This post regarding Common Ships is part of a series of articles that fall under listbuilding. I'll be discussing the "generic" or non-unique pilots and their ships and strategies. For the rest of the listbuilding articles, click the List Building Resources tab at the top or simply click here.
Common Pilots: Bounty Hunter
Stock Actions: Focus, Target Lock, Evade
Breakdown: I don't know how many of y'all keep up on the X-Wing Miniatures Tournament scene, but for all the props that Krassis Trelix and Kath Scarlet get on the internets, there's a lot of love out there for Bounty Hunters- especially multiple Bounty Hunters.
And with good reason. The stats on a stock Firespray-31 are kinda like a beefier X-Wing, what with the 3 Attack and 2 Evade. Sure, the dial is more restrictive, but of course, there's that much more shields and hull to go around to help balance out. It's not a cheap ship, but comparatively, it's pretty accurately costed as well.
Looking past the basic stats, we see Bounty Hunters have a Pilot Skill of 3. That's not horrible. It's nothing to write home about, but at least it's not dead effin' last. They've also got the three most predictably triggerable (yeah, it's a word, what?) and generally handy Actions available as well- Focus, Target Lock, and Evade. If you dig on the idea of Barrel Rolling a Firespray, you're out of luck with Bounty Hunters as they don't have an Elite Pilot Skill upgrade slot, and therefore no access to Expert Handling, however the Boost Action is accessible through the Engine Upgrade Modification. Speaking of Modifications, Stealth Device and Shield Upgrade are both solid picks as usual. As to which one is more solid, it depends on the role you're going to give your Bounty Hunter. If you want him to get up close, fighting at Range 1-2, then I'd opt for Shield Upgrade. If you plan on floating him around the backfield, roll Stealth Device.
In addition to Modifications, you'll note there are several other types of upgrades available to a Bounty Hunter- the funky raygun symbol, the bomb symbol, a single Crew Member icon, and Missiles.
Funky raygun of course nets you the Heavy Laser Cannon or Ion Cannon. Bomb symbol gets you Prox Mines or Seismic Charges, Missiles get you, uh, Missiles, and the Crew Member gets you Mercenary Copilot, Gunner, or Weapons Engineer. I've talked about all of that stuff before, as well as the guns and crew that match up well. Click on the links if you're curious about how it all works out- this article would be forever longer if I actually write them all out again.
Now me personally, I think that Kath and Trelix are both so awesome, and really not that much more expensive that I think running Bounty Hunters you don't want to go too overboard on upgrades. Simply put, for 3 more points you've got Trelix and for 5 more you've got Kath and I think you'd be hard-pressed trying to justify points for anything but the most basic and cheap upgrades over just springing for one of those two. Frankly, they make better use of most of the upgrades and Secondary Weapon Systems than the common Bounty Hunter does.
That said, Bounty Hunter still has it's uses. If you check out the FFG News article called, "The Circle is Now Complete", you'll see that 2 of the top 4 placing lists in FFG HQ's own Regional were lists that featured multiple Bounty Hunters. You'll also see that Doug Kinney is a Blackhawks fan, but I digress. Props though for wearing the opposing sweater on Minnesota Wild home turf, bud especially since those teams were facing each other in the first round of hte playoffs which were very much going on when the FFG HQ Regionals went down. As one of the handful of Kings fans who has braved the perilous journey to Scottrade Center many, many times in the past, I can sympathize.
Why does multiple Bounty Hunters work well? Simply put, it's a lot of hull and shields to eat up. Secondly, of the weapon options and mods they do have, you can produce some very different functioning builds. Note Hothie's use of Seismic Charges in his list, while Pichelmeyer simply runs three vanilla Bounty Hunters. Now, I've not read any accounts of those late rounds of the Regionals, but sporting Seismic Charges, I'm guessing Doug played those guys as closer-quarters fighters and Pichelmeyer just played his at varying distances, and that my friends, is what a Bounty Hunter gets you: flexibility. With the HLC being such a great weapon, but one that can only be used at longer range, both Trelix and Kath kind of get relegated to backfield duty almost by default because that's the situation that's going to maximize their card text abilities. Bounty Hunter has no such ability, so you can fly him around wherever and not feel like you're cutting yourself off at the knees or paying points for stuff you didn't use to the best potential.
Also, don't disregard running a bunch of ships at the same Pilot Skill. In most miniatures games, you, and by you I mean the controlling player, usually get to decide who shoots at what and in what order. X-Wing? Not the case. At least not by default. High Pilot Skill guys shoot first, low Pilot Skill guys shoot last. Depending on how well you maneuver, this can be no big deal at all, or it can force you into having to play stats in your head about where to maneuver because Ship A may not quite have the punch to take out an enemy ship, so Ship B has to move to support, but maybe Ship B actually has to fire first because of PS, gets lucky and blasts the target out of the sky. Now Ship A has no target and spends his Shooting phase refilling his personal vaporizer, trying to recover his faith in a higher power after hearing that Angelina Jolie has opted for a double mastectomy, or checking his Twitter.
Having all your ships at the same Pilot Skill lets you pick not only what order to fire in, but also can help to overcome bad maneuvers. I've suggested beginner players use a list with all ships at the same Pilot Skill on here before, well, if you can put up with maybe having a lower Pilot Skill, it does provide the more experienced player some options they don't normally have access to as well. Admittedly, it may not be a 100% legit game changer, but against two similarly skilled players, it can make a difference. Give it a try sometime when you're bored with your current list.
And yes, while I still don't subscribe to a blocking meta philosophy for building a list around, moving those big ol' Firespray bases around at Pilot Skill 3 can definitely lead to some tricky situations late game for your opponent when losing your Perform Action step is about as much fun as subjecting yourself to trephination or engaging in home dentistry.