After winning the Winnipeg Regional tournament with a Tie Bomber list I received a lot of questions about how I pulled that off. I was also asked about why I ran bombers in the first place, so I thought I’d write about it.
Possibly my most fun moment with running a TIE bomber squad was signing into the Regional. As I handed over my list a few people looked at it and chuckled. At least one person said “maybe nobody explained the game to him”.
So with that let’s get into it, shall we?
During my first X-Wing tournament (which humorously enough was the first time I played a full 100 pt game) I heard something from a lot of the local players. The only viable Imperial list was the Tie Fighter Swarm.
I love gaming. I’ve played a lot of games for a long time but my kryptonite has always been hearing “X can’t win, Y can’t work”, it’s like a sweet siren call. It makes me crazy to try and prove that theory wrong.
So as my first real intro to X-Wing finished up I wanted to try something different. I had only played rebels at that point. Yup I was really, really green, but so are Imperial lasers, so I figured it would work out.
I went into the store the following week and asked what nobody (at the time) flew and I received two answers: Tie Advanced and Tie Bombers.
I then asked “what do you have in stock?” The answer, “One Advanced and a metric butt load of Bombers, but seriously you don’t want to play those they aren’t any good and ordinance is horrible, way over costed…”
“-I’ll take four.”
And with that I set out to have some fun.
So lets look at the basics of the TIE Bomber.
The stats for the bomber are nothing to write home about at first glance. With 2 Attack it’s on par with the TIE Fighter, but it only has 2 Agility so it’s gonna eat some shots like an X-Wing. But while it has no shields it has 6 hull, yup 6 hull. At double the hull of a Tie Fighter it makes out like a bandit for only three more points, oh and it’s Pilot Skill 2 so it’s not shooting dead last.
Now the action bar has focus, and barrel roll but lacks the evade action, though we find in it’s place target lock, and well, I’m okay with that. I’ve always leaned towards target lock as I love mitigating really bad shooting phases when I can.
Add to that the fact that you can equip not one, or two, but five ordinance options, and then things get cool. Two torpedoes, two missiles and a bomb can be dropped into this baby. Right now that maxes out at 27 extra points. While I haven’t seen anyone roll with that much, this thing is the mix and match delight of the X-Wing game.
The Gamma bumps you up to PS 4 for two points and is a great option when the points allow for it. I find it is great in a meta with a lot of low PS ships.
The two named pilots are both great and play different roles in a squadron. Make note that both have the option for an Elite Pilot Talent while the generic bombers lack it.
Captain Jonus comes in at PS 6 and is the Howlrunner of secondary weapons. He allows ships in range 1 to re-roll up to 2 attack dice. It’s amazing with missiles and torpedoes but can also really beef up ships with cannons. Defenders and Firesprays love him. He’s the support ship you’ve been looking for in Bomber form, just remember his value increases as you take more secondary weapons, something a lot of people leave at home.
Major Rhymer is a PS 7 bomber that can increase secondary weapon ranges by 1 to a limit of 1-3. Basically he can hit at all ranges with a Proton Torpedo, or have an Advanced Proton Torpedo hit at Range 2. That’s usually a big surprise for people and can really change how a game plays out. Where he really shines is with the new Proton Rockets, but we’ll get back to that in a bit.
Now on to where the game is won and lost – the DIALS!
The TIE Bomber is slower than it’s lighter TIE cousins, and this baby doesn’t like tight turns. In my opinion, the 3 hard white turn is amazing. A lot of people in my area would rather have the shorter, tighter turns, but for me a lumbering 3 is a huge boon as most people have a hard time visualizing it. It gets you where you want to go and can really be fun rolling around asteroid fields. This ship wants to fly in, launch and get out to set up another run rather than be stuck in a tight turning dogfight.
The second piece of gold on the dial is the 5 K-Turn. I know a lot of people like short K-turns that could allow for a short range shot and the fight to continue, but again that’s not the bomber’s bag. The 5 K lets you get the whole way out of dodge. Those horrible moments when you try for a K-Turn and bump, is usually not a thing that happens when you use the 5 K. This generally buys you a turn to get another target lock if you still have ordinance.
The Greens are fairly good as well. 1-3 strait are all green as are 2 banks. The banks are the most common way I find to bleed off stress.
The 2 hard turns are red, and this is something you really need to watch for. TIE Bombers don’t want to be in the tight turn game, but sometimes you really need to make that red turn. If you’re not going into that turn with at least a target lock or a really good plan I often find it’s a better idea to 5 K-turn past the target. Most people will turn into where they think you are, that puts them in the worst case scenario of having you on their tail one turn ahead of their K-turn or the like.
The big question is how to use the Bomber effectively, in squads or as support ships? I’m often a purist and like to go all out. So let me first address running them in an all Bomber squadrons and then I’ll talk about them as support ships.
Running a purely Bomber squadron is all about clean flying. It’s more reliant on actions than many squadrons because of the need for target locks to launch their payloads.
The upside is bombs (outside of proximity mines) don’t require actions. As long as you get to reveal a dial, you can drop a bomb, and that’s kind of a big deal. It doesn’t work if you’re ionized, so, um, don’t get ionized.
It all starts with a good formation. There are a few different ways to set up. You can take off in an extended line, a pinwheel or any other formation, though I’ve found it works better staying nice and tight with the ability to bank turn. In most cases it ensures Jonas, your quarterback, is in range 1 to hand out all his re-rolling goodness.
The pinwheel is my preferred way to fly bomber formations. I find it helps me get concentrated fire when I need it but it does have the drawback that sometimes there will be a ship in the back out of range. That is why opening ordinance launches need to be done with care.
A lot of better players than I have written and demonstrated how to fly a pinwheel formation so I’ll point you in their direction.
Above you see my formation when I’m on the left side of the board. I find it lets you turn in and have Jonus in a position where he can be in range and not be the closest ship which sometimes is a big deal. Keeping him at range 2-3 is his favorite place to be. Be careful though, if your plan is to slow play before leaping out you have to put Jonus in the back. If you don’t you’ll bump and things will go really wrong.
The good news is setting dials is easy when you try to keep them the same. Look at the table, decide the best move for the entire formation and then go with everyone. When a ship other than Jonus is out of ordinance it may break off, but before that it needs to stay in formation and do it’s job. Trust me on this one. Once the missiles and bombs are away feel free to throw your bombers into a furball but not beforehand.
The initial turn is probably the most important part of the game. People know this and I’m not saying anything really new here. However, with bombers it’s more important than ever. Remember, you’re bringing ships that need target locks to fight optimally. Against similar PS ships you can come in slow or after them, staying on the edge or target lock range. Against High PS ships you have to play hard and fast. When you don’t have the PS advantage you have to fly in to range three to get your target lock, knowing that your opponent will still move. This isn’t a problem if you brought multiple missiles that cover all range bands but if you didn’t this is where your 3 bank, along with 5 K-turn come into play.
Below I’ll give an example of how to run bombers against a higher PS pilot. What you should take away from this is 1) have a plan 2) adapt your speed wisely and, 3) applying the 5k turn effectively with your bomb drop. I know my example is an “ideal scenario,” but that’s where theory starts and then it’s application gets muddied by reality.
When you start to get close, use target lock to gauge where you are, it’s an amazing tool. In the example below, on the previous turn the Bombers know they’re starting just out of range.
The Bombers shouldn’t try and slow play it but instead do an aggressive move. In this case a three forward gets the enemy ship into range one, where the alpha strike of the bombers is completely avoided unless they’ve brought range one missiles. Yes bombers get three dice at this range but a lot of other ships get four. It’s not always a bad thing but it’s something to consider.
In our example Jonus moved in aggressively taking a 3 forward with the rest of the formation. The high PS X-Wing bumped, losing an action and wasn’t able to shoot Jonus. I find these 3 and 4 forwards to be gold in getting close. The enemy will be trying to avoid range 3 as they know it’s the realm of the bomber, so use it to your advantage and go for the action denying bump. Often the 3 and 4 forward will get you the same result as far as blocking is concerned since your squadron takes up a bunch of room and an enemy ship will bump back to where it started. Being aggressive often pays off.
Now if the whole squadron had moved as aggressively, here’s how it would end up. Our enemy will get a range 1 shots, but that’s on average, only going to result in hits 50% of the time without actions. 2/4 range 1 dice landing hits will not be enough, on average, to shoot down a Bomber. That’s good news for us.
This shows the beginning of the next turn before moves are made. All the bomb drops are shown in red. Notice the bomb spread. Also take note that the X-Wing is already in range of their effects.
Here we see both groups K-Turning in a standard joust. Yup that’s an X-Wing being hit by 4 bombs. If even a single shield came down the turn before he’s a dead rebel.
Below you can see that even a hard turn won’t get him out of there. Barrel roll and boost can help but they can’t always save a ship, and if you’ve done the unthinkable and K turned or were stressed from things like push the limit, you’re in for a bad day.
This formation makes amazing bomb runs. A lot of people think of bombs as part of shooting since they’re causing damage. But dropping bombs, like most things in X-Wing, is about how you fly, and formation is key. When I started playing bombers, I always wanted to drop the perfect bomb, one at a time, to land the ultimate hit. A few games in I realized I got more bang for buck with the popcorn effect.
So what’s the popcorn effect you ask? It’s what you just saw above but lets look into it further now. Bombs do a lot more damage when their area of effect overlaps. In the example above, the X-Wing was getting hit by all the bombs if it k-turned and 2 bombs if it turned away.
When you drop all the bombs in a formation you leave a massive wake. A range 3 x 3 area is a pretty big “everything gets hurt” blast radius wouldn’t you say? Yup a 3 x 3 area. Within that there is a large “eye of the storm,” almost range 1.5 x 1.5 that takes 4 hits! There are also places in the blast that are hit by 3 and 2 bombs respectively. The thing about using the pinwheel formation, as I’ve demonstrated, is that the tighter it gets the larger the 4 hit blast area becomes while the overall blast area is reduced. If you want to fly a formation that tries to go for the big bomb drop and hurt something bad, then a tight formation like a pinwheel will make it happen.
In the final match of the Regional I dropped this bomb pattern and killed a mint Howlrunner, and two TIEs. It was glorious, and yes we were both tired. My opponent hadn’t seen a whole lot of bomber formations before, but really, who has? After dropping, you should fly off and do a 5 K-turn to set yourself up to hurt the survivors of the carnage.
The key to dropping bombs is to know enemy dials. Think to yourself, “If I get a range one engagement, this is where his ships will end up next turn.” When a predator like a phantom tries to chase you down, try to bomb his decloak area. Don’t forget 4 bombs is a freaking big area – that is ultimately why you want to use the popcorn effect. Ships go in and fewer come out, and fewer enemy ships is the goal of X-Wing.
But alas, as of writing this the bomber can carry only a single bomb. I’m hoping that we might see something that gives them a second bomb slot, but I’m not holding my breath. With only one bomb slot, the choice of bomb becomes that much more important. Right now we have three types in the game, seismic charges, proton bombs and proximity mines.
Each have their place but I’m a fan of the seismic charge. They were in The Empire Strikes Back searching for the Millennium Falcon in the asteroid field, so yeah, and they’re cheap too. The expensive proton bombs bypass shields and give unavoidable crits, which is pretty cool.
Special note to the proximity mine. They are a different cat. When a ship maneuvers over the template it takes three attack dice of damage with no modifier. This is kinda random, super cool and really useful when setting up ‘no go’ areas for your opponent if you’re really trying to limit his movement or coral him somewhere. They are also low PS killers. A single ship can roll through multiple templates with ease and take lots of dice.
Missiles and torpedoes are the big deal on the bomber. Since bombers can carry up to four, it can really change how they work or what they hunt depending on their load outs. TIE Bombers make for really flexible hunters.
Six choices all with their ups and downs. I’m a big fan of putting a homing missile on Jonus as he doesn’t give himself a re-roll. Jonus throwing out a big shot at PS 6 can sometimes make a big difference in a game.
Assault missiles break up formations really well, concussions help out when your re-rolls don’t help, clusters rip up Agility 1 ships. Then you have two special cases. First, the Ion Missile which dolls out only one damage if it hits but can ION any ship, big or small. I find them useful in Epic games for debilitating huge ships so they can’t do anything without their precious energy.
Second, are the proton rockets. These are great on a 3 agility ship, bringing it up to five dice at range one for only 3 points, but range one is often a problem. They’re great as a secondary round, but you don’t want your only attack to be one that happens at range 1. Rhymer excels with this missile as he can bump it up to range 2 and then it becomes deadly. Add in a stealth device and he’s rocking a range 2, 5 dice shot that keeps it’s focus. With Push the Limit the attack has target lock and focus, which results in a lot of dead ships. It won’t last long though, so this is when you fly in Rhymer and the boys at full speed to get that alpha strike.
I’m actually a big fan of torpedoes. Protons are really similar to Concussions and help convert a focus result. Advanced Protons while hard to use are pretty cool in that they hit crazy hard, but again at range 1. They are kinda Rhymer-liscious, but of late I’d take proton rockets and stealth over them.
Nine times out of ten Flechettes are the new money shot. Cheap and easy they dole out stress. If you haven’t heard, red stress tokens are the new black. Four eight points you can take four of these and either stress a ship out of the game or two ships for a few turns. It lets you stop ships from K-turning, taking actions, and in general being effective. It also pairs up well with proton rockets and bombs covering all of your ranges and providing you with the Swiss army knife of load outs. The big thing about these torpedoes is they don’t even need to hit in order to stress a ship out. Still, Fletteches only work on ships with 4 hull or less, so no stressing out other Bombers, B-wings, and big ships.
Lets move onto Squads.
When I build TIE Bomber squads, there are three basic lists I have in my mind. Missile Barge lists, Bomb Run lists, and Fighter Bomber lists. Oh, and then there are hybrid lists that are a mix of any two types.
Missile Barge lists are usually four ship builds centered around Jonus. Everyone gets at least one missile, two is better. You really to plow through things with this list. Bombs are a great additions to this type of build as you can cover your butt as discussed earlier. Most people forget about the bombs after volleys of missiles hit them from the front.
Bomb Run lists are just that, a small swarm of bombers with bombs. Five Scimitars with bombs are a great example. You can run both a seismic and a flechette torpedo or you can upgrade either the type of bomb or the ship itself and take a Gamma. Gammas have the added bonus of going before the PS 1-2 hordes so you can often decide after other ships have moved if you want to drop the bombs, increasing their effectiveness.
Fighter Bomber lists are an interesting way to go. It’s the bombers take on the Tie Fighter swarm. Take Howlrunner, and add five Scimitars. You get one less ship than the standard 6 ship swarm but the 5 you bring have double the hull. You trade maneuverability for tankiness. Played well this list is down right mean.
Hybrids can be a ton of fun and they’re where I started with bombers. They hit hard with the alpha strike of missiles and then continue the grind with Howlrunner.
Bombers as additions to lists can be a great way to give your squad some robust firepower. The main candidates for the job are the named characters but don’t rule out the little guys, a couple of scimitars with homing missiles can rip the front end off of a Falcon or drop a Phantom, take Biggs out of the game or just generally mess up a plan.
Jonus is an amazing way to build up a secondary weapon list. If you’re running Heavy Laser Cannons or the like he is the man to make your list deadly. Outside of buffing ships, he has marginal use unless you really want a PS 6 homing missile.
Rhymer is a very different story. He’s often ignored but with Proton rockets making the scene he’s jumped in utility and is really cool right now. He sits around 40 points all dolled up which is a lot but he hits like a hammer. With Push the Limit he gets both focus and a target lock. This gives him a high probability of hitting with all his dice and boosts his odds at landing crits. You can one shot most ships with him and if he’s given some support he is a wrecking train. Stealth device and two sets of Proton Rockets with Push the Limit and Rhymer flies in at speed 3 or 4 fast and hard. He kills a ship in the first pass before k-turning and doing it again.
Give him a couple of Black Squadron Pilots as escorts with Draw their fire and Wingman to keep him clear of stress and ensure crits aren’t affecting him. A Lamda makes a great anvil to Rhymers hammer, and the Doom shuttle is the perfect finisher, being able to plink away the last bits of ships.
So that’s my take on the TIE Bomber. They are not a pretty ship, or the fast race car of the Imperial Navy but like the A-10 Warthog they are beasts that bring the pain. When flown well they really ruin peoples day.
As you can tell, I love em. Ugly and tough, they are a ton of fun. I hope you enjoy flying them as much as I do. If you have questions or just don’t believe me say so in the comments and I’ll see what I can do to help.
Until next time.
Re-posted with permission from Mini War Room