Or would those be nightmares? Either way, ChahDresh examines the potential of the Empire’s new minivan– now and in the future.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have high hopes for the TIE Reaper. We’ve talked about it before in the context of Director Krennic, but with it hitting tables I wanted to do a bit of exploring with the ship itself.
The Reaper, uniquely for the Empire, is a high-speed support ship with crew slots. That’s its niche. In price point and role, its closest comp is the HWK, despite its chassis being about as different from the HWK as you can imagine.
If we grant that Lightweight Frame is a given, we see a ship that’s reasonably tough—only marginally weaker than a Gunboat and about as tough as a T-70 with Integrated. Toughness, though, is a more of a bonus for this ship than its defining trait, though it is one arena where it compares very favorably to a HWK.
The HWK, for all its demerits, at least had the virtue that it kept formation with its charges. The classic Rebel “one-ahead to victory” approach was well-suited for the HWK dial, at least until you had to turn around. The Empire, of course, doesn’t fly like that (the TIE /sf excluded). This was the fatal flaw of the Lambda for so long: as a cumbersome large-base ship, it was utterly incapable of flying along with the ships it was supposed to support. It’s the infinite range of Palpatine’s ability that makes Palp Aces work, as His Darksideness can have his impact on ships that are (necessarily) across the table from his ride.
The Empire’s other support ships fared no better. The TIE Bomber Shuttle had a points restriction to its crew, was on the fragile side, and brought nothing to the table but those crew upgrades; the Decimator is not a support ship (support ships aren’t 40 points naked); the Upsilon doubles down on the Lambda’s strengths and weaknesses at a price point that pinches its squad.
There’s clearly an opening, in other words, for a support ship that can keep pace with the Empire’s starfighters. The Reaper, thanks to Advanced Ailerons, is fast enough to maintain formation with almost anything in the Empire. And, if you want to go slow to stick with TIE/sfs or Gunboats, you can always neglect to equip the Ailerons for the same cost, or do a quick red maneuver at game start to turn the Ailerons off.
The Reaper, in other words, is the Empire’s minivan– it’s not as fast as the fastest in the fleet, but it can hold its own, can fit into places the big boys can’t, and carries plenty of people. (To extend this analogy, the Interceptor is a crotch-rocket motorcycle, the Decimator is a full-sized van, the Bomber is a station wagon, and the Lambda is a school bus. The Silencer? A Ferrari.)
Once the Reaper is in position, what support do we expect from it? The Jam action leaps out at the start. It lets us deny alpha strikes, or make token-dependent ships (like Poe and Omega Leader) miserable. The persistence of jam tokens is icing on the cake. ISB Slicers seem a natural upgrade for a ship that will be using Jam regularly. Two-for-one action economy is always killer. I wrote that three-ship lists are incredibly popular these days. A Reaper, properly positioned, can deny actions to a whole three-ship list in one go. (Block one, jam a second, ISB Slicers to jam a third.)
Doing so is non-trivial, however. The jam action can hit a target at range two if they’re in your arc, and at range one otherwise. This restriction is another constraint on how the Reaper flies and how you make your approach. The fastest a Reaper can travel is 6.5 bases per turn (Ailerons one-ahead into a three-bank maneuver). Toss in the range two requirement, and your maximum threat range for jamming is 11.5 bases.
That, in turn, means you have to carefully control range on your approach. Your goal is to go from out of range to range two in one move, without accounting for the enemy’s motion. Fail and you’ll have to suffer one round of shooting on your approach before you can get your jams in. That’s where the Reaper’s toughness comes back into play. Hopefully.
On the other hand, if you succeed and then land a bump, the result is that your opponent won’t be able to get rid of the jam token until the *next* turn. Depending upon how you’re flying and what your squad is like, that might be better.
Either way, the Reaper will end up close. Your need to get close to jam, the Aileron minimum-speed problem, and the low PS profile of the Reaper ensure this. (Okay, technically you don’t have to jam. It’s just a good idea.) Not only will you get close; the Reaper will frequently wind up blowing past the enemy. How you manage that is trickier than you might expect. The Reaper has Sloops, sure—but it pays a larger price than most ships if it uses them, as you lose not only your actions but your Ailerons. A Reaper can come about reasonably quickly with an Ailerons-bank and a one-turn, but even that swings it wide, to say nothing of if you use larger turns.
(The Striker doesn’t have the same sort of problem because the Striker can barrel roll. Also, Duchess. Duchess is wicked fun to fly, she just has no action economy and no chance against TLTs. She can’t WAIT for 2.0.)
As far as pilots go, my expectation would be for most of the action to surround Scarif Base Pilot, with a little bit of Major Vermeil dashed in. Vizier’s ability only helps ships flying slow and close to him, and the Empire isn’t usually about slow ships in formation. (You could have him escorting /sfs, but he compares unfavorably to Yorr in that scenario.) Feroph has an ability seemingly designed to give him a chance in the end-game. The requirement to stack jam tokens, though, limits this. (You need to have one on the target and then take a jam action to ensure the enemy doesn’t just action it off. Also, Push the Limit exists.)
Vermeil, though, has an easier-to-use ability that doesn’t require any outside help to max out and gives him a potent offensive punch. Vermeil’s ability is nearly as good as a focus token or target lock at range one (adding 15/16ths of a hit against 1 for the token) and better at range 2-3 (adding 7/8ths of a hit against 3/4ths for a token). What’s a great way to de-token enemies? Jam them—making a jam action a potential three-to-one action advantage. (Jam to de-token, ISB Slicers for two, proc Vermeil for three-ish.) Vermeil also opens up that precious EPT slot.
If you take Vermeil, you are implicitly placing more of your squad’s offensive burden on him– he’s less of a support ship and more of a bruiser. The five points (plus EPT) you spend on Vermeil over the Scarif Base Pilot have to be made up for by the extra offensive potency, and the additional investment makes the Reaper a bigger target. Then again, you want the enemy to kill your support ship first, and making the Reaper more offensive helps that effort.
Last topic as I wander about in my sleep-deprived state: I find Multi-Spectral Camouflage intriguing. As a small-ship mod, it runs into a crowded field for many ships. (Lightweight Frame, Autothrusters, Guidance Chips, Integrated Astromech… the list goes on.) I like it as a meta-choice to make ordnance ships second-guess themselves, but how many ships would actually equip it? Well, let’s see: can we think of any ships that are defensive-minded and don’t have better options in the mod slot?
Yeah, I was JUST THINKING they needed the help. Is it 2.0 yet?