Understanding attrition in Star Wars: Legion, and how to improve your game
For your first dozen or so games of Star Wars: Legion, I normally recommend entirely focusing on fundamentals: how to gain (and remove) cover, playing objectives, building and deploying a decent list, and most of all, having fun. However, once you’ve gotten that under your belt it’s time to understand why you consistently lose to more experienced players - and often the answer is attrition.
Attrition is, loosely put, the gradual reduction in effectiveness of an army, often over many activations and turns. Attrition is contrasted with single bursts of damage, often from large dice-pools like an AT-ST/fire-supported Clones or with serious wounding power (such as lightsabers).
Attrition can be silent but deadly; it’s less obvious you are losing, because you just have lost one or two models at a time, but attrition often adds up to being decisive by the end of the game.
Wounding and defeating units in Star Wars: Legion can be surprisingly tough to do; there are a variety of mitigations available in the game (mostly to trooper units), and a well-practiced player will use as many of them as possible, especially in the early game.
Line of sight
The single strongest mitigation to losing units is, unsurprisingly, making your units invulnerable. By keeping the entire unit out of LOS (or at least out of LOS of your opponent’s most dangerous units), you can guarantee (i.e., no dice rolls can overcome) not suffering wounds.
A player with enough games under their belt will usually deploy the majority of their units behind LOS-blocking terrain, if able, but often forgets to keep their units hidden the remainder of the game. An expert player is constantly using move - attack, attack - move to attack enemy units, and then hide behind terrain with no reciprocity.
tl;dr: Being invulnerable is good. Hide your units, and attack enemy exposed units.
The next most consistent mitigation is cover, with heavy cover (2) being far superior to light cover (1), as the ability to bypass light cover is much more prevalent in the game.
A unit in heavy cover must be attacked by at least 3 hits (or 1 crit, but more on that below) in order to even have a chance of suffering a wound. This stacks, to an extent, with other forms of mitigation (see below) to make units quite difficult to wound, though heavy cover just by itself can often by bypassed by larger dice pools and the critical/sharpshooter keywords.
It might sound silly, but because of the previous two (LOS, cover), often the best way to avoid wounds is with judicious use of the move action. Double moving from LOS blocker to LOS blocker can be effective, but so can attacking and then moving behind cover.
When focusing on attrition, you have to always ask yourself “will I do more wounds than my opponent if I stand still?” The answer is, almost always, no (barring of course, situations where you must defeat a unit to secure an objective, etc).
Keep moving, and try to keep as many of your units completely or partially hidden, especially in early rounds - you’ll need as many healthy units as possible in the later rounds for most objectives.
A dodge token can be spent to cancel a single hit (normally), or a crit (with the Outmaneuver keyword, which is now available as a 2-point training upgrade to most heroes and some trooper units). When combined with cover, a dodge token requires your opponent to manage 4 hits or 1 crit (2 crits if you have Outmaneuver) in order to suffer a wound.
This only recently became more effective thanks to both Nimble and Clone Trooper.
With the newly added benefit of Vigilance, unused dodge tokens can be kept around:
Note that dodge tokens can’t be spent against High Velocity, so you need to be aware of that when playing against some sniper units and the AAT, which manages a terrifying 7-dice high velocity pool with High Velocity Shells:
Finally, a bit more rare of an upgrade due to the cost of Jedi units, is Force Barrier:
This card cancels up to 2 hits (or 1 crit), on top of everything else above, once per turn. Like other forms of mitigation, this can quietly add up quick, making your most important units fairly safe from even the strongest attacks.
And the rest
And of course, there are a variety of other mitigations, including Surge Tokens (spend for surge: block), Armor (cancel non-crits), Guardian (move non-crits to another unit), and Medical Droids (heal wounds after the fact).
I’m not detailing them here because they mostly don’t offer additional resistance on top of cover when facing crits, but it’s worth considering you’ll see at least one of these additional mitigations in most armies (if not two or more).
Defeating your opponent
Now that we’ve reviewed the various ways units can be saved from suffering wounds, let’s talk about the reverse - dealing wounds, and understanding how to avoid taking more wounds than your opponent.
The first part of this equation is understanding how many hits (or crits) you need to have a chance at dealing a wound to your opponent, and understanding the reverse (how many your opponent needs to do the same).
In particular, pay close attention to the “Cover 2” column(s); it can often require 3, 4, or even 5 hits (and up to 3 crits) to statistically be able to deliver one wound, and if you don’t move out of range or LOS, your opponent may have an easier time hitting back.
For example, let’s examine Stormtroopers versus B1s:
Assuming just an attack action (no aim tokens), Stormtroopers will wound, on average, 1.2 B1s through heavy cover, and B1s will wound, on average with at least 1 surge token, about 1.0 Stormtroopers.
This is a bad trade for attrition purposes, as losing a single B1 does very little to mitigate the Separatist player, while losing a single Stormtrooper is a lot more impactful.
Optimizing for attrition
Not every list or army is built around winning based on attrition, though most armies are vulnerable to losing to it - 1-2 wounds per activation, per turn, can quickly add up.
Here are five tips that can help during list building and play:
5. Use high mobility units
High mobility units like speeder bikes, units with jetpacks, or Jedi can take advantage of the battlefield in ways other units can only dream of. By hiding partially (or even better, entirely) behind LOS terrain, they can wait for the right moment to jump/speed out and strike, and in the subsequent turn, duck back behind cover if needed.
Slower units, especially units that have trouble navigating terrain are more vulnerable.
4. Use units with easy activation control
To be able to attack (and move) at right moment, you don’t want to clumsily “fishing” for the right order token from your bag of 10 tokens. Some list compensations (and some factions) make it easier (or dead simple) to activate units when you need to, while other armies will suffer and take wound after wound of attrition hoping to pull the right token.
3. Use units with accurate, long-range weapons
As a general rule of thumb, accurate long-range weapons (i.e. with big dice pools, easy access to aim tokens, or Critical: X, or a combination of the three) can force attrition on your opponent while receiving none in return.
2. Use units with “back-loaded” weapon pools
Some units can suffer acceptable losses and still be relatively scary, such as B1 and B2 Battle Droids and the Rebel and Clone Z6 trooper. These units retain most of their offensive firepower in the heavy weapon, which usually can be kept alive even through 4-5 wounds.
Other units will start to lose offensive efficiency quite fast, even if they lose 1-2 minis.
1. Use units that reliably can perform two actions
The best way to win the attrition war is the ability to move and shoot in a given turn. If you find yourself easily suppressed you need to make the difficult decision whether to shoot for a tiny chance at doing a wound, leaving yourself open to counter-attack, or to give up any chance at shooting to hide.
Droid Trooper units (who don’t lose actions to suppression), as well as units with Courage: 2 (who need at least 3 suppression to reliably suppress) can more reliably suffer a few suppression and still perform the holy grail attack-move or move-attack.
0. Use units you can afford to lose
This one is a bonus: the more quality activations you have, the less you need to be concerned about slipping up once or twice. If you bring a super-elite 8-9 activation list and then slip up you’ll quickly be facing a 3-5 activation disadvantage, which makes it very difficult to employ attrition as a weapon.
I hope you enjoyed this brief overview of “attrition” in Star Wars: Legion, and we hope to cover more content in the near future about improving your game. I’d like to take a moment to mention that Boring Blog Anyway is a community supported free (as in “beer”) blog, and we’re happy to solicit articles from a variety of view points.
If you’re interested, inquire with Decaf#1337 on Discord.