Advanced Sensors (3)
Card Text: Immediately before you reveal your maneuver, you may perform 1 free action. If you use this ability, skip your "Perform Action" step during this round.
Usage: On the surface, this card basically mixes up the order in which you perform the steps in the Activation Phase. I just talked about the Activation Phase a couple of days ago, but since I went to the trouble of pulling and cropping that image from the rulebook which outlines the steps, allow me to throw it out there once again-
All right, so instead of doing the Perform Action step as step 6, you're instead performing a Free Action before you reveal your dial. What's that mean exactly though?
Well first and foremost, you've already selected your maneuver, but you've not turned over the dial for that ship yet, so higher PS pilots will still be picking their Free Action later in the Activation Phase than the lower PS pilots. Now, the card doesn't explicitly say which step this takes place in. I could see some folks trying to invoke the shenanigans here, but I think the intent here is exactly what it says- "Immediately before you reveal your maneuver..." So we're talking about a brief moment between the end of the Planning Phase and the start of that particular Active ship's Activation Phase or at the end of the previous Active ship's portion of the Activation Phase and the new Active ship's Activation Phase, depending on the PS of the ship bearing the Advanced Sensors card.
Brief sidenote- I can't remember if you're considered to be selecting and subsequently revealing a maneuver if you've been ionized. For some reason I thought it was FAQ'ed that you're not, which would disallow this card's use, but I can't find where I read that right now. I'll look some more and update the post accordingly.
Anyway, now that we understand the timing of when this happen, let's talk about Free Actions for a moment. The card calls out a Free Action specifically rather than just letting you pull your Perform Action step. Is there anything significant about that? Is there a difference between a Free Action and any other Action you'd normally pick in your Perform Action step?
A Free Action is defined in the rulebook on page 8 as simply an Action that doesn't count towards the one Action limit in the Perform Action step. Since you're losing the Perform Action step by playing this card, it really is just pretty much you picking your Action much earlier than usual. Any Action normally available to you via the Upgrade Bar, card text, or whatever is available to you as a Free Action.
The main significance here is that since you're doing it before you move, there's nothing that can stop you from performing your chosen Action. If you realize after you selected your maneuver that you're going to crash into something- your own ships, an opponent's ship, an Obstacle, whatever- no worries, man. You can just Advanced Sensors your way into a Free Action anyway.
A question that's bound to come up in your games is: can a pilot who is the bearer of a Stress Token still pick an Action via Advanced Sensors?
Love me or hate me, I'm going to say that a ship with Advanced Sensors who is also Stressed absolutely cannot pick a Free Action.
While it may be true that the card text states the use of a Free Action as opposed to telling you to do the Perform Action step earlier in the turn, and the Perform Action step is where it says you check to see if you're pilot is Stressed, later on in the rulebook on page 17 under Stress it states the following:
While a ship has at least one stress token, it cannot execute red maneuvers or perform any actions (even free actions).
They may FAQ it differently or something down the road, but until then, I'm playing it as it lays in this case (and no, I had no idea it was some 70's book title, I'm referencing the golf origin of the statement).
Now, that being said- could an unstressed pilot use his Advanced Sensors to get himself an Action before revealing a red maneuver that subsequently invokes a Stress Token? Absolutely. And before anybody gets confused, remember that spending an Action Token when you're Stressed is totally kosher- it's the Perform Action step that you're not allowed to do when you're Stressed. To put it another way, getting the token is the Action, spending it is not.
Right on, now that we know exactly how this rule works, who does it work for?
Like we discussed in Fire Control System yesterday, there's really not many ships who can stock System Upgrades right now. In fact, currently, there are only two- the B-Wing and the Shuttle. Also like FCS, it's useful to anybody really- the selection criteria I think has more to do with whether or not you'd rather take one of the other System Upgrades because they're all pretty good for their points. Advanced Sensors is versatile enough one could conceivably use it on the generic, common, no-name pilots, but also on the named and the dotted if you wanted.
I think generally Advanced Sensors helps a newer player more than an experienced one because he can mitigate losing an Action due to bad or unexpected movements from the other side of the table. I can't really think of another time where I'd just much rather pick an Action earlier in my turn other than I'm going to lose it because of a collision or something.
I guess you could make a debate for pulling a movement type Action before your actual maneuver as well; Barrel Rolling or Boosting then maneuvering instead of maneuvering then Barrel Rolling or Boosting. I don't know that you'd find yourself in a situation like that often enough to justify the points, but it is a possibility for the B-Wing at least.
The only other time I can think of right now that it would make a difference would be in the case of Target Locking a ship you're going to move out of range with after you perform your maneuver. Not sure how often that'd come up either, but it's a possibility.
For the Shuttle, with it's limited maneuver dial and big base, I can see this being a pretty common upgrade just to be sure you're going to end up with your Action even if somebody blocks you or you run into something. That 3 Attack primary hurts bad enough as it is, but if you can pair it up with a Focus or a Target Lock even though you're going to run into somebody? That hurts even better.
Don't misunderstand me because I'm not making a huge deal out of it towards the end trying to come up with scenarios where Advanced Sensors would be handy and not finding some uber, over the top situation. This really is a pretty powerful card- lots of people, consciously or not, adjust their strategy when they see an enemy ship hit something. If you can still Focus after you've gotten into an accident or pick Evade, that's a pretty big game changer- especially since you can do it every round instead of the Perform Action step if you want. Also, the fact that you can give yourself a token before you pull a K-Turn or other red maneuver is a pretty big deal for either of the ships that can currently take it. It's a big deal for the B-Wing because they have that nifty little Speed 2 K-Turn, but it's maybe an even bigger deal for Shuttle pilots because their dial has so many dang red maneuvers.