Two years ago, Star Wars: Armada was all my gaming brain could think about. I wanted this game. I needed this game. My inner fleet admiral had been repressed for years, and Armada was the game that would let me prove my tactical genius. After what seemed the longest handful of months ever, I rushed in to pick up my two copies of the core set, and frantically began demoing the game for anyone who I could pin down.
I dove in deep. I volunteered to run tournaments at my FLGS. I bought multiple copies of the Assault Frigate Mk II, the Gladiator Star Destroyer, and all the Rebel and Imperial fighter squadrons. I started a second Star Wars game night so that we could get in multiple games while still getting my X-Wing fix in.
Sure, there were some issues with the game. Fighter squadrons were very finicky to move and manipulate, and they felt either worthless or overpowered, never balanced. The Victory Star Destroyers were so slow that my opponent could just decide to go the other way and not play the game. But it still scratched the strategy itch, and some of my friends still played.
Then tournament season rolled around, and we got real competitive. 5 Gladiator Star Destroyers are balanced and fun, right? I countered that and similar fleets with a Rebel gunline that never moved toward the enemy, specializing in long range strafing fire, with a handful of A-Wings flying as a fighter screen. A friend of mine, perhaps the last guy that I knew and got along with well who was still playing, had torn me apart with this Admiral Ackbar led monstrosity, and I quickly realized that it neutralized many lists that tried to rush in to close range with multiple glass-cannon style ships.
About 7 months ago, I plopped that gunline fleet down on a table at a Store Championship tournament. One of my opponents looked at my deployment, then stared straight at me and said I was a “fu***ng as****le”. I’d like to think that he was wrong, or at least that it was mutual, considering he was fielding a spam build that required him to use photocopied proxies of an upgrade card because he couldn’t get his hands on enough copies of it. But regardless, I realized at that moment that I no longer enjoyed this game.
What kind of community spawns players that think it’s okay to say that? Really? I have a partial answer, because I know what other games that guy and his buddies play, but out of respect for those communities I’ll try not to judge them all based on the few members I know.
But thanks to that comment, I began to look at Armada with a critical eye. I saw fighter squadrons “accidentally” get re-positioned while adjusting damage counts. I saw maneuver tools being bent just slightly to place ships safely next to one another and avoid collisions that should have occurred. I realized I hated to lose games, but didn’t truly enjoy winning them. And more than anything else, I looked around the tables at the people playing the game and saw strangers.
So I took a sabbatical. From the end of the Store Championship season this year, I didn’t play a single game. For five months my Armada fleet gathered dust. I played the role of host and judge for our Regional Championship, and didn’t mind that I couldn’t play.
Last month, new life was breathed into Armada. The infamous Imperial Interdictor promised to change the game, adding tactical elements that had been missing from the game thus far. The new flotilla elements like Rebel Transports gave players new options for fleet composition and action economy. And the upcoming Correlian Conflict campaign looks to refresh the game with even more new options, new missions, and a campaign based gameplay that gives weight to your in-game actions.
But for me, it was too late. I had fallen out of love with the game, and felt too far afield from the community. I had kept up with the game and promoted it locally for months, frustrated with it as I was. But a new player stepped up to run a tournament at my FLGS last week, and loved the experience. I missed that tournament as it overlapped with several other events, and in doing so I passed on buying the latest releases to catch up and stay competitive. And GenCon brought the announcement of new games on the horizon that want to play but don’t have time for without Armada, let alone with. So I’ve passed command on to him.
Yesterday, I sold my fleet yesterday in its’ entirety. May it serve its’ next admiral well. There’s too much fun to be had with gaming for me to justify struggling with something that I don’t enjoy, so it was time to let Armada go.
Earlier this week, I was playing a game against one of the up & coming members of our local X-Wing Miniatures group. He has a really cynical and self-deprecating sense of humor that can cause players to underestimate him at times, but I’ve observed enough of his progress over the past year or so to know better and not take that bait. I had specifically sought him out for a game to test my list against the triple K-Wing build (see below) that he had grown fond of, and which had been used just days before by another player to win the 49 person Store Championship event at my home store. His first two turns were simple; all 3 K-Wings took slow forward movements, maintaining a tight formation and waiting for me to come to him. In planning for the third turn, he turned his maneuver dials over and over, and took the time to sarcastically say aloud, “This is the part where I pretend I’m doing something different”. And then, of course, he did something different, laying on the throttle and surging ahead with all of his ships.
A white lie, a bluff, or playful banter, you decide what to call it. I normally would have thought nothing of it. But on this day, it struck a chord with me, because I had recently read a rant about a very similar situation. In the story, while practicing for an X-Wing Store Championship, a player was shocked and angered by his friend outright lying about his maneuver for the turn. Player A, our angry protagonist, had moved one of his ships, and Player B said something along the lines of “You played it right. I’m glad I decided not to take [X maneuver], because that right there would have blocked me. and probably killed me.” Player A acted on this information, and took a Boost or a Barrel Roll to re-position his ship, and Player B proceeded to turn over his dial to reveal that exact maneuver, the final position of which was now free and clear of enemy ships. Player A was mad enough about this blatant lie to take his campaign to the internet and call for such underhanded tactics to be banned from the game entirely, and I was surprised to have seen that the suggestion garnered no small amount of support from others.
All three of the Fantasy Flight Games lines that I actively play right now (X-Wing, Armada, and Imperial Assault) rely on hidden information to some degree, and all three handle it differently. In X-Wing, each ship plots its’ maneuver in secrecy, and there are a limited number of game effects that allow you to influence, modify, or spy on this information. Armada lays out all its’ cards on the table (literally), but each ship secretly plans a series of commands to execute over the course of the game, and there’s certainly some bluffing and strategy added by these to positioning and the order of ship activation, which is left up to each player to decide each turn. Imperial Assault shares the mechanic of freeform unit activation order, and adds in a customizable deck of Command cards that can hold nasty surprises for your opponent – extra attacks, sturdier than expected defenses, rapid repositioning of units, or even hidden explosive traps.
This hidden information is what makes the game exciting. Dice are always going to be random, builds are a combination of a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors and an optimization problem. But tactics and secret plans are what truly make these games fun. With the right surprise move, you can clutch victory from the jaws of defeat. But all the power of your hidden information can be ruined by a bad poker face.
A sigh of relief at an enemy’s move in X-Wing can cause them to move right into your way with a Barrel Roll. Measuring carefully to ensure your Armada fighter squadrons are right on the edge of activation range for a Squadron command next turn can allow your opponent to react to that threat by moving his own squadrons out of reach, or into a covering position for a capital ship. Reaching for your hand of Command cards can make an opponent rethink his order of actions in Imperial Assault in order to minimize the impact of a Parting Blow or Overcharged Weapons.
In Imperial Assault, it seems that it is rare for both players to have “beginning of round” effects to play, but it is possible for both players to do so, and the player with initiative that round has to go first. Take Initiative is a very common card to see in Command decks, and it has been explained to me that if the player with initiative uses a copy of that card, it blocks the opponent from doing so. But otherwise, there’s no reason to want to do it – not only does it prevent you from using it on a future turn to actually steal the initiative token, it forces you to leave one of your deployment groups out of action for the round. I make sure to ask frequently if my opponent has any effects to play before I play mine (as per the normal sequence of the turn), hoping that they might interpret that as that I have something to play after their window has closed, and getting them to waste the card if they have it. But more importantly, I want to make sure that when I do have it, they don’t (correctly) assume that I have the card when I ask if they have any effects to play first.
Giving mixed signals regarding game actions impact on your future plans helps cover up for when your reactions are legitimate. Pausing as though considering an interrupt ability in a card game can give away that you have it available, but can just as easily be a bluff to make the opponent cautious. Perhaps you won’t fool your opponent about what you are doing right then at that moment, but you might be able to truly make it a surprise when you do act upon the opportunity in question.
“Table talk”, mind games, bluffing, and braggadocio are to be expected in a competitive environment. Plastic stormtroopers and starships are boring; it’s the mind across the table that I’m there to compete against. And if you expect me, or anyone else, to not try to get in your head a little bit, knock you off balance, and make you second guess your actions in game, you’re silly. Lie to me, and I’ll lie to you. Then we’ll let the dice figure out who told the better lies.
— Sidebar —
The following is the K-Wing build I was referencing, made popular via a relatively good showing at this past year’s X-Wing World Championship. Capable of stressing a ship into oblivion, pouring out 6 TLT shots per turn, and containing a steady late game threat in Miranda, this build is currently the bane of my existence. It’s not fun to play against and it’s not particularly fun to play with, but in the right player’s hands it’s deadly. And if all goes well, I’ll end up playing against it tomorrow. Yay!
If there’s one thing running a blog will tell you, it’s how busy you are. Point in case, I’ve managed not to post a new article for a month. So if you miss me and you’re looking for more frequent updates, I might suggest liking The Tabletop General on Facebook, where I’m apt to post smaller updates on a more frequent basis.
Over that past month, I came away with far more gaming presents for Christmas than anyone should ever get, ordered a sweet new laptop that’s due any day now, and generally didn’t manage to get in ANY casual X-Wing Miniatures or Armada games. So now I find myself freaking out a little bit since the 2016 Store Championship season is technically already underway for Fantasy Flight Games. I’ve got a couple more stores still to call for event listings, but here’s what my upcoming tour looks like thus far:
1/9/16: X-Wing – Wasteland Games – Duluth, GA
1/16/16: Armada – Meeple Madness – Flowery Branch, GA
?1/24/16: Imperial Assault – Giga-Bites Cafe – Marrietta, GA?
1/30/16: X-Wing – Meeple Madness – Flowery Branch, GA
2/6/16: X-Wing (TO) – Giga-Bites Cafe – Marrietta, GA
2/13/16: X-Wing – The Deep Comics & Games – Huntsville, AL
2/20/16: Armada (TO) – Giga-Bites Cafe – Marrietta, GA
2/27/16: X-Wing – Titan – Duluth, GA
3/5/16: X-Wing – Hobbytown USA – Kennesaw, GA
3/12/16: Armada – Hobbytown USA – Kennesaw, GA
OR X-Wing – Galactic Comics – Statesboro, GA
3/19/16: Armada – Wasteland Games – Duluth, GA
OR X-Wing – Sci-Fi City – Knoxville, TN
?3/26/16: Imperial Assault – Hobbytown USA – Kennesaw, GA?
It’s a hard call right now for the March dates. With so many events going on over the region, overlap was unavoidable. While I’d like to support my local community and participate in at least one Armada event that I’m not the TO for, I’d also like to defend my title at Galactic. I would also really like to win an X-Wing event, over any of the others. So that makes the choices between local Armada events or distant X-Wing events tough.
And yes, that is a couple of potential Imperial Assault events you see sprinkled in to the schedule. No, I don’t really play the game, but I’ve heard good things about it, and I’m trying to solidify the local player base. So if nothing else comes up that day, I can at least be a warm body for the event. I’m hoping to at least get to a semi-competitive level in the game over the next month or so.
How would I have time for that? Well, Armada is on notice if things don’t improve for me soon. Perhaps I need to spend more time grinding out the details of the game, or even take a “net-deck” approach as a jump start. As it is, I’m not overly worried about the Armada events, as usual I’m concentrating primarily on X-Wing.
So what’s there to prepare for with X-Wing? After all, my TIE Interceptors did really well last season (snagging a championship title, in fact), and they didn’t get any worse, right? Well… no, they didn’t, but the competition got better. There’s a grand total of five (post-publish edit: six) things that seriously worry me about running them again:
RAC/Fel – While less popular than last year, this combo was the instrument of my demise at last year’s Atlanta Regional, and is generally a tough matchup for me. My default build for the interceptors loses the initiative bid to Soontir Fel (TIE Interceptor), and Rear Admiral Chiraneau(Decimator) pumps out too much damage and just doesn’t die fast enough for me to be comfortable. It’s only 16 damage to knock him out, sure, but with a primary weapon turret, he doesn’t have to stay in firing arc. And with Veteran Instincts (Slave 1 / Millennium Falcon) and Engine Upgrade (Millennium Falcon), Chiraneau can easily decide to slip out of firing arcs with a boost rather than stick around and get shot at.
Crack Shot Swarm – This one is MUCH more likely to be seen. Usually consisting of Howlrunner (TIE Fighter), 2 Omega Squadron Pilots (Force Awakens Core Set / TIE/FO ), and 3 Black Squadron Pilots (TIE Fighter), all equipped with Crack Shot (Kihraxz Fighter / Hound’s Tooth), the Crack Shot Swarm forces you to over-commit with defensive tokens, and will eventually get damage through. On top of that, with 6 TIEs on the board, blocking an Interceptor is near trivial. So to walk into this matchup with a grand total of 3 ships with 3 hit points each, which depend on rationing Focus/Evade tokens to stay alive, I don’t particularly like my odds here. I’ve won my only matchup of these two lists, but it was far closer than I would have liked.
Sith Lords – With last year’s release of the Imperial Raider, TIE Advanced pilots got a major boost. We usually still don’t see anyone other than Darth Vader, but he’s at his best in this list. On top of that, the only thing that makes Soontir Fel any harder to kill is an additional layer of insurance on dice, which Emperor Palpatine (Imperial Raider) is designed to provide. With the potential to load up critical hits with Palpatine and Advanced Targeting Computer (Imperial Raider), Vader usually carrying a trump card of Pilot Skill 11, and an initiative bid for Soontir, this one has generally been a dice-off for me, weighted in the favor of the enemy.
Omega Leader – Generally, my battle plan over the past year or so (as I’ve mentioned here before) is to go punch the biggest threat on the board in the mouth, and pick up the pieces with whatever I had left, because I was confident in my ability to outduel the remainder of the enemy list with just one or two damaged interceptors. Omega Leader (TIE/FO) challenges that theory – he can serve as a supporting piece in the early game, but he gets stronger and stronger as the game goes on, and is a brutal end-game opponent. I haven’t had an opportunity to face him yet, but I’ve witnessed Omega Leader with Juke (TIE/FO) and Comms Array (TIE/FO) go one-on-one with Soontir Fel and absolutely destroy him. Yet you can fairly easily fit two much more threatening ships into the same list, such as your own copy of Soontir Fel fully loaded along with a crew-less Whisper (TIE Phantom). I don’t want to be facing any one of those three as the last ship on the table.
Stress – Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by my local meta and a bit of luck. As I mentioned above, Interceptors really need their tokens to stay alive, and I use Push The Limit (A-Wing / Imperial Aces) like a bad spice habit. Over the past couple years, I’ve not run into a lot of lists with effective stress mechanics, and I usually have found ways to outmaneuver the enemy when there are Tacticians (TIE Phantom) or a Rebel Captive (Lambda Shuttle) on the board. But the relative importance placed on stress at the 2015 world championships will likely garner some copy-cat lists with a suicidal BTL-A4 (Most Wanted) variant of a Gold Squadron Y-Wing carrying R3-A2 (GR-75), as well as triple K-Wing builds with Twin Laser Turrets (K-Wing) and Tacticians – Avoiding the stress areas isn’t THAT hard, but a PTL Interceptor is screwed if it fails to escape, and my defenses are greatly diminished against other attacks in the process. The K-Wings in particular are scary, because they can still fire those TLT’s outside of their primary arc, meaning there is no true blind spot to approach them from.
(Post-Publish edit) Unblockable damage – Without having explored the TIEs in the new Gozanti Assault Carrier much yet, I forgot about this one. Especially combined with something like Emperor Palpatine to guarantee the effect, Wampa (Gozanti) can cut through all of your defenses and hand you a gift-wrapped damage card. Ten Numb (B-Wing) presents a similar danger, especially when given Calculation (Starviper), Marksmanship (Starter set / X-Wing), or a Mangler Cannon (IG-2000 / M3-A). Agile & fragile ships have a lot to worry about from these guys.
With all that said and done, I’m pretty much back to the drawing board, which isn’t somewhere I’ve been for a while – 3x Interceptors with Targeting Computers gave way to Carnor Jax (Imperial Aces) & Sigma Squadron Pilots (TIE Phantom), which gave way to the Interceptors again after Autothrusters (Starviper) hit the scene.
So I’ve got a mental checklist here:
___ High durability. 3 hit points per ship just don’t feel safe to me right now, there’s more and more ways to push damage through.
___ Scum or Imperial – I lean away from playing rebels, there’s not a lot of good matchups for the Crackshot Swarm except for Han Solo (Millennium Falcon) or Dash Rendar (Outrider), neither of which I enjoy playing competitively.
___ High maneuverability – Again, part of this is the enjoyment factor; I’m at my best when I have some sort of tricky way to move around the field unexpectedly. I’m not that great at anticipating exactly where the enemy will go in order to draw out a detailed battle plan 3 turns in advance. I could do it, but it just isn’t a style I’m accustomed to. I much prefer planning on the fly, watching the board resolve itself and fitting my post-move adjustments together like a puzzle.
___ Resiliency to stress – See point 5, above. I want ships that are capable of modifying die results without tokens, that don’t need to stress themselves out constantly to carry out my battle plan, and that aren’t going to wilt the first time “Stressbot”, R3-A2, hits the table.
___ Ability to crack Soontir – Like it or not, Soontir Fel isn’t going away this season. He should slow down and be less of a key component for some of the reasons listed above, but he’s not going away. Regardless of whether or not lists using him reach the cut (not saying they won’t, but thinking worst case), we WILL see him in the Swiss rounds, and he will serve as a spoiler there. If you can’t handle him, it’s going to severely hamper your score for the day.
I don’t have my list finalized for this weekend’s event yet, but it’s going to have to check off at least three of those items for me to consider it, and I’d prefer it if all of the conditions were satisfied. So I’m running….
Major initiative bid, and I think it’s nigh on unstoppable.
More seriously, I’ve had it pointed out to me in the past that calling my shot before a major event isn’t the best of ideas, so I’m going to keep the exact plan quiet until after the weekend.
And for those of you wondering, I’m hearing that Wave VIII (Ghost, Inquisitor’s TIE, Mist Hunter, and Punishing One) is due within the next two weeks, so we’ll have a whole new set of builds to prepare for coming up any day now. Wooohooo!!
Last time we talked about Star Wars: Armada, I was telling you all about the new toys that the evil forces of the Rebellion added to their fleet in the wave 1 release. Today we’re going to spend some time looking at the forces of order – The keepers of the peace, the long arm of the law… the Galactic Empire.
Doing more with less in true good guy fashion, the Imperial forces only included a single capital ship and a handful of fighters in the core set. New options for the existing ship are available in the Victory Class Star Destroyer expansion, and much needed reinforcements are available in the Imperial Fighter Squadrons pack. Additionally, a new class of capital ship has joined the Imperial fleet, the swift and deadly Gladiator Class Star Destroyer.
While not as fast as the Rebel’s CR90, the Gladiator can cover a lot of ground quickly, it can be extremely maneuverable, and it packs a punch when it gets to its’ target, as it carries more short range black dice than any other ship in the game. Yet with only one less hull and one less shield per zone than the new Assault Frigate Mk II, it’s no walk in the park to take a Gladiator down.
As Imperial players can already attest to with the VSD I, getting off a shot at short range using black dice can be devastating, but is easier said than done. That’s where the Gladiator’s title cards, Insidious and Demolisher, both come in handy. Contrary to other title cards, which seem to all change the role of the ship depending on which you take, both Gladiator titles seem to reinforce its’ role as a flanking ship. Insidious allows you to fire your black dice from further away than normal if attacking the rear hull zone, while Demolisher gives you the unique capability to make one of your attacks after you have executed a maneuver. I tend to take Demolisher on mine thus far, and to great effect (more on that further down). Insidious is a good deal cheaper, but I feel it will be much less effective; because it’s really hard to stay within medium range and behind a target that is moving away from you, you’ll usually be out at long range before you have an opportunity to fire.
Admiral Screed will probably be the Commander of choice for fleets that lean heavily on close range attacks. He allows you to remove a die that you have rolled to change a die to a crit, including the hit+crit face on black dice. That means you can potentially turn a hit and hit into a hit and a crit, a hit and a miss into a hit and a crit, or even two misses into a hit and a crit. Should you be so inclined to use Assault Concussion Missiles, that can in turn add an additional two damage on to your results.
But my money says you won’t be using those Assault Concussion Missiles. Instead, you’ll be more likely to take the new and Gladiator pack exclusive Expanded Launchers card if you’re going to fill that Ordnance upgrade slot. Same damage expected on an average roll (from the forward arc), a much higher ceiling, and that many more opportunities to trigger Admiral Screed off of a blank die.
The last upgrade card which is available only in the Gladiator is Admiral Chiraneau. Yes, X-Wing players, THAT Chiraneau. His ability is a little different in this incarnation though. What this card allows you to do is move your fighter squadrons activated during a Squadron command at low speed, regardless of the fact that they are already engaged. For ten points, this is an incredibly expensive ability, so don’t just take it for the heck of it. I don’t personally think it fits as well on the Gladiator. You’re going to want Chiraneau on a ship that is going to be doing all squadron commands, all the time, such as a Victory Class Star Destroyer with the Corrupter Title (more info on that below). There’s a devastating tag team partner for Chiraneau waiting in the Imperial Fighter Squadrons expansion too.
Going back to my original description of the Gladiator, I mentioned that it was pretty fast and maneuverable, even though its’ top speed is only 3 and it has no more than two total points of yaw at any speed. What gives, you ask? Engine Techs. Available in the Gladiator and Nebulon B Frigate expansions, Engine Techs allow you to make an additional speed 1 maneuver on any turn that you resolve a Navigate command or spend a Navigate token. And the Gladiator’s speed 1 maneuver includes two clicks of yaw. Chain everything together, and you can go from speed 1 to a temporary speed of 4 inside of a single turn, with a maneuver of – / I / I / II, an extra click at any one joint along the template, and combine it with the Demolisher title to take one of your shots after either the original move or the followup from the Engine Techs! Bonus combo: Don’t have a Navigate dialed up or token available? Keep an eye out for the Veteran Captain upgrade later in this article.
One last upgrade of note in the Gladiator: Sensor Team. Also found in the Assault Frigate Mk II, the Sensor Team upgrade lets you spend a die to change another die to a facing with an Accuracy result. This is potentially very useful on a ship like the Gladiator that doesn’t have a lot of potential for Accuracy results. Example: Your Gladiator II fires from the side arc, and rolls (Miss), (Hit+Crit), (Hit+Crit) on its’ black dice, and (Miss) on the red. Sacrifice the black Miss to turn the red Miss into an Accuracy, and block the Defense Token of your choice to make your damage count.
Moving on. The Victory Class Star Destroyer expansion, like both the Nebulon B Frigate and CR90 Corellian Corvette, have a large amount of overlap with the version from the core set, but there is a huge assortment of cards in this pack, including several upgrades that are unique to this pack that serious players are going to want. So don’t pass up on this pack just because you bought two core sets, because you’ll be missing out on several power cards.
Corrupter and Warlord, the two Victory Star Destroyer title cards in this expansion, allow you to tailor the combat role you look to fill with your ship. Corrupter beats you over the head with its’ core function, making TIE Bombers faster. It’s not all that impressive on its’ own, but if you include Admiral Chiraneau, from the Gladiator, suddenly that extra range makes for a vicious little combo to move your TIE Bombers away from enemy squadrons and make a bombing run on an enemy capital ship all at once! Warlord is best suited for the VSD II and its’ collection of blue and red attack dice – every die in that pool has a potential to roll an accuracy result that can be turned into a hit; and don’t forget that the double hit is a valid choice on a red die.
Admiral Motti is an all purpose passive upgrade for your capital ships, giving them all extra hit points. He’s also the cheapest Commander available to the Empire; there’s something to be said for that when you’re looking at a mandatory component.
Ion Cannon Batteries are an interesting upgrade. Triggering from a blue critical hit, they either strip a command token from the target, or deal an extra damage if no tokens are available. I can’t see myself using these often, as I don’t personally value what they bring to the game, but I’m glad to see more critical effects that can be used without needing the target’s shields to be down.
Director Isard can really give you an edge in a battle of big ships with high command values. The enemy has Concentrate Fire commands stacked up 3-deep on one ship, and nothing but Engineering commands on the other? I think we just picked our priority target!
The last upgrade only available in this pack is Flight Controllers. It’s not quite as useful, only working when you’re issuing a squadron command, but the Flight Controllers are essentially an extra copy of Howlrunner, handing out bonus anti-squadron dice. And yes, the effects stack for that activation if you have Howrunner around too.
Believe it or not, we’re still not done with upgrades worth having out of the Victory Class Star Destroyer, although the rest of these all exist in at least one other expansion too (other than the core set).
Overlapping with the Assault Frigate MK II, XX-9 Turbolasers and Veteran Captain are both new cards we haven’t discussed yet. The XX-9 upgrade can be brutal for finishing off a ship – they let you deal two face-up damage cards instead of just one, but they don’t actually deal any more damage, so it’s an investment in luck. Veteran Captain is almost an auto-include for me on any Assault Frigate or Victory Star Destroyer I have room for it on. For three points, you get a single command token of your choice at one point in the game. This doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re working with a big command stack, you never know when you’re going to REALLY need a navigate token to speed up or slow down. Imperial players that are used to having Moff Tarkin hand those tokens out but want to experiment with other Commanders will be especially thankful that they have a Veteran Captain around.
The last new card in the VSD expansion, overlapping with the Nebulon B Frigate, is Intelligence Officer. It allows you to pick a defense token that you really don’t want the opponent to spend, and make them face a hard choice as to whether or not to sacrifice it. At 7 points, for such a powerful ability, I think it’s costed right; yet I think it’s too expensive for me to use in my personal fleets.
Now for the Imperial Fighter Squadrons expansion. Similar to my recommendations regarding the Rebel Fighter Squadrons, you’re probably going to want two packs of these, even though there’s duplication of ships, as you’re getting even more TIE Fighters. Unlike with X-Wings though, considering how cheap the TIE Fighters are, that’s actually a good thing. If you didn’t get a second core set, you NEED more TIE Fighters.
My personal favorite addition among the generic ships is the TIE Interceptor (insert fake shock here). Compared to TIE Fighters, they are a touch pricier (3 points per squadron) and just as fragile, but they are a little faster and they absolutely spray out damage. With four Anti-Squadron dice and Swarm for rerolls and eligibility for Howlrunner’s bonus, you’ve got a lot of potential on offense. Perhaps even meaner, both Swarm and Howlrunner’s effects happen on Counter attacks too!
TIE Bombers are the definition of a specialization for a specific combat role. They’re cheap, durable, and relatively fast, but they’re absolutely useless against anything other than a capital ship. Can’t hurt enemy squadrons (average of 0.5 damage), can’t escape them, and can’t keep them tied up either.
TIE Advanced squadrons are in an awkward position. The most expensive of the Imperial generics, the TIE Advanced will do less damage to other squadrons than regular TIE Fighters (thanks to the lack of Swarm), and even with a black Anti-Ship die, will do only marginally better than TIE Fighters and TIE Interceptors against capital ships (thanks to the lack of Bomber). What they do have going for them, though, is they have relatively high health, and Escort, allowing them to use that health to shield other squadrons from enemy fighters.
There’s also a neat little trick you can do if you combine those TIE Advanced with Soontir Fel. Just like the other TIE Interceptor squadrons, Soontir has Counter 2, which makes the enemy want to attack something else if they can. But Fel is a master of taking shots of opportunity, and if an enemy makes an attack that isn’t against Fel, he deals one point of damage to them automatically. So let’s review: TIE Advanced have escort, you have to shoot them, and relatively high hit points. Soontir Fel hits you if you shoot anyone other than him. Seems like a recipe for success, no?
Next up is Major Rhymer. He’s a little less defenseless in dogfights, but it’s still nothing to be happy about. What Rhymer brings to the table, however, is that he is a leader of men. Specifically, he’s a leader of men who want to take down capital ships. He allows nearby squadrons to fire at capital ships at Close-Medium range, which is just a touch longer than distance 3, as opposed to the normal distance 1 limitation. That makes it much easier to deal significant damage without having to spend so much effort to chase the enemy ships down.
Next, let’s take a look at Darth Vader. He’s the most expensive squadron in the game so far, beating out his son by a point (Spoiler alert, I suppose?). For that cost, he dishes out a lot of damage, but I don’t know if it’s really worthwhile. Average of 3.25 against fighters, 1 point average vs capital ships (with a crit-less version of Bomber). On a scale of silence to sheer joy, I give Lord Vader a “meh”.
Last up on our list, instead of Howlrunner as the TIE Fighter ace, we’ve got Mauler Mithel, a pilot who apparently apprenticed under Captain Oicunn (that’s an X-Wing joke, for those of you paying attention). Any time he moves into an engagement, every enemy squadron engaged with him takes a damage. It’s a neat ability as it is, but it didn’t really jump out at me until I looked through the rest of Wave 1 and saw Admiral Chiraneau. Mithel’s ability would trigger each and every time you activated Mauler via Chiraneau, dealing a damage to every enemy fighter in range turn after turn. It’s pricey to get them both (25 points in all), but if you’re already building around Chiraneau, Mithel is well worth adding on.
So what do you think? Do you agree with my evaluation that the good guys got more toys to be excited about? Did I leave out your favorite Wave I element or combo? Let me hear about it in the comments! And if you missed it, don’t forget to check out the Rebel version of this Wave I Armada review!
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…
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.
Like a daring raid on the Death Star II’s shield generators, we never saw this one coming. Fantasy Flight has quietly released a FAQ update for Star Wars: Armada, and it carries with it some major changes to the rules, or at least how they have been interpreted until now.
The Hyperspace Assault scenario has been clarified so that any fighters that cannot deploy legally are destroyed, but this won’t be an issue moving forward because you won’t see fleets without more than one ship at the 300 point level once wave one releases (rumored to be happening as early as today).
Additionally, the Most Wanted scenario has been clarified to only grant bonus attack dice to ships. It was a big eye-opener for us at our first tournament when someone (correctly) claimed the bonus dice for their X-Wings, making this a much more brutal scenario than intended.
The biggest change in my eye is to addition of attack dice. Specifically, abilities that add dice to the pool can be triggered regardless of range restrictions. That means that if an effect or ability (like the Opening Salvo objective card, or the Dominator title) can add black or blue dice to the pool, they are applied at medium or even at long range. However, there is a caveat: the ship must have dice available to it at that range originally, so a CR90 B still cannot attack at long range, even if a game effect could add red dice to its’ pool.
Attacks triggering from the Counter keyword receive bonuses as normal. That means that your TIE Interceptors are definitely going to want Howlrunner around.
And speaking of Fighter Squadrons, your point allowance is based off of the total allowed, not the total spent. So even if you’re only spending 290 points in a 300 point game, 100 out of your 290 spent can still be allocated to fighter squadrons.
The full FAQ document is available here. Personally, I think these are all changes and clarifications that needed to happen. But let’s hope these kinds of changes come with a bit more pomp and circumstance (read: announcement) going forward. And stay tuned, perhaps we’ll have some new ships to play with soon!
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
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.
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.
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!
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:
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:
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.
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 latest Star Wars game from Fantasy Flight Games, Star Wars: Armada is officially set to release next week. I’ve been chomping at the bit to get my hands on this one. The only reason why I haven’t posted much about it is that Fantasy Flight tends to do a really good job of previewing their own content, revealing exactly what components from a given ship that they intend to reveal, and showing in detail how those components work within the game. But today’s release announcement also provided a link to the Learn To Play Armada PDF as well as the Armada Rules Reference PDF. Now, for the first time since Armada’s announcement, more information was released than was reviewed, and there’s finally a place for me to add my own observations and notes about things that stand out to me.
Here’s some of the things I’ve found that seem noteworthy:
In a standard game with a 6’x3′ play area, ships and obstacles cannot be placed within 1′ of the short board edges. That makes me wonder if we will see tactics involving use of the board edges for a clear maneuvering lanes. Perhaps the scenarios will force players into the center more often than not.
All ships have their initial speed set as they are deployed, before any further ships are deployed. So the first ship on the table is going in 100% blind.
Squadrons are deployed in pairs, and do NOT have to be in the deployment zone, but they do have to be close (range 1-2) to a capital ship. This gives you a little bit of flexibility, and means that some of the ambush scenarios may involve squadrons being really close to the enemy from the start of the game!
Measuring The range ruler can be used to premeasure at any time. The navigation tool can also be used freely during the “Determine Course” step, but inserting the tool into the guides on your ship locks in your decision.
Capital ships will maneuver appropriately. It’s kind of obvious from looking at the maneuver template, but it’s explicitly stated that nothing can allow you to yaw (click the maneuver template) more than two points away from straight at any single point. Only fighters will be able to take tight turns and zip around the battlefield.
Although none exist yet, the base dimensions are already specified in the rules for large ships (with Victory Star Destroyers being Medium ships, for scale reference). That tells me that they’re probably coming sooner than later.
The “Second Player” wins in the case of a tie score at the end of a 6 round standard game. And scoring is based off of objectives achieved and ships destroyed, points remaining does not matter. This may possibly a rare occurrence, but it means that a player that chooses to be “Second Player” with an initiative bid can force the opponent to come to them.
If your ship’s chosen maneuver causes a collision with another ship, the speed of that ship is temporarily reduced by 1 to a minimum of 0 until it doesn’t overlap. Then both the ramming ship and the final ship overlapped receive one damage. Combine that with the fact that you can’t spend defense tokens when your speed is 0, and I see a potential way for swarms of cheap ships like the CR90 Corellian Corvette to overwhelm a juggernaut like a Victory Star Destroyer, but it wouldn’t work as well on an Assault Frigate or a Gladiator Star Destroyer. (Pending probable FAQ clarification on whether you check the ship’s speed dial or the reduced value).
Line of sight is required for squadrons to be engaged. Which means if there’s an asteroid or a ship between your TIE Interceptors and my Y-Wings, I’m free to move them away, regardless of range. Fighters can ignore obstacles for movement purposes, and obstructed shots remove one attack die, which in some cases makes those fighters immune to capitol ship attacks (looks like all capital ships except the Nebulon B Frigate in the initial launch only has one anti-squadron die) This leads me to believe that squadrons hiding out among obstacles and debris fields will be a valid tactic for fighter builds, especially in scenarios that involve controlling a particular portion of the playing field.
Hopefully we’ll be able to put some of these thoughts into action on the table soon! I’m ready to play! (insert obligatory “pew-pew-pew” noises here!)
I can’t tell you how excited I am about the upcoming release of Star Wars: Armada. I spent countless hours over the years playing Star Wars: Rebellion, and this game has a very similar scale and feel to it, but with some beautiful tabletop miniatures. Imperial Star Destroyers defending a vital space station from an assault fleet of Rebel Nebulon-B Frigates and starfighters? Sign me up twice please!
I’ll have lots more to say about it once I can get my hands on the game, which appears to launch on or around April 22nd, 2015; but today I just wanted to let you all know that I’ve found an amazing deal on the base set for the game. Star Wars: Armada on Amazon is currently going for only $53.96, a far cry below the $99.95 MSRP price (Edit: This deal has since been taken down). Now, with that being said, I still believe heavily in supporting your Friendly Local Game Store, and I’ll personally be buying one of everything at retail for that exact reason, but I probably wouldn’t have purchased a second core set without this deal, and I’ll be using that set as a loaner to get more people into the game, and get more people to buy it locally. It’s a win-win in my book.