Friday, December 4, 2020

Separatist squadron review: Belbullab-22 Starfighters

Probably the most unique squadron available to the Separatists is the intriguing Belbullab-22 Heavy Starfighter. It doesn't really behave entirely like much of anything else in the game, which is a refreshing change for the Separatists given how much their droid fighters crib from their Imperial counterparts.

Plus it looks cool, although kind of like a weird fanged race car too?

For real, it looks like an F-Zero car.

Okay, let's talk about the keywords first.

  • Relay 1 is pretty straightforward. It helps your ships boss around squadrons further away than they normally could. Given how fast Separatist squadrons are and how dependent on AI most of them are, that's pretty handy.
    • This is as good a time as any to note the Belbullab does not have AI.
  • Screen is a neat new keyword introduced in the Clone Wars factions where for every other non-Screen squadron an attacker is engaged with (up to 3) you gain Dodge 1. Dodge lets you reroll an attack die for each level, so at Dodge 3 you could reroll up to 3 attack dice coming your way.
    • In short, this encourages the Belbullab to hide among your drone squadrons and it makes it very annoying to deal with before those drones have been destroyed.

The Belbullab has a solid Separatist standard speed of 4 and a robust (especially for Separatists) hull 5. Its anti-squadron attack is on par with a TIE Defender, doing an average of 2.5 damage against enemy squadrons but will also struggle a bit against scatter aces due to only a 44% chance of getting an accuracy result. It struggles against ships, rolling a meager blue die without Bomber. Don't send it after ships unless you've got nothing better to do.

It lacks AI, which means it handles being left to activate in the Squadron Phase much better than your other droid squadrons. Like all squadrons, it prefers being activated by a ship, of course, but there's not always enough squad commanding to go around and usually the Belbullab doesn't mind being left out: it doesn't miss out on the AI dice and with hull 5 it's relatively sturdy enough to last into the Squadron Phase, especially with Screen active. You may still want to activate it if you need it precisely positioned for Relay shenanigans, though.

Screen is interesting in terms of building out your squadron group: you'll ideally want to not spam Belbullabs as they don't screen for one another. Ideally you should have no more than one Belbullab per 2 or 3 droid squadrons to really get some mileage from Screen. Getting mileage from Screen is required to really get your 15 points' worth, in my opinion: the Belbullab is otherwise a little pricey for what it brings to the table if you can't keep it ticking for long in a squadron furball.

His Belbullab is named Soulless One which is extremely cringe.

General Grievous is another absolutely nuts Separatist ace squadron. Compared to a normal Belbullab, for 7 extra points he gains:

  • Anti-ship dice upgrades to black from blue, going from 0.5 to 0.75 average damage.
  • Relay value increased from 1 to 2.
  • Gains an extremely good special rule.
  • Gains two brace tokens.

  In short, he's great. Let's explore the Vader-esque special rule in a bit more detail:

  • Generic squadrons don't have readied (green) defense tokens as they don't have any defense tokens at all, so General Grievous will always work against them.
    • The easiest way to think of his ability is it always works but is only stopped if the defender points to a readied/green defense token when it comes time to total damage.
  • General Grievous isn't a Bomber, so even though his black dice hit+crit result will deal 2 damage when attacking a ship that qualifies, it won't produce faceup damage cards.
  • Damage is totaled in the Resolve Damage step at the end of the attack sequence, and that's when Grievous's ability checks to see if critical icons add damage.
    • This means that if you choose to brace against a Grievous attack and it results in you not having any readied/green defense tokens when it comes time to total damage, you can actually increase the amount of damage you take in some niche situations.

Like a normal Belbullab, he wants to be going after squadrons rather than ships. The upgrade to a black anti-ship die is nice but he's still bad against ships for his cost. There's also the matter that finding a ship with no readied/green defense tokens can be difficult given most start with 3 or 4. Grievous especially wants to go after generic squadrons where his ability always works and he can be an absolute bully, increasing his average damage from a standard Belbullab 2.5 to a remarkable 3.5. He'll happily pick on aces when the opportunity presents itself but I'd shy away from scatter aces unless you're desperate - you still only have the same 44% chance of getting an accuracy, so you're likely to waste him on a scatter spend.

With 5 hull, Screen, and 2 brace tokens he's also very durable. So long as he's deep in a furball with friends nearby he's extremely difficult to do more than one damage to with any given attack. It's usually better to go after the fragile droid squadrons until Screen is no longer (as much of) an issue, but that buys Grievous time to keep getting in some serious anti-squadron punches.

Relay 2 is also a big upgrade over Relay 1. 1 point of Relay is something that helps now and then but 2 points of Relay, especially on a durable squadron, is something you can plan around.

In short, General Grievous is pretty great. He's also pretty expensive. But if you've got the 7 points to spare and an ace slot available, I'd strongly recommend including him before a generic Belbullab.

Ah yes, when he flew that squadron in the movie. You know, like he did. I haven't seen Clone Wars

Wat Tambor! Belbullab! Can't take his officer! What WILL CIS players do now? He's also the first (and currently ONLY) way to get Escort in the CIS.  He also has Screen, which means those 3 Hyenas you're escorting are helping YOU by making me reroll attacks.  That's also, like PDIC, an "always on" ability, even if your defense tokens are gone.  Mathematically, screen should be reducing damage.  IF my friend Justin was doing the math right (notice how i have pawned this off on him), Screen-3 after a 4 dice (no Toryn, no Hera, etc, just 4 blue dice) shot should result in 0 damage 31% of the time and only 1 damage 41% of the time; this is of course a lot of hinky math that (again) didn't assume your opponent has ways of modifying his die rolls.  But hey, it's a great start!

Add on your defense tokens, and you can survive a lot longer than you would think.  The Relay-1 is a nice topping on the cake; may I suggest pairing him with Phlac-Arphocc Prototypes to help "protect" your bombers?  But you're taking him for the Escort and Screen.  Wat is good in small screens too; him and a few Vultures can make a solid dent, especially when he leads the charge and acts as a swarm node for them all.  The main obstacle to taking him as a squadron is that you can't take his officer card, which means you CIS players are going to need to fill that chair.  However, if you're going CIS134, he's your first squadron as you figure out the number of Hyenas to add after that.


  1. Quick question.

    Assuming enough other squadrons are present and engaged with the attacker, does screen give you dodge 3 or dodge 1 three times?

    Basically, can it let you reroll a single dice more than once?

    1. It gives you Dodge 3 rather than Dodge 1 three times. In 1.5, numerative keywords stack. Say for example you had Counter 2 and gained Counter 1, you would then become Counter 3.

  2. Bellyrub is what I like to call 'em. Bellyrubs!

    I spent ten minutes or so trying to think of something positive or negative to say about the Bellyrub, just to work calling that nickname for them in there, and I couldn't come up with a damned thing.