Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Squadrons Encyclopedia Chapter 1: Basics and Outline

So it took a while to get around to it, but having finished all the Wave 2 squadrons off, it's time to talk about USING these all.  I'm going to try to hit a lot in these articles, and they will be a little blander at times (less calling squadrons by different animal names to lighten the discussion) but hopefully more helpful.  I make no claims that I'm perfect at everything, but what I do works for me.  There's that old adage that "the best way to learn how to do something is to teach people to do it," so hopefully this will help improve my OWN squadron game by describing these all.

We'll start out with some definitions which are going to help in future articles, and then we'll move on to building the three different groups I'm about to define.  Because of my play experience, this is ALL going to be Rebel based and Rebel oriented.  I have zero experience piloting TIE fighters or TIE bombers, so it's not worth my speculating when I can just let Eric give his opinions on those.  My advice will be relatively general, so it should apply to both sides, but specific builds will have Eric's input.  Given those three different groups, I'll move to the proper way to the squadron fight with each group, and I'm sure by the end I'll have some final thoughts about this whole thing to wrap it all up.  In the process of rereading this all, I realize NOW that I need to add in both a short "after" article about how to properly attack and bomb your opponent's ships with your squadrons, and another about fighting a heavy squadron list.  This paragraph may only exist in here to provide me an outline of where I'm going to go; just giving me an outline for where to go. "Teach the entire Armada community how to squadron when only occasional people asked for it and may be silently judging you from their computer screen if/when you screw up" only causes SOME anxiety, it's fine!

If you have a better example of anxiety, please let me know!
Before we begin discussing squadrons, I'd like to reiterate (and slightly change for generalness's sake! My edit in red) Eric's point from the squadron keywords mailbox:
Generally, squadrons activated during the Ship Phase have an advantage over Rogue squadrons because those squadrons will get to activate first and get in the first punches. You can activate your Rogues with squadron commands just like regular squadrons to help them out, of course, but you're getting less mileage out of the Rogue keyword you spent points on when you do so. Or to put it in a shorter form:
Squadrons activated by squadron commands > Rogue squadrons > Unactivated regular squadrons
I'll talk about this more when we get into the different types of groups and how they're fighting.  But just remember that your squadrons exist to do one of three roles: Fighters engage enemy squadrons, Bombers want to hit ships, and Support allows your squadrons to do what they were designed to do.  When you command your squadrons, they get to move and shoot, potentially killing other things.  They ALSO get to go BEFORE anything else does for the rest of this turn.  If you activate 3 X-wings, and they kill 2 TIE fighters, that's 2 TIE fighters that DON'T get to activate this turn.  So that's less damage coming BACK at your X-wings.  If you kill off his squadrons faster, you win the squadron game.  The "downside" of Rogues is that they have to wait until the squadron phase to move and shoot, so they ARE in danger of getting jumped if they're too close.  Keep the plan of hitting stuff that hasn't activated in mind, and you can still come out ahead.
Well, it's kinda true here....
The other thing to remember is that the point of the squadrons part of the game is to either get more points or deny them to your opponent.  Bombing his ships gets you points, as it gets the ships closer to death.  Engaging the opponent's swarm of Bombers with your A-wings will likely result in you losing all your A-wings.  That sure does suck, but compare losing 44 points of A-wings versus losing your MC80 to their bombs.  That's a trade I'll make any day.  Think of the opponent's squadrons as a mobile, blobby extra ship.  If I spend 133 points on my Squadron Blob Ship, don't you think I should be able to kill SOMETHING with it?  Very few people expect to go up against an ISD without taking SOME damage and possibly losing a ship, but if you can take it out while losing less points worth of your own stuff, that's a win.  133 points is about the cost of an ISD, so shouldn't I get to treat my squadrons nearly equivalently, like a more mobile ship itself?

If I'm a great player, I use my Squadron Blob Ship to take out the enemy's ISD.  If you're the great player, it only gets to kill your 64 point TIE fighters Blob Ship (causing me to have a sad).  The rest of your list (the remaining 336 points, for example) is best spent killing either my Squadron blob (through flak) or focusing on killing my ships. If I have 133 points in my Squadron Blob Ship, that's only 267 left in my other ships.  So it becomes a 336 vs 267 battle for you, which should be good for your side, provided you can DO something about that.  Your job is to keep it at that 336 vs 267 as long as possible.  If I win the squadron battle handily but you blow up 3 of my ships, that's probably an actual win for you, even if I won the squadron battle. We're not playing Star Wars Squadron Battle, we're playing Armada.  Win the ARMADA war, that's how you win the game.
No one cares how many Y wings you have left at the end of the game.  They care about how many ships they killed.
So as I've been dancing around this, let's talk about the 3 different squadron groups.  Each of these groups will get its own separate post of Build Ideas, where I outline both how the build works, what meshes it all together, and how to run it successfully, or as successfully as you can.

The first group is the Small Fighter Coverage (SFC).  I'll also refer to this as the Interceptor Group, and it's somewhere between 40ish to 70ish points (these are NOT hard limits, don't take my numbers as gospel).  These are a group of primarily fighters who are here to provide a token fighter force that prevents your opponent's Bombers from smashing your ships.  The SFC is not there to win the squadron game, necessarily.  They exist specifically to ensure you don't get blown up by intense bombers everywhere, forcing the enemy to do some work BEFORE they attempt to roll your ships.  If they can kill some squadrons, gravy!  Remember my earlier paragraph about equivalent squadron blob ships? This is a loaded CR90 or Nebulon B worth of points.  It may get some solid damage in on that Squadron Blob ISD somehow, but it will most likely not kill it (barring incredibly terrible rolls).

Usually the squadrons game is happening intensely from turns 2-4, potentially 3-5 depending on the speed of ships and you in your meta.  Every turn the SFC prevents bombers from hitting your ships is a great turn for them.  You're probably not going to lock down everything, and you will almost guaranteed not be able to hold them for every turn.  The SFC is full on Battle of Britain, throwing everything you can to buy your people/country enough time to survive.  You are in full Hoth Territory, holding out for one more turn until your transports can escape.  In this case, the AT-ATs coming towards your troops is the Bomber Wing headed towards your fleet.  Buy your ships time, and get out of that area.
This is what 3 B-Wings under Yavaris command look like to enemy commanders.
The second group is Medium Fighter Coverage (MFC).  A solid 75 to 100ish points of squadrons, this group is where I find myself more often headed towards when I'm not building a bomber list.  This group is designed for two purposes.  The first purpose is to beat up and win against the SFC, and then move on to attacking ships with some added bonus damage afterwards.  If you bring 2 YT-2400s and 4 X-wings (or something like that), the YT-2400s can move later with Rogue and hit a ship with 2 black dice.  Or the X-wings can go on bombing runs on ships.  Red dice (without Bomber Command Center) aren't AMAZING, but they do work well enough. You can get some damage in, and it contributes.  You likely aren't painting ISDs on the sides of your squadrons, but you also prevent them from painting X-wings on the sides of their TIEs.

The second purpose of them is with a little bit of luck (do NOT count on this), you might actually be able to take out the Large Fighter Coverage (LFC) group.  Depending on what was brought, what they roll, and what your opponent rolls, there's a possibility (I CANNOT stress this enough, do not count on it, just hope it works out for you that way) that you can kill an enemy Squadron Blob ISD.  The 75-100 points is like a well loaded MC30 attacking a real ISD.  You very likely won't roll Hits+Crits on every black dice and at least 1 blue accuracy in both arcs you have the ISD targeted under, but theoretically it CAN happen.  If you REALLY want to ensure the victory/killing of the LFC, you'll need some flak help and some potentially bad rolls on your opponent's part.  Again, fighting an uphill battle, especially here, is meant to delay the LFC from hitting the ships it actually wants to hit.
Isard's Revenge was my least favorite book in the series, but it allows me to extend the metaphor of fighting against the B wings under Yavaris bit.  Ah well, someone get harpoons and tow cables!
And as mentioned, our last group is the Large Fighter Coverage (LFC).  This is upwards of 110 points of squadrons (nearing more often towards 120-134), and this is also where we get to Bombers dedicated to BE bombers.  I do not suggest bringing bombers as part of your SFC or MFC, but i mean that in the sense of DEDICATED bombers.  X-wings that win the furball and get to bomb as a bonus are great! Y-wings being your only source of fighter coverage and forced into a fighter role are NOT, generally (go check out A-wings for that role instead).  This is the Squadron Blob Ship ISD I have been talking about, and it can rain fiery death upon your enemies when used right.  We'll get to using it correctly, bombing correctly, and we'll hopefully be able to get into some minor list building with these squadron components.  This is going to be the most subjective section, as there's a LOT of Rebel squadrons with Bomber and competent blue dice for fighting squadrons if needed.  This is Death Incarnate if used well, but without its support apparatus it is nowhere near as competent as it COULD be.  When talking about fighting this group, I'll make notes about disabling its support apparatus in there (And in an update on 10/9, I realize I never hit some of these latter points.  Things to write and add in soon enough!).
Then there was that time Wedge, Tycho, and Corran blew up 3 ISDs.
Speaking of fighting, there's really 4 different scenarios you want to discuss with regards to the furball that is fighter combat, and we'll get to each of them in turn.

1) SFC vs SFC
2) SFC vs LFC
3) LFC vs LFC
4) LFC vs SFC

You'll notice that I left MFC out of these groups.  For the purpose of engagement, consider the MFC group to be an upgunned version of your opponent that you're facing.  So 2) could potentially read as SFC vs MFC/LFC, dependant on your meta and how upgunned your fighting is going to be.  It can also read as MFC vs LFC, which is you fighting an uphill battle.  The principle is the same, just with MORE squadrons, so I won't rehash material.  4) exists in a similar vein, where it's LFC vs MFC or MFC vs SFC.  You're fighting a downhill battle, so we'll discuss how to win that one quickly so you can get to doing what you WANT to do with your LFC/SFC quicker.

This article has gone on quite long already, just laying out HOW we'll get everything in order, so I'll end this now.  I'm looking forward to writing all these thoughts down, and now that I've organized it all, I feel a lot less anxious than I did before!

You got this!