Thursday, April 6, 2017

Imperial commander review: General Tagge

All right let's finish off the Imperial side of teeny-tiny wave three with a commander review of General Tagge!

You may remember him as "the only person on the original Death Star that took the Rebels seriously."

My Fitbit only works when I grasp my hands together menacingly behind my back. Gotta get those steps!
General Tagge's ability is pretty straightforward: each of your ships recovers a single discarded defense token at the start of turn 3 and turn 5. If your ship has 2+ discarded defense tokens, then you'll need to choose which one to return. It triggers at the start of the turn, so prior to any ship activations or command dial decisions (this helps if you've got a ship that desperately would like its brace or scatter back prior to getting attacked).

General Tagge is one of the more problematic Imperial commanders to get a lot of mileage out of - his ability can be powerful, but getting consistent and reliable use out of it is difficult. Basically, in order for Tagge to have a meaningful impact on your game, you need for all of the following to be true:
  • One or more of your ships have discarded defense tokens.
    • This can be from spending them yourself (with Turbolaser Reroute Circuits, most often) but often enemy attacks are going to be a factor in this.
      • Which means you need to be able to spend those tokens (due to a lack of accuracy icons locking them down or from using Electronic Countermeasures so you can spend them regardless).
  • The ships with discarded defense tokens survive to one of the two windows where Tagge restores those tokens.
    • Obviously if your ship gets pounded on in turn 3 and spends a defense token twice and discards it and is then destroyed in turn 4, Tagge didn't do much of anything for you.
  • The restored tokens make some kind of difference in the rest of the game.
    • If you restore a token on a ship that is no longer taking any attacks and/or can't spend that token to do anything, it doesn't really make much of a difference that Tagge brought it back.
As you can see, there are a few hurdles you need to jump to really get mileage from Tagge and his effect is a bit more roundabout than the more direct consistent benefits you get from other Imperial commanders. If you can get him to regenerate tokens that end up saving your ships more hull damage than they would've gained from Motti, then things are great! Unfortunately, getting that "great in theory" ability to pay off in practice encounters numerous problems:

The turn 3 token regeneration problem
The big issue for me is how Tagge relies on tempo. In my experience, most fleets start trading opening shots on turn 2. In general, these attacks are at long range and made against targets of opportunity. You can concentrate attacks against a single enemy ship on occasion but it's not reliable. It also relies in some part on your opponent agreeing to engage you on turn 2. If player A starts his fleet at maximum speed (often between 3 and 4 for most ships) and player B starts his fleet at minimum speed (1) then you still aren't going to see many fireworks on turn 2 (player A will, however, likely speed his ships up on turn 2 to get some serious combat going turn 3). This is a problem for Tagge's initial token-regenerating window, as a savvy opponent has an incentive to hold off on any kind of serious punches-trading until turn 3, right after Tagge triggers for the first time.

The turn 5 token regeneration problem
As said above, in most games of Armada I find you get your opening shots on turn 2 and the serious face-punching in on turn 3. From there it's usually an additional turn or two of sustained damage getting thrown back and forth. When the serious damage starts flying on turns 3 and 4, you need to find a means to keep your ships alive until the start of turn 5 for Tagge to trigger again. Tagge can let you down here, as I find a lot of my casualties are happening on turns 3 and 4 before Tagge can save them. This is definitely the more reliable of the two Tagge windows, however, but it seems to come a turn too late in many of the games I've played with or against Tagge.

The Turbolaser Reroute Circuits problem
You can certainly get Tagge working more consistently by finding a way to spend your own defense tokens so your opponent doesn't get as much say over whether and when you get to use your own commander ability. At the moment, that means Turbolaser Reroute Circuits. The only ship that can use these inherently is the Arquitens Light Cruiser and it's not too bad paired with Tagge - it has one evade token and so it's happy to spend its evade to use the TRCs and to dodge one die, discarding the evade token. Tagge can then bring that evade back later on.

The "problem" part of this plan is that Tagge isn't really doing anything particularly amazing for the Arquitens. You can get very good mileage out of Arquitens with other commanders, like Vader, Jerjerrod, or Ozzel. Double-using replenishing evade tokens is certainly not bad but the end effect isn't notably better than using them with other commanders that also run them well.

With all those issues laid on the table, let's talk about what types of ships Tagge likes to run before we get to archetypes. In general, Tagge likes to run ships that have as many of the following features as possible:
  • Non-duplicate defense tokens. You're more likely to need to spend an already-exhausted defense token when it's your only copy of that kind of token.
  • Defensive retrofit slots. Being able to equip Electronic Countermeasures can help ensure you get to spend defense tokens your opponent would rather you not be able to and thus get some use from Tagge. You can cheat a defensive retrofit slot with Minister Tua on one ship.
  • Ability to make use of Turbolaser Reroute Circuits or other upgrades that let you spend your own tokens.
  • If it's a combat ship, the ability to go speed 3 or higher so it can hopefully start giving and receiving attacks turn 2.
So therefore I see Tagge doing okay with Gozantis (which love to regenerate their scatter tokens and frequently find themselves in trouble around the end of turn 4), Arquitens (with the Turbolaser Reroute Circuits, although that combination isn't strong enough to carry a whole fleet), the occasional Demolisher Gladiator with Minister Tua and Electronic Countermeasures, and ISD-IIs with Electronic Countermeasures, sometimes with Captain Needa and Turbolaser Reroute Circuits and also sometimes with the Devastator title (as Tagge can bring necessary tokens back later).

Tagge is a bit of an odd fit with VSDs and Interdictors as they won't usually be fast enough to get into the fight to double-spend a token by turn 2 and they don't get a defensive retrofit slot (without Tua) and so their brace token is locked down by accuracy results against bigger attacks with enough regularity that it's hard to really rely on double-spending it in one turn and then getting it back doing much for you. Raiders also aren't super keen on him as by the time you've discarded your brace token with a Raider, you're usually quite close to death and the return of the brace won't usually make much of a difference.

In short, in case you couldn't tell by now, I'm not a big fan of Tagge. Neither were most Imperial players in the wave 5 Regionals, where Tagge was brought to events as a commander 2% of the time and never once made it to the top 4. I don't think he's doomed to being a disappointment forever, but for now he's lackluster and wishing for more Imperial ships with defensive retrofit slots worth filling with Electronic Countermeasures and more upgrades that allow you to spend your own defense tokens. He does have some use as a commander in a Corellian Conflict campaign where he can return discarded defense tokens to scarred ships if you're stuck bringing a scarred ship into a fight, but that's admittedly rather corner-case. Another niche use is as a counter to Admiral Sloane, who will usually be gunning to discard brace tokens from large ships, but you still run into the turns 3 and 4 "dead zone" where most of the damage is being done and Tagge is powerless to do anything about it when your chances of being destroyed are at their highest.

With all that said, I'll continue on in good faith but please be aware that I overall do not recommend using Tagge as of right now and I hope one day I'll be able to change my stance on that matter. For now, he generally comes off rather poorly when compared to Admiral Motti who is much less situationally useful. If you don't like reviews where as of wave 6 I come to the unfortunate conclusion that I don't recommend using a commander then I'd recommend skipping the Konstantine article, too 😅.

Archetypes
Bomber skirmish
The main build I have seen Tagge running better than other Imperial commanders could is the Gozanti + Arquitens combination. This seems to mostly come down to a group of 2-3 Arquitens that intend to circle the outside of a battle throwing in red dice while a group of 2-4 Gozantis issues squadron commands to a large squadron group that's mixing it up with the enemy ships and squadrons roughly in the middle. Because Tagge can help the Arquitens regenerate their evade defense tokens to dodge attacks and use their TRCs and he can bail out Gozantis who discarded their scatter defense tokens, he can get some use on all the ships. The main issue here is I haven't seen an Arquitens+Gozantis fleet that seems to perform well enough that it seems a better fleet than a more conventional heavier-bomber fleet or Sloane fighter-heavy fleet. It would do well versus enemy fleets that are slow and unmaneuverable with poor flak (so say a fleet of mostly VSDs without Jerjerrod, for example) but those types of fleets are not very common.

How do I beat Tagge?
Anything that helps you control the tempo is useful against Tagge, and I laid out earlier how troublesome it can be when the fighting isn't happening when Tagge wants it to, usually because the opponent is deliberately delaying the early fighting to deny Tagge half of his ability. Destroying ships before they get a chance to regenerate tokens is also quite effective and you'll have some opportunities to gang up on ships on turns 3 and 4 in most games, right before Tagge kicks in again at the start of turn 5. Attacks that can reliably generate accuracy results can often prevent defense tokens from being used, which prevents them from being discarded, which gives Tagge few or no tokens to return when his special turns roll around.