Thursday, June 15, 2017

Offensive retrofits: I'm offensive, how about you?

Let's talk about offensive retrofits!

The stupid jokes based around the word "offensive" write themselves!
A quick primer before we get into the meat of the review article:
  1. We'll be covering the dual-slot upgrades from wave 6 (and into the future) in their own article(s) so as to prevent confusion.
  2. Wave 6 isn't out yet, so there won't be any wave 6 upgrades here just yet. That will change in a few weeks I'm sure. Be patient! I also want to know what the Quad Battery Turrets do!
  3. Many offensive retrofits kind of suck. This situation will hopefully be remedied by the new options in wave 6 and I'll explain why I feel that way about the current ones I don't care for, but the unfortunate fact is this is an upgrade type that overall has not received a lot of love this far into the game. If you're a carrier, you've got options. If not, well...

They put a lightning rod on their spaceship?
Boosted Comms allows its ship to activate squadrons up to long range when using a squadron command. That's a pretty decent improvement in range when you take a look at how the range ruler measures (the medium length segment is quite short).

In space, no one can hear you scream at your squadrons to go do something already.
In the above example, the closer X-Wing is just barely at medium range (the regular command range of the Assault Frigate) and the further X-Wing is just barely at long range (the Boosted-Comms-buffed command range of the Assault Frigate). That can be a really big deal, as we've all discovered at one point or another when our squadron command kind of underwhelms due to some of its intended recipients being just barely out of range.

Overall, I like Boosted Comms on carrier ships that intend to be supporting bomber squadrons. Bombers will more frequently be used further from your own ships and thus Boosted Comms are more frequently useful in commanding them. It can also be handy on nervous flotillas that are looking to stay far away from any actual fighting.

Sup dog I heard you liked TIE Fighters..
Expanded Hangar Bay increases its ship's base squadron value by 1. This has obvious uses with squadron commands but can be even better when combined with upgrades like Fighter Coordination Team which reference the squadron value of their ship. It's also good when combined with other upgrades that buff every squadron activated by a ship (like Admiral Chiraneau or Flight Controllers) in that the squadron-command buff will be applied to more recipients.

Otherwise, it's a very straightforward upgrade. It lets you command one more squadron with a single command dial. It's often competing for the offensive retrofit slot with Boosted Comms (except on the rare ship with dual offensive retrofit slots) and my basic recommendation is to use Expanded Hangar Bay when the ship intends to command fighters and Boosted Comms when the ship intends to command bombers. It's a bit more nuanced than that, of course (especially with mixed-role squadrons), but in general with fighters you want them to be operating closer to your ships and playing defense and so Boosted Comms' benefit is less necessary but getting an extra squadron commanded can be quite handy.

On a side note, Expanded Hangar Bay is, to my knowledge, the only upgrade that changes a ship's base statistics that isn't a Modification.

At least in card art a CR90 fits inside an ISD's hangar bay...
Phylon Q7 Tractor Beams require some explanation as to how exactly they work. Bullet points, to me!
  • Upon activation you may exhaust the Phylons for their effect. You might hit some jerk who won't let you do it a bit later when you remember (say for example after resolving a start-of-activation command like repair or squadrons), so keep an eye on its triggering window! When in doubt, put the card on top of your command dials to remind you about it when you activate that ship.
  • Remember that flotillas are small ships, so a flotilla with Phylons can slow down other small ships. I run into a number of people who believe flotillas are a size class smaller than small, but that's simply not true.
  • The FAQ made it clear that a Phyloned ship must spend a nav token if possible. If it can't, then it reduces its speed by 1 to a minimum of 1. The text of the card itself is unclear if it's a choice or not, but it is not. Therefore, you can use Phylons to snipe nav tokens off ships if you wish.
The Phylon Q7 Tractor Beams can be tough to get working consistently and that's a big problem for an expensive upgrade. In short, they're often most effective when you're able to use a few of them in one turn against a single ship for a more dramatic speed change, but that assumes you're able to be in range of that enemy ship, the enemy ship doesn't mind slowing down (bruiser front arc ships often don't mind it), and the enemy ship is the right size for several Phylons to work against. It can take a lot.

Otherwise, zapping off navigate tokens or slowing speed by 1 when applied from a single source of Phylon Q7s can be circumstantially useful. In particular, ships relying on Engine Techs and/or sudden speed changes don't appreciate having their nav tokens zapped off, especially when paired with Slicer Tools changing their top command to non-navigate.

All Rebel forces: retreat from the awfulness of this upgrade card immediately!
Point-Defense Reroute is legendarily bad. Ask a group of Armada players which upgrades are the worst and it will nearly always be mentioned.

The problem with Point-Defense Reroute is it requires your ship to be not only attacking a squadron but for that attack to also be happening at close range before it kicks in. When it does kick in, it allows you to reroll dice with crit icons. It should be noted that this does literally nothing for black dice flak (which is only active at close range) as the black dice sides with crits also have hits so you want to keep those. When you do reroll your crit icons on blue dice or red dice (Quasar-II!), you have a 50% chance on blue dice or 37.5% chance on red dice of your reroll coming up a damage. Given the average damage roll against squadrons from a red or blue die is 0.5 (because the red has less consistency but that one double-hit side), the math works out like so:
25% chance of rolling a crit against a squadron * 0.5 average damage = 0.125 extra average damage per red or blue die in the flak attack, taking them from 0.5 to 0.625.

So basically when you consider that you're looking at a 5 point investment with a further range restriction, you're not getting an awful lot from Point-Defense Reroute when it actually does work, even on two-dice flak ships like an ISD-II. It's a shame, really, but upgrades against squadrons are unfortunately usually bad in Armada at the moment and not even just offensive retrofits, but it applies to Cluster Bombs in the defensive retrofits as well.

Notice how the turrets are wasting resources doing nothing to those X-Wings? The artist is trying to warn you!
Quad Laser Turrets continues our example series of "ship upgrades that are bad against squadrons." It should be noted that the effect only works while your ship is defending at distance 1 (so a Rhymerball lobbing bombs from outside distance 1 won't get Countered) and your Counter 1 is a single blue die because Counter is always blue.

The damage problem with Quad Laser Turrets is Counter 1 effectively hits an attacking squadron for 0.5 average damage. You can improve this on the Rebel side with Toryn Farr being within range for the blue die reroll so the damage average improves to 0.75. Similarly, you can improve this on the Imperial side with Agent Kallus, who can add a die of any color to the attack if you're Countering a unique squadron (it's usually best to add a black die, particularly with Ordnance Experts around). You could even combine it with Point-Defense Reroute on a double-offensive-retrofit ship to improve your average damage to 0.625, but don't do that because it's terrible.

The total problem is it does nothing against Rhymer when Rhymer is used well, it's not cheap, and its damage output is poor. If you're looking for a way to punish enemy bombers making attacks on your ships, then I'd recommend investing those 5 points into more/better fighter squadrons. An argument can be made that the QLTs are there to supplement your fighter coverage, but superior fighters covering your fleet is a better improvement than an anemic reactive damage source stapled to one ship. I can't stress enough how underwhelming the QLTs damage is overall: it can get a little better with the right support, but it's still utterly insufficient to handle enemy squadrons on its own. I see new players bring squadronless fleets with this upgrade spammed all over pretty frequently and they're always disappointed at how it did nearly nothing to stop their ships from getting eaten alive by bombers.

I've seen religious pamphlets with less text and we still had no idea how to use this card until the FAQ and subsequent email clarification.
Rapid Launch Bays confused the bejesus out of the Armada community for half a year until FFG finally released an FAQ for wave 5. Shame on you, FFG! Come on, guys, I normally have your back but that was ridiculous. Anyways, here's how Rapid Launch Bays actually works broken down into bite-sized bullet points portions:
  • Remember that the set aside squadrons are not deployed, they're placed next to the ship they're stored in. Otherwise, the "storage" part of the card is pretty straightforward.
  • When you resolve a squadron command, you may place up to the number of squadrons you can activate using that squadron command within distance 1 of the ship. This does not affect the subsequent squadron command in any way.
    • So basically if you're using a squadron dial, you can drop as many of the stored squadrons as you want until they're gone and if you're using a squadron token, you can drop 1 of them. There may be some niche circumstances/upgrades that affect this, but 99% of the time, that's how it works.
    • Again, the "dropping stored squadrons off" portion of the upgrade triggers before resolving a squadron command but does not in any way "use up" any part of that squadron command just yet.
  • Once you've dropped those squadrons off you can use your squadron command on the dropped-off squadrons or on other squadrons. During that squadron command, dropped-off squadrons that are commanded cannot move but can attack if they are activated. Other squadrons are commanded like usual.
    • If you choose to drop off squadrons but not activate them during that squadron command, subsequent squadron commands from other ships work on them just fine - they can move and attack.
Yes, this card is extremely confusing, but hopefully that helped.

Overall, I'm not a big fan of Rapid Launch Bays (hereafter RLBs). There are a few issues I have with it overall:
  • It's expensive. 6 points is not the kind of upgrade that can get tossed onto something just for fun.
  • It reduces your number of deployments. In most cases, filling an RLBs ship with squadrons will cost you 2 deployments (or one and a half, with the last straggler squadron not really doing much to help with its final deployment). That can make a very large difference in how effective you are in the deployment portion of the game, diminishing your advantage or exacerbating a disadvantage.
  • It ties your squadrons to that specific ship.
    • Ship destroyed super early by a cheeky Demolisher run? Squadrons can't get to the battle and are sidelined permanently.
    • If your ship finds itself in an area without good targets, the squadrons inside of it are often wishing they had deployed normally so they could go after better targets.
      • Similarly, the RLB ship telegraphs exactly where the squadron threat is and so the much more mobile enemy squadrons can react accordingly.
    • If your ship finds itself in danger of either of the above two problems, it may need to use a squadron command early just to dump its squadrons onto the table so they're not stuck in a bad situation later.
I will say that RLBs can be used effectively from time to time. They're a fun way for slow squadrons, most notably B-Wings, to get to targets through fighter screens when you're able to pull it off, although in general it's better to use other speed-buffing technology and a source of Intel but you do you, haha. Usually RLB usage comes down to "how much crazy stuff can this super carrier and its squadron friends do under ideal circumstances?", which is fun to think about but in my experience the downsides usually outweigh the upsides.

4 comments:

  1. Have you given any thought to using RLB with the Hyperspace Assault objective?

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    1. I have, but it seems very high-risk high-reward to put so much of your total fleet into Hyperspace (especially the your opponent has Strategic squadrons to mess with your tokens and the big reduction in your deployments also seems rather risky.

      Plus you need to go second and get your opponent to pick it, so I'm not super confident in it. It definitely would be fun to try, but I'm skeptical for the reasons I gave above.

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  2. I went undefeated with RLB at a tournament once. Every single game my opponent forgot about those hangared squadrons (Norra + 3 Bwings), putting his really expensive ship at medium range of my MC80. Even ISDs went down pretty quick.

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    1. While I'm pleased to hear it went well for you, I'm loathe to recommend an upgrade that works well when your opponents are forgetful.

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