Thursday, 22 September 2016

X-Wing Miniatures Buying Guide - Part II: Imperials

===== UPDATED FOR FAQ 4.40 =====

Continuing my mini-series looking at how new players should approach buying into a new Faction this is my buying guide for the glorious Imperial Fleet.  



As with the Rebels guide I'm going to do this a couple of different ways - a top level summary of what's in each pack, this is followed by a quick rundown of the pack so you get an idea of what you might want from it.  I'm going to talk about what other expansions you might need to get to really get the best out of the ships you buy, then go through a few possible routes for how to build your Imperial fleet from square one (spoiler: you probably start with Imperial Veterans).



IMMUNITY FROM PROSECUTION

Many ships/pilots/upgrades can be played with and had fun with and done well with that I'm not going to mention, just because if you don't set the bar quite high you wind up talking about almost everything and it stops being a guide, just a list of contents.  The bar for entry in my mentioning a pilot/upgrade is set pretty high, therefore.

If you want to explore a ship despite what I say, then please do!  If you think I've ignored a great card you love to play with then please continue to play with and enjoy that card!

Remember: a guide is not a set of strict commandment, it's exactly what it claims to be... purely a guide.


IMPERIAL SUMMARY




  • GREAT - a fantastic pack, you should definitely have this in your collection
  • SOLID - you're going to get a good amount of playtime out of these ships
  • NICHE - do your homework before you buy, know why you want to buy it
  • AVOID - you can get this from a better place, or it's just plain a bad ship!


EXPANSION BREAKDOWN

TIE Fighter
The humble TIE Fighter remains a baseline for efficiency with the basic Academy Pilot almost certainly the single best use of 12pts in the game.  If you are interested in building a TIE Swarm (or mini-swarm) at any point then you WILL need at least one TIE Fighter expansion pack for the utterly essential Howlrunner.  The main question you need to answer is how many TIE Fighters you think you will need and whether you're best sourcing them from the Core Set and Gozanti Assault Carrier, where you'll get some more variety in pilots than just bulk-buying this expansion.

Also of Interest: Crack Shot (Kihraxz Fighter, Hound's Tooth, Imperial Veterans)


TIE Advanced
The TIE Advanced had not aged as well as the TIE Fighter and you pretty much only ever see Darth Vader behind the controls.  Buying this expansion probably goes hand-in-hand with buying the Imperial Raider - you won't want to run the TIE Advanced without the Raider's upgrades but you also probably won't want to run the TIE Advanced model you get in the Raider without Darth Vader's pilot card from this expansion!

Also of Interest: Predator (TIE Defender, Kihraxz Fighter, Ghost), TIE/x1 (Imperial Raider), Advanced Targeting Computer (Imperial Raider), Engine Upgrade (Millenium Falcon, Hound's Tooth).


Slave I
The Imperials introduced Slave I in Wave 2 but it's the Scum & Villainy faction that really gets the best out of it as their pilot card for Boba Fett is much better than what the Imperials get.  You're not really going to get much use from Slave I in an Imperial squad, no matter how cool it looks.  Bounty Hunters.  We don't need their scum.  But what we DO need are some of the juicy upgrade cards that come with Slave I, like Veteran Instincts, Gunner and Stealth Device.

Also of Interest: Boba Fett (Most Wanted) to use Slave I in Scum squads.




TIE Interceptor
The TIE Interceptor expansion is in a very similar boat to the TIE Advanced expansion.  You won't really want to play Interceptors without the upgrades from the Imperial Aces expansion (which includes two Interceptor models), but the best TIE Interceptor pilot is Soontir Fel and he's only available in this expansion.  It's frustrating because it means to play the one TIE Interceptor pilot you definitely want you're likely to wind up owning three TIE Interceptor models.  

Also of Interest: Push The Limit (Imperial Aces, A-Wing), Royal Guard TIE (Imperial Aces), Autothrusters (StarViper), Stealth Device (Slave I, M3-A Scyk)


Lambda Shuttle
The Lambda Shuttle serves one key purpose - ferrying Emperor Palpatine into battle to spur your glorious Imperial pilots to even greater feats of excellence.  For its low cost the shuttle has some fantastic stats but is hobbled by one of the worst maneuver dials of any ship.  The shuttle's raw stats mean it's not a dead loss without Palpatine aboard - you can strap a cannon to it and use at long range artillery - but 99% of the time it's purely there for Palpatine, and since he received a bit of a nerf in March 2017 the Lambda has taken a real dip in popularity.

Also of Interest: Emperor Palpatine (Imperial Raider)



TIE Bomber
For the longest time the TIE Bomber was a ship that had no purpose as Bombs/Torpedoes were rubbish, so having a ship designed specifically to carry them didn't bode well. That all changed when Imperial Veterans brought new Bomber pilots and an interesting new title to switch your ordnance for crew slots.  Bombers have proven to have some good niche applications but the best pilots all seem to be those in Imperial Veterans so buy that first then come here if you think you need multiple Bombers.

Also of Interest: TIE Shuttle (Imperial Veterans), Guidance Chips (Inquisitor's TIE, Punishing One), Plasma Torpedoes (TIE Punisher, K-Wing, Punishing One), Extra Munitions (TIE Punisher)



TIE Defender
Much as with the TIE Bomber you will want to buy Imperial Veterans first but unlike the TIE Bomber a second TIE Defender is a solid investment.  Probably the best Defender pilot is in here (Colonel Vessery), and with Countess Ryad from Veterans alongside playing two TIE Defenders can be a potent combination. If it sweetens the deal for you then remember that you also get Predator, a go-to Elite Pilot Talent for improving the damage output of any ship.

Also of Interest: Twin Ion Engine MKII (TIE Punisher), TIE/x7 (Imperial Veterans), Countess Ryad (Imperial Veterans)


TIE Phantom
I love the TIE Phantom.  LOVE IT.  With it's cheeky cloaking/decloaking shenanigans there's no other ship in the game that can fly like the TIE Phantom and for that reason alone I would always recommend it as a purchase, just to broaden your horizons and switch things up a bit now and then.  We've moved on a long way from the time when TIE Phantoms ruled the skies of X-Wing but Whisper is still a strong pilot who creeps in and wins tournaments occasionally when people aren't paying attention.  Added gravy: you get Tactician and Fire Control System upgrades, which are pretty common additions to a lot of different ships.

Also of Interest: Veteran Instincts (Millenium Falcon, Slave I, Shadow Caster), Agent Kallus (Imperial Assault Carrier), Intelligence Agent (Lambda Shuttle, HWK-290)


Imperial Aces
Imperial Aces really served one purpose - making TIE Interceptors one of the most feared ships in the game.  The metagame wheel is always turning, though, and Interceptors are no longer flavour of the month and Imperial Veterans is likely your first stop before you get to the Aces.  A word of warning for prospective Interceptor pilots - aces like Soontir Fel or Carnor Jax are incredibly powerful if you get them right but die almost instantly if you play them badly.  There is tremendous power in this expansion, but it comes at a price of suffering through all your mistakes until you learn to fly them well.

Also of Interest: Soontir Fel (TIE Interceptor), Autothrusters (StarViper), Stealth Device (Slave I, M3-A Scyk)  



VT-49 Decimator
The VT-49 Decimator is a unique addition to the Imperial arsenal in that it's the only Imperial ship to carry a turret with a 360 degree firing arc - that turret means it transforms how Imperial squads approach games.  The Decimator is an incredibly flexible platform that can be built in countless different ways: maximising damage, maneuvering or survivability, and equally at home ramming opponents or speeding away from them.  It's one of the 'hubs' of competitive Imperial lists and the "Decimator & ???" squads have frequently performed well, with the Decimator appearing alongside top escort ships like Darth Vader, Soontir Fel or Whisper's TIE Phantom.  The Decimator is a ship I'm happy to recommend for both casual and competitive use, although bear in mind it doesn't really fit into other lists as much as it demands that other ships fit into its plan!

Also of Interest: Emperor Palpatine (Imperial Raider), Predator (TIE Defender, Kihraxz Fighter, Ghost), Engine Upgrade (Millenium Falcon, Hound's Tooth), Rebel Captive (Lambda Shuttle), Gunner (Slave I, YT-2400), Hotshot Co-Pilot (Heroes of the Resistance), Kylo Ren (Upsilon Shuttle)


Imperial Raider
Once you step down this dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.

The Imperial Raider marks a real decision point for anybody developing their Imperial fleet - it's an expensive purchase for an Epic ship you may never play but it's where both Emperor Palpatine and upgrades to make Darth Vader's TIE Advanced a potent threat come from.  Emperor Palpatine pretty much defined the Imperial faction for a while but errata in March 2017 pegged him back a bit and the Raider became a much less important drain on your wallet.

A number of other purchases really hinge on whether you've got an Imperial Raider or not - the Lambda Shuttle without Emperor Palpatine is pretty weak, and so is the TIE Advanced without the Advanced Targeting Computer so there's actually a bunch of ships that you probably want to buy at once.  That means the Raider is a big investment you should think carefully about making before jumping in.  

Also of Interest: Omicron Group Pilot (Lambda Shuttle), VT-49 Decimator (Decimator), Darth Vader (TIE Advanced)


TIE Punisher
The TIE Punisher looks awesome - it's this hulking ball of death that squats beetle-like on the table with weapon pods bristling with devastating ordnance.  Unfortunately it's also terrible and almost certainly the worst ship in the game.

The Punisher's dial is diabolical and the points it demands you spend to load up all those weapon pods are a huge risk considering how quickly it will die if your opponent decides to focus on it.  I have a real soft spot for the TIE Punisher and I hope FFG get around to buffing it somehow.  Until then, though, you're more likely to buy this for two copies of Twin Ion Engine MkII, which only comes in this expansion and really helps the TIE Defenders out, or Plasma Torpedoes and Extra Munitions for your TIE Bombers.

Also of Interest: Guidance Chips (Inquisitor's TIE, Punishing One), Conner Net (K-Wing, Ghost), Proximity Mines (Slave I, IG-2000, Imperial Veterans)




Imperial Assault Carrier
If you're not going to play Epic games then the ideal time to pick up the Assault Carrier is when you're still looking to expand your TIE Fighter collection to a full swarm because that way you can sort of mentally discount about half of the cost of the Carrier as it's replacing two TIE Fighter expansions you were going to buy anyway.  The payoff for picking up the Carrier over two Fighters is mainly in new TIE Fighter pilots like Wampa and Scourge, with Agent Kallus a crew option that frequently goes into the TIE Phantom.

Also of Interest: Whisper (TIE Phantom)


TIE/fo
Although you may already have two TIE/fo models from the Force Awakens Core Set probably the two best TIE/fo pilots (Zeta & Omega Leaders) appear in this expansion.  Omega Leader is amazing and he alone means that at least one TIE/fo expansion is pretty much compulsory, with this expansion coming with all the cards you need to field Omega Leader at full strength (Juke and Comm Relay, only available here). 

Also of Interest: None


Inquisitor's TIE
The Inquisitor really hit the ground running, setting a new standard for how good a 'pocket ace' could be (just 31pts for The Inquisitor in his most common build).  The TIE Advanced Prototype has a great dial and solid stats for the price, with a nice Title as well, but so far any pilots but The Inquisitor have yet to find a clear role.  You're paying a lot more than a basic TIE Fighter but not really getting that much extra in terms of damage output unless you pay even more to load them up with missiles.

Also of Interest; Push The Limit (Imperial Aces, A-Wings), Autothrusters (StarViper)


Imperial Veterans
Imperial Veterans had an immediate impact on competitive play by thrusting the TIE Defender out of the shadows and into the spotlight, with titles that are both competitive (TIE/x7) and creative (TIE/D) and some solid new pilots.  What's especially great about the TIE Defender is that it's actually pretty user-friendly, which most Imperial ships aren't - they're flimsy things made out of papier mache and fairy wings which aren't very forgiving for new players.  By contrast TIE Defenders are rough and tumble and that makes them a pretty good place to start your career in the Imperial fleet.  Imperial Veterans also includes some new TIE Bomber toys and great pilots like Tomax Bren and Deathfire.

TL;DR: Imperial Veterans is going to be *very* high on your Imperial shopping list.

Also of Interest; Twin Ion Engine MkII (TIE Punisher), Extra Munitions (TIE Punisher, K-Wing), Guidance Chips (Inquisitor's TIE, Punishing One), Plasma Torpedoes (TIE Punisher, K-Wing, Punishing One), Ion Cannon (Slave I, TIE Defender, B-Wing, M3-A Scyk)


Special Forces TIE Fighter
It took a little while to get get traction but the Special Forces TIE Fighter (or TIE/sf its friends) is proving itself a versatile little pocket battleship and after the /x7 Defenders got nerfed in March 2017 could well be the best ship that the Imperials have available.  In truth the TIE/sf is something quite unusual for the Imperials and kind of feels a bit more like a Rebel ship - an X-Wing with a rear arc, maybe.  Two green dice, six hull and shield, not hugely fast,the TIE/sf definitely has a different feel from anything else the Imperials have available, and it's well worth picking up.

Also of Interest: Fire Control System (B-Wing, TIE Phantom), Lightweight Frame (TIE Striker)


TIE Striker
Float like a butterfly, sting like a butterfly.  The TIE Striker's unique Adaptive Ailerons title makes it faster and more maneuverable than pretty much any other ship in the game, but with just 4 hull and 2 green dice they're also flimsier and less durable than anything else.   The TIE Striker can be great fun to play around with as you zip about the board but there's little sign that it's anything more than a fast-moving distraction for your opponents and even though the top end 'aces' are attractively priced they still don't really add that much more in terms of survivability or damage output.  It's well worth getting a TIE Striker because they're a cheap fun ship, but one may well be all you'll ever need.

Also of Interest: Predator (TIE Defender, Ghost)


Upsilon Shuttle
Kylo Ren's Upsilon Shuttle arrived in the game at just about the time that Emperor Palpatine's Lambda Shuttle was leaving due to his highness being dealt an errata nerf.  Superficially similar as they're both shuttles the Upsilon is really a different animal to the Lambda as with it's 4 red dice and superior maneuver dial it deserves to do more than just hide in the corner like the Lambda tends to.  Truly competitive uses of the Upsilon Shuttle are still uncertain, but it looks awesome and certainly brings something to the table in casual games.

Also of Interest: too early to say, people are still working this one out


TIE Aggressor
So far the TIE Aggressor has only really found a role as a grey Y-Wing, toting around a Twin Laser Turret as the first Imperial ship with a turret upgrade slot.  As such it's definitely not a bad ship (you could strap a TLT to a Mynock and it'd be playable) but it's not one of the most exciting experiences the Imperials have available.  Adding the TIE Aggressor to your Imperial squad is a bit like going on an adventure holiday and bringing your accountant friend along with his calculator.  He'll come in useful, for sure, but wouldn't you really be having a bit more fun if he wasn't there?

Also of Interest: Lightweight Frame (TIE Striker)



IMPERIAL ROUTES

In general it's been possible to group all the various Imperial squads that have been popular into four distinct types, which I like to call 'hubs' because of the way they tend to revolve around a particular key ship or pilot.  These hubs are:

  • Swarms
  • Aces
  • Decimators
  • Duellists
These four hubs are absolutely NOT essential so please feel free to ignore them and grow your squad however you like, but it's striking just how consistently these structures appear and reappear in successful lists and that makes them a good basis for choosing  your career in the Imperial fleet.

I'm going to tackle them out of the order I shared about, just because the Duellists is such a good 'starter' route that I want to talk about that first before we get into the more specialist squads.


Duellists
Signature Ships: TIE Defender, Special Forces TIE Fighter, TIE Bomber

The 'Duellists' hub is a pretty new development for Imperial Squads, springing into life almost entirely off the back of the recent Imperial Veterans and Special Force TIE Fighter expansions.  The main difference is in how rugged the ships are compared to the traditional nimble but flimsy TIE Fighters, and in many ways the Duellists play the game a lot more like a Rebel list might.

Imperial Veterans is obviously the place to start and then from there you almost certainly immediately add either a Special Forces TIE Fighter or a second TIE Defender from the expansion.  That gets you 2/3rds of your list straight away and you're just looking for a third ship to round it all out with.  That could mean speccing up a TIE Bomber for more firepower, yet more TIE Defenders, or adding Omega Leader who comes complete with his upgrades in the TIE/fo expansion.

As with the Decimator hub you're not really spending a lot to buy extra ships for the Defenders but it might be worth picking up a couple of expansion for their upgrades.  The TIE Punisher will add a second heavy ship and comes with Extra Munitions and Plasma Torpedoes for you to start making better use of your TIE Bomber you got from Imperial Veterans, and a pair of the important Twin Ion Engine MkII for your TIE Defenders.  

In fact you could build a pretty good 100pts list with just the contents of Imperial Veterans, a TIE Defender and a TIE Punisher expansion...
  • Colonel Vessery (TIE Defender) - Outmaneuer (TIE Defender), TIE/x7 (Imperial Veterans), Twin Ion Engine MkII (TIE Punisher) - 37 Points
  • Countess Ryad (Imperial Veterans) - TIE/x7 (Imperial Veterans), Twin Ion Engine MkII (TIE Punisher) - 33 Points
  • Tomax Bren (Imperial Veterans) - Crack Shot (Imperial Veterans), Plasma Torpedoes (TIE Punisher), Extra Munitions (TIE Punisher), Long Range Scanners (Imperial Veterans) - 30 Points


Swarms
Signature ships: TIE Fighters, TIE/fo

A swarm of iconic TIE Fighters is a hugely successful archetype that has stood the test of time.  Players are often unduly wary about flying swarms because of the risk of bumping your ships into each other as you've got so many.  You'll almost certainly crash a lot at the start but it's really not that hard to pick up - the learning curve is nowhere near as steep as it for learning to arc-dodge properly with Soontir Fel, for instance!

The main objective in building a swarm is to rapidly scale up the number of TIE Fighters you've got so start with a classic Core Set and then immediately buy a TIE Fighter Expansion so that you've got Howlrunner as well.  From there I'd look around for the best way to add a bunch more TIE Fighters, either through picking up more of the TIE Fighter expansion, another Core Set (maybe the Force Awakens Core Set for some TIE/fos) or the Imperial Assault Carrier if money really isn't an object.  It's probably a good idea to pick up at least one TIE/fo Expansion to get Zeta Leader and Omega Leader as they are both great options to have at your disposal.  

Once you've got to six or seven TIE Fighters and/or TIE/fo you can play around with lots of different combinations of pilots as TIE Swarms come in many different flavours - either lots of cheap Academy Pilots or fewer named pilots with neat abilities.  So long as there's a bunch of TIEs and Howlrunner is in there then you're going to be a threat!  The 'kicker' for the TIE Swarm is going out of your way to acquire a bunch of the Crack Shot upgrade in the Scum Kihraxz Fighter Expansion to use on some Black Squadron TIE Fighters.


Decimator
Signature Ships: Decimator (duh)

The VT-49 Decimator has a unique place in the Imperial arsenal as the only ship to come with a turret, and it's proven time and again to be a great platform for competitive squads in various configurations.  You're going to start out, unsurprisingly, by buying the VT-49 Decimator Expansion and then you look for something strong to pair the Decimator with.  The Decimator usually costs around 60-65 points once you've finished loading it up with gear so you want a strong partner that costs about 35-40 points, which is usually just about enough to invest in a top level ace of some description.   The most newbie-friendly option would be to buy Imperial Veterans for a TIE Defender, and the more advanced pilots you're likely to see with a Decimator are Whisper, Soontir Fel and Darth Vader (which requires buying the Imperial Raider), or even a second Decimator!

Unlike other hubs you're only going to be using a couple of ships so there's not many extra purchases you need to expand your fleet but there's probably a couple of good purchases you could make for key upgrades to maximise the pilots you are using.  It may not have much to do with the Empire but the Millenium Falcon expansion comes with Veteran Instincts (for Whisper) and Engine Upgrade (for the Decimator), or alternatively Slave I will also get you Veteran Instincts and Gunner instead of Engine Upgrade, for a Decimator that's less agile but has more guaranteed damage output.  The Lambda Shuttle also brings a host of crew options and other upgrades that can fit onto the Decimator, like Rebel Captive, Darth Vader, Anti-Pursuit Lasers and even has Intelligence Agent for Whisper.


Aces
Signature Ships: TIE Defender, TIE Interceptor, TIE Advanced Prototype, Lambda Shuttle

The true Imperial Aces like Soontir Fel and Darth Vader and co have all taken a bit of a back seat since Imperial Veterans made TIE Defenders the new big thing, but the basic squad shape of having two or three elite pilots remained unchanged.

A modern take on Imperial Aces is likely to be based on the powerful TIE Defender pairing of Countess Ryad and Colonel Vessery, so you'll need to pick up both Imperial Veterans and a standalone TIE Defender expansion.  That ticks off roughly two thirds of your squad and gives a really tough centrepiece to hang a third ship off.

The more classic versions of Imperial Aces put the appropriately-named Imperial Aces box at the heart of this hub as it unlocks playing TIE Interceptors to their maximum and it's pretty much unavoidable that you pick up a third TIE Interceptor because the expansion is needed for Soontir Fel.  These classic pilots walk such a thin line of excellence that there's very little room for experimentation in how they are loaded up so the buying list becomes very prescriptive.  Your aces will rely on maximum results from their green dice and to support them you'll almost certainly need Autothrusters from the StarViper expansion.

Whether you've gone for the modern or classic take on Imperial Aces you'll likely have around 30pts left to fill your list out with. If you've got the cash to burn this might be where you take the plunge with a Lambda Shuttle and the Imperial Raider to bring Emperor Palpatine to the table, if not then it's then your choice of which aces you want round out with, with the Inquisitor's TIE, Omega Leader's TIE/fo, or even a well-equipped TIE Bomber or TIE Striker as possible options.



COMMON BUILDS

Darth Vader
Darth Vader (TIE Advanced)
Predator (TIE Defender, Kihraxz Fighter, Ghost), TIE/x1 (Imperial Raider), Advanced Targeting Computer (Imperial Raider), Engine Upgrade (Millenium Falcon, Hound's Tooth)

Soontir Fel
Soontir Fel (TIE Interceptor)
Push The Limit (Imperial Aces, A-Wing), Royal Guard TIE (Imperial Aces), Stealth Device (Slave I, M3-A Scyk), Autothrusters (StarViper)

The Inquisitor
The Inquisitor (TIE Advanced Prototype)
Push The Limit (Imperial Aces, A-Wing), TIE/v1 (TIE Advanced Prototype), Autothrusters (StarViper)

Whisper
Whisper (TIE Phantom)
Veteran Instincts (Millenium Falcon, Slave I, Shadow Caster), Fire Control System (TIE Phantom), Advanced Cloaking Device (TIE Phantom)

Omega Leader
Omega Leader (TIE/fo)
Juke (TIE/fo), Comm Relay (TIE/fo)

Countess Ryad
Countess Ryad (Imperial Veterans)
Push The Limit (Imperial Aces, A-Wing), TIE/x7 (Imperial Veterans), Twin Ion Engine MkII (TIE Punisher)

Chiraneau
Rear Admiral Chiraneau (Decimator)
Veteran Instincts  (Millenium Falcon, Slave I, Shadow Caster), Rebel Captive (Lambda Shuttle), Ysanne Isard (Decimator), Gunner (Slave I, YT-2400), Engine Upgrade (Millenium Falcon, Hound's Tooth)
Although as I said above the Decimator is a Swiss Army Knife of a ship you can build a hundred different ways and they'll all play quite differently.

7 comments:

  1. Only wanted to say thank you for great content you provide.

    It has helped me a lot.

    Will you update these after each wave?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I really do love the TIE/FO as a one-box ship. To that end, I had some reasonable success in casual games with a three-ship/three-box list with the above Omega Leader and Whisper, plus a basic Bounty Hunter Firespray with the Tactician from the Phantom box. Two ships which are strong late-game in 1-on-1 situations, plus a reasonably tanky fulcrum ship, which can mess up some opponents with the stress.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Are you planning to update this for newer ships? This guide is super helpful

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for updating this. Still the best buying guide I can find!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ty for Your guides. I'm a New player, and they really helped me to get started.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Just getting into the game, this really helps me with my first squad. I think I would try the Whisper with a bunch of, TIE w/ Howlrunner, or TIE/fo, with Omega Leader. What should I do?

    ReplyDelete