Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fleet Support upgrades

It's time for another upgrade review post, just in time for the Gozanti review article (it's effectively a two-fer)!

Fleet support upgrades are cards released in wave 3 that are available only to flotillas and are used for support and denial purposes. I figured it would be easier to keep them all in one place for easy reference when John and I discuss flotillas, and I can mention a few things about the individual upgrades here as well.
"I'm sorry Bob, you were the last person to point at the weird table so you're out. Those are the eye patch rules."
Important update: due to FFG errata, the new version of Bomber Command Center is being used above. You can no longer stack the rerolls from Bomber Command Center. References to this have been fixed below.

Bomber Command Center is an absolutely clutch upgrade for fleets relying on bomber squadrons to deliver decent damage to enemy ships. It affects every friendly bomber at up to distance 5, which is a considerable distance. This can not only improve the average damage of your bombers but more importantly it makes the worst part of facing bombers even worse: the bombers will consistently do damage nearly every attack, rapidly overheating defense tokens and making a mockery of brace and scatter tokens. The damage improvement from a BCC should not be overlooked, though:
  • Black die: 1 average damage -> 1.25 average damage (25% improvement)
  • Red die: 0.75 average damage -> 1.03 average damage (37% improvement!)
  • Blue die: 0.75 average damage -> 0.94 average damage (25% improvement)
For red dice in particular it improves your odds of doing anything at all when attacking a ship from 62.5% to 85.9%, which helps a lot. It's great news for bombers everywhere but it's extra good times for X-Wings and E-Wings, who go from "kinda bombers when necessary I guess?" to more all-round squadrons when assisted by a Bomber Command Center. With multiple-dice bombers the effect is less pronounced percentage-wise in increasing their damage (it still helps!) but it makes them extremely reliable due to being able to reroll the odd die that comes up blank or accuracy.

It's not too tough to keep your Bomber Command Center flotilla at longer-range of your bombers while orbiting the cloud and hopefully staying out of trouble, but enemy ships that can pounce on you from a long range (speed 3 or 4) can sometimes barrel through the squadrons to pound your flotilla(s). Be careful. Boosted Comms is strongly recommended.

Comms Net is what I think of as the "default" flotilla upgrade. It's extremely cheap (only 2 points!), it's very flexible, and it allows the flotilla if nothing else to activate and help a larger ship with a free command token.

It helps to understand how exactly Comms Net works. During your Reveal Command Dial Step, you flip your dial over and immediately declare whether you're keeping the dial to spend later or turning it into a token. Once that's finished, you can use Comms Net. This happens prior to doing anything else (including spending dials/tokens for repair or squadrons). So your command 1 flotilla can see another ship in trouble, assign its command for the turn and then reveal, get the token, and pass off to the other ship. Way to be a helper, little flotilla!

Maybe not that kind of HELPER...
It's important to remember that your flotilla can only have 1 command token at a time so you can't "hot potato" a token over to a friendly ship with Comms Net while still keeping one for yourself. You can keep a dial for yourself while helping a buddy with the token of the same kind. For example, a flotilla with a navigate dial can choose to keep it and pass a navigate token off to another ship before proceeding on with its turn where it will spend the navigate dial.

Another fun trick with Comms Nets is doing a "water bucket line" where one flotilla passes another Comms net flotilla a token for it to in turn pass on to a ship that was out of range of the original flotilla but not the second flotilla. Sneaky!

In general, fleets with Command 2 and particularly Command 3 ships like having Comms Net flotillas around to help them do everything they'd like to do but are usually too busy. Repair and navigate tokens are usually in high demand for such ships.

Holy crap, guys - a BIG YELLOW TRIANGLE!
Jamming Field is a bit of a mystery. First things first, it requires some clarification:
  • FFG has ruled (wisely) in the FAQ/errate PDF that Jamming Field's effect is not optional. It is always turned to "on."
  • Jamming Field only works against squadron-on-squadron violence.
  • Jamming Field affects all attacks involving a squadron within distance 1-2 of its ship, whether they are coming from or going to the squadron involved.
    • This means it also affects Counter attacks, causing them to be obstructed too.
  • The attacks themselves are treated as obstructed upon being made. The squadrons themselves are not obstructed from one another (which would mean they would not be engaged, allowing them to move away from one another or attack ships while ignoring the obstructed squadrons).
  • Remember that obstruction is binary. Either an attack is obstructed or it is not. Obstruction does not "stack." So you don't get -3 dice from attacking Ciena Ree in an asteroid field within a Jamming Field. You get -1 because she is obstructed, even if from 3 different effects.
The problem with Jamming Field is it affects all squadrons at range, including yours. There are ways to play around the effect by trying to pounce your squadrons on the enemy squadrons outside of Jamming Field range only to move your flotilla in afterwards, but it's a lot to play around and generally not worth it. It's not a sufficient enough dampening effect to stop an all-bomber+Intel group from getting stomped by enemy fighters and because it effects your own fighters it's not fun to have around your own squadrons that are going to be doing the dogfighting. I've seen it work all right on occasion (it's generally strongest versus numerous lower-dice attacks like from TIE Fighters as well as against Counter attacks like from A-Wings) but the amount of work required to feel like you're getting the better end of a "messes up everybody" upgrade doesn't feel like it has a sufficient payoff, and the short range can make your flotilla think it's okay to wander too close to a death zone...

Repair Crews is a support upgrade I really wanted to love. I really did. Unfortunately I can't recommend it. The problem with Repair Crews is it's got very picky timing and a very short distance it can operate at. You need to have a friendly ship that has taken a damage card within distance 1-2 of the Repair Crews flotilla and you need to be willing and able to activate that flotilla promptly to fix that damage at that time and not have it be a bad decision for the ship that has already taken damage (like if another enemy ship is lining up a shot for the next opponent activation and your damaged ship wants to get out of there or at least get in its activation before it is destroyed). It relies on a lot of things going right and numerous factors can make this tricky confluence of events fall apart.

I should note as well that with how Repair Crews triggers, it replaces the entirety of your repair command. Ideally you are using a repair token to trigger it while using something else for your dial (you can't spend a repair token towards Repair Crews and a repair dial towards regular repairing, sadly). The most consistent use I've seen from Repair Crews is for the flotilla equipped with it to repair itself. Overall I've never felt like a Repair Crews flotilla has done a better job than a Comms Net flotilla, which can toss repair tokens to ships in trouble (or soon to be in trouble) but has a lot more flexibility in giving other kinds of tokens too as the situation requires, and at a cheaper cost.

Stupid Rebel script kiddies DDOSing us!
Rules? Slicer Tools don't follow the rules! Except they do:
  • It triggers after you execute your maneuver, so its reach is potentially quite far - a speed 3 (or speed 3+1 for the Quantum Storm) maneuver added to a distance 1-3 range can reach quite far.
    • Don't forget Slicer Tools exhausts to use, so if it gets exhausted by something else prematurely (like MS-1 Ion Cannons, if somebody in your meta actually uses them), you won't be able to use them.
  • It can only work on enemy ships that still have a top command dial. If there's a ship that had discarded and/or spent all its command dials (normally a Command 1 ship that has already activated but also a Command 2 ship that used Skilled First Officer), there is no top command dial to mess with.
  • You don't get to see what your opponent had selected for the dial you're going to change, you merely tell him what command the dial is now going to be.
Slicer Tools when used at the right time can be absolutely devastating. Turning Yavaris's upcoming squadron command into a useless repair command can absolutely mess up your opponent's day. There are other fun possible uses for Slicer Tools (preventing ships from using navigate to change speed, or giving a ship out of range of squadrons a squadron command, for example) but it's generally strongest at preventing carriers from issuing squadron commands.

There are a few potential hurdles with getting Slicer Tools to work as consistently as one would like:

1) It exposes your flotilla to a significant amount of danger. Flotillas at medium or shorter range are drastically less survivable than flotillas at long range. You can't use Slicer Tools usually without exposing yourself to this "danger zone."
Don't act surprised to find this here.
With good maneuvering you can try to avoid the worst of it, but the simple fact is Slicer Tools flotillas will nearly always be destroyed before their less aggro siblings. Sometimes that's a problem when you're hoping to keep the squadron command capacity and/or activation padding of a flotilla around. Worst case, using Slicer Tools at a key moment can lead to that flotilla's certain doom. The sacrifice may be worth it, but it can still lead to some tough calls: use the Slicers once when it matters most and then die or try to sneak the flotilla around later to get use from the Slicers a few times, but not before squadrons smash up your plastic spaceships?

2) There are counters to Slicer Tools. On the Rebel side, Leia Organa (the officer) is a great Slicer Tools counter and all-around pretty helpful already. Skilled First Officers and any of the other "change your commands" officers (the Liaisons, the command-specific officers from wave 2) also shut down Slicer Tools. Methods to produce command tokens (like the Comms Nets, above) can also take some of the sting out of not getting the command dial you wanted by at least getting the weaker token effect.

3) Sometimes it just doesn't work out. If you're second player and the first player activates the ship you really needed to mess with this turn first, that's just how things go. If you're first player and messing with command dials isn't as important as activating an actual combat ship, then your Slicer Tools flotilla might not get its mitts on a great target that turn. There's a lot going on during any given turn and you can't always prioritize "messing with command dials" moreso than other activities.

This isn't to say "never take Slicer Tools." I think they're fun and they can win games when used at the right moment. It's moreso "be aware of some of the problems with using Slicer Tools and try to have a specific plan for them if you do use them." I wouldn't bring more than one flotilla with Slicer Tools barring some sneaky master plan, but they can be useful, especially against carriers. Just don't be surprised if your opponents start showing up with anti-Slicer Tools tech if and when your Slicer Tools cause enough inconvenience and belly-aching 😉.

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