Friday, January 22, 2021

1.5 conjecture on squadron points changes

Okay so I'm back with the squadrons companion article to the earlier ship article. In short: we're likely to see points changes to ships and squadrons much like X-Wing and Legion have done and I'm making recommendations.

Squadrons are trickier to really pin down a points cost for. It comes down to how FFG designed them to interact with the "main game" (i.e. the ships). I have to assume earlier on in Armada's development they sat down and decided "well we want it to feel like Star Wars and squadrons are part of Star Wars. It would be best if they were a part of every fleet, to varying degrees. But if ships can deal with squadrons on their own, then why bring fighters at all?" And thus, anemic ship flak was born and you can thank whoever at FFG for the fact that a Decimator can chase a VSD all game and it's impossible for the VSD to kill it.

In short, points spent on fighters > bombers > ships > fighters. FFG wanted to incentivize bringing a fighter screen at the very least. So we can't really compare squadrons directly to one another at random, we need to compare them to similar squadrons in their niche. You've also got further sub-niches, which makes it even more complex. For example, both the YT-1300 and Droid Tri-Fighter are squadrons mostly meant to deal with enemy squadrons but they're otherwise different in almost every way - the 1300 is a chubby little tank and the Tri-Fighter is a speedy but fragile interceptor craft. You'd be better off comparing the 1300 to other Escort squadrons and the Tri-Fighter to other speed 5 fighters like A-Wings and TIE Interceptors.

So it's all a roundabout way of saying "here there be dragons" when it comes to squad points changes. Due to all the variables this is likely going to be more contentious than the ships article. I appreciated the distinct lack of hate mail I got for that article so if y'all could keep it up I'd appreciate it, haha.

Before I dive in altogether, I want to touch on where I feel squads stand right now. Which is to say as a general rule, aces are too cheap and fighter-only generics a bit too expensive. Bombers and multi-role squads (the Rebel hallmark) are for the most part doing fine, with some case-by-case exceptions. Limiting aces to 1 per 100 points in 1.5 (typically 4 in a 400 point game) was a good move for decreasing complexity and special rules, bubble effects, etc., but it doesn't change the fact that aces are just better than generics. Aces are limited, but that shouldn't mean they should be exempt from being points-balanced compared to generics. At the very least the gulf shouldn't be so vast.

A brief reminder that points changes are the only thing that can change in this mental exercise. It's by far the easiest fix to things and doesn't require errata or printing new cardboard. Moving right along, starting with the Empire...

Imperial squadrons

Every single Imperial generic squadron that isn't a TIE Bomber, Firespray, or Decimator
-1 point

To be specific, that is:

  • Aggressor Assault Fighter, now 15 points.
  • Lambda-class Shuttle, now 14 points.
  • TIE Advanced, now 11 points.
  • TIE Defender, now 15 points.
  • TIE Fighter, now 7 points.
  • TIE Interceptor, now 10 points.
  • TIE Phantom, now 13 points.
  • YV-666, now 14 points.
  • Jumpmaster and Mandalorian Gauntlet Fighter are covered below and get an additional discount.

Let's start off with a bang, shall we? One of the most-complained-of elements of the 4 ace limit has been that it punishes Imperials more than Rebels. I won't deny that - it does. Imperial generic squads have traditionally been overpriced so Imperials leaned hard on their aces, which are underpriced. Presumably this is because FFG balanced generics based on best-case matchups. An Interceptor for 11 points compared to an A-Wing at 11 points shows the Interceptor is better against squadrons (with one more blue die against squads and Swarm), but it's very matchup-dependent. The A-Wing's extra hull point and better anti-ship attack makes it the better squadron overall and it contributes meaningfully in more games. You can see that FFG learned its lesson in this example with the Separatist Droid Tri-Fighter, which has a black die against ships like the A-Wing despite otherwise being similar to the Interceptor.

In short, generic fighter squads but especially specialist squads (which is every Imperial squad to varying degrees) are typically overpriced and deserve a slight discount to account for you're not always able to get great value from them. 7 point TIE Fighters and 15 point TIE Defenders wouldn't break the game. The anti-ship squads stay at their current cost because as mentioned before, bombers are pretty well-priced presently given they have a stronger effect on the "real game."

Jumpmaster 5000
12 points to 10 points (-2 points)

The Jumpmaster gets an extra points cut because it's an Intel bot and Intel got nerfed. Dengar has his own thing going on and he's just fine but with Intel nerfed, there's nearly no reason to go for a regular Jumpmaster at 12 or even 11 points. 10... maybe.

Mandalorian Gauntlet Fighter
20 points to 16 points (-4 points)

Consider the fact that Kanan is 19 points. He's fun but not exactly tearing up the meta, and in a faction that can do more with raid tokens (thanks to Rex). Kanan was created after the colossal screw-up that is the Gauntlet Fighter and his cost and abilities reflect lessons that were learned. Time to give the Gauntlet a big points cut to reflect that.

*Gar Saxon (Gauntlet)
23 points to 21 points (-2 points)

This is one of the few aces on my list to get a points cut, but being a Gauntlet ace will do that for you. 5 points of clearance between him and the new-cost Gauntlet gives some reasons to consider one over the other if you want Assault in your fleet.

*Tempest Squadron (TIE Advanced)
13 points to 12 points (-1 point)

Minor nudge down for basically the same reason as the TIE Advanced. In fact, let's talk about that a little bit. The TIE Advanced isn't quite a multi-role squadron in the Rebel vein but it's about as close as the Empire gets. It's always been a smidge too expensive, however, and unlike its most direct comparison squadron, the X-Wing, it doesn't receive buffs well as it lacks Bomber for Bomber Command Center and has nothing like Jan Ors or Biggs to make Escort more valuable. Even the X-Wing gets a 1 point cut (later on, and the buff elements get a points increase but we'll get there when we get there), so the TIE Advanced darn well better.

Okay, so compared to the regular TIE Advanced, 1 more point for Bomber is just fine. Alternatively, think of it as 3 more points on a TIE Bomber to gain 3 blue dice anti-squad, Escort, and lose Heavy.

*Darth Vader (TIE Advanced)
21 points to 19 points (-2 points)

Vader is great but there's no way to hide him due to Escort. His main benefit is he hits like a mac truck against squads but the same squads he's good at murdering prioritize murdering him right back. I'd love to swap Escort for Screen and Adept (with a points increase) but that's not an option. So points cut instead.

*Maarek Stele (TIE Defender)
21 points to 25 points (+4 points)

He's probably the best overall squadron in the game and he should be priced like it.

*Black Squadron (TIE Fighter)
9 points to 8 points (-1 point)

With regular TIE Fighters dropping one point, so should Black Squadron. Swapping out Swarm for Escort and Counter 1 is worth about 1 point.

*Mauler Mithel (TIE Fighter)
15 points to 18 points (+3 points)

A scatter ace with an ability that can do unstoppable splash damage, sometimes multiple times a game if you use him well, is pretty ridiculous. Mauler's been underpriced since wave one and a regular presence in Imperial squad builds for much of the game for that reason.

*Valen Rudor (TIE Fighter)
13 points to 15 points (+2 points)

Getting a scatter token ace on the table should not be that cheap. Plus his ability is circumstantially amazing with Heavy squadrons.

*Ciena Ree (TIE Interceptor)
17 points to 19 points (+2 points)

Permanently obstructed plus a scatter token is pretty handy and 17 points is a pretty cheap rate for what Ciena brings. 19 points is more fair.

*Morna Kee (VT-49 Decimator)
27 points to 29 points (+2 points)

A slight bump to the most self-sufficient ship-wrecker squadron in the game, hopefully opening up a little room for consideration of other options, including generic Decimators.

Imperial wrap-up

Twp quick notes before proceeding on:

  1. There are some entries here I'd love to rewrite entirely (YV-666s and TIE Phantoms come to mind immediately), but -1 point will have to do. Any more and it gets weird.
  2. No, I didn't forget about Colonel Jendon. He can potentially be very good, but he's counting on a strong ace to tag in. Those aces got a points increase for the most part.

Rebel squadrons

In general, Rebel squadrons are in a better place than Imperial squads due to being more multi-role and durable. Changes ahead, though.

*Tycho Celchu (A-Wing)
16 points to 18 points (+2 points)

*Shara Bey (A-Wing)
17 points to 19 points (+2 points)

In both cases +2 points because 4 hull brace scatter aces need to be priced higher given how durable they are.

*Ten Numb (B-Wing)
19 points to 21 points (+2 points)

Abilities like Mauler Mithel's that can do crazy splash damage need to be priced higher, and Ten Numb is getting hit with the nerf bat as well.

15 points to 13 points (-2 points)

It's an X-Wing that gains +1 speed and Snipe 3 and loses Escort. Given I'm recommending the X-Wing drops to 12 (we'll get there, I promise I'm not crazy), 13 is fair for the never-seen E-Wing. If that proves too aggressive, it can be bumped back up to 14 later.

12 points to 10 points (-2 points)

For exactly the same reasons as the Jumpmaster: it's a specialist squad whose specialty got worse and it contributes very little outside of Intel. Definitely not worth bringing at 12 points.

*Jan Ors (HWK-290)
19 points to 21 points (+2 points)

Intel got worse in 1.5, but the ace limit makes Jan's brace-passing ability even better than it was before (and it was great before, too). 21 puts her right above Dengar, and that's fair.

Lancer-class Pursuit Craft
15 points to 14 points (-1 point)

The only bomber I'm recommending a points cut to. Lancers are just a smidge overpriced and it means we never see them.

*Malee Hurra (Scurrg H-6 Bomber)
26 points to 20 points (-6 points)

Malee is terrible. 26 points with all her restrictions is the worst. I can understand that FFG was concerned about "Screed: the squadron" but she's a Rube Goldberg machine and nobody takes her for that reason. Plus she's literally worse than a basic Scurrg against ships and is relying on her special ability to get work done. Compare her to Captain Jonus, who is a sometimes-but-not-often-seen ace at 16 points and has a much easier to use and arguably equivalently good ability. That's terrible for an ace. Malee is the rare ace I give a big points cut to for those reasons.

13 points to 12 points (-1 point)

Hear me out on this one first, please. Back in the wave one days when squads were bad, the X-Wing was considered especially bad. It's a fairly expensive generic squadron that isn't great against ships (despite Bomber it only does something 5/8 of the time) and you waste Escort unless you use it to protect something - usually Y-Wings. Alternatively, you could just spam A-Wings which were faster, cheaper, did the same average damage against ships but a bit more consistent, have Counter 2, and you didn't have to protect anything: you got the whole package in one spammed squad. Okay, well what happened? The answer is waves 2 and 5, which gave us Bomber Command Center, Jan Ors, and Biggs Darklighter. All of these new options melded well with X-Wings and now they're useful. So what's the problem then? The problem is that X-Wings at their core are still not great. They require you bring along Jan at minimum and preferably the other two if they work with your build. Ideally, X-Wings should be worth bringing without having to binge on support elements to make them better. If you want to bring Biggs and Jan, then even better. But Biggs and Jan should be more expensive for that reason.

*Biggs Darklighter
19 points to 21 points (+2 points)

Giving your X-Wings and YT-1300s a communal health pool is pretty darn good, as anyone who has run up against a Biggs Ball could tell you.

*Wedge Antilles (X-Wing)
19 points to 20 points (+1 point)

Compared to Luke, who seems just fine at 20, Wedge doesn't ignore ship shields but can absolutely crush squads, especially with his hetero life mate Dutch (who we're getting to). The same cost for both seems fine to me. It's that black Bomber die that always gets me with Wedge, when I get right down to it. He's just a great all-around ace. Lore-wise, he should be. But he should be just a smidge more expensive.

*Dutch Vander (Y-Wing)
16 points to 18 points (+2 points)

Speaking of great all-around aces: Dutch. He's been silently one of the premier Rebel workhorse aces since the game was released. He's an excellent bomber, offering a basic Y-Wing with two brace tokens, but he's surprisingly potent against enemy squadrons as well with 3 blue dice and his special ability to either preemptively activate squads or deal them an extra unstoppable damage. He deserves a bit of a bump from his dirt-cheap cost of 16 to account for how good he is.

13 points to 12 points (-1 point)

Being similar to the X-Wing in that it's a tanky Escort squadron that wants outside help (some method of speeding it up and Toryn for the Counter reroll) but unlike the X-Wing in that it's almost entirely devoted to being a meat shield, the 1300 is up for a points cut for similar reasons.

*Han Solo (YT-1300)
26 points to 24 points (-2 points)

Let me be clear: Han is good. But Han is too expensive. He's extremely rarely seen.

*Lando Calrisian (YT-1300)
23 points to 25 points (+2 points)

Let me be clear: Lando is good. But Lando is not expensive enough. His dice control shenanigans can be extremely powerful and give him considerable versatility. On his way up to 25 points he can shake hands with Han, who is on his way down to 24.

16 points to 17 points (+1 point)

Behold, the only recommended generic squadron points increase. The 2400 is the hands-down best generic Rogue in the game with no meaningful competition from anything else. It moves like a TIE Fighter, it hits squads like an X-Wing, it hits ships like an A-Wing, it has hull like a Y-Wing. It's a great squadron. It should be slightly more expensive. A world with a 15-point Aggressor and 17-point 2400 is a world that makes more sense.

7 points to 6 points (-1 point)

I was initially reluctant to reduce a squadron to 6 points, but Z-95s don't see any use at 7. They're worse TIE Fighters so the logic follows. Yes, you can spam them but who does? I've seen fleets with 18 Zs and they're meme fleets. At 6 points, they're a bit easier to squeeze a few in alongside a Rebel fleet with Escort presence to help with dogfighting.

Rebel wrap-up

Again, Rebels are overall in a better place than Imperials, so they didn't need quite as much tweaking with their generics but you definitely see the squads focused on the squadron mini-game (primarily slower fighters but also squad-focused support like the HWK and YT-1300) getting a little love.


  1. Thanks for doing this, are you going to do upgrade cards that aren't used often like Dominator and cluster bombs?

    1. In a while, perhaps. I'm not expecting they'll have any appetite for changing points costs on upgrade cards just yet given they just released the upgrade card collection. But yes, Dominator is terrible and I'm not sure I'd use it even at half its current cost :(.

  2. I'd love to have Darth Vader to have screen, especially in the context of the trench run. I thought of that earlier today before reading putting together a noob friendly list lol.

  3. I hope they don't stop at just changing the point values on some of these squads.

    Can we get a points drop for Boba Fett or at least get him some Grit? Hondo laughs at Boba Fett for his lack of Grit.

    Screen for Vader seems like a no brainer. Luke at least has Jan and Biggs to help keep him alive...

    Adept1 for Vader and Luke would also be very welcome. The two most famous ace pilots are rarely seen and hard to make work on their own, but I will expect to see that brat Anakin show up many GAR squad lists. Adept was a great idea for the Clone Wars Jedi.

    Congrats on 4 years!

    1. I was reluctant to recommend a points cut for Boba although he is presently not often-seen. My rationale was both I have seen him used well in the past (by Nick Griffiths, a guy who pretty consistently does well competitively) and that Boba's primary competition presently is Maarek and Morna, who are both filling a similar niche as multi-role aces. Both Maarek and Morna got a points increase here, potentially opening up some room for Boba. We'd have to see, it might not be enough.

      Errataing squads to add new keywords or replace old ones is likely a bridge too far for FFG/AMG. At least for now. I imagine if/when that happens, it will be a ship or squad pack similar to the upgrade card collection. That said, Adept would be pretty strong on both Luke and Vader, necessitating either points increases or changing their special ability to suit. Same with replacing Escort for Screen on either/both. It's fun to daydream, though.

  4. I love this, agree with basically all of it and will probably try to incorporate into my games in the future (not going to tournaments anytime soon anyways). However, I'd like to hear your expanded thoughts on note 1 of the Imperial section (YV-666s and TIE Phantoms). First, why do you feel more than -1 "gets weird", particularly to the YV-666? My first thought reading the list of changes was that the YV was the one thing on that big list of -1s that needed probably a -2, why do you feel differently? Second, what would you do with the YV-666 if you could rewrite it completely, and third, what are your thoughts on the Phantom? It seems fine to me (after the generic -1 of course), if a little bland relative to its flavour. What would you do with it given a complete rewrite?

    1. Okay, a lot of questions!

      1) A 13 point YV-666 is still potentially a bunch of 7 hull Rogues for a pretty low cost. I'm concerned about unforeseen YV spam effects, potentially paired with Advanced Transponder Network (or Valen) and/or Ruthless Strategists, basically.

      2) There are many issues with the YV-666 and when it comes to a larger overhaul of the game in general, I suppose it comes down to whether the plan is to leave other things alone or rework the YV-666 relative to other changes too. What I’m getting at is if we’re reworking several squadrons, I’d probably do so with an eye to weakening the Aggressor vs. ships, likely by swapping in a blue or red die instead of black for anti-ship in exchange for making it cheaper and more focused on being an anti-squad Rogue (potentially speed 4 but we’ll see). The YV-666 could remain a slower Heavy Grit dump truck but with improved anti-ship, either up to black or something like double blue, it could see some use as flexible ship support alongside slower ships with Advanced Transponder Network (like Vics). The upside would be “hey, it’s decent against a range of targets and can contribute some anti-ship chip damage in a sustained brawl” and the downside would be “it’s slow and needs helps to actually get enemy squads to stay put.”

      If it’s “leave everything else alone, but change the YV-666 only” then I’d likely settle for bringing it up to speed 3. It steps on the Aggressor’s toes a bit that way but that’s how it is.

      3) I was uncomfortable bringing the Phantom all the way down to 12 due to Sloane. They’re effectively fighter-bombers with Sloane, hitting a little harder than TIE Fighters against squadrons (without leaning on Swarm) and hitting ships almost as hard as TIE Bombers (average damage just a smidge lower and with much less reliability). The persistent issue, even with her, is their fragility but at 12 points it could get silly.
      I agree that they feel like they’re missing a little something and in my opinion the core culprit is the Cloak keyword. Free movement can be handy but it can be difficult to leverage, especially as it triggers at the end of the Squadron Phase on a fragile squadron. I’d be curious to see if changing Cloak to triggering at the beginning of the Squadron Phase would help. It would make them less squad-command hungry once they’ve been flung into a fight but could cause some frustration with dancing out of engagement or flak range constantly. It would need to be tested, at the very least, but it has some promise.

  5. The opening paragraph got me thinking about a comment a friend once made. I believe it was inspired by some other game he played.
    He said: “each ship should come with an amount of points you can spend only on squadrons”.

    I liked it conceptually because I really agree with the sentiment that to feel like star wars fighters should be a part of the game.

    I think the ship point system while thematic (eg an isd bringing along a ton of ties) it could be problematic. even just adding a “squadron only” points allowance would go a long way for me. The concept of a ship only list (even though I generally favour them) feels lacking to me, why would an isd not have a tie contingent at least?

  6. Out of curiosity, why no price increase for Howlrunner? In my opinion (as an imperial player, even!) she's the strongest of our scatter aces and would only get more powerful with the reduction in price of interceptors and TIEs

    1. Because in and of herself she doesn't do much. You really need to bring a number of other Swarm squads with her and unless you're adding 3 or more dice in a round due to her ability, you would've generally been better off just using two TIE Fighters instead. I don't think she's bad, I just think she's fairly costed presently.

    2. Makes sense, I still disagree but I see the reasoning (and don't usually play squads unless they're part of a fighter screen, where Howl usually works very nicely).

  7. I’d love to see YY-2400s get a blue anti-ship die instead of a black. I think that would fix them.

    1. It's a more substantial change than a points change, however, so I doubt we'd see it any time soon. I'm not opposed to that kind of change (although it would likely need a points cut to 15) but, again, anything that's not a points change requires a lot more work on AMG/FFG's part and seems unlikely in the short term.

  8. I couldn't agree more with all of these. Generally less points for generics and more for aces is really makes quality vs quantity question a tough one.

  9. These are neat and I appreciate your thoughts! I haven't played enough in general / against anyone but my buds to have strong opinions but everything you say makes sense.

    Relatedly, do you know of any fleet builders where you can customize point values? Maybe google sheets? I wanted to fiddle around with some of your suggestions.

    1. Thanks!

      Unfortunately, I don't know of any variable points fleet builders. The best you can really do is build fleets like normal and then modify based on whatever system you're using. Alternatively, you can build your own fleet builder in Google sheets or Excel but it's a lengthy and somewhat frustrating process. The only one I know of is the one my group has built for play testing and obviously that's not the kind of thing we can share publicly.

    2. I ended up making a simple thing where I can input that I have X [ships] and Z [squadrons] and it'll tell me the total point difference for the fleet. I have it open in another window while I'm using a fleet builder. Clunky, but short of building a full list builder myself...

    3. Sounds good to me!

      Please let me know how your group likes the changes. These articles turned out to be very popular (which is neat!) and I've heard of several groups using my recommended points changes so I'm curious how they've been working out when used on the table.