Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Strategic Play!

Unfortunately for everyone trying to gain ALL the insights into my playstyle, this article isn't about playing better with everything, so much as learning how to use Strategic squadrons for your benefit and everything they CAN do for you.
I have that exact same outfit...
First, let's get a few points out of the way.

1) What does Strategic mean, what does it do?
2) What objectives does it affect? How does it affect them?
3) What is a Strategic build?
4) How do you play it, how do you counter it?

So let's start with what it is.
1) What does Strategic mean, what does it do?
So, as of right now, there are 2 strategic squadrons in the game, VCXs and Lambdas.  Both hero units (Jendon and Hera Syndulla) don't have Strategic, so if you want the ability, you're using the generic.
Oh, does she got it where it counts, that's for sure
So as we can read, "When you end your movement at distance 1 of 1 or more objective tokens, you may move 1 of those tokens so that it is at distance 1 of you."  Before we begin explaining how good this is, we need to talk FFG speak.  When they say "within" (which isn't fully applicable here, but well worth knowing), that means "completely within," so you have to get the full body in the endzone of Blockade Run to get the points.  When they say "at," that means that so long as a tiny smidgen of the token or ship is at distance 1, it's AT distance 1 (this is why Raddus is so good).  What that means in APPLICATION is that if you end at distance 1, you move it distance 1.  Let's look at a Vassal image!
All these tokens are "at" distance 1 of the VCX
That's mighty nice, potentially being able to move them all like that, right?  Now let's look at a second diagram, showing where it can move one from (left/right) to where it can move it to (right/left).
From one side of distance 1 to another.
In practice, this ends up being about distance 3 (get a range ruler, play around with it yourself!).  Which is almost a full black AND blue dice range on the ruler, and you don't necessarily need to move the token directly across from you.  Maybe it's more beneficial to move it to the 6 o'clock position instead of the 4/10 o'clock it's currently in.  But I can say with no exaggeration that you can pull a token from IN Black range of one ship to potentially OUT of Blue range.  And that's ONE VCX.  Let's look at what 2 can do for you.
I added in another one to the right of the first one to show how far you can manipulate them
So, we've gone from distance 1 on the left side to between 4 and 5 on our right.  That can potentially pull a token OUT of red range of any ship it was nearby.  That's CRAZY, being able to manipulate tokens like that.

To sum up what it can do, it lets you pull objective tokens around to adjust their ability to be grabbed/affected and their ability to contribute in the way your opponent wishes them to.  It can swing games in your favor in a method deceptively more than it would appear for a 15 point squadron on either side.
Target number 1, kids
2) What objectives does it affect? How does it affect them? How many of each Strategic Source do I want?
The list of objectives it affects aren't TOO many, but they're enough to make an impact.  I believe there was an FAQ about the ability to remove objective tokens from objective ships (you can't), but that's not incredibly relevant to our points here, so I'm going to gloss over it.

Under each objective, I list the suggested number of strategic squadrons for each objective, be they Rebel or Imperial (if you plan on taking the objective).  I also add in a bit about counter-play if you happen to have some Strategic of your own.  Each squadron you add is 15 points you can't spend on OTHER squadrons, and they kinda telegraph your intentions immediately for what your objectives are.  WHEN you get outbid (not if), your opponent may look at your list and tell you to go first.  Enjoy your 5 Lambdas and Moralo Eval then.  I also don't recommend taking a "2" objective with 1 Strategic squadron in your list, as you may hit a situation where someone IS running 2 of those squadrons, and you'll get your objective flipped on you.  Not a great feeling.

Assault (Red) Objectives:
Targeting Beacons:  The ability to move the targeting beacons around with your strategic squadron allows you to get more rerolls on whatever ships you can get them closer to.

Suggested number of Strategic Squadrons: 2.  This is an objective that lets you effectively control 2 beacons, so moving 2 of them at a time isn't a bad idea.

There aren't many great Red Objectives for Strategic, which is why these usually end up as objectives chosen to benefit the REST of the fleet (Advanced Gunnery, Most Wanted, Precision Strike, etc).

Defense (Yellow) Objectives:
Capture the VIP: Because of the location constraints placed on the objective, with good initial placement on your part (directly across from the token) and first player choice, you CAN steal the token from your opponent if he happens to have not brought a Strategic squadron of his own.  Because it starts at distance 5 of an edge, your speed 3 Strategic squadron can get to it in your first action of turn 2, moving it away from whatever ship your opponent was trying to get it with.  OR, you can use your own Strategic squadron to prevent your opponent from stealing it, if you move it backwards from its initial placement.

Suggested Number of Strategics: 1, 2 if you can LITERALLY guarantee your opponent will have this in their fleet every game.  1 squadron lets you pick it up turn 1 with your ship as needed, 2 can let you daisy chain it back to your own ship.  You can also just deploy your squad right across from it and command that squadron the first activation of turn 2 to take it from your opponent (assuming your opponent's SSD hasn't just deployed on the token).

Hyperspace Assault/Planetary Ion Cannon: Your Strategic squadrons can move the token locations, both away from your own ships (if you're attacking into PIC or Hyperspace Assault) or towards your opponent (if you have them in your own fleet).  Having Raddus and the ability to manipulate where the ships are coming in (under Hyperspace Assault) is a HARD deterrent to choosing it.  Or, if they do, it's a GREAT ability to manipulate the battlefield to your benefit.  Raddus WILL have to be on the ship that's in hyperspace, and you DO immediately lose if you ever have zero non-flotilla ships on the board; so you can usually see this objective choice coming in specific Raddus fleets.

Suggested Number of Strategics: 1.  Maybe 2, but as only one Ion Cannon beam fires a turn, and you can only deploy from 1 spot, it's really just gilding the lily IMO.  You can easily get away with this objective by running 0, but i wanted to mention that the Strategics CAN move the tokens away from your own ships/towards where you want them landing.
I say we fight by choosing a Yellow objective that lets us bring in more than half our fleet where we want to!
Jamming Barrier: With Strategic squadrons, you can manipulate the length/existence of the barrier and where it exactly is to prevent the attacks from hurting you.  It's not the easiest thing to do, but once you figure it out, it can really ruin your opponent's day.

Suggested Number of Strategics: 2, most likely, as you can do some DUMB tricks with where that Jamming Barrier gets to and all.  At that point though, why not Fire Lanes?

Fire Lanes: There are two types of players, those who've experienced a well-run Fire Lanes and those who haven't.  One of the first rites of passage that Eric and I have experienced was choosing Fire Lanes and then getting completely ruined by it.  Strong Ackbar builds will put it in there, using the VCXs to either move the tokens around to a better spot for more dice on it from his own ships, or throw the tokens underneath your own ships.  Nothing better than watching your ship placement and navigation causing you to lose 45 points a turn when Ackbar's VCXs put them underneath you!  Because the possibility exists of getting 45 points a turn from this, a skilled opponent can get the full 270 with Strategic from it.  All he had to do was show up and he was granted 270 points.  I want you all to understand a very important point to this objective: it WILL wreck you if you are not prepared for it, and it WILL ruin your day.  Play it in a friendly game at your local store before you pick this one against you in a tournament.  It's deceptively evil and way worse than you would think it could be.  If you're bringing Strategic, this is your default yellow objective.

Suggested Number of Strategics: 2.  You'd think 3, but 90 percent of the time you can get what you need to with just 2 of them.  This is also a good time to note that Fighter Coordination Teams works with Strategic squadrons in the exact way you'd think, and it can get mighty nasty.  With those FCT, however, remember that if you're engaged already, you don't get to move with FCT.  Instead of spending 45 points, why not 30 on Strategic and 3 outside the squadron limit? I've had success with this on a CR90, so even ONE source of FCT is enough.  Higher squadron values help move more squadrons though, so bigger ships CAN take this over Engine Techs.  Heresy, I know.
If only there was an Admiral Ackbar quote I could use to describe the way that picking Fire Lanes will end up for you.
Navigation (Blue) Objectives:
Sensor Net: See what I wrote about Fire Lanes last paragraph? Sensor Net is that, but MEANER.  The VCXs move them all around, away from your other ships and towards your opponent's, just getting him all the points and you minimal ones.  At least Fire Lanes maxes out at 270, this one can go CRAZY against you, depending on how many ships your opponent brought and what Strategic squadrons he's using.  Again, until you've played against this, do NOT pick it in a tournament.

Suggested Number of Strategics: 2, and it's likely paired with the Fire Lanes pick from above.  What this means is you can normally tell that you'll see these in an Ackbar list, paired with Advanced Gunnery.  They're all deadly, just a bit... predictable, by this point.  Doesn't make them bad, just that when you get more experience flying against the objectives it's easier to learn what to do.

Salvage Run/Intel Sweep: The VCXs can move any of these tokens, away from your opponent's ships and towards yours, allowing you to get the easy token grabs and points from them.

Suggested Number of Strategics: 2, though 1 to just help finish the job is likely fine (especially with Intel Sweep).  I like doing 2 with Salvage Run just to grab tokens on turns 1 and 2 and then be done, quickly, before your opponent can mess with your plans.  Similarly, leapfrogging tokens with 2 strategic squadrons can let you flip this one on your opponent, though it will take VERY careful placement and commanding those squadrons probably from turn 1 on.  You CAN take both of these without Strategics, they just help you more if you have them. Spending 15 points to get 20 is mighty nice.  If you can only fit in one Strategic squadron, Intel Sweep still does solid work, even IF this objective came in the core set.

Minefields: Same as Intel Sweep/Salvage Run, just away from your ships and towards your opponent's.  Pair it with the new Proximity Mines for EXTRA fun! ......Somehow!

Suggested Number of Strategics: Let's say 1-2.  I don't run this objective often enough nor see it run enough to be able to tell you what the right number is (it doesn't really score points nor force me to engage you if I don't want to, so..... why am I using this, if my opponent can just decide they don't want a game?).  If anyone has serious tournament experience with this and wishes to enlighten me, please let me know. 
"We're towing mines!"
Infested Fields/Dangerous Territory/Hyperspace Migration:
Quoting Eric's Dangerous Territory article directly:
  • Per the most recent FAQ, Strategic squadrons can move tokens off of obstacles. If they do, those tokens can't be picked up by a ship unless they're moved onto an obstacle again (could be the original obstacle or a new obstacle, either way).
I'd use that as more a way you can mess with the objective of your opponent's as opposed to how you can manipulate your own objectives with Strategic Squadrons.  Infested Fields is a similar boat, in that you CAN move the tokens off the obstacles, but I wouldn't spend 15 points on a squadron just to say you did it.  The objective token in Hyperspace Migration is in a similar spot, in that you CAN move the objective token with your Strategic squadrons, but in my opinion it just doesn't seem worth doing.  The whale has already popped out by the time you get over there, or you're moving the OTHER one, which the whale will literally never get to unless you're chaining several different Strategic movements together.

Why not take a blue objective that actively scores you points with the Strategic you brought?

Suggested Number of Strategics: 0, and I wanted to say this all just to prevent you from spending time trying something cute when you can focus on making a build better or learning a better objective for your strategic build.

3) What is a Strategic build?
So now we've seen what Strategic can do for your objectives when played properly.  Right now, there's a few types of Strategic builds traditionally seen.  Let me define what I'm talking about, and then I'll explain it in depth afterwards.  A Strategic build is one that typically has a bid for second (or no bid!) with the knowledge that its objectives can grant them several "free" points that you, the opponent will need to stop in order to prevent them from just winning the game.  Alternatively, if you outbid them, you can give them first player, and they're sure to have a ship or two that would LOVE to have first player.  Because Targeting Beacons is the only red objective that can be affected by Strategic, and because it doesn't give you extra points, it usually ends up being a different red objective than that, one that you and your list will traditionally hate to pick (should you be first player against it).  I've seen what Moralo can DO with it, though, so don't just default to picking it should you run into him.

On the Rebel side (and they're usually Rebel lists), any list that you see across from you with 2-3 VCXs in it probably has some objectives that synergize well with them.  As many Rebel ships have stronger batteries in their side arcs, Fire Lanes is often seen with HMC80s or repeated MC30s, though certain Rebel squadron builds have Fire Lanes as one of their objectives, daring their opponent to come into the bear trap that is a Yavaris activated Luke or Ten Numb or Keyan Farlander.  These lists often combine with Sensor Net, allowing the VCXs to move the tokens to their best location to be manipulated and re-activated/grabbed multiple times a turn.  Ackbar traditionally runs both of these objectives with an HMC80, and I say again: these CAN AND WILL backfire on you if you walk in without a well-tested plan.

However, another potential plan is to run a Rebel fleet with multiple small units and a few squadrons.  In an SFC build, I think you can do pretty well with a single VCX.  You can bring along Capture the VIP and Intel Sweep/Salvage Run to get a free 50 or 75/80 points before your list goes in for the kill.  These objectives and lists tend towards smaller, speedier ships that want to grab a token and get out, as opposed to the sustained staying power of an HMC80.

As for the Imperial side, lists with multiple Lambdas are usually being built around Moralo Eval, as he lets your Lambdas fire "good" dice at things.  I still hesitate to recommend you include more than 2 Lambdas, as you're in danger of getting forced to play an objective of your opponent's that DOESNT have objective tokens in it.  I can tell you from experience that I've lost ships, plural, taking Targeting Beacons against Moralo.  It's likely a Targeting Beacons/Fire Lanes/Sensor Net plan.  Beware taking it as the "easy out" as it may NOT be, very quickly.

In either case, if you're depending on Strategic squadrons to get you points, an Intel squadron isn't a bad idea, and having some Escorts to protect it.  And then you could throw in some more squadrons to activate because those Strategic squadrons have Relay...... and if you give a mouse a cookie, etc.
If you give a Solo a Wookiee...
4) How do you play it, how do you counter it?
So how do you play it? Collect the tokens, use the Strategic squadrons to either pull them away from your opponent/his ships or (in the case of Fire Lanes) put them under your opponent's squadrons/ships.  Collect tokens, force your opponent to move towards you or lose the game, profit. 

But how to BEAT a strategic build? Well, you have a few options.  First, remember if you're going against it, know what your opponent's fleet is good at.  Ackbar is a traditionally seen admiral with Fire Lanes because he would LOVE for you to come into his side arcs.  For advice on beating Ackbar, I refer you to his article that I've previously written (and linked to every time you see his name here!).  Good Ackbar players will be able to score their objectives from "Go" and you need to be aware of that.  So unless you can kill the scoring ships FAST, don't pick Fire Lanes or Sensor Net against it (so, enjoy Advanced Gunnery? Ugh, it's a bad choice all around.  My personal recommendation is go Fire Lanes and kill that HMC80.  If it's only firing out of one arc it can't kill EVERYTHING.  Just gotta make sure you kill it FAST).

Similarly, don't pick Hyperspace Assault against the Raddus player.  Be smarter than that.  A good Raddus player isn't going to let you kill his only ship on the board before he can drop in EVERYTHING, so unless you're SURE that you can beat him dropping most of his fleet in at the Hyperspace Assault token, don't be crazy.

Your opponent has 3 objectives, and you have to see what's the best option for you and your fleet.  Maybe it IS Solar Corona, as much as I hate it personally.  But if my other options are Advanced Gunnery on an opponent's Ackbar HMC80 or Fire Lanes, then it looks like Solar Corona for me!
Illustrated Solar Corona
But one easy counter to a lot of these is putting your OWN Strategic squadron in there.  Your own Strategic squadron can nab tokens that your opponent thought were safe, especially turn 1.  Good placement of the Intel Sweep tokens (on your end) or activating your Strategic squadrons turn 1 or 2 as your first activation can potentially steal Salvage Run or Capture the VIP tokens from your opponent.  Nothing better than taking points away that your opponent thought he was getting for free!  This is easier to say/do with Rebels, of course.  As I mentioned, VCXs can fire on your opponent's squadrons and deal fair amounts of damage against them, as opposed to Lambdas.  However, Intel Sweep and Salvage Run often depend on one specific token, and that one Lambda also allows you to take Planetary Ion Cannon or Minefields with LESS fear (just make sure to push the tokens away from you!)

If you didn't take your own Strategic squadrons, then you have 2 options.  You can either kill his squadrons first (with your own intercepting A-wings or TIEs, potentially) or you can kill his scoring ships.  The faster you can kill them, the less points they can potentially get for free.  It's not EASY to figure out how to kill those squadrons (VCXs have EIGHT HULL!) but if you can prevent them from moving, at least, they can't move the tokens.  If they brought an Intel squadron, the VCXs will get to Grit away, so do your best to either kill the Intel squadron or kill the Strategic squadron before it can do anything.  The Intel may be easier, in most cases.  Or focus on killing the ships.  If Ackbar has one ship that can score on Fire Lanes, killing that ship should be your first priority.  Once that drops, everything else is gold.
It'll feel a lot like this.
In either case, go in with a plan to fight lists that use Strategic, and you can do ok.  Ask your friends to run a game with some of these objectives and figure out what you're going to do to stop it.  Once you get there, you'll see Strategic as just one more part of the game.  One you're hopefully able to beat going forwards!


  1. Good stuff. As a newer player, this is very helpful in understanding the potency and synergies of the Strategy ability and the objective cards that enhance it.