31 March 2013

20,000 Pageviews on TheMetalBikini.com!

If you remember, it took about six weeks, give or take, for the site to accumulate 10,000 pageviews.

It only took us 16 days to get 10,000 more. 

I didn't get the 20k screenshot clean yesterday. It must have happened sometime between me cooking up some Lightning McQueen lightning bolt chicken sticks for my oldest and giving my youngest his bottle. Got close- only one pageview off, but not quite right on it. Ah well.

Once again, I'd like to take a second to thank all of y'all for your continued support. The comments, both good and bad, all serve to keep me honest and on my toes when writing this stuff; continue to push me to make every article as informative and entertaining as I can. Your emails run the gamut from thought provoking, to funny, to simply complimentary, but they're all reflected upon, taken into account, and most of all appreciated. 

As I thanked Sean and Ben last time we did this, I want to take a second to thank a few of what I call the TMB All-Stars, long-time or otherwise significant TMB supporters, when the topic comes up in conversation with people at work or when I'm talking about the site to my friends and family. 

I found an email from Jim "heychadwick" Chadwick all the way back on 8 February, which means he has been coming here long enough that anytime I write about a Black Squadron TIE, I always think of him (and dude, I swear- one of these days I'm really going to sit down and look at your campaign rules- I haven't forgotten, just been working too much). Similarly, I think of Patrick Acton anytime I present something that isn't the maxed-out, tournament standard option for a particular card. Those guys have been coming on here from practically the very beginning and while I have no idea who they are or where they're from in real life, I know just about everyday they'll be here reading my stuff. I'm also pretty sure they're friends in real life, but I'm not 100% sure on that. 

I'd also like to thank Ryan Redman for his continued support. He's been coming around here for quite awhile too and I have a feeling were I ever to make it to the great state of Maine with some X-Wings in my pocket, I'd have no trouble finding a game. I just hope he doesn't live in Derry- I'm not crazy about clowns with balloons to begin with, even less when they're hanging around inside of sewers. Brief aside, the easiest way to scare my wife by far is to say, "We all float down here" in a creepy voice. 

Also, I don't know who Wiles01 is, but thanks for getting the site added to the Reddit sidebar for their X-Wing Miniatures section! I don't really understand Reddit (is it like a big messageboard basically?), but it's pretty cool nonetheless and has resulted in a lot of traffic and readers which is awesome. 

The first site to ever link back to TheMetalBikini was Darth Meer's The Heralds of Ruin and while I don't remember exactly when that was, dudes, it was a long, long time ago. The sole reason I don't include it on the useful X-Wing links is because it's primarily a 40k painting site and I'm really trying to keep TheMetalBikini X-Wing specific. If you play 40k too, you really oughta check it out though- he's got some interesting campaign rules on there and maybe the best X-Wing Miniatures review I've ever read

Lastly, thanks to Rob Tyo. I don't know if he still comes around here or not, but in the immortal words of Billy Beane, he's a good egg. Rob sent me the first piece of "fan mail" ever. It was that email that made me go, "Y'know, I might be onto something here..." And Rob, I still may take you up on your offer sometime, bro. You just never know. 

P.S.- Shoutout to James Mattes who posted about TMB on theminiaturespage.com. That mention set the single day pageview record at the time (not to mention, stood for nearly two weeks), and was only eclipsed when the site got added to Reddit. Danke James!

Oh hell- almost forgot Robert from Team Covenant. He gave TMB a mention on his blog pretty early on and continues to do so even now with his own Wave 2 discussions. I never thought I'd wish I lived closer to Tulsa, OK, but I'd really like to stop by the Team Covenant store sometime. I don't know if you've checked out their site before, but dude, it's what every game store should aspire to. For one, it looks more like a cafe or a coffee shop than a game store, for two, it's obvious everyone that's part of TC really digs the games they sell. Put it this way, if I ever won the lottery or something and had a chance to open a game store I'd definitely rip off their aesthetic  Unquestionably a place I'd like to stop in and visit sometime if I'm ever out that way. 

So there ya go. I think my youngest just woke up. Gotta go. Happy Easter, y'all!

29 March 2013

Named Pilots- Tycho Celchu

This post regarding Named Pilots is part of a larger article regarding Wave 2 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.

Tycho Celchu (26)
Card Text: You may perform actions even while you have stress tokens

Usage in game: When you need both high maneuverability and high Pilot Skill, maybe an alpha strike.
Breakdown: At a glance, folks who haven't flown A-Wings much may balk at Tycho Celchu. I mean, yeah, he's Pilot Skill 8, which is awesome, but he's flying an A-Wing and costs 26 points- same as He-Who-Bestows-A-Focus-Token, the ever-popular Garven Dreis.

So, is he worth it? Let's look at the differences.

First and most obvious, Dreis is in an X-Wing while Tycho's flying an A. Stats-wise, an X-Wing is the more capable ship, but A-Wings have a pretty ridiculous amount of movements available on their dial, and for folks who play this game rather than talk about points and stats in a vacuum, that's worth a lot if you know what to do with it.

The always courteous Fantasy Flight Games actually posted the A-Wing maneuver dial when they did their Wave 2 preview.

Look at all those green maneuvers and only 2 red maneuvers. A-Wings seem to be really good at getting rid of Stress Tokens, so how much is Tycho's card text really worth compared to a Green Squadron Pilot who costs 7 points less if A-Wings are so easy to fly when Stressed? 

Well, first, you're getting an increase of Pilot Skill by 5 points- a not insignificant amount. Tycho's going to shoot before everyone but the best pilots where that Green Squadron A-Wing is going after not only the mid-level pilots, but even behind some of the lower tier guys. 

Let's dig deeper though- there's gotta be some reason Tycho's got the card text he does, right? 

Remember awhile back when I talked about Push The Limit? For 3 more points, Tycho basically becomes Vader in a more maneuverable ship with one less hull and Boost instead of Barrel Roll. 

Funny how when you put it in those terms, 29 points for an A-Wing doesn't seem so expensive does it? 

Ok, so that's what everybody puts on Tycho, but you gotta be different. Are there any other Elite Pilot Skills that are fun? 

Well, as you see in the above pic, A-Wings have the hard 1 turn available as a white maneuver, so coupled up with Daredevil and Tycho's high PR and you've got a real, the hunter became the prey style table-turner on your hands. 

Deadeye is effective too if you want a high PR alpha-strike type setup. Sure, it works well on any A-Wing because of Homing Missiles, but dig on this little gambit if your usual Imperial opponent always sets up at the forward edge of Range 1 and always move forward with a 5 straight- 

As Tycho's in an A-Wing, he can also do a 5 straight. Two ships fairly close to being in line with each other across the table, both moving 5 straight end up being in Range 3 of each other after they both move from their initial deployment, but you (hopefully) will get to fire first because of Tycho's high PR.

The Ships both at the edge of Range 1 upon initial deployment

Both ships make 5 Straights and are now well within Range 3 of each other

Same deal, just more dramatic camera angle

Take Focus for your Action (or better yet, get one from a buddy like Dreis or Lando and declare Target Lock for your Action), then as the Combat Phase starts, fire your Homing Missiles at some really annoying pilot on the other side of the table at Pilot Skill 7 or less. An unsuspecting opponent may not have even declared a first-turn Action, or might have declared Evade as he probably wasn't planning on you pulling that. All the other Rebel ships top out at 4, which if my placement is right, leaves a ship just short of Range 3 even if the Imperial moves a straight 5. 

Maybe you don't off the victim outright, but then again, maybe you do since he can't spend Evades against those Homing Missiles and you're denying him that bonus Defense die firing a Secondary Weapon. Four Attack dice against 3 Defense dice? Yeah, I'll take that trade off any day of the week, especially if we're bustin' on some ship that doesn't possess a Secondary Weapon System of it's own to shoot back if it survives. 

Might not work after the first time you use it, but there again, having Tycho on your sidelines might be enough deterrent to delay those Imperial ships from roaring forward, which aside from the Firespray, tends to mess up their game plans to at least some degree. Might be worth it just for the threat factor, never mind the rest of the game that Tycho brings to your list.

All that said, A-Wings aren't for everybody. They're tougher to use effectively than X-Wings and definitely tougher to use than a YT-1300. They don't have the guns to reliably down enemy ships on their own and don't have the hull or shields to withstand the consequences of careless maneuvering. 

Me personally, I've had the most luck using A-Wings as the trailer ships finishing off whatever an X-Wing didn't kill on it's first salvo. Tycho would be absolutely murderous following around Wedge in this manner, especially if they're packing Stealth Devices or Shield Upgrades, or supporting the somewhat less offense-oriented Luke Skywalker, X-Wing Pilot. It wouldn't be cheap, but look at it this way- you don't have to install Swarm Tactics on Wedge or Luke to get that plan to work pretty effectively and that either frees up a couple of points or their Elite Pilot Skill slot, how ever you want to look at it. 

28 March 2013

Named Pilots- Arvel Crynyd

This post regarding Named Pilots is part of a larger article regarding Wave 2 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.

Arvel Crynyd (23)
Card Text: You may declare an enemy ship inside your firing arc that you are touching as the target of your attack.

Usage in game: Blocking, anti-blocking strategy & mitigation
Breakdown: I've been talking about Arvel Crynyd in real life for a good little while now and he was even mentioned in the post I did when FFG did their A-Wing preview pre-Wave 2 release. I'm not going to say it's necessarily the most useful, but I think Arvel has one of the most interesting special rules in the game in that you absolutely can't fake it with other Elite Pilot Skills or combinations thereof, which is pretty cool in my book.

As mentioned in the BBB on the Combat Phase, normally, if you collide with another ship in your movement phase (official rulebook term- overlap), and you're still touching that ship in the Combat Phase, you can't fire on him. You're perfectly free to fire upon another valid (within your arc, within range of your weapon) target, but not the guy you're actually touching, which if you're like me, and by like me I mean sometimes you have brain problems and boner up your movement phase, the guy you're touching is probably the guy you were really wanting to get in Range 1 of to begin with. Normally, my reaction to this little event is to recreate Liz Lemon's masterpiece eyeroll (also my go-to look of disapproval pretty much every day I'm at work), but when I pull this daft maneuver with Arvel Crynyd, I usually catch myself about the time I'm at 11:00 on the eyeroll and say, "Oh, wait."

So there's that. At 23 points, only 4 points more than a Green Squadron Pilot and at 3 more Pilot Skill (yes, Patrick- I know, he can't take Elite Pilot Skills, which is bad, etc., etc.; gimme a sec. :) ), you too can forget to include the base of your ship while trying to execute advanced spatial thinking while operating on around 25 hours of sleep a week and still get to shoot your guns! Huzzah!

I think players who are better and more well rested would find good use in Arvel's unique ability employing him not as a blocking ship, but as an anti-blocking ship, especially in 3-ship Falcon lists as they're a little more susceptible to the idea of the blocking. How's that work? Simple. Give Crynyd a move that'll take him to where you think your opponent thinks the Falcon's gonna be, then give the Falcon something completely different. He moves a TIE or two into the space he thinks you're going to fly your Falcon, and surprise! Arveled.

Now, understand, just because Arvel can bonk into people and still shoot doesn't mean he can suddenly free of all bad overlap consequences; i.e. he can shoot and also utilize his Perform Action step- he can't. You'd hope it wouldn't matter at Range 1, but folks with extremely bad dice karma like long-time Bikini Aficionado and apparent gypsy-curse victim heychadwick can attest, even the bonus Range 1 die might not save you if the dice gods are against you that day. The good news is, the crash victim can't shoot back as they're touching you and are not Arvel, but their buddies flying nearby very well might be able to and you probably don't have a Focus or Evade to burn unless you got it from a friend of your own who passes along Actions or tokens.

So what's the downside? Arvel is one of those named guys that can't take Elite Pilot Skills, which is a real bummer. It also makes him a bit unpopular with some folks because you can take the aforementioned Green Squadron Pilot for the aforementioned 4 points less and get those aforementioned Elite Pilot Skills. As there are several of these which dovetail nicely with the available A-Wing Actions, maneuver dials, missle loadouts, or all of the above, taking Crynyd isn't really something you should do lightly.

If you play in a place with a lot of TIE Swarms that close on you rapidly though, with the intention of blocking or not, you can likely find a place for Arvel and have him do some good. Providing other targets for the TIEs to shoot at works well as a mitigating factor to keep him from getting fired on when he's Actionless, as is driving him down a sideline and then having him cut in on the flank, hopefully denying firing arcs to the target's wingmen. As you might expect, he has some real potential for screwing up a Howlrunner-centric TIE Swarm and splitting them up a bit, or even against a small, specialized, Action-dependent build as A-Wings are just so darn maneuverable.

While he can't take Elite Pilot Skills, he is perfectly free to have his pick of the missiles all of which I've covered before in detail on here. You can find a reason to pack pretty much any missile and make it work depending on your playstyle and local meta as even an Assault Missile could soften up some of the targets Arvel wants to crash into (hell naw it ain't a Dave Matthews link, come on man)- just don't ding yourself in the process.

Additionally, if you really want to throw some points at a guy who is basically the Star Wars equivalent of Admiral Bensen, you can hook him up with a Modification. Obviously Engine Upgrade would be redundant, but you could make a case for either Shield Upgrade or Stealth Device. Me personally, I'd probably lean more towards Shield Upgrade as he's going to get up close and personal, but Stealth Device could work too as it provides a ton of protection on the way in.

As I'm known to say around here and on the FFG forums, everybody is viable in this game, but some pilots are more accessible than others. Contrary to what you might think at first glance, Arvel is definitely one of those "others." He's a little too expensive of a pilot to not have Elite Pilot Skills and his special text, while potentially hilarious for you and frustrating for your opponent, isn't the easiest thing in the world to trigger against competent players. Still though, there's some good potential lulz to be had and if you're a mainly Rebel player who is tired of getting rushed by TIEs every single game, you might throw Arvel in there once in awhile just to keep your opponent honest.

27 March 2013

Titles- Ship Titles Millennium Falcon and Slave I

This post regarding Ship Upgrades is part of a larger article regarding Wave 2 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.

Millennium Falcon (1)
Card Text: Your Action Bar gains the <Evade> action icon

Usage in game: Declaring an Evade Action on a YT-1300.
Breakdown: I really thought I was going to dig this upgrade more than I do. It's a flavorful, thematic upgrade that ought to do you some real good, but if I'm being honest, all the games I've played with it, it's left me a bit wanting. Upon close examination, I think I know why.

So here's the deal- the YT has 1 Defense die standard, so almost without thinking, I grab the Falcon title because it gets me an Evade, right? Sure. And I'm usually mitigating one hit per turn, once in awhile (3/8 of the time) I'm mitigating two. That sounds fine on paper, so where am I screwing this up?

I think it's because the Falcon's so dang big, it's really easy for the opponent to get within Range 1 of her and nobody is rolling two Attack dice, the most I can possibly mitigate. Of course, she makes up for it by having more shields and hull than anybody else in the game, but if you're like me, you feel a little underwhelmed by the Falcon title.

So what did I expect for a point? Were my expectations too high? Is my ability to effectively fly her too low?

Yes to both, probably, but more likely the latter.

Slave I (0)
Card Text: Your upgrade bar gains the (torpedo) icon.

Usage in game: Uhh, it lets a Firespray take Proton Torpedoes.
Breakdown: Back in 1996, I was living in Austin, Texas. A buddy of mine who was my roommate at the time, took his girlfriend to go see this new movie called Ransom starring Mel Gibson. When I woke up the next day, he was all, "Dude- I saw Ransom last night. It was pretty awesome.", to which I replied, "So... Gary Sinise was the kidnapper, huh?" My roommate was shocked at my dead-on presumption and said, "How'd you know?" I said, "Dude, he just stole the show in Forrest Gump. Like he's really going to take some lame-o supporting actor work as a cop or whatever. He's obviously the bad guy."

I never did watch that movie because I was right, well that and the fact you kinda already know how 99% of kidnapper movies are going to end. I got nothing against Ron Howard as a director, but that's like the dictionary definition of telegraphing a punch. For the how to on not doing that, reference Fincher's brilliant Se7en and recall that Kevin Spacey wasn't mentioned in the trailers or promos or anything. Hell, they even kept that dude's name off the theatrical movie poster.

As I often do on here, I digress. There is a point, though.

When I saw teh internets dismissing the Slave I title card because it involved the most terrible of terrible upgrades, I immediately thought, "Ok- why?" Just like when I saw Gary Sinise's was apparently playing second-fiddle in Ransom.

First, like the brews at Delta Tau Chi, the Slave I title don't cost nothin', so there's that. 

Secondly, it doesn't replace anything in your upgrade bar, so if for some reason you fancy the notion of hauling around a double load of ballistic warheads, but aren't hip to a Y-Wing, you can do it for only the cost of what you pick to be in your tubes. 

I think the thing that kills it for most people is the Heavy Laser Cannon, as it's a 7 point Secondary Weapon System that isn't just one-shot and if you're looking at Proton Torpedoes plus a missile, you're looking at 8 points, at least. Keep in mind though, the HLC can't score crits by itself, where Proton Torpedoes gets you much better odds at rolling one, which again, I feel like has a much more tangible benefit in Wave 2 against the big ships. 

You could also kind of hedge your bets a little bit by taking both PTs and a missile of some type. PTs are a decent all-rounder, but having those at your disposal opens you up to having a more specialized missile like Assault Missiles, for example, to use if the opportunity arose. 

I've not tried any of these PTs + Missile gambits out yet, so don't nail me too hard in the comments, I'm merely saying it's a possibility that you ought to at least not outright dismiss, especially with the pilot abilities of Kath Scarlet and Krassis Trelix.

26 March 2013

Modifications- Stealth Device

This post regarding Ship Upgrades is part of a larger article regarding Wave 2 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.

Stealth Device (3)
Card Text: Increase your agility value by 1. If you are hit by an attack, discard this card.

Usage in game: Making the already hard to hit, darn near unhittable.
Breakdown: Once again, we're looking at a pretty straightforward Modification card that is a benefit to any ship willing to pay the 3 points. There's no ship that somehow gets worse with an extra Defense die, so there's no problem there. Like Shield Upgrade, we're really looking at this card in the context of what other Modifications you might be denying yourself rather than weighing pros and cons of the card itself, because really, there aren't any cons. 

Also remember that this card is a Modification which means that any ship in the game may take it as long as they have the points to pay for it and they don't already have a Modification.

Before we begin though, really quickly lets review what the card text means by "hit."

As discussed in the Bikini Battle Basics- The Combat Phase Explained! article last week, players often use the words "hits" and "crits" to describe attack dice results- namely the filled explosion symbols and unfilled explosion symbols, respectively. I call these hits and crits local parlance, because that's what they are- they're effectively slang terms.

In game terms, or rule book terms as I'm wont to call it, hits are what happens to those explosion symbols that aren't mitigated by a wavy arrow roll, the spending of an Evade token, or an eyeball result which the defending player spends a Focus Token to change into a wavy arrow result. If you roll three explosions and your opponent can only mitigate two of those, you've netted one rule book hit.

Ya dig?

So that's what makes Stealth Device go away- one of those rule book style hits. Scary, huh? 3 points for something that vanishes the first time you're hit? And it doesn't mitigate any Damage you received in the process?

Yeah, no. Not really. They still have to hit you to get it to go away. And trust me, as a primarily Rebel player who's been on the wrong end of Stealth Device a lot lately, that's much easier said than done.

Stealth device is pure evil and don't let anyone tell you any differently. There's a reason why everyone on X-Wing Miniatures messageboards all over the internet have been complaining about the Stealth Device cards only coming in the Slave I ship box, all the while drooling over the potential, especially for Imperial ships though of course, the card is faction agnostic and can be applied to Rebel ships just as well.

Rebel players, you know how hard it is to ding a TIE fighter at Range 3, right? Well, Stealth Device makes it Range 3 all the time. Except of course when it really is Range 3- then it's even worse. Ditto for asteroids, I mean Obstacles. And Dark Curse with a Stealth Device? I'll be honest, I usually don't even bother firing on him unless I'm Range 1 with four dice, and even then I don't bother if he has a token of some kind.

I'll tell you who else really benefits from a Stealth Device and that's a Firespray with a Heavy Laser Cannon and a Mercenary Copilot. Is it cheap? No, but man, if you can manage to keep that thing at Range 3 by having your other ships run interference? That's 4 Evade dice to enemy ships firing on him. 4. On a large ship. Let that sink in for a second.

4 Defense dice. I try really hard to keep it PG on here; if there was a beep button, I'd be sounding like Happy Gilmore missing that putt (which if any of you Bikini Aficionados can find that clip online, friggin' mail it to me- I've been looking for it for 25 minutes now and have come up with nada. I'm starting to think I made it up in my head.) On a ship that has 4 attack dice at Range 3 (remember I said it has a HLC). God help you if Trelix or Kath Scarlet with Marksmanship is driving the damn thing. Holy Mackerel (sorry guys, best I can do- skip ahead to about the seventh minute if you get tired of waiting).

On the Rebel side of the galactic fence (I know, I know, I said take Shield Upgrade on Rebel ships, but I said in general too), X-Wing Pilot Luke gets better being able to roll another Defense die with his defense-only Focus-lite ability, even more so if he's got R2-F2 as a backseat driver. I see a lot people talking about running it on Biggs too, but I personally have a hard time putting Stealth Device on a guy I actually want to be shot. In the interest of full disclosure, the people who advocate putting Stealth Device on Biggs 99% of the time follow it up with R2-F2, so it's not a bad idea, I just don't like the feel of it, personally. Now, A-Wings? That I can support. 4 Defense dice all the time with no other upgrades? Y'all got to feel me.

So all that said, let's say you've got a build of your own making in your hands that doesn't feature any of those pilots or ships and you're still trying to decide between Shield Upgrade and Stealth Device. I think there's two general criteria to keep in mind- 1) If the ship already has shields, stay with that and go Shield Upgrade- if not, throw on a Stealth Device. 2) If you intend the ship to get in very close to your opponent, opt for the Shield Upgrade unless you feel like point 1 outweighs this decision.

Again, at the end of the day, both of these upgrades are great upgrades that will benefit any ship that takes them- Rebel, Imperial, shielded or not. I strongly suggest, as I do with anything and everything in this game, you try both out and see which one suits your playstyle more. Don't rely on strangers you've never met telling you how to play your game- the choice is yours!

Yeah, you're right. I got a little cheesy in that last paragraph solely to set up some Black Sheep. What about it? :)

25 March 2013

Modifications- Shield Upgrade

This post regarding Ship Upgrades is part of a larger article regarding Wave 2 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.

Shield Upgrade (4)
Card Text: Increase your shield value by 1.

Usage in game: An extra layer on existing shields, or adding one where before there was none.
Breakdown: Again, the current crop of Modifications are all pretty straightforward in their application; Shield Upgrade being no different. Want to add 1 to the blue number on your ship's cardboard insert thingy? Shield Upgrade's your huckleberry.

So, we'll get right to it- is it worth it? And what ships is it worth it on?

As I've mentioned before, I think face-up Damage cards (that's crits for us common people) and your ability to tack them onto ships is going to play a much larger role in Wave 2 matches than it ever did in Wave 1 matches because it's a good way to neuter big ships with tons of hull.

Of course, that's much easier said than done. Not only do you have to find the points and the right combinations to try and actually inflict those crits, you still have to stay alive long enough to strip all those Shield Tokens off of a Firespray or a YT-1300 in the process. Not exactly what you'd call easy, against a decently competent player.

Now, not only that, you have stuff like Shield Upgrade making it that much harder.

All right, so it's sort of a no-brainer upgrade if you have the points; I mean, there's no ship that actually gets better when it has its shields stripped away, so there's no real downside to taking Shield Upgrade. That said, let's move straight on to why you wouldn't want to put it on your ship.

Shield Upgrade is a Modification, and as such, you can only have one. The other choices being Engine Upgrade and Stealth Device, neither of which are bad choices, are what can make picking Shield Upgrade a little tougher than just automatically trading in your Proton Torpedoes.

I'm going to be talking out of turn a little bit as Stealth Upgrade isn't actually posted yet. I'll talk more about it tomorrow, but essentially, Stealth Device grants you an extra Defense die, but disappears after you take your first hit, for one less point than Shield Upgrade. With that in mind, I think as a general rule, the generic, and by generic I mean no-name, non-dotted pilots, Rebel starfighters ought to take Shield Upgrade and the generic Imperial starfighters ought to take Stealth Device- reason being is you're already capitalizing on something you have. I'm not one of those math whiz types, so I may be fully wrong on this, but to me, a Y-Wing with 4 shields is better than a Y-Wing with 2 Defense dice (again- dropping back to 1 after the first successful hit), and so on. Same way with Stealth on Imperial stuff; I think a TIE Fighter with 4 Defense dice is better than a TIE with one shield. I can already hear the keyboards of the would-be commenters clattering away, but let me just say again guys- I don't think either of these are a bad upgrade for any ship, and there may be math that proves my statement wrong, in which case, I'll change my viewpoint, but until then, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Could be an old ghost rattling around in my head from playing 40k for so long- in that game, you never try and make yourself good at everything if you want to win- you make yourself even better at what you already do well.

Big ships, I don't know. I want to say taking a Shield Upgrade on ships that already have so many shields to start with is kind of overkill, but as I've yet to finish a match with any shields left on my big ship du jour, I can't honestly say that in good faith. Of course, if you're capable of that feat, you'd probably be better off with a Stealth Device, regardless. Making things tougher is the fact that you can take the Falcon title for a measly point and just get yourself an Evade Action. On a Firespray, I could see a pretty strong case being made either way, but I'd lean more towards Stealth Device. I'll elaborate on why in tomorrow's article, though I'm sure you can figure it out.

With the named pilots, this becomes much more contextual- X-Wing Pilot Luke, for example, would benefit more from a Stealth Device because of his pilot ability, and an Imperial that sees a whole lot of close-combat like say, Mauler Mithel, who almost certainly will be shot and shot early on, might benefit more from a Shield Upgrade than a Stealth Device. Of course, Rebel X-Wings and Y-Wings further complicate this selection process by adding Droids like R2-D2 and R2-F2 into the mix, so if you were hoping I was going to produce some big table saying which pilots should take which Modification, well, sorry to disappoint.

Largely, the selection between these devices is going to depend on you and your playstyle. If you're great at maneuvering and staying out of people's firing arcs to begin with, and just need to mitigate the occasional gaffe or forced maneuver, Stealth Device may be a better fit for you than Shield Upgrade, regardless of which Faction you play. Conversely, if you end up with a lot of hull damage because you scream forward into the enemy's guns, Shield Upgrade may serve you better in the long run. Like a lot of other things in this game, your own experience and playstyle counts for a lot when it comes to listbuilding- don't just automatically assume the internet is right about everything when it comes to listbuilding advice. If you find something that works for you, especially if it works well, stick with it.

A few final thoughts regarding Shield Upgrade. First, yes, even ships with no shield value (TIEs, TIE Interceptors) can use the Shield Upgrade- any ship may select a modification. Secondly, yeah, if you've already got R2-D2 for your backseat driver, taking Shield Upgrade is probably a smart idea. Third, yeah, if you were to stick a Shield Upgrade on a YT-1300 piloted by Chewbacca, you're going to be really tough to take down. Ditto for another guy driving a YT-1300 with Chewie in a Crew Member role.

22 March 2013

Modifications- Engine Upgrade

This post regarding Ship Upgrades is part of a larger article regarding Wave 2 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.

Note: Ship Upgrades are considered Modifications. Any ship may purchase and use a single Modification.

Engine Upgrade (4)
Card Text:
Your action bar gains the <boost symbol> action icon.
Usage in game: Uhhh... when you want the Boost Action available to a ship that doesn't normally possess it?
Breakdown: I wrote a BBB on the Boost Action a couple of weeks ago, so I don't plan on rehashing what the Boost Action is in this article, so if you're not familiar with Boost and what it's good for, take a moment to peek at that article before reading on. 

The coolest thing about Engine Upgrade, and Modifications in general is you can stick them on any ship (so long as you have the points, of course). You're still able to take Pilot Skills, weapons, droids, whatever in addition to the Modification, so except for the other available mods, you're not really giving up anything or locking yourself out of another upgrade.

I want to like Engine Upgrade in particular because it's the only Modification currently that can't really get shot off your ship- at least without drawing a face-up Damage card that disallows stuff in your Action Bar. Is it worth it though? Seems cool on paper, but how does it work for rizzle?

First, let's look at what ships we'd consider for an Engine Upgrade, which is ships that don't have the Boost Action stock.

Rebs: X-Wing, Y-Wing, YT-1300
Imps: TIE Fighters, TIE Advanced, Firespray-31

Secondly, are there any ships that Boosting would be particularly effective with? Especially in comparison to the other Modifications? 

I think for the Rebels and Imperials, having a Boosting big ship is kinda pointless. I mean sure, maybe you can use it to get into Range 1 or something, but as you're burning an Action to perform your Boost, you'd probably be better off just declaring Focus most of the time with a ship that big. Also realize that this Modification isn't going to keep you from (or even allow you to) bonking into Obstacles or other ships, which is where a lot of folks have issues using the big ships. If you hear people talking about using Engine Upgrade to create some blocking ships, just remember they can't overlap you with a Boost Action. 

Briefly re-hashing, I think the main thing Boost gets you is a little more maneuverability- namely moving out of an enemy's firing arc or moving so that an enemy outside of your arc is now in your arc probably being the most common uses. As the big ships have such gigantic bases, I think it's fairly unlikely a Boost is going to do much in either of those departments for you. Not saying it's not possible, just saying it's probably not likely enough to be worth the 4 points. Doubly so when you take into account the YT-1300 has the 360 degree firing arc and the Firespray can shoot its primary weapon backwards. 

So what about the smaller ships? 

I want to like the idea of a Boosting Y-Wing, but I can't get behind that. Most everyone sticks an Ion Cannon Turret on their Y-Wings anyway, so like the YT, having somebody in your arc isn't a big deal. Yes, you could use it to potentially escape some enemy ship's firing arc, but the Y-Wing is already so limited in maneuverability, most opponents will be all over a Y-Wing like a wet blanket if they want to be, Boost Action or no. PTL + Engine Upgrade doesn't work here either because none of the Y-Wing pilots can take Elite Pilot Skills. A case could be made for looking at adding an Engine Upgrade in lieu of an Ion Cannon Turret to save a point and add some maneuverability to get that primary weapon in a position where it can do more damage, but that's strictly a theory on my part- I've not tried it on the tabletop. Long story long, I think, much like the big ships, there are better Modifications for this ship than Engine Upgrade. 

Ships that get in close to the action will likely benefit from a Boost Action and X-Wings often get up close and personal when they're fighting. When you're that close to your enemy, a Boost maneuver can easily get you out of harm's way or get an opponent ship into your own firing arc. Additionally, one could roll a PTL + Engine Upgrade combo with Wedge and get fairly scary results, especially with another pilot dishing Free Actions or tokens of some kind. Like sticking Expert Handling on Luke or Wedge, Engine Upgrade could be good to produce completely unexpected movement results, especially against those seasoned players who seem to have the maneuverability table memorized for every single ship and plan accordingly.

4 points seems like a fairly significant investment in a TIE Fighter, where it can be anywhere from a third of the cost of the ship itself to a little under a quarter of the cost, depending what pilot you decide to stick it to. I do like it though. Again, TIEs get up close and personal, so being able to Boost out of a Range 1 X-Wing's arc is pretty nice. Is it worth it on a ship that can already Barrel Roll? That's solely going to depend on you and your ability to play the Boost. I have to think though having that as additional option could come in handy. Especially on a ship like Backstabber (to get out of the target's firing arc), Gundark (to get into Range 1), Night Beast (largely because he usually has an Action to spare, so why not?) or even to give a Black Squadron TIE a little more maneuverability to help keep him within the Range of any Elite Pilot Skills he might be carrying. As Bikini Aficionado heychadwick pointed out in the BBB- Boost Action Explained! comments, pulling a 1 turn then a Boost is darn near a 180 that's completely Stress free.

Advanced seem a decent fit for an Engine Upgrade, but not overwhelmingly so. Vader's an obvious candidate with his two Actions per round special rule, Maarek and the rest of the Advanced? Nothing spectacular really comes to mind, though again- if you're the type of player who pushes things forward, and let's face it, in this context that's a great way to try and get a little more juice out of those 2 Attack dice guns, being able to Boost isn't a bad thing. 
Regardless of what ship you attach the Engine Upgrade to, being an Action, you're going to get more precise use out of it with higher PR pilots, which of course, means more expensive pilots. Tacking on another 4 points to the overall cost of a ship is kinda significant, but as Wave 2 lists seem to be skewing towards less, but better pilots with more upgrades, it's worth giving a day in court

21 March 2013

Crew Members- Mercenary Copilot

This post regarding Crew Members is part of a larger article regarding Wave 2 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.

Mercenary Copilot (2)
Card Text:
When attacking at Range 3, you may change one of your <hit> results to a <crit> result.
Usage in game: When you absolutley, positively need a crit...
Action?: No

Breakdown: Another card that's pretty straightforward in its use; if you score at least one hit, you can change it into a crit. Simple enough, right?

So I think everyone who has any recognition at all of Wave 2 pilots immediately thought one (or possibly both) of the following-

1. "Hey! I can mitigate the loss of crits via the Heavy Laser Cannon special text with this card!"
2. "Hey! I can stick this guy in the seat next to Kath Scarlet, and make it rain (Crits and Stress Tokens) on 'dem hoes!"

Both of these are great uses for Mercenary Copilot, no debating that. In order to fill some space for the rest of this article though, let's look at two other things- 1) is changing a hit to a crit worth it, and 2) is there anyone else who can benefit from this besides Scarlet?

As for the worthiness, it's a pretty reasonable trade-off for only 2 points. What might make the decision a little tougher is the fact that the Firespray only has one Crew Member slot. By it's nature, and by that I mean Imperial, it doesn't have all of the Crew Members available, but it does have Weapons Engineer and Gunner, both of which can be handy in their own ways. So looking at Mercenary Copilot in that context, is he worth putting in that somewhat precious 2nd chair?  

Dig this, and I may have kind of alluded to this before- I can't remember if I was on the FFG Forums, just emailing with people, or if I actually said it on here, but I think in Wave 1, critical damage wasn't really all that necessary. It was nice when it happened, but if you went an entire match without inflicting a crit, not only was it not the end of the world, it probably didn't even really affect your game plans. It was like icing on a donut, y'know? Tasty, but not entirely necessary.

In Wave 2 though, with the big ships on the table, the ability to inflict a critical becomes more important. The big ships, especially the YT, have so much hull, you gotta figure they're going to be flying around shieldless for a decent portion of the match. First few turns, most opponents are going to key on the opponent's big ship, perhaps burning off most, if not all, of the shields while the owning player flies it around willy-nilly, because it's pretty unlikely any 100 point list is capable of killing it in one turn of firing. Then inevitably, some ships get downed, and with less ships firing on her, that YT spends a bunch of game time with a few damage on her hull while she flies around, still fully functional, continuing to soak up fire and down ships- for God's sake, how do you stop it?

Well, you can always stock up on Homing Missiles, which is what a lot of folks seem to be doing right now, or you can work on finding an even semi-reliable way to inflict face-up Damage cards to reduce the effectiveness of those big ships. And since Mercenary Copilot only works at Range 3, you've also got the perfect excuse not to just push all your stuff forward at max speed like a 4th ed 40k Tyranid player.

Is Mercenary Copilot worth more than a Gunner? After all, Gunner certainly does have his uses. I don't know. I really want to say emphatically yes, but I can't quite do it. I will say this though- in the 2 points versus 5 points department? If I can allocate those three points elsewhere doing something like turning an Academy Pilot into a Black Squadron or Winged Gundark, or upgrading a Saber Squadron into Fel's Wrath? He might be more valuable in that context.

A lot of folks complain about the Firespray's lower hull and shields compared to the YT, but the YT's the Sloth-like offspring of an X-Wing and a Y-Wing that somehow came out 2x sized- it can deal out some hurt, and it can take a whole lot more. The Firespray though, most of the pilots and upgrades for her push her towards acting as a long-range gun platform. You can square peg her into a round hole and make her rougher for up close work, but I think as time goes on, most successful lists will go with the flow and have her floating around the backline, only crusing into close-quarters when really necessary. 

For the YT, I feel basically the opposite. I think if it's at Range 3, you're probably not doing what you ought to with her, so Mercenary Copilot is inherently of less use. Not to say you shouldn't ever try him out in a YT, but I can't really see trying to fly that ship around and bombing in long range shots like a Firespray with an HLC, or being nearly as effective for even Han as he is being the Crew Member for Kath Scarlet or Krassis Trelix.

I also think this might be the only time taking Proton Torpedoes (via the Slave I title card that most everyone says is totally pointless) might work out pretty well on a Firespray. The card text on PTs allows you to change an eyeball to a crit, then assuming you roll one more hit amongst the three other dice, Mercenary Copilot would kick in to make it (at least) two crits. Not bad for a roll of eyeball, hit, other, and other. If you want to really be disgusting, pair it up with Marksmanship on a pilot that can use Elite Pilot Skills.

This little combo works on any Firespray pilot as well- Kath sliding a Stress Token towards the opponent if they cancel that business, Trelix doing the die result changing and re-rollling one of the undesirable results, even Fett could benefit from this with his high PR, there wouldn't be much an opponent could do to stop it (especially if he spent the first turn grabbing a TL and a buddy burned off a couple of shields later in that first turn- top of the 2nd, Fett Focuses or Marksmanships then throws this business out there). 

It might work most (points) efficiently on a Bounty Hunter though. If you'd kind of reverse the Fett line of thinking and send in a couple of TIEs, Advanced, or Interceptors with a higher PR to strip some shields of a particularly problematic small ship, having a PR 3 Bounty Hunter throw in some Torps from a Mercenary Copilot to deliver a coup-de-grace isn't likely to be stupidest thing you do that day. Of course, you can't use Marksmanship to make it truly silly, but for the points, it's not a bad setup.