It's that time of year again. Once every four months or so, FFG rotates out one of the three maps used for official tournaments, and introduces a new one. This is one of the aspects of Imperial Assault that I love, as it keeps the game fresh even when we're between product cycles. With a new map, there's new terrain, new objectives, and a good amount of speculation regarding the relative usefulness of current figures.
With that said, I thought it would be a useful exercise to break down some of the features of the new map and some strategies that I think would play well on it. To that end, I'll examine some of the "safe" locations for melee and short-range units, as the map certainly favors figures with long range. Next, I'll look at the movement options available from each deployment zone. And finally, I'll address the mission objectives and what strategies I see being viable in regards to both. Let's begin!
The safety dance
At first glance, Nal Hutta Swamp appears wide open in comparison to its predecessors. The map has no doors and under the correct circumstances, you could easily be exchanging attacks with your opponent in the first round.
Yet, while this may be the most open map in the current rotation, I want to note the locations on the map that limit your opponent's approaches and sight lines - Ideally, avoiding shots from range 10 or beyond via Alliance Rangers or Weequays.
Assuming an approach from one of the deployment zones, threats will necessarily come via one of the four paths I've highlighted in the image above. As you can deduce from the image, a player moving into any lane in round one will likely have line of sight to most of the opposite side of the map in round two. If we have melee or vulnerable units, we'd clearly like to avoid them taking any unnecessary attacks. One way to accomplish this is to take advantage of the corridors on the left and right side of the map.
The left and right corridors provide a safe location for your figures in comparison to keeping them in the middle of the map. As you can see in the two images above, once you occupy the left or right side of the map, the approach vectors for your opponent go from four to two, simplifying the assessment of risk to your units. You may use one of these sides as an approach for a melee unit, or simply utilize it to protect a support unit.
I would also note the few center locations highlighted in the image above. While these locations don't provide as much safety as the left and right corridors, they often require your opponent to make him or herself vulnerable when attacking. Forcing such a maneuver may allow a melee unit to attack an enemy that otherwise would have been impossible to reach. Moreover, it's important to note that these spaces provide the greatest access to the objectives on the map, so claiming them early is certainly advised.
Therefore, while this map certainly has many sight lines, it's still possible to occupy safe positions. While the circumstances of every game will be different, understanding these aspects of the map will hopefully aid players in countering long-range figures.
Gimme Three Steps
A lot of discussion has taken place regarding the large size of Nal Hutta Swamps. Moreover, due to the significant amount of difficult terrain, there has been speculation that melee units will be hindered on this map. While Nal Hutta presents more of a challenge for melee units than the other maps in rotation, I think many players will be surprised by the mobility that can be achieved.
With a total of twenty-four spaces from end to end, Nal Hutta is a sizable map. And, the difficult terrain that litters the map doesn't make navigation any easier. However, it's important to note that Nal Hutta has no doors restricting movement on your first turn, thus enabling a high degree of mobility from round one.
As you can see in the two images above, the most forward space of each deployment zone can easily reach either side corridor or the center of the map (assuming 4-Speed and no Mobile). This means that the safe locations I spoke of earlier can be accessed by melee units such as Darth Vader or Jedi Luke Skywalker with relative ease in their approach to the opposing deployment zone. Thus, it's not all bad news for melee units on this map.
However, these counts also show us that long-range units have a significant advantage in the first round as well. Recall the four corridors I identified earlier - we can see that from each deployment zone, a ranged unit can acquire line of sight in three of the four corridors (by utilizing a move and attack to the left, center-left, and center-right corridors). And, this includes sight on the terminals.
Finally, I wanted to put both deployment zones' movement options on a single map to highlight how easily aggression can start in round one. Both sides can easily access the left and center-left crates, creating a high likelihood of conflict in those areas. As you can see, the bottom deployment zone has easier access to the objectives, however I would argue that the top deployment zone has a slightly safer approach to those same objectives. Depending on the strengths of your list, it may be valuable to consider whether it's better to hold the objective on round one or avoid your enemy's line of sight when choosing a deployment zone.
The Boys Are Back in Town
While I don't want to make any bold proclamations about the map quite yet, there are a few things we can take away from the information I've laid out.
To start, this map will force you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your figures. As I noted earlier, failing to understand that ranged units will have line of sight on a majority of the center of the map from round one (including your terminal) could be a fatal mistake. In contrast, it may be just as fatal to move your ranged units forward in a reckless manner as melee units aren't nearly as limited as one would think. Understanding how to utilize a particular unit will make a significant difference in a player's success.
In addition to understanding how to utilize your units, understanding the mission objectives will also be paramount. For example, Shielded is a mission that requires aggression from both players, because if one player controls all four objectives, a 16-point swing will take place. Even splitting the objectives three-to-one or two-to-one poses a significant risk, as 4-points represents an entire figure for a lot of elite deployment groups. If that occurs over a few rounds, you may find yourself at risk of losing on points even if you are winning in combat.
Raining Freight doesn't feature the potential for quite as large of a point swing, but it provides for some interesting opportunities for speed 5 and 6 figures. In round one, it's quite easy for certain figures to grab one or two boxes, as they only need to spend movement points to pick them up. Moreover, an interesting strategy for this mission is to drop boxes near figures that can't afford to lose the movement points (melee units and short-range units). It will also be important to play around initiative, as dropping boxes and activating to grab them immediately is quite strong.
Finally, I don't want to underestimate the power of mobility on this map, as it gives players more access to the four corridors from round one. For instance, the objective on the center-right of the map, while typically inaccessible to both deployment zones on round one, is easily accessed by mobile units from the top deployment zone. Many players would also be surprised by how far Captain Terro can travel on a map like this with mounted and 5 Speed. His path is quite predictable, but from the bottom deployment zone he can easily reach the objective in the right corridor. Thus, while there are safe places on the map, units with extreme mobility may upset expectations on that front.
Like all maps, this one will require practice. Of course, take my assessment with a grain of salt as Nal Hutta is still new to me as well, but hopefully sharing some of my thoughts and strategies will help you become proficient on the new map. Thanks for reading!