Monday, March 14, 2016

Herding With Star Destroyers

I have been having some success recently using a pair of Raiders to set traps for my opponents.  I came across the idea for the trap as a way to work around some of the disadvantages that are built into the Imperial ships.

One of the first things that a new Armada player will learn is to avoid the front arc of both ISDs and VSDs.  Both of those ships have some tremendous firepower loaded into those arcs and for the ISD-I and VSD-I, it is concentrated at very short range.  Accidentally straying into those arcs is usually a quick way to meet your demise.  So, the tactic quickly develops of skirting that short-range firepower at long range to attack the Star Destroyers from the much safer flanks.

The Raider has the same issue with the location of its firepower, but is coupled with having no long-range firepower at all.  This can make their shots even easier to avoid.  Raiders can end up in situations where they get shot at repeatedly, with no ability to return fire.  I had initially tried using the Raider in a similar fashion as the CR-90.  Both are cheap, fast, and maneuverable so it made some sense.  But I failed miserably to ever get anything effective done with them.  The Raider really needs to have your opponent come towards it. 

It was really thinking about how to use the Raider best that helped me come up with this idea.  Why not combine these two limitations into something that can work for you?  Your opponent will naturally be inclined to avoid the front arc of a VSD or ISD.  You can use that tendency to steer them into flying towards your Raiders.  

Here's the latest list that I've been using:

  • Admiral Screed
  • Captain Needa
  • Turbolaser Reroute Circuits
  • Slaved Turrets
  • Assault Proton Torpedoes
2x Raider-I
  • Ordnance Experts
  • Assault Proton Torpedoes
Major Ryhmer
TIE Bomber
2x TIE Advanced
2x TIE Fighters

I've flopped around some on the upgrades, trying XI7s on the ISD or ACMs on the VSD, but this is what I've landed on.

The first step in setting this up is to look at the ISD and VSD.  They both have strong front arcs that your opponent is likely to avoid.  So, knowing he will go for your flank, you now want to make him choose one flank over the other.  That's where obstacles and the table edge can are your friends.  The VSD is slower and you actually want to use your own table edge to protect a flank.  With the ISD, you can use the edge of the deployment zone.  It's speed and mobility should discourage people from trying to head to the outside of you.  

By heading out from a corner you can have each of your larger ships with a protected flank.  This should encourage your opponent to fly in between them.  You're essentially inviting an Ackbar Slash.  That's where the Raiders and Squadrons are waiting.  You can force your opponent to move into them where they are the most effective.

Here's some pictures from a Store Championship where I used this tactic:

I think we were playing Superior Positions.  I've setup in my left corner and used the obstacles to encourage my opponent to be in the middle of the table.

I've probably turned the VSD a little too far into the table at this point, but overall I am pretty happy with how things look after 1 turn.

Top of Turn 2, complete with blur from sensor damage.
My opponent shifted his Demolisher across to go after my ISD, but I am feeling pretty good about the position his ISD is in.  Note, that one of his Raiders is escaping to the right.  I decided I didn't care.  The real points in his fleet were right in front of me.

Top of Turn 4.  I kill 3 ships this turn.
My opponent was the first player and chose to go with his ISD first.  He shot my ISD and moved forward out of its front arc.  My ISD then came one accuracy short of killing his Demolisher before speeding to safety.  His Demolisher ended up blocked from attacking a Raider by his own ISD.  The VSD slagged his Raider and ordered the TIE Bombers over to polish off Demolisher.  Then, each of my Raiders was able to double-arc and ram his ISD to death.

That was more or less how I wanted that game to go.  I lost a few squadrons, but no ships, while taking out most of my opponent's fleet.  Using the Star Destroyers to herd ships into the Raider's kill zone was pretty effective overall.

Playing this list has helped me find a great use for the Raider.  It doesn't want to zip around like a CR-90.  It works best at speed 2, sticking close to the big guys and only jumping to high speed for escape runs.  Keeping my Raiders between the 2 Star Destroyers has protected them and helped me get the most out of them.  I've also found that keeping my squadrons then in with the Raiders keeps them safe until they can jump out and pick off wounded ships.

So, the obvious drawback of this formation/attack plan is to attack one of the 2 Star Destroyers really hard.  I played another game with the same opponent and he had a stronger plan for attacking my formation.  Let's take a look at how that goes:

End of Turn 1
End of Turn 2
 I'm feeling pretty good about how things are looking here.  The ISD is maybe a little too far forward, but otherwise, I like my positioning.
End of Turn 3

He makes his move to swarm my ISD.  He had jumped the ISD with the gladiator in Turn 2, and I was just short of killing it with return fire.  The ISD actually survived the double tap at the start of the turn, but was now in an awful position.  Fortunately, it wasn't all bad.  My Raiders were able to kill his Raider and the squadrons finished off Demolisher.  I lost my ISD, but not before putting a hurting on his.

End of Turn 4
I lost another Raider, but was able to finish off his ISD with my VSD.  His second Gladiator survived being double arc'ed by my Raider and just barely made it out alive.

End of Turn 5
So, in the end it was a closer game, but a really good one.  He was able to gang up on a part of my fleet, but in doing so put himself in a position where the rest of my fleet got some good shots off.  

This game made me feel like I need the Relentless title on the ISD.  It will help it to better respond with Nav or Repair commands as needed.

I do feel like the formation and attack plan work though.  I need to try it against an Ackbar list at some point.

The next time you're playing an ISD or VSD, think about where you can use that front arc to herd your opponent.


  1. I usually fly my (similar-ish) ISD-1, VSD-1 and 2 GSD build with the big ships in the middle and the GSDs flanking. I usually then try and create a similar trap for my opponent with the GSDs as the jaws. I like this idea though too, and might try it! The risk is you get focused down on one flank - 2 ISD-1s might work better as they can go much faster than a VSD.

    Do you think this tactic needs the Raider, or could the job be done better by GSDs or a lone Demolisher?

    1. I've found that the VSD works well and saves me a lot of points if I keep it near my table edge. The speed doesn't matter as much in that role.

      I do think that you would want to ships in the middle and not a lone Demolisher, if only to keep up your activation count. I've used Gladiators and they also work well, but find that Raiders do the job and the point savings help out the rest of the fleet.

      I initially tried my Imperials with the big ships in the middle too. After experimenting with this setup I've found it makes my opponent's response much more predictable, which makes my job easier. The key for me seems to be using the table and deployment edges to keep my opponent from getting outside the trap.

    2. Agreed - a lot of Imperial tactics seem to be about 'boxing in' your opponent. Another reason why I don't mind going second, as I can pick missions which either have a nasty disadvantage in firepower for my opponent or make their movement predictable. Most people pick the latter which is helpful.

  2. This is more or less the same strategy I had with my 4 ship Tarkin list for the Mid Hudson Valley store championships. It worked a treat!

    Its also just about the only way I get mileage out of Gladiator 1s honestly, and Tarkin feels really expensive with less than four vessels on the board- good still, but expensive.

    The real issue Im having is fighting 2x Assault Cruiser lists, with a CR90 with support upgrades and a few jamming fighters. They just fly in circles, and 7 red dice is alot of ranged doom.