Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Phantom. Menace?

A friend and I both have a TIE Phantom in our collections, but both of us have held back from playing it. I think that there has been some concern about flying against it, but also about flying with it. It's one of the ships that has had a lot of X-Wing gamers talking about it, some saying that it's over powerful while others say that it's nothing to worry about if you know how you fly against it. The conclusion seems to be that it changes the game, for better of for worse is a point of debate.

The "big deal" with the TIE Phantom is that it can cloak, and when it's cloaked it has the highest agility of any ship in the game. That is coupled with also having the highest attack score in the game, so it is hard to hit yet hits very hard. Throw into the mix that when it uncloaks it also takes, what amounts to, an additional move action on top of its normal move and you've got something interesting. With a high pilot skill it will also be taking that additional move after many other ships have taken theirs, so it should be able to put itself somewhere where it can shoot but not be shot at. However when its uncloaked it agility drops down to beneath that of a normal TIE fighter and it's not able to take a lot of damage.

So it throws a few different things into the bucket. And last night we played it for the first time...

The Imperial Squad
  • A TIE Phantom that has the ability to move in curves when it decloaks and not just straight lines, so it can dance all over the table. It was also loaded up with extras that let it recloak immediately after it fired and a few other bonuses. It took up about 40% of the points for the squad.
  • 5 basic TIE Fighters

The Rebel Squad We had discussed the game and I knew that a Phantom was going to be tried out, so I built something that had what I hoped would be an anti-Phantom capability while also being able to hold its on in "normal" games...
  • Wedge. He has a very high pilot skill so should, in theory, be able to fire at a Phantom in between the brief time when it uncloaks in the movement phase and recloaks in its attack phase. He was also loaded up with an R2 unit that could cause stress, which denies actions, and an engine upgrade so he too could take an extra move after seeing where other ships were going to be.
  • A Y-Wing with an Ion turrent, 360 degree fire, all the better for taking down Phantoms... Plus I love the Y-Wing anyway.
  • An X-Wing
  • A Z-95
In effect I was taking two ships that I thought could deal with a Phantom, the Y-Wing and Wedge.

The game
The TIE Fighters stuck together in a swarm of five. The Phantom initially started to come down one side of the board. But when I turned my fighters into the asteroids in the middle of the table the Imperial Player changed his mind. He pulled the Phantom back up and looped it behind his swarm and down the left side of the table. It was kept cloaked pretty much all the time as the player wasn't sure that he could get it into the right position and didn't want to risk it being in the wrong one.

So it actually didn't do very much for quite a while. In the mean time it was a 100pt rebel list against a 60pt Imperial swarm. The obvious happened, the swarm took a beating. It managed to take out the X-Wing and the Z-95, but they were the secondary elements of my squadron. Wedge and the Y-Wing were my real star players and made it through.

And then the Phantom makes its appearance when the swarm is down to two ships. And, again, it doesn't do very much. It does blow the Y-Wing away but Wedge is still intact, and he's awesome. The Phantom was kept in close and uncloaked, Wedge took it down leaving him against one damaged TIE Fighter.

Game over, the Rebels win.

The lessons
It's hard to draw any real final conclusions on the Phantom from just one game, but there are some things that could be taken away.
  • The Phantom is far from unbeatable, in a straight up fight when de-cloaked its low agility and low(ish) hull and shields mean that it can die reasonably easily.
  • Don't be distracted by a Phantom, you don't want to go chasing after it leaving its back up to tear you to pieces.
  • The Phantom isn't that powerful.
  • The Phantom, with the pilot who de-cloaks with curved not straight moves, is very hard to fly well. You have to be able to predict with reasonable precision where its targets are going to end up and where its moves will therefore end it. Those things are far from easy. Yes a fantastic player will, I think, be able to use a Phantom to utterly devastate your squadron. But, to be fair, they'll be at such a skill level that they could probably do it with nothing but Y-Wings.
  • You have to risk your Phantom, yes it's a lot of your points but if your opponent isn't going to get distracted and chase after it then it needs to be in the fight backing up the swarm.
  • I don't think you want to get into a "normal" dog fight with a Phantom like you would any other ship. For the points it costs it can't take the damage it will receive. Your paying points for this ship that can dart all over the able, so it should be darting all over the table. In the end game I was suggesting that the Imperial player should accept that his TIE was doomed, get the hell out of there and not fight again until he was Wedge blind sided.
  • Wedge seems quite capable of dealing with a Phantom once he had those upgrades. With his engine he can take an extra move to get the Phantom in his firing arc and with his droid he can cause stress to the Phantom which will stop it cloaking after shooting, then everyone else can take a shot at the thing as well.
  • The Y-Wing doesn't do an awful lot of damage. It's Ion turret might be 360 degrees but it will only do one damage. It's slow and hard to manoeuvre so it's hard to get shots off with its main guns that would do more damage.