A few weeks ago we talked about what makes Harpoon Missiles so good, and how some people are using them. But what if you want to avoid them?
Harpoons were a hot commodity coming out of Guns for Hire, with ultra-high PS alpha strike lists making quite a splash. But, with Wave Twelve-teen hitting us with five new ships, there’s no telling if they’ll remain a thing. I suspect they will; Kylo Ren might be a sweet arc dodger, but if you take him with VI his action economy is less than it needs to be, and if you take him with Push the Limit then modern alpha strike lists put him at risk. None of the other ships in this wave suggest that they’re any sort of answer to Harpoons in and of themselves. A Resistance Bomber, for example, might be able to chuck a bomb ahead of Harpooners, but then it’s just going to die to return fire. The Gunboat can’t compete with the high PS of these other lists. The Sheathipede is more likely to be a casualty of Harpoons than a counter to it. The Kimogila, for its part, is likely to be assimilated as a Harpoon caddy.
That’s not to say Harpoons are unbeatable; far from it. I’m just establishing that they’re likely to remain in the meta mix for the time being.
Dealing with Them
Given that, how do we deal with it? There are a couple of ways to go about it, but some are bad ideas. For example, you could go all-out to deal with them by taking ships that are designed to counter ordnance. Say, for instance, that you want Captain Kagi with Countermeasures. It would assuredly de-fang alpha strikes! Enemy ships would have to take locks on Kagi, then you dispel those locks with Countermeasures, forcing them to lock Kagi again before they can launch… and even when they do, you can keep your other ships away so that Kagi is all you lose.
Ah, but here’s the catch– that’s 30 points *before* you start adding upgrades to help him carry his weight, and he’s a big liability against “the field” (i.e. non-Harpoon lists). Rey would just giggle at seeing Kagi on the other side of the board.
More measured counters (heh heh) are more useful in adding some anti-Harpoon tech without squashing us against the field. Countermeasures are available for minimal points on any large ship and do the job nicely. Some players go so far as to tack on Scavenger Crane for multiple rounds of dispels. (Imperials don’t have this option.) Big ship-centric lists are much easier to keep spaced, too, meaning you’re unlikely to suffer much from the splash damage. Other options are trickier. The Black One title, for example, seems like a great first option. Shaking target locks all over the place! Ah, but now you have to make the same choice as you do with Kylo. Alpha strike lists are running at PS9 or higher, meaning they can get their locks after Poe has done his repositioning. If you go VI Poe to chase them, your action economy is terrible. Advanced Optics may help with that, though…
- Poe (PS9): VI, Advanced Optics, BB-8, Black One, Autothrusters… 41 points
He’s maneuverable-ish, tough-ish, and expensive (no -ish about it). It’s neither as maneuverable as Intensity-Primed Thrusters Poe, nor as tanky as regen Poe. Might be worth flying all the same. And, unlike Kagi, Poe is useful against the field.
A different approach might be to deny your opponents their actions– they can’t shoot missiles without those locks. Snap Shot + Stress might be one way, though the range requirements are strict. Blocking is an older, evergreen alternative. The trick is you have to cover an awful lot of ground…
But that idea of “covering ground” brings us back to another old technique: the Rule of Eleven.
Using and understanding the Rule of Eleven requires some pictures. (I’ve tried to explain it to people with words alone and their eyes just glaze over.) Really, though, the Rule is worthy of an article all its own. For now, the moral of the story is: if you can jump from out of range to range one in a single turn, you don’t have to deal with Harpoons (unless your opponent saves his locks and nails you out of a K-turn the next round). Some Harpoon caddies are vicious jousters in their own right; others not so much. This means this is a viable way to avoid getting Harpooned without distorting your list at all… it just requires you to fly carefully and maximize the engagement when you get it before exploiting the limited hulls/dials of the Harpooners on the other side.
Next time: the Rule of Eleven (and the related Rule of Eighteen), with pictures.