Category: Tactics

A Song of Ice & Fire: Let’s Talk – Stark Sworn Swords, Part 1

Image result for a song of ice and fire tabletop miniatures game logo

In this two-part article, Derek will be doing a deep dive review of one of the core units of the Stark’s, the Stark Sworn Swords.
Continue reading “A Song of Ice & Fire: Let’s Talk – Stark Sworn Swords, Part 1”

Blood Bowl – Basics

So in the first effort at branching out a little I thought I would revisit an old article I wrote for my local Blood Bowl League.

Now, the objective of a game of Blood Bowl (despite what an Orc player may try to tell you) is to score more touch downs than your opponent.  Of course how you go about doing this is where the fun of the game comes in.
The first thing to think about (after picking your team colours) is how you  want to score your touch downs.  The two basic choices are to play a running game or a passing game.  The running game lends itself well to teams with a high Armour Value (AV), good Strength (ST) and a few players with the Block Skill  helps (I said a few not all, damn Norse Teams.)  To play a good passing game on the other hand you want players with high Movement (MA),  good Agility (AG) and having easy access to players with both Pass and Catch helps.
Now after looking at your team and matching it up to the style you want to play what else is there to consider?
Well the basic mechanics of Blood Bowl actually favours not rolling dice, I am going to say that once more just to help it sink in Blood Bowl favours NOT ROLLING DICE.  OK so I got to type something in capitals and bold but what do I mean by this.
Simply that because in Blood Bowl if you attempt to do something and fail this usually results in a turn over.  That means that if as your first action of the game you try to pick up the ball and fail (even though it is on 3’s with a re-roll) your turn is over and your opponent gets to start his turn.
So how should that little fact affect how we approach each turn?
Basically if there is a chance you can fail to carry out an action and there is something else that you could/should do first than do the other thing first.
So how does that fit in to either the Running or Passing game?
Simple really if you are playing a running game and want to Blitz a hole in the line to burst through you need to consider what can go wrong.  Mainly you could end up rolling an Attacker Down result (Skull) on the block dice, there by taking out part of your line and given the opponent a route to sack the ball carrier.  If you can position players a cover the eventuality of failing on the block to mitigate the risks do that first then pummel the opposing lineman into the ground.
If you are playing the passing game there are even more things to consider.  Lets look at  what could go wrong with a simple pass;
  1. You could fumble it (roll a one when attempting to pass is a fumble and the ball scatters from the throwers square)
  2. It could be an inaccurate pass (the ball is scattered three times from the target square and can only be picked up after the final scatter)
  3. You could just plain and simple fail to catch it (the ball scatters once from the target square)
All three of these result in a turn over and this does not take in to account the chance of an interception.
Obviously there is more to go wrong when attempting to play the passing game but there are still things you can do to help. Again try to move any players into a position where you will be passing from and to, so that they can cover in case something goes wrong.
So, if you plan on throwing a pass this turn there is no point moving players to cover where the ball is now.  You need to cover the launch point and the target to minimize you opponents chances of capitalizing on something going wrong.
This is also where we first have to consider priority of actions rather than relative safety of actions.  As if you have moved two players to cover the launch point of the pass you want to make and have two catchers through waiting to receive the ball and a nice 3 dice you chose block to throw what do you do?
Well the 3 dice block is a relatively safe action but if you were to fail, you have moved your cover for the thrower in to the position you want him to be in and left him exposed so I would throw the pass first even if it means letting that block slip away.
And with the end of the post approaching I should sum up the points I am rather ineloquently trying to make.
  • Have a plan on how you are going to score your touch downs
  • Understand how good your team is going to be at trying to carry out your plan
  • Safe moves first
  • If you have to start rolling dice make sure you roll them in an order that will minimize the risks of not only turning over the turn but also the ball.
Well thanks for reading guys and remember it will all go wrong on the last Go for it!
Kris

X-Wing: Pilot Skill

Pilot Skill is an important part of the X-Wing and how you put your squad together but just how important is it to be Top Gun?

Hello all,
I wanted to spend a bit of time looking at something different for this article, rather than delving in to one specific ship or build its time to get a little more generic and talk about the Bid for Pilot Skill.

What is Pilot Skill?
Pilot Skill in X-Wing varies from Pilot Skill 1 up to Pilot Skill 9 (without any external factors) and is used to determine two things, who moves first (Lowest) and who shoots first (Highest) seems simple and in honesty it is.

End of article, and thanks for reading…

OK so there is a little more to it than that.

Whilst the advantage of shooting first is obvious there are also advantages to moving first and this is why it is important to think about not just what Ships you are trying to fit in to your squad but also at what pilot skills they are going to sit at, and why.

Why would I want Low PS?
The most obvious advantage of a lower PS is cost, as the Pilot Skill gets higher so too does the points cost.

Here are two TIE Interceptor based lists;

So here we have a PS 6 Royal Guard list, it did the rounds after the release of Imperial Aces and is really good fun to fly, Unfortunately with the PS 6 and Push the Limits each ships clocks in at 25 points so you are flying a 12 Hit Point list.

This second list keeps the core of 4 Interceptors but with the drop from PS6 down to PS1 saving 16 points and not spending 12 points on Push the Limits you can fit in 28 points worth of goodness.
In this case I went for an Omicron Group Pilot with Vader and a Shield Upgrade.

The Points you save by not even taking part in the Bid for Pilot Skill lets you add in some guaranteed damage with Vader and you never have to worry about someone beating you to the punch as you are expecting it.

So we drop from a 12 hit point list to a 23 hit point list with a couple of tricks.
The Head to Head match up on this is quite interesting as as I honestly think it could go either way. The Royal Guard should be pulling a Focus and Evade as good as every turn as should be able to kill one Alpha and put damage down on a second but it then comes to if the 3 remaining can down one whilst the Omicron downs a second, that first exchange will decide the game.

The strength of the second list only really comes to the fore when you take it out of the head to head and start to look at it against some other lists.  As soon as you run in to anyone at PS 7 and above a main strength of paying extra for Pilot Skill is wasted.

As soon as you are facing off against a Han or a Dash having Vader in the Omicron is looking a lot more profitable than spending 16 extra points on Pilot Skill.

That is only looking at the Combat Phase side of Pilot Skill though, it is important to cover the double edged sword that is Activation Phase.

Getting to activate and therefor move first can be a big plus.

Going back to the head to head with the above lists the Alpha player will get to move all of their ships before any of the Royal Guard get to move.  This means that the Alpha’s can move to occupy the space you are expecting the Guard to finish in in the hope of causing a bump.  The Alpha’s will still get their action and force a double hit on to the Guard denying them their action and the opportunity to use Push the Limits as well.
Whilst this is obviously skill based it can not be ignored that Blocking is a thing and has been since wave 1.

The fact that Enhanced Scopes for example even exists add credence to the point, FFG think it is worth 1 point to be able to move before your opponent whilst still being able to take part in the bid to shoot first.

So why would I ever Spend Points on a bid for PS?

This is easy, You get to Shoot First!

Ask Greedo if it matters…

The simple fact is that if you remove a ship from play before it fires it have zero chance of doing damage to you.

The counter point to this is that  if you are not removing the ship from play with your shot than it becomes irelevent if you shot first or not as effectiveness of a ship is not affected by loss of Shields/Hull and whilst this is true to a point Crits matter and Focus tokens that you can force to be used in Defense are a huge boon.

It is easy to get pulled in to the Low is best for Moving and High is Best for Shooting debate but getting to move second can be worth its weight in gold.  The Key is not your ships dial but its action bar.

This is because of the game mechanic of “locking in” your dial in the planning phase.

Getting to watch your opponent move and then performing your move with the confidence that you can Boost or Barrel Roll in to a favorable position is extremely powerful.

Its one of the reasons that I like Imperial Boba Fett, reactionary movement is powerful.  Engine Upgrade costs 4 Points and is the (jointly) the most expensive modification available for just this reason.  Being able to change your facing and position after you have seen where your opponent’s ships are is in my opinion one of the most powerful abilities in the game
If my opinion is not good enough for you, World Champion Paul Heaver when given the opportunity to introduce an Elite Pilot Talent in to the game here is what he came up with.

If you want to read Paul’s thought on Stay on Target (and I suggest you do) follow the link to his article on the FFG Website

The problem with using moving last as an advantage is that it takes more finesse to get the most out of it.

OK, I get what you are saying so how do I build a squad with that in mind?
As long as you have a plan when building your squad and know why you have gone in at the Pilot Skill you have than it should all work out (Dice Dependant :p)
The Impact of upgrades like Predator and Flight Instructor whilst not being game breaking should be considered when putting your squad together but don’t let it dominate your thoughts too much.

I will try to give a couple of examples of what I mean;

So this list bids as low as possible to save points and allow access to more ships/better upgrades.

This is a typical Rebel List at the moment, it sacrifices any opportunity to bid for Pilot Skill instead going for a solid base of Hit Points and Fire Power.

The B-Wings provide a solid fire base that most lists that bid high for PS should struggle to take out in a single turn.

The inclusion of the two Bandits give you flexibility for Blockers and options for firing order due to the entire list sitting at the same PS.  This is something I covered at length in my Swarm Theory articles but the ability to choose firing order for your ships and the activation order adds a layer of flexibility that mixed PS lists miss out on and is often overlooked.  For example a Whisper with Rebel Captive can be shot by one of the Bandits first to reduce the impact of the stress on your key ships.

This is an example of a list that whilst makes a small bid at Pilot Skill but has its focus on other interactions.

So for this list the Pilot Skill is reasonable and whilst all the pilots maintain a consistent level of 6 to add versatility the actual PS is not what the list is relying on to function.

This list is relying on Maneuverability and raw damage output to keep it in the game.

The hope is that Echo can provide the Target Locks for Vessery to provide value whilst Backstabber is overlooked as a filler.  The list actually outputs quite a bit of damage easily being able to throw out 11 dice per turn.

It relies on positioning to survive against Higher Pilot Skill lists but can still hold its own.

This last list is all about Pilot Skill

This list is all about Han Shooting first.
Han fires and then the return shots have to go on to Biggs until he is dead all the while Han is shooting before your opponent.  Biggs allows Han to take offensive actions in the early game and Luke backs him up well for any Token Tanking.  Having Han alive and relativly unscaved in the end game and still firing at PS 11 is extremely nasty.

What does all this mean?
The sort answer would be to Go Big or Go Home, but that would be dismissive of quite a few options and list builds.

I honestly think that X-Wing is in a healthy place right now and that whilst the top tables may be dominated by styles of lists there are very few occurrences of the EXACT same lists facing off against each other on top tables.

The “Fat Han” is a style of list rather than a build as is the Swarm, people are still putting there take on the archetypes and finding ways to use them.

Whilst Pilot Skill has a big impact on the game, it does not out weigh actually flying your squad well.
There is no right or wrong answer to what Pilot Skill is the best as the synergy within your squad is going to be more important.

X-Wing: VT-49 Decimator

Wave 5 is going to give Imperials access to their first 360 degree turret in the form of the VT-49 Decimator, so lets take a look at exactly what this brick is going to bring to the table.

The Decimator is a bit of a first on a few fronts, its the Imp’s first turreted ship, it has an Agility of 0 (more on this later) but also it has its routes in the Star Wars Galaxies MMORP, every other ship, even the stuff from Wave 4 was routed in the EU in some form of story, but the VT-49 was introduced to Galaxies purely to give the Imperials an evil Falcon to fly.

It is fitting then that FFG have taken the opportunity to do a similar thing for X-Wing but whilst it would be easy to thing of the Deci as an Imp Falcon there is a lot more to it than that.

OK, so the Falcon comparison starts off well with the 3 Attack dice Turret primary weapon but for X-Wing thats where the similarities end.
0 Evade dice with 12 Hull and 4 Shields give the Decimator a different feel, its a lumbering giant that you can hit but can you kill it?

The dial for the Decimator is also an interesting one;

No Red manœuvres whilst maintaing all of the 2’s and 3’s makes it an interesting ship to fly but if you do get it stressed it becomes a little trickier as the green is very limiting with none on the 1 manoeuvres.

In my mind the combination of Stats and Dial make it an extremely offensive focuses ship and with only Focus or Target Lock available as actions that does nothing to really change my mind.

Upgrade wise though things really do get interesting.
Having no less than 3 Crew Slots, a Bomb and Torpedo Slot and access to Modifications and a Title on even the PS 3 Patrol Leader make the Decimator an extremely versatile ship build wise but at 40 points for PS 3 it is also a weighty investment as it will no doubt end up costing a good percentage of your points.

The Named Pilots add even more spice to the mix with all 3 of them adding access to an Elite Pilot Talent and  some interesting pilot abilities.

Caption Oicunn was probably the most spoken about when the news dropped about the Deci with his PS 4 and 42 points cost getting you the ability to Ram other ships and deal damage to them.  He is a natural fit for the Decimator Dauntless Title allowing him to perform a Free Action after overlapping an opponent in exchange for a stress token.
Mara Jade also fits in really well with his play style of getting stuck in, up close and personal.
Another option you can throw on him is the Tactical Jammer Upgrade to force enemies who shoot threw him to count their shots as obstructed.

That comes in at 48 points but can be a very powerful tool if you can support him correctly with your remaining 52 points.

Something like 3 Black Squadron Pilots with Predator could be a nice support element with a good damage output and keeping the PS4 theme going.

I would use Oicunn to run in to the enemy early and then try to push through their squad with brute force  and then giving the opponent the difficult choice of chasing the damaged decimator, which should be hard to do initially due to the stress induced by Mara Jade or leaving a damage ship to live in to the late game, therefor wasting the fire they initially put in to it.

Commander Kenkirk on the other hand walks the  line of trying to be defensive on a 0 Agility Ship.
Coming in at PS 6 for 44 points his Pilot Ability lets you gain 1 Evade Dice once you have 0 Shields and have suffered at least 1 point of Damage.
I have to admit that I am not really convinced on this one and do need a lot more playtesting as I think he forces you in to spending too many points on the Decimator leaving you short for standard play but could be a big hit in a 60 minute format.

For Kenkirk I am thinking somthing along the lines of the following to see just how much aggro he can take if used correctly;

With a bit of creative flying I think that this list could emulate some of the Fat Han lists out there but I just don’t think it will have the staying power as you can quite easily be down to 8 or 9 Hull points before Ysanne kicks , worst case is that you go in to a Combat Phase with 0 Shields and 12 Hull as then you miss out on the evade and can take another volly before Kenkirk activates.

The last Named Decimator pilot is Rear Admiral Chiraneau who brings his attack focused Pilot Ability to the table allowing you to turn an eyeball in to a Crit when attacking at range band 1 or 2.
Having that in built focus and 0 Evade dice for me he is crying out for an Engine Upgrade to give him a useful action to take which should make him a much more versatile ship to fly.

I have been toying with this PS10 based list;

The plan with this list it to alternate which ship you present as a target to your opponent and to take advantage of your High PS and versatility in movement that Boba and the Engine Upgrade allow to try to out fly your opponent.

Builds for the Patrol Leader I have found a little harder as I have been tempted to run one with just Vader but I struggle to justify the extra 19 points over an Omicron.  Although, if you can actually fly a Lambda well, this could be fun;

This list is about as subtle as a brick to the face but if you can pull it of it will kill things but one mistake and its GG as the Hull points are as forgiving as you may think.

I dont know about you guys but I am really excited to get this ship on to the table properly and try out some new things with the Imperials as I think it opens up some doors that have not been available to them in the past.  Whilst some people may lament the addition of more turrets to the game, I honestly think FFG have done an amazing job with the Decimator as all of the pilots seem to open up completely different possibilities and I am looking forward to seeing where it takes us!

X-Wing: YT-2400 “Outrider”

Having played a few games against the Outrider now I thought I should do a little write up for you all.

After Rebel Aces finally hits we have Wave 5 to look forward to, of course if you know anyone who was at Gen-Con you may already own or have played against the YT-2400 or the Decimator.

I am going to have a look at the YT-2400 first as it is the ship I have seen the most of on the table, (more to do with availability than power level so dont make any assumptions from that)

First up we will go over the old ground of the generic stats for the YT-2400 but we now have the added bonus of knowing what the dial looks like.

The Stats are very solid for the ship with 2 Attack on a 360 Turret, 2 Evade, 5 Hull and 5 Shields and when you couple that with the stupidly good dial and a built in Barrel Roll action.  This gives you an extremely maneuverable platform, the dial is only missing the 5 Ahead (and some more K-Turns) so whilst it is not stressed it could end up anywhere.

The lack of Greens needs to be exploited in my opinion as it is one of the best ways to pin it down with only the 4 Green Maneuvers.  The fix to how Large Base ships interact with Barrel Roll does make in not as scary as it could have been but it still jumps around the table if you don’t do something to pin it down.

Coming in at a base cost of 30 points for the PS 2 Wild Space Fringer it is a very interesting choice, competing with the raw offensive power that a higher end fighter like the B-Wing, E-Wing or some of the named X’s it adds a much more rugged package for a fall of in its offense.  If you compare it to the 27 Point YT-1300 I would say the extra 3 points are well worth it, the much better dial and action bar as well as the extra agility and better distribution of hit points makes the YT-2400 the stand out choice for me.

Once you move on to the Named Pilots and Upgrades things get a little more complicated.

Whilst both Leebo and Dash have interesting pilot abilities I honestly think that if I fielded them I would only be paying for the extra pilot skill without trying something overly gimmicky.
Eaden Vrill’s pilot ability is a little more interesting and depending on the rest of your list can be a very good value upgrade.  If you have any kind of Stress Generation in your list the extra 2 points is well worth it, especially due to his relatively low pilot skill letting him fire after you have had chance to use Flechettes or Tactician, Vrill with Gunner comes in at 37 points and can do a fair amount of work against a stressed target.

OK, so I have been avoiding it but I will have to talk about the Outrider and the Cannon Options.

The ability to take a Cannon is nice with the raw power of the Heavy Laser Cannon being a favorite for a long time now.  The ability to actually make that Cannon a Turret sound extremely good but, in my opinion the Points Cost when coupled with the restrictions that the turrets impose make this a less than optimal choice unless you have a specific plan in mind.

What I mean by that is that you are not just paying 5 points for the Outrider Title you are sacrificing the Primary Weapon as well, initially this may seem like a small cost as it is only a 2 dice Attack for 2 out of the 3 cannons available you are trading a 2 dice Attack for no attack at all if your opponent can fly well.  In an all comers list I think I would be most tempted to take the Ion Cannon as at least it maintains the ability to attack at all range bands even if it does sacrifice raw damage output.
The problem is that even on an otherwise naked Wild Space Fringer that comes in at 40 points and so I think you have to build the list around it.

On the table I have played against the Heavy Laser Cannon Outrider and if you don’t have any way to add stress to it you can out fly people due to the versatile dial and barrel roll to keep you out of range band 1 and I do think it works well with a Fat Han who can babysit the Outrider really well to punish anyone who does get in to range band 1, I am still not 100% sold on the 12 points and no range 1 attack though…

Thanks for reading guys and let me know about your experiences with the Outrider or what you are looking forward to the most from the pack.

Kris