Sunday, December 20, 2020

Weapon team upgrades: the best defense is a good offense

Let's talk weapon teams! One quick note, the boarding teams (weapon team+offensive retrofit) upgrades are elsewhere, but otherwise all the weapon team upgrades are here.

"So... we're just kind of hoping they'll fly right in front of our window and otherwise we do nothing?"
"Man, these Imperial union jobs are great!"

"Phil, wake up! Phil! They're taking our group picture and... Dank Farrik, too late."
Fire-Control Team allows you to exhaust the card to resolve one more critical effect during the usual critical effect window. Three things I'd like to note quickly:
  • You can use the same critical icon to trigger two different critical effects provided the colors "match" correctly. So you could use Assault Concussion Missiles (which wants a black crit) and XX-9 Turbolasers (which wants any color crit) together triggering off of the same black hit+crit icon.
  • Damage Control Officer does horrible things to this card, as she spends a single contain to prevent you from choosing any critical effects, period, during the Resolve Damage step.
  • You exhaust Fire-Control Team when you use it, so you can only double up on critical effects once per round.
I'm not a fan of Fire-Control Team in almost any circumstance. The problem is that the generic critical effect is the easiest secondary critical effect to add to an upgrade critical effect and it's not always very reliable. The FAQ also ruled that Assault Proton Torpedoes do not stack with the generic critical effect (as the APTs deal a face-up damage card prior to the regular damage, meaning the first damage card has already been dealt face-up, so the generic crit does nothing). This situation is made worse by the fact that if you're trying to trigger black crit effects, you want Ordnance Experts; if you're trying to trigger blue crits, you want Weapons Battery Techs. Fire-Control Team steals their seats and doesn't help you get the critical icons you need at all, they're just hoping you get enough to fire off multiple critical upgrades all at once.

In short, I find I much prefer upgrades that help me more reliably trigger the critical upgrades I'm already bringing and improve my dice reliability as well over a "win more" upgrade that primarily works well when my dice are already hot and encourages me to spend two different weapon slots on an unreliable critical combo engine.

This guy is the most intense telemarketer I have ever seen.

Flight Controllers are pretty straightforward - every squadron their ship activates gets one more blue die against squadrons they attack that activation (but only for that squadron activation, it doesn't help Counter and it won't buff the attack given by Colonel Jendon because Jendon is the one being activated, not the squadron he tags in). They buff Snipe attacks as well (as the Snipe keyword simply replaces the normal anti-squadron armament with a temporary new one during the attack).

Flight Controllers can be extremely effective at boosting your fighter squadrons' capacity to beat down enemy squadrons, adding 0.5 average damage to each anti-squadron attack and also improving your odds of generating an accuracy against aces. They can be useful for adding more blue dice to squadrons that don't get many or any of them naturally, such as with Valen Rudor or TIE Defenders, and they're also good for improving multi-role squadrons that are poor to mediocre against squadrons, such as Y-Wings or B-Wings, up to being more capable, allowing you to get by with less dedicated fighters overall as your mixed-role mostly-bomber squadrons can mostly handle themselves (...mostly).

The main issue with Flight Controllers is finding a good home for it. You'll want a ship with a good Squadrons value to maximize their usefulness but that ship will also obviously need a weapon team slot that isn't being used for something else. It's not too tough giving it to a dedicated carrier like the Quasar, but for mixed-role combat ship-carriers, you need to choose between a weapon team that directly benefits the ship's attacks or Flight Controllers, which can be a tough call.

You know you're working hard when it makes sparks.

Gunnery Team got a bit more complex in Armada 1.5 so to the rules bullet points!

  •  Gunnery Team triggers only after you resolve a concentrate fire command on the current attack.
    • The next attack you make can come from the same hull zone as the current attack the concentrate fire command was resolved in.
      • In the case of huge ships like the SSD, this means two of your three attacks can come from the same hull zone. Otherwise, this is both attacks allowed for normal ships.
      • You can resolve a concentrate fire command with a concentrate fire token and choose not to reroll any dice in order to trigger con-fire dependent upgrades. This is exactly like resolving a navigate command without changing speed to trigger Engine Techs.
  • The restriction sentence is separate from the concentrate fire trigger (note that it begins on a new line instead of continuing from the preceding sentence). This means no matter what, each of your hull zones cannot target the same target more than once during your activation regardless of whether you're trying to do so through Gunnery Team or some other method.
    • This is relevant to the Advanced Gunnery objective in particular. Choosing a ship with Gunnery Team to be the Advanced Gunnery ship is a waste of Advanced Gunnery as the "cannot" on Gunnery Team overrides the "can" on Advanced Gunnery.

Gunnery Team is an oldie-but-goodie back from wave one that has been changed a bit in Armada 1.5 to require a concentrate fire command to trigger and only allows for the next attack to come from the same hull zone (a meaningless distinction except for huge ships, as I noted above). It's still a great upgrade on medium or large ships with a strong arc with longer-ranged dice. Specifically, you'll see this on ISDs, VSDs, Liberty MC80s, and Assault Frigates most frequently as they check those boxes. The main problems with Gunnery Team are it's expensive, you'll only get best use from it when you've got multiple targets in a desirable arc, and it requires a concentrate fire command to trigger. For all those reasons, it shouldn't be taken lightly, but is still an upgrade-slot-defining upgrade.

The reason you'll want a strong longer-ranged arc is the longer you can reach out, the better your odds of being able to meaningfully tag two targets from the same arc. An ISD-II with Gunnery Teams can unload its full salvo of 4 red and 4 blue dice at some unfortunate ship at medium range and then lob 4 red dice at another target at long range without too much trouble, for example, and this is superior to the same situation where its second attack is a 2-red-dice side arc attack. This varies from ship to ship, but in general I like to use Gunnery Teams on ships that will have either 4+ dice at long range (like a VSD-I with Spinal Armament) or 6+ red+blue dice at medium range (like an LMC80) to maximize the odds of getting efficient use from the Gunnery Team. The Assault Frigate seems like an exception, but it's important to note that you typically see Gunnery Team as the default upgrade on it with Ackbar for 5 red dice side arcs. Otherwise, the slot is much more competitive - Gunnery Team can still be the right call, but you've got other good choices, too.

Anyways, the main counter-argument I'll see to Gunnery Teams is that you won't always get to use them to their utmost from your best arc, particularly against more maneuverable enemy fleets that are endeavoring to stay out of there. That can certainly be the case. I'd counter that Gunnery Teams improve your chances of your most expensive ships getting to make both of their allowed attacks in a given activation and can improve the quality of your second attack as well. Sometimes the Gunnery Team itself helps with this, other times it does not. When you're spending a lot of points on a single ship, you need to give it the best chances of being effective and when it's stuck making only one attack in its activation, it's not.

Even if you're not using Gunnery Team to shoot two different ships in one activation, being able to attack a ship and flak from the same arc is quite handy. Smart bomber commanders like to put their bombers in arcs of enemy ships that would preferably like to target ships so as to avoid an easy decision to flak them instead. Gunnery Teams allow you to shoot from that arc and still flak regardless.That can add up pretty substantially against a heavy bomber wing.

The important final element to touch on here is the need for a concentrate fire command. In many cases, the kind of heavier combat ships that want to use Gunnery Team don't generally want to spend their command dial on adding one die to an attack when they've already got plenty of dice in the pool as is. You also have the issue of knowing when to time your concentrate fire dials on a (usually) Command 3 ship, which can be tough. The easiest solution is to simply have a concentrate fire token around for when you'll want to use Gunnery Team on the next attack. Given Gunnery Team even in 1.0 got used around 1 to 3 times per game, it means you need to plan to funnel around 2 concentrate fire tokens to the ship in question over the course of the game. The traditional method is with a Comms Net (or the new kid, Munitions Resupply) but there's nothing wrong with using a token-producing or retaining officer to help even things out.

Don't ask us, we just pour the green lasers into the laser tube.
Local Fire Control (confusingly for us often being shortened to LFC, the same initialism we at CGYSO use for "large fighter coverage") is pretty straightforward: once its ship deploys (either normally or later with something like Hyperspace Assault), you must replace one of your defense tokens with a salvo token. Until then, no decision needs to be made. It's often easiest replacing a contain with a salvo token (on most larger ships) but if it's a choice between a number of tokens (like an Assault Frigate MkII-A), you don't need to decide until deployment, so ditch whichever one you like the least in that matchup. If your ship already has a salvo token (like a Starhawk), you can always choose to replace its inherent salvo with a new salvo if for some reason you decide you would rather stick with your default token setup.

Local Fire Control, like most weapon team upgrades, needs to justify its existence compared to the big two of Gunnery Team and Ordnance Experts. Here you're looking for a ship that doesn't mind swapping a defense token (most are okay with it to some extent) and has a half-decent rear arc battery for salvo and doesn't mind using its weapon team slot on doing so. Generally this also wants some kind of built-in dice fixing to further guarantee the salvo attacks connect. A few example ships are:
  • Assault Frigate Mk-IIAs. Three rear dice makes salvo very strong for the points cost on an Assault Frigate A and it can take Linked Turbolaser Towers to keep the damage consistent.
  • Starhawks. Trading out the contain for a second salvo token plus the LTT combo option makes the Starhawk a pretty angry counter-attacker.
  • VSD-Is. VSD-Is that aren't specialized at a weapons-team-related task often aren't quite sure what to do with the slot. With Local Fire Control and LTTs (noticing a trend?) they can whip out some respectable red dice, especially on double arcs (3+2), with a 2 red salvo counter option as well if you're looking for mid-ranged mid-expense fire support with a DON'T GET CLOSE OR I'LL BITE element to it.

Joe was once again disappointed to find Willy Wonka didn't leave a golden ticket inside his torpedo.
Ordnance Experts allows the equipped ship to reroll up to two black dice once during each attack. Yes, that means your Raider-Is can reroll both of their black flak dice against each squadron they attack.

Ordnance Experts are swell on ships with decent black dice batteries and which can expect to get regular use from their black dice. For example, Raiders, Gladiator-class Star Destroyers, and MC30c Frigates (doubly so for Torpedo Frigates) should all give serious consideration to using Ordnance Experts and I consider them nearly-mandatory on those ships (especially Raiders). Slower ships that expect to use their black dice reactively (like VSDs) generally should ignore them in favor of something they'll get more regular use out of. If this sounds familiar, I touched on this in my how-to guide for using black dice.

It's rare that you'll have more than 2 blank black dice in a single attack, so the question becomes "is it worth using Ordnance Experts to reroll black dice with single hits?" In general, I recommend going nuts on your reroll if you're counting on getting a hit+crit for a black crit ordnance upgrade and you don't already have a reliable icon in the pool; for example, one hit+crit against a ship with a free evade token isn't a reliable icon - the reroll on the die will likely remove the critical from the pool - you'll want 2 or more critical icons in the pool then. Rerolling single hits is also appealing if you have an additional method for fixing dice that you don't mind using (a concentrate fire token, Intensify Firepower, Vader, or Screed) so you can go hunting for those crit+hit sides to increase your damage but have a failsafe for "oops, blanked out." Otherwise, stick to just rerolling blank black dice and play it safe.

When it comes to rerolls against squadrons, Ordnance Experts improves each black die's average damage from 0.75 to a very-impressive 0.94. This makes using them on Raider-Is very impressive as you are consistently (87.9% of the time) dealing 2 damage to each squadron you flak.

"Sir, those X-Wings are getting really close!"
"Don't interrupt me when I'm working on my arms-folded-behind-my-back Tagge Power Pose!"
Ruthless Strategists seems fairly straightforward but there are some provisions about its use that aren't always immediately apparent to everyone:
  • The effect triggers after attacking the squadron in question. So you get to see how that shakes out first. It can still trigger even if the attack did nothing (if you rolled no damage or the enemy squadron used a scatter defense token, for example). You do need to successfully make an attack, however, so if you've got one flak die and shoot an obstructed squadron, that attack is canceled (as you would have zero dice at that point) and thus cannot proceed and you couldn't use Ruthless Strategists as the attack never happened, effectively.
  • You may only deal 1 damage to an engaged friendly squadron. If the enemy squadron in question is at distance 1 of your squadrons but not engaged due to obstruction, you couldn't use Ruthless Strategists (as obstruction blocks engagement).
  • The 1 damage being dealt is not an attack. Therefore neither your friendly squadron nor the enemy squadron can use defense tokens (specifically, scatter) to reduce the damage nor may they use any damage-modification effects that trigger during an attack (such as Biggs Darklighter).
 Ruthless Strategists need two important things to be effective in your fleet:
  1. A ship that wants to take them. For this you generally want a ship that has longer-ranged flak (at least one blue die) so it can hit more enemy squadrons. The ship in question also should be comfortable taking Ruthless Strategists instead of some other weapon team upgrade. This tends to disqualify most ships from consideration given that Ruthless Strategists is a bit niche (given it cares only about squadrons and isn't as easily applicable as something like Gunnery Team or Ordnance Experts).
    • Two flak dice is even better, as it will let you get 1 die through obstruction so it's harder to hide from you in a dogfight behind an obstacle.
  2. A squadron wing that can make use of them. In general, you'll want a lot of hull points for cheap so that when you're trading hull for hull, your hull was purchased at a discount and your opponent's hull came more expensive. The best example would be using Ruthless Strategists to ping your 10-point 6-hull Y-Wings in return for putting damage on a sneaky expensive scatter ace like Dengar.
So with all that said, Ruthless Strategists can be very effective but they're something of a rare sight. They're the kind of thing you build a squadron wing, and thus your whole fleet, around rather than a "might as well"-style upgrade.

"I am accurately staring at this glowing orange canister, what else do you want from me?"
Sensor Team is pretty straightforward: Exhaust the upgrade while attacking and spend a die to change another die to a face with an accuracy icon.

Sensor Team is a pretty dumped-on upgrade card overall and it's not hard to see why: there's a lot of competition for the weapon team slot on many ships and the Sensor Team can only work on one of its ships attacks and requires you to smoosh two dice together to get a single accuracy icon, which you will note does nothing to assist the amount of damage in the pool and in many cases will decrease it.
One guaranteed accuracy you need to effectively dedicate two dice towards isn't frequently useful: you need a situation where the extra accuracy is helpful (so it won't do much against a pair of identical fresh defense tokens, for example) and there's enough damage left in the pool for that accuracy to be meaningful and for that to be a superior use of 5 points and your weapon team slot compared to other options. That doesn't happen frequently, but in some cases it can be helpful. If Sensor Team's effect didn't require spending a die to trigger, I'd be less negative about it. But as it is, I don't recommend using it unless you're 200% sure it's a better call than an alternate weapons team.

Our bespoke black "pointing at dudes to shoot" gloves put the 'fashion' in fascism!
There's one very important thing I need to point out about Veteran Gunners and that is you exhaust the card to reroll all dice in your attack pool. This card is frequently misread as "whichever dice you want to reroll" and that is incorrect. You exhaust it to reroll all of them, whether you like it or not.

Also a quick reminder:because the Veteran Gunners are used during the Resolve Attack Effects step, you can use other effects before or after them. For example, you could spend accuracy icon dice to lock down defense tokens before rerolling the remaining dice.

With all that said, Veteran Gunners has not been a terribly popular upgrade. It has its uses, particularly on ships with large numbers of red dice (as they have a tendency to be fickle, so rerolling the whole pool can be worth it on occasion), but points invested into more on-target dice-fixing technology (like Turbolaser Reroute Circuits or Linked Turbolaser Towers) are almost always better; choosing whether or not to reroll an entire dice pool is tricky in situations where the dice turn out to be unimpressive but not outright awful: is it worth trying again? What happens if it turns out worse? It's tough to say, but it's often tempting to stick with a sure thing even if it's not quite amazing.

Daft Punk got weird later on.
Weapons Battery Techs have a very simple effect: so long as you're attacking a ship, in your Resolve Attack Effects step you can change one die showing an accuracy icon to a side with a critical icon.

Generally, this effect isn't terribly impressive all on its own. Obviously it does nothing with the strongest critical face in the game, the hit+crit side on the black die, because black dice have no accuracy icons. Red accuracy results aren't terribly common on their own (only 1 in 8 faces) so it's unreliable as a method for increasing damage on red dice and red dice don't generally unlock impressive critical effects anyways (sorry, XX-9 Turbolasers). It's best with blue critical effects, but you need to build around it and it's not always going to produce the result you want. Plus you're competing with staple weapon teams like Gunnery Team and Ordnance Experts.

That said, if you're throwing enough blue dice, Weapons Battery Techs are a very reliable way of getting that blue crit. Basically:

Blue dice
Crit success chance

Once you're at 3+ dice, they get pretty darn reliable. And even over 3 dice, your chances of being able to generate additional crits beyond the first (rendering evades incapable of stopping your blue crit) increases. Neat.

You can even guarantee blue crits if that's your thing. When combined with H9 Turbolasers, the Home One title, or Captain Jonus, you can flip any blue die that rolls an uncooperative hit icon to an accuracy icon and then flip it to a crit icon with Weapons Battery Techs. With a ship that doesn't have great blue dice batteries in its arcs, this combination can make blue crit upgrades substantially more appealing as they become much more reliable.


  1. I’m confused by “long range flak”. Don’t the rules state that all flak is range 1?

    1. That's incorrect - flak goes out to the dice color range, just like anti-ship attacks (so a Quasar-II with its red flak die will attack all enemy squads up to long range in that arc with one red die). You may be thinking of the anti-ship and anti-squadron dice on squadrons, which are limited to distance 1 regardless of their color.

  2. Thanks for the 1.5 updates! Question on SSD with gunnery teams and a dial+token. Can one be spent on the first attack and then the other on the second attack to shoot the third attack from the same arc? The GT card doesn't appear to exhaust and I can't seem to find the clarification elsewhere. Fingers crossed you can help settle this once and for all!

    1. You can only resolve a given command once per activation, so unfortunately what you are hoping for is not possible. The super star destroyer is going to be limited to only two attacks from the same arc with gunnery team.

    2. No problem. Sorry it's not the answer anyone was hoping for but that's how it is. It makes other less conventional weapon teams a little more appealing on an SSD but I still think of Gunnery Team as the default there.

  3. Do you think Weapon Battery Techs would be a good pairing with SPHA-T?

    1. Not especially, no. They'd mostly function as insurance for if your blue dice rolled too many accuracies, but that's not really worth dedicating a weapon slot to all by itself. If SPHA-Ts had a blue critical effect, then yes.