Friday, May 19, 2017

Quasar preview article hot take

So FFG just released its preview article for the Quasar. If you haven't read it yet, please do!

So I would primarily like to give my hot take impressions on all of the new stuff that has been spoiled. I already gave my hot take impressions on the boarding teams and such from the earlier wave 6 teaser article, so I won't be covering those again.

Okay so the default Quasar-I is quite competitively priced at 54 points - that's 8 points more than two barebones Gozantis for the same amount of total squadron commanding but all at once and on a chassis that's much more cost-effective for upgrades. It's got two offensive retrofit slots, which makes fitting both carrier-friendly offensive retrofits on it at once (Boosted Comms and Expanded Hangar Bays) quite doable, if desired.

Of the two Quasar variants, the Quasar-I seems to be most keen on using a boarding team (most certainly the Boarding Troopers, given the Boarding Engineers are awful with its Engineering value of 2): it's the cheaper Quasar and its dice are more effective closer in. If using the Quasar in this fashion, you'll have one open offensive retrofit slot remaining, likely for Disposable Capacitors or Expanded Hangar Bays.

Both Quasars are going to strongly want Flight Controllers for the extra blue die added to the anti-squadron attacks of everything they activate. It may not be a strict necessity (depends on your fleet) but it's definitely something to strongly consider.

In terms of officers, I'd default to considering a squadron-friendly officer like Admiral Chiraneau, Flight Commander, or Wulff Yularen (for recycling a squadron or nav token usually, which lets you boost your squadron commands up to 6 total squadrons if built right or for letting you change speed while hitting the squadrons button as much as possible). You've got other choices, too, of course: for example, Skilled First Officers are always happy to go on Command 2 ships.

Speed 3 is definitely appreciated and the navigate chart is not as bad as I was expecting it to be. The blue dice everywhere aren't bad at all and can be useful with the Disposable Capacitors... which we may as well just cover right now before going on to other things:

A few things to note:
  • Small or medium ship only! For some reason, early excited readers keep missing this part ;).
  • The ability triggers upon activation, so it's important to mind the timing window.
  • Once discarded, the blue dice in the ship's battery armament can be used up to long range against ships until the end of the round.
    • This means in normal circumstances, both of your attacks would benefit from this buff and if there was some means of getting a ship to attack again later in the round, it would still be in effect.
In short, this is designed to be used on the Quasar-I to buff its long-ranged capability for one round prior to targets getting closer but I think it will have potentially great uses for the VSD-II, the Suppressor Interdictor, and perhaps even with the Raider-II. The VSD-II being able to throw its entire front arc at two different targets (Gunnery Team!) on one crucial turn can cause some serious damage and potentially even wipe flotillas at long range (more reliable if Vader or Leading Shots is giving it rerolls, granted, or perhaps some H9 Turbolasers) and allows the VSD-II to fill a niche more unique than "star destroyer that you use when you can't afford an ISD-II." A Suppressor Interdictor being able to double-arc something from long range while being able to use its ion cannon upgrade also helps it improve its damage consistency by giving it effectively one more turn of contributing "real" firepower to the fight, which is good. The Raider-II... we'll see. With 3 blue dice in the front arc, you can go up to 4 with concentrate fire at long range. That's not enough to really one-shot kill flotillas, but it certainly helps. I feel like it's missing a weapon crew or ion cannon upgrade to really pull it all together, but it's definitely a good first step towards making the Raider-II more competitive. It does make the Raider-II a more reliable platform for blue crit upgrades, allowing you to start applying them a turn earlier than usual, but you still get some of the unreliability and combo-centric nature of those upgrades which leaves me skeptical. We'll see, I may end up eating crow on that call.

At the moment, there aren't many Rebel ships that can equip, much less get serious use from, Disposable Capacitors. The closest you really get is the Command Pelta and it's still very iffy. In general I'd rather use a squadron-based offensive retrofit to buff the Pelta's carrier role, but it might be worth a try for a 2 red + 2 blue front arc and a 1 red + 1 blue side arc attack early on.

Anyways, on to the Quasar-II!
So for 7 points over the Quasar-I (a 13% increase), the Quasar-II gets:
  • Replace 2 blue dice in the front and 1 blue die on each side hull zone with red dice.
  • Replace blue flak die with a red flak die(!)
  • Replace one offensive retrofit slot with a weapon team slot (bringing it to two weapon team slots, the first ship in the game with that option, and one offensive retrofit slot).
So a fair amount. Given the Quasar isn't really set up to be a serious combatant, the upgrade to a longer-ranged focus is certainly welcome as it allows the Quasar to contribute attack dice from a safe(r) distance. The red flak die in particular is intriguing, as the Quasar-II will be the first ship in the game to offer that. It should be noted that a red die used against squadrons does nothing of value 5/8 of the time, so it won't be reliable but it will be useful at an extremely long range and can catch lots of squadrons in its huge front arc. Agent Kallus is an easy officer choice here if you want to prioritize flakking, as he can add a more reliable black die (if you're looking for damage, it happens 75% of the time) or blue die (if you're looking for damage or an accuracy against a scatter ace, one of those will happen 75% of the time) against unique squadrons.

With two weapon team slots, it's actually tempting to consider equipping a Gunnery Team here. The idea being that being able to both flak and attack a ship at long range out of your huge front arc is pretty appealing and could be worth 7 points. Or you can toss 2 red against two different ships at long range. That's fine too. You'll have the other weapon team slot free for Flight Controllers or Ruthless Strategists; Ruthless Strategists are particularly appealing on a Quasar-II with the right fleet builds (with high hull cheap squadrons like TIE Bombers) as your long-ranged flak covers a lot of ground and gives Ruthless Strategists numerous opportunities to trigger.

The offensive retrofit slot seems to be crying out for Boosted Comms so the Quasar can do its thing at long range more comfortably but there's always other options too.

Pursuant is a very cheap title (2 points!) which basically once per game lets you discard the title to execute a full squadron command during an activation when you aren't using a squadron command. That's pretty amazing, as it lets you effectively resolve two full-strength commands on the same turn. It's all-around handy for any Quasar build but offers a lot of cheap flexibility with a Skilled First Officer as you can quickly juke into navigating away from trouble (for example) using the Skilled First Officer and not worry whatsoever about giving up your squadron dial, as the Pursuant title has you covered.
The Squall title operates as something of an amped-up Fighter Coordination Team but with an additional restriction: you can only move 3 unengaged squadrons (rather than your Squadrons value) but you get to move them upon activation and you get to move them up to distance 2 (rather than 1) but they cannot end their movement engaged (this last part is going to cause some arguments about how to undo squadron movements that get a bit too close, I suspect). I should also note that the Heavy keyword doesn't stop squadrons from engaging you, so being engaged by Heavy squadrons will still make you ineligible for Squall's ability.

It's also another cheap title, which is very welcome.

There are a lot of ways to use this ability. It's great for repositioning an uncontested Rhymerball. It's particularly scary on the first turn where you can push Rhymer and two of his strongest friends (I'd vote for Jendon and Maarek Stele) an extra distance 2 prior to activating them to pounce on some poor enemy ship that thought it was safe on turn 1. Nope! It's also handy for all-purpose repositioning and alpha-striking. We've all had situations where a squadron got left out of a fight (just finished up its business elsewhere, it got sat on by a ship and placed too far away, etc.) and couldn't quite get back in the fray when we wanted. Giving it an extra distance 2 push prior to commanding it can make a big difference. Similarly, the extra push on TIEs can ensure they're getting in the first punch when your opponent also brought faster squadrons.

Also like Fighter Coordination Teams (which in general Imperials are much more awkward about utilizing than Rebels are) you can use Squall to trigger squadron-movement effects, primarily by landing squadrons on the station to heal them (remember that if you're obstructed to other squadrons, you're still not engaged, so landing on the station can still be done if there are enemies nearby provided you've got room to land obstructed to them) or giving your Lambdas an extra push to trigger Strategic two times in a turn (once from Squall, once again during their regular activation).

Finally, Squall has some use for the slower squadrons, which for Imperials are nearly all Rogues (despite the general sentiment of the Quasar and Sloane's ability thumbing their noses at bounty hunters): an extra push for the sluggish speed 2 YV-666 can help it keep up with your fleet much better, and your slower-than-average speed 3 squadrons like Aggressors and Decimators certainly won't complain either.

In short, it's a very flexible ability. I'd normally want to pair it with Boosted Comms so you can comfortably slingshot squadrons from medium to long range with Squall and then launch them with a squadron command if necessary.

Stronghold is basically a usually-weaker Gallant Haven but with a larger radius (distance 1-2 rather than distance 1) and is pickier on who it works on (Swarm squadrons only). Still, at only 5 points it's pretty handy. If you use your TIEs as a combat air patrol (CAP) primarily for defending your fleet positioned close to your ships (which is my usual method for using them), Stronghold has got your back. In particular, Stronghold has a great effect against lighter squadrons like A-Wings that don't have a lot of dice but can usually get in the first punch against your TIEs. Similarly, it's amazing against two other things TIEs hate dealing with: Counter (as that's an attack so it would still be obstructed) and enemy flak (as the FFG article already mentioned, obstructed one-die flak attacks are zero-dice attacks and do nothing at all to our heroic TIE Fighters).

This title is extra-strong with TIE Fighter and TIE Interceptor aces for the same reason as Ciena Ree's ability is good: less dice thrown against you means not only overall less damage but less of a chance of an accuracy popping up to lock down your scatter. Obviously, Ciena Ree herself doesn't benefit from Stronghold at all (she's already obstructed), but Howlrunner and Mauler Mithel and the like are absolutely on board with becoming temporary Ciena Rees when near Stronghold.

Last but not least, let's talk about The Grand Inquisitor. First things first, it's important to note that if you force the enemy ship to change its speed using Phylon Q7 Tractor Beams, Admiral Konstantine, or G-8 Experimental Grav Projector, the Grand Inquisitor is watching that speed change happen and can trigger.

The Grand Inquisitor is an interesting and not terribly expensive officer that seems like it will be appealing on three different kinds of ships:
1) Carrier ships (like the Quasar, fittingly) that want to be able to "fake" navigate commands on the fly without having to actually commit too many dials towards navigating so they can keep prioritizing squadron commands.
2) Ships that like to change their speed several steps at once if possible in order to catch prey. That's really vague, I grant, but for example I would say when used aggressively this would be best on Raiders or Gladiators, as they generally prefer to catch or chase down their prey and speed control is very important in that role (going from speed 2 to 4 for Raiders or speed 1 to 3 for Gladiators and back). Opposing ships can try to alter their own speed to avoid falling into a trap or to fall short of/overshoot the current striking range and the Grand Inquisitor counters that speed change with a speed change of his own. I'm not sure it's worth giving up the heavily-contested officer seat on the Demolisher for the Grand Inquisitor, mind you, but it's an intriguing idea.
3) Lifeboats. I'm not a big fan of lifeboats but the fact is if your commander is on a flotilla running away from trouble, the primary threats to his life come from fast maneuverable enemy ships chasing him down. They often do this with assistance from navigate commands. By being able to change speed in reaction to enemy speed changes, you may be able to squirm your lifeboat out of what would normally be a trap.

Final thoughts
My final thoughts are actually "these are my original thoughts, I'm sure to refine/change my opinions once I get some table time with these things!" but it's a very exciting spoiler for sure. I've been envious of dedicated Rebel carriers (the Yavaris, the Command Pelta, some configurations of HMC80s/Assault Frigates) for a while now and Gozantis don't quite scratch that itch. The Quasar looks like it will, and that's exciting.


  1. This might make Overload Pulse Raider II a viable option in conjunction with the ISD Avenger title.

    Maybe. :)

  2. I think this is very comparable ship to the Command Pelta. With its Titles and option slots I think it makes a far better carrier to the Command Pelta and is arguably better than a similarly point buy Yavaris. As a Rebel player I am super jealous but also very glad my Imperial opponents got a competent carrier instead of relying on Gozantis or Star Destroyers.

    1. In terms of squadron command muscle and effective titles, I think the Quasar has got the Pelta beat. The Pelta has the definite upside of being able to exploit Fighter Coordination Teams (which the Quasar can't, although the Squall title helps do something similar if you need it) and being able to bring along a Fleet Command upgrade, which can be super good (All Fighters Follow Me! being particularly noteworthy so far as a carrier-focused ship is concerned).

      I'm also glad that Imperials get a more dedicated carrier than Gozantis or VSDs/ISDs. It's a good development. Rebel fleets have been able to use GR-75s, Neb-Bs, Peltas, and the occasional Assault Frigate/HMC80 for a heavier battleship/carrier. Imperials had their flotilla and larger ship ends covered but nothing in the middle. That's been fixed, thankfully.

  3. I do like this ship, but I'm a little concerned about using it in place of dual Gozantis at a similar price point for the same squadron power and the additional boon of extra activations. I definitely see the benefit of more squadron power in a single activation and a ship that can also support the combat line, but I think for my money the extra activations are a nicer buy unless you're going in for the boarding parties or some of the tricks provided by the Titles.

    1. My feelings are that if you simply want something that comes along and helps push some squadrons for your fleet, you'll likely want to stick with Gozantis. If you want a fleet that has more of a commitment to squadrons (even if it's just "I want to invest a bit more so my fighters can crush most squadrons coming against me"), then the Quasar is for you. It doesn't need to be either/or, I fully expect it to be "and" when the Quasar is in use.