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  1. Our in-depth look at campaign heroes begins with Gaarkhan (Core Set). If you missed our general discussion of Gaarkhan's traits and abilities, you can find that here. This time, we'll take an in-depth look at the first of many possible Gaarkhan builds, which I've nicknamed... "The Brawler" The Big Picture. The game-plan of this build is beautifully simplistic: Gaarkhan “charges” every activation, bashing into as many hostile figures as possible and dealing as many of them as possible as much damage as possible. Since he’s (literally) charging head-first into the rat’s nest (ok, maybe not completely literally), he expects to get damaged a lot, and probably wounded (especially if your IP is more like a dungeon-master than another competitor, with stormtroopers who act realistically [“There’s a wookiee right on top of us!”] instead of making… rational gameplay decisions). Core Xp strategy: if we expect to be wounded, “Unstoppable” is a complete no-brainer. If the IP leaves Gaarkhan alone and healthy, he has the Endurance to trigger “Charge” with its insane five space range (perpetually without resting, if we run with a weapon designed to net us a couple extra surges each round for Recover). And if the IP targets us, we still have good endurance and speed while wounded, plus a static +2D bonus. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, right? Since “Charge” is an essential part of our play strategy, “Rampage” is an obvious include, too (more damage). So is “Brutal Cleave” (What’s better than spending a single activation to rush 5 spaces, deal splash damage to a bunch of bucketheads, attack them, and have a second action left for a follow-up attack? How about a third attack?). That’s a core of three skills for 11 xp, which we should be able to get even if the Rebels tank the campaign. Xp perks: If we have xp left over, there are some additional skills we could consider. In most campaigns the Rebels can get to 12xp, and for 1 xp “Wookie Fortitude” gives us a cheap option to remove a Stun or Bleed if we want a full, unimpeded activation (to “Charge,” of course) or to recover some extra damage on the back-end. If we manage to land 13 xp, “Ferocity” might be attractive, especially if the IP does focus-fire Gaarkhan (or if we have another ally like Diala or Gideon who can Focus us). And if we somehow end up with a whopping 14xp (not likely, but it can happen), we could either grab both of these or lock-in the option to get +1D for a strain through “Vicious Strike.” Whether or not we have the +2D from “Unstoppable,” the option to add +1D on a dime may mean the difference between a target living or dying, applying or not applying a keyword, etc. Weapon choice: Speaking of keywords, to inflict maximum damage we probably want a weapon with Cleave, either natively or through the addition of the Weighted Head mod (once we get access to Tier II). Decent surge chance would be nice in the abstract (especially since we’re planning to spend 2 strain each activation to “Charge,” and eventually at least one more to “Brutal Cleave”), although it’s probably more important to make sure our dice pool will deal the 1D+ past defense dice that we need to trigger Cleave in the first place. We should probably consider the Balanced Hilt on weapons with a native Cleave ability (or with two mod slots) to help the Cleave fire more consistently, especially if our weapon is rolling one (or more) Red. And it would also be nice to have Reach or the ability to Pierce without spending surges, although those may end up being luxuries we can’t afford. Item choice: This will depend on just how much we spend on our weapon. But if we can find a relatively cheap weapon (1000-1200 credits), we could end up with 300-400 credits to spend on other accessories. If strain management is an issue (because our weapon doesn’t roll enough surges to consistently Recover, the IP is running a strain-focused imperial class deck, etc), we might look for items that either buff our Endurance or remove strain (either completely or allow us to shuffle it elsewhere). If not, items that buff our weapon’s damage--and especially our weapon’s surge procs--would be fantastic buys, especially if we have multiple surge abilities for Cleave (and especially if we also have Reach). Items that allow us to do additional unblockable damage to another target (or two) without depleting or spending an action (or to obtain items like that) could also be valuable in this build if they’re not too cost prohibitive. So with those broad brush strokes in place, time to dive into the nitty-gritty! Early Campaign (0-3xp, Tier I Gear, ~600 Credits) Mid-Campaign (4-8xp, Tier I & II Gear, ~1200 Credits) Late Campaign (9-12xp, Tier I, II, & III Gear, ~1600 Credits) Well, that's a wrap on our first Gaarkhan archetype, "the Brawler." Have you played Gaarkhan as an in-your-face, no-holds barred melee menace? Did you opt for Cleave, or did you go with some other combat goal? What weapons did you like (or discover you didn't)? If you've got something to share, join the conversation and build the communal knowledge! And if you've got a Gaarkhan build you'd like us to math, let us know! Other entries in this series: Gaarkhan: The Basics (11/3/2017) Gaarkhan: "The Brawler" (11/4/2017) [Rampage, Unstoppable, Brutal Cleave, Wookiee Fortitude] Additional Resources:
  2. "Anniversary week" is finally wrapping up over here, and we've saved the best (or at least my favorite) for last. I initially started looking at weapon probabilities as a means to an end. While it was fun to find the "best weapon" or the "deadliest weapon" or the "Cleave-iest weapon," those designations only have a certain amount of value in a vacuum. Because weapons are ultimately wielded by heroes, the true test of weapon's value is whether it helps our hero succeeds. And that requires a whole new level of thinking. One year and countless calculations later, we're returning to where it all began, with a detailed look at a cornerstone melee hero: As with the rest of our series, I'd like to prevent this from becoming an apology piece for the "best" Gaarkhan build, or whether Gaarkhan is the "best" melee hero (or a "garbage" melee hero, though I don't get the sense that many people feel that way about him). With all of these hero pieces, I'm going to proceed on the assumption that someone out there wants to play him (or her), and that the reasons for playing a particular hero may have everything to do with that hero's efficiency, utility, resiliency, combat acumen... or may have nothing at all to do with those things (flavor, artwork, a sense of adventure, a desire for a new challenge). Our goal will be to assess what roles a hero could conceivably play, and then given each role, what xp progress, gear choices, weapon selection, and other decision points might look like in order to make the ride as enjoyable and life-changing (or at least as pain- and frustration-free) as possible. In this first post on Gaarkhan, we'll cover the basics: his stat cards, special abilities, and xp deck. Then in subsequent posts, we'll tackle specific Gaarkhan builds, progressing from the earliest moments of the campaign to the great and glorious finale. Gaarkhan: The Basics Gaarkhan is an all-around solid melee hero. In fact, in some ways, he's better than solid. He has excellent Health (14) and a Black defense die to keep him alive when he's up in the enemy's grill. His Might attribute is also very strong (YGB), which opens up the possibility of the Ryyk Blades. His Speed 4 isn't great, but gets much better when paired with his special action "Charge": at the cost of two strain, Gaarkhan can move a number of spaces up to his Speed (4 spaces), then perform an attack (melee weapon only) as part of the same action. There's lots of good stuff here. It's fantastic action economy (movement + attack in one action), which makes Gaarkhan remarkably flexible (Move/Attack + Attack, Move + Move/Attack, Rest + Move/Attack). And because "Charge" allows him to move a number of spaces up to his speed, Gaarkhan ignores movement cost penalties for both difficult terrain and moving through hostile figures while performing that special action. That said, there are some limitations. Gaarkhan's base Endurance is also "4," which again is just adequate. At two strain a pop, it's only possible to chain "Charge" for two activations in a row without resting, unless Gaarkhan has some other way to reduce his strain count. And he has up to four additional xp abilities that have associated strain costs, too, so the strain tends to pile up quick. Moving four spaces and attacking twice sounds fantastic in theory (and it is), but for Gaarkhan to do it consistently requires some planning. Gaarkhan also has a way to self-Focus, which again is fantastic in theory. But it's dependent on him getting attacked by hostile figures (which the IP can play around) and on taking three or more damage in a single attack. The IP can try to play around this, too, by chipping away at Gaarkhan with multiple, consecutive attacks by weaker figures, getting in 5-6 damage over three attacks but never triggering "Rage." And Gaarkhan's Black defense die can also inadvertently get in his own way; if he's consistently rolling two blocks (there's a 50% chance of rolling 2 or more blocks on a Black die, after all), it's extremely difficult for low-cost IP units to deal 3 or more damage to him. In other words, "Rage" does not Focus Gaarkhan on demand; it's far more situational. Having said that, there are very good reasons for the IP to try to wound Gaarkhan quickly, especially in the early campaign. His "Charge," while still extremely efficient, is significantly less threatening once Gaarkhan becomes wounded, and his Speed drops from "4" to "3." "Charge's" strain cost also becomes a major issue once Gaarkhan is wounded. An endurance of "3" only allows Gaarkhan to fire "Charge" once before he has to rest the following activation. And if Gaarkhan is suffering strain from other sources (Trandoshans, Wing Guards, "Subversive Tactics," etc.), he may be forced to rest every activation. To be sure, Gaarkhan can weather a forced-rest rotation better than most heroes (that's the benefit of a special action that combines movement with an attack). But it definitely caps his combat potential. Gaarkhan loses his "Rage" ability to Focus when he becomes wounded, too (and the official ruling from FFG is that if Gaarkhan takes sufficient damage to become wounded, he loses "Rage" before its Focus-effect is resolved... meaning no Focus on his way out, which just adds insult to [a literal] injury). Gaarkhan also has a range of class abilities to buff his strengths or weaknesses. Although to be fair, the word "range" may be a bit of a stretch. Gaarkhan's class abilities are almost all offense-oriented. The only clear exception is his 1xp skill, "Wookiee Loyalty," and to a lesser extent his other 1xp skill “Wookie Fortitude.” "Wookiee Loyalty" is basically a block-on-demand at the cost of 1xp and an exhaust penalty. At first glance, this is a very attractive skill given how much more potent Gaarkhan is when he's healthy vs. when he's wounded. A Black die bolstered by another Block can take a lot of punishment. And it can even serve a small support function if Gaarkhan is adjacent to a friendly figure. At the same time, injudicious use of this skill is yet another way Gaarkhan can get in his own way when it comes to "Rage." Adding the free "Block" to bump damage down from "3" to "2" may cost Gaarkhan a Focus. So if "Rage" is a central part of Gaarkhan's combat strategy, the trick would be to hold "Wookiee Loyalty" in reserve until after Gaarkhan becomes Focused through "Rage" (since a hero can't have more than one Focus token at a time) or to offer some mitigation to very powerful attacks (4 or more damage past defense dice) where the extra block won't push the damage total under 3. At first blush, Gaarkhan's other 1xp skill, "Wookiee Fortitude" looks like a defense-oriented skill, too. And it certainly could be played this way. Outside of performing a "rest," most heroes don't have any way to recover damage, and since "Rage" basically begs Gaarkhan to take significant damage at least once per activation, "Fortitude" is a way to semi-control--or at least mitigate--Gaarkhan's overall damage count. But there are some potential downsides to this approach. The biggest is that this is another ability with a strain cost; and while taking 1 strain to remove 2 health is a pretty efficient exchange, that plus "Charge" is a full round's Endurance if Gaarkhan is wounded, and leaves Gaarkhan with just 1 Endurance left if he's not. So if we want to treat "Fortitude" like a "spam" skill, it will require some forethought. The alternative is to treat "Fortitude" as an emergency skill (instead of an every-round skill), and as an emergency skill, its alternate effect of discarding a condition becomes the main attraction. It doesn’t take the IP long to figure out that the best way to “slow down” a charging Gaarkhan is to Stun him. While stunned, a hero can't voluntarily exit its space or perform an attack. And generally, the only way to remove a Stun is to spend an action removing it. Gaarkhan can weather a Stun better than most heroes (melee heroes in particular) because he can still spend his second remaining action for movement and an attack with "Charge" (assuming he has sufficient endurance left and doesn't need to rest). But even so, taking that action still stunts his potential. Because "Fortitude" isn't resolved as an action, and because it can be triggered at any time during Gaarkhan's activation, it gives him a way to situationally remove conditions like Stun before a "Charge," without hampering his action economy; it also doesn’t count as an “action” so Gaarkhan avoids taking damage if he’s Bleeding instead; and if Gaarkhan doesn't need “Wookie Fortitude” for condition removal at the start of his activation, he can wait until later in his activation (or even til the very end of it) before deciding whether to remove 2 damage or pass on "Fortitude's" strain cost. That’s fantastic utility and flexibility out of a 1xp skill. Gaarkhan’s 2xp skills both play off of Keywords. "Staggering Blow" (2xp) allows him to inflict Stun on one of his opponents, although there are some important caveats. He has to inflict at least 3 damage on a target in a single attack (making this, essentially, a reverse-"Rage"). And there's a 1 strain cost to doing this. Situationally, the ability to Stun could be extremely useful, and if Gaarkhan’s melee weapon can also reliably proc a Bleed, it’s possible for the timely use of this skill to force the target into the difficult choice of spending both its actions on condition-removal (remove Bleed, remove Stun), spending one action to remove the Bleed and a second action that can’t be spent on attacking or moving, or salvaging one action at the cost of two damage (remove Stun, 1 strain for damage from Bleed; second action, 1 additional strain for damage from Bleed). “Ferocity” (also 2xp) gives Gaarkhan the ability to add Cleave 1 to an attack, if he’s Focused, which could be quite nice. Cleave is a relatively rare keyword on weapons, and the only mod that adds it to a weapon of our choice is the Weighted Head which, while a good mod if we have a strong keyword dice pool, does consume the only mod slot on most melee weapons. So the option to add Cleave while leaving that mod slot open for another mod (Balanced Hilt, anyone?) is a great boon. It also imposes a mandatory dice-swap whenever we’re focused: instead of rolling a Green Focus die, we have to roll a Red Focus die instead. To the uninitiated, this looks counter-intuitive (“How am I supposed to Cleave 1 if I lose the surge-friendly Green die?), but as we’ve seen countless times in our Melee Weapon series, swapping a Red die in for any die is always the best option for improving our overall damage. The rest of Gaarkhan’s skills are all about adding damage and/or making Gaarkhan’s attacks--and particularly “Charge”--even more devastating. At first blush, “Vicious Strike” looks like an expensive buy at 3xp, because (1) we have to use it when we “declare an attack,” not “during an attack” (so we have to decide whether to use it before we see what we roll and what the target rolls), (2) it costs 1 strain to use, and (3) it only adds +1D to our attack results. And it looks a lot worse when we compare it to Gaarkhan’s other 3xp skill, “Rampage”: Now make no mistake: “Rampage” is a beast. It’s unblockable damage (no defense dice and no way for the IP to mitigate it… at least not yet), so that right there is a major plus. And since “Charge” allows movement using spaces (and thus is not limited by difficult terrain or hostile figures), it’s not difficult for Gaarkhan to set up a “Charge” that hits two or more figures each activation unless the IP works really hard to play around it. And, of course, the splash damage from “Rampage” is directly followed-up by the attack from “Charge,” and automatically softening up a target you’re about to attack (and/or Cleave into during your next attack) is always a solid tactic. Plus there’s no strain cost (or, if you prefer, it gives us a way to get more mileage out of the 2 strain we’re paying anyway to “Charge”). Having said all that, “Vicious Strike’s” saving grace is that we don’t have to exhaust it to use. It is, in essence, a Shock Emitter on a stick, as long as we have strain to spend. As as we’ve seen consistently, the ability to add +1D to an attack roll without having to roll or spend surges is a big deal, and while paying 1 strain is a definite cost, getting bonus damage for two (or more) times per activation--assuming we have ways to manage Gaarkhan’s strain level--is a serious benefit. Speaking of which... Gaarkhan’s 4xp abilities are both legit. The first, “Brutal Cleave,” allows Gaarkhan to have all sorts of major activation advantages. For the cost of just three strain, Gaarkhan can move a number of spaces up to his speed, perform an attack with a melee weapon, perform a second attack with a melee weapon, and still have one additional action left over for another attack if he’s managed to recoup strain from those previous two attacks, another full move either before or after those two attacks (or a partial move before and after them), or even a rest if strain and/or damage is a problem. The limit is that the melee attack needs to target a different figure (no “backsies”... if “backsies” is the word I want), and that different figure also needs to be adjacent to the figure we just finished attacking. It’s also an exhaust-to-use card, but it’d be broken if it wasn’t so… And then there’s “Unstoppable.” Which helps make Gaarkhan… well, basically unstoppable. It’s a static +1 Endurance and +1 Speed upgrade, both of which improve “Charge.” Gaarkhan can now “Charge” 5 spaces, ignoring movement point penalties. With a base endurance of “5” while healthy, Gaarkhan now has more flexibility to fire off “Charge” as well as some of those other strain-to-use abilities (“Brutal Cleave,” “Vicious Strike,” “Wookie Fortitude,” “Staggering Blow”). Since Gaarkhan is always flirting with being wounded (since he wants to take at least 3 damage once per activation to become Focused), having 4 endurance while wounded makes “Charge” a lot easier to trigger and his speed while charging only drops to “4” (instead of dropping to “3,” which is just so much more limiting), while retaining its ability to avoid movement penalties from difficult terrain or hostile figures. And that’s before we get to the ultimate “please wound me” boost: a static +2D bonus while wounded that costs him nothing (no strain cost, no exhaust-to-use penalty) and can be stacked on top of other damage bonuses (+2D from Vibrogenerator, +1D from Shock Emitter, +1D from “Vicious Strike,” etc.) for some truly terrifying single-target damage. Practical Outcomes Well, that's enough abstract theory-crafting. Time to turn our attention to some practical Gaarkhan builds (well, more like archetypes), which you'll find linked below. And if there's something we've missed, or something you've discovered during your own campaign play, or you've written about Gaarkhan elsewhere and want it linked here for all posterity, join in the conversation and let us know! Other entries in this series: Gaarkhan: The Basics (11/3/2017) Gaarkhan: "The Brawler" (11/4/2017) [Rampage, Unstoppable, Brutal Cleave, Wookiee Fortitude] Additional Resources:
  3. Actually, it appears that all the images I'd uploaded to postimg.com have gone rogue. I'll see if I can get them back online. Update `11/3/17: Ok, I believe the images for the IP post are back online now. Unfortunately it looks like the images for the other posts will need to be uploaded again (unless postimg decides to give them back), so it will probably take a bit before everything's back to normal. Update 2, (later on) 11/3/17: It looks like the postimg images are back online. We'll see if it lasts...
  4. That meant the most sense, and I figured that would be the way it would go, but glad there's an unofficial answer at least. Without a special action limitation on it, there's no reason it couldn't be chained two or three times in a single activation, which seems extremely powerful.
  5. Agreed on the Stimulants. Being able to move strain around is a big deal. Along the same lines, for a fragile hero (or a hero that likes to be wounded, like an "Unstoppable" Gaarkhan), the painkillers are pretty sweet. I know no one wants to be wounded, but someone almost always is, and keeping your base speed and endurance can be a lifesaver especially if the mission is tight. I never complain about drawing a Bacta Infusion or Adrenal Stim either, since clearing 3 strain and either removing a condition or becoming Focused is almost always useful for someone on the team, and they don't require a rest before they can be used. If the "Flash Bomb" from Jabba's Realm doesn't have to be discarded after use, spending 2 strain for a repeatable non-action Blast 1 and Weaken (that could conceivably be used more than once per activation if strain isn't capped out) seems extremely good, too. But that's a house rule question at this point.
  6. TS is my brother's go-to IP deck, and he's killing us with it right now. Cloaking Device on an elite Stormie is bad enough; Cloaking Device on Elite Riots with "Shield" make them brutally resilient, and they can hit like a truck with "Adaptive Weapons" and "Experimental Arms" (for Red-Red + a surge for +2D, at the cost of just 1 damage). "Technical Support" Sentry Droids are the evolution of the healbot: faster, more resilient, and a constant pain in the butt if you try to ignore them. I know TS isn't supposed to age well into the late campaign, but dang...
  7. Subversive Tactics The factor that contributed most to the demise of the Republic was not, in fact, the war, but rampant self-interest. Endemic to the political process our ancestors engineered, the insidious pursuit of self-enrichment grew only more pervasive through the long centuries, and in the end left the body politic feckless and corrupt. The reason our Emperor was able to negotiate the dark waters that characterized the terminal years of the Republic and remain at the helm through a catastrophic war that spanned the galaxy is that he has never been interested in status or self-glorification. On the contrary, he has been tireless in his devotion to unify the galaxy and assure the well-being of its myriad populations. This bold vision of the future requires not only the service of those of immaculate reputation and consummate skill in the just exercise of power, but also the service of a vast military dedicated to upholding the laws necessary to ensure galactic harmony. It may appear to some that the enactment of universal laws and the widespread deployment of a heavily armed military are steps toward galactic domination, but these actions are taken merely to protect us from those who would invade, enslave, exploit, or foment political dissent, and to punish accordingly any who engage in such acts. Look on our new military not as trespassers or interlopers, but as gatekeepers, here to shore up the Emperor's vision of a pacified and prosperous galaxy. ~ Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin Memorandum #2693: Subversive Tactics The loss of the data repository on Scariff, while a minor blow to Imperial infrastructure, has highlighted the lengths that armed rebels will go to threaten the peace and security of the galaxy. After analyzing their unorthodox tactics, I believe the greatest challenge to Imperial power in the near future will arise not from organized resistance but small bands of sleeper cells, who will attempt to hit other high-priority targets through covert means. To repel these attacks successfully, our command personnel, from core commanders to field officers, must be trained to recognize and respond to these threats quickly and decisively. By working covertly to subvert their organization and cooperation, we can defeat their efforts before any meaningful threats ever materialize. Piling on Strain (and Damage): Surgical Strike (1xp), Exploit Weakness (2xp), Heavy Pressure (2xp), and Weary Target (3xp) The foundation of these tactics is to use brute force to slow down hostiles, frustrating their aims long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Like the Jedi mystics of old, the rebels like to "exert" themselves, spending precious energy to move faster, hit harder, and be more heroic than should be biologically possible. So the first step to slowing them down is to sap them of that precious energy by making exacting strikes of our own. The initial opportunity is at the moment of attack, with a "Surgical Strike" (1xp). This flexible ability allows imperial forces who engage a hostile in combat to inflict an additional damage and strain on their target, regardless of whether not that engagement ended in success or failure. Although this ability can only be used once per round, it should be used once every round. If the hostile figure has proven particularly troublesome, heavy units may engage that figure with "Heavy Pressure" (2xp). Although wounding rebels should remain a top priority, it is acceptable to skimp on damage dealt if the outcome will be to deprive the target of his ability to perform heroic actions. This is particularly true if the figure has been quiet for some time, and seems to be gearing up to return to the fray. If possible, our forces should concentrate these efforts on a single figure, until that figure becomes completely fatigued. In the event that the primary target has not been completely fatigued by the end of the round, it may be appropriate to single that figure out as a "Weary Target" (3xp), in a final attempt to wear him (or her) down. If the target is almost fatigued, it may also suffer additional damage from this action. This would be an ideal outcome. As hostile forces become more familiar with these tactics, it is reasonable to anticipate that their own tactics and strategies may evolve. Imperial forces who spot these traitors catching their breath are authorized to "Exploit [any] Weakness" (2xp) they observe, and to shoot-on-sight if able or regroup with their unit for a more concentrated push. As with our surgical strikes and heavy pressure, we must make a point to exploit weaknesses every round. As a word of caution, while these tactics are extremely effective at curbing the effectiveness of a single hero, the fact that they can only be resolved once per round may prove too slow for aggressive terror cells. While some mixture of these tactics could supplement a more aggressive response, a complete implementation of this strategy is likely to frustrate field commanders unless supported by resilient field units who are prepared to dig in for the long-haul against rebel cells, while sustaining heavy fire. Standard trooper units are unlikely to provide the resistance needed to systematically wear down rebel units, particularly if those units have significant combat experience. Unnatural Resilience: Prey Upon Doubt (0 xp) and Oppression (4xp) "Prey Upon Doubt" (0xp) not only helps with our forces' resilience, but it also toys with the enemy's mind by forcing another decision-point upon them. Additional protection against surge damage may seem a small price for a hero to pay to preserve some of his precious energy, but it can be devastating depending on the weapon that hero is using. A hero with a weapon that doesn't rely on surge energy for damage is not a great candidate, as additional surge protection does little to reduce the damage our forces are likely to take: But such weapons are relatively rare. Our forces are far more likely to face enemies with weapons that rely on surges, in some cases heavily. Adding extra surge protection to a Black die makes our forces far more difficult to wound reliably, and can dramatically reduce the likelihood that they will suffer harmful effects. Here's data collected from a case study involving a captured BD-1 Vibro Ax, which a terrorist had modified with a specialized melee focusing beam and a hilt aimed at improving the weapon's balance: Without the benefit of added surge protection, this weapon is highly dangerous to its primary target, dealing enough damage to kill an armored elite Stormtrooper and a reasonably good chance to deal Cleave damage into another target up to 2 spaces from the assailant. But adding that single surge protection virtually eliminates the chance that our trooper will be killed by a single blow, and makes it impossible for the assailant to strike both his primary and secondary target. We've seen similar results in tests captured with ancient Jedi relics. A common lightsaber variant suffered a significant loss in damage effectiveness against our surge-reinforced armor, which became impossible to pierce. We anticipate that the single-strike fatality rate for our elite Stormtroopers will fall from around 70% to just 15%, just by making this adjustment: And while this new anti-surge plating has proven most effective against weapons that rely on surge energy, there are definite benefits even against weapons that need only a single surge to function. We recently performed tests with a modified Electrostaff rumored to be among the most powerful weapons available to the rebellion. Although the weapon still proves devastating to its primary target (and it still poses a danger to nearby units), the odds of taking significant damage decreased noticeably with the addition of our anti-surge plating. All-in-all, the addition of just a single anti-surge element has an impact on the damage of weapons that aren't surge-independent. And in some cases, the reduction in average damage dealt can be as much as two damage, which for our units on the front lines could mean the difference between life and death. Lastly, while our technicians have only been able to apply this technology to a single target each round, and while the initial prototype can unfortunately be worked-around by hostiles who are willing to exert themselves to overcome it, those willing to invest the necessary time and resources can take advantage of "Oppression" (4xp), a global solution that offers this same degree of protection to entire squads during multiple attacks, as long as the attacker has suffered at least 2 strain. Working in tandem with other efforts to exhaust the rebels, this increase in defensive armoring should go a long way to blunt the impact of even the most advanced weaponry, and give our forces the staying power they need to oppress and cow the enemy forces. Mortar and Flame: Executioner (3xp) While many field commanders may be willing to dig in for the long haul, more aggressive commanders may wish to try their hand at "Executioner" (3xp). There are risks, of course. The amount of investment that goes into this tactic is not insignificant; the tactic is difficult, and thus can only be executed once per round; and it requires that the unit commander spend some of his precious threat, which may impede the flow of reinforcements moving forward. The trade-off is the ability to finish-off fatigued hostiles with devastating efficiency. Field tests conducted with rank and file Stormtroopers, against both heavily- and lightly-armored fatigued targets, were extremely promising: While a standard rank-and-file Stormtrooper poses only minimal threat to a rebel figure, that risk doubles when the hostile has suffered 1 strain, triples when the hostile has suffered 2 strain, and quadruples when the hostile has suffered 3 or more fatigue. This same generic trooper has a 50% chance or greater of dealing at least 5 damage past heavy-armor, and a nearly 65% chance of dealing that much damage past light armor. Results with elite Stormtrooper units were even more devastating: Against a target with even a single point of fatigue, our elite units were able to deal 3 or more damage past heavy armor more than 70% of the time, and had a 70% chance of dealing 5 or more damage past heavy armor against hostiles who had suffered 3 or more fatigue. With appropriate Squad Training, that number can climb to as high as 80%, with around a 50% chance of dealing 6 or more damage. Persistent Firepower: Savage Weaponry (1xp) and No Quarter (4xp) While most of the tactics described so far have been single-use attempts to mire the terrorists in fatigue, these last two upgrades offer powerful tools to persistently hamper these cells. In a miracle of modern scientific achievement, our researchers have developed an extremely inexpensive yet powerful upgrade that can be equipped to entire combat units: This "Savage Weaponry" (1xp) serves two primary purposes. First, it drastically improves the firepower of our forces by equipping them with armor-piercing rounds. This contribution, while small on its face, drastically reduces the effectiveness of heavy armor, and renders light armor almost useless. Second, these armor-piercing rounds have a tendency to rip through enemy flesh, producing painful Bleed wounds that either have to be tended to immediately, or will fatigue (and eventually damage) the target. Since very few rebels seem equipped with skills to deal with these devastating Bleeds, most are forced to stop and rest, buying our forces valuable time to strengthen and consolidate their positions. Testing with rank-and-file Stormtroopers illustrate just how effective this new weaponry can be. A traditional trooper, with traditional rounds, deals damage past heavy or light armor about 80% of the time, may deal 2 or more damage about half the time, and has difficulty dealing more than 2 damage. We can improve these performances slightly through Squad Training, but the threat still remains minor: But the addition of savage weaponry improves the effectiveness of these rank-and-file soldiers tremendously. The odds of dealing three or more damage past heavy armor rises to around 60% (with around 15% chance for an additional Bleed), and 70% against light armor (but with a smaller Bleed chance). Our elite troopers have around a 75% chance of dealing 3 or more damage to their target, and around a 40% chance of dealing 4 or more damage, also with an outside chance to inflict Bleed: Imperial forces can further exploit fatigued heroes to bolster their own offensive firepower through "No Quarter" (4xp). Like "Oppression" (4xp), "No Quarter" keys off rebels who have suffered 2 or more strain, and gives our own units an additional surge while attacking those rebels. This persistent, unit-wide effect also has a noticeable impact in the damage dealt by our rank and file troopers... ...and our elite enforcers: With appropriate planning and resource development, the effects of both "Savage Weaponry" and "No Quarter" can also be stacked in a single unit, creating a powerful, versatile front-line enforcer who can devastate the advance of even the most determined rebels. A rank-and-file Stormtrooper, armed with these offensive upgrades, has a good chance of dealing at least 3 damage and a Bleed on any target he engages: And a squad of three elite Stormtroopers bolstered by these upgrades can deal 3-4 damage and a Bleed on up to 3 different targets, or between 9-12 damage and a Bleed to a single heavily-armored target in a single activation: And this just scratches the surface of the potential that can be attained by specialized combat units bolstered by this weaponry. Below are additional tests run with six of the most common units deployed by unit commanders throughout the corners of the galaxy, and how potent they are when they have access to these upgrades: Core Campaign: Tier 3 Trandoshan Hunters - When adjacent to their primary target, the Pierce 1 from "Savage Weaponry" combines with a +1D bonus from their scatterguns (and a potential surge for Pierce 2) to decimate heavy armor (83% chance of 3D+ vs. 1 Black die). Combined with an additional strain when they declare an attack on a target within 3 spaces, and a 94% chance to trigger a Bleed (83% vs. a White die), and the Trandoshan is a relatively cheap, hearty unit that makes an excellent candidate for "Savage Weaponry," especially against inexperienced hostiles. If a garrison places elite Trandoshan Hunters at your disposal, they are particularly devastating with "Savage Weaponry" equipped. Twin Shadows: Tier 4 Elite Heavy Stormtroopers - Extremely resilient in their own right, these 8 health figures become extremely difficult to kill with the benefit of "Prey Upon Doubt" or "Oppression" (especially if they are being attacked from 4 or more spaces away). They have two excellent surge abilities (+2D and Blast 2), and even if they choose to prioritize the Blast 2 (as they have in our tests), they do excellent damage with "Savage Weaponry" and "No Quarter" (50% chance of 4 or more damage past heavy or light armor), with a 90% chance of Blast 2 against a Black die and a nearly 75% chance of Blast 2 against a White. Return to Hoth: Tier 4 HK Assassin Droids - Significantly weaker than the Heavy Troopers, these assassins pack a punch especially against Black dice, where their surge for Pierce 1 combos with "Savage Weaponry" to rip through the target's defenses. With an 81% chance to inflict Bleed and a 40% chance to inflict Weaken (70% and 30%, respectively, against a White die, combined with a 60% chance of 4D+), these droids can significantly impair the progress of the enemy (Bleed), while making them more vulnerable to attacks and less likely to deal damage to imperial forces (Weaken), all at extremely long distances. Bespin Gambit: Tier 3 Elite Wing Guards - About as durable as Elite Stormtroopers, but slightly more resilient (thanks to Recover 2), a single elite Wing Guard can deal 4 damage past heavy armor 60% of the time, with about the same odds of dealing Bleed (56%). And with the benefit of Squad Training, it's possible for them to fish for the particular result they want, especially with a free surge from "No Quarter." Also like the elite Stormtroopers, this unit is large enough that they can fight on several fronts at once, or can swarm together for a devastating strike to debilitate a single priority target. Jabba's Realm: Tier 4 Elite Weequay Pirates - "Savage Weaponry" and "No Quarter" combine to give the devastating Weequay Pirates an 80% chance of dealing 4 or more damage past armor, and a 50% chance or better at Bleed. And that's before we factor in the reroll from "Raider" or an extra surge from being Hidden. Heart of the Empire: Tier 3 Elite Riot Trooper - Second only to the Elite Heavy Stormtroopers in total health, the Elite Riot Troopers offer tremendous flexibility for the Subversive Tactics commander. They are durable enough to be front-line fighters, and can become extremely difficult to kill if supported by "Oppress" (between their Black die, an extra Evade, and then a block power token in reserve from "Shield"). Offensively, they are extremely potent and flexible. Bolstered by "Savage Weaponry," the have three quality surge abilities to choose from (+2D, +1D, and Bleed) depending on the situation at hand, and that free surge from "No Quarter" (along with a reroll from "Professional") gives them a good chance at getting at least one of those to trigger. They also apply Weaken any time they deal at least 1 damage to their target (which is virtually guaranteed to happen every time, unless the target rolls a Dodge on the White die), making it more difficult for their target to press the attack and more susceptible to supporting fire from other imperial units. Lastly, the flexible "Crowd Control" offers another way for the astute commander to trade damage for strain, to ensure that strain-triggered upgrades like "Oppress" and "No Quarter" remain available to the empire throughout the round, or to set-up a huge killing blow from "Execute." Armed with these skills, resources, equipment, and tactics, our front-line commanders have ample tools at their disposal to deal with rebel incursions in lightly-defended systems. For more remote outposts, where the defenses consists largely of droids and mechanical defense systems, without the presence of core imperial soldiers, a more technologically-oriented approach may be necessary. Inevitable Post-Posting Edits:
  8. Part the Twentieth: "Deadly two-dice beat sticks...," or part two of our analysis of Heart of the Empire's Focusing Beam. Anniversary week continues with a return to our flagship series on campaign melee weapons. In our previous entry, we took our first foray into the melee weapons of "Heart of the Empire," with an analysis of how the Tier II Focusing Beam impacts the melee damage of all the Starter and itemized melee weapons that we've studied. The early returns were extremely promising, as the addition of the Focusing Beam resulted in a dramatic shake-up of our top-tier melee weapons, thanks in large part to a significant bump in our odds of dealing damage past White dice (thanks to either a "free" Pierce 1 or -1 Dodge). That said, our previous entry looked only at the addition of the Focusing Beam in isolation. And while that's all we have available for most melee weapons, there are two melee weapons that can pair the Focusing Beam with one other modification for even more offensive firepower. Since both have been largely overshadowed by newer items, today they're getting some special treatment. Return to Bespin [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] I was initially very dismissive of the Vibrosword when we first looked at it ages ago. Part of that was probably recency bias, because the Gaffi Stick + Vibrogenerator was such a surprise (and for less). It also wasn't sustainable (except with the Vibrogenerator, but the Vibrosword + Vibrogenerator was worse than and more expensive than the Gaffi + Vibrogenerator, so again, hard to be excited about), and it took almost 900 credits to make something that looked at least semi-viable (which, at the time, seemed like a lot). A lot has changed since then. We now recognize that the Gaffi + Vibrogenerator is a huge outlier when it comes to cost. We also know that most top-end Tier III weapons don't have sustainable damage anyway; because the Vibrogenerator ends up costing us 1-2 surges, we end up getting more damage output on three-dice weapons if we use exhaustible mods like the Focusing Beam, Balanced Hilt, or Shock Emitter. And we're now accustomed to spending 900-1200 credits on a good-to-very-good melee weapon, and 1200-1500 (or more) for a great melee weapon. Given all that's transpired, I think it's time to give the Tier I Vibrosword a fresh look. Even with it's "high" cost for a Tier I weapon, 350 credits still offers us a tremendously cheap path to a top-100 damage weapon. And it's not like we're getting a bum weapon either, for the price. While the Green-Blue dice pool is a bummer (although, as it turns out, it could be a whole lot worse... like Yellow-Green ), we still get (1) two mod slots, (2) an innate ability to surge for +2D, and (3) a "free" Pierce 1, provided we haven't taken strain equal to our endurance. Having just one of those things on a 350 credit weapon would be fabulous in and of itself, so the fact that we get all of them for 300 credits less than the Double-Vibrosword, 650 credits less than the Ancient Lightsaber, and 900 credits less than the Electrostaff is nothing short of miraculous. We also have multiple mod-options to pump up our damage while keeping our total buy-in costs below 1000 credits. We'll look at just two of the most promising today: the Vibrosword + Balanced Hilt + Focusing Beam (which costs a cool 900 credits and can be completely assembled as early as Tier II) and the Vibrosword + Focusing Beam + Vibrogenerator (which requires a Tier III component, but costs just 950 credits). On their own, neither the Balanced Hilt nor the Vibrogenerator make the Vibrosword particularly good. We have pretty good odds of dealing 2 or more damage past defense dice (which is something), but the weapons rank 180th and 169th, respectively, among all our melee+mod combos. But we've already seen that adding the Focusing Beam to just a one-mod weapon (in the 200s before it's modded) can bump that weapon up as many as 100 spaces. Stacking the Focusing Beam on top of either of these weapons achieves similar results. Let's start with the Balanced Hilt... [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] Adding just the Pierce 1 from the Focusing Beam is good enough to propel our Vibrosword from 180th to 110th overall, and push our "80%" odds from 2D+ to 3D+ (which, conceptually, makes total sense). And adding the "smart" Focusing Beam, to either Pierce 1 or Dodge against the White die, improves our odds even further, from 110th to 72nd: If 72nd highest damage was the best we could do with a Tier I weapon that costs 900 credits, we'd probably be very happy. For reference, that's better damage than the Tier II BD-1 with the High-Impact Guard and Shock Emitter which comes in at 99th (and costs a terrifying 1600 credits). We also have a 2-in-3 chance of dealing 4 or more damage (thanks in large part to that surge ability for +2D, which we only need 1 surge to trigger), the Balanced Hilt to (hopefully) get it to fire both times we attack in a typical activation, we have a surge for Bleed in our back pocket if we get lucky and roll more than 1 surge, and now we've eliminated the guess-work if we attack a White die (once per activation). Not too shabby for less than the naked Ryyk Blades, right? And then consider this: we still haven't tapped the full potential of this Vibrosword. Sustainability issues aside (and they're there), we also have the option for a "free" Pierce 1, which we can then add on top of the "free" Pierce (or -1 Dodge, though we'd never do that unless we're facing a Black+White combo target) to improve our damage even more. Just how much more? Well... Adding the Vibrosword's Pierce 1 to the Pierce 1 from the Focusing Blade gives us a top-80(ish) weapon (83rd overall) with a 2-in-3 chance of 4D+, and a 1-in-3 chance of 5D+. And pairing it with our "smart" Focusing Blade pushes what began as the 180th overall weapon into the top-50 (48th), with a 3-in-4 chance of 4D+ and a nearly 2-in-5 chance of 5D+. Again, for just 900 credits. For perspective, that's damage consistency (though not a damage ceiling) on-par with what we'd get from a Yellow-Green-Blue Ancient Lightsaber or Ryyk Blade, a Force Pike with the Shock Emitter, or a Red-Green-Green Electrostaff: [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] The Vibrosword with the Vibrogenerator also picks up significant damage gains when we add the Focusing Beam. Just the Pierce 1 improves its damage ranking by more than 80 spots (from 169th to 84th). The -1 Dodge improves things slightly, from 84th to 75th, although the damage distribution is oddly affected. Our odds of 1-3D+ go up, our odds of 4D+ are level, and our odds of 5-6D+ actually went down by about 3-4 percentage points, which is larger than our margin of error. I'm not sure why that's the case... The ship rightens once we add that extra Pierce 1 from the Vibrosword. Now armed with a Pierce 2 (against Black dice) and +2D, we have an 80% chance of dealing 4 or more damage (with the "smart" Focusing Beam), and nearly a 50% chance of five or more. The fact that we can get top-40 damage out of a Tier I weapon (36th out of more than 250 total weapon mods) is impressive enough (although to be fair, we do have a Tier III mod equipped). And with a total cost of 950 credits, its cost compares very favorably to the weapons that immediately surround it in the rankings (all of which have exhaust-to-use parts and are niche melee weapons for either a strength- or insight- melee hero): The Evolution of the Ax Our only other (itemized) two-mod melee weapon is the BD-1 Vibro-Ax. While the naked Ax is kind of a mixed bag, and there are lots of ways to dump tons of credits into it and still come away with disappointingly low or inconsistent damage (like that 1600 credit High-Impact Guard + Shock Emitter variant that placed just 99th), the jewels have combined the BD-1's Red die with the Vibrogenerator and either the Extended Haft (for a consistently free Pierce 1 + 2D combo on every attack) or the Shock Emitter (for a consistent +2D and an exhaust to use +1D). Alternatively, the Balanced Hilt sacrifices some damage output, but also gives us a pretty good chance of getting that Cleave 2 to fire off (especially against a Black die) that pairs nicely with Reach. [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] Pairing the Focusing Beam with the Balanced Hilt nets us very good damage. Once we factor in the ability to remove a Dodge, this weapon (which is available as early as Tier II and costs just 1150 credits) deals top-60 damage, with a good Cleave 2 chance and Reach for some very reasonably priced combat flexibility: To put it in perspective, the damage output is slightly better than what we'd get from the naked Electrostaff, even though it uses only two dice. And while our odds of Cleave 2 aren't as good as we have on the Electrostaff (the Cleave 2 is "free," as long as the Electrostaff hits), we do have Reach available whenever we Cleave 2, which is more flexibility than we have in the naked Electrostaff (which has to choose between Reach and Cleave 2). But the real magic happens when we pair the BD-1 and Focusing Beam with the Vibrogenerator. [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] Just adding the Vibrogenerator to a BD-1 makes that ax a top-100 weapon (87th), using the Focusing Beam to Pierce 1 pushes it into the top-15 (12th overall, with an 80% chance of dealing 4D+, and a nearly 2-in-5 chance of dealing 6D+), and once we factor in the -1 Dodge, it's a top-3 weapon: It's crowded at the top, to be sure, but just look at how favorably the damage compares to our damage-dealing heavy hitters: Yes its damage ceiling is lower (no chance at 8 or 9 damage), and yes its damage stats begin to fade once we get to 6D+. Yes, the Ancient LIghtsaber is probably "better" with the Focusing Beam on it, but only if we're wounded and only if we're an insight melee hero. And yes, we give up the chance for Cleave 2 with this set-up (because we can't roll more than 2 surges with just a Red-Green dice pool), which is an advantage for the Electrostaff. But still... for just 1200 credits, and with the added benefit of Reach (which only the Electrostaff could also gain, and only without Cleave 2), the BD-1 makes a solid top-tier weapon choice, at a solid price. Which is very reassuring, because I wasn't sure the BD-1 still had a place once this beauty dropped... For next time. Inevitable post-posting edits:
  9. Entry 001: {Acquiring Target} On day two of Anniversary Week, we're kicking off (by popular request) our second campaign-focused series on ranged campaign weapons! When I started this thread about a year ago, I began with melee weapons for two reasons. First, I enjoyed playing melee characters more than ranged characters (something that hasn't changed with the addition of Davith and Shyla), so I had a natural interest in tackling those weapons first. The second (and ultimately more dispositive) reason was that melee damage introduced plenty of concepts (at its most basic level, damage and surges; eventually keywords and surge hierarchies and natural damage and exhaust-to-use mods and "Convert" and who knows what else) without introducing (at least most of the time) the third dice component that ranged weapons rely upon: accuracy. Well one year and lots of data experiments later, I think we're finally at a place where we can calculate accuracy without letting accuracy calculate us... or something like that. Code 223 For most melee attacks, distance to target is a binary question: we're either close enough to hit the target (adjacent normally, or two spaces away with line-of-sight if we have Reach). This allowed us to create relatively straightforward "at least" damage charts (which we could spice up with as much data as we wanted), without having to measure how the distance to the target impacted all of the variables that we were trying to measure. There are, of course, exceptions, where melee weapons function as ranged weapons. Here's perhaps the most common one: If you're just skimming this and thought this was a post on Shu-Yen's Lightsaber, the joke's on you! [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] Now we haven't discussed Shu-Yen's Lightsaber yet in our melee weapon series (in part for this reason), but it has two quality surge abilities on it, and no way to get more than two surges with its native dice pool (Red-Blue rolls a maximum of 2 surges, and only rarely). If we perform a standard melee attack with this weapon against an adjacent target, then we don't care about any accuracy results we roll and thus are left free to shoot for the maximum damage possible both on our Red and Blue dice (and any rerolls of those dice that we have) and in how we spend our surges. And if we have the Balanced Hilt equipped, we should be reasonably confident that we should be able to get at least one of our preferred surges (+1D/Cleave 2 or Pierce 3) to fire at least once during our activation (especially if we are attacking a target with a Black die). But if we perform an attack against a target who is four or five spaces away, it's possible we may need to take surges away from those abilities in order to get additional accuracy (which could reduce our damage output), or may even miss the attack entirely if the target is particularly far away (or we get a particularly bad roll), which will almost certainly reduce our damage output. To illustrate, let's begin with a relatively straight-forward ranged starter weapon (which, coincidentally, is almost never used): Gideon's Holdout Blaster! [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] Looking at the card, there's some good and bad. There's a mod slot (always essential), so there's room for some upward mobility regardless of how bad this weapon is to start with. It also has a solid surge ability for Pierce 2, which should do a number on Black dice (ala the Tier I Vibro Knife on the melee side). And with a Yellow die in the mix, we should get the Pierce 2 to proc fairly regularly. The downside is a toss-up between the lack of any ability to surge for damage (always bad) and the Yellow-Blue dice pool, which is pretty impotent when it comes to dealing damage. But at least that Blue die should contribute some accuracy to our attacks, which is way more than it contributes to melee weapons. Now let's see how the Holdout Blaster performs in combat against an actual target (meaning, against a defense die). We'll start with a Black target (to take full advantage of that Pierce 2) who is 1 space away (adjacent) and not Hidden. In other words, we need line of sight (which we have, because we're adjacent) and 1 or more accuracy in order for our attack to not "miss." Plugging that data into our Monte Carlo simulator gives us the following results over 2000 trials: And the results are . . . surprisingly, not bad. While the Holdout Blaster isn't a top-50 melee weapon, it does deal 1 or more damage past a Black defense die in 85% of our 2000 trials, which is a very respectable mark for a starter weapon with no mods on it (better than Diala's Plasteel Staff and Shyla's Yellow-Green Duelist's Blade, on-par with Verena's Fighting Knife and Davith's Heirloom Dagger, slightly behind Gaarkhan's Vibro-Ax and Shyla's Red-Green Duelist's Blade). From there it's not doing a ton of damage, but a 50-ish percent chance at dealing 2 damage past a defense die is decent. If we choose a target one additional space away, the data doesn't change that much: In this particular data-set, the damage actually goes up in all categories, but it's within our margin of error, so we can attribute it to slightly higher dice rolls (this is a Monte Carlo simulation, after all). The important thing is that we haven't suffered any noticeable damage drop-off yet, which makes sense because Gideon's Blue die has a minimum of "2" accuracy. But if we choose a target one additional space away, things start to become interesting... So now we're shooting something three spaces away. While there's some loss in damage in the 2-4D+ bands, it's still within our margin for error, so it's not concerning us too much. The significant loss is in the 1D+ band (about 6% points from our "1A" results, and more than 8% points from the "hotter" "2A" results), both of which are larger than our 2% margin of error. The difference is that at three spaces away, our accuracy is no longer guaranteed, so there's a small (for now) pool of results where the attack misses for want of accuracy. At four spaces away, we get our first significant drop. Our 1D+ odds have fallen from around 85% to under 60%, and our 2D+ odds have fallen from about 1-in-2 to 1-in-3. At 5 spaces, we're in serious trouble, as our odds of 1 or more damage have plummeted to less than 50%. We lose any chance of dealing 4 damage when we move to six spaces away (because we need either the Blue "5" which only has 1 damage on it, or a Yellow "2" which has either a single-damage or a single-surge)... ... and in order to reach our maximum range (7 spaces), we need both the Blue "5" (for 1 damage) and either the Yellow "2" with 1 surge (for 1D, Pierce 2) or the Yellow "2" with 1 damage (for 2 damage). The odds of that happening (and us dealing damage past a Black defense die) aren't great, as evidenced by our 4% chance of dealing any damage. And to complete the chart, there's no way our attack can hit a target 8 spaces away, and our damage odds reflect that. The moral of the story is this: while ranged attacks give us more flexibility in choosing targets, if we want to maximize our damage output we need to stick to targets who are at or within our weapon's minimum guaranteed accuracy. The further we stray from that minimum, the less reliable our damage becomes. Recomputing Now, of course, we could do a whole accuracy mock-up every time we evaluate a ranged weapon, but it's not particularly attractive. For one thing, that's 7 calculations for this starter weapon (as many as ten for a double-Blue die weapon, and conceivably more than that for three-dice weapons, Focused weapons, etc.). And that's just for naked weapons. It'd be another seven more for each mod combination (or combinations of mods, since there are fair number of ranged weapons with two mod slots)... and at some point, the raw number of calculations we'd need to perform becomes staggering... much, much more than the workload we had for melee weapons (which was enough on its own to keep up with). Then there's the tedium. Unless we're using these charts to look up calculations mid-game (and really, that's not what they're here for... we have plenty of IA calculators that will do that for you much more quickly and accessibly), there's really no need to know what Gideon's odds are of dealing 3D+ to a target when he needs 5 accuracy to not miss, because once we have a general sense of how the Holdout Blaster performs (or even how accuracy performs), we know we'd never knowingly take a shot with the Holdout Blaster from five spaces away if we could possibly help it. So for purposes of this series, we'll be cutting our "accuracy" calculations down into something that still helps us, but is far less tedious to compute (or review). My proposal is to divide our weapons' performance into three different categories: "Brawlers," "Assault weapons," and "Snipers." Brawlers: These ranged weapons have guaranteed minimum accuracy of 1 or 2. When measuring a "Brawler's" effectiveness, we'll measure it as attacking a target 1 space away (in an adjacent space). Every ranged weapon has a "Brawler" capacity because every ranged weapon should have guaranteed accuracy of at least "1," at least in normal circumstances (i.e., where the target is not Hidden). Weapons that use mods or xp cards that give bonuses while attacking adjacent figures (or figures up to 2 spaces away) would also qualify as "Brawlers." Assault: These ranged weapons have guaranteed minimum accuracy of 3 or 4. These are solid, multipurpose weapons. They can Brawl reliably, and can snipe fairly well, too, although their damage output diminishes the further away the target is. Sniper: These weapons have a minimum of 5 or more accuracy, and suffer no "miss" penalty to their damage output unless they are attacking targets near the other end of the campaign map. Weapons that gain benefits from being five or more spaces away would fall into this category. To illustrate this principle, here's how Gideon's Holdout Blaster fares as a "Brawler," "Assault," and "Sniper" weapon: Unsurprisingly, the Holdout Blaster is at its best as a "Brawler" (attacking a target 1 space away). It has a minimum of 2 guaranteed accuracy, thanks to its Blue die, and against adjusted defense dice (the average of 1 Black and 1 White defense die), in the second column from the left and marked in Red, the Holdout Blaster dealt 1 or more damage in approximately 75% of our 2000 trials. The odds against a Black die were quite a bit higher than the against the White (81% of 1D+ vs. 1 Black, versus just 68.65% vs. 1 White) for several reasons. For one, the White die has about a 17% chance of rolling a Dodge, so the maximum odds we can score against a White die (under normal circumstances) are just 83%, versus 100% (theoretically) against a Black die. For another, the Holdout Blaster's Pierce 2 removes two blocks up to 50% of the time against a Black die (which has two sides with 2 blocks, and 1 side with 3 blocks), while the White die has only three sides with blocks, and all of them have only a single block (which means at least part of that Pierce 2 is going to be wasted 100% of the time). As an "Assault" weapon (attacking a target 3 spaces away), the Holdout Blaster loses about 10 percentage points in its 1D+ odds (dropping from around 75% to about 66%), although its odds of dealing 2D+, 3D+, and 4D+ remain largely unaffected, whether against adjusted defense dice, black defense dice, or white defense dice. Here, misses from a Dodge and rolls where we don't have enough damage (or Pierce) to overcome the target's blocks are combining with an increase "miss" chance from not rolling enough accuracy, and starting to push our damage results downwards. The Holdout Blaster is not designed as a sniper weapon. Although it has a Blue die, its odds of dealing damage from 5 spaces away are exceedingly poor (around 1-in-4). If it had a surge ability for +accuracy instead of Pierce 2, this very well might change. But without any way to gain accuracy outside of its dice rolls, the Holdout Blaster has no reliable way to generate the high accuracy needed to snipe at targets from long range. Now if only there was a way to improve accuracy on a weapon that can't surge for additional accuracy... Cheat Code Activated Our preliminary look at the Holdout Blaster have revealed a damage pattern when dealing with ranged weapons: the closer the attacker is to the target, the more reliable the damage from his weapon; the further he moves from the target (or the further away the target is from his weapon), the less reliable his damage output. At some point, the odds of an attack "missing" for want of accuracy become unbearably great, and the weapon's once-solid damage totals crumble into something completely unrecognizable. So it stands to reason that we should be able to "improve" the reliability of our weapon's damage by doing something that actually doesn't "increase" our weapon's "damage" at all: by adding more accuracy to our weapon. With something like this: [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] On its face, the "Marksman Barrel" doesn't look like it improves damage at all. I've played through ten campaigns and have never seen this mod purchased. But maybe I wasn't paying enough attention to it. In a technical sense, the Marksman's Barrel doesn't increase our damage. It's not giving us more damage symbols, or surges we can spend on damage, or triggering harmful conditions, or any of the traditional "damage" things we've been accustomed to with melee weapons. But what it does do is extend our weapon's range: it essentially allows us to convert a weapon that excels as a "Brawler" into an "Assault" weapon, and an "Assault" weapon into a "Sniper" weapon; and for a ranged weapon, this improves the reliablity of our weapon's damage... in some cases, tremendously. Here's what happens to Gideon's Holdout Blaster when add the Marksman Barrel to it: Our "Brawler" data is essentially the same. But instead of seeing a drop-off when we move to "Assault" range, we actually see a slight uptick in damage (again, this is the result of "hotter" dice in our Monte Carlo Simulation). And instead of a significant drop-off when we get to "Sniper" range, we instead have a much more measured one. The result? Our "at least damage" odds are essentially the same while brawling (75.05% to 75.05%), moderately improved while assaulting (65.65% to 77.18%), and significantly improved while sniping (24.73% to 66.53%). For a "non-damage" mod, that's a pretty sneaky increase in damage output. What about for a weapon that isn't locked into being a "Brawler"? Well, we happen to have one of those lying around in the core set, too. [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] Mak's Longblaster has a Blue-Blue dice pool, which means this weapon can brawl or assault with equal ease (minimum of 4 accuracy). Damage is going to be a potential issue, but at least it has two damage-dealing surge abilities (+1D and Pierce 1), and a mod slot for upward mobility. Here's how the Longblaster fares at Brawler, Assault, and Sniper range: Big-picture, we're still seeing the curse of accuracy play out. The Longblaster doesn't hit as hard once we move from its guaranteed "Assault" range (minimum accuracy of 4) into "Sniper" range (range 5) where sufficient accuracy is no longer assured. Despite not having surge-friendly dice or a powerful ability to surge for Pierce 2 , the Longblaster hits slightly harder than Gideon's Holdout Blaster in Brawler range (78% odds of 1D+), a good bit harder at "Assault" range (78% vs. 65% odds of 1D+), and significantly harder at Sniper range (almost 70% odds of 1D+, compared to odds of under 25% for the unmodified Holdout Blaster). And if we add the Marksman Barrel, we can push the Longblaster's odds of 1D+ while sniping to just under 80% as well: Next we have Fenn's Infantry Rifle, which is clearly an "Assault" weapon with its Green-Blue dice pool (minimum of 3 accuracy). It's also the first of our starter weapons to have the ability to surge for more accuracy (+1 accuracy), and of course has that mod slot. [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] Both the Green die (instead of the Yellow) and the surge for +1 accuracy give the Infantry Rifle a significant advantage over the Holdout Blaster when it comes to moving from "assault" damage to "sniper" damage. While Gideon managed just a paltry 25% odds of 1D+, Fenn has a much more respectable 44%. It's not shattering any record books, but it's more dependable. And, of course, pairing the Infantry Rifle's Green-Blue with the Marksman Barrel makes the Infantry Rifle a solid "sniper" weapon, with a guarantee of at least 5 accuracy (and almost 80% odds of dealing 1D+). For someone like Fenn, who can add Blast to his ranged attacks, going from a 44% chance at dealing 1 or more damage from five spaces away to an 80% chance of dealing 1 or more damage from five spaces away is nothing to sneeze at (unless you're sneezing shrapnel at the enemy). Lastly, we have Jyn's Vintage Blaster. With its Green-Green dice pool, and a surge ability for +1 accuracy, this looks like it should be an easy "assault" weapon. [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] But just one look at its unmodified damage odds reveal that something has gone horribly wrong: The Vintage Blaster is clearly a brawling weapon, with 80% odds of dealing 1D+, and nearly 60% odds of dealing 2D+ versus adjusted defense dice if our target is within 2 spaces. But if the target is three spaces away, those odds fall dramatically, to just 62% and 47%, respectively. And those "sniper" odds are absolutely abysmal! Gideon's Yellow-Blue dice pool, with no surge ability for accuracy, are significantly better than what Jyn can do. For a character who makes a living out of quick-drawing hostile figures, an inability to consistently hit figures more than 2 spaces away is a real bummer. Quick-drawing a Hidden foe 3 spaces away and dealing just one damage is an extremely difficult task. So why the sudden drop off? Well, we only have one potential culprit (she's rolling double-Greens, after all), so let's take a look at their sides again: It's easy to think that the Green die is an "accuracy die." And it is, at least in the sense that it (like the Blue die) is the only die that guarantees us at least 1 accuracy every time we roll it (and it can net us as much as "3" accuracy). The problem is that those results aren't evenly distributed. For each Green die, we have a 1-in-2 chance of getting just "1" accuracy, and just a 1-in-6 chance of getting "3." This poses a real problem once we're out of minimum accuracy range, even if we can theoretically surge for +1 accuracy. The Green dice, acting alone, just don't generate enough consistent accuracy to make Jyn a threat from more than 2 spaces away. The Marksman Barrel solves this inconsistency, by pushing Jyn's Vintage Blaster solidly into the "assault" tier (with a minimum of 4 accuracy), and gives her enough consistent accuracy to pose a credible threat to hostile figures five spaces away (although not much more than that). The result is a damage chart that's far more consistent (and terrifying). So much for our deep-dive into accuracy. In the upcoming weeks, we'll dig into some of the other mods for ranged weapons (and there are some good ones). And come back tomorrow as Anniversary Week continues! [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] Inevitable post-posting edits: Updated IA dice graphic and series banner ()
  10. Episode II: "We're more than just bucket-heads..." We left off last time with the Imperial Officer, the cheapest deployment available to the Empire who offers some damage, a decent threat range, and some nice utility. This time, we’ll flesh out the rest of the Tier 2 imperial units: the legions of stormtroopers, snowtroopers, jet troopers, and now riot troopers that form the backbone of the Imperial Army. Empire Tier 2: The Stormtrooper [Core/Villain Pack] (2 figure / 6 deployment) [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] We all know the jokes: stormtroopers can’t shoot straight. They never pose any real danger. Their armor is paper-thin. They can’t help walking side-by-side, even when they’re trying to frame the sandpeople. So how do these traits translate in IA? As it turns out, some translate better than others. We begin with our basic “average” roll chart, which looks like this: (See, isn't this so much better than explaining it in prose?) Surprisingly enough, IA stormtroopers are actually fairly accurate (if by "accurate" we mean "roll accuracy"). With a Green-Blue dice pool to pair with a ranged attack, a stormtrooper is guaranteed to hit any non-Hidden target within at least 3 spaces, rolls nearly 5 accuracy on average (4.83), and can (theoretically) hit a target up to 9 spaces away (if it spends a surge for +2 accuracy). Its average damage is also higher than the damage of the IO (2.5 vs. 2.0), thanks to swapping a Yellow die for a Green. And while this leads to a reduction in average surges rolled, a stormtrooper averages almost a full surge per attack roll (0.83). The Stormtrooper also has a decent threat range. Like the IO, it has 4 speed, and a maximum of 9 accuracy, so its maximum threat range (not counting command cards) is a total of 13. But both its minimum and likely accuracy results are higher, which lets us expand its threat range with confidence. That Green die also helps improve its overall damage output. A non-Focused stormtrooper has an 80% chance or better of dealing at least 1 damage past either a Black or White defense die, which is high enough that we can probably count on it. Our odds of dealing 2D+ past a Black die are also about 50% (again, an improvement over the IO), and the odds of dealing 2D+ past a White die are nearly 2-in-3 (65.45%). In a vacuum, a 50% chance of dealing 2 or more damage isn’t anything to write home about. But even these small damage contributions can become significant given that there are three stormtroopers to a deployment card, and they can activate back-to-back to focus-fire on a single target. A black die target may be able to shrug off a single point of damage, but receiving three damage over an activation is nothing to sneeze at. And if one or two of those stormtroopers get that 2D (or more) to stick, the target could be down 5 or more health in the course of an activation. In other words, don’t discount the effectiveness of stormtrooper focus-fire. But wait, it gets better! Not only do IA stormtroopers have high-accuracy dice, but they also trigger pretty reliable damage (and surge abilities) thanks to their unique “Squad Training” ability. Take a look at how the ability to reroll a die (for purposes of this simulation, we rerolled the “1 accuracy, 1 surge” face on the Green die whenever it appeared, then either of the “2 accuracy” blue faces) impacts the average damage of our generic stormtrooper: Normal with a re-roll These higher rolls also have an impact on our “at least” damage output. Our chances of dealing at least 1 damage past a Black die have increased from about 83% to over 90%, and our white die odds of 1D+ have essentially capped out (because the White die rolls a dodge roughly 17% of the time, our “at least” odds against a White die usually cap out around 83%). Even more impressive, our odds of 2D+ have climbed, too. We’re now right at 2-in-3 against the Black die (67.55%), 3-in-4 versus the White (75.5%), and we even have roughly even odds of forcing 3D+ past the White die (49.9%). A Focused stormtrooper with a reroll pushes 4 or more damage past a Black or White die 50% of the time or better, which is pretty good for “incompetent” grunt units. There are certainly questions about stormtroopers. Even with a Black defense die, they don’t have much staying power thanks to their low health, and are especially susceptible to Blast, Cleave, or any number of other terrible sources of unblockable damage (Trample, anyone?). But their dice pool is solid, they have a good threat range, their “Squad Training” ability lets them hit surprisingly hard, and being able to chain together three successive rerollable attacks can leave a hostile figure in far more dire straits than it looked before. Empire Tier 2: The Snowtrooper [RTH] (2 figure / 6 deployment) [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] Ah, Snowtroopers. The bane of the rebel heroes in the opening chapters of the Return to Hoth campaign. They have just enough health to be difficult to remove, an annoying special ability that makes it that much harder, and do just enough damage to remain a nuisance. In skirmish, a Snowtrooper’s stat profile looks a lot like the generic stormtrooper’s. Both their average dice rolls and threat range are exactly the same, which isn’t surprising given that they have the same attack dice (Green-Blue), speed (“4”), and surge abilities for accuracy (+2 accuracy):. The key difference is in their expected damage. Although Stormtroopers and Snowtroopers have a lot of the same basic DNA, they differ significantly in their suite of surge abilities. Stormtroopers have only one surge ability (a surge for +1 damage) that impact their overall damage output. Snowtroopers also have one (a surge for Pierce 1), along with another surge for a harmful condition (Weaken), but neither adds direct damage to the equation, and the Pierce 1 may be useless depending on what the target rolled (against a White die, the target has a 1-in-2 chance of not rolling any Blocks, rendering the Pierce 1 ineffectual). The result are damage odds that are pretty meh. The surge for Pierce 1 offers damage against a Black or White die that’s in the same ballpark as what a stormtrooper would score generally, but quite a bit behind what the Stormtrooper can do with the benefit of a “Squad Training” reroll. And while a snowtrooper can trigger Weaken, the odds of that happening are quite low. Partly because a Green-Blue dice pool has a difficult time triggering 2 surges, and partly because the snowtrooper’s odds of dealing 1 or more damage past defense dice (a requirement to apply Keywords) is just barely over the 80% mark. Empire Tier 2: The Jet Trooper [JP] (2 figure / 6 deployment) [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] Jabba’s Palace brought yet another stormtrooper unit to IA: the exciting (though not as exciting as their elite variants) Jet Troopers. These are essential stormtrooper clones (3 health, 4 speed, Green-Blue, Black, surge for +1D, surge for +2 accuracy), but with the “Mobile” trait and with just 2 units in the group (for a lower deployment cost of 4, instead of 6). Accordingly, their average rolls are identical to both the generic stormtroopers and snowtroopers . . . . . . but their threat range is extended on the back end by one space, thanks to “Jets.” It’s also worth noting that since Jet Troopers are “Mobile,” their “movement points” (from Jets or Moves) should actually translate to “spaces” in virtually every scenario, which is yet another advantage over their stormtrooper/ snowtrooper cousins. Unfortunately, their damage still leaves something to be desired. While they’re not bad (they measure slightly ahead of the generic snowtroopers, thanks to having a surge for +1D instead of just Pierce 1), they’re behind “Squad Training” stormtroopers by a good clip. Against a Black die, we can probably count on them for just 1 damage per attack; against a White die, we may be able to expect 2 without getting overly frustrated. When it comes to objective running, these are definite improvements over generic stormtroopers. Their survivability could be better as well, thanks to “Agile.” And at just 4 points (instead of 6), they should prove easier to fit into lists. But in a straight-up fight, they don’t punch as hard as “Squad Training” stormtroopers. Empire Tier 2: The Riot Trooper (2 figure / 5 deployment) [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] At last! Another stormtrooper unit that might compete with the damage output of generic stormtroopers with “Squad Training.” There’s actually a ton to like here: although we only have two units (on a 5-point deployment card), each unit has 5 health (instead of just 3), which is an enormous bump. They also get to keep the Black defense die and speed “4”, AND trade a surge for +2 accuracy for a surge for +1D. So far, nothing but greatness. We don’t have “Squad Training,” so no rerolls (which is a bummer), but the special abilities we do have are pretty solid. “Stun Baton” essentially tacks on 1 extra damage (or a command card discard) to every successful attack, so our “1D+” odds suddenly take on added significance. And while we’re not measuring survivability stats yet, “Shield” looks like it will only help our Riot Troopers stay on the board, especially when coupled with their extremely high health value (for a 2-cost figure). The biggest pick-up by far is that we’ve swapped a Green die for a Red one. This isn’t quite as good as swapping a Blue die for a Red (or even better, a Yellow for a Red), but any attack pool with a Red die is going to deal pretty reliable damage, especially against White dice. Our surges are likely to suffer, but since we’re only dealing with surge abilities for +1D, the Red die (with its 5-in-6 chance of dealing at least 2 damage) should more than make up the difference in raw damage. And since our odds of rolling surges have gone down, so are the chances that an Evade on a defense die will hurt us. Here’s what we can expect to roll, on average, with a Red-Blue attack pool: These early returns suggest what we suspected before: that although we’re giving up some surges, we’re getting a pretty significant uptick in natural damage. Our accuracy has also taken a hit, thanks to the Red die having no accuracy modifiers on it. If the Riot Troopers had ranged weapons, this would be more of a problem. But since they perform melee attacks, we’ll almost never care about the accuracy they roll. Of course, the switch from “ranged attack” to “melee attack” definitely impacts the threat range of Riot Troopers: Instead of seeing a threat range of well-past 10 (like we’ve seen for all other Tier 2 imperial units), Riot Troopers have a threat range of just “5”. But their expected damage is extremely high for a 2 point figure: As we saw so often in our melee campaign series, a Green-Blue dice pool (even if it’s rerollable) can’t compete with the raw damage of a Red-dice pool. We have an excellent chance (better than 90%) of dealing 1 or more damage past a Black defense die (which becomes 2 or more damage thanks to “Stun Baton” -- which we proc up to 90% of the time, by the way -- unless the target discards a command card), and are likely to do the same against the White die unless the target rolls a Dodge (or the target rolls a Block-Evade and we roll a single-damage on the Red and a single-surge on the Blue… both of which should be rare occurrences). And if we can manage to Focus our Riot Troopers, they become incredibly powerful units, with a roughly 2-in-3 chance of dealing four or more damage past either a Black or White defense die, plus the bonus strain damage/discard from “Stun Baton.” Not too shabby for 2-point figures, right? A Collective Assessment Well, that wraps the Tier 2 units for the Empire. Just to give a sense for where we are right now, there's very little difference between most of these units when it comes to accuracy or threat range (all "speed 4," with lots of Blue-Green dice pools, with one Blue-Yellow dice pool) with the notable exception of the Riot Troopers (no ranged attack) and perhaps the Jet Troopers (with Mobile). And here's how those units compare when it comes to dealing damage past a black defense die . . . . . . and a white one . . . And we can only go up from here. [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] Inevitable post-posting edits:
  11. Episode I: "Excuse me, Lord Vader..." Welcome to the inaugural installment of our series on skirmish combat! If you’ve followed our series on melee campaign weapons, my hope is to take many of the concepts we've covered there--”at least” damage charts, surge vs. natural damage, surge and keyword proc rates, etc.--and apply them to the skirmish setting. We’re also going to explore some new topics as well--”threat range,” survivability, traits, and the like--many of which are unique to skirmish. Before we begin, I'll point out that this series is the hardly the first attempt to discuss the merits (and liabilities) of particular units in competitive skirmish play. Forum user @theaficionado posted an extensive write-up back in May 2017 that was immensely popular and launched a thread with over 100 posts (and counting). Discussions tend to crop up after major tournaments tracking the state of the meta, or after a new expansion is released. @TheUnsullied recently launched a thread discussing the skirmish map rotation. There are at least two podcasts dedicated to skirmish strategy: @nickv2002's "New Orders" and @dietz057's "Twin Troopers," not to mention skirmish-themed episodes in broader star wars podcasts like Jodo Cast, Vader’s Finest, Boardwars.eu, and the IA Team. Plus I’m sure I’ve missed some by accident. (If you want a shout out in this series’ “recommended resources” list, post below! ) Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel or intrude on a niche that others have already carved out (and since I’m not an accomplished competitive skirmish player by any means), the goal of this series will be a bit more reserved. There won’t be much discussion of skirmish strategy. We won’t be “building skirmish lists” (at least not at the beginning). We won’t even attempt to "rank" units (heresy, I know). Instead, we’ll stick to running basic calculations on the combat effectiveness of individual skirmish units, and letting readers who actually know a thing or two about skirmish decide whether that makes a particular unit “great” or “terrible” (or something in-between, if there is any room between “good” and “terrible” anymore). The five major data sets we’ll be primarily interested in include: A unit’s “roll” probabilities (how much accuracy, damage, and/or surges is a particular unit likely to roll, on average?); “At least” damage output versus Black or White defense dice, including Focused damage output (since Focus can be quite a bit easier to get in skirmish than it is in campaigns); A unit’s “threat range” (movement, if any, plus its min/max accuracy, if any, plus other movement/ accuracy/ range boosts from special actions, deployment card abilities, command card bonuses, etc.); A unit’s survivability (how many attacks can it survive before it gets removed?); and What sort of trait bonuses (command cards, skirmish attachments, etc) are available to the unit, and what impact (if any) do they have on its damage output, survivability, roll probabilities, threat range, or other special skirmish contributions? We'll start off with just the first three: roll probabilities, at least damage output, and threat range (and come back to survivability and trait bonuses later, once we have a better sense for how units function in combat). Finally, while we’re not "ranking" skirmish units, I am a firm believer in having at least some rubric for comparing units to each other (with a 40 point cap, and a growing trend towards uni-factional skirmish lists, skirmish play does require at least some selectivity). It'd be unfair to compare Darth Vader's raw damage output to an Imperial Officer's (Vader is way better), and it'd also be unfair to compare an Imperial Officer's damage output by point value to Darth Vader's (because Darth Vader, while way better than an officer, isn't nine times better... or even 6.5 times better). For me, the most logical choice is to divide figures by their "cost tier" (a “2” cost figure is a “Tier 2” figure, a “3” cost figure is a “Tier 3” figure, etc.) and by faction (Imperial, Mercenary, Rebel). By pure luck of the draw (and because I need imperial units to talk about later when we look at an IP class deck... spoilers...), we'll start with the five Tier 2 Imperial figures, leading off with the Imperial Officer. Empire Tier 2: The Imperial Officer [Core] (2 figure / 2 deployment) Long, long ago, in the ancient days of yore (circa 2015), the generic Imperial Officer (or "IO") formed one-half (well, technically one-eighth... or one-twelfth...) of the dreaded "four-by-four" (that's four generic IOs and four generic Royal Guards) that dominated skirmish. The power of the list was in its high activation count (8 cards), figure count (12 figures), speed (eight speed-5 RGs, boosted by up to four full "Orders" for 5 more spaces each), and survivability (8 health + "Protector" on the RGs, and "Cower" on the IOs), as well as pretty good damage out of the RGs (who also have Reach). Both units have been nerfed since then, leading to the decline of the list. But IOs, at just 2 points each, are still the cheapest imperial “filler” deployments available for lists that are just about at max points. [Photo Credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu] The IO rolls a Yellow-Blue attack pool, so any discussion of its effectiveness in combat has to start with them. If you’re unfamiliar with IA dice, they basically contribute three combat stats: accuracy (the numerals, only relevant for ranged attacks, at least most of the time), damage (the explody-thingies), and surges (lightning bolts). I finally found one with a built-in photo credit! Since the IO is a ranged unit, we’ll start with accuracy. And with a Blue die, we’re off to a good start. Unless our target is Hidden, we’re guaranteed to hit any target within 2 spaces, and have a 4-in-6 chance of hitting a target 3 spaces away, just based on our Blue die roll. While “4” and “5” accuracy are possible, counting on those outcomes is a risk, as we’re twice as likely to end up with a “2” or a “3” result instead. Unfortunately the Yellow die offers us no guarantees, with a couple of “blank” accuracy results, a couple of “1s,” and a couple “2s.” The worst-case scenario (or "accuracy floor") for our Yellow-Blue dice pool is a minimum of 2 accuracy, which isn’t great but is serviceable (especially if combined with a move of up to 4 spaces). If everything breaks our way, we’re looking at a maximum ("accuracy ceiling") of “7” accuracy, which we could bump to “9” if we also happen to roll a surge. But apart from surprising some poor fool , this is hardly a result we want to “hope” for: because we must roll the “5” accuracy on the Blue die and must roll the “2” accuracy on the Yellow with a single surge, this is a remarkably rare occurrence (just 1-in-36 odds). Plus, our final damage results would be 7 native accuracy, 1 surge (for +2 accuracy), and 1D . . . or just 1 damage. Hardly the stuff dreams are made of. If we wanted to represent these results graphically, we could render it this way (which we'll do in the future, because it's time-consuming and boring read or write this information it in prose form): Next comes damage. The Yellow die is notoriously weak when it comes to dealing damage (see every article in our melee series, ever), and just a glance at its die faces reveals why: only a single die face has 2 damage sides, and two die faces have no damage at all. The blue die is slightly better (two faces deal two damage, and only one face has no damage), but we’d much rather have a Green or a Red. No such luck for the IO, though. As a result, the IO’s worst possible roll will net it “0” natural damage, while its best possible roll will net it “4.” The average amount of damage dealt by a Yellow-Blue pool ends up exactly in the middle: 2.00 damage. Again, we can represent this graphically as follows: Finally, we have surges. These little lightning symbols are much rarer than damage symbols (there are fewer of them on each die), and if we’re rolling Red or Blue dice, they can become extremely difficult to get (and keep). Depending on our unit’s deployment card, a surge symbol may be better than a damage symbol (if we have a surge for +2D, for instance), just as good (a surge for +1D), situationally better (a surge for Blast 1), or situationally worse (a surge for Pierce 1). Here, the IO has two surge abilities of note: a surge for +1D (fine), and a surge for Focus (awesome in a vacuum, but in skirmish play it’d be quite a bit better if the IO were more durable). We also have a surge for +2 accuracy which can be good in a pinch, although if we’re trying to maximize our unit’s damage output we’d prefer to avoid spending surges on accuracy if at all possible. Our worst possible surge roll is a “0,” which is true of any dice pool combination. Our best is a whopping “3,” thanks to the double-surge face on the Yellow die. But since the Yellow has only one face with two surges (and two faces with no surges), our average ends up below the half-way point, at a very respectable 1.17. Cue the graph: Of course, since these three charts are all measuring the same things, the next logical progression would be to combine them together: So this chart tells us that, on average, we can expect to roll 4.17 accuracy, 2.00 damage, and 1.17 surges with our IO. Simple enough, right? The next step is to figure out what "average roll" actually means. Does it mean we can “count on” dealing 2 damage every time I attack with my IO? The short answer is "no," for three reasons. First, because this is an “average” measurement, it means by definition that we’ll see a fair number of rolls that are higher than these numbers, and a fair number that are lower than these numbers. While an average gives us a good idea of how a particular unit will perform over the long haul, in a large sample size, it unfortunately doesn’t tell us much about how that unit is likely to perform in a particular encounter. To dig into that, we need probabilities that are more particularized than just the “average” outcome. Second, a focus on what the IO can roll doesn’t give us a full picture of his damage, because while we know how many surges on average the IO is likely to roll, we haven’t accounted for how that average 1.17 surges will be spent. If the IO spends that surge on +1D, his average total damage is likely to be higher than just 2.0. But if he spends the surge on Focus instead, the average damage dealt with be lower. Third, and most importantly, bear in mind that all these figures tell us is what our attacker will roll on average. But combat in IA is (usually) a two-way street, which means the defender is rolling dice, too (again, usually). If the defender rolls a black die, we can expect to see 1.5 blocks (on average) stacked up against our IO’s 2.0 damage, for an average of half-a-damage dealt to our Black die target. Of course, IA doesn’t deal damage to figures in half-damage units. So what this really means is that approximately half the time, our IO will deal damage to a black die figure. And approximately half the time, he’ll deal no damage at all. Finding the “average” value of a White die is more complicated, because the White specializes in Evades, and the impact of an Evade depends on what the attacker can do with surges. If the Attacker has a surge for +1D (as our IO does), then that Evade has essentially the value of 1 additional block. If the Attacker has a surge for +2D (like an elite Stormtrooper), that Evade may function as two blocks. And if the Attacker has a surge for Pierce 1 (like Snowtroopers), that Evade may be less valuable than a Block (depending on what other icons are in the defense results). In other words, figuring out our IO’s combat effectiveness requires that we know quite a bit more about the IO than just its average dice rolls, and it also requires that we know a fair bit about the defenses of his target. So while average rolls tell us something about how a unit performs in combat, it's not a precise something. Which means we need more data... More Power, More Precision To account for all these things,and to give us a quick visual reference for how the IO is actually likely (and unlikely) to perform in combat, we’ll be using an “at least” chart that should be familiar to veterans of our series on campaign melee weapons: If you’re not familiar with these charts, they’re not particularly difficult to learn. The big-picture principle is this: we want charts with lots of big bars, and don't want charts with just a few, tiny bars. If you need more guidance than that, then here are some additional clarifications: We have three different color-coded bars: blue (for accuracy), red (for damage), and Green (for our beneficial condition, Focus). Blue and Red will consistently stay “Accuracy” and “Damage,” respectively, but a green bar may represent another beneficial condition (Hidden being the only other, as of the date of this writing), and there may be other colored bars that come in as well (Purple for harmful conditions, like Stun, Bleed, or Weaken, or harmful combat effects like Blast or Cleave, etc.) Each bar also has a different color outline. A black outline means these are our accuracy (blue), damage (red), or Focus (green) odds against 1 Black die; a white outline means the odds of scoring that result against 1 White die. The bars are arranged from back to front, in descending order. 1+ blue is in the back, 2+ blue is in front of it, 3+ blue in front of that, and so on until we run out of blue bars. Reds follow the same orders. Generally speaking, each Blue or Red bar should be smaller than the bar that precedes it, and larger than the bar that follows it (representing successively lower odds of scoring higher damage or accuracy results). The “1+” means that bar represents the chances that our attack will score 1 or more of that thing (again, blue for accuracy, red for damage) against that defense die. “2+” means 2 or more of that thing, and so on. We measure chances on a 100% scale (100% being a certainty, 0% meaning an impossibility). Those chances are recorded in the data table below our chart (each column on the data table corresponds to the column of data above it). So if you wanted to find the odds of scoring 4 accuracy against 1 Black die, you’d find the blue accuracy chart against 1 Black die (first on the left), and look for the corresponding percentage in the “4+” row (“69.3%”). Because the data in these charts factors in surge abilities, they’re not strictly showing probabilities. Instead, these results are culled from a “Monte Carlo simulation,” which is a fancy term for saying “we told a computer to roll dice for this unit X number of times (in this case, 2000 times) and tell us the results.” So that “69.3%” means that in our 2000 Monte Carlo simulations, our IO rolled 4+ accuracy against a Black die 69.3% of the time. We can run Monte Carlo sims in as many trials as we wanted, provided our computer was powerful enough to crunch all the data. Ours uses a relatively large sample size (2000), but because it’s a mere simulation, it does mean our data isn’t going to be exact. A sample of 2000 has a margin of error of about 2%, meaning the real probability lies somewhere between 67.3% and 71.3%. So bear that in mind if your skirmish strategy demands more precision than that. Lastly, a note on surge abilities. In a real skirmish match, we have the luxury of not having to spend surges until we have an idea of what’s out on the table, but our simulator doesn’t have the capacity to make choices that way. So to compensate, whenever we factor in surge abilities, we’re generally going to assume that our attacker is trying to inflict the maximum amount of damage (since this is usually the goal of an attack in Skirmish). This means when we spend surges, we’ll usually spend surges on damage-dealing abilities first (+damage results when we have them, Pierce and Deadly when we don’t), then on other harmful abilities (Stun, Cleave, etc.), then on beneficial abilities (Recover, Focus, etc.), and never on accuracy if we can avoid it (more on why that is in a minute). I generally refer to this as a “damage hierarchy” (because damage-dealing surges become the priority). While this will be our general plan of attack for skirmish units, certain specialized units may have other abilities that they’d rather trigger (Keywords being the most common). If that happens, we may look at two or more “at least” charts, in order to track what happens when we make the choice to prioritize one surge ability over another. So if that wall of text hasn’t put you off, let’s take a look again at the IO’s “at least” damage chart and see what it tells us: For one thing, the IO really has a hard time dealing damage. Against a Black die, our IO dealt 1 or more damage in 74.15% of our 2000 trials, or right around 3-in-4 attacks. At one level, this is great news. Remember that looking just at the average damage dealt, we were concerned the IO would be dealing no damage just as often as he was dealing any. This chart reassures us that this isn’t the case; our stalwart IO is likely to deal some damage about three times more often than he deals none, which means he isn’t completely inept in combat. Woot woot! At the same time, a brief glance at the IO’s 2D+ numbers tell us that those 3-in-4 attacks dealing “one or more” damage are usually just dealing “one.” Our IO dealt 2 or more damage in just 42.5% of our 2000 trials, or less than half the time. And his odds of dealing 3D+ were less than 1-in-6 (14.1% of our 2000 trials), which we could generously call “a pipe dream.” The IO has more success against the White die. While his odds of dealing 1D+ are basically the same (74.7% vs. 74.15%), his odds of 2D+ shoot up from 42.5% to 54.2%, and his odds of dealing 3D+ are basically 1-in-4 (25.15%). This is a general trend that we’ll see when comparing black and white dice. Attack dice have a harder time dealing any damage to a White die than to a Black die, because the White die has a 1-in-6 chance of Dodging all damage and the Black die does not. But attack dice have a harder time dealing higher damage to a Black die than a white, because if the White die doesn’t roll the Dodge, it’s best possible roll is a single-block (which will be overwhelmed if we roll 2 or more natural damage) and a single-evade (which may be very valuable if we need a surge for extra damage, but could be entirely useless if we roll no surges at all). Finally, the two green bars tell us that our IO, in addition to those damage results, also managed to proc his Focus surge ability 26% of the time (or roughly 1-in-4). That’s not sustainable by any means (we certainly can’t count on having a 1-in-4 event proc all the time), but it is a nice little bonus for our IO if we get it. His odds of getting Focus go down slightly against the White die (19%), but that’s to be expected: both because of the Dodge, and because the White die has more Evades to remove extra surges. Speaking of which... The two data sets on the right side of the charts perform the same analysis, but assume that our IO is Focused while he’s attacking. This is tracked for two reasons. First, the IO has the ability to self-Focus (through a surge-ability), so this is a scenario that a well-played IO (i.e., an opportunistic shot-taker who hides and cowers after he attacks) could conceivably find himself in often. Second, skirmish players can usually find a way to Focus their units if they want to (through command cards and units), so figuring out which units benefit more from Focus seems like a valuable bit of information. The IO definitely becomes more powerful while Focused. His odds of dealing 2D+ jump all the way up to 80% against the Black die, which is a very high figure. While we can certainly pick any percentage we like as a benchmark for what we consider to be “reliable” (50% odds? I’m in!”), I tend to consider odds around 80% or higher as a good indicator of reliability. An 80% chance of 2 or more damage from a 2-point figure sounds like a great deal. But an 80% chance of 2 or more damage out of a Focused figure? If the IO is self-focusing, it’s great. But if we’re thinking about spending a command card or special action to give our IO a Focus token, we may get more mileage out of that token if we give it to a different unit. It’s over, Anakin! I have the high ground! Although there’s technically no “high ground” in IA, positioning plays a key role in how combat plays out. This isn’t Destiny, after all, where every combatant is magically in position to strike any foe of its choice at any moment (not that I’m knocking Destiny, which I enjoy). IA skirmishes take place in three-dimensional space. Objectives, corridors, doors, difficult terrain, blocking terrain, impassible terrain, friendly or hostile figures--in short, any number of environmental and spatial variables--may prevent our skirmish troops from going where we need them to go, or attacking what we’d prefer to attack. Our go-to skirmish unit may have the most potent attack on the board. But if it can’t bring that attack to bear where and when it needs to be brought to bear, its combat effectiveness will suffer (and, if we’re lucky, it will get a skirmish attachment designed to alleviate that suffering). So while average rolled symbols and “at least” damage charts tell us quite a bit about what a unit can do, we can only start to contextualize this data if we also understand something about our unit’s ability to respond to threats across the board. In other words, our unit’s “threat range.” For most units, “threat range” consists of two basic components: our unit’s speed (how many move points can our unit spend in a single action to move towards the target it wants to attack) and our unit’s attack range (does the unit have a melee weapon or ranged weapon; if it has a melee weapon, does it have Reach; and if a ranged weapon, how much accuracy can it reliably generate?). Some units also have additional modifiers (move points without spending actions, the ability to pull units towards them, etc.) which may also factor into its overall “threat range.” So what is the threat range of our IO? Well, we have a total speed of “4,” so our basic threat range is “4.” If we need our IO to respond to a threat, it can move to engage any threat within 4 spaces of it and actually engage that threat in the same activation (technically the IO can move up to 8 spaces in a single activation, but only if it burns both actions on movement; if it does so, it’s not a “threat” to any other unit on the board, because it can’t deal any damage or other harmful effects just by moving; it may, however, be a threat to an objective). The IO also has a weapon. Any figure with a weapon (sorry, C-3PO) will add at least 1 additional space to its threat range, and because the IO has a ranged weapon, it has the potential to have a much greater threat range. We know from our dice roll charts that the IO is guaranteed to roll at least “2” accuracy, so if we really need it, we can rest assured that our IO will be able to respond to any threat at least 6 spaces (well, technically 4 movement points and 2 spaces, but we’ll refer to “spaces” to safe type) away, provided it has both actions available to it. We also know that the maximum accuracy we can score with the IO is “9,” so at most, our IO will “only” be able to threaten something up to 13 spaces away (which, in most cases, should be enough). If the IO is Focused, or has a command card that gives bonus Accuracy (or move points, or both), its threat range can be even larger. Once again, we can distill this data to chart-form for quick reference: The top bar represents how far the IO can conceivably threaten if everything breaks perfectly (the yellow bar marks the break between "10" and "11" for ease of reference), and all the component parts that go into that threat range. Again, we'll usually go straight to this in the future to avoid discussing it all in prose, because boring. Pulling it all together Taken together, our IO’s average dice rolls, “at least” damage probabilities, and threat range give us a pretty good sense of how he’s likely to perform in combat (spoiler alert: not great). There are other aspects of the IO that we'll look at in future installments -- like his survivability or the impact of command cards with his "Leader" trait -- but before we do that, we'll give some greater context to the IO's combat stats by fleshing out the rest of the imperial Tier 2 units in our next skirmish-themed article. Inevitable Post-Posting Edits:
  12. The short answer is "yes," if you're using the metric I use for "best damage" (which is total combined damage probabilities). The other two strong-performance mods for the Ancient Lightsaber are the Shock Emitter and the Balanced Hilt. Since they're both exhaust-to-use, it's a pretty apples-to-apples comparison with the Focusing Beam. Here's how both mods stack up against our "Pierce 1" and "smart" Focusing Beam, starting with the YGB "healthy" dice pool: With a Yellow-Green-Blue dice pool, the Shock Emitter and Balanced Hilt basically battle to a draw, and are easily top-30 weapons. Both get the +1D and Pierce 3 surge ability to fire off pretty consistently (thanks to lots of rolled surges from YGB), and if the Shock Emitter can't, it gets the +1D part at least. If the Balanced Hilt variant rolls 3 or more surges, it doesn't get any benefit from the Balanced Hilt. Adding just the Pierce 1 from the Focusing Beam pushes the Ligthsaber into the top-20, and the "smart" Focusing Beam (-1 Dodge if there's a dodge, otherwise Pierce 1) makes this Yellow-Green-Blue weapon a top-10 weapon, thanks in large part to the number it does on White dice. All weapons top out at 8 damage maximum, although the Shock Emitter registered slightly higher odds of reaching that goal (being able to generate +1D out of nothing). The Red-Green-Blue variant is fantastic (i.e., top-10) with any of these mods equipped, but slightly better at dealing 5D+ and way better at dealing 1-4D+ with the "smart" Focusing Beam equipped. Both RGB and YGB pick up the majority of their gains against white dice, where the ability to cancel a dodge gives them essentially a 100% chance to deal at least 2 damage past the die, and between 80-98% odds to deal 4D+, versus around 83% for all the others: That said, adding the Focusing Beam doesn't necessarily result in the maximum damage output. For top-tier damage, the RGB + Shock Emitter has the best (albeit, very small) chance of reaching 9D (thanks again to the ability to generate +1D out of nothing) and the highest odds of dealing 6-8D+, so if maximum damage is what's important for us, the Shock Emitter would be the better choice. But if our goal is to get the highest amount of reliable damage, then pairing a hard-hitting dice combo (RGB) with solid damage-dealing surge abilities (+2D, +1D/Pierce 3) and the ability to remove a dodge eliminates essentially all the guesswork of whether we'll deal damage to our target (and thus why it scores so well in these tests).
  13. I ran into the same fatigue with my riot troopers. I haven't even washed them yet.
  14. Agreed. As great as the Focusing Beam is, there are limitations on it. It's exhaust-to-use, which is major. And it costs strain, so an overly ambitious hero may not have it available when needed. But even with all those limitations, it does seem like a particularly good mod to counter 88-Z-centric class cards. I'm particularly jazzed by the fact that melee weapons got a flexible "can-fit-on-any-weapon" mod with dodge-removal, while the ranged weapons are stuck with a particular Tier III weapon if they want that same ability. Seems only fair, since the ranged weapons have the only mod with a truly free Pierce 1 (Plasma Cell), the only mod with a truly free, persistent (albeit mandatory) swap-a-die-for-a-Red-die mod (Disruption Cell), the only mod with a truly free, persistent (albeit range-limited) surge (Sniper Scope), and the only weapon with a surge for +3D (Disruptor Pistol). Not that I'm bitter or anything...
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