Monday, March 27, 2017

Assault Frigate: Generalist Space Potato

It's time to finish off the Wave I Rebel ships (looks over at Eric and his completed Wave II Imperial ships, for like 3 weeks now).  How about that.  Anyways, the Assault Frigate!

If you didn't want potato jokes, I'm sorry, but the "eyes" had it.  The puns only get worse, guys.
Unfairly compared to a potato for most of its life, the Assault Frigate/Space Potato/Dolphin/Whale is a great generalist.

For the longest time, this was the Rebel's strongest ship.  I spent a lot of that time not using it.  I'm not a role model, kids.
Basic Breakdown
  • 6 health is a good start, and the 3rd highest Rebel ship health (behind the 2 MC80s).
  • 4 shields in the front, and 3 on the sides, is a great way to stay alive for longer.
  • Really solid side shots! From the good red range!
  • A great suite of defense tokens! One of everything!
  • Engineering 4! All the heals! The strongest Rebel Engineering (And the general standard across the board)
  • Front arc and back arc shots with equal dice! You actually don't mind people getting around to your back, you're still decent back there!
There are, however, some minor issues with the assault frigate.  Because it only has one defense token of each type, they're prone to getting locked down....especially the one you want.  At long range, that Arquittens attacking you rolls one accuracy, and your Evade is gone.  At close range, your Brace is going to get locked down, and fast.  Not ideal situations for anyone.  We'll deal with this in the Building Section, below.

Their front arcs are also not amazing.  They can sorta contribute, but their side arcs are better, by an entire red dice.  Which is one more dice that has to be dealt with, or that could roll the double hit.  Or an accuracy to lock down the Evade token your opponent has.

Comparing the Assault Frigate A to the B, the A has one more Blue dice AA, and an extra blue dice out the front.  It also costs 9 more points, at the sacrifice of one of its squadron pushing capabilities.  Both have their uses, and we'll get to them below.

For BOTH Assault Frigates, though, your movement profile is not amazing.  You can expect to be Navigating a lot more often than you normally would as compared to a CR90, and with a Command Stack of 3 dials, you'll have to make sure to REMEMBER to Navigate more often than you'd expect.  With regards to that Command Stack of 3, I've started to consider ships not just by base size but by dial amount/command stack.  The Assault Frigate is a Medium Ship (FFG size), and the previously published Nebulon-B and CR90 are technically Smalls.  However, with 3, 2, and 1 Command respectively, they all behave differently.  While the Assault Frigate is a MEDIUM Base, I treat it as a LARGE ship.  It's a Baby Large, but it's a "Large."  (This is the end of the Finger Quotes, but it will explain below why I call this a Large ship).  You want a few upgrades on it in order to keep it alive (and with 6 health, it needs them!) but if you don't try to pretend it's a Small ship (ie, don't assume you're going to be able to fix your problems immediately.  Expect 2-3 turns of issues before you can fully alter what's happening UNLESS you plan for it) you should be able to turn out OK!

The Assault Frigate is a super-great Generalist ship.  It does nothing EXTRAORDINARILY well, but it can be outfitted to taste.  It's an assembly line ship that needs a bit of looking at to get the most out of.

How to Drive

The important thing to note about the Assault Frigate, as I said above, is that its best firing arcs are its sides.  So: the best way to keep firing out of those side arcs is to keep ships in your side arcs.  You want to be circling the battlefield and your opponent's ships, keeping them in the side arc as long and as much as possible.  With 3 red dice, even obstructed, you'll be able to fire SOMETHING at them.  Red dice are fickle, but they can still contribute.
Aim to be in Red range as long as possible; your Evade token is useless (Non-Mothma) at short range.
As shown above, we're driving around the sides of the pictured VSD.  We remain as far away as possible, throwing dice at it from distance.  How do we deploy it then?

There's more space in REAL deployment, but for ease of understanding, it's been shrunk and had words put in it.
As part of the Rebellion, you know that remaining in the front of Star Destroyers results in dead ships.  As a Large Ship, your turning profile is not amazing, even WITH Navigating (you won't be fitting into as many crazy spots as a CR90, say!) so you want to START out by being turned away from their front.  Force them to navigate to keep pointed towards you.  Your best guns are on the sides, and you're circling them as much as possible.  If they want to turn their best guns at you, keep shooting them in it and circling them.  If they don't, you'll get around to their back and fire away at them.  VSDs have one shield in the rear and hate getting shot there.  Aim for it as much as possible, haha.

If you try to go forwards towards an opponent's ship, they may likely try to go into you as well.  ISDs are ecstatic when you come towards them and don't turn enough.  They'll just go forwards and eat your face next turn, resulting in you losing your Assault Frigate.  Yes, they have the second most hit points of any Rebel ship.  You will still get eaten. You DO have a speed 3 joint and the ability (if you start effectively next to it and are going Speed 3 WITH a Navigate Order) to hop that VSD.  You still are wandering into its front arc AND not really firing at it (Your best arcs are your sides, remember?)

"I didn't say you COULDN'T, I said you SHOULDN'T."
So shoot and run away, and stay in the sides.  Let them pursue you.  In a straight up fight at Red range, you versus a Victory Star Destroyer, your red dice can do (with the right upgrades) more and better damage than the Imperial red dice (Because you're going to use your defense tokens and they don't have Evades!).  At long range, one Victory is throwing the same 3 red dice you're throwing, but you have a better maneuverability (technically!) and the ability to cancel one of the dice he throws out.  An ISD is a different beast that will need to be handled differently, but that's a different lesson entirely.

There are 2 Titles that come with the Assault Frigate, so these should be quick.

A Squadron's Best Friend. Well beyond Intel, Biggs, Bomber Command Center, Toryn Farr...
For 8 points, the Gallant Haven title lets you reduce damage from an attack.  So 1 dice of damage becomes zero.  2 damage braced down to 1....also become zero (because you determine damage AFTER you spend your defense tokens).  So Jan Ors loves the Haven.  Biggs, even more so.  With Biggs getting attacked, he braces 4 damage down to 2, and then passes one off (Biggs would then take 1, but the Haven says he doesn't).  So your X-wing/YT-1300 that wasn't attacked takes 1 damage, and that's it.  That's NUTS.

The PROBLEM with the Gallant Haven is that in order to get the bonus, you have to be within 1 of the Gallant Haven.  So you're either getting attacked at long range, far from the ships that your squadrons want to be attacking, or you're playing against a smart opponent who let you sail the Gallant Haven into close range with a VSD/ISD (where it should DEFINITELY not be!) in an effort to protect your squadrons.  That results in a dead Gallant Haven, and your squadrons unsupported near a ship that's going to flak the heck out of them.  It's a great squadron bunker! But you don't really NEED a bunker.  You want your ships and squadrons doing things instead of waiting for your opponent to rush everything forward into your "trap" (that's really not a trap!  Notice my lack of Ackbar to indicate its non-trappiness!).  It might have had some better usage in earlier waves, but right now, there's so many better options that it's not worth it in my mind.

This is about to get tricky....
The Paragon is the OTHER title on the Assault Frigate.  This one has SOME more uses, but we need to clarify some things first.  When the card above says "YOU," that SPECIFICALLY means the Paragon.  So if your first attack (with the side arc) is against one ship, your second attack HAS to he against that same ship to get the bonus.  Either out the front, the back or the same side arc (with Advanced Gunnery on it) in order to get it.  This caused some confusion the first time I read it too, so I just wanted to clarify it.

As a title itself? Eh, it's OK, if you have the points and don't need them elsewheres.  I like adding a black dice, and when you Concentrate Fire, you can choose to add in a SECOND black dice..... but you're going to REALLY need to be navigating often, so you really SHOULDN'T be concentrating fire all that often with the Assault Frigate in my mind.  Is it worth it? In one specific build in my mind, yes.  I'll talk about it below.

Assault Frigate A vs B
So as we saw above (reusing the picture!)

There's a lot of similarities in the 2 ships.  For 9 more points (between the B and the A), you get:
  • +1 Blue flak dice
  • +1 more Blue front dice
  • -1 Squadron Commanding ability
How do I know which one to take? Its going to come down to your fleet and its needs.  If you're running an Ackbar style fleet that wants to fire out the side more often than not, you can actually make either case.  When you put Gunnery Teams on your ship, do you want to be able to flak squadrons out that same arc with substantial blue dice, saaaaaaaaaaaay, two of them? Or are sheer number of red dice coming at enemy ships more your style?

The easy choice, of course, is that if you're commanding squadrons more, you'll want the Assault Frigate B.  If you want to have your ship's front (or back!) arc contributing more than not, you'll want the Assault Frigate A.  As it's a generalist ship either way, you can get away with either argument.

Common Builds and Upgrades
So I've been dancing around this all (I do that a lot, haha! I'm just trying to keep things ordered for ease of looking things up later)

Me writing Armada articles
Anyways, there's one main upgrade you pretty much always want on your Assault Frigate.  And good news! It's in the Core Set!

This mixtape is on FIRE!  I can't believe how great Vader's dancing is to it!
Yup, it's ECM.  Typically, as I said way up at the top there, Assault Frigates HATE having their Defense Tokens locked down.  So, don't let them ACTUALLY get locked down! The key to this is remaining in the arcs/distance of only one ship at a time.  When you start needing to worry about multiple ships and multiple shots coming in at your Assault Frigate, then you're in bigger trouble than you ACTUALLY want to be.

As for why Electronic Countermeasures over everything else? Cluster Bombs isn't really a good card, and Advanced Projectors doesn't prevent tokens from being Accuracy'ed away.  You may come on a time where one of those would have saved you more than ECM, but generally, stick with ECM to save your bacon.  Reinforced Blast Doors is good, but you still need to worry about your tokens getting locked down, so be careful before using it in my mind.

The OTHER almost necessary upgrade for Assault Frigates is Gunnery Team.

Drop the bass on my mark in 5.... 4..... 3......
You can argue whether or not you need ECM or Gunnery Team first, but in ALL of my below builds, ECM is the best thing for keeping the ship alive.  Some of my crazier builds (which I'll get to under the Commanders section!) want other upgrades instead of Gunnery Team, but all of them want ECM.  In any case, Gunnery Team is great because it basically helps you do everything you want with the Assault Frigate while still circling the battlefield like you want to.  Fire both shots out the side arc that's hopefully got 2 ships in it! Move away afterwards to go cause more havoc further upfield!

As for other upgrades? It depends on what you want your ship to be doing.  If you want a Squadron Pusher, Expanded Hangar Bays and (arguably) Flight Controllers (IF YOU NEED IT!) fit fine if you want to accentuate that.  If you're going for damage pushing, the Paragon Title and Spinal Armaments instead of Gunnery Team.... but you have to be sure you're hitting the same ship with that.  It IS 3 Red and a Blue followed by 3 Red and a Black at the minimum, but it's a ship you HIGHLY have to navigate with and be VERY sure you're where you need to be.  You can also run Gunnery Team and Turbolaser Reroute Circuits, getting a ship that can put guaranteed damage into things at Red range.  Don't use TRC twice in one turn, though, as it will result in you losing the Evade token from the game.  The OTHER problem with this plan is that you can't use the Evade token at all to cancel damage dice.  I like the newer Dual Turbolaser Turrets on them, as it's an informed reroll of a red dice.  If you need it, cool! If not, maybe it'll be better on the second shot!

What about Veteran Gunners?

Keep firing thataway!
I remember when this showed up, the Rebels on the forums were ECSTATIC about it! It was an ability to reroll all the Red dice I didn't want!

No, it's not.  It's an ability to reroll your entire pool (Accuracies you've spent are removed from your pool, by the way).  So if you roll 3 blanks on your red dice, it's great.  If you roll 2 blanks and a double? Not so much.  2 (individual hits) and a blank? Yup, not good at all there.  For what it gives you and what it does, it isn't really as needed on the Assault Frigate.  Yes, there will come a time when your Assault Frigate rolls badly on a shot you didn't want it to.  But given 5 points, I'd rather have the Paragon Title instead of this.  It just doesn't "fix" enough problems in red dice for it to be worth it as a safety net in my experience.

In my opinion, though, much like Eric and VSDs, cheaper is better.  The Assault Frigate does a lot of good, preferably on the flanks, and it doesn't necessarily NEED to be heavily upgraded in order to affect the outcome of the game  (Do you NEED Expanded Hangar Bays or Flight Controllers? Maybe, don't get me wrong! But not taking them is OK too, especially with the basic decent Rebel fighter AA!).  With 6 health, it SEEMS like a decent place to store your Commander! Or Toryn Farr! The problem with that plan is for any of those upgrades (Toryn Farr!) to work, you'll need to remain in range of your other ships/squadrons.  The other problem with putting your Commander on it is that while it's more survivable than most, it's also a great big target of about 100 points of your fleet (base ship and Commander) that your opponent is going to be aiming more.  Make sure to do more Engineering than most in that case, and it's not a bad case to locate Major Derlin.

Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows you're on Hoth....
Admiral Ackbar used to SHINE with the Assault Frigate.  The standard Rebel list for a long while in Wave 2 used to be Ackbar and 3 Assault Frigates with Gunnery Teams on them.  Why? Because any ship that let you overlap them in the Conga Line was DEAD.
You take 15 red dice, what do you get? Another day older You get dead.
The PROBLEM with this strategy is that as soon as you got a ship (ISD? Raider? Demolisher?) in the front of that first Assault Frigate, the entire Conga Line ground to a halt (they couldn't navigate around it).  It also leads to predictability with your fleet, as everyone knows what order you'll be navigating in.  So while I don't think having 3 of these is that smart anymore in an Ackbar fleet, I DO like having 1 in if you can squeeze in the points for it.  With Ackbar, 5 red dice out the side is nothing to sneeze at, and if you can Gunnery Teams them... Some Imperial players wake up in fear at the thought of all those Red dice.

Commander Sato: I just ran a build with him at the Sunday Adepticon Tournament (Spoiler: it did not go well for other reasons), but the basic build with this is pretty solid... so long as you can get his fighters into range of the ships you want to attack with them (THOSE were the other reasons, haha!).  You take either the A or the B model, and then put Ordinance Experts and the Paragon title on there (with ECM because staying alive).  If you can keep a squadron at distance 1 of a ship, that's 2 Black, 1 Red, and 1 Blue out the side, followed by 3 Black out the front, with Ordinance Experts Rerolls on the Black dice! It's a decent way of throwing Black dice at Range; my problem is that I'm still trying to figure out a way to make the rest of his list worth it.  It's a very nice component, though, to be sure.

The Unreleased Princess Leia (Wave 6): Leia is going to like a lightly upgraded Assault Frigate.  Concentrate Fire for one extra dice and a free reroll? Engineer for 6 Engineering Points Total (2 damage or 3 shields restored? SURE!) Navigate to go from 1 to 3 to 1 as needed? OK! Throw out an extra squadron? GREAT! It's also the only (non-Hammerhead) spot that can take Boarding Engineers/Troopers currently, and with a squadron token first turn....

Mon Mothma: If you want a Squadrons Mon Mothma build, this is a GREAT place to locate her.  The Evade token works at all ranges, and it puts out solid damage while pushing squadrons into the fray.  Stay near the edges, and you'll likely want Boosted Comms here too.

Madine: I've had decent luck with Madine and Spinal Armaments on an Assault Frigate as a navigating 3 red damage from all sides.  With Madine, you don't necessarily NEED Gunnery Team here as you're aiming to be firing out of 2 different arcs as much as possible.  Do try not to die though to concentrated fire (Hence, ECMs as usual, haha).

Rieekan: Great way to push Squadrons, great way to throw damage.  He doesn't do anything special for them, but he does something special for ALL his ships.  I just played a guy running one with the Rieekan Ace Squadron List.  They just don't die, and when the Assault Frigate (with Expanded Hangar Bays) is throwing 4 of them out a turn, it's NOT easy to deal with them all...

Dodonna: Much like Rieekan, he doesn't do anything crazy special for them, but he doesn't NOT want them either.  If you can't spring for a H1MC80, it's a great spot to put him in and throw out dice and bomber squadrons as much as you can.

Cracken: Cracken is one of the few Rebel Admirals who DOESN'T want an Assault Frigate.  It seems like he would, considering they can go speed 3! But they have to STAY at Speed 3 in order to get the benefit... which seems like a nice way to accidentally navigate your way into a front arc of something you don't want to be sitting in front of (Hello, ISD....).  I'm not saying you CAN'T, but Cracken seems tailor made for more small ships than anything.  Worth considering if you want to run a Cracken Squadron list, of some sort, though.

Garm: Considering Garm comes with them, Garm SHOULD love them.  And he does!  With 3 Command, they love having tokens to be able to do things with.  Either throw out another squadron, change speeds, or Engineer some shields around/up.  A traditional Garm list back in the day was 2 of these bad boys flinging squadrons, and I used a lot of them together.  With all those tokens, you can choose to apply some EXTRA benefit beyond whatever you were doing that turn (push a squadron to engage that bomber fleet before it can get activated next turn! Change speeds to be out of the way of something else! Reroll that dice that you needed to hit!) that it made Garm slightly unpredictable.  With the advent of the Pelta and Ahsoka Tano, Garm is due for a comeback.  Probably with one of these bad boys....
Alt arts are cool

Final Thoughts
The Assault Frigate isn't the most amazing ship at anything, but it puts out solid damage and can push a good quantity of squadrons as needed.  It hasn't been seen as much, but if you treat it like a more maneuverable Large Ship, it has a few very good purposes.

So we've hit the end of the Wave 1 ships.  I intend to hit the Wave 2 ones quite soon, and then I'll be almost as caught up as Eric is!  Thanks for reading!