So I hadn't played CIS before, but I had played against them so much it seemed so easy! I finally finished painting a CIS squad and brought it to a tournament (only four of us, so closer to a league night, but still) and had a blast.
This is what I ran, and it was mostly because I wanted to play Maul and I wanted to play Dooku, but I didn't know the next time I'd get a full 800 game of Legion in after this, so I decided to shove them both together and go for broke!
This was my first round matchup, and it was scary seeing two of those tanks. We played Long March, Transmissions, and Supply Drop on a map that, after playing it, was not the A-OK I gave it when we were setting them up. The TO (who also played this list) is a great guy but hadn't played Legion in a while, so a few of the tables were awkward in terms of cover, this table being the most egregious. Overall though it wasn't half bad, and I won 2-1 on victory points. I was limping there at the end of the game though, so time being called was good for me, but if it hadn't have been Dooku and Maul would've had to do some serious work to win two points in round 4 (though both were at full health going into that round thanks to the medics, so it could've been possible for sure).
Two for two on the jank empire lists, I went on to play the other first round winner and his corps heavy list. Major Offensive, Key Positions, and War Weary meant this round was very similar to the last in terms of objectives. This game started very very conservatively, only trading a couple of shots in the first two rounds, but round 3 started a bloodbath. This map, again, didn't have much cover, just a few line of sight blocking pieces, and so my droids had to hide. My opponent played well though and positioned 4 of his stormtrooper squads in position to take either the middle point or my back point, and so I would have to split forces if I wanted to fully secure a victory.
After some terrible rolls from my corps and then Dooku crapping out on his offensive and defensive rolls for his 1 pip, I lost him, and so I was left with just Maul deep within enemy lines and with only 3 health left. From there the ISF came in and started wiping out droids, and so I conceded halfway through round 6 as I had 5 models left on the board and a long drive home.
These two games led me to thinking though: what makes a CIS list work that is so drastically different than others? I broke it down into a couple major categories:
Surprise surprise, CIS' gimmick is crucial to their playstyle! Who knew? This is something that I didn't struggle with until losing my T-Series, Dooku, and Uplink squad in the last game, but I built my list with some insurance against it as well. The puzzle of these lists is "does every order I issue have a logical end? If so, how do I need to position these units to get there?" Some things to help are units with Direct (right now just the T-Series and 2 of the 3 Super Tacs) or a B1 squad with HQ Uplink.
My rule of thumb is I look at how many units in my list don't have Coordinate but can get orders from Coordinate, and then add in Direct or Uplink if they aren't already there. This works well for lists with only a couple of units that can't pass orders, especially ones that stay close, but it can be tougher when you have three Dwarf Spider Droids or a couple units of Magna-Guards, but don't be afraid to plan ahead and spend points accordingly.
One other tip is to look at your command cards! When running CIS you have a lot of great options, and so sometimes the key to your puzzle is not an extra HQ uplink, but just looking at what units get orders from your card! Something like Comms Relay on a Super Tac or making good use of Mechanized Incursion can prevent you from having too many tokens in your order pool.
With units that can't get coordinated, such as Dooku, Maul, Grievous, and Bane, try to keep them as the only unit in your bag that way you effectively have a faceup order token. For units that are order greedy (such as Maul and Bane, two units who have two cards that only issue orders to themselves) I would recommend not to run multiple units that cannot coordinate well without some sort of contingency plan. Oftentimes this means units a T-Series or a couple of Uplinks in the list so you can still get snipers or spiders or the like, but maybe this means you just run some more order neutral units that don't mind their AI!
This is a dice game, and so you will have dice that are hotter than the sun and dice that blank exactly when you don't want them to (which seems to be always). In a game where dice are so crucial, moments where you don't have to roll dice can be really really strong. Force Choke and Force Barrier are the first two things that come to mind, both providing a way to do what dice do but without rolling for it, but one that people can quickly forget is Cover.
Droids love cover because their white dice will fail quickly, and their white dice roll crits just as often as they do hits, so they can often shoot through opposing cover about as often as other units with larger dice pools and no way to mod them. Be warned though: this can make opposing lists feel way more frustrating because they are getting that benefit as well. You can mitigate this through units that can generate crits (Surge:Crit or Critical, Sharpshooter) or can just increase the size of your dice pools in order to offset some of the differences.
Not every table has good cover, and you often can't force Fortified Positions, so be looking as to where you can maximize your cover as you even start deploying, sometimes thinking 2 or 3 turns in advance.
When you still have to roll dice though you're going to want the best dice you can get. One card that was stapled to CIS commanders for a while was Aggressive Tactics, which is still good, but with more and more options for command cards and commanders it might not always proc, and 15 points can be a lot. Bolster on the Tactical Droid is great, sometimes whiffing but when used correctly can be the save or hit you need. Electrobinoculars and Portable Scanner both are good takes on B1 squads and commanders alike, so don't be afraid to have a support droid squad.
Overall, CIS is a lot of fun, and the uniqueness of the faction is a lot of the selling point. While both of these are game mechanics, they do feed into the fluff of the game too, which I personally like. I am excited as there are more things for CIS on the horizon, and I can't wait to start putting them on the table more often. Let me know some tips for playing droids down in the comments below, and I'll catch you next week here on Dice and Cardboard for more Star Wars: Legion content!