Well, the Bantha Rider has arrived for Imperial Assault and we are now experiencing just how rough something like this fast-moving lump of fur can be. The real key to this beast is the two methods of direct damage that they bring to the table: Stampede, where they just step on any figure that happens to be in their way at the end of their movement for 1 damage, and Trample, where they use an action to roll a red die and do that much damage to up to three adjacent models.
These abilities are rough, but would be easily dealt with if not for support cards. The first is Beast Tamer. This card allows the Bantha to get in a free move, and this works even if the Bantha is stunned (the Tamer grants 5 movement points to the Bantha, which then clears the Stun and then spends the points – you do cost the Bantha one action with that Stun, though). This allows the Bantha to just truck across the board: 15 spaces with a triple move, 17 if they have Gideon as well and use him first. Or, once the guy has gotten close to your people, Tamer allows the Bantha to 1) move for Stampede, 2) Trample, then 3) attack whoever is left standing after all that. Ow ow ow. And you have to expect that if they are playing Devious Scheme, which they absolutely should, they will do that last once none of your people can react, and then do it all again with their first activation of the second turn.
That’s bad enough. But wait, there’s more. Gideon, remember him? He can move anything in his line of sight. And what is that special rule about Line of Sight? Figures do not block line of sight to or from Massive figures. So even if there is another Bantha Rider in between Gideon and the forward Bantha, he can still make the furry beastie move two spaces and tap dance on your figures feet some more. Pull a command card like Field Tactician? That’s another opportunity. Opportunist? There is another 3 movement points to stomp around on. Close the Gap? Yep, the Bantha is a Brawler. Up to two more figures can get smushed. Single Purpose allows the Bantha to Trample twice (remember, they could still have the Tamer move the guy first). To The Limit can allow an attack after a Trample. And none of that includes the purpose built Jundland Terror cards that can be brought, allowing more stompy and tramply action at the end of a round. There are probably other nasty things in command cards that I haven’t seen or thought of. But you get the picture: command cards and support characters are awesome for Mr. Fluffy.
So what they heck do you do about such a beastie? Well, the first thing should be pretty obvious. DON’T BUNCH UP. Yeah, I know you like hanging out with C-3PO, and getting Royal Guard protection is a fine thing, but none of that means squat when a Bantha steps on your face. And we’re not talking about separating like you did when Elite Rebel Saboteurs could put a Blast 5 on your butt, I mean really spread out. The Bantha’s base is 3x2 squares, and they can Trample anyone adjacent. Your safest bet is to have no figure within 4 spaces of another: that will prevent the giant tap-dancer from hitting more than one figure. When you can’t do that, make sure that everyone is at least 2 spaces away from each other, so that at least you can’t get more than one figure both Stampeded and then Trampled. But since Trample is the real killer, 4 spaces is safest.
Second, deny the Bantha player command cards. Do whatever you can to prevent him from holding terminals. Put Strain on his weaker characters (don’t bother with the Bantha, they’ll just take damage). If you have a mechanic like Mak’s to discard cards from his hand, do it. Without those boosts, the Bantha isn’t quite as scary. And shoot that twit Gideon between the eyes if you can get to him.
Then, just pour fire onto those Banthas. They are beefy, but with no defense die, they do go down pretty quick. Putting Stun on them is also great to prevent them from being moved outside of their activation and to deny them an action. But remember: Trample isn’t an attack, nor is it leaving their space. Stun will NOT stop it.
Finally, the Banthas are going to change the meta drastically. The clumps of Stormtroopers and Rebels around Leia and C-3PO are going to be at a serious disadvantage. But that doesn’t mean such models are useless. Look for Deployment groups with Surges for damage. Pierce is nice but it does exactly squat against a Bantha. Elite Stormtroopers, on the other hand? Using Squad Training I was able to consistently put 14-15 damage on Banthas with one activation of a full group. And remember, 4 distance between each other is just enough to run over to another member of the squad and get that reroll. This is also a great opportunity for Provoke. Put a Trooper adjacent to a non-Bantha to force that other group to activate next, and that will allow another big group of Troopers to pour fire into the furball.
And this could easily bring in some models that we have previously seen almost completely ignored in competitive play: other Massive figures. Remember, a Massive figure can’t enter a space occupied by another Massive figure. So suddenly putting out that Repulsor means that is one avenue of approach that a Bantha won’t be taking, and you can still shoot through it to hit the Bantha, assuming the twin blasts of the tank don’t finish it off first. General Weiss, with his ability to bring back lots of Elite Stormtroopers, is looking mighty tempting as the world’s scariest Bantha road block.
No question, the Bantha is changing a ton about the way we play this game. But Mr. Fluffy is not ending the game, and the dual Bantha Rider list is certainly not another 4x4.