Star Wars: Imperial Assault – This is the Tank You're Looking For
Star Wars: Imperial Assault is a miniatures game that can be played as a fully fleshed-out campaign with up to four Rebel players and one Empire player or as a competitive scenario-based skirmish between two players.
Given its branching structure, the campaign can be drawn out or a bit of snowball -- even prematurely ending if both Empire and Rebels agree that one side has grown too strong. However, even players who haven't finished a full campaign will probably be well-acquainted with General Weiss and his personal AT-ST's Epic Arsenal, as there are several mission events that pull him dramatically into the story.
Playing as the Imperial player for most of my campaigns, I've always felt that moments like those really made Rebel players feel that they were up against the most powerful military force in the galaxy. Sure, Stormtroopers, Imperial droids, and hired guns are great and all, but nothing says "Unlimited power!" like dropping a giant AT-ST figurine onto the table.
So Maybe It's Time to Hire New Engineers
On the other hand, General Weiss, or even just a regular AT-ST, is a pretty rare sight on a skirmish battlefield. And for a long while, there weren't any viable Vehicle deployment cards in Imperial Assault's skirmish mode.
To begin with, the AT-ST and General Weiss from the core game are grossly overpriced for skirmish, especially since you never get to deploy them for free, as you do in the campaign.
As impressive as their attack pools and surge abilities are, there's almost no attack that would be worth 14+ points if they only got to attack once each round. I've always thought this was a bit of a shame, as AT-STs are fairly iconic vehicles from the Star Wars franchise, and I actually think the two figures represent the mythos very well, point-cost notwithstanding.
But with the release of Return to Hoth, we were given the SC2-M Repulsor Tank. It was a start to in the right direction for that battlefield prowess and panache -- unfortunately, it wasn't any better when it came to point-cost.
If 14 points was an appropriate cost for the AT-ST, then 10 might have been fine for the Repulsor Tank. But like the AT-ST, the SC2-M struggles in comparison to other 14- and 10-point cards, respectively.
For 10 points, the tank is flimsy, and Focus Fire doesn't make up for the tank's middling attack pool and surges. The card could have benefited from a source of free movement points (like Captain Terro's Mounted ability), which would have allowed it to make use of Focus Fire more often. Superior mobility for the SC2-M would've also better fit the into Star Wars lore, given that it's supposed to be a scout tank.
Jetpacks as Vehicles? ... Close Enough
Ironically, the Empire's elite Jet Troopers were the first widely-played Vehicles in competitive Skirmish lists for Imperial players.
The eJet Troopers boast a fantastic statline for their cost, with the ability to soak two or even three hits and a triple-die attack pool. The real fun presented itself when these were paired with the Overrun command card -- and no other Vehicle will ever be able to abuse that card quite as well as these guys can.
But while the eJet Troopers may count as Vehicles and are loved by many Imperial players, I don't really think they qualify as the towering assault walkers that we've all been waiting for. They most certainly aren't AT-STs, and they most certainly don't carry the gravitas of Chicken Walkers, either.
Smaller and Better
However, with the upcoming release of the Heart of the Empire expansion for Star Wars: Imperial Assault, we may finally be receiving a viable Imperial-style walker in the form of the AT-DP.
To be honest, when compared to the AT-ST, I'd give the AT-ST the edge in nearly every regard -- except for point cost. While the AT-ST might have a slightly better attack and a better defense, I'd say those advantages are worth two or three points at most -- certainly not six points.
However, one advantage that the AT-DP has over the AT-ST is its Assault ability. While I don't hold Assault in particularly high regard, I think that it's a pretty great interpretation of the AT-DP's ability to rain death far and wide. Where the AT-ST was able to surge for area-of-effect blast damage, the AT-DP has the capacity to attack multiple targets in one turn, and at a nearly identical range.
The AT-DPs Charge Generators are what keep its attack damage on par with the AT-STs blue-red-red die pool. The ability also makes up for the lack of a Targeting Computer, and I think that it's a really cool way to represent the wear and tear of battle, which is something we've never to seen in Imperial Assault (or really most games, for that matter).
For 9 points, I think the AT-DP will serve as the back-line artillery that the AT-ST was meant to be for your Imperial armies. It will be the tank piece that rounds out Skirmishes and brings Imperial Assault more in line with the great battles we've seen portrayed in the Star Wars universe. Essentially, this is the tank you're looking for.
So, for all of the players who've been waiting for a massive assault walker to round out their Skirmish lists, the Heart of the Empire expansion probably can't come soon enough.