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: This Is A Gun, Get In The Van – Wave 3 Pre-Analysis

A few weeks ago, Fantasy Flight Games treated us to the announcement of “Wave 3” of ‘Star Wars: Armada’ expansions. You’ll notice that there’s a single set of quotation marks around the term “Wave 3”, and that’s because adding more would have felt like self-indulgence.

The truth of the matter is that when the announcement dropped, I was… ambivalent. On the one hand, it was good to see ‘Armada’ getting a bit of development. On the other hand, the biggest announcement in a year for this amazing game was the addition of the Star Wars equivalent of haulage trucks. It’s tricky to go from the excitement of huge Star Destroyers and speedy frigates to the utilitarianism of a couple of vans with space walkie talkies.

Since then, however, we’ve not only had a new scenario and the announcement of Wave 4, but we’ve also had the full reveal articles of both Wave 3 expansions, giving us an insight into the array of options we’ll have with these bite-sized additions. The FFG articles do a pretty good job of showcasing what the new transport sets can do, but I wanted to take a look at them myself to see how I think they’ll fit into my own games of ‘Armada’.


The Ships

Using the term “ship” feels like exaggeration when referring to either of these vessels. They’re more like overweight fighters – too big to manoeuvre freely, too puny to participate in ship-to-ship combat. Hell, their armaments are actually weaker than the anti-ship capabilities of many fighter squadrons. And the “Flotilla” special rule, meaning these transports don’t inflict any damage upon collision, makes it almost impossible to use these vessels offensively. Indeed, without upgrades, they’re mostly just decorative activations.

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Defensively, they’re interesting. Put simply, you need four damage and one accuracy at short range in order to one-shot these things – plus an extra damage-dealing dice at medium and long range. If you want to go whaling, you’ll need things like Home One or H9 Turbolasers to avoid frustration, or those “Scatter” tokens are going to do your head in. In that regard, the new flotillas will at least have an impact on fleet selection – accuracy management will be much more important than it used to be.

It will be interesting to see how short-ranged, ordnance-heavy fleets such as my own perform in a flotilla-infested world – given that “Scatter” cancels all attack dice results, us knife-fighters won’t even get our lovely critical effects off, especially given the absence of accuracies on black dice.

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Having a look at their movement, they’ve got an interesting contrast going on. At Speed-3, the Gozantis can turn earlier but get fewer clicks overall. At Speed-2, the GR-75s handle better. I think I’d rather have the Gozanti’s tighter turns at high speeds, personally, but there’s not much in it. In either case, you shouldn’t have too much trouble keeping your flotillas in position with most of your existing fleets.

Visually – and aesthetics are important in a game like this – these expansions are hit-and-miss. I really like the design of the Gozantis, they look just Imperial enough, with their wedge-like silhouettes and boxy superstructures. The Rebel GR-75s, on the other hand, are a bit of a “meh” for me – they were intentionally designed to look nondescript and vulnerable for their role in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, and whilst they’ll definitely contribute to the “rag-tag” feel of Rebel fleets in a good way, on they’re own they’re definitely underwhelming. That being said, the lacklustre paintwork doesn’t particularly help.


The Generals and Their Officers

We’re not just getting space trucks with this Wave, we’re also getting new commanders.

General Tagge, the gruff-voiced naysayer from aboard the Death Star, is a brilliant addition to the Imperial roster. His fleet-wide ability to regain spent defense tokens is going to allow you to make the most of those valuable “Brace” tokens, but he will also act as a counter to Intel Officer-using opponents. It’ll be tricky to decide between him and Admiral Motti for a defensive fleet, but I think Tagge will win out for me – those Braces could account for much more than three extra damage.

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General Cracken is just neat. I’m gutted that he’s Rebel only – I could definitely make use of him with my Gladiators – but nonetheless, he’s good. Again, choosing between him and Mon Mothma will be tough, though Cracken is cheaper, and arguably more reliable at close range. I think Cracken will be a near-auto-include for MC30 fleets of the future.

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What’s really interesting about both of these new commanders is the symmetry between them. Both are Generals, both are very defensive, both are in the same price range, and both bring upgraded versions of abilities that already existed in the game as unique, 5-point Officer upgrades in the opposite faction. Tagge adopts Walex Blissex’s particular talents, whilst Cracken takes Admiral Montferrat’s strengths and applies them across the fleet.

It’s good to see more defensive options for the game, particularly as both of these Commanders work best with aggressive, daring strategies. Cracken lends himself to fast fleets moving in close for the kill, whilst Tagge requires you to be in the thick of things, spending tokens left, right and centre. These two leaders should go a way to adding a more aggressive edge to the game, which seems good to me.

We’re getting two new unique officers for each side, too. Agent Kallus will be a solid addition to Imperial Raiders – the ability to roll as many as three black dice against named squadrons is pretty neat, or two black dice and a blue to hope for that accuracy. I don’t see him being too popular on other ships, though.

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Toryn Farr is, for seven points, pretty bloody awesome. A single re-roll on a blue die is a small effect, but given it applies to everything in range, you’ve suddenly got A-Wings and X-Wings with the “Swarm” keyword, and the equivalent up to two “Concentrate Fire” tokens per ship. Plus, she hugely enhances every single ship’s anti-squadron armament. I can easily see Toryn as an auto-include on most Rebel fleets, especially those with a central command ship, such as Home One. Indeed, I can’t see many reasons against including her – she just makes everything better.


The Upgrades

The flotillas themselves really aren’t much on their own, even when led by one of the new commanders. Even as a Squadron platform, the cost of each flotilla is more than the cost of replacing the squadrons they can activate with “Rogue”-craft. However, all of the transport variants gain access to the “Offensive Retrofit” upgrade slot, meaning they can all take Expanded Hangar Bays or Boosted Comms if they so choose.

Then there’s the “Fleet Support” upgrades. These four upgrades have been covered in some depth already, so I’ll keep this quick.

The Jamming Field is situational, but cheap. It’s handy for covering soft bombers, like Y-Wings or TIE Bombers, but those squadrons are already tough, and because the obstructed status only applies during attacks, the field’s effects don’t protect your bombers from being locked down through engagement. In any case, dedicated Bomber squadrons would arguably gain an increased benefit from the more expensive Bomber Command Centre, which massively enhances their primary role.

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The Comms Net is a nice alternative to the Tantive IV, and handy for managing large ships with high command values. This is a good, low-cost card for flotillas added to a fleet to bulk up activations – but for just another two points, you could instead get Repair Crews, which have a shorter range but could avert disaster if they get rid of the right critical effect.

Lastly there are Slicer Tools, which for 7 points, are… pricey. And short-ranged. They’re one of those upgrades which could be incredible. If you use them to deny your opponent a Navigate command that would prevent their ship from flying off the board, then you’ll be laughing. I think the biggest thing about Slicer Tools is that they’re going to make Command-dial management much more important, and bring those officers such as Weapon Liaisons and Engineering Captains back into vogue.

The Fleet Support upgrade that really stands out for me is Repair Crews. It’s cheap, and the ability to remove damage cards will always be valuable – if it isn’t, then you’re probably already winning. The second-best option is Bomber Command Centre, which will work wonders for the already-trendy Janballs and Rhymerballs, and will boost the popularity of cheap, single-die Bombers. Slicer Tools are great, but you’re sacrificing the possibility of powerful buffs for your own fleet for the sake of what might be only a minor inconvenience to your enemy.

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Finally, each set comes with two Titles for your transports to take. I find the titles to be the least interesting parts of these expansions. The Gozantis can boost the speed of non-Heavy squadrons or exhaust defense tokens, and both could be useful. The GR-75s get a defensive title, which could potentially make them incredibly tough when combined with Admiral Cracken, and a toned-down Engine Techs-style speed boost. I’m not convinced any of these titles will have a huge impact on the game, which is fine – they’re just nice little additions which will allow you to fine-tune your support ships to match the rest of your fleet.


The Bigger Picture

Alright, so let’s have a look at how all of this fits into the game as it stands.

The most obvious and exciting thing to come out of Wave 3 for me is the cheap activations and deployments. If you really wanted to, you could take two transports, each with Expanded Hangar Bays and an escort of 3 cheap bomber squadrons. It would look something like this:

Gozanti-class Cruisers – 23 pts
– Expanded Hangar Bay – 5 pts
– Bomber Command Centre – 8 pts

Gozanti-class Cruisers – 23 pts
– Expanded Hangar Bay – 5 pts

Major Rhymer – 16 pts
5 x TIE Bomber Squadrons – 45 pts

As a formation, that comes to a total of 125 points, for which you get six rerolling black anti-ship dice with an incredible strike range. Not only that, you’re also getting two activations and a total of Five extra deployments – and in a 400-point game, you still have 73 points to spend on escorting superiority fighters. Imagine this formation with an Imperial-class Star Destroyer and Demolisher, all led by Admiral Screed. You could even have points left for a Raider. That’s a hard-hitting fleet, with a total of five ship activations. And you might still be able to have a decent bid for first player.

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The Rebels get the following:

GR-75 Medium Transports – 18 pts
– Expanded Hangar Bay – 5 pts
– Bomber Command Centre – 8 pts

GR-75 Medium Transports – 18 pts
– Expanded Hangar Bay – 5 pts

6 x Y-Wing Squadrons – 60 pts

Now, this formation costs a total of 114 points – ten points cheaper than the Imperial version. Admittedly, it’s got less reach, but it’s just as durable, and slightly better against enemy fighters. You’ve got 74 points to spend on escorting X-Wings, or maybe some A-Wings to rush in and tie down enemy squadrons. Either way, for just over a quarter of your fleet points (or just less than a third), you’ve got a solid, hard-hitting unit that can act pretty independently.

The fact is, these transport / bomber combinations give every admiral what they really need to pull off tactical miracles – more activations and more deployments. The ability to dictate the order of battle is what allows you to win games, and that’s exactly what you’re getting here.

The comparisons to trucks and vans that I’ve made earlier hold up well, because these expansions are utilitarian and, I reckon, will prove near-ubiquitous. For just 30 points, you can get a really useful little flotilla that does nothing more fancy than simply make your other fleet elements better.

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Ultimately, there aren’t many types of fleet that couldn’t benefit from a flotilla or two. Fighter-heavy lists will definitely appreciate what they have to offer. Tanky, defensive lists will have a lot to gain. Even fast-moving, hard-hitting alpha-striking fleets will appreciate the cheap activations, and the utility of some of the fleet-support upgrades. I think, six months from now, transport ships are going to be seen everywhere in ‘Armada’.


Taking Them Down

And if they are going to appear everywhere, how can a forward-thinking admiral deal with them? The irony of flotillas is that they are incredibly fragile, but surprisingly sturdy due to that “Scatter” token. Sure, you could swipe them aside with a shot from your Imperial-II, but that would mean you’re not shooting at something much more worthy of a Star Destroyer’s attention.

Another irony with flotillas is that they are high-priority, low-value targets. They could cause you all manner of frustrations, and potentially cost you the battle – but destroying them only nets you a handful of victory points – typically about 30 at most.

This is the exciting part for me, because flotillas give Raiders and Corellian Corvettes a new purpose in life – pest control. The CR90-B and the Raider-II are often overlooked when I’m creating a fleet. The CR90-B is less useful than it’s longer-ranged sister, and the Raider-II doesn’t warrant the added cost in a fleet that needs a strong initiative bid and uses ordnance anyway. Flotillas change the ecosystem, however, and those blue-dice-laden ships now have exactly the targets they can feast upon.

The Raider-II is perfectly suited to hunting down flotillas. With three blue dice and a single black, it can kick out precisely enough damage as it needs to. If at close range it naturally rolls, say, three hits and an accuracy, then it can get through the single shield on a flotilla and put two damage cards on the hull. Follow that up with an intentional ram, and the Raider can finish the flotilla off automatically without suffering any damage itself.

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You’re not guaranteed of that accuracy, however, so if you’re really keen on taking down those transport ships, you might want to add a Sensor Team. They’re not an upgrade I see often, and with good reason – they’re pricey, and require spending a die. However they do mean that, if you need to, you can be assured of the accuracy you need to negate the pesky “Scatter”. If you time this with a “Concentrate Fire” command, you could potentially one-shot the target if you roll well with your black dice.

The CR90-B will have a less easy time of dispatching flotillas, but it’s also not much more expensive than they are. If it can score a double-arc, it could feasibly take one down and, as ever with flotillas, there’s always the safe certainty of ramming them to death. If you were to put Leia Organa on board, you could also help to account for any troublesome Slicer Tools in the area.

The other main countermeasure to flotillas is squadrons. Squadrons are great because they broadly ignore a ship’s defense tokens due to their pin-prick damage, and with the capacity for only four points of damage on any one facing, flotillas don’t need many pricks to go down. Indeed, a swarm of TIE Fighters or A-Wings ought to do a solid job of harassing transports to a painful end.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and if you really set your mind to it you will find plenty of methods for extinguishing these flotillas, but given their low return in victory points, the key is to do it as efficiently as possible. The good thing is that the countermeasures to flotillas are, by definition, still useful in combat against larger, heftier ships, so you’re not wasting points on a one-trick-pony.

To reverse this point, you’re going to want to minimise the points you invest in these things. As soon as they start getting past the 40-point mark, they become much more tempting a target for enemy big ships. The Fantasy Flight article has some Rebel Transports equipped with Adar Tallon, and whilst he’s got a great effect, the transports are just too risky a vehicle for a 10-point upgrade, I feel.


The Future

So, flotillas are going to change things, there’s no doubt of that.

I expect Star Destroyers flanked by Repair Crewed Gozantis to be a common sight in future battles. All durable medium- and large-based ships are going to see their endurance greatly enhanced by escorting flotillas, so long as you can plan ahead and keep them in range. Slower ships like the Victory-class will definitely see some use out of them.

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Similarly, I can see Rebel heavy-hitters forming a potent front line, punctuated by transports sweeping bombers forwards on potent attack runs. The ability to shift carrier roles onto the flotillas and keep your capital ships focused on “Navigates”, “Repairs” and “Concentrate Fires” will be invaluable.

The previous star players that were Demolishers and MC30s loaded out with Ordnance upgrades will struggle against flotilla-heavy fleets, but I don’t believe they will go out of vogue altogether. Rather, they will become much more discriminating in their choice of prey and hence their positioning, focusing on the big, juicy targets and leaving the smaller morsels to more specialised hunters.

Minor aspects of the game that I had previously ignored are going to become a lot more important. Management of accuracies and command dials will be vital to dealing with enemy flotillas, with the potential for Slicer Tools to really ruin your day if not accounted for.

I reckon the new defensive commanders are going to lead to more aggressive play styles. They will encourage more careful players to throw their caution to the wind and play for keeps. They certainly won’t reward players who sit back and stay out of trouble.

And the last, biggest change I think we’re going to see will be an escalation in bids for activation and deployment advantage, just as there has previously been something of an arms race for Initiative Bids. The ability to cheaply gain combat elements that retain effectiveness and grant you greater mastery of the order of battle will be relished by many.


The Future Of The Bloodied Spear

So, looking at the effect that this wave will have on my own fleet… Well, the truth is that I will probably wait until Wave 4 is released prior to making any major changes to the fleet. However, if Wave 3 were currently available and I was using it to make a list to play with tomorrow, I’ve got a couple of minor changes I would make.

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Here is the list as it currently stands. Fast, aggressive, focused on damage-output, first-player bid and a minimum of four activations. Sadly, it lacks in deployments and I rarely get the value out of the second, flagship Gladiator as a combat vessel.

Here is a possible Wave 3 list. The key changes are the transferring of the flag to the Imperial following the removal of the second Gladiator, the addition of a flotilla of Gozantis with Repair Crews and some uncharacteristic (for me) bulking out of upgrades elsewhere in the fleet.

The Imperial gets a Support Officer to avoid unnecessary frustration from Slicer Tools and a Tractor Beam to assist with tracking down escaping ships which my second Gladiator might otherwise have pursued. Demolisher gains a Navigation Officer to counter slicing, and the Raider-I gains Sensor Team for sniping enemy flotillas. Despite my praise of the Raider-II earlier, I stuck with the Ordnance-version to keep the Assault Concussion Missiles for attacking capital ships. I also doubled my TIE Fighter escort, to give me an extra deployment.

This isn’t a huge change overall, and it feels weird to downgrade a Gladiator to a set of Gozantis, but that exchange has allowed me to properly tailor the other ships in my fleet to excel at their prescribed roles. I still only have four activations, but with a strong bid for initiative I reckon that shouldn’t be an issue. I feel less worried about making a bigger target out of my Star Destroyer by making it my flagship, because I have the repair capabilities of the Gozantis in support.

The key point is that I have all of the tools I need to tackle most obstacles that might be thrown against me, from bombers to Ackbar fleets to swarms of Raiders and Gladiators. I’m willing to bet that there will be plenty of surprises, but I’m confident I’ll be able to tackle them head-on in most cases.

rebeltransport_layout


Wrapping Up

So, those are my own thoughts on Wave 3, based on playing exactly zero games with any of its components. This is all just theory crafting at the moment, although there are already a few battle reports from Wave 3 Vassal games over at the Fantasy Flight Games community pages.

I think, for all the depth I’ve gone into with this wave, it still feels like it’s not a full release in its own right, and that the exciting stuff is all happening in Wave 4. Indeed, the Interdictor and the Liberty releases will, I think, make the flotillas more substantive, and give them more with which to work. Both of the Wave 4 ships are specialised weapons that will need support to minimise their weaknesses, and flotillas will be key to getting the most out of these highly tailored vessels.

Wave 3 will, put simply, multiply the options available to fleet commanders. It will likely not be optimal to build a fleet specifically around flotillas, but it would be foolish to ignore the support opportunities they afford.

The new wave is now just around the corner – they’re “On The Boat” as of late May, which means they could well be available around the end of June, or not much after. That means there’s not very long until all of my predictions and guesses are proven completely wrong. But Wave 4 will be hot on their heels, and it’s my guess that by the end of the year, all bets are off when it comes to the state of the game.

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: Lessons Learned 2 – More Lessons, Much Harder

I’ve just come back from a another weekend of tournaments – this time, Store Championships at Shadow Games, and Galactic Models. So far, that’s… seven tournaments since the end of January, in such lovely and diverse cities as Lichfield, Derby, Coventry, Stevenage and Rugby. That’s also eighteen competitive games of ‘Armada’, plus plenty of friendlies in between.

I have certainly finished this run of tournaments as a better player, I think. And I have absolutely learned an awful lot – and probably forgotten much more. I have a sack full of swag and prizes, from fancy art cards to beautiful coins. And, perhaps best of all, I’ve spent a lot of time with some great people, and also James.

Sadly, despite all of that experience, I didn’t end up winning a Store Championship in the end. I would not describe that as “disappointing” – every event was great fun – but I would have loved to take one of those gorgeous little plaques home with me. It has not put me off, however, and I’ve already bought my ticket for Regionals in May, and am itching to book my place at Nationals once tickets are released.

I’ve still got so much to write up after my experiences – a follow-up to my guide to Killing Ackbar, as well as a more in-depth autopsy of my tournament performance, and what I need to do to improve my game in the future.

For now, though, here’s a another quick-hit article about some specific little things I’ve learned, beyond the more general lessons of my previous article. As always, based purely on my own experiences – there’s no theory-crafting here.

Some rejected titles for this post included “Two Lessons, Too Hard”, “Too Dumb, Didn’t Learn” and “BUT WHY DIDN’T I WIN ANYTHING? THIS GAME IS STUPID.”


Lesson 1 – MC80 Titles Are The Sex

So, I learned from Dean, the winner of Galactic Models’ Store Championship today, that Defiance is a truly brutal title on an MC80 – not only does it allow you to add any colour die to your attack – but you can then concentrate fire to add that same colour again, because it’s already in your attack pool. So, when your flagship is targeting an activated enemy ship, you can add a black die to your eight-dice attack, followed by another black die with a Concentrated Fire command dial.

mc80

Let me tell you now, six red dice, two blue dice and two black dice – with Leading Shots or X17 Turbolasers, is enough to ruin anybody’s day. And the Defiance effect kicks off on both attacks that an MC80 makes in a turn. Brutal.

However, that would mean you’re missing out on the also-awesome Home One title. The ability to get an accuracy on EVERY attack that allied ships make cannot be understated. That kind of reliability is Screed-worthy, and has also cost me games in the past.

I’ve not seen Independence in play – it doesn’t seem as dangerous, but I’m sure it counts when you need it to.


Lesson 2 – I Am Yet To Find The Upper Limit On Initiative Bid

Today, I faced a horrifically powerful list flown by another John. The list-type was made famous by Clontroper5 – four Raiders and a Gladiator. It hit like a freight train – and it also had a twenty-point bid for initiative. Given that I set my own limit at thirteen points, this seemed ludicrous, but it worked – I won the game, but only had two surviving ships by the end, each with a single hull point remaining.

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Initiative Bid seems to be getting bigger all the time. James and I joke that eventually we’ll just be deploying a single TIE squadron each and flipping a coin for First Player.

I’m going to have a think about Bidding and its consequences, and post an analysis article in the future. But for now, I will simply continue to be amazed by the ever-increasing desperation for first turn.


Lesson 3 – I Thought An ISD Could Defeat Demolisher And I Was So, So Wrong

In the same match against John, I foolishly pitted my Relentless against his Demolisher. He was first player, but I figured that the damn thing had five hull and no Defensive Retrofits – how hard could it be?

I’m not sure John even noticed as his Gladiator-class vessel gobbled up my Imperial with its Expanded Launchers. It was casual. It was nasty. It was borderline pornographoic – I’ve never seen a Star Destroyer get fucked so roundly.

If you’re the proud owner of an Imperial-class, and you want to remain the proud owner of an Imperial-class, act smart – don’t underestimate the power of the Gladiator.

And bring a spare pair of trousers.


Lesson 4 – Objectives Matter But Feel Free To Ignore Them

Another lesson from Dean from a match at Titan Games two days ago – the Objectives make a big difference. They can also be completely ignored. He had “Hyperspace Assault” as one of his possible objectives. I picked it as the best of painful-looking bunch. He brought in an Assault Frigate right behind my Gladiators and at point-blank, indeed, point-Black range. That was a mistake.

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We discussed today that you don’t actually have to deploy a ship via hyperspace at all. You could choose the same objective for a fleet made up entirely of Large ships – it would simply be ignored.

I have also played games with “Contested Outpost” as the objective – and I have frequently elected to ignore the outpost in favour of wanton disassembly of the enemy fleet. It works. Not always, and it might hurt your margin of victory, but simply refusing to dance to the tune of the objective card can be a viable option. Sometimes.


Lesson 5 – Take Off The Blinkers

An important lesson from all the games I’ve played is to not let your choices in fleet-building dictate your actions in an actual match. Dean proved this today when he elected not to use Admiral Ackbar on his MC80, but instead open up with his front arc on my blocking Raider, blowing it to smithereens and clearing a path.

raiderdestruction

In another game today against a different James than the much-maligned frequent (and deserving) target of my ire, I saw an Admiral Ozzel-led fleet containing an Engine Teched Demolisher repeatedly commit to Navigate commands, when other orders would have been more appropriate. The desire take advantage of both the Engine Techs and Ozzel‘s narrowed James’ vision and closed his mind to other possibilities – but it was also the last match of the day, and we were all pretty exhausted.

An interesting article over at Steel Squadron has just been published, highlighting the issues with Gunnery Teams and how they coerce you to think in a certain way. It’s important to be able to break your thinking out of the box defined by your fleet list, and look at each obstacle as a problem to be solved – rather than looking at your upgrades as solutions that require problems.


Lesson 6 – Never Give Up, Never Surrender

On two occasions now James, my close friend and nemesis, has trounced me with a 10-0 victory in the first round of a tournament, only for me to claw my way to second place in the next two rounds through sheer determination. I’m saying this partly to brag, and partly as a big “Up Yours” to James, but mostly to highlight the point that everything’s to play for in ‘Armada’.

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If you get smacked, take the hit and bounce back with a vengeance, Indiana Jones-style. There are so many variables to this game, so much to go wrong, and so much to get right, that you never know what will happen. I’ve played individual matches that I had been winning right up until turn 6, when my opponent has outsmarted me with some inspired flying and completely turned the game around, often by a huge margin of victory.

There is one thing I can confidently say, and that is that there is no unbeatable list, there is no “broken” or “unbalanced” ship or upgrade. Whilst there’s definitely a spectrum of usefulness, I have seen every type of fleet get wiped out and sent packing, from unrelenting Ackbar conga lines to intimidating triple-Imperial gunlines.

The truth of the matter is that no fleet is safe when faced with a determined, thoughtful opponent willing to take risks and stay committed to the cause.


So concludes my little tableau of wisdom. I hope you all have had a good season of tournaments. I’m just glad that the next batch are on the way – I’m eager to get my hands on some arty X17s and Imperial-Is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angry Space Triangles: Wave 3 – Always In Motion the Future Is

Exciting news, ‘Armada’ fans – Wave 3 has just been announced!

Now, we’ve all been looking forward to this eagerly. It’s been about twelve months since the last product announcement, and I for one have been bubbling with anticipation for this next release.

I’ve specifically held off looking at it until I’ve had some actual free time on my hands to fully absorb its magnificence all in one go – I’ve avoided forums and other blog sites until I’ve had my chance to look at it myself.

So, let’s see what kind of amazing treats ‘Star Wars: Armada’ has in store for us!

Here goes nothing…

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Bigger Battles. Better Tactics.” Nice, I’m liking it, image doesn’t give much away, though. Let’s see after the link…

topmainpage

Here we go! First up, some new transports! Wasn’t expecting that, but it’s cool I suppose. They’ve cropped the banner image weirdly, though, those are the only two things you can see. Why wouldn’t they put any of the big stuff on there?

mainpage1

Okay, more of the transports, they’re great, they’re cute and all, neat little models – but they look unpainted. And a “Scatter” defense token? Hmm, food for thought. Now let’s have a look at the MAIN release:

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Oh, okay, more transports. Still look unpainted. But that’s neat, so the Rebels and Imperials each get a matching set, neat. NOW then, let’s see these…

Where are…?

What the…

mainpagezoomed

That’s it? After a fucking YEAR that’s it? What the FUCK? Where’s all the fucking ships? What the shit is a fucking “flotilla?” What the fuck are they? What is this? Where’s the fucking… where’s the actual fucking wave? Is this even – nope, this is Wave 3 alright. I waited A FUCKING YEAR FOR THIS??? WHAT, DID THEY RUN OUT OF PLASTIC OR SOMETHING? WHAT THE FUCK IS WAVE 4 GOING TO BE, GONORRHEA? JESUS WEPT, WHERE’S MY FUCKING STAR DESTROYERS?

They could’ve had this:

Immobilizer_Interdictor_Cruiser

Or this:

MCLiberty

Or even this:

ImperialDreadnaught-SWR

Even if it does look like a FUCKING DILDO.

What are we meant to do with a set of fucking Freighters? Throw them at our opponents? Insert them as miniature suppositories? Use them to painfully dab away our tears of disappointment and abandonment? The Rebel ones can’t even FUCKING FIRE.

I thought Wave 3 was going to be like Christmas at the Skywalker Ranch; instead it’s like Christmas at my childhood home, though admittedly without my parents glaring at each other in silence, my nan wetting herself, dogs humping one another in the corner and my uncle cleaning the microwave after my little brother put the cat inside on full power.

……

Or something.


Alright, I’ll come clean, I’m not all that disappointed with Wave 3. Whilst I think everyone hoped for something a little… juicier, we certainly seem to have some interesting developments to the game. I can’t pretend that a couple of transport ships wasn’t anti-climactic, but there are a few things about which to get excited.

First off, others more clever than I have already pointed out that these two products have skipped two other product codes, meaning there may well be something brilliant that they’re just waiting to announce. Who knows?

And even if that’s not the case, these new transports offer some completely new ideas to the game. Things like super-cheap activations, for example, giving you the ability to really tailor your activation order to suit the moment. That “Scatter” defense token is really interesting, too – all you need is four damage to take one of these flotillas down, but that could be an extremely frustrating task as they repeatedly ignore your entire attack. Accuracies just became even more useful.

The fleet support upgrades are neat, too. Not quite enough to get my pants wet, mind, but at least enough to make me feel uncomfortable standing up in front of other people. The ability to repair other ships’ damage will be an amazing combo with Projection Experts on another ship – that MC80 is starting to look particularly tough now, when escorted by the right ships.

swm19_repair_crews

Beyond that, it’s worth bearing in mind that both of these flotillas have a Squadron value of 2 – that’s a lot of fighter and bomber activations. Indeed, you now get the chance to run some dedicated carriers to co-ordinate your fighters, whilst capital ships like the Victory– and Imperial-class stick to doing what they do best – laying the hammer down with their heavy guns.


I don’t want to dissect this announcement too much. There’s barely any information that’s been revealed. We can surmise that they will both be Speed 3, given the setting on the dials in their pictures, and they have double-clicks at Speed 1, which is nice. But without seeing points costs, I can’t offer too much in the way of analysis that wouldn’t be pure speculation.

Instead, here’s how I see it affecting my own fleet, The Bloodied Spear, up ’til now a ship-heavy force focused on activations and First Player advantage.

First of all, I would likely be more than happy to keep Demolisher but drop the other Gladiator, transferring my flag to the Relentless. In turn, I could afford to take possibly two flotillas of Assault Carriers. This gives me a net gain of one activation, as well as an incredible option for Objective ships – either to run around picking up tokens, being cheap options for objectives like “Advanced Gunnery” or “Most Wanted”, and still useful for blocking enemy movements. They may not inflict a damage card when they hit another ship, but they can still cancel its movement, pinning it in place.

With the points saved from the Gladiator, I then have the option to expand my fighter wing – probably to include some bombers for a solid early-game strike against target hull zones. With the Carriers to issue Squadron commands, my main fighting ships can focus on their valuable Navigate and Repair commands.

swm18_comms_net

And, with Repair Crews, and possibly a Comms Net, my Imprial-class Star Destroyer Relentless is now even tougher than before. A possible six engineering points a turn, plus the equivalent of three more with a card removal? That baby will last until the heat-death of the universe.

Rebel Fleets have become a lot scarier, too. A flotilla of Medium Transports puttering around, giving ludicrous buffs to things like B-Wings and Y-Wings by using Bomber Command Centres is a nasty prospect – especially given there’s nothing on the card which prevents them from stacking with each other. B-Wings re-rolling both of their dice on the attack? Yeah, you can count me out.

Not to mention the addition of Toryn Farr, a new officer who, with a bit of squinting, can be seen to buff everything around her by allowing both friendly ships and squadrons at Range 1-3 to reroll one blue die. Again, a nasty buff on a Rebel fleet where blue dice are common, if in small numbers. By combining Toryn Farr and Home One, Rebel commanders suddenly have a lot of control over how many accuracies they get in an attack.

The Imperials get Agent Kallus, who allows his carrying vessel to add a die of any colour to attacks against Unique squadrons. Not hugely useful all of the time, but for three points he could be a brilliant addition to something like the Raider I, with three re-rollable black dice when combined with Ordnance Experts. Or, combine him with Ruthless Strategists and some cheap TIE Fighters for some nasty, reliable damage against the likes of Luke Skywalker and Hand Solo – who otherwise is relatively invulnerable to most ships.

swm18_bomber_command_center

So, already there’s quite a lot to get excited about. I will admit, I’ll be waiting with bated breath over the next few weeks, to see if those missing SKU codes reveal themselves. And, yes, it would’ve been lovely to see something a little bigger and more thrilling – certainly there are plenty of gaps in the game still to be filled.

However, there’s still plenty more to discover about these two new sets, and hopefully FFG, our lords and masters, won’t be too stingy with the details over the coming months.

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):

Parchment.png
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.

 

 

Crude Fiction: To Hunt a Traitor

The following is a mostly-accurate account of a game of Fantasy Flight Games’ Battlestar Galactica board game. If you haven’t played it yet, you really should.


It’s difficult, when determining the fate of the human race, to keep a check on your emotions. Every glance carries meaning; every nod of the head is a statement of intent. As I looked across the board at James, I knew there was something wrong. And so did he. As another life-threatening crisis was successfully resolved, I ventured a bold assertion.

“I don’t think there is a Cylon. I don’t think we have one yet.” Those words were met with mumbled assent.

Patrick, playing legendary officer William Adama, admiral of the fleet, seemed to agree. “None of the crises have been badly sabotaged, I think we only failed the last one ’cause of bad luck,” he said.

I scanned the faces of the rest of the crew. Especially James. All I needed was a nervous cough, a subtle change in seating position, and I could reveal the enemy agent, the robotic Cylon infiltrator bent on ending all of humanity. But nobody gave anything away, and neither did I.

As President Gaius Baltar, head of state of what remained of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, I carried a heavy burden. Through the legal powers of the Quorum of Twelve, I had the chance to imprison any would-be saboteurs, limiting the damage they could do, all by using one of the “Quorum Cards”. But none of us had any clue who the Cylons could be; or even if there were any. As far as anyone was concerned, there could be sleeper-agents seeded throughout the crew, about to awaken at any time.

I knew that Patrick was Human. As Admiral he was a natural target for my incredibly reliable Cylon Detector, and he had passed the test. I also knew that Josh, to my right, was human; the Quorum had approved further blood tests, and I had selected him due to his role as Lee Adama, commander of Galactica’s air group and our top pilot.

Two known humans, which left three possible identities for the Cylon agent: Alex, Arjun and James. Plus myself, of course, but I knew my own allegiance.

It was a good bet that Alex was working to benefit humanity; he’d made solid decisions throughout the game. Arjun had been suspiciously quiet, giving away very little, but that wasn’t enough to truly doubt him. James, though, had been edgy throughout, casting allegations and accusations with reckless abandon. It could very well appear as though he was trying too hard.

I leaned over to Josh and whispered “I think James is the Cylon.” Josh looked at me with curiosity, which quickly faded to comprehension; he had been having the same suspicions.

gaius

Now it was time for Alex, savouring his role as Saul Tigh, first officer of the Galactica, to take a turn. We had neutralised the attacking Cylon fleet a turn earlier and for now, the coast was clear. I volunteered a suggestion. “Alex, if you give me an ‘Executive Order’, I can use the Quorum of Twelve, see if they can give us anything useful.”

On the opposite side of the table, James’ eyes narrowed for a moment. He was getting nervous. I couldn’t blame him. Alex remained unsure, so I gestured to the empty space surrounding the fleet, the lack of hostile forces, the absence of boarding parties, the abundance of our critical resources. “There’s nothing better to do,” I said, with casual but incredibly shallow confidence.

Alex agreed, and gingerly gave me the order. Now, I was at liberty to act twice in quick succession. I knew what I had to do, for the sake of the human race and its chances of survival. I had to be determined. I’d only get one shot at this.

“Admiral Adama”, I said to Patrick, as I revealed a Quorum card granting me the power to arrest a member of the crew, “I believe you are an undercover Cylon agent, and for that reason I am sending you to the brig.” Patrick’s mouth hung open as I shifted his character’s icon to the Brig area on the board.

With my next breath I addressed Alex. “Alex, you too have shown signs of betrayal and collusion with the Cylon threat.” I let my identity dissolve, flipping a card to reveal my true self: a statuesque blonde female Cylon known as “Caprica Six.” No going back now. “For that reason, Alex, I am putting you in the brig as well.” Saul Tigh found himself in a cell next to his admiral and friend.

Arjun swore aloud as James screamed out “I KNEW IT!” and slammed his hands on the table.

Next to me, Josh was stunned, struggling to keep up with these sudden developments. “What’s… what’s going on!?” he asked, baffled.

“Didn’t you know?” I asked innocently, as Caprica Six put a gun to her chin, ready to be resurrected in the distant safety of the robotic fleet. “James is the Cylon.”

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…