Wednesday, 28 September 2016

X-Wing Miniatures Buying Guide - Part III: Scum & Villainy

===== UPDATED FOR FAQ 4.40 =====

Welcome back to the final part of my mini-series designed to help new players to X-Wing navigate their way through the maze of ships and upgrades released over the years that the game has existed.  I've already looked at the Rebels and the Imperials and now it's time to close the loop by looking at the final faction: Scum & Villainy.



New X-Wing players may not know the background of Scum & Villainy so here's a quick history lesson.  For the first two years there were only two factions in X-Wing: Rebels and Imperials, and then Wave 6 (Q3 2014) was dedicated entirely to adding pirates and bounty hunters in order to create 'Scum & Villainy' as a third faction.  As well as taking over the whole of Wave 6 with their ships Scum & Villainy players also co-opted some existing ships from the Rebels and Imperials with new Scum pilots introduced for the Y-Wing, HWK-290, Z-95 Headhunter and Boba Fett's Slave I.


It's taken a few extra waves of releases but the Scum faction has now more or less caught up to the Rebels & Imperials, and in fact they've arguably been the top dog for most of 2017.  Because they arrived late to the game my buying guide is slightly different for Scum than it is for Rebels or Imperials as I'm going to run through a few Rebel/Imperial expansion packs that have no Scum pilots but ships you can co-opt with pilots from Most Wanted.


IMMUNITY FROM PROSECUTION

Many ships/pilots/upgrades can be played with and had fun with and done well with that I'm not going to mention, just because if you don't set the bar quite high you wind up talking about almost everything and it stops being a guide, just a list of contents.  The bar for entry in my mentioning a pilot/upgrade is set pretty high, therefore.

If you want to explore a ship despite what I say, then please do!  If you think I've ignored a great card you love to play with then please continue to play with and enjoy that card!

Remember: a guide is not a set of strict commandment, it's exactly what it claims to be... purely a guide.


SUMMARY

  • GREAT - a fantastic pack, you should definitely have this in your collection
  • SOLID - you're going to get a good amount of playtime out of these ships
  • NICHE - do your homework before you buy, know why you want to buy it
  • AVOID - you can get this from a better place, or it's just plain a bad ship!


EXPANSION BREAKDOWN

Y-Wing
Scum & Villainy do have the best Y-Wing 'ace' in the game with Kavil but as you get both a Y-Wing model and his pilot card in Most Wanted that's not an incentive for buying the actual Y-Wing expansion.  Four Y-Wings with Twin Laser Turrets is a dreadfully dull list to fly but it certainly kills people - building that squad is pretty much the only time you'll ever want to buy a Y-Wing Expansion for your Scum fleet.

Also of Interest: Twin Laser Turret (K-Wing), Unhinged Astromech (Most Wanted)


Slave I
Although Boba Fett debuted in X-Wing under contract to the Imperials he's at his best when working alongside other Scum & Villainy pilots as the version of his pilot card in Most Wanted is much better than the one in the Slave I expansion.  The iconic Slave I probably sits just below being a genuinely great addition to your Scum fleet but it's a long, long way from a bad purchase once you've got Most Wanted, especially as it comes with some great upgrades (Veteran Instincts, Gunner).  The other scum pilots like Kath Scarlett are worth a dabble on the table as well.

Also of Interest: Boba Fett (Most Wanted), Recon Specialist (HWK-290, TIE Phantom, ARC-170), Engine Upgrade (Hound's Tooth, Millenium Falcon)


HWK-290
The unloved HWK-290 follows the trend of Most Wanted letting Scum & Villainy access stronger pilots for otherwise weak ships and in Palob Godalhi you get probably the one HWK pilot who has really threatened to push through into seriously good squads.  The HWK is still an utter dog of a ship but the Scum use it best and Palob's ability to steal an opponent's focus token has proven to have real use as an unexpected spoiler to some of the strongest tactics in the Wave 8 metagame.

Also of Interest: Twin Laser Turret (K-Wing), Attani Mindlink (Punishing One)


Z-95 Headhunter
I'm not personally a fan of the Z-95 and felt conflicted in giving the Rebel Z-95 Headhunter a fair write up as they do occasionally find a role as filler.  I've no such issues here, though, as if you want to play a Scum Z-95 you've no choice but to buy Most Wanted where you already get two Z-95 Headhunter models.  Even if you want to build a scum Z-95 swarm you'll need to buy more Most Wanted instead to get the scum pilot cards!

Also of Interest: None.



Most Wanted
Most Wanted was once the essential launching point for any Scum player but I no longer think that's true as many of the newer ships simply outclass what you can get from all but the very best bits of Most Wanted.  That said, there is enough of a selection of decent pilots (Boba Fett, Palob Godalhi, Kavil) and upgrades (Autoblaster Turret, K4 Security Droid) that you're likely to get around to buying Most Wanted eventually.  Quite when that happens will probably depend on whether you've already got Slave I and a HWK-290 lying around from your Rebel/Imperial fleets or if you'll need to tag them onto your purchase to really get the best from Most Wanted.

Also of Interest: Twin Laser Turret (K-Wing), Dorsal Turret (Ghost), Slave I (Slave I), HWK-290 (HWK-290)


M3-A Scyk
The Scyk has really benefitted from a couple of changes in 2017 - errata to the Heavy Scyk title and new pilots and title in the C-ROC Cruiser - thrusting it from a poor man's TIE Fighter to a pretty decent ship.  The best pilots for the Scyk all come in the pricey C-ROC epic ship expansion pack along with a Scyk model, but if you don't have all that money to spend there's still value to be had from the pilots in this expansion - I like Serissu probably a bit more than I should, for instance.

Key piece of information: the Heavy Scyk title in this expansion has received errata that gives you +1 Hull when you equip it.  The corrected version is in the C-ROC but if you've only bought this expansion don't forget that extra hull when you start taking fire!

Also of Interest: Light Scyk (C-ROC)


StarViper
For a long time the StarViper was the ship every scum player wanted to love but just couldn't. It has the stats to be great and it has the Boost and Barrel roll to be great but it just cost a bit too much to put onto the table.  All that has been fixed by the new Guns For Hire expansion pack, which brings a Starviper MkII title that knocks 3pts off the cost of the ship!  If you've got Guns For Hire it's still worth picking up the StarViper expansion anyway because Guri is probably the best StarViper pilot.

Anyway, none of that matters because you're probably going to buy one anyway for the Autothrusters that come with this pack.  It's why many veteran players describe this as an 'Autothrusters Expansion Pack' that comes with a free model of a Starviper.

Also of Interest: StarViper MkII (Guns For Hire), Fire Control System (B-Wing, TIE Phantom)


IG-2000
It's pretty fair to say that, Y-Wings aside, until the Punishing One expansion came along the IG-2000's were the only genuinely great ship that Scum & Villainy had available.  Running two IG-2000's is known as 'Brobots' because it's two robots who network and share their pilot abilities to make each other better.  Because of this unique ability you very rarely see just one of these ships on the table and they pretty much always hunt in pairs.  The IG-2000 is a very flexible platform and the specific upgrades you run on them can drastically change how they fly.

You can pretty much create an entire career out of just playing different variants of Brobots, but because they're so insular they rarely fit into other squads.  Buying the IGs, and the upgrades to use them properly, is more of a replacement for your Scum fleet than an addition to it!

Also of Interest: Veteran Instincts (Shadow Caster, Slave I, Millenium Falcon), Crack Shot (Kihraxz Fighter, Hound's Tooth, Imperial Veterans), Push The Limit (Imperial Aces, A-Wing), Fire Control System (B-Wing, TIE Phantom), Advanced Sensors (E-Wing, Lambda Shuttle), Heavy Laser Cannon (Slave I, YT-2400, Lambda Shuttle), Autothrusters (StarViper)


Hound's Tooth
Bossk's ride, the Hound's Tooth is a lumbering hulk of a ship but a big tough lumbering hulk that has done enough to prove it has a role on the table.  You can ignore the Z-95 Nashtah Pup that comes with the Hound's Tooth (it's a trap!) but the basic stats of the ship and it's three crew slots are enough to make it a threat on the table.  The ship's limited maneuver dial is it's weakness - anything that gets behind you will eat you up as there's no K-turn - but with potent new bounty hunter crew arriving in Wave 8 the Hound's Tooth has come back into fashion.  Not an essential purchase but a very useful one to have up your sleeve and you can fit the basic Trandoshan Slaver into your squad for very few points considering just how big the ship is.

Also of Interest: 4-LOM (Mist Hunter), Zuckuss (Mist Hunter), Dengar (Punishing One), K4 Security Droid (Most Wanted), Heavy Laser Cannon (Slave I, Lambda Shuttle, YT-2400)  


Kihraxz Fighter
The recent Guns For Hire expansion has transformed the Kihraxz Fighter from one of the worst ship in the game into one of the most interesting to play with.  In Star Wars lore the Kihraxz is a mongrel of the ship that is frequently heavily customised, and the new Vaksai title mimics that by allowing players to equip THREE modifications and providing a discount for every upgrade equipped.  I wouldn't pick up a Kihraxz Fighter without getting Guns For Hire first, but you won't go far wrong by immediately adding a second Kihraxz to your pirate fleet with this expansion.

Also of Interest: Vaksai (Guns For Hire), Deadeye (A-Wing, Inquisitor's TIE), Guidance Chips (Punishing One, Inquisitor's TIE)


Mist Hunter
Scum ships have a bit of a habit of retreading ground already trodden by Rebel & Imperial ships, and in most ways the G1-A Mist Hunter is the scum version of a B-Wing, with very similar stats and dials.  Just as B-Wings are at a low ebb the G1-A has had a relatively quiet introduction in Wave 8, though ace bounty hunter Zuckuss has occasionally proven his worth in strong squads.  Picking up at least one Mist Hunter expansion is a good call though, not just for Zuckuss as a pilot but because it comes with some strong upgrades only found in this pack: Adapatability and crew versions of 4-LOM and Zuckuss.

Also of Interest: Fire Control System (B-Wing, TIE Phantom), Veteran Instincts (Shadow Caster, Slave I, Millenium Falcon)


Punishing One
Before we get started there's two important things to know about the Punishing One expansion pack.  Firstly, the pilots and cards in here pretty much set the agenda for competitive X-Wing for 18 months after they were released.  Secondly, because they were so dominant they've received a series of changes and errata that mean the text on the pilots and cards in the box isn't necessarily the text you'll be playing with if you ever go anywhere near an X-Wing tournament!
Make sure you read the latest X-Wing FAQ for changes to all four Jumpmaster pilots upgrade bars, Manaroo's pilot ability and Attani Mindlink.
With that out of the way, this expansion is still one I would highly recommend despite all the changes and errata to make the cards in it less powerful.  The Jumpmaster is still a good ship, Attani Mindlink is still a good card well worth having in your Scum collection, and it still has some awesome upgrade cards like Dengar, Boba Fett, Guidance Chips, R5-P8, Rage, Overlocked R4...  The Punishing One is still a good expansion.  A great one, even.  All the errata and changes really mean is that I don't recommend getting TWO of this expansion right out of the gates, especially as there's no reason to have more than two copies of Attani Mindlink any more.

Also of Interest: Expertise (U-Wing), K4 Security Droid (Most Wanted, Hounds Tooth), Cad Bane (Scurrg), Rigged Cargo Chute (Shadow Caster)


Protectorate Starfighter
The Protectorate Starfighter is the TIE Interceptor's bad-tempered cousin, and in Fenn Rau it has one of the most genuinely dangerous ace pilots in the game.  The Protectorate Starfighter epitomises the 'glass cannon' style of play and that means it can be a little frustrating for new players to pick up because it's going to seem like it just keeps on dying too easily.  It makes the Protectorate a great ship to pick up once you're ready to start testing your piloting a bit more, and if you stick with it and take the knocks you'll soon be watching explosions on the opponent's side of the table instead of your own!

Also of Interest: Push The Limit (Imperial Aces, A-Wing), Autothrusters (StarViper)


Shadow Caster
The Shadow Caster's moveable turret arc makes it a unique ship to fly and both Ketsu Onyo and Asajj Ventress have proven to be both powerful and interesting pilots.  For a big ship the Shadow Caster can really dash about the table at high speed and run literal rings around the enemy, trapping them in your side firing arc.  The Shadow Caster ticks boxes as both a strong ship and a cool one to fly so I can heartily recommend it as one to pick up and add to your squad, either if you're planning on going down the route of flying a couple of big hitting bounty hunters, or want a centrepiece to hold together a couple of smaller wingmen.

Also of Interest: Push The Limit (A-Wing, Imperial Aces), K4 Security Droid (Most Wanted, Hound's Tooth), Glitterstim (Hound's Tooth, Kihraxz Fighter), Engine Upgrade (Hound's Tooth, Millenium Falcon)


Quadjumper
The little ship that could.  I can't really recommend the Quadjumper from a competitive point of view, but from the perspective of how fun they are to play I regret that I only have two thumbs up to give.  The Quadjumper brings a couple of unique tricks as it's the only ship in the game that can reverse AND the only ship in the game capable of pulling ships around the table with a Tractor Beam action!  Those two facts combine to mean SHENANIGANS A-GO-GO and for a relatively few points you can finish your squad off with one of these and give your opponents a proper headache about quite what the hell they're going to do.

As an added bonus the Quadjumper expansion comes with probably my favourite upgrade card in the entire game: A Score To Settle.  I bloody love this card, it's in like 3/4s of all the squads I ever make, and if I had a third thumb it would be joining the other two in the air as another reason to pick up this expansion.

Also of Interest: Intelligence Agent (Lambda Shuttle, HWK-290)



Scurrg H6-Bomber
Whether you're flying the elite Captain Nym or a lowly Karthakk Pirate the Scurrg Bomber is very attractively priced and you certainly get a lot of ship for your points.  A lot like a mini version of the rebel's VCX-100 the Scurrg is a really flexible platform that you can take in multiple directions, able to equip turrets, missiles, torpedoes or bombs on top of it's decent primary weapons and the Havoc title lets you swap a Crew slot for an Astromech and System slot.  Options are not lacking!  The ship almost immediately led to errata on the "Genius" astromech, which combined too effectively with Captain Nym and players are still working out the best ways to use the Scurrg without "Genius", but it seems a safe bet that your investment in a Scurrg will be money well spent.


Also of Interest: Twin Laser Turret (K-Wing, TIE Aggressor), Autoblaster Turret (Most Wanted), Veteran Instincts (Millenium Falcon, Slave I, Sabine's TIE), Advanced Sensors (Lambda Shuttle, E-Wing)


Guns For Hire
This is the first release for the Scum & Villainy faction that attempts to 'fix' older ship releases and bring them up to modern standards and try to get them onto the table a bit more, like the other factions have had with the likes of Imperial Veterans or Rebel Aces.  The benefactors in Guns For Hire are the Kihraxz Fighter and the StarViper and they've been given titles that offer discounts for loading these ships up that really make a difference to how good the ships are.  Guns For Hire is brand new in stores at time of writing so I don't want to try and predict just how good these ships are going to be, but in Vaksai and Starviper MkII, and in pilots like Thweek and Jostero, there's reasons to be hopeful.

Because so much of the Scum faction is based around large-based ships, Guns For Hire is a great purchase for those in search of a more 'normal' X-Wing experience in the Scum faction.

Also of Interest: Talonbane Cobra (Kihraxz), Guri (StarViper)




SCUM ROUTES

Scum squadbuilding is currently wide open so it's not really easy to recommend an acquisition route that won't mean you miss out on other cool stuff.  It's been a long time since Most Wanted was the near-compulsory starting point for a Scum squad because there's so much more good stuff going on than the old Y-Wings and Z-95s that the Scum used to rely on.


Probably the most important purchase, even now, is the Punishing One expansion.  Even after the errata a Jumpmaster is a solid ship, and the upgrades are fantastic - especially Attani Mindlink.  From there I think that, like with the Rebels, you've got a choice for whether to pursue small fighters in a three ship squad, or focus on the many big ships that are the strength of the Scum bounty hunters.


Three's A Crowd
If you're looking to add small Scum fighters to your squad then you should probably look to pick up the brand new Guns For Hire expansion.  In there you'll get a Kihraxz and a Starviper, with the essential new Title cards that transform both those ships from trash into treasure.  It wouldn't even be too much to then immediately go and pick up a second StarViper from its expansion pack - it's a forgiving ship, you'll get Guri as a pilot, and Autothrusters are a modification you'll get plenty of use out of.

Where next?  Well one of the benefits of the Scum faction is that there's not really any properly bad choices, but probably I'd be looking at either the Protectorate Starfighter, the Scurrg H-6 Bomber, or take a trip back for the old school Scum with Most Wanted.  The Protectorate Starfighter will test your piloting a bit where the Scurrg is much more robust, but it's probably fair to say the Scurrg benefits from you having a few more expansions and upgrades available to kit it out.  You could even manage to squeeze in one of the cheaper large ships, like a Shadow Caster or Trandoshan Slaver from the Hounds Tooth expansion!  



Double Trouble
One wrinkle in Scum & Villainy as a faction is that their large ships tend to be a lot better than their small ships.  Although there are a host of little pirate ships available it tend to be the ships belonging to iconic bounty hunters like Boba Fett or Bossk that are the strongest options and a lot of players have found good success by just putting two of these guys together in various combinations.  Dengar & Bossk, Bossk & Boba, Asajj Ventress & IG-88, Dengar & Boba... putting almost any two big Scum ships onto the table alongside each other can pose a threat to the opponent. 


If this is your chosen route then you should probably start with the Punishing One for Dengar as he's one of the best all-rounders of the big ships, and then Hound's Tooth makes a good addition not just because the ship itself is a threat but because in Engine Upgrade, K4 Security Droid, Outlaw Tech, Lone Wolf, and Glitterstim you get some great upgrade cards to load onto your big guns.

Once you've begun your big ships collection then adding the Shadow Caster or Slave I just gives you more options to switch around with, although adding Boba Fett to Scum requires you to buy both the Slave I expansion for his ship and Most Wanted for the scum pilot card.  At any point in this process it can be a good call to add a couple of strong crew options from the Mist Hunter expansion, and maximising your two ships might mean picking up either an A-Wing for Push The Limit or a Kihraxz Fighter for Predator, two staple Elite Pilot Talents that improve almost any ship.


Thursday, 22 September 2016

X-Wing Miniatures Buying Guide - Part II: Imperials

===== UPDATED FOR FAQ 4.40 =====

Continuing my mini-series looking at how new players should approach buying into a new Faction this is my buying guide for the glorious Imperial Fleet.  



As with the Rebels guide I'm going to do this a couple of different ways - a top level summary of what's in each pack, this is followed by a quick rundown of the pack so you get an idea of what you might want from it.  I'm going to talk about what other expansions you might need to get to really get the best out of the ships you buy, then go through a few possible routes for how to build your Imperial fleet from square one (spoiler: you probably start with Imperial Veterans).



IMMUNITY FROM PROSECUTION

Many ships/pilots/upgrades can be played with and had fun with and done well with that I'm not going to mention, just because if you don't set the bar quite high you wind up talking about almost everything and it stops being a guide, just a list of contents.  The bar for entry in my mentioning a pilot/upgrade is set pretty high, therefore.

If you want to explore a ship despite what I say, then please do!  If you think I've ignored a great card you love to play with then please continue to play with and enjoy that card!

Remember: a guide is not a set of strict commandment, it's exactly what it claims to be... purely a guide.


IMPERIAL SUMMARY




  • GREAT - a fantastic pack, you should definitely have this in your collection
  • SOLID - you're going to get a good amount of playtime out of these ships
  • NICHE - do your homework before you buy, know why you want to buy it
  • AVOID - you can get this from a better place, or it's just plain a bad ship!


EXPANSION BREAKDOWN

TIE Fighter
The humble TIE Fighter remains a baseline for efficiency with the basic Academy Pilot almost certainly the single best use of 12pts in the game.  If you are interested in building a TIE Swarm (or mini-swarm) at any point then you WILL need at least one TIE Fighter expansion pack for the utterly essential Howlrunner.  The main question you need to answer is how many TIE Fighters you think you will need and whether you're best sourcing them from the Core Set and Gozanti Assault Carrier, where you'll get some more variety in pilots than just bulk-buying this expansion.

Also of Interest: Crack Shot (Kihraxz Fighter, Hound's Tooth, Imperial Veterans)


TIE Advanced
The TIE Advanced had not aged as well as the TIE Fighter and you pretty much only ever see Darth Vader behind the controls.  Buying this expansion probably goes hand-in-hand with buying the Imperial Raider - you won't want to run the TIE Advanced without the Raider's upgrades but you also probably won't want to run the TIE Advanced model you get in the Raider without Darth Vader's pilot card from this expansion!

Also of Interest: Predator (TIE Defender, Kihraxz Fighter, Ghost), TIE/x1 (Imperial Raider), Advanced Targeting Computer (Imperial Raider), Engine Upgrade (Millenium Falcon, Hound's Tooth).


Slave I
The Imperials introduced Slave I in Wave 2 but it's the Scum & Villainy faction that really gets the best out of it as their pilot card for Boba Fett is much better than what the Imperials get.  You're not really going to get much use from Slave I in an Imperial squad, no matter how cool it looks.  Bounty Hunters.  We don't need their scum.  But what we DO need are some of the juicy upgrade cards that come with Slave I, like Veteran Instincts, Gunner and Stealth Device.

Also of Interest: Boba Fett (Most Wanted) to use Slave I in Scum squads.




TIE Interceptor
The TIE Interceptor expansion is in a very similar boat to the TIE Advanced expansion.  You won't really want to play Interceptors without the upgrades from the Imperial Aces expansion (which includes two Interceptor models), but the best TIE Interceptor pilot is Soontir Fel and he's only available in this expansion.  It's frustrating because it means to play the one TIE Interceptor pilot you definitely want you're likely to wind up owning three TIE Interceptor models.  

Also of Interest: Push The Limit (Imperial Aces, A-Wing), Royal Guard TIE (Imperial Aces), Autothrusters (StarViper), Stealth Device (Slave I, M3-A Scyk)


Lambda Shuttle
The Lambda Shuttle serves one key purpose - ferrying Emperor Palpatine into battle to spur your glorious Imperial pilots to even greater feats of excellence.  For its low cost the shuttle has some fantastic stats but is hobbled by one of the worst maneuver dials of any ship.  The shuttle's raw stats mean it's not a dead loss without Palpatine aboard - you can strap a cannon to it and use at long range artillery - but 99% of the time it's purely there for Palpatine, and since he received a bit of a nerf in March 2017 the Lambda has taken a real dip in popularity.

Also of Interest: Emperor Palpatine (Imperial Raider)



TIE Bomber
For the longest time the TIE Bomber was a ship that had no purpose as Bombs/Torpedoes were rubbish, so having a ship designed specifically to carry them didn't bode well. That all changed when Imperial Veterans brought new Bomber pilots and an interesting new title to switch your ordnance for crew slots.  Bombers have proven to have some good niche applications but the best pilots all seem to be those in Imperial Veterans so buy that first then come here if you think you need multiple Bombers.

Also of Interest: TIE Shuttle (Imperial Veterans), Guidance Chips (Inquisitor's TIE, Punishing One), Plasma Torpedoes (TIE Punisher, K-Wing, Punishing One), Extra Munitions (TIE Punisher)



TIE Defender
Much as with the TIE Bomber you will want to buy Imperial Veterans first but unlike the TIE Bomber a second TIE Defender is a solid investment.  Probably the best Defender pilot is in here (Colonel Vessery), and with Countess Ryad from Veterans alongside playing two TIE Defenders can be a potent combination. If it sweetens the deal for you then remember that you also get Predator, a go-to Elite Pilot Talent for improving the damage output of any ship.

Also of Interest: Twin Ion Engine MKII (TIE Punisher), TIE/x7 (Imperial Veterans), Countess Ryad (Imperial Veterans)


TIE Phantom
I love the TIE Phantom.  LOVE IT.  With it's cheeky cloaking/decloaking shenanigans there's no other ship in the game that can fly like the TIE Phantom and for that reason alone I would always recommend it as a purchase, just to broaden your horizons and switch things up a bit now and then.  We've moved on a long way from the time when TIE Phantoms ruled the skies of X-Wing but Whisper is still a strong pilot who creeps in and wins tournaments occasionally when people aren't paying attention.  Added gravy: you get Tactician and Fire Control System upgrades, which are pretty common additions to a lot of different ships.

Also of Interest: Veteran Instincts (Millenium Falcon, Slave I, Shadow Caster), Agent Kallus (Imperial Assault Carrier), Intelligence Agent (Lambda Shuttle, HWK-290)


Imperial Aces
Imperial Aces really served one purpose - making TIE Interceptors one of the most feared ships in the game.  The metagame wheel is always turning, though, and Interceptors are no longer flavour of the month and Imperial Veterans is likely your first stop before you get to the Aces.  A word of warning for prospective Interceptor pilots - aces like Soontir Fel or Carnor Jax are incredibly powerful if you get them right but die almost instantly if you play them badly.  There is tremendous power in this expansion, but it comes at a price of suffering through all your mistakes until you learn to fly them well.

Also of Interest: Soontir Fel (TIE Interceptor), Autothrusters (StarViper), Stealth Device (Slave I, M3-A Scyk)  



VT-49 Decimator
The VT-49 Decimator is a unique addition to the Imperial arsenal in that it's the only Imperial ship to carry a turret with a 360 degree firing arc - that turret means it transforms how Imperial squads approach games.  The Decimator is an incredibly flexible platform that can be built in countless different ways: maximising damage, maneuvering or survivability, and equally at home ramming opponents or speeding away from them.  It's one of the 'hubs' of competitive Imperial lists and the "Decimator & ???" squads have frequently performed well, with the Decimator appearing alongside top escort ships like Darth Vader, Soontir Fel or Whisper's TIE Phantom.  The Decimator is a ship I'm happy to recommend for both casual and competitive use, although bear in mind it doesn't really fit into other lists as much as it demands that other ships fit into its plan!

Also of Interest: Emperor Palpatine (Imperial Raider), Predator (TIE Defender, Kihraxz Fighter, Ghost), Engine Upgrade (Millenium Falcon, Hound's Tooth), Rebel Captive (Lambda Shuttle), Gunner (Slave I, YT-2400), Hotshot Co-Pilot (Heroes of the Resistance), Kylo Ren (Upsilon Shuttle)


Imperial Raider
Once you step down this dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.

The Imperial Raider marks a real decision point for anybody developing their Imperial fleet - it's an expensive purchase for an Epic ship you may never play but it's where both Emperor Palpatine and upgrades to make Darth Vader's TIE Advanced a potent threat come from.  Emperor Palpatine pretty much defined the Imperial faction for a while but errata in March 2017 pegged him back a bit and the Raider became a much less important drain on your wallet.

A number of other purchases really hinge on whether you've got an Imperial Raider or not - the Lambda Shuttle without Emperor Palpatine is pretty weak, and so is the TIE Advanced without the Advanced Targeting Computer so there's actually a bunch of ships that you probably want to buy at once.  That means the Raider is a big investment you should think carefully about making before jumping in.  

Also of Interest: Omicron Group Pilot (Lambda Shuttle), VT-49 Decimator (Decimator), Darth Vader (TIE Advanced)


TIE Punisher
The TIE Punisher looks awesome - it's this hulking ball of death that squats beetle-like on the table with weapon pods bristling with devastating ordnance.  Unfortunately it's also terrible and almost certainly the worst ship in the game.

The Punisher's dial is diabolical and the points it demands you spend to load up all those weapon pods are a huge risk considering how quickly it will die if your opponent decides to focus on it.  I have a real soft spot for the TIE Punisher and I hope FFG get around to buffing it somehow.  Until then, though, you're more likely to buy this for two copies of Twin Ion Engine MkII, which only comes in this expansion and really helps the TIE Defenders out, or Plasma Torpedoes and Extra Munitions for your TIE Bombers.

Also of Interest: Guidance Chips (Inquisitor's TIE, Punishing One), Conner Net (K-Wing, Ghost), Proximity Mines (Slave I, IG-2000, Imperial Veterans)




Imperial Assault Carrier
If you're not going to play Epic games then the ideal time to pick up the Assault Carrier is when you're still looking to expand your TIE Fighter collection to a full swarm because that way you can sort of mentally discount about half of the cost of the Carrier as it's replacing two TIE Fighter expansions you were going to buy anyway.  The payoff for picking up the Carrier over two Fighters is mainly in new TIE Fighter pilots like Wampa and Scourge, with Agent Kallus a crew option that frequently goes into the TIE Phantom.

Also of Interest: Whisper (TIE Phantom)


TIE/fo
Although you may already have two TIE/fo models from the Force Awakens Core Set probably the two best TIE/fo pilots (Zeta & Omega Leaders) appear in this expansion.  Omega Leader is amazing and he alone means that at least one TIE/fo expansion is pretty much compulsory, with this expansion coming with all the cards you need to field Omega Leader at full strength (Juke and Comm Relay, only available here). 

Also of Interest: None


Inquisitor's TIE
The Inquisitor really hit the ground running, setting a new standard for how good a 'pocket ace' could be (just 31pts for The Inquisitor in his most common build).  The TIE Advanced Prototype has a great dial and solid stats for the price, with a nice Title as well, but so far any pilots but The Inquisitor have yet to find a clear role.  You're paying a lot more than a basic TIE Fighter but not really getting that much extra in terms of damage output unless you pay even more to load them up with missiles.

Also of Interest; Push The Limit (Imperial Aces, A-Wings), Autothrusters (StarViper)


Imperial Veterans
Imperial Veterans had an immediate impact on competitive play by thrusting the TIE Defender out of the shadows and into the spotlight, with titles that are both competitive (TIE/x7) and creative (TIE/D) and some solid new pilots.  What's especially great about the TIE Defender is that it's actually pretty user-friendly, which most Imperial ships aren't - they're flimsy things made out of papier mache and fairy wings which aren't very forgiving for new players.  By contrast TIE Defenders are rough and tumble and that makes them a pretty good place to start your career in the Imperial fleet.  Imperial Veterans also includes some new TIE Bomber toys and great pilots like Tomax Bren and Deathfire.

TL;DR: Imperial Veterans is going to be *very* high on your Imperial shopping list.

Also of Interest; Twin Ion Engine MkII (TIE Punisher), Extra Munitions (TIE Punisher, K-Wing), Guidance Chips (Inquisitor's TIE, Punishing One), Plasma Torpedoes (TIE Punisher, K-Wing, Punishing One), Ion Cannon (Slave I, TIE Defender, B-Wing, M3-A Scyk)


Special Forces TIE Fighter
It took a little while to get get traction but the Special Forces TIE Fighter (or TIE/sf its friends) is proving itself a versatile little pocket battleship and after the /x7 Defenders got nerfed in March 2017 could well be the best ship that the Imperials have available.  In truth the TIE/sf is something quite unusual for the Imperials and kind of feels a bit more like a Rebel ship - an X-Wing with a rear arc, maybe.  Two green dice, six hull and shield, not hugely fast,the TIE/sf definitely has a different feel from anything else the Imperials have available, and it's well worth picking up.

Also of Interest: Fire Control System (B-Wing, TIE Phantom), Lightweight Frame (TIE Striker)


TIE Striker
Float like a butterfly, sting like a butterfly.  The TIE Striker's unique Adaptive Ailerons title makes it faster and more maneuverable than pretty much any other ship in the game, but with just 4 hull and 2 green dice they're also flimsier and less durable than anything else.   The TIE Striker can be great fun to play around with as you zip about the board but there's little sign that it's anything more than a fast-moving distraction for your opponents and even though the top end 'aces' are attractively priced they still don't really add that much more in terms of survivability or damage output.  It's well worth getting a TIE Striker because they're a cheap fun ship, but one may well be all you'll ever need.

Also of Interest: Predator (TIE Defender, Ghost)


Upsilon Shuttle
Kylo Ren's Upsilon Shuttle arrived in the game at just about the time that Emperor Palpatine's Lambda Shuttle was leaving due to his highness being dealt an errata nerf.  Superficially similar as they're both shuttles the Upsilon is really a different animal to the Lambda as with it's 4 red dice and superior maneuver dial it deserves to do more than just hide in the corner like the Lambda tends to.  Truly competitive uses of the Upsilon Shuttle are still uncertain, but it looks awesome and certainly brings something to the table in casual games.

Also of Interest: too early to say, people are still working this one out


TIE Aggressor
So far the TIE Aggressor has only really found a role as a grey Y-Wing, toting around a Twin Laser Turret as the first Imperial ship with a turret upgrade slot.  As such it's definitely not a bad ship (you could strap a TLT to a Mynock and it'd be playable) but it's not one of the most exciting experiences the Imperials have available.  Adding the TIE Aggressor to your Imperial squad is a bit like going on an adventure holiday and bringing your accountant friend along with his calculator.  He'll come in useful, for sure, but wouldn't you really be having a bit more fun if he wasn't there?

Also of Interest: Lightweight Frame (TIE Striker)



IMPERIAL ROUTES

In general it's been possible to group all the various Imperial squads that have been popular into four distinct types, which I like to call 'hubs' because of the way they tend to revolve around a particular key ship or pilot.  These hubs are:

  • Swarms
  • Aces
  • Decimators
  • Duellists
These four hubs are absolutely NOT essential so please feel free to ignore them and grow your squad however you like, but it's striking just how consistently these structures appear and reappear in successful lists and that makes them a good basis for choosing  your career in the Imperial fleet.

I'm going to tackle them out of the order I shared about, just because the Duellists is such a good 'starter' route that I want to talk about that first before we get into the more specialist squads.


Duellists
Signature Ships: TIE Defender, Special Forces TIE Fighter, TIE Bomber

The 'Duellists' hub is a pretty new development for Imperial Squads, springing into life almost entirely off the back of the recent Imperial Veterans and Special Force TIE Fighter expansions.  The main difference is in how rugged the ships are compared to the traditional nimble but flimsy TIE Fighters, and in many ways the Duellists play the game a lot more like a Rebel list might.

Imperial Veterans is obviously the place to start and then from there you almost certainly immediately add either a Special Forces TIE Fighter or a second TIE Defender from the expansion.  That gets you 2/3rds of your list straight away and you're just looking for a third ship to round it all out with.  That could mean speccing up a TIE Bomber for more firepower, yet more TIE Defenders, or adding Omega Leader who comes complete with his upgrades in the TIE/fo expansion.

As with the Decimator hub you're not really spending a lot to buy extra ships for the Defenders but it might be worth picking up a couple of expansion for their upgrades.  The TIE Punisher will add a second heavy ship and comes with Extra Munitions and Plasma Torpedoes for you to start making better use of your TIE Bomber you got from Imperial Veterans, and a pair of the important Twin Ion Engine MkII for your TIE Defenders.  

In fact you could build a pretty good 100pts list with just the contents of Imperial Veterans, a TIE Defender and a TIE Punisher expansion...
  • Colonel Vessery (TIE Defender) - Outmaneuer (TIE Defender), TIE/x7 (Imperial Veterans), Twin Ion Engine MkII (TIE Punisher) - 37 Points
  • Countess Ryad (Imperial Veterans) - TIE/x7 (Imperial Veterans), Twin Ion Engine MkII (TIE Punisher) - 33 Points
  • Tomax Bren (Imperial Veterans) - Crack Shot (Imperial Veterans), Plasma Torpedoes (TIE Punisher), Extra Munitions (TIE Punisher), Long Range Scanners (Imperial Veterans) - 30 Points


Swarms
Signature ships: TIE Fighters, TIE/fo

A swarm of iconic TIE Fighters is a hugely successful archetype that has stood the test of time.  Players are often unduly wary about flying swarms because of the risk of bumping your ships into each other as you've got so many.  You'll almost certainly crash a lot at the start but it's really not that hard to pick up - the learning curve is nowhere near as steep as it for learning to arc-dodge properly with Soontir Fel, for instance!

The main objective in building a swarm is to rapidly scale up the number of TIE Fighters you've got so start with a classic Core Set and then immediately buy a TIE Fighter Expansion so that you've got Howlrunner as well.  From there I'd look around for the best way to add a bunch more TIE Fighters, either through picking up more of the TIE Fighter expansion, another Core Set (maybe the Force Awakens Core Set for some TIE/fos) or the Imperial Assault Carrier if money really isn't an object.  It's probably a good idea to pick up at least one TIE/fo Expansion to get Zeta Leader and Omega Leader as they are both great options to have at your disposal.  

Once you've got to six or seven TIE Fighters and/or TIE/fo you can play around with lots of different combinations of pilots as TIE Swarms come in many different flavours - either lots of cheap Academy Pilots or fewer named pilots with neat abilities.  So long as there's a bunch of TIEs and Howlrunner is in there then you're going to be a threat!  The 'kicker' for the TIE Swarm is going out of your way to acquire a bunch of the Crack Shot upgrade in the Scum Kihraxz Fighter Expansion to use on some Black Squadron TIE Fighters.


Decimator
Signature Ships: Decimator (duh)

The VT-49 Decimator has a unique place in the Imperial arsenal as the only ship to come with a turret, and it's proven time and again to be a great platform for competitive squads in various configurations.  You're going to start out, unsurprisingly, by buying the VT-49 Decimator Expansion and then you look for something strong to pair the Decimator with.  The Decimator usually costs around 60-65 points once you've finished loading it up with gear so you want a strong partner that costs about 35-40 points, which is usually just about enough to invest in a top level ace of some description.   The most newbie-friendly option would be to buy Imperial Veterans for a TIE Defender, and the more advanced pilots you're likely to see with a Decimator are Whisper, Soontir Fel and Darth Vader (which requires buying the Imperial Raider), or even a second Decimator!

Unlike other hubs you're only going to be using a couple of ships so there's not many extra purchases you need to expand your fleet but there's probably a couple of good purchases you could make for key upgrades to maximise the pilots you are using.  It may not have much to do with the Empire but the Millenium Falcon expansion comes with Veteran Instincts (for Whisper) and Engine Upgrade (for the Decimator), or alternatively Slave I will also get you Veteran Instincts and Gunner instead of Engine Upgrade, for a Decimator that's less agile but has more guaranteed damage output.  The Lambda Shuttle also brings a host of crew options and other upgrades that can fit onto the Decimator, like Rebel Captive, Darth Vader, Anti-Pursuit Lasers and even has Intelligence Agent for Whisper.


Aces
Signature Ships: TIE Defender, TIE Interceptor, TIE Advanced Prototype, Lambda Shuttle

The true Imperial Aces like Soontir Fel and Darth Vader and co have all taken a bit of a back seat since Imperial Veterans made TIE Defenders the new big thing, but the basic squad shape of having two or three elite pilots remained unchanged.

A modern take on Imperial Aces is likely to be based on the powerful TIE Defender pairing of Countess Ryad and Colonel Vessery, so you'll need to pick up both Imperial Veterans and a standalone TIE Defender expansion.  That ticks off roughly two thirds of your squad and gives a really tough centrepiece to hang a third ship off.

The more classic versions of Imperial Aces put the appropriately-named Imperial Aces box at the heart of this hub as it unlocks playing TIE Interceptors to their maximum and it's pretty much unavoidable that you pick up a third TIE Interceptor because the expansion is needed for Soontir Fel.  These classic pilots walk such a thin line of excellence that there's very little room for experimentation in how they are loaded up so the buying list becomes very prescriptive.  Your aces will rely on maximum results from their green dice and to support them you'll almost certainly need Autothrusters from the StarViper expansion.

Whether you've gone for the modern or classic take on Imperial Aces you'll likely have around 30pts left to fill your list out with. If you've got the cash to burn this might be where you take the plunge with a Lambda Shuttle and the Imperial Raider to bring Emperor Palpatine to the table, if not then it's then your choice of which aces you want round out with, with the Inquisitor's TIE, Omega Leader's TIE/fo, or even a well-equipped TIE Bomber or TIE Striker as possible options.



COMMON BUILDS

Darth Vader
Darth Vader (TIE Advanced)
Predator (TIE Defender, Kihraxz Fighter, Ghost), TIE/x1 (Imperial Raider), Advanced Targeting Computer (Imperial Raider), Engine Upgrade (Millenium Falcon, Hound's Tooth)

Soontir Fel
Soontir Fel (TIE Interceptor)
Push The Limit (Imperial Aces, A-Wing), Royal Guard TIE (Imperial Aces), Stealth Device (Slave I, M3-A Scyk), Autothrusters (StarViper)

The Inquisitor
The Inquisitor (TIE Advanced Prototype)
Push The Limit (Imperial Aces, A-Wing), TIE/v1 (TIE Advanced Prototype), Autothrusters (StarViper)

Whisper
Whisper (TIE Phantom)
Veteran Instincts (Millenium Falcon, Slave I, Shadow Caster), Fire Control System (TIE Phantom), Advanced Cloaking Device (TIE Phantom)

Omega Leader
Omega Leader (TIE/fo)
Juke (TIE/fo), Comm Relay (TIE/fo)

Countess Ryad
Countess Ryad (Imperial Veterans)
Push The Limit (Imperial Aces, A-Wing), TIE/x7 (Imperial Veterans), Twin Ion Engine MkII (TIE Punisher)

Chiraneau
Rear Admiral Chiraneau (Decimator)
Veteran Instincts  (Millenium Falcon, Slave I, Shadow Caster), Rebel Captive (Lambda Shuttle), Ysanne Isard (Decimator), Gunner (Slave I, YT-2400), Engine Upgrade (Millenium Falcon, Hound's Tooth)
Although as I said above the Decimator is a Swiss Army Knife of a ship you can build a hundred different ways and they'll all play quite differently.