Friday, March 3, 2017

Squadrons Encyclopedia 3: Medium Fighter Coverage!

We continue our coverage with Medium Fighter Coverage (MFC), something that the Rebellion excels at.  As I said before, this is somewhere from 75 to 100 points, and building it is a little nebulous.
No, I said nebulous, as in hard to define.  Hit me after the jump and I'll do the best I can at guiding you to this!
So the MFC has more points invested in it than the SFC, but less so than the Large Fighter Coverage, which usually means bombers for the LFC.  The goals of the MFC are similar to the SFC but different enough to warrant their own breakdown:

1) Deployment help
2) Keeping the other guy honest
3) Finishing off enemy squadrons
4) Substantial supportive damage into ships

1) is basically identical; see the last post for further discussion about this.

2) is similar, in regards to ensuring the other guy has some squadrons.  If he doesn't, great, go right to step 4!

3) is varied.  Your goal with the MFC IS to win the squadron war.  You want his squadrons DEAD.  You've either invested more than his SFC, in which case you want to finish them off quickly (We'll get to using these all soon, soon.  "Patience!" as Yoda would yell) or you want to destroy his LFC.  If you've invested ~80-100 points that spends the entire game killing/occupying his 130 points, that's a significant trade up on your part. You've got 30-50 floating points that (hopefully) are spent ganging up on his ships and destroying those instead.  Plus, as I've said several times, every turn his bombers aren't hitting your ships is one you're happy with.  You're ruining his plans to kill you with bombers, and you're destroying his squadrons.  You WANT to be spending turns rolling X-wings and YT-2400s into his B-wings, ripping them to shreds.  Most bombers don't excel at killing squadrons; they either have competent dice (Norra, B-wings for example), or they don't have enough to put a solid thwacking into you (Y-wings, Scurrgs, TIE Bombers) as compared to the squadrons you'll be using.  Your blue dice and squadron health should let you weather some of the storm they throw back at you in order to end them next. You want his squadrons GONE, so you can move right into:

4) With more points, you have more squadrons, with better Anti-Ship Battery.  So, you'll be putting more damage into ships.  It won't be as much as a full Bomber Cloud, but it can get some work done.  This is something you want to be doing AFTER you've cleared out his fighters.  If you can get rid of his Fighter Coverage, they won't be bothering you when you're wailing on his ships.  If you can't get rid of them (because 130 points...), that's several turns you're occupying them and preventing them from accomplishing THEIR goals, which is a win for you and your goals (namely, not getting blown up by a squillion bombers.  This is a very noble goal!)

Basically, the MFC is a "Hedge your bets" strategy where you can beat up on the SFC and then hit his ships, or you beat up on the LFC until you or it is dead.  Its a good number of squadron points, but you don't have to invest 134 points in squadrons to ensure that you won't die to a bomber cloud.  The squadrons you'll want for this are those that excel at multiple roles, but their primary role should USUALLY be Fighters.  The faster you kill his squadrons, the faster you can move into step 4 where you wail on his ships.
Just like this! Hopefully facing less Star Destroyers on your part though...

A few potential groups, and then we'll talk about other squadrons you can use.

1) Biggs, 5 X-wings (84 points)
1A) Biggs, Jan Ors, 4 X-wings (90 points)

This is an expansion of the previously mentioned Jan and 3 X-wings plan.  With this one, you DEFINITELY want Biggs here, just to ensure you're staying alive for longer.  Jan seems more worth it here, as she can reduce a lot of damage on those squadrons.

2) 6 YT-2400s (96 points)

And again we have an expansion of the previous group of 4 YT-2400s.  This is strangely a much stronger group than it would appear, as you've added in 12 hit points of health and 8 more blue dice being rolled against squadrons a turn.  With Rogue, you can focus on hitting the important linchpins of a LFC (The escorts for the Intel ships) before you start hitting the Intel ships themselves.  As soon as the Intel ships die, the bombers have to fight their own way out.

1.5) Jan Ors, 2 YT-2400s, 3 X-wings (90 points)

This is a mix between the 2 groups.  Jan and the X-wings do what they do (see SE2 for details of why that's good), and the YT-2400s allow for leapfrogging around, attacking either wounded squadrons to finish them off or wounding NEW, unhurt squadrons for the X-wing group to attack next turn.

3) 2 A-wings, 2 E-wings, 2 VCX-100s (82 points)

This is a build up of the group from the last post.  The A wings and VCXs move around and throw blue dice at whatever needs to be dead, and the E-wings Snipe what's already wounded and free up the other squadrons for moving next turn.

4) 3 A-wings, 3 E-wings (78 points)
This is an upgun of the 4 A-wings, 2 E-wings plan from before, and it assumes you're commanding about 3 squadrons per ship.  The 3 A-wings would swoop in first, and the E-wings follow up after to clear the A-wings.  It's all about leapfrogging again.

5) Hera, 2 X-wings, Rogue Squadron, 2 YT-2400s (100 points)

This is one way of going full Rogue with your squadrons and hitting things HARD.  Hera and her 2 Blue/2 Black is good at ending squadrons, and everything else has a solid 4 blue dice to hit squadrons with.  It's a little heavy on points, but the fact that everything is Rogue is a bonus here.

6) Hera, Wedge, Shara, Rogue Squadron (78 points)
4 squadrons that are very good, amazing, amazing, and very good at killing squadrons, respectively.  I haven't tested this out, but this is more of a bigger SFC, meant more towards delaying the enemy than ending them.  Given the abilities of everyone though, and with the anti-ship firepower they're packing, this could fall into this group as well.  Welcome to the Rebellion, a good bit of overlap everywhere!
Someday I'll get to field Wraith Squadron. It'll be glorious!
These are just ways of starting things out there.  There's PLENTY more where these all came from, and I haven't even started scraping the surface of some other squadrons.  Han Solo is great at ending enemy squadron threats and then going to attack ships afterwards (just like Hera is), Dash can do similarly (I wouldn't use them all together, that's a LOT of points invested in 3 squadrons).  If you'll recall, I said that the SFC DIDN'T want B-wings because they were too slow.  If you can add some MINOR support (specifically a Fighter Coordination Team), then you can actually get away with Ten Numb.  So long as you can lock down the enemy squadrons with the REST of your squadrons, you can trigger Ten Numb's ability.  I wouldn't necessarily include a full Yavaris load-out or a Pelta with All Fighters Follow Me!, but some support for your squadrons wouldn't be out of place.  This is very nebulous, and I fully admit that I haven't tested it, but he COULD work.  I'd personally rather use him in a LFC that can kill squadrons FAST so you can hit their ships as desired, but if you're determined to try him in a MFC, that's how I would use him.

I'm not entirely sure about Z95s en masse here, as that 3 health doesn't lead to overwhelming enemy squadrons.  Especially against the LFC.  Massed A-wings can work potentially, but you have to be able to command them.  As always, no matter what you choose, and I'll post it at least once an article, remember the First Law of Squadron Combat:

Squadrons activated by squadron commands > Rogue squadrons > Unactivated regular squadrons

Shara, if you can fit her in, is definitely worth her points.  No one wants to attack her, so she locks down whatever squadrons she's engaged with.  If you can clear out the Intel squadrons, several locked down Bombers are going to have a BAD TIME.  Regular A-wings though, have that 4 health issue that's been previously mentioned.  Tycho isn't a bad choice either, but if I had to pick one squadron, I'd go with Shara just to end whatever threat your opponent brings.

Who DON'T you want?
This is back in the nebulous answer area, as at the moment all I'll tell you is "Dedicated Bombers."  Scurrgs aren't meant for this role, no matter what their speed, Y-wings would rather be in a giant bomber cloud, and Luke Skywalker is a lot of points that could be an X-wing and maybe a Z95 instead.  Goal 1, if you remember, is to end his squadrons first.  Goal 2 is hitting his ships.  While Luke is great if you've broken his squadrons, he's not as great as if you went with Wedge instead, especially facing a LFC group.  YT-1300s, while not bad, need the support that B-wings would also need (FCT, as previously mentioned).

Ship Support
Whatever group you DO take, you're going to NEED to command them.  If you're trying to win the squadron war, you'll need them all moving, potentially even earlier in the turn than some of them want to go.  If you can jump your Rogues in earlier, like we talked about doing in Chapter 1, you potentially can kill his squadrons before they get to activate.  If you need to do it one turn (usually turn 2), it's ok.  Just remember that the more you do it, the less usefulness you're actually GETTING out of Rogue.  But if it ends 2-3 squadrons, it might be worth one turn of activation.

As I said a few paragraphs ago, All Fighters Follow Me! isn't USUALLY necessary, as your fighters are generally faster.  That doesn't mean I wouldn't include it if if helps your list enough.  With FCT and AFFM!, you can make YT-1300s move at speed 4+ (FCT 1, move 3 with AFFM!), but that's also a lot of points to OCCUPY the squadrons (YT-1300s don't kill as well as you would think, but they're darn good at occupying!)

I hesitantly wouldn't use Flight Controllers.  You're already bringing squadrons that are good at killing squadrons; I don't think it's worth the 6 points and your weapons team slot on a ship that might want Ordinance Experts or Gunnery Team to fit it.  It's more of a thing in the LFC in order to end whatever other force you're facing FAST.  The MFC doesn't mind too much being stuck in for several turns.  Eric may have a different opinion for Imperials, though.... which is a perfect time to hand this over to Eric!

Tag team!
Eric here! (I guess I'm Chewbacca?).
I once again agree on the basics with John (it's almost like we're friends who talk about these articles and Armada together or something): a medium fighter coverage approach is basically "hedging your bets" and overall it works best primarily with fighter-bombers as the meat of its squadrons. The fact is you will have more points invested into fighters than a small fighter coverage enemy fleet will and can expect to win the squadron mini-game there and then move on to bombing targets of opportunity. You will also have more points invested into fighters than a heavy squadron fleet will, although (s)he obviously has more points invested into squadrons. That means that you stand a good chance of crippling or outright destroying even a larger bomber-focused squadron investment if much of it is trying to squirm away to attack some of your ships rather than fight back. The main downside is if you're not careful with the construction of your MFC wing, you either overpaid for an SFC (initializations everywhere!) that wipes the enemy out and then can't really capitalize on its success to win the real game (due to being ineffective against ships for its investment) or you under-invested in an HFC that really would've appreciated 30ish more points spent on elements that make a bomber wing work more consistently.

For Imperials specifically, "standard" MFCs were something that was difficult to really put together satisfactorily until wave 5. We didn't have a good fighter-bomber squadron that could do the heavy lifting and attempts to put together a fighter specialists + some bombers for later on combo-package largely felt like a poor attempt to go for HFC-lite: you got bombers that really wanted more support elements hanging around with fighters who wished the bombers were capable of meaningfully helping them do their jobs. More specifically, the fighters+light bombers approach was subject to bad squadron match-ups: if your opponent brought more fighters than you, your bombers were largely stuck getting engaged by them and not contributing much. If your opponent brought lots of bombers, your fighter presence could struggle to really stop them and you'd be wishing those bombers turned into fighters because stopping the big thing your opponent was trying to do was more important than getting a little bit of extra damage in with your own bombers.

Anyways, enter the TIE Defender:
Don't mind me, I'll just be over here being awesome at life.
TIE Defenders come into their own with medium fighter coverage groups. I don't recommend investing heavily in them for the smaller fighter wings because you can only bring 4 of them at the 70(ish) points or less bracket, which is not generally enough anti-squadron muscle on its own to mess with heavier-squadron approaches (TIE Fighters, being specialists, are better at the straightforward task of "all we do is kill squadrons for cheap"), but it's very easy to tack on a pair of Defenders to a smaller fighter group to upgrade it to a medium fighter group and/or spend some points to upgrade some cheaper TIEs to Defenders. It should be noted that their bombing ability is still pretty mediocre (0.75 average damage), especially for their cost, but with hull 6 and speed 5 they can do some reliable mop-up work against ships later on. You can also use them as the centerpiece squadrons in an MFC, which we're getting to shortly (and don't forget Maarek Stele!).

There are some other wave 5 additions that help with building a MFC group as well and we'll cover those a bit below. As usual, these builds are basic starting recommendations and there are innumerable ways to put squadrons together, especially the higher your points limit, so don't treat these as the only way to do it.

1) 5 TIE Defenders and Maarek Stele
101 points

This is a bit on the expensive side for a "medium" squadron commitment, but it's pretty much the fighter-bomber group many Imperials have been lusting after since wave one. Very straightforward - get your Defenders in there, crack some squadron skulls, and then send them after ships afterwards. Maarek Stele is a champ at going after ships in the late game so try to keep him safe. You may wish to consider bringing along one Bomber Command Center Gozanti for the later game if bombing enemy ships is something you expect to do consistently later in the game. It's not strictly necessary, though.

You can vary this up a bit by replacing an individual Defender with 2 TIE Fighters for the same cost. So this could be 4 TIE Fighters, 3 TIE Defenders, and Maarek Stele if you wanted to improve your anti-squadron firepower and number of deployments at the expense of some of your bombing ability and needing more squadron-command muscle.

2) Adding Captain Jonus and Gamma Squadron to a small fighter coverage group
X+26 points
An issue you'll run into with Imperials is we just don't have the sheer variety of mixed-role squadrons Rebels do and so simply adding other specialists to an anti-fighter specialist group provides you with more options. I've chosen Captain Jonus and Gamma Squadron for this example for two reasons:
  1. They both have Grit, which allows them some measure of additional assistance in getting to their targets without needing to add the additional expense of an Intel squadron.
  2. Captain Jonus's special ability can be very strong in the right circumstances. Being able to deliver just him to a crucial area of the battle can allow you to transform winning (or at least contesting) the squadron mini-game into winning the ship-on-ship "real" game, which is the goal of a medium to heavy squadron investment.
You can always drop Gamma Squadron to save 10 points as Captain Jonus is the central feature of this easy-to-add module. You can spend some additional points to upgrade Gamma Squadron to a Firespray(+8) or TIE Defender(+6) as well.

2A) Adding a Lambda shuttle to a small fighter coverage group
X+16 points

Lambdas do not make your squadrons any better at handling ships all by themselves, but they do two important things:
  1. Make issuing squadron commands to your squadrons much easier due to Relay 2.
  2. Strategic gives you an extreme amount of control over objectives with objective tokens (yours and your opponent's).
It's really best to consider including a Lambda at the MFC stage when your objectives can take advantage of them and when you're using at least one Gozanti (as Relay 2 goes with Gozantis very well). It's not an "easy add" in that regard - it needs to fit well with your fleet but it can be extremely valuable for scoring lots of points. Intel Sweep, for example, against a second player with a Strategic squadron is extremely difficult to contest as first player. That's 75 points right there.

3) 6 Aggressor Assault Fighters
96 points
I can't say I strongly recommend this group, as it's basically a cheap knock-off of the superior 6 YT-2400 Rebel group for the same cost, but it has the noted advantage of being completely Rogue and so squadron-command free.  It does, however, offer enough anti-squadron firepower at this investment level to cause serious problems for other decent investments in squadrons and the Rogue+black anti-ship die is sufficient to chase after enemy ships once you've mopped up.

4) 6 TIE Fighters, Morna Kee, and Boba Fett
101  points
You may note this is my cheapo TIE Fighter group from the last article plus two big expensive squadrons (the ace VT-49 Decimator and Boba Fett). Morna and Boba Fett hang out as Rogue assistance for the TIEs in the early game and present something of a conundrum: both are a substantial amount of hull (Morna is 8 hull and a brace, Boba Fett is 6 hull and 2 braces) and individually are more effective against squadrons than a single TIE Fighter, but not for their points cost. If enemy squadron groups want to remove threats to their lives as effectively as possible they will focus on the TIE Fighters, but letting a pretty healthy Boba Fett or Morna Kee persist into the later game once they've mopped up enemy squadrons is extremely dangerous - both squadrons are happy to chase down fleeing enemy ships (Boba does an average of 1.75 damage plus his auto-ping for 1 and Morna with her reroll does an average of 2.25 damage) and with such a high amount of hull aren't scared of flak like the TIE Fighters are.

You can achieve something similar with generic Firesprays (you could get 3 for just about the same cost), but I prefer Morna and Boba.

5) Mauler Mithel, Jumpmaster 5000, Darth Vader, Zertik Strom, Soontir Fel, Captain Jonus
97 points
Hoo boy, all those aces. This is an upgunned meaner form of the Intel-aided Mauler-Soontir group from the previous article. It effectively does the same thing but better and it adds in a pretty-easy-to-deliver Captain Jonus to take advantage of the Intel bubble early on just to rub salt in the wound. Basically, you want to keep Mauler hopping around by using Intel for as long as you can. With two double-brace Escort squadrons (who can throw a mean punch if necessary), you can keep a good amount of coverage for your crucial components while getting Jonus to his targets.

6) Zertik Strom, Darth Vader, Whisper, 3 TIE Phantoms
98 points
This is the most experimental build I'll detail here, as TIE Phantoms are widely considered to be poor (and yet all the TIE Phantom haters don't seem to have any actual game experience with the things, curiously). I've had some success with a similar build - the idea is you need at least two sources of Escort to get your TIE Phantoms through the early game. Once enemy squadrons start getting winnowed down and your Escorts are likely dead or nearly-so, your TIE Phantoms should have free reign to concentrate together (using Cloak) to finish off any remaining enemy squadrons and then they can chase after ships.

Funny thing about TIE Phantoms - the two red dice anti-ship battery does the same average damage (1) as an unaided TIE Bomber. It's far swingier, mind you (there's a 39% chance of no damage at all!), but the average still comes out to one damage per attack and the maximum (1.6% chance) is 4 damage. That's pretty good from such a maneuverable squadron that may not need as much squadron-command babysitting due to Cloak.

It's definitely a weirder build, though. I find it works much better if you can place the station near where you expect the dogfighting to take place so you can keep moving the Phantoms (with Cloak) onto the station to heal at the end of the Squadron Phase. It's definitely trickier to use than the blunt force technique of just smashing problems with TIE Defenders, but it does have more "tech" options due to Cloak and is overall better against ships. The issue is surviving that long.

That's just beginning to dig through options when it comes to MFC options for Imperials, though, and I encourage you Imperial readers out there to try out some of your own ideas, too! Just remember that the basic goal with a medium fighter coverage approach is to "small fighter coverage harder" but use that approach to meaningfully do something once you win the squadron mini-game. You can achieve that with multi-role fighters (like TIE Defenders and maybe even TIE Phantoms) that can transition over to bombing ships or you can add some heavier multi-role squadrons (like Decimators, Firesprays, aces), or some tech bomber squadrons (like Captain Jonus/Gamma Squadron). What I strongly encourage you to avoid is going overboard on only killing squadrons unless your commander is Sloane. It can be tempting to create an "aces that hate squadrons flying circus" with Soontir, Mauler, Howlrunner, Dengar, and other TIE aces until you've just got the squadron mini-game on lockdown. The problem with that approach is it's a ton of points invested in not losing the squadron mini-game but it's absolute overkill when it comes to points applied towards actually winning the real game, as your anti-squadron aces are pretty ineffective against the enemy ships still hanging around once you've blown up all their squadrons. So be careful to be awesome only while it's cost effective 😉.

So with all that said, I'll give you back over to John!

I added in the TIE fighter picture because it was appropriate with regards to Eric talking, and because I doubt we'll see a Sabine's TIE fighter expansion for Armada.  I wouldn't say no to it, though...
Final Thoughts
There's not much more to cover here in THIS article right now.  We'll discuss how best to destroy enemy squadrons in our later articles, but always remember the goal here.  Destroy the squadrons, then go for the ships.

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