Thursday, March 9, 2017

Squadrons Encyclopedia 4: Large Fighter Coverage

Alright, this is what we've been leading up to, this is where it's all been headed: the Large Fighter Coverage (LFC) group.  I'm here to show you how to put together a solid 120-134 points of squadrons that are going to let you kill ships.  You want to paint ISDs on the sides of your X-wing? Well let's hit the jump below....

You can paint Raiders on the sides of your squadrons, too, but they're not as fun as Star Destroyers.  Or Demolisher....
Goals
Before we begin assembling this all, let's talk about the goals of the LFC.  We went over the Small
and Medium groups before, but the LFC has very different goals:

1) Deployment aid
2) Increased damage from your ships
3) Substantial damage into enemy ships
4) Objective Help/Choice

1) Deployment Aid
With the points you're putting into your squadrons here, this group is going to make up a significant portion of your deployments.  With a usual 8+ squadrons in your list (roughly), you've got your first 5 deployments with your initial ship followed by those squadrons.  With the bomber blob, I cannot recommend enough the ability to deploy everything early on.  Squadrons can go ANYWHERE as needed based on your opponent's choices.  See the diagram below.
The red superhighlighted rings are speed 3, made extra bright for ease of explaining my examples.
As seen in the pictures, the 2 Y wings we placed down can get to potentially either end of the speed 3 ring (red circles), so it really doesn't matter if your opponent deploys on your right or your left: you'll be meeting him soon enough, and you can then deploy your later ships to better take advantage of that fact.  The 3 Raiders on the Imperial side aren't intended as an actual deployment but a clarity of the points.  If they deploy directly across from you at Center Raider, you can deploy the rest of your ships on the sides and catch them in in a crossfire pincer movement (I know it's not a Pinscher movement, as that's a dog).  If they deploy many of their ships near the Right Raider, your squadrons deployed on the right side will want to be headed towards the 2 o'clock point on the ring to move in and attack as one.
1. Green is one squadron's path, red is the other's.  They have a very good chance at hitting that Raider turn 2 or 3 as needed, just from this base deploment.

And a similar but flipped choice for Left Raider.
2. Similar to the opposite side, the closer squadron moves towards its friend (and the opponent ship!) to have them both hit at the same turn if desired.  The 2 red lines show alternate paths the Y-wing can take as desired for your attack run.
I haven't been super clear on this point yet, slash I haven't been as definitive as I've been before, but I'll go with it now.  I've mentioned the First Law of Squadron Combat before (and I'll rehash it again later in the post, haha!), but now I'll mention the Second Law:

95% of the time, deployments 2 through X should be squadrons, where X is the turn you run out of squadron pairs.

95% gives me some wiggle room in case anyone wants to comment on their super special build that involves a weird combination of Shara Bey and Tycho that requires them to be placed last, but it also applies to all lists and their uses of squadrons.  As seen above, they can get almost anywhere you need them to, so there's very little (again, wiggle room; i want to say "no") reason to wait on deploying them.  I mentioned in the SFC article about the importance of delaying activations, but it's doubly so with the LFC.  You don't have nearly as many Hard Hitting ships as a LFC list, so you're going to need to make sure your ships get the work done that you need them to do.

The other benefit of deploying your squadrons early is that you can make sure that your later ship deployments don't run over your own squadrons.  If you run over a YT-2400 with your MC80, that's not amazing, but the YT can get up closer and contribute soon enough.  If you run over a B-wing, that's a B-wing who's not contributing until at best 2 turns from now.  Not ideal.  Armada is played on a 6x3, so use your space as needed to get the best deployment for your situation.  Don't forget to avoid the obstacles with your ships!

2) Increased damage from your ships
With the exception of a few ships (looking at you, Ackbar MC80, and a loaded MC30 in general), many of the Rebellion ships don't have as strong a damage as if you had fielded an ISD.  An ISD-I front arc rolls 3 red, 2 blue, and 3 black dice.  The Pelta, in a vacuum, has less than wonderful damage dice than what you're paying for it.

I'm on a TV show!

Two red dice and two blue dice out the front don't seem like much to write home about.  But when you combine them with squadron friends:


I love math.  That's not even a joke, I'm a nerd who majored in it in college.  Weirdly, Eric is better with probability!

Suddenly you're contributing 6 more dice and rolling potentially as good as that ISD!  You're dealing better damage IN TOTAL than any other Rebellion ship can put out.  A list with a focus on LFC is one that you have to view in total.  It's not a matter of "the ships deal X damage and the squadrons deal Y," but it's more of a "Here comes a potential X+Y damage at my ship or ships, and I have to weather this storm."

In the eye of the hurricane, there are Y-wings.... a Gold Squad sky...
The even better thing is that you're paying for it in small lump sums.  If I kill the ISD, that's a LOT less dice coming at me.  But if I only lose 1 B-wing, that's just 1 less blue and black dice coming at me.  Still terrifying from the squadron loadout, especially when I replace that dead B-wing with a new friend that wasn't doing anything this turn.  Spoiler alert: that friend may be Luke Skywalker.

3) Substantial Damage into Enemy Ships
Tying into 2, you're trying to put a good amount of damage into ships.  As we've seen in Eric's ISD article, ISDs have 1 brace token, 2 redirects, and a contain.  Identical for the H1MC80, and nearly so with the VSD (without the contain, of course).  What does that mean? In order to kill those monstrosities with your squadrons, you're going to need to put significant damage into those ships.  You're investing significant points into these squadrons and their support (more on this below) in order to damage and blow up enemy ships.  Anecdotally, I've blown up more Large based ships with squadrons than without them.... but that also is because I'm usually the guy running squadrons!

The best way to do that with squadrons is to overload their defense tokens.  Jumping back to that ISD example, an ISD-II, with 4 reds and 4 blues, if it rolled perfectly on damage, could get 12 damage, if the reds all rolled doubles and the blues all rolled hits.  (The ISD-I can get 14).  Bracing that damage down against whatever ship is being attacked, that can be braced down to 6 (7).  Still not something I want to take, but potentially survivable.  A Pelta and 3 B-wings (with just the front arc) rolls 6 and 3, 3, 3 damage total maximum.  Not only is that potentially more, but because of the way tokens work, that can get braced down to 3, 2, 3, 3, for a total of 11 damage, and a removed brace token.  That's a ship that's running into issues FAST.  With the LFC hitting ships, you're not adding damage in giant lump sums, you're nickel and diming them to death.  Eric usually refers to this as Death By 1000 Cuts, and he's not wrong.  There's nothing more aggravating than being forced to use a brace token to reduce damage from 3 to 2 from a B wing attack.  It frustrates opponents to no end.

4) Objective Help/Choice
The other benefit to bringing good squadron coverage in the LFC is that you've got several other objectives that you want to bring that force your opponent into bad choices.  If I didn't bring squadrons of my own, I'm really not going to want to choose your Fighter Ambush (yellow objective), and I have serious concerns being forced to choose between Precision Strike (red), and the Superior Positions (blue, we all know my thoughts on it).  If you're stuck going second, forcing your opponent into BAD choices with objectives is how you play it.  Those are the usual 3 chosen for second player, but keep in mind: Rieekan cannot die until the end of the turn, so that Precision Strike can come back to haunt you if you don't defend your ships well and have him as your commander.

How to Build
First, I'll talk about some of the more "well-known" LFC groups, how they worked/ran when used, and then some tips on building your own.  I'm JUST covering the squadrons groups in this part of the article, and in a bit we'll talk about supporting your squadrons.  This is our longest article, so here's a picture of a kitten thats entirely unrelated, but may help.

What picture would you use to describe the excess length? He's so hungry and adorable!
1) JJ's Juggernaut (130 points)
2 HWK-290s
2 YT-1300s
8 Y-wings

Yes, that is not a typo.  JJ brought 8 Y-wings to Worlds, and he WON it all with them.  I've played this list to try it out.  It's a very swarm army feel, in that your Y-wings and the YT-1300s with Counter 1 don't provide CRAZY anti-squadron damage, but they provide ENOUGH to just plow through.  My point in part 3 above about overwhelming defense tokens works just as well against enemy aces with Scatters and Braces too, which is what this list does.  If it needs to deal damage to those squadrons, 16 blue dice from the Y wings in individual doses will work through any defense token suite, given enough time.  But his mastery with the list comes from the 8 black bomber die coming at enemy ships, especially with the 2 Bomber Command Centers he was running in the list.  That's a potential 16 damage that needs to be accounted for, and that's not easily done.  With the YT-1300s moving and acting as bodyguards for the HWKs, it's a hard list to fight against.  If you try to chew your way through the squadrons, they will outlast you.  If you try to go around them, JJ had an MC30 waiting for you.  He was a master at using it and ALL of its placements, and it's a very fun list.

2) The New Rebel Hotness (133 points)
Jan Ors
3 B-wings
Nora Wexley
Wedge Antilles
Shara Bey
Gold Squadron
Z95 Headhunter

This list has won a few Regionals, and it works pretty well (the Commander is Rieekan, keeping all those heroes alive for the rest of that turn.  Sometimes one of those B-wings is Dagger Squadron).  The strengths of each squadron are documented, but it's how it all works together that makes it sing.  Shara can get launched and go occupy an enemy squadron blob distance 5 away, preventing them from (hopefully) moving away. Wedge and Gold CAN, if needed, act as occupiers and delay enemy squadrons from slowing down Nora and the B-wings (which always sounds like a 50s Doo-Wop group) who, under Pelta command, can evaporate enemy shields and then enemy ships.  B-wings are a common sight in killing enemy ships, and they do that job well; if you need them to attack enemy squadrons, however, they CAN do it.

3) The "Cracken Special" (128 points)
8 YT-2400s

This squadron support is usually seen with a commander that doesn't want to be issuing squadron commands.  This is an extended version of the MFC and its goal of "Kill the Squadrons, then Kill the Ships."  The benefit of this group is that you've got 48 squadron health to chew through and it's rolling a potential 32 blue dice each turn if needed.  It's not getting there first (Rogue), but it's ending the threat.  And then here comes 8 black dice at your ship.  Even without the BCC reroll, it's still on average 6 damage a turn coming at your ships in individual chunks.  Redirecting 1 damage is even more aggravating than bracing 3 down to 2 or 2 down to 1.  The benefit to this is that it doesn't need support from the rest of the ships, which is why the usual Commander running this is Cracken, as he's usually running his ships all over the map.  The reason I put this in here is because its goals are more in line with the LFC than the MFC.  Yes, it wants your fighters dead.  But it also really wants to roll 8 black dice at you.

Downside: purchasing 8 of these little buggers is expensive, but man is it worth it.

So how do you build your own list? Well, as we said way back in the HWK article, you're going to need Intel for a start.  Because your LFC (in general) depends on using Intel to push bombers where you need them to be, you NEED escorts to protect your sources.  Jan and X-wings usually are seen here, but YT-1300s also work well, IF YOU CAN OVERCOME THEIR SPEED ISSUES (we're getting there, i promise).  The "usual" Rebellion plan is Jan and 3 X-Wings or 2 YT-1300ss and 2 HWKs.  The reason for this is because Jan lets the X-wings use her brace tokens (as we talked about way back when), and the YT-1300s provide 7 health of escort for the HWKs.  Having 2 sources of Intel let you move a HWK and a YT-1300 around to provide a Heavy bubble as needed for moving your bombers around, which lets you focus more on just providing a strong bomber punch.  With all that, though, you need to be able to command them (Next section!) though.  Jan and YT-1300s work well together, but I haven't run them in a while.  Usually as the X-wings do work well for me, not for any other specific reason beyond that.

After that? It's really a matter of what you want.  Nora is great, Keyan Farlander is good too, I've heard of E-wings and Scurrgs to free up your grit bombers, Ketsu Onyo seems like she would be very good at occupying enemy forces before they can get to you, Luke is the Devil himself at the right time, but there's still something to be said about good old Y-wings and X-wings.  As they're cheaper than the Aces, you get more, and sometimes more damage is the best damage (see JJ's list above).  Relay is something that not a lot of people have been incorporating YET, but as more people start using VCX-100s, I imagine they'll start seeing more play.  It allows your flotillas to lurk in the back and command THROUGH the Relay ships, if you want to protect them that way.  I always like throwing in an ace or two, but that's usually more thematic and coolness points than anything for me, haha!

The key is knowing and realizing that your bomber group lives and dies by that Intel.  If you don't have the Intel, you're back in that wave 1 life where you're dependent on rolling your blue dice correctly to kill whatever is blocking you.  Spoiler alert: this is not a good plan.  I can't state that you ALWAYS want an Escort for your Intel source, but in my mind it seems like the smartest plan, forcing your opponent to attack the Escort before they can get through to your Intel squadron.  The new Rebel hotness above has only one Escort, and I personally would worry about facing another squadron blob with 2-3 X-wings or enough A-wings to swarm Jan Ors (or Saber Squadron and IG-88 and Jendon...).  The more Escorts you have, the harder destroying your Intel becomes for them..... but you don't want to overdo it, as while Biggs and a bunch of X-wings are GOOD at staying alive, I personally didn't find they were the strongest killers of ships that I needed them to be (when I tried them out).  The Rebellion has always had some bombers and some fighters in every movie battle, so combining them is a good start.  If it makes you feel better, real WWII squadron groups had fighters and bombers together to deal damage and stay alive.  There may come a time where you have to sacrifice an X-wing or A-wing or potentially even a B-wing to keep your Intel alive.  If it keeps your squadron bubble strong, and lets you keep dancing that Intel squadron around in order to maneuver squadrons as needed, sometimes you need to do what you need to do.

Murder is for the greater good! That was the message of the movie, right?

Ship Support
Alright, here's where things get big.  I've mostly avoided talking about building your fleet with all this, in order to try to avoid biting off ANOTHER big topic that Eric and I will need to hash out (he says, only halfway through his squadron article series...).  But in order to use a "standard" LFC (ie, not the Cracken Special), you NEED to command squadrons.  As I said earlier, I would get to the First Law again, and it is now that time:

Squadrons activated by squadron commands > Rogue squadrons > Unactivated regular squadrons

Your goal, if you remember, is to do significant damage to enemy ships.  The best way to do that is by commanding those squadrons, throwing 3-4 B-wings or significant Y-wings at an ISD front arc.  So when you are determining your squadron choices, you have to take your ships into account.  When you build a fighter list, you want to be able to command (at least) all your non-Rogue squadrons in one turn (if not EVERY squadron, if necessary).  This is why you generally don't see massed CR-90s in a heavy B-wing list, as they can't command them well with Squadrons 1.  Not commanding your squadrons when you need them to be is an easy way to feed points to your opponent who IS commanding his/her squadrons.  Actually fighting with all this is going to be addressed in our next series of articles, so we'll end that discussion today.  But expect me to quote that First Law several dozen times more, haha!


There's a lot of good upgrades on the Rebel side for using the LFC, but let's talk about the 3 "biggest" ones.

The Yavaris:
I covered this in my Nebulon B article, so I'll just point you back there for now.  Why not attack twice when you attack, just to keep throwing more damage into things?

68 points of double attacking B-wing Death!
All Fighters Follow Me!
Found on the Pelta as the Fleet Command upgrade, and I mentioned it in the B-wings article.  B-wings at speed 3, X-wings at speed 4, E-wings at speed 5, A-wings at.... also speed 5.  There is no speed 6, so keep THAT in mind when building your squadrons.  X-wings being able to actually get the jump on TIE fighters turns them around on their head and makes for some sad TIEs that can't abide by the TIE Commandments  You can build your Pelta to be the ultimate carrier, able to push squadrons extra distances AFTER having already moved them Distance 1 (with Fighter Coordination Teams and Flight Commander on it, of course), and I'll cover this more in the Pelta article itself.... which I'll try to get to soon.  If there's any questions about how this all works together, I explain its abilities in-depth in that B-wings article (to be fair, I'm discussing its abilities with respect to Yavaris, but the Flight Commander and Fighter Coordination Team explanation is in there).

76 points for one of the strongest carriers the Rebellion can bring.
Bomber Command Center
This was one of my favorite upgrades from wave 3/4, as it lets you reroll Bomber dice when they're attacking ships.  When you send your bombers in to attack a ship, you have a much better chance of that Hit+Crit on black dice, and at the very least you have less chance of rolling that blank on Red X-wing dice.  Even bringing one of these takes an X-wing's average damage up to 1.03 per bomb attack.  That's better than a TIE bomber, from an X-wing.

Luke, be a Jedi tonight... Do it for Yoda and all the other Muppets!
These 3 upgrades can turn your squadrons into the murderous monsters they want to be.  Notice, however, that each of my example ships has other beneficial upgrades on it.  Fighter Coordination Team and Flight Commander (FCT and FC, respectively) let you activate your squadrons later in the turn, which helps when you want to move your slower B-wings along, or even add speed boosts to your X-wings and Y-wings.  The Pelta has Expanded Hangar Bay to activate one more squadron each turn, making it an even stronger carrier than it already was.  You don't NEED all those other things as much as either the Yavaris title or the AFFM (I've seen lists that just run a Nebulon with the title, and the Pelta can be run more bare bones than you think), but those extra upgrades help you get your ship to do the job you want it to do BETTER.  If you're going squadron-heavy, at least 1 of these 2 ships (if not both.... but see below on that!) will probably be in your list, just to improve your ability to do what you want with your squadrons.

I feel like he's judging me for my poor tactical choices.  Or this shirt I chose to wear today.
Adar Tallon
The original personal upgrade, he's been around since Wave I, and he's still just as strong.  He lets you keep one of your squadrons untapped to activate again.  If only we Rebels then had a way to have that squadron attack again, possibly two more times!  That sure would be fun, having Luke Skywalker roll 3 times against a ship that pretends it has no shields anywhere, or having Nym roll 3 times for that Blue Crit to remove almost every defense token a Ship had (I cannot recommend doing either of these enough).  Yeah, Adar is fun.  He WANTS to be paired with an expensive squadron, as he effectively creates a double of that one for everything it gets to do that turn.  I've used him well with Wedge, Dutch, Luke, Nym, and Keyan Farlander.  Keyan is a delightful dream, because here comes 2 black dice with reroll potential TWICE.  So evil.  When you bring him, though, try not to use him on a basic Y-wing if you can help it, as he then doesn't really become worth his points.  The more points in the squadron you untap, the better his ability turns out for you, as you're almost fighting over your points total there (i brought another Luke, it's like a free 10 more points!)  The main downside for taking him is that he occupies an Officer slot (thank goodness the Phoenix Home has a fancy 2nd chair for him to sit in!) and is 10 points.  Is he worth it, or would another Y wing in your list be points better spent? You'll have to evaluate that yourself, but when you're going heavy squadrons, he's a very solid choice.

Fun note: she DOESN'T AFFECT HERSELF.  Keep that in mind and don't put her on a combat GR75.
Toryn Farr is another great upgrade for fleets based around squadrons, as she lets you reroll ANY one blue dice.  Need that accuracy to fight an enemy scatter ace? Need a Crit for Nym? Need NOT an accuracy from your B-wing? Need that accuracy (because I assume you're fighting a flotilla?) She'll let you reroll it!  She has that range 3 disclaimer, though, so be careful you don't overextend either your squadrons or whatever ship she's on.  She helps your fighters attack squadrons better, but she's gotta get a lot closer than is normally safe for her, so be careful you don't lose whatever ship she's on to return fire.

There is another title besides Defiance.  "You mean Home One?" No, the OTHER other one.
The Independence title on the Home One MC80 has fallen out of favor recently, but it's still a pretty strong title.  Letting you push your squadrons speed up to speed 4 (at the cost of not letting them attack this turn), it can double your B-wing speed on turn 1 (when you want them getting pushed forwards instead of having to wait until turn 3 to attack).  If you combine it with FC and FCT, you can move 4 B-wings (assuming a Command MC80) speed 1 after you've moved your MC80, then move them speed 4, for a better than speed 5 stretch on TURN ONE.  You're getting your B-wings where you want them to go.... but you better have Intel close to bail them out on turn 2 if needed! Don't let your B-wings get stuck and bogged down in TIE Defender Swamp!  It's a crappy swamp that no one likes!

Expanded Hangar Bays/Boosted Comms/Rapid Launch Bays
These all occupy your Offensive Retrofit slot, and they all help in some way.  EHB lets you activate an extra squadron (always helpful when launching bombers, as sometimes you just need that one more B wing to kill your problems away!), Boosted Comms lets you attack from a distance (less useful now that Relay exists, BUT MC80s would probably not want to be taking 4 Relay squadrons to be able to push everything in one turn), and Rapid Launch Bays....

Sweet art, though, that's for sure
My problem with Rapid Launch Bays is that it takes away deployments.  A minimum of 1, and potentially a second if you only brought an even number of squadrons.  If you set things up right, you can always have even deployments, but thats a heck of a cost to dump a few squadrons out of your ship.  I like the idea people have run on the forums of Hyperspace Assaulting in an Assault Frigate with 3 B-wings in it along with 3 OTHER B-wings, but that's a GOOD chunk of your points NOT there and NOT being deployed and NOT letting you see your opponent's deployment.  If you vomit a squillion B-wings at things, it's cool, sure, but I feel that good play and support with your B-wings seems like a better and smarter way of dealing with this.  It seems like it might be a better plan for Imperials right now, personally...which Eric will discuss below!

Because Wedge might need to roll 7 blue dice!
Flight ControllersI like the IDEA of flight controllers.  I just can't think of a Rebel ship that is both 1) commanding squadrons and 2) doesn't want something else in this slot instead, be it Gunnery Team or Ordinance Experts.  Liberty MC80s want Gunnery Team, Assault Frigates want GT or OE (under Sato), and MC30s don't want to be pushing squadrons.  So right now, just use your natural Rebellion good anti-squadron dice that most of your squadrons have, anyways.

The PROBLEM with all these upgrades is that with just your commander at ~20/30 points, squadrons at ~130, one flotilla (at least) with BCC (18 base+8 upgrade=26), and the Pelta AND Yavaris (76 and 68, from my examples, remember), you're down to 80/70 points (depending on Commander) left for a 4th/5th ship and upgrades to deal damage to ships too.  I'm not saying "Don't take all these", just make sure your ships aren't JUST based around commanding squadrons.  You want to be able to do damage to ships, too, through sheer firepower, if needed.  This is why I like the Independence title still, as the MC80 chassis can put a good chunk of damage into your opponent's ships by firing out the side.

Always remember that Admiral Motti exists as does Reinforced Blast Doors... at least until that Death Star blows.  I'm not saying you CAN'T nickel and dime 17 health to death, but a sock full of quarters in an MC30 (spoiler alert: i may steal that title for my eventual MC30 article) sure helps put a dent in that amount.  That or TRCs on the Nebulon.  At the end of the day, you're bringing at most 1/3 of your points in squadrons.  The other 2/3 need to do work towards helping destroy your opponent's full allotment of points, WHATEVER THEY BROUGHT.

I'm an Admiral, WEEEEEEEEEE! (to continue my Hamilton jokes)

"Quick" Aside: How to Bomb
Because this article isn't long enough, I'm going to talk quickly about the correct way to bomb enemy ships and some minor pitfalls I've fallen into.

1) When you're sending in bombers, be sure you can send in ENOUGH bombers.
What this means is that Flotillas, while great by their lonesomes and provide that lovely Bomber Command Center reroll, have (with token use) the ability to send 3 squadrons in.  That will do a good job at hurting or finishing off a crippled ship, but it may not be able to kill a healthy ship.  When that ship activates, it may use some of its arcs to flak you.  Or even worse, send in TIE fighters and THEN flak you.  Then you've got to figure out how to get rid of the squadrons intercepting you while still being able to bomb your ships.  That's potentially a way to separate your forces, leading to issues where you need your Fighters on the left and your Bombers on the right, but they're reversed for you currently.  Not ideal.

I'm not saying "don't push squadrons with flotillas;" what I'm saying is make sure the squadrons you're sending will either kill their target or are your fighters off to intercept the enemy fighter screen.  Flotillas that go early in the turn LOVE pushing my X-wings and A-wings and other fighters to get them into position.  Bombers get launched by ships throwing out 3+ squadron commands a turn NATURALLY.

2) Don't overextend yourself
Know where your Bomber Command Center, Toryn Farr, and Nora Wexley are in relation to you and where you need to go.  This will come over time with practice, but if you're depending on your B wing blue dice to NOT be an accuracy, stay at most 3 away from whatever ship you have Toryn Farr on.  If you really need Luke to roll that Hit+Crit, keep him in range of at least one BCC.

This ALSO ties in to where your ships will be next turn.  If you're moving your Yavaris away from the ISD and running away, make sure your squadrons are going to end up in commandable range.  I cannot tell you the number of times I've screwed this one up, so, uh..... try not to do that?

3) Don't land in a double arc.  Especially of a Raider.
I've given Eric multiple kills of my squadrons by doing this.  Again, try not to do this.... but this ties back into point 1.  If you can send in 4 B-wings, you've got a good chance of killing his Raider (if you can ensure a BCC reroll that helps immensely).  Just make sure that you send them in an order somewhat akin to what I have below.  Yeah, you may end up double arced, but only one of them will be able to be double arced next turn (assuming you didnt destroy the Raider with repeated bomber attacks).

In this example, the health of the B-wings represents the order to send them in slash where to place them.
4) DO land in a strong firepower arc, especially of things without Gunnery Teams.
Raiders love using that front arc to attack ships, as do ISDs.  H1MC80s love their side arcs.  The BEST place to put your squadrons is in those arcs.  If they DON'T have Gunnery Team, they have to choose between attacking the ships they want to shoot or the squadrons that are attacking them.  Terrible, hard choices are the best choices.  If they DO have Gunnery Team, that's one less attack coming at your ships.  Which is a win for you, as at best, you'll only lose 2 hull to enemy flak.  This relates to movement and point 6.

5) Concentrate your fire on the same arcs.  Especially those ships without Redirects.
Looking at you, Raiders. Flak ME, will you? Well here comes a bunch of B-wings at your face!  If they keep having to use their defense tokens to NOT take hull damage, that's better than you just bringing down their shields separately in different arcs.  Why? If I can take out the shields on a zone, any further attacks on that zone have to either go INTO the hull (is it crit enabled? Man i hope so!) or get moved away somehow.  That's not an easy proposition for most ships to want to deal with, and if you can force them to spend away tokens, they won't have them on subsequent turns.  Your next turn Yavaris front arc attack might actually kill that VSD that didn't have any more redirect tokens left, which would let your bombers go and engage another ship, starting the process all over again!  If you don't have to destroy X shields on a ship before it dies, that's as good as taking away X hit points from it.  Motti ISDs already have 14 hit points, don't give them more by trying to take out all their shields first.

6) When the ships move and you get to place your squadrons afterwards, stay in that same arc if you can.
This is also why I advocate hitting ISDs in the front.  They're moving forwards all the time, so when they land on you, you can just place yourself in their front arc again to get more attacks against that hull zone.  And hopefully by now, its shields are down from your constant attacks, letting you wail on its hull or force it to spend those redirect tokens it would rather use on larger attacks instead of against your bomber damage.

Finally, someone let me out of my cage!
A wild Eric appears!
I agree with pretty much everything John said above in terms of the basics. Your large fighter coverage groups should, at their core, be a means to deliver damage to enemy ships, as that allows their large points investment to go towards winning the full game rather than just winning the squadron mini-game. Bombers are quite adept at getting damage into ships due to the fact that they overheat defense tokens rapidly due to piling on damage in numerous small packets that defense tokens don't handle very well. Due to the increased focus on using squadrons to deliver damage to ships, more of your fleet will be based around commanding those squadrons and augmenting them in one form or another. Intel will be essential to keep your bombers doing their job.

I'm not invited into John's articles just to agree with him, though. I'm here to give you the Imperial perspective!

Ships
An important thing to note is Imperials have a lot less ship-to-squadron synergy than Rebels. You do have some titles like the VSD Corrupter and the Gozanti Vector that temporarily improve the speed of certain squadrons activated by those ships as well as the officer Admiral Chiraneau (who has mostly disappeared ever since Intel squadrons showed up) but the effects aren't in the same league with powerhouses like Yavaris, Adar Tallon, or the ability to buff an entire fleet's squadron speed with All Fighters Follow Me! I'm here to tell you that's okay. Imperial squadron combos happen between the squadrons themselves and the ships exist mostly to yell at them to get off the couch and do their jobs already.

With that said, you're mainly looking to include ships with decent Squadron values for their cost that don't mind issuing squadron commands with some regularity. Command Arquitens and Gladiator-class Star Destroyers have Squadron 2, for example, but they're frequently busy with navigate and concentrate fire commands and their effectiveness can suffer by giving up on performing those commands to boss around 2 squadrons. Gozantis, on the other hand, frequently don't have anything substantially better to do and are dirt cheap so they'll happily yell at 2 squadrons for you. Therefore, Gozantis are a better backbone for a squadron fleet than Command Arquitens or Gladiators, although the latter two can certainly pitch in circumstantially. With that said, I'd recommend any of the following as central command components for a large fighter coverage fleet:
At least one Gozanti and preferably two with Bomber Command Centers are staples of the modern-day Imperial bomber fleet and the rest I leave up to you. ISDs are a bit of a conundrum in that their Squadron 4 is impressive and they can handle giving up navigate commands better than VSDs can but spending so many points on one activation when you're spending about 1/3 of your points on squadrons already can leave you with a very low-activation fleet. If you do go the ISD route, be a bit careful on that one.

Speaking of ISDs, there is one very silly build with ISD-Is you can go for that is lollercoasters with a bomber build:
ISD-I + Flight Commander + Rapid Launch Bays + Expanded Hangar Bays
You store 5 bomber squadrons in your ISD-I and on turn 2 or 3 you can use a squadron command to make your attacks, move at speed 3, and then vomit out 5 bombers (Rhymer+4 Firesprays?) which then attack whatever you got too close to. I'm not claiming it's good (your number of deployments is going to be abysmal), but it looks like a lot of fun, anyways.

On a less crazy note, the Avenger ISD title has some fun interaction with bomber squadrons. The Avenger can activate bombers, use them to attack a ship it will be attacking later, and that poor ship is in for some rough decisions. If it spends defense tokens against the bombers, it won't be able to use those defense tokens against the upcoming ISD shot. If it doesn't spend defense tokens against the bombers, it's likely to take some hull damage and face-up damage cards and the Avenger might just get an accuracy or two to lock down those tokens it was saving anyways. It's not a fun position to be in (but it's fun to be on the giving end!).

Raiders can be valuable additions to LFC fleets once your squadron-commanding needs are met, as they are cheap activations (which you'll want more of) and can accompany the bulk of your squadrons to provide flak coverage if enemy squadrons want to pick a fight with you.

At the moment, Imperials don't really have a ship that can rock the Flight Commander + Fighter Coordination Team combination very well. That's not a terrible drawback, but I wanted to mention it in case any of my Imperial comrades got excited about the possibility from reading John talk about it. The closest we get is an Interdictor with Expanded Hangar Bays and the Flight Commander + Fighter Coordination Team combination, which is adequate as a carrier but expensive for what it does. It's nowhere near as potent as the Pelta with the same setup for cheaper (to be fair, the Interdictor does do other things too, but the Command Pelta with All Fighters Follow Me or Entrapment Formation is just unrivaled as a squadron fleet enabler in addition to just rocking the FC+FCT combo).

Squadrons
Before I get to specific builds (of which I can categorize 4 major archetypes) for an Imperial LFC group, I want to reiterate what John said earlier about Intel and Escort. If you're running strong on bombers, you need Intel. This is especially true with Imperial squadrons due to the fact that bombing is pretty much all your bomber squadrons do. They do not handle getting stuck on enemy fighters well at all. Sure, Y-Wings and B-Wings would rather be bombing than dogfighting, but they can do all right against squadrons if they need to. Your TIE Bombers, conversely, are just miserable at dogfighting and anything that can get them on their way to maximize their bomber specialization is appreciated. With that said, Imperial fleets with Intel usually feature either a solo Jumpmaster, either Dengar or a generic, or two generic Jumpmasters. It largely comes down to archetype as to which configuration to use, and I'll cover those soon.

On a related note, putting together an LFC with Imperials can be a tricky balancing act and can be meta-dependent. This is due to how specialized most Imperial squadrons are: over-invest on fighters and support elements (Jumpmasters, TIE Advanced, regular fighter assistance) and you'll find they're not much good at helping you bomb things later on like X-Wings are. Under-invest in fighters and support elements and you'll find your big investment in bombers is getting held up with almost comically little effort. Feel free to toggle with any of the basic archetypes until you find the right mix that works for you. With that said, let's cover the four basic archetypes:

1) TIE Defender spam
6 TIE Defenders, Major Rhymer, and Maarek Stele (133 points)

This is the most straightforward and "hedge your bets" style of LFC group I can imagine Imperials running. Simply put, this is the Imperial version of the Rebel YT-2400 spam bomber wing. It needs little additional support beyond ships to issue squadron commands and perhaps one Gozanti with Bomber Command Center. The Defenders will prioritize destroying enemy squadrons and then putting damage into ships in the later game once that's been accomplished. Rhymer is included as a means to make the threat to ships real starting on turn 1 - enemies that don't adequately prepare for a punch to the nose early on will be facing 8 total bomber attacks due to Rhymer's range extending ability with little enemy squadrons can do to really stop that from happening.

The main downside to this approach is your bombing windows are uncertain as it brings no Intel. It won't have the same damage ceiling as a more dedicated bombing fleet because TIE Defenders (not including Maarek) are mediocre bombers, but it's not nearly so prone to getting stuck at times as the Defenders can do just about whatever they like and have a good time doing it.

2) TIE Bomber wing
Major Rhymer, 5 TIE Bombers, 2 Jumpmasters, 1 TIE Advanced, 1 Tempest Squadron, Mauler Mithel, 1 Black Squadron (134 points)

This is your more conventional "go big or go home" TIE Bomber group, weighing in at a substantial 12 squadrons and maximum squadron points spent. It needs two sources of Intel to cover its 7 bombers and Mauler Mithel and it comes with 3 sources of Escort to keep the TIE Bombers, Intel, and Mauler kicking for as long as possible. It's a laser-focused ball of hot bomber death that makes enemy ships frown and laughs at lesser attempts to chew through the Escort squadrons.

The main problem with this approach is you need to be able to command a good portion of those 12 squadrons (you can probably get by with 10). That requires a lot of squadron command muscle and it makes a huge portion of your fleet about the Rhymer ball of doom. It's also poor in its own ability to destroy enemy fighters, leaning mostly on Mauler with some backup from the support squadrons (the Jumpmasters and Escort squadrons) to get the damage in. It would very much like some flak support from capital ships if/when it comes up against serious squadron opposition.

3) Firespray bomber wing
Major Rhymer (noticing a trend yet?), 4 Firespray-31s, Dengar, TIE Advanced, and Tempest Squadron (133 points)

This is effectively an alternate TIE Bomber wing utilizing Firesprays. Its damage output won't be as high as Firesprays aren't as cost-effective as TIE Bombers, but your squadron command needs are much reduced - from 12 squadrons without Rogue down to 4 - something two Gozantis can provide. Your main damage also comes in the Squadron Phase, which can be useful for ganging up on preferred ships when the enemy fleet out-activates you.

The main downside with this build is it's even lighter on its fighter coverage, leaning on Firesprays to do the job when necessary. Dengar helps a little by providing Counter 1 (and with less things to cover, you can generally get by with just Dengar but you could switch him out for a generic Jumpmaster to upgrade the generic TIE Advanced to Zertik Strom).

4) Imperial ace superfriends
Colonel Jendon, Maarek Stele, Boba Fett, Morna Kee, Zertik Strom, Bossk (132 points).

This combination is light on the total number of squadrons (just 6 of them) and only has 4 non-Rogues who need squadron commands. Only 2 of the actual squadrons are bombers (Boba Fett and Maarek Stele), so you may not even need a Bomber Command Center around. The idea is similar to the TIE Defender spam plan in that you're looking to wipe out enemy squadrons early and then bomb hard in the later game. With Colonel Jendon around, any of your potent aces gets an extra attack every turn, which allows you to focus on tearing up squadrons earlier on with powerhouses like Bossk and Maarek and then transitioning over to double-bombing with your stronger bombers like Boba Fett, Maarek, or Morna. Zertik provides some Escort coverage for the group, particularly Jendon, and can ping Bossk to activate his auto-accuracy ability. This group also operates well at range given Jendon is also packing Relay, just be sure to keep Jendon alive for as long as possible if you're relying on Relay.

You can produce an alternate version of this group by dropping Bossk and Zertik to pick up Darth Vader and Major Rhymer. The alternate version is better at bombing on turn 1 but doesn't have the same anti-squadron muscle later on.

The main downside of this build is it has few deployments and it won't produce the same laser-focused all-game-long bomber pain that options 2 and 3 can. It doesn't benefit much from bomber support options like Bomber Command center, which keeps it cheap, but also keeps it from exceling in the same way. It's combo-oriented and it can suffer when crucial combo components are picked off earlier than you were expecting.

5) Two halves create one whole
6 TIE Fighters, 6 TIE Bombers, Major Rhymer, Howlrunner (134 points)

This build is very much two specialist groups welded together and it does away entirely with Intel and Escort in an attempt to overwhelm the enemy with raw "stuff." The main issues are getting enough squadron-command muscle (you'll need to content yourself with being able to command the majority of this group in a turn, but trying to get enough squadron command for 14 squadrons a turn is nearly impossible) and with being susceptible to getting clogged up in the early through mid game due to the lack of Intel. Once the enemy squadrons are mopped up, however, the bombers just run wild and it's a sight to behold. I'm not convinced it's a top tier Imperial LFC group but it's darn fun at the very least and the worried looks you get when dropping 14 squadrons on the board are always enjoyable.

So with all that said, hopefully you patient Imperials who made it to the bottom of this article have been rewarded with some food for thought. I encourage you to give John's advice careful consideration as he's on point regarding a lot of the basics of how to prioritize your commands and how to coordinate your bombers, even if he is Rebel scum who is about to show us a horrifying and banned picture of cartoon Screed in a stupid hat.

Back to John!

Final Thoughts
Obviously, I can't cover everything in this screed but-
ACTUALLY, I don't need a squadron presence to crush Rebel traitors!
(Yes, I stole the same kind of joke from my MFC article, and I found the ugliest picture of Screed I could, with his trucker hat. Deal.)  This SHOULD be a decent start to building your LFC lists, but the most important point to playing with squadrons is PRACTICE.  It takes time to get good with them, but when you do, the results speak for themselves in the number of dead Star Destroyers you create.  Using squadrons and using black dice ships are two of the trickiest things to "get" in Armada, but with time, you'll get there.  Next time, we'll finally start talking about using these all.  That article will be much shorter, I promise.  Good luck squadronning!

2 comments:

  1. Great writeup! Just to throw it out there, I'm looking at running this 134 for Imperials:
    Maarek Stele, Firespray-31, Major Rhymer, Zertik Strom, Tempest Squadron, JumpMaster 5000 x2, TIE Bomber x3 (134 points).
    Stele's speed, survivability, and damage output with that guaranteed crit makes him a solid buy for only 3 points more than a Firespray and Strom's brace tokens are great at keeping him around longer than a standard Advanced for only another 3 points. I kept the activations down to 10 to make it a little easier to push, but I'm thinking it will be pretty successful. Like you said though, definitely a lot of possible configurations for Rhymerballs!

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    1. Looks good to me! I'm a little concerned about your ability to handle fighters, but Maarek and Zertik can certainly help out and it's not like my earlier TIE Bomber or Firespray builds had that on lock-down either.

      You're right, though, that Rhymer balls come in endless configurations.

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