It's not a ship that I know very well but that seems to be 100% because I haven't watched the Clone Wars cartoon series yet, and a lot of players have been looking forward to adding the iconic HMP to their squads.
But is the HMP any good? Do you want to buy one?
When I looked at the Xi Shuttle and the LAAT Gunship expansions I started by trying to benchmark the basic cost of the chassis against some existing ships. For the HMP gunship that approach is a bit less useful than it usually is because the ship is so unusual it doesn't have anything else that's a particularly great comparison.
Let's have a look at what it does compare to, but I don't want to spend too much time on it.
The HMP's 2/1/5/3 statline is identical to a Resistance Transport (32pts for a Logistics Division Pilot) and it's also very similar to the Y-Wing's 2/1/6/2 statline (30pts for a Gray Squadron Bomber or Crymorah Goon). At 34pts for a basic Baktoid Drone the HMP Gunship is a little bit more than the obvious comparison ships, plus it's not like people were flying around with swarms of naked Logistic Pilots anyway so the HMP Gunship seems more expensive than stuff players already don't like.
However, the HMP Gunship has lots of built in advantages like a 180 degree firing arc and a ship ability in Networked Aim that's almost like bringing your own Fire Control System. So we could take a basic Y-Wing and spend 2pts for a Dorsal Turret to get a 180 degree firing arc, and spend another 2pts on a Fire Control System (if we pretend there's a System slot on the Y-Wing) and you come out at the 34pts of the Baktoid Drone.
So the basic 34pts kind of makes sense. It feels like a lot but, similar to with the LAAT's expensive reroll ability, there's built-in advantages that you're having to pay for which justify it.
But you're never going to fly a HMP naked so it's all basically irrelevant. You're pretty much guaranteed to add the Repulsorlift Stabilisers to every single HMP Gunship you play with and that's where the magic happens. For +3pts the Repulsorlift Stabilisers add incredible value in changing how the HMP moves around the table and make the HMP Gunship a much harder ship to pursue and predict how it's going to move (there's more on this in the Upgrades section below). But you're still only flinging 2 red dice, and the Separatists can buy a Vulture Droid for 20pts so you're almost certainly going to want to buff the HMP Gunships offense with some secondary weapons.
The Hyena Bomber set a standard for every pilot having different upgrade slots and while the HMP Gunship doesn't go to that extreme there is one pilot that is different to the others which is worth pulling out separately. Most of the HMP pilots bring a Crew slot and a Device slot but the Geonosian Prototype eschews that slots in favour of two Cannon slots. Now this might be a cynical exercise on FFG's part in justifying putting a cannon upgrade into the pack so players will have to buy it but it's also made the Geonosian Prototype probably the best of the HMP Gunship pilots.
A Geonosian Prototype (35pts) with those Repulsorlift Stabilisers and the new Synced Laser Cannons comes in at a smooth 44pts and now we can compare that to a different group of ships.
You're now in B-Wing with Fire Control System (44pts) territory but with the HMP Gunship being able strafe unpredictably and having a 180 degree firing arc (even if it's only 2 red dice outside of the main front arc it's more than a B-Wing gets). Or alternatively you're in Auzituck Gunship (42pts) space with that 180 degree arc, but with the benefits of the Networked Aim and Repulsorlist movement to offset that the Auzituck is 3 red dice on all it's 180 degrees. Neither of the comparisons are perfect - you don't get a 4th red dice at Range 1 with Synced Laser Cannons, but you are better at Range 3 if they don't get to roll an extra green dice - but I think you can see that the Geonosian Prototype sits pretty comfortably in that type of company even before you start to factor in the extra value of your unique strafing ability. It's probably a good job that they're a ship you're only allowed 2 copies of because I can imagine a squad of 4 of these things would work really well - toss in some Shield Upgrades and bombs and you'd be good to go.
So I like the Geonosian Prototype a lot but that's because it gets a cannon. None of the other HMP Gunships get a cannon slot so are they any good? Well I think it immediately becomes more problematic because if you're using missiles instead of cannons then you're straying right into 'why I don't just play a Hyena Bomber and save 12pts' territory. Networked Aim is less useful than the Hyena's and Vulture's Networked Calculations for borrowing in focus modification on weapons when you need a target lock to fire them. The other HMP Gunships can use the new Multi-Missile Pods but currently they're way overcosted - compared to adding Synced Laser Cannons to a Geonosian Prototype you're paying more points to gain a lot less (no Range 3 attacks, draining two charges to roll 3 red dice in front arc).
Most of the HMP Gunship pilots don't actually make for good gunships, unfortunately. That goes for the Baktoid Drone, the Separatist Predator, the Onderon Oppressor, DGS-047 and DGS-286 - there's a fundamental problem because you're squeezed between the high cost of Multi-Missile Pods and the sheer bargain efficiency the Hyena Bomber for doing much of the same thing if you're bringing missiles instead. Thinking longer term I'd say the Baktoid Drone and DGS-047 are a nice and cheap basic chassis so down the line I think they'll do fine at some point. I like the Onderon Oppressor's ability as it really opens up WAY more lateral movement and it could well be worth it, though +6pts on a Baktoid Drone seems a massive hike. DGS-286 is +8pts on the Baktoid Drone and I can't see it justifying that expense when it's basically a reverse of DFS-311 which only costs a few points more than a basic Vulture.
But if the HMP Gunship isn't actually a great gunship I think it does have another role it CAN play very well. The Repulsorlifts are good at keeping it out of trouble in a fight and it has a Tactical Relay slot and a Crew slot, so I think the cheaper Gunship pilots make a good platform for a support ship and it's probably one of the cheapest ways to get a Tactical Relay onto the table (and keep it there) or be a shuttle for somebody like Count Dooku, Chancellor Palpatine or the new crew options coming in Jango Fett's Firespray.
I touched briefly on how important I think Repulsorlift Stabilisers are for the HMP Gunship but didn't really go into much detail for why that is, so let's visit it again. I've been on a bit of a journey in understanding why this upgrade is so good: at first I thought it was 'yeah it's ok I guess?' but then as I thought about it more I realised that actually banked strafing with the Repulsorlift wasn't actually very much different to using a turreted ship with the gun locked to the side - you orbit around the target facing your gun inwards with a HMP Gunship just like you might do with a Y-Wing's turret, for instance. Repulsorlifts seemed like a bit of a gimmicky way of just operating like a turreted ship to keep people on target.
Then I realised what I was missing. When a Y-Wing has it's turret to the side and wants to remain engaged it has to fly forwards and the range of options where it's going to end up is pretty small - a straight, a turn, a bank... they all put you in more or less the same place and the enemy can track towards you reliably.
The benefit of Repulsorlift Stabilisers is the much higher range of end positions you could be in. Yes you could strafe to the right like a Y-Wing would bank but you can ALSO strafe to left, as though the Y-Wing had suddenly slammed itself into reverse. And you can also still just move forwards (up to a 5 straight!) which could easily create bumps or see you scream clear of trouble.
It's much more challenging for enemy ships to predict where you are going to be while still staying engaged so the value of Repulsorlift Stabilisers is mostly defensive, I think - it makes the HMP Gunship a harder target to pin down and kill than something like a Y-Wing or B-Wing would be that has to keep moving forwards.
I've mentioned Synced Laser Cannons already but even with the requirement of two cannon slots there are a couple of other ships which can take it: B-Wings and IG-2000 Aggressors. Both those ships have potential to 'double tap' and attack twice and the Synced Laser Cannons are the choice that is most like just firing your main gun again so it's an obvious choice. I don't personally think the double-tapping stuff is really good right now but a lot of players like it and if you're one of those guys then you probably want to get your hands on these guns.
By crikey here's something that will make a lot of non-CIS players look at buying the HMP Gunship expansion, though: Concussion Bombs. More charges than Proton Bombs, cheaper than Proton Bombs, deal crits through Shields unlike Proton Bombs... they're a serious step up for the dedicated bomb player and I think you'll see a lot of them about. Concussion Bombs nay even be enough to hurl some new/old archetypes to the fore, like quad K-Wings, Y-Wing spam, TIE Strikers with bombs etc. The restriction of having to drop them every turn is really flavourful and you can get around the biggest problems with it using Delayed Fuses. All in all I really like Concussion Bombs and (currently) they're only in the HMP Gunship expansion.
We've touched on Multi-Missile Pods a little already so I won't linger: 8pts is too much for a R1-2 restricted weapon that burns through charges like they're going out of fashion. At some point they'll get cheaper and be good, but I can't see them making much impact yet and outside of the obvious Droid carriers the Calculate/Target Lock restriction is really limiting.
The new Droid tactical relay is Kalani and it's... ok I guess? My main problem with it is the competition from DRK-1 Probe Droids as another way of getting your Target Locks set up which doesn't depend on your opponents landing in your bullseye arcs. This is where I get really hazy though as I'm not a natural Droid player and I'm probably not the best at evaluating a relay's usefulness. One thing I'm sure about is that if you're not a Separatists player already Kalani isn't an incentive to buy this expansion!
At the start of the article I asked two questions: is the HMP Gunship good? Do you want to buy one?
I think the HMP Gunship is actually pretty good despite it's steep starting cost but let's cut the chase: the HMP Gunships biggest problem is that the existing Droid options are so great that even if it's good the HMP struggles to compete and that colours a lot of the discussion around it. If you're focused on winning games with Droids in the near future then the HMP Gunship is probably not good enough to shift Hyenas and Vultures (or Nantex) out of your squad.
In isolation, though, I think the Geonosian Prototype build I talked about is a really solid and interesting pilot that you'll have a lot of fun playing around with and it may well fit very nicely with Tri-Fighters or Jango Fett once they land in the next month or two. The dependency on cannons for the ship hurts all the other pilots but I can see them finding an unexpected home as a lone support ship for some powerful crew or tactical relays.
Do you want to buy this expansion pack? If you're already a Droid player I think that answer depends on how experimental you want to be vs just trying to win at all costs. Personally I've been really happy to grab two HMP Gunships to run the pair of Geonosian Prototypes and explore how they work. I don't think they're top tier right now and I'd probably drop them for something else if a big tournament came around (which in Covid-19 times it never will) but they're good enough to justify playing and I'm looking forward to pairing them with dodgy Tri-Fighters and Jango Fett.
If you're NOT a Droid player then I'd also say you could want this expansion for the Concussion Bombs, if you're that way inclined, and if that's true then the HMP Gunship could well be your foot in the door of starting a whole new faction. Separatists squads are often quite 'swarmy' and that puts a lot of players off both for money reasons and simply having so many ships on the table at once. The HMP Gunship, along with Tri-Fighter and Jango's Firespray, could mark the point where players start to make a more 'normal' squad in the faction and I think players who like B-Wings in particular could find themselves a big fan of the Geonosian Prototype's playstyle.