Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Galaxy's Fate in My Hand: Excursus - "Deep breath and Focus"...

The Galaxy's Fate in My Hand


Excersus: "Deep breath and Focus," in which we predictably do a deep-dive into the Focus condition...

Welcome back to our semi-kinda-sorta-regular in-depth look at IA campaign weapons! Since we're about to launch fully into Tier III melee weapons (all of which have three dice in their attack pools), and we're all about quantifying the opportunity cost and credit-efficiency of various weapon choices, I thought it might be a good time for a brief excursus into the general value of adding a third dice to an attack pool.

The reason comes down to cost. Tier III weapons are always more expensive than Tier II weapons, and almost always much more expensive than Tier II weapons. And since most Tier II weapons have comparable (and in many instances, better) surge abilities than Tier II weapons, the difference in cost is almost always going to be largely based on the presence of that third attack die. So having some benchmark for measuring just how much "better" a three-dice weapon is over a two-dice weapon will provide us some useful data for making abstract comparisons, and also give us a good measuring stick for particular three-dice weapons (if adding a third die generally improves our damage by 1D, and a particular three-dice weapon improves it by 3D, then we may be willing to stomach a higher credit cost than if that particular weapon only improves our damage by 1D). 

At the same time, I'd like this abstract exercise to still have some practical use. If only there was a common way to add a third die to two-dice attack pools that we could measure for its impact on expected damage and surge results... 



[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]

Why Focus?

I've settled on four basic reasons.

The first is ubiquity. Focus is everywhere. Campaign staples (healthy Gaarkhan [Rage], Diala [Battle Meditation], Gideon [For the Cause!], Fenn [Superior Positioning], and Verena [Master Operative]) and niche heroes (Mak [Jeswandi Training], Jyn [Get Cocky], Saska [Adrenaline Injector], Loku [Mon Cala Special Forces], and Onar [Hold Still]) all have abilities to either self-Focus or to Focus other heroes or friendly figures. So does the IP, and of course it's everywhere in competitive skirmish play.

The second deals with combat theory. While we could look at the impact of any of the four attack dice (and at some point, perhaps we will), the Green strikes the best balance between the base components that our attack dice contribute: damage and surges. It has less damage than the Red (but more than Yellow and Blue), less surge than Yellow (but more than Red and Blue), and when we get to ranged weapons, less Accuracy than Blue (but more than Yellow and Red). Swapping in any of those other dice will skew our results more favorably toward that die's strength (hence the beautiful flexibility of dice-swap mods like the Tier II Energized Hilt) . But if we're just trying to get a general sense of exactly how powerful adding a third die is to a two-die attack pool, the Green gives us the most balanced general impression. 


[Photo credit: thesmallman and AdrianT on boardgamegeek]

The third is utilitarian. If we add a Green die to our ten potential two-dice attack pools, we end up with a pretty good list of all the dice pools currently available in the game:

  • Red-Red: Wampa, Gammorean, T-1 Hand Cannon [C], T-3 DXR-6 [C]
  • Red-Red-Green: None
  • Red-Yellow: Royal Guard, Saboteur, 0-0-0, Gaarkhan [S], T-1 Gaffi Stick [C]
  • Red-Yellow-Green: Royal Guard Champion, Obi-Wan, Grand Inquisitor
  • Red-Green: Nexu, Tusken Raider, Wookie Warrior, Echo Base Trooper ("Front Line"), Bossk, Jabba, C1-10P, Diala [S], T-2 BD-1 Vibro-Ax [C], T-2 Double Vibrosword [C], T-3 Disruptor Pistol [C]
  • Red-Green-Green: Rancor
  • Red-Blue: Heavy Stormtrooper, Bantha Rider, Loku [S], T-2 434 Deathammer [C], T-2 Stun Baton [C], Reward Shu-Yen's Lightsaber [C]
  • Red-Green-Blue: Fenn [S], Onar [S], T-3 Electrostaff [C]
  • Yellow-Yellow: Jawa Scavenger
  • Yellow-Yellow-Green: Blaise, 3xp Shrouded Lightsaber ("Falling Leaf") [C]
  • Yellow-Green: Hired Guns, Alliance Smuggler, Dengar, Lando, Saska Teft [S], Davith [S], T-1 Armored Gauntlets [C], T-1 DH-17 [C], T-1 DDC Defender [C], T-2 Vibro Knucklers [C], 3xp Shrouded Lightsaber [C]
  • Yellow-Green-Green: Shyla [S], T-2 T-21 [C]
  • Yellow-Blue: Imperial Officer, Rebel Trooper, Sorin, Ugnaught, MHD-19 [S], Murne [S], T-1 DL-44 [C]
  • Yellow-Green-Blue: Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, Terro, Dewback Rider, Hera, T-3 Pulse Cannon [C]
  • Green-Green: Weequay, Greedo, Jyn [S], T-1 VibroBlade [C], T-1 Vibroknife [C], T-2 EE-3 Carbine [C], T-2 DT-12 Heavy Blaster Pistol [C]
  • Green-Green-Green: None
  • Green-Blue: Stormtrooper, Trandoshan, Snowtrooper, Echo Base Trooper (Basic), Wing Guard, ISB-Infiltrator, Jet Trooper, Gideon [S], Verena [S], Vinto [S], T-1 E-11 [C], T-1 Vibrosword [C], T-2 A-280 [C]
  • Green-Green-Blue: Han Solo
  • Blue-Blue: Alliance Ranger, Mak [S], T-1 Tatooine Hunting Rifle [C]
  • Green-Blue-Blue: Kayn Somos, Elite Jet Trooper ("Fly-By"), T-3 DLT-19 [C]
  • Wildcard: Every IG-88 variant, every T-3 Ancient Lightsaber variant [C]

There are some dice pools missing of course, although most of them are for niche units and some high-end campaign items:

  • Red-Red-Yellow: Darth Vader
  • Red-Red-Blue: AT-ST: 
  • Red-Yellow-Yellow: T-3 Force Pike [C], 
  • Red-Yellow-Blue: E-Web, Chewbacca, SC2-Repulsor Tank, BT-1, Biv Bodhrik [S], 
  • Red-Blue-Blue: T-3 Valken-38 Carbine [C]
  • Single Yellow: R2-D2
  • Yellow-Yellow-Blue: Probe Droid, Leia, T-3 Sporting Blaster [C], 
  • Yellow-Blue-Blue: HK Assassin Droid
  • Wildcard: Some Wiess variants, T-3 Ryyk Blade variants [C], T-3 Modified Energy Cannon variants [C]

So by performing this exercise, we not only get a general sense of how a Focus impacts two-dice attack pools, but we also get some advanced intel on where almost every dice pool in the game falls on the power curve.

The fourth is click-bait value. No matter what form of IA you play (skirmish, campaign, both) don't you love Focus? Isn't it poweful? Have you ever wondered just how powerful? Are you still reading this?

My point exactly. :-D

Finding the "Average" Value of Focus

We'll start with the simplest metric for measuring the impact of a Focus die: how it impacts our average expected damage and surges. This calculation is pretty straight-forward, and not at all interesting: we look at the Green die, calculate its total damage (8 damage) and surges (3 surges), and divide both by the total number of sides (6 sides), for a grand total of 1.33 damage (8/6) and 0.5 surge (3/6).

In other words, in a vacuum, adding one Green die to our attack pool should increase our rolled average damage results by 1.33, and our rolled average surges by 0.5. The "rolled" distinction is important of course when evaluating that half-surge. Depending on the surge abilities we have on our weapon/deployment card, the value of this rolled surge may vary immensely, and thus may impact our total damage immensely. So for my own sanity, we won't be tackling those variables here. :-P

Of course, we know from personal experience that "in a vacuum" isn't particularly useful once we start rolling defense dice. We'd be much more interested in how a Focus die affects our average rolled damage and surges against those defense dice. Thanks to the new shiny Monte Carlo simulator my brother sent me this week, we can now adjust for this. :-D Here's what our basic two-dice attack pools roll (damage and surge) when we throw in defense dice:


Some interesting things here.
  • First off, the Red-Red actually ends up with negative surges on average. Against a Black die, it will roll a single surge past the defense approximately 28% of the time, and two surges roughly 3% of the time, but the Black die still manages to roll more Evades than Surges roughly 10% of the time. The White die reduces the odds of keeping 1 surge to around 16% (and 2 surges down to just over 1%), and rolls more Evades than surges a whopping 33% of the time. Hence the net-loss overall when we average them together. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since a "negative" surge result means that the defender has "wasted" at least 1 Evade (and wasted defense results are always good for attackers), but it does mean that spending credits on a mod that adds a surge ability to a Red-Red weapon probably isn't the best use of our credits (there are exceptions--the Tier II Plasma Cell is an obvious one, though it has nothing to do with the fact that it adds a surge ability :-P ).
  • Our top surge rate is Yellow-Yellow, which isn't surprising. What is surprising is that it tops out at just 1.26 surges on average, which on its own isn't great, and when paired with its abysmally low average damage (0.57) is downright awful.
  • Red-Red nets our best average damage (again, not surprising), and every Red-die variant has higher average damage output than every other two-die variant (a Red-Yellow rolls an average of 1.92 damage, substantially better than its nearest challenger, the Green-Green at just 1.62 average damage). Red dice are that consistent when it comes to dealing damage.
So what happens when we add a Focus die to these pools? I've charted the Average Damage and Surge with Focus below, and put the value of the increase in a callout above, just so we can get a sense of what the Focus die is contributing across the board. The results were simultaneously surprising and unsurprising:


First, the unsurprising: if we were to scan across our table, we'd find that adding a Green Focus die doesn't change where any of these dice pools fall in the average damage or average surge hierarchy: Red-Red-Green is still the best damage and the worst surge, Yellow-Yellow-Green is still the worst damage and best surge, all the Red pools still have better damage than all the non-red pools, and so on and so forth.  In fact, our damage improvement across the board is pretty uniform: somewhere between +1.28 (Red-Yellow, Green-Green) and +1.38 (Red-Blue). And our surge improvement falls somewhere between 0.48 (Yellow-Green) and 0.52 (Green-Green, Blue-Blue). And if we were to average this all out, we'd come up with an average increase of +1.32 damage and 0.51 Surge.

Or almost exactly what our simple "Average" calculation said we'd find (+1.33 damage, +0.5 surge)...

So much for all my advanced calculations. :-P

So there's actually a very simple explanation for this (that just took me four hours of calculations to spot): a single defense die only impacts our attack pool once, no matter how many dice we add to it. If a Black defense die rolls the dreaded 3 Blocks, it takes damage out of our base attack pool. Same with an Evade on a White Die. And as we saw from our lead-in table, that defense die can do a number on our attack stats depending on the dice pool we've brought. But that also means that when we add a Focus die on top of an existing dice pool, we get to layer its extra rolled damage and surges on top of what we'd normally expect, without having to account for defense dice at all (even the White Dodge), because our initial attack pool has already accounted for that defense die.

Which means we can apply this principle not just to a Focus die, but any additional attack die, and get some pretty quick data on how adding any attack die will impact what we roll on average:


So adding a single Red die (Gaarkhan's Rage + Ferocity, or Onar's Don't Make Me Hurt You, for example) improves the average rolled damage of an equipped weapon by more than 2 damage... and improves our rolled surges by about 1/6th of a surge. I've also added accuracy to this chart, though we (usually) don't care about that for melee weapons. But it could be very important for ranged weapons, depending on the weapon our hero is using.


"Consistency" isn't always "Uniformity"

Having said all that, there are some limitations to looking at averages. By its very nature, an "average" outcome falls between some extremes, and unless we know something about those extremes, knowing a weapon's average damage output may not help us assess its predictability.

Depending on the die we add to our existing attack pool, our weapon's damage floor or ceiling may or may not be impacted. To illustrate this point, we'll take the simple Gaffi Stick:


[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]

If you've followed our series on melee campaign weapons, you know that we're pretty familiar with this weapon by now. In its basic form, it's got a great Red-Pierce 1 combo, but no surge abilities that add or impact damage. This gives it a fantastic damage ceiling for a 200 credit weapon if it rolls its ideal 3D on the Red and a Damage/double-surge on the Yellow (4D, Pierce 1, Weaken, Recover 1), and an almost-as-abysmal damage floor if it rolles its worst possible single-damage Red and single-surge Yellow (1D, Pierce 1, Weaken or Recover 1). So what happens when we add a third die of our choice? Well...


So clearly, the damage ceilings go way up. By 2 damage in most cases (3 if we add another Red die). All is as it should be. But what about our damage floor? Well, only the Red die actually increases our worst-possible damage output (from 1D to 2D). For a Yellow, Green, or Blue die, there's no appreciable impact on our damage floor whatsoever (beyond the fact that we could now both Weaken and Recover... big whoop...). In fact, for this particular weapon, we'd have a more measurable impact on our damage floor if we added either a +1 damage bonus (from something like the Tier III Shock Emitter) or an ability to surge for extra damage (like the +2 damage from the Tier II High-Impact Guard) than if we took any die but the Red one. And, of course, adding the Tier III Vibrogenerator improves our damage floor by +2D.

The general theory of our campaign weapon series has been that we get more consistent damage results if we can compress the space between our damage floor and damage ceiling. If my best possible roll is 7D, and my worst possible roll is 2D, and I'm attacking a figure with 4 health left and a Black defense die, how confident am I that I will actually defeat that figure? Probably less confident than if my best possible roll was 7D and my worst possible roll was 4D, right? And if that's what we're after, then spending credits/xp/etc. to add "free" damage bonuses to our weapons, or surge abilities that make our weapon more surge-efficient, seem to be a more predictable path to higher damage than just adding a third die.

Having said that, it's important not to fall into the same trap that we tried to avoid when we were looking just at the average impact of adding a third die. We were a bit leery of our "average rolled" statistics because it's looking at just the mean of a data set (and doesn't account for its fringes). Damage floors and damage ceilings do the opposite: it looks at the outer fringes of what a weapon can do (best possible roll, worst possible roll), without necessarily accounting for the probability of those "best" and "worst" rolls. Yes, there's a chance that our extra Blue die will only roll a single surge, but it isn't high. And that Green die will rarely roll that single-surge. (It is, unfortunately, far more common on the Yellow die :-P ). So if we want to know what sort of likely impact adding a third die will have on our damage output, we should probably look at "at least" damage totals.

*Cue the huge colored graph*



I'll reiterate that this is still purely measuring rolled damage at this point (the surge chart is below, and we're not counting for damage from cashed in surge abilities), and how much of that rolled damage gets past adjusted defense dice (the average of damage rolled past 1 black die and damage rolled past 1 white die). Above each bar is a box that shows by how many percentage points the original two-die roll was improved by adding the Green Focus die. Boxes of the same color represent the same series (Black is 1D+, dark gray is 2D+, medium gray is 3D+, and so on).

So what, if anything, do we learn? Or at least notice (if "learn" is too strong)? :-P Here are some preliminary thoughts that suggested themselves to my admittedly not-mathy brain.

First off, every Focus pool outperforms its non-Focus pool at every damage band. This should be a no-brainer, but now we've confirmed it with figures, so hooray us! :-D

Second, not every Focus pool outerpforms every non-Focus pool. The top two-dice attack pool (Red-Red) has an 89.9% chance of dealing at least 1D past defense dice. By contrast, only three of our ten Focus pools cross that threshhold (Red-Red-Green, Red-Green-Green, and Red-Blue-Green). All the other three-dice pools have lower damage odds than what we have from the Red-Red. And that's not just true of our odds at 1D+ (where there's probably a diminishing returns issue for at least some of these dice pools). It holds true at every damage band for the Red-Red die, from 1D+ through 6D+ (except for the Red-Yellow-Green, which does pull ahead in the 5D+ to 6D+ bands, and has an outside chance at 7D which a simple Red-Red pool can't reach). This surprised me, at least.

Now, again, let's not overblow this. We already know that this data isn't accounting for rolled surges (and we expect other dice pools to benefit when we account for that), and it's not adding damage for surge abilities. So this data doesn't mean that every weapon with a non-red three-dice attack pool will be worse than a weapon pool with a Red-Red or Red-Green or Red-Blue attack pool. But it does suggest that we can't just rely on adding a third Green die to any old weapon and expect it to be automatically better than any two-dice weapon. The make-up of the weapons--their particular dice pool, surge abilities, and our mod and xp ability choices--are still extremely important decisions that we'll have to make.

Third, while the "average" damage bonus from a Focus die is ultimately pretty static across the board (right around +1.33 damage), this doesn't mean that our damage at every damage level goes up by +1.33--or even uniformly.
  • The Yellow-Yellow, Yellow-Green, Yellow-Blue, and Blue-Blue dice pools all receive a pretty big bump right at the start: between 17 and 28 percentage points in their odds at dealing 1D+. The Green-Green and Green-Blue are more tepid, seeing a bump of between 12 to 14 percentage points, and the Red dice pools (even those with Yellow and Blue) see barely any increase (a max of +8.2% to Red-Yellow).
  • Sticking with those Yellow- and Blue- pools, they use up most of their steam getting over the 3D+ hump. The Yellow-Yellow is almost completely shot after crossing that threshold, contributing only another 15 percentage points total before it fizzles out. The others have one last push bast 4D+, in the 17-22 percentage point range, before they trail off.
  • The Green-Green and Green-Blue still have a double-digit push left in them when they hit 5D+, before they final peter out.
  • The Red- pools, meanwhile, are still going strong at 5D+ (although the Red-Yellow is about to hit the fan), with gains of between 17 and 26 percentage points. Red-Green, and (surprisingly) Red-Blue have 9-11 percentage points left at 6D+, before they finally give up the ghost. Red-Red ends 6D+ with an impressive 25 percentage point boost, before it inevitably succumbs (at a whopping 8D+).
Graphically, we could represent these various phenomena with something like this:


Represented like this, Yellow clearly hits its peak at 2D+, and it's all downhill (actually, steeply downhill) from there. Yellow-Green and Yellow-Blue level off from 2-3D+, then begin their descent. Blue-Blue and Green-Green are still ascending from 2-3D+, before they begin their decline. Red-Yellow levels off from 3-4D+, and then drops, while Red-Green and Red-Blue ascend steadily until they hit 4D+. Red-Red doesn't stop ascending until it hits 5D+.

Cool-looking chart aside, what does all this mean in gaming terms? My initial reaction is that we may have stumbled on something akin to diminishing returns. Adding a Focus die always (or nearly always) improves our probable damage output, but at some point along the way, it reaches its maximum impact (improving our expected output by roughly 30-35 percentage points). From then on, while it still contributes to higher damage probabilities, its impact grows noticeably weaker, until it fizzles out entirely. This point varies widely, as we've seen. A Green Focus die dramatically helps a YellowYellow attack pool roll 1 or more damage past defense dice (an improvement from 47% to 75%), and pushes its punchers chance of dealing 2 or more damage (~22%) to a more respectable probability (~56%). But if we're adding that Green die because we want our Yellow-Yellow dice pool to roll 4 or more damage, we're wasting it (as it improves our probability from 0.9% to a much-improved-but-still-laughably-bad 12.8%). On the contrary, adding that same Green die to a Red-Red dice pool barely affects our ability to deal 1D+ (from 89.9% to 90.9%), but offers us excellent odds of 4 rolled damage (41.2% to 70.3%), and converts our odds of rolling 5 or more damage from roughly 1-in-6 (16.1%) to almost 1-in-2 (48.3%).

But wait, there's more! If we take the total percentage points we gain from adding a Focus die and add them together, we get an interesting measure of how much that Green die is improving our base attack pool's overall damage probabilities:


This is an admittedly-crude metric, and it's quite possible (given margins of error, the limited sample size of 2000 dice rolls per pool, and of course all those surge abilities we aren't accounting for) that the final order would shift around somewhat if we ran the simulation multiple times. What I believe is unlikely to change is the incredible disparity between the Yellow-Blue and Yellow-Yellow attack pools and all the others (especially the Red-Blue, Red-Green, and Red-Red). It really appears as if a Yellow-Yellow dice pool or Yellow-Blue dice pool aren't equipped to take advantage of the extra damage from a Green die, whereas the Red-Blue, Red-Green, and Red-Red press it to their full advantage.

Not to be outdone, let's do the same thing now for surges. Here's how adding a Green Focus die impacts our "at least" probabilities of rolling X number of surges:


So unlike the percentile increases we saw on the damage chart, these aren't exactly blowing us away. The single-largest percentile gain is +28% (the Red-Red's odds of rolling 1 or more surge), and there are only three other gains of twenty percentile points or more across the entire graph (Red-Green 1+ surge, Blue-Blue 1+ surge, and interestingly, Green-Blue 2+ surge). And there are ton of gains that only rise to single-digits.

Part of this is probably tied to the volume of what we're adding. A Green-Green die adds 1.33 damage on average, but only half a surge. So it makes sense that we'd seen more consistency in getting higher damage results than we would in higher surge results: you can't spend half a surge, after all. And when you pair that fact with the fact that the White die in particular can remove surges with tremendous frequency, the potential impact is reduced still further. After all, our best two-dice pool (Yellow-Yellow), for all its surge potential, still has less than an 80% chance of rolling a single surge past defense dice (78.1%). Adding a Green die gives us what ought to be a very surge-friendly pool (Yellow-Yellow-Green), and indeed, it does have a very solid 87.2% chance of rolling 1 or more surges through. But it's odds at 2 or more surges are still a paltry 60%--much better than anything else on the chart, but still much lower than we'd hoped for. Since we already know this pool's rolled damage is abysmal, we need surges to push some damage through. And odds are we'll have just one, and maybe two, to work with.

And just like the damage chart, we find here that a poor surge pool remains a poor surge pool even after we add a Green Focus die. That Red-Red pool improves its odds of rolling a single surge past defense dice from roughly 1-in-5 (20.3%) to just under 1-in-2 (48.3%). Which is an improvement, but certainly not one we can count of for reliable damage or keywords. In fact, adding a Green die pushes just two surge probabilities above an 80% confidence threshold: Yellow-Yellow's odds of 1+ surge (78.1% to 87.2%) and Yellow-Green's odds of 1+ surge (69.1% to 81.4%). If we're feeling extra generous and lower our probability threshold down to 70% or better, we can pick up a few more: Red-Yellow's 1+ surge (55.8% to 74.2%), Yellow-Blue's 1+ surge (62.8% to 76.6%), Green-Green's 1+ surge (58.3% to 75.3%), and (again, surprisingly) Green-Blue's 1+ surge (49.7% to a close-enough 69.3%).

Laying out the composite percentile increases confirms that only a handful of attack pools (Yellow-Yellow, Yellow-Green, Yellow-Blue, Green-Green) are still on the ascension when we hit 2+ surges, and all of them are on the way down after that (though Yellow-Yellow's descent is much more gradual).


And if we're looking to get maximum (surge) impact out of our Green Focus die, the board is much more level:


In theory, we could also run these simulations on our other three attack dice (Red, Yellow, Blue, or another 30 combinations total). And it would be interesting to see whether the pools that benefit most from them change, how far those increases to damage spread, and so on. But for the most part, those are just niche calculations (Onar for Red, Davith for Yellow, Diala perhaps for Blue), so we'll leave them for another time. ;-)

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming...

[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]



Inevitable post-posting edits: Apart from eliminating those awful strikethroughs by moving the post to another website... and fixing disappearing photos... not much. :-P 


Friday, February 17, 2017

Star Wars: Imperial Assault - Tips for the IP Player, Part II: Bucketheads

Good morning readers,

In today's post, we'll be looking at the core of most Imperial armies: troopers. There's probably nothing more iconic than stormtroopers in all of Star Wars (except Darth Vader), so if you like troopers but wonder how to use them, today's post is for you.

You might think that there's not much difference between the trooper options available to the Empire, and you wouldn't be too wrong. Most Bucketheads use a Green-Blue on offense (blame E11s). This means that besides health and surge options, they all basically do the same damage. In today's post, we'll be looking at Stormtroopers and E-Webs - we'll cover the other Stormtrooper units in our next post.


Stormtroopers:
Perhaps the “vanilla” Imperial grunt might be assumed to be the worst of the bunch, but this wouldn’t be true. Stormtroopers are the most “standard” of the troopers simply because they have common buffs you see across other troopers. Stormtroopers, though, have two important characteristics that work in their favor.
First, they can reroll a dice. This ensures that if you get a bad roll, you will probably get something better. While the bump you get in damage/accuracy isn’t that high, it does make your units more reliable than other troopers. Look at the chart below to see the difference between the base (dashed lines) and reroll (solid lines) probability curves:
Second, when you’re using a regular Stormtrooper, you’re good against White defense dice. Since Elite Stormtroopers get 2 Damage from the first Surge they get, they’ll do better against Black dice (since Blacks let in almost all Surges). For a regular Stormtrooper, though, 1 Surge is worth only 1 Damage, which means that a White dice (unless the defender gets a Dodge) will effectively get 0-2 Block on a white dice – here’s what the same methodology from above looks like against the White dice (notice that roughly one-sixth of the time, you don’t hit the target – this shows the impact of the Dodge on the white dice):
While it’s hard to compare the two pictures above, your Stormtroopers are slightly more reliable at dealing higher damage against the White dice than against the Black dice. With this in mind, here’s my recommendation for running Stormtroopers in Imperial Assault:
·         For Regular Stormtroopers, shoot whoever’s nearby (ideally, you’ll want the target to have 3-6 health, since you should get 1-2 damage per trooper), but make sure as many of your Stormtroopers are adjacent to a trooper;
·         Attack in groups – while each of you individually doesn’t do a lot of damage, you want to be able to focus the fire of all three of your figures on the same target.
·         You can reliably stand 4-5 spaces away from your opponent (80% probability of hitting or higher) – make him work to shoot you back;
·         Special note on Elite Stormtroopers: we didn’t cover these guys much, but they get a lot of damage coming from that Focus dice when they die – expect to add 1-2 damage to the total damage dealt (along with 1-2 accuracy). While this doesn’t make a big difference for an individual trooper, if the group is doing 3-6 additional damage, it means the difference between polishing off a basic unit (like a Regular Rebel Trooper) and a hardy power unit (like Han Solo).
E-Web Engineers:
E-Webs aren’t like Stormtroopers – you need to use them differently! For one thing, an E-Web Engineer is a single model, so reinforcing the unit if it’s lost is much more expensive (and virtually impossible in early missions when you’re getting 2-3 Threat/round). Similarly, an E-Web has slightly more health than its equivalent Stormtrooper cousin, but because there are three Stormtroopers in each squad, Stormtroopers have roughly double the health of an E-Web cumulatively.   
As a heavy weapon, E-Webs are also slower than Stormtroopers. Added to their special rule that allows them to “Scoot or shoot” (but not both), getting an E-Web into position (and keeping it alive) can be really, REALLY hard. With all this in mind, what do you do with E-Webs?
E-Webs play defense. Yes, they’re very powerful and deal a lot of damage. Yes, they can heal themselves which gives them some resilience. Yes, they get to shoot twice (which effectively allows them to blow a low-health unit up pretty quickly OR drill through a low-health hero’s health store quickly. But they play defense: you don’t want to move an E-Web (like, ever). So, find a firing lane (preferably one that won’t let an attacker stand out of sight and then charge you on its next turn) and sit there and wait. A turn that an E-Web isn’t attacked is a good turn – even if the E-Web doesn’t shoot.
While E-Webs are complicated to use well, there is one thing that isn’t that complicated – they fight everything well. What’s shown below is their range/damage curve against black (dashed) and white (solid) lines. As you can see, doesn’t really matter what you’re hitting – you’re going to do roughly the same damage against it no matter what dice they have:
As shown above, an E-Web will do slightly more damage against a White dice than a Black dice. For those who are wondering, the Elite E-Web Engineer gets slightly more damage against White dice, but again, it’s not that different:
For those of you who are scratching your heads trying to figure out why there’s basically no difference against a White dice (and why the Elite against the Black dice only does roughly the same as either version does against a White dice), there’s one simple explanation: White dice fight yellow dice really, REALLY well (see my first post for why). With the primary difference between most elite/regular units being the benefits you get from Surge, unless you’re rolling 2 Yellow dice (like Probe Droids), you won’t see that big of a difference. 

In our next post, we'll be wrapping up our discussion of "bucketheads" by examining those that do not appear in the core set (heavy stormtroopers, snowtroopers, jet troopers, and Dewback riders). Part III will cover the stormtrooper heroes (Kayn Somos and Captain Terro - sorry, no Blaise yet). After we're done with troopers, its on to new groups, so watch this space and happy hobbying!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Tips for the IP Player, Part I: In Which We Talk About Dice

Greetings space travelers,
This is Tiberius, one of the admins here at Wretched Hive. For my inaugural posts here in Mos Eisley, we’ll be discussing five things for the IP player (though most also applies to anyone planning on playing Imps/Scum in Skirmish) – things I’ve found to be helpful/valuable in a campaign or few. So, grab some blue milk, spike it with something fizzy, and pull up a seat.
I run another blog dedicated to The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, but I’ll be alternating posts here and there this year. The topics we’ll be covering in the next few months are as follows:
1.       In Which We Talk About Dice
2.       In Which We Talk About Troopers
3.       In Which We Talk About Brawlers
4.       In Which We Talk About Metal-Stuff
5.       In Which We Talk About Unique Abilities
Before we can get into the meat of our IP tips, we need to talk about the dice. Yes, there will be grand strategy discussions, in-depth looks at different unit types, and plenty of discussions of weaknesses of the most powerful heroes. If you didn’t see your favorite type of unit in the list above – don’t worry, they’ll probably show up. Probably…
But before any of that can be translated into something remotely resembling third-grade English, we need to talk about the dice we’re rolling. We do this for two reasons:
  1. The dice are not normal – you won’t have had prior experience with them before.
  2. Everything the game eventually depends on the dice.

The Offensive Dice – Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue
In this game, we have four kinds of dice when we’re attacking. Generally speaking, units will have 2 dice (often of different colors), while elite units can get 3-4 dice (and some VERY RARE units can roll 0-1 attack dice). Let’s get a quick understanding of what these dice do.
Quick Key: Red = Damage, Blue = Range, Yellow = Surge, Green = lil-bit-o-ev'ryth'n
As anyone who has played one game of IA knows, there are three stats provided by any dice: range, damage, and surge (RDS). Depending on the unit you have, the base amount of range/damage that you provide will be capped by the dice you roll. If you look at the image above, though, with the exception of the Red Dice, there isn't much difference between them:
  • Blue dice average ~3 range per face, which is greater than the 1-2 range for Green/Yellow (but not much);
  • Yellow dice average ~1 surge per face, which is greater than the 0.33-0.5 surge for Green/Blue (but not much);
  • The damage for all of these is in the 0.8-1.3 range, which is negligible.
  • The Red dice, however, doesn't focus on Range at all (and barely focuses on Surge), which means that it does approximately twice the damage of the other dice.

What does this mean? The only thing that matters is whether you have a red dice or not.
For some units, bonus rules will come into play if you are a certain distance away from an enemy unit or you might be able to surge for 2 Damage (or Pierce 2 or Blast anything or Cleave 2) that could do more damage than getting the actual damage icons, but in most of the IP missions, you’ll be hard-pressed to deploy elite units if they’re expensive. In the main, most of the units you’ll be able to afford will be regular units – and precious few of those surge for more than 1 Damage (Trandos are a notable exception).

The Defensive Dice – Black and White
With a quick understanding of the offensive dice, let’s look at the defensive dice:
Unlike the offensive dice, the defensive dice are very different: a Black dice basically gets 2 Blocks against each attack. A White dice basically gets 1 Block and 1 Surge Cancel instead. What does this tell us? Use a Red dice against a White dice – the white dice will beat any other one dice. Assume that a Black dice beats any one dice.

Putting It Together: What Do I Target? What Units Do I Take?
What does any of this mean? When we’re choosing units for Open Groups, consider the units you’re facing and choose the units who can damage those units. If you’re fighting a white dice, know that he’ll take most of your surges away from you. If that’s the case, take units that roll Red dice (the Twin Shadows box gives you Tusken Raiders and Heavy Stormtroopers – regular versions are under 6 Threat to deploy) OR take units who don’t surge particularly well (Stormtroopers are good). If you’re fighting Black dice, take anyone who does surge well/do free bonus damage – Elite units (especially Tuskens), any Trandoshans, Wampas, and units who focus themselves are good choices.

Next Steps
     With this general guidance, we’ll get into specific units and who to use them against (and why) in the coming weeks. We’ll show different units and how they compare against different defense profiles so you can see the logic of what’s been provided above. Until then, I’ll save a spot for you at the table here in the Wretched Hive!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ship Review: The Nebulon-B Frigate (Part 2 of 3)

Hey Reader!

Welcome back to Wretched Hive!  We're in Part 2 of our series on the Neb-B Frigate, one of the first ships to make an appearance in Star Wars: Armada, the tabletop miniature ship combat game by Fantasy Flight Games.  In today's post we'll be taking a look at upgrade cards that work well with Neb-Bs to stimulate your thoughts as a commander.  For thoughts on the two variants of the Neb-B and the title cards for Neb-Bs, see Part 1 of this series.

This will be relatively short compared to our other upgrades-centered posts that we do, if for no other reason than there are only three upgrade slots on a Neb-B, so there isn't a wide variety of choices.  No matter: you will find that there are some excellent, low-cost ships that you can make off of those three slots.

I.  Upgrades for Redemption

You can run either the Escort or Support Refit; you'd want to run Escort if you're planning on hiding it in the back and you still want it to contribute to anti-squadron defense, but it's not very good at that, and it's bumping up the cost of an already expensive support ship.  I'd go Support Refit, personally.


Officer: Since the goal of Redemption is to 1) stay alive for other ships to take advantage of its bonus, and 2) stay close to other ships in the fleet, you'll want an officer that does this well.  You can take Raymus Antilles if you want to (though I personally think he's better used on a different ship), though Leia is likely a better fit for the officer slot.  Since Leia allows ships with Range 1-5 of her ship (the same range as Redemption) to change their command dials to match hers, she can spam Engineering commands (to take advantage of the Redemption bonus), Navigate Commands (in case the fleet needs to quickly move out, avoiding running into each other, etc.), or other commands as desired, but these are the most useful for what Redemption is designed to do.  Quick reminder on Leia, though: to allow ships to take advantage of her rule, she'll need to activate early in the turn, so make sure you have room to maneuver.

The Engineering Captain is also a great choice, as it allows Redemption to go about its business - potentially even combat duty - and then quickly switch to an Engineering action if you need it to.  But this is most useful when teamed with a Support Team upgrade.


Support Team: The natural upgrade for Redemption is Projection Experts.  If you're allowing people to gain +1 Engineering Point when they call an Engineering action, the only thing better than that is also giving them 2 additional shields, a retail market value of 4 Engineering that the other ship doesn't need to come up with from their Engineering value.  It comes at the cost of 2 Engineering points from the ship with Projection Experts and it consumes 2 of the shields from that ship, but it allows them to move the shields to another friendly ship up to Distance 1-5 away (the same range as Redemption).

On an Engineering 3 ship, though, if you have an Engineering token Redemption can gain 5 Engineering on its turn, use 1-2 of it to move shields to another ship, and then spend the rest to recover some shields that it lost.  This allows it to maintain this "healer ability" throughout the game, and it makes for almost unlimited healing throughout the game if you can keep it alive.  It can't help the target ship recover hull damage (so it's not very effective against enemy bombers), but it's a good defense against enemy ships who are battering away at a target hull zone.

If you are not taking Projection Experts, an Engineering Team will help with survivability of your healing ship.  By adding +1 to your Engineering Value, you can recover up to two shields in a given turn, which should help to keep your Neb from being heavily exposed to enemy fire.  I personally like the idea of running it as a healer (and thus taking Projection Experts), but the Engineering Team does increase the survivability of Redemption by quite a bit for only 5 points.

Engine Techs is also useful if you want to be able to move at the equivalent of Speed 4 (and with 0-1-2-1 Yaw, which is not bad at all), and allows a relatively fragile healing ship to quickly evade enemy forces.  Just remember: if you outstrip the ships that you are supposed to be providing support to, you're just wasting points on the Redemption title.


Turbolasers: Truth is...unless you're planning on being on the front lines (which is dangerous), I'd skip this upgrade on Redemption.  If you really want to take one, I'd take the Turbolaser Reroute Circuits (TRCs) to maximize damage on your red dice, and the XI7s are not bad as it neutralizes the redirect, increasing the chance that your limited red dice pool does damage to a hull zone.  But as a general rule I'd avoid this one just to save points in your fleet.

II.  Upgrades for Salvation

I like running Salvation as an Escort: it allows me to take a shot with the forward arc and spend the other doing anti-squadron shots to help clear chaff squadrons away.  It's more expensive (my guy is usually around 77 pts), but it pulls its weight.  The Support Refit is also a good option, though, if you're just trying to maximize points for an anti-ship "sniper" in your army.


Officer: Intel Officer is great - it allows you to effectively neutralize a defense token on the opponent, even if they have Electronic Countermeasures (which usually will be the opponent's Brace), and it is also conveniently the officer card that comes with the Neb-B set, so you'll have one on-hand, :)  Since the Intel Officer also applies to any attack the ship makes, it can also be used to target the Scatter on a squadron if you want to put some damage on a starfighter (or severely cripple it by discarding its Scatter for the rest of the game).  For only 7 pts he's not a bad purchase.

You can take Raymus, but I don't recommend it.  I think you can use him better elsewhere in your army, and to be honest getting the re-roll on a Concentrate Fire or an extra squadron to command isn't as useful on Salvation as it might be on another ship (like an MC80 Assault Cruiser, Assault Frigate "carrier" build, etc.).  Tactics Expert isn't bad either, as it allows you to call Navigate/Repair on the dial all the time, but if you have a nice shot you can switch it effortlessly to Concentrate Fire for that fourth red dice from the forward arc.


Support Team: Most of these upgrades will be covering the survivability and mobility of Salvation, and while these are all useful, I don't recommend spending points on them.  Especially if you're running the Escort Frigate, you're looking at around 70-80 points for a good Salvation build before factoring in this cost, and that means that you're already consuming 20% of your points in a 400-pt game for a ship that is not designed to take a beating, hold off enemy fighters, or do the heavy lifting against a large ship like an MC80 or an Imperial Star Destroyer.  The one that I consistently take is Engineering Team (if I have the points), mostly so that he will have 4-6 Engineering Points (depending on whether I have an Engineering token or not) to repair the hull or replace missing shields.

Engine Techs can also be good (as it will keep you out of range of attackers), but remember: you need to use a Navigate action (so no Concentrate Fire for your forward arc shot) to use Engine Techs, so you need to decide what your aim is with Salvation.  If you want him to simply maximize fire against an enemy, I'd pass on this upgrade (which is also expensive, by the way, at 8 pts).  If you're really afraid that people are going to try to headhunt your sniper, it may be worth the points.


Turbolasers: Okay, this is a toss-up.  There are lots of good options for this slot.  If you've got an Intel Officer, it's nice running XI7s as you can target the Brace with your Intel Officer and then gut the redirect with XI7s.  This is also safer than relying on an Accuracy icon, as the Intel Officer doesn't prevent them from spending a defense token - they are free to use the token, but they discard it instead of just spending it.

Similarly if you have Heavy Turbolaser Turrets (HTTs) you can use the Intel Officer to target the Brace, and then if he opts to Brace he'll lose it and mitigate half damage, or he's forced to take the full power of your frontal barrage, which is no fun at all.  And since you have a 3/8 chance of getting two damage on a single dice (instead of most ships that only get a 1/8 chance), the likelihood that you do a lot of damage is actually quite high, especially with a Concentrate Fire action to bring your forward arc to 4 red dice.

I like TRCs (just to guarantee a double hit), especially in case the target has an Evade token, as that almost guarantees that the double hit dice gets past the Evade (as he'll likely strike the dice with the Critical result on it).

Since you can't get a Gunnery Team you could run Slaved Turrets just for the extra red dice (and another chance at a Critical), giving you 4 red dice from the front (or 5 if you use a Concentrate Fire action).  On average that's easily 4 damage on a ship that costs on the 60s to field (70s if you take an officer upgrade).  Now this means you won't have a second shot to plink away at enemy squadrons or other ships on other arcs, but if you're running a Support Refit and you don't care about shooting at squadrons, this may be a good option.

III.  Upgrades for Yavaris

First, if you're running a squadron-commanding ship, you need to run the Escort Frigate.  The primary difference between the two frigate variants are their squadron commanding abilities, and at Squadron 1 the Support Refit is just not going to cut it.  If you are purchasing this title card you want to maximize the ships you command, and the extra 6 pts to take the Escort Frigate is totally worth the additional activation each turn (not to mention better anti-squadron batteries, which you will likely be using).  So we recommend you take the Escort Frigate build.


Officer: Raymus Antilles is great - getting the token and the command dial action allows Yavaris to command 3 squadrons every round, maximizing the output of its bonus to squadrons.  This only works, though, if you have 3 squadrons nearby that can do sizable damage to their targets, so make sure to keep a few squadrons within medium range of Yavaris.  And since Nebs lack an Offensive Retrofit slot, you won't be able to boost this to long range with Boosted Comms, so just remember to keep the squadrons within medium range.

Adar Tallon is also good.  Tallon allows you, after performing a Squadron command, to retoggle the activation of a squadron that was just commanded, allowing them to be activated again that same turn.  So if Yavaris commanded Wedge Antilles to attack (or Han Solo, or Keyon Farlander while attacking an enemy ship) and took advantage of the special rule, he could attack twice under Yavaris and then attack again under another ship's Squadron action or in the Squadron Phase.  Either way you can get a lot of firepower out of a few squadrons.

The Wing Commander also isn't a bad choice, but I think that compared to Raymus it leaves something to be desired (and for 6 pts, it's almost the same cost as Ray).  It does give you the freedom to call Navigate and Engineering actions every turn and then effortlessly change those to Squadron commands as you wish, but a wise general who plans ahead will find this benefit only marginally useful.  I think that Ray is a more useful benefit to the ship for only 1 point more.

Support Team: Engineering Team is nice if for no other reason than bombers and ships tend to shoot at you, but honestly I'd recommend you save the points.  In an Intel world it is unlikely that Engine Techs would actually keep you out of range of enemy bombers, and the Nav Team is less than useful as you'll ideally be calling Squadron actions and not commonly using Navigate tokens.  So save yourself some points, and spend those points on squadrons for you to command.


Turbolasers: Okay - this is an interesting one.  I like taking XI7s on this guy solely because enemy carrier ships (which will likely be near you so they can support their fighters) tend to have a redirect (with the Imperial Raider and an opposing Yavaris being the sole exceptions), and it's a bit more reliable than HTTs in my book as most people burn their Brace first, which means it may not even be in the opponent's battle plan to use the Brace against an attack from Yavaris.

But honestly, you can probably pass on this upgrade too.  Remember: for Yavaris, the less points you spend on the ship, the more points you can spend on the fighters it controls.  And if it can control 2-3 squadrons each turn, I recommend just saving the points and making those squadrons matter.

IV.  Upgrades for Nebs Generally

Since a basic Neb-B costs 51-57 pts, it's a nice, light, low-cost ship that you can purchase multiple copies of and still have ample room for a high-cost commander, a strong set of squadrons, or a large number of upgrades.  This gives Nebs versatility - you can do a host of different things with different Nebs in your force.

Officer: No picture here, as you've seen most of them already, but almost any officer will work with a Neb - the question is what you want the Neb to do.  If you are looking for an attack model that can hit at long range and then quickly dash past opponents to get out of their forward arc, a Weapons Liaison, a Tactical Expert, or other offense-generating officers (like the Intel Officer, my personal favorite and the one that conveniently comes in the Neb-B set) will be a good choice.  If you're looking for defense the Engineering Captain and the Defense Liaison are good choices, as is the Navigation Officer if you follow the ancient adage, "speed is armor."

Honestly, though, if you're purchasing a cheap Neb, you probably should skip this slot: save the points, and put them elsewhere in your army to cover your bases.

Support: If you're looking for speed, Engine Techs is a good upgrade.  If you're looking for survivability, Engineering Team is good.  I'd personally shy away from the Nav Team and Projection Experts (unless you plan to have Engineering Tokens constantly on your Neb to help you recover shields, in which case Projection Experts is okay).

As a general rule this slot tends to remain open (as you're saving points for other ships and squadrons), but it gives you room to customize what you want in your army.  It doesn't help much for damage output (though we'll briefly mention a strategy that employs this slot for damage capability in Part 3 of this series), but it provides a number of the mobility, defense, and control-related elements that are helpful in keeping your army alive and in fighting trim.


Turbolasers: All of them are great, and since Nebs are relatively cheap you can mix and match: one to neutralize the Brace token, one to neutralize a Redirect, one for resolving multiple critical effects, one with additional shots from the side (especially if you have Ackbar - you can get 4 Red Dice from the side arc, which is more than your front arc, for 61 pts per Neb if you run Support Refits with Enhanced Armaments), and a guaranteed chance at a double hit on a red dice.  You have lots of options for Turbolaser upgrades, which gives your fleet lots of room for customization.

If you're going for a cheap Neb option, this slot is also optional - Nebs do their roll well without upgrades, so remember to treat your upgrades as being essential to your strategy for what you need in the force.  If you don't need to put an upgrade on it, don't.  They'll be fine in combat, as you'll see in Part 3 of this series as we discuss tactics.

Conclusion

In our next post we'll wrap up our series and chat about tactics involving Neb-Bs, including a discussion on movement, anti-squadron v. anti-ship firing, and when to turn your flanks to the opponent (which everyone says not to do, but I disagree).  Until then, we'll see you around town,

Jango

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Battle Report: Riekaan v. Tarkin

Hey Reader!

Welcome back to Wretched Hive!  As we discuss different types of Neb-B builds, we thought we'd bring you a fun battle between Dark Knight and myself.  I took an army that relies heavily on Nebs (probably too heavily, but hey: we're focusing on Nebs, so what's a bro supposed to do, :) ).

Jango's Forces (Rebel Alliance - 396 pts)
-Nebulon B Escort Frigate (Yavaris, Riekaan): 92 pts 
-Nebulon B Escort Frigate (Salvation, Turbolaser Reroute Circuits, Intel Officer): 78 pts
-Nebulon B Support Refit: 51 pts
-Nebulon B Support Refit: 51 pts
-Nebulon B Support Refit: 51 pts
-1 Moldy Crow: 19 pts
-1 HWK 290s: 12 pts
-2 YT-1400 Freighters: 26 pts
-Tycho Celchu: 16 pts

Dark Knight's Forces (Galactic Empire - 398 pts)
-Imperial Star Destroyer-II (Tarkin, Gunnery Team, Boosted Comms, Electronic Countermeasures): 176 pts
-Imperial Raider-I (Flight Controllers, Extended Hangar Bay): 55 pts
-Imperial Raider-I (Flight Controllers, Extended Hangar Bay): 55 pts
-14 TIE Fighters: 112 pts

With the lower total points, I had the choice of whether to be the First Player or the Second Player, and true to form I went with my normal choice of Second Player (more on why in a tactics post in the future).  Of the objectives I offered Dark Knight, he opted for Hyperspace Assault, so Salvation and Tycho are being held in reserve as we head into Turn 1.  The deployment looks like this:



Turn 1


As per most Turn 1s, the fleets moved up, no shooting yet, and the Imperial fighter wing (wow, that's a ton of TIEs!) is waiting in the wings for its attack run as we head into the Squadron Phase.


The Squadron Phase was relatively uneventful - the Imperial fighters start moving into command positions, as the Rebel fighters start moving to intercept.

Turn 2

Turn 2 is usually where things start getting interesting, and this game didn't surprise.  The Imperials starting swinging south toward the Space Station, as the Rebel Neb fleet ran north toward the Imperial deployment zone.  As we head into the Squadron Phase, we are just out of attack range of the Imperial fighters.


By the end of the Squadron Phase the Imperial fighters have moved up, and the Rebel ships are bracing for a fighter wing in Turn 3.

Turn 3

At the start of Turn 3 I opted to bring in Salvation (mostly because, frankly, there are so many fighters out there that we're going to get hammered if we don't give them something to shoot at, and we have a beautiful attack run against both a Raider and the ISD this turn), so it deployed as you see.


By the end of the Ship Phase Salvation had taken quite the beating, with damage to the forward shields and all of her side shields gone, and had take 3 hits against the hull (3/5H).  Most of the squadrons had been activated via Squadron actions during the Ship Phase, so the Squadron Phase was pretty quiet.

We also wiffed a number of our rolls against the Imperial Raider at the top of the screen - we had shots from two nebs who were both using Concentrate Fire actions (so 8 red dice) and between both attacks we only did 1 damage past the Evade defense tokens.  This was unfortunate, as we were hoping to put some serious pain on the Raider to make room for the quick get-away from the Star Destroyer.  But oh well - this happens in dice-based games, :P

Turn 4

The heat of the moment being what it is (and this is par for the course for me, by the by, so bear with me: this may occur in other battle reports as well), I didn't take any pictures during Turn 4, :P  But I got one at the end that summed up the action.

As a quick synopsis, Dark Knight called a ton of Squadron actions, and with a few of his fighters he was able to polish off Salvation.  His fighters punctured the shields on Yavaris and one of the other Nebs, but were unable to do more than 1 point of hull damage on each.  One of the HWK-290s went down, as did Tycho.  And courtesy of two really bad sets of rolls from the Nebs, the Raider is still on the table, :P  Gotta love and hate red dice, :P

As we headed into Turn 5, the pain of this bad streak of rolling was about to show itself...

Turn 5

In the Ship Phase the ISD lit up the Nebs, and both Yavaris (which is housing Riekaan) and another Neb went down to its Gunnery Team.  Courtesy of Riekaan we still got to activate our ships, so all of the ships opened fire on starfighters or the Imperial Raider (as there's no reason to fire at the ISD - we can't take it down at this point).  We popped the raider, and we ran like mad, :)


As the Squadron Phase came to an end, our two remaining YT Freighters (they're hidden behind the ISD) took some shots to finish off a TIE Fighter, the two nebs were removed, and we had winnowed the TIE swarm down to five fighters (so ten down).

At this point we knew the Empire had the match, and Turn 6 would be a boring "limp away" turn for the Rebs, and "consolidate" turn for the Empire.

Turn 6

Which is more or less what happened.  The ISD called one final Squadron command, was able to finish off one of the remaining Nebs, and the fighters spread out to avoid giving the YTs anything to shoot at.  So the match ended like this.

End Analysis

It was a fun match - the strengths and weaknesses of the Neb were shown well throughout the match to both of us:

  • Nebs whiff rolls pretty often, but they can also pound away at shields and hull points pretty quickly.  So very much a "wild card" ship as regards damage output and defense.
  • Nebs are also relatively weak against starfighters (as they have two very poorly shielded hull zones, and have no defense tokens that help much against fighters), though Salvation was able to put a lot of fire down on ships before it died, so the two blue dice v. squadrons makes a difference.
  • Fighter screens are going to be a necessity now that we are at 400 pts.  Since both sides can now field a solid number of fighters (up to 16 TIEs for the Empire, and as many as 13 squadrons for the Rebels), anti-squadron batteries are not going to be sufficient to hold off an enemy fighter wing.  And with the inclusion of Intel (which was not a factor in this game), even a large wing of fighters won't be a guaranteed defense.  But fighters will help to distract fire, do damage to enemy squadrons without having to use anti-squadron batteries on a ship, and tie down enemy bombers (ideally) before they can reach your ships.
  • ISDs hurt a lot.  This is not surprise - 8 dice is painful against anyone.  But against a ship that only has 5 Hull, 1-3 Shields, and two Brace defense tokens, 8 dice means a good number of accuracy icons (neutralizing the Brace tokens) and enough damage to puncture and injure (if not destroy) the light frigate that is the Neb.
  • I really like the Extended Hangar Bays on the Raider.  It makes for a Squadron 2 ship (effectively Squadron 3 if Tarkin is passing out the token each Ship Phase), which allows a relatively low-cost ship (55 pts) to move with a small fighter force that can spread enemy fighter squadrons thin.  Add to that the generally high speed of Imperial ships, and you've got a beautiful long-range strike team that can cost under 80 pts (as Dark Knight did here).
In our next post we'll see Part 2 of our Neb series, talking about ideal upgrades to your Nebs (which may help to give them greater survivability, firepower, and/or speed to control the flow of the battle (which, as you might have noticed in this game, is an important question for Nebs).

Until our next meeting,

Jango