Monday, August 31, 2015

The Time for Attack: Rebel Armada (Wave I)

Fellow Rebels, the Imperials believe they have us beat, but I bring good news and hope, our first wave of reinforcements is arriving! Our fighters will overwhelm the enemy, and take shelter in the mighty wings of our frigates. Lock wings to attack position, and let's being our attack run; the first wave is here!

That's right, Wave I. Fantasy Flight's quick, steady release schedule has come through to flesh out and define each faction a little more fully. This means re-releases of the starter ships, as well as a new ship for each faction, and an 8 (2 stands  x 4 squadrons) squadron blister. For the Rebels, this means the introduction of a medium ship (the Assault Frigate mk. II) as well as the A, B, and Y Wings. With that, Rebels see a huge boost to their options and playstyles, leading to some really exciting opportunities for taking active control of the game, right from the list building phase.

We'll lead with the heaviest hitter: the Assault Frigate mk. II. Heavier than the Imperial Gladiator class, but lighter than the Victory class. It's still a 3 command ship, making it the slowest to respond in the Rebel fleet thus far. But that's okay, not only is it still capable of travelling at speed 3, it comes with one each of the Evade, Brace, and Redirect defensive tokens, an impressive 4/3/2 shield arrangement, and 6 hull points, mated to a 2 squadron value and 4 engineering, as well as 1-2 blue dice for an anti-squadron armament. The guns? At the fore, you've got two red (and an additional blue on the A), and the aft is one each red and blue. This suggests it's no heavier a hitter than the Corvette, which is disappointing, especially with it clocking in at ~80 points. Why isn't this just awful? The answer is that this is the first of many Rebel ships designed with broadsides in mind. Three red and a blue die on each side, regardless of variant. This is what makes the mk. II such a potent weapon against Imperial tyranny. Strong front shields help you survive the initial joust, speed 3 lets you outmaneuver the slower Victory, and potent broadside batteries let you out trade on raw damage, and avoid the potent black dice many Imperials pack. All in all, this ship, and the style it's promoting for Rebels, is defining at present, and will continue into the future.

With the new ship discussed, that lets us segue into the squadrons: A, B, and Y. The A is the Rebel's premiere fast attack dog-fighter: eleven points for speed 5, 4 health, and a 3 blue anti-squadron. It introduces rebels to the Counter keyword, which means you get to attack enemies which attack you with non-counter attacks. They're at reduced power (2 instead of 3), but the idea is to show off the prospect of dog-fighting,  and I think this is a simple enough implementation while still being effective. Rounding out that kit is an anti-ship armament of a black die. No bomber means no crit, but nevertheless, it means that your foes cannot ignore the little A as it gnaws at either their squadrons or their ships. The ace, Tycho Celchu, isn't anything to write home about, but that isn't a mark against the basic, rank and file A.

Alphabetically, this moves us to the B. For many, like myself, coming from X-Wing has helped bolster our familiarity with the B. It's tough, cheap, and aggressive. What's not to love? Well, in Armada, quite a lot. Thus far, the B is the slowest squadron in Armada, clocking in at a miserable 2. It clocks in at a point more than an X and boasts the same anti-squadron value as one, but otherwise retains bomber and is able to batter ships with two dice: one blue and one black. With its 5 health, it's durable, but the fact that we're costing more than the X to be slower means that about the only way to make these guys work is use of the squadron command. When we talk about using the squadron command, we have to understand that we're losing out on 4 dice from whatever ship is issuing the command (relative to issuing concentrate fire). Likewise, we can grab two As and two Ys for the cost of three Bs. We'll gain durability and anti-squadron potency, if at the cost of some anti-ship fire. But freeing up our ships for concentrate fire commands, which should more than compensate for that. All in all, this makes the current incarnation of the B, at least in the context of what ships are worth issuing squadron commands from, a loser. Not even having an ace (Keyen Fralander) who can reroll his double black anti-ship armament makes the two speed more bearable.

Finally, we come to the Y. It's an absolute boat. It's cheap, durable, and boasts bomber on its black anti-ship attack, as well as a double blue anti squadron value. It's also the only Rebel squadron thus far to boast Heavy, meaning it never 'engages' enemy squadrons, though enemy squadrons do engage it. Why even give it a second thought? It's cheap. Cheaper than the A wing, clocking in at 10 points. And it's durable, with a whopping 6 health, all while retaining a speed of 3. Utilizing it in conjunction with the A, you can get cheap squadrons which will force your opponent's hand, and play havoc with their target priority. Yes, there's the ace Y, who picks up an additional anti-squadron die and has an interpretation of the 'ion' ability from X-Wing, but he costs another 6 points more, highlighting the most of the problem with almost all the Rebel aces, they cost time and a half over their base ship, and really don't always live up to it, either owing to the ship being so poor in the first place (Keyen), or their ability being supremely lackluster ("Dutch" and Tycho).

That rounds out the new content (barring admirals, but they're a bit more important), but what of revisiting the old? The starter ships (and squadrons) got re-released as part of Wave I. Was there anything incredible worth finding? Any hidden gems? Revisiting the starter content takes us first to the Nebulon. It got a pair of new titles, one of which gives you a bonus damage on crits, the other lets squadrons you command attack twice if they don't move. These are expensive though, and for a ship already struggling against the weight of the CR-90 and mk. II, they just don't do enough. Spending more points to struggle for identity, purpose, or focus almost always means a unit is a loser. It doesn't help its case that its the only new ship to not come with an admiral.

The CR-90? Entirely different story. You've got an admiral that is actively redefining the metagame, as well as at least one new title that lets one of your 'vettes ignore terrain. The title is cheap, and an excellent counterpart to the 'blue boat' we talked about last time. The only question is if you'd rather slide in at 2 points lower and hope to snag initiative. All of this goes a long way to say that no matter how many squadrons or mk. IIs you bring, it's definitely worth filling out your points with at least one CR-90, starting with the overload pulse.

Finally, we round things out with the X-Wing, the ship that started it all. And how has it aged? Not well I'm afraid. Expensive, poor anti-ship armament (arguably worst in the rebel fleet), and the doubtless expensive escort rule that typically proves to be pointless. Yikes. And Wedge, our other ace, doesn't do much to fix the problem either, as he focuses on dogfighting, something the anti-squadron value of the mk. II greatly diminishes. All in all, the X, along with the Nebulon, means the Rebels can learn while fielding the starter box, but really need to progress into wave I as quickly as possible.

And with that, we've set our sights on the admirals. They'll go no holds barred against one another as we examine the different tactics and lists they foster. Tune in next time to see who's victorious!

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