Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Yellow (defense) objectives, wave five

It's the final countdown article about objectives!

Who am I kidding, it's always The Final Countdown in my heart.

Capture the VIP
  • It behooves the second player to place an obstacle outside their deployment zone that the VIP can be floating near - the easiest obstacle is the space station which both takes up a lot of space but also won't risk harming whatever ship you're sending in for the pick-up.
  • Remember that if a ship carrying the VIP is destroyed, the token is placed by the opposing player in base contact with the about-to-be-removed ship's base. It's not uncommon to just remove a destroyed ship from the table with little fanfare, but in Capture the VIP doing so with the VIP ship causes a lot of confusion and trouble with restoring the ship to where it used to be to place the token. So be careful!
  • Capture the VIP has an uncertain event-triggering-order interaction with General Rieekan, and I've asked about it. The way I'd play it for now is to place the VIP after the zombie ship finally is destroyed for good at the end of the Status Phase, but there could be arguments for the events triggering otherwise (the VIP jumping ship before the ship turns into a zombie) depending on player order and who "owns" the Capture the VIP objective effect. We'll likely need an FAQ to know for sure.
What kind of fleets should consider using Capture the VIP?
Any fleet that has a ship that's okay with largely avoiding serious risks to its life is a good VIP-catcher. Typically this is a good role for a flotilla, but could also be achieved by a particularly strong ship that intends to operate on the flanks. With help from a Strategic squadron, you can even grab the VIP on the very first turn!

Capture the VIP should be compared to other yellow ojbectives that grant victory points for "game state" situations, such as Contested Outpost or Fire Lanes, as they're all looking to grant you points for your ships meeting certain criteria. In the case of Capture the VIP, it's whoever has the hot potato at the end of the game. For the other two, they're more positional (guard the station or farm the Fire Lanes targets) and resolved at the end of every turn. Committing most/all of your fleet to Contested Outpost or Fire Lanes can be a bridge too far for some fleets, but Capture the VIP generally doesn't require as much building towards. I'd recommend a Strategic squadron but it's not strictly necessary. Just be aware that the VIP is something of a high-stakes objective in that it's a flat 50 points for one player or the other. Fire Lanes and Contested Outpost can see player one later on gaining some victory tokens of their own to decrease the second player's advantage, but Capture the VIP is all or nothing usually, barring the rare circumstances where the VIP jumps out the airlock of a destroyed ship and just floats there for the rest of the game.

What kind of enemy fleets are disadvantaged by playing Capture the VIP?
I'm sure you're tired of reading this by now, but slower fleets don't like positional-style objectives (they're not keen on most yellow and some blue objectives for that reason). Being able to destroy the VIP ship and then claim the VIP for yourself requires some force projection and usually a decently quick ship. Sluggish heavier fleets just don't realistically have that.

Some bomber fleets can struggle a bit to pick up the token, given that many of their ships don't tend to like wading into heavy combat zones or chasing down errant flotillas. The squadrons can certainly assist in destroying the VIP's original ship, but after that retrieving him/her can be difficult, depending on the build.

Fighter Ambush
  • The second player gets no choice about setting aside their squadrons. They must set them aside and not deploy them normally, which means this will cost you deployments early on.
    • The squadrons are then deployed after both players finish their regular deployment, following the special objective rules.
  • I've seen players get crazy with deploying their squadrons as close as possible to the first player but then having no realistic means of commanding them or doing anything special with them. If you've got a Relay squadron, then that option is less foolish as you'll have a means of issuing first-turn squadron commands.
    • The important thing to remember, though, is you're still second player and the first player's fleet generally has nothing much to do on the first turn. This has a couple ramifications:
      • The first player can command his squadrons before yours and jump your too-close squadrons.
      • If you send in your squadrons too early, the first player's not-yet-activated ships will get "free" flak attacks on your squadrons, given that their ships aren't in range to anything else.
    • If the first player deploys his squadrons at distance 2 towards you from a ship deployed at distance 3 (or thereabouts), you can, if situations are right, deploy your own squadrons engaging his squadrons on turn 0. That might be a very bad plan, but it is at the very least amusing.
    • In short, if you're deploying your squadrons close to the first player using Fighter Ambush, then you need to have a good reason for doing so that isn't going to be to your detriment. 
      • In general, the deployment element of Fighter Ambush is best used to deploy your anti-ship squadrons after you see what the fleet disposition of the first player is. This can allow you to set up your fighters opposite his fighters and your bombers elsewhere where they can (hopefully) do their job without much early-game trouble.
  • The victory-point-scoring here requires a damage card be dealt to an enemy ship by a squadron, but unlike Precision Strike it doesn't care if a squadron has the Bomber keyword or not and is thus much more friendly to fleets using decent anti-ship squadrons that aren't Bombers, such as VT-49 Decimators, TIE Phantoms, TIE Advanced, and A-Wings.

What kind of fleets should consider using Fighter Ambush?
Fleets with a heavy investment in squadrons that can damage ships benefit from this objective and basically nobody else. The main issue they need to work around is the fact that normally squadron-heavy fleets get a moderate to large number of deployments but when playing Fighter Ambush they will almost always be out-deployed. This isn't an insurmountable problem, but I'd definitely recommend that players using Fighter Ambush get some practice at setting up their fleet without squadrons so the resulting formation can still support their last-deployed squadrons in a variety of places; this gives you a lot more freedom to exploit the upside of the Fighter Ambush deployment special rule instead of only experiencing the downside.

It's pretty common to see Fighter Ambush paired with Superior Positions and Precision Strike for a more conventional heavy bomber fleet's trio of objectives.

What kind of enemy fleets are disadvantaged by playing Fighter Ambush?
Any fleet with poor fighter coverage is going to have a bad time playing Fighter Ambush. Once your ships' shields drop, uncontested anti-ship squadrons just turn your ship into a points pinata while they nickel and dime it to death. In situations like this, choosing Fighter Ambush is even worse than choosing Precision Strike (and maybe even Superior Positions) because the problems I presented above with starting squadrons too close to your opponent are largely removed when your opponent has minimal or zero fighter squadrons to fight back with; this allows your opponent to start hammering your ships first turn with squadrons.

Jamming Barrier
  • Remember to replace the debris fields with dust fields. Don't just add the dust fields to your usual 6 obstacles. Objectives that include the dust fields tend to cause confusion this way because some just add and some replace.
  • The amount of dice in the initial attack pool is affected by the Jamming Barrier. This means other add effects that are applied later (like concentrate fire, Ackbar, Slaved Turrets, etc.) will add their dice like normal.
    • The amount of dice removed is rounded down. So a 3-dice attack becomes a 2-dice attack, for example.
  • The jamming barrier itself is set up after fleet deployment, so the second player gets to see where all the first player's everything is before deciding how best to inconvenience them.
    • The second player should generally be looking to string the jamming barrier between two obstacles, preferably involving at least one of the dust clouds, to create a super-long line of "shooting through here sucks."
  • The jamming barrier's end points can get moved around (further apart, closer together, different angle, etc.) by a Strategic squadron should you so desire.
What kind of fleets should consider using Jamming Barrier?
In general, fleets that wish to avoid longer-ranged ship-on-ship combat (both coming at them and because they're not good at delivering it back) benefit from Jamming Barrier. This can include short-ranged knife-fighter fleets as well as squadron-focused fleets. The main problem when it comes to both of those fleet archetypes is the knife-fighter fleets can choose Hyperspace Assault, Capture the VIP, or even sometimes (be careful!) Fleet Ambush and do just fine. Similarly squadron-heavy fleets often prefer Contested Outpost or Fighter Ambush. Jamming Barrier is thus not a super-popular yellow objective because those two types of fleets that it's most appealing for already have a lot of good options.

What kind of enemy fleets are disadvantaged by playing Jamming Barrier?
Sluggish long-ranged gunline fleets aren't fans. Otherwise, most shorter-ranged fleets don't care about it and actively prefer it, as it usually offers little to no disadvantage to them compared to the other two objectives. This is likely the biggest reason you won't see a lot of fleets at competitive events bringing Jamming Barrier.

Planetary Ion Cannon
  • There's no limit on where you can place the tokens relative to one another (so long as they're beyond distance 5 of the player table edges), so hypothetically you could pile them all up in a tower if you wanted. You shouldn't, mind you, but you could.
    • Try to spread the tokens fairly evenly, with one in the middle of the table and one to each side. I find a shallow triangular formation with the flank tokens about a foot or so from the central token works fine. Basically you want them to cover enough table space to ensure you get to use at least 2 of them if possible. Concentrate them in one area and they're easy to avoid.
  • The second player chooses one enemy ship at the end of the Command Phase that's at distance 1-3 of an objective token to attack and then removes the token. This means a few things:
    • You can't attack more than one ship per turn. I don't know why, but I frequently get asked if more than one ship can be attacked and the card itself makes it clear it's just the one.
    • The attack happens after both players are done assigning command dials to their ships, which can cause some anxiety for the first player, given he won't really know which ship the second player will choose to attack.
    • Remember to remove the token. I realize this is rather silly because it's right there but I swear people don't read this entire card with a frequency that surprises me.
  • The attack otherwise follows the rules stipulated on the card. Keep in mind you can still use the regular generic critical effect if you'd prefer to rather than the special blue crit.
What kind of fleets should consider using Planetary Ion Cannon?
Basically, there are two kinds of fleets that normally want to run Planetary Ion Cannon:
  1. Fleets that don't want any other yellow objective at all (for whatever reasons) and default to the "can't hurt me, will likely hurt my opponent" Planetary Ion Cannon.
  2. Fleets that have a vulnerability to opposing swarm fleets and want Planetary Ion Cannon available to even the odds if/when they get that matchup.
It's also handy to combine with Strategic squadrons to move the targeting tokens around although if you're putting up the points for a Strategic squadron or two, you really should go with something that provides you points back like Fire Lanes or Capture the VIP.

What kind of enemy fleets are disadvantaged by playing Planetary Ion Cannon?
Nobody in particular enjoys getting their ships attacked prior to the Ship Phase beginning (much less tapping out a defense token potentially) but swarm fleets particularly hate Planetary Ion Cannon because the attack made by the ion cannon often makes it substantially easier for the second player's fleet to destroy the hobbled ship that turn. With those 4 blue dice coming at a lighter ship, you're quite likely to cause some serious trouble for its shields and in many cases its defense tokens. A big ship can handle that (it doesn't like it, but it will be fine). For a small ship, it's often the difference between living until next turn and potentially getting swatted down preemptively this turn. And you get to do this up to 3 total times, depending.

Speaking of "up to 3 total times," because swarm fleets take up more table space, you're also more likely to be able to get full use from Planetary Ion Cannon against them as they try to funnel towards your fleet. Not guaranteed at all, mind you, but definitely more likely.

In short, swarm fleets would generally prefer to avoid Planetary Ion Cannon. My own swarm fleet has grown to dislike it and would much prefer to see something that telegraphs my opponent's position (Fire Lanes/Contested Outpost) in the yellow slot instead.

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