Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Imperial squadron review: TIE Bomber

Time for us to focus on the TIE Bomber, the cheapest bomber squadron in the game:

Haven't I seen this airbrushed on the side of a van somewhere?
So let's start with the bad news: the TIE Bomber is the uncontested worst squadron in the game at dogfighting (keep that single black dice handy, you roll it against literally everything the TIE Bomber attacks) and it requires support from other squadrons to get its job done. TIE Bombers left all on their lonesome will get absolutely wrecked by enemy squadrons and will have little to show for themselves other than providing you a deep sense of regret at your poor life choices.

With all those negatives out of the way, let's look on the brighter side: much like its dogfighting cousin the TIE Fighter, the TIE Bomber is an extremely good deal for its points provided it's doing what it's supposed to be doing; in this case, turning enemy ships into space debris. For a mere 9 points, you get the benefits of speed 4, a solid hull of 5, and a black bomber die. Compared to its Rebel equivalent, the Y-Wing, the TIE Bomber differs in the following ways:
  • 1 less point (9 vs. 10)
  • 1 black anti-squadron dice instead of 2 blue anti-squadron dice
  • 1 less hull point (5 vs. 6)
  • 1 more speed (4 vs. 3)
The end result is a vessel where everything that could be channeled into bombing excellence was focused on to the exclusion of any other possible role. In particular the additional point of speed is quite relevant for bomber squadrons: it improves your threat range against ships, gives you limited ability to dodge speed 3 or less fighter squadrons trying to shoot at you, and helps you not waste time jumping from ship to ship between bombing runs.

Just like its TIE Fighter cousin, the TIE Bomber is also quite hungry for squadron commands to ensure it is regularly getting its attacks in instead of simply moving. You only get 6 rounds in the game, and spending a round just moving in the Squadron Phase instead of moving and attacking is a waste of your bomber potential.

A quick side note regarding Heavy: squadrons with Heavy still engage enemy squadrons, they simply remove the standard penalties for being engaged (i.e. normally engaged squadrons can't attack ships and can't move away but Heavy notes that those penalties are removed). It's important to note this because your Swarm fighters are quite happy to trigger their Swarm reroll from an enemy squadron engaged with a TIE Bomber.

TIE Bombers are right at home in fleets built to accommodate a bomber wing. All bomber wings love Intel squadrons to give them Grit to help them run from dogfights and keep on bombing ships, but you'll need capable fighter squadrons to get them down to only one engaging enemy. You will often see them hanging out with Gozanti Cruisers for both the points-effective Squadron 2 of the Gozanti as well as the amazing reroll from Bomber Command Center, which makes their bombing much more reliable (they do damage 94% of the time instead of 75% of the time) and improves their average anti-ship damage from 1 to 1.25.

For when you absolutely need to turn some trees bright blue, accept nothing but the finest.

Gamma Squadron
is a slight upgrade on a normal TIE Bomber, which for +1 point over a regular TIE Bomber gains two benefits in losing Heavy and gaining Grit. It's not much, but for +1 point, two minor benefits aren't bad.

Losing Heavy is useful in some niche circumstances - generally if you're using a lot of TIE Bombers, you've got as lot of Heavy in your fleet already. Gamma Squadron enables you to tie down enemy squadrons, usually to the loss of Gamma Squadron. It also helps ease strain on any Intel squadron you brought or allows you to not worry about bringing Intel if you're going bomber-light. It also lets a Gozanti with the Vector title fling Gamma Squadron at speed 5, which can be an unexpected surprise for your opponent.

In short, if you've got the 1 point free and you're bringing one or more generic TIE Bombers anyways, I like Gamma Squadron. It gives you a bit of extra tech for your TIE Bomber for a cheap cost increase and it doesn't eat up an ace slot. If you don't have the spare point, that's fine.

My name is Jonus, I'm carrying the wheel...

For +7 points over a normal TIE Bomber, Captain Jonus gains 2 brace tokens, Grit, and a fantastic ability when leveraged correctly. Basically Jonus wants to sneak around and get up in enemy ships' business primarily because of his special ability and secondarily to actually throw bombs at them. Therefore, he wants to be included in fleets where you have a heavier investment in ships, particularly ships that would really like to have a guaranteed accuracy result.

Jonus in particular is a good addition to ships rolling lots of red dice, often in addition to black dice (such as a VSD-I, Gladiator-II, or Kuat ISD), where your damage total will often be high, but your ability to lock down scatter or brace defense tokens is often quite unreliable due to the low odds of getting that result naturally. Red dice are also infamously fickle, so it's fairly common to roll a blank red dice when your dice pool features enough of them, and they're far more useful as accuracy results than as nothing.

You will notice, however, that Jonus's ability is all about ships. It wants to help your combat ships and that means that paradoxically, Jonus wants to be used in fleets with light to moderate squadron investments so you can use those leftover points on the mean ships that punch hard. Even if your ships aren't terribly good at commanding squadrons, it can be very helpful to keep a squadron token on a ship or two so they can scoot Jonus into position immediately before their attacks.

This is DJ Rhymer dropping some funky fresh beats from the Corellian Sector!

Note: FFG errated Major Rhymer so that friendly squadrons at distance 1 of him can attack enemy ships at close range rather than at close-medium range. The corrected card is shown above.

For +7 points over a regular TIE Bomber, Major Rhymer gains two brace tokens, a blue dice against squadrons, and a nerfed special rule. There's a few things to note about this special rule:
  • It affects all friendly squadrons at distance 1, meaning so long as any portion of their base is within distance 1 of the edge of Rhymer's base, it works. You'll note that this is a substantial amount of real estate. If Rhymer is tightly packed, you can get two squadrons in each direction of him all benefiting from his ability. Squadrons packed around a centrally-located Rhymer to maximize his buff thus create a "Rhymerball," which is a common bit of Armada slang.
  • The extended range is only useful against ships using the anti-ship armament of the buffed squadrons. Ships with superior anti-ship attacks obviously benefit the most, but even lowly TIE Fighters can fling blue dice at close range against ships if they're out of enemy squadrons to attack.
Rhymer is still useful despite his nerf in that he can extend your anti-ship squadrons' threat range up from distance 1 to close range, which is about a 50% improvement. This allows groups of squadrons to more easily gang up on the same hull zone, improves their threat range just a bit, and allows them to stay out of range from counter attacks from Quad Laser Turrets, which only work against attackers at distance 1. Sometimes that's worth the extra expense, other times not so much. For the most part, I tend to leave Rhymer at home nowadays given I've only got 4 ace slots and his ability has been nerfed, but every now and then he's just what my squad group needs.

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