There’s one little tiny ship in the Imperial roster that you could miss if you blinked. It’s cute, it’s fast, it’s adorable and it’s deadly. It is the Raider-class corvette, and I love it.
In the tournament games I played, the Raider did one of two things: very little, or win the game. When I was going up against other Imperial lists, the Raider was just too fragile to engage properly – and sadly, in those games, there were few objectives for the Raider to chase. But against Rebel fleets, the Raider‘s ability to cross the battlezone in two turns and then park itself in front of a big line of ships is invaluable.
The Raider is able to slam into the front of a big heavy Mon Calamari Assault Cruiser and stop the enemy beast in its tracks, pinning it in place for my heavy hitters to follow up. This will also precede a collision, which is one automatic damage card on a large enemy ship that has too few hull points already.
The Raider will survive a shot from the forward arc of any Rebel vessel, meaning next turn, you ought to be able to ram with it again – except this time, since it’s already in position, it can fire before it does so. The Raider has a potent frontal arc – the cheaper version, the Raider-I, has two black dice and two blue dice facing forwards. That’s roughly equivalent to the frontal arc of a Gladiator at close range, and, with a “Concentrate Fire” command, the Raider can unleash a volley as powerful as the broadside of a Rebel MC30C Torpedo Frigate. That’s pretty scary – especially with Ordnance Experts, which allow you to re-roll any black dice.
In fact, as I look back at my previous games, I actually regret not upgrading my Raider with Assault Concussion Missiles – with some clever positioning, I could unleash a more-or-less guaranteed splash damage effect from both the front and the side arc – that’s two points of shields dropped automatically from the broadsides of the unfortunate Rebel ship, plenty of softening up for my Heavy Turbolaser Turret-equipped Imperial-class Star Destroyer.
Another key benefit to the Raider is it’s manoeuvrability. At high speeds, with a “Navigate” command, it can turn ninety degrees. If it were escorting a larger, slower ship, then at Speed 2 it can also turn ninety degrees in a single manoeuvre, even without a “Navigate” command. That’s the type of flying you normally see in a game of X-Wing.
The Raider is built as a natural Anti-Air platform, the only ship with two black anti-squadron dice in either faction. This is a brutal deterrent to enemy fighters – with Ordnance Experts, it can reliably put two points of damage on every enemy squadron in range. Sadly, I didn’t get to try out these abilities too much during the games I played, as I faced few fighter-heavy fleets, but I intend to test the Raider‘s anti-squadron potential in future games as best I can.
The final use of the Raider that interests me is surprisingly not it’s capacity as an Overload Pulse delivery vehicle, but rather as an Objective-focused ship. If you’re playing “Most Wanted” or “Advanced Gunnery”, the Raider will concede hardly any benefit to your opponent upon its destruction due to its low cost. When the Objective is based around positioning, the Raider has the speed and turning circle to hoover up tokens or seek out rear fire-arcs, running rings around bigger, slower ships.
The key failing of the Raider is its survivability. With only a Brace and two Evades, at close range this vessel will not take much of a pounding, so avoiding those primary arcs is key. And with an Engineering value of only 2, you won’t be recovering much hull any time soon, especially given its limited Command Token capacity. Even at long range, dedicated fire can put a major dent in a Raider, and it has no defensive retrofit options – if your Brace token gets knocked out by an Accuracy result, your options are nil.
That being said, the ship is 44 points – or 48 for the more expensive version, if that’s how you choose to live your life. For the benefit of an extra activation, a credible counter to swarms of squadrons and the ability to completely neuter Rebel gun lines, that’s a great deal. Plus, it’s not too painful when you inevitably lose the poor little ship – it can do its job, and then nobly sacrifice itself for the sake of Order across the Galaxy.
Well, the past weekend was a bit of a mixed bag. It was a series of firsts for me: my first total loss of all of my ships (and, as it happens, my second), my first time as second player, and my first bye.
James had a stronger weekend, coming first on Sunday and, a first for him, having eradicated my entire fleet. Neither of us have ‘tabled’ the other in any of the games we have played – although frequently we would concede at the point of no return. But he cruised his way to top position in the tournament on Sunday and rightfully so, having played some very efficient, brutal games.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll keep this summary detail-lite, with a more in-depth autopsy of my experience at Armada Tournaments coming in the next few days.
Note – pictures kindly provided by Andrew, the tournament organiser.
Lost Ark Games is a good-sized, well-stocked store in Stevenage, and probably the highlight of that town.
There were nine competitors at the tournament, which unfortunately meant there was a “bye” – one player each round would have to sit out, earning a win by default and eight tournament points. The first round bye goes to a random player, then in each subsequent round it goes to the lowest-scoring player at that point. You can probably already guess how this is going to pan out.
My first match was against David, running an Ackbar-led fleet of Home One and two Mk. II Assault Frigates in a fight to contest ownership of deep-space outpost. So far, so familiar. I employed exactly the same tactics as I did against Paul at Titan Games last weekend, and right off the bat they worked. David was left stumped by my full-frontal rush against the nose of his fleet, with my Instigator pulling her usual sweep into a blocking position whilst Demolisher came up from behind.
However, something was up this time around. As I moved the Instigator in, something about the timing or the positioning was off and she swept past the front of the Rebel line of advance and into the far side-arc of Home One. Meanwhile my flagship pulled up to jab Home One on the nose, but fell short of that critical black-dice range. Demolisher swept up to spitting distance against the trailing Assault Frigate, but grazed an asteroid by barely more than a millimetre. In the following turn, Demolisher attempted to sweep past the Assault Frigate, but collided by yet another millimetre or two, landing back on the asteroid – that was three damage cards on Demolisher without the enemy even firing a shot at her.
My flagship and Instigator were eliminated pretty quickly, and by that point my frustration with the game was eroding my judgement. The wounded Demolisher was an easy kill for the Assault Frigate‘s broadside, and the Relentless, my Imperial-class Star Destroyer, took a round beating from Home One and her escorting vessels, after finishing the trailing Assault Frigate. Shoddy gunnery on every one of my vessels saw me drool out a piddly amount of damage, with not a single Assault Concussion Missile launched. In the final turn of the game, an Assault Frigate took a parting shot at the Relentless, finishing her off before flying out of the engagement zone.
This was the first time I’d ever been tabled in a game of Armada, and it was pretty rubbish. Every single thing just seemed to go against me this game – between (barely) glancing asteroids, crummy dice rolls with my own guns versus some horrifically consistent high rolls from my opponent, and the fact that I forgot that control for the outpost is determined at Distance 1, rather than short range, everything just fell apart. And the worst thing was that I had out-played him – he was visibly struggling to cope with my line of attack in the opening rounds of the game, but I couldn’t make any of it count.
With a one-to-nine loss in my first round, I took the “bye” in the second. “Byes” are a necessary part of a tournament when you have an odd number of competitors – but when tournament rounds last the best part of three hours, sitting one out is pretty bloody boring, especially when you’re itching to get back into a fight and steal back some credibility.
It did give me time, however, to ruminate on my feelings about the Ackbar-led Rebel fleet. And if I’m being honest, I don’t like it. A slow, broadside-heavy fleet seems to be the closest this game gets to a stationary gun line. And whilst it takes knowledge to set it up correctly, it feels as though once the ships have been deployed, the fleet wins on the strength of its upgrade cards alone – actual manoeuvres and tactics take a back seat.
It means that these fleets have one very specific counter-tactic against which they have no defense. But if you fail to pull it off, as I did, then they don’t actually need to do anything creative – they just keep going slowly forwards, same as they always do. In essence, their movements and tactics don’t vary based on the opponent they’re facing – when two of them face off against each other, it’s just a game of who is most favoured by the dice, or who picked the best upgrades.
Maybe I’m just feeling bitter. And in truth, I enjoy fighting againstAckbar-fleets, it’s like trying to solve a difficult puzzle – I just don’t think I’d ever enjoy flying one myself.
With the second round over, and with me now suitably filled with self-loathing over my failure, it was onto the final round of the day. I was pitted against Hadrian, whose tournament started as badly as mine – he had three Mk. II Assault Frigates led by Admiral Ackbar, but in a sleep-deprived rush to build his list had given each vessel Gunnery Teams, which allows them to fire twice from the same arc, and Slaved Turrets, which allows them to fire only once in the same activation.Two directly contradictory upgrades. After his first game, he was allowed to drop the Slaved Turrets, but this meant he was going into each game 18 points short of his full allowance – a strong bid for initiative, but a big gap in the fleet roster.
He granted me first turn and I chose “Contested Outpost” as the objective again as the best of a bad bunch of options. This time, the “Ackbar Nose-Punch” worked exactly the way it should, with my RaiderImpetuous grinding the Rebel fleet to a halt, allowing the rest of the Imperial fleet to follow up and deliver its brutal punishment. The Instigator was gunned down at long range, but she had done her job, and the remainder of the fleet left the Rebels in ruin. I stole a nine-one victory, enough to mitigate my disappointment in myself over the first game, but not enough to eradicate that disappointment completely.
David, my first-round opponent, took first place, quite rightfully after three solid victories, with second- and third-places going to an Imperial fleet very similar to my own and a Rebel fleet led by Ackbar.
With mixed feelings on the day overall, based partly on my poor performance but mostly on the missed game in the second round, I headed back to my overnight lodgings, ready for the next gauntlet.
Sunday, Escape Games, Coventry
Escape Games have recently changed locations, now having a great store-front right next to Coventry’s famous Noodle Bar. Well-stocked, great staff, and a fantastic upper-level gaming space, it’s always nice to head back to Escape. There were only four competitors today: myself, James, Kevin and Chris.
My first game of the day was against James, with his new fleet. Having grown weary of his four-ship build, he elected to try out a squadron-heavy list instead:
Fleet Name: The Big Stupid Smelly Stupid Fleet of Crap
Imperial-class Star Destroyer with Admiral Screed,SW-7 Ion Batteries, Heavy Turbolaser Turrets and Relentless.
Gladiator-class Star Destroyer with Assault Concussion Missiles.
Gladiator-class Star Destroyer with Assault Concussion Missiles.
Major Rhymer, 3 TIE Bomber squadrons, Darth Vader, 3 TIE Advanced squadrons.
Because James is a big stupid arsehole who has NO ORIGINAL IDEAS, he used MY combination of Heavy Turbolaser Turrets and SW-7 Ion Batteries – while admittedly, I took that suggestion from an online forum, I will nonetheless berate James for using my own ideas to beat me.
And beat me he did. I deployed incredibly poorly, splitting my fleet in the hope of enacting a pincer-movement, with Relentless and Instigator off to the left, and Demolisher and my flagship on the right. Not only did I intentionally make life harder for myself, but I also lost my nerve – slowing Relentless down in the second turn to protect her, delaying her entry into the battle. James swamped my Gladiators with his fleet, bombarding them from afar with Major Rhymer and his cronies.
With Demolisher and the flagship in smoking ruin, I grew annoyed with my own failings and quickly proceeded to sabotage the rest of my game. Instigator went down more-or-less in a single shot, whilst Relentless suffered successive barrages which took her down before she could enact any measure of revenge. And with that, I had been tabled for the second time ever, and within twenty-four hours of my first ever tabling – and this time, I didn’t destroy a single element of James’ fleet
The weekend was just getting worse and worse.
For the second round, I was pitted against Kevin, who was flying a five-ship fleet, consisting of a Screed-led Imperial, a Raider, three Gladiators and a Firespray and Aggressor. I was worried by this fleet – I was at an Activation Disadvantage for the first time in any of the tournaments, but I still had the stronger bid for initiative. Having failed to learn my lesson, I again deployed with a split fleet, this time with Instigator, Demolisher and the flagship as a wolf-pack on the right, ready to swoop in behind Kevin’s Imperial and escorting Gladiator in the middle; Relentless deployed to the left, to take on Kevin’s own wolf-pack of two Gladiators and the Raider.
This time, I managed to keep it together. Relentless dispatched Kevin’s Raider almost instantly and put a whollop on a Gladiator, navigating neatly into a Gladiator‘s narrow front arcs whilst doing so – a piece of flying of which I was particularly proud.. The Demolisher wolf-pack took care of Kevin’s right-most Gladiator, but failed to close with his Imperial in time. The capital ship departed, as Relentless swept around onto the central objective: yet another contested space station. I brought my wolf-pack down through the centre of the combat zone to intercept Kevin’s wounded Gladiator, putting more hurt on it but failing to finish the damn thing off.
The game ended with a victory, earning me eight tournament points – not enough to contest with James, but enough to get some confidence back. Kevin had played well, but was let down by his placement of his Imperial, which was never able to land a decent shot due to its central position – an issue only identifiable in hindsight, however. And, in truth, I hadn’t really managed much of an impact – my own Relentless had taken down only a Raider, a match-up so one-sided as to be analogous to myself on a see-saw opposite a Jawa.
My third game was against Chris, flying the only Rebel fleet of the tournament – a now-familiar sight of two Mk. II Assault Frigates and an MC80 led by Admiral Ackbar. However, this was the first game where I actually lost the bid for initiative – Chris’ fleet was the same value as my own, and he won the toss-up. He took first turn, meaning this was the first game I had ever played where I was second player – at least since Wave 1 was released.
Chris selected “Most Wanted” as the objective to be played – I selected his MC80 and my own Instigator as the objective ships, increasing their vulnerability and doubling their value for determining victory. Up until now, I had always valued the immediacy of being first player – but being able to react to Chris’ deployment was incredibly useful, allowing me to set my own ships up directly opposing his. This proved critical to my tactics, and is a lesson I will remember against future Ackbar-led fleets.
I performed my now-well-rehearsed “nose-punch” on the Rebel fleet, and managed to pull it off for the second time this weekend – and two out of three isn’t bad. Focused fire from my flagship and Relentless brought the target MC80 to a grisly end, and multiple collisions did for one of the Assault Frigates. Instigator took a pounding, but barely managed to creep away and evade destruction. Demolisher took on the third Assault Frigate, but surprisingly failed to inflict enough damage to it to bring the beast down. The final Rebel ship escaped and departed the battle.
This was a solid win, scoring me nine tournament points – still nowhere near enough to compete with James. Chris’ main enemy was his lack of experience, as he had not had chance to play a great many matches, but he had a solid grasp of the game and was a very worthy opponent.
James’ second game was against Chris. James’ fleet was unrelenting, driving straight at the Rebel scum and savaging them with brutal efficiency. Chris kicked out as much return fire as he could manage, but James ultimately won the day, his Imperial-class Star Destroyer throwing mountains of firepower and soaking up a frankly ridiculous amount of damage. James took home nine tournament points, which meant it was now impossible for anyone but him to win the tournament overall, as Kevin had six points and I had eight.
However, Kevin and James faced off in the third round, and it was here that James faced his biggest challenge of the day. Kevin’s numerical superiority saw him get the jump on James’ less responsive fleet, and Kevin had refined his tactics to carry that advantage forwards, hammering James’ flagship and taking her out of the battle in the opening stages of the engagement. Kevin then turned his attentions upon James’ Gladiators, wrecking one whilst the other desperately cruised to safety. At the close of the action, Kevin had secured a victory to the tune of nine tournament points – one hell of a come-back, and a testament to his determination.
As the day drew to a close, there was only one deserving winner: James had stormed his way through his fights, and whilst he had been caught off-guard in the final match, he had been a solid player all day.
I took second place, but only by a small margin – Kevin was third, but close behind me. It had been a good day and, more importantly, a day full of games, each with their own challenges and triumphs.
Having played eleven games in eight days – nine games for James – we were both tired. We had traveled many miles, faced many enemies, and eaten many baked goods. Although our initial goal was to play a total of six tournaments, James had decided not to attend the tournament in Derby on Saturday, and we had both had our fill of competitive play for a while.
As such, we are drawing our tour of UK Armada tournaments to a close here. With one win each, and having each placed in the top four of each tournament we attended (by default at Escape Games, but nonetheless), and of greater note having had an amazing time doing so, meeting some amazing and friendly new players, we both feel very satisfied with our experience.
However, due to the popularity of these articles, this won’t be my last post on Armada – I am yet to write my summary of the lessons I have learned from the last few days, and there is still the Store Championships at Escape Games just over three weeks from now. Plus, Sam and I have an oversized, 600-point friendly match to play, so hopefully I can continue to entertain for some time to come.
With tomorrow’s tournament being a Store Championship, I need to make sure I’m on top form. I’ve been on a rigorous protein diet over the last week (four-cheese pizzas) with a lot of metabolism-boosting supplements (Ben & Jerry’s, one pint at a time). I also need to make sure that I have learned from my previous mistakes. Here’s a few that I’ve made in the past – if I ever need to prove my innocence, the following should serve as evidence that I’m incapable of anything particularly nefarious.
1 – Flip Those Dials
At the start of every ship’s activation, I need flip its top-most command dial face-up, revealing the command. This is a step that I, and many of my opponents, have occasionally skipped. The truth is, when I know it’s a Navigation and I don’t need to use it this turn, my excitement to roll some dice often takes priority.
Of course, the last game I played, I consistently forgot to place my Raider‘s dial face-down in the first place. Not sure how I managed that one, but it happened most turns. I must be getting senile.
2 – Do the Math
I have a nasty habit of making gut reactions, rather than stepping back and thinking it through. It definitely cost me one game last weekend, and has probably cost me a few more. Although there are time limits to tournament rounds, 135 minutes is more than enough time to step back, take a breath, and actually think about what it is I need to do to win – whilst remembering to avoid slow-play.
I Will Not lose another Imperial-class Star Destroyer because I didn’t take ten seconds to do the math at the critical moment. I don’t want to be a dickhead, do I?
3 – Remember the Rules
Five days ago I managed to forget that I had a second shot with my Relentless, a mistake that almost certainly made the game considerably worse for me. I have spent Navigation commands to slow my vessels down, but forgotten to change their speed dials. It’s possible that I need a physical checklist to run through for each ship activation, because honestly the things I forget or skip past in a turn make me look like a dribbling idiot.
4 – Count those Cards
Remembering a raft of special rules can be tricky for lots of people. Fortunately, Fantasy Flight Games provide handy little upgrade cards to remind you of all of the special things you can do. Unfortunately, I’m still dumb enough to forget even those – and the fact that my SW-7 Ion Batteries would’ve done another two damage is as useless as a marzipan dildo if I only realise it ten minutes after I made the bloody attack.
Same goes for damage cards – ruthlessly enforce both my own and my opponent’s Critical Damage effects, lest I become a gurning wanker.
5 – Stay On Target
Two of the big games I won last Sunday were only won because I remembered my objectives. I didn’t get sidetracked by simply trying to destroy the enemy fleet (although that played a big part, of course). If you’re playing ‘Opening Salvo’, you need to minimise the damage to your own fleet. ‘Contested Outpost’? Remember to stay within range of the fuckin’ station.
Really, this is basic stuff – but when I’m tired, and excited, and anxious, I still find a way to struggle with even the basics. I’m not a clever carrot.
6 – It’s a Game
I love playing Armada, I really do. And it’s important that I don’t stop loving it because I got caught up in winning, or wound myself up because I made yet another embarrassing mistake (“embarrassing mistake” happens to be my Dad’s nickname for me). I’ve enjoyed 90% of the games I’ve played – and I’ve enjoyed 100% of the games I’ve played since Wave 1 was released.
The ultimate objective of Armada isn’t to destroy enemy fleets or dodge mines – it’s to enjoy the entire process of playing. So far, I’ve stayed on the right side of that. I need to make sure I continue to do so. And not turn into a Twat.
A guest article from my friend Sam, who attended one of last weekend’s tournaments with James and I. I’ll offer no unnecessary introduction, so take it away, Sam…
Looking around my room it is safe to say that I have something of an addiction to miniatures games. My PC monitor is surrounded by a crowd of X-Wings, E-Wings and TIE Interceptors, and my book collection has now been boxed and put in the loft to make room for Leman Russ battle tanks and battlegroups of UNSC Heavy Cruisers. My fondest memories of university are of being part of Coventry’s awesome Games Workshop community, or of trucking off to Warwick games club on Friday evening to play huge games of Apocalypse.
As an old Battlefleet Gothic player, it was perhaps inevitable that Fantasy Flight Games’ second Star Wars offering, Armada, would end up in my collection. When one of my friends excitedly messaged me on Facebook with “DUDE! Look at this! There’s a new Star Wars game with STAR DESTROYERS! You don’t even need to paint the models!” it took all of 30 seconds for me to have a starter set on the way from Amazon. When I finally got my hands on the game I was astounded by the size and detail of the miniatures, and excitedly pored over the rules.
Unfortunately there’s a catch. I live in the middle of buttfuck nowhere, as in REALLY the middle of buttfuck nowhere. Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire are a big black hole in the miniatures gaming world. One peek at the Armada players map on Facebook shows a good 50 miles of sweet FA around my own location. As a result, by the time last week rolled around, I had managed a piddly three games. But then an old friend from Coventry, Jon, asked me if I would like to go with him and a friend to an Armada tournament. With my last game being shortly after the release of wave 2 I jumped at the chance to, well, actually play the bloody game.
I put together a list for my favourite faction, the Imperial Navy, and headed off to Rugby’s Shadow Games, hopeful that my inexperience would not lead to me being soundly thrashed like a rambunctious Victorian boy in a Catholic nunnery.
My list – Battlegroup Relentless
Imperial I Star Destroyer – Admiral Screed, Gunnery Team, Relentless – 146 points
Gladiator I Star Destroyer – Assault Concussion Missiles, Demolisher – 73 points
Gladiator I Star Destroyer – Assault Concussion Missiles – 63 points
Raider II Corvette – Overload Pulse – 56 points
Raider II Corvette – Overload Pulse – 56 points
Fleet Total: 394
Objectives: Most Wanted, Hyperspace Assault, Intel Sweep
My logic behind this list was two-fold. Screed is probably the most reliable Imperial Admiral when combined with every Imperial player’s favourite ship, the Gladiator, reliably procing its Assault Concussion Missiles. Similarly, Screed can reliably proc Overload Pulse. Pair Overload Pulse with the ISD plus Avenger title… Well, to slightly paraphrase Dr Thrax from C&C Generals “Aah general, now you cannot discard your defence tokens, EVEN IF YOU WANTED TO!”
However, I picked Avenger over Relentless so that I could maintain a healthy initiative bid. Relentless, while not as synergizing with this list as Avenger, did allow me to be more reactive by reducing my command value to 2.
The choice to include raiders was also twofold. Firstly, they are fast and when combined with navigate commands can pull off some utterly bullshit maneuvers that make even Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson in The Fast and Furious look like fucking rank amateurs next to the Raider’s awesome drifts. This would keep me covered in the event of an Intel Sweep mission. Secondly, Raider II’s get an Ion Cannon slot and thus Overload Pulse, making for a cheap Overload Pulse buggy.
My logic was that the Raider could get in and steal a ship’s ability to defend itself and run off again… Kinda like a Slough chav running in and stealing an old lady’s purse before running off again and hurling poorly constructed sentences over its shoulder, all while thinking it’s the hardest man to ever live. Fucking chavs. The ISD was there to do what ISDs do best: remove things from this plane of existence. Simple, really.
The Matches Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Embrace My Role As A Baby Harp Seal Being Clubbed To Death By A Tribe Of Eskimos
Now I’ll preface this by saying that I knew I would not be walking out a winner, or indeed having any real standing at all. I came to play Star Wars Armada and learn more about the game, and that’s exactly what I did, and I had a helluva lot of fun doing it. My ships also blew up. A lot.
Match 1 – Battlegroup Relentless vs Home One and Battle Guppies
My first match was against a chap named Paul, who was fielding a style of list that I had feared facing before arriving at the tourney. His list consisted of an MC80 with Admiral Ackbar that was tanked to crap with Redundant Shields. The MC80 was accompanied by two Mk II Assault Frigates, each with Enhanced Armament if I recall. I had initiative and erroneously chose second player, a mistake that would bite me in the ass again in match two. For some reason I thought picking to be second player was the best way to play the game, no idea why. I had five activations but was throwing away that advantage.
Paul selected ‘Most Wanted’ from my list of objectives, so I nominated my ISD and one of his Assault Frigates as the objective ships. I didn’t want to nominate the MC80 as an objective ship as I was not confident I could break through its defences before it took me to pieces. The deployment was roughly as follows (PH43R MY l33T MAD PAINT SKILLZ). Objective ships have a yellow dot.
My intention was to have the raiders swing wide, cross the “T” of the frigates and Overload Pulse the objective ship, by which point my Gladiators would have closed in and would be able to pummel it. The ISD was hopefully to take attention off the Gladiators and to also dish out some serious hurt to the Assault Frigates or to tie up Ackbar.
The first two turns consisted primarily of embracing my inner Nelson and closing the distance. On turn 3 our forces met, and things went very south very quickly. Ackbar puts out an obscene amount of dice. Paul’s first shot from one of his Assault Frigates put a Gladiator into hull and his second activation saw that Gladiator reduced to a smoldering hulk. Neither of my Glads were in range to shoot back. Meanwhile the Raiders ‘Vin Diesel’ and ‘Dwayne Johnson’ on the right flank were now closing in on the frigates, hurtling in behind them to hopefully unload their Overload Pulses. Ackbar laughed at this plan in turn 4 and I had both Corvettes one-shotted by the Assault Frigates. Welp.
The remaining turn saw the ISD trying and utterly failing to break through the MC80’s defences, and after two turns of MC80 broadsides, the barrage of turbolaser and ion cannon fire overcame the Relentless. With a dreadful shudder, the Star Destroyer began to roll over as it’s maneuvering thrusters failed and a series of internal explosions ripped through bulkheads and engine assemblies, turning the one-proud flagship into a radioactive debris field.
End result: Total Hell Death, 400-0 10-0 victory to Snackbar and the Rebel scum.
My tournament debut was NOT going well. I had been utterly humbled by this list and realized in that moment that in terms of player skill I was totally outclassed. I also learned just how deadly Ackbar could be. In retrospect my list probably had no chance of victory here. I had to spend too long at ranges where the Rebel fleet could pound me with impunity and I just could not fire back due to the short ranged nature of my ships. In terms of a pure gunfight this Rebel list is dominant, and the only real weakness I can see it having would be carriers.
Match 2 – Battlegroup Relentless vs Admiral Motti and the Victorys of Doom
This match I felt far more confident, as I was facing what I considered to be a roughly equal force in terms of direct firepower. My opponent had two Victory II class Star Destroyers, ships that are widely considered to be bad and outclassed. He had also included the Demolisher, complete with ACMs and Engine Techs. His Admiral, Motti, was on a highly upgraded VSD and was accompanied by nine TIE Fighter squadrons.
Again I had initiative and again I chose to go second for some reason. I recall reading somewhere that second player was always preferable because your opponent picks from your objectives, but I now know this to NOT be the case. My opponent Craig picked Hyperspace Assault as his objective and I thus elected to keep Demolisher in reserve to appear when needed. Following ship deployment I placed my three warp in beacons directly in between our fleets, the hope being to catch him in a trap when our fleets merged. Deployment was as follows:
The blue dots on the map are my warp-in beacons and the two ships with yellow dots are the flagships. Here I placed my ISD and remaining Gladiator close together, with a Raider on each flank. I was hoping to envelop his fleet with the Raiders while closing with the ISD and remaining Gladiator. When our fleets merged, Demolisher would appear behind his lines and get tasty rear arc shots.
The first two turns were closing the distance, myself advancing at flank speed while Craig perhaps wisely dropped down to speed 1 and awaited my arrival. He knew he could not afford to charge over my beacons and have my Demolisher appear uncontested. My right Raider flanked right wide, at what I thought was a safe distance. My left Raider flanked straight up the board to come in from my opponent’s edge of the board. By turn 3 the first combat occurred. His Demolisher complete with Engine Techs sped down the right edge of the board to catch my Raider at close range. The results of this exchange are kind of obvious. First blood to Craig.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the board we had our first long range exchanges, with a few shield points being lost on both sides but otherwise no significant damage. But here I made a terrible mistake. I warped in Demolisher, acutely aware that my forces already on the board were outgunned. Demolisher landed directly off Motti’s right flank, but unfortunately some stupid positioning on my part left the Demolisher’s rear arc JUST exposed to the frontal arc of the second Vic II.
Craig opened turn 4 with his trailing Victory, immediately punishing my mistake by removing Demolisher’s aft and port shields. My Demolisher activation followed next, and laid some serious smack down on Motti, breaking through his shields and procing ACMs to remove his remaining forward shield. Craig activated Motti now however, and slapped Demolisher down. Oh dear. My second activation was my ISD, which now had a clear shot on Motti’s Victory. In a hail of turbolaser and missile fire, Screed’s flagship decimated Motti’s Victory, high-powered energy bolts ripping through exposed armour and exposing entire sections of the Victory to hard vacuum.
His flagship reduced to a crippled, venting hulk, Motti was no more. Unfortunately my movement now resulted in ‘The Imperial Kiss’, the ISD and Victory slamming into one another and taking damage. Our remaining activations for turn 4 were inconsequential, I stupidly took asteroid damage on a Raider, while Craig’s Demolisher was still returning to the fight from its deletion of my other Raider.
Turn 5 opened with me hoping that I could destroy the second Victory before Craig’s Demolisher could get back into range. This was not to be. A squadron activation by the remaining Victory saw my ISD take a full 3 points of damage from squadrons, while it’s shooting destroyed my last Raider and punched through my ISD’s forward shields. With Demolisher now one move away from being in range, I knew that the writing was on the wall. Turn 6 opened with the Victory dropping my ISD down to 4 remaining hull points, and the final squadron activation saw the horde of TIE fighters finally destroy my flagship.
End margin of victory –250.
This match hinged on my being smart with Demolisher, and I was not smart. To compound matters I was realizing just how badly taking two 56 point raiders was crippling my fleet. To proc their Overload Pulses, the Raiders would have to close to point-blank range to have the black die to expend to guarantee an Overload Pulse proc with screed. At this range Raiders die very quickly, their two evade tokens useless. I was happy that I had killed Motti’s flagship, as it meant I had at least done SOMETHING as opposed to my first game. I also learned just how dangerous the Demolisher is with Engine Techs. Watching that thing shoot up the board and catch my Raider was a very rude shock.
Match 3 – Battlegroup Relentless vs Imperial Fury
My final match was against one of the guys I had come to the tournament with, a chap named James. James and Jon had both played against each other a lot, and while I was unsure of my previous opponent’s skill level I knew James was a good player and thus my feelings about this match were bleak. James’ list was horrible. An Imperial-II Star Destroyer backed up by THREE Gladiators with Screed left me feeling like a prison bitch sadly waiting for a painful ass fucking. At this point I decided to throw any caution to the wind. I was going to go in, and I was going to kill something and die gloriously. In my previous match I had been very cautious with my Raiders, and yet had still lost them, so I thought I might as well just send them straight in with the rest of the fleet, no silly flanking maneuvers.
In this final game I again had initiative but decided to go as first player, and picked James’ ‘Opening Salvo’ objective. We both deployed our fleets slightly left of the centre of our deployment zones, and advanced on one another very quickly. My fleet advanced tightly, with Raiders on each flank, with James also keeping a tight formation as we closed. On turn 2 I was forced to send my rightmost Raider wide to avoid a pointless death against his two Gladiators, which resulted in this Raider being out of the game for all intents and purposes. On turn 2 we also had first contact, with my fleet managing to cripple and then destroy James’ lone Gladiator that had moved slightly ahead of its comrades. I took a pounding in return however, with my two Gladiators ultimately succumbing to James’ ISD II and Gladiators by the end of turn 4. Meanwhile, my leftmost Raider managed to get in and Overload Pulse James’ flagship, with both ISDs hammering away at one another.
In turn 4 we had another ‘Imperial Kiss’ as the two flagships slammed into one another, and with both being at speed 2 were unable to free themselves for the remainder of the game. My Raider’s Overload Pulse proved to be critical, as my Relentless finally pounded his into scrap, but not without taking heavy damage, only two hit points remaining including two criticals. By some stroke of luck I managed to avoid losing my crippled ISD in the closing part of turn 4, as both of James’ remaining Gladiators had gone wide after killing mine and could not close to range.
Following some bad rolling from his TIE squadrons, we entered Turn 5 with my ISD still intact along with both Raiders, one however still being hopelessly out of position. To make matters worse both of James’ speed 3 Glads were now closing on the rear arc of my speed 2 ISD and all I could hope for was to run. It was not to be. An excellent Double Hit/Double Hit/Hit roll from Demolisher’s forward armament landed the killing blow on my flagship and it was reduced to scrap metal. With James’ ships having no hope of catching Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson zipping around at speed 4 we called the game there.
Final MOV -50 with a 6-4 victory for James.
I was honestly surprised I managed such a close defeat considering my previous two matches, and I won’t be arrogant enough to claim it was totally down to developing skill on my part. By the point of the third match I was beginning to tire and James was still wrestling a whiskey-induced hangover which he later credited with being the reason he hadn’t done well in his first game. James was very gracious and helped me out several times when I forgot to take actions or made rules mistakes. I was continually forgetting to flip up my command dials by this point and once forgot to take a second shot with Demolisher after moving, but James allowed all these mistakes on my part. This match again proved to me that the Raiders just weren’t a good investment for a player of my skill level, even though it was the first match I had actually used them as I had originally intended!
Overall I had a lot of fun attending the tournament and feel like it has helped me learn a hell of a lot about the game. Armada is a game that is very easy to get into, but actually learning all its intricacies is a tough job. Coming from games like Battlefleet Gothic, one is always in the “move firsts shoot second” mindset, but in Armada it is the opposite. You really need to be thinking several turns ahead so that your movement in one turn sets you up for a shot in the next turn, which might seem obvious to any Armada player who has spent time with the game, but not to a player like myself. Similarly, I was beginning to realise just how much thought needs to go into my order of activations. By the end of my third game I was beginning to get a full grasp of the logic behind this. Having my Overload Pulse Raider activate last to get it right up to a target only to activate it first in the next round allowed me to cripple James’ ISD in the final game, and was the first time I actually used that part of my list as I had originally intended it.
Talking of the list, I have seen just how much thought I need to put into a list intended for competitive play. I initially thought that my two Raiders could win some games for me, being part of a one-two punch that would cripple enemy ships and allow me to easily dispatch them with my heavier vessels. As it was the Raiders were a poor choice for Overload Pulse, as I do not have the knowhow to use them effectively and they are just so fragile. I think that perhaps a list composed of several larger, heavier ships would be better for a person of my skill level, as I need ships that don’t punish me heavily for making a poor maneuver in the way that Raiders do. Perhaps three ISDs with Motti…
I have played against some cracking lists and this has helped me understand what I need to do with my own list, and to look at fleet building in a new light. Just because a ship can do a thing does not necessarily mean it should do a thing. I also learned a lot more about my preferred playstyle, and can now build a list that synergises with it.
Was going to a tournament with so little experience a good idea? Honestly I think it was. Playing casual games at home with friends is one thing, but in the tournament environment I got to play three games against opponents who all knew their stuff. The opportunity for learning in such an environment is just so much better than anything one can get playing a few casual games every couple of weeks. Yes I was defeated, terribly in my first game, but I improved markedly with each game and was able to directly carry the lessons I had learned from each game over into the next game. I feel that I am ready to try a second tournament with a new list and a new understanding of the game!
On a cold, dreary Sunday our two warriors stepped from their four-wheel drive, off-road vehicle onto the damp macadam of Lichfield’s long-stay car park. Across the road was the crucible, Titan Games, a charming and old-fashioned game shop in a timber-framed terrace.
The store was another winner – well-stocked, friendly staff, and really conveniently placed for car travelers – plus, right around the corner from a McDonald’s, the milkshakes of which would prove key to sustaining us through the day.
Against us were four admirals of great renown and valour:
Paul – Rebels, led by Admiral Ackbar
MC80 Mon Calamari CruiserDefiance
Two Mk. II Assault Frigates, with Gunnery Teams
Paul (a second Paul) – Imperials, led by Admiral Motti
Imperial-II -class Star Destroyer
Imperial-I -class Star Destroyer
Gladiator -class Star Destroyer Demolisher
A Firespray and an Aggressor – both unnamed.
Graham – Rebels, led by Admiral Ackbar
Two Mk. II Assault Frigates
MC30C Scout Frigate Foresight
Jan Ors, three A-Wing squadrons, and an X-Wing squadron.
Dan – Imperials, led by Admiral Screed
Imperial-II -class Star Destroyer, with Gunnery Teams, Electronic Countermeasures, X17 Turbolasers, etc…
Gladiator -class Star Destroyer Demolisher
Gladiator -class Star Destroyer
Dengar and several TIE squadrons
In the first round, I was set against Rebel Paul, James was to take on Imperial Paul, whilst Graham and Dan faced off on the third table.
Our lists were unchanged from the day before, and we’d had our practice now – today, no quarter would be given.
At least, not intentionally.
James had a solid start to the day. However, it didn’t look that way at first. Here’s his own description of how the match went:
Okay, so in my first fight I was the second player and he chose ‘Opening Salvo’, an interesting decision as I had more ships then he did, but I wasn’t complaining. I knew my ISD wouldn’t be able to out-position his two ISD‘s so I just aimed mine at his and hoped my dice didn’t fuck me. I positioned Insidious at an angle to make sure I could fit the rest of my fleet around the obstacles and so that hopefully I could get it round the back to deal out some damage.
My first mistake was to angle Insidious too far out when really it wasn’t going to get much thrown at it with my ISD there anyway, and it ended up not getting a single shot out, making my second player advantage a little slimmer. The second mistake was to remember that I had a second player advantage when I got my first shot off with my ISD; Paul offered to let me keep the token and use it next round but the rules are clear that it has to be the first shot so I didn’t take him up on that. However, my opening shots with the other two GSD‘s were able to add black dice into their pool allowing me to use my ACM‘s at long range. I targeted his ISD1 as it can deal out more damage at close range and I wasn’t planning on letting him past.
My third mistake was to position a GSD blocking his ISD2, I thought he would target my ISD in order to go for the win but instead he blew my standard GSD out of the sky so he could move past. This made the game effectively 5 rounds as we couldn’t do anything to each other in the 6th round that would have any impact on the game. However his Demolisher, that was quite loaded up with upgrades, didn’t manage to slow down in time before flying off the edge of the board, and I went from a loss of about 30 points to a win of 68.
James’ second game was somewhat more one-sided. Facing off against his second Paul of the day, he went up against the Ackbar menace. Attempting to replicate an incredibly risky tactic he had seen employed in the previous round, James stormed his Star Destroyers past the minefield and directly at the head of Paul’s Rebel column, hoping to stop it in its tracks. But his timing was out, and as he tried desperately to engage the Rebels on their weak frontal arcs, he fell short – and the punishment from the Rebel broadsides was unrelenting. Imperial iron gave way to Rebellious fury as ship after ship succumbed to overwhelming firepower. As the guns abated, all three Rebel ships remained – and all that was left of the Imperials was smoke and ashes. Paul’s 400-point margin of victory gave him ten tournament points.
Finally, James took on Dan’s Imperial fleet. Dan had, thus far, been put through the ringer, having suffered two nasty defeats already. James spared no sympathy, however, as he dismantled Dan’s vessels with extreme prejudice. With a numerical advantage of four ships to three, James set his guns and missiles blazing and stole a hefty victory, although he lost the Demolisher in the process. Nine tournament points in the bag, taking him to sixteen in total.
My first battle was against Rebel Paul, and I hope you will forgive me if I indulge in a little additional detail. I had seen Paul fight the day before, and he was a formidable tactician. He had flattened every fleet he had come across, and I was eager to face him today for the challenge. There had been talk that his Ackbar-led fleet was unstoppable, unbeatable, immortal – I wanted to prove that there was no such thing. Don’t get me wrong, Paul is a great guy who fights hard with a good fleet – but I needed to know if I was up to the task. And I knew that if I fared as poorly against him as everyone else, I would have no hope of seizing a win on the day.
He deployed his minefields to deter the approach of my sharp-prowed fleet. I placed my corvette, Instigator, on the far, far left of my deployment zone, and at maximum speed – this would be key later on. He deployed his vessels in a standard column, going from my right to my left with the Defiance, his MC80 Assault Cruiser, at the front. I set my flagship and the Relentless, my Imperial- class, to the right of the Instigator, going straight ahead, whilst I placed the Demolisher much further over to the right, angled towards the middle of the Rebel column – and carefully positioned to navigate through the minefield.
Everything then happened very, very quickly. In two turns, the Instigator crossed the entire map, ending up directly in front of the steadily-cruising Defiance. The Defiance slowed to avoid a collision, as the rest of the Imperial fleet sped towards the Instigator’s position. The Relentless headed straight for the side-arc of the Defianceand unloaded with her entire frontal battery as the flagship Gladiator cruised around following the path of the Instigator. The approaching Rebel Assault Frigates were too far distant to affect the engagement meaningfully, and the three Imperial ships tore the Defiance to pieces. The Instigator was lost, but her gallant crew had done their jobs admirably – stalling the Rebel line of advance and pinning the Rebel flagship in place for eradication. My flagship dealt the killing blow with a brutal short-range delivery of heavy ordnance.
Meanwhile, the Demolisher slowed to a cautious advance through the minefields, before rushing up into the middle of the Assault Frigates. She didn’t remain intact against the two larger ships, but she put a crippling blow on the lead vessel, leaving it to be finished off by a volley from the Relentless. The surviving Rebel ship was largely untouched by the fighting, and departed towards the relative safety of the minefield. As the wounded Relentless desperately slowed to avoid leaving the combat zone, and then again to avoid a rogue asteroid, the battle ended with a solid Imperial victory – I took nine tournament points, with which I was very happy.
I should note here that, although I was pleased with the victory, to his credit Paul didn’t make a single mistake. He was a tough opponent to crack, and it was only the fact that I employed such a risky, incredibly aggressive strategy that I was able to do the damage I needed to do to win. When James tried to replicate it in the next game, Paul had already learned and adapted, and promptly took James’ fleet apart.
My second game was against Graham, who had secured a strong victory against Dan in the first round. Our ships each prepared their guns for a brutal opening salvo, and brutal it was. The Relentless suffered heavy damage in the earliest stages of the fighting, and this was worrisome – the Relentless wounded was worth as much to Graham as any other ship dead. However, she pulled away from the combat and set her damage control teams to frantic repairs, whilst my flagship Gladiator and Demolisher devastated Ackbar’s flagship; the Demolisher suffered heavy damage in the process. Without their admiral’s expert gunnery tactics, the Rebels’ fighting strength was diminished. Their Scout Frigate swept into a nasty crossfire between my flagship and Instigator, and was wrecked in the final stages of the battle. The Relentless repaired the last of her damage, and the score was tallied – I gained eight tournament points, with two to Graham.
The final fight was as climactic as it should have been. I faced Imperial Paul, and everything was to play for. He had suffered a minor defeat to James, but had trollied Dan, and now needed to beat me by a margin of victory of 70 points or more to take first place.
Two Imperial- class Star Destroyers was a threat I’d not faced before, and with Motti in command they were tough old beasts to kill. They approached at high speed, whilst my own fleet deployed in a tight cluster at low speed, to avoid unnecessary damage from a nearby minefield. The two Demolishers got stuck into each other quite quickly – Paul’s near-crippled my own, whilst mine put the wallop back on his, before rushing forward into the frontal arc of his ISD-I. My flagship finished off the Demolisher before also rushing into the front arc of both the ISD-Iand the ISD-II. This was my first mistake of the battle.
My Demolisher was finished off casually by the enemy ISD-I, and the ISD-II put a devastating blow into my flagship. The Relentless was still slowly navigating around an asteroid, too distant to help. But my flagship survived, and in turn put both her forward and her broadside torpedo tubes into the ISD-I. My flagship sped between the two larger vessels, desperately trying to escape retribution. Set on their course, Paul’s two capital ships moved into engagement range with my own, and here, the Relentlessshined. Unabashed by being outnumbered two-to-one, she launched salvo after salvo into the approaching aggressors, and she lived up to her name – she took their return fire like a champ. By the time they were nose-to-nose, she was ready to really go to work on them – in a single volley, she finished off the ISD-I at close range. Her crew cheered, and her admiral excitedly moved her forwards, forgetting – like the big stupid idiot he is, that she was yet to make a second shot against the enemy ISD-II, one which would surely have finished the beast off. This was my second mistake of the battle.
Charitably, Paul allowed me to make a side-arc attack against his flagship, it in turn delivered a frontal assault into the rear of Relentless. She survived – barely – and was now departing the scene, hoping to avoid further punishment. And as she did, I made my final mistake, the one that would ultimately cost me the match. As Relentless‘ damage control teams set to work, I had the option to repair her hull, or regain some shields. A lone enemy Firespray was loitering abeam of my proud vessel, and I was, foolishly, not convinced that I would clear the guns of Paul’s rapidly-turning ISD-II. I regained shields on one side only, and Paul’s firespray subsequently attacked the opposite side, delivering exactly as much damage as was needed to kill Relentless and swing the match to his favour.
With tension, we calculated points, and after some double-checking of our maths, the score was settled – Paul had won with a margin of victory of 69 points. One solitary point short of the seven tournament points he needed to win the day. I am not even making this up.
Dan had an rough day, having lost all three matches and having been tabled in two of them. He finished in sixth position, but hopefully he has learned what he needs to learn to come back another day and really bust some heads.
Graham finished in fifth, which surprised me to an extent, as he was a great player – very thoughtful, very deliberate and very focused. I worked hard – damnably hard – to defeat him, but his final match against Rebel Paul went against him.
Rebel Paul finished in third place, and played well all day. Defeating a rival Ackbar list can’t be easy, and he tabled James with fairly ruthless efficiency. However, I should imagine he was still fairly pleased after his tournament win the previous day.
Imperial Paul came in second, but only by a single tournament point (a common theme, it seems). He was a fantastic, incredibly sporting player – as was everyone – and he fought very, very hard indeed. In truth, I feel that with a bit of refinement to his list he could be unstoppable. Further, had he not flown his own Demolisher off the board in his first game, the scoreboard would have looked very different.
James placed fourth for the second day in a row, but had a great time doing so. He was, admittedly, a little hungover again today, so it will be interesting to see what happens when he manages to stay sober – I imagine he’ll do rather well indeed.
I managed, by the skin of my teeth, to win. I was inordinately grateful to receive a pewter medal for my victory, but, in truth, I felt a little sad. The fact that it had come down to a single victory point in the last game, and then that I had won by only a single tournament point, left me feeling like this was an undeserved victory – almost as though I had won on a technicality, or by default, where Paul had been the better player.
I was proud of my performance in my first two games, but my blunders in the final game were crippling and unforgivable. I actually made a fourth mistake that game – turning my Instigator into the forward arcs of Paul’s ISD-II needlessly, handing him yet more victory points. And had I not gotten carried away with finishing off the ISD-I, I might have remembered to make my second attack and finish off Paul’s flagship, and everything would have changed.
However, as it was my sixth game that weekend – and I was already on a sleep deficit – my blunders were perhaps to be expected. I have made the promise to myself that I will simply do better next time, stay focused, and make sure that I really earn my victories.
Note – Despite this being our first day, James didn’t take any pictures because he was so hungover that the paint started peeling off of his Star Destroyers when he breathed too heavily near them. I’ve included pictures that James expertly took from games we played a few weeks ago – please join me in pretending that they were taken today.
Today, James, Sam and I drove through gales and torrents of freezing rain to attend the Winter Tournament hosted by Shadow Games, in Rugby. This was a great venue – clean and tidy, loads of space, friendly and helpful staff – overall, I was very impressed.
There were three other participants – Paul and Stephen, both with Rebels, and Craig with Imperials. Six players, three tournament rounds, nine games in total.
We had our fleets ready, and our opponents assembled theirs. We were facing off against the following:
Paul – Rebels, led by Admiral Ackbar.
MC80 Mon Calamari Cruiser Defiance
Two Mk. II Assault Frigates, with Gunnery Teams
Stephen – Rebels, led my Mon Mothma
MC80 Mon Calamari Cruiser
Two MC30C Torpedo Frigates, with Assault Concussion Missiles
Craig – Imperials, led by Admiral Motti
Two Victory-Class Star Destroyers with a myriad of upgrades
Gladiator-Class Star Destroyer Demolisher
Neil, the tournament organiser, wisely opted to split us three apart, so we each played someone new for the first round. Sam took on Paul, James took on Stephen and I faced off against Craig.
We started playing at 11 a.m. sharp.
Sam had a rough start to a tough day. Up against Paul in the first round, the long-range turbolasers of the Mon Calamari fleet made light work of Sam’s poorly-shielded Raiders and didn’t waste any time before steadily dismantling the remainder of the Imperial fleet. Despite the speed of the Imperial ships, they struggled to approach the Rebels quickly enough to bring their torpedoes and missiles into effective range, and Paul walked away with a 400-point margin of victory, and ten tournament points overall.
Sam’s second game, against Craig, was less one-sided. Sam’s Demolisher was held in reserve, ready to arrive via hyperspace at the appropriate time. The two fleets approached, Sam at full speed, Craig more cautiously, although Craig did send his own Demolisher in on a fast attack to disable an isolated Raider on Sam’s flank. Sam’s flagship, Relentless, took a pounding as the gap between the two fleets narrowed. Worse, issues with Sam’s Demolisher‘s navicomputer led to it dropping out of lightspeed directly in front of Craig’s flagship – the Demolisher was soon smouldering ashes and, with the Relentless now out of action, so too was Sam’s hope of victory. The match finished with nine tournament points in Craig’s pocket.
Sam’s final game was against James. They had not played before, but it was a much more balanced match. Early successes from opening salvoes saw James’ own Relentless suffer the full brunt of the forward guns aboard Sam’s Relentless – the older Imperial-I class of vessel possessed a more potent short-range armament. However, Sam’s flagship finished the exchange of fire almost entirely unshielded and with an 82% loss in structural integrity. Sam’s Gladiators had already been ruined and abandoned, and a perfect shot from one of James’ Gladiators saw Sam’s flag set ablaze, the once-triumphant Relentless now on her way to the breaker’s yard. With a 50-point margin of victory James took six Tournament points, leaving Sam with four. This put Sam at five tournament points in total.
James had a similarly bleak start to the day as Sam. His first battle, against Stephen, saw a series of tactical blunders on James’ behalf that cost him the game – as his bleary-eyed attempts to seize an advantage failed, his fleet was quite comprehensively dismantled over a few turns by Stephens’ powerful formation of broad-sided vessels. I have to be honest, James was visibly struggling at this point, and I did feel badly for him – just not quite badly enough to resist making fun of him. Stephen achieved eight tournament points from this match, with two to James.
James’ second fight was against me. And fortunately, despite the fact we have played each other many times before, we managed to maintain a mature attitude throughout the game – until James revealed his true colours as a backstabbing traitor by capitalising on all of my mistakes and punishing me for my poor decisions. Both our fleets had entered into dangerous territory to reclaim… something… from each of the scattered obstacles. On the first turn my flagship risked a collision with an asteroid to seize an objective, suffering critical damage which dropped its front shield, right in sight of James’ approaching gun line. This put me on the back foot for the rest of the match, and James promptly picked my Relentless to pieces and polished off my Raider with casual contempt. The final result was close, though – James claimed six tournament points, which meant four for me.
James’ final match against Sam has already been covered. Suffice to say, James was by this point sobering up, and Sam had already nearly doubled his experience with the game in the two preceding matches. The improvement in both players’ abilities was clear, but by this point we were all tired and growing lethargic. James finished his final fight on a six-point victory, giving him fourteen tournament points in total.
My day started off mostly positively. Craig claimed to be an inexperienced player, but he had a cool confidence with the game, and made me work hard for a narrow victory. I elected to assault a contested outpost held by Craig’s Victory-class Star Destroyers. Why I made this decision is beyond me – I was likely having a moment. It seemed like a good idea at the time, although I quickly learnt my lesson as I threw my attack force against his sturdy vessels, suffering heavy damage. Both of my Gladiators fell to combined attacks from his capital ships and his fighters – a key strike by Soontir Fel and three TIE Fighter squadrons put my Demolisher down for good. By the time the last laser blast had cleared, I had managed to control the outpost for four turns and burned a Victory and the enemy Demolisher. I was grateful for the seven Tournament points, but aware of how much effort I had to exert to account for my initial mistakes.
My fight with James was, as described above, painful. The loss of front shields due to a misaligned projector on my flagship absolutely sent me reeling, and a damaged fire control aboard my Relentless, similarly gained due to asteroid collisions, pretty much did for me on the first turn. The misaligned projector was arguably the worst result I could have gotten at that point – I had hoped to repair any damage suffered from the asteroids in the subsequent turns, but the loss of my flagship’s forward shields turned me from a cautious attacker into a quivering defender, and James wasted no time in seizing the initiative and applying the pressure straight away.
My last battle was against Stephen, and I was glad for the chance to face some Rebels. Here, the dice were on my side, my gun crews ceaseless in the brutality they inflicted on the enemy vessels. Stephen’s flagship MC80 met its fate inside the front arcs of my Relentless and the two Gladiators at short range. My Raider proved its real worth here, racing ahead to block the advance of Stephen’s MC30Cs – the Raider perished in doing so, but the resultant collisions put the Mon Calamari torpedo boats in a bad state, and they were soon finished off by my Gladiators. Stephen maintained air superiority with his potent A-Wing force led by Han Solo – his eradication of my TIE Fighters and Han’s mortal strike against my Raider prevented me from achieving a full margin of victory – but I was still very pleased to be awarded nine tournament points – taking me up to twenty in total.
Paul won the day – finishing on twenty-seven tournament points, he was well ahead of anyone else. He tabled Stephen in the second round, but came a bit unstuck in round three versus Craig, whose valiant Demolisher slotted an Assault Frigate – however, he still won with a solid seven tournament points.
Craig came third overall, just topping James by a single tournament point. He was using a tough list – two Victory-class vessels leaves you with a very slow fleet, but his use of the Demolisher saw him do very well for someone as relatively new to the game as he was.
Stephen placed fifth overall, and I feel he was let down by some poor dice and the limited range of his torpedo frigates – with only his MC80 in poessession of a long-range armament, I found that, at least against my own fleet, he struggled to apply enough pressure early on in the game, and consequently I was left brash in my attitude.
I have given James grief for not taking photos, but in truth I too failed in my duties, abjectly negligent of any note-taking or record-keeping. However, suffice it to say that it was an excellent day, and I am very glad we started our tournament run at Shadow Games.
Sam placed sixth overall, but his last game was several weeks ago, and he had only played a couple of times before that. He will be adding his own thoughts in a later article, but he has certainly claimed to have learned a lot and enjoyed himself whilst doing so – with a few modifications to his fleet, he will be back with a vengeance very soon.
James came fourth, but would have been third but for a single Tournament point. He has promised not to be so hungover tomorrow, which will hopefully see him crush a few more heads and take a few more names.
I came second, but was still seven points behind Paul, the lead player. I did learn a lot today, enough to work on over the next few matches. James and I only usually fight against each other, and it had been a few weeks since we had done even that – and I felt rusty. Tomorrow, I shall aim to be sharper and less dull-witted – I would dearly like to win one of these tournaments, if only so I can one day claim to have ever achieved anything in my life.
For anyone unfamiliar with the game, there are some key concepts to Armada that any competitive player has to master. If you know the game well, probably best to just skip to the next section.
First off, you’ve got Initiative. At the beginning of each match, the player with the smallest fleet in terms of points gets to choose to go first or second for each game round. This means you’ve got to choose: do I use more points to get more stuff for my ships, or do I keep some back so that I can “bid” for Initiative? How many points do I keep for the bid? It’s a difficult and important choice.
You also have Activations. In a game round, the players take turns to activate one ship at a time. If you have fewer ships than your opponent, then you will have to activate your own ships earlier on, giving your opponent much more chance to respond effectively to your tactics. In essence, you can’t “hold anything back”. Again, this might not matter to some players and their fleets, but we all agree that having more ships in a fleet, and hence more activations, is important.
Finally, there are Squadrons. Armada is all about big, heavy capital ships duking it out with big laser cannon, but between them dart small craft of incredible power and speed. Squadrons broadly fall into two categories – bomber wings, which are dangerous to ships, and fighter wings, which are dangerous to bombers. Even if you’re not relying on squadrons in your own fleet, it can be dangerous to ignore an enemy’s bomber wings, because they can drop a lot of damage that can be very difficult to avoid.
These are probably the three biggest concerns when assembling a fleet with which to fight, or at least, they are for me. There are, of course, other things to consider, such as your Fleet Commander, who can drastically change the way a fleet performs. There are also upgrade cards galore, as well as ace pilots. And each class of ship has two variants which can make a big difference to how they are used.
It’s a very, very complex game, and I love it.
My own fleet is relatively balanced, I feel – I’ve got something of an answer to bomber-heavy opposing lists in the form of my Instigator and escorting TIE Fighters. I’ve kept myself to a minimum of four activations, and a healthy initiative-bid of eight points. I referred to the Fantasy Flight Community Page for ideas on objectives, and picked three based on the advice I received – objectives are difficult to get right.
Sam, meanwhile, had independently picked the exact same objectives for his bruiser of a fleet. With five activations, and a compelling bid for initiative, he’s likely to dominate any ship-to-ship action on the board. However, with no fighter support and no dedicated AA-platforms, he will take a lot of damage from enemy bomber wings. However, his proliferation of Overload Pulses and Assault Concussion Missiles means he’s making the most out of Screed with every activation.
James has taken a very hard-hitting list. His ISD and three, yes THREE Gladiators are sure to knock enemy ships about the map like the galaxy’s most explosive game of ping-pong. He has a small fighter wing, enough to bog down bomber wings for a spell or two. It’s the three lots of ACMs that scare me – in a single turn James could be rolling buckets of black dice, with every attack dealing two extra damage from the missiles. But his manoeuvres and timing will have to be flawless to make the most of his short-range vessels.
You may notice that I’ve linked to the really attractive web-based fleet-builder, Armada Warlords. This is a fantastic site that produces some really fancy-looking fleet lists in multiple formats. However, for printing and fleet-crafting, I used Fab’s Fleet Builder – this is a great tool, as you can tell it what you have in your collection and it will limit your options accordingly. It also produces neat, compact .PDFs for printing. Both are great for different reasons, and I’m very grateful to their creators.