First I’ll go through some key concepts and things to consider when list building. Then I’ll discuss some elements of execution for during games and tie it all up at the end.
The first major decision you have when making a list for Imperial Assault is: how many activations am I shooting for?
- As with most games you can try to ‘min-max’ – that is, try both extremes of a spectrum and maybe settle on a good balance somewhere in the middle.
- 9 or 10 activations is probably the max for Imperial Assault at the moment, go past that and all of your figures will be too weak individually. The other extreme is 3 or 4 activations – you’ll have powerful activations like Han, Chewie, Boba Fett, Royal Guard Champion, General Weiss but you’ll most likely be outnumbered and may well struggle on objectives too.
- Most players find a ‘sweet spot’ to be 6-8 activations.
If you have more activations than your opponent you can delay activating your important or more powerful figures until later in the round. By doing so, you can force your opponent to make the first move and then react to them; you get to dictate the flow of the game. By them activating their powerful figures first, they have to move up and then got shot; you get to shoot and then potentially run away or grab objectives.
Previously, before the pass rule came into effect in August 2015, having more activations than your opponent was more powerful. But it’s still an advantage.
Let’s say the following two lists are playing each other:
So we’ve got 7 vs 5 activations. Imperials win the initiative roll. The activations might go like:
- Imperials: Activate Officer, move, order a RG
- Rebels: Pass
- Imperials: Activate Officer, move, order a RG
- Rebels: Pass
- Imperials: Activate Officer, move, order Vader
- Rebels: Activate Gideon, focus, tactical maneuver
So at this point the Rebels have to activate, they go with Gideon to focus Chewie or Han, and give either of them a couple of movement points. Now the Rebels have 4 activations left for the round, the Imperials have 5 left but haven’t really committed to anything, they’ve moved up both their guards and Vader, but those 3 figures all still have their move and attack. (This is a lot to do with the power of the Officer too of course, not just about having an activation advantage).
By having more activations than your opponent you get the jump on them, being able to move up and delay your powerful activations until later in the round. You’re able to react to their moves.
Heavy hitters and Support
The second part of list building is thinking about your mix of heavy hitters and support deployment cards.
It goes without saying that the more powerful individual deployment cards are more expensive in points, so low activations lists are more likely to contain heavy hitters like Vader, Royal Guard Champion, Chewbacca or an AT-ST.
In addition to these big powerful figures there are some great support units in the game that make you strongly consider the make-up of your list. How much support do you want to include?
Gideon, R2-D2 and C-3PO are the most obvious support choices for the Rebels, although Mak and Jyn Odan can also provide that role too, but they fit into a more ‘mid-range’ area.
Gideon can just straight up focus friendlies, potentially from the other side of the map. Now Luke’s rolling Blue, Green, Green, Yellow, for a ton of damage, accuracy and surges. Tactical Maneuver is also a great special action. I often find myself deploying Gideon in the center of my guys and spending his entire first activation focusing Luke and moving him up.
C-3PO can perform a very similar role and for only 2 points, along with Gideon you can have two figures that can easily focus your troops for only 5 points.
R2-D2 is great! He’ll draw you cards, annoying your opponent with his combination of white defence die, Lucky and Service. And he’s only 3 points!
The Imperial Officer is probably the ultimate support unit in the game. A solid attack, can focus itself, can Cower behind a Royal Guard that will Protect it, has a white defence die, can give units a full move and is only 2 points!
Vader…you must confront Vader
There’s no getting around the fact that Darth Vader is almost certainly the single most powerful unit in the game, in a vacuum. And rightly so. He’s a total powerhouse. He’s strong, can attack twice, can kill troopers just by looking at them, can re-roll defence dice and has 16 HP. His weakness is his speed, but this will almost certainly be mitigated by the order ability from Officers.The one and only
When building lists you’ll need to ask yourself: If I see Vader across the table from me, can my list deal with him? (Read more on Team Covenant)
- Ignore him – aim to gain up to 22 points from the rest of the enemy list and gain 20ish points from objectives
- Stun him to slow him down and turn off Brutality – this can be achieved with Chewie and Rebel Saboteurs, amongst others !
Stun, Bleed and Weaken
This leads us onto some of the most important harmful conditions – namely Stun and Weaken. They’re both great for different reasons.
To explain how influential stun is, let’s wind the clock back a little bit. Most games of Imperial Assault last 3 or 4 rounds. This means that most figures (assuming they live for the entire game – which is rare of course!) will therefore take 6-8 actions over the course of the game. Stunning a figure will take up 1 out of its 6 actions away from it. That’s just under 20% of its actions for the entire game. What about those figures that are likely to last only 1 or 2 rounds? It could be 1 out 4 actions. That’s taking a huge amount of ‘game-time’ away from your opponent. If you can stun a figure in consecutive rounds? Wow!
Stun and bleed are even more effective if the Empire uses them. These effects are devastatingly more powerful against the Rebels for a couple of reasons. First of all, the rebels’ actions are simply more precious. While the Imperial has a variety of expendable troops, each Rebel player only gets two actions every round. Furthermore, Rebels are capable of resting and double-attacking, making their action economy all the more important; removing a rebel action is absolutely crippling in ANY context. If you’re playing to win, use stun every opportunity that you have.
Another oft-ignored element of stun is that it can impede interrupt actions and special abilities. For example, if you really want to shut down Jyn Odan’s Quick Draw (which will be a pain in your shiny Stormtrooper butt in the hands of a smart rebel players), just stun her before she gets a chance to use it. Being stunned means you can’t perform attacks, and that translates into special actions. If Jyn is stunned, no quick draw for her. This would also be a killer for Gideon, whose Command/Masterstroke is incapacitated if the unit he wants to command is stunned. If he’s commanding double attacks from the wookiee every turn, just stun that Wookiee and laugh at the old man as he shoots you with his panzee starter gun.
For stunning, Royal Guards (normal and elite) are your most reliable choice, but Elite Imperial Officers can also get the job done. These are the only units that can stun in the base game. As far as bleeding goes, Nexus and Trandoshan Hunters are your go-to guys. Nexus are particularly brutal for bleeding, as it’s a free effect that doesn’t even require a surge. Ouch. Trandos can also make it happen, but it’s often tempting to go for their other surges instead, so I’ll leave that one up to you.
Bleed is also just the worst for the Rebels, because of their ability to incur strain, another thing that Imperial units lack. Clever rebel players will make sure that they’re ALWAYS taking max advantage of strain-moving and special attacks, so bleed can ruin them. At worst (for you), they’ll remove the bleed the first chance they get, effectively wasting an action (and in that sense, functioning the same way as a stun). At best, they will keep the bleed, which will deprive them of two precious strain every round, which will convert into actual damage if they leave it on for too long. Given that most characters rock an endurance of 4, one full turn can fill up half of their strain. Brutal.
Weaken is also very good – removing evades makes them…weaker. And getting rid of surges from attacks is huge too – they’re less likely to dish out harmful conditions themselves, less likely to pierce and push through damage, less likely to blast or recover. But the best thing about Weaken? Read the last line: “Discard this condition at the end of your activation”. It can’t be dealt with like the other harmful conditions. It can’t be discarded for an action. Only special cases – such as command cards like Rally or Regroup can get rid of it.
Now how to capitalise on this? Weaken can be used in a few different ways.
- Weaken a figure that’s already activated early in the round, so that it has less dodges on the multiple attacks that could target it – it won’t be able to discard the condition until it’s activated in the next round
- Weaken a figure that hasn’t yet activated, forcing your opponent to strongly considering activating it early, if only so that it doesn’t face multiple attacks with a weakened defence. Weaken a powerful figure like Vader, Royal Guard Champion or Chewie, before it’s activated and you might force the hand of your opponent into activating them way before they’d like to
Weaken is pretty much universally good at reducing the effectiveness of a figure’s attacks – getting more effective on those that don’t roll many surges to start with – attacks such as Red + Blue, or Blue + Green.
But keep in mind though that Weaken is pretty much strictly better when targeting those figures that roll the white defence die – and even better on figures with the ‘Cunning’ keyword. The white die has 3 faces with an evade symbol, so weaken will effect half of their defence rolls. Whereas the black die has only 1 face with an evade.
Blast is another great tool to consider when listbuilding. At the moment the Rebels can more easily and reliably include it in their lists, than the other factions.
Both versions of the rebel saboteurs are very good at blasting. The regulars have Blast 1 on a surge; whilst the elites have Blast 2 and can trigger it up to twice, using their overload ability.
Blast is important for 3 broad reasons:
- It can totally wreck any lists that use or are designed around troopers. Rebel troopers + Fenn Signis is a cool archetype that wants to stick together to make the most of “Aim”, “Trooper Assault” and command cards such as Reinforcements. Kayn Samos + Stormtroopers + Heavy Stormtroopers is also a cool list that wants to be adjacent to itself in order to maximise its abilities. Most troopers only have 3 health and so Blast 1 is pretty damn good. Blast 2 is just evil to them. Double surge from an Elite Saboteur for Blast 4? Yes, all your guys are now dead…
- It can stop the really powerful combo of Royal Guards using “Protector” to provide cover for Officers using “Cower”. Any list running Royal Guards and Officers is already really powerful. The Officer rolls a white dice and is hard enough to kill as it is. You can stop them from being adjacent by having access to blast in your list – or punish them if they forget or can’t avoid it
- Blast is ‘uncounterable’ damage – the defending players doesn’t roll dice against it – anytime time you can deal damage in this way is a good thing!
The most important thing about command cards?
Don’t forget them! They’re not an afterthought – you should put as much thought into the construction of your command deck as you do your list of deployment cards. Through this little deck you have access to game-changing abilities!
Obviously the deck is informed by your list. What I like to do first is look at my unique characters and their corresponding cards and then decide which to include. These cards are all pretty powerful, so you can’t go wrong with them really, but their cost is that they often cost 3 points and as they’re limited to a single copy, you’ll have plenty of games when you don’t see them or draw them at the wrong time.
If you’re making a rebel list you’re more likely to have multiple unique characters. Don’t go overboard on ‘character’ cards for the reasons above. Luke and Chewie’s cards in particular are great.
Other staples include Take Initiative which pretty much should be in every comm and deck ever. Being able to go 2nd in a match and steal initiative on round 3 is awesome!
Celebration should probably find its way into most decks – it’ll be a dead card against very few lists. It’s particularly good against the Rebels who have many weak unique characters like Mak, Gideon, Jyn and C-3PO. Once you get to 33 points or more and have ‘Celebration’ in your hand, you’re in a great positon to steal the game. Likewise if you’re against someone on around 33 points you better start protecting those weak uniques of yours!
Single Purpose is another staple card to strongly consider:
- Double force choke for Vader, killing those last two troopers and gaining 6 points? Double choke to a strong unique like Chewie, Han or Luke, finishing them off with an unanswerable 6 damage out of nowhere?
- How about double order from an Officer? Or double ‘Executive Order’ from an Elite Officer?
- Double Slam from Chewie?
- Double Scomp link from R2-D2, drawing you 2 cards during the round?
- Focus two figures with C-3PO or Gideon?
There’s so many applications!
‘Jump Jets’ is another great card.
Allowing you to move a figure inexplicably through terrain and hostile figures to suddenly appear somewhere unexpected or make a later objective or terminal grab.
Imperial Industry is a reward card you can get that’s just stupid powerful. It allows you to add various surge abilities to any unit, one of them being stun. If you can slap this on, say, Stormtroopers, then you’ll find that it’ll be pretty hard not to win any mission. There’s a reason why stun is only on two units, and if you unlock the ability to put it on anybody, it’ll pretty much break the game if abused. This one will definitely allow you to win, though it may come at the cost of your Rebels actually having fun, because being stunned every single turn is…not very pleasant.
Execution during games.
So you’ve built your list and now you’re sat down ready to play a game. But it’s not just a fight to the death. You’ve got two ways of gaining points: killing enemy figures and completing objectives.
You’ll rarely if ever get to 40 points by exclusively achieving one or the other. Therefore, at the start of a game, resist the temptation to charge down the nearest figures and attack.
Consider the mission at hand, how many points the objectives offer and how many of those points you can reasonably expect to gain. Then consider which of your opponent’s figures you’ll need to target in order to get to 40 points.
Throughout the game you’ll constantly need to evaluate how you’re doing against the objectives compared to your opponent and which figures you’ll need to target to make up any deficits you’re facing.
Considering all of this from the point of view of your opponent will also give you a leg-up in your path to victory.
This balancing act is a key part to the game and its enjoyment!
The order in which you activate your figures is huge in this game and creates great moments of tension.
There are several questions you’ll want to ask yourself when deciding what to activate next.
- Which of my figures are closest to death? Should I activate them before they die?
- Which of my opponent’s figures are closest to death? Should I activate whoever is most likely to kill them, before they can activate?
- Which of my opponents figures have or haven’t activated yet? Should I go after those that have already activated, knowing that they can’t react until next round?
- Which of my figures can grab a crate or work towards some other objective? Can I make a late dash to control a terminal?
- Are any of my figures likely to be given a harmful condition by the enemy and should I therefore activate them now before that happens?
- Can I give a harmful condition to an enemy figure now before it gets a chance to activate and/or run away?
This list is not exhaustive and the fact that it’s so long and varied tells you a lot about the juicy, tension-filled decisions you get to make during games of Imperial Assault.
A general rule of thumb is that you’ll want to activate your most powerful figures as late as possible in the round – they’ll have more information to go on and enemy figures won’t be able to react.
The dice…the dice!
Spend some quality time with your dice. Go on, do it!
You’ll learn which are best for different situations and therefore which units are best for which roles.
- Red is the ‘damage die’ and will provide you with 0
- accuracy, lots of damage and a 1 in 6 surge.
- Blue is the ‘range die’ and will provide you with 3-4 accuracy most of the time,
- Green is the ‘jack of all trades die’ and will give you 1-2 accuracy, 1-2 damage and a surge half of the time.
- Yellow is the ‘surge die’ giving you the highest chance of a surge, but at short range
Knowing the dice, allows you to reasonably predict the range of attacks – both your own and the enemy’s. You’ll therefore be able to position your guys to be in range and move them out of attack range. It’ll also give you an advantage in knowing how likely you are to kill a figure or just injure it – informing how you prioritize targets.
Positioning and Movement
The game is fundamentally about positioning and moving around the map. Knowing your own and the enemy’s speeds will help you to either place yourself in or out of attack range.
Try to resist charging into the center of the map in the first round. If you move up first, most of your list won’t have an attack, leaving your opponent to counter with the full force of their list.
Preserving Deployment Cards
Deployment cards either represent a single powerful unique figure or a group of 2 or 3 figures. Your opponent will only score the points for it when it and all other figures in the group are defeated. Vader with 1 HP is worth 0 points to your opponent.
So during games, think about trying to keep certain figures alive, so that your opponent can’t have the points. You can do this in a couple of ways.
The most obvious thing to do is to run away!
The other thing to do is, during deployment; don’t put all the figures from the same group together. Running two groups of saboteurs? Put saboteur A with saboteur B. That way you enemy will destroy the guys they’re immediately engaged with, but won’t get any points for it.