Despite that FFG is executing Imperial Assault's version of Order 66 with Driven by Hatred, Emperor Palpatine, and Maul, we would be remiss to forget about our steadily growing stable of Jedi on the side of the Rebellion. With Ahsoka on the horizon, I believe this is a good time to examine what tools the friendly Force Users have at their disposal. Let's begin.
The Council is Confident in Its Decision
While certainly one of the best aspects of Imperial Assault in terms of flavor, the Force User trait has been lackluster when it comes to its usability in the game itself. Force Users are generally melee characters, making their effectiveness and survivability dependent on positioning, which some maps accommodate better than others. Force User Command Cards are often underwhelming in comparison to the powerful cards in other traits, often making them difficult to justify including in a Command deck. And finally, the most competitive Force Users lack traits that synergize with other competitive units, making it difficult to build lists around them. That said, many Force Users are still quite playable, even if they aren't top tier.
Davith Elso, a 6-cost Spy and Force User, is arguably a playable Force User - he's not a bad deal for his stats and cost and has some useful abilities, at least in the abstract. He becomes Hidden at the beginning of the game, he has a method of dealing direct damage with Cut and Run, and he can perform an additional attack. However, Davith suffers greatly from a lack of damage. Feel Swoop is great, but when he's rolling a green-yellow dice pool with no surge for +2 damage, he's going to have a difficult time removing enemy figures.
For what it's worth, Davith having the Spy trait is probably the most interesting part about him. Rebels have decent access to other Spies, including Leia Organa and Rebel Saboteurs. Unfortunately, Davith's 6-point cost is probably too high given the alternatives.
When Diala Passil was released with the Core Set, I can imagine a set of circumstances where she was usable, even if not the strongest figure at the time. Shattering Blow is an incredibly unique and useful ability that no figure has possessed outside of Diala. Element of Surprise is nearly a ubiquitous inclusion in Command decks, and essentially Diala lets you use any Command Card as an impromptu version of it. On top of that, Diala also has Foresight, which allows her to reroll a defense die. As with Shattering Blow, Foresight is never included as an ability on a figure beyond the Core Set (Darth Vader is the other lucky guy) and I would surmise that's because it's too good on most figures. So what's wrong with Diala?
To start, her health is too low. At 7-points, it's incredibly likely that she can be removed in a single activation, which is unacceptable at that cost. She also only has 2-dice. This may be warranted given the power of Shattering Blow, but is still painful given that at 2-dice you can bottom out at 2 results on your roll, providing for a very lackluster attack. And finally, Diala joins Davith as a Force User with pretty awful surge abilities - Recover 2, Pierce 3, and Cleave 2. Now, none of these are bad in the abstract, but they're all either redundant or impossible to utilize. Recover is only valuable if Diala can take damage and survive to utilize the ability, which isn't very likely. Pierce is fantastic, but she already has shattering blow to remove a die and her odds of rolling a surge isn't stellar. And finally, Cleave 2, while useful, is often difficult to execute and still opponents can play around it.
I really love Diala and think she has a lot of potential. However, she's a tough sell at 7 points with 8 health. As with Davith, it's difficult to justify including her in a list given the other options available to the Rebels.
Speaking of justifying a figure in a list, I am always hard pressed not to include Old Ben, because in terms of stats he is a pure monster. For the same cost as Diala (7 Points), Obi-Wan has 12 Health, three attack dice (RGY) and an innate Evade. With both the green and yellow die in his attack pool, Obi-Wan has an easy time taking advantage of his two amazing surge abilities, Pierce 3 and +2 damage. He's both annoying to remove and an offensive threat. On top of all that, he is one of the best campers in the game, denying control of terminals and objectives alike with Alter Mind.
Of course, Obi-Wan has his weaknesses, which, as with most Force Users, is the fact that he's a melee character - and a slow one at that. Obi-Wan only has Speed 4, which is standard for many figures, but is easy for an opponent to play around with proper positioning. Moreover, without any additional traits beyond Force User, Obi-Wan lacks access to some of the more powerful Command cards (Brawler cards would feel so good with his skill set). Yet, despite these flaws, I still see him as a solid 7-point investment that is flexible enough to fit in most lists.
Luke Skywalker (Hero of the Rebellion)
HOTR Luke, another holdover from the days of the Core Set, isn't as difficult to run as Diala, but still is a bit over costed for what he offers. On the bright side, HOTR Luke is strong in many ways, including being ranged (unique among Force Users) and having some great surges (+2 damage, Recover 2, +2 Accuracy). Throw in his innate block, and there's a lot to like about him.
However, as is typical with figures from the early days of Imperial Assault, he's just too expensive for what he provides. 10 points isn't the highest cost in the game, but it's a sizable amount and unlikely to be returned by HOTR Luke. Similar to Diala, 10 health is a bit too low to survive many situations, even with his innate block. Finally, while I think his Inspiring Ability is great, there aren't enough Rebel figures that can use it adequately. When it comes to HOTR Luke, I think Darth Vader said it best: "you're not a Jedi yet."
Luke Skywalker (Jedi)
Good news, Luke, you're a Jedi now! Despite a series of Force Users floundering on the power scale, Jedi Luke instantly rose to the top as a Force User to be reckoned with. With an impressive 16 Health and the Heroic ability, Luke is a serious problem that most opponents can't afford to ignore. Along with that, Jedi Luke's innate Evade and Deflect make removing him a difficult and tedious task.
That said, anyone that has actually used Jedi Luke knows that he has a very unforgiving set of dice. While not incredibly common, it's possible to end up with only three or four results across your dice. The innate +1 damage and Pierce 3 offers a lot of help, but Jedi Luke can regularly only put out 3 or 4 damage per attack, which can be a bit disappointing given his 12-point cost.
All that said, Heroic mitigates the issue we had with Obi-Wan, in that it's much more difficult to kite Luke around the board given that he can use the Move action twice and still attack. Moreover, it's great that Luke inherited the Brawler trait and received access to a number of Command cards that reward being adjacent to enemy figures like Grisly Contest and Counter Attack. Unfortunately, similar to other Force Users, there's not much synergy in the Brawler trait as Rebel Brawlers are few and far between. Like other Force Users, utilizing Jedi Luke as a solo piece in a list is useful if you have the points, but offers little in terms of synergy. All that on the table, he's a competitive figure that every player should try at one point or another.
Use the Force
While Force Users vary in their efficiency when it comes to deployment cards, we shouldn't ignore the Command cards available to our Jedi friends, as these can often make or break certain figures.
I Can Feel It: While this card is often overlooked, its power level is extremely high. At 0 points, this card gives you a reroll on a defensive or offensive roll - an ability I would argue is extra relevant when you've rolled a single damage on Obi-Wan's red die or when you absolutely need a dodge. Gaining 1 point is fine too.
Force Rush: If you put all the cards in the game in front of me, Force Rush probably wouldn't be in my top twenty. That said, I have to admit that I run it every time I play a Force User and am happy to draw it. Many Force Users are melee, so the extra 2 movement points for no additional action can really extend their range (2 doesn't seem like much, but if the average figure has Speed 4, that's a fifty percent increase). I find it most useful to look at it as granting the potential for an extra attack in situations where your opponent has positioned himself or herself in a way to deny a melee attack - for 0 points that's pretty good.
Telekinetic Throw: I love what this card represents, but almost everything else about it is wrong. First, the two blue dice are very underwhelming, given that most Force User attacks consist of three dice and have the potential to Pierce 3. I could maybe forgive this if it enabled a Force User to inflict damage from any range or at least a greater range, but the limitation that the enemy must be within 3 spaces makes this card difficult to justify. If I'm close enough to use this ability, I'm probably close enough to perform a melee attack, or feel the need to move twice to set up for an attack in the next round.
Deflection: I think this is one of the most underutilized Force User cards in the game, given its potential to stack with the Hidden condition. Applying -4 accuracy to an attack is insane. And, if the attack misses, not only have you avoided damage but your opponent takes 2 damage. It's a very cool card that is unfortunately in competition with a lot of other great 1-cost cards. Still, I think there's room to give it a try.
Force Illusion: I find this card to be pretty mediocre, but I still think it could have a place in a list (see Deflection). The Hidden condition is quite useful to most Force Users in that it provides a small defensive bonus and generally the extra surge on an attack is helpful. My biggest problem with the card is its 2-point cost, especially given that Camouflage only costs 1 point. However, if stacking Hidden tokens on Force Users is your goal, this is probably one of the easier ways to do it.
Force Surge: Another amazing card when it comes down to the raw value it provides - one movement point at the end of your activation, 2 damage, and 1 strain. I find it to be pretty decent, especially considering that for the same price, Grisly Contest deals 2 damage at the cost of dealing 2 strain to your own figure. That said, the power of Command cards continues to climb so it's difficult to know if this one will make the cut against other 2-cost cards.
A Powerful Influence: A very cool card that has one very big weakness. In Imperial Assault, you have two ways to try to win. You either gain points via objectives, which this card counters very well. Or, you just kill your opponent. In this case, it feels as if your opponent would just ignore the objective and focus on removing the obnoxious Jedi. I'm not motivated by the value this card provides, especially at 2 points.
Meditation: I think this card could be amazing if drawn in round 1, and terrible if drawn any time after that. For two points, it's too much of a risk that you draw this at the beginning of round three, knowing you gave up two points of your Command deck for no gain.
Knowledge and Defense: Certainly a card that shows its age. For 2 points and an action, the card provides very little dependable value. It's pretty easy for an opponent to attack your other figures while this card is active. Furthermore, melee Force Users can't often afford to use an action other than move and attack. I'll admit that if you roll a dodge on your extra die, you've probably come out ahead, but overall the loss of an action is too great a sacrifice.
The Future of the Jedi Order: ahsoka tano
Given the current state of Force Users in Imperial Assault, it begs the question of what, if anything Ahsoka will change. Certainly, her stats and innate abilities are impressive. Being able to travel 8 spaces and attack in a turn means that she'll threaten most figures in your opponent's list. On top of that, she can force your opponent to reroll those pesky dodges and 3 block rolls.
Yet, I think her larger contribution is her possession of the Spy trait, which introduces some new archetype options for Rebels. Rebel Spy lists aren't unusable now, but many of their main figures have steadily fallen on the power scale over the years. Prior to Ahsoka, building a rebel Spy list relied on some combination of Leia, Rebel Saboteurs, and Davith. While I could make arguments for these figures independently, I find their synergy together to be less than stellar.
Ahsoka breaks this archetype open a bit. Ahsoka creates decent synergy when run with Davith, allowing you to run both Spy and Force User cards in your Command deck. Ahsoka also has some value with Rebel Saboteurs, since as a melee figure she'll want to be at short range of your opponent's figures, providing cover for the Saboteurs. And finally, depending on the viability of the upcoming Clawdite Shapeshifter, Ahsoka may find a place in a Scum Spy list.
Force Users are still a bit unrepresented in Imperial Assault, but Ahsoka, Emperor Palpatine, and Maul are certainly a move in the right direction. I look forward to trying some lists with Ahsoka in the future, and perhaps even the fabled all-Force User list.