Upsilon-class Shuttle – Preview Thoughts

The second of the Wave 10 preview articles went up last Monday, and it’s a big one – both in terms of content and the sheer size of the ship in question.  The First Order’s Upsilon-class Shuttle is a beast of a ship!

Crew

First Order Fanatic – General Hux

General Hux is an expensive crew option, clocking in at 5 points (and so not being an eligible option for the TIE Shuttle) but he’s got a sizeable effect to match the cost.  For an action you can assign a focus token to up to three friendly ships at Range 1-2, and assign one of those ships the Fanatical Devotion condition.  (In both cases, these effects can target the ship Hux is on.)  Then, assign the ship Hux is on a stress token.

We’ll get to the condition in a moment, but the focus tokens alone are worthy of consideration.  That’s a lot of action efficiency to be generating from just one action, and gives other ships in your squadron the freedom to pick other action options.  It is two points more expensive than Fleet Officer, but effects an extra ship, and assigns a (mostly) beneficial condition.

So, what does this Fanatical Devotion actually do for you?  First up, it stops you spending focus tokens on defence for the turn, which is a pretty big deal.  However, while this does make your ships potentially more vulnerable, you can still use evade tokens, giving you some room for defensive dice modification.

In exchange for this, when you spend a focus token on the attack, put one of your focus results to one side.  This become a hit that cannot be cancelled, effectively turning it into a min-Autoblaster.  Very useful if you want to punch through the defences of hard to hit aces like Soontir Fel, the Inquisitor, or Fenn Rau.

Given the defensive vulnerability this creates, you want to be slightly careful about where you assign this condition.  However, given that both the Lambda and Upsilon shuttles only have one Agility, and the Decimator has 0, any of them can take this condition at comparatively minimal risk.  Conveniently, they’re all also likely candidates to be carrying Hux in the first place, and have a decent number of red dice to try and get that focus result.

I’m fully expecting to see a fair amount of Hux on the table when Wave 10 hits, although if he’ll be good enough to displace the Emperor in any Imperial lists is another matter entirely…

Dark Side Apprentice – Kylo Ren

So, Kylo Ren isn’t actually a new reveal, having been featured in the Wave 10 announcement article, but I’m including him here as he’s still a solid addition to the Imperial crew roster.

His ability is pretty simple – take an action to assign the somewhat wordily-titled “I’ll Show You the Dark Side” condition to an enemy ship at Range 1-3.  The condition itself is a bit more of a significant bit of mechanics to get your head around.

I’ll Show You the Dark Side (ISYTDS) allows you to search your opponent’s deck for a Pilot damage card, and place it onto the Condition.  The next time the ship with ISYTDS takes critical damge, it’s instead deal the damage card on the condition face up.

There’s a couple of key points here.  Firstly, the Pilot damage cards include some pretty crippling options with Blinded Pilot (skip your next shot), Damaged Cockpit (drop to PS 0), and Stunned Pilot (take damage if you overlap a ship or obstacle) all falling into that category.  That’s some very strong options to severely limit what that ship will be doing next turn.

Secondly, the wording is “When you suffer critical damage during an attack”, not “When you are dealt a faceup Damage card”.  Any uncancelled dice showing a crit icon counts as critical damage, so this can potentially land crits under shields, making it a potentially powerful way of getting some very hampering effects in place early in the game.

This seems like a solid tool for dealing with a range of ships, and while it does cost an action to use, the effect more that justifies the points and action cost in my opinion.

Operations Specialist

The expansion also include a non-unique, generally available crew card in the Operations specialist.  Clocking in at 3 points, the Operations Specialist allows you to assign a focus token to a friendly ship when one of your ships misses with an attack.  (With some range restrictions, but see the card on the right for the full details on those.)

This feels a lot like the crew version of Captain Rex, but to be honest, substantially better.  While it is a point more expensive, the fact that you can assign the focus token to other friendly ships as well as your own does a huge amount for it.  It’s also not limited to once a turn, so you could potentially assign a few focus tokens in a turn, and still get some use from them on either attack or defence.

I’m seriously interesting in trying this in a few lists.  The obvious one that springs to mind is a Gamma Squadron Pilot TIE Shuttle with an Operations Specialist,  Howlrunner with Crack Shot, and four Black Squadron Pilots with Crack Shot.  It’s a slightly different take on the TIE Crack Shot Swarm, but potentially frees your TIEs up to take evade actions to make them a little more durable and then using any shots that miss to cascade down focus tokens onto other ships to make their shots more accurate.

Overall, I think it’s an upgrade with potential, but one that will need a bit of thought on how to use it, and some careful list building to get the most from it.

Tech

The Upsilon Shuttle brings two new tech cards to the game.  They’re both interesting additions, but notably more specialised than the quite generally applicable ones from Heroes of the Resistance – pretty much any ship can benefit from Pattern Analyser, while the following cards require a bit more thought at the list-building stage to get the most from them.

Hyperwave Comm Scanner

The first of the new Tech upgrade cards introduced in Wave 10, the Hyperwave Comm Scanner introduces some new options for deployment.  Being able to control when you place a ship can be useful under certain circumstances, and being able to do that at effectively PS 0, 6, or 12 gives you some real flexibility.  If you’ve got a ship that needs to respond to your opponent’s deployment, you can jump up to 12, or drop down to 0 if you need to be the centre point of a formation of low PS ships.

The secondary benefit is that you can assign a focus or evade token to each ship placed at Range 1-2 of you.  This only has a real impact if you can either a) get into combat range on turn 1 of the game, or b) have some way of storing those tokens for use in later rounds.  That narrows down the number of ships and pilots its useful with, but could be a sizeable advantage when there’s some synergy available.  There’s definitely some potential for that with at least one of the pilots included in this pack…

At 1 point, this feels well costed for a card that gives you a very specific set of abilities that are only relevant during deployment.  It’s certainly not a card for every list, but it opens up some interesting potential for those lists that can take advantage of it.  If nothing else, being able to deploy at PS 12 forces you opponent to guess where your ships are going to be, and potentially nets you a useful “turn zero” advantage.

Targeting Synchronizer

The second tech card is a slightly complex one.  In essence, when a friendly ship at Range 1-2 is attacking someone the ship with this upgrade has target locked, they can use (and if needs be, spend) that target lock for their Attack (Target Lock) attacks.  So, this is intended for helping ordnance lists coordinate their fire and potentially allow low PS generics to get ordnance away on higher PS targets they might otherwise struggle to target lock early on.

Clocking in at 3 points, it’s a substantial investment, so no something you’re going to want to use to support just one other ship in your list.  This means you’re looking at using this as part of an ordnance focused list, which combined with the comparatively few ships that can take tech upgrades at the moment, means you’re looking at quite a limited number of builds.

The obvious choice of ordnance to pair with this is anything that requires a target lock to fire, but doesn’t discard that target lock in the process.  Currently, that narrows it down to Advanced Homing Missiles, Ion Pulse Missiles, and Homing Missiles.  The range restrictions on Advanced Homing Missiles are quite limiting, and Ion Pulse Missiles, while having a useful control effect, don’t have the damage output to make them the focus of a list.  That leaves Homing Missiles, which with their strong 4 dice attack and denying the target the use of evade tokens have quite a strong place in the current meta.  However, clocking in at 5 points, it’s not cheap.  A Scimitar Squadron TIE Bomber with a Homing Missile, Extra Munitions, and Guidance Chips clocks in at 23 points.  It’s going to be slightly challenging to build a solid list that includes three of those plus a relatively high PS ship with a Tech slot.

This feels like an upgrade with a lot of potential, but either I’m missing something obvious or we don’t have quite the right combination of ships and upgrades at the  moment to use it to its full potential.  I’m hoping that we’ll see some innovative list builds coming to prove me wrong!

Title – Kylo Ren’s Shuttle

The slightly unimaginatively name Kylo Ren’s Shuttle title rounds out the upgrades for this Upsilon Shuttle pack.  At the end of the Combat Phase, you can assign a stress to an unstressed enemy ship at Range 1-2, but that ship’s owner can reassign it to another one of their ships within Range 1-2 of the original ship if they choose.

This is a slightly odd effect, but it’s passive stress control at the not particularly expensive cost of 2 points.  It’s got better range than Mara Jade (although only effects one ship), doesn’t rely on your opponent attacking the shuttle with this title like Rebel Captive, and is marginally cheaper than either of them.  Your opponent getting to potentially reassign the stress and not being able to further stress already stressed ships are both notable downsides, but stress control is still good, and I can see this card getting some play if you’ve got 2 points to spare.

Pilots

As with all large-base ships, we get four new pilots in this pack – one generic and three unique named pilots.

Starkiller Base Pilot

The baseline generic, the Starkiller Base Pilot clocks in at 30 points.  That’s 9 points more expensive than the Lambda Shuttle’s generic pilot, but you get quite a lot for that upgrade.  With one more shield, hull and attack dice than the Lambda, the Upsilon Shuttle is a punchy and durable package.  You also get access to two Tech slots, and in a first for non-Epic play, the Coordinate action.  This allows you to let another friendly ship at Range 1-2 take a free action – very handy if you need to give a little bit more power to another ship’s attack, help out a lower PS ship that’s bumped, or help a mobile ace move into a more advantageous position before it reveals its dial.

You do lose the cannon slot, but with a 4 dice primary weapon, it’s unlikely you’d want to equip one anyway…

Overall, 30 points seems fairly priced for what you get.  I doubt we’re going to see many Upsilon Shuttles being used as “Palpmobiles”, as adding Palpatine to even the cheapest generic pushes you up to 38 points, only leaving you with 62 points to spend on other ships.  That makes getting two aces into a list for the classic Palp Aces build a challenging proposition.

Lieutenant Dormitz

At just one point more than the Starkiller Base Pilot, Lieutenant Dormitz gets an extra point of Pilot Skill and an interesting pilot ability.  Friendly ships can be deployed anywhere within Range 1-2 of Dormitz, giving you a much large area for deployment, and allowing you to deploy much closer to the enemy.

Dormitz feels like he pairs naturally with the Hyperwave Comm Scanner, allowing him to be placed before any of your other ships, and then give them some free tokens into the bargain.  Given that Range 2 onto the board notably increased the odds of first turn shooting, having those focus or evades could be a big deal.  Even without that upgrade, he can be a disruptive presence and allow fast aggressive lists to close to firing range very quickly.  Dormitz alongside two Glaive Squadron TIE Defenders with Juke and the /x7 title fits comfortably into a standard list…

While Dormitz’s ability only applies once during the game, the fact that he’s only one point more than the generic alongside the potentially sizeable deployment advantage makes him well worth consideration.

Major Stridan

Major Stridan comes in at 32 points.  He’s got  one more PS than Dormitz, and a perhaps more generally applicable pilot ability.  For actions and Upgrade cards, Stridan can treat friendly ships at Range 2-3 as being at Range 1.  (Key words here are “friendly ships”, so it doesn’t boost offensive upgrades like Mara Jade.)

This gives Stridan a sizeable bubble of support effects.  Even just the basic Coordinate action gets a boost, helping Stridan more easily support mobile Imperial ships.  Of course, it becomes a much bigger deal once you start equipping upgrades.  Systems Officer probably gets the biggest boost, letting you dish out target locks at long range, but Fleet Officer, Operations Specialist, and General Hux all get a small boost as well.

If you’re looking for a non-Palpatine support ship for your Imperial squadron that’s also got some teeth, Stridan seems like a good place to start.  He’s not going to be a small investment of points (37 with the Fleet Officer and Systems Officer combo for example), but I think he’s got potential supporting a couple of durable ships or something like a mini-Crack Shot swarm.

Kylo Ren

Finally, we’ve got our new master of the Dark Side, Kylo Ren.  At 34 points, he’s the most expensive of the Upsilon pilots, but he’s also bumped up to PS 6, has a mean pilot ability, and is the only Upsilon pilot with an Elite Pilot Talent slot.  This opens up a lot of new options for him, including Veteran Instincts if you want to push him up to PS 8 to match some of your aces.

His pilot ability assigns the ISYTDS condition to the first ship to hit him each round, making shooting him a less than appealing prospect.  A hit on Kylo Ren could easily mean a crippling critical on you when the forces of the First Order return fire.  Throw a Rebel Captive on there as well if you want to really disincetivise your opponent from shooting at him!

My gut instinct is that Kylo Ren will be used as more of a gunship than support ship when compared to the other Upsilon Shuttles, probably flown with a couple cheap upgrades to boost his offence, and alongside a couple of other hard-hitting ships.  However, there’s another option I’m interested in trying.  Kylo Ren with VI and Palpatine, the Inquisitor, and Omega Leader is a neat 100 points.  That’s three PS 8 ships, and some hard choices for your opponent on where to focus their fire first.  It’s probably not as effective as some of the other Palp Aces builds, but equally I’m not sure it’s something I’d want to face across the table…

Final Thoughts

While on the surface the Upsilon looks quite similar to the Lambda shuttle, I think we’ll see the two of them used in very different ways.  The Upsilon is too expensive to be used in the same disposable fashion that the Lambda often is, and has has some serious firepower you want contributing to the fight.  Generally speaking, I think the Upsilon is probably a bit too expensive to see much use with Palpatine, although it’s possible to do some “budget ace” builds that might work out.

All of the pilots seem well priced for what they do, although continuing something of a trend with FFG’s recent releases the generic pilot feels slightly overcosted when compared with the named pilots.  A point less for the Starkiller Base Pilot would have made it a more attractive option, particularly with Dormitz coming in at only a single point more as things stand.

The crew options are all solid choices.  Hux is costly but potent, and the Operations Specialist has some decent uses in the massed ship lists that the Empire and First Order can do well.  The new tech generally feels quite specialised, but I’m keen to see it in play and what it can do for real.

Overall, this is a strong addition to the Empire’s fleet, and adds some interesting new options.  I’m not sure it’s a ship I’ll be getting more than one of, although in theory you can fit three of them in a list with a handful of points left for upgrades.  And of course, a lot will depend on what the Upsilon’s dial is like – if it’s a clone of the Lambda dial it’ll be a lot less useful than something with a white hard turn for example.  Given the points cost, I’m not anticipating a K-turn or similar.

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