The Hangar: The Galactic Empire
Welcome to The Hangar, pilot! In this series we cover starfighters, freighters, shuttles, racers, bombers, gunships, and everything else in between. This is the chance to look "under the hood," as it were, and explore what makes our favorite ships great.
The first round of posts in this section will be breakdowns by faction of the ships that make up your squads. When I was new to X-Wing I read the excellent buying guides and faction breakdowns from the likes of Rogue Outpost, Stay on the Leader, Confessions of a Midwest Scrub's post-points change essays, and others (many others) and since I know I could sit and read different individuals' takes on this topic all day I thought I'd offer mine!
We'll focus on what X-Wing players call the "chassis" or the attributes of the ship itself independent of pilot abilities and upgrades, except where the two are notably linked. More in-depth looks at individual chassis with their pilots will follow and be linked from these intro articles. Ships are presented in a loosely "ranked" list, though for the most part this is subjective and based largely on my personal experience and preferences. With a few exceptions I will stick to ships that can be bought in their faction with 2.0 components, so I'll get to all ships that will be legal in AMG's upcoming Standard format in due time. For more information on all ships I'd also recommend the X-Wing 2.0 Wiki.
Okay, so the humble TIE fighter is far from the best ship in the game or even the faction but it is every bit as iconic as the X-Wing and Millennium Falcon and in the right hands can be a real workhorse. The TIE's main draw here is that it is cheap, points-wise and can be flexible depending on the mix of pilots and number of ships you fly. You have everything from disposable generics, to mini-squads who synergize like Inferno Squad, to efficient I5 "aces" like Howlrunner or "Mauler" Mithel who either improve others' attacks or add dice to their own. Sure, they only have 3 hull and no shields, but with 3 agility and strength in numbers a group of TIEs can stick around long enough to wear down your enemy's ships and force an error or exploit a weakness in their squad. Remember that while you get a pair of TIEs in the Core Set there is also an individual expansion with a new set of pilots that is worth picking up.
There's a saying among pilots, "if it looks good, it flies good," and the Defender is a great example. Its angular silhouette looks predatory and terrifying and that impression holds up on the table. The Defender may be one of the best overall ships in the game and therefore has a correspondingly high points cost that, somewhat thematically, will sometimes make it a less than efficient choice for your squad. With the phenomenal "Full Throttle" chassis ability the Defender wants to go fast and the white (stress-free) Koiogran Turn is unique to this ship, just be careful not to fly too predictably by always sticking to the 3+ speeds and overusing the K-Turn.
TIE Advanced v1 (Inquisitor's TIE)
The TIE v1 is one of the most versatile ships in the Imperial hangar. It has a super maneuverable dial and can take a bit more punishment than your usual TIE, though it still rolls 3 green dice to prevent those hits from connecting. It has the standard TIE 2-die front attack but you can augment that offense with munitions and some really nasty pilot abilities from the Inquisitors and the linked reposition to Focus actions make them tough to pin down and kill.
TIE Advanced x1
You'll recognize the x1 as Vader's ship from Star Wars and, just like the Dark Lord himself, in his hands it can be an overwhelming and relentless damage-dealer. The X1 has more health (with shields!) than a standard TIE Fighter and a ship ability that provides more offensive power. When flown well this ship can be very dangerous, but be aware that it has limitations, lacking a 1 hard turn, few blue maneuvers, and a fairly limited action bar with the notable omission of the Boost action. The X1 is closer to an X-Wing/TIE hybrid than a bobbing and weaving dogfighter like the TIE Interceptor so try to stay fast and use range to your advantage.
The Interceptor lives and dies by the sword. You'll find that a "squint" either dances around the board, dodging shots and making surgical strikes, or takes a few unlucky hits in the first few rounds and is unceremoniously vaporized. The Interceptor has a phenomenal movement dial, with nearly the full suite of basic maneuvers (missing the 1 straight and 1 bank, gotta go fast) and lots of blue maneuvers, including hard turns and some very speedy options. When you fly this ship you should take advantage of the chassis ability to stay out of firing arcs as much as possible. You'll be tempted to try and take a shot every round with the nasty three die attack but remember that an unlucky roll equals death, so if you end up in more than one arc you've likely made a mistake. The Interceptor also has an available configuration in "Sensitive Controls" that allows Systems Phase repositioning that is worth a try.
TIE Strikers can be tricky to fly but efficient and deadly with a bit of practice. The ship ability, Advanced Ailerons, can be at times either a blessing or a curse: the Striker is fast, but it HAS to go fast. The chassis' ace, Duchess allows you to either use or disregard your Ailerons at will so can be very fun to fly. Plan your moves well and remember that the Advanced Aileron maneuver is a maneuver, therefore it can be partially executed unlike a Boost action. The Striker also benefits from a three die attack and can often add both a gunner (with no actual turret) and bombs for some neat shenanigans.
With the absence of a 2.0 re-release for the Lambda class shuttle, Rogue One's TIE Reaper is the Empire's least costly choice to carry crew into battle. The Reaper has the same Adaptive Ailerons ability as the Striker but with its more limited maneuver dial and medium base you'll need to plan your moves carefully to keep the it in the game and on target as much as possible. The banked Aileron maneuver followed by a 2-speed Segnor's Loop in the opposite direction to turn around is a neat trick that almost no other ship in the game can match. With the right pilot and squadmates a well-equipped Reaper can be pretty scary.
The TIE Heavy or "Brute" deserves to be better. I mean, just look at it! I personally feel that with some practice and creative squad building the RB is alot of fun to fly but the truth is that it can be tough to use in a way that justifies its points cost. The rotating firing arc, cannon slots, configurations, and a pair of cool pilot abilities give it potential so I'd urge you to at least give it a try and pick one up in case future points adjustments or rule changes make it more relevant. At the very least it looks great on the table and the pilot abilities combined with the right upgrades and configuration give you a lot of options, making me wonder if the "Brute" just hasn't quite found its niche yet at time of writing.
The Decimator is the Empire's in-game large base answer to the Millennium Falcon and the Ghost. Like the VCX-100 it boasts a grand total of zero agility but comes with ways of mitigating that shortcoming until it is eventually overwhelmed and shot down. With a wide array of upgrade slots and a surprisingly flexible maneuver dial (just missing an advanced maneuver to turn around) the VT-49 is an adaptable ship that falls somewhere between the two mentioned above in terms of the role it can play. Keep it light as a torpedo or crew carrier capable of defending itself with a potent turret or load it up and charge straight through the middle of the table, wiping out anything in your way. It's worth noting that the initiative 5 pilot, Rear Admiral Chiraneau, has possibly one of the best abilities in the game, allowing you to Reinforce to limit damage to his ship but leverage that action to also improve his offense.
The others...not "Black Box"
So this series is intentionally limited to those ships that have been released with 2.0 content, colloquially referred to as "Black Box" and soon to be introduced by the devs as an official "Standard" game format. It is worth mentioning, however, that the Empire is one of the factions with a relatively high number of ships that are not "Black Box" legal and are currently waiting for a re-release, including a few that feature in the Original Trilogy films.
- Lambda Class T-4A shuttle: efficient crew carrier with potent offensive potential but a clunky movement dial. The classic "Shuttle Tydirium"
- TIE/sa Bomber: the classic TIE bomber, a cheap ordnance carrier with a bit more health than your usual TIE.
- Alpha-Class Star Wing: an extended universe darling with versatile configurations that can deliver some gnarly ordnance combos. Good luck finding one on eBay for under $100!
- TIE/ag Aggressor: a weird little TIE variant with a turret and lots of upgrade options for relatively low points cost.
- TIE/ca Punisher: Just a straight up ridiculous ship, basically a double TIE bomber with some powerful pilot abilities and ordnance for days.
- TIE/ph Phantom: a 3 red/2 green TIE that can cloak just about whenever it wants. Had its share of moments in the sun in competitive play. Will be interesting to see if/when we get this or another ship that can take advantage of the Cloak action.