First in a new series of articles where Kris will be looking at an X-Wing squad, what are its strengths, where does it struggle and ultimately why you should give it a try!
This instalment we look at the First Order and the 8 TIE/fo list.
A long time ago, in an edition far away, I wrote a series of articles covering my experiences flying TIE Swarms, when the TIE/fo received its points drop, my mind was cast back to the “good times” and so I thought it was time to dredge up some of those memories, and see what has changed now that we are into Second Edition X-Wing.
In our simple Counting to 200 exercise for today, we are going to look at the Epsilon Squadron Cadet.
The Baseline for efficiency as I now see it and one of the ships I compare things two when trying to assess a ships value, at 25 points, the Epsilon Squadron Cadet offers us two attack dice, three agility, three hull and one shield.
It’s dial is really solid, not only having White One Hard Turns, but the Two Hard Turns are Blue, allowing the FO to shed stress with relative ease, whilst maintaining time on target. This is aided by Two Sloops and a Four K-Turn. Whilst the only non speed two blue maneuver is the Three Straight, it does have access to the Five Straight which allows the ship to cover a surprising amount of ground, or knife fight with the Hard One Turn.
It’s action bar, whilst not offering any Linked Actions for additional efficiency, but the actions it does have are all solid. The staple Focus Action, the Evade and the Barrel Roll are all shared with it’s Imperial Cousin the TIE/ln fighter, but the TIE/fo boasts the addition of the Target Lock, which can be excellent for the disengaging turns where you are pulling range or expect to find yourself without a shot.
In addition to the excellent dial, Target Lock action, and lets admit it, bad ass paint scheme, the TIE/fo also boasts a single solitary Shield, whilst this may not seem like a huge boost when compared to something like the T-70 X-Wings impressive three shields, it does push the TIE/fo out of the range of being likely to be one shot. Four Hit Points behind three Agility Dice are surprisingly ruggade, on average it takes between three and four Focused shots from a three dice attack to kill, one extra shot compared to the TIE/ln and its measly three Hull.
When you then consider that you have eight of them on the table, it starts to be a real effort for an opponent to deal with them all.
One of the biggest changes that Second Edition introduced to X-Wing was the awarding of Half points for all ships (Half Points was errated in to first edition, but only for Large Based ships), this fundamental changes is something else that I believe benefits the Eight TIE/fo List.
Your opponent is awarded less points for finishing off a damaged ship than it is for scoring half damage on another ship, this can lead to some difficult choices for your opponents, knowing that it is unlikely that they table your list within the 75 minute time limit for a standard game of X-Wing, do they maximize their return on points, of try to remove ships as quickly as possible to limit the incoming shots?
The Key to playing this list well is to ensure that you have a plan to punish either option, always be cognizant of how many points you have given up, how close are you to dropping through another breakpoint, and work out what your win condition is. Often, you can win a game by losing two or three FO’s with damage on another, whilst not actually finishing off any of your opponents ships, as long as you know the breakdown.
Once an FO is damaged, pull it out of the fight, but make sure that it’s still a tempting target to chase, have the rest of your list positioned to capitalize on any openings for unanswered shots. Take advantage of the Target Lock action on your fleeing ship, it will be be lacking any modifiers to its defensive dice for a round, but if the enemy does aim to score more points by spreading fire across other ships, you can re enter the engagement for a possibly double modded shot.
Whilst these choices can give the swarm the appearance of being difficult to play, they are actually surprisingly simple to fly.
My preferred method, specially with the Eight FO list is to fly it in two groups of four ships, this adds a layer of unpredictability to your list and allows you to cover a larger part of the playing area whilst not becoming as isolated as if you attempted to fly them all individually.
One groups focuses on being the bait, whilst the other attempts to position to reduce escape options. Closing the net with either a board edge or obstacles blocking one flank, and then a group to the front and the second group on the other flank will generally be extremely difficult for all of your opponents ships to escape.
Leverage you high number of ships and be roughless, remember that your ships should live through a round of fire, so, getting a block on your potential target may expose one ship to range one fire, but forces target priority issues as they have to split there shots to some extent, and if you can cause a bump in to the ship you initially blocked, all of your ships can still focus fire.
Speaking of focusing fire, this is the key to your success, individually, you two dice primary attack may seem unthreatening, but on mass, it will burn down any target in the game, if you can get all eight to shoot a single X-Wing, you have a 70% chance to do at least 5 damage in a single round.
Even the mighty T-70 with it’s impressive health total of 4 Hull and 3 Shields just dies in a single round 35% of the time. All of that traded for potentially half points on a single TIE/fo or two really puts you ahead in the damage race.
The Epison Squadron Cadets are undoubtedly a powerhouse jousting list, where if you do catch an opponent in front of all eight, than the game becomes almost a forgone conclusion, but as a funnier, and far more skilled X-Wing player than me once said, if both players are jousting, one of them is wrong. So, what are some of the tricks you can do to try to weigh the game in your favour?
To give myself the greatest amount of flexibility, I prefer to deploy in an offset formation, and whilst it may look difficult to set up, it is really fairly simple.
I place the front most ship first (top right) and then the rearmost ship (bottom left) is deployed with it’s right hand edge in line with the front ships leftmost edge and using the full Range One area of the deployment area, then the left most ship (Top Left) is deployed with its right edge inline with the centerline of the ship behind it and the line across the center of its base between the center and back edge of the front most ship. This is then reversed for the bottom right ship, with its leftmost edge in line with the center of the front ship and the line across its center lined up with the back left ship.
Honestly, all of that sound more complex than it is, the crux of the formation is that each base has to be able to rotate 45% and not overlap any other base so that (assuming precise maneuvering) you can perform banks with the formation of the same speed without worrying about collisions with your own ships. The only real thing to do is to throw them on to the table and see how it moves for yourself, but after a few test runs, it should become second nature!
This is what allows you to opt out of the jousts if you need to, having two separate groups allows you to faint an approach to set up a chase. DOn’t be afraid to take a range three engagement with one group whilst the other is moving in to position as incoming damage should be all but negated by four defense dice and Focus Tokens, and if that lets you have position next round it can be worth it.
Finally, for my last tip, escape vectors are important for you and your opponent, for you, you want to have an idea of where you want the bulk of your list to be, and where you want them to be facing, but also where any damaged ship can run to that will be hard to get at. For your opponent, you want to look at potential outs that they will have and if it is possible to gum up those lanes with some of your bodies.
Having one of your ships running, and another not shooting because it turned out to block an escape route still leave 5 or 6 of your ships after the opening engagement, and if that can lock one or two of your opponents ships in to a fight they wanted out of, it can often be worth a few bumps and lost actions.
In conclusion, 8 FO’s are a fun squad to fly, they are a great stepping stone in to flying higher numbers of ships due to their excellent dial and decent survivability. Whilst they may be lacking some of the tricks of something like Nantex, their simplicity of movement makes them a strong contender for my favorite competitive list to recommend to players wanting to get a strong understanding of the core concepts of the game.