Thursday, October 15, 2015

Imperial Assault Skirmish review and strategy article
by Ray Snydera

This Review is of the Star Wars Imperial Assault Skirmish game mode. I’ll Tackle the Campaign in detail at a later date. Overall I’m very happy with the Skirmish game. With the exception of setting up the map tiles, the game is simple and easy to set up and play. The basic game offers a wealth of options for your skirmish strike forces, a surprising amount of variability for a base game product. The Skirmish Missions and maps are fun and interesting. My only Negative with the skirmish game are that setting up the tiles that make the maps can be time consuming and often takes longer than expected, however each map has two different missions, so you can use the same map for multiple games, once it’s constructed.


For set up and play, all the figures are preassembled expect the Walker and that is a simple snap together model that requires no glue. Each players select Deployment cards to construct a Strike Force, and each Deployment cards list all the Stats and unique rules for that unit. This makes constructing an army quick and easy, as you lay out the cards in front of you and can easily check cards for effects you want in your strike force. I really enjoy setting up and playing this game. While setting up the tiles can be a bit time consuming, I enjoy the puzzle of assembling the map. I found the ease of set up and play a relief, after some recent games what required a lot of hobby effort before your could play it. The Gameplay itself is deep and satisfying while still exciting and unpredictable. This game also relies firmly on making decisions, how do you send that surge, what unit do you activate yet, how do you spend your two actions, when do you play the command cards in your hand, how do you pursue the mission objectives, and how do you use the map to your advantage? Additionally, the alternating activations makes the game play quick and immersive. I love it.
For the Strategy Article, I’m going to focus on different aspects of this game, I hope this will demonstrate some of the different tactics you can run. All three factions have strengths and weaknesses. Each of the Missions can have radically different objectives and game play. The Command Cards give you secret resources to make actions your opponent can’t predict. The alternating activation of deployment cards makes the actual game play interesting and tactically challenging. I will now go over each of these ideas in depth.

First, each faction, whether the Rebels, Empire, or Mercenaries has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. 
The Rebels have powerful unique heroes that have strong synergies with each other and work best as a team, but do not have many options for non unique units and and once some of the heroes start getting defeated or split up, the Rebels can be seriously outnumbered. 
The Empire has both the cheapest and more numerous units and the most powerful and expensive characters, a very powerful combo. However it possible to take huge casualties quickly for the cheaper units while the powerful characters (Darth Vader, Royal Guard Champion, AT-ST,etc) can be delayed or avoided. The Empire also has the best military training as shown by their inexpensive Officer’s ability to give out free movement orders. 
The Mercenaries are the smallest selection of units, but can be included in an imperial force or have up to two Rebel characters added to their Mercenary force, this makes them very versatile and Mercenaries tend to force strain on the enemy (due to the Relentless or Bleed abilities), causing them to likely discard a card from the command deck. Once someone’s command deck is empty they can’t get any new cards and lose out on those surprise effects that can swing a battle and Strain now causes unpreventable damage too.

The Missions really make the game interesting, as each Mission has it’s own style and victory condition. Get The Ship and Smuggled Goods use the same Map, the “Mos Eisley Outskirts”, but in Get to the Ship the Conflict revolves around controlling a central objective (a T-16 Skyhopper), while Smuggled Goods has the forces trying to grab Contraband crates and then run with the Crates to safety. Lost Knowledge and Leave no Evidence share the same map the “Massassi Ruins” but Lost Knowledge has the forces battling over Holocrons that need to be placed in a communications Beacon, while Leave no Evidence has the forces investigating Excavation sites and can use the communications beacon to call a Bombing run down on the Excavation sites. Close to Home and Raiding party are both played on the “Moisture Farm” map and require the players to control Water shipments in Close to Home or Fight off Tusken Raiders that ambush both sides. When playing Raiding Party its challenging trying to use the Raiders to your advantage, but it’s great fun (They deal automatic damage to the closest figure in LOS), as is bombing everyone outside the temple in Leave no Evidence. When Playing Get the Ship the game often turns into brutal slug out as both forces converge on the Ship, but when playing Smuggled Goods, it’s all about Snatch and Grab tactics. All the Missions are listed on cards, so you can shuffle them up when you want a random mission, or set up a map ahead of time, then randomly pick one of the two mission on that map.Each of the figure expansions will add a new map and two missions, so in the near future, there will be almost twenty different missions on nine different maps.
The Command Cards also add another simple system to the game that really ups the excitement of the game. Each player constructs a 15 card deck, they start the game drawing three cards, and gaining one extra card at the end of each turn. If you can control one of the two terminal on each map, you can draw an additional Command Card, and if you control both terminals you can draw two extra cards each Turn. Additionally the rebels have a skirmish upgrade that always lets them draw an extra card. The Command Cards range from making it easier to damage an enemy by removing some form of defense, gaining extra boosts of movement, gaining an extra action or seizing the initiative. All the Unique characters have at least one card only they can use, such as Darth Vader’s Lord of the Sith card, when use, it give Vader and extra action for hostile figure he defeats. Lord of the Sith can’t let Vader attack twice, but it could allow him to move then attack with his Brutality attack (attacking two different figures), Killing them both, Gaining two extra Actions, then (using one action) Force Choking another model for the Kill, gain another action, then use the remaining actions on movement, or other command cards that require actions like recovery (heal 2 damage) or take Cover (makes you harder to kill). Command card are often risky but can really change the tide of battle.
The Alternating Activations turn structure also gives this game lots of depth. Each player takes turns activating one of their deployment cards, until all Deployment cards have activated. The whole “Who do you activate now” question adds a lot of choice, in how your turn plays out. If you Activate Luke Skywalker early in a turn, he might defeat a model before it get’s it’s turn or he might move to position himself to benefit the rest of his team, but that also risks him being the easiest target or getting out maneuvered later in the turn. If you wait until later activations, he might not have as much impact on the battle or have no enemy to attack. The Missions also tend to spread a players strike force over three different objectives on a map, so the order you and your opponent activate might cause a huge advantage in one area while neglecting other areas for later in the turn. Also when a game starts, it’s often cunning to use cheaper models as your early activations, so you can activate your more powerful models once you have seen how the turn has developed a bit.

Now that the Basics of the Skirmish game are laid out, Here are some of my favorite Strike Forces I have seen or played.

Multishot Mercs - A Mercenary Strike Force with IG-88, Nexu, Trandoshan Hunters, Devious Scheme, and Temporary Alliance to include Fen Signis and Rebel Troopers. This List Allows for a lot of shooting as Fen Signis, IG-88, and a Rebel Troopers can all use the Assault ability to attack twice in a Turn, Additionally, the Two Trandoshans and IG-88 have the relentless ability that causes strain, dealing an extra damage or causing the other player to lose a card from there command deck. If IG-88 is attacking twice a turn and both Trandoshans also attack, your opponent will probably lose 4 cards from there 15 card deck, two round of combat like this will all but empty your opponents deck of command cards and then begin dealing a lot of extra damage. The Devious Scheme card allows your to pick what deployment side each player gets and who gets initiative for the first turn, so you should have a great early game too.

Mighty Imperial Army - An Imperial strike force that swarms the enemy with Storm Trooper, Probe Droids, Officers, and the Deadly E-Webs. This List is composed of (2) imperial Officers, (1) Elite Imperial officer, (2) Probe Droids, (2) Stormtroopers, (1) Elite E-Web and (1) E-Web. The E-Webs are the heavy hitters in this list and use the Imperial Officers to move them into position to Attack, while the Stormtroopers, and Probe Droids Harass the enemy and go after objectives. The Elite Stormtroopers can also be very powerful, as the normal storm troopers can trigger their ability to become focused.The nine deployment cards used in this list allows for you to out activate most forces in the early game, although it can also be slow moving to get the E-Webs into position to attack.

A Newest Hope - Luke Skywalker, Daila Passil, Gideon Argus, Garrkhan, and Fen Signis with the Rebel High Command skirmish Upgrade. While not very Numerous this force can deal a lot of damage and can deal with most threats powered by the synergies each character brings. Luke allows nearby friendly figures to reroll an attack dice, while Gideon gives out little movement bursts or green Focus dice, Gaarkhan can attack twice if injured, so he is often ignored early in the game, but Fen Signis’s Blast damage can be used to Trigger Gaarkhan’s Wookie Rage. Finally Luke and Daila can use Force User only command cards, while also both having Very high peirce close combat attacks that can damage even Vader reliably. Fen, Daila, and Gaarkhan are great at dealing with Stormtroopers and other lighter targets, while Gideon’s “On my Mark” focus dice can really turn an attack from oh hum to amazing. The Rebel High Command card give this team and Extra command card each turn, so it’s easier for the rebels to stay together and not have to control terminals to get the command cards.