Heart of the Empire solved one of the most pressing issues in Imperial Assault - the inability to use the most iconic figures from the Star Wars universe: Han, Chewbacca, and Darth Vader. Not only have their attachments brought about the potential for new lists, but also the revival of some old ones. I would like to share one of those today, and ask for some advice finishing it off.
I'm typically an Imperial player. I love massing troopers, grabbing as many objectives as I can, and achieving victory through the strategic use of high figure counts and attrition. However, I've recently been taken with an archetype that I thought was all but dead - the Smuggler Box. In contrast to trooper-themed lists, the Smuggler Box relies on good positioning, defensive bonuses, and efficient trades. While it doesn't contest objectives well, it attempts to maintain superiority by locking up points in high-cost figures. The list is high risk and high reward, making it extremely satisfying to play when you pull off the right combination of attacks and defensive maneuvers to swing a game in your favor. Needless to say, I'm enamored with mastering the archetype and possibly using it for a competition, even if it's not top tier.
The Core List
I want to begin by establishing the pieces of the list that are non-negotiable. I want to do this for a few reasons. First (and most importantly), I enjoy all the figures in this list. I'm running them because they're fun to use and I want to keep using them. And second, I want a firm starting point to help simplify the spending of my remaining points. Often, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of how to spend points is incredibly difficult when at any point you could completely rework the list. I would rather come at the question of how to spend the remaining points with more constraint - focusing on how to get the most value out of the remaining points.
Here's the core list and Command cards.
Before getting too deep into analyzing how to finish the list, I believe it's important to be specific as to how the list plays. At a high level, the entire list is built around finding a secure position for C-3PO that enables both Han and Jyn to fire on an objective. Generally, most maps facilitate this well, but it can be circumvented when objectives are spread out and separated by walls.
Han and Jyn provide the bulk of the offense. Not only do they both have outstanding surge abilities, but they also roll consistent dice pools, utilizing primarily green dice. In addition to that, they both possess abilities that allow them to attack multiple times per round. Jyn can utilize Hair Trigger at the beginning of an opposing figure's activation, and Han can utilize Return Fire any time he is attacked (once per round for both abilities). On top of that, Han gets a free attack at the end of every round. When positioned correctly, these two can control an objective or corridor with ease, threatening high damage, impressive range (especially with Hera), and the Stun condition.
Again, they are the biggest threats in the list and ideally will draw the most fire, because they are also the tanks of the list - all thanks to Cunning. Perhaps my favorite ability in all of Imperial Assault, Cunning takes the mediocre survivability of Han and Jyn and, in the right circumstances, gives them extreme longevity. In combination with C-3P0 and the white die, Command cards like Brace for Impact, Smuggled Supplies, and Armed Escort can give these two figures about three Blocks and three Evades on defense. Regardless of the efficacy of an opponent's figure, it's very difficult to push damage under these circumstances. They are the tip of the spear as well as the shield for the rest of the list.
And their support is what makes the list so special. C-3P0 is the most important, granting a bonus Evade as well as Focus tokens. Hera also offers a great deal of value with Call the Shots passing Surges and occasionally accuracy to Han or Jyn, not to mention being a potential threat on her own. And finally, Ahsoka is the last piece of the support package. Now, I would traditionally view Ahsoka as more of an offensive figure, but in this list that is not her primary purpose. This list can't afford to send any figure out on their own, Ahsoka included (with Weequays/Rangers, I wouldn't say we're in a "send your figure out" meta at all).
Therefore, Ahsoka fills a much different role as a modified support. In the early stages of the game, she primarily is responsible for threatening objectives. With Vigor and Force Leap, she can access most objectives on the first turn and force your opponent to respond to the location of your choice, which is generally where you've set up the Smuggler's Box. In the following turns, she serves as a defensive figure keeping your opponent away from Han and Jyn, as well as removing partially damaged enemies. If Han and Jyn trade well enough in rounds one through three, the remainder of the game can be the Ahsoka show, where she removes your opponent's remaining threats.
That's how the list operates. Like I mentioned, it's a list that requires a high degree of skill and heavily relies on effective positioning. If played correctly, it can run with some of the popular meta lists(including Scum Hunters). If played poorly, the game will end very quickly. Unlike most lists, this list's effectiveness doesn't decline linearly, but exponentially.
Potential Finishing Touches
I've tried a number of variations with the remaining 11 points, all of which I've liked, but not loved. Here's what I've tried and what I'm considering.
It's hard to ignore Gideon as an option for this list. He grants movement points, Focus, and is another figure with the Leader trait. All that said, I fell out of love with him pretty quickly. I found that most of my figures didn't need extra movement, as the Smuggler Box setup often wasn't far from where I started. His ability to Focus also seemed a bit redundant, as most of my figures didn't seem to need that either (although figures can always use another die, I suppose). Despite those two observations, he's still in the running, but I'm not excited about including him.
I tend to enjoy playing Obi-Wan, but have my doubts about how he fits into this list. While he's incredibly tanky (especially when paired with C-3P0), I often feel as if I'm wasting his potential. Typically, I like to move him onto the map and contest objectives. However, as already detailed, that isn't how this list tends to operate. Therefore, Old Ben must be kept on a short tether and generally I don't feel I get much value from him. That said, perhaps I'm overthinking how much he needs to accomplish. Perhaps his value is in blocking line of sight and doing a bit of zoning for my other figures (although Ahsoka is already filling that role to some extent). He's still in the running for this list, but I still have reservations on his proper use.
Not only is Ko-Tun new with Heart of the Empire (a clear benefit in my mind), but also serves as a hybrid offensive figure and support figure. With two blue dice and one green die, Ko-Tun doesn't hit the hardest, but Focus and professional go a long way to solving that problem. However, Ko-Tun's real benefit comes from Arms Distribution and Dead Precise - making your other figures all the more deadly and the removal of C-3P0, Officers, and Greedo a certainty in most cases. Ko-Tun is nice in this list because she is played in a very straightforward manner - she sits in the box the same way your other ranged characters do. However, in my experience she dies slightly too quickly, and that's even when I feel I'm playing conservatively. That said, she's still a contender and if nothing else, she's a blast to play.
Rebel High Command
I have egregiously undervalued this card. Being able to reliably draw three Command cards at the end of the round is an incredible benefit, and one that synergizes well with the Smuggler Box archetype in particular. In this archetype, each individual unit holds a lot of value and retains it via the bonuses inherent to the list; e.g., Han and Jyn using Cunning. Therefore, Command cards go that much further because they often add to the defensive and offenses bonuses of those figures. I am extremely tempted to make this a staple in the list and will be hard pressed not to include it.
Occasionally, certain archetypes create viability where none previously existed - hence, I tried out Leia in this list for a couple games with varying results. Leia is, in my opinion, still a very powerful character - particularly when paired with Han, because he hits like a truck. Not to mention, Battlefield Leadership gives you access to an additional Stun chance with Jyn if the first attack fails to apply it. Unfortunately, my experience with Leia is a bit similar to Ko-Tun, in that Leia has a tendency to be removed too easily, even when being played conservatively. Moreover, if your opponent is pressing the advantage, she doesn't offer much in terms of stopping power on her own (and occasionally you would like her to be able to move and contest an objective without using Battlefield Leadership). For those reasons, I don't think she's very likely a contender any longer, but she's fun to run if you're looking for a blast from the past.
I was, and still kind of am, a Drokkatta hater. However, I continuously play and observe games that tend to prove me wrong. Moreover, Drokkatta fits in this list remarkably well for a few reasons. First, Drokkatta's 12 health and free block provide a remarkable amount of staying power when used in conjunction with the Smuggler Box - a lacking piece of the list outside of Han. Moreover, Drokkatta serves as an extremely powerful combo piece with Han and Jyn. Both Han and Jyn provide high damage, single target attacks that often land somewhere between 5 and 7 damage. There are a significant number of figures that tend to live with 1 or 2 health after those types of attacks. Drokkatta could potentially synergize well with those two (and Ahsoka) by adding a couple extra, unavoidable damage per round. Drokkatta is high on my watch list and I anticipate giving her a shot in the near future.
Ah, the mighty Chewbacca. When I determined I had 11 points floating, I couldn't resist the thematic and recently upgraded Wookie. While I would say he doesn't fit the Smuggler Box archetype very well, he certainly has some allure to him. He's extremely difficult to remove, especially if provided the power of C-3P0. He's also no slouch on offense, and the fact that he's a Smuggler is all the better. All that said, he comes at the cost of any other support figure or upgrade. Moreover, he has a similar problem to Obi-Wan in that it's not entirely clear how he should be played in the Smuggler Box list. I need to play with Chewbacca in this list a bit to get a sense how he feels, but currently I am hesitant as to whether he should be included.
I came at this with a couple goals. First, I wanted to share this list because I'm having a blast playing it. Not only can it compete with Hunter-themed lists (though it is rough), but it encourages a unique play-style. And second, I'm extremely interested in advice on how to finish the list. I've provided a framework and I hope I get some good suggestions. Thanks for reading!
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