Hands on with Star Wars Armada

The day has arrived, and the Star Wars: Armada core sets released today at Friendly Local Gaming Stores across North America. So I declared it a miniature holiday, and went in to pick my two starters up as the shops opened, cracked them open, and ran a series of demo games for anyone who wanted to come by. I played a grand total of four games today, and watched a fifth one.

Perhaps the biggest paradigm shift from X-Wing is that there are no defense dice, only abilities. Combined with that, there are multiple types of attack dice, usable at different ranges and in different situations. So in case you were asking yourself (Google, please pay attention to these phrases): “What is the difference between the Star Wars Armada attack dice?”, or “How many of each result are on Star Wars Armada attack dice?”

  • Red dice have the longest range. Their faces are: Blank, Blank, Critical, Critical, Accuracy, Hit, Hit, Double Hit.
  • Blue dice are medium range, and always do something. Their faces are: Critical, Critical, Accuracy, Accuracy, Hit, Hit, Hit, Hit.
  • Black dice have the shortest range, and do the most damage. Their faces are: Blank, Blank, Hit, Hit, Hit, Hit, Hit & Critical, Hit & Critical.

Contents of the core set

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I got a lot of things wrong in the first day’s worth of games, but that’s to be expected when diving in head first to such a deep game. That is going to improve with practice, there’s just a LOT of rules to remember. Generally, my biggest mistakes involved being too permissive about things, such as letting the Redirect defense token move damage to a non-adjacent hull zone, or allowing shots that had valid line of sight, yet weren’t actually in the shooter’s firing arc. But for the most part I feel pretty solid with the basics of the game now.

Getting started with our first basic demo game.
Getting started with our first basic demo game.

My foremost thought at the moment is that it’s going to be a wholly different scene from Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures. With X-Wing, I’d say that about 80% of tournament games finish in under an hour. With Armada it’s a different story; even with a hard limit of a six turns in the game, it looks like it will take about two hours to play a game at a full 300 point level. possibly a little quicker for some builds (fighters tend to slow things down a LOT). So tournament play is going to take a great deal more time, and games will need a time limit in addition to the round limit. In turn, I think that makes it much more likely for players to bring big beefy ships that will take longer to kill, (thus being more likely to survive in a game that gets called on account of time) and less of a balanced fleet.

Going back to the Fighter Squadrons, I understand the necessity of including them, but… the implementation is rough. The best way I’ve found to use them so far requires being extremely precise with their positioning, sniping one squadron by placing multiple of yours on the edge of firing range (premeasuring is allowed, remember), but just out of range of their allies, so that they must spend an activation moving to you before engaging.. Yet it’s nearly impossible to adjust the remaining health on a squadron when hit without moving them, since the damage is tracked on their bases, and that does not turn easily without picking the squadron up off of the table to do it. Also, the disparity at this stage between the TIE Fighters and the X-Wings is immense. I know they fill different roles, but… wow. In my final game of the evening, three squadrons of TIE Fighters managed to deal one damage over the course of two turns of shooting. Conversely, my first game of the day featured X-Wings taking a Victory Star Destroyer to the sci-fi equivalent of the wood shed.

X-Wings blowing up a Victory Star Destroyer
The bigger they are, the harder they fall…

 

Stepping things up to the 300 point level by using two starter sets, I chose quantity over quality for the Rebels, and my opponent showed me how much better of an idea “quality” might have been. Grand Moff Tarkin combined with the Liason crew upgrades made his Star Destroyers able to react MUCH faster to the flow of battle, constantly changing the top dial of his command stack to be exactly the command he wanted to execute at any given time. And the Dominator title, along with a Gunnery Team, makes for a terrifying alpha strike.

Going in to that game, I felt pretty confident about my ability to navigate, so I picked the Minefields objective out of his three selected. Then I proceeded to trigger five out of the six sets of mines. It wasn’t a good game, but it was fun!

wpid-img_20150325_164355264.jpg
Overlapping a debris field AND triggering mines? Good thing I have that Engineering token!
Star Destroyer and Corvette surrounded by fighters
I don’t know who was more surprised by this move: the Star Destroyer’s captain, or its’ gunners.

Looking at the contents realistically, there’s only about ten upgrade cards that are non-unique in the starter, and I would think some of those would be in the expansion packs too. So I can’t imagine needing more than one of the core sets unless you’re really wanting to play 300 point games right away, and you don’t know someone willing to loan you the other half of their kit for a game.

 

At this point, I would heavily recommend picking up the game, but to fill out your fleet, I would say to get the expansion versions of the extra ships instead of a second starter. In particular, I’ve pre-ordered the following list from my FLGS to add to my collection:

Gladiator Star Destroyers
Victory Star Destroyer
Imperial Fighter Squadrons
CR90 Corellian Corvette
Assault Frigates
Nebulon B Frigate
Rebel Fighter Squadrons

Without a second core set, the only thing you’ll be short on is dice (X-Wings roll more blue dice than one starter set contains), but there will be a separate dice pack along with the rest of wave 1. As for other supplies, if you’re interested in card sleeves, here’s what you’ll need:

Damage Deck & upgrades: Two packs of  “Mini American”.
Ship cards: One pack of “Tarot
Squadron cards: One pack of “Standard

Will all the fit on the table at once? Not in a standard game, no. But it’s really nice to have options. And the extras will look really cool sitting on my desk at work. They’ll fit much better than their X-Wing equivalents.

X-Wing and Armada CR90 Blockade Runner size comparison
If the Tantive IV gave birth, does that make the baby the Tantive V?

Armada is a very enjoyable game from what I’ve seen so far, and I can’t wait to see how it evolves. It’s exciting to be in on the start of the game. It won’t scratch my tournament play itch quite as well as X-Wing, and the pace is a little slower, but this is definitely what I would prefer to play when my opponent is a friend. Still going to blow ’em to bits though.

– The Tabletop General