There is a menace plaguing competitive games of ‘Star Wars: Armada’. A violent, dangerous thug capable of ravaging his enemies and leaving them battered and bloody with little to show for the assault.
His name is Admiral Ackbar and I have personally seen him devastate enemy fleets in just a few salvos of fire.
The first tournament I played this year I saw one player thrash every fleet he faced because nobody had an answer to his Ackbar-led flotilla, and the same has been true in almost every other tournament I’ve attended. Now, after a bit of experience, I have developed a technique for dealing with Ackbar and it works relatively well for me. There may be many other ways to deal with Admiral Fish-head, but this one is mine and I like it.
And no, it doesn’t rely on large fighter wings. This is a strategy based around glorious ship-to-ship engagements.
To follow this strategy, you will need a few things:
- The Hook – At least one cheap Speed-4 ship. Manoeuvrability is important but not vital, so any ship which can move at Speed-4 each turn will do. The MC30c, Corellian Corvette, Raider-class corvette, or any Speed-3 ship which can reliably use Engine Techs for the first two turns of the game.
- The Club – A ship capable of Speed-3 minimum, preferably a small vessel with a powerful armament that hasn’t taken up too many fleet points. Demolisher is perfect for this role, but a lightly-equipped MC30c or possibly an Assault Frigate might do.
- The Frying Pan – The rest of your fleet, all of which should be capable of Speed-3. As hard-hitting as possible
Here is a list I have used successfully against Ackbar-led fleets in the past. It also happens to be my standard Tournament list, and functions against most other fleet types pretty effectively; this isn’t a list that’s been crafted solely to deal with The Fishy Menace.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty we need to understand the core concepts behind why an Ackbar fleet is so dangerous, and the major weaknesses from which it suffers.
First of all, an Ackbar-led fleet is equally effective at long, medium and short range. Those Rebel broadsides are mostly red dice, so they only get slightly better at medium range with the addition of one or two blue dice – as opposed to Imperial frontal attacks, which double in strength when they get into primary range.
This means you gain very little from trying to deal with Ackbar at long range. Even your ‘Evade’ defense tokens only cancel one die, and you’ll be facing attacks of six or seven red dice on a regular basis.
If you’re going to take an Ackbar fleet down you’re going to have to do it at short range where you get every attack die available to you, and where he loses any benefit of the Rebel fleet’s numerous ‘Evades’.
The other, more obvious element of an Ackbar fleet is that it lives out of its broadsides, and Rebel ships have very wide broadsides. With such a wide arc of fire their projected area of threat – their “danger zone” if you will – is both enormous and terrifying.
The flip side is that Ackbar fleets have nothing to contribute our of the back or the front. Not only are most Rebel ships weak in these arcs anyway, but they’re also prohibited from firing out of them if they wish to take advantage of Ackbar’s enhanced gunnery techniques.
These facts give us our overall theory – hit Ackbar on the front or the back, at short range. Because he’s just as effective at long range as at short you need to get into short range quickly – as quickly as physically possible.
For myriad reasons to do with the intricacies of the rules and activation orders, hitting Ackbar from behind is a poor move. Without going into too much detail, he can in essence simply move away and turn, bringing his broadsides to bear on you once again.
So, now we have our strategic magnus principium (according to Google translate, this is Latin for “major principle”, but I am not a learned man):
If you’ve got all of that in mind, we can begin. Let’s go fishing…
Obviously, you’re not here for a load of theoretical waffling and bad Latin, so let’s get stuck into the thick of it.
One note, however – I am not addressing the use of Objectives with this guide. There are simply too many variables to take into account. Rather, this article addresses the scenario in which the Rebel fleet has deployed in line formation going from left to right or from right to left, and how to counter that threat. I will cover other scenarios at the end of this walkthrough.
I’m going to break this guide down into two segments, starting with the first:
Regardless of whether you’re going first or second your first deployment should be whichever vessel you’re using as “The Club”, and it should go right in the middle of your deployment zone, or close enough to avoid obstacles, facing forwards, at Speed-3.
By the time of your second deployment, you ought to have an idea of where the enemy fleet is headed. Assuming a standard line formation, they’ll be deployed perpendicularly to you, deep in their own deployment zone, facing to the left or to the right.
You need to take your ship acting as “The Hook” and set it, at Speed-4, on the front corner as far as you can in the direction of the Rebel fleet’s travel. I usually deploy mine on a slight angle away from the centre of the board, but this is up to you.
Then, just in towards the centre from your “Hook”, you should set “The Fryer”. All at Speed-3, all going more-or-less directly forwards.
Below you can find a rough deployment layout, gold borders highlighting flagships, with ship speeds under the letter which denotes their role – Club, Fryer or Hook respectively. Note that this is for illustrative purposes only, hence obstacles are absent and the scale is… irrelevant.
With your fleet deployed, it’s time to get going.
TURN 1 – THE CALM
There isn’t much to say here, except never mind the manoeuvres, just go straight at ’em! So I shall let the picture do most of the talking.
It’s useful to swing your Hook out a bit, give it chance to sweep into the nose of the lead Rebel ship on a good angle.
You may be wondering why the Club is advancing on its lonesome, and that’s relatively simple – it deters the enemy fleet from turning into the centre of the board at this early stage. A canny opponent will bring their ships about with some tight turns and end up bypassing the rest of your fleet, unless they find a powerful little ship in the centre ready to punish them for such tenacity.
TURN 2 – THE APPROACH
Well, this is the start of crunch time. The important fact to remember here is that a ship at Speed-4, having deployed at the forward edge of its own deployment zone, can pass the centre of the board on the first turn. On turn 2, then, it will by definition be in the enemy’s deployment zone.
This may also be the first turn on which you will start taking fire. To minimise this damage, make your Hook the first activation, and force the enemy to activate their ships first before your own move into range.
But under no circumstances must you lose your resolve. The powerful guns of the Rebel fleet can shake any soul to its core, but do not slow down. Keep your speed up, go at ’em like smoke an’ oakum and weather the storm. Ackbar salvos are harsh, but not so much that they can finish a ship in a single hit – usually, anyway.
TURN 3 – THE ENGAGEMENT
Now we’re up to our necks. As stated above, a Speed-4 ship will be in the enemy’s deployment zone in two turns. The mathematically-inclined of you will know that means that, by definition, a Speed-3 ship will achieve the same in three turns. As such, Turn 3 marks the Point of Engagement of the battle. Before I say any more, there is one thing I have to make very clear:
If, by the end of Turn 3, you are unable to position every one of your ships in close range of the Rebel fleet, you have already lost.
I shall refer you to my prior article, specifically Point 2: Engage at a point. If you do not have all surviving elements of your fleet at Ackbar’s gills then you will simply be dismantled one ship at a time. It is imperative that you strike against the enemy simultaneously, such that by the time the fourth turn starts, your pistols are holstered and your knives are out, glinting in the light of blaster fire and missile explosions.
It may be wise to slow some of your ships at this point, for the purposes of gaining additional manoeuvrability. Do so as required, but for God’s sake get into range. And plan accordingly. You know that Turn 3 is the turn with the most important manoeuvres, so make sure those Navigate commands are flowing freely.
Also bear in mind that in Turn 3 you will be hit hard. You may even lose a ship. However, if you have positioned correctly you will have the enemy in a bind – they will be prevented from advancing due to the presence of your Hook, they will be prevented from turning away due to the edge of the board and, of course, your Fryer. And should they find himself in this position then fry them you shall – I recommend a light ale and a touch of turmeric for the batter.
TURN 4 – THE CRUCIBLE
Should your approach have been determined and your demeanour unflappable, then the fourth turn shall be your moment to shine.
At this point, you will have the enemy penned in, and completely at the mercy of your own guns. Up ’til now, activation order, activation advantage and first player status have all been lesser concerns, but here there importance can not be overstated. Being the first player will be worth its weight in gold, because you absolutely want to be deciding the order of activations.
Obviously by this point, my own little diagrams will have little bearing on your own games, so the below image should be used solely as a “what-if” – a possible outcome of a fourth turn in which you lose your Club and your Hook, after they’ve already done their jobs of course, but where you’ve also nailed the lead Rebel ship and put the hammer down on their flagship.
Note, though, how vital it is to follow your Hook with another blocking ship. If the enemy flagship gets the chance to slip past, then this was all for nothing, and what remains of your fleet will crumple under sustained fire.
Also note how, although this particular arrangement favours an Imperial-style forward assault, because you are the one deciding the nature of the approach you can angle your ships exactly as you need to: if you’re flying a Rebel fleet, then you can position your own broadsides perfectly for some messy action.
A few Repair commands will be well received at this point, especially in conjunction with Repair tokens which ought to have been banked in the first or second turn. Use your Repair points to clear any particularly inconveniencing critical effects and to restore shields or, if possible, to move shields from your rear to your front and sides
TURNS 5 & 6 – THE CLOSE
As I can’t play your games for you – nor would I – the fifth and sixth turns depend very much on the preceding four turns, rather obviously I should hope. It is enough to say here that you should be finishing off the heavily damaged Rebel ships and doing your best to keep your own vessels from succumbing to enemy fire. You will no doubt have been put through the ringer by now, but keep your chin up and your spirits high, ride through to the end like a hero.
I had better make you aware that this strategy makes it much more likely that you will defeat an Ackbar-led fleet, but I cannot guarantee that you will destroy it entirely. Your opponent will try to find a way to avoid total destruction, and may well succeed. Above, you can see how they turn their rear ship down towards the centre of the board, away from your remaining guns.
What this strategy does offer you, however, is the chance to take one of the toughest builds out there and slam it with something new, something for which it isn’t prepared. By the nature of the attack, your opponent will have few options, and you will have them at your mercy.
It also benefits from being primarily a ship-to-ship engagement, with little focus on the nuisance of fighters. This is all about the big guns, the shrewd manoeuvres and the brutal, unforgiving attacks that leave ships burning.
For my money, I also feel it’s quite a dramatic strategy. It crafts a narrative of its own and leaves a story to tell, which I, personally, appreciate. It allows you to talk about tactics and positioning and allows you to dissect the battle, find out what went wrong, what worked well. It doesn’t come down to just throwing dice at each others’ ships and hoping you roll well.
Is That It?
Well, this may all be very well for those moments where you’re facing a fairly standard Ackbar set-up, but what about when they deploy differently?
Well, there isn’t much to say there except that the same principle applies:
If the enemy fleet deploys pointing in any way towards the centre of the board, deploy your ships directly opposite them, at maximum speed, pointing right at ’em. Figure out what approach you will need to take, how you will need to angle your ships, to catch the Rebels in your net. The placement of your Club in the centre will always be useful, since a fast ship can turn to meet the enemy as needed.
Just remember that as soon as an Ackbar fleet turns towards your own deployment zone, it’s making your job easier. Ackbar‘s preferred angle of attack is to be pointing away from your ships, with the rear half of his broadsides angled onto you. Just make sure you never find yourself in this position, or else he will make you suffer.
If you prefer to use fighters rather than ship-heavy lists, then there’s probably not much that I can offer as you most likely already know more about using fighters than I do, so I won’t try and address that particular issue here – although I may revisit the matter at a later date.
I hope this guide will help you in future battles. These tactics have certainly served me well, delivering victory in roughly eighty percent of battles I’ve played against Ackbar fleets. Of course, it doesn’t guarantee victory, nothing does. But it will hopefully give you an edge against an otherwise terrifying enemy.
Good hunting, all.