08 May 2014

TIE Phantom Preview

Yup, so in keeping with tradition, a few days ago FFG revealed the last Wave 4 ship- the TIE Phantom

I guess this ship is from one of the video games I didn't play (quick Googling reveals it was Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire) because I don't know much about it, and obviously it wasn't in the movies. 

While doing the aforementioned Googling, I discovered the TIE Phantom has five guns on her- the two right below the front glass like most all TIEs have, but then apparently there's another gun on the tip of each of the "wings" as well. I guess in FFG terms, having five guns nets you 4 Attack dice, if you were curious as to why this thing has more guns than any other starfighter currently available. 

Past that big Attack value, the rest of the stats are rather ho-hum with 2s the rest of the way down. With that in mind, and the fact that FFG seems to be strongly encouraging, and by strongly encouraging I mean like how Morrie was strongly encouraged to pay Jimmy Conway the money he owed him in Goodfellas, all of us who have ever run a Swarm to consider other alternatives. 

This kinda leaves the Phantom in interesting territory. 

If you're mainly Imperial and you're looking for a ship with stats for days, you're going to likely pick up a Defender. If you're looking for something that plays different, you've got the Shuttle or a Firespray or heck, even a Bomber. 

Where does the Phantom fit in? It's base stats aren't great, and it's kinda expensive for the points...

As part of it's base Action bar, the Phantom has the Cloak Action. 

I didn't really talk about this much in the first reveal article where we touched on the Phantom, but more or less, it works like this- Cloaking your ship counts as an Action, hence the title of the card. I realize that sounds kind of duh obvious, but there's a reason why I mention it that we'll get to in a moment. Once you're Cloaked, you get to place your fancy new Cloak Token on the table near your ship and add 2 Defense dice to your rolls, but you can't perform Attacks, Primary or Secondary. 

Decloaking yourself is not an Action, the card refers to it as an Event, which I guess is as good a term as any for something that's kinda Action-like, but isn't actually an Action. 

So the main question on everyone's minds is, when can you perform your Decloak event? The answer is just before you reveal your dial. So long story long, no, I can't think of a way off the top of my head to Cloak and Decloak in the same game round, although it goes without saying that Decloaking then Cloaking in the same round is no problem at all.

So what happens during a Decloaking event? Well, as mentioned, you spend your Cloak token to Decloak, then before revealing your dial, you can either do a Straight 2 or a Barrel Roll using the Straight 2 template rather than the Straight 1 template. The card goes on to say you can Decloak even if you have a Stress token, but you can't Decloak if you can't pull one of those two maneuvers without overlapping another ship or obstacle, and as was the case with Boosting, if your template overlaps the obstacle, you also can't Decloak. 

Assuming you can though, you can proceed as normal with your Activation phase once you Decloak. 

So yeah. Long story long, Phantoms are kinda vulnerable to blocking meta, at least on paper, but with several options available for movement after this Decloaking business, for players who take the time to get past the inevitable learning curve, they'll be pretty tough to block out, especially with them having their normal maneuver right after the Decloaking event moves.

One of the named Phantom pilots, "Echo", further compounds this unpredictability and learning curve, by disallowing the use of the Straight 2 template and instead requiring the player to use the 2 Bank template instead for the Decloak moves. That's nuts. If you're curious as to what that looks like, FFG made a couple of images to illustrate the possibilities, but the first image assumes you chose a 1 Turn after the Decloak, so it isn't truly indicative of Echo's moves. 

Last bit about all this Cloaking and Decloaking business, bear in mind that the timing of the Decloaking card states that bit about revealing your dial. If you get yourself into a situation where you don't get to reveal your dial, like when you've been stuck with an Ion token, then you won't be Decloaking. 

All that in mind, FFG also revealed the Phantom's dial- 

Nothing that exactly takes your breath away, but it's not terrible either. Kinda TIE-ish, which is nice in keeping with the theme, and has two K-Turns: one at 3 and one at 4. I keep on imagining how much ground these guys can cover with a Decloak Straight 2 and a Straight 4 on top of that. I know a lot of folks are already kind of penciling in the Defender to be their main jousting ship, but a Phantom could make for a decent stand-in, and has more of the intermediate maneuverability the Defender kind of lacks. 

The rest of the Actions in the Phantom's Action bar are standard fare for most Imperial ships- Focus, Barrel Roll, and Evade. 

Like most ships in X-Wing Miniatures, we've got 2 named pilots and 2 generic ones in this Expansion, and also like most ships in X-Wing, the two named guys have access to Elite Pilot Skills. The stock upgrade bar is interesting in that even the generic Phantoms may stock a System Upgrade as well as a Crew Member. Navigator seems like complete overkill, but hey, this is a miniatures game, right? And most of the time in a miniatures game, you're well off trying to really maximize what you already do well, so I'd say at least consider him. Of course, anybody like a Mercenary Copilot that makes that 4 Attack dice hit even harder is probably worth bringing along for the ride, and guys like Rebel Captive and Saboteur could work here as well. 

The other named Phantom pilot (sorry I kinda got out of my usual article progression there- it just made so much more sense to talk about Echo back there with the rest of the Cloak/ Decloak stuff), is "Whisper". 

So that's pretty nice- you can burn your Focus during your Attack phase and not be all worrying about whether or not you should. Bear in mind, the Attack has to Hit (i.e. you actually land some damage on the Defender- not like you rolled a filled or unfilled explosion symbol) for that token to come back, but for God's sake- if you can't land a hit with four Focused Attack dice, well, what in the world, man? 

As for Modifications, if you don't mind shelling out a few more points, Stealth Device seems pretty close to being a no-brainer as 5 Defense dice when Cloaked will be extremely hard to hit for just about anybody but another Phantom, or if you fear Crits more, maybe invest in a Shield Upgrade. My dad once told me not to play golf for money if the other guy carries a 2-iron and a deep tan. I hate to even imagine what somebody could do with a Phantom and Engine Upgrade after it's been available for a couple of months. 

There's another Mod that is included with the Phantom though that you might want to consider. 

So that's pretty nasty, right? Decloak, attack your target, then immediately Cloak those two green dice back? While it isn't cheap, it seems like a pretty good Modification option. 

There were some other cards that were fully revealed with the Phantom too. And one of those is also a Modification. 

So this is kind of an interesting card. It's a little budget-minded being only 2 points, but getting a free Evade token when you Cloak or Decloak isn't so bad for the price. What's kind of interesting to me is that it isn't "TIE Phantom only" kind of Modification, so it kinda makes you think that maybe down the road, some other ship(s) might end up having access to the Cloak Action, despite what those guys on the bridge of the Executor might think about small ships not being able to have them. 

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