Season 9 Spoiler: Misguided Ambitions

While we often like to find uncharted list-building archetypes and design space in the game to explore when it comes to making new figures, as IACP maps out more and more of the game’s design space, we sometimes have to look back at where we’ve already been to find the smaller niches within established archetypes that we can play around with. Today I’m talking about two figures, one new and one old, which both fill roles that are very similar to existing niches in the Imperial faction, but in ways that are subtly different and will open up new list building avenues and play patterns.  

Continuing down the trend that was started by the Grand Inquisitor in the original game, the Fifth Brother joins the ranks of the Inquisitors in Imperial Assault, for which we’ve already seen the Grand Inquisitor and later the Second Sister (and non-canonically, Mara Jade, arguably the Empire’s original Force Hunter). He is also the third figure in the Empire to combine the Force User and Brawler traits, joining Darth Vader and Mara Jade. 

The Fifth Brother combines these traits with a hefty attack, and two familiar abilities in Vigor and Relentless Pursuit, which help him to attack when he needs to and pressure the opponent’s command deck with strain. This strain can pair nicely with Thrawn and Riot Troopers, the latter of which are also Brawlers. 

Fifth Brother is especially proud of his abilities with the Force, and he is never too shy to use them, even on his associate Inquisitors. But he is also proud of his physical strength as well, and his Sith Acolyte ability allows him to flaunt both of these to his opponents. 

Overlapping trait synergy is an important part of list building in Imperial Assault, and of course that’s because of trait-specific command cards. Fifth Brother fits especially well into a list that is specifically built around either Forcer User or Brawler command cards. There is an existing list that just so happens to center around both traits’ command cards, which is Vader, Palpatine, and Thrawn, often known as VPT.

This list is all about enabling multiple attacks with Vader by comboing either Dark Energy or Looking for a Fight with Parting Blow and Unshakable, and all of these Command cards can be searched from the deck by The Fifth Brother’s Sith Acolyte ability. It will be very interesting to me if players choose to slot the Fifth Brother into a VPT list, and if they decide to cut Thrawn or Palpatine for him, or maybe even run all of them with just a single officer.  

We try to be very cautious about giving Command card draw to the Imperial faction, because of how well card draw can fuel things like Zillo Technique. In this case, we have what is effectively card draw, but at the cost of an action on an 8 point melee figure, and for only a limited subsection of cards. Originally this came with some additional hefty costs, but in testing they felt overly burdensome to the card in a way that would likely turn off a lot of players as we’ve seen in the past with overly restrictive ability costs, and he was already having to compete with a 1 point card in Channel the Force. So we’re testing to see if the increased Command card economy is worth that much of a cost in action economy.

The Fifth Brother’s Command card is pure storytelling on a card. Multiple times he is depicted using his Force powers to brush aside a minor threat in order to pursue his primary target or goal. Here, the Fifth Brother uses the Force to incapacitate a figure with Stun while he attacks his primary target, much like he did to Zeb in Season 2 of Rebels, to Reva in Obi-Wan Kenobi, and to Merrin in the novel, Jedi: Battle Scars.

Our second figure for the Empire this season is an updated elite Imperial Officer. While the regular Imperial Officer has been a staple in Imperial lists since the game’s beginning as a 2 point figure that generates movement points for other figures, the elite version of the Officer has rarely ever seen competitive play outside of some very casual lists involving Massive Vehicles. 

Once we reduced the cost of General Sorin to 5 points in Season 4, the elite Officer was rendered almost completely obsolete, though arguably it was pretty obsolete to begin with. At this point, the debate was over whether boosting the elite officer would in turn make General Sorin obsolete, as he was already considered a niche figure in IACP, mostly only run in some dedicated Droid or Generals Ranks Vehicle lists. Would he still be worth bringing at 5 points if we reduced the elite Officer to 4? 

Eventually we realized that General Sorin’s Advanced Firepower ability was powerful enough and unique enough on its own that Droid lists that really wanted the extra +1 damage and Focus from it would likely continue to run Sorin just for that ability alone. The IACP version of General’s Ranks card became very popular with certain players, and we saw the potential it had for creating new archetypes within the Empire with a myriad of different potential targets. Expanding on that, we wanted to have just a little bit more variety in how you could use it, beyong Emperor Palpatine, General Sorin, ISBs, and the regular Officers. By reducing the elite Officer’s cost to 4, and giving its stats a bit of a touch-up, it feels like there’s now a really good set of options for Imperial players to choose from for their support units.

That’s it for Empire this season. I just want to remind everyone that originally Season 9 and Season 10 were going to be 1 season, until we realized that it would work a lot better to split things up into 2 seasons across the year. This has generally been an improvement to both our workflow and our community engagement, but there are some challenges in splitting up 1 season into 2, and the distribution of each faction’s cards was one of those. Some cards needed to be tested together and some cards needed to be tested after we tested other cards, and so the season was not quite perfectly split amongst the 3 factions. With only 2 months for playtesting for Season 9, we had to be careful not to put too many cards into the season so that are testing process can remain robust and useful while also being more lean and efficient now.

I’m looking forward to seeing all your Vassal data logs from Season 9 and putting the really cool ones up on Youtube.

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