboteur away from the terminal which would have meant he controlled it. I was very fortunate, however, to have Slippery Target in-hand and used it to scoot into the alcove and block Jon from controlling the terminal. I pulled a similar shenanigan on a subsequent turn when Jon pushed that same Saboteur away from the terminal and I used Son of Skywalker to have Luke cross the board to block control of the terminal. In that instance, the card should have been called “Run, Luke, Run” as I used all his actions to move a total of 20 squares.
The end of this turn again had me controlling one terminal to Jon’s zero so his other AT-ST had now spent two turns not having contributed as his door was not opened. This garnered me 20 points from the scenario and, at that point, Jon started moving his other AT-ST into the fray. Luke was able to do a Pierce 6 Sabre Strike on one of the AT-STs which hobbled it significantly and Jyn, with a lucky Hair Trigger attack, was able to finish it off which put me at 42 points to win the game.
I will fully acknowledge that my list was better suited to deal with this scenario that Jon’s. Although I thought R2-D2 would play a bigger role in this scenario my figures’ mobility and the sheer number of activations I had made it such that I could simply cover the terminals better.
Conclusions & Lessons Learned
The “Most Dangerous Game” scenario is definitely the active tournament scenario that my squad will have the hardest time winning. By contrast, the ways that R2-D2 can accelerate the acquisition of Command Cards and control terminals had a much bigger impact on the game than I thought it would Going in I saw Artoo as more of a 3-point gimmick but that little droid can be the lynch-pin of any scenarios focused on controlling terminals.
By contrast, I don’t feel like I used C-3PO to his maximum potential. I think I used him too much like Gideon whereby he’d give his focus and then drop back. Even though he’s a non-combatant, he’s designed to be near the action adjacent to a colleague. I feel like I consistently got the focus out of Threepio that I wanted but I completely forgot to make use of his “Distracting” ability to remove surges from attacks targeting friendly figures adjacent to him. The adjacency to friendly figures is also necessary for his “Cower” ability which, although less reliable, makes for a better chance of Threepio staying alive. By keeping Threepio hidden as much as I did, I also kept myself from being able to use his Command Card which requires bothe the friendly and hostile figure to be in line of sight. Upon reflection, this could confer a highly effective offensive boost if, for example, I used it on Luke and Vader after Luke had already attacked Vader that round.
I definitely didn’t miss Diala or the grunt Rebel Saboteurs. Jyn did a lot for me over the course of the afternoon. I need more practice to makes sure I’m getting the most out of her Hair Trigger ability but she is a slippery eel that can be extremely disruptive. Her surge abilities are each “two-fers” that can both be used out of turn with her Hair Trigger ability. Jyn is also surprisingly more survivable with her “Nimble” ability essentially adding a block to each side of the white defense die. For five points, I’m glad to have included her in this squad.
I was surprised to see as little from wave 2 fielded today. Apart from Tie’s Heavy Stormtroopers my two droids were the only wave 2 figures on the table. I was actually hoping to face Boba Fett!
Three wins and a loss was good enough to get second place in this six-person tournament with a record of 3-1. I can’t think of anything I’d like to change about this squad, to be honest. Threepio is definitely the figure that I need to go way and use more to get the most out of him.
Here’s hoping that this is the start of a more robust IA tournament scene around here!
Re-posted with permission from engler.ca.