I was getting my sorry butt handed to me on the Elite War setting of Heroes and Generals, and decided to peruse Reddit in order to break up the monotony of my ridiculously frequent spawn times. It was during this time that I came across the discussion of the ARC-170 expansion for X-wing Miniatures and was saddened by what I found: not much love for the R3 Astromech. I've been taking a hiatus from X-wing analytical articles, due to a combination of school and branching out to other games, but I've been reminded of something. There'll always be game aspects that are passed over by popular trains of thought and, therefore, need a hint of nurturing to have their true potential shine. Thus, I give you a long overdue Poor Grey Pilot article, heaven knows you deserve it. Let's discuss the possibilities of the R3 Astromech.
I am eager to see the retrofitted ARC-170 join this game, especially since it adds to the X-wing ship bloodline, but it was the R3 Astromech that most intrigued me from the Wave 9 teaser. The R3 Astromech has four main aspects attributing to its strength: it provides protection against dice fails, it increases action economy, its generic, and (like the FFG article said) it synergizes well with Rebel builds.
1) Protection Against Dice Fails
Repositioning power has always been the strongest aspect of X-wing Miniatures, but there is no point getting into the right position if the dice fail. This pitfall was overcome by the basic blueprint of arc-dodging ships introduced with Imperial Aces. You attach Push The Limit to a high PS Ace, in a ship fast enough to deal with the stress tokens, and you now have enough action economy to reposition and prevent dice failure.
However, Rebels have a hard time reproducing the arc-dodging success seen with Imperials, whether its because of the A-wing's 2 attack dice, the E-wing's high cost, or the T-65's lack of mobility. This struggle can be seen in the development of how I've run Wedge Antilles. Previous ship building standards in X-wing dictated that a solid Wedge build look something like this:
X-wing w/ Wedge - 40 points
This X-wing gets repositioning power from an EU, but the lack of an evade action means that you can't get much use out of Push the Limit, therefore requiring expensive upgrades to protect against dice failure on both offense and defense. This leads to a powerful, albeit expensive, Wedge that absolutely needs to be protected by Biggs in order to make it to the late game, and with that you've already spent 65 squad points. So I experimented to see if I could find a cheaper alternative that gave similar power. This led me to my creation of Stay on Target Wedge.
X-wing w/ Wedge - 33 points
Stay On Target
This clever combo gives Wedge both repositioning and a target lock, allowing you to get into the right place and make sure your attack doesn't fail. We've used the astromech slot and can no longer take shield regeneration, yet this is compensated by the IA and a 7 point savings. But, there is still a fundamental problem that hasn't been fixed, which is that Wedge overly relies on devastating offenses and can't modify defense dice. This weakness can be solved with the R3 Astromech.
X-wing w/ Wedge - 35 points
We now have a well-rounded Rebel Ace costing the same as Soontir Fel, but who doesn't need to self stress. Wedge uses his PS 9 and barrel rolls to get behind enemies. He then attacks with 4 dice, rerolling a blank, and converting a focus result into a precious evade token. We have successfully given Wedge repositioning, protection against any dice fails, and a decent cost.
2) Gives Action Economy
As seen by my final Wedge build, the R3 Astromech and Vectored Thrusters were made for each other. Together, these two upgrades provide cheap action economy to ships that can't properly use PTL. This breathes new life into X-wing Aces, who now have action economy that jives well with their ship. Wes Janson doesn't mind as much if his attack misses, he generally wants to soften targets for allies. Use him to strip enemy tokens, then take an evade to turtle up. Consider giving him Veteran Instincts to make more use of his barrel rolls, or equipping Juke for even more action denial. If you are in the market for something tankier, take Luke instead. His pilot ability synergizes well to make a more durable X-wing arc-dodging ace.
X-wing w/ Wes - 33 points
X-wing w/ Luke - 34 points
Another great application of action economy is the E-wing. With R3 and the Fire Control System, we have a Corran Horn that can barrel roll, target lock, and evade. Moreover, Corran can use his double tap in a similar fashion to Miranda Doni. He dives on his first attack, using R3 to get an evade, and FCS to get a TL. Then, during the end phase, his pilot ability activates and he can hit hard and dodge away next turn. Another thing to note is that R3's wording says you assign an evade token, rather than perform a free evade action. This allows the possibility of double evades and we can use R3 to replace R2-D2 + Sensor Jammer on Etahn A'baht, a 5 point savings, with a freed systems slot.
E-wing w/ Corran - 39 points
Fire Control System
E-wing w/ Etahn - 39 points
Push The Limit
Fire Control System
Here we will pause to take a refreshing lore break. The R3 astromech, in the Star Wars universe, was designed to hold a powerful sensor array, and a stronger battery to power it. To prevent sensor interference, the regular astromech dome of the R2 was replaced with a clear one, the telling feature that distinguishes between the two models. This lore is reflected in R3-A2, who uses its sensors as electronic warfare to stress the systems of enemy fighters. It is also seen in the Salvaged R3 Astromech, whose strong power source provides the equivalent of a shield token to Scum ships. Since shield and evade tokens are quite similar, mechanics-wise, we find that the R3 Astromech does a job like that of its Scum counterpart. However, it is far more powerful for the same point cost. All you need is for one evade token to block a hit and you've matched the power of the Salvaged R3, plus you don't need to wait for a Ship-based critical to activate.
3) Generic Droid
Our third aspect of strength is that the R3 is an unnamed droid. While you won't be fielding multiple R3s in all your squads, the option to do so if both powerful and liberating for squad building. You could have fun with a list of 3 Juke Red Vet X-wings. Or perhaps you want to capitalize off the cheap action economy and field an all ace list, such as Wedge, Wes, and Luke. Since R3 activates after your ship shoots, you'll want it on higher PS pilots, so low PS squads won't get much use from this droid. Yet, even then, it might be worth the risk so you can laugh as generics TIE Fighter or Headhunter swarms futilely try to break your defenses.
T-70 w/ Red Vet - 33 points
4) Rebel Ability Synergy
FFG claims that the ARC-170 is well priced. If it is indeed, it won't suffer the same defect as the E-wing, namely players overrelying on shield-recharge droids to protect their high point investment. This scenario led to the sad result that R7 droids are rarely used on the ship they were intended for. Let's hope the same won't happen to the ARC-170 because the R3 synergizes so well with it. You can put an R3 on Shara Bey, thus allowing her to survive longer to help her allies. And it is a perfect fit for Norra Wexley. Her ability, when combined with an R3, allows her to turn her target lock action into the evade action. If you then slap on Veteran Instincts, you optimize the benefit of your droid and keep Norra's cost low.
ARC w/ Norra - 34
Another great pilot with R3 synergy is Horton Salm. This Y-wing Ace who has always been plagued by focus results on his attacks. I played with this combo for awhile but almost gave up since R3 doesn't work with turrets, but then I remembered an old project of mine: the "Hort-hog". It was a silly attempt to justify putting the BTL-A3 Title on Horton, but I never found a combo that worked. Now, with R3, it actually makes sense. This build is about timing. At range 3, you play conservatively, but at the opportune moment, you slip into range 1-2 and blast away! For one more point, you could try replacing the Dorsal Turret and Vectored Thrusters with a Twin Laser Turret.
Y-wing w/ Horton - 32 points
Whether its offering alternative action economy or strong Rebel synergy, there are many applications of the R3 Astromech. I hope that this article gave you some new ideas and I wish you the best in your squad building. Happy Flying!