Written by Skyler Galle – Tirion (ffg forum)
Hopefully, if you’re here you’ve also read my analysis and opinions of Jyn and why I think she is a very viable and capable commander. If not, go check it out!
A reminder of my guidelines for analysis: I will only be comparing the Pathfinders to other Rebel trooper units (Trooper units within the rebel faction not just the Rebel Trooper unit itself). Also, I’m not going to be spending a whole lot of time looking at only the base Pathfinders without a heavy. In my opinion, if you are playing them, you’re playing a heavy. As such, most things I will be comparing is a squad with Pao or Bistan. But what if I want to play 3 Pathfinders? My response is simple, “You never go full Pathfinder.”
Offense – Ranged
A300 Blaster Rifle Short Range Config: Range 1-2, Keywords: Reconfigure
Let’s start with the more popular of the two heavies Bistan.
This may shock some people. Are you sitting down? Good. Pathfinders and Bistan with a short-range config, average the most hits of any non-commander infantry unit in the game. They are tied with Death Troopers with a DLT-19D and the grenade launcher config (also must be at range 2) at 5.625 hits per attack. Now is this something easily accomplished? Not even a little bit. Is it something you should be hinging your game on? Definitely not. But when we talk about offensive capabilities, they are top shelf. I do not game plan to make this happen outside of my opponent making a huge deployment mistake, but it is something keep in my pocket and keep an eye out.
Where Bistan can swing a game at close range if you can pull it off, there isn’t a huge payoff for our maligned lizard friend Pao. While he does pack a punch up close, it is almost a whole point less. Since in my opinion you shouldn’t be actively deploying to get these guys in close, if you’re going to do it, do it with Bistan.
A300 Blaster Rifle: Range 1-3, Keywords: None
The Pathfinder’s standard weapon with Bistan is still on average almost a full point higher (this will be a recurring theme), than Pao.
Clocking at an impressive 5.125 average hits per attack the Pathfinders once again find themselves at the top of the damage pool now at range 3. Though this time it is alone. The Death Troopers, once again with a DLT-19D, are almost half a damage point behind Bistan Pathfinders. This is a much safer range for the Pathfinders to hang out at.
Looking at Pao Pathfinders are still an extremely formidable offensive unit.
Still hitting far above the faction average, you may start to wonder if the 10 points are worth saving by playing Pao over Bistan.
A300 Blaster Rifle Long Range Config: Range 1-4, Keywords: Reconfigure
Guess what, our giant mammal friend once again is the king of the faction at range 4.
To put this unit’s range 4 damage in perspective it is greater than the average of a Rebel Trooper Z6 unit at range 3 (though there is a hefty point difference there). There are so few options in this faction for infantry at range 4 and Bistan Pathfinders is not only one of them but excels at it. I’m going to take this opportunity to discuss the elephant in the room and that is Bistan’s keywords, and what they mean for his card. Namely that it is an exhaust. Bistan has Ion 1 and Impact 1. This is nice (especially at range 4 which is rare), as it brings you some insurance for vehicles while still being an extremely useful anti-infantry weapon due to its dice pool. But as with all exhaust weapons it can be a major issue when you need to recover, move and attack all in the same turn.
Now let’s look at the other heavy, Pao, and see if I can convince you he should be played just as much if not more than Bistan.
By saving 10 points from Bistan down to Poe what are you missing out on? Well Pao’s weapon doesn’t have any keywords (confusing in my opinion and if he were made today would have Critical 1). All you get are his dice which are ok. The nice about Pao is that he isn’t an exhaust card. So, while your Bistan is busy recovering, or worse not using his heavy weapon, Pao’s unit is taking an aim and firing which helps mitigate the damage difference between them, while providing options for other actions.
Offense – Melee
Unarmed – if they are in melee combat, you’re doing it wrong.
Defense: White Die Surge, Keywords: Danger Sense 3
Like Jyn much of the debate that surrounds the Pathfinders is with their survivability or perceived lack thereof especially for their point cost. They have the same white surge defense die as basically the rest of the faction. However, at a base of 68 points it can be disconcerting to lose a piece that based on dice alone dies just as easily as a rebel trooper that costs 42% less. Luckily, as Pathfinder players we are not asked to live on base dice alone.
I could just reword everything I said about danger sense in the Jyn article but that doesn’t seem like fun for anyone. So, If you haven’t read that and want to see me get into the weeds about danger sense in general go check out that article (shameless plug).
Just a couple of things to note here that are specific to Pathfinders. Since you are going to be purposely feeding them and retaining suppression tokens due to Danger Sense, it is easiest to play them with Jyn or commander Luke and focus on keeping them in their courage bubble. The extra 2 suppression before panic can be a lifesaver. Just like Jyn, Duck and Cover is stapled to them.
Their full Danger Sense averages an extra block per attack so in a perfect world from heavy cover and an average Danger Sense roll you would be negating 3 damage before you even get to your standard dice pool.
Dauntless – For a unit that can accumulate a lot of suppression fast this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand for a unit that can and usually will be suppressed after a single attack being able to get a free move if you aren’t panicked is huge. And as shorelines are a common occurrence this is just one more way to combat that, which anytime you have an answer (no matter how small) to a common netlist it is worth writing home about.
But as I said double-edged sword. The suppression token you add on can be just one more token in a quickly growing stack you aren’t sure what to do about. This is where you just have to remember that even though Danger Sense allows you to keep your suppression tokens if you choose, remember (and this applies to Jyn as well) you can still choose to. You can remove one at the end of the round if you wish. You can even roll for your rally step (in fact you are supposed to) but then choose to not remove them for any paint you rolled.
Infiltrate – In some ways similar to Jyn. DO NOT overextend them to have them blasted by an entire list turn 1. Be smart about it and when you’re unsure just deploy them normally, I promise the universe won’t implode.
Inspire 1 (Pao) – This would be nice if it could be used on themselves, but there is virtually always an use for Inspire so take advantage of that. This just plays into the anti-suppression list that Jyn and Pathfinders are great at.
Leader (Pao) – Here is an interesting thing to note about the differences between Bistan and Pao. Bistan, if you deploy or do your cohesion poorly can get killed if he is one of the only minis that can be seen by the attacking squad. He is a heavy upgrade no different than a Z6. Pao on the other hand becomes your unit leader. So, no matter how reckless you get with him, or how gamey you want to be with him poking out farther than the rest of the squad he is protected in the fact that he must die last.
The farther back they are, the safer they are. That should go without saying, but the closer you get the more damage they can do. What is a player to do? My preferred playstyle is to attempt to keep a Bistan squad at range 3 behind some heavy cover and just waiting for a squad to come to close so that I can switch to short-range config and just mess up an enemy squad. You are more vulnerable, but you’re going to be more survivable than most other things your opponent could choose to shoot at.
With Pao I generally keep him at range 4 early on and try to get a lot of utility out of his inspire. Then in the latter half of the game move him into range 3 to push an objective.
Just like Jyn they can be used to grab a box and run, though I much prefer them to cover the escape of a box grabber. I utilize them heavily as position holders, similar to how I use Jyn half the time. Find a spot, you should be able to get their early due to Infiltrate and hunker down. Pathfinders excel at board control provided you can be smart with them. It can be easy to get ahead of yourself and the next thing you know your Pathfinders are the only target for half of your opponent’s list and they get blasted in a turn or two.
Jyn Erso – They do a lot of the same things namely hold objectives. As I mentioned before her 3 courage is a huge boost to Pathfinders and they are carrying around so much suppression. Also her beautiful 3 pip can not only help them ratchet up their Danger Sense but if you are in danger of panicking or need to ensure you have access to both activations this command card is the answer. It just checks so many boxes for Pathfinders: need suppression check, need to ignore the negative effects of suppression check, need to remove extra suppression check.
Luke Skywalker – Commander Luke has a few things going for him that help the Pathfinders, namely his courage 3 bubble. But also, his 3 pip (which could be played with operative Luke as well), this can help remove suppression when you are crossing the line of acceptable suppression into the panic territory. Something to be aware of however is that depending on if you are keeping the Pathfinders at range 4 or not they can fall outside of Luke’s courage bubble, so keep that in mind in how you choose to play them with Luke. In these cases, it is generally worth taking more risks with them to keep them within his bubble, theoretically, they won’t be the number one target since Luke is present.
Leia Organa – No courage bonus here but Inspire 2 is nice to have around when you are a unit that hoards suppression. And when is her 2 pip not good?
Cassian Andor – Cassian’s 3 pip is fantastic for a Bistan Pathfinder unit. Not only do they gain an extra Danger Sense. But they gain a free recover which as we talked about is huge.
Training – I think Duck and Cover is, unfortunately, a must. Danger Sense depends too much on it.
Comms – the only one that makes any sense to me is HQ Uplink. If you’re going to be recovering with Bistan than might as well double down on it and get yourself some more activation control. I don’t always take this slot but when I do its Dos….I mean HQ Uplink.
Gear – While I generally leave this slot open but there are a lot of solid options. Locally we have a lot of climbing opportunities so Grappling Hooks get solid play but your mileage will vary. Environmental Gear is to me never a bad choice, but my Pathfinders don’t move much so I don’t have a lot of use for it. Recon intel is an easy add that can help out your infiltrate to get into that piece of cover or if you’re feeling crazy and want to do a Bistan short-range suicide mission you can use this to get into range 2 on deployment (good luck with that).
Grenades – Again I generally leave this blank but there are a couple of solid options. If you play in a vehicle heavy meta (they do exist) Bistan with Impact Grenades even once can ruin a vehicle’s day. On the flip side with Concussion Grenades being to push almost 6 hits through cover if even once can change a game.
Most of my variation centers around Bistan as Pao just doesn’t have enough upside to risk getting him in that close. You would also potentially miss out on his Inspire 1 so depending on how important that is to you.
So get out there and Infiltrate some Pathfinders (just not to close)!