Your updated guide to all things AI for the CIS Faction
Greetings everybody! It’s been quite some time since my last article, so I hope everyone has been as well as possible over the past seven months. For anyone who’s been around since my Jedha Journal days, you may remember I wrote an introductory guide to controlling AI: Attack on the B1 units. Well, that article is a little outdated now (it’s only been 19 months…), and somehow a replacement has never been published. Thanks to Decaf for letting me rectify that with a guest post today. Also, a quick shoutout to TabletopAdmiral for compiling all of the updated card images in one location.
I have a few disclaimers to get out of the way. This one is going to be a little more lengthy than the previous post. Essentially, I’d like to cover each major unit for the CIS. This includes how they interact with their specific AI keyword, how to avoid triggering it, and whether or not it needs to be a major concern for you to begin with. I am going to operate under the assumption that the Coordinate (After a unit with the coordinate keyword is issued an order, it may issue an order to a friendly unit at range 1 that has the unit name or type specified by the coordinate keyword)keyword is understood by the readers. Finally, this is not meant as a “be-all-end-all” meta-guide to AI, but rather an introduction and refresher for some of the tricks and tools the CIS has for controlling their only downside as a faction.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
B1 Battle Droids
Generally the backbone of your CIS lists, the B1 Battle Droid comes equipped with the AI: Attack keyword. With their access to Coordinate: Droid trooper, the mindless B1s are able to stay under control and keep your forces in near perfect control every turn. However, as we’ve learned over the past year, when they don’t have an order and AI: Attack triggers, the B1s turn into a giant mess. Ensuring AI does not trigger for these droids allows you to maintain perfect order control; while not subjecting your forces to unaimed shots that can trigger standbys, waste activations, and prevent you from scoring objectives or withdrawing from a melee.
There are a few ways to keep this AI under control: HQ uplinks, command cards, vehicle coordinations, and the generic T-series droid commander. I’m going to keep this segment brief, as I’ll cover vehicle and T-series coordination a little later on here.
HQ Uplinks are the original way to control the horde. The first example here uses a “honeycomb” pattern with the two uplinks stacked on one side of the chain. This allows the user to interlock the minis from the units within their respective cohesion bubbles, ensuring that there is a safety value of a backup B1 uplink in case the primary unit is shot off the table. This method can be slightly trickier to set up as you are limited by physical model size and map spacings; it also does nothing to prevent the middle of the chain being snapped by enemy fire.
This next example is a little more traditional. It positions one uplink on either side of the chain, and gives the player the freedom to choose which B1 triggers the chain. However, similarly to the first example, there is not much flexibility when it comes to protecting the middle of the chain from being severed. Granted, you can create two chains with a double uplink pop, but that’s not exactly the peak of efficiency now, is it?
T-Series Tactical Droid (feat. “The STAPs”)
Whereas the B1s are old news by now, the T-series has just burst onto the scene, and oh my is it making an impression. The T-series does not possess any AI keywords of its own, but it excels at preventing AI from triggering on your other droid units. It possesses a new keyword called Direct (Each Command Phase, during the Issue Orders step, a unit with the direct keyword may issue an order to a friendly unit at range 1–2 that meets the unit specifications of that direct keyword). Specifically, the T-series has Direct: Corp Unit. Glorious, isn’t it?
In this sense, Direct takes the place of an uplink in your droid army. It never needs to be refreshed, can be extended way beyond range 2 (we’ll get to that in a second), and is safer in the sense that the T-series can start the coordination chain from behind a line of sight blocking terrain piece from up to twelve inches away.
Integrated Comms Antenna (ICA) has not been the most utilized card in Legion since its inception. However, it has some incredibly useful applications with the dawn of the T-series. The ICA combines with the Direct keyword to allow B1 and B2 units to receive their order out to range 4. This is incredibly useful for deployments like Disarray, Danger Close, and Hemmed In (as red player) because of the extended range. It ensures the player has maximum flexibility when deploying, as the chain can essentially be started from anywhere. Oh yeah, it’s also only three points.
“But Mike, I want to start my chain on my Staps or AATs instead. Can I do this?”
(STAPs come equipped with AI: Move and AATs with AI: Attack)
Yup, you definitely can, it just takes a little effort. Let’s reintroduce Commanding Presence.
The T-series doesn’t just come with Direct. This droid is also a commander, has a command slot, and can issue orders from command cards. Let’s use a quick list example:
T-Series Tactical Droid (Commanding Presence)
6x B1 Battle Droids (E-5C B1 Trooper)
3x BX-Series Droid Commandos (Strike Team) (BX-Series Droid Sniper)
3x STAP Riders (Linked Targeting Array)
With just Standing Orders (SO), you can obtain perfect activation control every single turn. With Direct in tow, the T-series is giving out two orders every turn. Using Direct, let’s say we order the first B1, and run the order down the chain to end back on the T-series itself (it is a droid trooper after all). Next, we have the SO order itself. This combines with Commanding Presence to allow this order to be sent to range 4, allowing the STAPs to perform their flanking maneuvers as they order each other via coordinate.
“But they’re STAPs, what if range 4 isn’t far enough?”
We still have options. Let’s convert one of the Linked Targeting Arrays into a Long Range Comlink.
This allows “infinite range” orders for your STAPs. There is one downside to this comlink when compared with the Commanding Presence option: target priority. If the opponent is smart and kills the STAP with the comlink, the long range orders disappear and the other bikes can be hung out to dry. Commanding Presence allows you the flexibility to issue the order to whichever STAP you prefer based on the situation.
We’re still not finished with the T-series (see, it’s amazing at control). Using the handy comms slot, the T-series can also be equipped with a comms relay.
Remember in the previous example where the B1 chain ended on the T-series itself? Let’s suppose we have Maul in the list as well. Via the relay, the T-series can direct B1s, receive the order at the end of the chain, and then pass its order off to Maul up to range 2 away. I know, I love this thing too. Don’t worry everyone, it’ll be back in “leader” form with the B2s, but I think we need a break from it first (our relationship isn’t perfect yet…).
Droidekas are in an interesting spot order-wise. They possess AI: Attack, Move and they have a glaring lack of Coordinate. This seems less than ideal, but they “sometimes” make up for it through firepower and staying-power. The good news about their AI is that droidekas like to move places and they like to shoot things. Let’s start with three dekas in a list, and work our way down to one.
If you’re running three droidekas, you’re more than likely going to just have to deal with the effects of AI. Unless you’re running a 3-pip command card or an excessive amount of uplinks and relays, getting orders on all three droidekas isn’t very practical. My advice is to get an order onto the deka in the most “important” position to ensure it can aim before shooting and just deal with the other two as the tokens slip over.
If you decide upon only one or two droidekas, it’s not too bad. Using the relay tactic on the T-series we discussed earlier, plus a single “command” cost from a command card, allows for some pretty plausible order control on the droidekas. Just make sure that you have a backup plan for the commander token in the bag if you also have Special Forces or Heavy tokens in there too.
Organic and Not-A-Droid Commanders
Darth Maul, Count Dooku, and General Grievous. None of these fine pieces come with AI keywords, but they all play into your control of AI units during the game. The goal when playing with a focus piece unit in the CIS is to ensure that it is the only token left in the bag once the chips flip over, and if its not the only one, that it remains a timing neutral activation.
Taking a look at a traditional Dooku/STAPs list, we can illustrate the AI interaction, once again using standing orders.
2x BX Snipers
The exact upgrades are not exactly relevant here, except for the following: one STAP and one B1 each come equipped with an uplink. We’re going to break down Standing Orders first. Initially, the B1 and the STAP pop their uplinks. Two things can happen here: the STAP order goes STAP-STAP-BX and the B1 chain also ends on a BX, leaving Dooku to order himself with SO. Conversely, the uplink orders may never touch the BX commandos, allowing Dooku to once again order himself and leave only the BX in the bag. Perfect control is easy isn’t it?
When using command cards that issue multiple orders, this becomes even simpler, as you have more “free” orders to utilize. This often allows the BX droids to gain faceup orders as well. Using “Assault” as an example, Dooku can order a STAP and two BX droids after the B1 pops the uplink (or gets the STAP coordination!) to leave only himself in the bag, ensuring perfect timing yet again.
Maul’s Sith Probe Droids present an interesting wrinkle to this fabric. We discussed earlier the “comms relay on T-series” tactic for bouncing your orders. This exact same concept works with the Sith probes as well. The probes are a droid trooper, have a comms slot, and lack coordinate. Therefore, ending the B1 or STAP chain on the Sith droids and having them use a comms relay to bounce Maul (or even Dooku!) an order can be a really flexible play to keep your important units face up and firing.
“I never ordered my snipers with my original factions, why would I here?”
This is a great question. Let’s first look at the BX card itself.
Two things should stand out here: a lack of pierce and a lack of AI: Aim (which is not presently an option for anyone…). Thanks to red saves, impervious, and corner peeking, the BX Commandos are surprisingly durable for a sniper squad. Offensively, they can be a little toothless, despite their double-red-surge-hit sniper profile.
As shown above, the sniper upgrade does not come with native pierce, it instead is saddled with “Lethal 1.” Now, this isn’t horrid, but it does mean that the droids need to have an aim token to spend for pierce. Snipers love to aim and shoot so this is easy right? Not always. Due to AI: Dodge, Move the BX require a faceup order (or an Offensive Push upgrade) to gain their requisite aim token. Not unlike the droidekas, the BX do not have coordinate, so they must be the end of a chain.
Truthfully, I could copy/paste the droideka section here and it would fit, but I’d rather summarize it: with three BX squads, be prepared for at least one AI to trigger, with two or less you can use command cards and chain endings to ensure you get the precious aim token for the pierce.
B2 Super Battle Droids
Finally. We’ve made it to B2s. They’re perhaps the most interesting unit in regards to AI as a benefit/drawback, so I wanted to save them for last. However, the AAT remains my favorite droid unit, so it garners the final spot. Back on topic…
I’m going to operate under the assumption that we are bringing B2s with one of their heavy weapon options for this section. With a heavy attached, a B2 is essentially firing an ATST shot (at range 2), so AI: Attack is not the most punishing of keywords. Conversely, the HA heavy trooper is exhaustible (and extends to range 3) so having to fire it alone is...not always ideal. There are three main ways to mitigate this: keep your B2s in small numbers and at the end of your order chain like BXs, use the ACM trooper and keep them outside of range 2 of your opponent, or combine them with a T-series leader upgrade.
Yes, it's back again. Look at that card art: the T-series means business.
I’m only going to touch on the AI aspects of this card: reliable, sidearm, and leader/wounds are topics for another time (and someone else to tackle). This guy turns the B2s into a mean, effective, and spammable unit. I want to break down how he fits with both heavy options.
The HA trooper is arguably where we find the most shine. I mentioned above that AI: Attack does not interact well with a range 3 exhaustible weapon that's attached to a range 2 squad. Well, what if you removed AI: Attack? With the T-series, we now have a ten-dice-throwing unit that has reliable and armor one and doesn’t care about AI. Hence, they become spammable.
T-Series Tactical Droid (Aggressive Tactics)
B1 Battle Droids
B2 Super Battle Droids (B2-ACM Trooper)
4x B2 Super Battle Droids (B2-HA Trooper, T-series Tactical Droid)
2x STAP Riders (Linked Targeting Array)
STAP Riders (Long-Range Comlink)
Five B2s and a single B1, we’ve flipped! In a traditional CIS list, the corp immediately get their faceup orders, and we’re left to sort out the SF, Operatives, and Commanders from the bag. However, in this case it's the opposite. Using just Standing Orders, we’re able to direct the B1 which coordinates to the T-series and use the long range comms on the STAP to get an order on all three of them. In this case, all 5 B2s are in the bag, giving us perfect control. You’ll notice the single B2 without a T-series has the ACM droid, ensuring that the “triggered” AI attack still retains the full unit’s dice pool, instead of just the range 3 HA weapon.
Last but not least is the AAT. We’ve seen a number of different AAT lists pop up over the last year, and nearly all of them are effective. Interestingly, some of them have accounted for the AAT’s AI: Attack via pilots, and some have gone more barebones and mostly rolled with the drawbacks.
There are two pilots that actively remove AI: Attack from the tank. Lok Durd is unique and comes with a suppressive ability, while the T-series (yes, yet again) is generic and simply removes the AI keyword. The T-series also provides field commander, which is a topic for another time.
I personally lean towards the T-series pilot for the field commander and points-savings benefits. Let’s once again use a sample list to demonstrate its effectiveness.
B1 Battle Droids
2x B1 Battle Droids (HQ Uplink)
3x B1 Battle Droids (PK-series Worker Droid)
3x BX-Series Droid Commandos (Strike Team) (BX-Series Droid Sniper, Offensive Push)
2x AAT Trade Federation Battle Tank (T-Series Tactical Droid Pilot, High-Energy Shells)
With this setup, it is possible to have orders on each B1 and BX every turn, while leaving your AATs in the bag. Thanks to their T-series pilots, the tanks are not forced to shoot first, and can choose to move into an advantageous shooting position or even double move to block a lane if desired. There are myriads of double AAT lists in this fashion that rely on the T-series pilot to convert the AAT into a truly timing neutral activation.
Sometimes leaving the AI: Attack on the tank is the play to make as well. The OOM pilot allows the tank to gain Coordinate: Droid Trooper at the cost of keeping its AI. By turning the tank into a “mini STAP,” you can keep the order chains moving. The OOM also pairs nicely with Linked Targeting Array, ensuring that you have double the reasons to issue an order to your behemoth. Personally, I think the OOM is best served in a single AAT list, and is secondary to the T-series pilot.
If you decide to run the OOM or even go pilot-less, I would recommend taking two armament upgrades on the tank. Both the High-Energy and Armor-Piercing shells are effective weapons, and being “forced” to shoot with a 7 die weapon with critical 2-3 and a giant line of sight is far from unfortunate.
Sith Lords are not the only ones who deal in absolutes, as AATs with absolute control are crashing the party as well.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking around! Thanks again to Decaf for allowing me to suly his blog with some droid advice; please check out the other articles on the site. If you have questions or if I was unclear regarding some topics, please feel free to reach out to me, you can find me on the Legion Facebook or on Legion Discord as GhostWalking.
If you liked the article, I also record the Legion 99 Podcast and Turn Zero YouTube show, and would love your support and feedback.
Until next time: stay safe and healthy, and enjoy your gaming!