Let the Wookiee Win... and Win... and Win...
"Droids don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that."
I think that quote sums up how Chewbacca (A) works quite nicely. When Chris Erb first sent me this card to review, I was very impressed with how well the card seemed to capture the essence of Chewie. Chewie would have happily thrown himself in front of anyone looking to rough up his friends. And if you're crazy enough to take a swipe at him, well, there go your arms.
A quick primer on how his abilities work would be appropriate at this point. First off, he has "Pay 1 Force: Intercept". Intercept was introduced in A New Hope and it allows you to force your opponent to attack Chewbacca instead of whatever they had declared that they were attacking. He also has, "Pay 3 Force: Retaliate 6". Retaliate is the new ability in Battle of Yavin that can be activated if Chewbacca is being attacked and allows you to roll six dice back at the attacker after the current attack is completed. I emailed David Eckelberry, who is on the Star Wars TCG R&D team, and he confirmed that even if the attack kills Chewbacca, if retaliate was activated, the six dice are still rolled back. Bonus.
Finally, notice how the two abilities can be used in concert. First, force the opponent to attack Chewbacca using intercept. Then, since you've ensured that he's being attacked, you may activate his retaliate to strike back for six additional dice. This is certainly a very useful combination of abilities.
After getting over my initial amusement at how colorful the card was, I started thinking about how it fits into your typical Light Side deck. Up to this point, competitive Light Side decks have sported one of two different builds of the character arena: Jedi-based, and swarm (pick your flavor). Chewbacca seems to lend himself much more to the swarm builds of character than the Jedi build.
Before Battle of Yavin, Anakin Skywalker (E) was the heavy hitter of choice in the swarm decks because he had a moderately low build cost, he gave you something to do with your force, he made an attractive target (so your other guys took fewer early hits), and he tossed a lot of dice. It's now entirely possible that Chewbacca will get substituted in, sending Anakin back to the bench.
Chewbacca seems to have several advantages over Anakin, but also a few notable drawbacks. First off, Chewbacca has eight health. That's more health than any character in the game thus far. It's twice as much as Anakin has. What that means is, where Anakin would be spending force keeping himself alive, Chewbacca has the health necessary to take a lot of hits. This translates into Chewbacca being free to sink force into more offensive schemes, like rolling a ton of retaliation dice. Ever heard, "The best defense is a good offense," before? That is the general idea here. Chewbacca's lack of evade is mitigated somewhat by the fact that all your opponent's characters should be in the discard pile within the first few turns. And let's not forget, Anakin (E) is a one-bite cookie for Darth Tyranus (D). Chewbacca bounces back from the first bolt, just try and make sure the second one doesn't happen.
Another advantage lies in the fact that Anakin only drew fire away from your smaller units by being a generally good target. Chewbacca draws fire by forcing them to attack him. This is significant in situations where, for example, you have out a heavily damaged Clone Officer and either Anakin or Chewbacca. In the Anakin scenario, they'd probably just take a swipe at the Clone officer, thus preventing you from rolling six dice. In the Chewbacca scenario, you just intercept with Chewbacca, retaliate, then attack with Chewbacca and the Officer. That six extra dice can make a world of difference.
"Chewbacca's lack of evade is mitigated somewhat by the fact that all your opponent's characters should be in the discard pile within the first few turns."
Chewbacca is also somewhat better as an "early game" card than Anakin. In the early game, where force totals are generally low, Anakin will tend to spend his force saving himself from opposing attacks, rather than overloading and preventing the damage. Chewbacca is a one-trick Wookiee, on the other hand, retaliating from turn one. The net result is that you will see Anakin most often rolling six dice in the first few turns, while Chewie will be rolling 12.
The final obvious advantage of Chewbacca over Anakin is that it's impossible for Chewbacca to become contested. Anakin is a different story completely. As more versions of Darth Vader are released, and more find their way into people's decks, the more trouble you're going to have playing a low-build Anakin. All it takes is one high-build Vader and suddenly you only get your Anakin every third or fourth turn. Not a good bargain for the build you spent.
I said there were drawbacks to playing Chewbacca over Anakin, so I'll address those quickly. First off, Chewbacca is 10 speed slower. I think this is somewhat less relevant now that the plateau for Light Side units to be able to attack relatively early in the battle is 60 speed. With most Dark Side units clocking in at 50 or higher, you weren't really going first anyways. Second is that Anakin does have evade, so in a late game goal-line stand when you have a mountain of force, and they have an army of battle droids, Anakin is going to have a better shot at holding down the fort than would Chewbacca.
This is just the beginning of the possibilities that Chewbacca (A) offers! Perhaps he could be the beginning of a third build of the Light Side character arena. Perhaps utility characters coupled with good intercepting units will rise to tier one status. It's too early to know at this point, but there is certainly potential. All in all, Chewbacca (A) is a very solid unit with a great set of abilities. You can count on him to make appearances in tournament decks this March.