Friday, February 19, 2016

X-Wing: TIE Fighters

I've played enough X-Wing now that I'm comfortable starting to review the ships. This will be sporadic, as I'll only be writing about the ships that I've flown enough to feel like I really know them. I'm going to start off with the TIE Fighter, covering the pilots available from the core game and TIE Fighter expansions.

The TIE Fighter is the second most iconic starfighter from Star Wars, after the X-Wing of course. Just like in the movies, the TIE Fighter is cheap, maneuverable, and expendable. With only 2 attack dice, it's not a particularly hard hitting ship, but 3 evade dice make it hard to hit. It's only got 3 hull points and no shields, so it can't take much punishment if the enemy starts landing hits.

The TIE Fighter is quite maneuverable, with access to 1 hard turns and a full range of speed 2 and 3 maneuvers, as well as 4 and 5 straights and 3 and 4 k-turns. If it's lacking anything, it's the ability to slow down. It also doesn't have many green maneuvers, so it will be predictable if it needs to shed stress. Fortunately, it doesn't have any red maneuvers beyond the k-turns, so you only really have o worry about stress from your opponent.

The TIE Fighter has access to the ubiquitous Focus action, as well was the Evade action, which goes a long way to keeping your TIE Fighters alive. They can also Barrel Roll, which gives them some powerful repositioning ability. A Barrel Roll can also be used to slow down your fighters if you need to. 

The base TIE Fighter is the Academy Pilot. He's only Pilot Skill 1 (PS1) but he only costs 12 points, which is seriously cheap. The Academy Pilot can be used to fill out a swarm or just as an extra ship to take up the remaining points in your list. Just like in Warhammer, having extra models is never a bad thing. Due to his cheap cost and low PS, the Academy Pilot excels in blocking more experienced pilots and pretty much just getting in your opponent's way. If he does some damage along the way, that's a bonus.

Obsidian Squadron Pilots cost an extra point but picks up 2 extra points of Pilot Skill. This is most useful for fighting swarms, as it allows you to fire before the cheapest pilots in the game and kill some before they get to fire. It also helps against the very popular Predator Elite Pilot Talent (EPT). All in all, a fair upgrade if you have the points and aren't worried about blocking.

The Black Squadron Pilot is where things start to get really interesting. For an extra point over the Obsidian Squadron Pilot, he has an extra point of PS and access to the all important EPT. This allows you to really customize your pilot, but you don't want to spend too many points on it because TIE Fighters are still quite fragile. The most popular upgrade here is Crack Shot, which only costs a point but allows you to push through an extra point of damage in a critical round of shooting. This compensates for the TIE Fighter's biggest weakness, a lack of hitting power.

Night Beast is the first unique pilot I'll cover. He was part of the force that occupied Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back, and amusingly got his nickname by repeatedly violating curfew. He brings some action economy, meaning essentially that he can perform multiple actions each turn. As long as he makes a green maneuver, he gets a free focus action and can still barrel roll or evade. As mentioned before, the TIE Fighter doesn't have that many green maneuvers, but for an extra point you can give him Twin Ion Engine Mk. II, which makes all of his bank maneuvers green. That only adds 2 greens, but it still really opens up his options and it's quite cheap.

Winged Gundark is another pilot that was involved in the occupation of Cloud City, and earned his nickname due to his large number of kills in high altitude atmospheric combat. His ability is pretty simple, allowing him change a hit to a critical hit when attacking at Range 1. It's a slight increase to his hitting power, but doesn't compare well to some of the other named pilots.

Dark Curse was a member of Black Squadron killed by Wedge Antilles during the Battle of Yavin (there is no higher pedigree for a TIE pilot). He's by far the most defensive TIE Fighter, as ships attacking him can't use focus or re-roll attack dice. This means that they'll always be rolling straight dice against his 3 defense, which is quite chancy. There is an argument against taking him, as his defense is wasted if your opponent just kills the rest of your squadron. Dark Curse doesn't have the killing power to handle the endgame by himself, so this strategy works quite well. Maybe because I'm not playing at a tournament level, but I've enjoyed using Dark Curse. He's cheap and I fly him aggressively, daring my opponent to waste their shots on him.

Backstabber was Darth Vader's right wingman during the Battle of Yavin until he was shot down by Han Solo. His nickname came from his viciousness in combat, which is well represented on the table. As long as he's attacking his target from the side or rear, he gains an extra attack die. This addresses the TIE Fighter's biggest weakness in a very flexible manner. Backstabber makes an excellent budget flanker.

Mauler Mithel was Darth Vader's left wingman during the Battle of Yavin. Like Backstabber, Mauler can also pick up an extra attack die, in his case by being in Range 1. Mauler also has access to an EPT, making him quite flexible. So far he's my favorite TIE Fighter to use, as I really like to get into my opponent's face. I haven't come up with my favorite EPT for him yet, though. I'm leaning toward Adrenaline Rush or Lightning Reflexes to help keep him in good position during a dogfight, but I need to experiment more with him.

Howlrunner is the leader of Obsidian Squadron, fighting in both the occupation of Cloud City and the Battle of Endor. She is a strong support piece, allowing every friendly ship at Range 1 to reroll an attack die. She's a lynchpin of Imperial swarm lists, single-handedly fixing TIEs damage dealing problem. Her EPT can take that even further, with Swarm Tactics, Wingman, or Squad Leader further benefiting her squad. However, she is most useful with some careful formation flying, and I haven't managed to figure that out. It also doesn't really seem like my style, so I haven't tried very hard, but Howlrunner is indispensable to a competitive Imperial swarm list. 

That's it for my first X-wing ship review. Let me know what you think.

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