The Imperial Dark Troopers have been in the wild now for a couple weeks and have begun to make their presence felt on the battlefield. This unit is a first of its kind and brings a lot of interesting tools and tricks to the table so let’s take a look.
Imperial Dark Troopers are the first trooper unit to carry the Heavy rank, which up to this point has been exclusively vehicles. This puts them in a interesting spot from a list building standpoint because they won’t be directly competing with your other troopers for slots in your army. Where they will compete in your army is for points. 95 base cost puts them well above existing trooper units and that price tag only goes up when you look at adding upgrades, but they do have the stats to justify a higher price tag
Looking at their baseline stats these boys are TANKY. The base unit only comes with 3 models but each of them is 2 health, which starts the unit at 6 health. They have full armor so they can only be hit by critical results and impact and they roll red defense dice when they do have to save. One weakness in their defense comes from the new Unconcerned keyword. This keyword prevents this unit from ever gaining cover as well as preventing them from being repaired or restored. Having full armor doesn’t matter for normal shots as those need critical results to force saves anyway, but it does make them vulnerable to impact. Even a Stormtrooper DLT-19 should easily force at least 1 save per shot, and while they do roll red defense dice they do so without surge to block. They also have a courage value of “-“. While they will not lose any actions by virtue of being a droid trooper, their courage value means they will never panic and can only lose standby tokens to their opponent via force push.
When we look at their offensive output we see that they have a strong melee attack but their base ranged attack isn’t much to right home about. Each mini only throws 1 black die at range 3, for a total of 3 black dice before upgrades are added. Will discuss their heavy weapons later but for now I will say that the real power of the Dark Troopers comes not from the power of 1 big shot, but from their ability to activate twice per round via the new Unstoppable keyword. I have seen some confusion with how these keywords functions so I will try and break it down as best as I can: each unit of Dark Troopers has 2 order tokens and can either place both of them in the order pool or be assigned 1 (with the other placed in the pool) during the Issue Orders step of the Command Phase. During the activation phase the unit can activate either via a faceup order token that was assigned or by pulling their token randomly from the bag. The random token can be used even if they have not used their assigned token as random tokens are always assigned facedown so there is no conflict from the “may never have more than one faceup order token” wording of the keyword.
Unstoppable is an insanely powerful keyword as it gives this unit a lot of versatility. Having courage “-” means that they will always be getting 4 actions a round, unless they are effected by Ion as they are droid troopers. Even then they will remove any Ion tokens they have at the end of their activation so unless you are bringing 3 or more Ion weapons (which is quite rare) they can still essentially function as a regular unit over the course of a round. Thankfully they have reintroduced the Plodding keyword for this unit so they can only move once during an activation as 4 moves a round, even at speed 1, would be a bit too powerful. Even with that limitation they are still extremely flexible. They can shoot twice per round, they can move and take an aim token to setup for their next activation where they shoot, they can move, attack, and claim an objective token all in the same round or even Sabotage/Repair a vaporator twice in a turn. This kind of versatility makes them a unit to be accounted for when you see them on the other side of the board.
BRING OUT THE HEAVY ARTILLERY
The Imperial Dark Troopers come with a trio of heavy weapons and with 2 slots for heavy weapon upgrades there are a lot of options for how to equip them. First up is the XS-IV Assault Cannon. This is the big gun with the biggest dice pool. It is range 1-3 like the unit’s base ranged attack and it comes with 4 black dice (more than doubling the base pool) while also adding Critical 1, bringing a valuable offensive surge to the attack pool. At 48 points it is a big investment (bringing the total cost of the unit to 143) but as with everything else regarding Dark Troopers we have to look at it through the lens of 2 activations per turn. It’s not the flashiest weapon they can use but in my opinion it is the best option to start with as it is a very solid weapon and you will get the most mileage out of it.
Next up we have the SM-9 Frag Launcher. This weapon is only range 1-2 but it adds 2 red and 1 black die with Blast and Impact 2. It is an exhaustible weapon but it also comes with cycle. With the Unstoppable keyword they are actually able to use this weapon each round without needing to take a recover action. Blast has only seen its stock rise with the new cover rules so even with the shorter range this is a strong weapon to consider taking with this unit.
Last but not least we have the Mertalizer, aka the Dark Trooper Cricket Bat. This is a melee weapon that adds 2 red and 1 black die to the already formidable 1 red, 1 white die that the base models use. The Mertalizer also adds Suppressive to the melee pool which is handy with the new panic rules as well as useful for stripping standbys from any unit that wants to take one while in melee with them.
In addition to the 3 heavy weapon options, the Imperial Dark Troopers come with an extra mini that can be added to the unit as a personnel upgrade for 32 points. The can also take Programmed Loyalty which gives them Retinue: Commander, with the restriction that they can only be issued orders by a Commander Unit, which really only limits them from receiving orders via Comms Relay and any operatives that can issue orders to other units currently.
YOU HAVE SOMETHING I WANT
We touched on this card in our Moff Gideon review but it’s worth going over here as well as it is another tool in the Dark Trooper’s tool box.
A couple important things to note about this effect on this card: the Dark Trooper unit that gets to move does not have to be issued an order from the card, they just have to have a faceup order token so the order from Moff Gideon’s Entourage keyword will work just fine. They also keep all tokens, which includes claimed objective tokens. This can can be used defensively to take a supply token like Recover the Supplies or Hostage Exchange from the middle of the battlefield back to safety, or it can be used offensively to take a Bombing Run token to the other side of the battlefield to quickly put it in scoring position. Even without claimed objective tokens this card can be incredibly useful to either put your Dark Troopers in an advantageous position to attack or to have them flee to safety to preserve the activation and those important points if the game comes down to tiebreakers.
A few other important things to remember with this card: the effect is not optional so if you must do it if able. You also cannot use it to move a Dark Trooper unit that is currently being transported as they are already considered to be “removed from the battlefield” while they are being transported.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Imperial Dark Troopers are very limited in what upgrades they can take as they only have access to 5 different upgrades. Programmed Loyalty seems like a great call if you have the 5 points for it. Those 5 points basically turn into a free aim every round as taking a dodge does not seem valuable at all given their full armor. The dodge cannot be used to cancel critical results and will only matter against impact if the attacking unit only rolls a number of hits equal to or less than their impact value.
Unless I am super strapped for points I don’t think I am ever considering taking the regular extra mini in the personnel slot. The Mertalizer mini is only 4 points more so if I am just looking for an extra body on the unit I’m going to look at the Mertalizer first. The time to consider the personnel upgrade is if you are going all in and adding 3 minis to the unit, but since the cheapest way you can run that is 203 points I wouldn’t recommend it outside of some hot jank lists.
This leaves the 2 heavy upgrade slots to consider. Utilizing both slots is going to put the cost of the unit up near that of a fully loaded AT-ST. By itself this isn’t too crazy a cost but when if you look at taking Moff Gideon with them you can potentially start to run out of points a lot quicker than you would with and AT-ST with an Imperial Officer. If the Dark Troopers are going to be a focal point of your list then I think 2 heavies are fine, but I believe the sweet spot is taking 1 heavy. My preference is for the Assault Cannon but as I mentioned earlier Blast is a very good keyword now so I have no problem if you prefer to take the Frag Launcher, especially as it is 8 points cheaper.
The temptation can be to fully load them up and run a lower activation list since they get 2 activations a round so an 8 act list becomes 9 acts and a 9 act lists becomes 10 acts for example. The problem with this strategy is if/when your Dark Troopers are defeated. Losing them means you are losing 2 activations at once, and if you are running a lower activation list then that probably means you invested pretty heavily into the Dark Troopers and there isn’t a whole lot of meat on the rest of your army. If you can get your list to 10 activations with Dark Troopers I think that is *chef’s kiss* as it makes the extra activation more impactful but also hurt less if you lose it.
DARK TROOPER GUNLINE
If you’re comfortable running Imperial Snipers this is a list that can load up a single Dark Trooper unit and still get to 10 activations. There’s nothing flashy about this list, just march the Dark Troopers up the field until you are at range 2 and have them fire away.
KRENNIC DOUBLE TROUBLE
This list looks to take advantage of Krennic’s 2 pip that lets 2 trooper units take a free Standby action at the start of the activation phase. Since your opponent cannot shoot a Standby off of a Dark Trooper your odds of actually getting to use it are much, much higher.
You know it had to be done. Moff Gideon’s Entourage keyword not only lets him order a Dark Trooper each round but it allows him to bring an additional one for a total of 3 heavy ranked units. This list is full on jank and goes all in on the 3 Dark Troopers with the hope that 1 or 2 will get into melee and start swinging away with their Mertalizers.
Imperial Dark Troopers are a Swiss army knife of sorts for your army as there is quite a lot that they can do. If you are going to ignore them and focus on the rest of your opponent’s army, as is sometimes the strategy with heavy units, you had better hope you can do a lot of damage quick or they will start to give you fits quickly. The 2 activations means they can get a lot done each round and unlike other heavy units they are able to score all objectives. If they are able to grab an objective token it is going to be hard to bring them down and force them to drop it and you run the risk of them flying away and never seeing that token again. They can also be very dangerous if they get into melee. Not only do they have a formidable melee pool, most units don’t have any Impact or Critical in their melee pools so trying to punch your way out of melee from them is going to be extremely difficult. Again the Unstoppable comes into play here as Dark Troopers can decide to punch a unit with 1 activation and then withdraw with their next if they want the freedom to move on to another target or objective.
A fair amount of Impact can cause headaches for your Dark Troopers so you do need to be mindful of that if you come across it. Dice are also dice and can be extremely hot or ice cold so it is very possible that your opponent could roll a lot of crits against you, forcing you to roll more saves than you would like. And unlike other heavy units, every 2 wounds Dark Troopers take effects their offensive output. Getting them into melee in these scenarios is the safest place they can be.
The versatility that Imperial Dark Troopers provide to your army make them a great piece to consider adding. They are expensive but they can be well worth their points in the right hands.