This post regarding Elite Pilot Skills is part of a larger article regarding Wave 1 listbuilding- the rest of the posts n this series will be available in the coming weeks as I'm revealing a post or two per day on the various topics in that larger article. For more info, click the "Ship List Articles" tab at the top of the page or simply click here.
Squad Leader (2)
Card Text: Choose a ship at Range 1-2 with a lower Pilot Rank than you. That ship may immediately perform a free action.
Usage in game: Ideally this card is given to a high ranking Pilot so as many ships as possible can benefit. Giving it to a Black Squadron TIE only really works if he’s surrounded by Academy TIEs, for example.
Action?: Yes. To use the Squad Leader Talent, it requires an action.
NOTE: This Elite Talent is dotted (is unique and cannot be replicated in squadron list).
There are two things you want to note right off the bat when it comes to Squad Leader- first, what a "free action" is, and secondly, this card effectively takes an Action from one ship and gives it to another as Squad Leader is itself, an Action.
The "free action" is simply a standard action available to you that doesn't count against the normal one action per round rule and takes place during a different part of the turn than the "Perform Action" step. As you're declaring this second free Action, you can't perform the same action again- it has to be a different Action than the one you have likely already declared. The cool thing though is since the timing is different, you can declare a free action if you've hit an asteroid or collided with somebody (dig the FAQ on this bit and the rulebook, specifically the Perform Action steps).
The giving away an Action so somebody else can have a free Action is fairly easy to get your head around, as is the obvious best Pilot to take this Elite Pilot Talent- Vader.
Squad Leader on the Rebel side only works on Wedge or Luke as they're the only pilots who can take Elite Pilot Talents. It works particularly well on a ship flying near Garven Dreis or Dutch Vander as those ships can give away Focuses and Target Locks respectively which often can mitigate the loss of the Action due to triggering Squad Leader. Just keep in mind, both of those pilots give their tokens away after they use them, so the recipient won’t get full use of those tokens if they’re at a higher Pilot Rank than Dreis or Vander (which they probably will be)*. Better than nothing, but don’t rely on it like it’s going to be the same as a Rebel Vader or something.
On the Imperial side, this card works best on Vader as again, it’s basically one ship trading it’s action to give another ship an action otherwise. With Vader having two actions, he can use Squad Leader and still have one action of his own to use. It can be decent on a TIE that's there more for support than offense though like Howlrunner for instance.
*Note that in the interest of full disclosure, this can be mitigated somewhat with Swarm Tactics.