Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Star Wars Gaming Saga - Episode I - Imperial Assault

Thanks to the fine folks at Fantasy Flight, we now live in a Golden Age of Star Wars-themed tabletop gaming. In fact, by linking Imperial Assault, X-Wing, Armada and now Rebellion together you can create an epic, interconnected four-part campaign game filled with tension, drama and heroism.

So, here's the deal: I'm gonna play a game of Imperial Assault and the faction that wins that match will get a slight advantage in a follow-up game of X-Wing.


So, without further ago, here's Part One:

STAR WARS - EPISODE I

Aftermath

With the destruction of the Death Star, 
a spark of hope flickers in the galaxy. Even 
though the rebel base on the fourth moon of Yavin 
has been temporarily spared, it has now stands revealed:
a target for Imperial retribution. In a desperate bid to buy the 
evacuees more time, remote Rebel outposts across the galaxy have been 
tasked to intercept and disrupt Imperial communication wherever possible. 

In the nearby Saleucami system, Rebel fighters 
attempt to rendezvous with allied capitol ships to destroy 
Victory-class star destroyer before it can mobilize. This involves a dangerous trip through a sector closely monitored by the Empire. 

In an effort to safeguard the 
mission, strike team of freedom fighters attempts to knock out an Imperial monitoring station on the remote forest moon of Trieste...          

***

ROUND ONE

After disembarking from their sensor-inhibited shuttle, four Rebel agents creep through the forest and arrive at an Imperial bunker. They're hoping to create enough of a distraction to give their in-bound fighter squadron the element of surprise. Spying a small platoon of Imperials guarding the entrance to the outpost, the Rebels launch their attack!

The Wookiee warrior Gaarkhan Charges to within melee distance. He slashes at one of the Stormtroopers with his Vibro-Ax, rolling one red and one yellow die for a whopping four Damage. The Stormtrooper rolls two Blocks with his black Defense Die, so the result is two hits. Gaarkhan then uses his second action to attack the same target, scoring three more Damage, one of which is cancelled. Since the Stormtrooper only has three Health, he's defeated.

The Imperials activate their Stormtrooper platoon and exhaust the "Show of Force" Class Card to give the first trooper a green Focus die. Before he can fire, though, the Smuggler Jyn Odan takes two Strain to activate her "Quick Draw" special ability. She fires her Vintage Blaster, using two green dice, to score two Damage, three Range (just enough) and one Surge. The Stormtrooper rolls two Blocks, so he takes only one point of Damage. The same trooper retaliates, rolling one green, one blue and a bonus green die, producing five Damage, eight Range and one Surge. Gaarkhan rolls two Block for defense, taking four hits including the Surge. Gaarkhan is now Focused due to his "Rage" ability. The second Stormtrooper scores four Damage and Gaarkhan takes two more hits after rolling two Blocks.


Haunted Exile Diala Passil moves two spaces and then takes two Strain to use "Precise Strike", which will prevents her target from rolling their Defense die. She swings her Plasteel Staff, using one yellow and one green die, and gets three Damage and one Surge, eliminating the trooper.

The Probe Droid then activates, targeting Gaarkhan. It rolls two yellow and one blue die, getting four Damage. The wookiee rolls a lame single Block, resulting in three more points of Damage.

Jyn fires at the remaining wounded trooper, getting three Range, three Damage and one Surge. The Stormtrooper rolls two Blocks, so the resulting Damage is two: just enough to drop the trooper. Jyn then exploits her "Opportunist" ability, which allows her to move one space after dealing damage. She then moves another five spaces, putting her adjacent to the bunker's blast door.

The Imperial Officer also takes a shot at Gaarkhan, rolling one blue and one yellow die. He rolls five Range, two Damage and one Surge. Gaarkhan gets two Blocks, so he takes one Damage from the Surge and is already down to four remaining Health!

Squad leader Fenn Signis moves four spaces. He takes one Strain to activate "Havoc Shot", using his Infantry Rifle to target the nearby communication Terminal. He rolls one blue and one green die, getting Range three and Damage three. Unfortunately, given the Terminal's built-in Defense of one and an additional Block provided by the Probe Droid floating nearby, it only takes a single point of Damage. On the plus side, the Droid was adjacent to the Blast, so it takes a point from that.

ROUND TWO

Gaarkhan takes another two Strain to Charge in-between the Terminal, Probe Droid and the Imperial Officer. He hacks away at the Droid with his Ax, rolling a bonus green die thanks to his Focused "Rage" and getting four Damage and three Surges. The Probot rolls three Defense (of course!) but thanks to a +1 Pierce courtesy of a Surge, the Droid takes two points of Damage. The second Surge gives Gaarkhan the opportunity to deal a point of Cleave damage to the Terminal. He swings at the same target, rolling four Damage but, once again, the Probot gets a stellar three Blocks, resulting in a measly single point of hurt.

The Probe Droid activates, but before it can attack, Jyn takes two Strain to do her "Quick Draw". She rolls a Range of five, three Damage and one Surge. This time the Droid only gets one Block so it's finally destroyed!

Fenn moves up four spaces, putting him adjacent to the Imperial Officer. He blasts away at the nearby Terminal, scoring four Damage. Since the Terminal now only has a single built-in Block, it takes two Damage and gets fragged!

The Imperial Officer targets the rampaging wookiee, tapping "Show of Force" to add a bonus green die to his pool. He rolls four Damage, Range seven and one Surge. Gaarkhan rolls two Blocks in response and takes three points of Damage. Once again he becomes "Rage"-Focused!

Diala moves three spaces between the blast door and the Imperial Officer. She attacks him and gets two Damage and one Surge. The Imperial Officer rolls one white Defense die, getting a single Block and Evade, which cancels the Surge so he ends up taking just one point of Damage.

Jyn fires two blaster bolts at the Imperial Officer standing right next to her. The first shot generates three Range, one Surge and two Damage, but it's cancelled by a Dodge! The second roll is one Damage, two Surges and three Range. The Officer responds with one Block and one Evade, so the net it only one Damage! Good thing this guy wore his lucky Lepi foot today!

ROUND THREE  

The Imperials spend three Threat to spawn a new Probe Droid onto the green Deployment space

Diala uses one Action to open the blast door. As soon as she spies the E-Web Engineer stationed  inside she spends her second action to charge at them!


The Probe Droid activates, using a bonus green die thanks to "Show of Force" to  target Gaarkhan. The roll is four Ranged, two Damage and five Surges. Since the wookiee can only take one more hit, he's Wounded!

Gaarkhan rushes three spaces into the bunker and then takes a Rest action, healing all of his Strain.

The E-Web Engineer fires point-blank at Diala, rolling one yellow, one red, one blue and one green Focus die. He rolls six Range, three Damage and three Surges. Diala gets one Evade and one Block on her white Defense die, so it ends up being three points of Damage. Since the E-Web can attack twice, it takes a second shot at her, this time minus the green die. He gets three Damage, Range three and one Surge. Again, Diala rolls one Block one Evade so the net damage is only two.

Fenn Signis uses his first Action to raid the nearby equipment Crate and recovers a C-22 Frag Grenade. He then moves four spaces ahead.

The first Imperial Officer activates and fires at Jyn, rolling Range three, two Damage and one Surge. Jyn rolls her white Defense die, getting one Block so the net result is two Damage.

Knowing that time is running out and speed is of the essence, Jyn opts to move five spaces deep into the bunker. She then takes a Rest action to recover all of her Strain.

The entire Stormtrooper platoon stationed inside the bunker immediately converge on Jyn. But before they can fire, the Smuggler takes two Strain to do her "Quick Draw". She gets Range four (good), Damage two and one Surge. The trooper rolls two Defense so he just takes one point of Damage. The first trooper now attacks Jyn, getting three Range, one Damage and one Surge. Thanks to "Squad Training" that trooper decides to re-roll the green die, this time getting two Damage so now the total stands at three. Jyn rolls her white Defense die and gets one Evade and one Block so she takes two more smacks. The second trooper fires, rolling four Range, two Damage and one Surge. He also decides to re-roll the green die, getting the same result. Once again Jyn rolls one Evade and one Block, taking just one point of Damage. The third trooper rolls five Range and a whopping four points of Damage. Jyn rolls a blank, taking all four hits! She now has only one Health point remaining before she's also Wounded!

The Imperial Officer inside the bunker moves up three spaces and then fires at Jyn, rolling up seven Range and two Damage. Jyn gets one Evade, but that doesn't cancel Damage so Jyn is Wounded.

ROUND FOUR

The Imperials spend all three of their Threat to bring a second Probe Droid onto the red Re-enforcement point.

Fenn desperately heaves the Frag Grenade at the cluster of Stormtroopers, causing two points of Damage to all of them...including Jyn! This kills one of them. He then takes one Strain for "Havoc Shot" and blasts another trooper, rolling three Range, one Damage and one Surge. The trooper rolls one Block but still takes a point from the Surge, so he's killed. The Blast effect also takes out the adjacent trooper and damages Jyn for one more point.

The E-Web strikes back, firing at Diala and scoring six Damage and five Range. Her Defense roll is only one Block so she takes a crippling five points of hurt! The thing attacks her again, this time tapping "Show of Force" to get three Range, four Surges and two Damage. Unfortunately she rolls a Blank, takes all three points and is Wounded!

Gaarkhan spends two Strain and Charges onto the Terminal space. He rolls three Damage and two Surges, one of which adds to Damage and the other activates Cleave. The net Damage is two since the console has a built-in Block and another provided by the adjacent E-Web. The Cleave follows through, causing a point of Damage to the E-Web. He takes another shot at the Terminal, rolling three Damage and one Surge, so that's two more Damage!

The Probe Droid in the bunker moves onto the northernmost Terminal and fires at Jyn, rolling three Range (sufficient), two Surges and two Damage. Jyn rolls one Evade, so she takes three more points.

Diala tries to finish off the Terminal, rolling two Damage and one Surge. Unfortunately, that's just one point of Damage. She attacks it again, getting four Damage and finally destroying the effin' thing.

The Probe Droid outside moves up three spaces and then fires at Fenn but, with only three Range, it misses!


Jyn moves four spaces onto the southernmost Terminal in the Storage Room and starts blasting away at it. She rolls two Damage and one Surge, so that's two hits!

One Imperial Officer spends an Action to Order the adjacent Probe Droid to move. He then shoots at Fenn and scores three Damage, two Surges and three Range, the latter boosted by +2 by a Surge-fueled Accuracy. Fenn counters most of this by rolling three Blocks but the Officer spends the last Surge for one Damage!

The second Imperial Officer spends an Action to move adjacent to Jyn and then fires, rolling three Damage. Jyn's Defense roll is one Evade, so she takes three hits! She's just one point away from Defeat!

ROUND FIVE

Gaarkhan uses his first action to Interact with the adjacent Crate. He retrieves a Shock Grenade and then uses his second Action to heave it at the E-Web, causing a point of Damage and Stunning him.

The Imperial Officer next to Jyn shoots at her again, tapping "Show of Force" for an extra green die. The result is eight Range, four Damage and one Surge. Jyn rolls her white Defense die and gets only one Block, so she takes four points of damage and is forced to Withdraw!


Fenn moves four spaces onto the Terminal and fires at it, rolling five Range, two Surges and two hits so the net Damage is only one point. Since he's gone off by himself, he also recovers one Strain thanks to his "Lone Wolf" ability.

The Probe Droid inside the storage room moves three spaces and attacks Fenn. It gets seven Range, three Damage and one Surge. Fenn rolls one Defense, so he takes three Damage.

Diala spends a Strain to move four spaces next to the northernmost Terminal. She then rolls two Damage and one Surge so that's a total of two hits to the console.

The Probe Droid in the Atrium moves three spaces and fires at Diala, rolling two Range and three Surges! Mercifully, Diala rolls a Dodge, avoiding all damage!

The Imperial Officer outside moves four spaces and then fires at Diala. He gets two Damage, three Range (good) and one Surge. Diala responds with one Evade and one Block and only takes one point of Damage!

The E-Web Engineer discards the Stun effect.

FINAL ROUND 

Finn fires at the Terminal, rolling a lame one Damage and one Surge, all of which is soaked up. The second roll, two Damage and one Surge, only results in a single point of damage. Things are looking pretty bleak for the Rebels.

The red-tagged Probot floats in three spaces and targets Fenn with "Show of Force", getting a spare green die. It nets seven Ranged, four Damage and one Surge. Fenn rolls one Evade, so the four points of Damage comes through. Yikes!

Diala attacks her closest Terminal, rolling one hit and two Surges...I.E. one Damage. Her second strike delivers two hits and three Surges, which is two more Damage. This is still two points short of destruction.

The purple Probe Droid moves two spaces and attacks Fenn, rolling three Damage and two Surges. He only rolls a single Evade...so that's four more hits! With that, Fenn is the last Rebel to be Wounded and the Imperials win!



EPILOGUE

After the Rebel strike team was forced to withdraw, the victorious Imperial defenders quickly turned their efforts to damage control. Captain Gace Myridian, the outpost's ranking officer, stalked into the main communication room, eyeing his subordinates.

"Get back to your stations and give me a long-range sensor sweep!" he shouted.

A few tense moments passed before Lieutenant Lyncade managed to wring anything reliable out of his damaged console. As soon as his display started to show something conclusive he cleared his throat and tentatively broke the awkward silence.

"Sir, I'm picking up the Rebel's life signs! They're just a half-kilometer north west of the..."

"The rabble who attacked us are of no concern to me, Lieutenant!" Myridian growled. "Follow my orders and scan the entire system!"

Lyncade grimaced and turned back to his monitor. Just seconds after casting a wider electronic net, he noticed something odd that gave him a chill.

"Captain, I'm showing Rebel fighters coming out of hyperspace close to Saleucuma!"

"I knew it," Myridian muttered, barely audible. "This was nothing more than a diversion."

He stalked over, kicking a piece of scrap metal out of his way. It rattled along the durasteel floor, making everyone within earshot flinch. He leaned over Lyncade's monitor, forcing him to shift to the side.

"How many ships?" he demanded.

"Nothing significant," the officer replied, reaching over to bring up a detailed display of his findings. "Just a pair of T-65's and a bomber."

A red flicker from the monitor's display played across Myridian's darkening face, making him look vaguely diabolical.

"I imagine that the Rebels are spread thin right now," he mused, almost to himself. "Likely that's all they could muster. Still, it's more than enough to create a problem. What do we have in that system?"

A few beats passed before Second Lieutenant Krell won the informal competition and announced the results.

"Looks like a Victory II-class star destroyer in orbital spacedock," he declared. "It's the Indominable. She just received orders to join the assault on Yavin IV but its going to take at least thirty minutes to get her fully crewed and bring all of her systems back on-line."

Myridian stood up to his most imposing height and crossed his arms.

"I assume the Rebels are headed their way?" 

This triggered a renewed clattering of keys. This time Lyncade won the race.

"They are. Estimated time to intercept: twenty minutes."

Myridian's face flashed confusion then concern.

"The Rebels knew the Indominable was in the system but didn't know exactly where. If only we could make them pay for their mistake..."

"Actually, we might be able to, sir!" Lyncade said. "I noticed that a patrol from our Saleucuma outpost has nearly gotten back to base. If I can reach them in time, they might be able to divert and engage the Rebels." 

"Do it," the Captain ordered, then turned on his heel to face Krell. "Lieutenant, contact the Indomitable and let them know what's happening. And bring up a tactical display!" 

"Yes, sir!" the junior officer responded, fumbling over himself in his haste to execute the orders.

Myridian pivoted towards the monitor. Soon all eyes in the bunker were glued to the large display screen. They all watched intently as a blip representing the TIE patrol banked one-hundred and eighty degrees and made a direct line for the Rebel signal.

"They're on their way," Lyncade announced. "At their current speed they should engage the Rebels in approximately fifteen minutes."

A predatory smile twisted the Imperial commander's cruel features.

"Good," he intoned. "If all goes well, this Rebel filth will be exterminated once and for all!"

***

SUMMARY

First off, I just wanna ask all of the Imperial Assault nuts out there for a quick take on how I ran the game. If you notice any glaringly-obvious cock-ups, please let me know in the comments below. Constructively, if at all possible! 😁

Oh, and...for the record, I've already reviewed Imperial Assault right here.

The game makes for a decent opening chapter in my tabletop Star Wars saga, but it isn't perfect. I'm still galled by the fact that the game is essentially Descent: Second Edition with the serial numbers filed off.

My biggest problem with Imperial Assault, besides the incessant fighting, is how the game handles movement and ranged combat. Here's my gripe summarized in the original review:

"The ability to spend double movement points to elbow your way through a scrum of enemies may be forgivable in a melee-based game like Descent but it feels pretty goofy here. Yes, the firefights in the Star Wars franchise weren't very realistic but they had a certain internal logic and still felt perilous. 

"Whenever our heroes encountered hostiles in the movies, they'd quickly jump into cover and then start blasting away from across the battlefield. Not once did I ever see Luke, Leia, Han or Lando make a suicidal bee-line charge into a pack of Stormtroopers, stand right up next to them and then try to cap each one in the helmet gangsta-style at point blank range."

The problem with the game is that, like Descent, it's completely obsessed with constantly...moving... forward. That's why you'll routinely see characters armed with deadly, long-range blasters getting into Tarantino-style, Mexican standoffs with enemies armed with deadly long-range blasters. Tense, sure, but something you'd never, ever see in a real-life fire-fight let alone a Star Wars movie.

And, unfortunately, there's no easy solve for this. You could institute a "pin down" rule whereby characters equipped with ranged weapons can't do a full move if they're within LOS of a similarly-equipped enemy. Naturally, melee characters would be exempt from this since they're relying on their blaster-wielding team-mates to provide cover so they can close and engage. Once a blaster-equipped figure is engaged in melee combat, they can't "pin down" any more since they have an enemy all up in their grill trying to cave their helmet in with a vibro-ax.

Other ideas which would might make the game feel more Star Wars-y:
  • Make the Imperials a lot easier to gun down.
  • Incorporate D&D-style "attacks of opportunity". Frankly its moronic that you can move diagonally through a horde of enemies with absolutely no repercussions. 
  • Make the Imperials more legion but also less likely to hit the heroes. 
  • Reduce the Rebel's hit points as well.
  • Give advantage for cover.
  • Break up the constant fire-fights with more interesting in-game decisions and more character skill tests.
This introductory scenario is also a King Kamehameha bitch to the Rebels. You can't waste a single point of movement. You have to practically ignore all of the enemies who are attempting to trim your eyebrows with blaster bolts and prioritize destroying a bunch of inexplicably-durable Terminals.

S'funny, Han destroyed an Imperial console with a single blaster bolt on the Death Star. Hmmm...

Oh, did I mention that every single Rebel character has to be inside the bunker by the start of Round Three if they even have a hope in hell of winning? In the famous words of a certain nefarious Gungan: "Dis is nutsen!"

Anyway, Imperial Assault is fine enough for the purpose of kick-starting this crazy experiment of mine. One of these days, I'll continue the campaign just to see what wacky hi-jinx Fenn, Jyn, Diala and Gaarkhan get up to next. With a hefty spoiler warning at the start of every new entry, natch.

Side note: what do you guys think about Withdrawal = Death. I.E. Jyn was killed in action and a new character has to join the team for the next mission? Lemme know in de comments below.

Next up is a game that I consider to be virtually flawless: X-Wing. And since the Imperials won this match, they'll go into the star-fighter portion of the saga with a bonus ten squadron points to spend.

'Til next time, "Take care and may the Schwartz be with you!"

***

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Full disclosure, though: I probably won't use the money to buy coffee. I'll probably blow it all on frivolous junk like heat, internet and food.

Thanks!
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