Today we got the second of four promised articles from Atomic Mass that preview the new core rulebook we’ll get on January 16th. This one is more focused but instead of a refinement of an old mechanic it’s a brand new one… well, to Legion anyway.
🎵 ONE pass per turn 🎵
Our spidey senses for this one went up when a certain piece of text from the new “Crashed X-Wing” set got onto Reddit, but it’s quickly shifted from hushed conversations to official text:
There you have it. The first part may throw you a little because the change in the rules here actually starts at the word “Alternatively” and thereafter. While it’s possible that other rules at the edges will affect our view of this a little bit, it seems that basically the way I’d list it out step-wise is this, at the start of each turn you take you’re in one of two scenarios:
Opponent has more tokens in their bag + faceup on the field than you, AND you haven’t passed yet this round
- You may pass OR pick/draw an order as normal
Opponent has same/fewer tokens in their bag + faceup on the field than you, AND you haven’t passed yet this round
- Pick/draw an order as normal
It’s important to note here that if a unit with a face-up order is defeated before activating then that order is gone immediately, but if it’s defeated with it’s order in the bag then that order is still there until drawn. This is key because a activation kills are already an extremely meaningful occurrence, but that will strangely be a little-bit mitigated if your unfortunate unit that dies before acting had a face-up token. This will happen more often than you might think, because we often put order tokens on units that we’re worried are in trouble with the intent of getting the hell out of there ASAP. As you can see, this mechanic will mean that awareness of what these numbers are will be key, and the “how many acts do you have left” question is going to come up way more than before, maybe we should all have tiny abacuses in front of us to keep things public. By the way, the true mega mega rules lawyers will notice that the current RRG doesn’t actually suggest that the face-up orders of dead units technically leave the field until the end of the round, but since no one ever, ever plays it this way and it doesn’t make a lick of sense I think logic dictates this loophole will end up closed in the new rules.
As alluded to above, players of many miniatures games other than Legion are likely familiar with pass mechanics. If we keep things under the current Atomic Mass umbrella, specifically we mean Star Wars: Armada and Marvel: Crisis Protocol. Now, I’m a doctor, not a game designer, but I think it’s academically interesting to take a moment to compare these three games when it comes to how priority works.
- Armada: First and second player are chosen by the player with the biggest bid and it stays that way the whole game. Armada didn’t initially have any pass mechanic at all, but instead had three upgrade cards (Strategic Advisor, Bail Organa and Governor Pryce) that messed around with the normal back and forth. Then, the released the Super Star Destroyer, which basically could only be fielded with like one other ship so it was given one “pass token.” Finally, Fantasy Flight (in one of their last acts with this license, and it was a welcome one!) said to hell with Strategic Advisor, Bail Organa, and Governor Pryce their assess are banned and everyone will have access to pass tokens doled out at the beginning of the game depending on total activation difference. Therefore, first player will always go first but second player gets a bit less screwed over by getting last-firsted by their opponent for literally the whole game, which did happen sometimes and it often sucked.
- Marvel Crisis Protocol: Priority is totally random to start the game and can flip from round to round, basically MCP is designed so that true last-first situations are impossible, which is important because one activation can swing things massively in MCP, even when a relatively low-cost piece (COUGH X-23) is the one that activates. There is one card that allows two acts to follow each other immediately, but it’s restricted and costs a lot of power (which is basically currency in this game.)
- Star Wars Legion: No need for history here for you all, but this is different from the other two because last-first is very possible but DOES have the potential to be decided by command card choices per round. In this way, Legion is actually the least predictable game of the three when it comes to activation priority, which is why the “Command” phase in Legion is (in my opinion) one of its key features that sets it apart from a strategic point of view. Though there are more reasons than just priority systems for the this, Armada games are often won or lost by the end of turn zero (I’m not joking), and MCP can be wildly dice dependent, but Legion in my opinion is in a nice medium between those two.
Armada’s initial (later abandoned solution): This guy was literally a card as a pass mechanic, for some reason they basically lifted Plo Koon art even though the game didn’t cover Clone Wars when this was released, one of gaming’s great mysteries
Just like with Armada, this pass mechanic serves to decrease the built-in advantages of a high activation list. Legion has a core principle that all new players figure out (usually the hard way) eventually: armies that are too far from each other to shoot or move->shoot want to avoid the chance of moving too much/too soon that they get shot by their opponent without the ability to respond in kind. My fellow Republic players know this feeling well: it’s turn one and you have a 9 act Anakin list against a 13 act STAP list…you pretty much HAVE to play your three pip, to have 3-4 face up orders and start your Exemplar sharing. They can play Standing Orders AND have complete order control compared to your roughly 1/3 of your army level of order control. So, by the time you activate Anakin (usually) last, you have to sit there and watch as your opponent activates five more god-dang droids including their three killer speeders.
The above is kind of an extreme example, but it’s certainly not a rare one, and it absolutely places additional burden on the player with fewer activations to outplay their opponent. In a situation of equal skill and equal dice luck the list with greater activations has inherent advantages on every objective in the game that’s not called “hostage exchange,” since the others either score based on either the absolute number of units near/on an objective piece OR they place value on having schlubs who can hang back and grab boxes while the rest actually fight.
An important difference from those other games is that this mechanic will have a strict limit of one pass per round, period. Thus, this change does not give anything close to parity in the above scenario, but in the more-common scenario of being 1-2 activations down it can achieve something close to it. My point blank thought is that this change is a positive one for the sake of list variety and overall balance. We’re still light-years away from figuring out what overall balance is truly going to look like since we don’t have the full rules, but as someone, Speaking of which…
Winners and Losers
The Grand Army of the Republic – WINNER: I was a bit underwhelmed by the point changes we got, clone troopers are certainly better but the Jedi end of things took a significant hit from the vigilance increase and we still don’t know what will happen with Exemplar. But you know what, being able to pass that first activation (assuming we aren’t missing a reason we can’t do so) against a 10-act list that played standing orders against your (again, almost literally required) 3-pip on turn 1 is…well, it’s Wizard. Yoda and 9 act 501st lists (which will probably now be in the “can win a local” territory now) also very much appreciate it.
Separatists – LOSER: Again, if you run 13 acts you can feel free to kiss my grits with your quibbles, but activation advantage is generally one of the core strengths of this faction. They will still have activation control, however, which also means that in rough spots their units killed pre-activation will be more likely to die with a face-up, which increases the chance they’ll have the opportunity (they often won’t want to anyway) to pass themselves as a result.
Shadow Collective – WINNER: The recent points changed initially looked like it would kinda pull the rug out from under this powerhouse of a battle force but the addition of a pass mechanic might put that rug right back, if a bit haphazardly. A lot of Pyke + Maul lists used to often have at least one unit of foot soldiers that was mostly there to be an activation, now that can be expunged with less risk to focus on everything else. The list below doesn’t look half bad when a lot of lists out there will be re-focusing on a meta that’s not quite as full as dodges as it was in the past.
The Grand Army of the Republic Fire Support – WINNER: Let’s say we’re tied at 9 activations and I start a turn by smacking down some corps without a face-up with a shot from Padme, fire supported by a Phase 1 Z6. I will now have 7 activations left and you will…still have 9, because the dead dudes’ token is still in your bag until it’s drawn. If you have any corps left on the field, you won’t get rid of that dead token until the rest have activated, which means that I can actually pass on my next turn because by the time it comes back to me the “count” will be 7 for me and 8 for you even though I functionally actually have more living units than you do. Again, this strategy will only sometimes be useful, but let me tell you that if I still have a Jedi left on the board, it’s probably useful. This also assumes that AMG won’t change the rules on fire support…ok now I’m getting scared, let’s move on.
Bidders – WINNER (sometimes): I’ll be more clear, if you had an extra naked corps or maybe a sniper strike that you included for “activation padding” then it’ll be worth considering using those points on upgrades and a bid instead. If you’re gunning towards Payload, Intercept, Breakthrough, or Key Positions then you will still benefit quite a bit from just plain having more dudes than your opponent at the end of the day, but less so with the other objectives. With Bombing Run, the pass mechanic will actually decrease the advantage of having more activations, and it will be somewhat neutral on the others. Any list that was weighing between bidding and extra acts might now consider a new strategy, such as, I dunno…this.
Sweet dreams everyone, see you Monday!