1 August 2016 | X-Wing

Full of Surprises

A Preview of the Shadow Caster Expansion Pack for X-Wing™

"Impressive… most impressive."
     –Darth Vader

Change your firing arc, change the battlefield, and take your opponent by surprise with the Shadow Caster Expansion Pack for X-Wing!

Throughout our previews of the Wave IX expansions, we have focused on the different ways they refocus our attention on their ships' firing arcs and the need to select maneuvers that line up good shots. Yet, even as they reinforce the value of clever maneuvering, the ships and their upgrades also encourage new tactical decisions.

When you fly a Special Forces TIE fighter, for example, your best shot might not come from your primary firing arc but from your auxiliary arc. Or when you fly a Protectorate Starfighter, you might forego the easy arc-dodging in favor of the ultra-aggressive Concord Face Off maneuver.

These choices and concerns continue to intrigue us as we dive into our preview of the Shadow Caster Expansion Pack. With its new "mobile" firing arc, plus its pilots, upgrades, and all the tactics they permit, the Shadow Caster promises to be one of the Scum faction's trickiest, most flexible, and most impressive ships to-date.

A 360-degree view of the Shadow Caster

The Mobile Firing Arc

The signature Lancer-class pursuit craft of Mandalorian bounty hunter Ketsu Onyo, the Shadow Caster was fast, powerful, and full of surprises. In addition to two forward laser cannons, the Shadow Caster sported a triple laser turret and a tractor beam projector.

While the ship's two forward laser cannons are reflected in its primary weapon value of "3," its triple laser turret could have been represented in the game by either a 360-degree firing arc, as with several other turreted ships like the Millennium Falcon and VT-49 Decimator. Or it could have been repesented by an auxiliary firing arc like the one belonging to the Special Forces TIE fighter, which represents its dual heavy laser turret. Instead, as you know, the Shadow Caster introduces the concept of the mobile firing arc.

Insofar as it allows you to fire outside of your primary firing arc, the mobile firing arc functions much like a 360-degree turret. However, it requires that you spend an action to adjust its rotation, allowing for that slight chance you could fail to catch your target within the arc. And for these reasons, the main difference between the mobile firing arc and a 360-degree turret is that your mobile firing arc requires you to make decisions.

But these decisions do not just demand your time. They offer you a new opportunity to plan for success; the Shadow Caster Title and each of the expansion's three unique pilots reward you for successfully catching your foes within your mobile firing arc.

Risk and Reward

Although the Shadow Caster clearly makes use of its tractor beam projector in Star Wars Rebels, the Lancer-class pursuit craft does not feature a cannon upgrade slot with which it could equip a Tractor Beam.  Instead, that technology is reflected by the Shadow Caster Title upgrade, which allows you to assign a tractor beam token to an enemy ship.

Admittedly, that enemy ship has to be within your mobile firing arc, it has to be at Range 1–2, and you have to hit it, but if you can meet all these conditions, you get all the benefits of landing a tractor beam token on your opponent's ship without the hassle of firing a cannon that deals zero damage.

The Shadow Caster hits an X-wing with a shot and a tractor beam token.

Also, because the Shadow Caster is an upgrade, its can function in tandem with your choice of the expansion's three unique pilots: Ketsu Onyo,   Asajj Ventress,  or Sabine Wren.

Completely at home in her signature vessel, Ketsu Onyo can use her mobile firing arc to assign tractor beam tokens to her enemies, seemingly at will. At the start of the Combat phase, she can assign a tractor beam token to one enemy ship at Range "1" that is within both her primary firing arc and her mobile firing arc. The simplest way to do this is to have her set her mobile firing arc to overlap with her primary firing arc, but it is also possible to maneuver the Shadow Caster so that Ketsu Onyo can catch a foe so that her primary firing arc catches part of the ship and her mobile firing arc catches the rest.

Combined with the Shadow Caster Title upgrade, then, Ketsu Onyo can use her ship's tractor beam projector to completely nullify as many as two enemy attacks by slamming her foes onto nearby rocks, or by boosting them so they no longer have her within their firing arcs.

In the Shadow Caster, Ketsu Onyo is able to get the better of two Imperial pilots by using her tractor beam to prevent them both from firing at her.

Making her arrival to X-Wing from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars television show, Asajj Ventress offers a possible counter to the many different lists running aces with the Push the Limit elite pilot talent. Once per round, if she can catch one of their ships within her mobile firing arc and at Range 1–2, she assign it a stress token at the beginning of the Combat phase. This means that if your opponent's ace also used Push the Limit and took a stress, that pilot is now looking at two stress tokens and, most likely, zero actions in the next round.

As many veteran players know, the ace pilots that use Push the Limit tend to rely upon their actions to boost their attack and defense, and by stripping them of their ability to perform actions, Asajj Ventress leaves them woefully vulnerable to the rest of your squadron.

Finally, Sabine Wren can use her mobile firing arc to boost her defense. Whenever she defends against an enemy within her mobile firing arc and at Range 1–2, Sabine Wren gains an additional result that she can then modify by spending a focus token. This makes the Recon Specialist a natural addition to her crew, but if you wished, you could ignore the Recon Specialist in favor a dose or two of Glitterstim , each of which would allow her to convert all of her results to or results over the course of an entire Combat phase.

One of the reasons you might prefer to use Glitterstim to get the most utility from Sabine's extra result, rather than equip a Recon Specialist, is that the Shadow Caster Expansion Pack comes with a trio of extremely talented Scum faction only crew upgrades. Leaving Sabine's crew slot open for one of these new crew members means you might be able to use IG-88D to share the unique pilot ability of any friendly ship with the IG-2000 Title, use Latts Razzi to add a result to your defense by removing a stress token from the attacker's ship, or prevent your opponent from removing a tractor beam token from his or her ship by carrying Ketsu Onyo as a crew member.

Of course, the Ketsu Onyo crew member, all three pilots, and the Shadow Caster Title all come with Range restrictions that force you to race into close quarters combat as quickly as possible. This is where the risk comes in: if you fail to catch your foes in your mobile firing arc in order to trigger all your abilities, you set yourself up as a very tempting target with only two Agility and three Shields.

Alter the Field of Combat

Even as Wave IX expands our appreciation of the firing arc and how it lends weight to all your chosen maneuvers, it allows us to alter the very nature of the battlefield. Two of the wave's new upgrades, one of which appears in the Shadow Caster Expansion Pack, allow us to add and remove obstacles.

One of the upgrades from the Shadow Caster Expansion Pack is Rigged Cargo Chute.  This illicit upgrade allows you to take an Action to drop one cargo token, deploying it from your rear guides like a bomb. This token then functions identically to a debris cloud token, remaining in place for the remainder of the game… except that because you deploy it during the game, you can use it to choke off your enemy's ability to maneuver through a corridor between other obstacles. And because you can equip as many as two of these on the Shadow Caster, you can dramatically reshape the flight paths your opponent thought were open.

Ketsu Onyo throws Tycho Celchu off her tail by turning through a pair of asteroids and plugging the gap by deploying a cargo token.

Alternatively, Wave IX grants you the ability to open up new flight paths by blasting obstacles into smithereens with the Seismic Torpedo upgrade from the ARC-170 Expansion Pack. That torpedo allows you to spend an Action to explode an obstacle within Range 1–2 of your primary firing arc, potentially dealing damage to nearby enemy ships. Then, whether or not you damage your opponent's ships, you remove the obstacle from the table, and you can potentially fly your whole squadron straight through the gap—without penalty—in the next round.

Norra Wexley fires her Seismic Torpedo into an asteroid, exploding it into pieces that damage the hulls of two Academy Pilots.

Taken together, these effects add a whole new dimension to the way your battles play out, forcing you to consider your flight paths from even the moment you first position your ships on the table against a list that uses one or both of these upgrades.

Wave IX Is Coming!

With their focus on firing arcs and maneuvering, the Shadow Caster, Protectorate Starfighter, Special Forces TIE fighter, and ARC-170 strike the perfect balance between new tactical options and classic X-Wing gameplay. Better yet, all these Wave IX expansions will soon be on their way to retailers near you, so be sure to head to your favorite local gaming store to pre-order your copy today!

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