|In Defense of the Lambda-class Shuttle
An X-Wing (TM) Strategy Article by Guest Writer Ricky White
|X-Wing | Published 14 March 2014|
Guest Writer Ricky White in Defense of the Lambda–class Shuttle
Recently, a number of X-Wing players each ranked the game’s first three waves of starships in order of effectiveness from one to twelve. Of the 144 players who voted, more than three-quarters ranked the Lambda-class shuttle in the bottom four. In fact, the shuttle received forty-four last place votes, nearly a third of the total vote. The starship with the second most last-place votes, the TIE Advanced, had sixteen fewer votes. Meanwhile, the shuttle could only raise one measly first-place vote, but that vote was later discovered to be a mistake: The player had voted backward. The Lambda-class shuttle could not catch a break.
Frankly, I could not believe it. I have been flying the shuttle for months and can’t get it out of my lists. To date, I have included the shuttle in two local tournaments and won both; I won four out of my five matches at worlds, earning twenty-first place and missing out on the Top 16 due to tie-breakers; and at the time of writing, I am currently undefeated in another ongoing tournament. This giant white vessel of destruction has rained terror on my foes, and yet most of the X-Wing world cannot see what I see. It is high time to change that.
Ripe for Customization
The Sienar Fleet Systems Lambda-class T-4a shuttle is not one of the four worst ships in X-Wing. It’s among the best. It may be the best. It has outrageously good stats, it has one of the best upgrade arrays in the game, and it manages all of this with a squad point value starting at just twenty-one points, leaving it ripe for customization. Point-for-point, it is one of the best bargains the Empire can bring to the table, and that is taking into consideration the twelve-point Academy Pilot.
When you look at the shuttle’s stats, it is pretty easy to see why one might get excited. It offers three attack dice, and though it has just one agility, it has a massive five hull and five shields. It’s tough, and it hits hard. The Lambda can equip two crew, the great ST-321 Title, and a cannon. It can also sport what is arguably the game’s best upgrade, the system upgrade. This is in addition to the fact that you can turn the shuttle’s greatest weakness – its limited maneuverability – into a strength with the Engine Upgrade modification.
Having nice stats and an a loaded upgrade bar is great, but it’s the fact that you get all this with a ship that starts at just twenty-one squad points that makes the Lambda truly impressive. That’s the same squad point value as your standard X-wing Rookie Pilot and a full twelve points below that of a Bounty Hunter. The key to utilizing the Lambda effectively, then, is making use of its low starting squad point cost to maximum benefit. To fly it right, you need to build it to suit your needs in your list.
Below are a few shuttle builds that I’ve found to be effective.
Omicron Group Pilot with Darth Vader Crew
This shuttle is built with one purpose: Get a ship into arc and crush it with the Force. It is a twenty-four-point starship meant to hunt and destroy one or more enemy ships that cost more than the twenty-four points you’ve invested in the shuttle.
Darth Vader finds a happy home here for several reasons. The Omicron Group Pilot is cheaper than a Bounty Hunter, so losing it doesn’t cost you as much during games. With its pilot skill value of two, the Omicron Group Pilot fires late in the Combat phase, so if you build your squad to include a few pilots with higher pilot skill and then focus your fire, there is a good chance you’ll strip away your opponent’s shields, allowing you to use the Darth Vader crew card to maximum effect. Nothing is more satisfying than watching your enemy smile as his ship barely escapes your attack with one hull remaining, only for you to clench your fist and say, “Darth Vader destroys your ship.”
You shouldn’t be afraid to use Darth Vader against ships with shields, either. When Vader damages your Lambda, it also makes your shuttle a more likely target, and I view that as a very good thing. The “Doomshuttle” is always destined for destruction, and if your opponent attacks a ship that’s already fated to fall, you won’t have to go through the trouble of turning it around. You’ll also be drawing away fire from the other ships you had planned to last longer.
There is a variant of this build that also places a Gunner on the Omicron Group Pilot. In this build, the idea is to miss with your attack, use Darth Vader’s ability, attack again with Gunner, and use Darth Vader’s ability again. It’s not a bad option, but it gives your opponent five extra points once your “Doomshuttle” explodes.
Omicron Group Pilot (or Captain Yorr) with Heavy Laser Cannon, Advanced Sensors, Rebel Captive, and Engine Upgrade
The “Dogfighter” strives to make up for the shuttle’s weakness by turning it into one of the fastest ships in the game. Due to their size, large ships due travel much farther than small ships when they boost or barrel roll. This shuttle can zip in and out of arcs much easier thanks to Advanced Sensors and Engine Upgrade.
Normally, the furthest a shuttle can turn in a round is ninety degrees, but the “Dogfighter” can perform a boost and a hard “2” turn to maneuver as much as 135 degrees. This is the closest the shuttle comes to performing a barrel roll. Meanwhile, the Heavy Laser Cannon upgrade provides the “Dogfighter” with punch at long range, and Rebel Captive makes it easier to hinder your prey by keeping ships stressed and their movements predictable.
Captain Yorr is a great substitution for the Omicron Group Pilot if you have the extra points. He’ll fire earlier than many of the game’s more popular ships, like Academy Pilots and Rookie Pilots, and he’ll be able to exchange simultaneous fire with the popular Dagger Squadron Pilot B-wings.
When you handle this ship, it is better to think of it as a bulky Saber Squadron TIE Interceptor than as a slow “Doomshuttle.”
Omicron Group Pilot (or Colonel Jendon) with Fire Control System, Gunner, Weapons Engineer, and Engine Upgrade
The “Buzzsaw” establishes an endless supply of targets at which it can shoot. The combination of Fire Control System and Weapons Engineer typically ensures it can fire at either of two targets with modifiable dice. Every turn, it can choose to focus on mobility or firepower, meaning it hits hard and can move well. This ship isn’t a big, slow, lumbering target; it's a wild, white predator, indiscriminate with its attacks!
A great tactic to bear in mind when you choose your targets is to attempt to force your opponent to spend the defensive tokens he’s collected with your first target, miss with your attack, and then use Gunner to fire at a second target, on which you’ll have established a target lock thanks to Fire Control System and Weapons Engineer.
For example, imagine your “Buzzsaw” is stressed. You have a shot at Tycho Celchu at range “3” and a shot at Wedge Antilles at range “1.” In this example, Tycho Celchu has both focus and evade tokens, and Wedge Antilles has no tokens. You can attack Tycho, miss, and generate a target lock on him and then on Wedge, as well, through the use of Fire Control System and Weapons Engineer. You then use Gunner and fire at Wedge at range “1” with a target lock. If you destroy Wedge with this shot, you now have the ability to use both target lock and focus on your next attack against Tycho, so long as you can get his A-wing in your firing arc!
Colonel Jendon lends an interesting twist to this build. Because you will almost always have a target lock or two that you can hand off, you can make good use of his ability to pass target locks to friendly ships within range “1.” This is without ever actually taking the target lock action. Then, you can add the ST-321 Title card for even more fun target lock tricks.
Omicron Group Pilot (or Captain Kagi) with Ion Cannon, Sensor Jammer, Rebel Captive, and Engine Upgrade
Much as with the shuttle, the Sensor Jammer upgrade has been overlooked in favor of its cheaper brethren, the Fire Control Systems and the fan-favorite Advanced Sensors. Still, Sensor Jammer is really a great option for “Tank” builds, and I find that they save two to three shots per game. They also have a nice side effect of baiting your enemy to spend his focus tokens on offense.
I find the trick to running “Tank” builds is to fly your shuttle aggressively and provoke shots at closer range than the high-offense ships the “Tank” is meant to protect. This will often lead to the shuttle’s demise, but one of the greatest secrets of succeeding at X-Wing is to learn how to coax your enemy into targeting and destroying the ships you would prefer to lose.
A nice tactic for an Omicron Group Pilot “Tank” is to fire your Ion Cannon at the first ship that fired at the “Tank” that round. That ship will be stressed due to your Rebel Captive. If you land a hit with your Ion Cannon, you now have a ship that cannot take actions next turn. This makes Sensor Jammer even more effective; if that ship has only the “Tank” in its arc, it will be limited in the damage it can deal due to its lack of a focus token.
Captain Kagi is a great alternative to the Omicron Group Pilot because he will draw all your enemy’s target locks. Then, if the ships that lock on Kagi don’t have focus tokens, your Sensor Jammer will come in very handy. I don’t recommend Ion Cannon with Kagi, though, because he’ll usually fire before you’ll know which ship will be stressed by your Rebel Captive.
Avoiding the Flank
While it is fun to work on shuttle builds in a vacuum, every shuttle pilot must deal with its limited maneuver dial. Every shuttle has the potential to be flanked and must prepare for that eventuality, and each of the above shuttle archetypes responds to this threat in its own way. The “Tank” and “Doomshuttle” fly aggressively enough that they’ll usually explode before they have to turn around, although with its Engine Upgrade, the “Tank” can get back into action within two turns. The “Dogfighter” can turn 135-degrees in a single turn, allowing it to keep pace with most starships. Finally, the “Buzzsaw” uses delay tactics to keep its prey in front of it.
Delaying is one of several general strategies that can be used to prevent your Lambda-class shuttle from being flanked. If you make judicious use of the zero maneuver early in the game, you can gain an understanding of the flight lines your enemy is taking. This allows you to keep the enemy in front of you. Additionally, you can use your own ships to block the shuttle and keep it moving slowly; maneuvering a higher pilot skill ship in front of the shuttle can also prevent it from moving as much as it normally would. Performed properly, delay tactics can force your enemy into a bind, and your shuttle may be able to limit his flight paths even as your other starfighters line up their attacks.
Proper asteroid and ship placement also help prevent any Lambda archetype from being flanked. If you can establish a triangle of asteroids on your side of the map with the tip pointed at your enemy, you can open a flight lane for your shuttle, even as the asteroids on its flank make it harder for your opponent to attack from its side. You can also use the edge of the map as a wall that limits enemy movement, keeping you safe from attacks made from one of your shuttle’s sides. In combination with good delay tactics, asteroids and ship placement will help you keep the enemy in front of you for the all-important first few rounds of combat. When you win those first few rounds of combat, you usually win the game.
Bolster Your Fleet
Flying the Lambda-class shuttle amid the fast-paced battles of X-Wing in a battlefield dominated by dart-fast starfighters can be daunting, but it’s also very rewarding.
The shuttle is an effective complement to the Imperial arsenal, and it fits in well with the current fleet due to its nature as a ship that can be adapted to cover the weakness of any list. Its squad point cost and upgrades make it a powerful tool for the Emperor, and it is currently one of the top ships in the game.
Hopefully, this article and its sample builds will help you will find more success with your shuttle, and I expect we have yet to see the full strength of the Lambda. Try out some of these builds, hunt well, and enjoy!
X-Wing is a tactical ship-to-ship combat game in which players take control of powerful rebel X-wings and nimble Imperial TIE Fighters, facing them against each other in fast-paced space combat. Featuring stunningly detailed and painted miniatures, X-Wing recreates Star Wars’ exciting space battles. Select your crew, plan your maneuvers, and complete your mission!