Commandos are the Rebellion’s elite infantry, both in function and in price. They require cagey, conservative play to be maximally effective. The first Special Forces unit available to the Rebellion, Rebel Commandos can be taken in two modes, either in a four model squad or a two model Strike Team. This article will cover both modalities, so strap in, it’s a long one. Subtlety will be rewarded!
Strategy and Tactics
Commandos are expensive, fragile, and hard hitting, coming in at 60 points for the basic squad. They are set apart from the baseline trooper units by their courage value of 2 and a bevy of powerful keywords, as well as Surge: Hit. Rebel Commandos have a white defense die with Surge: Block and do not have Nimble, meaning they do not fare well under sustained fire, even in heavy cover. Commandos, much like Fleets, need to be protected by using Line of Sight blocking terrain. The fragility of the full squad, coupled with its high cost, means mistakes in movement and cohesion are extremely punishing.
Sharpshooter 1 provides a significant boost to the damage of Commandos against targets in cover and is one half of the combination that makes the Sniper Rifle functional. It is half of a concussion grenade at Range 3. Low Profile is similar in that it’s part of what makes Duck and Cover functional, but the ability to have heavy cover from any source is quite good. Both the Sniper Rifle and Duck and Cover are discussed at length further down the page.
Commandos come with the Scout 2 keyword, allowing them to move forward at speed 2 when they are deployed. This does not synergize with Rapid Reinforcements, but it does synergize with Advanced Positions, since the value of Scout stacks to a maximum of 3. Scout must be a standard move, it cannot be a climb or a clamber. The Scout move ignores difficult terrain, so take advantage of that where able.
It’s been suggested that Scout, when combined with No Time for Sorrows, allows you to cover quite a bit of ground before the game truly gets started, and may be able to give you a huge head start on the center box during Recover the Supplies. I think this line is rather dubious for a number of reasons. First, consider how fragile the Commandos are and how exposed the center box usually is to enemy fire. You’ll usually Scout forward with a smooth transition into being shot by the entire enemy army. Second, if the center box is at elevation, you won’t be able to reach it with standard moves alone. However, if it’s atop a piece of line of sight blocking terrain, there is more potential for a decent setup for future turns. A more consistent use of Scout would likely involve finding a good flanking position to strike from, making an effort to occupy an important but distant part of the board, or to place charges from a hiding place further up the board.
Commandos can also be taken as a Strike Team, which consists of one heavy weapon miniature, which is the unit leader, and another commando. Therefore, the Strike Team represents a pair of very expensive wounds, and can easily be removed by bombardment attacks from Veers or Leia (who is especially dangerous as she can hit multiple targets with two red dice backed by Sharpshooter 2.) Boba Fett and Speeder Bikes are also extremely threatening to Strike Teams with their high mobility. However, there are some workarounds to keep the Strike Team alive longer involving hiding a model out of sight so it can’t suffer wounds. If the leader is killed, the remaining model becomes the leader and retains the heavy weapon. This is discussed in greater depth with picture examples in Rebel Tactics #2. While you’d normally want to keep it hidden, remember that the second model in the strike team can contribute its dice to an attack. The overall usefulness of the Strike Team is shaped by the heavy weapon they are taking, which begs the question…
Which heavy weapon should you choose?
DH-447 Sniper Rifle
The DH-447 Sniper Rifle fills a big hole in the Rebel arsenal by giving access to range 4 shooting with Pierce for relatively cheap. The infinite range piercing shot makes the Sniper Rifle incredible against enemy emplacements and characters. For non-skew lists, I recommend taking two Sniper teams, or even three if you’re really looking to pad your activation count, though in some situations this will be an excessive number of snipers. The Rebel sniper also has High Velocity, preventing dodge tokens on the target from being spent as long as the sniper rifle is the only weapon in the attack pool. This means that a double hit guarantees a wound against troopers in heavy cover with a dodge token, and protects the sniper from being killed by Deflect. Given the rifle’s dice pool, a double whiff is a distinct possibility, so try to take aimed shots, especially if you’re shooting into heavy cover. Snipers are best used opportunistically, waiting for high value units or leaders that lack Immune:Pierce to move out of cover. You’ll often want to find elevation to give them as much sight as possible once the danger of death by bombardment has passed. For more detailed math behind the Sniper Rifle, read this article at Never Tell me the Odds.
Proton Charge Saboteur
At first, the Proton Charge Saboteur looks like nothing special, but when you run it in a trio of strike teams, the number of charges on the board multiplies quickly. Charges are largely a defensive weapon, providing excellent area denial, closing off lanes and costing your opponent valuable time. I say largely defensive because you can make a suicidal move with the unit leader to drop a bomb on a cluster of enemy units – far from ideal, but the potential returns can be quite high. You’ll mostly be using them for their ability to deal suppression to units in an area rather than their damage. Charges, Arming and Detonating are quite an interesting subject on their own, but here are some key points to remember about using them:
- You may Detonate after any action, friendly or enemy, and you may detonate as many times per action as you have units on the board with Detonate 1.
- Bombs must be placed within Range 1 of the unit leader, and flush with the surface they are placed on. You can’t rest a mine on top of a barricade, or lean it against a rock.
- Nothing in the game so far can remove or disarm a charge, once it’s placed, it’s there until it’s detonated.
- If all units with Detonate are killed, charges become points of historical interest, and are not able to be blown up.
A number of folks have suggested taking the Saboteur in a full squad for the increased wounds it will take to get rid of the heavy weapon, but consider paying two more points for a gun that can pierce and can split fire against targets at any range. That is a bargain. There is also unresolved tension between spending time arming charges and shooting at a target downfield.
What upgrades should you take on Rebel Commandos?
Duck and Cover
The thought process behind Duck and Cover is that granting Rebel Commandos a single suppression during the Dodge and Cover step produces heavy cover for them thanks to Low Profile. Heavy cover on demand is pretty awesome, and fits well into strategies where you are looking to be aggressive or float into a large open area. Han does the same thing but is a lot more durable thanks to Uncanny Luck. Additionally, the Commandos will have two suppression once the attack is over, or three if the attack came with Suppressive, which puts them at the threshold of losing an action during their activation, and Commandos don’t want to stay in the open for long. If they end up buried in suppression without an Inspire nearby to bail them out, they’ll be in serious trouble. A unit stuck in the open with a pile of suppression and some casualties is at serious risk of being eliminated. Consider that it’s ultimately better for Commandos not to be seen at all before taking Duck and Cover.
Commandos are relatively short on economy for a unit that costs 88 points plus upgrades (compare to fully upgraded Snowtroopers with Steady), so any upgrade that gives additional economy is more than welcome. The aim token it grants, coupled with the DH-447 Sniper, makes the Rebel Commando squad highly adept at killing multi-wound characters and troops from Range 3. You can also be clever with the Sniper Rifle if you have vision of a wounded unit downrange. By splitting fire and targeting that unit, you’ll gain the aim token which will be available for either dice pool, should you need it. I’ve seen Hunter on the Strike Team as well, but generally you want to keep the Strike Team cheap. Regardless, Hunter comes highly recommended.
You don’t ever want to be in melee with this unit (okay, strictly speaking, in less than 1 percent of cases.) Hard pass.
Pay six points for Hunter, pay another six to reroll a third die with that aim token (or any other). Absolutely clutch if you whiff big time, but has the potential of being wasted. Worth considering if you have some extra points floating around, but not a high priority.
Environmental Gear/Grappling Hooks
Both are highly situational on the full squad, though I would lean toward Environmental Gear for them. Grappling Hooks deserve special mention on the Sniper-equipped Strike Team. It allows them to Scout behind line of sight blocking terrain to shelter from bombardments, then clamber safely to the top and shoot, or clamber safely twice to climb height 2 terrain in a single turn and gain a better vantage point.
Possibly the best choice in the gear slot, Emergency Stims allows you to keep two precious wounds from being applied until the Commandos’ next activation. Put it on the Saboteur strike team to bomb someone from beyond the grave.
This upgrade increases the Scout value of the equipped unit by 1, and it’s only two points. Depending on your strategy, this could be an auto-pick, but I don’t think it’s a requirement by any means. Having Scout 3 in all situations has a lot of potential value. Put Recon Intel on the full squad for the best value, but it will definitely have its place on strike team because of the low cost.
Long-Range Comlink and Comms Jammer are both duds on this unit, so don’t take them.
An entertaining yet highly situational upgrade on Rebel Commandos. Since you’ll want to spend most of your time shooting and moving, the Commandos normally don’t have action economy to spare on recovering their Uplink, so for practical purposes, Uplink can be viewed as a once-per-game upgrade, but if a chance to recover does occur, feel free to do so. Uplink and Sorry About the Mess is an already powerful synergy for multiple units. For Commandos, uplinking a Saboteur team at initiative zero can ensure they get another bomb off before dying, and put suppression on multiple enemy units before they activate. HQ Uplink synergizes with No Time for Sorrows and My Ally is the Force, and even Reckless Diversion, allowing the uplinked unit to benefit from the effects of these command cards.
I strongly recommend you pass on taking grenades for this unit – they do not synergize at all with what the Commandos are trying to do.
What Commandos are strong against:
Commandos, with their combination of Sharpshooter 1 and the Sniper Rifle’s pierce, are murderous against Speeder Bikes, and also against non pierce immune characters. Try to keep your attacks focused on these units. Shooting at regular troops isn’t terrible either, especially those in light cover, since they’ll be considered in the open without Low Profile. Taking Hunter turns Commandos into leader assassination engines.
What Commandos are weak against:
Commandos have little to no way to do damage or improve their offense against Armor aside from Impact Grenades, which are straight up terrible for them in all other situations, so refrain from engaging armored targets. Additionally, the worst situation a Commando unit can find itself in is being killed off by something far less expensive (being killed off by DLT storms or by a Z-6 is a disaster.) Generally, Commandos can dish it out, but they can’t take it, so make sure to keep them hidden. They are also vulnerable to fast flanking units like Boba and Speeder Bikes.