Season 8 Preview: The Guardians of the Whills

“There are no Jedi here anymore.  Only dreamers like this fool.”

“The force did protect me!”

I protected you.”

– Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe

Guest Writer: Mark Neily

Rogue One introduced us to a full cast of interesting and fun new characters, but for my money none of the others can quite hold a Kyber crystal to the Guardians of the Whills.  In their short time on screen, Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus brought levity, poignancy, and no small measure of excitement to the Star Wars universe.  I’m thrilled be able to announce that they will soon be making their gaming debut on an Imperial Assault table near you!

There are a number of “glass cannon” units in Imperial Assault; figures who like to pop in and out of cover, taking pot shots at their opponents before ducking back behind their allies.  Chirrut and Baze… are not those figures.  Both characters have been around long enough to know that sometimes, if the cause is righteous, personal safety may need to take a back seat in the name of completing the mission.

One With the Force

“And I fear nothing. For all is as the Force wills it.”

– Chirrut Îmwe

Perhaps Chirrut’s most memorable moment in Rogue One was his stepping calmly out into the streets of Jedha to rescue Jyn and Cassian.  Initially overlooked by the stormtroopers as a blind old man, he soon proved them wrong by dispatching an entire squad of the Empire’s finest with nothing but a staff and his finely-honed senses.  Moving quickly from one target to another, using a stormtrooper as a makeshift shield – it certainly feels as though this fight was at the forefront of the steering committee’s minds during their design of Chirrut’s card.

With his GYY dice pool, Chirrut matches Aphra and slots in just behind Saw Gerrera in terms of single-target damage from a 4-point figure.  With so many spare surges and with his staff’s Reach ability, however, he should have no problem Cleaving an additional damage on to somebody with just about every attack that he makes.

8 health and a white die for defence may not look too intimidating at first glance, but Chirrut has a few tricks up his sleeve as he trusts in the Force to keep him in the flight.  First, there is the Devout ability, allowing him to play rebel Force User cards such as the powerful Knowledge and Defense (which adds a black die to his defence).  His Guardian trait also gives him access to defensive cards like Parry, or even Iron Will if you’re feeling extra protective of him.

Secondly, his I’m One With the Force allows him to deflect one damage from each attack targeting him onto an adjacent hostile figure.  With proper positioning, that is essentially a permanent +1 that adds bonus damage to boot!  And just in case your enemy tries to run away, The Force is With Me allows Chirrut to quickly close the distance with a hostile figure outside of his usual activation.

For bonus points, try using the command card Get Behind Me! to not only protect one of your vulnerable allies, but also to unexpectedly add that last damage to finish off an attacking figure.

With his personal command card, Chirrut pulls out his Lightbow to surprise an enemy figure from long range.  True to the film, where we saw the weapon take down a TIE Fighter, the heretofore unseen surge for Pierce 4 should have no problem breaking through the defences of heavily armoured Imperial vehicles.  Even units employing the mighty Zillo Technique may have trouble holding out against the blast.

Faithful Protector

“Good Luck!”

“I don’t need luck!  I have you!”

– Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe

Relying on a strong connection to the Force is well and good, but Baze Malbus understands that sometimes a more… straightforward approach may be equally rewarding.  Never one to shy away from a fight when protecting his partner, Baze’s card reflects his ability to overwhelm his opponents with a potent combination of willpower and firepower.

Sporting a strong 3-dice attack, a speed of 3, and the Assault ability, Baze’s card certainly invites comparison to the Imperial faction’s E-Web Engineer.  Indeed, if you include the power tokens gained from Baze’s Into the Fray and Hold the Line abilities, Baze’s single-target damage and defensive profile are an almost exact mirror of the 5-point gun emplacement’s.

Don’t think that that extra 1-point cost has gone to waste, however, as Baze can spread fire around the battlefield like no other figure in the game.  With not one but two surges for ranged Cleave 1, as well as one for Blast, it’s not just Blaze’s primary target who’s going to feel the pain.  Add that to the fact that this attack can be triggered more than once during his activation, and potentially tack on heavy weapon cards like Reduce to Rubble, Collateral Damage, and the Heavy Fire skirmish upgrade, and you’ll start to realize that no figure is truly safe once they enter Baze’s line of sight.

It is worth noting, however, that maximizing Blaze’s effectiveness does require keeping him somewhat exposed in order to gain line of sight at the beginning and end of his activation.  Fortunately, he has a solid 11 health, the Hold the Line block tokens, and potentially a handful of Guardian command cards to help him out.  But just in case his opponent thinks that they are going to be able to bring the burly man down before he can bring his big blaster to bear, Baze may still have one final surprise waiting for them.

At first glance Baze’s unique Final Stand command card seems to fall under the same category as a card like Onar’s Extra Protection, granting a free attack when a nearby friendly figure is attacked and defeated.  While that’s certainly one use for the card, perhaps the more exciting realization comes when you notice that this ability can be triggered by the (apparent) death of Baze himself.  In this situation the card functions as a kind of mix of Dying Lunge and Second Chance. Not only does Baze get an immediate reprisal, but if he has not yet activated he also wills himself to stay standing long enough to unleash a full activation’s worth of devastating attacks.  Needless to say, opponents with units in exposed positions will have to think carefully about whether they can actually succeed in removing Baze before he activates.

Personally, I’ve been waiting a long time to see these two characters join the game and I’m excited to see what sort of lists they’ll fit into.  I think that the steering committee did a great job capturing the essence of my two favourite rebels in these cards, and I’m looking forward to getting to play with them and the rest of the new releases coming up in season 8!

Check out these cards and the rest of the cards currently spoiled for Season 8 over at the Season 8 Preview Gallery. There’s 1 more week of spoilers to come before the Season’s full release on April 24th for public playtesting.

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