That is probably the easiest way to describe my feelings right now. Seeing one of the most evil and powerful characters in the Star Wars universe hit the tabletop might actually get me to play Imperial lists in the future. Star Wars Legion is a fantastic game but it has been forming a meta with MSU and maximum activations to win tournaments. And it makes sense since the models and units available are limited (for a game only a few months old). Now we are seeing units and options that are shaping new ideas and giving players a new approach to building lists. Palpatine is giving Imperial players a look at the voltron/glass-cannon list of one or two super expensive and insanely powerful models that kill anything on sight.
Based on the pictures from the FFG article and speculation from others on the Legion Discord, Palpatine looks like he will be 240 points (with an argument for possibly 210). For the sake of this article we will assume he is 240 points and adjust thoughts if that changes.
So why is Palpatine exciting? Well lots of reasons but the first one for me is that he is a monster! Let’s gloss over some stats for this guy (and with the picture being a bit blurry we are making some educated guesses about his abilities)
- 5 HP and 4 Courage
- Red defense die
- Surges on offense and defense (with offensive crits)
- Master of the force 2! (You get to un-tap up to 2 force powers each turn)
- Range 1-2 rolling 6 dice with pierce 2 AND suppressive (2x of each color die)
- Pulling the strings lets you target a friendly trooper and get a free attack or move action
- Entourage lets you add one Royal Guard unit and ignore the rank in list building
What Does All This Mean?
Ok, I had to get that out of my system. But looking at Palp makes for some interesting ideas and discussions. Lets look at just his card before we look at command cards and upgrades.
HP and Attack Dice
240 points for 5HP and 4 courage is interesting. Papa Vader is 200 points for 8 wounds and unlimited courage and Veers is 80 points for 5 HP and 2 courage. The next stat a lot of players look at is the number of dice and what special effects they have. Palpatine rolls in 2 red, 2 black and 2 white dice with Pierce 2 and Suppressive. Let me tell you, Pierce 2 is good but Suppressive is brutally painful. Handing out 2 suppression tokens to a unit is nasty, thank goodness Palp is range 1-2 so he can’t snipe units on turn 2 easily. But this is the first Imperial commander with 6 dice for both ranged and melee attacks. Vader is melee only and Veers has both melee and ranged attacks. But Palpatine is the most aggressive commander while moving down the field alone.
Palpatine can use Force Lightning anytime you’re in range and that’s scary. On top of his dice being pretty good, he surges on offense and defense! This is the first commander to surge into crits on offense and blocks on defense. Rolling a red defense die WITH surges means he essentially has 3+ save (meaning he takes wounds 33% of the time). Unlike his fellow commanders, Palp is the only one so far to roll a 3+ save and that means those 5 wounds will last even longer.
Talking about a 3+ save on Palp means we gotta bring up his abilities and Entourage: Imperial Royal Guard is going to be impactful. The effect (as best we can determine) states that while building an army, ignore the rank of 1 Imperial Royal Guard unit. That basically means you can include one Royal Guard unit regardless of how many special units you have brought to the table. You still have to spend points on the Royal Guards but you can have a max of 4 special force units with Palp as a commander.
Royal Guards are important because they have Guardian 2 on their unit card.
Royal Guard individual models have 2 wounds each and Guardian 2 means they can soak a LOT of wounds. The Guards roll red dice on defense as well so an attack on the Emperor will usually Guardian 2 wounds to the Guards and then Palp gets a 3+ save, meaning not much goes through to the Emperor. Now this does mean you’re paying 315 points out of 800 for 4 models but one of those models is going to be very hard to kill.
Palpatine is immune to Pierce and has Master of the Force 2. These are fairly straightforward but still very useful since Palp can take 3 force powers if he wants to.
Pulling the Strings is the action that makes Palp a very interesting utility character. The card effect says (as best we can determine) “Choose a friendly trooper unit at range 1-2. That unit may perform a free attack action or a free move action.” If you ever played Imperial Assault you might remember this ability in the early meta. Utility pieces would allow models like Vader to move up the field faster because they could move without activating, then move on their own activation. Palpatine has the ability to push up other units, especially powerhouses like Vader, into enemy lines faster than usual. This is something exciting and should be respected because you can get units into combat faster which means more aggressive plays.
Here is the only card we can clearly make out, but its powerful! Three pips and give each unit in range 1-3 of Palpatine a faceup order token? That’s pretty great for controlling your army with no questions and also activating “when issued an order” abilities. There’s not too much more to talk about this card, it gets a lot done in terms of consistency.
The most impressive card is “And Now…You Will Die”. This card is 1 pip and states (as best we can determine) “During Emperor Palpatine’s activation, he may suffer one wound and gain 1 suppression token to perform an attack. He may do this any number of times. After Emperor Palpatine performs an attack, the defender gains 1 immobilized token.”
What does all this mean??? Well quite a lot. First Palpatine can attack over and over. This is the first time an Imperial character has been able to make more than 1 attack using their attack dice within their own activation. Palpatine takes 1 wound and 1 suppression every time so you have to manage your resources so he doesn’t set himself up for an easy kill. But he still rolls 6 dice with suppressive, pierce 2 AND he gives an immobilized token to the defender regardless of dealing wounds! What is an immobilize token? I would wager you can’t move during your next activation. This is speculation but still, giving out a free token is always useful and for 240 points should be expected.
The only upgrade we can see is Anger which states “Dark Side only. After you suffer 1 or more wounds, gain 1 aim token.” For 5 points gaining an aim token seems pretty good, especially for Palp. This upgrade doesn’t exhaust to be used and works well on any Force user including Papa Vader. The article also looks like Palp gets Force Choke in his kit and that’s pretty nasty. Being able to kill a specific mini and then attack with 6 dice every turn is pretty oppressive. MSU armies should be ready to deal with Palpatine because if you run a 4-5 model unit he can kill 1 for free and then 2 more on average PLUS 2 suppression tokens. Just something to think about.