This post regarding Secondary Weapon Systems 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 "Listbuilding Articles" tab at the top of the page or simply click here.
Attack Dice: 4
Card Text: Spend your Target Lock and discard this card to perform this attack. If this attack hits, each other ship at range 1 of the defender suffers 1 damage.
Usage in game: Splash damage
Breakdown: A lot of people saw this card early (looking at zoomed in early release photos, if I remember right) and dubbed it the swarm killer and there was much rejoicing. Then the Kessel Run Tournaments happened and a few lucky folks got their hands on Wave 2 stuff early and reported that Assault Missiles were "rather underwhelming" and all the Rebel players still looking for an answer to the TIE Swarm were sort of collectively bummed out. Of course, then the TIE Swarm meta that'd been so dominant since the release of the game sort of started to stall out as dedicated Rebel players learned how to play the game better (mostly with 4 X-Wings at 100 points), and Assault Missiles were kind of forgotten; largely eclipsed by Homing Missiles as the new gotta have it Secondary Weapon System.
I'm not sure why folks were so underwhelmed; the card does two things that are fairly uncommon, if not flat out unique in this game- first, it's one of the only attacks that has the potential to damage more than one target, and two, it's one of the few cards that automatically damages without the defender getting a chance to try and mitigate the damage through normal game mechanics.
As for hitting multiple targets, it is what it sounds like in the card text- if you get a hit (and again- we're talking about you have at least one success that isn't mitigated by an Evade, Focused eyeball roll, etc.), then the target of the Assault Missiles takes damage just like with any other missile and any ships within Range 1 of that ship take one damage. Sure, it may not be a one-shot machine, although it's at least possible to one-shot a TIE, A-Wing, or Interceptor with it and you deal damage to everyone else around him.
Now, I know, I know, Swarms are dead, everyone's going elite pilots over spam no-names, I hear ya. That said, there are still a lot of Elite Pilot Skills that have a Range 1, so the notion that everyone is suddenly going to be flying around all by their lonesome seems unlikely to me. Also, while a lot of folks think of this as being a more Rebel-oriented weapon system, it very well could see more use in Imperial hands.
Dig this- first off, it's 4 attack dice. Imperial ships don't get that nearly as often as Rebels, and especially not at 2-3. Next, a lot of Rebel players, like their Imperial counterparts are moving to less ships in their list, meaning basically, a 3 ship list of some sort. What's the odds all three of those Rebel ships are totally spread out? Maybe I'm nuts, but I'm saying not many. You're going to see a lot of the same old Wave 1 stuff with a few Wave 2 elements tacked on for awhile yet and a lot of those old combos are dependent on ships being in range 1 with each other. In other words, Rebel opponent forcing you to shoot at Biggs? Load up the Assault Missiles. How's that treatin' ya, mustache?
Secondly, regarding the damage, note the way the card reads- the ships at range 1 of the defender suffer one damage. No Evade tokens, no rolls, nada. Just take 1 damage. Is it a ton? No. Is it 1/3 of a TIE's hull? Yes. Why are people complaining about this? So it only burned a shield off a Y-Wing, so what? It's still one less shield you have to burn off yourself, and for Christ's sake- you weren't even shooting at that guy!
I think if Homing Missiles don't exist, less folks are "underwhelmed" with this card. Is it something I'd take every match? Nah, probably not. Of course, I'm not a big missile/ torpedo guy to start with, so that's kind of misleading to begin with. That said, am I considering packing a set for my next FLGS tournament? Sure, why not? I know somebody's going to still be flying a swarm- might as well try and make them pay for it.
So let's say I've talked you into the notion of Assault Missiles- what are the best ways to try and get your points worth? Well, first ideally you need to have a Focus token to burn along with that Target Lock when you fire it, so pilots or Elite Pilot Skills that make that more likely to happen are options you want to look at closely- Push The Limit, a nearby pal with Squad Leader, Garven Dreis, Dutch Vander, Lando and Nein Nunb, etc. You could substitute this for Marksmanship too if you wanted to use that instead. In fact, on somebody like Vader I think that'd be the way to go.
I was going to make a case for putting Assault Missiles on a low PR pilot (Green Squadron A-Wing, Tempest TIE Advanced, etc.) in an attempt to mop up several already dinged ships, but really, I think perhaps the opposite is true- stick it on somebody with a high PR like Vader and maybe some of your lower PR pilots can do the mopping up as their targets are already a little big banged up.
I know people saying if they know their opponent is packing Assaults they'll just spread out. Let 'em. Odds are, that wasn't part of their original plan, and as such, they'll be in somewhat unknown territory. Let them try to fly their list without Howlrunner providing re-rolls, or Vader doing a Swarm Tactics drive-by, or Lando tossing a Free Action out the window of the Falcon. Like I always say- force your opponent to think and he's way more likely to make a mistake.