Thursday, December 10, 2020

Squadrons Encyclopedia 4: Large Fighter Coverage

Alright, this is what we've been leading up to, this is where it's all been headed: the Large Fighter Coverage (LFC) group.  I'm here to show you how to put together a solid 120-134 points of squadrons that are going to let you kill ships.  You want to paint ISDs on the sides of your X-wing? Well let's hit the jump below....
You can paint Raiders on the sides of your squadrons, too, but they're not as fun as Star Destroyers.  Or Demolisher....
I. Purpose and Definition
Before we begin assembling this all, let's talk about the goals of the LFC.  We went over the Small
and Medium groups before, but the LFC has very different goals:

1) Deployment aid
2) Increased damage from your ships
3) Substantial damage into enemy ships

1) Deployment Aid
With the points you're putting into your squadrons here, this group is going to make up a significant portion of your deployments.  With a usual 6-8+ squadrons in your list (roughly), you've got your first 4-5 deployments with your initial ship followed by those squadrons (Hyperspace Rings excepted!).  With the bomber blob, I cannot recommend enough the ability to deploy everything early on.  Squadrons can go ANYWHERE as needed based on your opponent's choices.

As a general guide, deployments 2 through X should be squadrons, where X is the deployment you run out of squadron pairs.

The phrase "general guide" gives me some wiggle room in case anyone wants to comment on their super special build that involves a weird combination of Shara Bey and Tycho that requires them to be placed last, but it also applies to all lists and their uses of squadrons.  I mentioned in the SFC article about the importance of delaying activations, but it's doubly so with the LFC.  You don't have nearly as many hard hitting ships as a LFC list, so you're going to need to make sure your ships get the work done that you need them to do.  The main reasons you might not want to deploy them early on are if you have slow speed 2 squadrons like B-wings.

2) Increased damage from your ships
With the exception of a few ships (looking at you, Ackbar MC80, and a loaded MC30 in general), many of the Rebellion ships don't have as strong a damage as if you had fielded an ISD.  An ISD-I front arc rolls 3 red, 2 blue, and 3 black dice.  The Pelta, in a vacuum, has less than wonderful damage dice than what you're paying for it.
I'm I was on a TV show! (RIP, Commander Sato)
Two red dice and two blue dice out the front don't seem like much to write home about.  But when you combine them with squadron friends:
I love math.  That's not even a joke, I'm a nerd who majored in it in college.  Weirdly, Eric is better with probability!
Suddenly you're contributing 6 more dice and rolling potentially as good as that ISD!  You're dealing better damage IN TOTAL than any other Rebellion ship can put out.  A list with a focus on LFC is one that you have to view in total.  It's not a matter of "the ships deal X damage and the squadrons deal Y," but it's more of a "Here comes a potential X+Y damage at my ship or ships, and I have to weather this storm."
In the eye of the hurricane, there are Y-wings.... a Gold Squad sky...
The even better thing is that you're paying for it in small lump sums.  If I kill the ISD, that's a LOT less dice coming at me.  But if I only lose 1 B-wing, that's just 1 less blue and black dice coming at me.  Still terrifying from the squadron loadout, especially when I replace that dead B-wing with a new friend that wasn't doing anything this turn.  Spoiler alert: that friend may be Luke Skywalker.  That above example is with a Pelta.  Now imagine the side arc of an HMC80 coming in, instead.  Ka-BOOM.

3) Substantial Damage into Enemy Ships
Tying into 2, you're trying to put a good amount of damage into ships.  As we've seen in Eric's ISD article, ISDs have 1 brace token, 2 redirects, and a contain.  Identical for the H1MC80, and nearly so with the VSD (without the contain, of course).  What does that mean? In order to kill those monstrosities with your squadrons, you're going to need to put significant damage into those ships.  You're investing significant points into these squadrons and their support (more on this below) in order to damage and blow up enemy ships.  Anecdotally, I've blown up more Large based ships with squadrons than without them.... but that also is because I'm usually the guy running squadrons!

The best way to do that with squadrons is to overload their defense tokens.  Jumping back to that ISD example, an ISD-II, with 4 reds and 4 blues, if it rolled perfectly on damage, could get 12 damage, if the reds all rolled doubles and the blues all rolled hits.  (The ISD-I can get 14).  Bracing that damage down against whatever ship is being attacked, that can be braced down to 6 (7).  Still not something I want to take, but potentially survivable.  A Pelta and 3 B-wings (with just the front arc) rolls 6 and 3, 3, 3 damage total maximum.  Not only is that potentially more, but because of the way tokens work, that can get braced down to 3, 2, 3, 3, for a total of 11 damage, and a removed brace token.  That's a ship that's running into issues FAST (even IF it was using its Redirects).  With the LFC hitting ships, you're not adding damage in giant lump sums, you're nickel and diming them to death.  Eric usually refers to this as Death By 1000 Cuts, and he's not wrong.  There's nothing more aggravating than being forced to use a brace token to reduce damage from 3 to 2 from a B-wing attack.  It frustrates opponents to no end.

This is a long article (mainly because I'm wordy, but at least I'm honest with myself), so here's a picture of a kitten thats entirely unrelated, but may help.
What picture would you use to describe the excess length? He's so hungry and adorable!
II. What You Want

As for all of the upgrades for these carriers, I'll direct you to the pages for:

Rebel officers: Toryn Farr, Adar Tallon, Captain Rex
Generic Officers: Flight Commander
GAR Officers: Clone Navigation Officer
Imperial officers:: Admiral Chiraneau, Commander Woldar
Bomber Command Center: For improving the damage you plan on doing to ships
Weapon Teams: For ending the squadron fight faster
Fighter Coordination Team/All Fighters Follow Me!: Speeding up your squadrons
Offensive Retrofits: For getting your ships better at commanding squadrons

I'm aware this article is taking a while, yes.  But koala-tee is important.
III: How to Use
I just want to reiterate our key points from the SFC article, as they relatively relate here and I don't need to re-explain these all. We'll be making some additions to these for the LFC, but we'll get to THAT later.  If you haven't read that already, do that as a start.

1) Squadrons activated by squadron commands > Rogue squadrons > Unactivated regular squadrons
2) Measure and Visualize Your Ranges
3) When attacking enemy squadrons, one dead squadrons beats 2 mostly injured ones
4) Use your flak shots to HELP damage enemy squadrons when you can
5A) When attacking a fighter group, move in as a group with your own fighters and engage one side of the squadron ball
5B) When attacking a fighter group, send in your fighters to have them engage different sides of your opponent's squadron ball, and try to have them meet in the middle.
5C) Given the choice, focus fire on the most important lynchpin squadrons FIRST.
6) Always remember that the main goal of the SFC is to occupy enemy squadrons as long as possible, potentially even at the cost of their own lives.

How do these change for the LFC? Well, let me change topics.  When you're at work and you have the thought to say something during a meeting, you need to consider three things.
Is this working?
1) Does this need to be said?
2) Does this need to be said by me?
3) Does this need to be said by me today?

The focus of these questions lets you decide whether or not interjecting your opinion into a discussion is both 1) relevant, 2) worth potentially angering someone above you in an effort to point out something you notice 3) and whether or not it's pressing enough that you need to say it NOW.  If your boss is trying to spend half a million dollars on a new piece of equipment, ask yourself those questions to determine if you need to speak up in the meeting.  It's a very good tool, now if only I would follow it!

So why do I bring THAT all up? Because using the LFC is very similar!  Each time you activate a squadron near OTHER squadrons, you need to ask yourself 3 questions as well!

1) Do I need to deal with that opponent's squadron?
2) Do I need to deal with that opponent's squadron before it can activate?
3) Do I need to deal with that opponent's squadron before it can activate with THIS squadron?

If your opponent didn't bring squadrons or if you've dealt with them all, you can go right ahead and start bombing his ships.  You mainly need to worry about dealing with other squadrons first, and THEN you can worry about hitting his ships.  I'm not going to get into How to Bomb here, as I address this in a later chapter.
I mean, basically, yeah. But there's more to it, just like this scene!
Let's break these thoughts down 1 at a time.

1) Do I need to deal with that opponent's squadron?
First, you need to evaluate how important killing that specific squadron is.  Let's look at an example below.
There's a lot of pictures and examples here, I try to break them all up with the jokey jokes.

The TIE fighter in the top left of the picture is engaged by Shara at full health (and only her), and your B-wings are near the front of that Gladiator.  There sure is another TIE fighter in front of that Gladiator, and that could be a problem... if it wasn't in that Intel bubble and engaging Wedge! Thanks, Jan Ors!  Your B-wings don't need to attack those enemy TIEs, they can grit out and go right for the Gladiator they want to be hitting.  Let's look at another example below.
When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way.  From your first cigarette to your last dying day!
Across from your squadrons that are about to activate are several other TIEs.  You have several choices of who is going to act, but whatever squadron you activate is going to want to be able to deal/lock down those TIEs.  You don't want them being able to move and attack you, so you need/want to send in a squadron or two to get them locked down before they can attack you (Shara seems like a lovely choice, and she can engage most if not all of them at the same time if she jumps in that opening in the middle!).  Hit them before they hit you, don't let them engage several sides of your bubble, I say, referencing my own work like a more literate Bon Jovi.
Shots fired at both Tommy and Gina
2) Do I need to deal with that opponent's squadron before it can activate?
This is very similar, but it's a different version of the above.  It's a matter of determining whether or not your opponent's squadron activating will help or hinder your plans significantly.  This one helps with more examples.  First!
A lot going on here, but it gets explained below.
As we can see in the picture, I have 2 TIEs engaged and 2 unengaged.  The 2 engaged ones can activate as needed, but with one hit point left each and engaging different squadrons each, they will not be killing anyone and moving, no matter HOW well they roll.  With the unengaged 2, however, Jan Ors is nowhere in sight (deliberately, for this example, of course.)  SOMEONE (Wedge maybe?) is going to have to get over there and engage them before they can jump your bombers and prevent them from moving this turn.  Your LFC in this case is acting like half of a SFC (jumping your opponent's squadrons before they can go and engage your bombers) and half a bomber cloud.  As I've said, the benefit of the Rebel squadrons is that most of your squadrons can double as both as needed.  Even your Y-wings can throw semi-competent dice at your opponent's squadrons if needed.
Not just for Death Stars anymore!
However, let's take a look at a DIFFERENT example that warrants more thought and care.
Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a gladiator!
In this picture, we have Wedge engaging one TIE, and it's been a heck of a space battle so far.  The B-wing is down to one health, as are the 2 TIEs engaging him.  Wedge is nearby and at full health, but he's engaging a TIE himself!  Based on this image, we can see that if those TIEs on the left get to go, they're going to hit that B-wing and likely kill it.  We can move Jan Ors in to give Wedge Grit (and we can attack the TIE there with her too!), so he can go and save that B-wing with his Escort.

However, this is a deceptive example.  What's the status of the Demolisher near those TIEs? He's barely alive, shieldless and down to 2 hull.  Maybe right now it's crucially more important that we send our other 2 B-wings in to attack Demolisher, or finish off Motti's ISD (not pictured), nearly dead B-wing be darned.
Darned to heck as much as Motti's ISD is in this picture
What this point means is that you not only need to determine if the squadron is worth fighting, but you need to determine if it's worth fighting NOW.  You need to look at the game state, see what's going on, what you're trying to accomplish, what ships you're attempting to blow up this turn, this activation, right now.

3) Do I need to deal with that opponent's squadron before it can activate with THIS squadron?

This one isn't as complicated, it's more of a designation of roles and activation orders.  Simply enough, if you're activating X squadrons, what are those X squadrons going to do? Who's going to fight what?  Simple example 1
Two of the most different squadrons we can bring to this example
In this example, we've got a wounded TIE and a healthy TIE across from us, and let's say that we only have 2 squadrons left to activate: Shara Bey and a Z95.  Who do we send, who goes first, what's the plan, Stan?
Don't need to be coy, Roy, just listen to me.
The smartest way to do things (again, in THIS SPECIFIC EXAMPLE) is to send in Shara first to hit the undamaged TIE.  Then, since she's also engaging the wounded TIE, you can send in the Z95 and use the Swarm reroll if needed to hit that wounded TIE.  What if you had Wedge and Gold Squadron? Wedge hits the unhurt one, and Gold hits the wounded one.  This is a combination of knowing what you can roll versus what your opponent's squadrons can do.  Let's pull another example together.
A lot going on here...
Somehow in this example, we've got Norra, a mess of B-wings, and Shara Bey all in range of some squadrons.  If we had (in this example), an HMC80 (not pictured) with a squadron token pushing all 5, what do we do?  We can push Norra and the B-wings into attacking the Demolisher right over there, and with our 5th squadron activation, we can either have Shara go for those TIEs, or we can push her into attacking Demolisher.  What if we had smacked Demolisher down to 4 hit points wounded and no shields anywhere to redirect to? Then we'd be very glad that we didn't send Shara in to engage those TIEs earlier in the turn when 6/8 dice sides of hers would be death for Demolisher.
Shara's playing this game better than any of the rest of us now!  Also, I'm so grateful for Google Image Search.
If however, Demolisher wasn't near death, and you had a second group of squadrons coming in next activation, Shara would want to go for those TIEs to make sure they aren't moving and preventing your other bombers/squadrons from doing their jobs.  Remember the real goal of your bombers: SUBSTANTIAL damage into enemy ships.

In reality, these questions are ones you should be asking yourself with all squadrons and groups of squadrons, be they SFC, MFC, LFC, or KFC.
I would rank this joke as finger licking good, too.
But it's much simpler for using the SFC to just occupy whatever is going where and saying "Delay them from doing damage as much as possible."  There's a LOT to squadron combat, and more as you go up and up in size of squadrons being brought.  I tried to keep the examples simple, but you can see how they can get complicated here.  A lot of this, of course, is going to be understood better in practice.

We've been running a lot of TIEs in our previous examples, as they're easy enough to distinguish from our Rebel squadrons.  But not every squad group you will face will BE 6 generic TIE fighters.  How do you deal with your opponent's squadrons, no matter WHAT squadron group they're running? You have 2 options, which depend on how your group is built.

You can either treat your entire swath of squadrons as a way to send EVERYTHING to hit your opponent's squadrons, stopping them from ever engaging you or bothering you the rest of the game.


You take the representatives of your LFC that are meant to be hitting squadrons (YT-1300s, X-wings, A-wings, etc) and use those to engage your opponent's squadrons, leaving your bombers to go do their jobs.

The second way works better with specialists.  You CAN send in TIE Bombers or Hyenas or Scurrgs to attack your opponent's squadrons but I wouldn't. Don't send a dupe to do a squint's job, you know?
Why yes I did just start rereading this today, why do you ask?
There isn't a great way to determine what you need to do.  If your opponent is smart, they throw their TIEs all over and engage your squadrons six different ways from Sunday.  Eric does this to me all the time, and it's very aggravating to fight.  Jan can't be everywhere, right?  It's going to come down to game state and what matters, but remember what the original goal of your bombers is: messing up enemy ships.  Keep them free to attack what's important, but if you end up spending one turn just wiping out all your opponent's squadrons, that's several turns you can spend bombing his ships with ALL your squadrons, and that's money in the bank.  And I suppose damage into his ships, as well.  Phrasing both of those instructions slightly better:

7) When attacking a different squadron group, you can either send everything in to overwhelm them and wipe them out, or you can send enough to occupy them while your others go and attack their ships.

And you'll need to determine the answers to those 3 questions from above, too!

Your LFC isn't JUST your squadrons, but your ships, their flak, Toryn Farr, Bomber Command Center, the objective, and everything else.  The whole story needs to get taken into account and I can't tell you how to interpret the ending, that's up to you to do, as unhelpful and as crappy of an ending as it is.
Steve, I love you and your writing, but the joke popped into my head the moment I realized what I had done with this article
Your Bombers want to bomb ships.  The goal of the game, though, is much different.

8) The goal of the game is to score the most points.

Really simple, really stupid, really important to remember.  If your B-wings team up and wail on a Defender each turn, killing 4 of them and staying alive, that's 42 points of yours you kept alive and 64 points of his that are dead, even IF they'd rather be shooting the ISD.  That's a 102 point swing there in an 800 total point game.  If you take out your opponent's ship that was going to get points from Fire Lanes before it can, that's 15-45 points you just won/prevented from going to your opponent.  If you're playing Precision Strike and you can go blow up Demolisher with your B-wings, that's a dead Demolisher's worth of points you're getting PLUS the Precision Strike points!  You ARE, of course, potentially trading your fighters for that Demolisher's worth of points.  You have to evaluate what something is worth to you and what it's worth risking.  Is a dead Demolisher worth Wedge having to punch out of his X-wing from a Defender attack (In my opinion, heccccccck yes!)  If you can take out the carrier that's pushing your opponent's squadrons, that's a much stronger kill on your side, because of the always present, always important, First Law of Squadrons. 

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

This scales (score points!) no matter what squad group you're using, of course.  But you have to try to figure out what your opponent is trying to do with their list and if you need to get the points out them now (killing their squadrons) or later (Rogue squadrons coming in during the squadron phase, or tabling all their ships gives you all the points for their squadrons, too).  The most important thing is that you need a plan.

9) Make sure you have a plan for your opponent's squadrons, as ignoring them will result in your loss.

I don't intend to sound like a pompous oaf, but I have a good idea of what I'm doing with squadrons.  When a lot of people were first getting into the game in our store, they weren't bringing squadrons, no matter how much Eric and I sounded like Cassandra telling people to do so.
On the darkest of nights, Nobody knew how to fight, And we were caught in our sleep
So I threw B-wings at them, and bam, people started bringing squadrons.  In this day and age, you NEED to plan for your opponents having squadrons, and you have to have an answer for them.  You don't need to know everything you'll do in every specific situation, because there's so many builds and things that can happen in a game, but you need an answer for squadrons in every game you play.  Even if the other guy only brings Shara and Tycho, you not bringing squadrons results in 10 (skip turn 1) black dice going into your ships all game.  Is that really something you want?

Notice, however, I said example.  I know several people on the forums who run lists without squadrons that move quickly and take out the carriers pushing squadrons initially.  I have played something akin to this, and it requires INTENSE practice and SIGNIFICANTLY knowing your list.  You may likely lose several games with your list until you get good enough to know what to do.  I'll talk about this later.  I'll reiterate the point there, but in 1.5, with all of the changes made to the squadron game, NOT taking squadrons seems like playing Russian Roulette.  Only with Hyenas instead of bullets.

What it all amounts to, while using the LFC, is that you need to figure out an answer for your opponent's squadrons beyond ignoring them and hoping they go away.  How does that rectify with question 1, though? Because question 1 is something you ask yourself EVERY TIME.  It's not a matter of being able to ignore them all the time, it's the ones you're activating and what you're bringing to bear on THIS SPECIFIC ACTIVATION of squadrons.  It's something you ask when you decide to activate a ship and push your squadrons.  Let's look back at our first example again.
Hello Darkness my old friend....

Remember this one, where the TIE fighter in the picture is engaged by Shara, and your B-wings are near the front of that GladiatorJan and Wedge are effectively shutting down that other TIE fighter as well.  What I said before was that the B-wings could hit Demolisher.  When Shara, Jan, and Wedge activate, their goals are quite different.  Jan will be perfectly happy shooting the TIE right next to her, but Wedge might want to throw a Bomber Black Dice at Demolisher if he can.  You ask question 1 with regards to the squadrons you're activating right now and what you can foresee happening in the future.  Wedge might want to end that TIE just to make sure that it can't get in the way of any other B-wings any more, OR he might want to shoot Demolisher.  You'll need to figure it out based on game state.

Of course, the last question to arise being that when you activate, what squadrons DO you activate?  Welcome back to game state, of course.  Use rule 1, measure what you can, and hit what you can.  Part of me wants to make an even 10 points for us all, so I'll throw this designation out here, based especially on a comment on a previous article.

10) When building your list, make sure that you can potentially push all the (non-Rogue) squadrons you bring on the same turn, if necessary.

If your opponent didn't bring any squadrons, you're going to want to be able to send everything in, hitting his ships with everything you've got. You won't need to do this every turn, but being able to do so on one turn will also allow you to get the jump on his squadrons before they can go and try to have an answer for yours!

I've talked (again, haha) too darn long on squadrons and using them, but it's what I'm passionate about.  All this one is missing is me stealing jokes from the Muppet Show to supplement it!
There's still a part of that considers "Ah, a bear in his natural habitat - a Studebaker" to be the funniest line ever created.
IV: Final Thoughts
I've started to develop more thoughts on squadrons and what FFG sees their purpose as, but that's not really a discussion for here/this site.  For now, let's leave this update where it is, still likely too long, but hey, I've tried to shorten it some.  If anyone has ANY questions, about anything related to squadrons, please let me know and I can answer them.  We all know I don't mind talking....


  1. Great writeup! Just to throw it out there, I'm looking at running this 134 for Imperials:
    Maarek Stele, Firespray-31, Major Rhymer, Zertik Strom, Tempest Squadron, JumpMaster 5000 x2, TIE Bomber x3 (134 points).
    Stele's speed, survivability, and damage output with that guaranteed crit makes him a solid buy for only 3 points more than a Firespray and Strom's brace tokens are great at keeping him around longer than a standard Advanced for only another 3 points. I kept the activations down to 10 to make it a little easier to push, but I'm thinking it will be pretty successful. Like you said though, definitely a lot of possible configurations for Rhymerballs!

    1. Looks good to me! I'm a little concerned about your ability to handle fighters, but Maarek and Zertik can certainly help out and it's not like my earlier TIE Bomber or Firespray builds had that on lock-down either.

      You're right, though, that Rhymer balls come in endless configurations.