Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Separatist commander review: Admiral Trench

Sorry for the delay on getting this article out - I've been busy with a massive garden upgrade project involving 150 cubic feet of soil, Mother's Day, and my wife's birthday. Not a lot of downtime to type out an article about Spider-Man Admiral Trench.

Fine, fine, have it your way.

"DJ Trenchy Trench dropping those sick roger roger beats across the whole tri-sector area!"


  • You set the dials on his card once his ship is deployed during fleet deployment, just like every upgrade that has dials/tokens on it. If for some reason his ship isn't deployed during fleet deployment (like with Hyperspace Assault), you get no dials. Ever. So don't do that.
    • This is also when you choose the dials, so be careful as there's no take-backsies after he's deployed.
  • The order of the dials doesn't matter. You can choose whichever dial you like. There's no need to put them in a tower except to save space.
  • Because they're dials and not tokens, they're secret to your opponent until you use them to power Trench's ability.
  • He triggers at the start of the Ship Phase, so make sure to resolve him before anyone starts activating their ships.
  • The "you" in this card is you, the player, not "you," the ship he is equipped to (like most usages of "you" on an upgrade card). His effect doesn't count as revealing a command dial for the ship in question.
  • If a friendly ship spends only a token of the type that's Trench-buffed that round to resolve a command, it resolves the command as though it spent a dial and token. That's the only way he works. He doesn't work if you spend only a dial.
    • You can, of course, choose to discard a dial on reveal to get a token of the same type. That is net better for Trench than just resolving a dial on the buffed rounds.
    • You can't resolve multiple instances of the same command in one round for each ship, so if you're Trench-buffing repair you can't spend a repair token for dial+token and then spend a repair dial you revealed that round to repair again. That dial would in most cases be wasted unless you had some effect that could consume the dial for a different benefit.
      • For example, you could use a squadron token on a Trench squadrons round for dial+token and discard a squadron dial to use a boarding team. But double-resolving a squadron command is not allowed.

Trench immediately invites a comparison to his Imperial counterpart Grand Admiral Thrawn: both are expensive and provide a limited supply of free(...ish) command dials. Trench comes away from the comparison not exactly looking great: he costs 4 more points and provides one more dial, but getting his dials to work requires jumping through the hoops of getting those command tokens spent for a super-powered command. I should note before continuing on this tangent that it's not all bad: Separatists as a faction have ships that are cheaper than their Imperial counterparts and/or have higher Squadron and/or Engineering (lots of and/ors there) values, so free-ish dials from Trench will go a bit further than free dials from Thrawn; it's just that you need to work harder and put more points into a command token engine to really get it all going.

To that end, a Trench fleet needs to look into methods for easily getting command tokens to most of its ships, and especially the important ones doing the big commands. That will typically mean Separatist token support officers like Rune Haako and Tikkes (it might even be worth it to put Veteran Captains in spare officer chairs if you get desperate). It will also mean fleet support upgrades, especially the Clone Wars era resupply upgrades that can spam tokens easily. Comms Net can still do some work, but be careful that you're not gaining relatively little in the transaction: a Hardcell giving up a full dial to turn it into a token for a larger ship is still a net gain with Admiral Trench, but the question becomes if it is enough of a net gain to justify that approach over a different commander. For example, turning a Hardcell concentrate fire dial into a token and shipping it off to another ship effectively turns the Hardcell's possible +1 attack die into a +1 attack die and a 1-die reroll for a different ship. This nets you a reroll and can help trigger color-specific critical effects or get a die in on a better target, but it's overall a pretty bad trade-up considering how much you're spending on the Hardcell and your commander.

How many of each dial to take is really up to you. It's going to depend a lot on what you're building your fleet to do (we'll talk about this more in Fleetbuilding). In general, you'll want to focus most if not all of your dials on whichever command your fleet is designed to easily create tokens for, with perhaps one backup dial for something else. The only exception I can think of is if you bring one Munitions Resupply Hardcell and one Parts Resupply Hardcell, in which case you can profitably split your dials evenly between concentrate fire and repair.

The final big thing I want to underline before we continue on is you really don't want to be stuck with a dial and a token of the command Trench is buffing. The ideal situation is you have a dial for some other command and a token of the Trench command, but you can make do by turning a dial of the Trench command into a token for a little extra boost. If you've got both a dial and token of the buffed command, Trench is effectively doing nothing for you: in most circumstances, you spend the token as a dial+token and then the dial goes to waste. That's literally the same benefit you'd derive from spending the dial and token together, only without an expensive and kind of awkward-to-time commander. Much like Thrawn, it's very helpful to time your fleet's dial stacks to the commander's free-ish dial from round-to-round. Once again like Thrawn, it's easier to do that when you're largely spamming the same Trench dial.

Please enjoy this ancient meme format.

Hardcell-class Transports. Specifically the Transports, not the Battle Refits. Fleet support upgrades go a long way to command token production and/or passing you need to make Trench work and the Transports are the only way to get them. Doubled-up officer slots can also be really handy for token-assist officers and especially Hondo. In my opinion, a Trench fleet should start with one Hardcell and then think really hard about whether it wants a second Hardcell before moving on to the rest of the fleet.

Nova Defiant Recusant. Specifically the Nova Defiant because it comes packed with 4 built-in command tokens and the ability to stock up on specific tokens, saving you a lot of hassle for "where are these tokens coming from?" at least regarding the Nova itself. It's not mandatory for Trench but if it fits your build it can help a lot.

Literally everything else. It's a boring answer and it's vague, but it strongly depends on what you want the rest of your fleet doing and how you intend to use Trench. I'm a little leery of using token-consuming fleet command upgrades, and thus a Carrier Providence, with Trench given your command token engine will likely be firing on all cylinders just to keep him working and won't have much capacity to spare for regularly feeding a fleet command as well.

Okay, so here's the part where you need to identify what kind of fleet you're going to make. The way I see it you have two main options that effectively come down to getting maximum value from resupply versus Comms Net fleet support upgrades. Each approach favors a different type of buffed command, which can result in very different types of fleets.

Resupply repair and concentrate fire: this fleet will be relying on the resupply fleet support upgrades from two (...or more?) Hardcells as well as numerous ships to effectively keep spamming Trench-buffed commands. For that reason, you'll be focusing on concentrate fire (Munitions Resupply) and/or repair (Parts Resupply) commands for most of your Trench dials. Maybe even all of your Trench dials. Your ships can stock up on their own tokens within the first two rounds and then it's time to get the party started, with resupplies keeping you topped off for most of the rest of the game.

Concentrate fire doesn't need a lot of extra tech built in - giving a whole fleet access to an easy extra attack die + one-die reroll while they do their own thing is pretty handy and the only real issue there is you'll have a hard time feeding Intensify Firepower in what is otherwise a pretty solid red-dice fleet. It should be noted, though, that this approach also works excellently with black dice, which want an Ordnance Experts reroll that Separatists can't normally provide but Trench's super-concentrate fire command can help smooth over.

Repair does want some extra tech because your opponent may not oblige you by spreading damage across your fleet for most of your ships to benefit from a super-fix-it buffed repair round. It's not difficult to get around this issue with Separatists who tend to have ample support team slots on their light to medium ships: Projection Experts to the rescue! If your ship is healthy, you can still use a boosted repair command to pass shields to a ship that is not, which can restore an awful lot of shields. Bring Wat Tambor for extra shield juggling tricks.

Either way (or both ways if you can manage it), this type of fleet tends towards a lot of points spent on ships to get maximum value from Trench's effect and will tend to go light on squadrons. If you want to go heavy on squadrons, your best option is...

Comms Net squadron tokens: this fleet will be relying on Comms Net to pass squadron tokens to one or two dedicated carriers and otherwise won't usually be getting Trench's benefit for more than two ships per round. The upside here is upgrading a squadron token to a squadron dial+token is the most impactful command improvement, especially on heavier ships like a Providence-class Dreadnought. Even though you won't be using Trench on as many commands, the benefit can still be significant. Rune Haako is a nearly-mandatory officer for any Trench fleet, but he's especially useful with this kind of approach - put him on a battle carrier and generate/steal squad tokens to your heart's content.

This type of fleet can get a pretty good amount of squad command muscle in a surprisingly small package: for example, a Hardcell Transport with just Tikkes and a Comms Net, where the Transport itself keeps commanding squadrons with a dial and generating squad tokens with Tikkes to hand off to a Providence with Flight Controllers and Expanded Hangar Bays. These two ships will be commanding 8 squadrons per round (6 of them with Flight Controllers) without the Providence needing to actively command squads for four of those rounds, which in many cases is enough for the whole game. Throw in more ships and/or token support officers to crank it up even higher.

What about navigate? Don't focus on it. It might be worth it as a one-off Trench dial. There's no fleet support upgrade that allows you to spam navigate tokens - the best you can do is Comms Nets and you don't get the raw number of tokens to really make a meaningful difference like you can with squadron tokens. Plus Trench boosting the effect is fine but nothing amazing - shifting two speed increments is sometimes really handy but not consistently useful. Same thing with the extra point of yaw. You're much better off just using Entrapment Formation and a different commander if you were planning on using Trench to primarily navigate. By going a different route with Trench you can use regular ol' navigate dials more frequently, and those will be able to provide the benefits you wanted anyways.

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