13 October 2014

Crew Member: Tactician

This post regarding Crew Members is part of a larger article regarding Wave 4 listbuilding- the rest of the posts in this series will be available in the coming weeks as I'm revealing a post or two per day on the various topics in that larger article. For more info, click the "List Building Resources" tab at the top of the page or simply click here.

Tactician (2)
Card Text: After you perform an attack against a ship inside your firing arc at Range 2, that ship receives a stress token.

Usage in game: Stress infliction.
Breakdown: I don't remember what the trigger was, but I remember having a discussion in the comments on one of the previous articles about whether or not FFG had intended to weaponize Stress from the beginning or if it was some kind of meta-adjuster they thought about along the way. To be honest, I still don't know. I kinda think it's the latter, but I have nothing but my own unique snowflake-like thoughts and beliefs to back that up.

In any case, Stress isn't just some game mechanic to keep you from pulling endless K-Turns anymore.

Tactician is a fairly straightforward card, but as always, there's a couple of things I'd like to point out. First, it goes off after you perform an Attack, any Attack. And by any, I mean either Primary or Secondary. 

Now, before you get all excited, don't forget the bit about your target needing to be in your firing arc. I've mentioned it on here before, but all of the ships (with guns) in X-Wing do in fact, have a firing arc. I know, we get used to talking about the Falcon's 360 degree firing arc and all that, but that's really not accurate from a rules perspective. The rules say that the Falcon does indeed have a firing arc, you just get to shoot out of it because it's also got a turret weapon, just like any other turret weapon. Similarly, the Firespray's rear arc does in fact count as a firing arc for purposes of Tactician according to the FAQ.

The last bit of criteria that needs to be satisfied is that you've got to be at Range 2. This is kind of an odd criteria, it almost kinda seems bolted-on as the result of some playtesting feedback or something. In any case though, if you're at 1 or 3, you're out of luck. You gotta be at two. It's kinda like the holy hand grenade, but in this instance, the number of the counting shall be two.

So how useful is Tactican? Is he worth the seat and the two points?

There are only a few ways to actually, directly inflict Stress on your opponent; Sean outlined them in his Stress Relief article awhile back (as well as a lot of other great points about Stress and if you missed it, it's definitely worth a look). I feel like Stress should be looked at kinda like how Ionizing a ship should be looked at- by itself, it kinda doesn't really do all that much. Sure, it's a pain in the ass and all, but other than being kind of annoying, it's not really a show stopper by itself.

Of course, me taking the time to actually highlight the text and hit that italics button leads you to believe there's a little more to it than that. And you'd be right.

First, inflicting Stress is a pretty good sight worse than just being Ionized. While your opponent does have some options to rid himself of the token rather than being forced into a white 1 Straight, unlike Ion Tokens, you don't just ditch them all at once upon pulling some maneuver. This is the main and probably most significant difference in this comparison. If you have a Stress Token and pull a Green, you're all set for your Perform Action step. But if you have two (or more) Stress Tokens and pull a Green, you remove only a single Stress Token and are still stuck with the other one(s). And being as how you're still Stressed and all, no Perform Action step for you. Which of course, is a very bad thing.

Again though, that's only if you can manage to tag a couple of Stress Tokens on the same ship, so whether or not you want to try and make that your go to strategy, depends a lot on what else you plan on running. By itself, Tactican inflicts it's Stress Token at a fairly worthless time to inflict a Stress Token- that is, not right before the Perform Action step. Your opponent has the opportunity to pull a Green before you really stick him with any lasting effect as a Stress picked up in what's essentially the Combat Phase has no effect whatsoever on shooting or using an Action token.

Obviously I'm not huge on the tournament scene or anything, but I do try to at least stay somewhat current on what the really good players are flying if for no other reason than to try and understand what makes those kind of upper echelon lists tick, but so far I've not seen anybody trying a Stress infliction type list. I don't know if it's because it's too hard to make work in reality or if it's easier to fly Fat Han or Phantoms, but that's kind of what's dominating at the time of this writing.

With those lists in mind, conceptually, a list featuring multiple Tacticians could be tough on a Phantoms list, though I wonder how difficult it'd be to fly in reality. And by that, I mean reliably having those Phantoms in Range 2 and in arc enough of the time to make it work. Fat Han I think would still be a problem because a lot of what makes Fat Han work are the same things that made Han Shoots First work and unfortunately for the opponent, a lot of that stuff doesn't rely on Actions. That said, there would be an advantage to Stressing a ship constantly, even a Fat Han if for no other reason than to deny Focus.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out that there are a few named Pilots who would actually benefit from being shot at by a Tactician, so this card from not doing you any good to actually being a detriment, and unfortunately there's no "may" in the rule verbiage, so if you do wind up Attacking Soontir Fel or Keyan Farlander, you will end up buffing them to a certain degree. This is probably a good time to remind you that you don't actually have to Attack in your Combat Phase if you don't want to.

Truth is though, with a little bit of forethought and planning, Stress infliction can be a real limiter to your opponent simply because many folks aren't used to having Stress foisted upon them- they're used to putting it on themselves and then dealing with it shortly thereafter on their own terms. For that reason alone, it's definitely at least worth a shot in a few friendlies, especially if you fly against people who are constantly using K-Turns, Push The Limit, or other self-Stressing upgrades. And bear in mind, there is a lot of stuff out there, Named Pilots and upgrades both, that work only if the target doesn't already have a Stress Token. A well-timed shot from a Tactician can really muck up somebody's larger plans for Jan Ors, for example.

Being a Crew Member, there's not a ton of ships that can even roll Tactician. I could see it working pretty well on a Shuttle (especially one carrying Rebel Captive and being driven by Captain Kagi), a Firespray could be fun with that rear arc and especially nasty with Kath Scarlet driving, not to mention the possibility of loading up some Flechette Torpedoes (via the Slave I Title, of course) in her tubes, and while there's a ton of competition for that seat, I could see it working on a Falcon, though again- you gotta actually have them in arc for it to work. It might be fun in a HWK-290 simply because HWK-290s kinda get ignored a lot because they're fairly easy pickings even in late game, but the plus side is you don't have to actually hit with your Attack for Tactician to work, so you could conceivably put the points you'd normally spend on an Ion Cannon Turret or Blaster Turret to work somewhere else in your list and still have a fairly useful complimentary support ship. That B-Wing E2 crew upgrade card I'm not nuts about for Tactician- in my experience, B-Wings get their mileage around the inevitable hairball of ships in the middle of the table. I doubt you'd spend enough time with targets at Range 2 for it to really be worthwhile, but maybe that's just me. It's usefulness on a Phantom is pretty self-explanatory with the card being included with the ship. You either end up at Range 1 and get to roll more red dice than are even included in the Core Set, or you're inflicting Stress along with your attack because you're at Range 2. With so many moves available, it shouldn't be hard for you to always end up in one of those two scenarios.

Oh, and a couple of ships with Tactician has the potential to be super rough on Porkins. Which is just kind of hilarious to me for reasons I can't fully explain.