Trooper meta, Spy meta, Hunter meta, Droid meta - these are merely the ashes of what's to come - THE ALL POWERFUL VEHICLE META!!!
Okay, perhaps not. However, last week FFG released an article detailing a bit more of Heart of the Empire (HOTE) including the deployment card for the AT-DP, a Vehicle-Heavy Weapon included in the box. Therefore, I figured this is the perfect time to have a discussion about the Vehicle trait in Imperial Assault and if it will be relevant post HOTE. Let's begin!
"Get on Your Bikes and Ride"
Vehicles have been relatively under served in Imperial Assault as far as traits go, even if they've been around since Wave 1. We started with one of the most notable Star Wars Vehicles, the AT-ST. As far as Core Set deployment figures go, I don't actually find the AT-ST all that bad - with three dice (BRR) and the first card to have the Massive trait, it stands to deal a significant amount of damage. Throw in Targeting Computer and two defense dice and the AT-ST is quite threatening.
Yet the AT-ST never really caught on (too expensive and difficult to build around). However, FFG wasn't done. Following the AT-ST came the rarely-seen SC2-M Repulsor Tank, a large-based Vehicle that was essentially dead on arrival. Sporting a hefty 10-point cost, it only had 10 health, 4 Speed, a single defense die, and a three-dice attack (BRY). At nearly the same price as the AT-ST, the SC2 never found a place in skirmish.
Which is why it's kind of shocking that General Sorin came out in the same wave. Sorin, despite being a very underwhelming figure, at the very least opened the door to Vehicle/Droid themed lists. Assuming he's paired with the right figures and they're close enough (aided by Advanced Com Systems), Sorin can provide a lot of value via his surge abilities and by granting an extra attack to a friendly Vehicle, even if he is flimsy himself. That said, while Sorin provided the impetus to build a Vehicle-themed list, the supporting pieces weren't there.
That is, until the release of Jabba's Realm. If you weren't paying attention, you could easily have missed that Jet Troopers received the Vehicle trait, setting them apart from their Trooper brethren. Not only were Jet Troopers the lowest cost Vehicle, they also happened to be impressive figures for their costs with Mobile, Agile, and Fly-By.
Yet, I still didn't see a theorized vehicle list, let alone a Vehicle list tried in my local meta. Even with the efficiently-costed Jets, the tools still weren't available to build a list themed around Vehicles. However, there's a good chance that will change with HOTE.
"I've Found a Driver and That's a Start"
The Imperials are getting a rather unique figure from HOTE in the AT-DP, a cost-efficient vehicle with impressive stats. Note that it has 16 health behind a black die and an inherent +1 block. Moreover, with Assault and Charge Generators, it can't easily be ignored, allowing it to make space for your other figures.
However, the aspect of the AT-DP that I'm most excited about is its cost - between the 7-point Jet Troopers and 9-point AT-DP, the all-Vehicle list can actually become a reality.
Prior to the AT-DP, even running the AT-ST along Jets was quite difficult given its cost. At 14 points, the AT-ST and two Jet Troopers set you at 28 points with three activations. Rounding out the list at that point range is difficult. At best, you can add one or two medium-threat units (BT-1, Elite Probe Droid), and even then your activation count is low.
While the AT-DP seems like a small modification to the scenario described above, those 5 points go a long way in enhancing your offensive position. In the list above, losing the AT-ST early would be a significant loss given its cost. Moreover, with a single attack each round, it isn't likely that the AT-ST would recover its 14 points in combat even if it survived. At 9 points with the Assault ability, the AT-DP solves many of these problems.
For instance, the AT-DP enables us to go all in on a Vehicle-focused list. Starting with two sets of Elite Jets and two AT-DPs, you have a survivable list with high-health pools and defensive bonuses. Throw in Zillo and some Officers, and I see a threat to be reckoned with. I've never been one to purchase two copies of a boxed set, but the double AT-DP list has me closer than ever.
Even if you don't go down the double-HOTE route, a Vehicle package of two Jets and one AT-DP may still have a place in competitive lists. At 23 points, there is still plenty of room to include Vader, the Emperor, Captain Terro, and a number of lower-cost figures. I would consider a list like this - there's almost no figure that can be ignored. Moreover, the loss of any single piece doesn't limit the rest.
"Just What I Needed"
In addition to some interesting new list-building options, a number of Command cards may be viable in this type of list where they weren't before. Whether you intend on using a Vehicle list yourself, it may be useful to pay attention to some of these cards as you may come across them in your future games.
Let's start with Repair. At 2 points, this card hasn't necessarily been worth running in the past. In my experience, it normally wasn't worth it as the Droid (HKs) or Vehicle (Jets) didn't have enough health to risk including it in your Command deck. On top of that, even if you could keep a Jet alive using Repair, there wasn't really enough value in keeping a Jet alive in exchange for a 2-point Command card. The AT-DP is another story. With a large health pool and an inherent block, Repair could easily be used to extend its life into another activation. Moreover, Repair may actually reactivate the AT-DP's Charge Generators ability, providing even more value. On top of all that, keeping the AT-DP alive provides inherently more value due to Assault. Under these circumstances, I could see Repair offering a lot of value.
Another card that deserves recognition is Fuel Upgrade. At 1-point, the card was already worth running with two Jet Troopers - and the addition of the AT-DP to this only increases its value. Personally, I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of two AT-DPs with an inherent block and evade for an entire round. If you're running a Vehicle package, you're running Fuel Upgrade.
And finally, I think it's worth mentioning Overrun. Recently, I've been running this card with Jet Troopers, despite never being impressed with what it provided for its 2 points. That said, I have overlooked a Massive figure utilizing the card, because it just never really occurred to me that we'd have a viable Massive Vehicle to use it with. That will change with the AT-DP. With it's large health pool, it won't be nearly as susceptible following an Overrun into a group of enemy figures. Moreover, combined with Crush, you can remove a Weequay simply by walking over it. Call me simple, but that's how I like to do business with Hunters.
I'm not sure if a Vehicle list will be top tier, but I'm happy that we'll have another list archetype to build around. I'm always for more list diversity, and the AT-DP promotes this on the deployment and Command card front.