We are now 1 month into the public release for Season 9 and 3 rounds into the Playtesting League. On our new schedule, it’s already time for our first of 2 planned updates to the season. The game logs and feedback we’ve received from players testing out the new cards on Vassal has been fantastically helpful in guiding us to the necessary corrections in this update. The feedback and comments provided by players in our IACP Discord has been especially helpful and has guided much of our internal discussion in the Steering Committee about which cards needed changes and how to change them.
6 cards are receiving changes for this first of two planned updates for 9.1. I want to stress that we do have our eyes on other cards for this season as needing possible smaller fine-tuning changes, however we felt that these changes for 9.1 were the most obvious ones to make and we wanted to see how they played out over the next month of playtesting before we make the smaller changes to other cards that may or may not be needed.
A New Hope
A New Hope got a lot of playtesting attention in the first 2 weeks of the Season’s release, most likely as the most obvious list to put together and try out right out of the gate, as players only had 7 figures to choose from. As we got to see more games played with the card, we realized a couple of things.
The first thing that popped up was how powerful it became to focus everything around Leia, specifically with how the ability to share certain Command cards interacted with Battlefield Leadership and Military Efficiency. While it was already possible for Leia to play Son of Skywalker using her reworked Command card from Season 7, the ability to do it without needing her Command card seemed to make it a bit too easy to play Son of Skywalker with Leia multiple times in a game, which resulted in even more bonus attacks from Battlefield Leadership and more powerful cards being shuffled back into the deck. It wasn’t difficult to dig Son of Skywalker back out of the deck each turn with access to R2-D2, Smuggling Compartment, Planning, Officers Training and Black Market Prices. This lead to a powerful and repetitive gameplay loop of playing Son of Skywalker with Leia every turn by then shuffling it back into the deck, which again was already possible with her Command card There is Another, but now players were able to use the first Military Efficiency trigger to get back a different card, and only needed to redraw 1 card to replay Son of Skywalker rather than needing to also redraw Leia’s card before the start of the next round.
The second issue was that nobody seemed to be interested in using Obi-Wan. While it’s understandable that Obi-Wan is not quite as overtly powerful as the other figures in the list, we had hoped that perhaps having another Force User or Guardian in the list would along with some extra points for additional Skirmish Upgrades would make him at least somewhat appealing to take, but players understandably just gravitated towards playing the 6 strongest figures possible. This is problematic though, as having at least some figure diversity within the archetype is key to preventing it from becoming stale to play against, a major problem that is often created with lists that are “pre-built” in this way.
Our changes should help with both of these issues. First, we’re adding text that whenever the ability to play a unique Command card on a different figure is used, that Command card is returned to the game box (aka removed from the game) instead of going to the discard pile. This has the fairly obvious effect of preventing repeated abuse of powerful effects with Leia’s Military efficiency whenever A New Hope is used to allow her to get an additional activation with a card like Son of Skywalker or Debts Repaid. The 2nd change is the cost being increased by 1, which helps solves both problems mentioned above. For one, it means that now if you only bring the six strongest figures possible for the list, you get 0 points to use for skirmish upgrades, which makes Obi-Wan a far more appealing option now. Invaluable skirmish upgrades like Balance of the Force, Extra Armor, Channel the Force, and Smuggling Compartment are now completely cut off unless you swap either Han, Chewie or Leia for Obi-Wan. And without access to Smuggling Compartment, it will be a little bit harder to re-draw back into powerful cards like Son of Skywalker after they’ve been recycled by Leia, and harder to protect them from disruption against Spy cards.
In Season 7 we reworked Lure of the Dark Side to be a proper 3 point capstone card for Imperial Force Users, and this season we wanted to bring balance to the Force by finally giving Rebel Force Users their own powerful 3 point Command card like so many other traits have. With so much competition for slots in Command decks these days, especially in Force User lists, we knew it had to be powerful, and fixing Meditation so that the free action could actually be an attack felt right, but a free attack at the cost of an action and a card still only felt like a 2 point card, and we needed to make sure this was worth 3 points. We knew that players would definitely be using Channel the Force with the card to make sure they had it round 1, but it felt like giving 2 actions still felt appropriate for a 3 point card that still cost an action (compared to something like Son of Skywalker and Blaze of Glory).
The problem arose when Meditation was combined with Pummel, which added up to something greater than the sum of individual parts. Generally cards that provide an additional attack cost at least 2 points, but Pummel gets a discount at 1 point due to the difficult double action cost combined with the extremely close range required for melee attacks. The free actionless movement from Meditation made it a bit too easy to get the extra action from Pummel, which created activations that were a bit more explosive then we had wanted to create for just 4 points and 2 cards.
The other problem, which we didn’t see in playtesting but realized through continuing discussions, was that Farmboy Luke and Leia were ranged figures that really didn’t need the extra movement to pull off the extra attack and were able to abuse the card in ways that melee Force Users couldn’t.
To help with these issues, we’ve replaced the movement points with a Focus up front, keeping the free attack while helping with a common challenge with melee Force Users, keeping them Focused once they’ve moved far away from their support units to deliver their melee attacks. We’ve also restricted the free attack to adjacent targets, we don’t want to stop any Force Users from using the card, but want to prevent the play pattern of being able to fully move out, attack at long range, and either attack again or move back to safety.
Ewoks definitely ended up needing a rework, they had a lot going on with their design and things to balance after they went out the door. To address how strong they felt for how cheap their figures cost is, we’ve increased their cost from 5 to 6, and swapped their white defense die for a black. Sling Barrage no longer creates a single huge attack by adding multiple dice but simply gives each Ewok the option to perform a ranged attack with a reroll for each other Ewok in their group with line of sight to the target, and as such no longer stuns each ewok. We also downgraded their double surge ability for +2 damage down to a single surge ability for +1 damage. Finally we’ve split Ambush up into two separate abilities to reduce confusion, but also we’ve changed the timing so that now they will become Hidden even when they deploy off of Lie in Ambush.
The perception of the white defense die is a polarizing one for many players. For some of us, it is an eternally blank defense roll that adds no value to a figure, and for some it is an iron wall that always emerges at just the most unfortunate time to completely ruin their games. But it seems that for everyone, having to deal with 2 white dice on a figure was a step too far, as we have now learned and understand. Attacking Fennec to try and reap her 3 point bounty felt like an exercise in futility and frustration for players, and was thus mostly avoided altogether. In that same vein, we recognized that having the Guardian trait was contributing to this, giving her access to powerful defensive cards like Iron Will, Parry and Clan of Two that were exacerbating the issue. Fennec being a Guardian (mainly to Boba from Book of Boba) also didn’t seem to pass the vibe check with a lot of players, so it made sense for multiple reasons to remove it.
To somewhat compensate for the loss of the Guardian trait and the 2nd defense die, she was given +1 Health and +1 block as she still gives up 8 points when she’s defeated. Now that she’s no longer protected by a 1/3 chance to dodge or a 1/2 chance to have Boba Fett levels of bonus defense, the thing that remains to be seen is whether it was her stats that was making her so hard to kill or if it’s her overall playstyle enabled by her speed and nearly unmatched attack range.
Krrsantan has been in a pretty good place this season in terms of his balance for an 8 point figure that has access to some powerful Command card combinations. The main complaint we’ve seen is that his innate Pierce 2 and lack of powerful surge abilities on a potent attack pool made it feel like he was almost ignoring any defense roll that wasn’t a full dodge or triple block, and like his attack overall was just a bit too over-tuned without needing to do enough to get it.
We’ve split up the Pierce 2, adding a surge for Pierce 1 to his accuracy surge, meaning that hopefully defense rolls will feel more impactful against him. We put the other half of Pierce 1 onto his Full of Rage ability, allowing his attacks to ramp up dynamically through the game as he takes damage. To better facilitate the use of Full of Rage without reducing his overall durability, we removed the +1 block and instead gave him +2 Health, as the additional block would sometimes have the effect of preventing Krrsantan from getting to 3 damage to turn on Full of Rage.
Finally, Fifth Brother is getting a small boost to his attack power, swapping out a blue die for a green. Sith Acolyte has been a welcome ability in lists featuring Darth Vader and Mara Jade, and Relentless Pursuit has been getting some use in Imperial strain lists alongside Riot Troopers. However the common complaint from players we’ve seen is that Fifth Brother doesn’t feel like he hits hard enough when he attacks as an 8 point figure. Knowing that his traits still give him a lot of potential for added damage, we’re going to try simply upgrading a blue die to a green to see if that ups his damage enough to help him keep up as needed.
Those are the changes to Season 9 for 9.1, with one more update planned for v9.2 before the Community vote in early March, leading up to Adepticon at the end of March. We want to thank Trevor aka Thereisnotry and Tabletop Admiral for keeping Vassal and the Imperial Assault list builder updated for us to use, and to everyone who has been playtesting these cards with us on Vassal and providing extremely valuable feedback over at our IACP Discord . We wouldn’t be able to do all this without your help.
If you still want to jump into the playtesting League to get paired up for weekly games with other play testers, it’s not too late to do so. Go to the Rollbetter page to register and send a message to either @Derek or @TVboy to let us know that you want to join. The league is not meant to be competitive, it’s all about getting players paired up with someone new each week to play and hopefully at a similar skill level based on win-rate.