Fascinating you ask about notes. I thought about sharing these, but decided against it. But since you've asked, here you go:
Cadence and Rhythm
At the beginning of game, you are playing a game of chicken with your opponent. It is the most predictable point of the game in terms of decisionmaking - particularly as it relates to the relative safety of your figures. However, it is the turn that matters most for the output of the game.
If you advance, you put units at risk. Therefore, activating last is extremely valuable, because you can capture a resource without your opponent being able to respond.
This is typically your most powerful figure, but it can depend on the relative utility of that figure
Shyla may be my most powerful figure, but since she’s melee she probably won’t have the ability to threaten any of my opponent’s figures, so there’s no reason to hold her for the last activation
In contrast, holding IG88 until the last activation is incredibly powerful, as he has an large threat range (7 movement points, min range 7 attack)
DISCLAIMER: Because a lot of specific advice depends on the list you are running, what the opponent is running, and scenario/deployment zone drawn, we cannot give detailed advice. This is much more of an overview.
Round 0: examine your opponent’s list. Ask to read any cards you are not familiar with. Be familiar with the command cards commonly used by your opponent’s figures
At its core, Imperial Assault is a game that tests a player’s ability to maximize the value gotten out of the actions of each figure.
Each figure will likely activate a maximum of 4 times (my experience)
8 total actions - 8 opportunities to earn value
Earn points for yourself
Deny your opponent points
4 total attacks (typical figures)
The best players understand the order of their activations and how certain events may impact that order as the game progresses.
EXAMPLE: Assume that Player 1 has Jedi Luke and a set of Rangers. The Rangers can target Player 2’s IG88. Jedi Luke can only access Player 2’s set of Gammorrean Guards. Typically, we would begin our activation with the rangers, hoping to remove IG88 before he activates. However, as an intervening event, assume that Player 2 had initiative and dealt 10 damage to Jedi Luke with the Gammorean Guards (not unlikely). Also assume that Jedi Luke, could move to a safe position relative to Player 2’s figures.
This situation may justify altering the order of activation! Saving Jedi Luke may be more important, depending on the game state.
PRESENT DIFFICULT CHOICES. The more difficult decisions you can force opponents to make, the more likely they are to make a mistake that can be exploited.
Let’s examine activation patterns.
You could consider these best practices, but think there’s room for the game to change, so for now let’s just call them patterns.
Before looking at activation patterns, we should identify the influencing factors that apply to all rounds
Relative safety of your figures
Relative threat to opponent’s figures
Next round considerations (positioning this round to enable you to accomplish one of the previous factors)
Early Game: Round 1/ Round 2
Portion of the game where each player’s threat range is well-defined
Players haven’t made their valuable figures vulnerable yet
Setup and positioning
This is where activation count matters: no matter who had Initiative, the player with more acts will go last, being able to score some points or make an unanswered attack.
Time to give units buffs
Power tokens, focus, hidden tokens, movement points
Hard passes and soft passes. Support units like Gideon, Threepio, and Officers allow you to make activations and see what the opponent is up to without putting figures at risk. Also the pass rule.
Moving low value figures to objectives to force opponent into your threat range
Saving powerful figures until the end of round. This has two, intertwined purposes:
Gain value through an end of round attack - if opponent moves to an objective or aggressive position, you can attack that figure
Deter opponent from moving out on to the map and taking objectives - opponent will be prevented from moving within all spaces within your figure’s threat range
Powerful figures are limited by threat range: Vader may be your most powerful unit, but his threat range is typically limited.
Mid Game: Round 2/ Round 3
Game transitions to mid-game when shots start to be fired “in earnest” and engagement is joined.
Portion of the game where players begin trading attacks with their valuable figures and/or capturing objectives with those figures
Players are putting their valuable figures at risk for some gain
This is when “stuff happens”. If the mid game hasn’t started already, it will start in the first activations of round 2 (most of the time). Unlike round 1, fighting units will be activated first here most of the time. If any units dive bombed, retreat them now (looking at you, Jedi Luke…)
In contrast to the early game, players typically activate their most powerful figures first in order to remove an opponent’s figure before it can activate.
Both sides will be trying to eliminate activations and score objective points. Which of these is more important really depends on your list and your opponent’s list
Choosing targets when you activate figures is a key part of this
Attack should focus on figures you can realistically remove (deny opponent’s offense)
Sometimes you may choose to target a list’s most powerful figure, particularly if your opponent has left it in a vulnerable position after activating.
Or to give it a harmful condition
Mirroring the first point: you want to get value out of your powerful figures before they are removed.
Huge consideration for this part of the game
Using buffs: You’ve invested an activation in making a figure more powerful - it’s time to get value from that investment.
Typically, you don’t want to be giving new buffs early in the round because you can’t predict if the figure receiving the buff will live to use it (unpredictable threat ranges)
Command cards can influence activation order in a couple ways
Similar to buffs, command cards with limitations can influence what you activate first
If your Rancor is at risk of being eliminated and you have no other melee figures, you may need to activate it immediately to take advantage of Pummel, Death Blow, etc.
Objective focused units will grab objectives
Typically this happens at the end of round, since these figures typically aren’t as efficient for attacking
Also happens at end of round, because an opponent has fewer opportunities to respond.
**** these figures could activate first if powerful units are sufficiently safe and objectives can be lost to opponent (picking up crates)
Round 3+: The late game
A game generally progresses to the late game when a few activations on each side have been eliminated. At this point, one side or the other could be perceived as having an advantage. A definite “path to victory” can be discerned at this point.
Or for the player that is behind, a “path to denying victory” emerges
WHEN THE GAME IS CLOSE: If multiple activations on both sides have been eliminated and the figures on the board and points are both still pretty close, late game begins.
“All hands on deck”: support and objective figures are called in to assist the battle. You want to knock figures out even more than usual: no figures= no attacks or objectives = no points
Find your victory condition and pursue it. For many lists it’s killing figures, but it could be trying to sweep objectives. It’s a subjective thing.
May also mean denying points - hiding valuable or vulnerable figures
IF YOU HAVE THE “ADVANTAGE”, the late game will be about consolidating your gains. You will want to keep up the pressure on your opponent, killing more units and gaining objectives in ways that prevent your opponent from making a comeback.
Generally this consists of hiding your high point figures or finishing off your opponent’s fighters to prevent a comeback.
Determine the necessary conditions for your opponent to win the game
Does he need to remove a particular figure?
Does he need to contest all the objectives?
THis will dictate your actions
IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE “ADVANTAGE”, it is time to play smart. First, DO NOT DESPAIR. There is almost always a way to come back. This is when you need to try to eliminate the opponent’s advantage, whether it’s an advantage of figures, points, or both.
This is when list knowledge is most important: with the opponents you and your opponent have left, how can you best close the gap? What command cards has your opponent not played? What strategies will they use to prevent you from making a comeback?
Remove their highest threat figures and grab what objectives you can.