Emperor Palpatine – A Practical Playing Guide

Emperor Palpatine has entered Star Wars Legion and with him the Imperial Royal Guards!  The Emperor brings some unique strategy to the battle field and in this post, we’ll be looking at the Emperor’s kit, and what game strategy might use him effectively.

Palpatine has been available to use on Table Top Simulator for some time. He was used in the Invader League by R1H4 whom I played in the semi finals. Being able to watch R1’s streamed matches was educational. If you missed the recap on the semi-final match, you can catch it by clicking here.  I’ve gotten some matches in using Palpatine though more so, I’ve played against him.

Let’s start by looking at his unit card…


Emperor Palpatine at base cost is, the most expensive unit in the game! He costs a whopping 210 points, 10 points more than Darth Vader.  Just looking at the base stats, for those 210 points you get a feeble 5 wounds but counteracted by red defense saves with surge to defense (~66%). He has four courage, which means he’ll likely never lose an action or panic.

His attack range is 1-2 and he rolls 2 red, 2 black, 2 white dice, just like an AT-ST but unlike the AT-ST, his attacks surge to crit!   All this means he is a power house capable of annihilating your opponent by himself right?  Well…

The Emeperor’s kit suggests he is different from Darth Vader in that he doesn’t lead in the front with brute force and great feats, but rather, leads from the back, with a finesse, and a master plan.  Though he has pierce immunity and has a better than 50% chance to block damage with his defense dice, he has only 5 health. Similar to Boba Fett, however he doesn’t have the speed 3 Boba has, to get out of a bad situation.  With a bad roll of defense dice, The Emperor could quickly take a dirt nap.

Entourage keyword allows Palpatine to take a Royal Guard unit, even if it is your 4th special forces unit.  It also allows you to give an order to the IRG during command phase.  This order issued, must be given to IRG and cannot be given out to another unit by using force upgrade battle meditation.

Defense dice can be your friend or your greatest enemy, but the best defense dice is no dice.   Keeping the Emperor back, out of the battle, and out of line of sight means you don’t even have to see the dice.  For chess players out there, the Emperor is like the queen.  Deploying the queen out early gives a skilled opponent the opportunity remove the valuable piece quickly.

The entirety of Palpatine’s kit is unique in the way he can affect the battle field while not actually being present in the battle.   This is due to his command cards, and the keyword, ‘pull the strings’.

The Puppet Master

The Emperor’s unique keyword, pull the strings, allows him to use one of his actions, to give another friendly unit at range 1-2, a free action. This does not require line of sight.  So while Palpatine is hiding in the corner, out of line of sight, he’s still contributing to the battle by allowing another friendly unit to fight for him.   So yes, the Emperor can literally be standing safely in a corner facing a wall, and contribute to the battle.

Notably, pull the strings can grant a move ‘action’, so if used on snow troopers, they can move and proc the steady keyword, or used with IRG, they can move into the enemy and attack using charge.  Also, a unit that has already activated and attacked on its activation, can attack again in the same turn by using pull the strings.  You’ll be giving up Palpatine’s 6 assorted dice attack, but a flametrooper attack or a IRG charge is nothing to scoff at.

Palp has a command upgrade slot, allowing him to take Esteemed leader.  This, coupled with the IRG’s guardian 2, can help mitigate damage coming close to Palp.  Before this gives you the courage to put Palp out in the firefight, keep in mind that guardian can’t take crits, and guardian isn’t a deterrent for your opponent to shoot at Palp and fish for crits.  Putting damage off to your troops and IRG is better than taking the damage on Palp, but it still leads to casualties taken.

A hidden Emperor is the safest Emperor.

Pull the strings keeps the Emperor contributing to the battle from a safe place, but why preserve him? Well besides giving your opponent at least 210 defeated points and taking your courage bubble of 4 off the table, each wound the Emperor saves, increases the stregnth and value of  the one pip card, ‘And now you will die’.

‘And now you will die’

Palpatine’s one pip command card, “And Now You Will Die”, is a very powerful card.  It brings the whole kit together and gives sense to hiding the Emperor to preserve those wounds. 

It allows Palpatine to take a wound and a suppression token to perform an attack.  This can happen any number of times, limited only by how many wounds he has!  The value of this card is directly affected by how many wounds Palp has left.

Note it does not say at the end of his activation.  You can take the wounds at any time. This leads to a number of possibilities, such as…

-double move and attack

-Normal attack, take wound and attack a number of times, and move into hiding

-move, take wound attack, move, take wounds to attack

You see the large number of combinations possible.  It’s possible for a full health Palp to attack five times in a single turn. For a nice combo, staple the force upgrade, Anger, on Palp.  For five points, he gets an aim for every attack he makes after taking a wound.

Don’t underestimate the range on this play.  With a double move and attack, Palpatine can threaten outwards of 20 inches (2 inches beyond range 3).  To put it in perspective, look at the battle lines deployment.  The distance between the edge of each deployment is 24 inches or range four.  This means you could make

a single speed one move turn one, leaving about 20 inches between Palpatine and the enemy deployment. Then, the following turns, you threaten anything your opponent has moved forward out of their deployment zone.

“With great power comes great responsibility”  – Uncle Ben

The card is very powerful, however, power alone will not win the game.  Timing is key.  The card in itself is a trade. You’re killing your own unit, to kill your opponent’s units.  There’s a few points to consider before committing to the trade…

-Do I come out ahead in the exchange of units?

Effectively exchanging points could be difficult.  For analysis sake, we’ll just say we have Palp with esteemed leader and anger, costing 220 points.  The next three units closest in cost to Palp are Vader, Luke, and the AT-ST.   There’s a good chance it’ll take all of Palp’s wounds to bring any of these other expensive units from full to zero.  So a one for one trade probably isn’t the best.

To get 220 points out of the exchange could mean clearing out multiple corp units, multiple key units like Veers and Boba or, Han and Leia.  Getting that ideal set up to make a trade of units could be difficult.

There may be a case where you’re on the defensive, say Luke is obviously coming for the Emperor’s safe space.  Maybe you use ANYWD to kill or at least immobolize Luke before he reaches you.  In a defensive situation like this, don’t forget you could move into line of sight, take wounds to take attacks, and then move back into your safe space.

More than likely, an aggressive ANYWD play will leave the Emperor weakened and exposed.  Before you charge him in, consider what your opponent can follow up with.  Consider the next two points.

-After dropping to 1 wound, am I exposed?

Regardless of the outcome of your attack, Palp will be left weakened, and exposed to death.  Often, to get good positioning to attack multiple units, Palp may be standing in the open with only cover 1 from the suppression tokens. Plan for the worst outcome, and you won’t get caught off guard.  What if you send the Palp bomb in and it fizzles?  You roll bad dice and your opponent rolls amazing defense dice.  You may consider having units in position to guardian hits off to prior to activating Palpatine.

-Does this play win me the game?

Ideally, after using the Palp bomb, your opponent concedes.  A fatal mistake can be using the one pip card too soon in the game.  Turns 1-2, probably too soon.   3-4, probably too early but every match is different, Turn 5-6, is likely your sweet spot.   Going in too early lends itself to a strong likelihood of Palpatine being picked off.  This means losing at least 210 points.  You could be losing your unused command card and your command bubble.

Holding Palp’s one pip means your opponent has to play around it.  The threat that holding the one pip brings in of itself is valuable.  Take advantage of this in the earlier turns as your opponent may be hesitant to move into Palpatine’s kill zone.

The goal with the one pip should be to take a key piece off the board without putting Palpatine in any danger. For example, killing Boba Fett is great.  However, double moving out into the open and in front of your opponent’s gun line, just to kill Boba Fett.  Not so great.  It goes back to trading pieces, you need to come out ahead.  Best case scenario, you use it to strike the final blow, closing the game out.

Give Into Your Anger

The Emperor’s two pip command card, ‘Give into your anger’ (GIYA), is another piece of the Emperor’s strategy. The two pip card has no range requirement, and does not require line of sight.  Once again, the Emperor could be sitting in safety and contribute a powerful effect on the game.

Ideal timing for the two pip command card will change every match.  As soon as you see your opponent’s list, you should consider the command cards your opponent has and determine which card you would want to mess up given the chance.  For discussion sake, it’s really hard to pinpoint an ideal timing for GIYA.

It could be great for countering ‘Son of Skywalker’ by forcing your opponent to activate something else before activating Luke. Maybe you can finish Luke off before he attacks. Or, in the same match, it could stall a rebel trooper unit that made a one speed move with ‘No Time for Sorrows’, from activating first, grabbing that objective token and running away.  The prime time to play it could be on turn 2 just to force Luke to activate first. (Assuming nothing is range for Luke to charge into) Your opponent will have to hold him back and basically pass the turn, or move Luke forward, hopefully into a riskier position.

The suppression an opponent’s unit might receive is not the point of this command card.  Playing it on a unit you know can’t attack, just to give out suppression, probably isn’t the best time to use this card in any match. The suppression goes on the unit at the end of the activation, meaning the unit could easily distance itself from the board edge, or get closer to a commander.  It’s just a perk.   Messing with opponents activation order > four suppression.

An Entire Legion

Palpatine’s three pip command card, An Entire Legion, allows you to issue orders to all eligible units.  Not much more to say about it.  Useful for a turn where you need a perfect order of activations.  

Palpatine List Building

Rather than theory craft a list here, let’s look at different units and how they could synergize with Palpatine.  Starting with the obvious two.

Imperial Royal Guard – No mistake the IRG was released alongside Palpatine.  Bringing at least one unit of IRG could be good for using guardian 2 to protect Palpatine from wounds.  They also synergize with pull the strings exceptionally well.  If the IRG are attacking, and not in a melee engagement, they are vulnerable to ranged fire.  Pull the strings could give you that extra move you need to get back into melee with a unit.

Snow Troopers – As mentioned above, the steady keyword procs off of a move action performed by pull the strings, allowing snows to attack again.  This is a strong synergy as it extends the range of a flametrooper attack, or allows a flame trooper to flame a second time in a turn.   Be careful, as more than two snows begins to skew your list, especially if you already have a unit of IRG coming.  A skew list with multiple snows and IRG becomes a ‘death ball’ list.

Sniper Strike Teams – Palpatine has the entourage keyword which allows him to take an IRG unit and three other special forces.   Taking three sniper teams could counteract the slow natured push of a Palp list with snows and IRG.  Snipers can soften up corp units for Palp’s one pip finisher.  One of the worse things that could happen as a result of ANYWD, is unit leaders surviving.  That means you don’t get the points for those units, and they still contribute to objectives.  A ANYWD play looks a lot sweeter if you’re going in and finishing off 3-4 corp units of 3-4 minis.  Or, if a unit leader survives, maybe a sniper can pick it off while the leader is suppressed and immobilized.

*MOTF Luke just released a battle report on his youtube channel. If you want to see an example of unit leaders surviving, the ANYWD attack, watch turn four of the report. 

E-Webb – Cool synergy with pull the strings allowing E-Webb to move twice a turn or to move and attack in one turn.

AT-ST – Pull the strings must target a trooper unit… Sorry, no synergy here.

Darth Vader – A super expensive combo, Palpatine using pull the strings on Vader is a scary thing.  The rest of a Palp/Vader list will be slim but Vader with an extra move and attack could make up for it.  Would be better on objectives like key positions, intercept transmissions, and sabotage the vaporators.  Best avoid breakthrough, and recover the supplies.

Boba Fett – Another expensive prospect, pull the strings targeting Boba could help him get the bounty.  It could give him that extra attack he needs to finish off the target, or allow him to move into a position to threaten the bounty.  It could shine in recover the supplies, as it would likely allow Boba to get to the middle objective, and pick it up on turn one.

Deployment and Battle Plan

For purposes of discussing defining the battle, deployment and planning for the battle, we’ll imagine we have a list like  R1H4’s list from Invader League.

‘Royal Guard Your Heart’ 796 points

Emperor Palpatine 210 – Force Reflexes, Force Push, Anger, Esteemed Leader
Stormtroopers 44 – DLT-19 Stormtrooper X2
Snowtroopers 48 – Flametrooper, Imperial Officer Upgrade X2
Scout Troopers (Strike Team) 16 – DLT-19x Sniper  X3
Imperial Royal Guards 75 Electrostaff Guard, Tenacity, Environmental Gear

Defining the Battlefield

Objective – Considering the objective first, an objective that doesn’t move would be best, this means recover the supplies and breakthrough would be lower on preferred objectives. Sabotage is would fall somewhere in the middle, as it usually comes down to tied objective points and points lost determines the win.  Considering that you may have to trade the health of your most expensive piece to take points from your opponent, Sabotage looks less appealing than intercept or KP where activation count matters most.  When placing objectives, narrowing up the battlefield will be better for Palpatine.

Deployment.  A deployment that gives you more line of sight blocking features between you and your opponent is preferred.  You want to get Palpatine, the snows, and the IRG in closer safely to give em the business.  The snipers and storms can give pressure while you approach.

Long march makes the distance between your opponent and you greater, but don’t disregard it so easily.  It also narrows down the battle field, meaning when your death ball pushes, your opponent will have a harder time spreading out to avoid it.  Long march with intercept transmissions makes it difficult for your opponent to sneak around and pressure the objective on your side.  All while you move steadily to the center point to take it for yourself.

Disarray would be best avoided.  If you do get stuck with disarray, you can place lone sniper strike team by themselves.  Your opponent may split their forces in half in two places however, making it difficult for you to focus Palp power into a target location.  A split death ball becomes 2 kitten balls.

Conditions – will have the least effect for a Palp list but but our hypothetical list has three snipers. Condition preference would depend more so on your opponents list. Limited visibility could be better for you if your opponent has more ranged power than your three snipers, like Veers, AT-ST and three snipers.  An opponent could do some cheeky flanking with rapid reinforcements.  Minefield should be okay, it’d be an unlucky day when Palp gets hit by a double surging mine.

Deployment and the push

Deploying this Palp list, we want to create a death ball, meaning, keeping the snows, Palp and IRG close and attacking the same position.  Look to create a steady push towards the objective you want to take from your opponent.  When you choose an objective you want to pressure, consider your quickest and safest route to that objective.  You want to push forward, destroying what gets in your path and take what belongs to your opponent, but you don’t want to take too much heat getting there. Use line of sight blocking terrain to cover your approach.

The two storms and the snipers can target units that try to flank or that get out of your deathball’s range.  The death ball needs close in fast, but remember to take your time with showing Palpatine.

With three snipers, hopefully you can win the sniper war.  While Palp and his troop move in for engagement, your snipers can be picking off models, making targets softer for Palp to finish.

Here, under the direction of Comrade Artyom, the death ball push can be seen circled in Orange. Three snow troopers and Palpatine. The path is set towards the 3 objectives clustered together on the left, circled in purple.
Units marked by player color.  Before double moving to drop the Palp bomb, remember to consider, A) the point trade you’re making B) how your opponent could follow up and C) if the play wins you the game. Here, Palp moved out into the open to use the one pip attack. He took 3 wounds to kill Boba Fett and a wound to attack the storm troopers at his 10 o’ clock, failing to kill them all. Not a fair points trade, left Palp in the open for return fire, and did not close the game out.  Just on the other side of the wall on the right, a brawl between IRG and snows can be seen.  Palpatine left his death ball prematurely, and fizzled out.


-Palpatine is an expensive and deceptively fragile unit best protected by staying out of the fight directly, but contributing indirectly

-‘And now you will die’ is your trump card.  Patience and timing is key.

-Sometimes the one pip may have to be used defensively to knock down a threat such as a charging Luke or Vader.  Good defense can be the best offense.

-Choosing the right objective, and placing the objectives correctly, are keys to early success.  Try to narrow down the battlefield, and place objectives in a way that your death ball can run your opponent over.

Thanks for reading!  Get out there and create an Empire!




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