Imperial Assault is a game I got into more-or-less on a whim. I keep an active online “Wishlist” for my family (who are not gamers) and my wife picked up the core set for me for Christmas when it first came out. Not even two years later, Imperial Assault now completely occupies my “main game” slot. Like all expandable games, Imperial Assault has gone through its initial period with limited options but now the game is really starting to hit its stride in terms of diverse options for tournament squads. The local scene for Imperial Assault is small but dedicated and we had nine people show up at Black Knight Games (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) this past Saturday for the second regional championship event of 2016 in the greater Toronto area. Here is a quick summary of who attended and the themes of their lists:
- Dave C. – Agent Blaise & Cross-Trained Troopers (Imperial)
- Jon C. – Agent Blaise & Spies (Imperial)
- Patrick C. – Repulsor Tank & Royal Guard (Imperial)
- Chris E. – Trooper Spam (Imperial)
- Chris M. – General Weiss & Troopers (Imperial)
- Evan M. – Bossk, HK Assassin Droids, & Wing Guard (Mercenary)
- Jon N. – Luke, Lando, & Echo Base Troopers (Rebel)
- Ron N. – Troopers & Royal Guard (Imperial)
- Andrew S. – Troopers & Royal Guard (Imperial)
I was surprised to see that many Imperial lists. Time was that Rebels were considered the strongest faction with the Luke/Leia combo being among the strongest lists but I think the “Deadly” surge ability on the ISB Interrogators has made people shy to take high-cost heroes with white dice on defense. It will be interesting to see how the forthcoming Grand Inquisitor will shape the scene since he has that same ability; I anticipate a lot of lists built around him.
I was pleased that nine players showed up as that number of people, under the basic tournament structure, compelled four rounds of Swiss pairings with no cut. Jon C. chose to use his Store Championship bye so I decided (since I was the de-facto TO) not to use the one I earned a few months ago at Board Games Central’s Store Championship. If I had, that would have meant that three people would have had a bye in the first round of a nine person tournament which may have caused havoc in later rounds.
I was running the following squad, which I refer to as “Vader’s Finest (Vader not included)”:
- Stormtrooper (Elite) x2
- Snowtrooper (Elite)
- Heavy Stormtrooper w/ Targeting Computer
- Imperial Officer x2
- Rule by Fear
ELITE TROOPERS WERE THE CORE OF MY SQUAD
I had been playing almost exclusively with a Luke/Leia “Wonder Twins” list in tournaments which I enjoy using very much. However, with the prevalence of HK Assassin Droids and the increased number of game effects that can compel the re-rolling of dice and removal of Dodge results I was wary of leaving my fate in the hands of the white die. The current list of scenarios benefits squads with more figures and this Trooper Spam list shows up with 13 in total (in contrast to the 9 in my “Wonder Twins” iist). The Command Deck I went with was as follows:
- Covering Fire
- Element of Surprise
- Inspiring Speech
- Lock On
- Of No Importance
- Reinforcements x2
- Set a Trap
- Take Initiative
Not much in that Command Deck should be surprising. Cards with the Trooper keyword are quite strong and broad in application so I was confident that I would seldom be stuck with cards in hand that I could not use. The only such situation that I could foresee as relatively likely would be my Imperial Officers leaving play before I could use Inspiring Speech.
Round 1 vs. Jon N. (Battlefield Engineering)
Jon and I know each other well having met initially through the local X-Wing scene. Jon, to his credit, was a big booster for this tournament and encouraged several of those that showed up to participate despite being relatively new to the game. We had actually practiced against each other the evening before the tournament so we knew each other’s squads well. Jon was running the sole Rebel list at the event:
- Luke Skywalker, Hero of the Rebellion
- Lando Calrissian, Charming Gambler
- C-3PO, Human-Cyborg Relations
- Gideon Argus w/ Combat Suit
- Echo Base Trooper (Elite) x2
- Rebel High Command
LUKE & LANDO: COULD THEY WORK TOGETHER?
The offensive output of this squad is surprisingly high. A focused Lando rolling two green and one red (after Gambit) hits hard and the EBTs swapping out a blue die for a red when up close can also be devastating… and then there’s Maude, er, Luke. I won’t say much about this game other than everything serendipitous went my way. I drew all the cards I needed to be the most effective, rolled just enough blocks to keep Troopers holding vital components alive with one or two health remaining and Jon got the short end of the stick to the same magnitude.
I will highlight one moment that was relatively inconsequential but amusing. Gideon and Threepio were hiding in a corner in contemplation of controlling one of the vital components that a recently-defeated Luke had been holding. The turn before, I ran up a lone Snowtrooper to contest it. I had done one damage to Threepio and the Snowtrooper had no more than two health remaining. For my first action the next round that same Snowtrooper (who was adjacent to both Gideon and Threepio) shot at Gideon and then played Grenadier on the square he was in which wound up killing the Snowtrooper and Threepio. Themeatically, I envision that playing out like this: The Snowtrooper pulls the pin on the grenade but Gideon, ever the grizzled veteran, cold-cocks him with the butt of his blaster. The grenade drops to the ground and rolls away and Threepio, in an attempt to be helpful, picks it up and shuffles back to Gideon saying, “Sir, would this item be helpful to you in your current struggle?” and then BOOM!
Round 2 vs. Andrew S. (Reprogrammed)
Andrew had already won a Regional event a few weeks prior in Mississauga at X-Planet Games. He is relatively new to the tournament scene but is a very calculating player. He was running an Imperial trooper list but of a different variety than mine:
- Elite Snowtrooper w/ Vader’s Finest
- Elite Stormtrooper
- Royal Guard
- Imperial Officer x2
POST-NERF, ROYAL GUARD ARE STILL GREAT!
When playing “Reprogrammed” the scenario VPs earned by programming remotes are particularly important and heavily affect the tempo of the game. Each side is essentially given two of the remotes and that third remote mid-board is vitally important to secure. A difference of 2 VPs around does not feel like much but compounded over the typical 4-5 turns that a game takes that 8-10 VP differential is critical. I started this game in the exterior deployment zone, which I like to do when playing with figures that can surge to focus themselves like Elite Snowtroopers can.
I have not seen Royal Guard used very much in the tournament games I have played since they were nerfed but Andrew used them masterfully. He parked one of them a few squares away from the spot where the mid-board remote token gets deployed and clumped troopers around it. My attack rolls were often yielding good amounts of damage and surges but that extra block granted by Sentinel (don’t call it “Protector”) really reduces the efficiency of a series of two-die attacks. Andrew wisely secured remotes (including the one in the centre) with troopers and ran the figures holding them off so they were safely earning scenario VPs while simultaneously denying me the opportunity to gain VPs from eliminating a squad. I lost this round but, for my personal quest for a nationals bye, all hope was not lost as Andrew had already won one at a prior event. For those that may not know, an individual is only allowed to win one bye at a FFG Organized Play tournament. If one places first in a second tournament, the bye is passed to the player next in the standings. If I could win out I had a chance.
Round 3 vs. Evan M. (Deception Game)
Evan is a fixture at Black Knight and is someone with whom I have had the pleasure of playing many games of numerous descriptions. Evan and some other BKG regulars have played through several Imperial Assault campaigns and only recently took up skirmish. I assisted Evan in building his list which he wanted to centre around Bossk. He liked the idea of Bossk and a bunch of Trandoshans but I talked him into using HKs in the following list:
- Bossk, Born Hunter
- C-3PO, Human-Cyborg Relations
- Gideon Argus
- HK Assassin Droid x2
- Elite Wing Guard
- Devious Scheme
- Temporary Alliance, A Common Threat
LIZARD-MAN AND ROBOT-MEN PACK A HECK OF A PUNCH
Evan’s squad was daunting to have to face in a straight-up fight like Deception Game with no activations really needed to dedicate to securing objectives or interacting. I started with my usual opening move of using the Imperial Officers to nudge the Heavy Stormtroopers forward and then fanning out the rest of the troopers including shooting the door with the Elite Snowtroopers to try and get focused. To my surprise, Evan shot down the door and came at me with one of his squads of HKs. It gave him the early advantage as he killed my Imperial Officer who had the red token on him but my Snowtroopers were able to heal the rest of the damage they put on one of the squads of Elite Stormtroopers that hung back. I ended up taking out the HKs and, despite their defeating my unit with the red token, I felt that this was a good trade.
Evan brought Bossk into the middle passage and I went at him with my Heavy Stormtroopers. I scored a 5-damage hit which Bossk dodged but, fortunately, I had Lock On in hand and got the damage through. Evan then retreated Bossk and, wisely, parked him next to C-3PO. I threw everything I had at Bossk over the next 2 turns and I do not think I am exaggerating to say that I had to take 10 shots at Bossk with troopers to finally finish him off. This round went to time and, fortunately for me, I had 3 more VPs than Evan to squeak out a win. Had I not played “Of No Importance” when one of my units was defeated this game would have been decided by 1 VP!
Round 4 vs. Ron (Constant Motion)
Ron is another regular at Black Knight Games who I know mostly through playing X-Wing. Ron, despite having played only one game of skirmish, threw his hat in the ring and came out to this event. I had leant out a fair bit of my collection to others so Ron, unfortunately, had to pick from some of the dregs. He had a good selection of figures but I fully acknowledge that his Command Deck was sub-optimal. Ron’s squad consisted of:
- Elite Stormtrooper x2
- Royal Guard
- Probe Droid
- Imperial Officer x2
I find, out of all the active scenarios, I am the worst at Constant Motion. Regardless of the deployment zone I wind up with, I always seem to do a terrible job of garnering scenario VPs. This game was no different. Much like in my game against Andrew, Ron clumped troopers around his Royal Guard to great effect and had the corridor with the objective tokens locked down. I thought I was going to lose the game and give up 12 VPs at the end of the round but, thanks to Elite Snowtroopers being able to ignore difficult terrain, I was able to control 1 objective and keep Ron’s VP total under 12 for the round. I believe the score going into our final round was 36 to 32 for Ron but I was able to finish off the Royal Guard which got me to 40 VPs. I pulled this one out of the fire but Ron played an excellent game.
Concluding Thoughts & Lessons Learned
After four Swiss rounds, Andrew was the only undefeated player. Dave and I were both 3-1 but I had a slightly better strength of schedule. Andrew had already won a previous regional championship so, by the power of the two sweetest words in the English language (de-fault), I was able to snake the bye card which I fully intend to use at Gen Con in a few weeks at the North American championship. Andrew was gracious enough to give me the trophy that he earned but I do not feel right displaying it without some sort of disclaimer:
I am quite fond of the trooper squad I ran at this event. It is a significant departure from the Luke/Leia list I have been running but having that many figures really makes the objective-heavy scenarios easier. Because this squad does not have a single main figure like Luke around which the entire strategy is based I am never unduly concerned about losing a particular figure unless it is the last one in a group (which I then cannot bring back with Reinforcements). The way that Ron and Andrew used Royal Guard in our matches really makes me want to include them in my squad. Back in the days of the dreaded 4×4 list the Royal Guard were the offensive unit that everyone feared but the change to their abilities makes them best used as a damage sink. In each of the respective games I played against them I do not recall Ron or Andrew making more than one attack with the Royal Guard and used them almost exclusively for protecting figures around them.
There are a few cards in my Command Deck that I am considering cycling out. “Covering Fire” is foremost among them. While it looks great on paper, often enough I need my troopers’ surges to even do damage to a target of priority so I found that I was not stunning figures like Bossk and Luke as often as I would have liked. Perhaps the lesson is to not play “Covering Fire” unless at least one of your squads of troopers has Focus. If I rotate in a pair of Royal Guard I will likely replace it with one copy of “Parting Blow.”
I am also considering ditching “Set a Trap.” I love the theme of the card and I consider it more of a “get outta here” effect than one that garners a free attack. I had the chance to play it a few times and it did not get me what I wanted out of it. Again, I will take accountability for likely not playing it optimally. I think I will replace it with “Against All Odds.” This trooper squad needs all the help getting Focus it can so a zero-cost way to do so is never a bad thing.
I DIDN’T GET WHAT I WANTED OUT OF THESE CARDS
I am planning on playing in the North American championship event at Gen Con in a few weeks which should be a very interesting scene as the Mos Eisley Cantina map will have dropped out of tournament legality less than a week beforehand, being replaced by the Coruscant Landfill. Additionally, the Grand Inquisitor and Obi-Wan Kenobi will be freshly tournament legal, as well, so squads will need an answer for that. My trooper-based squad will be particularly vulnerable to Obi-Wan’s “Alter Mind” ability which will make the missions based around retrieving objective tokens significantly more challenging.
Overall, I was pleased with the turnout we got at this event. Around the greater Toronto area, it is fair to say that there are few people that have made Imperial Assault their “main game” when it comes to tournament play. The online registration for 2016 Canadian Nationals event (which encompasses X-Wing, Imperial Assault, Star Wars LCG, A Game of Thrones LCG, Warhammer Conquest LCG, and A Game of Thrones LCG) went live this past Monday and X-Wing’s initial 64 slots sold out in literally two minutes. By comparison, Imperial Assault had 32 slots and (as of July 13th at 8:00 PM) there are still 12 spots remaining. I am encouraged that we will have at least 20 people but that comparison between those two tournaments is reflective of how the Imperial Assault scene is, in general, compared to other games. There is indeed an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great tournament games from Fantasy Flight and many folks I know are torn between several games because there is only so much time to devote to playing at a competitive level. If your preferred event at Canadian Nationals is full consider Imperial Assault!
After four Swiss rounds with no cut the standings in the tournament were as follows:
- Andrew S.: 4 wins & 0 losses with a 1.5 strength of schedule (SoS)
- Chris E.: 3 wins & 1 loss with a 1.6875 SoS
- Dave C.: 3 wins & 1 loss with a 1.3125 SoS
- Jon C.: 2 wins & 2 losses with a 5.4375 SoS
- Evan M.: 2 wins & 2 losses with a 1.6875 SoS
- Patrick C.: 2 wins & 2 losses with a 1.5 SoS
- Jon N.: 2 wins & 2 losses with a 1.5 SoS (Patrick had a higher extended SoS)
- Ron N.: 1 win & 3 losses with a 1.6875 SoS
- Chris M.: 1 win & 3 losses with a 1.3125 SoS