Sunday, November 25, 2018

SSD spoilers hot take

Okay so let's talk about the big pile of SSD spoilers that hit the internet, seemingly from some kind of promotional pamphlet stores got. First of all, there's all the SSDs themselves:

We can see that there are two that can be used in regular 400 point games and two that are too expensive to use in a normal game, which assumes players themselves will be encouraged to play larger games or a format will be made available to facilitate that. Let's zoom in a bit to get a better look:

Of immediate relevance to us is the Assault Prototype, which gains a few things over the Command Prototype that was teased earlier:
  • +1 red die in the front arc
  • +1 blue die in all the side arcs
  • +1 offensive retrofit slot
  • +1 ion cannon slot
  • +1 turbolaser slot
  • blue + red flak instead of double-blue flak
This comes at the cost of 30 additional points (a not-inconsequential 14% increase) and giving up both fleet command slots on the Command Prototype. It's definitely intended to be more of a brawler and less of an overweight support ship and for those wanting to run a fleet that's all about the super-upgraded giant plastic triangle, I expect this will be the default chassis. Being able to combine Quad Battery Turrets and some form of defense screwage turbolaser (XI7s or H9s would be my expectation) and Leading Shots with another ion cannon upgrade, either Heavy Ion Emplacements or Ion Cannon Batteries most likely, with my preference being ICBs as you can use them on all three of your attacks.

With the longer-ranged flak and double-offensive-retrofit-slots configuration, Agent Kallus and flak upgrades like Quad Laser Turrets and maybe even Point Defense Reroute (I can't believe I'm saying this) can make the Assault SSD very dangerous to be even at long range of, especially for ace squadrons. The typical issue with flak upgrades is they're not great value when you don't know if your opponent's fleet will bring squadrons and if they do, they can always go after another part of your fleet without them and then consider if it's worth the hassle of chasing after your flak boat. You can try to get better coverage with multiple flak upgrade ships but then the cost on those potentially-worthless upgrades gets even worse. The SSD should be the main focus of any fleet it's in and it's tough to imagine getting much of a win without going after it, and the flak upgrades there are equipped very cost-effectively.

That's not to say I think the Command Prototype is inferior. Mostly I would expect to see the Assault Prototype totally decked out with upgrades trying to do the heavy lifting itself and the Command Prototype equipped a bit more frugally to ensure points remain for a more serious squadron presence or to provide a cheaper combat ship buddy for the fleet commands to buff.

For completion's sake, I'll post close-ups of the other two ships, but I won't talk about them more here as they're clearly intended more for casual play.

Anyways, let's talk about the upgrades, starting with the titles.

Annihilator seems like it could get pretty nasty with the right flak support setup. Agent Kallus, Quad Laser Turrets, and Annihilator creates a ship that can consistently hose down ace squadrons that get too aggressive with volume of accurate flak.

Eclipse isn't expensive and seems like a quasi-Hardened Bulkheads in that it discourages enemy ships from ramming you, which I can see being something certain fleets might try to simply drill through to the hull.

Executor itself is designed to maximize the benefit of the free command tokens the SSD grants itself as well as to allow you to pile them up with a commander like Tarkin or (more likely) with the assistance of a Comms Net Gozanti or two. There's some synergy here with upgrades further down the list. As a reminder, remember you can only resolve one command of each type per turn and the only methods you have of doing so are dial, token, or dial+token. I keep seeing people thinking they can do an omega repair command spending a dozen repair tokens and that's simply illegal.

Ravager turns your concentrate fire tokens into dials, effectively. So a concentrate fire dial+token resolution is 2 extra dice. Tasty! That's an 11-dice front arc on an Assault Prototype, not even considering additional methods of adding dice like Quad Battery Turrets!

So Piett is kind of a discount (10 points cheaper) Thrawn that is awful unless you're running few ships and have token generation. So basically in 400 point fleets using an SSD. Because he exhausts to use, you can try to use him twice a round when he's seated on an Interdictor title Interdictor (as he's an upgrade and Interdictor can ready him to be used again), but it feels too janky to me. Use Thrawn instead for something like that if you want extra full-strength dials. People have been saying he could be useful for the kind of 2-ship builds people are using Thrawn with presently, but those 2-ship (ISD+Quasar+squads nearly always) builds run very lean on support elements that would provide the tokens Piett wants, so I'm not a believer there.

That said, Piett looks very good for SSD-focused fleets, potentially with a Comms Net Gozanti around as well. With Command 4, you're going to have issues adapting to the needs of an SSD, and Piett allows you to stash tokens from earlier (or even turn-of with a Comms Net pass-off) to turn them into full-strength dial commands. This is a good workaround for command screwage stuff like Cham Syndulla or Slicer Tools, but is also just helpful due to Command 4 and should hopefully free up an officer slot you would've otherwise used a Liaison or Support Officer or the like on, which can help increase the defensive or offensive oomph of Piett's SSD without causing command headaches.

I'm honestly pretty keen on him for the specific type of fleet most SSDs will be used in. He's not flashy but he does something neat within his niche and he's cheap. He's one of the two cards that's got clear synergy with Executor. Pile on a bunch of tokens early on and just keep resolving two full-strength commands all game long.

I now love every version of Admiral Ozzel. For 2 points, his ship gets a speed-1 maneuver at the start of the first round. You can do an awful lot with this maneuver that makes it a lot more powerful than you'd first think. Some examples:
  • A Gozanti can use the maneuver to put itself on top of an objective token to begin scoring for objectives like Intel Sweep immediately, rather than wait until round 2. This all without needing to invest in Strategic infrastructure!
  • A VSD-II with Disposable Capacitors can scoot up closer to the enemy fleet, making it rather difficult to not be at range come round 2.
  • Demolisher getting an extra speed 1 bump closer to its prey can make it very difficult to avoid. Remember back when you could Demolisher after Engine Techs and catch ships round 1? Ozzel gives you effectively the same range.
  • An Arquitens that deployed in a not-ideal facing gets a free double-click move to reorient itself prior to anything else happening.
He looks to be tremendously flexible for only 2 points and I love him already. He's got his obvious uses on an SSD to get closer to the enemy sooner, but he's a lot more than that. He's also got some real synergy with Moff Jerjerrod, allowing you to ping a ship with Jerry for extra clicks of yaw during the Ozzel move.

He's... basically a worse Damage Control Officer intended for ships without contains? Maybe you could use him on a Gozanti, but why? Pass.

 Darth Vader now shows up in 4 different forms in Armada, and this version is just as great as the others. I'd also like to note how great it is with both officers Ozzel and Vader that the Empire finally gets some love for officer slots on its cheap ships, particularly Gozantis. Previously this was more of a Rebel kind of specialty and it's good to see some upgrades that give the slot more of a purpose there.

Anyways, Vader loves choking out your officers and even your commander(!) to get an on-demand reroll against an enemy ship, provided those officers or commanders are at distance 1-5 of Vader's floating choke-a-matic Gozanti. This is best utilized on officers that provide a one-time benefit early on but linger around, like Captain Needa (checks out), Minister Tua, officer Ozzel (yep, that happened), Governor Pryce, and Admiral Titus, but can also be used in a pinch on officers like Agent Kallus if there aren't good targets for him or exhausted officers like Brunson or Intel Officer that are done doing their job for the round and you need to get extra oomph out of their ship.

Choking out your commander is a ballsier move, but it's a great move on commanders that may no longer be doing much of anything, like Konstantine (who deserves it anyways, he's terrible) when there aren't enough medium or large ships left on the board, Tagge once he's done regenerating tokens on round 5 or 6, Thrawn once he's done giving out all his dials, or even Emperor Palpatine once you've targeted all the juicy tokens (feels so good!).

There are some niche uses here too that can feel a little silly. If you've got The Choking Game Gozanti flying around already, it can be tempting to put a Skilled First Officer on a Raider or Arquitens just for the reroll potential, even if he doesn't do anything on a Raider. In cases like that, I'd encourage you to spring for the extra point to get a one-use officer like Ozzel or Needa or Titus or the like so they can actually do something before getting choked.

Krennic has an obvious use with Cymoons, especially when they're given some command help from outside to help free them up to use concentrate fire commands. This could be Moff Jerry taking the wheel while they use con fire dials or Grand Moff Tarkin providing concentrate fire tokens or whatever you please. Cymoons currently are only really seen with Vader, but Krennic can fix that. He's not cheap, mind you, but that kind of dice control in the officer slot is really something.

That said, he shouldn't be overlooked on an Arquitens, either, for very similar reasons. Krennic and Slaved Turrets on an Arquitens provides a 5 red dice broadside with a concentrate fire dial, and all of those red dice get rerolls.

Also note that Krennic is cumulative, so spending a concentrate fire dial and token will add a die, reroll a die, allow you to reroll any number of red dice, and then allow you to reroll 2 red dice. It's a scary amount of red dice control. It won't work at short range, however, because Krennic can't resist monologuing when enemies get close enough to hear him.

The Senate also comes in officer flavor, and he's designed to hang out on your meanest centerpiece ship. Because SSDs have 3 officer slots and are going to be a laser sponge, the use there is obvious. You can also use him on ISDs, especially Avenger ISDs that want to dare nearby ships to spend defense tokens prior to Avenger attacking. And of course there's also Sloane, who loves getting a leg up on burning down defense tokens.

That said, ISD officer slots are very competitive right now so I'm curious to see how frequently we'll see The Senate outside of an SSD build.

Lira Wessex is the second card that synergizes with Executor in that she can turn a horde of repair tokens into facedown damage cards. That said, I think Damage Control Officer is generally a more flexible card and those two contain tokens can go a ways there. Lira does have the benefit of acting as something of a Chart Officer as well by limiting the harm received when overlapping asteroids, which a big fat unmaneuverable ship like an SSD may very well do and a Damage Control Officer can't help with. Plus she's only 2 points, so don't expect miracles 😉.


  1. Love the idea of Officer Vader choking out Emperor Palpatine just to get some better damage output

  2. Got to say I found Gherant way more interresting than you.
    First of all he is dirt cheap and work by itself on any sheep.
    Obviously he will be better on a black die one like for example a demolisher or a raider. Protecting it on it's way in. Then due to the timing of the card he can be discarded by vader officer for reroll.
    But in a world of riekan ace and squad eavy game having a sheep immune to bomber crits that can flack them back without lousing is imunity can be preaty handy (a raider certainly).

    1. Or put him on your Slicer Tools/Bomber Command Gozanti and use him for the entire game, as long as you never take a shot at a ship.

    2. The problem is he only does something if he's meaningfully stopping criticals and he only gets to do that before you attack a ship. Getting both of those to happen without it being awkward seems like a challenge to me. There's no way you're better off with Gherant on Demolisher than Brunson, Tua, or Montferrat, for example. Raider-Is I could maybe see but I'm still not confident it's a good use of the points.

      I feel similar about the Gozanti. If you've got a high priority Gozanti, I'm not confident stopping crits (on your 3 hull and 1 shield in every arc) flotilla is going to meaningfully pay off. More conventional defensive officers prevent damage, which is more valuable.

    3. Then maybe Gherant's otherwise-empty Gozanti ties up enemy squads now, flakking them and using unlimited Contains to avoid taking any crits. And annoying your enemy, who has to anti-ship attack him to disengage themselves. He's the Empire's new Shara/Tycho.

    4. But he can't "tie up" enemy squads because they can just leave because nothing keeps them there. Or they can destroy his Gozanti if they're not otherwise busy.

    5. Right. Ships don't tie up squads, except for that Raider title. I'm an idiot.

    6. Hey no worries, at least we discovered what was the cause of our disagreement, haha.

      Trust me, if someone can find a use for Gherant in a competitive fleet, I'll buy them a beer. I want to be wrong when I feel negatively about things but I'll present the arguments as for why I feel that way at least.

      You could put Gherant on an Instigator Raider but I feel like Tua and Early Warning System is probably superior if you want the squad-catcher Raider to do its job (even then, it can be dodged by squads so I'm not super confident about it).

  3. I thought Gherant was among the most interesting officers here as well. I pictured him on a SSD decked out for squadron pushing- it can move some 8 squadrons, do good damage with Eclipse, and tank torp boats by ignoring _all_ critical resolution, including APTs, ACMs, the extra damage squadrons.

    In a SSD-focused fleet you're sacrificing your guns for crit immunity- but the vast majority of whale-hunting fleets are specifically crit based. Then you could Pryce to fire last-first if you have initiative and just annihilate once the guns come out- even using Vader to kill Gherant as you fire to get a reroll out of the discard.

    1. The problem is the SSD is great at pushing a lot of squads at once (with a high Squadrons value and 1-2 offensive retrofit slots) but it's not cost-effective as a carrier and will be chewing up so many points that not shooting ships when you can feels foolish to me. Especially when you've got two contain tokens and three officer slots which can easily accommodate a much less constraining Damage Control Officer.

      I also don't believe Pryce works on an SSD, given it's not a medium or large ship.

    2. Yeah we don't know yet how all the officers who are ship-size specific work. Obviously there are problems, as with any concept, but in this case consider that Gherant on the SSD is neutering entire fleets- Sato, for example, is often built around making black dice crits go off, Dodonna is useless. So they have to give up their shenanigans and really try to pound the damage onto shields, without getting the lovely face-up hits (except Garel's Pride which I think still goes off) to disarm the whale. Norra and Nym and even Luke lose their benefits until late-game.

      Is it cost-effective solely as a carrier, in a normal fleet? Heck no (a gozanti pushes 2 squadrons for 23 pts, decked-quasar 6 for 64. Cheapest decked SSD is 6 for 220). But first, a SSD will _never_ be a single-role ship. Second, it has the virtue of forcing the enemy to go for it, so you can keep the squads in tight and know they're coming to you and you can take it - a Quasar misses boosted comms when the firing starts. Third, there is an alpha strike advantage in pushing... _8_ squadrons (5, EHB, EHB, token), without any prep work, and possibly boosting them all with flight controllers.

      So obviously yeah it's weird, like everything with the SSD. But Gherant on a SSD means all crits are useless until you open up on your terms, whale hunters can't hunt, and the 22 hull of the SSD is safe behind its crazy shields until it has a chance to pop something(s) with its massive salvo. For a ship likely to have given up activation advantage that's huge. Stopping even one full turn of MSU MC30 APTs is well worth waiting to fire on the one ship that came into range, and still holds through their first activation if they had advantage.

      I'm planning a fleet around Thrawn for repair/squadron commands, a heavy squadron presence, and solely the Assault SSD with Gherant holding off until it really goes nuts.

    3. You cant stack identical upgrades, so no double EHB.

    4. yeah, I forgot. that applies to the quasar stats too, but doesn't impact the concept overmuch.

  4. One thing to remember when considering uses for this silly thing (I think this has about as much place in Armada as a statted-up Death Star would, but that's just my opinion): it can't turn at all without using a Nav dial, or a token with Piett (coincidence? No).

    So I see this thing flying one of two general ways: either starting at speed one and staying there the whole game, and counting on obliterating anything in its path, or Nav-dialing every 2nd or 3rd turn to have some semblance of a plan, and not fly off the board or sputter uselessly. The first option will probably allow it to push fighters or do other things, but the second will greatly limit its ability to do anything other than move and shoot.
    A dedicated Comms Net Gozanti and Piett could mitigate this, but it'd restrict the utility of the Comms Net.