Today Atomic Mass released their third of four promised articles, and you can bet we won’t “flee” from a chance to share our thoughts.
Although the author(s) stated that last week’s new pass rule was the most significant I’d submit that it’s this one (so far anyway!) that will be the cause célèbre for the coming weeks and months. It’s also one where myself and many others had the shared experience of initially interpreting this as a weakening of panic rules when (in the grander context) it is most certainly not. So, if I’ve piqued your interest read on as we get into why, and who we think will benefit most from this extremely significant rules change.
🎵 TWO suppression to lose the game?🎵
So, you’re never going to lose a unit by fleeing the battlefield again, and you’ll actually stay put which means you can pick up the objective again when you’re no longer panicked. As I mentioned above, it’s extremely easy to see the surface of this and miss some of the implications, I did so myself. Truly keen observers noticed it early however, this phrase from the author that was not itself clear from the posted snippet of the actual rules:
“Most importantly for many scenarios, units that are panicked cannot be used to satisfy the victory conditions on objective cards. So that lone remaining trooper that’s dug in behind heavy cover with a pile of dodge tokens can now be eliminated from the scenario by the proper application of suppression and panic.”
This phrase raised questions about whether this applied to scenarios that didn’t involve holding on to claimed tokens, such as Key Positions. The following has been confirmed via statements on The Legion Discord:
“Panicked” is now a constant check instead of being limited to following the rally step
Though a rules lawyer could find edge-cases where being “panicked” mattered after that unit’s activation that turn, it was basically all about the fact that it dropped everything and ran towards (or off) the edge. I’d submit that now it’s actually easiest to think of being panicked as a state that’s the bigger cousin of being “suppressed.” I say this because unlike panic many of us have had the unfortunate experience of Luke Skywalker using You Serve Your Master well against us to shoot our dudes with our own dudes. This is an effect that only worked on “suppressed” units, and being “suppressed” is defined as “having suppression tokens equal to your courage value.”
If it were up to me I would have shifted to the illustrative terminology used by the RTS game “Company of Heroes,” an excellent game marred only by my own memories of my brother dropping dozens of paratroopers on me who blew up my tanks seemingly instantly. That game uses the terms “suppressed” and “pinned.” Suppressed units in Company of Heroes moved slow and only shot open targets, pinned units dove to the ground with their hands on their helmets and basically just lied there until the artillery or mortars stopped. This is similar to the way to think of panic now, they don’t run away but they aren’t contributing to anything. If you activate and are still panicked after rallying then yes the unit will get a bonus they didn’t get before by clearing suppression equal to its courage, but when the meaning of this rule became clear all of us immediately went to the same thought: This is going to change turn 6 in a big way. This is because a unit that gets enough suppression to be in a “panicked” state after its activation will usually have no opportunities to clear it (aside from the removal one suppression at the end of a round for most troopers), which matters a lot when the game is about to end.
Winners and Losers
In the last couple articles this section formed our summary at the end, but here I think it’s useful to use this list to demonstrate the various ways this is going to matter.
Suppressive Weapons – WINNER
Again, I understand why folks initially thought the opposite, I did too until its new “constant check” nature was confirmed. “Panicked units already dropped their tokens, and fleeing almost always already meant they weren’t going to magically land on objective terrain” I thought “so doesn’t this almost always just mean suppression is more limited than before since you can’t lose the unit anymore?” Au contraire! Suppressive weapons now basically represent a potential win condition, in a way they really didn’t before.
If you ran a Krennic triple Deathtrooper list in the past, you probably grumbled a little bit when you ran into droids. They don’t lose actions after all, and panics usually happened by accident when a unit you were shooting a bunch just happened to build up a lot of suppression if it was somehow still alive. But now, things are different. Think about Intercept or KP, when it’s common to leave one wimpy unit behind to score the back position. You had better hope that lone unit is within your commander’s hopefully high (more on this soon) courage bubble, because if it’s not you could miss out on scoring that “home point” after taking a shot from a single suppressive weapon, which likely wouldn’t have had a chance at actually killing the target. In the past, mortars on Intercept/KP were basically forced to choose between rushing in to the center and actually using their suppressive weapon on turns 5 and 6, now using those weapons will actually contribute to the goal of “taking the center point” despite being nowhere near it since any unit they push towards being panicked will be as good as dead from a points allocation perspective.
So yeah, it’s true that you won’t be able to panic someone off the board, this didn’t happen a ton anyway, but what does happen a ton is units exposing themselves to earn last minute victory points, which suppressive weapons can now deny with a single shot.
Courage 2 Commanders: LOSER
The value of courage on a commander gets much higher when that bubble matters constantly rather than just once after rally checks. In case you were wondering, here’s the full list of commanders who are courage 3 or more:
- Vader (Empire): Cannot be suppressed
- Chewbacca (Republic): Cannot be suppressed while he’s enraged
- Palpatine (Empire): 4
- Yoda (Republic): 4
- Iden (Empire): 3
- All the other Jedi/Sith commanders: 3, but for Darksaber Maul this only matters for Mandalorians because no one else can use his courage for panic checks.
- Jyn (Rebel): 3
I am not saying at all that lists without one of the above are doomed to fail, but there’s a good chance they’ll have an uphill climb. I imagine that generic commanders will especially see less play, not only do they only have a courage 2 bubble but they are easily killed, and if they died on turn 6 and there’s no replacement courage 2 unit to nominate, your troops will be on their own in the end game meaning that most corps will be “panicking” even at just two suppression. I think higher courage commanders will be getting consideration for that little yellow number in a way they rarely did before.
Jyn is the interesting standout here, I think she’ll see more play, but I want to point out that we should hope/expect that her 3 pip will get errata’d, because it’s not gonna work so hot anymore.
If you look closely, you’ll see that this only prevents panic during a unit’s activation, but not after because…well, constant checks weren’t a thing before. Hopefully Rebels will get this minor change so they can feel comfortable worshipping Jyn as their new high courage overlord.
Vehicles – WINNER
You know what’s cool? Not being suppressed, because you literally can’t be. Not only will an AA5 continue to contribute (and maybe smother) an objective on Key Positions no matter how many times it gets shot with guns that harmlessly plink of its armor, but it can contribute to the suffering of the regular troopers directly by displacing other troopers turn after turn. A Comms Jammer AA5 can already contribute a lot after delivering its payload even in current state by moving and taking standbys to move and displace all over again later. Also, shout out to the AAT and Lok Durd, who might also see a bit more play due to the suppressive weapon boost.
Low Activation Lists: LOSER
- they have fewer units to score
- they have fewer units to suppress the enemy
- they have fewer targets for their enemy’s suppression
- their opponent may get several chances to execute unanswered activations in the late game, which means you’re getting targeted suppression you can’t do a thing about
Just as the new rules giveth to low activation (8 or 9) lists with the new pass mechanic, they taketh away with the suppression change. Consider a 13 act droid list versus a 9 act Anakin list. In a scenario where both are simply rushing a central KP, the droid list would have a pretty good advantage regardless of rules changes simply because it had more units to stand on it. That’s still true, but now it’s quadruple trouble for the low act list.
Compel, Aid, and Dauntless: LOSER
Empire has a little Compel and Rebels have a dash of Dauntless, but Shadow Collective actually can run all three of these in one list! The constant check for panic means that if you take your compel suppression and reach double your courage value, that unit instantly becomes panicked and can’t do anything else (since compel is before the perform actions step). Perhaps this is an additional back-end nerf to that faction which has proven to be quite strong. Speaking of strong factions though…
Galactic Empire – WINNER
The faction that’s already the strongest pre-points change will be getting yet another bonus, suppression is basically part of its faction identity and it’s getting better.
Let’s take a look at some command cards in Empire, which isn’t even complete and doesn’t consider their operatives who also have very good options.
These were strong before but now they’re potential trump cards in the end-game. Consider Debark for Ground Assault on turn 6, a Stormtrooper Heavy Response unit (clearly a favorite of this website) can waltz in and split fire with all three weapons they have available, which will likely do little damage but will dole out 6 suppression which might be even better than damage. The same is true for a snowtrooper unit with a flamethrower and frag grenades. Give in to Your Anger can now make the back guy on Key Positions very worried if they’re outside the bubble, and Annihilation Looms will often “merely” make your own units suppressed while putting enemy units that were already getting suppressed by mortars and death troopers into the panic zone.
The droids were winning this center point on intercept 6-1 when the turn started, after Master of Evil they’re losing 1-0 if their commander is dead
I’ll be honest while trying not to be hyperbolic: I think we’re at risk of a distorted meta right off the bat when we’d expect rules changes to act as equalizers. We already know that the Empire received a net points decrease (since Death Trooper DLT cost went down by four and Mortars went up by 2). I won’t get into a big faction prediction string here, but given that most other factions suffered hits to their most meta lists and Empire is only getting better…well, we can hope there’s still a chance for some actual card errata before Worlds.
Feeling a bit suppressed
I don’t mean that my opinion is suppressed of course, this website continues to make the mistake of allowing those oxygen, but while I still have it…
I’m (speaking for myself, not the whole site) not a big fan of this change. Unlike cover (which I think did deserved a re-work), I generally feel like the suppression and panic rules were pretty clear to me even when I was a new player. The article from today calls out rules issues that arose due to the old (current) version of these rules but I’d honestly like to understand more specifically what those were so we know what really motivated this change. Do I think we deserve to know that? Hell no, Atomic Mass is a company that can do what it wants, and these articles alone represent a good faith effort on their part in my opinion…I just would like to understand the origins of this one better. I know I’ll probably never get it, but perhaps there will be opportunities to hear more details in the future.
I basically dislike the idea that the end of the game could sometimes devolve into a timing play where the objective is to “panic” units after they activate, which leaves them with little to no agency to reverse it. If I’ve already activated a unit and left it holding an objective or on top of one, I’d much rather my opponent earned the VP shift by killing me rather than by firing 1-2 mortars. It’s worth pointing out that this change provides an answer to the question “what happens when a unit peeks over a corner taking its own shots one mini at a time out in order to stay “safe,” the argument being that you can just keep shooting that unit to prevent them from scoring, but I’m not so sure how that’s really going to play out in reality.
And, you know, that goes for all of this. We don’t even have the full rulebook yet, there may be errata waiting, there may be changes to Blizzard Force (please) waiting, other stuff could change, who knows.it may also be true that the final form of this will have less potential for game-ification than it appears to now. Regardless, change like this is interesting if nothing else, and I’m looking forward to the final day of our little song, which should release the day after this posts. Until then? It may be good to figure out what your anti-
Empire suppression plan will be for the near future.