Hey all, Drew “Wilee” Edgar here!
I tend to push the idea that every Imperial ship has a role to play, and that when a ship doesn’t fill a specific role clearly then there’s usually some sign of imbalance. The TIE Advanced, before it had the X1 title, was one such example. Everything it brought to the table something else could do better.
While the First Order ships are minor deviants to this theory, they still do fulfill a given combat role and are spiritual equivalents. TIE/fo is just a beefier TIE fighter with upgradability and still is the spammy bully or disposable ace, and the upcoming Upsilon-class shuttle will be a Lambda on steroids. But what is the TIE/sf?
First; let’s look at it.
First thing we notice is that it’s not as agile as most other Twin Ion Engine ships. Clocking in with 2 agility and lacking the ability to Evade it can’t mitigate damaging blows as well as a TIE fighter or TIE interceptor. However, it does have 3 hull and 3 shields. That’s as much as a TIE Defender so it clearly knows how to make up for the 2 agility.
Next is the upgrade bar. On top of the standard First Order/Resistance Tech Upgrade slot, it boasts the ability to take a Missile and a System Upgrade. By now most of us know the value of a System Upgrade slot so that in itself is a definite bonus, and the Missile slot seems to be the standard Imperial load-out slot for heavier fighters so it’s not too surprising.
But most importantly; how does it handle?
“Wow this thing can really move!” – Poe Dameron.
In Poe’s defence he’s used to an X-Wing, which isn’t known for being the most graceful or agile of fighters. But any Imperial/First Order pilot immediately notes that this thing isn’t exactly quick. It has access to all 3 turns but only the 2-speed is ‘safe’. It lacks a K-turn but does have a pair of 3-speed S-loops which are always fun. But most notably it does not have a 5-speed straight and it has 1-speed straight and 1-speed banks. This is very unusual for any TIE that isn’t an ordnance boat like the Bomber or Punisher.
But this is okay because it can shoot backwards!
… okay that’s not all that new and exciting. But it is the first small base Imperial ship to be able to shoot anywhere other than it’s primary firing arc. This adds an extra arc for your opponent to consider when trying to arc dodge.
Now there’s one more great big detail that makes the TIE/sf special.
Whoa. An extra attack die OR two attacks? That’s a nifty auto-include.
My good buddy Ron was working a GenCon vendor booth down in Indiana and brought me back one of these to try. After only a couple games I have one solid pointer for how to use a TIE/sf; Don’t try to use the rear arc.
It’s way too hard to get a small base to fly like a Scum Kath Firespray so it’s not worth doing. Instead, fly it like a fighter. Aim to fire all 3 attack dice at whatever’s in front of you. The rear arc (and thusly the title) should only be used if your opponent decides to put something there and you’re not sure if you want to shoot forward or backward.
So what the heck is it? It’s a TIE fighter with a TIE bomber dial, TIE Defender durability, a Firespray’s coverage, and Poe thinks it’s fast.
It’s an X-wing. It’s an Imperial X-wing. Instead of a Torpedo it has a Missile and in lieu of Astros it has Tech/System Upgrades. Which ultimately means it’s the evolution of the TIE Advanced. Some would even call it the TIE Avenger we’ve all been waiting for. They’re even costed similar to the X-wings; Zeta Specialists weigh in at 23 points and Omega Specialists are 25 with an EPT.
In Xwing TMG that means it hunts the lower agility ships and punches them in the face. But unlike the T-65/T-70s, it can deter anyone who pulls up behind it without sacrificing an attack on it’s forward target. TIE/sf’s will not be able to keep up to the aces and will require support to keep your opponent out of their blind spots, but they’ll be able to take a hefty hit or two and still survive to dish out their damage.
How should I be using it?
Well firstly, like I mentioned earlier, don’t rely on the rear arc. That’s way too complicated for it’s own good. Instead rely on your 3 Attack primary and use the rear arc when the opportunity arises.
I would also argue that most of the time you’ll want to fly your TIE/sf with minimal upgrades. It’s lower agility and lacking maneuverability will make it a target of convenience and thusly it’ll probably die. This would apply to both aces as well, unless your list can come up with a creative way of keeping them alive long enough to condone sinking points into them. If you have 2 points to spend, Sensor Cluster can go a long way to making them survive longer. I could even see an argument for Enhanced Scopes since it won’t be out-dancing anything, so might as well have it move first and get an action in or use it to block something else. Since it has the TIE keyword in the name, you could always give it the TIE mk 2 Modification to make it’s dial almost purely green and red.
Quickdraw could easily benefit from Electronic Baffle given her ability to shoot when she takes shield damage. Another fun build would be Daredevil and Enhanced Scopes to get a couple solid hits on someone in the Activation phase before they have any tokens assigned. That said, if you’re aiming to do either of those you won’t want to put much else on her TIE.
Backdraft is a curious one. His ability (Add a crit to your rear arc’s result) sounds fantastic if you’re planning to use your rear arc a lot, but again that’s hard to rely on. I think he’ll probably see builds similar to the stock TIE/sf’s but with VI to give you a nice Pilot Skill 9 Shot or two.
But the bottom line is the TIE/sf brings in a moderate price heavy hitter to the Imperial Roster. It’s a spiritual successor to the TIE Advanced X1 that mirrors the Rebel X-wings and the Scum K-fighters.
I’m keen to see how it fares in the longer run, and to see how it matches up to the ARC-170 and the other upcoming ships in the Wave of Arcs.