Having gotten my fill of X-Wing lately, this week’s game night at my FLGS was filled with Star Wars: Armada. I dove in head first with the Wave 1 releases a couple weeks back, but only had time to try out the rebel ships before going on a vacation, and then I was purely focused on preparing for the X-Wing regionals until this week. But by gosh I own it all…
On release day, I picked up two copies of the Gladiator Class Star Destroyer, Assault Frigate Mk II, Imperial Fighter Squadrons, and Rebel Fighter Squadrons, as well as one expansion copy each of the Victory Class Star Destroyer, Nebulon B Frigate, and CR90 Corellian Corvette. The new capital ships were, of course, the big focus for me, as those would have the greatest impact on the game (or so I thought). And expecting the Rebels to have gotten the biggest boost of the two factions, I went for the Assault Frigates first, immediately challenging someone to a game using two of them. I absolutely loved how different they felt in comparison to the existing options for the Rebels.
There are two distinctively different directions you can go with the Assault Frigate Mk II. It can be a tank, or a great fighter support ship.
Set up in a combat role, it is the first rebel ship able to truly trade blows with the Imperial Fleet. With 12 total shields, a brace, a redirect, and an evade token available to it, the Assault Frigate can take a lot of punishment and keep on fighting. With an engineering value of 4 (so recovering two shields at a time) and access to the Advanced Projectors to really boost your redirects, it takes a lot of concentrated firepower to bring one of these down. Meanwhile, the Enhanced Armament upgrade can increase the “B” variant to a respectable total of 4 red dice on side shots. Throw in the Paragon title, and you get an extra black die (from any range) if you manage to shoot the same ship twice in a round. Dare your opponents to pick your Advanced Gunnery objective!
On the other hand, you can outfit the Frigate as a full-blown carrier. The “B” variant has a squadron value of 3, and that can be increased with Expanded Hangar Bays. Then toss the Gallant Haven title on your ship, and suddenly it’s nearly impossible to kill your nearby fighters. Bring out a few A-Wings with their nifty “Counter” ability (more on how broken that can be in the upcoming Imperial article), and you’ll end up doing just as much damage on defense than your opponent’s fighters do on offense! Toss in a couple bombers, like Y-Wings or B-Wings, and that’s suddenly an area that the enemy wants to avoid at all costs.
Next, let’s take a quick look at the expansion versions of the rebel ships from the starter kit.
The CR90 Corellian Corvette offers a couple of neat little tricks to enhance your fleet. If your Corvette is going to be serving as a command ship, then perhaps you should invest in the Tantive IV, carrying Raymus Antilles. Raymus lets you double up on actions on your own ship (Change speed by two within a single turn, or activate an extra squadron, etc), but the Tantive IV title lets that token go to another ship. If that ship happens to have a Defense Liaison or a Weapons Liaison, you can then spend that token to make a surprise adjustment to your command stack!
Normally, your Evade defense tokens, which all Rebel ships have, are useless at close range, but Mon Mothma lets your entire fleet use them at least to some extent at any range, so you don’t have to fear getting up close to enemy ships (as much).
And if you’re looking to hug close to some obstacles, Jaina’s Light would come in handy. In addition to giving you much more freedom to maneuver without worrying about the occasional asteroid, I see this title as great insurance against the potential hazards in the Dangerous Territory objective.
One last card that stands out to me in the CR90 pack is Leading Shots. This is the first card I’ve seen in Armada that blatantly makes less sense on the ship it comes with than on another ship. In particular, Imperial players are going to want these for their Victory Class Star Destroyers, especially on builds using the Victory II or Dominator title. Completely miss your attack? Throw away one of your blue dice and reroll as much of it as you want. With a Corvette throwing 3 dice, you’re rerolling up to two – no big gain. But you take a VSD I with Dominator and Expanded Launchers, and that front attack is as much as 3 red, 2 blue, and 5 black before any other modifications like a Concentrate Fire command. There’s 8 dice that could potentially come up blank in there, having the option to throw away a blue die and reroll all of those misses makes for a brutal shot!
The Nebulon B Frigate doesn’t bring quite as much to the table as the Corvette. There are two new title cards, Salvation and Yavaris, and this expansion is the only source for XI7 Turbolaser upgrade cards.
I’m not entirely sold on Salvation. For seven points, your expected damage output (before any modifications) goes up from an average of 2.25 to 3, a 33% increase. But it only takes effect when firing in the forward arc, and depending on which variant you take, it’s a 12-13% increase in the cost of the ship. On a point for point basis, I think you’d be better off investing in more ships. This line of thinking about efficiency is a slippery slope, and it’s this kind of thinking that led us to the horror that is BBBBZ in X-Wing Miniatures.
But let’s go back to our carrier loadout from earlier with the Gallant Haven – What would make those squadrons even tougher to deal with? What if they could attack twice in one turn? Well, with the Yavaris in your fleet, they can! On an Escort variant that can activate two squadrons, three with Expanded Hangar Bays, that’s five points well spent.
The XI7 Turbolasers don’t jump out at me as a “must have” card, but there could certainly be some utility to be found in them. This add-on limits how much damage can be moved by a redirect token, which makes it much easier to wear down a specific hull zone and punch a hole through the enemy’s shields. With Victory Star Destroyers only having access to two Redirect tokens and a Brace, you can spend a single accuracy result to block that brace and know that no more than one point of damage in your attack will do anything other than damage the targeted hull zone of that VSD.
One more expansion to go today, let’s take a look at the Rebel Fighter Squadrons expansion. Containing two squadrons each of X-wings, A-wings, Y-Wings, and B-Wings, this is a pack that 99% of players are going to want two of right now. Perhaps a third pack would come in handy for some extreme concepts when the game expands to 400 points, but as much as I like to go crazy with hypothetical builds, I’ve not put anything together yet that calls for more than four squadrons of any one particular set of Rebel fighters.
Starting with the basics, we’ve seen X-Wings already in the core set, and I showed you A-Wings earlier – They’re fast, do decent damage, and their “Counter” ability means they won’t be your enemy’s favorite targets to shoot.
B-Wings and Y-Wings are the heavy hitters for the Rebels. The issue is getting them there. Y-Wings are lumbering beasts, plodding along at speed 3, with only two anti-fighter dice. But they’re also the cheapest squadron available to the Rebels, have the most health, and deal more damage to capital ships than all-purpose X-Wing squadrons. B-Wings are even slower, and are the most expensive basic squadron in the game; but they’ll also tear any capital ship that does come into range to shreds, dealing an average of 1.75 damage per attack. The best use I’ve seen so far for B-Wings is to hold a position where you know the enemy is coming to, warding off a charging Gladiator Class Star Destroyer approaching your flanks, or hovering around a Contested Outpost objective. In both cases, though, with the B-Wing and Y-Wing squadrons, having a capital ship nearby to grant squadron commands is almost required to get them shots when it counts.
In addition to the generic cards, there’s also four unique pilots available for rebel squadrons in this pack: Keyan Farlander, Tycho Celchu, Dutch Vander, and Wedge Antilles. For a 5-7 point premium over the generic squadron, each comes with defense tokens and an extra ability.
Keyan… well, I’m a little undecided about him, mostly because part of his ability is so conditional. But compared to a regular B-Wing’s 1.75 damage, his heavier dice make for an average of 2 damage per attack against capital ships, or 2.5 per attack if their shields are already down, and could potentially deal as much as four damage in that attack. This would pair well with the XI7 Turbolasers and both Nebulon B Frigates from earlier: Salvation can punch a hole with the Turbolasers for a best case of three damage on the target hull zone’s shields (accuracy blocks the brace, and 1 point gets redirected) on one activation, and then Keyan gets activated by Yavaris on the next to blast away for a best case of eight damage. It’s highly unlikely to roll that well, and difficult to set up, but for those of you keeping score at home, that’s a kill* on a Victory Star Destroyer that was previously at full health.
*Yes, I understand that the VSD would have defense tokens left for Keyan’s attacks, but our hypothetical Yavaris hasn’t fired yet, it has only activated one fighter squadron, and I assumed that the Salvation didn’t concentrate fire for extra damage. He’s dead, Jim.
Tycho Celchu is easily my favorite pilot of the bunch. He’s the kind of pilot that I’d have a Red Bull with, because he’s too wired to have a beer. As fast or faster as any Imperial ship around, Tycho can go where he’s needed, when he’s needed. Tied up by Soontir Fel? Nope, let me go harass those TIE Bombers over there. Oh, those bombers actually dealt some damage to me? Nope, Scatter to cancel the attack, have a counter attack for your trouble. He’s not a hammer that will break the enemy force, but Tycho is a scalpel that will give a lot of Imperial admirals nightmares when used properly to disrupt a battle plan. There’s nothing complicated about him mechanically, it’s just all about where you should move him and when.
Last, but not least, there’s a tag team in the named pilots for the X-Wing and Y-Wing. The Dutch Sandwich, the Wedge Salad… whatever you want to call it, it’s simple, and it’s nasty. If Dutch Vander hits a squadron, it loses its’ activation for the turn. If it’s already activated, then Dutch does an extra damage. Then Wedge follows up and gets a whopping six attack dice against any squadron that has already marked as activated for the turn. It takes a lot of luck for a squadron to survive a hit from both of those together, even a named pilot with defense tokens is in for a bad day.
Have you picked up your copies yet of all the Wave 1 ships? If not, I highly recommend that you go to your FLGS and get them right away, ours is having trouble keeping them in stock from the high demand. If you can’t get them there, then (and only then) feel free to order copies of them using the links above. :)
Here’s the scary thing… even with all these new toys for the Rebels, I still like the Imperials more. I’ll show you why next time.
– The Tabletop General