John Smith is a lifelong gamer and Star Wars fan. You can read more of his thoughts about Star Wars: Legion on his blog, Prepare for Ground Assault.
I've discussed building an army and selecting battle cards, so now it's time to look at one of the important decisions you need to make during the battle itself-- specifically, how to play your command cards.
Command cards determine priority (that is, who goes first), how many units can be issued orders, and can provide special one-time effects. Playing the right card at the right time can give you an important advantage for the ensuing round, but every time you play a command card (other than Standing Orders) you are constraining your options for future rounds as well.
Take for example Maximum Firepower! or Coordinated Bombardment. With the long-range special attacks that they grant, they can be great to play in the opening round so you can damage and possibly suppress a unit before it can even get a chance to activate. However, using a one pip card so early puts your enemy in a position to win priority uncontested in a later round, something to keep in mind as the game progresses.
As each round comes to a close and you prepare to make your final activation(s), you should already be thinking about which of your command cards will be most helpful in the upcoming round. Furthermore, as you consider your options, remember that there are only six rounds in a normal game and you have seven command cards. Some games may be decided well before the sixth round. With this in mind, you shouldn't become preoccupied with waiting for the absolute perfect scenario to play a certain card.
While getting the first activation in a round is clearly advantageous during most game rounds, there may be times, especially at the beginning of the game, when you'd rather be able to activate certain units as late in the round as possible. Holding Darth Vader back until after enemy units have activated ensures he can move into the most favorable position possible for the next round. With its unmatched speed, a T-47 Airspeeder is great for flying across the board to get a shot off against a key target-- but doing so early in the round can leave you open to substantial return fire from other units that have yet to activate.
Of course, if you have more units on the table than your opponent, you should already have the last activation. But without knowing exactly what you'll be facing in any given game, you can't always plan on this happening; you should always be prepared to face an equal or greater number of enemy units.
In my experience, players often use Standing Orders in the first round for this very reason, waiting to activate one of their best units so they can better react to changes in the board state. In many cases, armies will not be deployed in shooting range of each other, and as soon as one unit moves close enough to hit an enemy, they also expose themselves to return fire.
However, since Standing Orders only allows you to issue orders to one unit, you are leaving the rest of your activation order to chance. If you have more than one unit that you want to hold back to activate at the end of the round, you may be better off opening with a card like Assault that allows you to issue more orders. While you might be sacrificing the very last activation in the round, it may very well be worth it to activate three important units exactly when needed instead of just one.
Getting the last activation in a round is of little consequence if you cannot capitalize on it. When you do go last, you should use it to gain superior positioning for the next round and/or a chance to attack an enemy without reprisal. This tends to be especially effective if you can follow up by activating the same unit first in the following round-- going "last/first". Naturally, a pair of back-to-back activations is most powerful when using a high-quality unit that can hit hard.
For example, I mentioned holding an Airspeeder's activation until the end so it can swoop in from out of range and then take a shot. Doing so likely means that for the entirety of the next round it will be in danger of getting shot down, so it would be prudent to activate it first if possible, allowing it to get another shot in before flying back out of range (or out of sight.)
Another ideal unit to go "last/first" with is Luke Skywalker. Moving him into position and then opening the next round with Son of Skywalker can be absolutely devastating, perhaps getting you three powerful attacks in row without any sort of retaliation. Of course, engineering such a play against a skilled adversary may not be as simple as it sounds.
Command Cards as Counters
As you survey the battlefield at the end of each round, you should try to get an idea of what your opponent will try next. Unique command cards can trigger powerful effects, and sometimes the best way to counter these is with powerful command cards of your own. Even without an extra effect, a well-timed Ambush can be punishing on its own.
Of course, winning priority can go a long way to frustrating enemy plans, giving you a chance to move a key unit somewhere safer and/or try to suppress, damage, or defeat your most threatening enemy. Even a high priority card like Ambush can be stymied if you play your own one pip card against it and get lucky. But if possible, it is always better not to leave such things to chance.
To illustrate how you might be able to counteract powerful enemy command cards, let's take a look at the above-mentioned Son of Skywalker. If a round ends with Luke in position to attack a juicy target (like your commander), there's a good chance that this card will be played. Even hardy units like the AT-ST or Darth Vader should be worried in this situation. Here's an examination of some command cards that can offer some counterplay against Son of Skywalker (and possibly other high priority command cards as well):
Master of Evil:
You'll be giving up on going first-- and Darth Vader is typically most vulnerable before he's had a chance to activate-- but giving him a dodge token while issuing orders means he doesn't need to activate first. After playing this card, Vader can blunt at least one of Luke's attacks by canceling a hit and converting surges to blocks. Dumping suppression tokens on nearby enemy troopers is icing on the cake, and puts Rebel Corps units at risk of panicking if Luke doesn't stay close enough.
No Time For Sorrows:
You won't win priority against Son of Skywalker (or any other one pip card) but you still get to move first! A speed-1 move isn't much, but if Leia or other vulnerable trooper units are just at the edge of Luke's movement range, a short move may be all you need to spoil his charge. Or alternatively, you might be able to sacrifice a less important corps unit to enter a melee with Luke or otherwise move to block him from charging something more important.
If Luke looks like he's trying to hunt down Boba Fett, this card may be Boba's best chance to escape. Unfortunately, you've only got a 50/50 chance to win priority, but if you do you can drop both suppression and immobilized tokens on Luke and Boba Fett can run away. If you don't win priority, you'll have to hope the dice go your way; if Boba does survive, Whipcord Launcher is still useful for getting away and leaving Luke exposed for the rest of the round.
Sorry About the Mess:
This is the only card that ensures you win priority against a one pip card, and not only does it give Han a chance to shoot first and slip away, but he gets a free dodge token as well! If there's one thing Han is good at, it's getting out of a tight spot.
As you can see, choosing when to play which command card, which units to issue orders, and when to activate them are all crucial decisions to help your army to fight as effectively as possible. Whether you are using them to counter your opponent's plans or further your own, command cards are an important means through which you manage the chaos of battle and gain further advantage over your foes. Even when you are still in the process of building you army you should be looking at different commanders not just for their stats and keywords but also for the unique command cards that they offer.