The Galaxy's Fate in my Hand: An IA Probability Compendium

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DATA DEEP-DIVE 3: Tier I Melee Weapons

Here's the exhaustive data for all of our Tier I melee weapons, sorted by how well each weapon+mod combo performs in dealing damage, triggering keywords, and generating surges. The results are broken up for each weapon by surge-hierarchy (damage-focused, keyword-focused, surge-focused). Enjoy.

Gaffi Stick (Tier I, 300 Credits)


This weapon is boss. At whatever you want to to be boss at. And dirt cheap, too.

Boss + dirt cheap.

'nuff said.

Vibro Blade (Tier I, 300 Credits)



The draw for this weapon is clearly the ability to trigger 2 separate keywords (Bleed and Cleave 2). But the damage suffers the more we try to do. A free damage upgrade like the Shock Emitter gets us closest to decent damage with our keywords; if the keywords are important to you, definitely avoid the Vibrogenerator. If single-target damage is all you care about, avoid this weapon.

Vibro Sword (Tier I, 350 Credits)


A modicum of adaptability, the double-mod slot is where it's at with this weapon. Fully kited out for damage, the Vibrogenrator + Shock Emitter is the highest single-target damage available (a nearly 40% chance of dealing 5D+), but it's very much a one-trick pony.

The Energized Hilt is a very strong play on this weapon, giving us the ability to adapt a very lackluster dice pool (Green-Blue) into whatever we need in the circumstance. The Balanced Hilt is also a great choice, because it goes a long way to helping the Vibro Sword take advantage of its exceptional ability to surge for +2D. The Shock Emitter's +1D bonus is also big. And to round things out, the High-Impact Guard can be very good, although if we have it we probably want either the Energized Hilt (to roll Yellow-Green) or the Balanced Hilt (for the extra surge).

Cost and sustainability are the biggest concerns with this weapon. But properly kited out, this and the Gaffi Stick are the fastest track to good damage that the Rebels have in the early campaign.

Edited by Rythbryt
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Another great breakdown of the weapons. Great job man. I think this speaks volumes as to how powerful a free and consistent pierce-1 is on anything. Especially when combined with more free damage from Vibrogenerator.


Gaffi stick is unimpressive at first glance. "It's just a stick with a surge for weaken" my rebel players say. Had they read your articles, they would be singing a different tune. Something akin to finding the BFG in Doom. Especially since one of my players has HORRIBLE luck with the dice. And i mean it. Rolling "1 damage" on red dice for 50%+ of a campaign is just heartbreaking. I'd bet he'd be glad if the worst thing he could roll was 3-damage-pierce-1. It would make his teammates a lot less mad at him too.


Lesson learned: You must look beyond what you see. (And beware the stick).


Edited by The Lext Level
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I might need to re-read things, but my initial impressions are:

  1. The only Tier I weapon worth buying is the Gaffi Stick
  2. Get the mods

This approach might be suboptimal in the short term, but given you need credits for all group members and there are treats in store at higher tiers, this seems like the best way forward.

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3 hours ago, Master Wang said:

I might need to re-read things, but my initial impressions are:

  1. The only Tier I weapon worth buying is the Gaffi Stick
  2. Get the mods

This approach might be suboptimal in the short term, but given you need credits for all group members and there are treats in store at higher tiers, this seems like the best way forward.

Isn't Vibrosword good too?

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13 minutes ago, Stompburger said:

Isn't Vibrosword good too?

Looking just at buy-in cost, the Gaffi Stick is (to me at least) a "definitely consider" if not a "no-brainer." It has a good dice pool (Red-Yellow) which allows either a damage-focused upgrade path (Vibrogenerator, Shock Emitter) or a surge-ability upgrade path (Balanced Hilt, Shock Emitter for Stun, Balanced Hilt if we want surges for other non-damage things). But the free Pierce 1 is where the real value is, as Lext pointed out. That's what allows the Gaffi to compete with weapons that cost twice as much as it does (or more).

The Vibro Sword is worth considering solely because it has that second upgrade slot. If it only had one, it'd be a relatively poor choice, as its Green-Blue pool would force you either into taking the Balanced Hilt (to trigger +2D more reliably) or the Vibrogenerator (to trigger +2D constantly). Adding the High-Impact Guard, for example, would be largely ineffective, as a Green-Blue pool rarely has the two surges needed to trigger both +2D abilities (especially against white dice). Similarly, adding the Shock Emitter is basically 500 credits to add +1D once per activation (since, again, getting that second surge to trigger Stun is tricky). The Energized Hilt would be solid, although I'd venture a guess that in most cases, it'd be swapping a Red die in for the Blue die, which doesn't really help the Vibro Sword trigger +2D more often (though oddly enough, it does increases its expected damage).

Having that second slot allows more finessing of the Vibro Sword's innate limitations. That said, the second mod slot is also a curse of sorts, because buying into the Vibro Sword basically locks us into buying two mods for it (for all the reasons described above), which means a minimum total cost of 900 credits. That's still on the cheap end of what one would pay for a fully kited out Tier II weapon or an unmodified Tier III weapon (and it will be interesting to see how the Vibro Sword ultimately compares with those higher tier options), but it's also a lot more than what you'd pay for a Gaffi Stick (350 credits more, minimum) that would get similar-if-not-better damage results, and probably more consistent damage results (which is one of the Vibrogenerator's primary advantages). So that's the dilemma.

Resolving that dilemma is largely a matter of taste: does the added flexibility that comes with a double-mod weapon--and the fact that it can hit very high levels of damage--justify the increased cost?

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The Galaxy's Fate in my Hand

Part the Ninth: "The Best Damage 350 Credits Can Buy" (or "Why I learned to stop worrying and love the Vibrogenerator...")
In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm going to start with a confession...
For a long time, I thought the Vibrogenerator was a hunk of junk. And not in the "hidden-awesomeness-that-will-eventually-win-you-over" sense of the Falcon. But in the actual "who would ever want to buy this garbage?" sense that I felt when I first saw a selfie-stick.
(Second confession: I have since used a selfie-stick. :P )
I think it's fair to say I wasn't alone in my skepticism. Everything about the Vibrogenerator invites challenge. It's among the cheapest upgrades in the game, but it's unavailable till Tier III. It includes the word "vibro" in its name. And it asks us to trade 2 surges for +2 damage in a world where the most sought-after modifications add either surges (Balanced HiltTargeting DisplaySniper Scope) or surge abilities (High-Impact GuardWeighted Head, Shock-EmitterPlasma Cell).
What an odd little bird...
Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu
The result is a weapon that intuitively looks of place, and as a result appears to have been left largely undisturbed by the larger IA community. In preparing for this article, I scoured the internets for commentary on the Vibrogenerator, and was surprised by the lack of information out there. Once we eliminate the posts where it's merely included in a list or discussed tangentially in relation to another topic, there are really only five (relatively brief) discussions of its merits: two of which were favorableone that was neutral, and two that ranged from less-than-favorable to very unfavorable.
And yet, if you've been following this series, the Vibrogenerator shows up everywhere once we start compiling data on weapon performance. According to our Starter Weapon and Tier I Weapon deep dives, every Starter and Tier I weapon reaches its maximum damage output with the Vibrogenerator equipped. This is especially true for one-mod weapons, where the static +2D buff from the Vibrogenerator offers an insurmountable improvement in overall damage output over any other mod currently available. And (so far at least) it's also proven true for two-mod weapons (albeit only the Vibro Sword).*
          * In a two-mod set-up, the Vibrogenerator is pushed to the brink by the Tier I Vibro Sword with both the High-Impact Guard and the Balanced Hilt equipped, which scores slightly higher than the Vibro Sword with both the Vibrogenerator and Shock Emitter equipped at dealing 1-3D. Both weapons are basically tied at dealing 4D, and the Vibrogenerator-variant pulls ahead on the odds of dealing 5-7D (with nearly a 40% chance at dealing 5 or more damage (39.7%) to the Guard-Hilt's 33.1% odds), which results in a slightly higher overall damage output. When the exhausted mods are removed from the equation (i.e., no Shock Emitter and no Balanced Hilt), the Vibrogenerator's damage dusts the High-Impact Guard's, in large part due to the inability of the Vibro Sword to reliably generate two surges past defense dice with its Green-Blue dice pool (rendering the High-Impact Guard essentially "dead weight" on many attack rolls). But hold that thought, we'll come back to it later...
So here's my effort to shed some light on this remarkably unique addition to IA, and what gradually changed me from a Vibrogenerator-skeptic to a Vibrogenerator-lover... at least most of the time. ;)
"It's just two damage..."
I'm purposefully starting this discussion by inverting it: instead of talking about the Vibrogenerator's cost (easily the most controversial thing about it), I'm going to start with it's benefit: a static and persistent +2D buff to our attack results that most everyone would agree (in a vacuum, at least) is a tremendous "plus."
The reason is two-fold. The first reason is purely selfish: as a writer, I intentionally want to hold back weighing-in on a controversy until late in the piece, to keep as many readers as possible. :ph34r: (It appears I'm all about confessions today...). The second stems from the method of analysis we've been using in this series. I'm a firm believer in efficient play (or at least being aware of efficient plays, even if I ultimately end up choosing a piece of equipment or a weapon for other reasons, like fluff or flavor). Cost is a necessary component to assessing efficiency. But the idea of "cost" necessarily includes an assessment of "value," and to assess a weapon's (or item's) value, we first need to know and understand what it does, as well as what other weapons (and items) do relative to it. Only then can we make judgments about whether a given item "costs" too much (is an inefficient choice) or "costs" too little (is an efficient choice). 
So let's start by assessing how valuable the Vibrogenerator's +2D buff actually is.
On the one hand, the value of adding two damage to our attack results is basically self-evident: we're adding +2D to our attack results, right? What's left to think about? :rolleyes: But even this simple statement has some pretty significant implications for combat performance.
First off, the ability to add +2D to our attack results is, in itself, an extremely rare ability.
Not counting hero-specific class abilities (of which there are a few) and a rare crate-draw, if we want to add +2D to our hero's attack results, we have only nine melee weapons/items to choose from:
If we want to add +2D to a melee weapon's attack results... this is all our generic heroes have to choose from.
Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu
Nine options (eight, if we remove the Vibrogenerator itself) may sound like a lot, but if we look beyond the surface and get into the weeds, we know at least one of them isn't a top-tier weapon (the Tier I Armored Gauntlets, which can't be modified) and another (the Tier I Vibro Sword) takes a lot of investment in mods to become top-tier. We haven't looked at the Tier IIs yet, although the Vibro Knucklers mirror the Armored Gauntlets in their inability to take a mod, which isn't promising. And the Tier II Stun Baton has a dice pool that we know is worse than what the Vibro Sword has when it comes to generating surges (Red-Blue), and just one mod slot. The Tier III Ancient Lightsaber uses an insight check for its dice pool, which means if we want it to have a three-dice pool (and really, for 1000 credits, we definitely do...), it's only situationally available to certain melee heroes; there's also a question about whether it's a surge-efficient weapon (given that surge ability locked behind a double-surge result), but that's a more complicated question... The Tier III Force Pike can add two damage from surges, but needs to spend two separate surges to do it (raising its own surge-efficiency questions). And that Tier II High-Impact Guard looks good on paper, but its effectiveness will vary a lot depending on the dice pool of the weapon we attach it to (Yellow-Green? Yes, please. Red-Blue? Er...).
The bottom-line is that of these eight alternatives to the Vibrogenerator, only one of them (the Tier III Electrostaff) appears to be free from serious questions (other than the fact that, you know, it costs 1250 credits...). Granted, that's just from a casual look at the weapons, before we get into the data (which we'll get into). But if we want to add +2D to our attack results, the vast majority of weapons that allow us to do it pose more questions than answers.
For what it's worth, ranged weapons are also limited to just nine item cards that can add +2D to attack results. There are no ranged mods that add the ability to surge for +2D, which means that +2D surge ability is limited to only the Tier I DL-44 and E-11, the Tier II A-280 and EE-3, and the Tier III DXR-6Pulse Cannon, and Valken-38 Carbine. The Tier III DLT-19, like the Force Pike, also has two separate abilities to surge for +1D. And then there's the Tier III Disruptor Pistol, which can surge for +3D. Finally, just to round-out the list, Verena's starting Military Blaster can spend two surges for +2D, which means officially it belongs on this list. But if you've ever played with it, you know better... 
The point here is that a +2D boost is nothing to sneeze at. If we want this ability natively on a weapon, we have to pay to get it (and usually through the nose, if we want a weapon that will also give us decent odds at triggering it). So that should tell us something about the type of value the Vibrogenerator is bringing to the table, right from the get-go. 
Second, using the Vibrogenerator ensures that our weapon will have a minimum damage floor of at least 2D. If you're new to this series and are unfamiliar with what a "damage floor" is, a weapon's damage floor calculates the weapon's best possible attack results assuming its worst possible attack roll. If we're looking for more ways to make our weapon damage more predictable (i.e., more dependent on "design" and "strategy" than on "luck" and "circumstance"), one important way to realize that goal is to improve our weapon's damage floor.
Over the course of this series, we've looked at all the damage floors for our Starter and Tier I melee weapons. And we found that those weapons have a surprisingly difficult time getting at least 2 damage out of their worst possible roll. Of the ten weapons that currently comprise our Starter and Tier I weapon pools, only three-and-a-half of them reach that mark. Two of those weapons (the Tier I Armored Gauntlets and the Tier I Vibro Sword) do so because they have the ability to surge for +2D, which is an extremely rare surge ability even for high-tier weapons. This means that the dreaded double-surge roll (Die 1: 1 surge, 0 damage; Die 2: 1 surge, 0 damage) that usually kills most weapons' damage floors gets up to that 2D threshold. The others get there because they combine the guaranteed 1D+ from the Red die with either a static damage bonus (Verena's Fighting Knife) or a surge ability for +1D (Shyla's Duelist's Blade, but only the Red-Green dice variant--hence a "half" credit). All the other weapons--including our beloved Gaffi Stick, without any upgrades, and Shyla's Yellow-Green Duelist's Blade--have a damage floor of 1D because their "worst possible roll" from a damage perspective is to roll double-surges, and they can't redeem both for any more than 1 damage total.
The Vibrogenerator fills the same function when it comes to damage floors as the static +1D and Red die do for Verena's Fighting Knife and Shyla's Duelist's Blade, respectively: it adds +2 damage to whatever our worst-case attack roll would be, ensuring that our damage floor will be no lower than 2D, no matter what we roll. For weapons that can't surge for more than +1D, that's an automatic increase to that weapon's damage floor of at least +1D, which is huge (it's the single-largest static damage boost available in the campaign). Even better, that static +2D boost will also combo with any Red dice we have in our attack pool, increasing our damage floor by +1D for each of those dice. When it comes to ramping up our weapon's damage floor, there's no quicker or reliable way to do it than by pairing Red dice with the Vibrogenerator.
The result is that our weapon's damage becomes much more stable, and thus more reliable. If you want to see this in action, check out damage chart for the top damage-dealer in this early set of campaign weapons:


The reason this weapon proves so consistent (70% odds of forcing at least 4 damage past defense dice) is because there's very little margin between its damage ceiling (its "best possible outcome assuming the best possible roll," in this case 7D + Pierce 1) and its damage floor (3D + Pierce 1). More importantly, the vast majority of this Gaffi Stick's rolls are compressed in the 4D-6D range:
Of our 36 potential results, only four (two 3D + Pierce 1, and two 7D + Pierce 1) at the margins. These two outcomes combine for just 11.1% of our total possible outcomes, which means this weapon's final attack results will be either 4 damage, 5 damage, or 6 damage nine-out-of-ten times we roll it (88.9%). Couple that with a static Pierce 1, and this weapon is guaranteed to deal damage (probably somewhere between 2 and 4 damage) past defense dice unless the defender rolls a Dodge. That's dependability.
Now it's worth noting that when it comes to this level of dependability, there's more at work here than just the Vibrogenerator. If we look at the Gaffi Stick wthout the Vibrogenerator equipped, we'll see the very same distribution of damage results: our best and worst outcomes still account for just 11.1% of our total possible outcomes combined. But the actual volume of those outcomes falls considerably:
This is why even a naked Gaffi Stick can be a problem for the IP, especially in the early game against grunt units: there's still an insane number of rolls (24-of-36, or 2-in-3) that will net at least 3D + Pierce 1, which is enough to guarantee at least 1 damage past any defense result except a Dodge. Adding the Vibrogenerator to this impressive chasis doesn't change the actual distribution of these impressive rolls: we still have 2-chances-in-36 of crapping the bed, the same odds of shooting the moon, and the same odds of something in-between. Instead, we dramatically increase the value of crapping the bed or shooting the moon (and everything in-between):  
Without the Vibrogenerator, our damage floor is a paltry 1D + Pierce 1, which is nothing to write home about (and certainly nothing for the IP to write home about...). We have the same odds of rolling 3D as the Vibrogenerator variant has of rolling 5D. And so on.
It's worth noting that the Gaffi Stick is a bit of an outlier when it comes to its damage distribution chart. Pairing a Red die with a free Pierce 1 and no damage-dealing surge abilities really compresses the chart. The distribution of results will look different if our weapon doesn't have a Red die in its attack pool, or doesn't have a free Pierce 1 (and certainly if it doesn't have both), or even if the weapon relies on surges to generate damage. But even for those weapons, the Vibrogenerator's consistent damage output tends to shift the damage distribution chart in a way that makes consistent damage output more reliable, if not increasing the weapon's total damage output overall.
Third, the Vibrogenerator gives us this buff in the form of natural damage. In IA, our weapons can deal damage in one of two ways: "naturally" (by rolling damage results on attack dice, or modifying our attack results to add additional damage results) or by "surging" (by rolling one or more surge results and then spending those results to add damage to our attack results).
The difference between the two methods is that the defender can counter "natural" damage only one way: by rolling (or adding) Blocks into (to) the defense results. Because it's rare for defense dice to have more than one Block result on a single die face (Black has two double-blocks and one triple-block; White has 1 dodge), natural damage is inherently difficult for defense dice to deal with. The problem is compounded by the fact that the attacker almost always rolls more attack dice than the target rolls defense dice. Adding even more natural damage on top of what those 2+ dice actually roll only further stacks the deck against the target. When it comes to "surge" damage, defenders just have more options. The Black die has an Evade (that is effectively blank against natural damage), and the White die has three Evades (plus that Dodge) that it can contribute to the fray.
The net result is that if we have the option to add "natural" damage or to surge for the same amount of damage, the best "surge" damage can hope for is to force a draw. Adding the same amount of "natural" damage to our attack results never performs worse against defense dice than adding the same amount of "surge" damage, and against White defense dice in particular, natural damage usually performs better:
5_8_Natural_Damage_v_Surge_png.jpg In the above chart, the weapon shown (Tier I Vibro Sword + High-Impact Guard) has two surge abilities, each for +2D. Compare how that surge damage fares compared to a Vibro Sword that relies only on natural damage.
When we combine these three things together, I think we have a pretty good idea of the benefit the Vibrogenerator brings to our weapon: a rare ability to add +2D to our damage results, which boosts our damage floor (and positively shifts our damage distributions) using natural damage.
So with that out of the way, time for some controversy. :D
:( Rain on the Parade... <_<
Now that we've assessed the Vibrogenerator's value, we're equipped to discuss its "cost," which we'll use to refer to what we give up in order to take advantage of the benefits it confers to damage totals, our damage floor, and our weapon's damage consistency. If we take a step-back and assess the Vibrogenerator with a critical eye, we'll see that choosing to equip it saddles us with as many as four separate "costs":
  1. It "costs" us 350 credits. Perhaps less if we have a free starting weapon to "trade-in" (trading in a weapon we purchased is still going to impose a "cost," as we're renouncing half of the credits we initially paid for that weapon or item we traded in). But even under the best-case scenario (four "free" starting weapons traded in for 200 credits), it will cost us at least some credits to bring the Vibrogenerator to the fight. To assess this "cost," we'll need to know what the Vibrogenerator does compared to other mods that cost less, roughly the same, and more.
  2. It "costs" us a mod slot. This isn't insignificant for melee weapons, where only two purchasable weapons (the Tier I Vibro Sword and the Tier II BD-1 Vibro-Ax) have more than one mod slot. (Davith's Shrouded Lightsaber also has two, but that's another bird that deserves its own discussion.) To assess this "cost," we'll need to know how well the Vibrogenerator performs versus all the other mods that are competing for its slot (and for two-slot weapons, all the combinations of mods that would be competing for the Vibrogenerator's spot).
  3. It "costs" us - 2 surges. This isn't the only weapon (or for that matter, the only item or class ability) that requires us to spend two surges. So to assess this cost, we'll want to compare it against other weapons with double-surge abilities, and the value they bring to the table.
  4. Finally, it "costs" us the flexibility to spend 2 surges on other things. To assess this cost, we'll want to compare resolving the Vibrogenerator against resolving two separate surge abilities independently. The most apples-to-apples comparison is to compare damage results, but because heroes spend surges on other things as well (keywords and surge abilities like Recover), we'll want to briefly consider those, too.
Let's consider them in order, shall we?
We have to spend 350 credits. As far as "costs" go, this is the easiest one to discuss (and dismiss).
When I first started compiling the data for this series, I just assumed the Vibrogenerator cost 500 credits. Conceptually, that made sense to me. After all, it was a Tier III item, and that's the going rate (or close to it) for many Tier III items (Shock EmitterDisruption Cell) as well as items that added the ability to surge for damage (Plasma CellHigh-Impact Guard). So you can imagine my surprise when I actually dug the card out of the box and saw the correct price tag.
At just 350 credits, this isn't a bank-breaker. Odds are that if our hero has a melee weapon, we were already willing to fork over 300 credits for something like the Balanced Hilt (or maybe if we were ahead of the curve, like my brother was for the last year, the Extended Haft to give a Reach weapon a free Pierce 1). Taking the Vibrogenerator means an additional payout of just 50 credits, or one crate.
That's virtually always doable. Even if our teammates are misers. ;)
Is this really the best use of my mod slot? To deal with this question, we have to compare the Vibrogenerator with other things that could fill our mod-slot. Because of the variety available in mod slots, I've grouped them into six categories, so we can compare the Vibrogenerator to each in turn.
Group 1: "Accessibility" Mods


Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu

We'll start with what I refer to as "accessibility" mods. These mods have no impact on our attack results--and, indeed, have no impact on anything that the Vibrogenerator impacts, like damage, surges, or even attack pool probabilities. Instead, they increase the circumstances in which we can apply our weapon's attack results, whatever they may be. The Extended Haft on a non-Reach melee weapons falls into this category: our attack results are exactly the same as what we'd have on a naked weapon, but our weapon's attack range is significantly increased. The Tier I Marksman's Barrel falls into this category for ranged weapons.
Extending our weapon's threat range gives us real value (especially for a melee weapon), but it's a value that's extremely difficult to directly compare with something like the Vibrogenerator which is strictly impacting our final attack results. To illustrate the difficulty, consider which would you rather have on your Gaffi Stick: the ability to attack a target 1-2 spaces away with ~90% chance of dealing 2D-4D with a Pierce 1, or the ability to attack a target in an adjacent space only but with ~90% chance of dealing 4D-6D with a Pierce 1? It will depend, right? If we have a more mobile hero (like Shyla), the advantages of Reach are less valuable (or, perhaps more accurately, we'll be forced to rely on it less than we might with another hero, between her "free" movement points and her "Mandalorian Whip" special action). If we have a hero who has difficulty moving (like Davith, once he's wounded), having Reach may be the difference between doing any damage in the round and doing none at all.
Ultimately, this is the mod category where personal taste and class build will likely make the most difference. That said, because the Vibrogenerator is so (relatively) inexpensive, the cost difference between it and the Extended Haft is basically a wash (50 credits), so there's little efficiency lost (credits-wise, at least) regardless of which option we choose.
Group 2: "Splash" mods


Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu

Second, there are mods that spend surges to add things other than direct damage. The Weighted Head falls into this category (as does the bottom-half of the Shock Emitter), with its ability to add Cleave to our weapon, but doesn't directly impact our damage. To trigger a keyword like Cleave, we first have to deal damage the target, so the Weighted Head works better on a weapon that already has a very high damage floor (or at least high odds of dealing at least 1 damage to the target.
Again, this is a hard comparison to make with something like the Vibrogenerator which is very much about increasing the single-target damage of our weapon. "Splash" abilities tend to work best on weapons that usually have surges left over to spend, or are always triggering Recover. Generally, that means three-dice weapons (unless a two-dice weapon has some very strong damage dice and/or damage buffs built into it).
Again, this will be largely a matter of personal taste and hero-build. If dealing maximum single-target damage just isn't important to our hero, and we'd much rather have an area-of-effect threat on the board, then the Weighted Head is the obvious tactical choice (at least for any weapon that needs to spend surges to Cleaveand costs just 50 credits more. Likewise, if our goal is to pump out as much consistent single-target damage as possible, the Vibrogenerator is the clear winner. We know from looking at other surge-dependent weapons that rely on surges to generate respectable damage (like the Armored Gauntlets) that single damage suffers significantly when these other abilities are splashed in. The fact that the Vibrogenerator costs slightly less than the Weighted Head (350 credits vs. 400 credits) again doesn't hurt it from an efficiency standpoint.
Group 3: "Dice" Mods
Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu
Finally, some mod comparisons we can actually measure! These mods directly alter the dice in the attack (or defense) pool. We've already seen from Shyla's Duelist's Blade that swapping one die for another can greatly boost our weapon's damage. If that's all we're concerned about, our data deep dives illustrate that while changing our weapon's dice is better than nothing, our melee weapons all performed better with the Vibrogenerator equipped than with the Energized Hilt.
The saving grace for the Hilt is that the Vibrogenerator costs an extra 100 credits (and is found in Tier III, instead of Tier II like the Hilt) and also gives us the flexibility to add a Yellow or Green die instead of a Red, if the situation calls for it. On the flip side, the Hilt has to be exhausted to use while the Vibrogenerator has no exhaust penalty. In my book, that level of consistency we get from the Vibrogenerator is worth at least 100 credits, especially on weapons that struggle to deal damage anyway. But I'll admit it's close. ;)
Finally, it's worth pointing out that ranged weapons have access to two additional dice modification tricks (adding a Focus die and removing the target's defense die) that might change the calculus if they were available for melee weapons. But sadly, they aren't. :angry:

Group 4: "Combat" Mods


Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu

Fourth, there are mods that add specific surges or other combat effects that can have a profound impact on combat, but don't directly add damage. The Extended Haft makes its second appearance here (this time on weapons that have Reach, where it contributes Pierce 1), as well as some staples of campaign weapons (all of which add surges).
For some of these mods, the value of the Vibrogenerator is quite clear. Unless our weapon has "splash" surge abilities that we want to have the option of triggering, the +2D from the Vibrogenerator is going to be more impactful in combat than the Pierce 1 from the Extended Haft (especially because that means we're pairing that +2D with Reach to extend our combat range). A Pierce 1 only increases our damage total if the defender rolls 1 or more blocks (which happens a lot, but not all the time). Adding +2D always increases our damage total.
For the surge mods, the Vibrogenerator's value depends on the surge abilities we're giving up. If our weapon has decent surge dice to begin with and two or more surge abilities that deal damage, we may end up getting more damage output from adding the surge. But given that only a handful of melee weapons have the ability to surge for 2 or more damage, the Vibrogenerator is usually the best call (again, according to our data deep dives, the Vibrogenerator outperformed the Balanced Hilt when it came to dealing damage past defense dice for all Starter and Tier I weapons), at only a marginally higher cost (50 credits).

Group 5: "Surge" Mods

Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu
First off, these are two very good mods. The High-Impact Guard is the only mod in the game that adds that rare +2D surge ability to any (melee weapon): otherwise we're shoehorned into our weapon's base surge abilities, or a class/reward card. Plus it pairs an exhaust-to-use defensive bonus with a static offensive bonus. We pay a premium for this (500 credits), but at least we're getting a lot of flexibility for our investment. The Plasma Cell is actually a hybrid "combat/surge" mod, adding both a static Pierce 1 and the ability to surge for +1D. Again, we're getting a lot out of our high buy-in price (450 credits).
More importantly, these mods look the part. The High-Impact Guard's ability to surge for +2D is an improvement over the surge abilities of all but a handful of melee weapons, including some of the more popular brands (Gaffi StickBD-1 Vibro-AxForce Pike). And as we previewed in our discussion of "free" combat effects, the Plasma Cell (with some help) can transform a even relatively innocent-looking weapon into a damage dynamo:


Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu

So how does the Vibrogenerator compare to these "surge" mods, specifically the High-Impact Guard? Well, we've actually encountered this scenario previously, when we did our deep-dive on Shyla's Duelist's Blade. Recall that the Duelist's Blade has two possible dice pools: a default Yellow-Green (surge-heavy) and an optional Red-Green (favoring more raw damage). It also has not one, but two damage-focused surge abilities: a surge for +1D, and a surge for Pierce 1.
Now let's suppose we take Shyla's Duelist's Blade and test its damage output for both dice pools (surge-lite Red-Green and surge-heavy Yellow-Green) using first the High-Impact Guard and then the Vibrogenerator


Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu

Common sense would suggest some tentative conclusions, just by looking at the layout of these weapons. There are two combinations that look promising: we expect the Red-Green + Vibrogenerator to score well on damage--after all, that's a damage floor of 3 damage, and we only hit that damage floor one roll out of every 36 (Red-1D, Green-1 surge), or a paltry 2.8% of the time. Plus, our odds of rolling two surges aren't all that high anyway, so while we might be giving something up with the Vibrogenerator, we're probably only giving up a surge for +1D to claim +2D (which is a win), and at worst a surge for +1D and a surge for Pierce 1 in exchange for 2D (which is at worst a draw, and if the target doesn't roll any blocks, another win).
The Yellow-Green dice pool with the Balanced Hilt looks like it has even more upside, as we can gain 3 damage from our two surges (+2D, +1D), plus we can surge for Pierce 1 if it lands a third surge (for a maximum damage swing of 4D if the target rolls a block). Since these are surge-heavy dice, we like our chances there, as well. The Red-Green with the High-Impact Guard looks the most dicey, as we don't have particularly good odds of landing the single surge we need to add +2D (especially against white defense dice), and surging for +3D will be a very rare occurrence. And the Yellow-Green dice pool with the Vibrogenerator looks like a total waste.
So how did these weapons actually fare when it came to damage output? Well, here's the damage data for those four weapons, pulled out of our Duelist's Blade deep-dive...


No surprise, adding the Vibrogenerator to the Red-Green dice pool nets us the most damage. By a landslide. Its odds of getting at least 4 damage past defense dice are a whopping 61.1%, nearly 30 percentage points higher than the next nearest competitor (34.7%). Conceptually, it's not hard to see why: by adding the Vibrogenerator to this weapon, we've radically shifted our damage floor (from 2D--Red: 1 damage, Green: surge for 1 damage) to three (Vibrogenerator: 2 damage, Red: 1 damage, Green: surge for 0 damage). A three damage floor is already fabulous, and it gets even better because the Green die only has only one face that doesn't deal damage (that single surge). So we have only have a 1-in-36 chance of hitting that 3 damage floor, which means we may go an entire mission without seeing it. And if we get just "average" rolls on our dice (2 damage from Red, and 1 damage on Green), we'll still have at least 5 natural damage in our attack results (and only 4 of 12 defense dice faces that will remove more than one damage from the equation).

What is surprising is that the Duelist's Blade also gets more overall damage--and higher damage odds--by adding the Vibrogenerator to its Yellow-Green attack pool than it gets by adding the High-Impact Guard to that same pool. Not only that, but the surge-lite Red-Green dice pool actually gets more damage out of the High-Impact Guard than the surge-heavy Yellow-Green pool does.
By as much as 12 percentage points.
And that's not a fluke result, either. Every single Starter and Tier I melee weapon does better with the Vibrogenerator equipped than it does with the High-Impact Guard. Regardless of its dice pool.
So what gives? :blink:
The answer lies in the consistency of the Vibrogenerator's +2 damage buff versus the consistency of rolling even a single surge with any dice pool. The Vibrogenerator, plain and simple, applies +2 damage to our attack results 100% of the time (or more accurately, 100% of the time that we choose to declare we're using the Vibrogenerator before we attack--more on that in a moment). That's a 100% chance of improving our damage floor by +2 (natural) damage.
To put this in perspective, consider the following (rhetorical) question: when you attack, do you want to be Focused?
Even new IA players intuitively know that rolling an extra die while attacking is nothing but a good thing. That's why three-dice weapons are so coveted (and expensive), and why most of us will pinch pennies when it comes to armor and equipment, but won't hesitate a second when it comes to forking out a thousand credits (or more) for a Tier III weapon.
Of course, being Focused (or having a third attack die in our attack pool) doesn't always guarantee we'll defeat the target. But it definitely improve our odds of damaging the target, especially if we roll the double-damage side on that green die. We know from our previous forays into attack and defense dice that we can pretty much guarantee damage on a target that rolls a single defense die if we manage to roll either 3D + Pierce 1 or 4D (unless the target dodges). So if our Focus die gives us +2D (which it will on three of its six faces, or 50% of the time), we only need to land 1-2 damage combined on our other two attack dice (depending on what other goodies we have on our weapon) in order to guarantee at least 1 hit on our target. If we happen to roll better than 1-2 damage, so much the better. 
Now imagine if instead of rolling in a Green Focus die, you could instead place that die in your damage pool with the double-damage side up. That's two natural damage, guaranteed. Boom. Deal with it, defense die. That'd be pretty boss, right? It's an immediate improvement on our weapon's damage floor, improves our damage distribution, and gives us even better odds at reaching our damage ceiling.
Sound familiar? That's exactly what happens when we use the Vibrogenerator. It's the equivalent of getting a "free" Focus die and setting it to double-damage. In other words, a 100% proc rate. Every single time we attack.
Now compare that with the proc rate of scoring a surge for +2D with a Yellow-Green dice pool:


While that proc rate (69.5%) is very high, it's not 100%. And the odds of triggering the +2D bonus from the High-Impact Guard are always going to be less than 100% because no weapon-upgrade combo has a 100% chance of getting at least 1 surge past defense dice. The only way we can "guarantee" the High-Impact Guard fires is if our weapon both has the Balanced Hilt (or a ranged equivalent, if it's a blaster) equipped and it's readied (again, exhaust-to-use) and the attacker is also Hidden--and only then if the attacker is also not Weakened... but you get the picture. That's why the Vibrogenerator's damage ends up being the more consistent of the two over the long haul, even with a surge-heavy dice pool.
Add the Vibrogenerator's consistently higher damage output (regardless of dice pool) to its reduced buy-in cost (150 fewer credits), and there's no comparison: if you want to maximize your damage output and your weapon has a two dice attack pool and just one mod slot, the Vibrogenerator is both the best choice and the most efficient one.**
** If you read that last sentence and thought to yourself, "That's an awful lot of provisos...", it is. We'll get to those at the end, as we get ready to venture into more complex Tier II and Tier III weapons.
Group 6: "Damage" Mods


Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu
Finally, we have three mods that directly modify our attack results by adding damage to the attack pool (much as a class ability like Fenn's "Trench Fighter" or Vinto's "Merciless" would do). In class decks, these skills are almost always exhausted upon use because their effects are so powerful. The only +2D exception I'm aware of requires that the hero first be wounded (so again, it's not like the hero has this ability available from the very beginning of the mission for the whole mission). And, as we can see here, the weapon mods that replicate this ability generally follow the same pattern.
Except for the Vibrogenerator. As far as I'm aware, it's the only mod (or class skill) in the campaign that can improve the attack results of any attack and an unlimited number of attacks by +2D.
The trade-off is two-fold: first, there's that - 2 surge cost (which we'll tackle in a minute--really, I promise ;) ). But before we get into that, notice that there's also a timing cost. Or, perhaps more properly, a timing shift. We can use the Vibrogenerator an unlimited number of times each activation, but each time, we have to decide to use it when we declare our attack (which means before we collect our attack dice, roll them, and evaluate their results). The Vibrogenerator isn't the only card that uses this timing trigger (Fenn's "Trench Fighter" does as well), so it's not unique in that regard. But the "declare" timing trigger is somewhat more restrictive than the "while attacking" trigger we find in both the Shock Emitter and Spread Barrel (and, interestingly enough, Vinto's "Merciless"), which allow us to do a full damage calculation before we decide whether to exhaust them.
Damage-wise, the Vibrogenerator got higher damage totals and proc rates out of our Starting and Tier I weapons than the Shock Emitter did (and for 150 fewer credits). But the Shock Emitter got a lot closer than any other mod to matching the Vibrogenerator's single-attack damage output because it, like the Vibrogenerator, is also "guaranteed" damage (it's not dependent on rolling any specific result on our attack dice), and netted higher keyword proc rates than the Shock Emitter because its +1D boost was truly "free" (in the sense that we didn't have to spend or renounce any surges or other combat benefits to claim it, beyond exhausting the mod). Plus, it adds the powerful Stun keyword to a weapon, which can have a profound impact on a particular mission scenario.
Bottom-line: the Vibrogenerator is the more efficient choice if we want to maximize our damage (better damage results, fewer credit costs, and no exhaust-to-use limitation). But if we need our weapon to spend surges for more than just damage (and especially if we want to apply Stun), the +1D exhaust on the Shock Emitter is a nice bonus that will help improve our damage totals once per activation with guaranteed damage, while also allow us the flexibility to spend surges on Stun, Recover, or whatever else we may have up our sleeve. Is that flexibility worth 150 credits? If our goal is to maximize our single-target damage, not a chance. If our goal is to get very good single-target damage plus have added flexibility, then again, the math is close. ;)
But that minus-2? What about that minus-2?!?
So now we arrive at the most obvious criticism of the Vibrogenerator: its -2 surge cost. For a long time, I wasn't inclined to consider this upgrade because of that cost, even for weapons that I knew were extremely unlikely to roll 2 surges past defense dice. My protests generally fell into two categories:
  • This weapon already has the ability to surge for +2D (Vibro SwordStun Baton). So why would I go with the Vibrogenerator instead of something like the Balanced Hilt, which could get me the same result (+2D) at a reduced cost (1 surge instead of 2)? (The "surge cost" objection.)
  • know this weapon probably won't roll 2 surges, but it has at least 1 very nice ability on it (Cleave 2 on the BD-1 Vibro-AxStun on the Stun Baton, Pierce 3 or +1D, Cleave 2 on Shu-Yen's Lightsaber), so I'd rather keep my options open so I can do those awesome things sometimes. (The "flexibility" objection.)
First off, there's merit to both objections. As we've talked about repeatedly, not every weapon is designed with maximum damage in mind. Sometimes being able to reliably recover strain (in order to trigger strain-dependent class abilities) is much more important to the attacker than the actual damage dealt. Or our entire build may be centered on inflicting keywords and being a generic pain to the IP, while other teammates do the heavy-lifting when it comes to retiring deployment cards. Or our hero may need to generate surges to trigger other hero-specific abilities. If any of these are our hero's thing, then the -2 surge cost of the Vibrogenerator is a huge deal, and it's definitely not the best choice for what to accomplish. In fact, it's probably worse for that purpose than a naked weapon would be, with no upgrades.
What if we're looking to inflict maximum damage out of our weapon? Again, generally there's merit to both objections. We've talked before about how useful it can be to have a "surge-efficient" weapon, so the way we're spending surges is important to building a reliable weapon.  Nor is the benefit of in-combat flexibility (the chief advantage of surge damage and surge abilities generally) something to lightly dismiss. Because we're operating in a campaign full of hidden information (maps, mission objectives, reserve and open groups, etc/), we simply can't calculate for every conceivable combat scenario before we start the campaign. Having a flexible weapon with multiple surge abilities and a surge-friendly dice pool gives us the flexibility to respond to situations on the fly.
And yet, our data tells us that despite the validity of these concerns, mathematically the Vibrogenerator is always (without exception) the best mod choice for maximizing the damage we get out of our Starter and Tier I weapons. Which suggested to me, at least, that perhaps my thinking was over-valuing these costs imposed by the Vibrogenerator. So here's what tipped my thinking.
When a "- 2 surge" cost isn't really a - 2 surge "cost"...
If you've been following this series, you'll recall that I made a big deal about "surge-efficient" weapons back when we were discussing keywords. As a refresher, a "surge-efficient" weapon is a weapon that:
(1) has "high" odds of rolling multiple surges;
(2) has multiple surge abilities; and
(3) converts the surges rolled into at least 1 more combat result than the number of surges that were rolled (or at least the same number of combat results as the number of surges rolled, if an Evade is rolled).
When we first introduced the topic, I argued that generally-speaking, a surge efficient weapon would outperform a surge inefficient weapon. The logic is fairly straightforward: surge-efficient weapons get the more out of their limited surges than surge-inefficient weapons do. A weapon that can surge for +1D, Bleed gets more out of one surge than a weapon that has separate abilities to surge for +1D or Bleed. A weapon with three separate surge abilities for +1D will get less mileage out of a single surge than a weapon that can surge for +2D and +1D, and even less than one that has a single ability to surge for +3D. And so on.
But let's go back to Shyla's Duelist's Blade. That weapon with the Yellow-Green attack pool and the High-Impact Guard looks like a surge-efficient weapon. And it is: it has "high" odds of rolling multiple surges past defense dice (~70% for a single surge, ~33% of rolling two surges, both of which are very good), has multiple surge abilities, and has the ability to get two combat results (+2D) out of a single surge. Conversely, the Red-Green Duelist's Blade with the High-Impact Guard doesn't fit the bill because its odds of rolling multiple surges (5.5%) are very low. And the Vibrogenerator, of course, is the opposite of a "surge efficient" weapon, as its odds of rolling even a single surge (once we apply its - 2 surge modifier to our attack results) are anything but "high" no matter what dice pool we use (a paltry 5.5% for Yellow-Green, and 0% with Red-Green).
And yet, all three "surge-inefficient" weapons out-performed the weapon that supposedly is "surge-efficient." Here's that chart again, for ease of reference:


So again: what gives, Ryth? :wacko:
The underlying assumption in the theory of surge efficiency is that surges are a relatively scarce commodity. Mathematically, that's borne out by the data, especially for weapons with just 2 dice in their attack pool. With most dice pools, getting even one surge past defense dice is basically a toss-up (around 50% odds, if that). And even if our dice pool includes a Yellow die, our odds of getting that single surge will still max out at just 75%.
As we've already talked about, those odds--while high--are less than the proc rate that we get with the Vibrogenerator, which has a 100% chance of adding +2D to our attack results: no surges required. In other words, a Vibrogenerator-equipped weapon certainly isn't "surge-efficient." But it's also not "surge-inefficient," because it almost never cares about rolling surges. Instead, it's surge-independent. And surge-independent damage (i.e., "natural" damage that isn't based on rolling a specific result into our attack pool or keeping it in the pool after defense dice are rolled) is the most reliable source of damage available to our heroes.
Viewed in this way, it's somewhat misleading to view the Vibrogenerator as imposing a "surge cost." There are three weapons that impose an acutal 2 surge cost:


Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu

Each of these weapons has an ability that will cost us 2 surges from our attack pool to trigger. If we don't spend two surges, we can't trigger the ability. Plain and simple. (For what it's worth, at least one of these weapons is definitely not a "surge-efficient" weapon under the criteria we laid out above.)
But that's not how the Vibrogenerator functions. When we trigger the Vibrogenerator, we're not agreeing to "spend" 2 surges to add 2 damage. Rather, we're agreeing to "renounce" up to 2 surges we might roll, in order to guarantee +2 damage regardless of what we (and equally as important, the target) actually roll(s).
How much of an "opportunity" is an "unlikely" opportunity?
So that begs the question: just how many surges are we actually renouncing with the Vibrogenerator? And what additional damage, keywords, Recovers, or other combat effects will we miss out on if we renounce those surges? This, I think, is the core objection to taking the Vibrogenerator. Assuming again that the purpose of our weapon is to maximize damage (and again, if that's not our goal, we don't want the Vibrogenerator), this objection is the easiest one to assess mathematically. And the math itself is not particularly complicated. All we need is our weapon's attack pool and list of surge abilities.
First, we want to figure out how many "surges" from that weapon we would plan to spend anyway to add +2D to our attack results. We can start by eliminating all of our non-moddable weapons (Verena's Fighting Knife and the Tier I Vibro Knife and Armored Gauntlets), for which all of this would be a pointless exercise.
We can also eliminate the four weapons that just can't add +2D to their attack results (plus two more that we'll encounter in Tier II), no matter how many surges they roll. For these weapons, the Vibrogenerator's +2D results are more than the base weapon would get if it were willing to spend an infinite number of surges on damage. 
The damage return from the Vibrogenerator is better than what we'd get from these weapons if we spent way more than 2 surges...
Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu
Then there are weapons that allow us to spend multiple surges on damage-centric abilities (usually +1D, but sometimes Pierce if the target has rolled at least 1 block). For these weapons, assuming again that we were already going to surge to prioritize damage, the Vibrogenerator is contributing the same damage swing (2 damage) in the form of a +2D buff. To get that same benefit with any of these weapons, we'd need to actually spend 2 surges (that we rolled or added into our attack pool). So tapping the Vibrogenerator actually doesn't "cost" us any more surges than we were already willing to commit to damage (and actually saves us the not-inconsiderable trouble of rolling those two surges past defense dice).
The damage return from the Vibrogenerator is exactly what we'd get*** from these weapons if we spent 2 surges on damage...
Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu
*** The outlier is Shu-Yen's Lightsaber, which doesn't fit neatly into any of these categories of weapons. On the one hand, in order to score 2+ combat results that include damage, it needs to spend at least 2 surges. But depending on the result of the target's defense die, it may achieve a combat swing of 2 or more damage with a single surge if the target rolls at least 2 blocks (allowing the Lightsaber to surge for Pierce 3). Given the scarcity of those defense results (a 1-in-2 chance against a Black die, and a 0-in-6 chance against a White), most of the time Shu-Yen's lightsaber will fall in this class of weapons, because it will need at least 2 surges to achieve a damage swing of 2 damage or more. But since there's a potential exception, I thought I'd flag it. :)
Finally, there are five weapons (and a mod) that have the ability to surge for +2D. These, of course, are quite rare. But even for these rare weapons, the most the Vibrogenerator would ever "cost" us is just 1 surge, not 2. Because we were always going to spend 1 surge anyway (whenever we had surges to spend) to gain +2D.
Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu
That leads us to our first important conclusion about the Vibrogenerator's opportunity cost: for every melee weapon, if our goal is to maximize damage, we're always going to have to give up at least 1 surge to increase our damage results by +2D (and for most weapon/mod combos, it will be 2). That means the most surges the Vibrogenerator will ever "cost" us is 1 surge, not 2. And that's before we account for defense dice (especially the white), which may force us to give up that second surge anyway, based on circumstances entirely beyond our control. 
The second stage in the analysis is to determine the odds that our weapon's pool will produce the number of surges we were already willing to give up to gain +2D, and compare it with the Vibrogenerator's 100% proc rate for +2D. Again, that math is not difficult to compute:
For those weapons that have single-surge results for +1D, there's literally no contest. Even a weapon with a Yellow-Yellow dice pool will generate those two surges we need less than 50% of the time (45.7% in our 2000 trials), which is far less than 100%. And even for weapons where we're only committing a single surge to get +2D, we're still looking at a proc rate for that single surge of 70% or less, even with a surge-friendly Yellow-Green dice pool (69.5% of our 2000 trials). Again, that's just not the same level of dependability that we get with the Vibrogenerator.
If we are dealing with one of those weapons that have a surge ability for +2D, the third and final piece is to measure just how likely we are to give up that second surge if we take the Vibrogenerator. Once again, that calculation is straight-forward. We know that for weapons with just two dice in their attack pool, even a Yellow-Green melee weapon has roughly a 1-in-3 chance (32.2% of our 2000 trials) of getting that second surge past defense dice; which means two out of every three times we use the Vibrogenerator on a weapon with that dice pool, we're only going to renounce 1 (or 0) surge. If it's 1 surge, it's exactly what we were willing to to pay anyway for +2D. And if it's 0 surges (which happened in 30.5% of our 2000 trials, even with a Yellow-Green dice pool), we're getting that +2D literally for free. Put differently, we have roughly the same chance of paying an "extra" surge with the Vibrogenerator with a Yellow-Green weapon (32.2%) as we do of getting +2D for free with the Vibrogenerator on a Yellow-Green Weapon (30.5%). The bottom-line is that relying on the surge gives us probable damage with a possible boon; the Vibrogenerator gives us consistent damage with a possible boon or loss.
And of course, for weapons with built-in +2D abilities like the Vibro Sword and Stun Baton, the odds of getting that second surge past defense dice are waaaaaaaay less than 1-in-3. The Green-Blue Vibrosword scored a second surge past defense dice in just 14.7% of our 2000 trials (just slightly better than 1-in-7 rolls), and the Red-Blue Stun Baton managed it in just 3.7% of our 2000 trials (or slightly less than 1-in-25 rolls). When we combine this incredibly small "risk" with the fact that the Vibrogenerator markedly increases the odds that both weapons will actually get to add +2D (a 45.4% proc rate and a 32.3% proc rate to 100%), it's clear that the Vibrogenerator's reward is much greater than what it's likely to "cost" us.
There when you want it... absent when you don't
Two final points on the Vibrogenerator, in case you're still not convinced.
First, I'm convinced that for basically all melee weapons (at least two-dice weapons), that -2 surge "cost" is worth far less than the benefit that comes by using the Vibrogenerator. But if you're not convinced, and you'd still prefer to have the option of resolving other surge abilities with your weapon, it's worth remembering that equipping the Vibrogenerator on our weapon doesn't "box us in" to using it each and every time we attack. The decision to use the Vibrogenerator (and thus renounce those two surges) is made whenever we declare an attack. That's an in-the-moment, flexible trigger. So if we're in one of those inevitable situations where we need a Stun or need to Recover or need to spend a surge on something other than damage or where dealing the +2D is overkill because the target is almost dead, all we need to do is choose not to use the Vibrogenerator. And poof, it's gone. Like it never existed.
But the converse is also true: because we trigger the Vibrogenerator by declaring we're going to use it, it's flexible enough to also be available to us every time we want to use it. Again, there's no "exhaust-to-use" requirement, which sets it miles ahead of other mods like the Balanced Hilt or Shock Emitter, and even the impressive Energized Hilt That makes the already-impressive consistency we get from the Vibrogenerator even better.

So even if I accept all this is true... what's the point of that weird weapon you've been teasing for months?

Oh, you mean this one?


Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu

I confess, I had actually written a complete draft of this before I figured out where to place this discussion (and even tossed around the idea of punting it to a separate "Blood Bowl-like" series that pits a "conventional" weapon against a "weird" weapon in a to-the-death maths-match... which we may eventually do since we're poised to add more double-mod weapons in the imminent future). But given that I'd really like to move on to Tier II, here's the skinny on this most improbable weapon (which, if you looked at our Starter and Tier I wrap-up, you'll recall scored the 8th-best results among all weapon+mod combos when it came to dealing damage).

We already discussed how adding the Vibrogenerator always increases our damage floor by 2 natural damage. But that doesn't guarantee that our weapon's actual damage floor will increase by 2 damage. Let me explain.

Suppose I take a vanilla Vibro Sword. If I roll its unmodified dice pool, my worst possible roll--from the perspective of dealing maximum damage--is the same roll it is for every dice pool that doesn't include a Red die: a single-surge, coupled with a single-surge. (Is there a common term in the community for that roll, like "X-man" for Dodge?) For most weapons that get that roll, the Vibrogenerator will actually increase its damage floor by at least 1 damage (again, most weapons have only one surge ability that can add +1D). But the Vibro Sword is better equipped than most weapons to handle that roll, because it can spend 1 surge for +2D, giving a vanilla Vibro Sword a damage floor of 2 (surge) damage.

Now suppose I add the Vibrogenerator to that same Vibro Sword, and again roll double-surges. What happens? Well, my damage floor remains at 2 damage. I'm getting 2 damage from the Vibrogenerator, but have renounced both surges from my attack roll. The only difference is that my damage floor now consists of two natural damage, instead of two surge damage. Generally, we would expect that to be an advantage in itself, because natural damage is generally more difficult for defense dice to deal with than surge damage. But in this case, our Vibro Sword has two surges (which is enough to get at least 1 surge past the Evade on a defense die) and just one surge ability that it can resolve for damage (that single ability for +2D), so there's no functional difference between how these attack results fare against the various defense dice. In other words, we haven't actually increased our weapon's damage floor just by adding the Vibrogenerator to it.

On the other hand, we can actually increase our Vibro Sword's damage floor by adding the Balanced Hilt to the Vibro Sword + Vibrogenerator combo. If we roll the same double-surge result with that weapon, the Vibrogenerator still gives us +2 (natural) damage, and we still renounce the two surges we rolled. But now, we can tap the Balanced Hilt to add a third surge (which we can resolve, assuming the defender did not roll an Evade) and add +2D. That gives us a damage total of 4 damage, instead of 2.

It's worth noting that doing this will increase our Vibro Sword's damage floor, but not by 2. Instead, what this does is it changes the "worst possible roll" we could roll on the Vibro Sword. Because we can net 4D from this roll, we look to see whether there's any other possible roll on the Vibro Sword that could net us a lower damage result. And lo and behold, there is (actually, there's two):


In this scenario, we would still have to renounce the 2 surges because of the Vibrogenerator, which means we can't tap the Balanced Hilt (or, more appropriately, while we could tap it, we couldn't resolve its surge). But we would combine that 2D from the Vibrogenerator with the 1D from the blue die, for a new damage floor of 3D (or a 1D increase to our damage floor). In other words, we've manipulated our weapon in a way that rotates out our original worst-possible roll for a "better" worst-possible roll (that nets us higher damage). The final result is that by pairing the Vibrogenerator with the Balanced Hilt on the Vibro Sword, we get very consistent damage and also eliminate all but two of our potential 3D (damage floor) rolls.

It's worth noting that the Vibrogenerator isn't the only weapon that does this. Adding the High-Impact Guard will also shift our "worst possible roll" from that double-surge (which is also worth 4D) to the single-damage/single-surge result (also worth 3D), while leaving that second mod slot free. Hmmmm... maybe we should "Blood Bowl" these two... ;)

That said, there are only six possible rolls where even have an opportunity to take advantage of the Balanced Hilt (marked with the Yellow border), as that's the number of rolls the Vibro Sword will land two surges (and again, that's before defense dice are factored in), so this is very much insurance against getting that "poor" damage floor roll, and pushing our weapon's overall dependability up. That said, the total damage output is best-case scenario on-par with what we'd get out of that 550 credit Gaffi Stick (with the Vibrogenerator), at double the cost, so there's still an efficiency issue to be worked out. But despite how it looks, this weapon isn't an unreasonable or inconsistent choice for our hero (even if it ultimately proves to not be an efficient one).

So where do we go from here?
Based on the data we've looked at so far, the math seems to be conclusive: when it comes to Starter and Tier I weapons, as of the date of this writing, the Vibrogenerator is the single-best upgrade for increasing our weapon's consistent damage output, and the benefit we gain from using it exceeds-to-explodes the "cost" of renouncing 2 surges.
But since we haven't looked at all of the weapons available to us, there are some areas where our current conclusions might be challenged down the road. Let's take quick stock of those questions, as we get ready to move into Tier II and Tier III weapons:
  • First off, we haven't considered any weapons that can surge to pierce for more than 1, or weapons with he ability to gain more than 2D from a single surge. There are at least two melee weapons with surges for higher pierce values, so it will be interesting to see if a surge ability that contributes more than 2 damage or pierce to our combat results will end up providing more consistent damage than a +2D with a 100% proc rate.
  • While the Vibrogenerator is the undisputed damage king of mods for one-slot weapons, our review of the Vibrosword suggests that for weapons with two mod slots, the Balanced-Hilt + High-Impact Guard combo looms large (at least for one attack per activation), at least if we're pairing the High-Impact Guard with at least 1 additional surge ability that nets us +2D or more.
  • Equally interesting will be the impact of adding new dice pools to existing abilities. That Vibrosword + Balanced Hilt/High-Impact Guard surge-damage combo comes razor close to edging out the surge-independent Vibrogenerator/Shock-Emitter combo as it is, and that's with a poor dice pool for generating surges (even with the Balanced Hilt, the Vibrosword still has a less than 50% chance of getting two surges past defense dice, making the High-Impact Guard dead-weight half the time). If we can pair those two promising +2D abilities with a weapon that has even a marginally better dice pool for generating surges, the closeness of the data suggests that might be enough to swing the math (at least for one attack per activation).
  • Finally, it's worth noting we've looked so far only at weapons that roll two dice in their dice pool. No matter what die we add, adding another die will increase the probability of rolling two or more surges, which will affect the impact of renouncing surges with the Vibrogenerator. So it will be interesting to see if the Vibrogrenerator's dramatic increase to damage odds for two dice weapons carries over when we add a third attack die. Additionally, adding a Green Focus die will have a similar effect on our two-dice weapons (once per activation), as will class abilities like Davith's "Falling Leaf" (2xp), which adds a surge-friendly dice to our weapon's attack pool (again, once per activation). So that's another caveat to consider.
So as we venture forth, we'll try to keep an open mind, and see which of these findings (and our general combat principles) carry over, as we begin to explore more nuanced and complex weapons. On to Tier II!
The winds, they be a-changin'...
Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu
Inevitable post-posting edits:wacko:
  • Missed some formatting... of course.
Edited by Rythbryt

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The Galaxy's Fate in my Hand

Part the Tenth: "A Cut Above... Maybe?" in which we kick of Tier II melee weapons in rapid(er) fashion...
So after a long string of articles that tried to pair weapon data with basic combat principles, surge theory, and mod combos, followed by two monstrously lengthy wrap-up/conglomeration pieces, I think we're finally in a position where we can ingest some of these items in bite-size chunks. :rolleyes: Or at least chunks closer in size to this guy...
Yeah, we'll see how long this lasts. :D
On the bright side, our first Tier II weapon (YAY!) is the relatively unassuming Vibro Knucklers. Familiar dice pool, no mod slots, low buy-in price. Should be fairly straight-forward, right?
Photo Credit: cards.boardwars.eu
So let's jump in.
The Combat Skinny: A(nother) Flexible, Conflicted Weapon
Having spent an inordinate amount of time with Yellow-Green dice, we can already make some educated assumptions about how this weapon will fare in combat:
  • It's natural damage output will be on the low side;
  • We can expect to roll 1 surge on average past defense dice; and
  • It's damage, keyword, or surge ability output will probably be largely influenced on our chosen surge hierarchy.
That said, we have some additional advantages we haven't seen before on other Yellow-Green weapons:
  • For starters, we have the ability to surge for +2 damage. This is huge. Since we don't have any mod slots or a Red die in our attack pool, we already suspected this was going to be a surge-dependent weapon for damage. So the ability to convert 1 surge into 2 damage gives us a major leg-up in that department.
  • Plus we have a surge for Pierce 2. That's a potential 4-damage swing (+2D, Pierce 2) if we can roll 2 surges past defense dice (depending on whether the target rolls 0, 1, or 2 blocks). We've already seen from weapons like Davith's Heirloom Dagger and Shyla's Duelist's Blade that a damage 1-Pierce 1 combo can make a difference when attacking; now we've doubled the value of those surge abilities.
  • Speaking of doubling, we also get a free Bleed whenever we trigger the Pierce 2 (so long as we deal at least 1 damage past defense dice of course... but that Pierce 2 should help with that). Davith's Hierloom Dagger did very well in proccing keywords with a Bleed paired with a Pierce 1, so again, we look to be able to improve here over that performance.
  • Lastly, we have a Cleave 2, which doubles the Cleave 1 we saw on the Tier I Armored Gauntlets. In other words, everything seems ramped-up from what we saw last Tier.
So how does this weapon perform in combat against defense dice? Well, as we expected, the performance depends on how we prioritize our surge abilities:
As far as raw damage output goes, we get a pretty good return from a damage hierarchy (+2D, Pierce 2+Bleed, Cleave 2, Recover), with a nearly 90% chance of dealing at least 1 damage past defense dice, a 78% chance of dealing at least 2 damage, and a 52% chance of dealing at least 3 damage, paired with a roughly 32% chance of triggering 1 keyword and a 6% chance of firing off both. Our odds of dealing at least 1 damage remain above 80% (barely) if we switch to a keyword hierarchy (Pierce 2+Bleed, Cleave 2, +2D, Recover), with a 53% chance of dealing 2 or more damage past defense dice, and a 25% chance of getting both keywords (Bleed and Cleave 2) to proc. And if we prioritize that surge (Recover, +2D, Pierce 2+Bleed, Cleave 2), we have a 70% chance of landing one, with a 71% chance of dealing at least 1 damage. 
None of this is particularly earth-shattering. On the one hand, the Vibro Knucklers definitely perform better than their other non-mod melee counterparts--the damage output is slightly better than what we saw out of the Armored Gauntlets, but with much better keyword proc rates: 
Similarly, the Vibro Knucklers perform quite well when compared to our other naked Starter and Tier I weapons when it comes to dealing damage--again with very good keyword proc rates--thanks to the fact that it gets a very surge-efficient +2D, Pierce 2, and Bleed out of just 2 surges:
Having said that, the damage output of this weapon quickly falls behind once we start investing credits in mods for other weapons. In a strict damage-hierarchy, the Vibro Knucklers registered only the 78th best combat stats, well-behind the damage-dealing specialists at the top of Tier I (all of which could register up to 6 damage, and most of which could deal up to 7 damage):
It's worth bearing in mind that the Vibro Knucklers' damage stats are entirely sustainable because there's no exhaust-to-use parts here, so that will help close the gap some between it and some of these weapons that rely on exhaust-mods for their high-end damage (assuming our hero attacks more than once per activation). But even so, that gap isn't going to make up the more than 60 slots between the Vibro Knucklers and the top of the damage-dealing food-chain. 
The Vibro Knucklers also performed very well when we prioritize those two keywords (Pierce 2+Bleed, Cleave 2). They registered the best damage output among our three non-moddable weapons that could trigger keywords (Verena's Fighting Knife can't) and the best keyword proc rate for both the primary keyword (Bleed) and the secondary keyword (Cleave 2), triggering both 25% of the time:
What's more, while the Vibro Knucklers clearly fell behind our other moddable weapons when it came to dealing damage, they remained a surprisingly-strong Keyword weapon even when we threw them into the mix with modded equipment:
Although the Vibro Knucklers' damage lags behind our top-10 when prioritizing keywords, the damage is close to our former #10 entrant, Gaakrhan's Vibro-Ax with the Balanced Hilt equipped (80.5% vs. 82.7% for 1D+). Speaking of the Balanced Hilt, it's worth pointing out that because the Vibro Knucklers can't take a mod, their odds of landing the surge needed to trigger a keyword is well under 80% (58.2%). Having said that, the Vibro Knucklers nevertheless scored well in our rubric because of their ability to trigger 2 keywords 25% of the time (much like the Vibro Blade). And although its keyword proc rates are lower than what we find on the Vibro Blade, its ability to deal at least 1 damage past defense dice is 10 percentage points better (80.5% vs. 70.6%).

But there's an important caveat: the data above assumes that the "first keyword" we proc with the Vibro Knucklers is that surge-efficient Pierce 2+Bleed, and not the very tempting Cleave 2. If we prioritize the Cleave 2 instead, our damage and proc rate charts look like this:
The most obvious eyesore is this configuration's 1D+ score, which hovers near the 60% mark (which, to give it some perspective, is the second-worst damage odds among all weapons we've looked at previously, coming in just three percentage points ahead of what Diala's naked Plasteel Staff registered in a keyword-focused hierarchy). Damage is down across the board here (and for obvious reasons--we're giving up as much as a 2-damage swing by opting for the Cleave 2 over the Pierce 2). An unfortunate casualty is the proc rate for the Cleave 2 itself, which comes in at just 46.7% (or less than half the time), versus the 58.2% chance we have of landing the Bleed if we prioritize the Pierce 2. Theoretically that makes sense, because our Cleave 2 proc rate is capped at no more than 66.7% given our damage odds, minus our chance of not being able to roll a surge past defense dice. Ironically, our proc-rate for the Pierce 2 actually goes up slightly (25.4% to 26.1%) if we prioritize the Cleave, though that amount is small enough that it's probably just a variance in our 2000 trials, since it's within our margin of error. 
Finally, the Yellow-Green dice pool makes this a decent weapon for triggering surge abilities. The damage output again suffers, but it's on-par with what we'd expect from the Armored Gauntlets (actually slightly better, though since the difference is within our margin of error, it's unclear whether that's due to the change from Pierce 1 to Pierce 2--which we know triggered in 6.4% of our trials--because the dice rolled hot, or some combination of the two). Plus we still have an outside chance at getting that bleed on a target:
The Vibro Knucklers don't take home any awards when it comes to triggering surge abilities (the top-10 performances are all solidly held by weapons with the Balanced Hilt upgrade), but it has the flexibility to fill that role if we need it. And the fact that the Vibro Knucklers are pretty surge-efficient means we have a good chance of getting some additional "oomph" out of our attack rolls, beyond that Recover or Hide. That flexibility and versatility is a plus if we're looking for a cheap weapon option.
Worth the Time of Day?
So are the Vibro Knucklers worth the investment? As always, it will depend on our hero's role in the group, and whether we value an efficient/flexible weapon with a fair bit of combat variance, or whether we want a more specialized/burst weapon built for more predictable combat results.
First off, if we're looking for a very cheap weapon that can perform multiple roles in a group (credits are tight, we have a hero who we don't want to be useless in a scrape but whose primary purpose isn't combat, etc.), then the Vibro Knucklers are a solid jump over most starter weapons. Only Shyla's Duelist's Blade (and only then in its Red-Green variant form) holds a candle to it when it comes to dealing damage (although other weapons, like Gaarkhan's Vibro-Ax can surpass it with help from mods). While it will never be a top-damage dealer, it can post a very respectable damage ceiling of 5 Damage, Pierce 2, Bleed (G-DD, Y-D~~), and a decent damage floor of 3D (Y-D, G-~) and can milk a terrifying 2 Damage, Pierce 2, Bleed out of just two surges: all of which is exceptional for a non-moddable weapon. Plus the fact that it can't be modded helps keep its price low throughout the campaign. For just 50 credits more than the Tier I Armored Gauntlets, it's clearly the superior choice, so long as our role in our group involves more than just Stunning our foes. :P
Beyond its role as a cheap weapon-slot filler, the most obvious value for the Vibro Knucklers is as a keyword trigger, since it has the singular distinction of being the only weapon we've looked at so far that finishes in the top 10 in keywords without any mods. There's that obvious caveat, of course (the Keyword we'll be triggering most reliably is the Bleed if we want to also ensure we get that 1D+ on the target that we need to trigger keywords), which means if we're getting this weapon primarily for the Cleave 2, we're probably going to find it lackluster. But if we want to fluster the IP with a constant cascade of Bleeds that eat up imperial actions, this is an incredibly cheap platform for that. ;) 
Finally, let's not forget that while kiting out boss weapons with high-powered mods may be the sexy choice, many of our heroes have tricks up their sleeves that can inflate the damage of even unmoddable weapons and make them competitive with Tier II or even Tier III weapons. We'll explore some of these specific (no-credit) upgrade paths more in-depth in the future. 
For now, we'll close the book on the Vibro Knucklers (in record time, I might add). Who's next?
Photo Credit: cards.boardwars.eu

Inevitable post-posting edits: In this case, I forgot to post the spot for future edits... :mellow:

Edited by Rythbryt
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The Galaxy's Fate in my Hand

Part the Eleventh: "Stunning and Cleaving and Chopping and Hacking and Squishing and Stomping and Carving and Slashing and..." in which we ran out of space for a by-line...
So after a long family vacation in the tropics, we're back to rolling dice! Today we've got not one, but TWO very fun Tier IIs, each with a built-in strain-to-use ability for added spice:
Stun_Baton_Card.jpg    Double_V_Card.jpg
(Photo credit: cards.boardwars.eu)
Here are the quick-hits:
  • Both weapons can deal top-10 damage with a little help from the king of damage mods... and a couple of others, too. :P
  • Keyword procs aren't these weapons' strong suits, but both weapons do have very desirable keywords (Stun and Cleave 2). With proper mod selection, we can proc these pretty reliably while still getting pretty good damage output.
  • We can surge to recover or trigger other abilities with these weapons in a pinch, but if we're looking to actively recover or surge with our weapon, we probably want to look elsewhere.
  • Combined with other items or hero abilities, both of these weapons can range from extremely disruptive to downright terrifying.
Curious? Read on.
Not your grandma's walking stick
(Photo credit: cards.boardwars.eu)
At first glance, there's a lot to like here. For starters, we have a melee weapon with a Red die, and as we know from the Gaffi Stick, we like red dice. As an added advantage over the Gaffi Stick, we also have two highly-desirable surge abilities--the rare ability to add +2D and a situationally-useful Stun that can be a game-changer depending on the campaign mission or round. Both of these are improvements over Weakened. There's also a mod slot which would allow us to do any number of things. And then, if we're feeling exceptionally chippy, we can also apply Weakened to our target at the cost of a strain, just for kicks.
That said, there are some causes for concern. While we like the red die, the blue die is usually a disappointed for a melee weapon. We'd much prefer a Green (more on that in a moment), and given the surge abilities available to us, the Yellow from the Gaffi Stick looks very appealing as well. But we do have that mod slot, though, so changing our dice pool (for one attack per activation, at least) is at least on the table. So is adding the Balanced Hilt for an extra surge. The other concern is cost. At 500 credits, we're paying 150 more credits than for our two-mod Vibrosword and 300 credits more than the Gaffi Stick (and just 50 total credits less than the dreadfully efficient Gaffi Stick + Vibrogenerator combo). With that level of investment, we should expect to see a significant upgrade over at least unmodified Tier I items.
With those general observations in place, we're on to the maths, starting with raw damage output:
In its unmodified form, we have decent raw damage output. In our 2000 trials, this weapon dealt 1 or more damage better than 85% of the time past defense dice, 2 or more damage in three-of-four trials (75.1%), and 3 damage or better every other attack (53.0%). This damage is on-par with the performance of our top two unmodified Tier I weapons, the Gaffi Stick (88.0%, 77.0%, 52.0%) and Armored Gauntlets (88.5%, 77.5%, 51.0%). It outperforms the Vibrosword, especially at the 3D+ threshold (87.5%, 71.5%, 42.5%), and is also on-par with the Tier II Vibro Knucklers when it comes to dealing raw damage (89.8%, 78.1%, 52.1%), with the added advantage of a mod slot. Our Keyword and Surge procs remain low, evne when we prioritize them (peaking with a Surge chance of approximately 32%), but our damage remains high throughout (80% or better odds at dealing 1D+ even in non-damage hierarchies, which suggests this weapon is less surge-dependent than others we've seen). In other words, we have a decent starting platform for damage-dealing upgrades and mods, and some room for improvement when it comes to keywords and surge abilities.
Now let's see what happens when we start sprucing it up, starting (as always) with sexy damage:

Some observations:

  • The High-Impact Guard doesn't like this mod. Intuitively, this makes sense: a Red-Blue dice pool is low on surges anyway, and has just a 3.7% chance of rolling 2 surges past a defense die. The Stun Baton already has 1 surge ability for +2D, so adding a second to this dice pool is a low-probability play. Definitely not worth an extra 500 credit investment.
  • The Energized Hilt also doesn't perform particularly well. Replacing our Red-Blue dice pool with Red-Yellow didn't result in any noticeable impact to our damage output (it actually lodged slight reductions from 1-3D+ with slight increases at 4-6D+, though all of these are within our ~3% margin of error), though it did result in a significant increase in our Keyword proc chance (a Red-Yellow pool rolls 2+ surges past defense dice approximately 16% of the time, which isn't great on its own but is much better than 3.7%). Red-Green did bump our damage up across the board, with noticeable gains at 2D+ (80.5% vs. 75.1%) and 3D+ (60.6% vs. 53.0%), and the Red-Red pool was very impressive as well in the 3-5D+ range (65.4%, 43.5%, 20.7%), albeit with a plummeting surge chance (1.7% keyword proc).
  • From there, there's noticeable separation between these mods and our top-3. The Vibrogenerator solidly leads the pack, with a 60.3% chance at 4D+ and a 34.2% chance of 5D+ past defense dice (or slightly better than 1-in-3 tries). This isn't quite Gaffi Stick + Vibrogenerator territory, but it's good enough for our 5th highest damage score to date, with damage roughly on-par with the more expensive Vibrosword + Balanced Hilt + Shock Emitter combo (79.5% of 3D+, 60.5% of 4D+, 31.7% of 5D+).
  • Speaking of the Shock Emitter, that upgrade narrowly beat out the Balanced Hilt for top honors when it comes to raw damage (although, again, the difference falls within our margin of error), and was good enough to place 9th overall in damage hierarchies. The Balanced Hilt variant fell just outside our top 10 damage dealers (11th), with a much higher Keyword proc rate over the Shock Emitter variant (although to be fair, it still managed to proc in just 31.3% of our 2000 tests, so it's keyword proc isn't "great").

Speaking of keywords:

When we prioritize keywords, the Balanced Hilt surges to the front of the pack. The Energized Hilt's Red-Yellow and Red-Green variants fair alright here as well, though they're clearly second-tier behind the Balanced Hilt. The Shock Emitter suffers from a degree of redundancy (as it adds a surge for Stun to a weapon that can already surge for Stun), although it's worth noting that it has by far the best mix of keyword proc and damage output (30.4% keyword proc, 62.7% odds of 3D+). The High-Impact Guard is, again, not worth a 500 credit investment. The Vibrogenerator can't surge for Keywords (at least not without outside help from a class card, another hero, Focus die, etc), so it doesn't make the chart. 
The results are basically identical when we prioritize surges, with the sole exception that the Shock Emitter and High-Impact Guard switch places. Both are basically tied in surge proc (a difference of one-tenth of a percent, well within our margin of error), and while the Shock Emitter once again leads the pack in damage output that fact doesn't help it push ahead (since dealing damage isn't a condition of triggering surges as it is for triggering keywords). And although our weapon's damage output definitely suffers when we prioritize surges, it's worth noting that even our worst performer (the Red-Yellow dice pool with the Energized Hilt) will still deal 3D+ past a defense die roughly 1 try in 3, and has a 77.1% chance of forcing at least 1 damage through, thanks to its Red die.
All said, if we're going to take the Stun Baton, the Balanced Hilt appears to be the best overall upgrade for it. It's damage is just outside our top-10 overall, it has a pretty good chance of delivering decent damage and Stun to a target once per activation, and we can use it to trigger other surge abilities (or recover strain) in a pinch if we have to. The overall price tag (800 credits) is an investment, but it's a cheaper weapon option than a similarly-performing Vibrosword. For raw damage, the Vibrogenerator remains the best choice. 
A Whirling Dervish in a Surprising Package
(Photo credit: cards.boardwars.eu)
I really wanted this to be an awesome weapon. And it can be... it's just not awesome for everybody. :P Let me explain.
First things first, we have a fantastic melee dice pool (Red-Green). Extremely dependable damage (35 of our possible 36 dice rolls will land at least 2 damage, with a max chance of 5 damage). We also have a very attractive surge for Cleave 2 and a mod slot. But of course, the big attraction is that strain ability that allows the bearer to deal 1 damage to each adjacent hostile figure after resolving an attack. 
Unfortunately, much like the Vibrosword, that strain ability also poses a problem. A Red-Green dice pool isn't exactly the worst for generating surges, but it isn't far from the bottom (41.1% chance of 1 surge past defense dice, 5.5% for 2 surges). Because we don't have a surge-friendly dice pool, our odds of sustainably triggering that strain ability is limited by our endurance--especially if we're going to take advantage of Cleave 2 (and really, there's no reason not to). An upgrade like Balanced Hilt could help, and in theory so could the Energized Hilt -- although if we go that route, we're left with the choice of replacing our Green die for a Yellow (which is an upgrade, but not nearly as much of an upgrade as if we were upgrading a Blue or Red die) or our Red die with something else (which will do a number on our damage output). Neither is remarkably attractive.
The other glaring issue with this weapon is its lack of surge for damage. The surge for Pierce 1 is fine, but a surge for +1D would have been more reliable, since a Pierce is wasted if the target doesn't roll blocks on defense dice. We certainly don't have the +2D we saw on the Stun Baton.
As a result, we end up with a waepon that's something of a mixed bag:
The first thing worth pointing out is that there isn't a whole lot of difference between this weapon and the Stun Baton when it comes to its math profile. The damage output on this naked weapon is actually slightly lower than what we saw on the Stun Baton. Having the Red-Green pairing gives us a better than 50% chance at dealing 3D+ past defense dice, which is nothing to sneeze at. But the lack of surge abilities for damage limits this weapon's range of damage outcomes. And while our Keyword and Surge proc rates are slightly higher than what we saw with the Stun Baton, they still cap out low (at 42.6% instead of 31.7%). The result is a raw weapon that's pretty "meh."
So let's dig a little deeper into those surprising damage results, shall we?
So what do we see?
  • First off, we have several options to mess up this weapon's damage output through injudicious use of the Energized Hilt upgrade. Swapping the Red die out, even for the second-best damage-dealing die in the game (Green-Green) resulted in a very noticeable drop in damage output in the 2-4D+ range (14 percentage points at 2D+, a whopping 20 percentage points at 3D+) for what ended up being a very poor keyword proc chance (13.9%). So we probably don't want to go that direction. The Red-Yellow pool offers a slightly better keyword proc (15.8%), which is still nothing to celebrate. Damage once again dropped across the board, but especially in the 2-4D+ range). So if we want to increase our damage output, those dice swaps aren't the way to go. Conversely, the Red-Red pool was more than twice as effective as the Green-Green pool in dealing 3D+ past defense dice (65.8% vs. 30.1%), and ten times more effective at forcing 4D+ thru (40.0% vs. 4.1%), albeit with an almost non-existent chance of Cleaving afterwards (2.1%). So if we're taking the Energized Hilt on this weapon, that's probably the play.
  • The Balanced Hilt also performed much lower than it did with the Stun Baton, mostly because it doesn't have surges for damage. The Pierce helps some, but not as much as the +2D surge ability from the High-Impact Guard, which deals roughly the same amount of damage but with a higher damage ceiling. The Hilt does give  us the best chance in the group to trigger Cleave 2 and still has very good damage (dealing 2D+ in 84.3% of our tests), so it's not a "bad" choice, but it's also doesn't transform the Double Vibrosword into a top damage dealer like it did for the Stun Baton.
  • In the end, there's once again clear separation at the top. The Shock Emitter's free +1D on exhaust results in a roughly 10 percentage point gain in our 2-4D+ bands over the Red-Red dice pool, although its surge for Stun likely isn't doing anything (5.6% proc rate in our 2000 trials) and its exhaust penalty means that level of damage isn't sustainable in multiple attacks each activation. With those limitations in mind, the cheaper Vibrogenerator is by far the best at dealing top-end damage in the 4-6D+ range. That said, the damage from our Double Vibrosword + Vibrogenerator combo isn't appreciably higher than what we saw with our Stun Baton + Vibrogenerator combo: the Double Vibrosword barely displaced the Stun Baton for 5th place, displacing the Stun Baton to 6th overall damage. In terms of raw damage dealt, paying an extra 150 credits for the Double-Vibrosword over the Stun Baton probably isn't worth it, unless we value the Double Vibrosword's strain ability as 150 credits better than the Stun Baton's (which we might, depending on our hero). And at 1000 credits total, this combo is nearly double what we'd pay to put the Vibrogenerator on the Gaffi Stick (550 credits).
Things revert more to form when we get to keyword procs. The Balanced Hilt is back up, triggering Cleave 2 77.2% of the time with 50% odds of also dealing 3D+ past our primary target's defense die. The total is at least 5 total damage out of a single attack (with the possibility for 7 or more damage depending on how many hostile figures are adjacent to us after the attack resolves and what our current fatigue level is), which isn't shabby at all. The Balanced Hilt also has an outside chance at recovering 1, which is something. The Energized Hilt is our next best bet (with the Red-Yellow and Green-Green dice pools), though their keyword proc rates drop off by more than 30 percentage points (43.9% and 41.5% respectively) and the damage is abysmal (26.7% and 18.3%, respectively, of pushing 3D+ past defense dice). The Shock Emitter again logs our highest damage results with a semi-respectable Cleave 2 chance (37%), followed closely by the Red-Red Energized Hilt with a very poor Cleave 2 chance (17%).
The Green die in the Double Vibrosword's pool makes it a better surge weapon than the Stun Baton. Damage with the Balanced Hilt is again respectable (50.2% chance of forcing 3D+ past defense dice), and the Green-Green Energized Hilt pool recovered strain 60% of the time (though its damage remained abysmal. The two most expensive upgrades--the Shock Emitter and High-Impact Guard--didn't give us any surge advantage over our naked Double Vibrosword (though both resulted in a damage increase).
So what do we think?
The Stun Baton's place is somewhat hard to find. On the one hand, its damage is fine (and, with the Vibrogenerator, Balanced Hilt, or Shock Emitter can actually become quite good), but at 500 credits (plus mod slot), it's expensive. Its surge abilities (Stun and +2D) are fantastic, but its dice pool is limiting. And while a strain to Weaken is better than nothing, it doesn't affect damage (unlike the Vibrosword's strain to Pierce 1) and it's nowhere near as devastating as the ability we get on the Double Vibrosword (hold that thought). So what sort of hero might consider investing in this weapon?
For starters, given the fact that this weapon (1) already has a Red die in its attack pool and (2) already has very desirable surge abilities, we could consider this weapon for any hero who can perform a free attack (or two... or more...) each activation. If damage is our theme, we have a pretty good damage floor to work from (3D), and if our job is to make the IP's job miserable, we have the option to Stun and/or Weaken multiple targets in a single activation. Stun weapons typically struggle with getting damage on their target (essential for inflicting the condition). This weapon doesn't. If the Rebels ever get a hero who can inflict other conditions (like Bleed) on targets with class abilities or items, or who gains benefits (like Recover, Focus, movement points, etc.) from doing so, this weapon could become an incredible asset to that build.
Heroes who can add dice to a melee weapon (through Focus or other class abilities) are also strong candidates. Diala fits both criteria in a heavily damage-focused build:
A dangerous, damage-focused Diala build (11xp). Add the Stun Baton for some nasty post-combat surprise(s).
(Photo credit: cards.boardwars.eu)
If Diala can't land Shu Yen's Lightsaber, the Stun Baton isn't a bad substitute. It doesn't have Cleave 2 or Pierce 3, both of which are losses, but a surge for +2D isn't insignificant. And with a Focus from "Battle Meditation" (2xp), there's a good chance that Diala can keep the Stun which (along with Reach) is the only redeeming quality on her otherwise lackluster Plasteel Staff. Especially if she can reroll 1 die per attack with "Force Adept" (1xp). The option to Weaken is a nice little knife-twist at close range, and if combined with "Snap Kick" (3xp) can result in a nasty post-combat hangover for a hostile figure (or two). If we opt for a ranged boost through "Dancing Weapon" (4xp) instead of "Way of the Sarlacc" (4xp), our Stun Baton has a minimum range of 4, and a maximum of 12, and more than that if we're Focused. Strain generation remains an issue, but if we're going to be resting anyway to hand out focuses like candy, it's an issue we can work around.
That said, it's hard to see why a hero like Diala would take the Stun Baton over the Double Vibrosword, which has both Cleave 2 and a significantly better strain-to-use ability that becomes insanely strong when paired with a class ability like "Way of the Sarlacc." Verena posts a similar quandry. Although she can't pull hostile figures or self-focus like Diala can, a Red-Green weapon with Cleave 2 and splash damage makes it that much easier to trigger her bread and butter skill ("Close Quarters"). Add to this that she can move mid-activation to set up the next strike, can improve her endurance to raise her strain cap, and can remove strain at the end of her activation with the "Iron Hand" reward, and Verena seems particularly well-suited to leverage the Double Vibrosword's strengths.
Cleave 2 + Splash damage? Yes, please...
(Photo Credit: cards.boardwars.eu)
One more, just for fun. My local playgroup is about halfway into the Jabba's Realm campaign, and my brother who is playing Gaarkhan was initially planning to take the BD-1 Vibro-Ax, but decided at the last minute to take the Double Vibrosword. I was skeptical at first, but he won us over last mission when his 4xp Gaarkhan charged into a densely-packed hallway and single-handedly destroyed an entire squad of healthy Elite Stormtroopers and nearly an entire squad of regular Trandos (1 had 3 damage at the start, the other had none) in a single activation. His cards at the time? 
Well this looks... underwhelming...
(Photo Credit: cards.boardwars.eu)
Not exactly the stuff dreams are made of, right? Well, here's how it unfolded:
  • Activate Gaarkhan.
  • Action 1a: Charge 4 spaces (into the midst of the hostiles, ignoring movement penalties because Gaarkhan can move spaces).
  • Inflict 1 damage each on 5 adjacent targets with "Rampage."
    • EStormtrooper 1: 1 dmg
    • EStormtrooper 2: 1 dmg
    • EStormtrooper 3: 1 dmg
    • Trando 1: 4 dmg
    • Trando 2: 1 dmg
  • Action 1b: Finish "Charge" by attacking EStormtrooper 1 with Double Vibrosword.
  • Resolve Attack: 3D to target, 1 Surge for Cleave 2 into EStormtrooper 2. 
    • EStormtrooper 1: 4 dmg
    • EStormtrooper 2: 3 dmg
    • EStormtrooper 3: 1 dmg
    • Trando 1: 4 dmg
    • Trando 2: 1 dmg
  • Trigger Double-Vibrosword's strain ability.
    • EStormtrooper 1: Killed
    • EStormtrooper 2: 4 dmg
    • EStormtrooper 3: 2 dmg
    • Trando 1: 5 dmg
    • Trando 2: 2 dmg
  • Action 2: Attack EStormtrooper 3, using Energized Hilt to replace Green Die with Yellow.
  • Resolve Attack: 3D to target, 1 Surge for Cleave 2 into Trando 2:
    • EStormtrooper 1: Killed
    • EStormtrooper 2: 4 dmg
    • EStormtrooper 3: Killed
    • Trando 1: 5 dmg
    • Trando 2: 4 dmg
  • Trigger Double-Vibrosword's strain ability:
    • EStormtrooper 1: Killed
    • EStormtrooper 2: Killed
    • EStormtrooper 3: Killed
    • Trando 1: Killed
    • Trando 2: 5 dmg
For those of you keeping score, that's 13 IP threat essentially down the tube. And it wasn't like these were great rolls, either. He dealt 3 damage past defense dice both times (the naked Double Vibrosword punches 3 damage or more past defense dice 50% of the time, so this wasn't beyond the pale for a small sample size). His dice pools both had decent chances at rolling 1 surge (41.1% on the Red-Green, 54.9% on the Red-Yellow), plus he was attacking Black dice so the odds of an the target rolling an Evade were very low. The point is that the mathematics of this outcome are entirely conceivable, even if the table-top outcome wasn't. And that's just the beginning of the rabbit hole. Just 4xp with a Tier II weapon and mod. In other words, as early as mission 2 of a short campaign, mission 4 in a long campaign. Imagine the possibilities...
Speaking of possibilities, it's another dual-mod weapon!
For next time. ;)
Inevitable post-posting edits:

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