Back when Phil first dangled X-Wing in front of me, like a dealer with a fresh bag of something lethal before an addict, one of the things that sold me on the game was the option of being able to deploy two of the most iconic characters in science fiction. The first being Boba Fett and the other being Darth Vadar. And the other day I finally got my hands on old the Dark Lord of the Sith. Old Captain Asthma himself, piloting the equally iconic mark I TIE Advanced.
Having played a couple of games I was struck by just how vast a gulf there was between the performance of an X-Wing and a TIE Fighter. And I don’t mean the pilot: the craft itself. Shields make a massive difference. This seems obvious but they really do. Numbers don’t count for as much as I thought they would so the addition of a TIE Advanced that increased level of protection, as well as some sorely needed ordinance was going to make a big difference. And I got Darth Vadar thrown in to boot.
Now I know Phil isn’t keen on the packaging but I like it. If I’m going to pay as much as £10.79 for a single snubfighter miniature I at least want it to look premium when it turns up, and the packaging definitely does that. It feels solid and looks nice. The model is well presented, a bit like an Apple product in so much as it’s all a bit unnecessary but you don’t really care. Plus as anything with the words Star Wars on the packaging usually gets inflated by 30%, it needs to look top end.
Once you get into the packing, along with the faithful recreation of Vadar’s ride, we have the following:
1 x Base and stand
3 x Ship Tokens
1 x Manoeuvre Dial
1 x Evade Token
1 x Focus Token
1 x Stress Token
1 x Critical Hit Token
2 x Shield Tokens
2 x Sets of Lock on Counters
4 x Pilot Cards including: Darth Vader, Maarek Stele, Storm Squadron Pilot & Tempest Squadron Pilot
5 x Upgrade Cards including: Concussion Missiles, Cluster Missiles, Squad Leader, Swarm Tactics & Expert Handling
In short, a lot of card. And as before you don’t just buy these expansions for the model it’s as much about the cards and upgrades they offer you that can be used on your other ships. It’s kind of tabletop game, collectible card game and RPG all rolled into one when you think about it. Which is kinda cool.
But obviously this is all about Lord Vadar, and his inherent Pilot Trait is frankly awesome. You get to perform 2 actions a turn which means you can put both evade and focus tokens on your base. This means you can dodge a hell of a lot of fire even if your evasion rolls are only average. It dramatically increases Darth Vadar’s survivability. Although Maarek Stele ain’t too shabby either on the trait front because as he scores critical hits you get to draw three cards and choose the worst result to inflict on your opponent. It’s not hard to see how that can be an utter disaster for your opponent.
And the upgrade cards that come with the TIE Advanced are pretty damn handy too. Obviously we have had Swarm Tactics with the TIE Fighter pack but now we have Squad Leader which is a unique card so can only be taken once, but gives you the ability to select any friendly ship within range 1 – 2 with a lower pilot skill and this ship can then perform an additional action for free. Which is crazy good. And the Expert handling card allows you to perform a free barrel roll removing 1 target lock, damn useful for when you’re being hounded by those bloody pesky X-Wings.
And now we come to my favourite. Namely cluster missiles. In exchange for 4 points and your target lock, you get to launch this bad boy twice at with 3 attack dice providing you’re range band 1 – 2. Tasty. And then you have the Concussion Missiles which, again for a target lock, get four dice at range band 2 – 3. It also allows you to change one blank roll to a hit. Boom!
So to sum up the TIE advanced is essential to any imperial fleet as it gives you your first taste of shields and missiles but also some rather nice upgrades that, in the right combination, are extremely nasty. But honestly, what imperial fleet is complete without Darth Vader?
The TIE Advanced Expansion Pack is available from Firestorm Games priced at £10.79.