OK, now that the TIE Defender has been announced, we can all stop speculating about (most) of its stats. I am also very excited, and will love to play with these ships for fun regardless of their point cost. So I am not trying to rain on everybody's parade.
However, I am predicting right now, that the TIE Defender will NEVER get used competitively successfully, unless its new maneuverability dial/ability is insanely overpowered. Even then, this ability/dial might be irrelevant against turret lists (HSF, etc).
I would very much like to be wrong.
The best ship for direct comparison is the 3/3/3/0 TIE Interceptor. Start with an 18 point PS1 TIE Interceptor, add 3 shields at 4 points each, and you're at 30 points. The problem is:
- The built-in cost of shields / hull should cost FAR less than the upgrade cost. It's not an effective way to spend points. So a PS1 Defender is an even worse way to spend points than a PS1 Interceptor.
- PS1 TIE Interceptors are already not an effective use of points, and don't get used competitively with any apparent success.
If you go by Lanchester's Law, then the point cost compared to an Interceptor should go as: 18*2^0.5 = 25.5
Then nudge the cost up slightly to account for the extra hit points being shields not hull, and you're at around 27 points. Off-the-cuff math, if we call 3 shields + 3 hull to be worth 6.75 hull (about a reasonable estimate), then 18*2.25^0.5 = 27.
So we're left with another 3 points, and the following differences between the Interceptor and the Defender (that we know so far):
- Gains the Target Lock action
- Gains the cannon slot and missile slot
- Has a different dial, with some kind of a new maneuver never before seen.
- Has some way that at least one of the pilots can get an evade token. This could be related to the above maneuver, or it could be related to an EPT. If it's a non exclusive EPT (as all have been so far), then it doesn't help balance the ship at all, since anyone can take it.
- Looses the Evade action
- Looses the Boost action
So, we have a ship that is probably less points efficient than an existing ship that already isn't used competitively. We still have to wait and see about the rest of its abilities, but right now it looks quite overcosted.
For 90 points you can field 3 TIE Defenders, with 9 attack dice and 18 hit points.
For 84 points you can field 7 TIE Fighters, with 14 attack dice and 21 hit points.
If you count 3 attack dice as doing 70% more damage than 2 attack dice (on average it's in the 1.6 - 1.75 range, assuming that Howlrunner is NOT in the equation on either side, and making some assumptions about the average types of shots being made), then the 3 TIE Defenders will still be doing only 73% the damage of the 7 TIE Swarm. And the Defenders have less hit points. And there are less of them.
Lets use Lanchester's Laws again to figure out the combat strength of the 7 TIE Swarm vs the TIE Defenders. Lets assume the Defenders have 1.7x as much attack power, and 7/3 the hit points (we'll be a little generous and count the 3 shields as being worth an entire additional hit point). The relative combat strengths are then:
TIE Defenders: 3^2*1.7*(7/3) = 35.7
TIE Fighters: 7^2*1*1 = 49
To get the combat strengths to be equal, you would need about 3.5 TIE Defenders for every 7 TIE Fighters. So, if you based cost just on a brute force slug fest, a 3/3/3/3 ship would be balanced at roughly 12*7/3.5 = 24 points. The remaining 6 points, or 20% of the cost of the ship, goes towards unique enhancements. Or, equivalently, the TIE Defender costs 25% more than it's "slugfest" based price relative to a TIE Fighter. For reference, a TIE Interceptor costs 15% more than it's "slugfest" cost relative to a TIE Fighter, and that 15% is probably already a hair too expensive for the competitive metagame.
All of the above numbers assume that Howlrunner doesn't exist. If you compare 2 dice with 1 reroll vs 3 dice, the 3 dice advantage is reduced to around 1.2-1.25. So a squad of 7 TIE Fighters including Howlrunner is going to make the Defenders look pathetically outclassed. This might be a biased comparison because a 7-TIE Swarm is undeniably one of the best (if not the best) squads in the game, but it is the standard by which other competitive squads are measured against.
Their high cost also makes a 3 Imperial squad difficult. If the higher PS ships follow the normal cost progression, then the PS6 and PS8 pilots will cost 38 and 36 points. 38 + 36 + 30 = 104, so you can't run both named pilots (even naked) with a PS1 Defender. You could run the PS8 pilot plus two PS1 Defenders at 98 points, presumably.
Apparently it doesn't have a beam weapon, which is what, to me, really set the ship apart. It's indirectly related o points cost balance, but is rather disappointing nonetheless.
How does a PS3 Defender compare to a Bounty Hunter?
- It's one point cheaper (32 vs 33)
- It has one more agility.
- It has a more maneuverable dial (assumed).
- No evade action, but at least one of the pilots has some way to get an evade token. Assuming that this is available for all pilots, this is almost certainly a pro.
- It has a small base, which is probably more well-suited to dogfighting.
Defender cons compared to the Bounty Hunter:
- It has 1 less shield.
- It has 3 less hull.
- It has no rear arc.
- It has no Crew slot.
- It has no bomb / mine slot.
My impression is that the list of Cons outweighs the list of Pros. The 4 less hit points should give it less effective health even with an extra agility die.
Edit: Added Perspectives 5 and 6.
Edited by MajorJuggler, 08 February 2014 - 07:58 PM.