It’s nice to see the attention that mini-swarms are getting lately. As a mostly Rebel player myself, the true swarm approach (6-8 TIEs) doesn’t really capture my interest all that much. No shields anywhere and a meagre firepower 2 on every ship makes me cringe!
Luckily there are options. As observed by Josh Adams in his article (above), the basic element of most mini-swarms is Howlrunner + 3 TIE pals. Sticking to Academy TIEs and no upgrades, this setup is 54/100 pts. The remaining 46 pts can go a lot of ways, usually a heavy hitter in a Firespray or something to provide offense and attract some attention away from Howlie.
Krassis with Recon Specialist and a HLC is rapidly becoming a common sight, as it’s a super reliable ship that can do a lot of reliable damage, while still saving a focus or two for defense. At long range and with agility 2, that gives you a really quite decent ability to deflect damage.
In the interest of trying something different, I have been trying to figure out a couple of different variants. Starting in mid-December, I have run these lists a few times and with pretty good results (only loss being a three-player game where the last man standing (Krassis) was down to one hull). One list with a tricked out Lambda shuttle, and another with slightly more unique approach — what I have been calling the “heavy swarm”. I’m still not sure how I feel about the latter, but it’s surprisingly decent at grinding away towards a win.
Yorr & Friends
The shuttle build is just plain amusing to use. I took Captain Yorr with Ion Cannon, FCS, Gunner and crew member Darth Vader. This weighs in at 37 points, well under the 46 limit we are working with within the typical mini-swarm framework.
How to spend those 9 remaining points? I went with Push the Limit and Stealth on Howlrunner, and upgraded one TIE to a Black Squadron with Draw their Fire. This really helps Howlrunner avoid being sniped out, and if you are in a spot where you really don’t want Howlrunner to be stressed from PTL, you can hoover up that token with Yorr. I notice mrfroggies suggested a similar combo in the comment thread on Josh Adams’ article. Great minds 😉
In terms of usage, it’s pretty simple really. You have a decent level of pilot skill (8/4/4/1/1), and with a bit of luck Howlrunner and the BSP can strip a shield or two off Yorr’s target before he fires. Depending on the dice, that often allows you to finish someone off or at the very least cripple them with a combination of ion tokens and unshakable critical hits.
Best case scenario, they die without using Vader. If you really have to kill something dead (especially something virtually impossible to hit like a Stealth, PTL Interceptor at range 3), then go ahead and save your focus, miss with your primary attack, trigger Vader, pick up a free target lock and try again with a TL/F stack. If they are still alive and you really need them to be dead, you can use Vader again to finish them off.
The key to the shuttle is knowing when (and when not) to use its self-destructive abilities. Obviously wasting Vader on a shielded target (or Chewie!) is not your best bet, and neither is taking on a stress token too early. The shuttle has a hard enough time moving, so you want to be able to use the lovely red 0 or hard 2 when necessary. When the shuttle is on its last legs though, especially if it’s about to fly past the fight never to return, then that is a good time to soak up a bunch of stress tokens from the mini-swarm. Howlrunner k-turning and using PTL without incurring a stress token is pretty sweet.
For results, I haven’t used the list all that much but it hasn’t lost yet. The highlight was a game vs. Chewbacca and a pair of B-wings, which is becoming something of a trend locally since I used it to lock up a share of first in our X-wing league. I didn’t think this matchup would go well (Vader’s ability being near-useless) but the mini-swarm took Chewie and friends apart in 3 combat rounds without losing a ship. That was very encouraging to say the least.
My other fascination lately is with the heavy swarm concept. Maybe “heavy mini-swarm” should be emphasized, since it’s still not a huge number of ships. I haven’t seen it used anywhere else, but I put together a list with naked Bounty Hunter, Howlrunner with Determination and a trio of Scimitars. Not particularly punchy, but it packs a ludicrous amount of hull points (27 + 4 shields) and can use focus defensively to grind games out. Howlrunner (in theory) provides the offensive boost to cause some damage on the first pass or two, before she inevitably gets turned to shrapnel.
The only lists I’ve used with a similar amount of beefcake involve a pile of B-wings, and with only agility 1 and a preference to use their actions offensively, they don’t play nearly the same way.
This list too has pulled off a win versus what seemed like a brutal matchup; three Daggers with HLC and FCS, which tend to excel at bringing down targets with a lot of hit points. The first B-wing shot of the game vaporized Howlrunner, and yet the bombers were miraculously able to grind out a win in the end. These things can take a quite few punches when using focus instead of target locking all the time to feed their ordnance. In the end I think the HLC’s inability to cause critical hits (before re-rolls anyway) really helped save the Bomber swarm; with all hull and no shields you can easily find yourself screwed up by a bad crit and it was nice to have ships fighting at full effectiveness until they dropped.
There’s yet more variants to try out, and I’m quite eager to do so in the coming weeks. I picked up a fourth Bomber recently, so I can try something along the lines of Howlrunner, a DTF Black Squadron Pilot and 4x Scimitars. Not a lot of punch, but plenty of beef! Some variants with actual bombs would be fun too. I haven’t managed to get the feel for bombs yet, but unavoidable damage is never a bad thing, especially when it can be done out of the usual firing sequence.
Have any suggestions, feedback or mini-swarm lists of your own to suggest? I’d love to hear about it!