Thursday, December 24, 2020

Red (assault) objectives, wave 5

Let's get to those wave 5 objectives!

Oh boy, here I go objective-article writing again!

Blockade Run
Notes/clarification:
Thanks to the Star Wars Armada Wiki for the above image!
  • The setup area is as above, in case there was any confusion.
    • A really important thing to note is that with the battle now effectively taking place in a wide hallway, there's a lot less room to maneuver around the sides of things.
      • This can make ships with stronger front arcs much harder to avoid, for example.
  • Because the second player places all obstacles, it can be clever them to create two lines of obstacles to create three "lanes" through the center of the map (center, left, and right as viewed from the 3 foot sides); this allows their own ships to make a run for the end zone while getting obstruction and potentially causing opponent ships to take damage if they try to cross "lanes" to chase them down.
    • To be more specific, a "lane" can be created by setting up 2-3 obstacles close to one another and oriented in a roughly horizontal line (to the diagram above, it will appear vertical from the perspective of the deployment zones).
What kind of fleets should consider using Blockade Run?
You would think it would be fleets with numerous faster combat ships (like CR90s, MC30s, Raiders, and Gladiators) and flotillas and the like actually, you know, running a blockade. You'd be wrong though, sadly. The first big issue is if you're using an MSU-style fleet with at least one flotilla, you generally should be using Most Wanted or Opening Salvo instead. The second big issue is Blockade Run is an easy choice for a fleet with durable front arc ships like ISDs, VSDs, and LMC80s because it's harder for enemy ships to escape their front arc while fighting in a 3 foot wide hallway instead of a 6 foot wide normal board. Generally Big Heavy fleets that use Blockade Run aren't looking to prioritize scoring points from Blockade Run itself (they'll take it if they can get it, of course); they want the other benefits. Namely, Blockade Run traps the enemy fleet in a bowling alley against front-arc ships and gives the second player complete control over obstacles. This can provide an unexpected deployment benefit in that even though Big Heavy is typically outdeployed, the room for combat maneuvers around ships is halved, making it difficult for the first player to deploy and then move one of his ships to a place where at least one of the second player's ships can't attack back with its best arc when combat begins.

It should be noted that Blockade Run is similar to Minefields in that it can create non-games: there's a lot of room in the different deployment zones and if both players deploy and then maneuver too conservatively, it can take a while before combat actually happens (and in the most extreme example, it won't happen at all!). The important take-away from this is that it puts pressure on the first player to actually make the game a game. If the first player is camping his deployment zone too strongly and not really coming out, the second player can simply wait until the 6th turn to make a run for the deployment zone and win just through victory tokens or even just sit in his deployment zone and win by the second-player tiebreaker. That is not a very exciting game but it is a game the second player can win fairly easily.

What kind of enemy fleets are disadvantaged by playing Blockade Run?
It really depends on what kind of fleet is using Blockade Run (MSU versus Big Heavy), but overall, side arc ships like Assault Frigates can have a hard time sailing around problems in this objective due to the hallway orientation of the battlefield. If you can't handle MSU blitzing you and then running into the endzone for points or Big Heavy trapping you in a hallway and grinding you down with beefy front arcs, I'd avoid this one. I don't think it's a super-strong objective overall, but it has a tendency to be underestimated and overlooked.

Close-Range Intel Scan
 Notes/clarification:
  • Remember to add the two dust fields to your 6 regular obstacles!
    • As a reminder, dust fields completely prevent ship attacks that trace line of sight through them and obstruct squadron attacks like a regular obstacle.
  • The spent accuracy icons don't do anything but score points - they don't function like a normal spent accuracy icon die.
What kind of fleets should consider using Close-Range Intel Scan?
The short and sweet answer is "fleets with accuracy-generating tech available on most of its ships" such as from Captain Jonus, the Home One HMC80 title, or H9 Turbolasers taken in sufficient quantity or the like. That's it. This makes Close-Range Intel Scan a rather narrowly-applicable objective, but that doesn't make it bad. Consider that with accuracy-generating tech, you will on occasion have (or can easily create) accuracy icons that aren't conventionally useful. Perhaps the enemy's brace has already been discarded or locked down by an earlier accuracy icon, or you can generate one accuracy but the opponent has a pair of the same defense token you want to go after (like the LMC80's double-braces or the MC30's double-evades double-redirects), or the attack is doing a small enough packet of damage that your opponent won't want to spend defense tokens anyways. In those types of circumstances, you can generate victory tokens pretty painlessly by spending your excess accuracy icon die. Your opponent, conversely, has a very hard time generating victory tokens for this objective at all - naturally generating 2 accuracy icons is much less common than generating 1, especially without accuracy tech, and far less likely to be in a situation where it's easy to spend both of them just for points rather than wanting to spend at least one for the regular accuracy effect.

Thus Close-Range Intel Scan is basically a source of extra points almost entirely for player two. The total number of extra points at the end of the game is unlikely to be over 100, but it's largely a one-way street: objectives like Contested Outpost still see a lot of play even though I rarely see a game end where Contested Outpost gave the second player more than a 60 point lead by the end of the game, and Close-Range Intel Scan in a very specific kind of fleet can easily do at least that without tying you to a specific obstacle or on-board objective token zone that your opponent can go after.

What kind of enemy fleets are disadvantaged by playing Close-Range Intel Scan?
Anything that can't generate lots of accuracy icons isn't going to be keen on playing against Close-Range Intel Scan, although the "meh" reputation of the objective may see it getting picked with some frequency before opponents begin to realize it is a one-way points street for a fleet designed with accuracy-generation reliability in mind.

Station Assault
Notes/clarification:
  • Much like Contested Outpost, the first player will only get to place two obstacles when playing this objective (because when the first player should be placing their third obstacle, the obstacles have run out and then the second player gets to place the station[s]).
  • The stations are deployed following the normal rules for obstacles, I'm not entirely sure why they felt the need to spell it out all over again.
  • Remember that the stations no longer help heal the first player's stuff - they're the second player's stations now!
  • The unarmed stations have the stats below:
  • It's important to note that the stations cannot suffer critical effects, period. So not only will the generic critical effect not work on them but neither will any critical effect. 
  • When destroyed, the cardboard station obstacles remain in the play area. They no longer heal ships and squadrons, but they continue to obstruct. Additionally, you can't attack a station if you overlap it. 
    • These rules are in the Rules Reference Guide (online) and are frequently overlooked.
I'd like to write a bit more at length about the points-scoring element of Station Assault. Namely, it has two basic outcomes: either one station is destroyed and the players tie on Station Assault points or one player gets his way on both stations (intact or destroyed) and that player gets a hefty 80 point leg up on the game. Given the first player needs to get 10 points of damage into each station to destroy it, the first player needs to direct a lot more effort (and likely "wasted" attacks) into getting it his way than the second player. It behooves the second player to make it difficult for the first player to choose to attack a station for this reason; 10 points of damage isn't a huge number, especially when the station lacks defense tokens, but neither is it simple to do with little effort.

What kind of fleets should consider using Station Assault?
Station Assault is recommended to basically all the same kinds of fleets that like to use Contested Outpost. Specifically, more defensive fleets that like to hang out together near an area they can protect. In particular, you get extra mileage from an Interdictor's Grav Shift Reroute by using it to pull both stations closer to your table edge and further away from the enemy fleet. Just be sure to keep your speed down to force your opponent to come to you while you're still in range to defend the stations! If you get too far away from them then your opponent doesn't need to decide between attacking your ships/squadrons or your stations, he'll attack your fleet earlier and then overshoot to attack your stations later in the game.

The "default" method of Station Assault seems to be keeping the two stations close together so your whole fleet can get between them and the enemy fleet and dare the other guy to come into the bear trap. There's also something to be said for setting up the stations on opposite sides of the table and deploying to defend the one the first player sets up near: if the first player wants to deploy a ship or two on the other side of the table away from the main battle to knock over a 10 hull space station, that's not a bad trade-off at all.

Generally, Station Assault is perceived by a number of players as being a more "anti-squadron" type of objective and I can't really disagree with that. It takes away the station's healing ability for enemy squadrons and can create awkward situations for squadron-focused damage plans by either awarding the second player additional points or pulling enemy squadrons out of position and off enemy ships to go elsewhere and put damage into stations put into disadvantageous positions. A ship with Gunnery Team or an arc that wasn't doing anything anyways don't mind tossing some extra attack damage into a station, but squadrons really have better things to do most of the time.

What kind of enemy fleets are disadvantaged by playing Station Assault?
Similarly (again) to Contested Outpost, slower fleets don't like being put into the position of getting to point X and doing something about it. Fleets that are damage-poor or need to commit squadrons for the bulk of their damage are also in a bad place when it comes time to look for some spare damage sources to throw into a station.

Targeting Beacons
Notes/clarification:
  • The first player has no incentive at all to place the objective tokens anywhere but in the corners of the setup area (a full ranger ruler in from the short ends on the sides, no distance in from the long ends).
    • For this reason I encourage you to consider Targeting Beacons as effectively pertaining to the two tokens placed by the second player with only the slimmest possibility that the tokens placed by the first player will be relevant during the game.
      • Why did FFG do this? I have absolutely no idea.
  • The reroll ability happens during the "resolve attack effects" step and so can be used before or after other add/modify/reroll/spend effects.
What kind of fleets should consider using Targeting Beacons?
Fleets utilizing both 1) one or more Strategic squadrons as well as 2) several combat ships with red dice in their anti-ship batteries can benefit from Targeting Beacons. That's a fairly narrow niche, similar to Close-Range Intel Scan in that the vast majority of fleets are going to look at this and give it a hard pass.

The good news is that a distance 1-2 radius of a Targeting Beacon token is a fairly wide footprint when Strategic squadrons can move it around a considerable distance. So long as your red dice ships can gang up on anything that wanders into the mobile kill zone, the 2 dice (or less) reroll effect can help alleviate the problems you get with fickle red dice rolling blanks when you need them the most and at closer ranges can be used for other fun reroll shenanigans like fishing for accuracy icons with blue dice or sometimes even rerolling black dice as well.

The biggest issue with Targeting Beacons is that many fleets that love red dice are keen on using wave one red objectives: Most Wanted or Advanced Gunnery (on an HMC80) are pretty common and generally effective, with the occasional Opening Salvo showing up here and there. The main argument against those objectives and for Targeting Beacons largely comes down to "well I already made this investment towards Strategic squadrons to lock down the objective tokens on my yellow and blue objectives and I want to be able to use them with a red objective too," given that Targeting Beacons is the only red objective with on-table objective tokens that Strategic squadrons can mess with. This isn't an altogether bad reason but it does mean you'll likely be playing a lot of Targeting Beacons as it has a weaker benefit and thus weaker synergy with Strategic than the big points payouts you can get from controlling objective tokens with Fire Lanes and Sensor Net; thus your opponents are (correctly) going to see Targeting Beacons as the lesser of the three evils and choose it.

One final conciliatory note in defense of Targeting Beacons: although Most Wanted, Advanced Gunnery, and Opening Salvo all have more generally-powerful effects that are more straightforward to use, they also provide benefits to the first player (although reduced or at the choice of the second player) that can sometimes be turned back against you. Targeting Beacons only helps the second player. I'm still iffy on it in most cases, but you'll never be cursing it for betraying you by helping your opponent more than you; you'll only be cursing it for perhaps not helping you enough.

What kind of enemy fleets are disadvantaged by playing Targeting Beacons?
Targeting Beacons can cause some trouble for enemy fleets without sufficient fighter coverage to stop the Strategic squadron(s) from passing the objective tokens around to keep the rerolls going for most of the game. Anything that improves red dice reliability can overwhelm smaller ships that were largely counting on using evade tokens against the better dice coming their way and ignoring the occasional blanks only to find that there are not, in fact, occasional blanks happening much any more.

8 comments:

  1. I've found it very difficult against most opponents to save the Unarmed Station from destruction. Even a single TRC Corvette rushing behind the defensive fleet is enough to do 10 damage to a station over 2 turns. ISDs (and other big-gun ships) can use Gunnery Teams to fire on your fleet AND the station. Bombers have an easy time finishing off stations in the last 2 turns.

    Is anyone winning as 2nd player with this objective? If so - is it because the opponent simply has the wrong fleet composition?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The wave 5 Regionals data shows us that of the people attending, 12% of fleets used Station Assault. The top 8 had it in 13% of their fleets, the top 4 had it in 15% of their fleets, and the winners had it in 21% of their fleets. That would indicate that it's fairly competitive.

      The core responsibility of the second player is to make sure the first player is giving something up to attack the station and to minimize the "freebie" attacks on it. If they're not able to do that, then they're going to have a bad time.

      If you want to check out the Regionals data, it's here:
      https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19PbaGZ6FshtPNn2VxGpenmuJ56AtHd0JPPBF83cX3Yc/edit#gid=27376123

      Delete
  2. My 7 year old built an accuracy-generation fleet around Admiral Ackbar, Home One and two MC30c with Quad Turbolaser Cannons. I foolishly took Close-Range Intel Scan against it, and he proceeded to beat me like a rented mule.

    He tabled me, and ran up 6 or 7 tokens. It was a wipeout. That experience has convinced me that accuracy-generation lists are viable.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "The stations are deployed following the normal rules for obstacles, I'm not entirely sure why they felt the need to spell it out all over again."

    I thought normal obstacles had to be placed range 5 of any board edge, the stations are only range 3 of player edges that means they can touch the 3ft board edges in the middle and can be closer to player edges than other obstacles? Or have I been setting up obstacles wrong? :p

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nope, normal obstacles must be placed outside of distance 3 of the player edges and in the setup area (so not within distance 5 of the short board edges) and outside of distance 1 of other obstacles. That's exactly the same requirements as the stations.

      Delete
    2. I should have added: it's on page 23 of the learn to play book if you would like to check for yourself.

      Delete
    3. Ah bugger. Been doing it wrong every time I play then :(

      Delete

  4. I think there's a common misconception that Blockade Run is mostly for fleets with multiple small ships that can quickly cross to the other side of the obstacle field. From my experience while it might work okayish for them, it's extremely hard to get more than a 6:5 out of it as the enemy is almost certain to get at least one ship in the last turn or two and you're unlikely to kill anything yourself. Assuming 6 activations it means you get 100 points while the opponent gets twenty plus the cost of whatever he killed. Unless that something is worth less than 21 points, it ends up being 6:5 for you (or for the opponent if he killed something worth 80 points or more - say, a flagship corvette or an MC30) - not something you could win a tournament with, that's for sure. I'd say you're way better off with Most Wanted - plenty of ships means plenty of attacks and plenty of opportunities to roll extra dice. However, after playing the almost identical campaign version of Blockade Run against an ISD-VSD-Gladiator-Gozanti fleet I realized that this mission actually favors heavy-hitting jousters rather than corvette swarms. Since you have full control of the obstacles, you can essentially create one reasonably wide lane (say, 1/3rd of the width of the map) with a station nearing the end of it on one side of the map, while completely cluttering the rest of it with obstacles near the opponent's deployment zone. The result is that your powerful-but-not-very maneuverable jousters are almost completely safe from flanking attacks. The opponent has a choice - go into the lane for a joust and probably get obliterated by the front arcs of your destroyers, try to flank anyway by going through a maze of obstacles (and possibly face a front arc of an ISD at the end of the maze anyway) or simply refuse to engage until the last round or two. In the latter case he just won't kill anything, which means that even with just 4 activations you get 80 points and bag a 7:4. TLDR: Blockade Run favors heavy hitting jouster fleets, not corvette swarms as it might seem at first glance.

    ReplyDelete