A Preview of the Special Forces TIE Expansion Pack for X-Wing™
"I always wanted to fly one of these things."
The ninth wave of expansions for X-Wing™ will soon bring four new starships to tables across the world, and as we mentioned in our announcement of the wave, each of these four new ships offers a renewed focus on the need to maneuver and line up shots within your firing arc. One ship is a Scum and Villainy arc-dodger that also excels at games of chicken, flying straight at enemy ships, aiming to get into Range "1" as soon as possible. Another introduces the concept of a mobile firing arc to the game. And the other two are small-base fighters with auxiliary firing arcs, both of which allow you to make interesting decisions about how you want to line up your shots and maneuvers.
Last week, we looked at one of these ships, the Rebel Alliance's ARC-170. We briefly addressed the ways its auxiliary firing arc can open up your maneuver dial and help you keep your opponent off-guard. Today, we look at the Special Forces TIE fighter and the many reasons its pilots are likely to make frequent and deliberate use of its auxiliary firing arc.
Special Ops Training
Like the ARC-170, the Special Forces TIE fighter features a primary weapon with an attack value of "2," plus a zero-cost, non-unique Title upgrade that allows you to boost that primary weapon's attack value to "3" or gain a secondary benefit. However, where the ARC-170's Alliance Overhaul Title offers you the ability to improve the accuracy of any shots you fire from the fighter's auxiliary firing arc, the Special Ops Training Title for the Special Forces TIE fighter is less about choosing the arc from which you want to fire and more about rewarding you for firing from both.
Yes, it is true that if you fire from the Special Force TIE fighter's auxiliary firing arc, you do not gain the additional attack die on your primary weapon attack, but if you line up the shots, the Special Ops Training Title allows you to fire twice. And the math is easy; if you can fire twice for two dice and two dice, those four dice are more than the three you would get from the enhanced attack made from your forward firing arc.
The trick, though, is going to be in lining up those twinned shots. They call it Special Ops Training for a reason, here. After all, it can sometimes be maddening enough just to line up any sort of shot against a slippery, arc-dodging ace like Tycho Celchu. And to get the most of your Special Ops Training, you need to do even more than catch him in your arc. You want to catch him in one firing arc—either primary or auxiliary—and catch his wingmate in your other arc.
Still, you will not find every enemy as slippery as Tycho Celchu, and though the Special Forces TIE fighter comes with a maneuver dial that is quite a bit more limited than that of the First Order's TIE/fo fighter, it still boasts the ability to perform barrel rolls and a pair of speed "3" Segnor's Loops that might catch your foes by surprise. Moreover, because the Special Forces TIE fighter can equip a systems upgrade, you can use Advanced Sensors to perform an action before you execute any of the fighter's six different red maneuvers.
The Benefits of Firing Backward
As a ship with two hull and three shields that can perform primary weapon attacks with three dice (when outfitted with its Title), the Special Forces TIE fighter is bound to find its way to all manner of battlefields, especially when you consider that the non-unique Zeta Specialist weighs in at a modest twenty-three squad points. The ship is muscular, resilient, and iconic. Not only does it appear in The Force Awakens, but it shares its aesthetic with the Galactic Empire's classic TIE/ln fighter.
Still, when you consider how the Special Forces TIE fighter rewards you for flying into positions from which you can catch ships in both its primary and auxiliary firing arcs, it becomes clear that this is a ship with a steep learning curve. Even a novice can zip it around the table and fire some good shots, but true mastery of the Special Forces TIE fighter is going to require the sort of spatial reasoning, planning, and educated guesswork that comes with lots and lots of experience.
For example, we are already aware that you get more attack value when you line up two shots, but the situation becomes even better when you can line up both of those shots at Range "1." Firing from only his primary firing arc at Range "1," your Zeta Specialist finds his three attack dice bumped up to four. However, when he can slip into position to fire both forward and backward—with both shots made at Range "1"—the same Zeta Specialist finds his four attack dice bumped up to six.
Your barrel roll will help. Sometimes, you will even want to use your Advanced Sensors to perform that barrel roll before you maneuver. However, the truth is that getting yourself into position to get as many as six attack dice is not going to be easy. And it is likely that in order to squeeze into position to make those shots, you are going to have to open yourself up to the Range "1" shots your opponent will make.
But just as the more experienced players will find more success, so will the Special Forces TIE Expansion Pack's more experienced pilots.
"Quickdraw," with a pilot skill value of "9," will be able to activate after nearly all your opponent's ships, meaning she'll be able to judge her barrel rolls with full knowledge of her enemy's final positions. Still, her uncanny skill with the Special Forces TIE fighter allows her to do much more with it than simply maneuver into the best possible position. She knows that maneuvering her TIE fighter into the most effective firing position—with Range "1" enemy fighters at her front and back—is often going to leave her exposed to her enemies' Range "1" shots.
The best plan is to destroy those fighters before they can shoot back at her. Barring that, however, "Quickdraw" can make your opponent suffer for shooting at her. The first time each round that she loses a point of shielding, "Quickdraw" can perform a primary weapon attack. Since any shot from her auxiliary firing arc is technically made with her primary weapon, this means she can fire her retaliatory shot at any foe either behind or before her.
Still, her ability allows her to do more than just retaliate. She can actually set herself up to take shots in the Activation Phase by willfully slamming her ship off an asteroid to suffer the loss of a shield. She needs to be sure to get clear of the asteroid by the end of the maneuver, but even though "Quickdraw" loses her action, you can potentially fire twice at the same foe before the first Combat Phase even counts down to pilot skill value "8." And if you have either Advanced Sensors or Fire-Control System, you can still modify your dice for one of the attacks.
Another Special Forces TIE fighter pilot who has learned to get the most out of the ship is the First Order ace, "Backdraft." Again, as with "Quickdraw," his higher pilot skill value allows him to maneuver after most enemy ships. But unlike "Quickdraw," "Backdraft" wants to catch as many of those ships as possible in his auxiliary firing arc. His unique pilot ability reads, "When attacking a ship inside your auxiliary firing arc, you may add 1 result."
Among other things, this means there is basically no time that "Backdraft" would rather set up a single shot from his primary firing arc than set up two shots, from both his primary and his auxiliary firing arcs. The extra result that he gains from his auxiliary firing arc is simply better than the extra attack die he would gain by firing one shot forward with his Special Ops Training. Accordingly, "Backdraft" enters the game as one of the rare pilots who wants to keep his enemies behind him. As we have stated multiple times, Wave IX is all about your firing arcs, and "Backdraft" is one of the strangest and most rewarding pieces of the puzzle.
Use Your Tech
In addition to its ship, pilots, and Title, the Special Forces TIE Expansion Pack introduces an additional copy of the Wired upgrade originally found in The Force Awakens™ Core Set, plus a new systems upgrade and two copies of a new tech upgrade.
The Collision Detector may not look like much at first glance, but since it costs you zero squad points, it makes a suitable addition to any squad that cannot afford to pay out for a Fire-Control System, Advanced Sensors, or another system upgrade. And, then, once you figure out how to exploit it, it becomes an extremely efficient addition to your squad.
For example, you could select three of the smaller asteroids ahead of your battle and then fly "Backdraft" with a Collision Detector. Fly close enough to the asteroids, and your barrel roll can buy you enough movement to roll over an asteroid, taking your opponent by surprise and lining up the perfect shot.
Of course, because Collision Detector can allow you to boost or decloak across obstacles, as well as barrel roll over them, you might consider equipping it on a TIE phantom, like that flown by "Echo," in order to keep your opponent guessing. The situations in which you would risk your phantom to gain the surprise positioning may be rare, but if you take advantage of the ability even once, you have more than recouped your investment on the Collision Detector. Moreover, because the Collision Detector also allows you to ignore any results that you roll, you reduce the odds that your phantom will take damage. And you entirely eliminate the possibility that you will suffer a crippling critical hit or simply explode from a Direct Hit!
Finally, the Sensor Cluster introduces a new use for your focus token, allowing you to spend it to convert a blank defense die to an result. At just two squad points, the Sensor Cluster is a modest investment for guaranteed defense. It is true that you will rarely hope to save your focus token for use with the Sensor Cluster, but when you have pilots like "Quickdraw" or "Backdraft" who can already perform multiple attacks each round, you might invest in a TIE shuttle and Fleet Officer to keep them loaded with focus tokens. Any of these tokens that you do not use during your attacks you could then use with your Sensor Cluster.
The First Order's Finest
Only the First Order's finest pilots ever earned the right to fly the Special Forces TIE fighter. Soon, you will be able to join their ranks; the Special Forces TIE Expansion Pack allows you to fly one of these amazing starfighters in your X-Wing battles. Pre-order your copy today!