Choosing WoW Pilot Skills
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General Commentary About Pilot Skills
Pilot skills can be divided into two general classes:
- passive skills, which are "always on" and require no direct action by the player/pilot
- active skills, which only apply in certain circumstances as directed or chosen by the player/pilot
Passive skills include:
- Good Shot (first non-aimed shot each turn gets +1 damage)
- Evasive Pilot (can't tail him)
- Incendiary Bullets (changes how damage works)
- Bullet Checker (reduces effect of jams)
- Elite Ground Crew (increases aircraft performance)
- Survivor (better at surviving crash rolls)
- Tough (ignores wounds)
- Fast Shot (fires first)
Passive skills are good choices for players who are new to the campaign, or who are still getting the hang of estimating movement and predicting where an enemy might be, and what they might do.
Active skills include:
- Expert Tailing (broader tailing arc)
- Technical Eye (pilot can see enemy damage)
- Acrobatic Pilot (pilot can do non-straight maneuvers after an Immelman)
- Daredevil Pilot (pilot can do two "steeps" in a row)
In general, Active skills require better understanding of the game to get the most out of them. Immelman maneuvers are hard to time well, so using Acrobat (where you must do an Immelman maneuver) is also difficult. Using Expert Tailing or Daredevil effectively likewise requires a fairly subtle understanding of what your maneuver-card options are, what the enemy's are, and what the enemy is most likely to want to do. Technical Eye can give you critical additional information about what an enemy is likely to do - but only for pilots who are already good at predicting enemy action. Active skills can be very useful, but can be ineffective in the hands of beginning players.
Complementary Pilot Skills
Alex Bostwick has some advice on choosing pilot skills that work well together.
For those of you who haven't submitted your pilots yet, here are some combinations of Ace Abilities which compliment each other, and can make your pilot sort of a specialist on the field- really good at one thing, and standard in everything else. Some people prefer to be well-rounded, but I, personally, prefer to have a specialized role. They are as follows:
Eagle Eye and Expert Tailing: Together, you can pretty much always be tailing someone. You have a 180° arc in front of you for expert tailing, and a differential of 14 altitude levels at a distance of 1.5 rulers. Pretty awesome. The benefits of tailing your enemy are many and major, and while it is more nuanced than normal gameplay, it can be the difference between winning and living or losing and dying.
Good Shot and Fast Shot: Taken together, you will not only be shooting first and at an extra +1, if you are shot AT the same phase, the damage is at a -1. Great for both dogfights and being tailed by a nimble scout when you're in a not so nimble two-seater. Also, as seen by Hessler in the current game, if you "Boom" an enemy or otherwise kill him, he won't even have the chance to shoot back, since the damage you deal is calculated first.
Technical Eye and Technical Eye: This is a combination which isn't really a combination. Basically what it does is CC you on every damage report you send out- you get to see the results of every shot you deal. This won't help you kill faster, but it can help you make good decisions if you're considering fleeing the battle, or otherwise help you prioritize your targets. Taken just once, you have to actively select a target you want to assess, and can only do it every other turn- which is good, but most people don't take the same skill twice, and this one will get overlooked in favor of Good Shot + Good Shot or other semi-common repeated skills.
Upgraded Guns and Good Shot/Incendiary Rounds: This is for those of you who have a bloodthirst. If you are flying a two-seater, your rear gun will always be "A" firing, which is higher damage, and has a greater chance of "Booming" enemies. But your front gun will be "B" firing, which makes the Incendiary Rounds worth taking. The "B" deck consists of 44 cards- two of them have "Fire" effects, and two of them have "Smoke" effects, which means that one out of eleven shots will set an enemy on fire from the front. The "A" deck has a one in seventeen chance to do the same, which is, you know, fine, but the "B" deck is still better for fire. So, with Upgraded Guns and Incendiary Rounds, your Two-Seater is lighting people on fire from the front, and dealing heavy, regular damage from the rear. Good Shot is a decent substitute for Incendiary Rounds if you're using Chivalrous Attitude to get one or the other of these skills, but I wouldn't take it otherwise, because the +1 for Good Shot won't apply if the card drawn is a "0," a statistical likelihood in the "B" deck. This will make your rear gun very effective at spitting out high damage, but your front gun won't be doing as much as it could with Incendiaries (with Incendiary Rounds, you can, with one lucky "B" card, deal one "B" and several "A" cards- a greater return on investment than Good Shot, which still requires you to both hit the target and maintain a firing arc, which isn't as likely in a bulky two-seater). Also, damage pulls which do five damage on a single card will also light the enemy on fire, so that "A" firing rear gun will actually have REALLY good chances to light people up- about one in nine, if I'm not mistaken. Note that only 'natural' 5 damage counts as additional fire -- the +1 for Aim or Good Shot is not considered.
By the way, for the Campaign Strategists, I would recommend throwing any pilots with "Upgraded Guns" into two-seaters- I'm not even sure if there are any scouts in this next campaign which will be "B" firing, but a two-seater with "Upgraded Guns" is a better return on investment than a scout, usually. As of right now I think I'm the only one who took this skill, and I also took "Two-Seater Mission Expert" with it, so that is a moot point unless someone else takes it.
Survivor and Fast Reflexes: This is a good combination for Veterans (and will obviously require a negative skill to compensate), not so good for Aces. The benefits of these skills stack together, which means that any time you are shot down, your pilot's crash roll will be at a -3 (if 2d6, -1 if 1d6). Some would say that taking "Survivor" twice would make your odds of living better, and that's true, but not by much. Plus, you get the other bonuses for "Fast Reflexes" this way, which makes you harder to bounce: if you do get bounced, scouts can flip an immelmann the first turn, and two-seaters can shoot the first turn, which is good. This isn't as good for Aces, because they're pretty hard to bounce already, but you might want to consider taking this combination anyway if you have a habit of flying into a spin (you can roll to pull out of a spin much faster with "Fast Reflexes") or crashing into friendly targets.
Bullet Checker and Incendiary Rounds/Good Shot/Upgraded Guns: Basically, this is a good combination for pretty obvious reasons. You can't take advantage of any of these skills if your guns are jammed, so what the hell good are they once they are? Also, as Alan pointed out, some of our planes won't have accessible guns in this campaign, so it could be possible to be jammed for an entire battle, and never have the chance to use your other Ace skills. This is a conservative combination, but it could be the difference in a battle.
Daredevil/ Acrobatic/ Exceptional/ Elite Ground Crew: All of these abilities have to do with making your planes perform better. Pretty much any two of these, taken together, will allow you to pull off some pretty cool moves- Daredevil and Exceptional, taken together, can let you do back-to-back long dives, for example, pretty much ensuring that nobody can escape from you, or that nobody can catch you if you flee. Some of the things you can do require a higher level of skill than I have- I'm not very good when it comes to outmaneuvering the enemy, but they are still things you should consider.
Evasive Pilot and Fast Shot: This will mitigate the enemy's "Good Shot" abilities, and then some. Evasive Pilot eliminates the "Aim" bonus +1 for damage, and "Good Shot" only functions like regular "Aim" (the enemy must fire at you for consecutive turns to gain a bonus +1). "Fast Shot" will also have suppressing effects, if you can get a shot on the enemy in the same turn. Since the most common ability taken is "Good Shot," it does make sense to have some methods to counter this; a two-seater with both of these abilities has the following advantages:
It cannot be tailed unless the enemy has "Expert Tailing." It cannot be fired at with a normal "Aim" bonus of +1. "Good Shot" firing only functions like normal "Aim" bonuses. All damage it deals will be tallied FIRST, so if "Booming" the enemy, it will take no damage. All damage cards taken are counted at -1 each phase if the firing enemy has been fired upon.
That is a pretty good way to make sure that "Good Shot" scouts don't rack up huge damage counts on our two-seaters- but scouts will also have those same benefits, just a smaller firing arc, so the advantage of "Fast Shot" is lessened.
Those are pretty much all of the souped-up combinations I can think of right now. Some of you may prefer to not take a specialized role in a dogfight, and so would rather take other combinations- more power to you. I just think that these, like many, will make any pilot more effective at ONE thing in particular, be it shooting down the enemy, maneuvering, making better decisions on the field. The last combo- Fast Shot and Evasive Pilot- can turn one of our planes in a fight into a sort of RPG tank, able to absorb a bit more damage than most.
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