Imperial Special Forces (ISF) are elite paratroopers that can be used in devastating alpha strike armies. ISF also come with an unique unit called Inferno Squad, which brings not only damage but also utility. ISF are amazing when they are run alongside Iden Versio and her 3 pip Tactical Strike, so I recommend that you also give her unit guide a read before or after this unit guide. This article will cover the basic stats of ISF as well as some upgrade options. After covering how to loadout your ISF, I will discuss the general playstyle of ISF and give some potential list ideas.
- Reliable damage output
- Inferno: cheap, long range, 6 health, and Retinue: Iden Versio
- Must be built around
- Inferno Squad must be played with Iden Versio for full value
You must equip both Del Meeko and Gideon Hask to Inferno Squad making their base price 88 points. The generic ISF are 68 points and 95 points with the T-21 Trooper. Inferno Squad is a steal for 88 points. This gives you solid health, great offense and abilities like Coordinate and Repair 2. At this cost, I always take Inferno Squad in any army when playing Iden Versio. The base ISF on the other hand are much more expensive for what they bring. They have less health and cost 7 points more than Inferno Squad. Because of this, I typically only bring the base ISF in a Tactical Strike army.
Generic ISF when upgraded with the T-21 have a range 3 attack pool with 4 black dice, 4 white dice, surge to hit, and critical 2. This averages 4 hits without an aim with an average of roughly 2 crits. Marksman allows you to spend an aim to flip a blank to a hit or flip a hit to a crit. This attack profile is super versatile because of the high average crit count and power of Marksman. Inferno Squad has a range 3 attack pool with 4 black dice, 2 red dice, surge to hit, and Lethal 1. This attack averages 4.25 hits with an average of 0.75 crits unaimed. This attack pool is slightly less versatile due to the much lower crit average but Retinue: Iden Versio generates a free aim almost every turn with can be spent on Lethal, adding hits, or adding crits.
Base ISF have 5 health when upgraded with the T-21 and Reliable 1 meaning that they have between 10-15 effective wounds depending on surge usage. Inferno Squad has 6 health total and Reliable 1, giving them 12-18 effective wounds. With these defensive stats, ISF are durable units that can handle multiple attacks. It is worth noting the ISF are vulnerable to Pierce since they are low heath and rely on surging red saves. Inferno Squad also has Retinue: Iden Versio, which can be used to gain free dodges.
Base ISF do not have any utility abilities in their profile. Inferno Squad, on the other hand, comes with two powerful support abilities. First, Inferno Squad has Repair 2: Capacity 1, this ability removes 2 wounds from any droid unit or vehicle. This ability is great when run along Speeder Bikes or Imperial armor. The second support ability is Coordinate: Corps Trooper. This gives out a free order to any corps unit at Range 1 whenever Inferno Squad is given an order. Coordinate creates extra order control and can set up Fire Support when paired with Shoretroopers and a DF-90 Mortar.
ISF are speed 2 with no mobility keywords so they are quite average, but they have one keyword that gives them turn zero mobility. Both versions of ISF have Infiltrate, which allows them to deploy anywhere on the battlefield outside of range 3 of enemy units. While their speed is average, deploying anywhere give you a huge bonus in early positioning. This makes it so you can deploy near important objectives and begin the game in an advantageous position.
While ISF have multiple different upgrade slots I typically only fill about 2-3 of them. ISF fill a very specific role and are upgraded accordingly.
Because Inferno Squad is so inexpensive and powerful, I always choose Inferno over a base ISF unit. The only time you will bring a base ISF unit is in an army where you already have Inferno Squad but want more Infiltrate and Marksman. Because of this, I always just equip the T-21 Special Forces Trooper in base units.
Del Meeko has 2 health, a range 1-5 sniper rifle with High Velocity and Lethal 1, bringing the support keyword Repair 2: Capacity 1. While Lethal combined with Marksman makes an ISF with Del Meeko quite aim hungry, Inferno Squad has Retinue: Iden Versio which can help provide aims.
Gideon Hask has 2 health, a range 1-3 blaster rifle with two red dice, increases the courage of the unit he is in by 1, and provides Coordinate: Corps Trooper. Gideon creates extra order control and also makes ISF units’ courage 3. This gives some extra utility and makes Inferno Squad nearly suppression immune with courage 3.
T-21 Special Forces Trooper
The T-21 is the only heavy weapon option I use for generic ISF units. It is an amazing option. The T-21 is range 1-3, Critical 2, and has 4 white dice. This extra critical makes it so ISF can punch through both cover and Armor with ease. The T-21, when combined with Iden Versio’s 3 pip Tactical Strike and Offensive Push creates roughly 5 crits.
I have hinted at this, but ISF fill a very specific role. They are used in combination with Tactical Strike and their native Infiltrate to create a devastating alpha strike. Offensive Push gives you an aim when you move and adds an extra aim to the alpha strike. ISF just want as many aims as possible because of Marksman. Offensive Push is a cheap and reliable way to do this.
Because you are using ISF as a lean alpha strike unit, I suggest leaving the comms upgrade slot empty to save points.
This upgrade is optional and only useful if you have spare points. Scout 1 makes it so you can get closer to the opposing army with Infiltrate. It gives you some better positioning on turn 0.
I am sorry to say it, but grenades are still bad and ISF want to be at range 3, meaning that grenades have no value in this unit, so I leave this slot open to save points.
How to Play
Standard ISF and Inferno Squad both play somewhat differently. Both are great as alpha striking units, but Inferno also has some tricks up its sleeve with Iden and Tactical Strike.
Imperial Special Forces
I will start with generic ISF since most of the advice for how to play this unit is applicable to Inferno Squad as well. Because you are running a generic ISF I am going to assume you are playing a 333-style army (Iden Versio + Inferno Squad + 2 ISF). With that in mind, we should start with turn zero.
Much of the utility of ISF comes from Infiltrate and their ability to flank the enemy army. I always deploy all of my infiltrating units last, so I have the most information about my opponent’s deployment. This makes it so you can catch units your opponent overextends out. There are two ways I typically deploy. First, I will deploy all my ISF behind line of sight (LOS) blocking terrain in range of the enemy so I can Tactical Strike move shoot then move back behind cover. This deployment is best if you have some solid LOS blocking terrain and your opponent deployed units within range 3 of the terrain. Just be careful that your opponent can not flank your ISF and compromise their safe position. The second main style of deployment is an all-in flanking attack. In this deployment you are planning on double moving with Tactical Strike and going all in on a unit or two. I will do a deployment like this if my opponent leaves a unit separate from the rest of his army or overextends an aggressive unit like a force user. A force user can destroy an ISF gunline, so you want to go all in on killing that unit as soon as possible.
After deployment, I typically play Tactical Strike from Iden Versio on turn 1 or 2. Basically, if you have targets for all 3 ISF and Iden on turn 1, play Tactical Strike. If not, wait until turn 2 when you have more options and play it then. Tactical Strike is best when used on full ISF units, meaning that you will typically want to play this card sooner than later. Because ISF are range 3, and tactical strike gives you two speed 1 moves, your threat range is slightly longer than range 4. Just be careful to not leave your ISF out in the open to fight the entire opposing army all on their own. Try your very best to pick a flank and take out any isolated units.
After Tactical Strike, ISF are a hearty range 3 unit that have solid saves and good damage output. ISF can duke it out with many other trooper units and still get value as the game goes on. ISF are very aim hungry with Marksman, so I will sometimes recover on a turn where I have no good targets to bank an aim with Offensive Push.
Most everything I just mentioned is also applicable to Inferno Squad but there are some key differences.
Inferno has Del Meeko making them a long-range threat. 4 aims (1 from Retinue, 1 from Offensive Push, 2 from Tactical Strike) nearly guarantees 2 crits and Pierce 1 with Del Meeko so I will deploy Inferno Before Iden and my other ISF since they can still have a decent Tactical Strike from range 5. If you are facing a red save army, this attack can be great and lets you strike from a safe range. Del Meeko combined with Marksman and the aim from Retinue makes Inferno Squad great at pushing a single crit through at range 5. While this may seem under whelming, 1 crit at range 5 can pick off a fleeing unit with a single model, swinging the activation count and points killed back in your direction.
The Other difference from standard ISF is the importance of positioning of Inferno Squad. You want to make sure Inferno is always range 2 from Iden to get Retinue and make sure Inferno is range 1 from a corps unit so you can get value from Coordinate: Corps Trooper.
Overall Inferno Squad is more effective against high save units because of Lethal 1, while standard ISF are more effective against Armor because of Critical 2.
Iden Dewbacks is my personal favorite ISF based army. I played a version of this list in Invader League season 8 and you can watch those game on youtube here if you are interested in seeing the army in action. This army threatens your opponent with Iden + 3 ISF and follows up with 3 Dewbacks. It is super effective at area control between the pressure of Tactical Strike and 3 Dewbacks. One thing you want to watch out for is vertical terrain that your opponent can use to hide units from the threat of Dewbacks. The army does not need a huge bid since the objective deck is quite powerful and the army also benefits from picking table side and deploying last. Overall, I would suggest giving this army a shot if you want a well-rounded ISF army that has some punch even after the alpha strike.
Iden 333bikes is all in on the Alpha Strike. The army brings 11 activations allowing you to further delay deployment of your ISF. There are multiple synergies in this list. On the Tactical Strike turn you have nearly perfect order control. 4 orders are given out to Iden and the 3 ISF, Inferno Squad Coordinates a Shoretrooper who Coordinates a DF-90 Mortar Trooper this leaves only 2 corps and the 3 bikes in the bag without orders. Bikes are also extremely mobile creating even greater flanking potential for the army. Del Meeko also has Repair 2 which can be used on the Speeder Bikes to heal two wounds. Luke Cook placed 2nd at Adeptiocon with this army showing its effectiveness. You can catch the live recordings of Luke’s games with the army here.
The previous two armies were all in on Tactical Strike and running the maximum number of ISF, this army is more of a standard gunline that leverages the power of Iden and Inferno Squad. Iden is order hungry but two of Agent Kallus’ command cards give out more than one order so Seize the Initiative allows Iden to have perfect order control. Kallus is also a decent melee unit who can help the gunline deal with aggressive melee units. Tactical Strike is still powerful with Iden, Inferno Squad, and the two DLT-19x Snipers.
Imperal Special Forces fill one role, but that role is very powerful. When run alongside Iden Versio, ISF are one of the most powerful units in the entire Imperial roster. I hope this article gave you some new ideas and inspiration to put ISF on the table!