Command Cards in the Heart of the Empire

When Jabba's Realm was released, I spent a great deal of time focused on the deployment cards.  Seeing memorable characters released for a game I enjoy often sucks the air out of any interest I have in the other aspects of the product.  Heart of the Empire has followed a similar path, and therefore I thought it may be valuable to do an assessment of what Command cards, if any, are truly noteworthy out of the new expansion and its related Ally/Villain packs.  Let's begin!

Special thanks to boardwars.eu for getting the images for these cards up so quickly.  I wouldn't be writing this article otherwise!
Also, I recommend checking out Brett Kelly's Wave X Command Card Impressions.  He's a skilled player with an eye for strategy, so if he and I differ in opinion I recommend listening to him.  I held off reading his article while writing mine to keep my opinions as independent as possible, but I wouldn't be surprised if our opinions have some overlap.

Let's score cards using a score card

I've always had a certain amount of trepidation when it comes to ranking cards in terms of power or effectiveness.  Often, a card's power is relative to the type of deck it fills and the character of meta that emerges.  Because of this, it's often difficult to assign a meaningful rating in the abstract as a card could perform well in one type of list and poorly in another.

However, I would still like to utilize some type of rating system.  For one, it's a nice way to drive a discussion about a card.  And two, it's more entertaining to read.  It enables agreement/ disagreement and encourages participation from the reader.

Therefore, I'm going to try to remedy some of my problems with rating systems by clearly identifying what my ratings communicate.  To do this, I'm going to approach this by rating the likelihood that a card will see play.  Because I teach an appellate writing class, I'm most comfortable with a A - F scale.  Here are my ratings:

A: These cards can be justified in any Command deck with any list.  These cards offer a high degree of flexibility and utility.  Examples: Take Initiative, Element of Surprise, Planning.

B:  Cards with this rating completely define an archetype or list.  These cards are generally limited to a specific figure or trait, but carry a power level that often outweighs any limitation on their use.  Examples: Son of Skywalker, Call the Vanguard, Comm Disruption.

C: These cards are often useful, but are chosen to provide a specific type of utility that is only valuable in certain situations or are limited by trait/figure restrictions.  Furthermore, they are often chose at the expense of other cards that may provide equal value.  Examples: Blitz, Tough Luck, Run for Cover.

D: At this rating, these cards are only run for their novelty, but are costed in line with their utility.  These cards generally don't offer any ability to alter the game state in a significant way.  Examples: Explosive Weaponry, On A Mission, Force Lightning.

F: These cards won't see play because they are too expensive for what they do or they just don't do anything useful at all.  Examples: Counter Attack, Hide in Plain Sight, Expose Weakness.

Keep in mind that these ratings are to be read in context of where I currently see the meta - over time these cards may get better or worse.  Moreover, I could just be extremely wrong in judging some of the cards.  It's a subjective exercise and most of my judgments are biased by my own playgroup.


Brawler Cards

Face to Face  

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In light of Rangers, Weequays, and Nal Hutta Swamp, melee figures have gotten a bit of a bad rap recently, especially given that a player can simply position their ranged figures outside of a melee figure's movement range. Face to Face helps alleviate this problem in a minor way, essentially granting a figure movement akin to Urgency and enabling that figure to perform an attack.  That said, I think I would be remiss not to recognize that it is  more flexible as it could also be used to enable a melee figure to move and attack, and then either perform a special action (like Vader's Force Choke) or simply a move action to retreat to safety.  Finally, the last benefit of this card that needs recognition is the surprise value it provides by altering an opponent's expectation of safety.  If you've played against Jedi Luke, I'm sure you've done a lot of counting.  Face to Face, in conjunction with Force Rush, Urgency, Fleet Footed, and others, make it extremely likely that a melee figure will be able to move further than an opponent expects.

C: Face to Face is a good card if and when you absolutely need the extra movement to perform an attack.  However, the card is limited to the Brawler trait and provides a benefit that is more or less duplicative of some 0-point cards.  It will see play in melee heavy lists of Brawlers, but probably won't make the cut in any other archetype.

Looking for a Fight

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I really love cards like Looking for a Fight because they add more decision-making options when building Command decks.  The card not only gives a free damage (similar value to Positioning Advantage), but allows you to either move your figure one space or push an adjacent small figure one space (similar to Fleet Footed).  While it seems like a well-costed hybrid of the two cards mentioned, I want to highlight the ability to push an enemy figure a space.  This can be used to move an enemy off an objective, move an enemy away from a defensive bonus (such as C-3P0), or trigger Parting Blow.  All in all, this is a powerful card for 0 points.

C: I have only positive things to say about this card, but I can't rate it any higher due to the current position Brawlers hold in the meta (particularly melee Brawlers).  While the card is great, I think it won't see a lot of play unless it's part of a dedicated Brawler list.  Moreover, even in that list, I think it will run into a lot of competition and therefore won't be a staple of all Brawler lists, only a good option.

 


Vehicles and Heavy Weapons

Armed Escort

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For what was a completely dead trait when I started Imperial Assault, Vehicles continue to be bolstered with cards that directly increase in value with every added Vehicle in a list, particularly with defensive and movement bonuses.  Armed Escort continues in that vain, providing an area-of-effect defensive buff.  While many players will think of playing this on the AT-DP, I can see it being as strong when played on a Jet Trooper or 0-0-0 that is positioned just behind the AT-DP, giving it a free block and evade for an entire round.  Moreover, when paired with Fuel Upgrade, removing any Vehicle will be extremely difficult.

B: In a few sets, when we receive four or five more Vehicle Command cards, Armed Escort will likely be rated a C.  However, currently this card is a required part of a Command deck that accompanies the Vehicle archetype.  It should and will be in every deck that utilizes the Vehicle trait.

Forward March

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As with Armed Escort, Forward March continues the trend of Vehicle Command cards sticking to a specific theme - defensive and movement bonuses.  In this case, Forward March provides each friendly figure within two spaces of the chosen figure one movement point.  This card can provide a lot of value in the abstract - with an AT-DP, its probable that your entire list could receive a movement point in round one.  However, I think this card has a problem in that it fills a void that doesn't need filling.  Most Imperial lists feature ranged units, which typically don't need a single movement point.  Moreover, if an Imperial list is running melee units, I don't foresee those figures being in a situation where they are both within two spaces of a Vehicle AND in a position where a single movement point will make a difference for them.  It's an extremely narrow set of circumstances that probably won't come to pass.

D: Armed Escort provides a defensive bonus to multiple units and therefore envisioning the value you could receive from it for 1 point is quite easy.  In contrast, Forward March doesn't give nearly the benefit, but still costs 1.  And, while Vehicle Command cards are sparse, there are enough neutral cards in the 1-point range that could easily out perform Armed Escort.  Therefore, I think you'll only see this card when someone is making an all-Vehicle list with every Vehicle Command card they can find, but not in streamlined, competitive decks.

Collateral Damage

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On its face, Collateral Damage appears to be a good card.  Not only does it provide 2 damage for 1 point, but it has the added benefit of being applied to figures within two spaces of the target (as opposed to only adjacent spaces).  Recognizing its value, I'm still not sure this card is very efficient given the importance of removing figures in Imperial Assault.  Typically, you'd rather put extra damage on your primary target in hopes of removing that target before it is able to activate as opposed to spreading damage on other nearby figures.  Of course, Collateral Damage may let you remove a figure that was damaged and moved behind another figure, but outside that narrow situation I don't see this card providing a lot of value.

D: Collateral Damage is fairly costed for its utility, but its problem is that it doesn't adequately improve a player's chance of winning the game.  Splitting damage is generally bad and this card does just that.  Ultimately, this card will see play in a Heavy Weapon list simply because it has the Heavy Weapon trait, but won't likely make the cut in lists looking to take part in the competitive meta.

Heavy Ordnance

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It's Positioning Advantage, but with the unfortunate condition that it can only be used with a Heavy Weapon.  Given that restriction, the card really loses a lot of its appeal, as it's likely to be a dead card in your hand.  As for the second clause regarding objects, I don't know what to make of this ability.  Perhaps there's an upcoming map that will have objects, but if not this card doesn't provide enough value to let it compete with many other 0-point cards.

F: Frankly, I don't think this card will even see play in Heavy Weapon lists.  At least Collateral Damage has some weird synergy with Explosive Weaponry that would encourage its inclusion in a Command deck.  Heavy Ordnance is just a worse version of a card we already have.  Therefore, I don't think players will use it at all.

Force Users

Force Jump

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I find it a little strange that this Command card was released alongside Ahsoka, a figure that has an ability that makes this card completely unnecessary.  Therefore, this card really only has potential with the other Force Users in the game, which is still pretty limited.  The card provides 5 movement points and the figure gains Mobile, possibly altering a figure's movement in a drastic way when used to skip over impassable and difficult terrain.  Unfortunately, I don't believe this card is costed correctly.  It has its utility, but that utility is already offered by a number of cards that cost 0 points in the form of Force Rush, Fleet Footed, and Urgency.  

D: I actually think this card will be kind of cool in an all-Force User list, but in almost every other situation that 1 point will be spent on something else.

Force Push

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Force Push has a lot going for it.  It's one point, it doesn't cost an action, and it lets you interact or interfere with both friend and foe alike.  It can be used to move your own figures to a more defensive position, move your enemies to a vulnerable position, or simply knock an enemy off an objective.  All said and done, it's a relatively cheap card that can have an interesting and useful impact.

D:  Unfortunately, this card is a victim of its trait.  It can only be used by Rebel Force Users, and I unfortunately don't see this card competing against the litany of other 1-point cards, especially since it's not that typical to run more than one Force User at a time in Rebel lists.  That means that this card will likely only find a home in an mostly-Force User list and therefore I can't rate it any higher.

Dark Energy

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The Sith version of Force Push, Dark Energy has many of the benefits I just described, except it only pushes a figure 1 space and deals 1 damage.  However, Dark Energy has one clear differentiating factor over Force Push - Emperor Palpatine.  Unlike Force Push, Palpatine can leverage Dark Energy into an attack using his Emperor ability by pushing a friendly figure into a position where it can attack an enemy figure.  Moreover, because this card doesn't cost an action, he's still free to Force Lightning or move twice if necessary.  This card has all the benefits of Force Push and synergy with Palpatine.

C: I think there will be a number of lists that run Emperor Palpatine in the coming months and this card will definitely be on players' radar in order to utilize the Emperor ability.  I don't think this is a must-include by any stretch, but it will certainly be in consideration for a number of lists, especially in conjunction with Darth Vader.


Character-Specific Cards

Arcing Shot

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I've had, and still have, my doubts about the efficacy of Drokkatta.  He's a strange figure and frankly this is a strange card.  In imagining the use cases for Arcing Shot, the simplest approach is utilizing it to hit a figure that has tucked itself a couple spaces behind a wall.  However, I almost overlooked that it can also be used to target a figure that is obstructed by a different figure, which may create some offensive opportunities that weren't feasible in the past.  While this ability has its benefits, I unfortunately don't see it as having the potential to change the course of a match even when used optimally.

D: I don't think this card is useless, but I have concern over the opportunity cost of bringing it over its competitors in the 1-point slot of a Command deck.  Ultimately, most players won't choose it in meta-oriented lists.  That said, I'm happy it is only 1 point as it doesn't punish players for trying to have fun with a character-specific Command card.

Droid Mastery

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Here's the deal - the price of this card is perfect.  This card has to be 0 points because J4X-7 isn't all that good.  While I enjoy the idea of a little droid companion, J4X has no sustain and probably won't be on the board to utilize this card.  Thus, the only question is whether this card is worth including at all.  Outside of the fun factor, there are a significant number of 0-point cards that are better than this one.

D: Despite not being all that useful, people will build decks meant to utilize J4X-7 and this card will be included.  The end.

Field Supply

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Field Supply provides an insane amount of value for 1 point.  If you imagine that most figures translate a surge into 2 damage, Field Supply essentially dishes out 4 damage.  Furthermore, it provides a reroll to all friendly figures that spend a damage or surge power token, not just the figures that received tokens via Field Supply and those figures can be anywhere on the map.  When combined with Rangers, Han, or Chewy, Field Supply is an amazing card.

B:  If someone is running Ko-Tun, they are definitely running Field Supply.  The jury is still out whether Ko-Tun will be part of the meta, but this card certainly will accompany her as part of a player's Command deck.

Right Back At Ya!

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Ignoring the fact that this is an extremely boring ability for a really exciting and fun character, this card is really great.  For one point, you at a minimum get to deal 1 damage to your attacker, but who am I kidding, considering that Ahsoka gets a block token for free you will probably be dealing 3 damage close to every time you play this card.  As an added bonus, this triggers when an attack is declared, meaning that if a low-health figure declares an attack on Ahsoka, you can play this and remove the attacking figure before the attack actually takes place -  all at the low cost of 1-point.

B: I'm actually going higher than I expected on this card.  In some ways, I could see players leaving this card out of their Command deck if Ahsoka was merely an addition to a mostly Trooper list.  However, at 1 point, I think this card is nearly guaranteed to accompany Ahsoka wherever she ends up.

Unlimited Power

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In theory, I like the idea of this card.  I enjoy that it enhances an existing ability and that it's thematic.  However, after using Palpatine, I don't believe this card provides the value it needs to, especially at 2 points.  As is the case with a number of cards, Unlimited Power solves a problem that doesn't exist.  The Emperor ability doesn't require an action, so it can be activated at range seven with a move, and range ten with two moves.  Furthermore, Palpatine is a powerful figure and is often already moving with the bulk of his allied forces (after all, for 8 points you can't afford to not be using Emperor on the turns you're not holding Unlimited Power).  I unfortunately can't see a situation where this card would be useful.

F: I don't think this card would be run if it was 1 point.  Nobody will run it at 2 points.

Wreak Vengeance

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The last of what I would say have been a disappointing set of character-specific Command cards, Wreak Vengeance is at least functionally adequate.  For 1 point, I think this card provides a decent amount of value, providing Maul with a free Cleave 2 and reach (I'm assuming most players will typically choose to Focus him by default).  Considering the card is 1 point, 2 damage from the Cleave likely justifies its cost.

D:  I was right on the fence between a C and D rating, but I don't think most players will choose to include this card in their list when compared with other 1-point cards.  After all, Maul gets to Focus himself by default.  Thus, when players are deciding whether they'd like to have access to Cleave 2 and Reach OR a different 1-point card that will increase damage to the primary target of an attack, I believe they will always choose a card that increases damage to the primary target.


All-Purpose Cards

Prepared for Battle

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This is one of the most difficult cards to rate because I don't quite yet know how to value power tokens.  In terms of what it offers, Prepared for Battle looks quite good, providing up to four power tokens when used by a Leader.  I've been quite critical of the Leader trait over the past year, but this card helps justify it on figures like Han, Ahsoka, Captain Terro, and Emperor Palpatine.  Considering it doesn't cost an action, I think this card likely justifies its cost.  However, the one problem I have with it is that it is a very incremental power swing.  Unlike cards such as Call the Vanguard or Squad Swarm, this card won't likely enable you to remove a figure before it activates.

C:  I think this card will at least be tried and will see play in certain lists.  That said, in certain archetypes, this card is up against some stiff competition and likely will have to be passed up in favor of more game-changing cards.

Officer's Training

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This is by far the best card to come out of this wave.  It's 0 points. It lets you reroll a die.  And it cycles a card.  Better yet, Officer's Training is usable by any figure.  Therefore, if you really need some damage, you can forgo the draw mechanic and reroll a die.  The fact that this card came out alongside Rogue Smuggler and Ahsoka just makes it that much better.

A: This card will be considered for every list in the game.  If for nothing else, lists with weak Leaders will still use it to cycle a 0-point card for a possible 3-point card.

Death Blow

This is an excellent card for melee characters, particularly because the condition is so easy to fulfill.  Ranged figures are quite common, so for 1 point Death Blow essentially grants 2 damage, which is efficient for its cost.

C: Despite the efficiency of Death Blow, I think it is still up against some stiff competition in the 1-point slot.  Moreover, it still faces the limitation that it must be played with a melee figure, and it's not clear that this card is valuable if you're only running one or two.

Fool Me Once

I don't know what this card accomplishes.  There are very few cards that utilize the Command card discard pile (Targeting Network, Shared Experience, Leia Organa), and therefore even at 0 points I don't see much value in this card.   On the plus side, it lets you draw a card if used with a Spy, as long as you're willing to suffer 2 strain.  However, there is no way this card out values a signifcant number of other 0-point cards.

F: In the current meta, no one will use this card.  Things could change in the future, but for now it's dead on arrival.

Balancing Force/ Chaotic Force/ Corrupting Force

FFG gave us an interesting set of cards with these three, reflecting each other in function but differentiating based on faction.  Overall, I would say that I find the Rebel version is the best, as you could play it after you've removed an opponent's figure, taking advantage of the heal while your opponent can't take advantage of the effect (assuming your opponent doesn't have other damaged figures).  In that way, it has the potential to be a decent heal, even though is a difficult scenario to orchestrate.  The Mercenary and Imperial versions are a different story, in that your opponent will always be able to utilize the card to their advantage.  At 2 points, there's basically no reason to play a card that benefits you and your opponent when you could play a card that benefits only you.

F:  None of these cards will see play.  At 0 points, players would maybe give these cards a chance - sort of a live and let live approach.  At 2 points, there are too many alternatives that provide drastic benefits to ONLY the player using the card.


Others

Battle Scars

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This card is insane for 0 points. A wild power token (very likely a surge) is at least worth 1 point given the cost of Blitz.  The potential to get 2 is really just icing on the cake.  However, the one catch is that it has to be played with a Wookie - likely Chewbacca or Drokkatta at this point.  Their relative position in the meta will determine how much we see this card.

B: I actually think this card will define any list that includes a Wookie.  At 0 points, the card is extremely efficient.

Concentrated Fire

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This is an excellent card.  It lets you add a red die to an attack with a condition that is easy to fulfill in a Trooper-themed list.  The downside is that the figure becomes stunned, but this is hardly a setback if that figure has already activated and attacked in a group - especially if it enables you to remove an enemy figure of value.  At 1 point, this card provides high amount of value.

B: This card has the potential to add 3 damage to a Trooper's attack.  That is an amazing bump in damage and therefore this card will be included in every Trooper list at 1 point.

Ready Weapons

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At 0 points, this card provides a significant amount of value.  In a three-figure group, it provides the most benefit as it's likely that all three damage tokens will be utilized in Round two.  However, two-figure groups can also take advantage of this card, even if one figure will need to deal out its damage tokens over two rounds.  That said, the real limitation of this card is that if it is drawn after Round one, a figure will need to use an action to use it, and that may not be possible if it would cause that figure to forgo an attack (you wouldn't do that).  So, there is a timing limitation, but at 0 points I think this is a risk worth taking.

C: This is a great card, but I think many players will still pass on it in favor of some other 0-point cards.  It will certainly show up, but players will be justified in taking other cards over it.


Conclusion

Overall, I wouldn't consider this new set of Command cards to be particularly stellar.  There are a few standouts, but most of them are mundane in what they provide.  I would argue that Brawlers are the biggest winners in this set, followed by Vehicles.  If you agree or disagree with my analysis, I'd love to hear from you.  Thanks for reading!

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