This article is a Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS) Retrospective, a look back at the faction as it has developed over the life of Star Wars: Legion.
CIS probably have most…consistent track record across all the factions. While every faction has had their ups and downs, CIS have remained generally good to great, and almost never got left in the cold. What exactly made them so great did vary over time, which makes them very exciting to talk about from a meta perspective.
As all the articles before, these release dates are based off the American release dates, so the release order might have been slightly different in your region.
October 2019 – Clone Wars Core Set
Like Republic, let’s open discussion of the Clone Wars set with a wider lens. CIS is about as close as Legion gets to “horde” gameplay, allowing you to focus on putting a lot of cheap bodies on the field to overwhelm your opponent. FFG introduced the Droid Trooper type and AI keyword which is an “Army level” rule, similar to the Republic’s Clone Troopers. Droid Troopers can’t be suppressed, meaning they can’t lose an action but also don’t get cover from that suppression (they can panic, however) which is low key very powerful for an army with so many activations.
The really glaring change however was AI. Easily the most complex of all of these, AI forces a droid to take a specific action (if possible) from a list of actions on the card unless they have a face up order token. This can go bad very quickly if not well thought out, because you’re losing one of your two precious actions to something you probably didn’t want to do, such as possibly being forced to attack before you aim or move. The platonic ideal is that you issue orders to as much of your army as possible, as to minimize if not outright avoid this problem. Mercifully, the army has a lot of ways to replicate order tokens if you can keep them within relatively close range of each other.
This is extraordinarily powerful but unlike the Republic mechanic, really hasn’t seen any adjustment since launch. You could argue that more powerful droids having less way to share orders is a balance mechanic, but it’s clear this was an intended design choice from the beginning. For the most part the mechanic has stayed as it was because the floor is quite high compared to other armies. If you let your stuff drift too far from your order-issuing “nodes” then you will find yourself in a difficult situation very quickly.
As for the set itself, it was a solid start for CIS. General Grievous was usable on release, but he has not aged well. Grievous is the prime example of “Force Push costs a lot more than ten points,” as he is a saber user without force slots, with a force user price tag.
For your basic corps you got your B1s and what is there to say but they are timeless. While pretty weak and useless on their own, they are cheap and get an extra two bodies over other army’s corps troops. They can still be a threat in big enough numbers, or packing an appropriate heavy weapon for the task. Their big advantage is the Coordinate keyword, B1s are not the only unit who have it but they are the cheapest, and it can pass to any Trooper unit meaning it can operate as nodes to chain orders to reach units further away. As a result this has kept it as the most popular Corps choice and it’s not unusual to see 4-6 in any given list.
Lastly are Droidekas. Despite their iconic status they never really got there in Legion. Like most droids, they have a white save with no surge, and while the shields help a lot they will crumble very quickly to focused fire. The damage pool really isn’t all that great, without any keywords that help it get past cover or other defenses they don’t really do enough to justify it. While they are quite fast in Ball mode, that role would be supplanted by STAPs, removing the one good thing they did have going for them. They also don’t bring any Impact which is something you need out of your support slots.
November 2019 – Count Dooku
Count Dooku launched to a lot of praise, and not just because of limited hero selection at the time. Dooku was extremely expensive but arguably was the best Force user in the game when he came out (this was pre-Operative Luke and long before the Vader buffs) so he certainly got his value. All of his command cards were very technical and made him difficult to approach directly, anyone who tried would often find themselves caught out by Fear, Surprise, Intimidation and hacked into ribbons. He was very slow, and doesn’t have Jump so in most cases the best thing to do was to avoid him.
He still sees a decent amount of play, but he has to compete with Darth Maul, who we will get to, for the Force user slot.
January 2020 – B1 Upgrade Expansion
Basically this was here for the E-5s B1 Trooper. The E5-C in the core set was a perfectly serviceable upgrade, throwing in 2 more black dice into the pool, but the E-5s added the “range 4 gun with Critical” upgrade that every Corps trooper saw and it was just as useful for the fragile B1s as it was for anyone else. You’ll usually see a mix of E-5s and E5-Cs or rockets in most lists, even today.
The OOM-Series trooper was a decent upgrade, expanding the range of being able to chain orders to range 2, but because of how many units of B1s you could bring you generally didn’t want to go too heavy on the upgrades for these guys.
February 2020 – B2 Super Battle Droids
Super battle droids are…interesting. In all the other armies, troop choices are similar. The abilities and guns may change, but the fact that they are single wound troops with the same armor saves mostly doesn’t change. B2s provide the biggest gap between two different corps units. They have only 3 models as opposed to the B1s’ 6, and while they have a white save with no surge, they do get Armor 1.
So, in theory, these guys are the elite troop option compared your weedy B1s but in execution…eh. They don’t really get any stand out weapons but the most crippling issue is they don’t get Coordinate. You can include them, but they won’t replace B1s. If you do, you will struggle to get order tokens out. They didn’t really see consistent use until the CIS Specialist pack released and they could be run with the T-Series Personnel Upgrade.
June 2020 – AAT Trade Federation Tank
The AAT came out at just the right time, alongside its counterpart of the Republic side. Heavy vehicles hadn’t really done so hot in Legion, as the Rebel Airspeeder and Imperial AT-ST didn’t do the best at showing off the concept. The AAT was a solid tank that came with decent weapon loadouts, armor and was priced reasonably well. You could optionally bring missiles to deal with a variety of threats and it was just generally a solid threat against several different types of units. Lists with 2 AATs were not uncommon for some time, and it arguably brought heavy Vehicles into the spotlight in Legion.
July 2020 – Cad Bane
Possibly the biggest redemption story we’ll see on this list. When Cad Bane launched people weren’t sure what to make of him. He was…weird. Bounty Hunters are good, any Empire player can attest to that. But Cad Bane was difficult to use correctly. With his guns only being Range 2, he needed to be very opportunistic, even with Steady. I Make The Rules Now gave him a way to drop in further up the field, but this could be finicky and difficult to utilize.
Time was more generous to him, as more cards came out to help close range characters like this. Especially when the June 2022 update hit and made him a proper mercenary with Independent, so he could get 2 dodge tokens for not being issued an order (along with a cost cut and some other buffs). This is exactly what a CIS player wants, who can uniquely set up a reverse sort with their order pool (having their entire army be face up tokens except for one or two).
August 2020 – BX Commando Droids
Finally, CIS got their strike teams, and it went well for them. Naturally they did exactly what you hoped, a 2 droid strike team was an excellent shooter from Range 5 able to lay down some suppression and maybe take off a model or two. The gun was really solid, with Lethal 1 and 2 Red dice, the best dice of any sniper rifle in the game, so you usually could get at least one in there. There were some drawbacks, notably that their AI routine was Move or Dodge, neither of which might be the most appetizing if you wanted to Aim before shooting. Lack of High Velocity also quickly became an issue as dodge spam started to rise.
What made them unique from other commando units is you did see some fringe play with the 5 man units, using Vibroswords and Shields. These went on the whole unit, which made them a pretty decent melee unit in a time before Magnaguards. Since there really weren’t many good melee units yet, they could hold their own with Charge, even if they had to move or dodge first.
September 2020 – STAP Riders
STAPs were decent on release but they didn’t really become a staple unit until the arrival of the T-Series (below) which allowed CIS to run them in high activation lists. Like all Speeders, they get a free move at the beginning or end of the turn, which means they could zip around the field faster than most of their opposition while ignoring Height 1 Terrain. They also had Agile 1 and Cover which made them surprisingly hard to take down unless you could hit them before they activated. Their weapons were also very solid, with 3 black dice and Crit 1. Most importantly, they have the best version of Coordinate across the army, able to hand an order out to any Trooper or Vehicle. This allowed the player to really stretch out their legs, using the STAPs as both a node to extend orders to each other and harass units with flanking attacks. They were very good on Bombing Run, as CIS units were arguably somewhat undercosted at their release and CIS armies could be run with high activation counts and a deep bid.
This, arguably, was a major reason for the system of choosing missions to be reworked (specifically four card flip instead of three). Multiple factors contributed to the change but this was easily the most egregious.
November 2020 – Darth Maul
Another meta defining unit for the faction. Dooku was still in high esteem in the community but he was expensive and not very mobile. With the other factions rocking much more mobile and dangerous melee Force users, CIS needed one to keep up and along came Maul.
Maul hits a lot of the points that one expects from a good Force user, he has Jump, Deflect and Pierce Immunity, and a Lightsaber to carve things up real good. What really made him special was the ability to infiltrate into the field early, and the fact he got a third action whenever he was injured from Juyo Mastery (with a command card to inflict a wound on him if you needed to help this process along).
He did have a few drawbacks, but they were manageable. His Lightsaber was more swingy, with its 4 red and 4 white dice, but this was manageable as a Lightsaber is still going to cut through things. He also didn’t have Master of the Force but with a free action…did he really need it?
February 2021 – Seperatist Specialists Expansion
Like the other Specialist expansions, the Separatist version was widely useful on release. The biggest splash was the T-Series Commander, which was the first actual “support” commander for CIS, who had previously been limited to the expensive Dooku or Grievous as their only options. The T-Series personnel upgrade was also excellent in the specific context of B2s, who benefitted significantly from the removal of AI and could also combine their B2_HA pool with the T-Series’ red dice for a solid Range 3 pool.
The PK-Series Worker Droid also had some use for more expensive units, since obviously repair was far more important to an army of clankers than Treat.
The command cards were also excellent, where all 3 saw a lot of play. Mechanized Incursion was basically mandatory in the STAP spam lists, Orbital Strike was just a plain good ranged bombardment and Roger, Roger handed out dodge tokens to key units. Overall, Separatists were probably the army who benefitted the most from the Specialist expansion.
It’s a bit of a break here, with the next release coming in November, but basically every release would be a major next step for CIS.
November 2021 – Super Tactical Droid Commander
Yet another game changer for the CIS. One major gaping flaw in the CIS arsenal was lack of a premium support commander that really synergized with the army. While the army is almost entirely droids, they didn’t have a proper unique droid commander. So along came the Super Tactical Droid with 2 named variants in the same box.
The basic version came with several tools to help mitigate some of the challenges of the AI rule. Direct let you hand out a free order to a unit with AI while Override let you ignore the restriction entirely. These became increasingly important as lists became diverse and it wasn’t as easy to just chain orders on everyone. The named variants were similar, depending on what your list was trying to do, it could pick the one most appropriate for them. Kraken was more aggressive, eschewing Direct for a longer range Override. Kalani instead lost Override for a better Strategize from the base commander, able to hand out a dodge and aim token to 2 units for the cost of a single suppression, compared to the original’s 1 unit.
All 3 saw play, generally considered very well designed and a heavily appreciated release.
December 2021 – Persuader Class Tank, Spider Droid and Magnaguard
Whew. What a month. Let’s focus on the least exciting of the bunch and work our way up. The Persuader class tank came out and mostly felt like a “It’s fine” entry. It certainly had some play, but as an open transport at only speed 1, it was a pretty hard sell meaning it’d need to establish itself as a tank and it didn’t really do that. The AAT already existed and had for some time, so what exactly was this meant to do?
It also had to contend with two extremely powerful meta defining options on the same day. First, the Spider Droid, with its surprisingly efficient Ion hardpoint. Wrestling the Support role from STAPs, these things were very cheap at only 55 points. That is a bit deceptive, because they had to strap a gun to themselves and take an AI protocol upgrade, but that still only put them in the 70-75 point range. They were pretty resilient at Armor 3. Even if you did the damn things could blow up and usually do a fair amount of damage. They were quite a bit too efficient and would cause other vehicles to disappear for awhile.
If that wasn’t enough, Magnaguard also came out and quickly became (and have remained to this day) a staple in almost every CIS list. Magnaguards were the rare red save for the faction, and while they didn’t have surge to defend, surge tokens are very easy to come by in CIS. Compounding this was that this was the height of Dodge Spam. You could stack so many tokens on top of Magnaguards that shooting them wasn’t really an option, which also meant shooting commanders was a waste of time. Even now, it’s still considered good form to bring a unit to shield your Super Tactical Droid or deal with melee threats.
After this point, releases stopped entirely. Shadow Collective would come out next month in January 2022 but had a relatively small impact on CIS (though they did get Bossk and a much improved Cad Bane). For a faction already awash in cheap bodies, it was a hard sell to take Corps that didn’t help relay orders around.
September saw the release of Invasion Force. Of all 4 factions it probably got the least attention because it was neither particularly good nor bad, while also not being especially thematic. It just…is. It was fine for people that wanted to spam 8 B1 units.
Ventress is coming soon, and appears promising, but what is in store for the CIS after this still is a bit of a mystery as the Devs focus on Mandalorian and Civil War era content.