This week, FFG continued on its march to improve Imperial Assault, spoiling attachments for two figures that haven't seen serious competitive play in quite some time: Wookie Avenger for Chewbacca and Rogue Smuggler for Han Solo. Chewbacca will have his day, but this week I'm going to focus on Han, as I'm excited about a Rebel Smuggler list I've been playing for the past few months that I think will greatly benefit from his upgrade and Heart of the Empire. Let's begin!
It's all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense
You wouldn't know it based on his appearance in competitive lists, but Han Solo has always been a very powerful figure. With 12 health and Cunning, he can weather a decent amount of damage, particularly when positioned with C-3PO's Distracting bonus. On top of that, his large health pool increases the chance that he'll get to role that all-important dodge and extend his time on the board even further.
In addition to his defensive abilities, Han also has a strong offense. His dice pool, composed of Blue-Green-Green, provides a high likelihood of rolling five results (five of the six sides of the green die have two results). Moreover, his surges help flatten out any influx of surges, allowing you to convert them into damage and range. Couple these factors with a decent range given his dice pool and surge abilities (minimum of 4, but easily achieves 6 or more), and you have a figure that can serve as a survivable fighter with dependable damage.
So what has the problem been over the past couple years? Mainly, his cost has been too high. Despite his strengths, Han had a difficult time recouping 12 points of value over the course of a game. If a typical match goes three or four rounds, that means that he's likely only attacking two or three times. And, while Han has consistent damage, he doesn't necessarily have an easy way to spike his damage to easily remove enemy figures.
Now, he does have Return Fire, an ability that if reliably activated would justify his large point cost. However, if you've ever played Han, this is rarely the case. Return Fire is unfortunately easily circumvented by an opponent. For one, an opponent can simply choose not to shoot at Han, thus limiting his offensive output over the course of the game. And second, unless Han rolled a dodge, it was exceedingly difficult to meet the stringent requirement of taking no damage from an attack. This has only become more difficult as the norms of Imperial Assault have edged towards increased attack dice, increased damage, and defensive dice removal.
Note: Tim and I did a podcast episode about Han Solo (prior to the reveal of Rogue Smuggler). Check it out here!
Boring Conversation Anyway
Which brings me to Han's new attachment, Rogue Smuggler. Neither overpowered nor too weak, I believe that this attachment is going to make Han competitive without feeling unfair - exactly where we'd like all of our favorite figures to be.
Let's start with some general housecleaning. Right off the bat, Han loses Distracting. New players probably aren't familiar with this, but when the game was earlier in its life, a list known as the "Smuggler Box," was popular, where you ran Han, Chewy, and C-3P0 together as a group. All of these figures pass a defensive bonus to their adjacent allies, so as a group they proved to be quite formidable. The list was never considered top tier, but because Han is being given considerable buffs, it makes sense to remove this play style from the figure.
Beyond that, Han is receiving three changes that are meant to supplement his offense. First, he is receiving the ability to reroll a die on all attacks. Now, arguably this isn't as good on Han as it would be on a character with a red or yellow die (both have peaks and valleys in their results), but I still find it quite useful. His dice pool is quite consistent, but you never know when you'll roll too many surges or need to get some extra range. It's a nice buff that doesn't swing his results too much.
Second, Han's Return Fire ability is being changed so it activates even when he takes damage. Essentially, any time Han is attacked he will be able to throw an attack right back (once per round). I think the benefits are self evident and that the change was needed.
And finally, Rogue Smuggler conveys to Han the ability to perform a free attack at the end of every round. Again, I find this change to be needed, as avoiding "Return Fire" was too easy from my point of view, and to be useful Han needs to threaten more than one attack per round at 10 points. With some careful positioning, an opponent will be able to avoid this ability, but it won't be easy, bringing Han closer to his simlarly-costed buddy, Jedi Luke.
I think Han is going to be an entertaining figure to play with the new attachment. I can see him played as a long range character, posting up on a corner and shooting figures at range 6 or more. I can also see him as an objective holder, setting up on a stash or terminal with C-3P0 by his side and daring an opponent to remove him. It will depend on your list and play style, but he'll facilitate many types of play.
Sorry About the Mess
Given Han's alignment with the Rebel Alliance, some may forget that he has access to a trait that is traditionally associated with the Mercenary faction, the Smuggler trait. Given Han's new attachment, you'll definitely want to consider some of the Smuggler Command cards that make him a huge threat.
On the Lam: A good card for pre-attachment Han is now an amazing card with Rogue Smuggler. Not only can you use this to avoid an attack and utilize Return Fire, but you can also set up Han's end-of-round attack, threatening a figure that your opponent thought was safe. Definitely worth its 3-point cost.
Run for Cover: Another card that is brought to another level with Rogue Smuggler. Prior to the attachment, this card served as a hail-mary attempt to activate Return Fire. Now, it can merely serve its intended, excellent function of reducing incoming damage. Given Han's ability to attack three times per round, keeping him on the board is incredibly important and this card serves that purpose.
Smuggled Supplies: While not as good as Heart of Freedom because it is an "or" card, Smuggled Supplies is still amazing with Han Solo. Healing is obviously good, but the other two features are particularly amazing. The free surge lasts for the entire round, meaning you may be able to get value from it over three attacks. Moreover, the free evade for the round actually means you'll have a free evade and block for the entire round due to Cunning. A decent amount of value for just 1 point.
Edit 9/1/2017: I've received feedback that Smuggled Supplies would not persist for the free attack at the end of the round. Therefore, the free surge and evade will not be available for Han's last attack or any defense rolls during the end of round.
I Make My Own Luck: This card is going to catch some players off guard in the coming months. Han is a strong offensive character, and having this card means that he'll be knocking out enemy figures early in the round, preventing their activation entirely. Moreover, it's entirely possible that you could start every round if holding this card and Take Initiative.
Who's the More Foolish? The fool or the fool that follows him?
To round out the article, I'd like to share a Heart of the Empire list that I've been thinking about for quite some time. It's essentially a Rebel Smuggler list, sprinkled with some Force Users.
Han Solo and Rogue Smuggler: 10 points
Ahsoka Tano: 8 points
Obi-Wan Kenobi: 7 points
Jyn Odan: 5 points
Hera Syndulla: 4 points
Gideon Argus: 3 points
C-3P0: 2 points
On a Diplomatic Mission: 1 point
Heroic Effort: 0 points
I've been playing a variation of this list since the Store Championship season began (a worse version in my opinion, but still fun). The list really counts on a few interactions to gain advantage. First, this is a Smuggler list first and foremost, and the bulk of your Command points will go to that trait. Moreover, the list is very dependent on positioning. There will be situations where double moving C-3P0 to a defensive position to maximize Jyn and Han's Cunning bonus will be more beneficial than focusing - a hard choice to make but often valuable. Keep Hera close and Jyn and Han will have an easy time controlling your opponent's figures.
The counter balance to the Smugglers are the Jedi, composed of Obi-Wan and Ahsoka. For these two, you'll primarily be including movement based Command cards such as Urgency and Force Rush. Obi-Wan is an excellent objective holder, particularly in a small, enclosed space like the Rancor pit on Jabba's Palace. While I haven't been able to use Ahsoka yet (duh, she's not out!), but I imagine her as a hunter of particularly threatening figures, given that she can force a reroll of all dice if your opponent rolls a dodge.
I'm extremely excited about the changes coming to Chewy and Han. Not only will I get to see some of my favorite characters on the table, but these attachments will further shake up the meta and encourage different play styles. As always, thanks for reading!
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