Tuesday, 18 February 2014

X-Wing tactics - Tie Fighters


Hi all, and welcome to my first Star Wars ship review.  I intend to write one of these for each class of ship available in the X-Wing game.  However, there is a disclaimer.  I have not been playing long, only two months in fact, so I am by no means an expert.  There will certainly be many things I miss, and other things I flat out get wrong.  However, this is as much an exercise for myself as it is for you as readers.  Writing things like this down helps me to go over ideas, solidify them, and come up with new ones.  I am therefore happy for anyone to tear any or all of my ideas to shreds, as long as they do it constructively. 

Right, with that out of the way, let's begin.  The humble Tie Fighter seems a good place to start this series of ship overviews because it is the backbone of the Imperial fleet, both in the fiction, and the game.  Many 100 point squadrons will include nothing but standard Ties, and many others use them to fill out whatever remaining points might be available after the 'cool stuff' has been chosen. 

First, lets go over the strengths and weaknesses of a standard Tie Fighter.  

  • Extremely cheap - 12 points minimum
  • A great dial for such a cheap ship (two different K-Turns if required, the ever-useful 1 hard turn maneuver, see below)
  • Varied and useful actions (see below)
  • Relatively hard to hit with 3 defense dice
  • Lacking in individual offensive power
  • Cannot do several important slow moves
  • Very few hit-points and no shields (susceptible to crits, bad luck rolls and being 'one shotted' by basic ships)
  • Lacking upgrade options
The Tie Fighter dial

Fun with Actions
The Tie Fighter can focus, evade, or barrel roll.  The vast majority of the time you will be focusing.  Focus is fantastic defensively because you will be rolling 3 to 4 defensive die, therefore your chance of rolling eyes is higher than a ship only rolling one or two dice.  This has the added bonus of meaning that if you roll well and do not have to use a focus to evade, when you come to fire back you have a greater chance to make your few shots count. 
Evading looks better on paper than it actually is.  Because you roll so many dice anyway, guaranteeing a single evade can actually be worse than taking a chance and using a focus, because you may well roll several eyes.  If you are at range 1 of several enemy ships, and really need to survive, then I would recommend evading.  If not then focus is almost always a better option. 
Barrel Rolling is a superb action, although obviously it is very situational.  If a barrel roll will result in you being out of line of fire, shielded by an asteroid, or blocking a key enemy move, then it is worth it.  If not, you are always better of focusing. 

Tie Fighters come in three basic skill levels, and currently have no less than six special pilots available.

Named Pilots
  • Night Beast - clocking in a Pilot Skill (PS) 5 and costing 15 points, Night Beast is extremely points efficient because of his special ability.  When he performs a green move, he can do a free focus action.  This means you can have your cake and eat it.  He can either evade and focus, or barrel roll and focus, meaning he is potentially even more maneuverable and harder to take down, upping his offensive output at the same time.  Probably my favourite of the named pilots.
  • Winged Gundark - also PS5 and 15 points, Winged Gundark is probably less useful that Night Beast because his ability only works if he hits at range 1.  This relies on him living to get to range 1, him then hitting with his three attacks, and there not being shields left to soak up the resulting critical hit.  I tend to leave him behind. 
  • Backstabber - another good bet, as his special ability (rolling an extra dice if attacking from out of arc) is less situational than that of Winged Gundark.  At PS6 and 16 points he can be a good 'lone wolf' or distraction unit.  If you are running a swarm and send him off at a tangent, he is just enough of a threat that the opposing player will have to at least think about taking care of him before he can hit them in the side. 
  • Dark Curse - Dark Curse is also a respectable PS6 and 16 points.  This guy divides opinions, but in my view, he can be pretty useful.  I think where people fall down is trying to augment his ability with further upgrades.  The ability to ignore opponents focus and/or target locks is very useful on its own, and generally results in him being the last one left alive.  Why then, would you make him even less of a target by adding expensive upgrades like Stealth Devices of Shields? If he was a major offensive threat then I could see the logic, but as it is, he is best at stripping a few shields or hull at a time while being ignored. 
  • Mauler Mithel - at PS7, we are getting pretty high up on the combat order list, and this makes Maulers special ability a little more useful, as he will generally get to actually shoot if he does get to range 1.  Firing 4 shots is respectable for anyone, let alone a ship of only 17 points.  Would I take him in a list? probably not very often, because he is quite a threat, and yet no harder to take down than a standard Tie.  In a swarm he will be among the first targeted.  As he has a Pilot Ability slot it is worth considering Swarm Tactics at 2 points, or if you are feeling like a real laugh, Expose at 4 points, for a total of 5 attack dice at range 1. 
  • Howlrunner - Ah Howlrunner, beauty that she is.  With a PS of 8 and a cost of only 18 points, Howlrunner is a total bargain.  To clarify the card text, EVERY friendly ship within range 1 of Howlrunner gets to re-roll one of its attack dice, regardless of the range to the target.  This is huge, and makes her an auto-include for nearly every swarm list, and a viable choice for any other non-elite list as well. Generally the only pilot upgrade worth having with Howlrunner is Swarm Tactics, as it can make even a crappy PS1 Academy Pilot into a PS8 monster, firing first and re-rolling a dice to boot.

Generic Pilots
  • Black Squadron - at PS4 and 14 points, the black squadron is pretty useful in large numbers.  Of comparable or better skill to the best of the generic pilots in any other ship, you can generally be sure to get a shot or two off before fire-balling.  Can also take a pilot talent, although this is generally not worth doing. 
  • Obsidian Squadron - PS3, 13 points, and generally not worth it over a Black Squadron unless you have exactly 13 points left over.  
  • Academy Ties - the lowest of the low.  At PS1, these guys are simply 12 points worth of cannon fodder who contribute a couple of dice to the weight of fire pool.  Combined with Howlrunner or the Swarm Tactics ability, they really start to shine.  

 Strengths and Weaknesses of the 'Swarm' and some Sample Squadrons

Most lists using nothing but Ties are by definition, swarms.  I would regard any list with 6 or more ships to be a swarm, and it is actually extremely difficult to get only 5 standard Ties into 100 point list.  Tie Swarms are great because every ship is quite hard to hit, and the volume of dice they put out is terrifying. 

They are tricky to fly for a number of reasons.  Foremost for beginners is the difficulty of flying in formation without hitting your own ships.  This is compounded by asteroids and finally by pesky enemy ships getting in the way.  Once the swarm is forced to break up and start attacking individually it can lose focus and get knocked out piecemeal.  If you can keep the majority of it together you will generally do some serious damage.  It is vital to be aware of upgrades that deal AoE damage when flying a swarm.  Bombs and Assault missiles are very dangerous indeed and completely or partially ignore your defense dice.  Additionally, Ion can be a colossal pain in the rear because if you opponent manages to ion your lean ship, its force 1 forward maneuver will likely bugger up the rest of your maneuvers next turn. 

It sounds like swarms have significantly more weaknesses than strengths, but let me emphasise again just how dangerous they are due to the number of focused dice they lay down, particularly with Howlrunner in charge. 

With that in mind, here are my two favourite pure Tie builds. 

5 Black Squadron Ties
1 Academy Tie
This is efficient because the Academy Tie moves first, acting as a cock-blocker and generally getting in the way.  The rest of the swarm stay together and focus fire.  With many rebel players starting to favour lists with 4 low PS ships, you will often be firing first. 

Howlrunner with Swarm Tactics
Night Beast
4 Academy Ties
This list is 99 points, giving you priority every time.  Howlrunner goes with the 4 plebs and boosts whichever one is likely to be most effective to PS8.  Night Beast and Backstabber pair off and use their speed to try and flank the enemy, forcing some tough choices.

I learned quite a bit writing this, and I hope it will be useful for you guys just starting out with the game.  I rally do love tie fighters, and it is great to play a game where the 'basic ship' is not completely useless next to later and more snazzy additions.  Next time I'll look at the Rebel basic ship - the X-Wing.
Fly Casual everyone!


  1. Nice article dude..I've been using Night Beast quite a bit in basic 5/6 tie swarm..like it. After a week of being in the game I can now do 7 tie swarms and am off for another couple of games at Steve's tonight...having played 5 today already! And about 5 yesterday...pretty much nailed moving the swarm! It's definitely the toughest part and I need to still work on it quite a bit.

    Tonight will be my first run with Howlrunner and back stabber...

    Damage output is definitely a weakness until you get close..hoping Howl will help me out on that...

    1. 7 is really the ideal number. 8 and you start diluting the effictiveness in my opinion. Howlrunner will sort you out on the damage, dont you worry.

      love how you are taking full advantage of half term by the way, I wish i had time to play games all day, ever!

    2. Howlrunner very effective. The reroll is very nice indeed in just adding the extra little dribbles of damage.
      Night Beast once again proved solid but not that special...as always
      Backstabber was tough to use, but when he did was very effective in that arc.
      Academy en masse are good, but so susceptible to being one shotted by guys like Wedge.

      My biggest struggle comes in deployment and opening moves... They are just so easy to predict once the PS1 academy pilots have been placed...not that this is a big issue, but if I can come up with a different way of playing the Swarm, I'd be happy...you know what I mean?
      Run at the enemy, gun him down, focus on one ship, flip back in, hunt another..repeat.

      Blocking is something I'm finding very useful too..clogging up the map. Although honestly, half the time I'm not doing it on purpose!

      Great fun

    3. must admit i was finding it hard to keep stuff together and hit hard enough so i started running vader with swarm tactics or squad leader, howlrunner and 4 red shirts. it leaves 3 points left which is a stealth field or some of those funky new ion missiles. The ability to focus and target lock at the same time is awesome.

      Also, personally i find low ps to be a bit of a boon. Moving first and being able to cock block and get some of those more expensive ships to lose thier actions is priceless sometimes :)

  2. Good article in my humble opinion. I have been playing swarms for the last couple of months and I would like to offer two additions:

    1. PS 1 means one can move first in most situations and therefore will not lose an action by bumping into other ships. It is also great for action denial by moving into those position the opponent will likely fly into later that turn.

    Of course, PS 1 means shooting late as well, but this can be solved with Swarm Tactics, as you pointed out.

    2. "Damage Overkill" works -imho- in favour of the swarm. E.g. 8 TIEs have 24 hitpoints distributed among them, each "defended" by three green dice and on top of that these 24 hp's are "parceled" into 8 neat packages. Say, a TIE fighter takes 2 damage and is still around, then the opponent has to choose whether to finish this ship and most likely to "waste" excess hits or try to kill a "fresh" TIE Fighter, again running at the risk of having two unfinished TIEs around, which still shoot back at him.

    1. thanks for the reply. excellent point about the damage overkill, 12 point ties with one HP remaining are seriously irritating!

    2. My only problem with Ties, is the models still cost $NZ25 a pop, and you need so many of them 8)