The Vanishing of Stars, Part II: The Achilles Heel of the ISD 2

Note: Because of the fact that this article forms the context of an interview with an english speaking Armada veteran next week, this article is as an exception also provided in English. Please excuse my terrible English.


Great and Mighty the Imperial Star Destroyer is - and easily robbed of its enormous punch! I remember quite well my first - and only - game where I commanded three Imperial Star Destroyers in the field: Assured of their mighty striking force I went to the (virtual) gaming table. Utterly destructed and forlorn I left it. I had in horror laid my eyes upon it: the Achilles heel of the ISD.


Granted, my tournament experience is limited: I have never been to a store, regional or national championship. My experience is based on online tournaments and a vast amount of online games I have played via Vassal against players all around the world. However, one cannot deny that the Vassal community has not a small number of enormously experienced players of exceptional fleet commanding capabilities. As local scenes have their predominant strategies of fleet building (called meta in the Armada sociolect), so have they. My experience with the Vassal meta is that the ISD 2 is on the retreat for competitive gaming. The ISD 1 has found its niche as as a carrier for activating squadrons. However, the ISD as a battleship has to yield to other ships. In the last big Vassal tournament (40 players, 4 preliminary rounds, 3 knockout rounds), merely one ISD fleet managed to get to the semi finals. How low the once so proud battleship has sunk!


But why? What is the weaknes that has robbed the ISD 2 his rightful position within the fleet? Let's take a closer look at the ship. It has a terrifying front firing arc consisting of 8 attack dice. But that's it. The sides, which do not form merely a small part of its hull, have merely half of the dice - that is just the same number as the fragile Raider in its front: and you can switch off the light in the rear of the ISD. Those 3 attack dice are the same meager number like the Corellian Corvette has. If one takes a look at the maneuverability of the ISD, it becomes clear what the problem does consist in: Although the ISD has a speed of 3, there is not one double click maneuver. By this the entire accursed situation becomes obvious: The rebel scum simply needs to escape the front firing arc with some agile ships and the ISD is as helpless as a R2 unit with an attached speck!


Let us demonstrate this with a simulation (simply click on the images to enlarge them): In it two naked CR90-A corvettes fight an ISD 2. The corvettes cost 88 points compared to 120 of the ISD 2 - that means almost merely two third of the points of the big fish. The simulation assumes that the rebel fleet has initivative (not unlikely considering the lower price of its ships). In addition, we assume that all ships (corvettes and ISD) only use navigate commands. Both corvettes start with speed 3, the ISD with speed 2. The first image shows the situation at the beginning of round 2. All ships are outside the firing distance of their enemies.






First, one of the corvettes moves and increases its speed to 4. However it remains outside the firing distance of the ISD.













The ISD turns hard.







The second corvette fires from two of its hull sections, also increases its speed to 4, and moves closer to the ISD. With this round 2 (i.e. the first we examine) ends.

Intermediate result: The rebels have fired 3 dice, the ISD not one.




The other corvette fires at the beginning of round 3 with one die from its side section, decreases its speed to 3, and flys out of the firing distance of the ISD.




The ISD has in return not more to offer than a lame rear salvo (three dice) and to turn hard again in order to get the corvette back into its front firing arc.


Meanwhile, the second corvette fires from two of its sections for a total of three dice. It maneuvers within the side firing arc of the ISD, but remains in long firing range.

Intermediate result after round 3:

Rebels: 7 dice fired

ISD: 3 dice fired





The ISD gets another volley (2 dice) from the first corvette, which thereafter immediately escapes out of the front firing arc.





The ISD is able to fire two boring dice from its side section (yes, there is a picture that proves that none of the corvettes is in blue range). Even if we grant the ISD a Gunnery Team it gets merely to four red dice - and has to deal with two evade tokens on each of the enemy ships.



Now, the second corvette fires 3 dice, but can only avoid the front firing arc of the ISD at the cost of comming quite close to its side section.

Intermediate result after round 4:

Rebels: 12 dice

ISD: 7 dice (and this includes the bonus Gunnery Team).



The other corvette fires two dice, increases speed and escapes again the front firing arc.



First time major hits for the ISD - however, not with its front firing arc: 4 dice at the closest corvete and - because it is obstructed - one at the second (and this again due to the bonus Gunnery Team).




At the end of round 5, it gets a two dice hit from the corvette.

Because the small ship does not like to drift of the map (and next game round is game over) it escapes with increased speed to safety.

Intermediate result: Thanks to the bonus Gunnery Team the ISD is able do decrease the gap:

Rebels: 16 dice

ISD: 12 dice




Last important turn: The other corvette fires one last die and also escapes to safety. The ISD has no chance of return fire. The game is over.

Final result of the simulation:

Rebels: 17 dice

ISD: 12 dice


Let us consider the simulation. The ISD costs (with Gunnery Team) nearly 150% of the price of the two corvettes, but does hit more rarely. Considering defense tokens, it has indeed one Brace and two Redirect tokens, but because nearly all of its shots were in red range, those shots were mainly eaten by the Evade tokens of the corvettes. And due to the fact that the ISD had an limited amount of attack dice, it could not block them with accuracy dice.

Of course, this was a simulation. For both sides, one could rightfully claim that cleverer maneuvering was possible. However, it should not been forgotten that both corvettes cost merely two third of the points of the ISD with Gunnery Team. Even if they had been equipped with Engine Techs and Turbolaser Reroute Circuts, they would have been cheaper than the ISD. But in this scenarion they would have flown around the ISD in circles due to the Engine Techs and would have prettily dissected it with the guaranteed double hits of their turbolasers.

The simulation shows: the Achilles heel of the ISD is that many small ships can easily evade its menacing front firing arc.

How can the ISD protect its Achilles heel? What can the Empire do to restore the terrifying punch of their most dangerous weapon?

As we have seen last week, one can augment the sides of the ISD. That attenuates the problem merely slightly. On the other side there is the option to trim down the mobility of the rebel scum. Phylon Q7 Tractor Beams could be used. This is not enough, if the rebel player makes excessive use of navigate commands. However, in addition to the Interdictor expansion this might work: Admiral Konstantine, Admiral Titus, an Interdictor with G8-Experimental Projector and the Interdictor titel cut down the rebel mobility pretty much. However, this reinforcement of our fleet has its price: 138 points (counting one tractor beam for the Interdictor and one for the ISD).

Does this mean that the ISD 2 can merely get of the ground with Admiral Konstantine and the Interdictor? No. There is another way! About this one we hopefully get to know next week, when we interview Paul (in the Vassal community also known as pt106). He is well feared for his ISD maneuvering capabilities and was the only player who got to the top eight in the last big Vassal tournament with a fleet containing an ISD (two to be more precise).

If even his wisdom cannot improve the situation, there is only one remedy in order to gain victory with an ISD 2: eating more dark side carrots!



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