Card Text: Galactic Empire Only After you perform an attack against an enemy ship, you may suffer 2 damage to cause that ship to suffer 1 critical damage
Usage in game: When you need an <unfilled explosion result> by any means necessary.
Breakdown: I've been turning it around in my head how to approach talking about this card and while I'm not nuts about it, the best way I can think of is explaining what this card doesn't do. Normally, this is something I don't do- tell you what not to do. It's kind of a pet peeve of mine, as a matter of fact. Most of the time, anybody can tell you what not to do- it's telling you what you should do that's much more difficult.
It's like a couple of weeks ago, I read an article that showed up in my Twitter feed about how not to get an (literary) agent (recall that I do write more than just on this blog and all). I'm sitting there thinking, "This is stupid- I already know how to not get a friggin' agent, y'know? I have the 33 rejection emails to prove it. What would be infinitely more useful to a wannabe fiction-writer would an article on, well, you know- how to actually get an agent." The fact that it's borderline insulting to anyone with a brain (what? You mean I shouldn't harass the piss out of my agent with endless phone calls? Whew! Glad I read this article!) doesn't help either.
Again- whether or not you've realized it yet, pretty much anybody can tell you how to not do something. I mean, I've never played pro football, flown an airplane, or designed a skyscraper, but I'm pretty sure I could come up with a list of stuff not to do on any of those topics and a thousand others I also know absolutely jack shit about.
Sorry, I'll put away the soapbox now, just accept my apology for a moment that I'm going to tell you how Vader, Crew member doesn't work for a little bit.
You may have noticed in the comments for Proton Bomb, bikini aficionado +Davyd Atwood calling me out for not being completely clear on the fact that Proton Bomb's card text is fairly unique in that it actually gives the victim a face-up damage card, period.
I bring this up, of course because this card does not do that.
Note the card text- "... to cause that ship to suffer 1 critical damage." When a ship "suffers a critical damage", that's essentially the same thing as you attacking it and throwing an unfilled explosion result (or crit, in the local parlance) on one of your red dies- in other words, and this is the TL;DR part you were waiting for- yeah, shields can mitigate the effect of Darth Vader, Crew Member if they're still protecting the target ship.
Did you notice I said "essentially" the same thing? I threw that in there for a reason. It's not 100% just like it- for example, Draw Their Fire can't be used to move that critical damage because it isn't a result.
Ok, if you were like all hot to trot on the idea of sticking Vader, Crew Member in your shuttle, you're probably a little bit bummed out about this card right now because I've told you what it can't do, so let's cover what it can and what it's good for.
First, note the start of the card text- "After you perform an attack against an enemy ship,...". Sounds a little like Gunner, right? Major difference though that some folks seem to have missed on initial read-throughs: you don't have to miss to trigger Vader, Crew Member.
The cool thing here, obviously is you get to decide when you trigger this card. You attack, roll the red dice, your victim rolls his greens, modifications get made, damage gets dealt (I'm simplifying this, I know- if you want the detailed version click here), and that's it. So after all that stuff gets said and done, if the guy you really, really, really want dead still has 1 hull point left, you can decide to suffer those two damage and make him dust.
(If you're wondering how exactly I've come to this conclusion, note that in the rulebook on page 10, the very top left, it says-
During this phase, each ship may perform one attack
against one enemy ship that is inside its firing arc
and within range. Starting with the ship with the
highest pilot skill, players resolve the following
combat steps in order:
So to me, Peforming an Attack is resolving the Combat Phase for the ship that attacked. My usual "but I could be wrong" disclaimer applies as always, but I don't really see how else this could work because...)
You don't have to hit to trigger Vader, Crew Member either. So long as you attacked somebody, you can opt to suffer the 2 damage and stick 1 critical damage on that ship.
So how does this interact with Gunner and similar cards? The same way, basically. Gunner happens during the Combat Phase, so all that stuff would resolve before Vader, Crew Member. This does bring up an interesting question though- what if you go after two ships using your attack then gunner roll? Remember that it's possible in some circumstances to generate attacks at two different targets. At this point, I'd say you could Vader either of them as you technically did attack both of them.
Wow. Ok, so now you're probably not quite as bummed about Vader, Crew Member, right? I mean, yeah, the two damage is definitely a downside, and 3 points isn't super cheap, but you're more or less buying the ability to make somebody suffer a critical damage almost anytime you want; assuming you can get into at least Range 3 of them. That's nothing to dismiss.
It may kind of seem like it doesn't matter, but since this damage is happening after all the steps in the Combat Phase, it's kinda like taking the usual "cancel <filled explosion results> before <unfilled explosion results> a step further here. Unless you rolled horribly, horribly badly, you probably bled an Evade or Focus or both off your target in the initial resolution (Christ- I almost typed "resolvement"; I gotta get to bed soon) so you really are going to be pretty likely to stick them with an actual crit when you play Vader, Crew Member. Of course if you did roll terrible or they still have a shield left or whatever, you can always choose to not turn on the ability- it's not like you're forced to do it.
All that being said, there are only two ships that can take this Crew Member- the Lambda and the Firespray. The Lambda is perhaps a safer bet because it has two Crew seats, but the Firespray is just so much more maneuverable and dangerous in my opinion. Maybe it's because I have more experience flying it, but well... that means you do too. Not saying it doesn't work on a Lambda, but I think it works easier on the Firespray. I know it'd be totally overkill, but imagine stinging somebody with Trelix flying Slave I, launching Advanced Proton Torpedoes with a Focus Token, then triggering the Vader, CM text too. That's gotta hurt.
This is a tough card for me to 100% get behind as I'm a fairly conservative player at my core and the idea of purposely taking damage is something of anathema to my mindset, but it does afford the owning player a predictable outcome (for a price) 100% of the time which is worth a lot even to somebody like me. If you've analyzed your game and concluded you're losing because you're not inflicting enough damage, give Vader a fly and see if your luck changes some.