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04 June 2013

Han Shoots First- Why Is It So Good?




I know that you know that Han Shoots First is a good list. I know this.

But for all the heaps of praise I've seen slung towards the list, I've never actually heard anyone explain why it's such a good list. Not anything actually explanatory, y'know? I mean, sure, you see people post stuff like, "360 Attack 3 turret!" or whatever, but I've never actually seen anyone sit down and really explain why HSF is such a strong list. 

Do you know why? I kinda thought I did, but I had it mostly wrong, until I got to see three HSF variations in effect at the Edwardsville Regional this past weekend. I think I've got it figured out now. 

First, of course, one of my trademark digressions. 

I love it when science or stats or probability explains stuff that seems too random or unpredictable to explain.  Like, take for instance Moneyball or Soccernomics. I LOVE that kind of stuff. The 10,000 hours rule. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that. 

Now, I'm not well versed enough in math of any kind to try and apply that stuff to why HSF is so viable, but I do notice underlying causation and since I root cause issues for a living and have for quite awhile now, I'm kinda not terrible at it these days. I'm usually pretty good at setting aside personal bias, collecting evidence, and drawing a conclusion based more on observed outcomes and data than my own hypothesis or theory. 

That said, again- I'm no scientist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express over the weekend. Nah, just kiddin'- Sean had us up in a Hampton Inn. 

First, let's say what exaxctly HSF is- at it's core, we're talking about a Han Solo Falcon with two Rookie X-Wings for wingmen. Add those ships up, you're looking at 88 points committed. Past that, you'll nearly always see the Falcon title and a Gunner which brings that total to 94. From there, it varies a lot. Crew Member Chewbacca is common, as is Marksmanship. I've seen lists featuring Elusiveness, Swarm Tactics, and even the occasional brave soul running Expose. Sometimes I see Crew Member Luke instead of Gunner, and once in awhile I see Nien Nunb. Rarely, do I see astromechs on the X-Wings, but once in awhile, you'll see a couple of R2s

Again, those last 6 points are where you get some real variation. 

Ok, now that we've defined what HSF is, why does it work so well? Like I said in yesterday's article, I saw a guy who didn't even remember all the rules use it to put a pretty good hurting on me, then I saw a guy win the whole thing with it. What gives? 

HSF, long story short, does three things really well, which much like the Billy Beane Oakland A's, makes the sum much greater than the total of the individual parts. 

1) Resilient to lists not specifically built to beat HSF
This isn't to say it's impossible to beat HSF without a specialized list packing a lot of Range 3, 4 Attack weapons, but it sure as hell won't be easy. 

Now, yes- the Falcon has a lot of shields and hull. You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that. Dogs know that. So why do I even mention this? 

Because it's more than that. 

The Falcon's resiliency isn't just because it has a lot of shields and hull- it also comes from the fact that you can fly right out of another ship's arc, probably at will, and still be effective. And by effective I mean, you can return fire. A ship that you can fly around without a care in the world is going to be hard to get in your sights, which of course is the best defense at all. Or to put it another way, the Falcon is very... 

2) Forgiving to move
HSF is a good list for a beginning player because with that 360 degree turret, it kind of doesn't matter if you move effectively. Most of the other ships in X-Wing Miniatures, you're not only trying to pick a maneuver that will minimize your profile for the attacking ships, but you're also trying to get them in your sights so you can fire upon them. The Falcon though in HSF? Kind doesn't really matter. You can make some fairly silly moves and still not have to worry because of the turret and the big base. 

Even bonking into stuff and losing your Action isn't that big of a deal really because HSF isn't particularly reliant on Actions to be effective in combat- the Han card text and Gunner handle that pretty nicely, and as neither are Actions, they're always on. You're probably losing the chance to stick an Evade token on your base as the result of the Falcon title more than anything else, and again- assuming you can just fly right on by your enemy, likely putting you outside of his firing arc, well, not even having to roll defense dice is a far better situation than having an Evade token. 

3) Can always attack, and attack effectively

Again- the big thing here is that Han's card text and Gunner are always in effect. There's no activating them in the Perform Action step, so you're never unable to use them because of overlapping stuff. Gunner is also one of the few roll modifiers that works against Dark Curse, so that's a good thing too. 

Mainly though, because of the Falcon's 360 arc as well as being an Attack 3 primary coupled with a big base, well, a picture's worth a thousand words, right? 



So what you have here besides a black cat at Range 2, is a Falcon with it's center sitting very close to the 18" mark on a measuring tape, which basically centers it in the middle of the standard 3' x 3' play area. Look at how little space is outside those two range rulers to the sides, couple that with what I said above about everything and realize how hard it is to hide from a Falcon, let alone a Falcon with a couple of X-Wings tagging along. 



This picture conveys basically the same notion- I just tried to put the Falcon in the dead center of the playmat then use the range rulers to illustrate my point. Imagine there's two more rulers, one pointing towards the cat, one pointing aft of the Falcon. That's it's effective range. Sure, you're giving up an extra Defense die at Range 3, so what? If you're doing it right, you ate the defender's Focus or Evade with your first shot anyway, which triggered Gunner if it didn't hit. 

4) Rookies as Wingmen
For the points, you could try out some different wingmen- Reds instead of Rooks, for example, or Gold Y-Wings with Ion Cannon Turrets. I think any of that would be viable because the Han Falcon is the star of the show. The Y-Wings sound good on paper, but if you don't know how to fly them, I think they'd be something of a crapshoot in this list. Reds, I don't see how you go wrong with them, but combined, they are 4 more points than the Rooks, and those 4 points could be spent on Chewbacca, for example. Couple that with the fact that Reds and Rooks are the same save for their pilot skill (4 and 2, respectively) and you wonder what the point is, really. 

To sum all of this up in a TL;DR kind of way, Han Shoots First plays really well because it can fly straight at the enemy without worrying about being one-shotted, not worry about keeping a ship in your firing arc, not worry about losing your Action, and not worry about missing with your shot, which will go before anything on the other side of the table the vast majority of the time.