The Darth Dilemma
An Imperial Assault Guest Article from Zach Bunn
“A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights. He betrayed and murdered your father. Now the Jedi are all but extinct.” –Obi-Wan Kenobi
Darth Vader is one of the greatest villains of all-time, and he can easily be one of the most terrifying threats in Imperial Assault. With massive striking power, a mastery of the Force, and powerful defenses, Darth Vader forces you to carefully consider any plan of attack if you wish to achieve victory.
Today, Zach Bunn explores the threat of Darth Vader and methods to form an attack plan in every game of Imperial Assault.
Zach Bunn on Darth Vader in Imperial Assault
I was recently teaching the skirmish game of Imperial Assault to a new player when I had one of those moments that all of us experience as we progress through the learning stages of most games. The epiphany reverberated through my brain, like Obi-Wan’s voice in Star Wars: A New Hope as Luke turns off his targeting computer.
It happened right as I finished explaining the win condition of skirmish missions. I said, “So, you have to get to forty points, usually through a combination of accomplishing objectives and destroying your opponent’s units.”
A critical part of that victory condition is destroying your opponent’s units. As my epiphany revealed, the harder a unit is to destroy, the harder it is for you to gain points by killing it. The more points your opponent has invested in hard-to-destroy units, the harder it is for you to gain those points. I looked down at Darth Vader and all the pieces came together. It seems so obvious now, but at the time I had to pause the demo and ponder a concept that I now refer to as the “Darth Dilemma.”
There are many reasons why Darth Vader is extremely powerful in Imperial Assault, but because I was too busy fielding Darth Vader, I never really looked at it from my opponent’s side. A unit like Darth Vader creates a terrifying dilemma for your opponent because he ties up nearly half of your army points in a unit that’s extremely difficult to kill. If you attempt to destroy Darth Vader and fail, you’ve wasted your actions and figures for nothing. If you attempt to avoid him, you have to make your way to victory by destroying lesser units or by scoring an absurd amount of objectives. You have to choose how you want to try to confront Vader, and neither option is very appealing.
Back to the demo. We set up the “Leave No Evidence” skirmish mission, which challenges both players to recover important artifacts from the Massassi Ruins on Yavin 4. I noted the six excavation tokens on the board, each worth six points. Math says that thirty-six objective points are on the line. For my opponent to win this scenario and not have to destroy Darth Vader (who’s worth eighteen points), he must capture at least three objectives and destroy every other figure in my army. If I can score four objectives, my opponent is now forced kill Darth Vader to win. If I protect one of my lesser figures and score three objectives, my opponent is forced to kill Darth Vader. By taking advantage of this dilemma, I can create some bad exchanges for my opponent.
I’ve found that to deal with Darth Vader consistently, you must immediately decide whether you’re going to confront him or avoid him. There is no middle ground. Because he rolls two black defense dice and has the option to re-roll one per attack, his average defense is around four blocks! If you just try to whittle Vader’s health down after you’ve lost a good chunk of your army, you won’t have the firepower to finish the job. If you start your assault early and back off, you’ve wasted too much time and offense on a zero-point payoff. You’ve got to commit to a plan early, and you’ve got to follow through.
Though it’s Darth Vader who specifically creates this dilemma out of the Imperial Assault Core Set, there’s a fundamental lesson to be learned and applied regardless of his presence. I’ve adopted a methodology ever since that moment, and it’s helped me determine good lines of attack for any given scenario and army combination. It’s a simple and universal line of questioning that should be considered before every first turn in Imperial Assault.
Solving the Dilemma
At the start of each game, I have several important decisions to make. These decisions affect my deployment, the early movement of my figures, and where I direct my offense throughout the game.
When you first start playing skirmish missions, it may seem like you can simply move toward your opponent at the beginning of the game and start shooting the closest units, but this has proven to be a losing strategy. I’ve seen too many games where, by using this kind of strategy, my opponent gets to thirty points before realizing he has no reasonable path to victory. This is a depressing realization, and I try to avoid it by asking the following questions before the game begins:
1. How many points does this scenario’s special objectives offer?
2. How many of those points can I reasonably expect to capture?
3. Given the answers to points 1 and 2, which of my opponent’s models do I need to destroy to get to forty points?
4. If my point calculation in 2 starts to look too ambitious in the middle of the game, which additional models will be easiest to destroy in order to make up the difference?
5. Go through steps 1 through 4 again as if I were my opponent. What objectives might he reasonably expect to capture? What units of mine will he be trying to destroy?
The games of Imperial Assault that I’ve lost are typically the result of being too eager and not fully considering the questions above. By spending a few minutes considering your path to victory, each decision you make throughout the game is put into context. When evaluated with this context in mind, you’ll find yourself carefully considering your plan, rather than just dashing around a corner and shooting down a pesky unit with your Stormtroopers!
As you embark on your first skirmish games, remember that sometimes the best decision isn’t the obvious or emotional one. You win by getting to forty points before your opponent. While considering the win condition of a game isn’t a new tactic by any stretch of the imagination, asking the important questions and constructing a plan of action is often the difference between victory and defeat. Stay focused, and make sure that every move you make contributes to an end game that gives you the best chance of winning.
Until next time, may the Force be with you!
Ready Your Troops
Darth Vader poses a deadly threat to any strike team, and the Rebel Alliance needs a plan to deal with him. Will you dispatch Rebel Troopers and Saboteurs to complete your objectives as quickly as possible? Will Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca confront Darth Vader directly? Gather your strike team and prepare for Star Wars battles in the Imperial Assault skirmish game!
Zach Bunn is a Star Wars fanatic, a lead member of Team Covenant, and a fan of Imperial Assault. In coming weeks, stay tuned for more Imperial Assault guest articles from Zach and other writers!