Weak Point: Imperial
The heavy burden of trying to play armor as an Empire player
I have been given the honor to discuss the Empires heavy and support unit situation, and while the initial plan was to write one article, it quickly became apparent that I had to split the two, as both deserve their time in the salty sun.
Let us start with the heavy side of the discussion, which ironically is somewhat lighter in content than the support side. At the time of this writing, the Empire may choose between the glorious “Chad” ATST, and the “Virgin” GAV tank. In case you are wondering, yes there is some bias in this discussion. The ATST is one of the most iconic vehicles in all of Star Wars, and indeed the same is true for Legion, due in no small part to the fact that it was one of the first heavies to come out for the game (the other being the evil airspeeder, which has gone from trash to hot faster than a Kardashian sibling). The GAV tank is also a vehicle.
Besides the aesthetics of the ATST model, the height of the unit gives it the sightlines of it’s airspeeder cousin, without the rules for forced movement. This height is hard to quantify as far as points cost is concerned, but in this author’s humble opinion, it is certainly worth 15 points (vs the GAV tank). The other aspect that should be mentioned is the ATST’s ability to host multiple kinds of weapons, based on what your desired style is. If you want to run it into range 2 (which is easy enough to do with it’s huge base and speed 2), you can negate any cover that your height has not already cleared. Likewise if you wish to sit in the back and mortar any visible unit (range 4-infinity) to hand out suppression, you can! Of course the common setup is the extra twin blaster that gives you one more of each die color at range 1-3. All of this sitting behind armor, 11 health, and surging white defense dice. These are all solid options, so what’s the issue?
The cost. Now, to be sure, the recent price reduction down to 160 is huge help to the ATST, and it much appreciated, but what I mean is the cost of/with the add-ons. The guns (20pts for the TLBC, 15 for the grenade launcher and 10 for the mortar) are so expensive for what they add. The exception, I would argue, being the mortar, which feels right for 10pts. However the most common upgrade being 20pts on a unit that is already 160 is a hard sell. The other issue in relation to cost and weapons is the lack of keywords (other than impact). These guns were made in a time when the term “critical” did not exist, and it shows. The unit itself only surges on defense, forcing you to take the “surge to hit” pilot for 10 more points. So now your rock star chicken is 190pts, and that’s not counting a Linked Targeting Array (which is great to equip whenever possible). The mortar is also solid, but despite its cheap cost it then pushes the unit into the 200’s. Again, the ATST is a solid unit, but in an army that is already full of expensive things that do less than their cheaper counterparts in other armies, it starts to feel bad. 95% of my ATST games, my ATST does not even get shot, however that means that the shots go into my corps and other expensive units, who then often melt. So by game end, you rise tall with your beautiful walker…standing on your own army’s ashes in defeat.
“Then...” you say “what about the tank?” “Surely a newer unit would have newer keywords and be ready for the modern meta?” And to you I would say “Nay”. No, sadly the tank, which showed so much promise in the beginning, is now nothing but a cheap gimmick-mobile, that still manages to be too expensive, despite a reduction down to 145 points. The GAV tank has a weaker arsenal, unless at range 2, at which point it can be more formidable, however one still has to pay for the “surge to hit” pilot due to a glaring lack of any kind of surge or “critical” keywords on the unit (and it’s extra guns). The suppressive on the range 2 gun is nice to have, however it goes into the main issue with the GAV: That damn base. When the oblong base first was announced, we were all interested to see how it would shake out. Would it be good? Would it allow interesting things? Would it unlock new play styles? The answer to all of these, of course, is “No”. In the end the base and model size are it’s biggest liability. That oblong base has such a narrow firing arc, that you may often find yourself having to waste actions to reposition, even if in range, just to get a shot (the add-on gunners are 360 degrees though, ode to joy). That means no aims, and on a gun that has no critical and no native surge, that feels bad (even with the “surge to hit” pilot it feels bad). The flip side of this is, well, the sides. Those weak points are so easy to get into that, despite red defense dice, the tank can often be melted with a few good side hits. Now some will argue that this is helped by how low the tank is, and that it can often get cover. In reality, it is still often a bit larger than the terrain it’s behind, so no cover is gained, and because of its lack of height it will usually lack the line of sight to shoot back at anything. In short: it gets all the downsides of hiding and rarely the upsides.
Now I would be remiss to not mention the new transport rules, which certainly helped (along with the points drop) to make the GAV tank worthy of some discussion, however with the new rules providing heavy cover to the unit inside, it also means the unit inside can die easily. I’ve seen Vaders and Ewebs get nuked turn 1 or 2 because players thought that being the tank made the unit invincible. It is no different than being behind a barricade, and in fact it’s quite worse, because now if any part of that tank can be seen, that unit inside can be shot. Your gimmick just got you killed. Hope it was worth the fun nicknames and “lolz”.
So is that all that is wrong with Imperial armor? Expensive and unwieldy? Sadly not, because despite these costs, an Imperial players must still pay the “commander tax” and bring a commander unit. Even if this is only a 45 pt generic officer, it is still 45 extra points that could have been negated by simply adding a field commander keyword or card. The other major issue is a lack of order control. While there are ways to get orders to your heavies, those ways often force you to sacrifice other aspects of your army, while the GAR and CIS factions laugh as they toss orders to their armor, whilst also taking care of their other forces. The problem with Imperial armor is the army around it. Either your units in the GAV tank die a sad death just trying to jump a range band, or your army fades away while your ATST tries to fire back in revenge, it’s pilots saddened by the loss of their over-priced friends.
Now, to land on a different note, there is a new heavy coming in hot. The LAAT/lE will be coming soon, and if leaks are any indication, we may get a field commander unit yet! However it appears as though this unit will mainly be transport focused, so who knows how it will combine with the other heavies in the army. I will not lie, I am excited to see what comes in the box, both unit wise and in regards to upgrades, but I am also so jaded that I am ready to be hurt again. Perhaps this article will be laughable once the new heavy is out, but my fear is that too much of it will ring true still. I hope I am wrong, and Empires are built on hope.