Angry Space Triangles: Star Wars Armada Wave 5 Previews

Well, it has been a while since my last Armada article – sadly, this is mostly due to the fact that I’ve been unable to play any games of late, except for a woeful performance at the Cardiff Regional Tournament last month. Since then I have predominantly been dining on ashes and attempting to keep up to date with the frankly absurd number of announcements of new products for our favourite Star Wars capital ship tabletop strategy game.

We’ve had full previews for Wave 4, which is only a few days away from being released alongside Wave 3. We’ve had ‘The Corellian Conflict’ appear out of nowhere, like diarrhea but in a nice way, and then Wave 5 dropped on us, similarly surprisingly.

And what a wave it is. Two small but gorgeous capital ships, and two similarly appealing fighter packs. Let’s get straight to it.

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Let’s look at the squadrons first. Eight new squadron types, fairly pleasantly mirrored for both sides. These new fighter packs, creatively titled “Rebel Fighter Squadrons II” and “Imperial Fighter Squadrons II”, give us everything that was missing from X-Wing, specifically the Lambda shuttles, TIE Defenders and Phantoms, Decimators, E-Wings, Headhunters and Ghost from ‘Rebels’. Plus that weird cross between a Y-Wing and a dinner plate that nobody cares about.

They bring with them “Snipe”, “Strategic”, “Cloak” and “Relay” as keywords, plus a shitload of “Rogue” thrown in there too. They seem set on getting the fighter game back to being about actual faction fighters rather than spammed Rogues and Villains, which I’m all for, but sadly the details are mostly obscured on all of the new fighter cards, including the new keywords, so I’ll keep the in-depth analysis of that for a later date.

Suffice to say, I personally am excited to finally be getting Decimators onto the board as the tanky heavy-hitters that they should be, as well as TIE Defenders rushin’ about bombin’ stuff. The Rebel side of things is less interesting to me, but only because I was never really interested in many of those ships when they were introduced to X-Wing. I’m sure there are plenty of others who would love to get them into their fleets, though.

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Now, the Big Stuff.


Okay, Slightly Bigger Stuff. The Pelta and Arquitens both look great, but they are a bit titchy – the former slightly longer than a Gladiator and the latter barely much bigger than a Raider. I personally like both of them. The Pelta, or Phoenix Home or whatever, looks like the improbable lovechild of a Corellian Corvette and a Clone Wars Venator, whilst the Arquitens looks like… well, a different improbable lovechild of a Corvette and a Venator. Basically, lots of Venators and Corvettes fucking in this wave, but it all works out fine.

The Pelta has a nasty frontal armament for a small ship – two Red and two Black on the “Assault” version, the same as a Gladiator, or two Red and two Blue for the “Command” type. Weak side armaments relegate it to the role of support ship, although with an Engineering value of 4 and five Hull points, it’s got the ability to endure. It has shield values of 3/2/1, just like the Glad, and the same Defense tokens, too. It looks to be Speed 2, although that might be inaccurate.

Indeed, its role as a support ship is cemented by these new “Fleet Command” upgrades, which… seem like a strange addition to a small ship, when you’ve got the MC80 and arguably the Imperial– and Victory-class Star Destroyers which would be crying out for something similar. Apparently, they allow you to “to spend command tokens to power advantages across every ship or squadron in your fleet!” No idea what the hell that means right now, but the three cards in question seem to be called Entrapment Something, Shields Blahblahblah and All Fighters Finish This Sentence – and all seem to do something at the start of some phase or other, I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine.

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You also get the Phoenix Home title, which gives you an extra Officer upgrade plus some other stuff, as well as Rapid Launch and Flechette Warheads which do unknown things – although the warheads appear to have anti-fighter utility. You also get a Fighter Coordination Team, from the Interdictor set. There’s Major Asshole plus another Officer card, and finally Commander Sato, who allows you to swap out dice for better-coloured dice when you’re attacking a ship that’s next to your fighters.

I actually quite like Sato’s ability, but he’s 32 points… I dunno, I think a fleet of MC30 Scouts with Assault Proton Torpedoes and Ordnance Experts could do some horrific long-range damage with fighter support. Hell, a load of Assault Frigates all with Ordnance Experts and XX-9 Turbolasers could be equally terrifying. Sato’s going to be interesting. He’s a very neat mirror to Darth Vader in many ways.


The Arquitens (I just love that name, it’s about as pretentious as Stephen Fry wearing a bowler hat eating quinoa in the back of a Prius) is a lovely little vessel both in terms of looks and utility. Small, sleek, and with a lovely long-range attack for such a small vessel, I can see this getting a lot of play alongside Victory fleets, which are likely to come into vogue going forward.

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It’s kind of an anti-Raider – it’s got the same shield profile of 2 all-round (although weirdly the front dial is set to ‘3’ – I wonder…) but it’s got more hull, is focused on red dice and has two Redirects but no Brace. Weirdly, it also has a Contain – which, to me, is fascinating, for such a small ship. Plus, with an Engineering value of 3, it’s actually capable of getting rid of any critical effects that it does suffer.

The weapons are interesting – three Red dice on the sides, with a forward and rear armament of one Red, one Black. At long range, it’s got as much punch as a Victory or an Assault Frigate, and the Evade token makes it a candidate for Turbolaser Reroute Circuits, a much better choice than the Dual Turbolaser Turrets which – well, they just baffle me. Five points to change a Blue or Black die to a Red die – I genuinely can’t think of a ship that would want to take such an upgrade, especially given how many other good upgrades there are for that slot. I mean, I suppose you might prefer a Red to a Blue in a limited set of circumstances, such as targeting fighters, but it’s also an “exhaust” card, so you only get to do it once…

If you can think of an occasion when you’d rather have Dual Turbolaser Turrets rather than XI7s, Heavy Turbolasers or even XX-9s, you let me know in the comments, ’cause I’m stumped.

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Other upgrades include Engineering Teams, which are probably the least-used Support Team upgrade out there. You get two officers, one of whom seems to be a Damage Control Dude. Then there’s Reinforced… Corridors, which seem to allow you to do something to up to three damage cards – I’m hazarding a guess at flipping critical damage face-down – at the cost of either exhausting or discarding the upgrade. And, lastly, Moff Jerjerrod, who is a hopeful participant in the incredibly competitive league of “Star Wars Characters With The Silliest Names” – the first place of which is currently held by Darth Plagueis, followed closely by Supreme Leader Snoke and General “Seriously?” Grievous.

Moff Jerjerrod is the bit-part character most famous for being somehow less courageous than a Jawa and whose career advancement was presumably based on sycophancy and a willingness to swallow. In ‘Armada’, he’s responsible for giving the Victory-class some teeth. His ability to allow ships to suffer a damage to gain two clicks at the start of the manoeuvre tool is pretty swishy – particularly for the Victory, which has Hull to burn and the agility of Stephen Hawking helplessly spinning his wheels in a sand pit.

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Indeed, the Arquitens‘ ability to throw out a solid long-range offence, coupled with its moderate resilience, make it a strong companion for the Victory. It’s difficult to devise lists without seeing points values, but a Victory, an Interdictor and a couple of escorting Arquitens could be a very tough little fleet indeed, especially if there’s room for a flotilla or two. Time will tell.


The Future

So where does all this leave us?

Well, the effort to keep both the old fighters and Victorys relevant continues. The Pelta seems very well set-up to boost fighters further with its Squadron value of 3, and the new Imperial fighter pack is just brill. The Arquitens is a much better escort for big heavy ships than either the Raider or the Gladiator. And the effects of the new Commander cards definitely achieve what they set out to do. Indeed, Commander Sato is, I believe, the first Commander we’ve seen to directly promote the fighter squadron game.

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Buuuut… I have a very small, very insignificant pen- ah, reservation, and it ties into a lot of the changes we’ve seen in X-Wing lately, as well.

The last time I was really excited about X-Wing was about five waves ago. When they brought in the Decimator and the YT-2400, they just seemed to sit nicely with the rest of the range. They didn’t do anything that wasn’t already part of the game – sure, they had new upgrades, Doughnut Dash was a thing but broadly speaking, for me at least, Wave 5 of X-Wing was the last wave of releases that still felt like X-Wing.

Now, I look at Wave 9 and Wave 10, with their “mobile fire arcs” and “Condition cards” and… it’s all a bit too much. You’ve got SLAMs, you’ve got Tractor Beams, you’ve got S-Loops and Talon Rolls, a third faction made up mostly of horrifically fucking ugly ships, TIE Punishers which must be the least creative spaceship design since the Borg Sphere, the K-Wing which is just, simply awful, and then the Quadjumper, which I think I saw the back of for about sixteen nanoseconds in ‘The Force Awakens’ but which now has a full combat profile and shitloads of tractor beams, apparently. It’s all way too much for me to keep up with, and it’s all so forced.

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Don’t get me wrong, a company like FFG need to work hard to keep a game expanding and exciting for an existing player base, and I’m sure that for the players who still keep up to date with X-Wing the new stuff is all fantastic, but for me, as someone who is now an outsider, it no longer feels like X-Wing – it feels like a different game. That being said, I am excited about the new Millenium Falcon, black T-70 and Kylo Ren’s shuttle, but that’s because I love the look of those ships. It’s not because I feel enthusiastic about what amazing new things they’ll allow me to do on the tabletop.

And that’s my fear with Armada. The most iconic Star Wars capital ships are all now done. These new ones from Rebels are nice, and definitely don’t fall into the same category as the K-Wing or the hideous Mist Hunter(*), but they are a bit… esoteric. A bit fringey. And that’s okay, but the fact that the Pelta comes with yet another new upgrade type, and yet again this is the only ship that has that upgrade, suggests to me that the designers feel like they’ve already exhausted their options with the existing rules. And that makes me sad.

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Look at the new fighters as a prime example. Four new Keywords. Four. That’s as many as fighter squadrons had when the game started, which means that, in addition to “Grit” and “Rogue”, we’ve gone from four Keywords to ten in just three waves. Do we really need ten Keywords? That’s a lot to remember, a lot to take into account. Hopefully these new ones will really add to the game and fill in some gaps, but my concern is that it’s just more… padding. More carbs, less protein.

The same goes with the ship upgrades. Flotillas gave us Fleet Support, the Interdictor gave us Experimental Retrofits, and they both kind-of made sense. But now the Pelta gives us Fleet Command, and all I can think is that the Offensive Retrofit slot was already a bit sparse – maybe they could’ve just given us a few more of them? I’m sure there are valid game design reasons for why they couldn’t, and I’m sure with the full previews we’ll understand why. But it still worries me slightly.

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With that lengthy rant out of the way, I’ll say that I’m still dead excited about this new wave, and about Wave 3/4, out in a few days. And with ‘Corellian Conflict’, I think Armada is about to fulfill its destiny as the modern-day remake of Battlefleet Gothic that it always should have been.

For now, I’ll simply thank Fantasy Flight Games for continuing to produce such awesome products, and look forward to Nationals in five days’ time. Speaking of which, I should really write my list…


(*) – Okay, the Mist Hunter. What an ugly fucking sack of crap that is. It looks like a shampoo bottle being fucked by a shopping cart.It looks like an Ibuprofen waving its arms. It looks like a sex toy designed by a Catholic bishop. It’s stupid and I hate it and I have no idea why they added it to the game when they had so many other legitimate options, such as the Starchaser or Luke’s Landspeeder or a used condom. Baffling.

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Angry Space Triangles: Back With a Vengeance

Alternative titles considered for this article included “Too Angry, More Triangle”, “Raiders of the Lost SKU Codes” and “I Waited Months for a New Announcement And All I Got Was This Lousy Oh Shit Is That An Interdictor Never mind I’m Good.”

So. It’s been a while since I last updated this blog with ‘Armada’-related ramblings. Quite a while, in fact. And oh my, has a lot happened since then. There have been full previews on both of the Wave 3 releases. I’ve been to my very first Regional-level tournament. And the sneaky marketers at Fantasy Flight Games launched a surprise attack with the announcement of the two ships that just about every player has been begging for since Wave 2.

I’ll be catching up on Wave 3 and my latest tournament experiences in a future article, but for now let’s take a look at what’s really been getting us all hot and bothered over the weekend: Wave 4, the Interdictor and the Liberty-class ships.


The Interdictor

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Well, well, well. What a lovely-looking ship this is. Smooth lines, modern detailing, big domes. This thing looks like a piece of art and I personally can’t wait to get my hands on one. It’s big, too – from this perspective, it seems to dwarf that medium-sized base.

Now let’s get some spoilers out the way before we address the full reveals. First, the obvious:

  • An apparent maximum speed of 2. Previews like this usually show the speed dial set to the ship’s maximum speed.
  • 5 Engineering points – the highest value of any ship in the game so far, more even than an Imperial-class, and a total of 8 points in combination with a token – and it even has an Engineering Team – that’s 9 engineering points or three hull cards, or four shields and change. Wow.
  • Speaking of Engineering Teams, it’s safe to assume that this ship therefore has a “Support Team” option – making it one of only two Imperial ships with that slot. And this ship would be the perfect platform for some Projection Experts.
  • Other upgrade types confirmed are “Offensive Retrofit” for those tractor beams and “Ion Cannons” for those lovely blue dice manipulations.
  • 9 hull points – the second-highest in the game. With a ludicrous repair rate, this ship is made for prolonged engagement.
  • Two “Contain” defense tokens. Critical effects only happen to other ships, it seems, and any that do slip through will get repaired away in about three nanoseconds. You might think that two “Contains” is too many, but that’s fine because this ship’s long-range antics make it the perfect candidate for Captain Needa to get some vital long-range defense going.
  • Mediocre batteries and shields. Not a full-fledged combat vessel, this one, despite its tanking credentials.
  • That Interdictor title would be nice with some Electronic Countermeasures, but there’s no evidence that this ship could take a “Defensive Retrofit”, sadly.

That’s quite a list of qualifications. Certainly better than my own CV. Now, for some of the more subtle stuff:

  • Targeting Somethings, an “Experimental Retrofit” which seems to allow friendly defending ships to force attackers to reroll dice, just like Lando Calrissian only at Close range. Great for Gladiators.
  • Grav Shomethings, which do… Something. Involving Grav Shift tokens. Maybe. I’ll have to get back to you on this one.
  • MS-1 Ion Thingies, which trigger on blue criticals and potentially allow you to exhaust… something of the defender’s. Probably Defensive tokens, maybe like some kind of cut-price Overload Pulse.
  • Flight Offisomething and Fighter Coordiwotsits. No idea what they do, but this looks like more buffs for the squadron game. Neat, if you like that sort of thing.
  • Commander Thatguy and Admiral Whosits, two unique upgrades, presumably “Officer” upgrades given the presence of the backwards-facing “Commander”-type upgrade card, of which we can presume there’s only one in this expansion. You can tell it’s a “Commander” because of the hair. I checked. I literally had nothing better to do.

So, what does all this mean?

Well, first off, wow, this ship can soak damage and self-heal like a bastard. Taking one of these down is going to take a lot of concentrated effort, which one might expect for a 90-point un-upgraded ship.

But we’re not taking into account those “Experimental Retrofits”. Two have been revealed:

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Added to these are the Targeting Somethings and the Grav Shomethings, which means four options of this type. Four options is a lot – and opens up the possibility of the Interdictor having two such upgrade slots. Or, the designers just wanted us to have a range of choice. Either way is nice.

The G7-X Grav Well Projectors are a game-changer. They are perfect for covering objectives, such as a contested outpost or some dangerous territory, and they could completely mess up any thoughts an opponent might have about launching a hyperspace assault. I think the trick with this upgrade is to treat your own imagination as the limit – there is so much you could potentially do with them, and if you had a fleet with multiples of these you could assert total positioning advantage over your opponent.

The G-8 Experimental Projector is lovely. Really lovely. 8 points is a lot, but the possibility to neutralise Engine Teching attackers is not to be sniffed at. It’s a unique card, sadly, so you’ll only ever get one in a fleet, but it’s not a modification, so you can combine it with all of those Phylon Q7 Tractor Beams to really give fast fleets a headache. That kitted-out Demolisher isn’t so scary when it’s reduced to Speed 2 with no bonus movement.

There’s one thing the Interdictor seems to do really well, which is Control. It’s a totally “Imperial” way of thinking and I love it. Given its resilience, it’s also an incredible Command ship. It is perfectly suited to sitting back and chilling out behind the front line, keeping your commander completely safe and diminishing and demoralising your opponent with every activation.

It’s also going to change the make-up of Imperial fleets. Here’s an idea of a list you could run which breathes life back into the antiquated and flabby Victory-class Star Destroyer:

The New Imperial Battering Ram
Total Points – 395 pts


Interdictor Suppression Refit – 90 pts

  • Admiral Motti – 24 pts
  • Phylon Q7 Tractor Beams – 6 pts
  • G-8 Experimental Projector – 8 pts
  • Captain Needa – 2 pts
  • Interdictor – 3 pts

Victory II-class Star Destroyer – 85 pts

  • Gunnery Team – 7 pts
  • Phylon Q7 Tractor Beams – 6 pts
  • XI7 Turbolasers – 6 pts

Victory II-class Star Destroyer – 85 pts

  • Gunnery Team – 7 pts
  • Phylon Q7 Tractor Beams – 6 pts
  • XI7 Turbolasers – 6 pts

Gozanti-class Cruisers – 23 pts

  • Repair Crews – 4 pts

Gozanti-class Cruisers – 23 pts

  • Repair Crews – 4 pts

Now then, there’s a bit of tankability for you. This fleet can recover hits at a terrifying rate, and it can kick out a fair bit of damage whilst it’s at it. The Victorys‘ lack of agility is covered by the fleet’s ability to pin other medium and small ships in place through tractor beams and the Interdictor‘s projectors. Your options would be limited against fleets of larger ships, and you’ve got no fighter cover, but with the Gozantis healing you up every turn, chances are good that you can weather sustained streams of damage. With Motti in command, you’re not getting one-shotted any time soon.

The Interdictor would also be a brilliant command ship for a fleet of Gladiators. The ability to prevent your victims from accelerating out of Black dice range would allow you to keep laying the hurt on over multiple turns, and some Projection Experts could really help to keep those fragile smaller ships from popping too quickly.

There’s still a lot to discuss about the Interdictor, and there’ll be orders of magnitude more as further previews are released, but for now, let’s go look at that lovely curvy ship…


… The Liberty

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Gosh, my heart is all a-flutter. This is one damnably attractive spaceship. A nice paint job, a gorgeously-realised silhouette… Yeah, this thing is going to make Rebel fleets the new hotness.

Let’s establish a pattern by reviewing the most obvious spoilers first:

  • HOLY SHIT that’s a front arc and a half. Four Red dice, three Blue dice, and 5, yes Five, shields. The sides are weak, but do you really care? This thing headbutts like Zinedine Zidane in a mosh pit.
  • Two “Braces”. Yes, two. They’re not much use on the Nebulon-B, but with this thing’s excess hull and ludicrous forward shielding, they’re incredible, and make this vessel a solid alternative to the Imperial-class.
  • Maximum Speed of 2, in line with the Home One variant.
  • A “Weapons Team” slot for those vital Gunnery Teams, this makes a big difference for a ship with a singular powerful arc, especially given how weak it is when it “double-taps”.
  • A “Support Team” slot for those vital Engine Techs. If the Liberty is to be the Rebels’ answer to the Imperial-class, it’s going to need some Speed-3 capability.
  • Both “Turbolaser” and “Ion Cannon” upgrade slots. Needed for those dice manipulations and Defense Token negations that prevent your valuable forward attacks from going to waste.
  • General Madine is a bit tasty. He probably needs to sack his hairdresser, but he definitely has a lot to offer to a fleet of heavy Rebel ships. Hell, he’s got a lot to offer to the already-excellent MC30-class of frigates, which can now whip about at Speed-4 with little concern for their limited turns.
  • Veteran Gunners are a bit of a weird one. They’re worse than Ordnance Experts for Black-dice ships, and arguably worse than Turbolaser Reroute Circuits for Red-dice evadey ships. And, if I’m being honest, they’re probably worse than Leading Shots for everyone else – the fact that you Must re-roll All of your attack dice means you’ve got just as much chance of being shafted as you did the first time. I can’t immediately think of an occasion when I’d take them instead of one of the alternatives, especially given that they fill the same slot as the incredibly useful Gunnery Teams.
  • The Liberty title allows this ship to activate four squadrons with a Squadron command and token, or two when it’s got just the token. This is incredibly useful for dragging along fighter support, either as bombers to enhance the assault or superiority fighters to protect your flanks.
  • No “Contain” on the “Battle Cruiser” variant, possibly a concern against Black-dice opponents but probably nothing to worry too much about. Hopefully this will keep the cost down. The other variant must get a “Contain”, so there’s always options for those people who hate their face-up damage cards.

This all builds towards a solid-looking ship with great front-line credentials. This thing is the antithesis of the Home One-class MC80, aggressive and direct, and absolutely not a candidate for sitting back and waiting for the enemy to approach. Now, let’s look at some of the hidden stuff:

  • Quad Turbywurbies which seem to do some dice manipulation on attacks that contain Red dice – looks like you can change accuracies to anything else, but I could be wrong.
  • Those MS-1 Ion Thingies again. Still not too sure what they do. Will be fun to find out.
  • Spinal Tap, maybe. A “Modification” that changes battery strength, just like Enhanced Armament. My guess is that, given it’s a “Turbolaser” upgrade, and “Spinal” implies it runs along the length of the ship, I’m guessing that it’s going to add Red dice to your forward battery. Will probably be expensive, given the relationship in cost between front- and side-arc battery enhancements exhibited by Expanded Launchers and Rapid Reload. This is going to be a very exciting upgrade for Nebulon-Bs, Star Destroyers in general, and especially MC30s, which could conceivably take both Spinal Taps and Expanded Launchers for a horrifying forward attack at close-range.
  • I think the next one will be “High Capacity Ion Turrets”, but I can’t be sure so I’m going to call it High Calorie Ion Treats. Given, like above, it’s a “Modification”, but this time it specifies “hull zoneS“, I’m guessing this is a blue-dice addition to your side arcs. Which is nice. It increases them either by 1, or by a number beginning with “1”. My hope is that it’s a double-digit number, and that it costs 150 points. For no real reason.
  • The title Mo-Something-Something. My guess is that the text reads “While attacking at [x] range the defender may not spend [y] defense tokens.” It would be fitting for a Star Destroyer-wannabe to have access to a mirror of the Avenger title.
  • Enough, the third title. “At the start of the [z] round, something something defense tokens.” As above, I’m guessing that this is a mirror for Devastator, in that you will get defensive tokens back or something. If so, then it will stack nicely with Walex Blissex. Tasty.
  • Skilled Blokes, some kind of team similar to Ruthless Strategists, I guess. I dunno, I’m not psychic. Also Chaos Cultist, some Mon Calamari douchebags and what looks like a medical bay, which could be neat.
  • A completely unknown “Support Team”. It’ll probably end up being an Engineering Team or something just to annoy us.

So, what can we tell from all this?

Well, a fleet mock-up is difficult given the lack of points values, but access to battery modifications for Red and Blue dice is going to change the worth of a lot of ships, as mentioned. It’s also going to refresh some little-used cards, such as Darth Vader, whose ability gets better the more forward-facing Red dice a fleet has. Hell, the ability to have Enhanced Armament and High Calorie Ions on a Home One MC80 will be exciting in its own right – 11-dice broadsides when you include Admiral Ackbar‘s ability and a Concentrate Fire command, that’s a scary prospect for any fleet to face. This expansion is definitely going to see a swelling in the average battery size, and that’s a change I can get behind.

(A keen-eyed reader pointed out within half an hour of this post going up that a ship can’t have two “Modifications”, I don’t know how I forgot about that. Good spot, KovuTalli, thank you for keeping me honest.)

The big thing with the Liberty itself is that it’s probably going to be the best “out-of-the-box” ship the Rebels will have. The Empire have a great selection of ships that need only one or two upgrades to be really effective, but up until now the Rebels have typically had to work a little harder on getting their upgrade synergies just right. The Gladiator is a fine ship with just an “Ordnance” upgrade, but the MC30 really needs its titles and defensive retrofits and everything else to make it work. The Imperial-class gets by with Gunnery Teams and Heavy Turbolaser Turrets, maybe Electronic Countermeasures if you’re feeling flush, but the Home One really needs a full range of extra cards and commander abilities to stay competitive.

Liberty changes that – it’s a powerful ship that draws its strengths from its basic profile. It’s got an immediate and apparent use, and it doesn’t need much to multiply its strengths. My guess is that the game designers saw how much fun people had with the Imperial-class and chose to replicate a winning formula, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s certainly going to change Rebel fleets and tactics, I believe for the better, and it means the Rebels can now definitely compete with the Empire at their own game.


For me, Wave 4 signals the maturity of ‘Star Wars: Armada’ as a game. There are now many, many variants of fleets on offer. Old ships are suddenly looking a lot more relevant, and the new ships look as though they’re going to fit right in. It’s very difficult to tell what the “meta” will look like in a year’s time, and that’s a good thing. It means the game offers variety by being well balanced and finely tuned.

‘Armada’ will never have as wide a selection of ships as ‘X-Wing’, and that’s just fine. Each ship in ‘Armada’ is so easy to customise to suit different tactics and strategies, and there really is no reason for any two fleets to look the same. The Interdictor is the hard counter to the “Clonisher” build of fast, powerful ships, but it also makes the Victory relevant again. The Liberty gives the Rebels something to hang their Nebulon-Bs off of, but it could also work in concert with the Home One to make for a very interesting fleet which has an answer to its own weaknesses.

These two new ships, and the flotillas of Wave 3, are going to make ‘Armada’ gaming tables much more varied, a great deal more exciting, and one hell of a lot prettier, and that gets me really excited for the future of the game.

Speaking of Wave 3, I’ll admit that I initially struggled to get properly excited over the addition of some tiny transports to a game full of epic warships. They may well make big changes when they’re released but that’s only going to excite seasoned players of the game, not newbies and not those of us who still wave our hands at automatic doors so we can pretend that we opened them with The Force.

Wave 4, though, should get everybody excited. It’s big, it’s loud and exactly the shot of adrenaline the game needs at this key stage in its growth. Wave 5, Wave 6 and all the rest will no doubt be just as exciting, but by the end of 2016 Armada’s going to be game it was destined to be. Bring on the future.

Angry Space Triangles: How to Kill Ackbar

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:

  1. 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 MC30cCorellian CorvetteRaider-class corvette, or any Speed-3 ship which can reliably use Engine Techs for the first two turns of the game.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


The Principles

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):

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I should get this embroidered on a tea towel.

If you’ve got all of that in mind, we can begin. Let’s go fishing…


The Execution

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:

DEPLOYMENT

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.

deployment.png

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.

turn1.png

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.

turn2.png

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.

turn3

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.

turn4.png

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.

turn5.png

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:

Parchment

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.

Angry Space Triangles: Lessons Learned the Hard Way

One thing about Star Wars: Armada that I find myself frequently repeating is how much you can learn from every match you play. It’s an uncommon depth of experience and is one of the main reasons that the game has cemented itself so quickly as one of my favourite pastimes.

The fact that I get to command Star Destroyers whilst humming ‘The Imperial March’ and pretending to be an admiral would be the other main reason.

box art 1

With that in mind, and after some time for retrospective, I’ve assembled some of the lessons I learned after my time playing tournaments, and also just in general. Many of these points will be obvious to the experienced and actually talented players out there, but for a bumbling moron like myself, they’re vital to my efforts to not make a mess of everything.

These lessons may not contribute to you winning more games – but they will hopefully contribute to you having as much fun as possible with the game.


1 – Take.

Your.

Time.

I have lost far, far too many games, and ships, by rushing. This is a lesson that I have already covered, but still I fail to put it into action. When I get excited or anxious or nervous I rush ahead, forgetting key upgrades, fumbling activation orders, omitting critical effects that have a huge impact on the game.

The enemy of any game experience is “slow play” – pondering for what seems like hours over the smallest decisions. It drives me up the wall, and so I make an effort to make my decisions in good time and with determination. And that doesn’t have to change, but if you want to avoid silly mistakes then before you pick up your attack dice… take a breath. Before you set the manoeuvre tool, count to three. About to declare your defense tokens? Close your eyes for a heartbeat and think of somewhere peaceful.

Step back, and go through the rules in your head. Ask yourself questions. Before you move a vessel, ask “Have I performed both of my attacks with this ship?” When declaring a change of speed, ask “Did I update the speed dial?” If you just rolled fifteen damage with a single attack, ask “What weapon upgrades do I have? Which critical effects change what I can do?”

missiles.jpg

Armada is a gloriously steady game. It’s not a high-paced dogfight between X-Wings and TIE Fighters, it’s a gradual, thoughtful game that rewards careful play – Remember that. In a tournament, you have over two hours to finish your game, so if you’re on the last turn within fifty minutes, maybe you’re not spending enough time on your activations. Ninety minutes is a perfectly acceptable duration for a good game of Armada.

And if every game runs on to two-and-a-half hours, maybe you need to step things up. Maybe you need to spend a little less time achieving the perfect strategic placement for a solitary squadron of A-Wings, or the perfect colour of die to pick with a “Concentrate Fire” command. But don’t skimp on your self-checks. Focus on getting your turn procedure right. Maintain your discipline.

Stay frosty.


2 – Deploy as a Front, Engage at a Point

This is probably the most tactical of the lessons I have learned. Broadly speaking, it’s quite simple: it is perfectly acceptable to divide your forces, but it is death to engage your enemy so divided.

Positioning is everything in Armada – fire arcs and hull zones are the primary means of interaction between ships. And to achieve the best position against your opponent, sometimes it is necessary to split your fleet. Attacking with a divided force is frequently a suicidal tactic in other theatres of war, but in Armada it can be a necessary part of achieving a superior position. Gladiators hammer into the prows of Assault Cruisers whilst Scout Frigates swing rapidly into the rear arcs of a Star Destroyer, as that same Star Destroyer lines up its forward guns against the weakened shields of a Rebel flagship.

The issue, however, lies in timing. Specifically, at the time of engagement with the enemy, you must be acting with the entirety of your strength at a single point. In game-specific terms, on the turn in which you expect to be doing the most damage, every one of your vessels must be acting effectively against the same enemy ship.

rebels

Every game I have lost has been a result of me failing at this task. I have deployed my fleet spread across a broad front, ready to outflank the enemy – and then either lost my nerve, slowing a portion of my ships to reduce enemy fire, or I have failed to bring my fleet together, engaging on the same broad front and failing to inflict the damage necessary to truly hurt my opponent.

The simple fact is, if I want to take down an Imperial-class Star Destroyer, or an MC80 Assault Cruiser, I have to be hitting it with the primary firepower of all of my main-line capital ships, pretty much all at once. If I fail to do so, the target will simply cruise away, hurt but unbroken. Against a larger number of smaller ships, I still need to be engaging with my entire fleet, one target at a time. Methodical and precise.

Getting this right is, in essence, the true skill to be learned from your games of Armada. The ability to time your vessels’ manoeuvres for a crucial convergence at the same time is challenging, and can only be achieved through practice and patience. You may have devised the most synergised and synchronised fleet list that was ever scrutinised, but being able to control that fleet, to bring it to the focal point of the battle as a united, unstoppable force, that’s the real key to victory.


3 – Gunnery Teams are Glorious

Normally, I’d hesitate to focus on so specific an element of the game as a single upgrade card, but Gunnery Teams are the exception. Their straight-forward benefit – the ability to fire out of the same arc in the same activation, but only at different targets – is an absurdly useful addition to the right ship.

Not all ships, mind. Gladiators have wide-enough side arcs,and operate at short-enough range not to gain a great deal from Gunnery Teams, especially since their front and side arcs are similar in strength. Likewise, a Raider is unlikely to make full use of the seven-point upgrade due to their limited range. But on big ships with big primary arcs, like the Victory-class, the Imperial-class and the Assault Frigate, and the Scout Frigate in an Ackbar fleet, the ability to fire twice from the same powerful location is priceless.

star-wars-battle-of-endor

Of course, spreading your firepower may not seem ideal, especially given that it runs contrary to the mantra “Engage at a Point”, but bear this in mind – an Imperial-class Star Destroyer with a Gunnery Team is able to take on two other Imperial-class vessels on an even footing. Granted, it will eventually succumb to damage first, but if two enemy Star Destroyers are tied up taking it down, that means there’s a potential for one Star Destroyer’s worth of smaller ships – preferably Gladiators with hefty Ordnance upgrades – flanking behind the enemy vessels.

This is perhaps overly simplistic, but it certainly held true in one game where I played against a double-Imperial fleet. Of course, due to my disregard of the first rule I rushed through activations and went on to lose the game, but if I’d kept my head, then a single Gunnery Team would have won me the day.

I think that in general, Gunnery Teams are one of those upgrades that is useful more often than not. There are plenty of more expensive upgrades that are fairly situational, but Gunnery Teams will consistently perform for you in all but the most specific circumstances.


4 – Certainty over Potential

This is more an issue of personal preference, really, but my feelings on the matter are shaped by experience.

Armada uses dice to determine a large portion of the game. It also relies upon a shuffled card deck for critical damage results. Hell, whether or not you’re in range and arc of an enemy ship ultimately comes down to chance, unless you have particularly astute spatial awareness.

All of these things are random. And if, like me, you have a history of rolling less damage in an entire game than your opponent rolls in a single attack, you’ll appreciate how viciously the dice can bite you in a sensitive spot. Indeed, I have built up such a complex over my own luck (justifiably or otherwise) that my approach with most games is now to assume that I will receive the worst possible outcome of any given range of random possibilities. And hence, I plan accordingly.

star-destroyers

Admiral Screed is an auto-include for me. The ability to guarantee a single critical hit once per activation is so absurdly valuable that I don’t really know how to play without it – as long as it’s coupled with special “trigger-on-critical” upgrades. Darth Vader’s ability to reroll as many dice as you want may sound amazing, especially with a big, powerful attack, but when you spend a Defense token to roll another load of blanks, you find yourself cursing the Gods themselves for their cruelty.

Similarly, SW-7 Ion Batteries are just too damn reliable for me not to take them. I have in the past rolled four blue accuracies, two red accuracies and two red blanks with my Imperial-class’ forward arc. That kind of outcome is so depressing that it can lead to me switching off from the game if I don’t keep my morale up. Hence, SW-7s provide that safety net that I need: a guaranteed four points of blue damage from my Star Destroyer – again, certainty, instead of the uncertain re-rolls of Leading Shots.

I was previously asked on the Fantasy Flight community forum about my thoughts on Assault Concussion Missiles versus the awesome Assault Proton Torpedoes. My thoughts were simple: I can always rely on the ACMs to do the same thing every time I use them. APTs may well land an amazing face-up damage card at exactly the right time; that same damage card may also do nothing to help you. ACMs, on the other hand, have no element of random choice once triggered. You know exactly what they will do, so you can plan around it.

When it comes to making decisions in Armada, I always go for the reliable option. The known quantity. Whilst your own take on the game may differ, in my experience, trusting to fortune is a very quick and simple way to lose ships. Home One’s guaranteed Accuracy result for friendly ships’ attacks is just the edge you might need in a sustained firefight. Defiance’s extra die might simply come up blank.

Alternatively, just use weighted dice. I hear that works pretty well.


5 – Never mind the Lists, just go straight at ’em!

After one particularly painful defeat, I asked my opponent for his opinions on where I went wrong and what I should’ve done better. He immediately picked up my fleet list and began to point out the issues with it – despite the fact that the issues he pointed out had no bearing on the game we had just played. To my despair, he had no comment on the way in which I had deployed, or approached, or activated – his only insight on the game was though the medium of fleet building.

This was… unsatisfactory to me. Which is why the fifth and final lesson has no view on winning games. Rather, it’s about succeeding at the most important thing – enjoying yourself.

One of my favourite aspects of Armada is theory-crafting. Of approaching the game academically, running calculations, even simulations, discussing tactics with your friends and people who live on internet forums. And here, list-building is one of the biggest elements of discussion.

victory

But my most favourite aspect of Armada is playing the game itself. Setting your ships on the correct trajectories, planning two, three turns in advance, second-guessing your opponent, planning responses to his counters, counters to his tactics. The game comes alive in the thick of the battle, turn three, maybe four, ships nose-to-nose, filling the void of space with missiles and laser bolts. The thrill of that decisive activation, that critical moment, that decision you make and then instantly regret.

That’s why I love the game. It’s why I play. It’s how I play – aggressive, direct, brutal.

But that may not be how you play the game, and that’s fine too. The player above, who viewed the game through fleet lists – that’s how he plays, that’s what he enjoys: crafting powerful lists with cunning synergies is his game.

My point is… Play the game you want to play. Make it fit your style. If you’re less fussed about manoeuvres and tactics, pick a slower, sturdier fleet with a broad reach, where you can really maximise those upgrades. Everyone might be talking about “Rhymerballs” and how the fighter game can’t be ignored – if you don’t like the fighter game, ignore it. Do your thing. Find a way to make it work the way you want it to work. There’s always a way.

If you’re going to play competitively, you will have to take some amount of care to have an effective fleet list. But it’s better to ensure that there aren’t glaring contradictions – such as Ordnance Experts on an Assault Frigate – than to try and finely hone your fleet to the maximum possible efficiency, when all you really want to do is fly your ships around the board.


If I’ve achieved my objective, then this will have proven somewhat helpful to a few Admirals out there who are reading it.

Coming soon – my own take on cracking Admiral Ackbar and the terror he brings. Watch this space.

 

 

Angry Space Triangles: Imperial Brutality

Concluding my review of the ships so far featured in Star Wars: Armada, this is a look at the vessels of the Imperial fleet. Characterised by sturdiness, brutal forward armaments and unrelenting aggression, the Imperial fleet certainly has a lot of character – as does each individual ship within it.

This article is intended to serve as a counterpart to my summary of the Rebel fleet, however the Imperials are the faction I have spent the most time playing as, and have by far the greater thematic appeal to me, so I’m likely to be a lot more emotive as I go through each ship. All I can say in my defense is that I’m a man of passion.

And, as always, this is all based on my participation in a series of tournaments around the UK – there’s an awful lot to this game, and to each ship, so I’m just hoping to pass on the insights I gleaned from my own limited experience.


The Raider-Class Corvette

raider

I have already covered my feelings on the Raider to some depth, so I will try and keep this brief. In short, the Raider is a great utility vessel, but you have to know its limits. I rarely saw any Raiders included in other Imperial fleets, and when I did they were typically in line with my own take on them – as a versatile instrument, as a picket vessel, as an extra activation, or just as eye candy.

The simple matter is that I had tremendous fun flying the Raider. I didn’t get too sad when it was blown up and I loved blasting it around the engagement zone, zapping fighters and being a nuisance. I also enjoyed the rare occasions where I was facing a Raider – it was too potent to be ignored, too small to warrant a significant portion of my attention; it simply added to the challenge of facing an enemy fleet. For me, it also makes fleets feel much more rounded – like actual real-world navies, with different classes of vessel, rather than just one or two particularly powerful varieties.


The Gladiator-Class Star Destroyer

gladiator

There’s little I can say about the Gladiator that would surprise even rookie Armada players. The ship is ubiquitous in Imperial fleets – indeed, I can’t recall a single Imperial fleet out of the twelve that I saw that lacked a Gladiator – it’s a powerful, tough little ship that consistently pulls its weight.

The Gladiator is a schoolyard bully. In each game I witnessed or took part in it was fantastic at beating down other small-based ships with its punishing combination of broadsides and nasty frontal arc.  However, against anything big, the Gladiator had to gang up with other bullies – or else land one punch before running away like a coward. And I really like the fact that it has this amount of character.

Obviously, if you have one Gladiator in your fleet then it’s going to be the Demolisher – the ability to fire after moving is absurdly useful. However, even without the title, the basic Gladiator is still an incredible ship. It can easily set up double-arcs due to its wide broadsides and small base, and although it will quickly fall to sustained fire, it will sustain a solid beating at long range whilst it gets into position.

I used my non-Demolisher Gladiator as my flagship for Admiral Screed, and that’s not a decision I regret. By building redundancy into my list – an Imperial-class that doesn’t rely on critical effects, Ordnance Experts on my Demolisher – I was able to use my flagship aggressively without worrying too much about it taking fire. This meant that I could lose either my flagship, my Demolisher or my Imperial-class Relentless and still have two very powerful ships on the board. If I lost more than that, then the game was likely decided anyway.


The Victory-class Star Destroyer

victory

The Victory is an aged warship. Very aged. I personally felt the Victory-class was obsolete before Wave 1 of Armada was even released, and since Wave 2, with the Imperial-class, my disdain for the Victory-class is greater than ever. In truth, it can be an effective carrier, if that’s how you choose to live your life. But its limited manoeuvrability and speed leave me with little faith in its ability to perform in ship-to-ship combat.

My own opinions seemed shared at least a little by the other tournament players – the Victory was a rare sight across the Imperial fleets, and where it was present I rarely saw it having as big an impact on the game as other vessels in the same list. But that was just as likely due to my prejudice as to the ship’s performance.

The simple truth was that whenever I saw a Victory activating, I was always thinking, “That’s great – but imagine what it would be doing if it was an Imperial instead…” In my very first tournament game I faced two Victorys, and they managed to put up a fight – but I had foolishly chosen “Contested Outpost” as the objective, allowing them to sit near-stationary on the outpost in question, forcing me to attack them. Had they been forced to move positions themselves, things might have been different.

I want to like the Victory– it’s a great-looking ship, but it has too many limitations. It has a maximum Speed of 2, much like the Rebel MC80, but the MC80 has an extra “click” of turning at Speed 2, and has the ability to make itself even more manoeuvrable and speedy by using a Nav Team or Engine Techs. The Victory has no ability to account for its weakness in this regard, beyond simply being tough and having a decent, but not exceptional, frontal arc.


The Imperial-Class Star Destroyer

imperial

The Imperial-class is the jewel in the crown of the Imperial fleet. It’s huge – I mean, it really is enormous – it’s imposing, it’s completely iconic and fantastic fun to include in a fleet. It’s fast and manoeuvrable enough to enjoy the use of daring tactics and strategies, it kicks out buckets of damage and it can endure plenty more. It’s everything it should be, all in a single, very bulky package.

At least one Imperial-class Star Destroyer featured in most of the Imperial fleets in play, and they were consistently brutal. By no stretch are they unbeatable or overpowered, however – I saw many valiant ships taken down, either by Ackbar-fueled broadsides, close-up Demolisher barrages and on more than one occasion other Imperial-class Star Destroyers.

I think, though, the real danger of the Imperial is the fear factor. When one of those beasts starts cruising towards your fleet at Speed 3, it tends to draw your attention quite effectively away from all of the other dangerous ships that are also approaching you at high speed – even ships like Demolisher. Even when you have an Imperial-class in your own fleet, you can lose focus when you see another deploying opposite.

In my own games, I was surprised to see that it was rare for my own vessel, the Relentless, to inflict the killer blow. Whilst she certainly put a lot of hurt on enemy vessels, her main role was consistently to endure as much punishment as possible whilst my Gladiators carried out the bulk of the demolition work. Indeed, this was a theme I saw across multiple games – where the burden of damage-dealing fell to the smaller ships, whilst the Imperial made for a very large, very expensive bullet magnet.

However it’s used, the Imperial-class is the rightful centrepiece of any Imperial force. You certainly don’t need one to build a viable list, but you will never regret adding one to the fleet.


The Imperial ships appeal to me as a player as I really enjoy fast, aggressive ship-focused tactics based around getting right into your opponent’s comfort zone and going to town on their poor vessels. Whatever your play style, though, the natural strengths and character of Imperial vessels means you’re going to be getting into nasty scraps with opposing fleets on a regular basis.

I definitely prefer commanding Imperials to Rebels, but I’m trying new Rebel lists to develop my palate. And that’s one of the great things about Armada – there’s so much to the game that you can always find new avenues of exploration and experimentation.

 

Angry Space Triangles: Rebel Ships of the Line

Over eleven competitive Armada games, I went up against a few different fleets of varying composition. As part of a series of articles, I’m going to have a look at what I experienced across those games, and offer my own brand of insight.

First up I’m going to have a look at the Rebel ships of Star Wars: Armada, and how I saw each one performing. Your own experiences may well differ, and any opinion I offer should not be viewed as a statement of quality of the ship itself – just a review of how a specific type of ship performed in the games I played.

rebel fleet.png

There is already some great analysis on the web of technical things like dice probabilities, so I’ll not venture too far into this territory, instead focusing on the more qualitative elements of each vessel. I’m generally a “play-by-gut” player – useful because my gut is of an extraordinary size – so my take on matters is usually a lot less logical and rational than some of the more academic theorists.


The Nebulon-B Frigate

nebulon b

I like the Nebulon-B – the abstract design, the unusual layout of shields, fire arcs and defense tokens. However, I seem to be in a minority, as I did not once face a single Nebulon-B across four tournaments, nor did I see one played.

I can only imagine that this is because it doesn’t fly comfortably alongside other Rebel vessels. The Nebulon-B has a powerful, narrow forward arc that requires it to face the enemy, out of formation with the Rebellion’s main combat ships. When you’re playing competitively, you need to make sure that your fleet is working as a single machine – so the Nebulon-B just doesn’t have a place, much to my sadness.


 

The CR90 Corellian Corvette

Tantive_IV_box_art

The first Star Wars ship to ever be seen by audiences, the CR90 is nearly as iconic as the X-Wing, the Death Star, the Star Destroyer, even the Millenium Falcon. In Armada, the Corvette is a fast, nimble vessel that, much like the Nebulon-B, was hugely under-represented in the games I witnessed. I never faced one personally, and I think I maybe saw one in a match at Lost Ark Games, although it seemed to mostly have the role of being an objective-focused vessel.

The CR90 is a fine vessel, I always thought, but it doesn’t lend itself quite so well to the broadside game as the next few ships – although a horde of the buggers led by Admiral Ackbar could be something scary.


The MC30C Frigate

mc30c

The MC30C is a powerful, mercurial, fragile heavy-hitter. I personally love how imbalanced it feels compared to other, more rounded vessels. I only faced a handful in my games, and didn’t see many more in play.

Based on my experience, the MC30C is too fragile. It relies on its Redirects for its main source of damage reduction – and my reliance on Assault Concussion Missiles is a natural nemesis to such defenses.

The MC30C also has a powerful damage potential, however I found that I was hitting them too hard for them to last long enough to deliver those brutal Black-dice side batteries in a meaningful way. The fact that in both of the games I faced them they were led by Admiral Ackbar in slow-moving fleets leads me to believe that they need to keep the pace up to maintain effectiveness. I intend to try them out myself using a “shock-and-awe” strategy, rushing in with overwhelming firepower before the opponent has the chance to react.


The Mk. II Assault Frigate

assault frig

The Assault Frigate has no alibi, it is U. G. L. Y. ugly, and I personally hate its bulbous aesthetic – the MC80 and the MC30C are curvy, they are streamlined and organic. The Assault Frigate looks like a failed experiment that ought to be stored in a murky tank in a mad scientist’s lair. It looks like an attempt to cross-breed a porpoise with John Candy. It looks like a depressed puffer fish trying to pleasure itself with a Nebulon-B, but in a bad way.

However, it performs very well. In every game I played against Rebels bar one, I faced at least two Assault Frigates, and it’s just a solid all-rounder. With all three defense tokens available, it can take a pounding, and it can kick out a fierce amount of firepower when it needs to. It will rarely finish a ship with a single barrage, but it’s similarly unlikely to ever be finished by a single barrage.

The Assault Frigate is a natural choice for Ackbar-led fleets, but it also lends itself well to Mon Mothma lists due to its Evade token. With a Command value of 3, it works nicely with Garm Bel Iblis, and it’s as viable as any other vessel with the likes of General Dodonna or General Rieekan.

I really enjoy facing Assault Frigates as they present a good challenge without being over-powered, and in terms of play-style they’re very thematic. They feel like the natural foil to the likes of the Victory– and Imperial– class Star Destroyers, as well as being slightly more generalist counterparts to the Gladiator.

I just wish they looked more attractive than a hippopotamus foetus suffering an allergic reaction to a bee-sting.


MC80 Cruiser

home one

The MC80 – or Home One – is currently the crown in the Rebel fleet. Big, heavy, tough, powerful, and great fun to fly against. It presents a high-value target with a terrifying but specific area of threat – or danger zone – out of its side arcs. Indeed, taking your ships right into this danger zone is incredibly stressful, even for something as beefy as the Imperial-class Star Destroyer.

But the reach of the MC80 is limited – it has a specific but sizable front arc, out of which its armament is barely half that of its broadsides. And it was this front arc that I was forced to exploit each time I faced an MC80 – which was every game in which I faced Rebels, except two. Frequently the Rebel player would be left with a difficult choice – over whether to take advantage of Admiral Ackbar to boost the MC80‘s side-arcs, or to lose that benefit to also fire out of the much-weaker front arc, which was where I had positioned the bulk of my fleet.

The MC80‘s lack of Gunnery Teams (as it has no Weapon Team upgrade slot) was always a relief to me, as it meant that I only ever had to endure a single barrage of fire from it. This allowed me to red-line-overload the MC80 by flying multiple targets into the same danger zone. When faced with a choice between my flagship Gladiator, or my Imperial-class, both of which can survive a single barrage, my opponents were often at something of a loss over which target to prioritise.

I genuinely wonder if the MC80 is a worthy addition to an Admiral Ackbar-led fleet. Whilst certainly a powerful vessel, its lack of Gunnery Teams really does limit its effectiveness – since Ackbar‘s benefit limits a ship’s attacks to its side arcs only, this means the MC80 will realistically only be making one attack per turn – whilst the similarly powerful Imperial-class gets to double the use of its brutal forward arc.

Another key weakness that I found in the MC80 was its reliance on Redirecting damage – but much like the MC30C, this was largely due to my use of Assault Concussion Missiles. Whilst the MC80 is covered in heavy shields, it lacks enough hull strength to survive the kind of concentrated fire which an Imperial-class might shrug off. After a few collisions, an MC80 has already lost 25% of its structural integrity – and large-based ships are very prone to collisions.

I would be very interested to see the MC80 flown as a support and command ship instead. The Rebel fleet has access to a raft of upgrades and titles that boost the performance of friendly vessels, compared to the Imperial fleet’s much more individualistic approach. I think a Mon Mothma-led fleet with an MC80 with Projection ExpertsRedundant Shields, an escorting Nebulon-B with the Redemmption title, and some aggressive MC30Cs for the heavy-hitting, could be a very dangerous prospect indeed.


Home_One_Endor

Well, that’s the Rebel fleet. My experience against Rebels was almost exclusively against Admiral Ackbar, with the exception of Stephen at Shadow Games. I would have loved to see a bit more variety in the type of Rebel fleets I faced – certainly there was plenty of variety in Imperial fleets. However, at a competitive level players will naturally gravitate to the most effective means of playing the game – and Ackbar-led fleets are very effective.

To try to counter this in the future, I already have plans in the works for a guide on beating Ackbar through tactics and positioning – watch this space…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angry Space Triangles: Tiny Space Triangles

There’s one little tiny ship in the Imperial roster that you could miss if you blinked. It’s cute, it’s fast, it’s adorable and it’s deadly. It is the Raider-class corvette, and I love it.

raider-swoon
*Swoon*

In the tournament games I played, the Raider did one of two things: very little, or win the game. When I was going up against other Imperial lists, the Raider was just too fragile to engage properly – and sadly, in those games, there were few objectives for the Raider to chase. But against Rebel fleets, the Raider‘s ability to cross the battlezone in two turns and then park itself in front of a big line of ships is invaluable.

The Raider is able to slam into the front of a big heavy Mon Calamari Assault Cruiser and stop the enemy beast in its tracks, pinning it in place for my heavy hitters to follow up. This will also precede a collision, which is one automatic damage card on a large enemy ship that has too few hull points already.

The Raider will survive a shot from the forward arc of any Rebel vessel, meaning next turn, you ought to be able to ram with it again – except this time, since it’s already in position, it can fire before it does so. The Raider has a potent frontal arc – the cheaper version, the Raider-I, has two black dice and two blue dice facing forwards. That’s roughly equivalent to the frontal arc of a Gladiator at close range, and, with a “Concentrate Fire” command, the Raider can unleash a volley as powerful as the broadside of a Rebel MC30C Torpedo Frigate. That’s pretty scary – especially with Ordnance Experts, which allow you to re-roll any black dice.

In fact, as I look back at my previous games, I actually regret not upgrading my Raider with Assault Concussion Missiles – with some clever positioning, I could unleash a more-or-less guaranteed splash damage effect from both the front and the side arc – that’s two points of shields dropped automatically from the broadsides of the unfortunate Rebel ship, plenty of softening up for my Heavy Turbolaser Turret-equipped Imperial-class Star Destroyer.

raider-boom
*BOOM*

Another key benefit to the Raider is it’s manoeuvrability. At high speeds, with a “Navigate” command, it can turn ninety degrees. If it were escorting a larger, slower ship, then at Speed 2 it can also turn ninety degrees in a single manoeuvre, even without a “Navigate” command. That’s the type of flying you normally see in a game of X-Wing.

The Raider is built as a natural Anti-Air platform, the only ship with two black anti-squadron dice in either faction. This is a brutal deterrent to enemy fighters – with Ordnance Experts, it can reliably put two points of damage on every enemy squadron in range. Sadly, I didn’t get to try out these abilities too much during the games I played, as I faced few fighter-heavy fleets, but I intend to test the Raider‘s anti-squadron potential in future games as best I can.

The final use of the Raider that interests me is surprisingly not it’s capacity as an Overload Pulse delivery vehicle, but rather as an Objective-focused ship. If you’re playing “Most Wanted” or “Advanced Gunnery”, the Raider will concede hardly any benefit to your opponent upon its destruction due to its low cost. When the Objective is based around positioning, the Raider has the speed and turning circle to hoover up tokens or seek out rear fire-arcs, running rings around bigger, slower ships.

The key failing of the Raider is its survivability. With only a Brace and two Evades, at close range this vessel will not take much of a pounding, so avoiding those primary arcs is key. And with an Engineering value of only 2, you won’t be recovering much hull any time soon, especially given its limited Command Token capacity. Even at long range, dedicated fire can put a major dent in a Raider, and it has no defensive retrofit options – if your Brace token gets knocked out by an Accuracy result, your options are nil.

That being said, the ship is 44 points – or 48 for the more expensive version, if that’s how you choose to live your life. For the benefit of an extra activation, a credible counter to swarms of squadrons and the ability to completely neuter Rebel gun lines, that’s a great deal. Plus, it’s not too painful when you inevitably lose the poor little ship – it can do its job, and then nobly sacrifice itself for the sake of Order across the Galaxy.

Angry Space Triangles: The Second Weekend

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.

lost ark 2
Mere moments before my fleet’s destruction.

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.

lost ark 5
One hell of a swarm.

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.

lost ark 4
The brilliant speed and manoeuvrability of the Raider on display.

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 BatteriesHeavy 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 InstigatorDemolisher 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.

escape1
You may not be able to tell from this angle, but that Star Destroyer is only inside two enemy fire arcs. Picture by James, the tournament organiser.

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 FrigatesInstigator 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.

in action
A battle from a different day, but still a great shot.

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.

 

 

 

Angry Space Triangles: Stay On Target

With tomorrow’s tournament being a Store Championship, I need to make sure I’m on top form. I’ve been on a rigorous protein diet over the last week (four-cheese pizzas) with a lot of metabolism-boosting supplements (Ben & Jerry’s, one pint at a time). I also need to make sure that I have learned from my previous mistakes. Here’s a few that I’ve made in the past – if I ever need to prove my innocence, the following should serve as evidence that I’m incapable of anything particularly nefarious.

in action


1 – Flip Those Dials

At the start of every ship’s activation, I need flip its top-most command dial face-up, revealing the command. This is a step that I, and many of my opponents, have occasionally skipped. The truth is, when I know it’s a Navigation and I don’t need to use it this turn, my excitement to roll some dice often takes priority.

Of course, the last game I played, I consistently forgot to place my Raider‘s dial face-down in the first place. Not sure how I managed that one, but it happened most turns. I must be getting senile.


2 – Do the Math

I have a nasty habit of making gut reactions, rather than stepping back and thinking it through. It definitely cost me one game last weekend, and has probably cost me a few more. Although there are time limits to tournament rounds, 135 minutes is more than enough time to step back, take a breath, and actually think about what it is I need to do to win – whilst remembering to avoid slow-play.

I Will Not lose another Imperial-class Star Destroyer because I didn’t take ten seconds to do the math at the critical moment. I don’t want to be a dickhead, do I?


3 – Remember the Rules

Five days ago I managed to forget that I had a second shot with my Relentless, a mistake that almost certainly made the game considerably worse for me. I have spent Navigation commands to slow my vessels down, but forgotten to change their speed dials. It’s possible that I need a physical checklist to run through for each ship activation, because honestly the things I forget or skip past in a turn make me look like a dribbling idiot.


4 – Count those Cards

Remembering a raft of special rules can be tricky for lots of people. Fortunately, Fantasy Flight Games provide handy little upgrade cards to remind you of all of the special things you can do. Unfortunately, I’m still dumb enough to forget even those – and the fact that my SW-7 Ion Batteries would’ve done another two damage is as useless as a marzipan dildo if I only realise it ten minutes after I made the bloody attack.

Same goes for damage cards – ruthlessly enforce both my own and my opponent’s Critical Damage effects, lest I become a gurning wanker.


5 – Stay On Target

Two of the big games I won last Sunday were only won because I remembered my objectives. I didn’t get sidetracked by simply trying to destroy the enemy fleet (although that played a big part, of course). If you’re playing ‘Opening Salvo’, you need to minimise the damage to your own fleet. ‘Contested Outpost’? Remember to stay within range of the fuckin’ station.

Really, this is basic stuff – but when I’m tired, and excited, and anxious, I still find a way to struggle with even the basics. I’m not a clever carrot.


6 – It’s a Game

I love playing Armada, I really do. And it’s important that I don’t stop loving it because I got caught up in winning, or wound myself up because I made yet another embarrassing mistake (“embarrassing mistake” happens to be my Dad’s nickname for me). I’ve enjoyed 90% of the games I’ve played – and I’ve enjoyed 100% of the games I’ve played since Wave 1 was released.

The ultimate objective of Armada isn’t to destroy enemy fleets or dodge mines – it’s to enjoy the entire process of playing. So far, I’ve stayed on the right side of that. I need to make sure I continue to do so. And not turn into a Twat.

Angry Space Triangles Guest Article: Stick ‘em With the Pointy End – An Armada Newbies’ First Tournament Experience

A guest article from my friend Sam, who attended one of last weekend’s tournaments with James and I. I’ll offer no unnecessary introduction, so take it away, Sam…


Looking around my room it is safe to say that I have something of an addiction to miniatures games. My PC monitor is surrounded by a crowd of X-Wings, E-Wings and TIE Interceptors, and my book collection has now been boxed and put in the loft to make room for Leman Russ battle tanks and battlegroups of UNSC Heavy Cruisers. My fondest memories of university are of being part of Coventry’s awesome Games Workshop community, or of trucking off to Warwick games club on Friday evening to play huge games of Apocalypse.

As an old Battlefleet Gothic player, it was perhaps inevitable that Fantasy Flight Games’ second Star Wars offering, Armada, would end up in my collection. When one of my friends excitedly messaged me on Facebook with “DUDE! Look at this! There’s a new Star Wars game with STAR DESTROYERS! You don’t even need to paint the models!” it took all of 30 seconds for me to have a starter set on the way from Amazon. When I finally got my hands on the game I was astounded by the size and detail of the miniatures, and excitedly pored over the rules.

Unfortunately there’s a catch. I live in the middle of buttfuck nowhere, as in REALLY the middle of buttfuck nowhere. Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire are a big black hole in the miniatures gaming world. One peek at the Armada players map on Facebook shows a good 50 miles of sweet FA around my own location. As a result, by the time last week rolled around, I had managed a piddly three games. But then an old friend from Coventry, Jon, asked me if I would like to go with him and a friend to an Armada tournament. With my last game being shortly after the release of wave 2 I jumped at the chance to, well, actually play the bloody game.

I put together a list for my favourite faction, the Imperial Navy, and headed off to Rugby’s Shadow Games, hopeful that my inexperience would not lead to me being soundly thrashed like a rambunctious Victorian boy in a Catholic nunnery.


 

My list – Battlegroup Relentless

Imperial I Star Destroyer – Admiral Screed, Gunnery Team, Relentless – 146 points

Gladiator I Star Destroyer – Assault Concussion Missiles, Demolisher – 73 points

Gladiator I Star Destroyer – Assault Concussion Missiles – 63 points

Raider II Corvette – Overload Pulse – 56 points

Raider II Corvette – Overload Pulse – 56 points

Fleet Total: 394

Objectives: Most Wanted, Hyperspace Assault, Intel Sweep

My logic behind this list was two-fold. Screed is probably the most reliable Imperial Admiral when combined with every Imperial player’s favourite ship, the Gladiator, reliably procing its Assault Concussion Missiles. Similarly, Screed can reliably proc Overload Pulse. Pair Overload Pulse with the ISD plus Avenger title… Well, to slightly paraphrase Dr Thrax from C&C Generals “Aah general, now you cannot discard your defence tokens, EVEN IF YOU WANTED TO!”

However, I picked Avenger over Relentless so that I could maintain a healthy initiative bid. Relentless, while not as synergizing with this list as Avenger, did allow me to be more reactive by reducing my command value to 2.

The choice to include raiders was also twofold. Firstly, they are fast and when combined with navigate commands can pull off some utterly bullshit maneuvers that make even Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson in The Fast and Furious look like fucking rank amateurs next to the Raider’s awesome drifts. This would keep me covered in the event of an Intel Sweep mission. Secondly, Raider II’s get an Ion Cannon slot and thus Overload Pulse, making for a cheap Overload Pulse buggy.

My logic was that the Raider could get in and steal a ship’s ability to defend itself and run off again… Kinda like a Slough chav running in and stealing an old lady’s purse before running off again and hurling poorly constructed sentences over its shoulder, all while thinking it’s the hardest man to ever live. Fucking chavs. The ISD was there to do what ISDs do best: remove things from this plane of existence. Simple, really.


 

The Matches Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Embrace My Role As A Baby Harp Seal Being Clubbed To Death By A Tribe Of Eskimos

Now I’ll preface this by saying that I knew I would not be walking out a winner, or indeed having any real standing at all. I came to play Star Wars Armada and learn more about the game, and that’s exactly what I did, and I had a helluva lot of fun doing it. My ships also blew up. A lot.


 

Match 1 – Battlegroup Relentless vs Home One and Battle Guppies

My first match was against a chap named Paul, who was fielding a style of list that I had feared facing before arriving at the tourney. His list consisted of an MC80 with Admiral Ackbar that was tanked to crap with Redundant Shields. The MC80 was accompanied by two Mk II Assault Frigates, each with Enhanced Armament if I recall. I had initiative and erroneously chose second player, a mistake that would bite me in the ass again in match two. For some reason I thought picking to be second player was the best way to play the game, no idea why. I had five activations but was throwing away that advantage.

Paul selected ‘Most Wanted’ from my list of objectives, so I nominated my ISD and one of his Assault Frigates as the objective ships. I didn’t want to nominate the MC80 as an objective ship as I was not confident I could break through its defences before it took me to pieces. The deployment was roughly as follows (PH43R MY l33T MAD PAINT SKILLZ). Objective ships have a yellow dot.

game1

My intention was to have the raiders swing wide, cross the “T” of the frigates and Overload Pulse the objective ship, by which point my Gladiators would have closed in and would be able to pummel it. The ISD was hopefully to take attention off the Gladiators and to also dish out some serious hurt to the Assault Frigates or to tie up Ackbar.

The first two turns consisted primarily of embracing my inner Nelson and closing the distance. On turn 3 our forces met, and things went very south very quickly. Ackbar puts out an obscene amount of dice. Paul’s first shot from one of his Assault Frigates put a Gladiator into hull and his second activation saw that Gladiator reduced to a smoldering hulk. Neither of my Glads were in range to shoot back. Meanwhile the Raiders ‘Vin Diesel’ and ‘Dwayne Johnson’ on the right flank were now closing in on the frigates, hurtling in behind them to hopefully unload their Overload Pulses. Ackbar laughed at this plan in turn 4 and I had both Corvettes one-shotted by the Assault Frigates. Welp.

The remaining turn saw the ISD trying and utterly failing to break through the MC80’s defences, and after two turns of MC80 broadsides, the barrage of turbolaser and ion cannon fire overcame the Relentless. With a dreadful shudder, the Star Destroyer began to roll over as it’s maneuvering thrusters failed and a series of internal explosions ripped through bulkheads and engine assemblies, turning the one-proud flagship into a radioactive debris field.

End result: Total Hell Death, 400-0 10-0 victory to Snackbar and the Rebel scum.

My tournament debut was NOT going well. I had been utterly humbled by this list and realized in that moment that in terms of player skill I was totally outclassed. I also learned just how deadly Ackbar could be. In retrospect my list probably had no chance of victory here. I had to spend too long at ranges where the Rebel fleet could pound me with impunity and I just could not fire back due to the short ranged nature of my ships. In terms of a pure gunfight this Rebel list is dominant, and the only real weakness I can see it having would be carriers.


 

Match 2 – Battlegroup Relentless vs Admiral Motti and the Victorys of Doom

This match I felt far more confident, as I was facing what I considered to be a roughly equal force in terms of direct firepower. My opponent had two Victory II class Star Destroyers, ships that are widely considered to be bad and outclassed. He had also included the Demolisher, complete with ACMs and Engine Techs. His Admiral, Motti, was on a highly upgraded VSD and was accompanied by nine TIE Fighter squadrons.

Again I had initiative and again I chose to go second for some reason. I recall reading somewhere that second player was always preferable because your opponent picks from your objectives, but I now know this to NOT be the case. My opponent Craig picked Hyperspace Assault as his objective and I thus elected to keep Demolisher in reserve to appear when needed. Following ship deployment I placed my three warp in beacons directly in between our fleets, the hope being to catch him in a trap when our fleets merged. Deployment was as follows:

game2

The blue dots on the map are my warp-in beacons and the two ships with yellow dots are the flagships. Here I placed my ISD and remaining Gladiator close together, with a Raider on each flank. I was hoping to envelop his fleet with the Raiders while closing with the ISD and remaining Gladiator. When our fleets merged, Demolisher would appear behind his lines and get tasty rear arc shots.

The first two turns were closing the distance, myself advancing at flank speed while Craig perhaps wisely dropped down to speed 1 and awaited my arrival. He knew he could not afford to charge over my beacons and have my Demolisher appear uncontested. My right Raider flanked right wide, at what I thought was a safe distance. My left Raider flanked straight up the board to come in from my opponent’s edge of the board. By turn 3 the first combat occurred. His Demolisher complete with Engine Techs sped down the right edge of the board to catch my Raider at close range. The results of this exchange are kind of obvious. First blood to Craig.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the board we had our first long range exchanges, with a few shield points being lost on both sides but otherwise no significant damage. But here I made a terrible mistake. I warped in Demolisher, acutely aware that my forces already on the board were outgunned. Demolisher landed directly off Motti’s right flank, but unfortunately some stupid positioning on my part left the Demolisher’s rear arc JUST exposed to the frontal arc of the second Vic II.

Craig opened turn 4 with his trailing Victory, immediately punishing my mistake by removing Demolisher’s aft and port shields. My Demolisher activation followed next, and laid some serious smack down on Motti, breaking through his shields and procing ACMs to remove his remaining forward shield. Craig activated Motti now however, and slapped Demolisher down. Oh dear. My second activation was my ISD, which now had a clear shot on Motti’s Victory. In a hail of turbolaser and missile fire, Screed’s flagship decimated Motti’s Victory, high-powered energy bolts ripping through exposed armour and exposing entire sections of the Victory to hard vacuum.

His flagship reduced to a crippled, venting hulk, Motti was no more. Unfortunately my movement now resulted in ‘The Imperial Kiss’, the ISD and Victory slamming into one another and taking damage. Our remaining activations for turn 4 were inconsequential, I stupidly took asteroid damage on a Raider, while Craig’s Demolisher was still returning to the fight from its deletion of my other Raider.

Turn 5 opened with me hoping that I could destroy the second Victory before Craig’s Demolisher could get back into range. This was not to be. A squadron activation by the remaining Victory saw my ISD take a full 3 points of damage from squadrons, while it’s shooting destroyed my last Raider and punched through my ISD’s forward shields. With Demolisher now one move away from being in range, I knew that the writing was on the wall. Turn 6 opened with the Victory dropping my ISD down to 4 remaining hull points, and the final squadron activation saw the horde of TIE fighters finally destroy my flagship.

End margin of victory –250.

This match hinged on my being smart with Demolisher, and I was not smart. To compound matters I was realizing just how badly taking two 56 point raiders was crippling my fleet. To proc their Overload Pulses, the Raiders would have to close to point-blank range to have the black die to expend to guarantee an Overload Pulse proc with screed. At this range Raiders die very quickly, their two evade tokens useless. I was happy that I had killed Motti’s flagship, as it meant I had at least done SOMETHING as opposed to my first game. I also learned just how dangerous the Demolisher is with Engine Techs. Watching that thing shoot up the board and catch my Raider was a very rude shock.


 

Match 3 – Battlegroup Relentless vs Imperial Fury

My final match was against one of the guys I had come to the tournament with, a chap named James. James and Jon had both played against each other a lot, and while I was unsure of my previous opponent’s skill level I knew James was a good player and thus my feelings about this match were bleak. James’ list was horrible. An Imperial-II Star Destroyer backed up by THREE Gladiators with Screed left me feeling like a prison bitch sadly waiting for a painful ass fucking. At this point I decided to throw any caution to the wind. I was going to go in, and I was going to kill something and die gloriously. In my previous match I had been very cautious with my Raiders, and yet had still lost them, so I thought I might as well just send them straight in with the rest of the fleet, no silly flanking maneuvers.

game3

In this final game I again had initiative but decided to go as first player, and picked James’ ‘Opening Salvo’ objective. We both deployed our fleets slightly left of the centre of our deployment zones, and advanced on one another very quickly. My fleet advanced tightly, with Raiders on each flank, with James also keeping a tight formation as we closed. On turn 2 I was forced to send my rightmost Raider wide to avoid a pointless death against his two Gladiators, which resulted in this Raider being out of the game for all intents and purposes. On turn 2 we also had first contact, with my fleet managing to cripple and then destroy James’ lone Gladiator that had moved slightly ahead of its comrades. I took a pounding in return however, with my two Gladiators ultimately succumbing to James’ ISD II and Gladiators by the end of turn 4. Meanwhile, my leftmost Raider managed to get in and Overload Pulse James’ flagship, with both ISDs hammering away at one another.

In turn 4 we had another ‘Imperial Kiss’ as the two flagships slammed into one another, and with both being at speed 2 were unable to free themselves for the remainder of the game. My Raider’s Overload Pulse proved to be critical, as my Relentless finally pounded his into scrap, but not without taking heavy damage, only two hit points remaining including two criticals. By some stroke of luck I managed to avoid losing my crippled ISD in the closing part of turn 4, as both of James’ remaining Gladiators had gone wide after killing mine and could not close to range.

Following some bad rolling from his TIE squadrons, we entered Turn 5 with my ISD still intact along with both Raiders, one however still being hopelessly out of position. To make matters worse both of James’ speed 3 Glads were now closing on the rear arc of my speed 2 ISD and all I could hope for was to run. It was not to be. An excellent Double Hit/Double Hit/Hit roll from Demolisher’s forward armament landed the killing blow on my flagship and it was reduced to scrap metal. With James’ ships having no hope of catching Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson zipping around at speed 4 we called the game there.

Final MOV -50 with a 6-4 victory for James.

I was honestly surprised I managed such a close defeat considering my previous two matches, and I won’t be arrogant enough to claim it was totally down to developing skill on my part. By the point of the third match I was beginning to tire and James was still wrestling a whiskey-induced hangover which he later credited with being the reason he hadn’t done well in his first game. James was very gracious and helped me out several times when I forgot to take actions or made rules mistakes. I was continually forgetting to flip up my command dials by this point and once forgot to take a second shot with Demolisher after moving, but James allowed all these mistakes on my part. This match again proved to me that the Raiders just weren’t a good investment for a player of my skill level, even though it was the first match I had actually used them as I had originally intended!


 

Closing Thoughts

Overall I had a lot of fun attending the tournament and feel like it has helped me learn a hell of a lot about the game. Armada is a game that is very easy to get into, but actually learning all its intricacies is a tough job. Coming from games like Battlefleet Gothic, one is always in the “move firsts shoot second” mindset, but in Armada it is the opposite. You really need to be thinking several turns ahead so that your movement in one turn sets you up for a shot in the next turn, which might seem obvious to any Armada player who has spent time with the game, but not to a player like myself. Similarly, I was beginning to realise just how much thought needs to go into my order of activations. By the end of my third game I was beginning to get a full grasp of the logic behind this. Having my Overload Pulse Raider activate last to get it right up to a target only to activate it first in the next round allowed me to cripple James’ ISD in the final game, and was the first time I actually used that part of my list as I had originally intended it.

Talking of the list, I have seen just how much thought I need to put into a list intended for competitive play. I initially thought that my two Raiders could win some games for me, being part of a one-two punch that would cripple enemy ships and allow me to easily dispatch them with my heavier vessels. As it was the Raiders were a poor choice for Overload Pulse, as I do not have the knowhow to use them effectively and they are just so fragile. I think that perhaps a list composed of several larger, heavier ships would be better for a person of my skill level, as I need ships that don’t punish me heavily for making a poor maneuver in the way that Raiders do. Perhaps three ISDs with Motti…

I have played against some cracking lists and this has helped me understand what I need to do with my own list, and to look at fleet building in a new light. Just because a ship can do a thing does not necessarily mean it should do a thing. I also learned a lot more about my preferred playstyle, and can now build a list that synergises with it.

Was going to a tournament with so little experience a good idea? Honestly I think it was. Playing casual games at home with friends is one thing, but in the tournament environment I got to play three games against opponents who all knew their stuff. The opportunity for learning in such an environment is just so much better than anything one can get playing a few casual games every couple of weeks. Yes I was defeated, terribly in my first game, but I improved markedly with each game and was able to directly carry the lessons I had learned from each game over into the next game. I feel that I am ready to try a second tournament with a new list and a new understanding of the game!

Now, can I justify £90 to run three ISDs…