Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Squadrons Encyclopedia 5: Using the SFC

It's been a week or so, and it's time to get back into it.  Two side notes before we begin: First, this is long.  I don't recommend reading it on your phone, as there are many fancy pictures with examples from Vassal, and they're better seen when bigger.  The other side note is that I also learned something while writing this, so we all benefited here!  Today, we're discussing how to properly use the Small Fighter Coverage.  And we'll start.... by talking Leverage.

This topic is going to relate, I promise.
Leverage was a show that ran on TNT a few years back that I enjoyed watching.  In the show, a group of thieves ran heists and stole from even worse people as a way for the Little Guy to get Revenge (side note: I have spent the last month or so rewatching it.  Be prepared for next month's discussion about how properly building a Rebel force is just like Community!)  In one episode, Nate (the main guy in charge, played by Timothy Hutton) is talking to someone else who's trying to run a con.
Nate: You never count on the perfect plan. The perfect plan, it has too many moving parts, and it's... you got to expect the perfect plan to fail. I means, that's what I do.
Hardison: Then what do you count on?
Nate: I count on the simplest and ugliest plan, not plan "A," no, but, like, plan "G," for example. I start with plan "G." Now, the quick, simple, ugly plan that I know is gonna work if everything goes bad.
So what does that have to do with us and using fighters? It means that I'm not planning on giving you every aspect of every potential outcome and fighter squad you expect to see.  I'm going to give you the basic plan for dealing with each type of Fighter Group, how to handle them, and how to win* with them.  For our SFC group(s), we'll be using 2 different squads that I mentioned before as representatives of the 2 main fighting styles: 3 X-wings and Jan Ors and 4 YT2400s.  I'll use these as they're still the 2 most usually seen SFC groups.  I'm coming at this (as usual!) from the Rebel perspective.
The OTHER reason I chose these squadrons is that it's easy enough to see the difference between the two.  YT2400s and X-wings are easily distinguishable as we zoom in.
*"Win" is a broad term, that may actually count as "having all your squadrons destroyed, but having lost only one or two ships from enemy squadrons because of it."

Because we're running Rebel, who are we playing against today? That's right, Imperial mooks!
From left to right: Grand Moff Tarkin, Princess Leia, Major Rhymer, Marek Stele, and Dengar (without toilet paper hat)
Let's meet our fine bachelors squadrons that you can play against tonight! Hailing from our first taste of Imperial squadrons in this series and representing the Imperial SFC, it's..... 6 TIE fighters!
I'll give you green lasers all night, baby! (Cheesy grin)
Our next representative, from the Imperial Medium Fighter Coverage article, these bad boys are new on the block, but they promise me that if you give them One More Night, they'll show you that they can walk Step by Step into your hearts! It's.... 6 TIE Defenders!
That's right, I made 2 New Kids on the Block jokes.  If you're more of a 'NSYNC fan, then I'll try to shoehorn in a terrible pun for them soon enough.
Our last representative is a Large Fighter Coverage blob, with a lot of girth in it, but their leader promises us he can still make an impact.... from Close Range! Give it up for 2 Jumpmasters, Major Rhymer, 5 TIE Bombers, Tempest Squadron, a TIE Advanced, Black Squadron, and Mauler Mithel!
It's like if the Polyphonic Spree had a sadness baby and named it My Ships.
Quick ACTUAL notes that aren't just me making incredibly dated Dating Game jokes.  Why I chose what I chose:
Rebel SFC: I wanted something compact that I can zoom in on and show examples with, while still having a presence.  2 A-wings, Tycho, and Shara work just as well, as do all my other squadron blobs previously mentioned.  This is plan G, remember? I'm showing you how, but you'll need to practice and play with these yourself to get a better sense of what you like working with.

SFC: 6 TIE fighters gives me both ample coverage and the ability to show HOW to fight your opponent's version of this, with both squad groups I'm bringing.  It's light, and Eric runs this against me all the time.  For anyone who doubts the ability for this group to do well, Eric has managed to make my life difficult with it when I bring the Rebel LFC.  He hasn't stopped me completely (remember, you're keeping the other guy honest) but he HAS made me have to think my way out of trouble with it.

MFC: Why no Marek Stele? Because while he's great, I didn't think his ability does enough in our below examples (I won't be showing dice rolls, that's not useful for either of us) for it to be worth putting him in there.  He's a Defender that's harder to kill, but in the end he's still a Defender, and he's still hungering for your blood.  Follow Eric's examples in the MFC article about taking him, but for our purposes, I didn't need him cluttering up the pictures.

LFC: Because I don't know Imps that well, and because I trust Eric's recommendations of what to do with this.  Major Rhymer and Mauler Mithel ARE worth talking about, with regards to squadron fighting, so they got included in this group.  The points I'm planning on addressing for fighting this is perfectly fine to have this as their representative group.  This group was created in wave 5ish, but for our examples and advice, it still holds up well enough.

With all that being said, let's move on to ACTUALLY using them! Round One, FIGHT!
First, while it's not as important to winning (remember my earlier definition for it!) the squadron fight here as some of the other squadron sizes, this will be slightly longer and more detailed as all the other fights and usages build off of this one.  Second, as you'll see below, I have several ideas that are bolded.  These are applicable for any SFC group, but for now we'll start out with Jan and the 3 X-wings vs the 6 TIEs.  (The YT-2400s get referenced a little bit below).  Two things to note about this group.  First, the X-wings can use Jan's tokens from a good distance away! Second, that leaves plenty of space for your opponent to get in there and roll on your squadrons with a bunch of attacks they don't want to take, and your Escort squadrons aren't going to be Escorting ANYTHING for much longer when Jan starts getting shot.

Even with Jan's 2 Brace tokens and counter, there's a lot she doesn't like about this, as when one X-wing goes down, the TIEs on that side start hitting HER, making her ability to lend out Braces less useful (and less available, if she has to be saving herself!).  So while you don't need to keep your squadrons right next to her, closer beats farther.  When you see me having pictures of X-wings relatively closer to Jan in the future, THAT'S why: so they don't get stomped as fast.  Jan and the X-wings work together much better than going their own way; they're like Blink-182 that way.

"I hope Travis Barker does more Reality TV with his wife!" - No one, ever
The other thing with this group is that against most enemy fighter presences, you're going to get jumped.  Speed 3 doesn't win the races, especially against anything with Twin Ion Engines.  Or A-wings. Or YT2400s.  How do you mitigate this?  Measure your ranges.

1) Measure and Visualize your ranges
Before the game begins, go around to your opponent's side of the table and see what he's bringing and their general speeds, and if there's any way to increase those.  You know the speed of your opponent's squadrons; it's printed on their card.  With a good eye for estimation (and the use of the range ruler at any time!), you can see roughly where they can land their squadrons, and WHERE THEY CAN ATTACK FROM.  In short, if those TIEs as seen above are speed 4, be a little more than speed 5 away.  That way, they can't jump you as quickly.  The flip side to this is that you ALSO wouldn't be attacking next turn, as they'd be too far away from you!  What do you do about this?

Aim to be in a place where they might START to hit you, with SOME fighters, but hopefully they can't ALL get there, and remember that Range 1 is the longest range.  Easier to see below.

Example 1: I'll reference this later
Based on the range rings, those TIE fighters are going to be able to hit SOME of those X-wings, but not ALL the TIE fighters can hit all the X-wings (The Quasar does exist, so all 6 TIE fighters can move at once.  There IS also the possibility of an ISD with a stored squadrons token and Expanded Hangar Bays, but you saw that possibility on your opponent's side of the table when you went and looked at his stuff, right?)  So you're going to get to counter-attack somewhat.  Based on your opponent's speeds and your speeds, you'll know whether you're going to need to deal with accepting some damage or if you'll actually be the one jumping your opponent.  The general rule is that if your opponent's squadrons are faster than your own, they will jump you.  If you're on equivalent speeds (B-wings vs YV-666s, for example, or TIEs vs YT-2400s) it'll likely come down to who can activate them first (ie, first player vs second, Rogue vs non-Rogue)

Related to this point, if you know you CAN get the jump on enemy squadrons (going first, better or equivalent range), make sure you're ending up in striking distance at the end of the turn before you're going to fire off your squadrons.  Nothing sadder than either being out of range to attack OR being out of range to be commanded.  If it helps you remember this point better, you can think of this as Red Leader telling you to "Get set up for your attack run."
Died at Yavin.  He was out of range of a squadron command at that time.
Hey everyone, it's John's favorite time of the squadron article, when he posts the First Law of Squadron Combat! Say it with him and he'll send you a special No-Prize!

2) Squadrons activated by squadron commands > Rogue squadrons > Unactivated regular squadrons
If you're not activating and moving your squadrons, you're going to get jumped and you're going to get shot.  You'll be stuck waiting until the Squadron phase to do damage, and that's not ideal, as you may not survive that long.  If you don't have Rogues, you're also NOT moving from that spot on the table, so you'll get jumped again NEXT turn!  You don't need to be pushing your SFC every turn, but on the crucial turn where you're trying to jump someone (or having BEEN jumped, the turn you fight your way out!  You CAN still move after shooting with a squadron command, so long as you're not currently engaged), you NEED to command them.  You may even need to command EVERYONE on that crucial turn, if it gets you the kills/lockdown you needed.  I've seen the finest minds squadrons of my generation thrown away when their Commander just threw them into the fray on the turn before the squadron jump (handwavey, turns 2 or 3) and never gave them a Command again.  I know that using Squadron Commands is "scary" and "dumb because the rules are dumb and don't make sense to me, in this game where I push my plastic spaceships around, grump grump grump", but here we are.  Use a Squadron Command, push them around.
And I will! And I will!
Even Wedge needed Admiral Ackbar to tell them to go into and blow up the second Death Star.  So you need to push your squadrons.  I keep harping on this because I've seen numerous people forget to do it, leading to losing those squadrons unnecessarily.  "This squadron isn't good because it died when I let it get shot 17 times and never commanded it" isn't something you hear someone admit, but it IS something you see.

3) When attacking enemy squadrons, one dead squadron beats 2 mostly injured ones
Relatively straightforward, if you have 6 TIE fighters attacking you, that's a potential 18 blue dice (with swarm, yes).  If you cut that down to 5 or 4 TIE fighters, that's 15/12 only. Act like a lion on the Serengeti and hunt down the wounded and kill them, as that's much less dice coming at you next turn/next attack.  This holds true even for things with Counter, like Interceptors.  Dead enemy squadrons are the BEST enemy squadrons.  Beat them up, be the bully.

Gimme your 8 points, TIE nerd!
All that sounds super easy and cool, but what do you do when you get jumped, like I said Jan and those X-wings will be?  What happens when you get in the below situation?
Things look bad for our intrepid heroes! Someone let those Imperial players read points 5A and 5B below, the jerks!
Well, let's zoom out in the picture of them getting jumped and show a little something else here.
The Assault Frigate was doing the John Cena handwave, that's why you didn't see it.  Not because of the way I framed the picture, nope!
That's right, they were hiding near an Assault Frigate THIS WHOLE TIME! Yes, much like Eric mentioned in his Raider article, staying in close lets you flak enemy squadrons.  In fact, that's so important it gets its own point here!

4) Use your flak shots to HELP damage enemy squadrons when you can.
This point is going to be more important as we go along (see chapter 6 and eventually chapter 8, when I get around to writing it...), but the basic gist is this: everything you kill of your opponent's helps your final score.  8 points of TIE fighter may be enough to get you the victory you need/deserve.  It may or may not be a priority, but if you CAN take the shot and it will help you kill them, take it! Nebulon side arcs, Assault Frigate with Gunnery Team, MC80s with Advanced Gunnery, etc.  Heck, sometimes it might make more sense to take a shot at the squadrons with your flak instead of taking your regular shot!

The related point to this, is for your flak to be worth it, you need to work WITH your squadrons to get it.  The reason I say "HELP" is that basic flak won't kill enemy squadrons on their own.... assuming you don't leave your A-wings double arced by a Raider.  MOST of the time, you'll do only 1-2 damage from flak.  That puts a heck of a hurting on TIE fighters, and it dings TIE bombers.  You'll need your squadrons to help you finish them off, and if there's one thing Rebel fighters love jumping on, it's wounded squadrons.  It's a lot easier for your squadrons to kill damaged squadrons (you can't roll 4 Hits on 4 blue dice EVERY time!), which frees them up next turn to attack MORE squadrons.  It may not always work, but some damaged squadrons beats all healthy ones, as you can more likely finish off the damaged ones with your squadron rolls.

The OTHER benefit to staying close is that it forces your enemy into 2 choices.  They can either come in close to attack your squadrons with theirs (and get flakked!), or YOU can get the jump on THEM by attacking first when you activate YOUR squadrons.  It's a complicated dance (So, you want to move in close enough to be able to attack them next turn, but you ALSO want to be able to make sure they can't attack you, except if they CAN attack you they have to get flakked in response to doing so?  Should I do this in a formal gown, too?) but with some practice, it's very doable.  Imps have it easier, in that Raider flak is basically the devil, but a lot of Rebel ships have blue range flak... along with great side arcs.  The game is 6 turns, and while it's great to get in there early and hit your opponent's stuff faster, giving it a turn or two for the situation to develop only helps (and is something I constantly need to remind myself, haha!).  You'll need to figure out WHERE to place yourself in order to figure out the best flakking option for you while still getting decent shots from your ships to their ships.  This will come down to where your opponent's squadrons are, speed, command, etc etc.  The basic point is, flak helps.
Sometimes I even amaze myself!
So let's say you are going to jump him.  How do you know who to attack?  Or when to move into range? Well, there's 2 schools of thought here, and that's the OTHER reason I split between the X-wings and the YT-2400s groups.

5A) Move in as a group and engage one side of the squadron ball
There's a lot of caveats and "Yes, and-" and "But make sure to-" with this statement.  We'll cover it below after I tell you what the other type of attacking and engaging is.

5B) Send in your fighters to engage different sides of the squadron ball, and try to have them meet in the middle.
This is one usually built more for extended coverage, and trying to hold up the squadron ball as much as possible.  Let's break down each of these.

5A) With SFC vs SFC, you're trying to gain an upper hand you can exploit and use to push over the enemy fighter ball.  The other guy hasn't brought a significant number of fighters, but enough to "Keep you honest." (Props to whoever wrote that before, go that guy!)  Jan's ability works tremendously to keep more members of your squadron group alive.  You're trying to stay alive long enough to win out on the points you invested in this.  When you engage the squadron ball, concentrate your fire to remove squadrons as fast as possible (remember point 2 above!).  Going from Example 1, a few pictures and points above, to commanded squadrons on my end, I get something like this:

The Red X's stand for the 2 I overlapped my attacks on.  Each squadron can be hit by 2 different X-wings
The X-wings have all moved in and are able to hit those 2 close TIE squadrons.  If they can kill 1 (teaming up!) and either luck into killing the other or injure it enough that a future flak shot could kill it (or even future shots from my own squadrons!), that's a great start.  You might even be able to hit a third one! (Do not count on this).  You're turning off more swarm abilities, which means less damage coming in to your X-wings.  FURTHERMORE, each time you kill one, you're forcing your opponent to use his squadron commands on OTHER squadrons that may or may not be in range.  Hitting one side of the bubble lets you team up on killing things and makes sure you're blowing up enemy squadrons fast.  Overwhelm those with defense tokens (Tycho can't scatter EVERYTHING!) and you ensure that your damage counts.  I'd much rather roll 2 extra damage I DIDN'T need THIS turn to kill something than hope to roll the 2 I need NEXT turn to HOPE to kill it.

Side notes about fighting and squadron commands: if your enemy is relying on a Lambda-class shuttle providing Relay 2 to their ships, the first thing you want to hit is that Relay shuttle (so they can't Relay commands any more!  If you devoted all your squadron attacks to killing that Lambda but then he can't attack outside the squadron phase, that's a great use of your squadron dial).  If you see that one side of the squadron ball is in command range and one is not, go for the one that is in Command Range, so his friends can't come in and help him this turn.  Again, be the bully.  Pick on the weaker squadrons and separate them from the herd.  Prevent him from following the First Law (point 2 above), and watch him explode.

5B) Engaging different sides of the squadron bubble for fun and profit!

The other idea here, and this works usually better if you can get the jump on the enemy squadrons, is to lock them in place by engaging 1, maybe 2 squadrons, around the bubble in order to ensure that they can't go anywhere (this is why I brought the YT2400s group!).  When your opponent has Intel (we'll get there in a minute...), this doesn't work as much, but when they don't, you lock down several of their squadrons from moving.  See below:
Engaging one TIE each
This looks remarkably similar to how I had the TIEs jump the X-wings above (it's like I knew what I was going to be writing!)  By only engaging ONE (or two) squadrons each, those TIE squadrons can only return fire at the ONE squadron engaging them.  Blue dice aren't perfect, and it's much more difficult for 2 TIEs per turn to roll perfectly and kill your YT-2400 (it has happened to me, though, so do be careful about recklessly engaging 2 squadrons with every YT2400 you bring).  The beauty of this plan is that it lets you lock the squadrons in place in an area, hopefully preventing them from moving.  Anything not engaged CAN move away from you, but then it'll be off on its lonesome, unable to do as much damage as if it had been working with other squadrons.
I'm adding this in just to show the YT-2400s can do plan 5A too.  Hit the red ones first to turn off swarm from the green.
So which plan do you use?  The first plan (5A), works better with things that want to work well together.  Jan Ors, Biggs, things with swarm like Z95s, anything that doesn't have the dice to kill the opponent's ship in one shot (TIE bombers have ALL the health!).  The second plan (5B) works better when you have individually more health than your opponent's ability to roll dice, and the anti-squadron damage they're putting out isn't great, or when you need to lock them down/in place.  This will make a lot more sense below.  The first plan sacrifices the ability to lock down a group for the ability to damage/kill squadrons, while the second ensures that the area is secure and no one is leaving, but it'll take time to chew through those squadrons. 

From this point in either 5A or 5B, you can either keep commanding squadrons (if you have the range) or let them fight the ball as best as they can, and then move to deal with issues as needed.  You don't need to be throwing squadron commands every turn, necessarily (especially if you aren't in range!) but an occasional one wouldn't hurt.  When you mop up their squadrons, use them to start hitting ships OR go put them on the station to heal.  Yeah, that X-wing may not have done the 1-2 health needed to kill that ISD a turn sooner.  It also didn't get flakked to death by that same ISD.  Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em when you're chasing ship damage.
Never gamble with Scooter, he cheats.  I know from experience.
So how does fighting the MFC differ from fighting the SFC? Well, you're starting out at a points deficit, and the enemy squadrons are gunning for you.  The best advice I can give for fighting it is by highlighting the changes from above.

1) Measure and Visualize your ranges: No changes here.
2) Squadrons activated by squadron commands > Rogue squadrons > Unactivated regular squadrons: No changes; it's still important to team up and kill healthy huge hit point squadrons.
3) When attacking enemy squadrons, one dead squadron beats 2 mostly injured ones: Mostly.  If you can put a solid hurting on any enemy that plans on attacking you later, AND you think your ships can survive an attack from them....

Please note: I am not advocating leaving squadrons half damaged to attack with your ships later, assuming your flak will take them out.  What I AM advocating, is below.
Yeah, this looks survivable!
In this specific example, assuming you're getting to roll against these Defenders, I would say that I can see the reasons why you would first attack that 6 health one.  Depending on your first roll, you may want to attack it again or finish off the 2 HP or the 1 HP one.  And I can also see the reasoning behind rolling on 2 injured Defenders, as well.  The only reason I'm making the "Leave the injured alive" case is because you KNOW the Defenders will be coming to attack you later in the game (6 TIE fighters and a Lambda shuttle probably won't).  Soften them up so your ships can flak them to death or have a CHANCE of flakking them to death.  I am not stating this is the best case, nor will it be sure to result in their death.  The ONLY reason I'm making this case is specifically because you can likely kill those damaged Defenders with flak, excepting the 6 health one.  If all you have left is an undamaged MC80, I can fully see why you would attack the uninjured one.  If your ships are very near death, themselves, however, I can also see the benefit of hitting those 2 Defenders with 2 HP each.  It's going to come down to The Game State, and I can't tell you unless I'm standing there.
However, the Force will be with you, always, from a certain point of view.
4) Use your flak shots to HELP damage enemy squadrons when you can: No change, but a much higher importance.  You won't be killing them (unless you're in my specific crazy example!) but you'll take what you can get.  Flak is more important at hurting those squadrons that are starting to attack you, and you NEED to use it in order to have a chance at surviving their future attacks.

And which flight pattern, do I recommend, 5A or 5B? It will come down to what you can kill versus what you can lock down.  No major changes here, try to hold them off as long as possible before their squadrons start attacking your ships.

And so, we now get to the main reason you're probably reading this.  Fighting the LFC
It's like looking at this...but with more Bombers
With this section, I'm going to add in one last point that I've been dancing around for a bit.
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.
The LFC is going to, if it desires, kill you and move on to your ships as fast as it can.  Your goal is not to survive, not to keep your squadrons alive.  Your goal is to delay them and keep their ability to hurt your ships from triggering.
Well you ARE!
The longer you hang on, the longer you're preventing MORE damage from going into your ships.  You spent a smallish number of points on squadrons to "purchase" other ships.  Your opponent spent 130-odd points and upgrades and the ability to push those squadrons towards your ships, and he's going to get to do that somewhat.  You don't get mad that the ISD rolls towards you and shoots up your Assault Frigate, that's what ISDs do.
It's their nature.  Watch out for toads
Similarly, don't get mad when a bunch of bombers show up and start hitting your ships.  That's what bombers DO.  Your goal here is to ensure that the bombers need to do work to actually damage you, and any bomber attack that comes at your squadrons is one that's NOT hitting your ships.  You're going to lose most if not all your squadrons (depending on what side you're facing exactly, Rebel or Imperial), but if you play it cagey and smart, you can prevent them from hitting your important ships as long as possible.

Follow most of the rules above (and now below) with the caveats we'll add, and you can hopefully get through this with minimal damage.  You'll lose a ship or two, but if you're careful and smart, you won't lose everything.  We'll talk about how to fight the LFC when we get to point 5.

1) Measure and Visualize your ranges: No changes here in relation to HOW to do this, but we need to look at other things, too.  You want to be able to measure your ranges to the Intel ship, to the Escort ships, and to Major Rhymer himself.  Why those 3?

The Intel ship(s) is/are important because that bomber blob lives and dies by that Intel.  If you can take out that Intel ship, (or even ONE Intel ship), the bomber blob runs into issues getting all of its activations free to harass your ships.  If the bomber blob has one Intel ship, taking it out hurts its ability to do what it wants to.  If it has 2, that usually means both a lot more bombers and a lot less good dice for taking out enemy squadrons with. TIE bombers and Y-wings have 2 of the least capable anti-squadron abilities in the game, and every time they have to fire on your squadrons, that's a turn they're both A) Not happy as they're unable to hit a ship and B) Not great at their job.  It takes 3 Y-wings rolling perfectly to kill a YT-2400 in one turn, and it takes a full 6 TIE bombers to do it in one turn.

Related to that last paragraph, know where their Escort squadron(s) are.  If they're smart, they keep them together, or overlap them enough that you can't get to the Intel ship without having to hit through the Escort first.  If not.... see above about hitting the Intel ship.  The Escort squadrons are what keeps the Intel squadron alive, so if their bodyguard isn't there, go take out the target.
Kif: "Eeeuughhhh"
Lastly, you want to know where Major Rhymer or Norra or the multiplying ace is.  TIE bombers have this remarkable ability when he's around where they can throw cinder blocks at your ship from Close range (where you can't attack them back! You can only hit them at Range 1!), and as a Rebel player you want...NOT that.  You're not going to be able to kill all the bombers (see point 6 above), but if you can turn off Rhymer's ability, you're in a much happier place.  And the only way to turn off the ability is by killing him.  Norra runs in a similar vein, in that each bomber attack rips an extra shield, so your capital ships start getting damaged much faster than you want them to be.  That synergy ace needs to get got, so get going (I think that made sense, haha!)

So you can't take out all of those (you ESPECIALLY can't take out Major Rhymer if you're fighting against Rebels), but it'll tell you where you'll potentially need to be aiming your attacks at.  I'd go generally in that order, too.  Intel first if you can, but if you can't, hit any escort ship that's preventing you from hitting that Intel, and failing both of those, shoot Rhymer dead.  Without Intel, that blob of squadrons is at the complete mercy of dice rolls for whether it moves or not.  Which means the TIE bombers or B-wings or what have you may be stuck there, beyond being unable to bomb your ships, because you engaged them.  Drive them back into a wave 1 mindset!

On all these caveats, these all assume your opponent has left them undefended.  If Rhymer is off on his lonesome, that's who you hit.  If he's got the rest of his squadron friends there, you probably won't be able to kill him in one attack with all of your squadrons you activate this turn.... but it's possible! If your opponent leaves a weak spot, strike it as hard and as fast as you can.

2) Squadrons activated by squadron commands > Rogue squadrons > Unactivated regular squadrons: No change

3) When attacking enemy squadrons, one dead squadron beats 2 mostly injured ones: No change here.

4) Use your flak shots to HELP damage enemy squadrons when you can: Yes, immensely.  You cannot hope to kill a significant portion of the squadrons just with your 4/6 squadrons worth of attacks.  You NEED to add flak in to weaken his squadrons so you have a chance of killing them with your squadrons.  I realize this isn't easy, as you want to stay out of range of those squadrons as much as you possibly can, but flak is the only way you have a shot at killing them.

And so we get to 5.  Piloting into this mess.  So do you go 5A or 5B? As in all things, it depends, haha!  I've been saying that you need to hit the Intel, but what happens when you come up on our situation where there's TWO sources of it? And escorts for both? Or the arguably scarier Rebel one with 2 YT-1300s and 2 HWK-290s?

JJ's Flying Circus of Evil
Well it's at THAT point you realize you'll never kill enough Intel fast enough (because of the escorts) that you need to start hitting the ACTUAL bomber squadrons.  I realize this isn't ideal, what with the immense health all those squadrons have....
Y-wings have 6! 6 hull, ah ah ah!
but it's not insurmountable.  Use your flak to weaken up the bombers in those cases, and pounce with your squadrons when you can.  You're going to lose a ship.  That's almost guaranteed, and I'm sorry.  I know whatever you lost, it was your favorite ship that got you into Armada and it dying proves that squadrons are broken, etc etc.  But look at it this way: your opponent had to spend 2-3 ships of activations and support to get that whole mess into a state of extreme murder and had the ability to kill anything.  If you had a way of turning off those abilities, your ships will survive longer.  To reuse that dumb Zapp Brannigan quote, "If we can hit that bullseye (their carriers), the rest of the dominoes (their list) will fall like a house of cards.... checkmate."  Who'd have thought that quote was actually useful for once?  Take out their ability to push squadrons, and you've got a good chance of killing the list.  So your ships are attacking the carriers, but what are your squadrons doing?

5B) Send in your fighters to engage different sides of the squadron ball, and try to have them meet in the middle.
This is the easier one to describe its usage with the giant fighter blob, so I'll hit it first.  This works better against only ONE source of Intel (Jan/Dengar only).  You're going to have to abandon your squadrons to let each one attack an individual squadron or two.... but you want to ALSO make sure that the Intel squadrons can't cover all 4 of your YT-2400s at once.  See the below graphic for an arrangement idea.
In this SPECIFIC example, anywhere Dengar tries to move still leaves several TIE bombers tied up by the other 2 YT-2400s.  This works here with only 1 source of Intel.
Realize though, that your opponent is going to move his Escort squadrons in to attack your fighters, so the bombers will try to get away.  Try to stay engaged with the bombers to minimize the amount of damage they can do to your squadrons.  And with Intel and Mauler Mithel, you're going to be taking a point of damage each time he moves.  Keeping him locked down is nice... but it doesn't prevent you from taking bomber damage.  If you can lock him in place, go for it, but priority one is bombers.  The other problem with this approach is that if there's TWO sources of Intel, you can get locked down by them both quickly.
A more accurate picture of what happens with 2 sources of Intel.  The YT2400s have to hit the Escorts, and then the TIE bombers move away, or just keep firing on your ships since you're Heavy now.  This is why I don't recommend this attack pattern with TWO sources of Intel in their list.
5A) Move in as a group and engage one side of the squadron ball
With 2 sources of Intel, the recommendation is to hit the bombers, and I would recommend using this method to do it.  You won't be able to smash through the Intel and escort squadrons fast enough, but you can potentially knock off a bomber or two before they start firing on your ships.  When he sends in his Escort ships to attack you, if you can concentrate fire on all those together, you'll be able to hopefully get back to hitting the Intel ships and/or bombers together.  3-4 squadrons worth of attacks makes a lot of squadrons sad, just keep hitting the same ones here to free up your squadrons and engage their bombers.  Any squadron you can free up and get to go engage the bombers with is worth it, as you need to prevent those bombers from doing their job by any means necessary.  Throwing away a YT-2400 into a blob of 6 bombers sure is sad that you're going to lose that YT-2400, but that's also 6ish (don't forget crits!) damage NOT coming into your ships this turn.  That's a trade I would take any day.

So to sum up: 2 sources of Intel, hit the Bombers as best as you can.  1 source of Intel, try to jump around and engage the bomber blob and prevent the Intel squadron from making all of you Heavy at once.  Easier said then done, right?  Remember to use your ships to focus on shutting down the carriers.  With the exception of the ISD/MC80, most other carriers have around 5-6 hull (Pelta, Yavaris, Quasar, Assault Frigate) and not AS many shields.  You CAN kill it if you focus fire on it with your other ships.  And I can tell you that life would be much better with it gone.
Hey, I got the pun in there! And those hairstyles are TERRIBLE.
Hold out with your squadrons as long as you can, and you'll do OK.

Final Thoughts
I realize that saying "Practice makes perfect" is an easy out for this, but I promise you with time, you'll be able to command the SFC effectively and minimize the damage being done to you by squadrons and squadron commanders.  Keep at it, and if you don't think you did as good of a job as you could have, talk to your opponent after the game.  The best way you can learn to use the Small Fighter Coverage effectively is by talking to your opponent about what you did right with it and what you can do better next time.  If there's any further questions about using it properly, don't be afraid to ask!

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