Welcome back to another discussion about the Squadron Commanders format that we unveiled last week. To say that the response was overwhelming would be an understatement. Thousands of views, hundreds of private messages, 94% upvotes on Reddit, and dozens of comments all told us one thing: we’d hit on the seed of a good idea. But it was just a seed, not yet fully germinated, and certainly not yet ready for prime time. I still don’t think the latter is true, but we’ve taken some very excellent constructive criticism to heart and are ready to talk about Revision 1 of the Squadron Commanders format.
Why Revision 1? Endless Number was a fantastic example of the intention and theme of what we were shooting for when first discussing Squadron Commanders. It didn’t directly touch ships, didn’t give them additional actions, but thematically and fundamentally altered the way that the game played. That card above all else resonated with the original intent. From there we began to drift a bit. Some of the other Squadron Upgrades seemed to be little more than glorified ship titles, even though they were really fun ideas. Revision 1 is about getting back to that original intent of the format. Cards that are illustrative of something that a Commanding Officer might bring to the table in a ship engagement that other Commanders might not.
However, over seventy percent of the incoming comments, PMs, and direct messages offered praise along the lines of “making unplayable ships playable again.” Blackmoon Squadron was cited frequently, letting the E-Wing and the T-65 X-Wing see play outside of Corran and Biggs. Green Squadron also resonated with folks, giving the A-Wing greater ability to punch through tokened up defenses without increasing the number of red dice rolled on any given turn. Cutlass Squadron gave TIE Punishers a place on the mat, instead of collecting dust on the shelf. So while we’re getting back to the original intent of Squadron Commanders in the first place, we also see the opportunity to “fix” some ships in a flavorful way, hoping that FFG comes along behind and does their own official enhancements as well.
With both those thoughts in mind, we want to introduce you to the upgrades that we’re calling Directives and Doctrines. Directives are represented by cards like Endless Number, Spy in the Ranks, and Ace Instinct. They fundamentally change how the game is played, and represent your particular expertise or philosophy of battle. Yes, you, the Squadron Commander. Doctrines indicate the particular manner you as Squadron Commander have chosen to outfit your ships. Cards like Blackmoon Squadron, Green Squadron, and Black Sun (all previously discussed) are good examples of this. In preparation for your special mission, what did you tell the ship mechanics to do above and beyond the normal modifications to ensure mission success? Directives are about changing the game itself. Doctrines are about changing the characteristics of how your ships fly or perform.
As stated above, Directives fundamentally change the way the game is played. They are the strategies, secrets, and dirty tricks that you have learned over the course of your career. They are indicative of your expertise and philosophy of battle. Do you charge in with Fast Advance? Lure your opponent into a deadly minefield with Spring the Trap? Has your elite pilot talent rubbed off on those you fly with regularly, giving them an Ace Instinct? Do you rely on Overwhelming Firepower to reduce your opponents to floating debris? All these and more are at your disposal as Directives from the Squadron Commander.
Detailed below are the Directives we’ve come up with so far. Note that these are not all created equal. We are still in the idea collection phase of building out Squadron Commanders. Some of these are likely to be too strong. Others are likely underpowered. Still others will be cut or brainstormed into existence between now and the final release. The text on many will need to change. Regardless, let us know what you think!
Ace Instinct: At the beginning of the activation phase, each friendly ship with a pilot skill 5 or above may choose an enemy ship at range 1-2 with equal or lower pilot skill. You may look at the chosen ship’s maneuver dial.
Ambush: Your opponent places all their ships first, per normal deployment rules. If you both have the Ambush Directive equipped, both players must discard Ambush before beginning deployment.
Fast Advance: Extend your deployment zone to range 2 from your board edge.
It’s a Trap: You must use Action header bomb tokens as your obstacles. They are not friendly bomb tokens. You may bring and place an additional obstacle. Your additional obstacle is placed last. Only you may place your obstacles.
<<Something>>: <<Something to make stress a thing again. Enemy ships with 3 or more stress tokens treat all white maneuvers as red maneuvers. Or enemy ships with 3 or more stress tokens roll 1 fewer dice when attacking or defending.>>
Endless Number: Imperial only. At the start of the planning phase, if a friendly TIE Fighter with a starting pilot skill greater than 1 was destroyed during the last round, you may place one Reinforcements Pilot in your deployment zone. You must start with at least 4 TIE Fighters in your squad.
Imperial Hire: Imperial only. You may bring one unique Scum pilot. It loses all illicit slots. It may equip Scum only upgrades.
Overwhelming Firepower: Imperial only. Large ships only. Enemy ships in your primary firing arc at range 1 roll one (two?) fewer agility dice when defending. You must start with fewer than 3 ships in your squad.
Hit and Run (Small Ship Only) – When attacking during the combat phase, each of your ships may double their primary attack value. If they do, that ship may not attack again this turn. At the start of the planning phase, each ship that attacked in this manner last round receives a weapons disabled token.
No Disintegrations: Scum only. When you perform an attack that hits, before dealing damage, you may cancel 1 of your crit results to assign 1 (2?) ion token to the defender.
Spy in the Ranks: Rebel and Scum only. At the beginning of the Deployment Phase, exchange the pilot skill ratings of your highest pilot skill pilot with the opposing player’s highest pilot skill.
Doctrines indicate the particular manner you as Squadron Commander have chosen to outfit your ships, things above and beyond simply including Engine Upgrade, Autothrusters, or Heavy Laser Cannon. In preparation for your special mission, what did you tell the ship mechanics to do above and beyond the normal modifications to ensure mission success? Has R7 Astromech become one with your ships in Blackmoon Squadron? Have your targeting computers been synched up in Green Squadron? How will your Black Sun pilots make best use of the extra illicit upgrades? And are your Cutlass Squadron members fully prepared to begin dropping extra bombs?
As stated in the Directives section, we’ve detailed a list of Doctrines below. This list is not final, has not yet gone through any sort of balancing, and is still very subject to change. We want to know what you think, other Doctrines you might recommend, and if there are cool, flavorful ideas we should be considering.
Black Eight Squadron – Reduce the cost of each Missile, Torpedo, and Bomb by 2 (minimum of 0). You must start with at least 3 TIE Punishers in your squad.
Cutlass Squadron: Imperial only. Your TIE Punisher action bars gains the Slam action. Before performing a Slam action, you may drop a bomb that does not have the Action: header. You may drop two different bombs on a single turn. You must start with at least 2 TIE Punishers in your squad.
Sigma Squadron: Imperial only. Your TIE Phantoms may equip both Advanced Cloaking and Stygium Particle Accelerator modifications. You must start with at least 2 TIE Phantoms in your squad.
Blackmoon Squadron: Rebel only. Reduce the cost of R7 Astromech upgrade cards to 0. Whenever you spend a target lock, if you have an R7 Astromech you do not have to discard the target lock token. All friendly ships must begin play with the R7 Astromech upgrade equipped.
Green Squadron: Rebel only. When attacking with your primary weapon, you may place a weapons disabled token on a friendly ship at range 1-2 that has the defending enemy ship inside their firing arc at Range 1-2. The friendly ship must not have attacked this phase. Roll 2 extra dice. You may treat that ship’s focus and target lock tokens as your own. You must start with at least 3 A-Wings in your squad.
Blade Squadron: Rebel only. When attacking with an equipped Cannon secondary weapon, you may spend 1 shield to add 1 hit result. You must start with at least 3 B-Wings in your squad.
Black Sun: Scum only. Your Z95, Starviper, and Kihraxz pilots with PS 3 or greater gain an additional illicit slot. You may reduce the cost of each of your illicit upgrades on those ships by 2 (minimum of 0). You must start with at least 3 ships in your squad.
Droid Uprising: Aggressors and 4LOM only. Cannot bring non-droid crew. Each ship must equip Attanni Mindlink and gains an additional elite pilot talent slot.
Smuggler’s Alliance: Scum only. Moldy Crow is not unique. Ships equipped with the Moldy Crow title discard the first stress token they receive in a turn and begin play with a free Rigged Cargo Chute illicit upgrade. You must start with at least two HWK-290’s in your squad.
Tansarii Security Force: Scum only. Heavy Scyk is free. Light Scyk is (-4). You cannot bring any ships with PS lower than 3. You cannot equip illicits.
Squadron Commanders Project Status
Above, we mentioned a couple of times that this isn’t a final product. That does beg the question, where are we? Where are we going from here? When will this be done? What’s the road ahead? Below is the project plan that we’ve been operating from so far. I hope it gives you a good road map perspective. If you’re interested in joining the project, let us know!
- Idea Collection
- This is where we are at right now. The ideas are all going on the proverbial whiteboard for consideration. We’re not yet throwing anything out, because nothing is a “good” or “bad” idea yet. As a result, you’re going to see lots of disparity between one Directive to the next, and between Doctrines.
- Setting a standard for balance
- This is where we are going, but we haven’t yet started this step. Once all of the ideas have been collected, we want to choose one or more of them and say, “This, this right here is the power level that we think is good for the Directives and Doctrines.”
- Doctrine balance pass, adherence to standard
- This is the natural output of the “Setting a standard for balance” step discussed above. We will evaluate the rest of the ideas in light of the chosen standard. Do some Doctrines need to be adjusted up? Others adjusted down? Some discarded completely and new ones designed in their place?
- Doctrine playtesting
- With the initial balance pass accomplished, it is time to put ships to mat. Things might seem great or terrible until they receive play. The pieces for Parattanni were in play for quite a while before everything came together on the mat at the same time, and suddenly the list was dominating regionals. Objectively speaking, playtesting trumps all and is a required step in this process.
- Doctrine balance pass, results from playtesting
- This is the natural output of the “playtesting” step discussed above. We will evaluate how the different Doctrines did in light of their play on the mat. Do some Doctrines need to be adjusted up? Others adjusted down? Some discarded completely and new ones designed in their place?
- Directive balance pass, adherence to standard
- Time to focus on the Directives. We will evaluate the rest of the ideas in light of the chosen standard. Do some Directives need to be adjusted up? Others adjusted down? Some discarded completely and new ones designed in their place?
- Directive playtesting
- Again, it is time to put ships to mat with a focus on Directives. Things might seem great or terrible until they receive play.
- Directives balance pass, results from playtesting
- We will evaluate how the different Directives did in light of their play on the mat. Do some Directives need to be adjusted up? Others adjusted down? Some discarded completely and new ones designed in their place?
- Release candidate tuning
- Wording. Oh the wonderful words that FFG includes on their upgrade cards. We want to make sure that the wording is precise, readable, and readily understandable for someone just picking up the game. Every Directive and Doctrine card needs to be reviewed, with adjustments made where necessary.
- Happy celebration day!
As we move from Revision 1 to Revision 2, we’re always looking for more people to assist in this project. Do you like putting ideas to paper? Do you mind when people tear up your ideas and provide counter-suggestions? Do you enjoy changing rules and playtesting on the fly? If so, reach out to us here on the blog by leaving a comment below.