Sunday, January 3, 2021

Imperial ship review: Onager-class Star Destroyer

It's time for a new ship review, hot off the presses it's the Onager-Class Star Destroyer!

They turned our beautiful triangle into a capital T.

Before I get any further, I want to provide a small bit of fun and pointless trivia. The Onager-class Star Destroyer seems to be named after the Roman onager catapult, a piece of field artillery. "Onager" in Latin means "wild ass," a cousin of the donkey that is native to the Middle East to this day and was common the eastern half of the Roman empire. The catapult was named after a wild ass due to its formidable kick when fired.

Don't post ass pictures on the internet, kids.
So basically in a roundabout way, we're looking at the Donkey-class Star Destroyer right here.

of the board. Attacking you from extreme range.
Thus concludes "Eric tries to get some humor out of his History Masters degree trivia knowledge," and we'll get back to the article...

At a casual glance, we notice a few things about the Onager:
  • It has an awful lot of shields in the front but isn't so hot everywhere else.
    • The single brace and redirect and no defensive retrofit slot further complicate matters. This ship, despite appearances, is roughly as durable as a Victory-class Star Destroyer. Arguably worse if your opponent can focus a attacks on your sides and rear and ignore the front altogether.
  • Command 3 is fine but can get a bit burdensome at times. Particularly for an Onager, knowing when to con fire versus navigate (to turn or run away) can be important.
  • Engineering 3 is poor on a large ship. Repair commands can still be clutch, but the Onager is still getting outdone by smaller ships like the VSD and is inferior to the same-sized ISD in this regard.
  • Its Squadron value is awful, particularly on the Testbed but still poor on the Star Destroyer.
  • The non-special battery dice in its arcs are poor to middling at best. The Onager Star Destroyer at least has 3 rear dice, which is useful with its salvo token.
Basically, the Onager is pretty bad at most things except it's got a honkin' big gun that can shoot out past long range. That's the meat of the ship, and it's pretty fun. This is as good a time as any to mention a refrain I'll likely be repeating: the Onager isn't really a replacement for an Imperial-class Star Destroyer. ISDs can give and take a pretty good amount of punishment and anchor your battle line. Onagers can't do that. There are fleets that will prefer one over the other, but they're different ships.

Normally I don't get too much into rules with ship articles but given the unique nature of the Ignition weapons and rules, it seems best to cover that first:

Special battery and Ignition rules
Let's talk about the special battery (the pink box of dice on the above cards) and how you use it.

Your special battery has its own special arc which is nested inside of the Onager's front arc. If you fire your special battery, it counts as an attack from your front arc, so you couldn't fire out of your front arc afterwards for your second allowed attack unless you had a Gunnery Team equipped.

The Onager inherently has Ignition [close] and upgrades (we'll get there) allow it to also gain other Ignition ranges. At the end of the Onager's activation, it may put an Ignition token within (meaning "completely within, not a hair outside of" its special battery firing arc and also within one of its available ranges. So if you have Ignition [close] and Ignition [long], no portion of the token can be at medium range but so long as it's within close or long, you're good. If you have Ignition [close] and Ignition [medium], you would need to choose which of the two, because it couldn't straddle the line between them. You need to choose one Ignition range and keep that token within it.

At the beginning of the Onager's attack step, it must make an Ignition attack as its first attack if it has a token on the board and an enemy ship is in the special battery firing arc. Once that attack is over, remove the Ignition token. If you don't end up making an Ignition attack, the token still vanishes at the end of your attack step.

When making an Ignition attack, you measure line of sight and range from the special battery firing arc on the Onager to the target. You can attack from outside of long range. You determine which dice you roll based on the range measurement from the Ignition token to the ship (cardboard to cardboard) you're shooting. A few notes about this:
  • The short version is "range from the token determines what dice you roll, but everything otherwise works the same."
    • You measure range from the token to any part of the ship token (the cardboard) on the ship you're attacking, not the hull zone you are attacking.
    • For example, if a ship zips between your Onager and an Ignition token placed within long range, you may very well be shooting their front hull zone with the Ignition attack but determining what dice get rolled based on the range from the Ignition token to their back arc (the closest part of their cardboard to the token).
  • Evade tokens and other range-based effects are determined on range from the Onager's special firing arc to the target.
    • All attacks made from outside long range are extreme range and are not long range.
      • This means Krennic won't allow for rerolls at extreme range, for example.
    • Evade tokens used at extreme range cancel two dice, so be careful going after zippy evade ships way out there.
If you have an Ignition upgrade with an associated critical effect (we'll cover those shortly), you can only resolve that critical effect on Ignition attacks.

When in doubt, consult the rules pamphlet that comes with the Onager. It's got some good example diagrams as well.

Basic usage recommendations
A lot is going to depend on exactly how you upgrade your Onager and which Onager variant you start with, but for starters I strongly recommend equipping one of the two Ignition super weapon upgrades, which extends your Ignition range to medium or long (depending). You're mostly bringing the Onager for the super gun, so sticking with the built-in close-ranged option as your only means of placing an Ignition token isn't a good idea. We'll cover the superweapon upgrades right now.

A brief intermission to talk about superweapons
Also known as "blue laser."
Just like its sister upgrade (we'll get there), Superheavy Composite Beam Turbolasers (I guess we'll go with SCBTs, but man that's still a weird-looking acronym) is a Modification. This can have bearings on your upgrade options, especially for the Onager Star Destroyer variant. It unlocks medium range Ignition attacks and has a neat critical effect. A few notes on that effect:
  • A reminder it only works on Ignition attacks.
  • It can only trigger on a red critical icon, even though its effect references both red and blue critical icons.
  • The defender suffers all the damage in one-damage packets, so they choose a hull zone each time.
    •  This generally means "keep having my shields eat it until I don't have shields left."
Improving your Ignition token placement range to medium is helpful, but SCBTs are primarily useful for their critical effect. Even adding 2-3 additional damage on your Ignition attacks can really add up, even if it's just nuking shields. For extra fun, combine with other ships using shield-draining critical effects like Heavy Ion Emplacements and/or Assault Concussion Missiles to make the damage pile on quite rapidly. Anything that gives you more dice control to regularly get that red crit or add in blue crits makes these more appealing as well.

Generally-speaking, you need to be a bit more aggressive with your Onager to get SCBTs working, as Ignition range is "only" medium and you want all the red and blue dice in the pool you can get, but the payoff is a good amount of extra damage.

Also known as "red laser."
Orbital Bombardment Particle Cannons (OBPCs, I guess?) has the advantage of being both Ignition [Long] and cheaper than SCBTs, giving it greater reach for fewer points. The downside, of course, is its critical effect isn't as strong. A few notes there:
  • Another reminder that these only work on Ignition attacks.
  • Once again, it can only trigger on a red critical icon.
  • The damage hits every ship ship and squadron at distance 1 of the initial target, so pre-measure to your own models before you commit to the crit if you'd rather not damage them.
  • Because it's generic damage, ships take it to a hull zone, meaning shields take it first.
    • It's still just one hull zone, though, with no defense tokens, so if they've got 1 shield (like a flotilla), it can't be spread across multiple hull zones to keep damage from hitting the hull.
  • Squadrons don't get defense tokens against the damage, as it's not an attack. So zap those scatter aces guilt-free.
Because they're easier to use from a safer range, I'd recommend you consider OBPCs the default Ignition upgrade with the tempting offer to upgrade them to SCBTs if your build supports it for more burst damage. Don't forget you always have the option to use the standard generic critical effect if you'd rather not trigger the crit here.

Back to everything else
When sniping with your Ignition attack, it's good to take a look at what has and hasn't activated already, consider whether your Onager is going to activate first next round (to get the shot in ASAP), and place your token accordingly. The token itself is pretty generous with its measurement (allowing you to draw a line directly from the token to an enemy ship), but your special firing arc isn't as forgiving. The immediate desire is to activate after a target, put the Ignition token next to it, and then activate pronto next round to blast it before it can escape. There's nothing wrong with that, but I've found with a little patience it's not difficult to set the token in such a place where I can be more flexible with my activation order. Getting a large and/or slow ship out of the firing arc against a good Onager player can be difficult for an opponent to do. It takes practice, basically. When in doubt, even if you're not going first and don't have a lot of activations you can get work done by forking enemy ships if they're traveling close enough together. You do need to be careful about speedy and/or maneuverable ships, though, as they can not only arc-dodge you pretty well but they can also use their evade tokens to vex you at extreme range by removing 2 dice (or 3 if they're willing to super-spend the evade and they're small or medium sized). The Onager is a tank destroyer in space: ideally it should be going after heavier prey where its damage sticks better and it's easier to line up the shot.

Like all expensive ships, the later you can deploy the Onager the better. Ideally you can find a nice little sniper nest a bit removed from what's shaping up to be the main battle. This way you can keep firing from a safe distance and adjusting your facing to keep targets in range but not heading towards them faster than necessary.

Speaking of moving directly towards danger, the Onager really doesn't like taking serious punches back, whether that's large dice pools with accuracy icons or moderate to small dice pools applied regularly, especially to a side or rear hull zone (1 redirect and bad shields 😢). You do generally need to move towards the opposing fleet to keep your super-gun on target, however, so always take stock of when/if you'll need to cut and run. Until then, keep your speed as low as possible (including 0 on occasion, especially with Rakehell) to prolong how long it takes for the opposing fleet to get up in your business.

Your side arc line of sight dots are placed in such a way that it's tough to attack to your side arcs without committing to outflanking the Onager, so keep your front towards trouble at all times. You've got a decent enough nav chart and assistance from navigate dials for a double-click first joint can keep you well-positioned.

There's nothing wrong with placing an Ignition token in uncertain circumstances just to see if you can make it happen. You're only required to make the Ignition attack next round if there's something in the special firing arc to shoot. Just be aware that an opponent who isn't keen on being double-arced, for example, might place something like a flotilla at extreme range just to eat the mandatory shot (especially if you're only rolling in a few red dice), forcing you to waste a front arc attack.

Onager titles
They're all good, I'm pleased to say. As a quick aside, note that the Onager Testbed is not a Star Destroyer and so can't take the Seventh Fleet title. The Onager-class Star Destroyer is, unsurprisingly, a Star Destroyer and can. This is the first ship where the two variants differ on whether they can take a name title upgrade.

 Cataclysm rules time:
  • Essentially, Cataclysm provides a different optional timing window for when it can place its Ignition token, otherwise following all the restrictions as normal.
  • There's nothing stopping you from placing your Ignition token normally and then using Cataclysm to move it during the next Ship Phase if you want to.
  • Because Cataclysm triggers during the Ship Phase, this allows you to fire off your superweapon on its first activation if you can feed it a concentrate fire token in the first Ship Phase from someone like Hondo or Grand Moff Tarkin and there's an enemy ship in range, which usually requires something like an objective that gets them closer to you or you to them (like Fleet Ambush or Surprise Attack) and/or Officer Ozzel to bump you a bit closer.
    • If your opponent serves a ship up on a plate, you can always hope to have a poor unfortunate dope wander into range of the token and in arc of the super weapon, but good luck pulling that off against a player who sees it coming.
Besides for the possibility of sniping some poor unfortunate ship on round 1 in ideal circumstances, Cataclysm's main benefit is that it lets you reposition your Ignition token with more knowledge of the board state right before ships stat activating. It's appealing if your Onager is in a low-activation fleet, especially if you've got enough of a bid to have a shot at activating first to get your pot shot in before anyone can do anything about it.

Cataclysm is also a counter in a way to ships showing up suddenly, like with Admiral Raddus, Profundity, or Hyperspace Assault. You don't know where to aim for a ship that's not on the table yet at the end of the Onager's activation, but with the right maneuvering, you can make large swathes of the table dangerous places for a ship appearing out of nowhere at the start of the round provided you get to set your token at the start of the Ship Phase.

Obviously, anything that helps supply Cataclysm with con fire tokens is ideal for this title. If it's emergency use only, then Hondo (as I mentioned earlier) would do fine, but otherwise some more consistent supply will be necessary to really get mileage out of it.

Rakehell thankfully has less rules fuss than Cataclysm, but it's important to go over how you execute a speed 0 maneuver: basically, you put the end of the maneuver tool (the "arrow end") into the Onager's base like you would if it had just ended a maneuver. You pick the Onager up and temporarily remove it from the table while keeping the maneuver tool pinned down. Then you click that final joint however much you're allowed until you're satisfied and put the Onager back down in its slightly new position. It's important to remember that Rakehell only triggers on a navigate command, so a dial will give you access to a full two clicks of yaw (adding 1 click to the 1 allowed by Rakehell). It's unclear exactly how  Jerjerrod or Take Evasive Action affect Rakehell given speed 0 has no inherent or "first" yaw value, but Rakehell gives it a temporary value. This will require an FAQ.

It should be briefly noted that Rakehell doesn't allow you to spend defense tokens at speed 0, just the repositional maneuver when resolving a navigate command. So keep Rakehell safe, as anything that gets to it at speed 0 is going to cause some problems.

Otherwise, Rakehell is a great way for a nav-obsessed Onager to keep repositioning its front arc without getting closer to the enemy fleet. You can even combine it on the Testbed with Engine Techs to do a 2-click speed 0 maneuver followed by a 1-click speed 1 extra Engine Techs maneuver if you really want to shimmy around a bit without committing to actually increasing your current speed.

Generally, I consider the Rakehell a Testbed title because the Testbed is superior at the extreme end of extreme range due to 4 red dice (so it doesn't mind sitting at speed 0 and getting some initially "meh" attacks in), tends to prefer the Orbital Bombardment Particle Cannons for long range Ignition tokens, and has the support team slot for Engine Tech shenanigans to get you out of speed 0 trouble quickly when it gets worrisome.

Sunder cats, ho!
  • Unlike the super weapons, Sunder triggers on a non-red crit (blue or black, it's not picky).
    • Remember you can only trigger one critical effect per attack unless you're using Fire-Control Team, so you may need to decide between Sunder and your Ignition critical.
  • Sunder isn't limited to your Ignition attack but it sure is a lot easier to trigger that way.
  • Sunder can only remove basic weapon upgrades (turbolaser, ion cannon, ordnance) or basic retrofits (offensive and defensive).
Sunder is pretty straightforward: how would you like to zap off annoying upgrades at potentially extreme range? Sounds pretty good, right? Removing Electronic Countermeasures is always satisfying, as is taking off expensive upgrades like H9 Turbolasers. The main issue is you're nearly always spending more points on Sunder than the upgrade you're removing. Removing clutch upgrades from high-priority targets, however, can easily be worth the 10 point investment even if the math on upgrades doesn't come out in your favor.

"It's nothing personal, dead people far away."

Onager-class Testbed
The Testbed is focused almost entirely around its Ignition attack, being 4 points cheaper and more bare-bones than the Star Destroyer variant we'll get to in a little bit. Its Squadron value is terrible and it has less dice at a generally shorter range in its regular arcs and only 2 rear dice to use with salvo. The upside is its special battery boasts 4 red dice, which allows it to really reach out and touch someone. If you want to bring an Onager primarily for its Ignition attack and want to keep it fairly safe and out of the way, the Testbed is the variant for you.


Like all large ships, this can be a particularly competitive slot. For my money, the big options are:
  • Intel Officer. You want your Ignition attack to count, and given you're generally trying to stay away from trouble and lob attacks from downtown, Intel Officer can get your attacks to stick better than any other officer.
  • A defensive officer of some kind. Your call betweeen Tua and Brunson for the most part. The Onager a bit glass-jawed, so taking protective measures is never a bad idea. I tend to prefer Intel Officer on the Testbed, but I also usually build it for long-ranged Ignition attacks.
Weapon teams
You get two of them, which is pretty neat. There are a few "generally crappy" weapon team upgrades that see some surprising use on the Onager, so get ready for that. Given Onagers want both dice fixing and crit assistance (given they've got their own inherent Ignition crits), you can pretty much divide the options into those two teams, although I'd go with at least one dice-fixer unless you've got enough external support for that.

Team crits:
  • Fire-Control Team is our first "binder fodder but maybe not" upgrade option on the Onager given it has a wealth of options for criticals, especially with Sunder and an Ignition weapon, and they only use one of the two weapon team slots available.
  • Weapons Battery Techs are helpful for increasing the odds of your critical effects going off, improving the odds of a red crit happening on your Ignition attack from 68.3% to 84.7%. Giving up the accuracy can be a bit rough, though, so I'd mostly consider these with the Superheavy Composite Beam Turbolasers where you want as many red crits as you can generate.
Team dice-fixing:
  • Ordnance Experts gives you easy access to a reroll for the black dice in your Ignition attack. It otherwise won't see a lot of use beyond your flak attacks, but it's still a fairly cheap fairly reliable way to get dice consistency from nearly half your Ignition attack dice pool. They also combine well with...
  • Veteran Gunners is our second "generally terrible but here not so much" option on the Onager. Especially when combined with a more general-purpose dice control upgrade in the other weapon team slot. You can, for example, reroll everything if your Ignition attack's red dice turned out poorly and then reroll any uncooperative black dice with Ordnance Experts, making the decision on whether to reroll everything a bit easier. Besides Ordnance Experts, they also combine well with...
  • Gunnery Chief Varnillian. Because she lets you swap out a die on her card during the Resolve Attack Effects step once per attack (a "while" effect), you can grab a good die pre-Veteran Gunners reroll and replace it with her blank die, keeping it for later on. Or vice versa, use a saved good die to help fix an inevitable red blank after your Veteran Gunners reroll. She works best when you can get more than one attack per round to cycle through dice well to set up a good Ignition attack every round, but she's all-around helpful here.
  • Sensor Team is our third "has Eric gone insane?" weapon team upgrade I'd recommend. Normally they're pretty terrible, but the Testbed doesn't have a lot of dice control options inherently available and mostly focuses on its single big attack. Being able to turn a blank die and a red die into a single accuracy can be handy for your Ignition snipe attacks, and you still have your remaining 5 dice available for getting damage in.
In short, I'd strongly encourage filling both your weapon team slots. If you're using a commander that helps with your dice control (like Vader or Screed), then your options open up pretty considerably for exactly what kind of combination you'd like here.

Support teams
This is a Testbed specialty and the obvious choice is Engine Techs: the Onager wants to stay at a low speed until things get too hot and then it would very much like to get out of Dodge. When it comes to big speed jumps, accept nothing but the best. If you've got access to a consistent stream of nav tokens, Nav Team isn't bad either and can allow for easy 2-click maneuvers on the first joint (even on Rakehell) to keep you pointed in the right direction.

Otherwise, a lot of the defensive support teams like Auxiliary Shield Techs are counting on repair commands that you're frankly not good at doing and shouldn't really prioritize. Medical Team is fine in a pinch if you otherwise don't want to put the points down for anything else, and it keeps the Onager from points bloating.

We covered these much earlier and for my money, the Testbed is ideal for the Orbital Bombardment Particle Cannons, as it wants to stay out of trouble and get mileage primarily from its Ignition attack and the OBPCs are the longest-range superweapon and also the cheapest. There's also less temptation to go crit-chasing like there is with the Superheavy Composite Beam Turbolasers.

That said, you can certainly try running it with the SCBTs if you'd prefer for the extra damage. You'll just need to prioritize upgrades that generate crit results and preferably a defensive officer because you'll be taking a bit more heat for sure.

The Awesome
Orbital Bombardment Particle Cannons, Rakehell, Intel Officer, Veteran Gunners, Ordnance Experts, Engine Techs
The Awesome (Battletech reference for you nerds out there) wants to post up and spam its big ol' particle cannon until that's no longer feasible, and then it wants to run away. This is pretty much my default Testbed Onager build, although there's room for variations of course. The main thing to keep in mind with the Awesome is it's generally hungry for nav dials at all times: if it's safe to stay at speed 0, it wants the double-click adjustment. If it's not, it wants to be able to step on the gas with Engine Techs, preferably with a companion nav token. The occasional concentrate fire dial can help but when in doubt, nav.

Same-Day Delivery
Orbital Bombardment Particle Cannons, Cataclysm, Officer Ozzel, Veteran Gunners, Gunnery Chief Varnillian, Hondo somewhere else in your fleet

Same-Day Delivery is looking to get an Ignition attack off in the first round by using Cataclysm and extending the threat range as much as possible, regardless of whether or not your opponent chose an enabling objective. Assuming you deploy your Onager as far up as possible and use your Ozzel move to go straight ahead, this is what you're looking at for access to attacks in the enemy's deployment zone:

For reference, the top line is the maximum ship deployment line and the middle line is the maximum squad deployment line (from a ship at the max deployment distance 2 straight ahead). You've got a good amount of red-dice coverage into the deployment zone across from the Onager and anything moving toward the token has the possibility of eating the entire barrage if you can wait them out.

This trick requires Hondo or Tarkin to give out a con fire token during the first Ship Phase, but otherwise it's the kind of trick most opponents won't forget. As I mentioned earlier with the Cataclysm title, objectives that get your opponent deploying closer to you make this even better.

Selfies are always great with your BFF

Onager-class Star Destroyer
The Onager-class Star Destroyer is 4 points more expensive than the Testbed and it gains:
  • An extra blue die on its flak attacks.
  • Squadron value improved from 1 to 2.
  • Special battery changed from 4 red 3 black dice to 3 red 2 blue 2 black dice.
  • A red die added to every hull zone's battery armament, with the side arc blue die then changing to a black die.
    • The improvement to the rear arc brings its salvo up to 3 total dice, which is pretty good.
  • Replaces the support team slot with a turbolaser slot.
That's not bad at all, although again the ship is expensive. It costs the same as an ISD2 without the defensive retrofit slot it natively comes with. The Star Destroyer variant is designed for more of an actual fight than the Testbed variant, throwing more total dice from its regular attacks, offering a better salvo, reasonable flak, and a turbolaser upgrade which opens up some interesting offensive options. It's still no match for a dedicated combat ship of similar weight, though, especially if it can't bring its special battery to bear, so getting good use from the Ignition weapon is still a high priority. This recommends a bit of a different approach and upgrade suite, which we'll discuss below.

Given you'll want to get a bit closer and more into the fight with the Star Destroyer chassis, it's still basically the same options as above but with a higher priority given to the defensive officers. It's a tough call between Tua and Brunson for me: I'd probably lean Tua if going for the Superheavy Composite Beam Turbolasers, usually with Electronic Countermeasures. If I'm using the longer-ranged Orbital Bombardment Particle Cannons, then Brunson works better against smaller dice pools, which you'll get a bit more of due to your long range.

Weapon teams
Again, roughly the same as before. That said, there are some definite differences:
  • Ordnance Experts are less appealing with only 2 black dice in your special battery, even though they do help a little bit with your other attacks (as you have one black die in every non-rear arc as well as in your flak). 
  • Weapons Battery Techs are more appealing if you're using the Superheavy Composite Beam Turbolasers, as you'll want as many critical icons as you can get. It can either help trigger the red critical or add additional blue dice to the effect as needed.
  • It's worth considering a Gunnery Team if you intend to attack two different targets from your front arc. Only having 2 red 2 blue and 1 black in your front arc doesn't really make it an amazing attack, but if you're keeping your front alone towards the enemy fleet, it may be the only way to get both your allowed attacks each round.
  • Gunnery Chief Varnillian is better if you can regularly get at least 2 attacks, as she lets you shuffle dice from one attack to the one you care more about better (typically from your regular attack to your Ignition attack, but not always).
    • She triggers on salvo attacks (against ships) as well, making being in range to salvo back more appealing here too.
  • With a larger number of dice in the regular arcs and 2 blue dice in the special battery, Sensor Team is back to "probably shouldn't even bother" when it comes to the Star Destroyer variant.
Here's where it gets fun. Because you're almost assuredly bringing a Superweapon upgrade, the modification turbolasers are out but you still have a lot of options, and they work on the Ignition attack!
  • Linked Turbolaser Towers. A free reroll of a single red die on every attack (including Ignition and salvo) can really pay off, as can the super-shot against a single squadron if you need it. The second use is primarily useful with Gunnery Team, as otherwise expect all the squadrons to camp your front hull zone.
  • XI7 Turbolasers. Making redirects worse with large dice pools is always appealing, especially if you're packing an Intel Officer to go after the brace.
  • XX-9 Turbolasers. This is a niche option but it's worth considering if you're building around crits, especially with Fire-Control Team. Triggering the Superheavy Composite Beam Turbolasers and XX-9s against a ship with few remaining shields is just evil.

You can go either way, really. I tend to prefer the Superheavy Composite Beam Turbolasers, as your Star Destroyer variant will want to be a bit closer to the fight so the Ignition[Medium] is less of an issue. You've also got 5 total red and blue dice compared to the Testbed's 4 red dice, so the damage ceiling on the SCBTs is just a bit higher. The Orbital Bombardment Particle Cannons are still a fine low-maintenance choice too, though, so it's your call.

Big Game Hunter
Orbital Bombardment Particle Cannons, Intel Officer, Veteran Gunners, Gunnery Chief Varnillian, XI7 Turbolasers
You want to find the biggest ship you can and put hurt into it from quite a ways away while using Intel Officer to give its brace the stink-eye and using XI7s to make its redirects worse. Veteran Gunners and Gunny V work together to give you better dice consistency to make the shot stick.

I Needa Bit More Dice Fixing
Orbital Bombardment Particle Cannons, Captain Needa, Gunnery Chief Varnillian, Veteran Gunners, Turbolaser Reroute Circuits
You replace your salvo with evade to power the TRCs, which give you a guaranteed crit when you need it and double-hit when you don't. I am iffy about replacing your salvo on a ship with a 3-dice rear arc but between TRCs, Gunny V, and Ordnance Experts, you have an awful lot of dice fixing packed into this ship. For extra fun, don't forget to use Gunny V and TRCs together to swap in a bad banked die to then flip it to something good or conversely use it the other way around to set a die to a double-hit and then bank it up for later.

Bad Times Ahead
Superheavy Composite Beam Turbolasers, Sunder, Weapon Battery Techs, Fire-Control Team, XX-9 Turbolasers. Captain Jonus on the side.
The Bad Times Ahead build is janky. Let's get that out of the way immediately. It seeks to get critical results and then combines them with Fire-Control Team to trigger a double critical. Weapon Battery Techs help find an accuracy to turn into a crit, but with Captain Jonus you can guarantee this effect to trigger a crit in the first place or add extra crits to help your SCBTs (keep Jonus safe, though!). Early on, you want to fire off both Sunder and the SCBTs, but afterwards as the target's shields decrease they help get the SCBTs firing consistently and at higher damage plus the XX-9's critical effect.


  1. Few things that I had after 6 games of Onagering:
    - Ozzel Off, Hondo Cataclysm means black range attacks against most larges bases that didn't deploy on the backside, and Ozzel lets you fix deployment disadvantage a bit post deployment, at the downside of a exposed Onager. Ozzel lets you get a cheap DV officer reroll aswell.
    - Gunnery Chief works with Salvo IIRC, so that is a nice trick if you want to swap out a dice you don't need/would be wasted on the salve (double hit/crit for example).
    - Vader Adm. and Vet Gunners for that sweet fishing.

    Otherwise great analysis!

    1. I did mention that gunny V works on salvo, for what it's worth.

      I'm a little skeptical about the value of Hondo cataclysm as people get used to the combo and stop deploying their ships far enough ahead to get hit for full effect. I guess we'll see.

    2. I've had pretty good success with hondo/cataclysm and a pair of gravwell Interdictors to dictate my opponents deployment. People really don't like deploying at speed 0 if they can get a turn 1 cataclysm hit.

  2. You guys are the best. Gonna try out the Onager for the first time tomorrow, your build advice is really helpful.

  3. Thoughts on pairing an Onager and Interdictor? I thought it might be nice to mess with enemy speeds to ensure Onager ignitions get the best shots possible, but not sure if an Interdictor can defend the Onager well enough to survive against more combat-oriented ships.

    1. I have concerns about it for pretty much the reasons you gave. Once you're not contributing with the superweapon consistently, the Onager's combat contribution goes down substantially. The Interdictor tends to be a bit pillowfisted on top of that, so it can't really pick up the slack much or present a big threat against things coming in at the Onager.

      In short, I feel like generally they're both ships that benefit from having more muscular combat threats around. There is some synergy between them but not enough to make me comfortable spending a good amount over 200 points between the two of them.

  4. Had a question come up last night. My opponent believed the ignition critical upgrades can only use their critical effect at their specified range (so SHCL can only go off if the token was placed at medium range, not close, etc.). Can you confirm or deny? It didn't really change my decision making, but I'm curious if that's true because I couldn't find such a rule anywhere.

    1. Your opponent is absolutely incorrect. Onager superweapon upgrades have the two components: the area you can put the ignition token (besides the default of Ignition[close]) and the critical effect. Those two components are not related. The critical effect works on ANY ignition attack that ship makes regardless of where you put the ignition token.

  5. If you place the ignition token at long range and a ship moves between the onager and token can that ship still be hit by the ignition attack as the target is now behind the token

    1. Yes you can. Line of sight comes from the ship itself, so it does not care if the target is between the onager and the token. The token is only useful for determining how many dice you get on the target, and in that case will check its range to the nearest part of the ship.

  6. Thanks for letting me know how do you determine which side of the defender your shooting? Is it the side facing the onager that is targeted or do you select the target from the token?

    1. The only thing that the token does is determine what dice you will roll and it draws its range to the closest part of the defender, whether or not that is the part of the defender you are shooting (so for example, if the defender is headed straight for you and is in between you and the token, you will probably determine dice by measuring from a token to the rear but you will be shooting the front). Otherwise range and line of sight are drawn from the onager. So anything that your special firing arc can target is a viable hull zone.

  7. This webpage is really helpful! I'm still learning Armada and so I'm sorry if my question is sort of basic about a super-weapon ignition -
    Let's say I'm running the Onager Testbed with one of the super-weapons equipped. The ignition token is at long-range of the target (so I won't be rolling black dice). When I roll the 4 red dice, one is a critical, so the ignition happens. But, does the red critical for ignition use-up that red dice? Does it mean that only the other three red dice count for damage, accuracy, etc. against the target? Or, does the "critical for ignition" die also count for damage against the target?
    Thanks for your time.

    1. Glad we can help and don't worry about the question!

      Every critical effect only checks to see if one (or more) critical symbols are in the pool to trigger. Otherwise, the critical effect doesn't "consume" or spend the dice to work, the critical symbol still adds damage like normal. I go into more detail on all that here:

      Hopefully that helps!

    2. A follow-up clarification question...three years later...
      In my previous question, I'm rolling 4 red dice. Suppose the dice roll result is 4 regular hits and I don't have a way to re-roll, so that's my result. I know that I need to have a red critical to get the critical result from the super-weapon, but here's the question - since I don't have a red crit, do the four red hit dice still count? On the super weapon upgrade cards, it says "Ignition, Red critical". Does that mean that you need a red crit in your dice results for the ignition attack to "go off" and if you don't have a red crit the shot fizzles and its as if the shot never happened? (like the superweapon misfired?) Or does it mean "this critical effect only works on ignition attacks, and it requires a red crit to happen?
      Sometimes the way the cards are written throws me a little bit.
      You guys are great and this blog is a lot of fun :-)

    3. No, the red critical effect is just an optional critical effect that can only be used when firing the super-laser. Your four red hits will work just fine, they don't need a red critical to function.

  8. Can you place an Ignition token under a ship after the onager moves?

    1. Yes. Unless stated otherwise, tokens can be placed under models.

  9. Some ideas for the Onager.
    I know you earlier mentioned that you can't see the Interdictor and Onager truly synergizing, but what of a build with Interdictors built around movement control and tankiness (X-8s, Grav Wells, the like, projection experts, Yularen), or alternatively an idea I don't quite like as much one Interdictor with a little movement control and one of the ISD variants with tractors that sit out in front while a Same-Day Delivery with Romodi sits way back and pot shots, with a bid for station and placement objectives (Station Assault, Contested Outpost, Solar Carona), never tested it but I've been working on the idea since the Onager was first announced to have a longer than long range attack. Gives the potential of a turn 1 speed 0 hit as well.

    A Fun™ list might be Emperor Palpatine and some other crit-based weapons that strip resources (like Heavy Ions) to pile on the Bad Times Ahead, really just make it all about denial of resources and wounding the enemy ships as hard as possible. A Dominator with ACMs or a Raider with Heavy Ion Emplacements to really strip those shields and start hammering with the composite crits to double down on depleting shields to start upping damage.

    1. The issue is you're dropping 100+ points on an Interdictor that's mostly hoping to hold something in place for your 100+ point Onager (usually with G7 Grav Well and hoping for the Cataclysm round 1 shot). If/when it can't do that, the Interdictor isn't generally that useful as a sizable chunk of your fleet is built around the two working together. The Onager's supergun only works within its limited band as well, which can cause additional problems for getting the expensive combo engine to consistently perform. There are numerous ways to subvert that combination for an opposing fleet. I'd much rather use a fleet where pieces can synergize in good situations but can do fine on their own without being so dependent on a combo engine successfully coming together.

      Heavy Ion and/or Assault Concussion Missile ships combined with the Superheavy Composite Beam Turbolasers is fun, though. I'm not sure it's top tier but it's a good start for a somewhat unconventional Screed fleet.

  10. Keep up the great work guys! This is the place I go for builds and tactics. -axe238

  11. Your link for Heavy Ion Emplacements is broken

  12. We recently had this issue come up and I couldn't really find an answer anywhere, so maybe you guys can help me? How does ignition work with the fire lanes objective and tokens? Can you accumulate dice on a fire lane token from extreme range?

    1. You can't, no. Fire Lanes only checks "regular" attack range and doesn't "see" Ignition weapons.