You Will Pay for Your Lack of Vision

Zach Bunn on the Imperial Faction of Imperial Assault

“You have only begun to discover your power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.”
   –Darth Vader, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Through the skirmish games of Imperial Assault, you have the chance to enter the Star Wars universe as the leader of a trained strike team. Your objectives may lead you to infiltrate an Imperial facility, carry out a tactical assassination, or gather information from the locals. Of course, it’s never just that easy—there’s always another strike team, trying to accomplish the same goals and fighting to stop you by any means possible.

If you’ve already begun your training for the Imperial Assault skirmish at the Fantasy Flight Games World Championship Weekend, you might be wondering about the strengths and best builds for each faction. Today, Zach Bunn of Team Covenant starts a series of faction reviews for Imperial Assault.

Zach Bunn on the Imperial Faction

A long time ago, Imperial Assault was first released… It’s crazy that it wasn’t even two years ago that the game first came out! Since then, we’ve traveled to Tatooine, Hoth, and Bespin. We’ve seen many of the most iconic characters, like Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian, introduced. We’ve also had newer characters enter the game, like The Grand Inquisitor from Star Wars Rebels. In that same time, we have even had a few rules updates and erratas for the Imperial Assault skirmish game. 

Early in the game, there wasn’t the option to “pass” on taking an activation if your opponent had more remaining activations, which made expensive units like Darth Vader uncompetitive. We also saw a few of the most dominant units, like the Royal Guards, Imperial Officer, and Rebel Saboteurs, receive errata for being a bit too strong.

Alongside these structural changes, we’ve seen an overall increase in our options for units and Command cards. With the recent release of The Bespin Gambit and a mini-wave of fantastic new Ally Packs and Villain Packs, the meta is truly wide open and this is the most excited I’ve ever been about this game. So much has changed since the early days, and it felt like the perfect time to revisit the game and evaluate the factions in their current context. Of course, when I was approached about writing the series, I felt compelled to begin with Imperial (as any good citizen of the Empire would).

Defensive Maneuvers

To start, let’s look at the card that I believe to be the most meta-defining card in the game… Zillo Technique.

If you’ve been spending all your time in the Outer Rim, you may be unfamiliar with Zillo Technique. Basically, it’s a one point skirmish upgrade that you can exhaust once per round to cancel up to Pierce 2 while defending. Note that you can use this card to protect any model in your list. In addition, Zillo Technique also allows you to discard a Command card in order to add a block to any defense roll. So, you may be thinking, alright, that’s good, but is it really the most meta-defining card in the game? 

Yes, it is.

The reason is because Zillo Technique changes the basic math of the game. Canceling Pierce 2 is useful when it applies, but the ability to turn any Command card into a block at will is incredible. Consider that an average skirmish game will last only three or four rounds. Given that most units won’t attack on the first round, a figure is only going to get two or three attacks per game. If discarding a Command card or canceling Pierce 2 (or both) allows a unit to survive, this has a dramatic impact.

First, to destroy that unit your opponent is now going to have to use another one of his precious attacks. And again, most units only get to make two to three attacks per game. Having to use another attack on the same unit is a really, really big deal, and it forces your opponent to waste damage. Second, this also means that you might get an additional attack or activation or maybe even a whole extra round with that unit. Whether you’re able to earn more scenario points or destroy enemy figures, this significantly helps your activation economy.

In the diagram above, Agent Blaise would have been destroyed, but the extra block from Zillo Technique will give him a chance to fire back at Luke Skywalker.

Zillo Technique alone forces a reevaluation of every Imperial card in the game. It creates a new health curve that also forces other factions to take a close look at their own tools. Whereas a figure like a focused HK Assassin Droid or a Rebel Saboteur may have been able to destroy a figure in a single attack before Zillo Technique, the math on their attack just got worse.

If you haven’t played as the Imperials in a while and you need somewhere to start, here’s a pretty solid template to get a feel for what Zillo Technique can do:

1 x Zillo Technique
1 x Elite Stormtroopers or Elite Snowtroopers
1 x Royal Guard
1 x Imperial Officer
20-21 points of your choosing. Boba Fett, Darth Vader, The Grand Inquisitor, and Troopers all work here.

As far as your Command deck, I recommend starting with:

1 x Take Initiative
1 x Urgency  
1 x Element of Surprise
1 x Planning
1 x Negation
10 x cards based on how you spend the final twenty points of your army list.

If you decide to use a Force User, cards like Deflection get much better with Zillo Technique. Of course, staples like Force Lightning are as good as ever! If you decide to include more Troopers, Reinforcements is one of the best Command cards in the game.

You’ll also find that Stormtroopers and Royal Guards paired with Zillo Technique can create a defensive wall that is hard to deny. Friendly units adjacent to the Royal Guards become supremely unattractive targets, which makes the points spent on the Royal Guards even more valuable. Of course, this is only a starting point, but I have no doubts you’ll be convinced of the usefulness of Zillo Technique within a game or two. It’s a staple for the Imperials and one that they desperately needed!

Trooper Squads 

Next on our list of meta-changing Imperial cards is Cross Training. It’s funny, because when I was first testing this card I kept forgetting the ability itself, which is to replace one of your defense dice with a white die. That could be a potent ability: giving Troopers a chance to dodge means they might stay alive when they otherwise wouldn’t. As I mentioned earlier, units staying alive is a really, really big deal.

More importantly though, it gives Imperial Troopers access to a slew of Command cards that make them much stronger. The Spy trait continues to gain support in the form of Command cards and The Bespin Gambit did not disappoint. Between the addition of powerful Spy Command cards and units like Agent Blaise, Imperial Troopers with a Spy theme are a very strong contender for top spot in the meta.

If you are looking for somewhere to start with Troopers, here’s a starting template:

1 x Agent Blaise
1 x Imperial Officer
1 x Elite Snowtroopers with Cross Training
1 x Elite Stormtroopers
1 x Zillo Technique  

As far as Command cards for this list, it gets a bit more specific given how much of the list here is Troopers. I would recommend starting with these cards:

1 x Comm Disruption
1 x Strategic Shift
1 x Espionage Mastery
2 x Reinforcements
1 x Intelligence Leak
1 x Take Initiative
1 x Element of Surprise
1 x Negation
1 x Urgency
5 x Other cards based on your personal preferences.

Looking Ahead

As I look to the future, eager to find out what’s coming next, I’m more excited than ever for Imperial Assault skirmish. I’d highly encourage you to revisit older units and Command cards in light of the latest releases. I’ve been finding that a lot of cards I previously wrote off are suddenly very useful… but I’ll have more on that later!

Stay tuned for my upcoming articles about the other two factions in the game, the Rebels and Mercenaries. Until then, may the Force be with you all!


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