Strap Yourselves In



The latest expansion for the Star Wars Trading Card Game, the A New Hope expansion set, promises to change to the way you play the game. Just like the film with which the expansion shares its name, it's full of innovation, excitement, and lots of stormtroopers.

New expansion sets are always exciting, but the A New Hope set is doubly so: not only is it 180 new cards for the Star Wars TCG, it's also all about the film that started it all. For long-time fans it really brings back memories of seeing Star Wars for the first time. Gamers get the added excitement of new mechanics and a selection of cards nearly twice as large as before from which to build their decks.

Piloting is introduced in the A New Hope expansionIt's hard to talk about the entire A New Hope set without wanting to talk about every card, but I'll try. The single biggest change has got to be the Pilot ability. This new card ability lets you take Character cards and actually put them on speeders, transports, starfighters, and capital ships. When you do, they give the ship some added benefit. The Rebel Alliance gives the Light Side player some of the best unique pilots so far—Biggs Darklighter and Wedge Antilles are two whose names you might recognize. The Dark Side, meanwhile, gets some really powerful non-unique pilots—the appropriately-titled TIE Fighter Elite Pilot and Star Destroyer Commander to name a couple.

Below are some of the Characters with the Pilot ability from the A New Hope set, what they do when flying, and how they'll most likely be used.

Biggs Darklighter, A New Hope Biggs Darklighter
Starfighter Pilot: The starfighter gets "Discard this Starfighter and Biggs from the Space arena Prevent all damage to one of your other Space units."

Biggs will most likely be used to protect one of your other piloted Space units from destruction. Savvy Dark Side players will often target Biggs first, to prevent the Light Side player from having the option of saving another Space unit.
Jon 'Dutch' Vander, A New Hope Jon "Dutch" Vander
Starfighter Pilot: The Starfighter gets Stun 3 (when it damages another unit, that unit gets –3 power until the end of turn).

Dutch needs to strike hard (a higher power means a better chance of stunning an opponent) and fast (Stun is less useful if your opponent has already attacked, and stunning units tend to draw fire early and often). Put him on Luke's X-wing against other starfighters (it has Shields 1 to reduce their power and Accuracy 1 to increase its chances of hitting) or X-wing Red One for its 60 speed and 3 power. If you can prevent the damage with Padawan's Deflection, you can use X-wing Red One's additional damage ability to Stun two space units and keep "Dutch" around for another turn.
Wedge Antilles, A New Hope Wedge Antilles
Starfighter Pilot: The Starfighter gets +20 speed, +2 power, and "Pay 1 Force Retreat this Starfighter. Play only if no unit is attacking and only if this Starfighter has 1 or more damage counters on it."

Wedge turns Obi-Wan's Starfighter (version A, Attack of the Clones) into a wrecking machine. The already formidable starship is increased to 70 speed and 5 power. It's much more likely to reap the benefits of its Critical Hit 2 ability (deals 2 additional damage if you roll at least one natural six) when rolling 5 dice instead of 3 each attack. What really makes Wedge and Obi-Wan's Starfighter a winning combo is Wedge's ability to run away when damaged coupled with the starship's ability to remove all damage counters at the beginning of battle each turn. As long as the Dark Side can't wipe the unit out in one hit, it'll be back fully healed the following turn.
Imperial Navy Helmsman, A New Hope Imperial Navy Helmsman
Capital Ship Pilot: The Capital Ship gets +20 speed.

The Helmsman may not seem like such a big deal; all he does is make a Capital Ship faster. That is, until you consider the fact that a Capital Ship's only weakness is that it isn't faster. Put him on the Imperial Star Destroyer for a 50 speed, 8 power, 8 health, Bombard 3 (This unit may attack a unit in the Ground arena instead of a unit in the Space arena, using 3 power plus any other effects) Space unit.
Star Destroyer Commander, A New Hope Star Destroyer Commander
Capital Ship Pilot: The Capital Ship gets Critical Hit 2 (deals 2 additional damage if you roll at least one natural six).

Star Destroyer Commander takes a good thing and makes it better. Capital Ships roll sixes all the time, but none of them have the Critical Hit ability without the benefit of a Battle card until now. Note also that the Commander's ability also gives Capital Ships with the Bombard ability Critical Hit 2 when attacking Ground units.
TIE Fighter Pilot, A New Hope TIE Fighter Pilot
Starfighter Pilot: The Starfighter gets +1 power.

The TIE Fighter Pilot is perfect for any Starfighter that has an ability triggered by damage. TIE Fighter DS-55-6 has Critical Hit 2; the TIE Fighter Pilot raises its power to 3, and gives the ship another die for a chance at a natural six. Tyranus's Solar Sailer (version A, Attack of the Clones) is another power 2, Critical Hit 2 Space unit with an added twist: after it attacks, the Solar Sailer can retreat. TIE Fighter DS-73-3 has Stun 2, likewise getting another chance to reduce an opponent's power.
TIE Fighter Elite Pilot, A New Hope TIE Fighter Elite Pilot
Starfighter Pilot: The Starfighter gets +20 speed and Critical Hit 2 (deals 2 additional damage if you roll at least one natural six).

The Elite Pilot works best on Vader's TIE Fighter (versions A and B). Alone each makes an excellent vehicle for the Elite; stacked makes it the Dark Side player's most dangerous Space unit. Tyranus's Solar Sailer is also a good starship for the Elite Pilot. With a 70 speed, few Light Side Space units will act sooner. Although it will rarely happen with only a 2 power, a natural six will deliver 5 points of damage with this combo. You can attack and retreat every turn, giving the piloted Sailer plenty of chances to roll a six.

It's not really what the Pilot Characters do once they're flying that makes them so revolutionary; the fact that they leave the Character arena is what's bound to change the face of the game. Before the A New Hope set, you had to have at least 12 Character cards in your deck, even if you didn't want to. Now, you can easily find 12 Character cards with the Pilot ability to give you a stranglehold on the Space arena if you don't want to fight a three-front war. Although, if everyone starts doing so, the Character arena is going to become awfully empty with everyone off flying starships. What will happen then? It's a safe bet the politicians and other "utility" Characters will take over. (Utility cards have an overall effect on the game other than as powerful combatants, such as R2-D2 version A from the Attack of the Clones set, which taps to give all of your Space units Critical Hit 1.) The only strategy that will keep the utility cards in check is, of course, to hold the Character arena with powerful characters, such as Jedi.

So, maybe the Pilot ability won't make the game completely different after all. It will, however, be the cause of some pretty extreme deck types as everyone gets used to not necessarily playing in the Character arena. Ultimately, a careful balance of power, utility, and Pilot cards will probably prove best.

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