The escort fighter wasn’t useful in the beginning, it’s ability wasted since there were only X-Wings and TIE Fighters in Wave 0. As additional waves are released, their value only continues to go up. There are many crucial but vulnerable squadrons that need protection in order to function, and some unique characters even have abilities that greatly benefit from nearby escorts. If you have anything you want kept alive, escorts are a must.
Escorts are best thought of as ablative hull for more important squadrons. They act as the anchor of a squadron engagement, protecting nearby friendlies and soaking damage from enemies. Usually one to two escorts is good for a single squadron, depending on how important they are to your fleet’s strategy.
As of this writing there are three generic escorts; X-Wings, TIE Advanced and YT-1300. There are also a number of unique escort squadrons; Luke, Biggs, Wedge, Vader, Zertik and Black Squadron. Despite their variety of abilities, they all share the ability to take hits for their allies…whether they want to or not. For most unique squadrons, this is actually a drawback, since escorts cannot protect other escorts. That means their only form of protection is their defense tokens or other special effects, like Biggs or Gallant Haven.
The escort rule reads as such: “Squadrons you are engaged with cannot attack squadrons that lack Escort unless performing a Counter attack.”
In order for Escort to be effective, you simply need to engage an enemy squadron. With the deceptively long range of distance 1, it’s easier to lock down enemy squadrons than one might think. If the enemy squadrons move to anywhere within distance 1 of your escort, they must attack that or another escort. Because of this, positioning the escort squadron is crucial. Always be mindful of enemy squadrons, taking into account their move speed plus distance 1. You are engaged when you end your movement within distance 1 of an enemy squadron, not at any point during the move. With enough speed or clever positioning, it’s possible to bypass an escort squadron entirely.
In this example, the X-Wing is out in front of the HWK-290. An Interceptor is nearby, but can’t attack Moldy Crow from the front. With speed 5 however, it has the option to move past the X-Wing and attack the HWK from behind, completely bypassing the X-Wing’s protection.
Here we see the X-Wing in base contact with the HWK, making it that much more difficult for the Interceptor to bypass the escort. I like to call these, ‘formations’. It is still possible to ignore the X-Wing, but this tactic is much more reliant on the Interceptor’s positioning at the beginning of it’s activation in order to engage the HWK alone.
With two X-Wings, it becomes very difficult to get around them and attack the HWK, depending on their position. The Interceptor’s only other option is to get through 10 hull between two squadrons, before it can begin dealing damage to it’s main target.
Escort squadrons are not a fire-and-forget solution to protecting your valuable squadrons from enemy fire. There are weaknesses that savvy enemy admirals will exploit.
- IG-88 ignores Escort and Counter entirely, is Rogue with speed 5 and 4 blue/1 black, and features a single Scatter token. He will kill his target unless handled with extreme prejudice. Sometimes there is nothing you can do but focus him down and hope for the best. He can be killed, but IG-88 typically takes his prey down with him.
- A number of unique squadrons have abilities that deal damage simply by moving, activating or (not)being attacked, such as Mauler Mithel, Boba Fett, Soontir Fel and Valen Rudor. Any enemy squadron with this kind of ability is a threat.
- Enemy Intel squadrons will make your escorts Heavy, which means they can no longer keep enemy squadrons from moving away to engage the escorted squadrons. They will still draw incoming fire, but they can no longer prevent enemies from repositioning for a better attack. Most admirals tend to protect their intel squadrons with escorts of their own, making their removal a difficult task.
- Squadrons with Snipe can harass your vulnerable squadrons from outside of distance 1 and deal damage directly, forcing your escorts to break formation to engage them, or divert another nearby squadron to engage them in order to prevent them from sniping their target.
- The X-Wing is a multi role air superiority fighter with no clear weaknesses. It can easily destroy a TIE squadron with a single attack, and has Bomber for dealing with ships. With average speed, X-Wings can keep up with the most vulnerable squadrons. Despite it’s ability to fill any role, it pays for this advantage in cost.
- The TIE Advanced is a dedicated escort craft with modest armament. Faster than it’s rebel counterpart, it can keep pace with almost all other Imperial squadrons. Though it is slightly cheaper, the TIE Advanced loses the multi role functionality of the X-Wing.
- The YT-1300 is a cheap escort freighter designed to take a beating. It’s slow with solid hull and Counter 1 for the cost of an X-Wing. Multiple YT-1300s make it very difficult for enemy squadrons to damage their targets without taking some in return.