The unit guide will cover the Emperor himself; Palpatine, for Star Wars: Legion.
I know, your boy Sheev has been a Legion unit for, what, forever? Why haven’t I done a unit guide for him yet? I don’t actually know. The Emperor would no doubt be disappointed in my apparent lack of progress.
Well, the Emperor is coming here, to this article. We shall redouble our efforts.
- Makes your army very durable between Barrier and Imperial Royal Guard
- Exceptional command cards
- Can just put the game on his back and kill everything by himself, sometimes
- Strong against aggressive melee lists
- Every single one of his wounds is valuable
- No cost effective way to mitigate corps action loss from suppression
- Weak to armor skews
190 Points. This is a centerpiece cost for a centerpiece unit. It’s a lot less than it used to be (down in two consecutive balance updates from 210) but still a hefty sum. He’s worth it, if you build the list around him.
Defense. Red surge, 5 health. The red surge is nice, but as any Empire, Republic, or force user player will tell you, those red dice are fickle. Not only is he rather fragile, but each one of Palpatine’s wounds is extremely valuable (since they power his nuke) so you need to do everything possible to keep Palpatine at full health until he can go all jazz hands on the opposing army.
Offense: Force Lightning. Two red, two black, two white (double rainbow), Surge/crit, Pierce 2, Suppressive. Zzzzzap. Also known as jazz hands. This is a strong attack pool at Range 2 when you can get mileage out of the Pierce. It’s pretty unusual for Palpatine to be attacking things outside of his one pip turn, but if your opponent gives you opportunities to zap things on other turns, you should, because its probably better than whatever you would be attacking with Pull the Strings.
Courage 4. Exceptional. Palpatine is unlikely to be losing actions unless he 1) gets shot a lot, and/or 2) survives his And Now, You Will Die turn with a bunch of suppression. Your units won’t be panicking either, though this doesn’t help them avoid action loss at all.
Slots. Three force, one command. This used to be kind of a boring spread, taking Anger to power the nuke and leaving the other two force slots blank. However, between the addition of Burst of Speed, Barrier, and an increased aggro meta making Force Push more useful, you are going to be filling all three of these force slots. The command slot has some great options two.
Pulling the Strings. Pull the Strings allows you to “break” the normal tempo by giving a unit an extra action out of turn. This is an incredibly flexible ability that is only equaled by Yoda’s Guidance. There are myriad uses for this; the most obvious one is to give a strong unit an extra attack (or an attack off a move for a unit with charge/steady/relentless) but don’t underestimate the ability to use just the move bit to move a unit out of danger, towards an objective, or into a position your opponent thought wasn’t accessible on a given turn.
Entourage: Imperial Royal Guards. Guard are a very solid unit that has only gotten better with some large points cuts and the addition of upgrades like Protector and Into the Fray.
Immune: Pierce. Standard Force User fare. Palpatine would be laughably fragile without it.
Master of the Force: 2. Now that Palpatine is actually filling all his force slots, you will get some mileage out of this, especially if you take Barrier.
Palpatine’s bread and butter. Lets take a look at one of the best command hands in the game.
And Now, You Will Die
Jazz Hands. If this isn’t the single best command card in the game, I don’t know what is. You can attack up to four times just on his wounds alone; if you are taking Anger (hint: you should do that) he gets free aims in the bargain, and if you are taking Burst of Speed (hint: you should also do that) the threat range of this attack is more than Range 4 (about 28 inches, which is nearly Range 5). Your targets also get immobilized tokens, if they happen to survive getting barbecued by lightning.
Knowing when to play this is one of the most difficult to master Palpatine skills. Generally, you should do it as early as you can do significant damage with it, and you need to decide if Palpatine surviving after he does this is important to you or not. Sometimes if you can nuke the right units in the open, it won’t matter if Palpatine survives for the rest of the game, if you’ve utterly crippled your opponent’s army in the process. Other times you want to try and do something like a “peekabo” (pop out from behind line of sight, zap some things, pop back into safety) to keep Palpatine alive. This is especially doable if you have leftover medic charges and/or IRG with Protector (hint: you should have those). I can’t cover every situation here, so you might just have to play Palpatine and get a feel for it. Sometimes this is worth it just for the immobilized tokens.
Don’t forget you can also attack once with Palpatine normally, without suffering a wound, as one of his normal actions (potentially giving you five attacks). It still benefits from the immobilized token effect though, and if you’ve saved any aims left over from Anger (more on that later) you can spend them on it.
The dream here is you don’t have to move at all and you already have all your targets in range, and you can attack five times while also Pulling the Strings on something else, getting essentially six attacks on Palpatine’s turn. That doesn’t happen very often, though.
Give in to Your Anger
This might be in the conversation for second best command card in the game, behind And Now You Will Die. Don’t @ me, Yoda players.
The real strength of this card is making your opponent go first with something they don’t want to go first with, though the suppression is a nice kicker. There are several uses for this, all of which you could potentially utilize at once: 1) effectively guaranteeing a priority win by making your opponent go with a unit that doesn’t matter, on a turn where they have a different unit that needs to go first; 2) making your opponent go first with a unit that wants to go last, 3) making your opponent go with a unit that can’t or doesn’t want to attack and you want to stack suppression on. In a dream world, you can combine all of these at once. Usually just #1 or #2 is more than enough to make it worth it, though.
An Entire Legion
Well this is a pretty straightforward effect. Yeah, it’s not Yoda’s three pip… so what? Palpatine isn’t Yoda. Get used to. This is still a perfectly fine card.
This card isn’t rocket science; the best use of this is to A) give everything orders and B) proc on order effects like Target and Aggressive Tactics. If you have both of those in your list (you probably should) this is the card you play roughly on your first “trading shots at range 3-4” turn, after Coordinated Fire (or instead of Assault), unless you really need the full order control and then you would prioritize this over Coordinated Fire.
One sneaky use of this is if you are running three snipers and you can get all three of them into good spots to get shots; you can open the turn with all three of them back to back to back to chip off some early models. If you really want to lean into it and your corps don’t need them, you can even give the snipers some surge tokens from Aggressive Tactics to increase your chances of double hits. Palpatine plays well with snipers; between Barrier and Imperial Royal Guard, you can afford to be a little more aggressive with them than other Empire players.
There are only two slots here, but they are good ones.
You will probably be taking three of these four upgrades. Leaving slots open used to be in vogue for Palpatine (before Barrier and Burst of Speed) but there are so many good choices now it’s kind of silly not to fill all of his slots.
An upgrade that is almost completely worthless on every Force user except Palpatine, and totally indispensable on Palpatine. This perfectly synergizes with And Now, You Will Die (almost like it was designed for that?) as you get an aim before every jazz hands lightning shot you take. Don’t forget you can save those aims for other shots too; often if I roll paint on the red and black die but blank on the white on one of my first shots, I will save the aim for one of the later ones. I’ve heard people speculate about dropping Anger to take both Push and Barrier; personally I wouldn’t be able to do it. And Now You Will Die is so intrinsically linked to Palpatine’s value in any game he is in, and you absolutely need it to land when you fire it off. Anger significantly raises the reliability of Palpatine’s “nuke,” and does it only for three points. I wouldn’t leave home without it.
Burst of Speed
Speaking of making Palpatine’s nuke more reliable, this one substantially increases its threat range. Going from Speed 1 to Speed 3 is a big difference; the Speed 1 move tool is just shy of 3″ long, and the Speed 3 tool is just shy of 7″ long. That is a gain of 4″ per move which nets to 8″, more than an entire range band. Burst of Speed increases Palpatine’s threat range on And Now, You Will Die to just shy of 28″, which is almost Range 5. The first time you pull this on someone, they will be very surprised by how far Palpatine just moved, right before he fries their little plastic spacedudes into crispy spacedude nuggets.
Burst of Speed also makes it much easier for Palpatine to do a peekabo on And Now You Will Die; moving out from behind a Line of Sight blocker, zapping some things, and then moving right back into safety.
As noted above under the And Now You Will Die section, make sure you A) decide whether it’s important to you if Palpatine lives after he drops his nuke, and B) if you want him to live, make a plan in advance as to how that will happen. This includes things like saving medic charges and making sure a medic unit is nearby, pre-positioning an Imperial Royal Guard unit in Range 1 of his final position, etc. Don’t forget if you use Burst of Speed that Palpatine will be completely stuck at his final location until he activates again.
Finally, something for a (relatively) defensive force user with Master of the Force to do while chilling near their spacedudes.
It’s easy to forget that before Force Barrier, nearly every force power targeted enemy units in some fashion (except Guidance, which is just bad). Barrier is an incredible ability for keeping your other units alive. The usage timing on this is what makes it so good; you can save it until you really need it, and you get to see the roll first. With Palpatine you can also refresh it every turn with his Master of the Force.
This is also one of the few abilities that works on crits (besides Outmaneuver and Protector). Any time you can take dice out of the equation, you should. There is a lot of value to just being able to say “yeah, I don’t feel like rolling those saves.”
Is there a more open ended ability? The uses of Force Push are myriad and have been mentioned repeatedly in several other articles. In brief, being able to move an enemy unit against their will is extremely flexible and powerful (don’t forget you also do cohesion). Pull them out of melee? Push them into melee. Pull them out of cover. Push them away from an objective. Pull them out of token sharing range. Pull them out of coordinate range. Order range. Into attack range. I could go on.
Anyway, the main reason this is debatable on Palpatine, and why it usually wasn’t taken on “Old School” pre Barrier/Burst Palpatine, is the target range. Range 1 is awfully short, and Palpatine is pretty slow, excluding (obviously) on his Burst of Speed turn. That means Palpatine is usually not close enough to a target unless your opponent wants him to be close enough to a target. There are two developments that have changed this calculus, however. 1) Burst of Speed. Palpatine can be really, really fast, for one turn. You can definitely get him to Range 1 of something or multiple somethings on that turn if you need to. 2) The rise of aggro/melee lists and force users. Even if playing is Palpatine defensively, he is more likely to be near a useful target than he used to be.
Time to Choose
Which Force upgrades should you take, then? Personally, I start with Anger and Burst of Speed, as those both relate directly to Palpatine’s jazz hands which is so necessary for his value. As for the third slot, I lean team Barrier, but it comes down to play style. If you play defensive Palpatine, go Barrier. If you want to be more aggressive, go Push.
The command slot is very competitive, but for Palpatine this really comes down to just two upgrades, depending on how your list is built.
This is an excellent upgrade if you are running Palpatine with Shoretroopers. You want to give the Shores face-ups as often as possible anyway to proc Target, and this throws a surge on top of it. The most consistent value here is always having a surge token on your Imperial Royal Guard, who are going to be rolling a lot of saves from using Guardian.
Esteemed Leader is my go-to when running Palpatine with Storms. Wounds on Palpatine are extremely valuable, and the Storms don’t benefit from the face-ups or the surge tokens as often as Shores do. Stormtrooper wounds are also more expendable than Shores, so they’re a better target for this Guardian ability.
This is kind of the “standard” Palpatine list that I’ve settled on. It’s essentially the updated version of Luke Cook’s 2020 LVO Shore list, which was itself an updated version of my pre-Shoretrooper NOVA 2019 list, which was an updated version of Eric Riha’s Adepticon/Worlds 2019 list, which was an updated version of… well actually Riha was kind of the original Palpatine player.
Anyway, it’s basically “decent gunline made more durable by IRG Guardian and Barrier” with Palpatine to Pull the Strings and nuke everything with jazz hands at some point. It’s a list that wants to fight over an area, which the battle deck is designed to facilitate. You don’t want to have to go very far or spread out with this list, though Palpatine can do that a little more easily now than he used to with Burst, it’s still not ideal. All of the Palpatine lists below are going to have a similar battle deck for that reason.
This list has two primary weaknesses: 1) armor skews, and 2) your corps losing actions to suppression. There are some ways to fit in an officer on the Shores (primarily by cutting the T-21bs down to Gideon and Del from Inferno) which helps considerably, but makes the Shores much less punchy. You can also cut the Storm heavy to do the same thing, or try and shoe-horn in DT-F16, who I think is somewhat underrated in a build like this.
Stealing this one from Imperial Sympathizer. Bossk is a natural Pull the Strings target with his attack profile, and he’s also a natural pairing for the durability bonuses that Palpatine brings along. ImpSymp might have gone a little overboard in that department, but you can never really have to much guardian, amirite? With all the binocs in this list, you are also basically doing Lying in Wait every turn, twice. Woof.
This list takes a different approach to solving the typical pitfalls of a Palpatine list; Bossk shreds armor (especially with all those aims) and there aren’t any Courage 1 corps units here where you care that much about losing actions.
Execute Order 66
Palpatine has been on the shelf for awhile, but it might be time to dust him off. The armor skews that gave Palpatine problems are all scared of Spiders, and the aggressive melee skews that Palpatine counters so hard are coming back out to play. Maybe it’s time again to bring out the jazz hands and zap some fools.
Long live the Empire.