Monday, December 14, 2020

Assault Frigate: Generalist Space Potato

It's time to finish off the Wave I Rebel ships (looks over at Eric and his completed Wave II Imperial ships, for like 3 weeks now).  How about that. Anyways, the Assault Frigate!

If you didn't want potato jokes, I'm sorry, but the "eyes" had it.  The puns only get worse, guys.
Unfairly compared to a potato for most of its life, the Assault Frigate/Space Potato/Dolphin/Whale is a great generalist.
For the longest time, this was the Rebel's strongest ship.  I spent a lot of that time not using it.  I'm not a role model, kids.
Basic Breakdown
  • 6 health is a goodish start!
  • 4 shields in the front, and 3 on the sides, is a great way to stay alive for longer.  Identical to an ISD, but with half its health.
  • Really solid side shots! From the good red range!
  • A great suite of defense tokens! One of everything! It can Evade 2 dice against large bases!
  • Engineering 4! All the heals! The strongest Rebel Engineering (And the general standard of strongest across the board, Interdictor excepted)
  • Front arc and back arc shots with equal dice! You actually don't mind people getting around to your back, you're still decent back there!
There are, however, some minor issues with the assault frigate.  Because it only has one defense token of each type, they're prone to getting locked down....especially the one you want.  At long range, that Arquitens attacking you rolls one accuracy, and your Evade is gone.  At close range, your Brace is going to get locked down, and fast.  Not ideal situations for anyone.  We'll deal with this in the Builds Section, below

Their front arcs are also not immediately amazing.  They can sorta contribute, but their side arcs are better, by an entire red (and potentially blue) dice.  Which is one more dice that has to be dealt with, or that could roll the double hit.  Or an accuracy to lock down the Evade token your opponent has.

The Assault Frigate's movement profile is not amazing for what it wants to do, even though it's literally identical to an ISD.  You can expect to be Navigating a decent amount (and you should likely be defaulting to it!), and with a Command Stack of 3 dials, you'll have to make sure to REMEMBER to Navigate more often than you'd expect.

The Assault Frigate is a super-great generalist ship.  It does nothing extraordinarily well, but it can be outfitted to taste and help your list do what it needs to do better for a rather cheap cost.  It's an assembly line ship that needs a bit of looking at to get the most out of.  Combine that with the fact that it has won more Worlds than every large ship in the game COMBINED and there's a lot more to look at with this ship than you would think there would be.

Basic Usage: How to Drive
The important thing to note about the Assault Frigate, as I said above, is that its best firing arcs are its sides.  So: the best way to keep firing out of those side arcs is to keep ships in your side arcs (sounds obvious, but....).  You want to be circling the battlefield and your opponent's ships, keeping them in the side arc as long and as much as possible.  With 3 red dice, even obstructed, you'll be able to fire SOMETHING at them.  If you can get the front arc on target as well, that's definitely helpful, but don't do it at the cost of your life.
Aim to be in long range as long as possible; you can spend more of your tokens more efficiently that way.
As shown above, we're driving around the sides of the pictured VSD.  We remain as far away as possible, throwing dice at it from distance.  How do we deploy it then?
There's more space in REAL deployment, but for ease of understanding, it's been shrunk and had words put in it.
As part of the Rebellion, you know that remaining in the front of Star Destroyers results in dead ships.  Your turning profile is not amazing, even WITH Navigating (you won't be fitting into as many crazy spots as a CR90, say!) so you want to START out by being turned away from their front.  Force THEM to navigate to keep pointed towards you, as you keep trying to kite them and run away.  Your best guns are on the sides, and you're circling them as much as possible.  If they want to turn their best guns at you, keep shooting them in it and circling them.  If they don't, you'll get around to their back and fire away at them.  Aim for it as much as possible.

If you try to go forwards towards an opponent's ship, they may likely try to go into you as well.  ISDs are ecstatic when you come towards them and don't turn enough.  They'll just go forwards and eat your face next turn, resulting in you losing your Assault Frigate.  Yes, they have more hit points than many other Rebel smalls.  You will still get eaten. You DO have a speed 3 joint and the ability (if you start effectively next to it and are going Speed 3 WITH a Navigate Order) to hop that VSD (let's not even do anything beyond HOPE for the ISD).  You still are wandering into its front arc AND not really firing at it (Your best arcs are your sides, remember?)
"I didn't say you COULDN'T, I said you SHOULDN'T."
So shoot and run away, and stay in the sides.  Let them pursue you.  In a straight up fight at long range, you're actually better off staying at range.  Assault Frigates getting shot once a turn that can use all their tokens have immense health and staying power, moreso than you'd think.  Presuming long range fire from a Cymoon, that's 5 red.  If they're all hits (5 damage), we Evade one (4), Brace that (2), and then redirect it (2 to a side).  That basically just brushed off an attack that could have nearly crippled several other ships! You do NOT want to be taking sustained fire, but you can take at least 2-3 more of those attacks a turn (until you move into Medium next turn, of course).  The recent Evade change means that you can, if needed, Evade 2 dice from a large ship's attack, so long as you're willing to discard the token (as you're on the way out!)

You won't be able to win in a one-on-one fight against an ACTUAL large ship, mind you, but you'll have several other ships and parts of your fleet to help you fight.  It's dangerous to go alone, bring a friend (or several) with you!

Unfairly Maligned
With all these caveats I've mentioned about trying to avoid the fight and trying to use your tokens and stay away from the fight, there's a fair amount of people who hate the ship.  Some people hate the design (Mel makes alternatives if you want....) which to me seems crazy to hate a ship's stats because of how it looks visually.  I don't have a way to help your anger here.  I can hate the Tribal Tat on Chimaera but that doesn't mean I wouldn't bring it.  I'm sorry I don't have better advice, but if everyone discounted something because of how it first appeared would Luke have ever become a Jedi?
Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.

Paint it, buy a new one, literally stick a potato on the base, whatever makes you feel better about it.  But look at the STATS and not the MODEL. Start there.

Some people dislike the fact that "a jack of all trades is a master of none" to which I say to finish the quote.  "But oftentimes better than a master of ONE."  The MC30 does one job: zoom in and punch something.  If you want to bring squadrons or put in damage repeatedly, you need another ship or two to push the squadrons or throw dice; MC30s don't stick around and live long.  The AF's engineering value, squadron value, and navigational ability are as good as ships that cost 30 points more than it.  It doesn't have the best total dice power, squad activation capability, or maneuverability, but it does its job well.  The ships that do those things are going to both cost ~150 points and be the focal point of your fleet.  The Assault Frigate can be built CHEAP, and doesn't have to be the main point of your fleet, it can support the rest of your ships.  The 30 odd points you get in between this and a Large Ship can also upgrade another ship in your fleet to put out more meaningful damage.  That second flotilla you brought could become a CR90, that Hammerhead could become an MC30, etc.  It's about your fleet in total.

And that's where the AF exists.  As PART of your fleet.  You can't send it off on its lonesome to go take out a ship or two, like an MC30 theoretically can.  It does great when you use it to team up with friends and have them all pressure the same ship over and over, dogpiling damage onto it.  The thing about the Assault Frigate is that it loves friends.  It would love a second Assault Frigate or Jaina's Light nearby to help target whatever ship it's throwing red dice at.  3-5 red dice aren't great by their lonesome, but repeated shots of 3-5 dice into the same ship are.  Remember my movement picture from earlier?
Take THAT, VSD! ....Uh, again!
The faded Frigate can hit that VSD in the face, as can its new position.  Those side arcs are quite decent-sized and have very good range.  You aren't getting spikes of 5-6 damage at a time, but 2-3 followed by 2-3 next turn help a LOT.  Knowing that you're going to be shooting that face 3 turns in a row, the rest of your fleet can be pressuring that same hull zone and helping your Assault Frigate.  The MC30 can go off on its lonesome and get work done, but the Assault Frigate is part of a fleet and it needs the rest of the fleet to help it actually get work done.  You can't deploy it by its lonesome and hope it'll win you the game, otherwise you're wasting 72 points plus.  Similarly, you can't deploy your HMC80 by itself and expect it to win you the game, so treat the Assault Frigate similarly.  Supplement its damage with a friend, and potentially even some fighters, too.  It's a good GENERALIST, but it needs some general help, ha cha cha.

Lastly, some people hate the fact that the ship isn't as "strong" as an MC75 and suggest that the MC75 has replaced it.  2 more hull and 1 more shield with a better face shot are attractive alright.  However, they're different ships wanting different things.  The MC75 wants to get in close and snowplow through it's opponents, using its black dice and face to deal damage.  The MC75 usually doesn't have the time to be a carrier, throwing squadrons at your opponent's ships.  It needs to navigate to get in and then double arc something properly, and then have an escape vector.  This also often results in the MC75 not getting a side shot because the arcs on the AF are bigger and better angle for its base.  The Assault Frigate is happy to throw squadrons and remain in the back slowly, adding up damage in 1-2 damage packets (from the squadrons and red dice) that are just aggravating to use tokens against.  There's no "big attack" to brace, just a bunch of tiny ones.

"The MC75 can take Leading Shots" is an argument, yes (that requires you be in Medium range to GET that blue), but red dice statistically roll 0.75 damage.  As humans, we're programmed to remember the BAD and not the GOOD.  I remember when my side dice rolled 3 blanks, but I'm going to forget the attack that rolled 3 damage and an accuracy to kill a Gozanti in one shot from this past week.  I'm aware "trust your dice" is a verboten phrase, but it's really the advice I've got.  And staple LTTs to them.  They're different ships with different goals in mind in your fleet, they're not interchangeable.  It still has a role, you just need to make sure you're using it correctly.

There are 2 Titles that come with the Assault Frigate, so these should be quick.
A Squadron's Best Friend. Well beyond Intel, BiggsBomber Command CenterToryn Farr...
For 8 points, the Gallant Haven title lets you reduce damage from an attack, to a minimum of 1.  So 1 dice of damage becomes one.  2 damage braced down to 1....stays 1 (because you determine damage AFTER you spend your defense tokens, so don't brace it, as 2 damage will just naturally become 1 under the title).  But 3 damage, braced down to 2, becomes 1.  So Jan Ors loves the Haven.  Biggs, even more so.  With Biggs getting attacked, he braces 5 Flight Controller-equipped TIE Interceptor damage down to 3, and then passes one off (Biggs would then take 1.  That one he passed CANNOT be prevented, though, as Biggs's effect is NOT an attack).  So your X-wing/YT-1300 that wasn't attacked takes 1 damage,as does Biggs and that's it, from a 5 damage start.  That's NUTS.

The main issue with the Gallant Haven is that in order to get the bonus, you have to be within 1 of the Gallant Haven.  Don't sail the Gallant Haven into close range with a VSD/ISD (where it should DEFINITELY not be!) in an effort to protect your squadrons.  If you have a squadron list, it is a GREAT bunker for you to wait out your opponent's attacks/alpha strike from Sloane.  Let them alpha strike you, then counter attack.  OR, if they don't want to wander into the super defensive bunker you've created for your squadrons, alpha THEM first, and then their ships.  It's a terrible choice for your opponent's squadron list and a great deterrent that lets you protect your squadrons a bit more, but don't overdo your waiting.  You brought enough squadrons to consider this a good 8 point investment; use them to go blow something up.  Playing to not lose is not playing to win.

Gallant Haven also provides an interesting potential usage for Heavy Fire Zone.  Your opponent either lets you fire dice at his squadrons without anyway of attacking back, or he comes into range of your ship and squadrons that are already taking less damage from his attacks.  I might use this on an Assault Frigate A for the 2 flak dice, but it's your call.

Ever since the FAQ that changed the effect (to the damage remaining as a minimum of 1), the Haven hasn't seen significant table time.  I've played it recently, and it still works.  Telling an Imperial group across the table from you that they're going to need to do 5+ damage to get 2 to stick to anyone is just frustrating to watch, unless you're the Rebel player.  It's still good, I promise, because not taking damage in the first place is way better than healing it up afterwards.
This is about to get tricky....
The Paragon is the OTHER title on the Assault Frigate.  This one has SOME more uses, but we need to clarify some things first.  When the card above says "YOU," that SPECIFICALLY means the Paragon.  So if your first attack (with the side arc) is against one ship, your second attack HAS to he against that same ship to get the bonus.  Either out the front, the back or the same side arc (with Advanced Gunnery on it) in order to get it.  You (the player and guy reading this article) don't get the black dice on both attacks because your other ships shot your target this round already.  This caused some confusion the first time I read it too, so I just wanted to clarify it.

As a title itself? It needs to combine with Local Fire Control, the new weapons team.  If you Salvo your opponent, that counts as having attacked it already this round, so your actual ship attack(s) on your turn/AF activation (2 attacks if you're double arcing!) get the bonus black dice.  Is a 5 point title and a 4 point weapon team worth it to get 1-2 black dice a round? How much do you pay for Spinal Armament right now? LFC finally made the title worth considering for more than "well I have 5 points and I guess so?"  I wouldn't take one without the other, but since LFC is so good on the ship to begin with, it's an easier sell.

Assault Frigate A
It just looks angry!
Clocking in at 81 points, 9 more than the B, you get:
  • +1 blue flak dice
  • +1 more blue front/rear dice
  • -1 Squadron Commanding ability
This is not the carrier you're looking for.  It CAN command squads in a pinch, but if you're looking for a carrier, I definitely suggest the other one.

Common Builds and Upgrades
Generally, all Assault Frigate builds should be figuring out how to get away with as few upgrades as possible.  If you wanted a Christmas-Tree ship overflowing with upgrades and baubles and boarding teams, why not just use an MC75 for slightly more expensive but with 3 more hull points and better burst damage?   You want to keep it cheap in order to get other ships in there.  The benefit of the Frigate is in what it can do for you for its cost.  The more you add onto it, the more it has to do in order to be worth its points.

Defensive Retrofit:
I'd recommend all Assault Frigates start with this slot filled, and unless you have a better plan, I'd recommend ECM or Reactive Gunnery.  As I said way up at the top there, Assault Frigates HATE having their defense tokens locked down.  So, don't let them ACTUALLY get locked down with ECM! The key to this is remaining in the arcs/distance of only one ship at a time.  When you start needing to worry about multiple ships and multiple shots coming in at your Assault Frigate, then you're in bigger trouble than you ACTUALLY want to be.  I've played the ship a lot recently, and with all the giant dice pools being thrown about from Super Star Destroyers and Kuat ISDs, you need to be able to spend your defense tokens when things go badly.  Assault Frigates love to spend multiple defense tokens on ONE attack in order to mitigate the worst of things before they explode.  This is why I recommend ECM, just to ensure you DO get to use your tokens.  If you can remain at long, however, Reactive Gunnery is another great choice.  Unless they lock down all 3 of your defense tokens in an attack, you can Salvo back at them, getting in SOME damage as they attack you.

The OTHER often seen upgrade for Assault Frigates is some sort of Turbolaser.  There's a lot of good options, provided you understand what they're doing for you and what you may need to overcome with their addition.  I suggest reading the Turbolaser upgrades article and thinking about your ship's role in the fleet.  As a ship with 2 blue flak dice, Heavy Fire Zone isn't a terrible choice here, especially if it forces your opponent to come into range with it.  You're basically throwing out red dice and hoping, but if you pair it with Ruthless Strategists and laying the hurt on your opponent when they close, I don't hate the build.  Usually though, with all the red dice on here, it's Linked Turbolaser Towers.  If you have a better option, go for it, but usually, just use LTTs.

Weapons Team:
This is going to be tailored towards its goal in your fleet.  If you've got squadrons and want help with their output, this is the second cheapest (hi Vanguard) and best platform for Flight Controllers or Ruthless Strategists in the Rebellion.  If you're making an Ackbar fleet, Gunnery Team or Caitken and Shollan work wonders as well.  And the Boarding Team (basic and Rebel special!) options are all solid in different ways.  If you want to make that Local Fire Control-Paragon, the A is the ship to do it on, so Local Fire Control is a solid choice here.  What role is the AF serving in your fleet, and how can this upgrade help it do that goal better?  Do you need it, or are you fine without it? Remember, cheaper is better with the AF.

Offensive Retrofit:
Similar question about necessity as the Weapons Team, but Advanced Transponder Net is great if you want protection, and the natural Engineering 4 means that you can drop 2 Proximity Mines at the start of the game.  I wouldn't take Expanded Hangars necessarily, as you can get squads 3 by using the Mark II B, below.

Something Must Be Done About Symmetry, Steinman! (94 points)
Spinal Armament
Reactive Gunnery

The benefit of this build is that every arc is firing 3 red and a blue dice, so you really don't care where your opponent ends up so long as it's somewhere near you.  You can navigate all over and end up shooting him over and over again, so long as you've got dice correction elsewhere in your fleet (Intensify Firepower?) or REALLY trust your dice.  Reactive Gunnery added in for one of the strongest Salvos in the Rebellion, and you likely shouldn't include your commander on this version of the ship.

The Bad Decision (104 points)
Linked Turbolaser Towers
Local Fire Control

This ship gives your opponent no good choice.  If they shoot you, they take the Salvo shot back (with red dice reroll as needed) and then get shot back on your actual activation with black dice coming in.  If they decide to not help you and not give you the salvo shot, you light them up with red dice with impunity and teach them not to ignore you.  Solid damage, great contributor, and really not horrid for its price point.  ECM is included to ensure you get to get the salvo off.
Swim away from pie
The B variant is cheaper than the A, at the cost of (as I just stated) one blue dice in the face/rear and one flak dice.  But I get to push more squadrons, so.... profit?  If you want a general all-purpose chunky carrier, it's a solid option.

The upgrades are nearly the same as above, but I'll provide a few more builds.

Giga-Drill (98 points)
Intel Officer
Slaved Turrets
Caitken and Shollan

I brought this to Worlds 2 years ago, and you'd be surprised how MEAN it is.  With a concentrate fire dial under Ackbar, I can get 7 rerollable dice on one target (if you have a token, you can reroll another one again!)  With Home One nearby, I've got a guaranteed accuracy, so I can one-shot flotillas and most smalls are in a LOT of trouble.  All the upgrades are basically built towards taking ONE SHOT that kicks like a mule.  I paid 98 points for a better Cymoon with built in reroll mechanics.  This ship is deceptively evil, as you keep staying on target towards them for shot after shot, unless they start running away from you towards your other ships.

El Cheapo (79 points)
Linked Turbolaser Towers

This is the barest version I would consider running of the Assault Frigate, and you know what? It's a workhorse that gets the job done.  It would be NICE to have Gunnery Team, but I've been finding recently that I'm not playing a lot of MSU and needing a second shot out the side, so Gunnery Team isn't as necessary for me.  This ship can slot in almost anywhere and it'll do its role pretty well.  Always remember for your builds that cheaper is better, and it'll still get some decent work done.  I'd love to add in a defensive retrofit and boarding team and and and and.... but end of the day, the red dice aren't horrid (barring incredibly sad dice luck) and it contributes.  Just be careful as you have no way of dealing with accuracy generation or natural rolls.  Stay at range as much as you can with this one.
Alt arts are cool
Relatedly, I've seen people malign the Assault Frigate because it's not really "great" at any specific role.  But it slots into so many roles so well that once you can learn to leverage its generalist nature for what you need in this specific game, it can do a lot more than you'd think.  The more it can do, the more it's able to do for you when you need it.  I've had a lot of success just including it recently with the El Cheapo build above with an added boarding team just to ensure that the rest of my list can start wailing on whatever flagship centerpiece I need to (the boarding team is because I know I'm going to end in close range based on my own crazy decisions).  It's one of the few Rebel ships able to put out decent damage at red range and survive a counter attack, and it commands squadrons as well as most of the other Rebel larges.  I've had good success doing various commands each turn with it, doing a little bit of everything all game and it gets work done.  It's also one of the (only?) ships where you don't mind if your opponent gets behind you, as your front and rear dice are identical, so you're still harassing them with the same dice each shot.

If you want to succeed with the Frigate, it does a lot pretty well.  So do a lot with it.  Command squads one turn, repair some damage another, navigate to where you need to be on a third, etc etc.  Make it into something that your opponent can't ignore; it takes more to kill this ship than you'd really think it should, and that's often enough to turn games around because of it.

Final Thoughts
The Assault Frigate isn't the most amazing ship at anything, but it puts out solid damage and can push a good quantity of squadrons as needed.  It hasn't been seen as much, but if you treat it like a more maneuverable Large Ship, it has a few very good purposes. It's been slagged for a while, but don't pretend it's something that it isn't and you'll do great with it.


  1. Great article!

    My favorite Ackbar-Toadspam list is:
    3 x Frigate - B w/Turbolaser Reroute, ECM, Intel Officer
    GR-75 w/Toryn Far, Boosted Coms
    Shara Bey + A Wing (or 2 generic X-wings & Bright Hope on the GR-75)

    It's vulnerable to the Ryhmer Ball but with each toad putting out 5-6pts each turn, it's take down an ISD in two turns if I can cross my opponent's T.

    1. Oh nice! Yeah, Intel Officer on that side shot can get MEAN. I'd wonder about getting in more fighters somehow, possibly by turning Han into 2 X-wings or so in order to get better coverage

    2. My main non-bomber concern with a fleet like that (and I faced a lot of them back in wave two) is it gets in a lot of trouble when someone can get to the head of the conga line. Back in the dark days of Ackbar I got a lot of practice at "outmaneuver the Assault Frigates or else your face gets melted" and at this point I'm quite good at it, as are a number of players who went through a similar training routine.

      It's absolutely brutal against slower heavier fleets, though. Especially so when they're VSD-style "front arc shooters" with poor speed and maneuverability. They're just stuck getting pummeled.

  2. Where did you get this alt art card? I love it and want one. Any available on Thursday night armada?

    1. It's from way back in wave one as I recall. They're at this point fairly rare but you can find them on eBay from time to time.

  3. Hi John. Would you mind posting (or linking to) some example fleets centered around the use of assault frigates? I have a hard time making assault frigates work in my rebel lists and would like some ideas that I could work from. Thanks in advance.

    1. The easy answer is JJ's winning Worlds fleet from last year. It was:
      Assault frigate MK2 B
      Flight Controllers

      MC30 torpedo
      Ordnance Experts
      H9 Turbos

      Toryn Farr
      Bright Hope


      Comms Net

      8x Y-Wing
      2x YT-1300
      2x HWK-290

      It's mean, and those Y wings get work DONE. Other than that, not really sure I know of any. I have dumb Sato plans, but I'm not a role model, and I don't have them figured out yet, haha. When the hammerhead drops, it might see more use, with the boarding cards (as they and Hammerheads are the only Rebel ships that can take them)

  4. Reading the update I notice in your first line about its health (6) you still call it the 4th healthiest Rebel ship, neglecting to mention the Starhawk

  5. Just a quick note: the Mark II A also has one extra blue dice in the back as well as the front!

    1. Things I lose in the updates.... fixed now!

  6. ""Something Must Be Done About Symmetry, Steinman""
    The names you find for your builds are on themselves a reason to read you blog!!! thank so much for them :)