Well, the past weekend was a bit of a mixed bag. It was a series of firsts for me: my first total loss of all of my ships (and, as it happens, my second), my first time as second player, and my first bye.
James had a stronger weekend, coming first on Sunday and, a first for him, having eradicated my entire fleet. Neither of us have ‘tabled’ the other in any of the games we have played – although frequently we would concede at the point of no return. But he cruised his way to top position in the tournament on Sunday and rightfully so, having played some very efficient, brutal games.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll keep this summary detail-lite, with a more in-depth autopsy of my experience at Armada Tournaments coming in the next few days.
This weekend I ran my usual fleet, the Bloody Spear, whilst James took a different list to his usual.
Saturday, Lost Ark Games, Stevenage
Note – pictures kindly provided by Andrew, the tournament organiser.
Lost Ark Games is a good-sized, well-stocked store in Stevenage, and probably the highlight of that town.
There were nine competitors at the tournament, which unfortunately meant there was a “bye” – one player each round would have to sit out, earning a win by default and eight tournament points. The first round bye goes to a random player, then in each subsequent round it goes to the lowest-scoring player at that point. You can probably already guess how this is going to pan out.
My first match was against David, running an Ackbar-led fleet of Home One and two Mk. II Assault Frigates in a fight to contest ownership of deep-space outpost. So far, so familiar. I employed exactly the same tactics as I did against Paul at Titan Games last weekend, and right off the bat they worked. David was left stumped by my full-frontal rush against the nose of his fleet, with my Instigator pulling her usual sweep into a blocking position whilst Demolisher came up from behind.
However, something was up this time around. As I moved the Instigator in, something about the timing or the positioning was off and she swept past the front of the Rebel line of advance and into the far side-arc of Home One. Meanwhile my flagship pulled up to jab Home One on the nose, but fell short of that critical black-dice range. Demolisher swept up to spitting distance against the trailing Assault Frigate, but grazed an asteroid by barely more than a millimetre. In the following turn, Demolisher attempted to sweep past the Assault Frigate, but collided by yet another millimetre or two, landing back on the asteroid – that was three damage cards on Demolisher without the enemy even firing a shot at her.
My flagship and Instigator were eliminated pretty quickly, and by that point my frustration with the game was eroding my judgement. The wounded Demolisher was an easy kill for the Assault Frigate‘s broadside, and the Relentless, my Imperial-class Star Destroyer, took a round beating from Home One and her escorting vessels, after finishing the trailing Assault Frigate. Shoddy gunnery on every one of my vessels saw me drool out a piddly amount of damage, with not a single Assault Concussion Missile launched. In the final turn of the game, an Assault Frigate took a parting shot at the Relentless, finishing her off before flying out of the engagement zone.
This was the first time I’d ever been tabled in a game of Armada, and it was pretty rubbish. Every single thing just seemed to go against me this game – between (barely) glancing asteroids, crummy dice rolls with my own guns versus some horrifically consistent high rolls from my opponent, and the fact that I forgot that control for the outpost is determined at Distance 1, rather than short range, everything just fell apart. And the worst thing was that I had out-played him – he was visibly struggling to cope with my line of attack in the opening rounds of the game, but I couldn’t make any of it count.
With a one-to-nine loss in my first round, I took the “bye” in the second. “Byes” are a necessary part of a tournament when you have an odd number of competitors – but when tournament rounds last the best part of three hours, sitting one out is pretty bloody boring, especially when you’re itching to get back into a fight and steal back some credibility.
It did give me time, however, to ruminate on my feelings about the Ackbar-led Rebel fleet. And if I’m being honest, I don’t like it. A slow, broadside-heavy fleet seems to be the closest this game gets to a stationary gun line. And whilst it takes knowledge to set it up correctly, it feels as though once the ships have been deployed, the fleet wins on the strength of its upgrade cards alone – actual manoeuvres and tactics take a back seat.
It means that these fleets have one very specific counter-tactic against which they have no defense. But if you fail to pull it off, as I did, then they don’t actually need to do anything creative – they just keep going slowly forwards, same as they always do. In essence, their movements and tactics don’t vary based on the opponent they’re facing – when two of them face off against each other, it’s just a game of who is most favoured by the dice, or who picked the best upgrades.
Maybe I’m just feeling bitter. And in truth, I enjoy fighting against Ackbar-fleets, it’s like trying to solve a difficult puzzle – I just don’t think I’d ever enjoy flying one myself.
With the second round over, and with me now suitably filled with self-loathing over my failure, it was onto the final round of the day. I was pitted against Hadrian, whose tournament started as badly as mine – he had three Mk. II Assault Frigates led by Admiral Ackbar, but in a sleep-deprived rush to build his list had given each vessel Gunnery Teams, which allows them to fire twice from the same arc, and Slaved Turrets, which allows them to fire only once in the same activation.Two directly contradictory upgrades. After his first game, he was allowed to drop the Slaved Turrets, but this meant he was going into each game 18 points short of his full allowance – a strong bid for initiative, but a big gap in the fleet roster.
He granted me first turn and I chose “Contested Outpost” as the objective again as the best of a bad bunch of options. This time, the “Ackbar Nose-Punch” worked exactly the way it should, with my Raider Impetuous grinding the Rebel fleet to a halt, allowing the rest of the Imperial fleet to follow up and deliver its brutal punishment. The Instigator was gunned down at long range, but she had done her job, and the remainder of the fleet left the Rebels in ruin. I stole a nine-one victory, enough to mitigate my disappointment in myself over the first game, but not enough to eradicate that disappointment completely.
David, my first-round opponent, took first place, quite rightfully after three solid victories, with second- and third-places going to an Imperial fleet very similar to my own and a Rebel fleet led by Ackbar.
With mixed feelings on the day overall, based partly on my poor performance but mostly on the missed game in the second round, I headed back to my overnight lodgings, ready for the next gauntlet.
Sunday, Escape Games, Coventry
Escape Games have recently changed locations, now having a great store-front right next to Coventry’s famous Noodle Bar. Well-stocked, great staff, and a fantastic upper-level gaming space, it’s always nice to head back to Escape. There were only four competitors today: myself, James, Kevin and Chris.
My first game of the day was against James, with his new fleet. Having grown weary of his four-ship build, he elected to try out a squadron-heavy list instead:
Fleet Name: The Big Stupid Smelly Stupid Fleet of Crap
- Imperial-class Star Destroyer with Admiral Screed, SW-7 Ion Batteries, Heavy Turbolaser Turrets and Relentless.
- Gladiator-class Star Destroyer with Assault Concussion Missiles.
- Gladiator-class Star Destroyer with Assault Concussion Missiles.
- Major Rhymer, 3 TIE Bomber squadrons, Darth Vader, 3 TIE Advanced squadrons.
Because James is a big stupid arsehole who has NO ORIGINAL IDEAS, he used MY combination of Heavy Turbolaser Turrets and SW-7 Ion Batteries – while admittedly, I took that suggestion from an online forum, I will nonetheless berate James for using my own ideas to beat me.
And beat me he did. I deployed incredibly poorly, splitting my fleet in the hope of enacting a pincer-movement, with Relentless and Instigator off to the left, and Demolisher and my flagship on the right. Not only did I intentionally make life harder for myself, but I also lost my nerve – slowing Relentless down in the second turn to protect her, delaying her entry into the battle. James swamped my Gladiators with his fleet, bombarding them from afar with Major Rhymer and his cronies.
With Demolisher and the flagship in smoking ruin, I grew annoyed with my own failings and quickly proceeded to sabotage the rest of my game. Instigator went down more-or-less in a single shot, whilst Relentless suffered successive barrages which took her down before she could enact any measure of revenge. And with that, I had been tabled for the second time ever, and within twenty-four hours of my first ever tabling – and this time, I didn’t destroy a single element of James’ fleet
The weekend was just getting worse and worse.
For the second round, I was pitted against Kevin, who was flying a five-ship fleet, consisting of a Screed-led Imperial, a Raider, three Gladiators and a Firespray and Aggressor. I was worried by this fleet – I was at an Activation Disadvantage for the first time in any of the tournaments, but I still had the stronger bid for initiative. Having failed to learn my lesson, I again deployed with a split fleet, this time with Instigator, Demolisher and the flagship as a wolf-pack on the right, ready to swoop in behind Kevin’s Imperial and escorting Gladiator in the middle; Relentless deployed to the left, to take on Kevin’s own wolf-pack of two Gladiators and the Raider.
This time, I managed to keep it together. Relentless dispatched Kevin’s Raider almost instantly and put a whollop on a Gladiator, navigating neatly into a Gladiator‘s narrow front arcs whilst doing so – a piece of flying of which I was particularly proud.. The Demolisher wolf-pack took care of Kevin’s right-most Gladiator, but failed to close with his Imperial in time. The capital ship departed, as Relentless swept around onto the central objective: yet another contested space station. I brought my wolf-pack down through the centre of the combat zone to intercept Kevin’s wounded Gladiator, putting more hurt on it but failing to finish the damn thing off.
The game ended with a victory, earning me eight tournament points – not enough to contest with James, but enough to get some confidence back. Kevin had played well, but was let down by his placement of his Imperial, which was never able to land a decent shot due to its central position – an issue only identifiable in hindsight, however. And, in truth, I hadn’t really managed much of an impact – my own Relentless had taken down only a Raider, a match-up so one-sided as to be analogous to myself on a see-saw opposite a Jawa.
My third game was against Chris, flying the only Rebel fleet of the tournament – a now-familiar sight of two Mk. II Assault Frigates and an MC80 led by Admiral Ackbar. However, this was the first game where I actually lost the bid for initiative – Chris’ fleet was the same value as my own, and he won the toss-up. He took first turn, meaning this was the first game I had ever played where I was second player – at least since Wave 1 was released.
Chris selected “Most Wanted” as the objective to be played – I selected his MC80 and my own Instigator as the objective ships, increasing their vulnerability and doubling their value for determining victory. Up until now, I had always valued the immediacy of being first player – but being able to react to Chris’ deployment was incredibly useful, allowing me to set my own ships up directly opposing his. This proved critical to my tactics, and is a lesson I will remember against future Ackbar-led fleets.
I performed my now-well-rehearsed “nose-punch” on the Rebel fleet, and managed to pull it off for the second time this weekend – and two out of three isn’t bad. Focused fire from my flagship and Relentless brought the target MC80 to a grisly end, and multiple collisions did for one of the Assault Frigates. Instigator took a pounding, but barely managed to creep away and evade destruction. Demolisher took on the third Assault Frigate, but surprisingly failed to inflict enough damage to it to bring the beast down. The final Rebel ship escaped and departed the battle.
This was a solid win, scoring me nine tournament points – still nowhere near enough to compete with James. Chris’ main enemy was his lack of experience, as he had not had chance to play a great many matches, but he had a solid grasp of the game and was a very worthy opponent.
James’ second game was against Chris. James’ fleet was unrelenting, driving straight at the Rebel scum and savaging them with brutal efficiency. Chris kicked out as much return fire as he could manage, but James ultimately won the day, his Imperial-class Star Destroyer throwing mountains of firepower and soaking up a frankly ridiculous amount of damage. James took home nine tournament points, which meant it was now impossible for anyone but him to win the tournament overall, as Kevin had six points and I had eight.
However, Kevin and James faced off in the third round, and it was here that James faced his biggest challenge of the day. Kevin’s numerical superiority saw him get the jump on James’ less responsive fleet, and Kevin had refined his tactics to carry that advantage forwards, hammering James’ flagship and taking her out of the battle in the opening stages of the engagement. Kevin then turned his attentions upon James’ Gladiators, wrecking one whilst the other desperately cruised to safety. At the close of the action, Kevin had secured a victory to the tune of nine tournament points – one hell of a come-back, and a testament to his determination.
As the day drew to a close, there was only one deserving winner: James had stormed his way through his fights, and whilst he had been caught off-guard in the final match, he had been a solid player all day.
I took second place, but only by a small margin – Kevin was third, but close behind me. It had been a good day and, more importantly, a day full of games, each with their own challenges and triumphs.
Having played eleven games in eight days – nine games for James – we were both tired. We had traveled many miles, faced many enemies, and eaten many baked goods. Although our initial goal was to play a total of six tournaments, James had decided not to attend the tournament in Derby on Saturday, and we had both had our fill of competitive play for a while.
As such, we are drawing our tour of UK Armada tournaments to a close here. With one win each, and having each placed in the top four of each tournament we attended (by default at Escape Games, but nonetheless), and of greater note having had an amazing time doing so, meeting some amazing and friendly new players, we both feel very satisfied with our experience.
However, due to the popularity of these articles, this won’t be my last post on Armada – I am yet to write my summary of the lessons I have learned from the last few days, and there is still the Store Championships at Escape Games just over three weeks from now. Plus, Sam and I have an oversized, 600-point friendly match to play, so hopefully I can continue to entertain for some time to come.