|There's no good way out of this tangent, so enjoy some sweet missiles!|
|Alternatively, perhaps this dapper gif will convince you!|
|You can have an Imperial ship in any color so long as it's gray.|
- 4 hull
- 2 evades and one brace defense token
- 2 shields in every hull zone (for a total of 8)
- Command 1, Squadron 1, Engineering 2: adept at making command choices on the fly but miserable at commanding squadrons and mediocre to poor at repair.
- Speed 4 maximum with 2 clicks of yaw at speeds 1 and 3, 3 clicks at speed 4, and 4 at speed 2 (the sweet spot). That's still a good number of clicks for each speed total with the notable exception of speed 3 being rather mediocre.
- 4 upgrade slots with room for an officer, weapon team, offensive retrofit, and weapon upgrade (ordnance for the Raider-I, ion cannon for the Raider-II).
- Anti-ship dice strongly favoring the front arc and growing increasingly weak as you approach the rear. The front hull zone is set up "Imperial standard" with a big generous front arc that takes some real estate away from the side arcs.
- Two anti-squadron dice, which is quite impressive on such a cheap ship.
In general, I'll be defaulting to the Raider-I with advice here, as I currently consider it the "default" Raider. I'll cover a bit more as to why once we get to the specific Raider variants breakdown, but the basic recommendations apply in the most part for Raider-IIs as well. The upsides of good Raider use are pretty obvious: for such a cheap ship, you get a lot of potential damage out the front(albeit short-ranged), very potent flak, very high max speed (the first and thus far only Imperial ship that can naturally go speed 4), and pretty good maneuverability (with some exceptions).
There are downsides and common play errors that need to be mitigated/avoided to get the payoff, though, and that's where inexperienced Raider commanders can struggle. Your ability to succeed with Raiders will largely depend on dealing with those downsides, so I'll cover those below. I'll warn you that the article is rather lengthy in an attempt to preemptively address concerns, so get comfy, it's a bit of a ride...
1) Your defense token suite and attack dice seem at odds with one another.
A pair of evade defense tokens and a brace can keep you pretty safe at long range and is all right against all but the fiercest volleys at medium range too. Once you get into short range, though, your evades do nothing and it's common for attacking ships with blue dice to generate an accuracy to lock down your brace token. You can't stay at long range and actually get use from your attack dice, which function best at short range. Therefore the Raider feels either very vulnerable but potentially useful or very safe but basically worthless.
How to handle this
Successful Raider use often involves a lot of navigate commands (dials and/or tokens) for speed and, at speeds 3 and 4, yaw management. Frequently I see people misuse Raiders by deploying them at speed 3 or 4. This is usually a mistake, and often a fatal one. Ideally your Raiders should start at speed 2, or rarely, speed 1. They should take a nav token on the first turn and often receive a navigate command again on turn 2. This gives you a considerable amount of control over where exactly you will be committing to moving on turns 2 and 3 at the very least and lets you play it cagey in the early game where you'll be out of range or at long range on turn 2 rather than running suicidally into the kill zone early on. Effectively, the Raider's survivability is very dependent on positioning and you want to use its superior yaw at speeds 1 and 2 while waiting for your opportunity to make that happen.
Specifically, what you're trying to accomplish is to stay at long range of enemies when they are attacking and then attack them back at short range starting around turn 3 (or turn 2 if the enemy is barreling at you) to get in 1-2 rounds of pummeling before repositioning or escaping, depending on the circumstances. This can be accomplished a few ways, but the easiest and most applicable is to "catch" enemies that must move towards you. The Raider is well-suited to this tactic, able to stay at long to medium range and then take advantage of its large front arc to catch enemy ships that activate, make a poor to medium quality attack against it, and then find they can't escape getting attacked at short range when the Raider activates later.
For example, here the Raider used its superior maneuverability earlier and ended in the Assault Frigate's front arc. It took a two red dice attack at long range (which it handled with 2 evades and a brace) and then the speed 2 Assault Frigate had to move into black dice range. The Assault Frigate attempts to make the most of the situation by lining up a broadside on the Raider for next turn, but the Raider will still get to activate afterwards and put its front arc to good use on the Assault Frigate.
This is the kind of tactic that's easiest to use when you have equal or greater number of activations than your opponent so you can "wait out" opponents like in the example, forcing them to move before you do. The good news is Raiders are cheap and so they facilitate this tactic through their own inclusion, but they'll often want some help from other cheap activations like Gozantis and to some extent Arquitens and the like. It becomes even more effective when you are first player, as you can either combine the above-mentioned "catch" tactic with getting in another round of punching first or you can activate a Raider after all opponent ships have activated, run it into short range, then activate it first to cause some havoc before running away screaming.
This is all fairly "best case scenario," mind you, but it's quite doable with some practice. It requires practice at eyeballing maneuvers (especially as to what kind of attack arcs you end in and where you extend your front arc), adapting to opponent moves, and keeping an eye on ranges (both yours and your opponent's).
I suppose if there's a short soundbite version of the advice above it would be "do not run your Raider into short range of unactivated enemy ships thinking it can tank the attacks just fine." You get better mileage from your Raiders by focusing on their positioning, speed, and order of activations to get them to receive attacks from long or medium range but then deliver their own attacks at short range (and then decide from there if you can stick it out or need to GTFO). In some cases you can use a Raider more aggressively by running into short range of enemy ships before they're activated, but that's more of the kind of thing a Gladiator-class Star Destroyer can get away with (and even then, not against the scary arcs of stronger ships). If you're trying to use your Raider like a Gladiator, you'll be disappointed to learn that Gladiators are better Gladiators than Raiders are. What the Raider has that the Gladiator does not is superior maneuverability, especially at lower speeds, a much lower effective points cost (we'll get there in a bit), better flak, and a larger (and I daresay overall better) front arc that is easy to catch enemy ships in. By using a Raider more reactively, you can take advantage of these traits.
2) You have a lot of shields but lack a redirect token
Raiders have twice as many shields as they have hull, but getting full use of them can be tricky. It's pretty common for Raiders to be destroyed with 4 or more shields remaining, which can make them feel extremely fragile even compared to Rebel CR90s, which have 1 less total shield and no brace token but get some use from their redirect defense token. Damage to the front hull zone's shields in particular is the most common problem - your Raiders' largest hull zone is their front, it faces the direction they move, and it's the hull zone you're trying to line up to make your most potent attacks from (meaning the enemies you're trying to use it against can shoot it right back in many cases). Once you're down to 2 hull or less, attacks on unshielded hull zones just need to deliver 3 total damage (or 2 and lock down the brace with an accuracy), and you're done for.
How to handle this
If you're not able to simply avoid attacks through sneaky flying (as I outlined above), then you basically have 3 options as to how to handle this problem:
- Repair commands: with an Engineering value of 2, you can move 2 shields from healthy hull zones to a depleted one with a repair command dial (or regenerate 1 naturally). I've found this can substantially prolong the lives of Raiders that are taking light to moderate damage over extended periods of time. You can usually be pretty sure of which 2 hull zones are exposed to most enemy ships and keep those 2 healthy at the expense of the others. It's important to consider which hull zones will be under threat after you move, rather than upon activation of the Raider, though. This option is a lot more appealing when you've got your navigate needs under control for the time being (usually with a banked navigate token) and you don't need the concentrate fire command much for your circumstances.
- Maneuvering: especially at speed 2 and speed 4, you can control which hull zones are presented to the same enemy simply by changing the angle of your Raider to that foe. Pointing your shieldless hull zone into empty space and bringing a healthy hull zone lined up with a source of light damage can help prolong your Raider's life.
- Today is a good day to die: sometimes your Raider is just going to have to sacrifice itself in the pursuit of something greater and you can't wiggle your way out (#2) or meaningfully fake redirect shields with a repair command (#1). If this bothers you, try to keep track of all the damage your brace token saved you over the whole game compared to how it would've gone with a redirect. It can be more than you'd think and that might console you as your Raider explodes despite having some full shield hull zones left.
3) Your flak is powerful but short-ranged
Two rerollable (hello, Ordnance Experts!) black flak dice on the Raider-I are brutally effective, quite often producing 2 damage per squadron attacked, but unfortunately are short-ranged only. The Raider-II has one blue and one black, but isn't fully contributing with flak unless you can get to short range so it can go from one die to two. How do you get enemy squadrons into the kill zone?
How to handle this
The core piece of advice I have here is bring along a fighter presence. TIE Fighters (or any fighter squadron, really) + Raiders are greater than the sum of their parts. TIEs can engage enemy squadrons, pinning them in place for the Raider. Even with an Intel squadron around, TIEs can still engage the edges of the blob, pinning some in place, and forcing the remainder to react to their presence. So long as your Raiders are within range to your other ships, it presents difficulties for bomber groups with Intel - they can hold off on going after your ships (which is great for you), they can go after nearby non-Raider ships while trying to avoid engaging your TIEs and taking Raider flak, or they can try to get the alpha strike on your TIEs+Raiders and eat double black flak dice. The main issue there is positioning your fighters so that any engagers are also going to eat Raider flak. Here's how I like to do it:
The alternative is to try taking the Raider out quickly, but this will usually require an Intel squadron (landing in the front) to make the TIEs heavy and then 1-2 bomber squadrons activated afterwards (with a flotilla or Squadrons 2-3 ship) coming in afterwards. This certainly smarts, but barring perfect luck is insufficient to destroy the Raider. The Raider can then flak when it activates and move away from trouble. The TIEs will be happy to pour more damage into the bombers.
When applied to a whole fleet, you can get flak pockets that make sending bombers in recklessly very unappealing as you get decent coverage across a whole fleet, making it much more difficult to simply ignore the Raiders. Example:
The one last piece of advice on this subject that I want to impart is that Raiders are great at flakking but that's not all they do. Sometimes people bring along Raiders just for their flak and then are disappointed that the job could have been better done by investing 44+ points into fighters instead. The great thing about Raiders is that they can contribute strongly to the squadron mini-game while also threatening ships and their points don't count against your 1/3 squadron limit (if you're using them to support a Rhymer ball, for example, and you're topped out on squadrons). Oh, and they're an extra ship activation which is always a useful thing to have (and which fighter squadrons can't help with). They're not directly comparable to fighter squadrons, so I recommend avoiding thinking of them as purely anti-squadron assets.
4) Your high speed maneuverability isn't great
If you compare a Raider and an ISD at speed 3, you'll find that somehow your little dagger of doom isn't really coming off better at maneuvering compared to the giant pizza slice. Speed 4 is definitely better (3 clicks of yaw versus 2) but still not as good as the Rebel CR90 (which gets the same nav chart at both speeds 3 and 4 but with a 2 click final joint). So what gives?
How to handle this
In short, speed 3 on a Raider is pretty poor. Sometimes it is necessary, but in general I would avoid it when you can by jumping from speed 2 to speed 4 using a navigate dial and token simultaneously. Speed 2, however, is the sweet spot for Raiders, offering a large degree of control over your destination with 4 clicks of yaw and a lot of room for maneuvering shenanigans. Two oldy but goody maneuvers a Raider can do at speed 2 with no additional assistance are:
|Also known as "the maneuver most likely to be mistaken as illegal"|
All this is not to say you should never go faster than speed 2. Speeds 3 and 4 are often helpful for pouncing on targets of opportunity and for stepping on the gas to make a getaway from dangerous foes. Just be aware that going from speed 1-2 to speeds 3-4 is switching from "maneuverability/wait and see mode" to "step on the gas" mode
Summarizing all of this
The core mistake some players make with Raiders is they see the Raider's black dice batteries and high max speed and think of them as faster baby Gladiators. The Raider's defense token suite, hull zone arc geometry, unremarkable (for its speed/size) yaw at higher speeds, flak dice setup, and general desire to support and be supported by the rest of your fleet are opposed to this usage. It is often an attempt to use Raiders this way, and subsequently failing, that convinces players Raiders are worthless when the complaint from those players is actually "I can't successfully use Raiders the way I thought they should be used at first." Using Raiders well can be very rewarding but requires using them in support of a fleet with a moderate to high number of activations and keeping them at speed 2 or so to "catch" enemy ships/squadrons until necessity dictates a speed change.
Fleet-building and other basic advice
Beyond everything I wrote above, I find it's helpful to keep your Raiders as cheap as possible. They want to be in fleets with lots of activations (as I already mentioned, probably too many times 😁) and they benefit themselves by being cheap so as not to get in their own way by eating up points you want to spend on other ships. Additionally, Raiders can be fragile and even with adept piloting they will on occasion be destroyed, so overinvesting into them can be counterproductive.
Raiders are also helpful for cheaply hunting enemy flotillas. You can crash-land into a flotilla, dealing it (but not you!) one face-down damage card and then opening fire on it during your next activation (preferably with a concentrate fire dial to go fishing for a blue accuracy if necessary). My Raiders love crash-landing into the fluffy softness of enemy flotillas, and so should yours!
I do not recommend issuing squadron commands. Squadron 1 is poor and your Raiders have their hands full with all their other concerns and even with some help from Expanded Hangar Bays (bringing them up to Squadron 2), they will frequently need to do something else just to stay alive. I've tried Raiders as pocket carriers for fun and it just doesn't work.
Phew, I'm glad we're out of that section. Aren't you glad we're out of that section? The sun is shining, it's swell. On to talking about the two Raider titles!
|Come on, Raider titles - I just spent way too many words explaining that you can't use Raiders impetuously and this is the name you give me to work with?|
|It plays the chicken dance on loop on all comms channels! It must be destroyed!|
- Friendly squadrons attacking enemy squadrons engaged by the phantom Instigator squadrons will benefit from the Swarm keyword.
- Intel cannot make the phantom squadrons Heavy (as they don't exist on the table) and Grit doesn't work when engaged by 2+ squadrons, so enemy squadrons at distance 1 of the Instigator cannot move away unless they have some kind of special exception (like Tycho).
- The FAQ ruled that if enemy squadrons are only engaged by Heavy squadrons and the Instigator's phantom squadrons, they are allowed to attack the Instigator, so be aware of that.
|At last we meet again for the first time for the last time!|
Given all my earlier advice assumed the Raider-I as the "default" Raider, we've already talked about this little guy quite a bit. We know his strengths and weaknesses and how to use him. Let's then not waste any more time and get straight to upgrades and builds:
Always Ordnance Experts (barring one weird build, below) in the weapon team slot. Always. Being able to reroll your black dice is nice against ships but it's horrific against squadrons with two black flak dice, improving your average damage from 1.5 to 1.88, very consistently generating two damage. For only 4 points, it's an extremely potent upgrade on Raiders and you need a very good reason not to use it.
A note on ordnance upgrades
Unless you're playing Screed, black crit ordnance upgrades simply don't have enough material to work with to trigger reliably. They're not terrible for upping your average damage but they're still a bit of a crapshoot, particularly on your weak side arcs.
External Racks should be considered part of the default kit for the Raider. For 3 points the ability to add 2 black dice to any one short-ranged attack per game is a great deal and allows a prepared Raider to roll up to 7 dice (4 from the front, 2 from External Racks, 1 from concentrate fire dial) in a single go at a very affordable cost. The External Racks can be used from any arc and even against a squadron (just one) should that be a priority. Because Raiders are designed for burst damage and then they intend to jet off or reposition elsewhere, External Racks are ideal for them and I can no longer imagine leaving the ordnance slot unfilled as of wave 6.
The alternative to External Racks for the same cost is Flechette Torpedoes, which are more specialized anti-squadron tech but are quite good for that role. Being able to exhaust an otherwise-unactivated squadron can be extremely useful against a squadron-heavy opponent. This gives your fleet time to keep flakking and attacking that squadron without worrying about damage from heavy bombers, Sloane aces, and the like in the meantime.
Although Disposable Capacitors are near-mandatory with the Raider-II, you can still get some mileage out of them on a regular ol' Raider-I if you've got 3 points to spare. Given that your Raiders are frequently at long range of enemies on turn 2, a Raider-I with Disposable Capacitors and a concentrate fire dial can throw 3 blue dice at long range when it's otherwise just repositioning. Is that worth it? ...maybe. I can see a good argument either way, but it's worth considering if you've got a few spare points.
Ordnance Experts and External Racks or Flechette Torpedoes
This is my default Raider-I that I run about most games. 51 points for a self-contained little corvette of equal-opportunity pain. Nothing else required. At this point I usually default to the amazing External Racks for the reason I gave above but Flechette Torpedoes in the right fleet can also be quite good.
Sensor Team(!)+External Racks
This is a specialized build, but your anti-flotilla attack run effectively works like this:
- Attack a flotilla with your front arc at short range.
- Use concentrate fire dial to add an extra black dice.
- Use Sensor Team to flip a blue die to an accuracy if necessary.
- Use External Racks to drop in an extra 2 black dice if necessary.
- Your remaining damage should be enough to finish off the flotilla.
The main downside of the Flotilla Assassin build is it gives up your Ordnance Experts black dice reroll insurance and it's not terribly effective when you're not using your External Racks.
Squadron Murder Machine MkI
Ordnance Experts, Impetuous, Agent Kallus, Flechette Torpedoes
The Squadron Murder Machine takes its job very seriously and it's good at it. You will get your regular two attacks each turn plus the Impetuous additional attack against squadrons and if any of those attacks are directed against unique squadrons, Agent Kallus adds a die of any color (usually black) and then your Ordnance Experts can reroll any blank black dice and then you can spend a hit+crit die to toggle squadrons to activated with Flechette Torpedoes if you need to.
I'm particularly fond of the Squadron Murder Machine when you're able to move it in last on a given turn near an activated bomber group and then open up with it first thing next turn. With two 3-rerollable black dice barrages, you stand a very good chance of sniping Jan Ors out of a Rebel bomber group and anything you don't kill you stand a good chance of toggling to activated before you make your getaway (or, if it's safe, keep circling the cloud pouring flak in). The main downside of this build is it's expensive at 58 points and it's specialized against a fairly slippery prey that wants to be nowhere near it. When it works it's glorious but results for me have largely been mixed compared to the more all-purpose Cheapo McNormal build.
Ordnance Experts, Expanded Launchers, Intel Officer
First things first - this build is extremely expensive at 68 points, getting into "lightly upgraded Gladiator" territory. What it does offer is one extremely strong front arc it wants to snare enemy ships in. Assuming you use a concentrate fire dial, you're looking at five rerollable black dice and 2 blue dice, which should produce an average of 7.75 damage plus the Intel Officer sniping an enemy defense token which produces some difficult decisions for your opponent. It's definitely just as fragile as a regular Raider, however, which is why I usually prefer the Cheapo McNormal build, but the Super Raider is definitely an option if you've mastered Raider use and want to use them instead/in addition to a cheaper Gladiator.
If you're fine with a more limited-application Super Raider, you can replace the Expanded Launchers with External Racks and bring the cost down to 58 points, which is much more palatable but generally makes the Intel Officer investment less effective over the course of a game.
|The Raider-II may not be very good but it puts on a great pyrotechnics show!|
So let's talk about the Raider-II and why at the moment I'm not as big on it as I am the Raider-I. The Raider-II is similar to the Raider-I with a few generally minor differences:
- Front arc trades out one black die for a blue die, bringing it to 3 blue + 1 black
- Flak goes from 2 black dice to 1 black + 1 blue
- Ordnance slot replaced with an ion cannon slot
With the addition of Disposable Capacitors in wave 6, the Raider-II has improved a bit lately and can be used at long range once per game with the right setup. This can make it a bit more effective even if the base chassis still has some conflicting feelings on what it would like to be doing. I'll go into the build I'd consider with that below.
The main benefit of the Raider-II over the Raider-I at the moment is it has one blue flak die that allows it to attack out to longer ranges. This makes it fairly unappealing for Ordnance Experts (as the Raider-II has less black dice, and particularly half the black flak dice) which opens up the weapon team slot for Ruthless Strategists. If your fleet is running a sufficiently high amount of hull points in squadrons, Ruthless Strategists allows you to trade cheap mass hull points on your squadrons for (preferably) expensive limited hull points on enemy fighters engaging those squadrons, and the Raider-II's superior flak range allows it to trigger Ruthless Strategists more consistently than a Raider-I could.
Squadron Murder Machine MkII
Impetuous, Agent Kallus, Ruthless Strategists
Similarly to the MkI version, you're hoping to leverage Agent Kallus and the Impetuous title together as effectively as possible. The MkII gains some benefits in that it can trigger Ruthless Strategists for guaranteed extra damage one more time due to Impetuous and it benefits from Agent Kallus being able to be used against more targets due to the longer blue+black flak range. It suffers a bit compared to the MkI in that it does not get rerollable flak dice and it can't play around with Flechette Torpedoes, but those are the trade-offs.
Gunnery Team(!)+Disposable Capacitors
For a base cost of 58 points, you get a corvette capable of throwing 4 blue (with concentrate fire) + 3 blue out of its front arc on turn 2. If you're feeling spendy, an ion cannon upgrade like SW-7s or Ion Cannon Batteries can help improve your damage as well. In future turns, you're going to need to get sneaky with your positioning to try to set up situations where you can hope to get two targets at medium range or closer with your front arc, but a Raider-II with this kind of build can add some extra firepower to a fleet featuring longer-ranged attackers like Arquitens light cruisers or ISD-IIs or VSD-IIs while still retaining some close-range and flak oomph.
Commanders that synergize with Raiders
Raiders with Ozzel are a dream and experience a lot less "command logjams" where they want to do 3 different commands at once than normal Raiders do. This is due to Ozzel's ability to increase or decrease your speed by an additional 1 when resolving a navigate command. You can go from speed 1 to speed 4 with Ozzel spending a navigate dial and token together if necessary, but more regularly it's superior to go from 2 to 4 and back again next turn with a dial and then a token, which frees you up to concentrate fire or repair more and allows you to hop right on over that lackluster speed 3 nav chart if you so desire. Ozzel is also a good fit with Gozantis, which Raiders like having around for activation padding and squadron commanding (which they're awful at).
Screed allows you to slap black crit upgrades on Raider-Is and get reliable use from them, making them much more effective against ships. You can even set up double-arc situations where you stand a decent chance of resolving the black dice crit effect twice, which makes such a cheap ship punch far above its weight. You can also use Screed in combination with Flechette Torpedoes against one squadron a turn if you absolutely must toggle that squadron's slider and your dice aren't cooperating.
Motti's synergy isn't extremely strong with Raiders but it must be noted that with Raiders start running into dangerous territory once you've hit 2 hull points and have an unshielded zone facing an enemy ship. Motti allows you to usually take one more attack before the Raider is destroyed, which can be effective. Raiders also like being run alongside the heavier ships (ISDs, VSDs, Interdictors) that Motti likes running in order to guard flanks, provide flak support, and provide cheap activations.
Grand Moff Tarkin
It requires a very specific kind of build to make Raiders function well with Tarkin when they would've done something similar or better with the other commanders on this list. Specifically, I'm thinking of Raiders in combination with Gozantis in a high-activation carrier fleet with a Relay squadron. Tarkin will normally want to spam squadron tokens in such a fleet, and Raiders are cheap shallow buckets for those tokens. The problem is the Raiders can run into issues spending those squadron tokens (they don't want to hold on to them by any means) but the Relay squadron allows for an easy way to quickly toss those tokens away with minimal hassle while the Gozantis use those tokens in earnest.
As I mentioned in the linked Vader review, Raiders work out surprisingly well with Tenacious V because Darth Vader wants combat ships and he wants them with extra defense tokens they don't mind spending. The Raider is the cheapest Imperial combat ship and has a pair of evade defense tokens. Being able to reroll the black dice after an earlier Ordnance Experts reroll produces consistent high damage from the black dice and being able to reroll the blue dice makes the Raider much more proficient at generating accuracy results to lock down one-of defense tokens (like the scatter on a flotilla, the redirect on a CR90, or the brace on many heavier ships). The Raider also happily provides some cheaper activation padding and flak coverage that Vader's fleets usually want pretty badly.
Remember all those times earlier when I complained about how the speed 3 and, to a lesser extent, speed 4 nav charts for the Raider weren't that impressive? And remember how I pointed out that it's not uncommon for Raiders to die with some shields still remaining due to their lack of a redirect token? Moff Jerry is here to use those extra shields to crank your high-speed Raider maneuverability way up! Jerry doesn't do anything for speed 1-2 Raiders but he doubles the clicks of yaw on a speed 3 Raider and brings a speed 4 Raider up to 5 clicks of yaw. Effectively Jerry ensures your speed 2+ Raiders always have access to 4 and in some cases more clicks of yaw. That's pretty swell of you, Moff Jerry. Jerry also finds his fleets like the same kind of generally more expensive ships that Vader does and the Raiders are happy to keep providing flak assistance and cheaper activation padding in a similar role for Jerry. Just make sure to keep some repair commands on hand when necessary to regenerate/redistribute shields so Jerry doesn't inadvertently make your Raiders more fragile.