Occasionally, I forget that Imperial Assault is a game about dice. When prepping for a tournament or game night, I spend a great deal of time poring over my list and command deck. Then, while playing, I'm engulfed by the multitude of positioning and objective-based choices available to me. Between the decisions in and out of the game, I very rarely give a lot of thought to my dice.
That needs to change.
I want to start this article with small anecdote featuring Captain Terro, hero of the wasteland as he is now known, and a Rancor. The Rancor approached Captain Terro at the end of round 1. Captain Terro activated, using Flamethrower and and his attack on the Rancor. The Trained Rancor rolled a paltry 1 block and 1 evade (cancelled by Weakened) and took about 5 damage. Round 1 ended and at the beginning of Round 2, I played Call of the Vanguard and performed another attack with Captain Terro for another 5 damage on the Rancor. Having initiative, I activated Captain Terro, used Flamethrower and attacked the Rancor again. The beast again rolled 1 block and 1 evade (again cancelled by Weakened). The Rancor died right then before ever performing an attack.
This story is not meant to illustrate some impressive play on my part. Quite the contrary, actually. I got extremely lucky. However, it does illustrate an important aspect of Imperial Assault that we should keep in mind when playing: what are the best and worst case scenarios for me when it comes to my dice rolls?
Before I get too deep into this, I want to premise this by establishing how I want to analyze a dice pool. Clearly, more dice are always better. However, we need to be wary as more dice means more variance. So while more dice means you should see more damage, surges, blocks, and evades, it can also throw off your expectation for damage and survivability, possibly causing you to make less than optimal decisions during a game. As Obi-Wan would say: your dice can deceive you, don't trust them.
For example, let’s examine the scenario I described above. My opponent had a Trained Rancor, allowing him to roll 2 black dice per attack. As you can observe, of its six sides, the black die has one-3 block side, two-2 block sides, two-1 block sides, and one- 1 evade side. Now, I’ll admit that rolling two of these bad boys (or girls) feels really good. In my head, I’m thinking: I deserve 4 blocks. Yep, that’s what I should get. I see 3 sides of this die that has 2 or 3 blocks – so I have a good chance of getting at least 4 blocks, maybe even 5. Moreover, even if I have a bad to mediocre roll, I should still get 3 blocks, right?
Well, maybe I do deserve 3 to 4 blocks (I’m nice, so why not?) and maybe I’ll roll that many as well, but it would show a lack of foresight for me to play the game in a way that presumes this outcome. Rather, I should assume that I will roll the worst possible results and make decisions around that because if I don’t, Captain Terro may make me regret it. With this in mind, I would like to briefly go over each die and hopefully provide a meaningful analysis of the best and worst you can expect from them.
The Red Die: The most straight forward of the attack dice, meant to provide high damage at a consistent rate. There is only one side of the red die that has a single result – 1 damage. However, the rest of the die gives you 2 damage, 2 damage and 1 surge, or 3 damage. Keep this in mind not only when attacking, but also for Grenadier and those nasty Banthas.
The Blue Die: The die that’s meant to put the “range” in “ranged attack.” As you can see, this dice is not nearly as generous with its symbols as the red die. In fact, half the sides of this die only give you one result and the other half only provide 2 results. Now, if you need range, your analysis changes completely, as a missed attack means you can roll all the symbols you want and you still won’t accomplish anything. Keep in mind that the worst you can do on the blue die is 2 range.
The Green Die: My personal favorite die because it very rarely lets you down. While it doesn’t provide any spectacular results, it only has one side with 1 result. Every other side provides you 2 damage or 1 damage and 1 surge. It also gives you a little range, providing as many as 3 and as little as 1. All that said, it’s a very dependable die.
The Yellow Die: This is generally the dice that breaks my heart the most often, probably because half the die faces provide only a single result (two sides have 1 surge and one side has a single damage). Moreover, at its best, I’m getting 2 surges and 1 damage or 2 damage (debatable which is better depending on your surge abilities). Even the range results are small if you get them at all.
The Black Die: Another relatively straightforward die, but can still feel quite swingy from time to time. The black die’s strength is that you are always going to get a result. I like this as when I’m rolling it, I can always count on some reduction of my opponents results in one way or another. That said, sometimes it’s not enough. I think the big takeaway for the black die is to remember that half the sides only provide a single result, so the worst case for this die is the norm, not the exception.
The White Die: Perhaps the most divisive die of them all, it fields quite a diverse set of results. The bad news is that it can literally give you nothing at all (feels terrible). Four of the five remaining sides give you 1 or 2 results, which actually puts it closer in line with the black die (two-2 result sides and three-1 or less result sides). And, the big characteristic of the white die – the dodge result (or “X man” in popular circles), which causes an attack to do no damage regardless of the attack dice. Quite powerful, but not very reliable.
To leave this off, I'd like to do one more analysis, this time with an attacking figure - this example is from a loss I experienced in the Minnesota Regional this year. Here's the scenario:
I was at 34 points and my opponent at 37. I had one activation left, the Grand Inquisitor. He had one activation left, his Elite Stormtroopers. He already occupied an objective that would give him 3 points for the win at the end of the round. However, if I could kill two Stormtroopers, I would win. Luckily, my opponent was kind enough to have two Stormtroopers adjacent to each other, one at 3 health and one at a full 5 health. Is it realistic that I'll be able to accomplish defeat these two figures and win the game?
Should I expect to kill two Stormtroopers in this scenario? Well, let's do a little analysis. I need at least 5 damage to kill a Stormtrooper outright assuming I'm going to also have a surge for Pierce 3. On top of that, I also need another surge to activate the Cleave ability. So essentially, I need to roll 5 damage and 2 surges (there are other variations, but for this exercise we'll just pretend I need this since the other).
Here's what I rolled: R: 1 damage, G: 1 damage and 1 surge, Y: 1 surge.
With that, it didn't matter what he rolled as I had only netted a max of 3 damage. Just unlucky I guess.
It actually wasn't very realistic for me to expect to accomplish my desired result. Thinking back to our dice discussion, there was a good chance I'd see two or three damage from the red die. At that point, I'm counting on the green and yellow dice for 4 or 5 more symbols - which means I need to roll at least 2 symbols on the green die and 2 - 3 more on the yellow die. I'm not sure if you've been keeping track, but I'm nearly asking for the impossible - that I roll the best face of not just one die, but every die in my dice pool.
These are the types of analyses that I need to make more quickly and frequently. While this example was a long-shot, do-or-die situation, I make many of these types of decisions every game without considering the consequences of my dice. It's time to start.