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Subject: Armada Thoughts and Review rss

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Thomas Gingras

Weymouth
Massachusetts
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Star Wars Armada Game Review

My friend Dave and I have been playing Star Wars X-wing by Fantasy Flight games off and on for a while now. For those of you who don’t know that game was a simulation of snubfighters from the Star Wars universe going head to head in space battle. This is a standalone expansion on that theme. Instead of single pilot ships this game takes you into the world of Star Destroyers and Corellian Corvettes. Lots more ptch ptch instead of pew pew.

The Components:
This is another winner for Fantasy Flight Games. This company continues to do great things and make great products. Only complaint is that the box this game comes in isn’t very good for storage of the game once you have put everything together. Dave had a comment about the wash on one of his ships being a little light, but I didn’t have that problem with mine. Also that’s an easy fix to bring out the detail in the model if one were so inclined. One of the best parts about this game is that the ships come pre-painted. The squadrons of Tie fighters and X wings are a solid plastic color, but the ships are all set right out of the box. That means you can start playing it right away. There have been some reviews that say you need two core sets to play. I don’t think that you do. Now that there are expansions out for the game I think it is better to go with those than to get another core set for the ships and play tokens.

Game Play:
The game attempts to replicate capital ship combat in space. The players have six turns in which to blast their opponent into space dust and wrack up enough victory points to win. Points are based upon the point cost of the ships and squadrons. Each of them have a base price and can then be modified by crew and equipment upgrades. Dave and I played the learning scenario twice to really get a feel for the mechanics of the game before getting all wild eyed and crazy with the upgrade cards. The starter scenario is easy and quick to play, as well as providing a quick introduction to the game mechanics. Dave and I took our times playing to make sure that we got all the rules right and didn’t accidentally make assumptions or default to X Wing rules and we still got two plays done in about 2.5 hours.
Both of those plays were very different in their execution. The capital ships have command dials and command tokens. The commands that can be given basically are your orders to the ship. In each turn the ship may fire, twice from two separate firing arcs, and move. The commands allow you to so other things as well. Things like, command squadrons, repair the ship, speed up or slow down, or concentrate your fire. The larger less mobile ships have to plan these commands several turns in advance so you have to think about not only where your ship is, but where it will be in the next couple of turns. For instance the Victory Class Star Destroyer has a command of three. So I had to plan my moves out three turns in advance, and after each turn place a new command dial underneath the stack I already had. Additionally instead of using the command on the turn you reveal it you can take a command token that matches the command. These tokens can be saved and used later in another turn, they are less powerful than if you use the command from the dial but they allow you to have an element of flexibility in your strategy and execution.
In the first game I attempted to use my Star Destroyer as a giant space fist and just punch Dave with it over and over. Well, it’s slow and hard to maneuver so I went with Nelson’s strategy and just tried crossing the T with it. Basically, go real slow past your opponents ships and blast them to hell. My tie fighter support was just kinda flying around all pew pew at stuff and playing space opera with Dave’s X-wing. I smashed one of his capital ships but the other one smashed by VSD to pieces. At 85 points that was the end of the game for me.
On the second go I changed strategy slightly. Instead of flying slow and punching everything in the face as hard as I could I started thinking more about taking damage than giving it out. I spent one dial on changing speed and then the rest on repair in order to restore shields and move them around on the ship. This allowed me to roll slightly less damage when I attacked, but also to absorb more damage. The difficult part was that I only had one capital ship while Dave had two. A Nebulon Space Frigate and a Correllian Corvette. So all of his ships were maneuvering against me, I had no interference. I also deployed my squadrons a little better and used them to pin Dave’s X-wings so that the Big guns could fire on big ships. Ptch! Ptch!
Another aspect of the game that is cool are the defense tokens. There are several types and not all the ships have all of them. In X-wing you roll defense dice to try and counter your opponents attack. In Armada you basically have to take the dice roll on the chin. There is no counter roll to save your bacon, you just take it. (That’s why I didn’t join the navy. Digging a hole in a boat doesn’t give you more cover.) The defense tokens allow you to mitigate the damage. They can be burned to redirect the damage to other shield sections, evade the damage at longer ranges, or just brace. Brace you just basically grit your teeth real hard grab something on the bridge and take the punch. The sour face you make allows you to half the damage that you take. The neat part of the defense tokens is that you can only choose one per attack and then you have to flip it over. If you use it again in the same turn from another attack its gone for the rest of the game. So you have to decide what and when you want to use something. Also your opponent may roll the accuracy icon when they attack. If they do they can then choose to nullify your ability to use a defense token they determine for the resolution of their attack.

Overall while the game is two dimensional and the ships drift around a bit on the mat because of the maneuver tool the game uses we had a lot of fun playing this game. The price tag on the core set turned me off on this game however, this was also the case for X-wing. Dave and I decided to give both games a shot when we found places that were selling them at about half off and free shipping. That settled it for me and I already have a couple of expansions for our next game when we up the points and use upgrades. If you are interested in getting the game take a look at Cool Stuff Inc and Amazon. Both of them have sales going on right now on the core set and some of the expansions. If you are playing the Imperial faction I recommend not putting the whole maneuver stick together as you won’t have anything that moves that fast and the stick gets in the way when you are moving your ships. Also, because the expansions have new upgrade and crew cards I would recommend that you get those instead of another core set to round out your fleet. Optional things after that would be another set of dice because the core set doesn’t really give enough dice without rerolling some.

Fun game, will play it again, and will be interested to see what other ships come out as the game grows.
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Eric Taylor
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One thing I can happily add is that the full game is an order of magnitude more satisfying than the demo game (which isn't bad, mind you). Once you've got a variety of capital ships and squadrons to choose from (and upgrades, and commanders...) list-building and utilization becomes a lot more nuanced and satisfying.
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Dan Bruns
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What do you think the sweet spot is for quantity of minis?

That is, at what point do you think the game breaks down (if at all), scale wise?
 
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Allen T
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Rochefort wrote:
What do you think the sweet spot is for quantity of minis?

That is, at what point do you think the game breaks down (if at all), scale wise?


Do you mean: at what point does adding more ships make it less fun? or
how few ships can you play with and still have fun?

As far as adding ships, the more the better! You will significantly increase playtime adding ships up over 400 points, but a 600 or 800 points battle is incredibly fun.

As far as how small the game can scale, the core set is on the small end of an "enjoyable" conflict. 200 points is better, and 300 points is better yet. I feel that 400 points is a good compromise between manageability, duration, possible variety, and giving players a feeling of managing a battle.
 
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Ryan Hanson
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I found the core game at 180 points to be far, far less enjoyable than even a 300 point game. The 400 point format (so roughly 3-6 ships per side for most builds) is clearly FFG's optimal balance of playability vs. depth of strategy.
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Eric Taylor
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Rochefort wrote:
What do you think the sweet spot is for quantity of minis?

That is, at what point do you think the game breaks down (if at all), scale wise?


400 points feels like a good spot once you get used to playing more quickly at 300 points. My buddy and I will likely play 500 to 600 points once wave 2 drops, as we like larger games.

In terms of quantity of minis, I'd recommend buying the core set and at least one of every expansion pack (including the Nebulon-B, Corellian Corvette, and Victory-class Star Destroyer packs, as the upgrade cards within are different than the core set and you'll want extras of those ships anyways). I'd recommend 2 of the squadron packs. Maybe more if you want to try some silly spam nonsense (there was a 10 Y-Wing fleet mentioned on the Armada forum that sounded funny, but I'm not sure I want to buy 5 Rebel fleet packs).

Past that, I'd consider buying an extra Assault Frigate and Gladiator-class Star Destroyer (so you'll end up with 2 of everything once you factor in the core set). You should be able to make lots of fleets with all those minis. It's not cheap, mind you, but it's a lot cheaper than most minis games are for a "full" game.
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Thomas Gingras

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Not sure yet. My friend and I are working on building up our stock and looking at strategy and options. The next time we play we are going for 300 points each. I think that the two factions lend themselves to some strategic paths of least resistance, but I think with some subtle upgrade changes and a nuanced touch with movement and command dial selection you can end up with some cool things. I think that command dial choice and movement can create to very different outcomes from the same list, and that is not even considering dice rolls.

My initial impression is that too many capital ships and the game gets bogged down in all the options and overlapping fire arcs. I think unless you tried team play for the Imperial player I wouldn't field more than three capital ships. For the rebel player I think you could go a little bit higher using a Support function ship, Base of fire, and maneuver strategy.
 
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Thomas Gingras

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In terms of minis I will echo my comments above; two core sets isn't necessary unless you get a good deal for the components. In terms of ships its better to get the expansions and the additional upgrade cards.

I should think in terms of squadrons you should go with the expansion for versatility, but I would hold off on getting two of those because the Rouges and Villains expansion may meet your needs with some different models on the table.
 
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Phil Triest
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I think 600 points will be the eventual sweet spot. That allows for a few capital ships with support. Remember that we still have not seen the Interdictor class SD and the Liberty class Mon Cal Cruiser.
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Eric Taylor
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Rostranor wrote:

My initial impression is that too many capital ships and the game gets bogged down in all the options and overlapping fire arcs. I think unless you tried team play for the Imperial player I wouldn't field more than three capital ships. For the rebel player I think you could go a little bit higher using a Support function ship, Base of fire, and maneuver strategy.

Having played over a dozen games at this point, I respectfully disagree. The more ships there are on the table the easier it is to concentrate fire on an enemy ship and overwhelm its defense tokens, making kills (even on beefy ships like Victory-class Star Destroyers) much more common than in the demo game. You'll find that while initially it can be a bit daunting to manage all those ships, they sort one another down pretty quickly, making later turns go much faster.
 
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