Angry Space Triangles: Imperial Brutality

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

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

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


The Raider-Class Corvette

raider

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

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


The Gladiator-Class Star Destroyer

gladiator

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

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

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

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


The Victory-class Star Destroyer

victory

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

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

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

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


The Imperial-Class Star Destroyer

imperial

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

Angry Space Triangles: Rebel Ships of the Line

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

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

rebel fleet.png

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


The Nebulon-B Frigate

nebulon b

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

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


 

The CR90 Corellian Corvette

Tantive_IV_box_art

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

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


The MC30C Frigate

mc30c

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

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

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


The Mk. II Assault Frigate

assault frig

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

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

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

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

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


MC80 Cruiser

home one

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

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

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

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

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

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


Home_One_Endor

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angry Space Triangles: Tiny Space Triangles

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

raider-swoon
*Swoon*

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

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

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

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

raider-boom
*BOOM*

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

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

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

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

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

Angry Space Triangles: The Fleets

The Basics

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.


The Fleets

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.


Jon’s Fleet – The Bloody Spear

ISD1
The pride of the ‘Bloody Spear’ – the Relentless. And no, it doesn’t look like a tampon.

The Bloody Spear
Author: jhox

Faction: Galactic Empire
Points: 392/400

Commander: Admiral Screed

Assault Objective: Most Wanted
Defense Objective: Hyperspace Assault
Navigation Objective: Intel Sweep

[ flagship ] Gladiator I-Class Star Destroyer (56 points)
–  Admiral Screed  ( 26  points)
–  Assault Concussion Missiles  ( 7  points)

Gladiator I-Class Star Destroyer (56 points)
–  Demolisher  ( 10  points)
–  Ordnance Experts  ( 4  points)
–  Assault Concussion Missiles  ( 7  points)

Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer (120 points)
–  Relentless  ( 3  points)
–  Captain Needa  ( 2  points)
–  Gunnery Team  ( 7  points)
–  Electronic Countermeasures  ( 7  points)
–  Heavy Turbolaser Turrets  ( 6  points)
–  SW 7 Ion Batteries  ( 5  points)

Raider-I Class Corvette (44 points)
–  Instigator  ( 4  points)
–  Ordnance Experts  ( 4  points)

3 TIE Fighter Squadrons ( 24 points)


Sam’s Fleet – Battlegroup Relentless

Battlegroup Relentless
Author: Plumbership

Faction: Galactic Empire
Points: 394/400

Commander: Admiral Screed

Assault Objective: Most Wanted
Defense Objective: Hyperspace Assault
Navigation Objective: Intel Sweep

[ flagship ] Imperial I-Class Star Destroyer (110 points)
–  Admiral Screed  ( 26  points)
–  Relentless  ( 3  points)
–  Gunnery Team  ( 7  points)

Gladiator I-Class Star Destroyer (56 points)
–  Demolisher  ( 10  points)
–  Assault Concussion Missiles  ( 7  points)

Gladiator I-Class Star Destroyer (56 points)
–  Assault Concussion Missiles  ( 7  points)

Raider-II Class Corvette (48 points)
–  Overload Pulse  ( 8  points)

Raider-II Class Corvette (48 points)
–  Overload Pulse  ( 8  points)


James’ Fleet – Imperial Fury

Imperial Fury
Author: jhox

Faction: Galactic Empire
Points: 395/400

Commander: Admiral Screed

Assault Objective: Opening Salvo
Defense Objective: Hyperspace Assault
Navigation Objective: Dangerous Territory

[ flagship ] Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer (120 points)
–  Admiral Screed  ( 26  points)
–  Relentless  ( 3  points)
–  Gunnery Team  ( 7  points)
–  Electronic Countermeasures  ( 7  points)
–  XI7 Turbolasers  ( 6  points)

Gladiator I-Class Star Destroyer (56 points)
–  Demolisher  ( 10  points)
–  Assault Concussion Missiles  ( 7  points)

Gladiator I-Class Star Destroyer (56 points)
–  Insidious  ( 3  points)
–  Assault Concussion Missiles  ( 7  points)

Gladiator I-Class Star Destroyer (56 points)
–  Assault Concussion Missiles  ( 7  points)

3 TIE Fighter Squadrons ( 24 points)