Monday, November 27, 2017

Grand Admiral Thrawn article hot take

So FFG finally dropped a new Armada article (it only took nearly 3 months 😟) and while it's a bit light on new content, it was still a good read because the design process is always interesting and JJ gave us a peek behind the curtain.

We did get two new upgrade cards spoiled from the upcoming Chimaera ISD box, however, so let's talk about those!

Perpetual winner of the most-frequently-misspelled-Armada-card award starting right now
So the Chimaera title gives your non-fleet-command (read: non-Cymoon) ISD a fleet command icon, but that's not all. It also allows you to discard its current fleet command card to replace it with another, so you could cycle through all kinds of fleet command cards during the game. Some thoughts, in no particular order:
  • This is going to require a hefty FAQ entry to clear up a lot of uncertainties. Such as:
    • Can you have two of the same fleet command in play at the same time (with a Chimaera ISD and a Cymoon), given the unique icon is normally a fleet-building restriction but isn't checked mid-game? (I'd say yes you could)
    • Normally discarded cards are kept face-down and count towards points at the end of the game. Because the cards are replaced, are the discarded cards actually removed, then, and don't count for points at the end of the game? (I'd say yes as well)
      • If the discarded cards are kept face-down, does a discarded fleet command prevent you from subbing the same fleet command upgrade back in later? (I'd say no)
    • When a Chimaera ISD is destroyed, does it count its points value as the value it was bought at or the value it was destroyed at, assuming it swapped out its original fleet command for one of a different cost? (I'd say destroyed cost)
  • This is a super legit ISD title for Tarkin, as he can spam tokens with the best of them and can always feed the fleet command you need on the turn you need it, plus boost your whole fleet with them. Imagine swapping over to Shields to Maximum! with a pile of repair tokens for the whole fleet on top of that when you hit a crucial "I need to live!" round, or very similar "super turns" with every other fleet command.
    • Regardless of whether you're rolling Tarkin or not, Wulff Yularen is going to be a hot commodity on any fleet command ISD you're running to keep the token availability strong. You can always toss Comms Net tokens at his ship as needed early on, because taking a command token instead of a dial becomes unpalatable for ISDs past the first, maybe second, round.
  • You're best off starting with a cheapo 5-point fleet command with Chimaera, as you can sub it out on the first round for a more expensive one if you like. You should never be spending more than 9 points for the title and your starting fleet command.
  • The fleet command and support apparatus and the title are going to make for some very expensive Chimaera ISDs, so maximizing the benefit from the flexible fleet command upgrades is going to be very important.
    • If you're only planning on milking one fleet command all game, you're probably better off with a Cymoon unless you've got a really good reason not to.
Art direction: I want ships and lasers. Lots of lasers. Green lasers, red lasers, exploding lasers.
All right, we're finally getting our missing concentrate fire-associated fleet command! And the poor Rebel-only players are going to need to find some way to get ahold of them without dropping $50 on a Chimaera expansion pack...

This one is a bit more straightforward than the Chimaera, and it's got some pretty exciting implications for both Rebel and Imperial fleets. First, let's cover how it works: once Intensify Firepower!(exclamation point!1!!1!) triggers during a turn, all friendly ships when attacking enemy ships may flip one of their attack die to a side with a single hit icon (and no other icons, no sneaky double-hits or hits+crits for you). It can be used on each attack against a ship, so it could be used twice per activation in ideal circumstances.

The obvious use for this fleet command is with red-dice ships, especially those that can't use dice-fixing upgrades for red dice (the Pelta can take this to fix its own dice reliability problem, fortuitously), but also for those that want to use their turbolaser slots otherwise, whether that be for other upgrades or simply leaving them empty to save points while leaning on Intensify Firepower! for their dice-fixing. This can allow you to hypothetically run all kinds of small red-dice ships (like CR90As, Nebulon-Bs, Arquitens, Scout Hammerheads, etc.) with no turbolaser upgrades at all to keep them cheap and cheerful if you wish, or you can pile on the turbolaser upgrades to make them hit harder than expected (at a higher cost).

I don't foresee a lot of utility from stacking dice-fixing upgrades, though. It sounds appealing to consider a CR90A with Turbolaser Reroute Circuits and Intensify Firepower! for a guaranteed 3 damage out the front arc, but both of those dice-fix upgrade effects are most effective when used on a blank die or unnecessary accuracy result and the odds of 2 such results appearing on 2 (or 3 with concentrate fire) dice is fairly slim. You'll be giving up one to use the other pretty regularly.

The main issue with Intensify Firepower and heavier red-dice ships is finding a cost-effective use for it, given smaller ships can potentially get more triggers of it for less points. The problem isn't as severe as it may first seem: larger dice pools will on average produce a blank more frequently than smaller dice pools, making Intensify Firepower! trigger more frequently in practice on ships with 3+ dice batteries. Furthermore, many of the more expensive platforms can equip Gunnery Teams, which help substantially in getting big batteries of red dice thrown out multiple times a turn, allowing your heavier ships their two potential uses of Intensify Firepower! pretty regularly each turn. You'll have a few considerations, there, though, such as:
  • Does the fleet command ship fit into my desired fleet? For example, a Pelta is a very awkward fit into an Ackbar fleet, even if the Ackbar Assault Frigates would love Intensify Firepower!, the fleet as a whole will probably lose more than it gains compared to spending those points on more conventional choices that synergize better with Ackbar.
    • Conversely, there are definitely fleets where Gunnery Team Assault Frigates can peacefully coexist with a Pelta (like with Garm, for example, who just won a Regional and congrats to BiggsIRL for that).
      • On a side note, I can foresee Pelta gunlines with front-arc Rebel ships being pretty fun. Nebulons, Gunnery Team Scout Hammerheads, LMC80s, etc.
  • Would the fleet gain more from a different fleet command upgrade?
  • How do my heavier ships feel about long ranged attacks? Do they have Leading Shots to reroll dice at medium and close range?
    • Ships like the Cymoon (fortuitously, again, similar to the Pelta) don't have a lot of dice-fixing potential due to lacking an ion cannon slot and can benefit from Intensify Firepower! evening out their red dice.
    • Conversely, if you're planning on getting your ISD-II into medium-ranged slugging matches, you won't necessarily be making a lot of attacks at long range where your dice-fixing is limited. Intensify Firepower! can still certainly help, but once you can lean on Leading Shots, it's not as necessary.
    • Ships designed for long-ranged combat, such as Battlecruiser LMC80s with Spinal Armament and the like, can absolutely do fine at long-range alone and are much keener on the dice-fixing help from Intensify Firepower!
    • Shenanigan effects like the Defiance title, Disposable Capacitors, and Quad Battery Turrets can provide some ships with access to blue dice for Leading Shots even at long range, lessening the usefulness of Intensify Firepower!
So in short, it depends on your fleet build when it comes to red dice and heavier ships. There's some definite potential there, but it needs to be carefully considered. It seems to be an easy pick for cheapo Gunnery Team Assault Frigates and VSD-Is, though, if you just want some inexpensive "spray and pray" red dice for a reasonable cost but would like more reliability and you can fit a fleet command ISD or Pelta into your fleet.

Other weird red dice uses would be with effects that rely on hit icons like H9 Turbolasers (for a guaranteed accuracy/most likely an extra hit result when paired with the guaranteed accuracy) as well as single-die "plink" attackers like Torpedo Hammerhead Corvettes and Assault Carrier Gozantis. With a single red die you normally average out to a 3/8 chance of doing nothing (2/8 sides being blank, and 1/8 being an accuracy on its own for a harmless "heat-seeking fluffy pillow" as it's known around here), and being able to guarantee a damage from every plink (and potentially 2 total with a concentrate fire dial thrown in there, assuming at least one of those dice behaves itself intrinsically) is pretty dang good for low-cost "plink" attackers.

Hey can someone check that box to make sure the white powder is actually baking soda?
There's some definite utility there for blue dice ships, such as Raider-IIs, Interdictors, or CR90Bs. Intensify Firepower can function for most purposes as a discount SW-7 Ion Batteries by allowing you to flip your usually-not-that-great-in-small-batteries blue accuracy results over to hit results instead. This isn't nearly as strong a use as it is on red dice, but if you're bringing Intensify Firepower for other reasons, your blue-dice ships can enjoy its benefits as well. It's actually pretty amazing when you can get a double-arcing Gozanti Cruisers set up, because it guarantees two one-damage attacks, which are annoying to use defense tokens against (extra funny but probably not actually good with Disposable Capacitors to do it from long range one time)

There is some utility for black dice, particularly on ships that can't equip Ordnance Experts (the Assault Pelta; hello again Pelta mention in this article!), but in general I would recommend Ordnance Experts instead, as the effect is just amazing. Intensify Firepower can help there if you need it, especially if you're going nuts on your rerolls (rerolling everything not a hit+crit), but it's not really strong enough to want to specifically combine with a black-dice-based fleet.

In short, this is a neat fleet command upgrade and I'm excited to see how it changes the meta once it arrives. The sort of ships it seems to benefit the most are those that I don't see an awful lot, and that's pretty cool.


  1. You are incorrect in your summation that Unique cards are checked during fleet building but not mid-game. In the RRG, Page 13: "Unique Names", it states: "A fleet cannot contain more than one card with the same unique name, even if those cards are of different types."

    "Related Topics" listed are "Fleet Building" and "Upgrade Cards", but it is a distinct entry from both within the RRG. There is nothing tying this rule directly into Fleet Building.

    "Cannot contain" is a hard rule that extends throughout the entire game, with no loopholes that I can find in the RRG that would allow you to somehow bypass any weird timing check with this ship title.

    So, no, you cannot use the Chimaera Title to drop in the same fleet command that your Cymoon already has equipped.

    1. I see where you're coming from and you may very well be correct (honestly I give it at least 50% odds an FAQ goes your way), but the section under "upgrade cards" references fleet building, and the fleet building section itself is also about fleet building, so an argument can be made that the unique check is only made during fleet building.

      It's largely academic, though, as a fleet with a Chimaera ISD and a Cymoon is going to lack room for (m)any other ships, making a double fleet command upgrade approach fairly meh. Still, it would be good to have a definitive answer from an FAQ to clear it all up.