Darth Vader is the Dark Lord of the Sith, the Emperors right hand, and truly terrifying to face off against on the battle field. In Star Wars: Legion Darth Vader is a melee centric commander focused on control and destruction. His advance is slow and purposeful, and there is no hope for those who are in his way.
Base Unit Summary: (commander)
Damage Output - Ranged: N/A
Damage Consistency- Ranged: N/A
Damage Output - Melee: Above Average: 4.5
Damage Consistency- Melee: Above Average: Impact 3, Pierce 3
Damage Resistance: Average: 50%
Wounds: Above Average: 8
Attrition: Above Average: 8/figure
Speed: Below Average: 1
Courage: Above Average: --
Role: Commander, Melee, Control
Darth Vader is a melee centric commander who can deny entire areas of the board to enemy troops and light vehicles. Vader's command cards tend to encourage area denial and maximizing damage.
Base Unit Analysis:
Darth Vader is one of the most expensive single figure units in the game, but he also has some of the biggest affects on the way the game plays as well. If you take into account the points cost of Vaders courage bubble and his command cards he becomes one of the most efficient and effective units in nearly every category. Although he is only speed 1, his relentless keyword means that he can move twice and make an attack which actually makes him faster than average units who also move and attack, however his speed is a bit lacking compared to average units double moving. Vader also has a courage value of -- which he lends to his panicking troops meaning that while Vader is near your units can never flee... which is an incredibly powerful. Vader also does a fairly large amount of damage in melee and has the option to do the damage at range as well. Unlike most other units Vader isn't trading one stat to favor another, his stats are solid across the board - however you pay a premium for them.
Unique Upgrade Analysis:
Darth Vader has no unique upgrades at this point.
Implacable: initiative 1, Vader only; this command card allows Vader to take a second activation at the expense of one wound. Note that the attack action limit is one per activation so he can perform a second attack with his second activation even if he performed one in the previous activation. Generally this card is best used on turns that Vader can reach a high value target, however there is nothing wrong playing it early on a turn that will help Vader close the gap and begin the melee early.
New Ways to Motivate Them: initiative 2, 2 trooper units; this command card allows any non-Vader units with a face up order to suffer 1 wound to perform 1 additional action. Note that you make the choice and suffer the wound at the beginning of the units activation before they have done anything else. also note that they don't have to receive the order from this command card to receive the benefit. This card is incredibly versatile and can be used to move extra distance, take a dodge or aim and still move and shoot, etc.
Master of Evil: initiative 3, Darth Vader and 2 units; This is possibly Vader's most powerful card. when you play it Vader gains a dodge immediately, and when you activate Vader all enemy troopers within range 1-2 gain 3 suppression. This card is incredibly good at breaking troops willpower and sending them fleeing, however the better use for it is probably playing it on a turn you expect to have a high value melee unit attack you. The preemptive dodge helps give you an edge of survivability as well as the possibility to suppress any incoming targets who may have been counting on their second action to close the distance. This is especially good against a Luke or Vader who you are expecting to play their initiative 1 card this turn.
Throughout Star Wars Legion there are many units with many ways to upgrade and play them - Darth Vader is not one of those units at this point. As of writing this article there is an optimal way to upgrade Darth Vader and playing him without upgrades is not an option unlike other units.
Darth Vader has 3 force upgrade slots and they should be used on Force Reflexes, Force Push, and Saber Throw. If you are pressed for points you could play Vader without Reflexes, but it is suboptimal. With this build Vader costs 235 points and is brutally efficient on the table. Force Reflexes extends Vader's life expectancy significantly while Saber Throw greatly increases Vader's action efficiency and how often he is contributing. Force Push is useful as both a threat extension, a control ability, and a defensive mechanic if he can pull units into melee.
Wave 3 Update:
With the addition of wave 3 expansions the Darth Vader now has access to the Anger force upgrade. Which does not overtake any of the current suggested upgrades on Vader.
Darth Vader is a melee monster - nothing in his path is safe. However Darth Vader is relatively slow and so you must be very purposeful when deploying him at the beginning of the game. You should have an idea of where he will go and what he will be doing the entire game from that point on. Generally it is best to deploy him as near the objectives as possible and then move him as directly and swiftly towards those objectives as he can go - ensuring that he is likely to encounter the most enemies and make the most use of his powers.
Make sure when you are advancing with Vader to be making the most out of his force abilities as you go. Every turn Vader doesn't make it into melee you should be using Force Reflexes and Saber Throw if possible. The dodge token will go a long way towards increasing Vader's survivability vs shooting, but if Vader is able to make it into melee he is relatively safe and doesn't have to use force reflexes if it is more important to recharge Force Push. Often it is a good idea to use Force Push to pull a unit into melee with Vader even if he can't make an attack that turn because being safe vs shooting is often more important than getting stuck in melee with a unit you might not have wanted to engage. Because Vader's Mastery of the Force only lets him refresh one of his two upgrades at the end of each turn it is often best to try and only use one per turn - most of the game this should be Force Push but early in the game while still advancing it can be Force Reflexes and late in the game and on the turn you use Implacable it can be both.
mastering Force Push is the key to unlocking Vader's potential. Keep in mind that it does not need line of sight and that you are making the move so you get to place the unit back into cohesion... meaning that you are significantly extending Vader's threat range and also possibly placing enemy units in better spots for the rest of your units to attack. It is important to remember however, that when moving a unit with Force Push you can't use the coherency placement to enter melee - you either need the enemy unit leader to make base to base contact or you can use coherency placement to bring a trooper closer and Vader can then move into base to base to establish melee.
Keep in mind when playing Vader that he is relatively slow and that means that you often won't make it to the best tactical location every turn and this will leave him vulnerable to being shot. Similarly it's important to keep in mind that Vader only has so much movement he can make in a game and so when planning his role you should assume he is only going to make it halfway across the board.
It is also important to think about the effect that Vader has on opponents tactical decisions, often they will go out of their way to avoid Vader with their troops. Knowing all of these pieces of information leads us to using Vader as a denial piece. One of the strongest ways to play Vader is to aggressively move him towards an objective and then keep him there as a deterrent. He is an expensive scenario piece, but he is completely worth it if the enemy avoids that objective all together because of him, and it is also worth it if they move units in towards the objective to be cut down by him.
Vader's command cards can require a lot more finesse and planning than other commanders though, because of his limited mobility. Implacable is a very strong card and most players tend to hold it for that turn they can move in and murder everything in melee - but most players won't expect Vader to use it early to get a speed increase or to recover and use force push again to put enemy troops in a really bad position. Implacable is often worth spending early to get a lead on attrition, even if its just letting you Force Push and Saber Throw twice in the same turn. New Ways to Motivate them is also a card that is often better used earlier in the game - the third action on your troops is going to be used for a move or an aim and getting that speed or damage out earlier than later can also give you a significant damage boost. Master of Evil is possibly the most difficult command card to time because it really shines when Vader is surrounded by enemies - however the free dodge it gives Vader makes it an excellent defensive card and often worth playing when you think you will get alpha struck, even if you're not maximizing the suppression you could be handing out.
Another side benefit of playing Vader is that as long as he is alive your units near him will never panic, this can allow you to be much more aggressive with your troops than you might normally be. This gives Vader particular synergy with Snowtroopers as they still get to move and attack while suppressed.
When playing against Vader he should be your priority target. Not only because of the amount of damage he can cause you when he closes the distance, but also because the opponent is counting on that courage value to keep his units on the board. If you are able to take Vader off the table then you are much more easily able to suppress and panic the enemy troops into futility.
Killing Vader can be tough, but its not impossible. The best way to kill Vader is at range, and because of deflect it is better to send a mass of medium size dice pools at him rather than a couple of big ones - mitigating some of the power of his dodge tokens. Because Vader is so slow and has to plan his movements so far in advance, it is fairly likely you will be able to position troops to take shots at him while he is out in the open - when you do start dedicating resources to taking out the dark lord you should go all in - keep shooting until he is down.
If Vader does manage to close the gap and make it near your troops, or if the situation of the particular objective scenario demands you to move in close to him, there is nothing wrong with handing him a bait unit to get him into a position where the rest of your forces can attack him after he has cut down that unit.
When facing Vader never forget about the Master of Evil command card, it is a trick that if timed right can send the bulk of your forces running, or at best becoming suppressed and losing an action. For this reason you should keep your troops beyond range 2 of him until he's used it or he is down.