Friday, May 5, 2017

Imperial ship review: Arquitens Light Cruiser

We finally reached wave 5! We did it! And so now it's time to talk about the Imperial ship from wave 5, the Kittens Light Cruiser.

Cute and cuddly, sure, but kitten claws will cleave through solid steel!
All right, not actually kittens.
Princess Monster Truck is not a kitten, she's all grown up!
Okay seriously though I'm done with cat jokes for this article. In more cat-related news but not jokes, this article is late specifically due to this cat:
Aww look at his cute pink and purple paw prints sock with a tiny kitty IV in it!
That's one of my two cats (his name is Remus, his brother's name is Romulus). Turns out cats can get kidney stones and without some immediate medical care, poor Remus's days were numbered. I rushed him to the vet where he's going under the knife tomorrow. I spent most of this afternoon and evening helping this fuzzball out instead of finishing the second half of this article, so please blame the frailties of mammalian bodies on that one if you were hoping for some afternoon reading but ended up disappointed.

Anyways, enough about cats!

It's not a cat picture! This is actually an Armada blog and not a middle-aged woman's Facebook account!

You know the drill, it's bullet points "let's talk about what this thing does overall" time:
  • With Command 2, the Arquitens isn't too ponderous to command and it can hold enough command tokens to stock up on the odd turn it doesn't need a dial. 
    • In general, if you can get the Arquitens some spare tokens, it will generally want a navigate token and either a repair or concentrate fire token.
  • Engineering 3 is average for a Command 2 small ship. It's not great but it's still enough to fix a bad face-up crit or regenerate a shield and move a shield to bring a depleted hull zone back up to maximum shields.
  • One evade, two redirects, and a contain token offers an interesting defense token suite. Compared to something like a Rebel CR90, the Arquitens can handle itself much better at shorter ranges due to duplicate redirects and a contain, but it's not as proficient at taking fire at long range due to only one evade.
  • 5 hull is again pretty standard for a Command 2 small ship.
  • 8 total shields (2 in each facing) is also average for an Imperial Command 2 small ship (the Gladiator has 8, it's just less in the rear and more in the front).
  • 3 red dice on each side and 1 + a helper dice out the front and rear is significant for an Imperial ship in two regards:
    1. It means the Arquitens is one of the few Imperial ships (the other being the Gladiator, which is designed for a much different role) whose side arcs are superior to its front arc.
    2. The Arquitens is also the only Imperial small ship that's designed to excel at long-ranged combat, something its Raider and Gladiator co-workers just can't meaningfully do.
  • Speed 3 is fairly average, but the nav chart is weird: the Arquitens always gets a 2-click segment on the end of its nav chart but that's it. This means your movement is basically a straight line with a flexible swivel on the end.
    • When used under ideal circumstances, this allows an Arquitens to move ahead and keep turning inward to keep enemies in its side arcs while focusing on concentrate fire commands.
    • When used under poor circumstances, this means the Arquitens' end destination is extremely predictable and you get to watch horrified as your Arquitens sails to its inevitable death and all it can do is swivel at the end to show off before exploding.
  • The defensive retrofit slot on both chassis is another first for the Empire. The Arquitens' release tripled the number of Imperial ships with built-in defensive retrofit slots!
Basic usage recommendations
The Arquitens is designed to be used on the outskirts of a battle, orbiting around the sides and throwing in red dice at range like a smaller more skittish Rebel Assault Frigate. It doesn't really have the defense token suite, nav chart, or dice batteries to reward you for getting any closer to your target than necessary, and long range is all that's really necessary in most cases. The good news is it's fairly cheap for what it does and nothing else in the Imperial fleet really performs a similar role, so it's fairly unique.

The Arquitens is pretty durable when used in its element. It handles long-range red dice coming back at it pretty well with its defensive stats and defense tokens (particularly the evade). The defensive retrofit slot can further improve on that, but we'll get to that later. It is not, however, designed to handle serious attacks from enemy combat ships at medium or close range, where its lack of a brace becomes a problem very quickly. Neither will it last particularly long against swarms of bombers given its unimpressive flak and the fact that smart bombers will attack it from its on-target side arc, making it choose between its good anti-ship attack or "meh" anti-squadron attack. In short, try to keep it away from serious threats and keep harassing your targets. You probably have a lot of experience with Rebels doing this to you with their smaller ships, so use that right back!

Let's talk briefly about its arcs. Namely:

They're weird. The Arquitens has a narrow front arc, decent (but not over-generous) side arcs and a big ol' badonkadonk rear arc.

It's not impossible to double-arc targets with an Arquitens but due to its inflexible nav chart and narrow front arc I find it much more difficult than doing so with a CR90A. You can also sometimes find that your attempts to double-arc something combined with the Arquitens' weird nav chart mean that you end up moving closer to that thing you really shouldn't have moved closer to:
The good news is you got in a double arc. The bad news is so does he and all you can do is turn to hopefully shoot where he'll be next turn if you don't explode. Spoilers: you will explode.
Therefore it's frequently better to get in your side arc only and move in a way that leaves you in less danger:
You only got in your side arc, but you end in his AND you'll be able to shoot him out your side arc next turn. Turns out being alive is pretty swell! I apologize to any offended nihilists.

Because getting in two arcs of attacks from an Arquitens isn't reliable and because their base attack of 3 red dice is also fairly unreliable, it's important to use Arquitens as part of a team of other ships all attacking the same target to overheat its defense tokens and/or to improve the individual potency of the Arquitens' attack (with more dice/dice control and/or defense token debuffs like Intel Officer). An Arquitens that just lobs 3 dice at a target that nobody else will attack that turn is going to be a pretty ineffective Arquitens.

Under ideal circumstances, the Arquitens will be alternating between navigate and concentrate fire commands most of the time. Navigating in particular is very important when done at crucial moments. Adding yaw prior to the last joint can make a large difference in your destination (and avoid certain death) and changing speed helps a lot - going too slow you may not get in as many turns of attacks as you stay out of range early on, but going too fast can take you sailing right out of range of your targets after attacking; therefore having some control over both speed and yaw helps the Arquitens a lot. Otherwise, concentrating fire helps up your "not too shabby" 3 red dice up to "wow, I need to take this seriously" 4 red dice. It's weird how much a difference 1 red die can make there but it's borne out in practice for me by increasing average damage, improving fickle red dice reliability, and stacking well with various turbolaser upgrades (we're getting there!). Repair commands can help in specific circumstances but generally I find my Arquitens is too busy navigating and concentrating fire to really get a lot of value from 3 repair points more than once per game. It can be useful on occasion to use those 3 repair points to regenerate a shield and bring one shield around from your "facing the table edge" hull zone or to fix a bad critical effect, though. I do not recommend squadron commands at all with the possible exception of the Command Cruiser, which we'll cover later: you're just too busy doing other things.

Titles
Both Arquitens titles are specialized enough that they're not "no duh" titles like Demolisher, but in the right fleets they do just fine.
The Centicore title turns the Arquitens more or less into a Relay 2 ship. This can be helpful, particularly for Gozanti Cruisers, as a means of safely commanding squadrons a bit closer to trouble than you'd like. In particular, you can keep the Centicore at medium range of a Rhymerball where it throws dice at the Rhymerball's targets while the Rhymerball itself is commanded by your other ships. In practice, things rarely go so smoothly but for 3 points it's certainly a nice trick to have available in the right fleets. Tarkin fleets can also make use of the Centicore similarly to Relay squadrons by using it as an easy disposal/utilization method for spare squadron tokens - the ship in question should usually be able to pitch a squadron token through the Centicore so it's not left in a spot where Tarkin gives it a squadron token that it can't use.

Hand of Justice has a neat benefit, but it's important to note a few things:
  • It triggers prior to revealing Hand of Justice's command
  • It only works on another friendly ship, so it can't help itself
  • If there are no targets upon activation with spent (red) defense tokens, it does nothing
This means Hand of Justice can be a little tricky to get working consistently, as it's dependent upon defense token spending of your other ships and when the Hand of Justice itself needs to activate. It helps if you have means of spending your own defense tokens or particularly strong single defense tokens that the Hand of Justice can help with. A few examples would include:
  • Turbolaser Reroute Circuits on another Arquitens in your fleet that will be hanging out with the Hand of Justice, so you can flip the spent evade back to readied later.
  • Darth Vader as a commander, who will want to spend ship defense tokens as much as possible and therefore the Hand of Justice can help minimize some of the self-inflicted damage.
  • Electronic Countermeasures on a ship with a single brace (usually a Tua-assisted VSD or an ISD) or Electronic Countermeasures with Tua on a particularly annoying Gozanti. In either case, you get a high-impact defense token that can be used twice a turn without trouble and has some insurance that it gets to be used with some regularity.
If you've got at least one of those things in your fleet, I'd consider Hand of Justice.

Is it just me or does this space triangle appear to not be painted flat gray?
Arquitens-Class Light Cruiser
Yep, this sure is basically the Arquitens we've been talking about so far. Please note the short-ranged black flak dice and black dice in the front and the back as well as the Squadron 1. Don't expect it to help with flak unless the squadrons are going after it specifically and don't expect your front or rear arcs to do much unless your target is way closer than it should be. Effectively the black dice on the Arquitens-class Light Cruiser are for emergency use only. The Squadrons 1 makes it terrible at commanding squadrons, so please don't.

Upgrades

Turbolasers
You have an awful lot of good options here. By default I would always equip a turbolaser upgrade with one possible exception (under Builds, we're getting there!). Dual Turbolaser Turrets come with the Arquitens and they're a solid and affordable turbolaser upgrade which I would consider the default turbolaser for the Arquitens. They're effectively an informed red dice reroll you get to use on one attack, and it's not uncommon for Arquitens to only get one attack. Because red dice are fickle (with 2 blank sides and one accuracy side that doesn't do much unless you roll some decent damage with it), anything that gives you more red dice control is great.

Speaking of dice control, Turbolaser Reroute Circuits are a good choice if you've got some means of getting around their downside of exhausting your only evade token. Captain Needa on an Arquitens or Hand of Justice on a partner Arquitens help here. Tagge as a commander helps there too, but I don't find that combination alone makes the Arquitens better with him than other commanders. Your other serious all-purpose option is Enhanced Armament for the extra no-strings-attached red die out each side, but the 10 point price tag can be a bit of a problem.

I wish I could recommend Quad Battery Turrets, but with the Arquitens typically going speed 2 (when shooting) or 3 (when running away), it won't be consistently useful enough compared to other options and you also won't be getting to use it frequently enough on both attacks, which is its other big selling point.

Defensive Retrofits
I recommend the Reinforced Blast Doors the Arquitens comes packaged with whenever you've got the points to spare and the need to make a particular Arquitens more durable. Maybe it's got a title or it's your flagship or you're running it with a commander like Vader or Jerjerrod that weakens its defenses a bit? I wouldn't consider the Reinforced Blast Doors by default, is what I'm saying, but they're certainly not bad and they can really prolong the life of an Arquitens. The other Defensive Retrofits I'm not really keen on using on a ship as cheap as the Arquitens. Ideally you want to keep it cheap and it won't get more mileage out of Electronic Countermeasures or Advanced Projectors as it will from Reinforced Blast Doors and the Blast Doors are cheaper.

Officers
Three officers come to mind pretty immediately, and two of them are quite cheap! Skilled First Officer remains a solid 1-point choice for any Command 2 ship and if you're not filling the Arquitens' officer slot with anything else, the flexibility there can help tremendously. Specifically, I find when my Arquitens die it's often because I was one turn too late in giving a crucial navigate or repair command. A Skilled First Officer is a great 1-point investment to get around that problem. Captain Needa is recommended especially when using Turbolaser Reroute Circuits so you can upgrade to double evade double redirect tokens, but he's also just a solid all-around officer for an Arquitens. Two evades is much more annoying to deal with than one, provided you can stay at long range. Finally, the Intel Officer is the big expensive officer option but he's great for making your Arquitens' attacks "stick" by going after solo defense tokens, and he doesn't mind that the Arquitens usually only get one attack.

Builds
Barebones
Dual Turbolaser Turrets + Skilled First Officer
That's it, really. I explained above why I like both of these upgrades and it's effectively my default "cheapo" Arquitens for most occasions.

Needa TRCs
Captain Needa + Turbolaser Reroute Circuits
It's pretty darn self-sufficient and it'll do more overall damage than the Barebones Arquitens but without the Skilled First Officer you run the risk of having that "one turn too late" navigate/repair command that could've saved your bacon, so I find I like running this one better with nav-enhancing commanders like Ozzel or Jerjerrod.

Big Shooty
Intel Officer + Enhanced Armament
Big Shooty is not cheap at 71 points but it's 5 red dice out the side arc (with concentrate fire) and a strong defense-token-screwage effect from the Intel Officer. This build works better with Vader for the rerolls and can produce a surprising amount of damage that way. This build is also a surprisingly effective Advanced Gunnery recipient for a fairly cheap ship (if/when it is destroyed).

Never mind, we're back to our comforting gray triangles. Phew, I was scared.
Arquitens-Class Command Cruiser
Okay, so for 5 points, our Light Cruiser becomes a Command Cruiser and gains the following:
  • Replaces the front and rear black dice with blue dice
  • Replaces the black flak dice with a blue flak dice
  • Squadron value increased from 1 to 2
  • Gains a support crew slot
That's a pretty decent haul for 5 points!

You still won't see the Command Cruiser as frequently as the Light Cruiser and the reason so far as I can surmise from my own experience is that you're spending more points on a Command Cruiser to improve on things that the Light Cruiser really didn't want to do much. Upgrading a black to a blue die in hull zones you don't get regular use from as well as the range on a flak die you don't often use are improvements to be sure but circumstantial. Similarly, improving your Squadrons value to 2 seems good but your Arquitens are already very command-hungry for navigate and concentrate fire commands and trying to squeeze squadron commands in there as well, especially on a flanking ship that is usually not near your main squadron group, is often difficult to do for iffy returns in practice. The support team slot certainly isn't bad, but if you're not getting some benefit from the other improvements too, you're spending 5 points so you can now spend more points on a new upgrade.

To be fair, I don't think the Command Cruiser is bad. I've seen them used all right. It's just not as popular as the Light Cruiser and when push comes to shove I prefer the Light Cruiser for the additional points savings rather than spending the points on the Command Cruiser for more circumstantial improvements.

Upgrades
Pretty much identical for the upgrade slots already covered in the Light Cruiser section. The one minor thing I would add is that Spinal Armament becomes a bit more appealing on the Command Cruiser as you can set up a 3 red/2 red + 1 blue double arc with it. You still need to be careful, though, of setting up a double arc and then flying into trouble due to it.

Support Crew
Engine Techs are the big sell here but they're pricey at 8 points and they don't help with the "straight line of movement into a clogged landing zone" problem Arquitens can have if you're not careful with them. They're great when you've got a clear landing zone and want to get lots of extra clicks to keep your guns trained on your target, though. Nav Teams can be useful for when you've banked (or can gain) nav tokens to improve your pre-final-segment yaw. Fighter Coordination Teams offer some niche benefits, particularly if you're using Rogue squadrons and want to speed them up a bit while they hang out with your busy Command Cruiser.

Builds
Nothing really notable here that's substantially different from the Light Cruiser builds. The support crew upgrades don't really combine with other upgrades in a way that creates an entirely new build. I will say that the Engine Techs can be fun on Command Cruisers with Moff Jerjerrod if you want ultimate yaw control (Jerry+nav dial+speed 3 = you get 4 total movement joints and the second one is limited to 1 yaw but all the others are maxed yaw).

Commanders that synergize with the Arquitens Cruiser
Admiral Motti
Motti goes with everything, to be fair, but Arquitens with 6 hull and Reinforced Blast Doors have effectively 9 hull and the extra Motti HP makes them more likely to survive to the start of the next ship phase to use their Reinforced Blast Doors. Fun!


Grand Moff Tarkin
Arquitens want to do basically every command but squadrons at all times. Tarkin provides them with some tokens so can actually kind of do that. Command Cruisers are happy for nav tokens to spend on Nav Teams or Engine Techs, but the expense of Tarkin combined with the extra points spent on Command Cruisers and support crew upgrades can add up, so be careful.

Darth Vader
Arquitens Cruisers actually brought Vader back from the binder prison he had been consigned to for a few waves, thankfully. With 4 defense tokens and a good number of red dice for their cost, Vader and the Arquitens go together very well. Just be mindful to navigate frequently enough and don't get addicted to using concentrate fire at all times!

General Tagge
Specifically with Turbolaser Reroute Circuits. If you really want to ensure consistent use of Tagge's ability, you can equip your Arquitens with Electronic Countermeasures but the cost gets a bit high for my tastes.

Moff Jerjerrod
Moff Jerry and Arquitens are made for each other, which is why they come bundled together. You know all that complaining I've done about the weird nav charts Arquitens get and how it's basically a stick with a swivel on the very end? Jerry does amazing things for the "selfie stick" movement of the Arquitens and substantially improves their maneuver options at the cost of one shield point (usually taken from the side facing the table edge that won't normally get attacked anyways) and zero command dials/tokens. Reinforced Blast Doors can help you make up for the durability losses Jerry inflicts on your Arquitens if necessary, and Jerry is so cheap that you should have some points lying around for them if you want them.

Final Thoughts 
The Arquitens is a neat little flanking long-ranged support ship that Imperial players had been longing for since wave one. Using it is a bit tricky, particularly with its weird nav chart, broadsides focus, and odd arcs, so don't give up on it if you're not wowed in your first few games. Keep at it and I know you'll find the Arquitens a rewarding small ship that can add a lot to most fleets.

7 comments:

  1. Awesome cat names and awesome article. Hope the little fella is better soon :)

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    1. Thank you! Surgery went well today so hopefully he'll be home a-okay by tomorrow or Monday at the latest.

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  2. Hi Eric, thanks once again for another great post! You have become a powerful Armada blogger, as the Emperor has foreseen...

    I really like the Arquitens as an addition to the Imp lineup and the change in faction dynamic it brings due to its broadside capabilities. I hope to see more ships following this pattern instead of the same old Imps-front arc, Rebs-broadside, standard. Hoping Thrawn and maybe even the Emperor show up soon!

    I'm sorry to hear about your cat and hope he makes a swift recovery. While I wouldn't presume to tell you how to care for your pets, I can offer a good resource you may find interesting:

    http://feline-nutrition.org/

    Warning: The below post is kinda long and is the result of my own experiences. Please don't take it as gospel. I'm not a vet and this is only my opinion with tidbits from the aforementioned website's veterinary contributors sprinkled in. I promise this long, non-Armada-related, post thing won't become a pattern.

    The backstory is that we had a cat pass away due to renal cancer. Carcinoma to be specific, which is about as bad as it gets in the cancer department (pretty much a death sentence). After vowing to never watch another pet suffer the same fate and hours of exhaustive research reading studies and opinions of veterinary nutritionists, I discovered that there may be a serious problem with feline nutrition in this country.

    Like most folks, I thought any old bag of dry food was perfectly acceptable sustenance for felines. Unfortunately, most dry foods are packed with cheap corn or grain fillers, and even the "grain free" brands use other fillers like peas or rice. The issue with this is twofold: cats don't need many carbs at all, and dry food lacks enough water content (cats evolved to get most of their hydration through their prey). Plus, when have you ever seen a cat snack on corn, rice, or wheat?

    So now we have an epidemic of kidney problems (kidney-disease, cancer, urinary tract issues, etc) due to feline kidneys being unable to handle the high amounts of plant carbs (which cause inflammation) mixed with chronic dehydration (kidneys need water to function properly). Feline obesity is also linked to a diet too high in carbohydrates, along with free-feeding dry food from bin feeders. FYI, cats can also get diabetes from bad diets, and it's not as cool as Wilford Brimley makes it seem.

    "I'll just switch to wet food like fancy feast, that'll solve the problem right?". Nope. Many commercial wet canned foods use chemicals (usually as preservatives or to prevent the food from sticking to the can) that are unhealthy and can cause more problems. Some of the meat sources these canned foods use are pretty nasty as well (mmmmm, chicken-meal and pork byproduct, tasty!). The seafood flavors may even use meat sources from countries in southeast Asia linked to slave labor (seriously, I couldn't believe it myself when I first read about it; where's zombie Lincoln when you need him?).

    https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-12-30/fish-caught-slaves-may-be-tainting-your-cat-food

    End of Part 1...

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  3. I switched my current kitty, Shyla, away from a supposedly more "natural" and "grain-free" dry food diet (discovered it had way too many carbs in the form of chick peas in it), to a raw meat diet (bought at local pet food store, comes frozen, thawed in the fridge the night before and warmed in a plastic bag put in warm water before feeding). I was desperate to find a cure to Shyla's chronic vomiting, occasional diarrhea, and itchy skin (probably a food or chemical additive allergy/reaction). After switching to raw, she no longer has itchy skin, the vomiting and diarrhea are gone, and her coat has never been softer. Her poops are also much more regular and far less stinky!

    While I am often suspicious of weirdo hippies or pseudo-experts proselytizing about any sort of "natural" or "raw" diet stuff (pet or human), this seems to be the real deal (the link above has actual vets writing many of their articles). I figured I'd give the raw food a shot and have been very pleased with the results. There are many raw food manufacturers (I use Primal Pronto frozen brand, but there are a lot more out there) as well as the option to make raw food yourself. Just keep in mind cats also need fat, bones (finely ground), connective tissue, and organ meat for a balanced diet. I prefer the stuff made by highly rated and vetted raw food companies like Primal Pronto (I have no connection to them, not a shameless plug, I promise!). Their plant uses hyper clean processes, high quality human-grade meats, and has stringent quality control to check every batch for bad bacteria (looking at you, E. coli) before shipping.

    Guess it makes sense, cats are obligate carnivores just like their big cousins, and don't do well eating carb-heavy, preservative-ridden garbage they haven't evolved to process in their digestive system. Why raw? Because cooking degrades the vitamins and other nutrients. Plus, wild cats don't barbecue their mice/rabbits/birds before eating them. Look at any kitty's teeth and you'll notice they are custom-made to shred raw skin, meat, organs as well as crunch small bones.

    Sorry for the long rant, I just have a soft spot for animals and want folks to be aware that we may have been misinformed by big-brand dry food companies when it comes to cat (and dog) nutrition. Even worse, a lot of local vets get their nutrition information from biased commercial manufacturer sales reps (like Hills and Purina), and can be misinformed about this subject. Kinda like pharmaceutical reps and human doctors...

    Lastly, for anyone who made it this far, clean your cat's litter box every day! Urinary tract infections hurt like hell and if you notice your cat hasn't peed in over a day take it to the vet ASAP! It may have a urinary tract blockage and its bladder will explode without immediate medical treatment! (Spoiler: there's no cure for exploded bladder).

    Anyways, I hope you find the site useful and your boy Remus is running around like a kitten chasing a laser pen very soon.

    PS: Clay litter may be another kitty deathtrap, but that's another story...

    http://www.moderncat.net/2011/03/06/reminder-why-clay-cat-litter-is-evil/

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    1. Wow, that's a very long response! Thanks for your interest in my cats and I'll be giving some consideration to what you said and the links too. The vet and I will be discussing what kind of diet to get the cats on to prevent any future kidney stones and hopefully work to dissolve any stones that haven't migrated out of the kidney into the bladder just yet.

      Thankfully the surgery went fine and Remus should hopefully be home by tomorrow (Sunday) or the day after at the latest.

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  4. Oh and for anyone worried about Remus (the cat): he's doing fine. We finally got him back on Monday (5/8/17) and other than being shaved in random places and stitched up, he's doing great. All are happy to have him home.

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