Monday, August 24, 2015

Use Bombs Wisely! - Discussing Advanced Bomber Techniques

                In last week's article we talked about how Wave 7 mixed with bombing mechanics will create numerous new bombing techniques. This week I wanted to dive a bit deeper into viable applications of the new advanced bombers: the Punisher and the K-wing. When it comes to X-wing Miniatures, factions and ships have always had their own strengths and weaknesses as well as unique upgrade capabilities. So it is no surprise to us that these two ships act completely different while doing the same job. Although there are multiple upgrades slots on each ship I want to focus on the things that make each one unique and how we can best apply them.
                Before we dive in, I do want to share one thing that has been on my mind. Ever since Wave 7 was announced I have heard many people ask: why do these bombers have small bases? Well, all we had to do was trust FFG and wait for the announcement of Wave 8. When we see that the monstrous Ghost is considered a large-base ship it is easy to imagine the Punisher or K-wing as small. But there is more to it than that. FFG really takes all things into consideration when balancing their game. A small base bomber receives a benefit when it comes to traveling through asteroids. And that is right where these bombers belong. You want to have then weave through obstacles, block lanes, and trap enemy ships with their ordnance. On the flip side though, a small base means these ships are vulnerable to ionization, especially with their low agility. The power of these bombers come from their amazing speed and it makes sense that there is a way to counter this. So if you are planning on facing one, consider taking an Ion Y-wing, AIS B-wing, or Ion Headhunter in your squad compositions. Just something to think about.

                Ok, the first and biggest new thing we get with this wave of bombers is the SLAM action. In the lore the Sub-Light Acceleration Motor made the K-wing the fastest ship in real-space. Thusly it was perfect for strafing runs on capital ships. However, it wasn't as good at turning and this is reflected in the K-wing's dial. When you take this action it does prevent you from shooting but, honesty, we don't care. A normal bomber on a strafing run would flee and therefore not shoot anyways. And the SLAM gives us so much versatility. Since the action is considered a maneuver it means you can choose to drop your bomb before you SLAM instead of before you activate. You can also equip the Advanced SLAM upgrade which gives you a second action, as long as you didn't overlap anything. This means you can move, SLAM, and then drop a mine. Just like in the extended universe you can have your K-wing cross ridiculous amounts of space in order to get your bombs in the right places.
                The second unique thing about the K-wing is that it has the crew upgrade. Here's a few crew members that I found to be intriguing. First off is the Bombardier. It's cheap and simple. And not only does it double bombing distance, it doubles the options you have to pick when choosing to drop. Not everyone can be as good as Emon, but Emon also can't appear more than once in your squad. Just saying.
                The next crew member that I really like is the Intelligence Agent. A K-wing with an IA can make sure you get the most effectiveness out of your SLAM action. Even better, it can help you lay bombs with more precision. Normally it is impossible to hit high PS ships with bombs but with an IA you actually have a chance, especially if the enemy has few options for movement actions.  So try taking one and see how fun the synergy can be.
                The other two crew members I want you to consider are ones that don't really see much love. The first is the Saboteur. People don't normally picking him because he takes up your crew slot, costs 2 points, and only works 50% of the time. However, here is a combination where he is quite viable. Instead of taking Proton Bombs and Extra Munitions for 7 points, consider taking Seismic Charges, Extra Munitions, and a Saboteur for 6 points. You save yourself a point plus the crew is technically free with your savings from extra munitions. Even after you have spent all of your ordnance, your Saboteur can continue to work throughout the rest of the game. This means that your K-wing won't drop from super deadly to boring when your run out of bombs. You can give facedown damage cards to enemy ships then spend the new few turns dogging, shooting, and sabotaging them. And this build terrorizes unshielded, low skill pilots. Namely Tie Swarms. Why not try it out?
                The final crew I want to talk about is Leebo. I know, you're shaking your head at this one but hear me out. This crew was originally made to be a cheap engine upgrade: you save 2 points but you have to pay the price in ionization. Who wants to waste their crew slot to ionize themselves? He works OK on Large base ships but he is useless if the enemy has ion attacks. But here is a crafty application. The SLAM action requires you to keep the same speed number on your movement. So if you pick the wrong movement, a SLAM could actually make you overshoot your target. Leebo will allow you do to a 2 or 3 speed move and then do a 1 speed boost, giving you better precision in your movement. You then get ionized but this is where the trap has been set! Enemy ships will see you in your plight and unmercifully swarm in for the kill. And they don't need to worry about you dropping a bomb on them because ionized ships don't get to pick a move, right? Well, after you perform an ionized move you still get to take an action. And the SLAM action is considered a maneuver. This allows the K-wing to make an ionized move, drop a bomb, and SLAM away at speed 1! And just like with Daredevil, you can still do your SLAM action even if you bump. So if your K-wing gets surrounded on all sides you can still drop a bomb and bump with your SLAM. You might take a hit yourself but you'll get everyone else too! All it takes is for you to sucker your enemy once and then he'll be wary to come into range 1 again. This gives you the freedom to boost whenever you want and a K-wing that boosts can still shoot with its turret.

The Tie Punisher
                Now onto the second half of our spotlight. The first thing the Punisher brings to the table is the boost action. Just like with the SLAM, this action is crucial in the early game to get into needed bombing positions. And when it comes to ionization the boost can also be used to prevent the Punisher from becoming trapped. Probably the most interesting fact of the boost here is that it allows you to take the Autothrusters upgrade.
                But is this the modification you should take? If you want to get the most out of your one evade dice then I would say go for it. You're going to be out of arcs a lot of the time on your bombing runs so having autothrusters will make sure that any attack is reduced by one. And with it you can save your actions for boosts or mines. But let's not discount other mods. The Punisher really benefits from the upgrade included in its expansion: the Mark 2 engine. This raises the ship's green moves from 4 to 8. This really helps you get to the right places on the map, especially when that 2 turn is very red.
                The second unique thing about the Punisher is that it has the System upgrade. This is where the fun begins. Ever since Wave 3, the System slot has always set apart the humdrum ships from the sophisticated ones. So naturally the new, advanced Imperial Bomber has been given this luxurious upgrade slot. The Punisher expansion itself brings no new systems to the table. But that is ok because there are still lots of others to choose from.
                Let's first look at the Fire-Control System and the Accuracy Corrector. Take one of these if you are looking for a bomber that can drop lots of ordnance but also hit hard with its main guns. The AC guarantees that you will never miss with your 2 attack dice but it is expensive. The FCS is cheaper yet is limited because you have to keep shooting at the same ship. And this can be hard to do when you are flying random strafing vectors around enemy squads. However, it is very strong when facing a 2-ship build. And it is a must-have if you are going to pack torpedoes, as well as bombs, on your generic pilot.
                Another fun system is the Enhanced scopes. In my bomb strategy update I talked about how an advanced bomber needs to have a mid-range pilot skill in order to target both low and high pilot skill ships. But when you equip your Punisher with ES then we have a whole different story. This means that your bomber will move before every other ship and therefore you can land mines on any pilot. Not only is this super fun, it actually saves you a couple squad points. So try it out!
                The one system that I wouldn't take is the Sensor Jammer. Don't get me wrong, it is a good upgrade and is downright nasty in the right setup. But in this case I would take Autothrusters over the Sensor Jammer.
                And this leaves us the best for last, the Advanced Sensors. This card really puts the shine on the Punisher's bombing ability. If you are unsure of which system to take, start out with this one. You can boost before you reveal a maneuver and thus have better accuracy when laying bombs on low PS ships. Or you could drop a mine before you move and really surprise an opponent. Advanced sensors also allows you to bump on purpose. Consider picking a move that will launch you directly at a higher PS ship. Then lay a mine, reveal your move, and bump the enemy. Not only do you still get your ordnance out, you are now in a spot where the enemy ship will not be able to hit you. Either the ship moves 1 forward and can't attack you, moves to the side and doesn't get a shot, or else K-turns and lands right on top of your mine. And there are countless other applications. Because it lets you be unpredictable you are free to do what you want and your opponent will have a difficult time trying to counter your moves.

                And there you have it. We've looked at several possible combinations for these bombers, some viable and some just really fun. Be sure to try out the ones that intrigue you when you are able to get your hands on Wave 7. Practice hard on those strafing runs and fly casual!

5 points to Gryffindor for any player that uses an Advanced SLAM to place a Conner Net in front of a large base ship and yells: "Grand SLAM, you pancake!" Then be a good sport and treat them to Denny's after the game. lol

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