Weekend of Woe: Imperial Assault

I used to be super dad and bring my son to tournaments, feeding him grapes during matches and otherwise letting him crawl until he wandered too far and I needed to chase him down and pull him back, but that has not been so possible since he began walking and reaching well over the table and pulling games and toys off shelves.  Now he has to stay home with his mom, and that can be tricky when she has to work half the weekends in a year.  However, my wife had this past weekend off, and wouldn’t you know it?  There wasn’t one but two tournaments, on separate days even.  Imperial Assault on Saturday and Game of Thrones on Sunday.  She was okay watching him both days, and I was free to game all weekend.  I was hyped.

So my weekend of woe and futility began.  Enjoy.

The list

Despite my success with “Luke Skywalker, Rancor Whisperer” at the Minnesota regionals, I was looking to try something new.  The thought was building a counter list with plenty of stun to slow down the Rancors and new Lukes I was expecting.  I couldn’t quite get it right in a Rebel build and settled on building around General Sorin.  Seemed a lot more interesting since the release of Advanced Com Systems.  The rest of the list came naturally from there.  Regular HK Assassin Droids since they had destroyed me in my top 4 match, elite Jet Troopers to finally get some use out of the Vehicle command cards, and Vinto Hreeda and an Imperial Officer to fill out the space.



Let’s not spend too much time dwelling on the command cards.  I screwed them up hard.  Reinforcements doesn’t even work on elite Jet Troopers, and Overcharged Weapons only allows a single attack even with two units of Jet Troopers, both of which I only realized in match.  That’s what you deserve when you build your list the night before.


The tournament

It was held at the Fulton Taproom, a nice change from the Fantasy Flight Event Center and local game shops.  The tables were plenty big, the beer was tasty and it was reasonably quiet until they started ringing the gong for tours.

Against P, Mercenary Hunters on One Man’s Trash

Always good to start your tournament with a match against the champion of the Nebraska regionals.  He ran the same list (two elite Weequay Guards, elite Gamorrean Guard, Vinto Hreeda, Jabba the Hutt, Onar Koma and Devious Scheme and a command deck full of damage and defense die removal) that won him that tournament, and it was an absolute slaughter.

I felt good at the start.  Sorin focused everyone he could in the process of blowing open the door to the objectives while P settled for hiding his Weequays without even attacking his door.  I took the initiative on the second round, and it promptly all fell apart.  I sent my Jet Troopers in to scoop far objectives with their mobility.  P ignored the objectives and went right for the throat, killing one of the Jet Troopers and getting everyone else up close.  My Vinto made a desperate dash through the hallway to attack Jabba and open a new front, but a focused Weequay one shot him before he made a roll.

I scored 16 points on objectives in the third round, while Onar knocked out Sorin.  Didn’t feel like I was making a match of it because I wasn’t.  P continued to move in, and Gamorreans did work knocking out an HK and another Jet Trooper.  I managed to kill a single Gamorrean (my only) before he reached 40 points purely through murder.

A final score of 40 to 20 flattered me because I was absolutely ineffective and never did anything to give me a chance to win the game.

Against E, Imperial Defense on To Your Stations!

E says that he only began playing skirmish a month ago.  That’s good.  He also beat the runner up at the Nebraska regionals in the last round.  That’s bad.  He’s running a defensive Imperial build (elite Snowtroopers, Royal Guard, two elite Jet Troopers, Captain Terro and Zillo Technique) that liked keeping units close for extra blocks from the Royal Guards and healing from the Snowtroopers.  It’s definitely different from the offense I faced last round.

We start slowly.  I send most of my units to the far, lone station while Sorin and the HKs hang back with their guns pointed at the intersection between the doors.  E sends Captain Terro toward the far station and a Royal Guard races to claim one of the top two stations, but the majority of his forces stay in formation and move through the door into the intersection.  One of his Jet Troopers snipe one of mine, but it’s quiet.

Next round my HKs tear into the formation with focus, but they’re a tough nut between the defenses of Zillo and Guards and heals.  Still, a few Snowtroopers and a Jet Trooper fall on his side in exchange for a Jet Trooper and Vinto whom I had pushed too far ahead.  E is a little ahead on points here but makes two crucial mistakes in this round.  One, he pulls the Guard off the station to support his forces.  Two, he doesn’t push his forces any closer to the HKs, leaving them free to continue attacking from a range he can’t match.  The match was only decided by five points.  Holding the objective for another two rounds or halting the slaughter of my HKs could have won him the match.

I take initiative in the third round, and the HKs continue their bloody work, claiming three Jet Troopers with Sorin’s assistance.  Captain Terro kills one of my Jet Troopers in return and has a chance to win on the Royal Guard activation if one can kill a Jet Trooper while the other claims the objective, but the Guard can’t punch through.  The match is just narrowly mine.

Against M, Mercenary Hunters on Lair of the Dianoga

Now I get to face the runner up in the Nebraska regional, playing the same list as P earlier but switching HKs for the Gamorreans.  I was glad to see the map since I had seen before what HKs can do with the space but not so happy to see them in his list as well.

We both focus on the dianoga in the first round, but M begins advancing his units, sending a Weequay and Onar down the near hallway while the rest of his Weequays and Vinto go the long way around.

I lose two Jet Troopers before the dianoga falls in the second round, but it’s a comedy of errors.  I have never seen worse dice.  If M looked worse for it, it’s only because he rolled more.  A focused Onar couldn’t make range four on Sorin in the second round and is blown away by two HK attacks before he could try again.  M’s HK rolling an extra red with Tools for the Job couldn’t finish the dianoga’s last four health and gift wraps the glory of the kill and extra points for my Vinto, with me barely coming out ahead 14 to 11.

The third round is wholesale massacre.  I negate M’s attempt to steal the initiative and immediately one shot the Weequay who had been accompanying Onar.  My Jet Trooper manages nine damage in a single activation through Overrun and a finishing blow on an HK.

Unfortunately, M’s third round is even better.  Critically, one of his HKs manages to one shot a full-health, unactivated General Sorin at nine range.  It was ridiculous, even considering he removed Sorin’s defense die, but fair considering how poorly the dice had treated him earlier.  That effectively ended the match as Sorin was primed to order an HK to kill another Weequay.  His Vinto knocks out my last two Jet Troopers through Bolt Slinger, and that’s game.

So that’s my day.  I go 1 and 2 and place terribly since the organizers were experimenting with MoV.  But I had fun.


Elite Weequays have better range than you’d expect and pack a punch with Hidden’s extra surge.  With the Hunter command cards, they’re probably the best groups in the game right now with HKs and Alliance Rangers close behind.

HKs are brutal, especially when they can recycle focus, but Sorin probably isn’t quite worth it.  He’s nine points of support with Advanced Com System and only a single activation.  Gideon and C-3PO are fewer points even through Mercenary’s Temporary Alliance, more activations and more flexible focus.  The stun never mattered.

Murder is a perfectly acceptable way to score points.

Read the bloody command cards.


Thanks to my opponents.  Thanks to my wife for spending the day with the boy.  Thanks to P for hosting somewhere new.  Thanks to M and P for the excellent custom point trackers.  Thanks to Eat at Sandy’s for brilliant fries.

Swag game



Luke Skywalker, Rancor Whisperer goes to the Fantasy Flight Regionals 2017: Part 2: The Tournament

For a discussion of the preparations and list choices, go here.

A half hour before I leave I am still collecting the command cards and finding the figures and fifteen minutes before I leave I am packing a backpack with diapers and cheese sticks and chapati but I arrive on time.  Eighteen other people are there, and somehow I am the only one to bring a toddler.  Fortunately, the timing works out that he’s just starting his nap when I arrive.  Unfortunately, the pairings go up, and my first round is a


Not how I wanted to start the day.  It’s a win, but I came to play and the first round would likely be the only one my son would sleep all the way through.  Still, it’s a win, and with nineteen competitors and a cut to the top eight, I only need to win two of my next three to advance.  I get fries and wander around the tables.  I see a lot of Mercenaries and a lot of the new units and a lot of Assassinate.  See a beautiful little back and forth where Ferocity allows a Rancor a final attack only for a focused Onar Koma to play Extra Protection off that and finish the Rancor off.  My practice partner from Friday is playing the same list against a double Rancor, Bantha Rider, Jabba list.  He sits back and gains power from On a Diplomatic Mission until the very last round where a super pumped new Luke and Obi-Wan run down a Rancor and finish it.  Fifteen minutes before the next round starts, my son wakes up.  I immediately start feeding him to keep him happy, and it works.  The pairings go up, and I am finally playing my list for the first time.

Against N, Mercenary Hunters and Gamorreans on To Your Stations!

N’s list is fascinating, not something I had considered at all.  Jabba the Hutt, Shyla Varad, Vinto Hreeda, Greedo, two elite Gamorrean Guards and Devious Scheme.  He splits his forces immediately, sending Shyla and Vinto to the single far station while the rest move to the double station.  I send all of mine to the double stations.  It’s all maneuvering the first round.  The bleeding begins the second round.  I lose a Weequay Pirate.  He loses three Gamorreans, but damage is piling on Luke and the Rancor.  It starts falling apart in the third round.  Shyla moves up and knocks out the Rancor, and Luke follows soon after.  I only get Greedo in exchange.  By round four N is on 33, and I’m on 28.  I’m able to finish the last Gamorrean and Vinto and could win if I can hold the station for the round, but that’s a joke.  Shyla is too much and murders the Weequay on it.  Gideon falls soon after to give N the win.  I’ll probably need to run the table to make the top eight and earn those shiny red and yellow dice.  I can do that.

I was outplayed in the unit game but kept it close in the objectives.  The name of the game was power attacks and stacks of command cards.  Element of Surprise, Assassinate, Tools for the Job and Jabba-assisted focus allowed near one-hit kills and demonstrated that a trained Rancor and new Luke were a bit more fragile than I had hoped.  Talking about it after the game, N convinced me that Shyla is worth a closer look.  She is perfectly comparable to Obi-Wan in terms of durability, and her abilities are fun.  The boy is mostly content to stay close and munch his lunch.

On to the next one.

Against Z, Mercenary Sampler on One Man’s Trash

Z is local, and I’ve played him a few times.  That’s good because my son has realized he knows where we are and has no problem wandering out of eyesight.  The gameplay is a bit staccato as a result of me having to run into the main game room every other activation to pull the boy back.

Anyway, this game was won early on a difference in strategy.  Z’s setup suggested an early push into the corridor to attack me from the rear, and his play soon made that clear when only a single group of Weequay Pirates made a lonely push against the door.  Again, I opted to push for objective points hard but sent my Rancor down the hallway to block it up and slow him down.  Z had made the earlier play of Onar destroying the Rancor, and I was wary but had no choice.  The cards never came together for him, and the Rancor was able to knock out a Weequay and Bossk on a Parting Blow before being taken down by Onar through an Order Hit from Jabba with points only gained through Pickpocket earlier that turn.  That was fine though because I gained twelve points on crates that turn and he had yet to open his door with most of his figures still near the distant hallway.  Vinto with a crate rolled my only dodge of the day to survive a blast from the Weequays, a few more kills and two more crates and that was the game.

There were some lucky rolls for me to just get enough to knock out Bossk with the Rancor and for Vinto to survive his attack, but as I wrote earlier, Z’s fatal mistake was to overcommit to the corridor, leaving me generally free to take crates unmolested.  The Rancor prevented any flanking attack and delayed his turn toward the crates and that was that.  Hard to keep up with twenty points on objectives.

Against D, Twins with Rangers and Smugglers on Surveillance

If I win this, I’m in the cut.  I’m feeling good.  Also, my wife arrived and was able to take the boy.  I can concentrate.

The first round is mostly positioning.  We both send the bulk of our forces to the end of the map far from the deployment zones.  With an early Son of Skywalker, I see a chance to get my Luke up against his at the end of the round and turn the tide early.  It will mean keeping my Luke facing his and Leia and the entire group of regular Alliance Rangers at the beginning of the round, but the initiative is passing to me.  He could have Take Initiative, but I’ve finally drawn Negation and feel okay with the risk.  I chip ten damage onto Luke and end the turn.  He does play Take, and I cancel it, and that should have been the play of the game.  I activate Luke first, and his Luke rolls dodge on both my attacks before I have to retreat.  Cripes.  His Luke moves in for the kill and does most of the damage but can’t finish it and tries to run away.  Parting Blow finishes him.  A Ranger has to burn Grenadier to finish Luke and even us out, but I’m feeling good.

Now Vinto gets to work.  He pops in and out of cover with Opportunistic and Hit and Run, and Boltslinger is nuts.  Over the next few turns, without ever targeting them and with Rancor cleave assist, he is able to knock out the elite and regular Alliance Smugglers, both before activating, and an Alliance Ranger.  The game goes to time, and we stay mostly even on the cameras, but his only kill is Luke.

Three and one.  I’m in the cut and even make second seed as N, my only loss, went undefeated to go top seed, and Z, my third round opponent, took four seed.  Cool.  Now I have a chance at that Bossk point tracker, but it’s all gravy from here.

Top 8 against J, double Bantha, double Weequay on Gaining Favor

I’m feeling good about this match up.  Straight up the Rancor beats the Bantha Rider, just so long as it reaches the choke point in the center of the map first.  I feel less great after a focused Vinto is knocked out by a Gamorrean through a combination of Element of Surprise, Wild Attack and Grisly Contest.  Luke is able to take revenge and knocks out the entire group of Gamorreans and wounds a Weequay but takes way too much damage in the process and is forced to run until the second Weequay hunts him down.  His Bantha moves in to control the choke point, and I’m really not feeling great.  My only advantage is my lead in patron favor until J grabs three in the third round alone to tie us.  The fourth round begins with J at 36 to my 31 after finally knocking out that choking Bantha.  I have initiative, and J is my first opponent all day to not have Take Initiative.  My Rancor activates first to race into the bar and gain favor with the last patron to give me ten points and the win.  Woo.

Objectives all day, every day.  The point tracker is mine.

Top 4 against J, Mercenary Sampler on Lair of the Dianoga

It’s a close match in points when I manage to kill the dianoga (13 to 12 in his favor), but in everything else, it’s his match to lose.  Vinto goes down early after managing no damage on the dianoga and only a single point of damage on his Rancor, and my Rancor follows soon after, sniped by regular HK Assassin Droids and elite Weequays.  I’m able to sneak my remaining forces through the hallway and kill Jabba for the first time after seeing him in almost every other match and even a few other units, but Luke goes down when he can’t manage a surge for pierce 3 to kill the last HK.  Not that it matters.  He was holding Crush with his Rancor in range.

His list was much better suited to the map.  With the range on the HKs, J didn’t need to cross the sewer.  He could wait for me and snipe at his leisure, forcing me to reroll all my good defense.  It certainly didn’t help that I didn’t have a clear strategy once the dianoga went down.  Perhaps pushing Luke and Vinto through the corridor early while the Rancor and Weequays went for the dianoga and across the sewer would have been the right play.  Deflect and Boltslinger would have feasted on five health HKs.  Whatever.  I had a lot of fun and won all the swag and traded for a green and white die.  That’s a pretty good day.


Play for objective points.

New Luke and Vinto, Deflect and Boltslinger, are the real deal and excellent pipping in the final points of damage.

Hunter command cards are brutal.  When the upcoming droid wave comes out, be prepared to tech hard against HKs and IG-88 if you’re not running them yourself because they will be brutal with all the new command cards and existing hunter ones.

If your list is clearly at a disadvantage on a map, perhaps try a different strategy than running into their attacks.

Unless you have a good reason, never not train your Rancor.  And probably not even then either.


Thanks to all my opponents, especially those who tolerated my son and my runs from the table to retrieve my son.  Thanks to the TO and judge.  Thanks to J for spending his bye showing my son cute kitten and owl videos.  Thanks to M for the dice trade.  Thanks to my wife for coming for my son.

Swag game


Luke Skywalker, Rancor Whisperer goes to the Fantasy Flight Regionals 2017: Part 1: Preparations and the List

You know what the best time to start preparing for a Regionals tournament is?  Two days before the tournament begins, and by preparing I mean playing my first skirmish games in any context since shortly after the release of Wave 7.  I only remember that because someone was trying out a full Force User list with a brand new Obi-Wan Kenobi at the last tournament I attended.  Two maps have rotated in since then.  If nothing else, I figured I ought to at least play them and learn the rules.

So I made my way to the regular Thursday casual session and brought along a fairly unimaginative Rebel Twins list of classic Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Loku Kanoloa, Gideon Argus, C-3PO and two regular Echo Base Troopers.  Nothing fancy.  Luke offers punch and rerolls.  Leia offers focused fire and command card recycling.  Loku is some cheap, long-range attack.  Gideon and Threepio are support, and the Troopers are solid.  There’s a lack of trait synergy for command cards, but I splashed in some Spy cards for the control.  It’s fine, but it didn’t really excite me.

I lost the one match I played that night.  He was playing a Mercenary Alliance with a Bantha Rider and new Luke Skywalker as its hitters.  The map was To Your Stations! at the ISB Headquarters.  I made an early play for the two grouped stations and managed to focus out the Bantha Rider that came up to block the hallway fairly easily through classic Luke, Leia and the Troopers.  I was feeling good.  I had knocked out one of his major threats early and was ahead on points with control of two stations earning me more every round.  I could sit back and wait for him.  Unfortunately, new Luke showed up and ripped right through everyone.  This would be a theme in my testing.

Some guys were meeting up for further testing on Friday, and I joined them, not the least reason being that I still hadn’t played the Anchorhead Bar.  This time I brought the list I was excited about: Kayn Somos with Advanced Com Systems, two Dewback Riders with Feeding Frenzy, elite Jet Troopers, regular Snow Troopers, an Imperial Officer and Zillo Technique.  The Riders were the punch, and Kayn and command cards like Call the Vanguard and Ferocity let them just keep punching.  Jet Troopers were backup punch, and Snow Troopers could run for objectives and clear Stun.  The Officer could do his thing.  The list offered a lot of additional activatations and could really focus fire on single units, something I was particularly concerned about considering the recent ravaging by new Luke.

I was wrecked worse this time.  He was running a Rebel List with new Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi, elite Alliance Rangers and support.  We played both missions on Anchorhead Bar, and they both went similarly.  In the first mission I conceded before he lost a figure.  I rushed my units out to grab the crates in Line of Fire, and the Alliance Rangers plinked them from a distance, grabbing a kill or two but mostly just softening me up for Obi-Wan and new Luke to come in and finish them off.  The Pierce was brutal.  I may as well have not rolled dice at all for how many times my blocks stuck around.  We played Gaining Favor next, and it felt pretty similar.  I was more careful to take cover from the Rangers, but new Luke and Obi-Wan just came in and did work.  I was able to knock out Obi-Wan with an attack from Set a Trap, but he won on objectives.

So, for the second time in as many days, I was starting over from the beginning.  The list was fun, but my Riders weren’t sticking around.  I made mistakes and was careless in getting them in range of enemies.  Feeding Frenzy never really came into play, and I could play with those points, maybe a second Imperial Officer or upgrade a Rider into Captain Terro.  The point is, the list could be good but needs time and work, and I had no time.

In three games of testing I had learned one thing: I needed to kill new Luke.  I considered going back to an old list with the SC2-M Repulsor Tank for the double attack but dropped it as too slow and fragile.  I considered a Mercenary sampler anchored by Jabba the Hutt, but it wasn’t pretty enough.  Around 7 the morning of Regionals I admitted failure and the need to join him if I couldn’t beat him.  I decided I needed to run new Luke.  Then I began to consider the team I had first lost to.  I found a similar list that seemed to provide a good framework to build from.  New Luke with Motivation and the Bantha Rider was potent, just kept Stampeding, but I didn’t want to run the Bantha.  Following the scoring change, swarms seemed a lot less viable, and I was more concerned about single heavy targets.  I switched the Bantha and Devious Scheme for a Rancor and tweaked the command cards.

Behold.  The list.



The core of this has already been covered: new Luke with Motivation and the Rancor.  Luke is the Rancor whisperer.  It moves when he says.  It feels better when he says.  It shakes off Stun, something I was very afraid of coming in, when he says.  Then they hit you hard.  They are both fairly durable, as well.  So long as the Rancor is Trained, it’s rolling two black dice, and new Luke can hit and run.  Weequay Pirates and Vinto Hreeda are both just solid groups and great filler at their slots with the bonus of sharing the Hunter and Smuggler traits which both got a lot of love in Jabba’s Realm.  New Luke and Vinto also have wonderfully similar abilities to send single unblockable points of damage and distribute as needed.  Gideon is the same solid support he always is.  Temporary Alliance and Beast Tamer need no explanation.

Behold.  The command.


The first theme of my command deck is extra activations.  There only five cards and six units in my list.  I need to get every attack I can out of them.  Ferocity, Parting Blow, Pummel and Son of Skywalker all allow this.  I was particularly proud of the inclusion of Parting Blow.  Who cares if your Rancor is Stunned if new Luke is going to motivate him out of it immediately?  It never actually worked out that way, but the card had a huge effect every time I played it.

The second theme is extra movement.  Only Vinto has a Speed higher than 4, and my two biggest hitters are melee.  They need to get in there.  Hit and Run, Opportunistic and Urgency all fill this need.

The third theme is making my attacks count.  Imperial Assault is a dice game.  Bad players rely on them.  Good players mitigate and control them.  Element of Surprise, Hard to Hit, Heightened Reflexes and Stimulants all add attack dice, remove defense dice or allow rerolls.  Those are good things.

The rest?  Cripple was a meta call.  If I ran into new Luke or the Rancor or Banthas, I wanted them to stay put.  If you’re not playing Take the Initiative, you’re playing wrong or wonky, and Negation cancels their Take the Initiative.

I was still sorting figures and finding cards twenty minutes before I left, but I had a list.  A list had never run and four figures I had never played but a list.