I made a startling, yet wonderful, surprise a couple of weeks ago: I found the Star Wars Dark Forces video game on Steam. I know this doesn't sound like much but what must be understood is that I grew up playing Dark Forces 2 and it NEVER occurred to me to go search for a Dark Forces 1! It seriously felt like a missing piece of my life had been filled, almost like I had discovered a secret Episode that had never been released. Although the gameplay was the old-fashioned FPS style and had terrible graphics, I absolutely loved going through a brand new campaign and once again taking up the role of the infamous Kyle Katarn.
Kyle's story is deep with many different character arcs. He started off as an Imperial Stormtrooper. However, like many people including Han and Biggs, he saw the truth behind the Empire's facade and defected. He became a freelance mercenary, making good use of his Imperial training. It was at this time that he was contacted by Mon Mothma and was offered a continued contract in the Rebel Alliance. Throwing his side in with the Rebellion, Kyle asked for only one thing: that he get to work with the pilot Jan Ors, a Imperial prisoner that he saved while escaping from the Academy. He worked with the Rebellion for a long time and fulfilled many missions. In fact, he was one of the dozens of Rebel Operatives sent out to try and steal the plans for the Death Star. For awhile though, he went off the grid when he learned that his father had been murdered. On his quest for vengeance he discovered the Valley of the Jedi and the latent force-sensitivity in his blood. Taking up the mantle of Jedi, he was able to defeat the Sith that had killed his father. But in the process he almost fell to the dark side and fearfully discontinued his training, returning to his life as a Rebel mercenary. However, he was forced to reevaluate his Jedi ways when another Sith Lord rose and kidnapped Jan. Thankfully this time he was able to discipline himself and defeated the Sith without temptation. He then continued his training, became a Master in the New Jedi Order, and married Jan Ors (since the New Order allowed Jedi to love).
Whew! Kyle Katarn is such a dynamic character and has so many fun stories. But the question is this: Of all of these versions, which Kyle do we have in X-wing Miniatures? The artwork on his crew upgrade shows him with no gray hair and a full beard. And the original picture from the Star Wars Card Game has him holding a green lightsaber. This places him in the middle of the Dark Forces 2 game when he uses the lightsaber from his father. This is quite interesting to me since at this time in the story Kyle is far from wanting to help the Rebels win space dogfights. But just like with Biggs and Nera, we get a slice of this universe captured and kept forever in a single moment. That adds a great deal of fun in the game for me. As a Jedi, his ability focuses on actions and is similar to Luke getting a free defensive focus and Vader getting a free action. Kyle can use his ability to give one of his focus tokens to an ally at Range 1-3. He can use the force and his trusty ship to better predict battle situations and help allies stay focused. And when he is the crew to a ship, he can rid the ship of stress in sticky situations and keep everyone calm. Both abilities are themed very well and are quite powerful.
So how do we best use Kyle Katarn? Let's start with the basics. The first thing any player should do when they open up their Hawk expansion pack is fly the Focus Battery build.
Focus Battery - 31 points
Hawk w/ Kyle
Moldy Crow Title
It will teach you the mechanics of the ship and how it is supposed to fly. You want to keep the ship in the back, piling on tons of focus tokens with the Recon Specialist and Title. Then during combat you give out focus to help your allies hit hard. It is especially strong when paired with allied ordnance shots, making sure that your squad points are well spent and make effective hits. Then when the fight comes to Kyle make sure you fly evasively. The Hawk's movement dial is rather slow but it is still fast enough for the ship to be able to fly past enemies and engage with your turret. And his 2 evade dice will rarely go to waste since they will always have a focus token to use. The build is rather expensive in squad points but it is nice on your budget since everything you need is all in one box. However, if we look at all upgrades out there, we see that the Hawk is highly customizable.
Lets start that customization. Maybe you don't want more focus but stronger defense. You can replace the RS with the Jan Ors crew (but remember they aren't married at this time so keep things decent in the Hawk, you hear me!? lol).
Evade Battery - 31 points
Hawk w/ Kyle
Ion Cannon Turret
Moldy Crow Title
With her as copilot, Kyle can hand out an evade token to an ally instead of a focus. This can be crucial to keeping an important ally alive. You can give an free evade to Biggs after he has turtled up with R2-F2. Or perhaps one of your precious jousters got outmaneuvered and broadsided by an enemy arc-dodger. Since Kyle uses his ability right before combat he can always know who needs his help the most. And Jan doesn't lock the focus always into an evade. Kyle can still give out a focus when its needed and Jan Ors ability can help an ally all on its own. The only downside is that you no longer have the RS to quickly charge the battery. So learn to slow play at the beginning to get your focus bank filled.
But how about a different direction? Let's just ignore his ability and look at what else Kyle has: Pilot Skill 6 with an Elite Pilot Talent. This means he can be a well rounded, mid-range hitter.
Heavy Kyle - 30 points
Hawk w/ Kyle
Twin Laser Turret
This build capitalizes off of Range 3. The introduction of the Twin Laser Turret really brought life back to the Hawk meta and it adds a lot of strength to this build. Normally Kyle would have a Range 2 turret and have to get closer to the fight to give necessary cover fire. But with the TLT you can keep Kyle way back out of danger. When at Range 3 of his allies he can use Lone Wolf, his turret, AND his ability. This makes for a very strong combo that rests at a safe distance. And Nien Numb acts as a cheap engine upgrade, allowing the Hawk to have a green 3 and 4 straight move. With him as crew the ship is much faster and has more options when clearing stress. The negative part of this build is the Range 1 gap. To overcome this be sure to practice so you know which choices to make in certain scenarios. And make use of your primary weapon. You heard me right! While 1 attack die is normally useless, remember that it is still an attack. I once lost a precious B-wing ace to a one die attack from a Hawk. And at Range 1 it becomes 2 dice! 2 attack dice are still somewhat weak but it is enough to do necessary damage at a crucial time. So if your opponent is coming after Kyle and you aren't sure you can keep them at Range 2, try pointing the nose of your ship at them and hope they fly ignorantly into a trap.
I want to look at one last build but this is actually one you've already seen from my Eaden article. This is my favorite Hawk Ace build.
Ace Jan - 39 points
Hawk w/ Jan
Twin Laser Turret
This Hawk comes in at 39 points but it is well worth it. Jan has a Pilot Skill of 10 and an engine upgrade to outmaneuver enemy aces, keeping them out of her Range 1 blindspot. And since her combo relies on self-stress, just like with Fast Han, we can use the Kyle crew here for similar results. The round after she uses her ability she can do a green move, get a free focus, and still use the engine upgrade to not be a sitting duck. And finally, there is one last mechanic that I found this build excels at: Range 3 flying. You want to be sure that Jan is out at Range 3 for protection but it is a small window. If you fly too close you risk entering Range 2 and if you fly too far out then you risk not getting a shot. But a Hawk with a TLT and EU can ride this window with ease. Keep Jan out at extreme Range 3. When you chose your action, start with a Target Lock. Here's why: if you are in range to get the TL then you are in range to also shoot. If you aren't in range then the TL fails and you must pick another action. So do a Boost towards your opponent and then you WILL be in range. I have found this build to be both powerful and a lot of fun.
In conclusion, Kyle Katarn is an amazing character in Star Wars and a versatile Pilot in X-wing Miniatures. He has several standard builds that are very solid and many new ones thanks to the Twin Laser Turret meta. Which Hawk builds have you had success with? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and have a great week of flying!