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

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

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

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

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

Here goes nothing…

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

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

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

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

Where are…?

What the…

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

They could’ve had this:

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Or this:

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Or even this:

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Even if it does look like a FUCKING DILDO.

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

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

……

Or something.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring on the future.

 

 

Angry Space Triangles: Lessons Learned the Hard Way

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

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

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

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


1 – Take.

Your.

Time.

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

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

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

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

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

Stay frosty.


2 – Deploy as a Front, Engage at a Point

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

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

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

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

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

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


3 – Gunnery Teams are Glorious

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

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

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

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

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


4 – Certainty over Potential

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

 

Angry Space Triangles: 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.

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*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.

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*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.