Saturday, February 13, 2016

Strategy Discussion: (Mailbag) Escort Ship Tactics (Imperial)

Today's Mailbag topic comes from Rhinehard of the FFG Forums.  He writes:

Hi mate,

I'm a big fan of your blog. On that note I've been really interested in the Raider posts recently and I was thinking I'd love to see your views on Escort Ships and strategies.

A good topic that needs to be covered.  There has been a lot of posts on the Raider recently, with people experiencing varying degrees of success with the ship.  On the Rebel side, the CR90 serves the same price point, though certainly not the same roles.  Other small base ships can serve in an "Escort" role as well - the Nebulon B and the Gladiator can both be used in such a role, though they can be capable of scaling up into a heavy hitter all on its own.

So, let's look at these "Escort" ships, and how they can fill a role within your ship list.  Today we'll be looking at the Imperials.


First, let's take a look at the terminology:  What the Raider, CR90, naked Nebulon B, and naked Gladiator are is what I would call a "Support" ship, one that's role in the fight is to contribute but not do the heavy lifting.  An "Escort" ship, on the other hand, is filling a specific role in the fight - to stay close to a bigger, more expensive ship, and force an enemy to deal with them rather than the higher value target.  This is, of course, a role that would be typically filled by the "support" ships, though you could also use a larger ship as an "Escort" to a flagship or heavy hitter.

An Escort ship then has two main points - the first is that it is there as a deterrence.  The points that you are using on the escort are to tell your opponent "Don't even try", and force them to make a sub-optimal play.  Take the side and rear arcs of a VSD, for example.  That is exactly where an enemy ship wants to be.  Now if you put a Gladiator or Raider there, behind and to the side of the VSD - now sneaking into that gap is less ideal.  That ship, the one filling the gap and keeping the enemy from getting into your "bad" arcs, that is an Escort.

Good Escort positioning.

Escort Tactics: (Raider)

Different Escorts are capable of protecting your heavy hitters from different things - increasing your capabilities in an area that your heavy hitter lacks.  The Raider, for example, is a (relatively) inexpensive anti-squadron platform - though one that works best with anti-squadron fighter cover - and good for hanging close by your ISDs (who don't want to waste their great anti-ship attacks shooting squadrons) and by your VSDs (who do not have an anti-squadron compliment themselves).  

Against a Bomber-lite list, the Raider can also be used a close quarters screen on a flank of your bigger ship, arraying itself on the side and back. If an opponent tries to get around the side of the bigger ship, the raider can add its front arc to the less impressive firepower of the Star Destroyer's side arc.  Another option, if you can see the attack coming, is to use the Raider escort to screen your bigger ship from the attack, moving them into a spot where they obstruct the shot.  Now, this is almost certainly an offer to trade your escort away to not suffer the damage on your big ship, but it's almost always better to lose a 50 point ship than watch a 100+ point heavy hitter drop into the critical range.

Specing Out an Escort Raider:

Raider I-Class Corvette (48 pts)
 - Ordinance Experts

The baseline for a cheap escort ship, this spec'd Raider can cover from flankers with his front arc, and averages near 2 damage with his anti-squadron rolls.  A good all-rounder, and cheaper than a GSD if you need the points somewhere else.

Raider I-Class Corvette (61 pts)
 - Ordinance Experts
 - Expanded Launchers 

More expensive than the Baseline, this Raider is much better at covering the flanks and can pretend to be a heavy hitter for at least one turn.  Used to good effect by Clontroper5 in his World Cup List (while also adding Intel Officer).  You can use this to cover the flank of a larger ship, and still jump up and chase.  Cheaper and more viable anti-squadron platform than a Gladiator II-Class, and a heavier hitter out of its good arc than a Gladiator I-Class.

Raider II-Class Corvette (52 pts)
 - SW-7 Ion Battery

Also more expensive than the baseline, the Raider II with SW-7 Ions gives you the ability to put out 3 consistent damage at medium range - and allowing you to harass flankers that aren't willing to close in.  With this ship covering an ISDII's flank, you are only losing a single die between the two activations verses a shot from the ISDII's front arc.

Raider I-Class Corvette (56 pts)
 - Ordinance Experts
 - Expanded Hangers (Optional)
 - Instigator
+ 2 TIE Fighters (16 pts)
Total:  (72 pts)

A very dedicated anti-squadron build, this Raider is looking to hang close to a major bombing run target, and then jump the Bombers, holding them in place with Instigator, and keeping them from firing on him with his two TIE Fighters.  Expanded Hangars are optional in this, but lets you bring the TIE Fighters in to the fight immediately instead of relying on a different activation, or Squadron Phase movement, to get them into the fight.

Escort Tactics:  (Gladiator)

While the Raider excels as an anti-squadron platform (though it needs to get close to do so) the Gladiator typically is used as more of an anti-ship deterrent.  Because it has two good close-quarters arcs, and is very difficult to out-flank, it makes for an excellent close quarters screen for your ISDs and VSDs.  While their are better anti-squadron options (see the Raider I-Class) the GSDII is certainly capable of anti-squadron shots and at longer range, and is marginally better against enemy aces as it can actually get accuracy results.

However, if you are using it as an escort, it is not something that you want to invest a lot of points in - by its very nature it will be pricier than most of the Raider options, but it will be more survivable with better hull and redirects for its shields.

Specing out an Escort Gladiator:

Gladiator I-Class (60 pts)
 - Ordinance Expert

While the Raider is a cheap, all-around escort ship, the baseline Gladiator is there to stop enemy ships.  It is much better at the role of jumping up to block an enemy attack, because with its tokens and hull it has a better chance of actually living through the first round of combat.  With its better arc placement, and dice, it has better odds of being able to contribute to damaging the flanking ship.  If you are using a Gladiator this way, you are probably not looking at putting too many more points into the ship, though you can add a cheap munition like Assault Proton Torpedoes (5 pts / 65 total) to maximize the damage from your re-rolled dice.

Gladiator II-Class (75 pts)
 - Wulff Yularen
 - Flight Controllers
+ 3 TIE Interceptors (33 pts)
+ 3 TIE Bombers (27 pts)  (optional)
Total:  (108 pts) / (135 with Bombers)

Here's a bit of a pricey option for a Gladiator II, but with it you get not only 3 squadron activations for cheaper than an equivalent Victory, but on a ship that can counter an anti-ship push better as well.  An alternative to the Interceptors (and 15 anti-squadron dice with rerolls) is to activate Bombers, punishing any enemy ship willing to close on your flank - an excellent option if both are already present in your squadron compliment and typically activated by the carrier that you are covering.  It is a bigger cost than you'd usually want for an escort, clocking in near what a "heavy hitter" GSD is expected to cost, but it can punch above its weight class.

That's all for this article - we will be covering the Rebel escorts soon enough.


  1. I played in my FLGS store championship on the weekend, and played against a fleet with 2 ISD-2s fully decked out with every imaginable upgrade. They hit hard, but as soon as I flanked them with my GSDs and ISD-1 they went down pretty quickly. An escort ship would have helped.

    Conversely, I tried a raider and then a VSD in different games as an escort ship for my ISD. Although the Raider is fast, agile and great against squadrons, the VSD won out due to its toughness. In the tournament it took a pounding (died in 2 games) but that left the big guy alone and allowed the rest of my fleet to do the damage. So maybe that is the role for the VSD now!

    1. It might very well be a role that a VSD can play. It won't really be able do do much against squadrons without squadron activations of its own, and even a VSD1 comes in as pricier than the GSD - but it gives you the flexibility to use your VSD for other roles as well if you don't think an escort is required. For example, parking a VSD on a Contested Outpost.