As you may know, I’m a bit of a Star Wars nerd.
…now that the laughter has subsided, I’d like to talk about the first ever Imperial Assault tournament Fantasy Flight Games held.
It was this past weekend at Adepticon. We had eleven players and plenty of prize support. Even though I came in fifth place (top half! woot!) I walked away with a prize. That was in addition to the promos they gave out, alternate art versions of the elite Trandoshan Hunter and elite Stormtrooper, and some prizes from the Spring 2015 season kit. The acrylic damage tokens look really great in person.
When I signed up for the tournament I had no idea it would be the first tournament that FFG actually held in public. I’m sure there were playtest tournaments just to try the format but the idea that this tournament was the first available to the public makes me squee just a little bit.
The first wave of expansions for Imperial Assault hit stores (including the Dice Dojo’s Adepticon booth) on Friday. I picked up one of each and unpacked them that night. I was too tired to do much else and didn’t update my squad list before the tournament on Saturday.
Imperial Assault Skirmish
The skirmish mode of Imperial Assault is both very similar to and very different from the campaign mode. The game play mechanics are largely the same but the way they are focused on objectives is different. Having only two players each controlling a squad of figures changes the dynamic significantly. Rather than two to four hyper competent Rebels facing off against the Imperials, the forces are more balanced. Strain functions differently in the two modes. In campaign mode, strain is a resource for the Rebels that can be used to power their special abilities. Skirmish mode uses strain to drain an opponent’s command deck and/or damage opposing forces. Add in the command cards and skirmish mode is just different enough to be a tricky horse to learn once you’ve got the campaign under your belt. Squad building is a major factor in the skirmish mode that I definitely haven’t mastered.
If I were to focus on playing the skirmish mode competitively, I would definitely pick up a second core box to round out not only my model count but so I could separate the tiles so each map for the OP season got its own bag. It would make set up at tournaments much easier.
A few days before the event I threw together a list that I thought would be fun. It was focused on the Brawler keyword and I thought would give me some flexibility. The list included: Royal Guard, elite Royal Guard, Imperial Officer, elite Probe Droid, Temporary Alliance, and an elite Trandoshan Hunter. I would have preferred a second group of Trandoshan Hunters but one of my figures went missing.
I won’t discuss my command deck other than to say I missed some key rules and accidentally had an illegal deck at the tournament. Whoops!
We played four rounds, after which there was a clear undefeated champion. I managed to win my first game but lost the next two, which earned me the bye in the final round where I played against the TO more or less just for fun.
The first game went really well for me. It was Leave No Evidence, the B mission on the Massassi Ruins (Darth Vader) map. There’s a special rule that if one player controls a communications hub inside, that player can call in an orbital bombardment on all units outside. I sent all my high HP guys outside to tangle with the enemy over the objective boxes. He had more units but they all had significantly fewer hit points than my units. My last move was to run an elite Trandoshan Hunter over to the communications console while he was too far out of place to respond to that. I bombarded the next two rounds and wiped out the majority of his force. Stormtroopers and Imperial Officers can’t take a bombardment. My opponent turned around with some Trandoshan Hunters and an Imperial Officer to try and take the communications console from me but my elite units were able to deal with his grey units pretty handily.
The next round was the A mission of the Massassi Ruins map, Lost Knowledge. This is a mission I have never managed to win. I am invariably either far too aggressive or not nearly aggressive enough. This time I was too aggressive and lost my elite Royal Guards in short order. I never recovered from that. This is a mission I’ll have to play repeatedly to figure out the nuances once I come up with a functioning squad list.
In the third round we played Raiding Party, the B mission of the Moisture Farm (Luke Skywalker) map. My opponent had a squad his friend had put together. It used multiples of the Rebel Saboteurs to devastating effect. I think it had two of the elites and two of the grays. The elite figures are disgustingly good. Figures don’t block line of sight, they have Blast 2 for one surge, and it can be triggered twice! Brutal. He methodically took apart my squad and I just couldn’t punch through all of his models to kill the bastards that were annihilating me. I did kill his Luke with my probe droid. Probably the highlight of the mission.
The last mission was Smuggled Good, the B mission from Mos Eisley Outskirts (Core box). Ian from FFG was running Gaarkhan, Gideon, some Trandoshans, and two Nexu. I tried being tricky with my opening maneuver and picked up an objective token with my elite Probe Droid on the first turn. Ian saw that happen and bum rushed the droid with Gaarkhan and his Trandoshans. They killed the droid but weren’t able to penetrate my wall of Royal Guards. His elite Nexu came charging down into the center area to cause havoc and my elite Trandoshan Hunters made mincemeat of it. It was a few rounds later that I managed to run in two crates and kill another unit for the win. It was a fun game but I can’t help but think Ian was taking it easy on me.
At the end of the day, I placed fifth and managed to go home with an IG-88 pack. After the tournament some friends were trying out Imperial Assault and one of them used IG-88 in his list. I popped open my pack and let him use the mini so we could see it on the board. Since I already had an IG-88 that I’d purchased and unpacked the day before, I repacked it and I have it set aside for when my friend Scott gets back from China. In that same bag I have some promos for him from the X-Wing tournaments that I know he’ll like.
What I Learned
First, know the squad and deck building rules before you got to a tournament. Don’t want to be caught with an illegal deck at a serious tourney. Rookie mistake and I ought to know better.
Second, I need to learn the tempo of the game. I tend to be an aggressive player; in X-Wing it’s not unusual for me to get into firing range in the first round, something that has occasionally surprised my opponents when they neglect to take actions the first round. Imperial Assault is objective based. The best way to win is to take a few objectives and kill some enemy units. It’s very easy to leave a unit exposed if I advance too far too quickly. Getting a powerful unit wiped early puts me behind the eight ball and I haven’t been able to recover from it yet.
Third, blast damage is a very real threat in this game and can really make or break a unit. I’ll be looking into the Rebel Saboteurs because I’ve seen what they can do on the field and it’s hideous. Need to back them up with something strong, though.
Lastly, I think this game can have a strong competitive scene. The skirmish is well balanced and the objectives are interesting. The map set up isn’t as tedious as first feared; mostly because each map is fairly small. Speaking of maps, more are coming out with every package – we just went from three maps (Core box, Vader, Luke) to ten maps with the first wave of expansions. Keep in mind that each map has two missions with different objectives. Twin Shadows is due to come out by the end of June, where we’ll see at least another four maps between Twin Shadows and its three expansion packs: Boba Fett, Kayn Somos, and the Artoo-Threepio pack.