Saturday, December 5, 2020

Separatist squadron review: Vulture-class Droid Fighters

TIE Fighters were the very first squadron review I ever wrote (it's been updated over the years, don't worry!) so it's only fitting that I get started on Separatist squadrons with the very similar Vulture Droids.

What if a TIE Fighter and an evil Segway Scooter had a baby?

You're gonna run out of spell slots throwing fireballs around like that, you know.

Vulture Droids are very similar to Imperial TIE Fighters in nearly every way and I'd recommend taking a look at my lengthy TIE Commandments (linked above) for some tips in how to use them. The two squadrons have the same speed, hull, Swarm keyword, points cost, average anti-ship damage and roughly similar damage against squadrons. In short, they're very similar and the same basic advice about TIE Fighters applies to Vulture Droids (command them, don't let them get punched first, be wary of flak, etc.). Let's talk about a couple fine differences, then.

Vulture Droids are worse than TIE Fighters when they're not commanded. They do only an average of 1.25 damage (pre-Swarm) against squadrons with a blue and a black die compared to the TIE Fighters' 1.5 average damage (again, pre-Swarm) and with a much lower chance of generating an accuracy against an ace squadron. They share the same TIE Fighter problem of they win against other squadrons by killing them faster than they get killed back so not commanding them in dogfight is even worse because you not only lose out on the extra AI die, you run the very real risk of getting them killed before they get their attacks in for the round.

The red anti-ship die does the same average anti-ship damage (0.5) as the TIE Fighter's blue anti-ship die, with an important distinction: while the TIE Fighter has a 50% chance of rolling a hit on a blue die, the Vulture Droid has only a 37.5% chance of rolling hits on a red die, but a 12.5% chance of rolling a double hit. In short, the Vulture Droid is even less reliable at attacking ships but there's always that one in eight chance that it does something great.

All that said, if you do get the Vulture Droids the squadron commands they so desperately want, they punch above their weight even compared to TIE Fighters. Please note that the die added by AI is added after your initial attack roll in the resolve attack effects step, much like how concentrate fire dials add a die to a ship's attack. So you get to see your initial attack roll first before deciding, and you may even wish to use Swarm beforehand if it helps you make your decision; for example, you might be attacking an ace with scatter and your blue die is a critical and your black die is a hit clearly you want to lock down the scatter token, so you use Swarm to reroll the blue die. If it turns up an accuracy, great. Use AI to add a black die. If it turns up not-an-accuracy, then use AI to add a blue die and hope for an accuracy result.

The average damage gets weird if you try to math out attacking aces as it will depend on what defense tokens those aces have and the different combinations of initial rolls and Swarm rerolls you can generate. That said, if you're up against a generic squadron you should always add a black die as it will add a damage 75% of the time, compared to a blue die's 50%. Assuming you add a black die with AI, the Vulture Droids will do an average of 2 damage pre-Swarm. With a Swarm reroll, that increases to 2.47. That's pretty considerable for a little 8 point chump squadron and outperforms the TIE Fighter's 1.5 and 1.94 damage, respectively. You just aren't quite as good against aces, especially scatter aces, due to less blue dice.

Heck yeah I'm down for... uh... separating. Separatists! This is a family blog.

DFS-311 loves hiding in obstacles and handing out Grit (with nu-Intel). He's even worse against aces than standard Vulture Droids because he only has a red die (12.5% chance to roll accuracy) and a black die (lol can't roll accuracy) for his anti-squadron attack. He has the standard red-dice-against-squads problem where most of the red dice results doesn't do anything, so his attacks can be a little unreliable and you'll want to use Swarm to see if you can get the red die to behave.

As mentioned before, DFS loves hiding in obstacles. Given it provides the standard obstruction -1 die benefit but also allows him to reroll a die of his choice that's coming his way. Between that, scatter, and brace, he can be rather annoying to deal with when he's properly bunkered up somewhere (especially against flak!). It cuts both ways, however: he'll usually be down to one die before you add one with AI, so unless you're sneaking in a blue die with Flight Controllers, it means he'll be rolling two of the same color. Unless you're desperate to land damage against a scatter ace and are feeling lucky, I'd recommend going with the black die for its much higher damage consistency.

You don't need to keep DFS hiding in obstacles all game but they are very much his element and it allows you to get some Intel/Grit-granting into your fleet and keep it fairly safe when you need to provided you choose your engagement zones well. With Swarm and AI, he can contribute a fairly reliable 1-2 points of damage against enemy squads and hand out Grit from his bunker.

"Yes, Rogerbot, we've seen the 'I'm eating the planet' perspective trick 42 times already. Please stop."

The Haor Chall Prototypes demand politeness and feel it is extremely rude to leave a party, dealing 1 damage to any ship or squadron at distance 1 that moves away (preferably while chasing after them yelling "howdy y'all!" and waving a cowboy hat in frustration). Some rules bullet points:

  • The Haor Chall "howdy y'all!" attack is an attack in every way, which means:
    • It benefits from the Swarm reroll (against squadrons).
    • It can be obstructed.
    • The enemy can spend defense tokens.
    • If you're engaged with an Escort squadron then you can't attack a squadron with "howdy y'all!" unless that squadron also has Escort.
    • Effects like Counter and salvo defense tokens can shoot back at you if you choose to make the attack. 
      • Note that Counter and salvo specifically mention they don't work against Counter and salvo attacks, but the "howdy y'all!" attack is neither.
    • Because the "howdy y'all!" attack happens during an opponent's move, it won't benefit from AI.
  • The attack triggers before the model in question moves which means it must have a destination in mind but prior to actually moving there. It's a weird timing window.
  •  Typically enemy squadrons would be moving away from you despite being at distance 1 due to Grit (either natural or Intel-granted) or because you were obstructed to them or with a special rule like Tycho's.
  • When an enemy ship moves away from you, it's possible you may get your choice of two different hull zones for your attack so keep an eye out for that if there's one zone you'd rather attack over the other.

So after all those rules bullet points and me trying to make Haor Chall's special rule into "howdy y'all!" because it sounds less goofy than saying Haor Chall over and over, what's the point of this squadron? The point is: it's a Vulture Droids squadron with brace and scatter for +8 points. That's the point. The "howdy y'all!" attack can actually get some plink damage in here and there but it's entirely possible that without ships nearby or enemy squadrons with Grit that Haor Chall won't be using its special ability all game. Ideally, you should try to keep Haor Chall on the outside of a furball where Grit squadrons or Intel are more likely to be present as well as to make it harder to overload its defense tokens. Its rival ace squadron DFS requires more careful use and is more expensive and is worse against aces. Haor Chall is just a big boy Vulture Droids squad that sometimes uses its special rule. Nothing wrong with that.


  1. Good write up!

    How does "howdy y'all!" interact with Escort?

    1. An excellent question and as written, Escort would prevent you from making an attack against a non-Escort squadron. Let me add that to the rules bullet points.

  2. Does the Haor Chall Ability mean, that you can make (under certain circumstances) multiple attacks in one game round? If so, it seems to be a nice mechanic to give it more worthiness after a won dogfight to threaten ships with additional bombing runs.

    1. It does allow for hypothetically lots of extra attacks but the conditions under which those attacks are more limited than it first appears. It's tough to be at D1 of more than one not-yet-activated ship and even if you are it's one non-Bomber red die. For squadrons, most squads can't move when engaged with you (some exceptions for Intel which you don't see a lot of nowadays outside Jan X-Wing groups).