This blog post is going to be about something completely different than what I usually write about. Instead of talking abut fantasy battles, infantry, cavalry or even epic monsters, this time I would like to talk about my first game of Star Wars Armada!
I had a fantastic opportunity to play that game thanks to the great hospitality of my amazing friend, Jimmy, when I happen to visit his corner of the world recently. Jimmy is my fellow wargamer from the time of Warhammer Fantasy Battle 8th edition who moved at some stage to play Fantasy Flight Games systems. His main interest is, at least at the moment, focused on X-Wing and you should definitely visit his fantastic blog dedicated to that game:
We have had quite a few discussions about Armada prior to my visit and I was very happy to know that Jimmy accumulated enough ships and squadrons to build two fleets for us to try the game out. Fortunately for me, he also had his first demo game to learn the ropes from his friend (check the relevant blog post here: Armada - First Game).
In this post I will discuss my initial expectations, the game itself and impressions afterwards. I hope it will provide some entertaining read. :)
I picked up the rules online from the official website and read it two or three times to make sure I understand the principles of the game. I wanted to be prepared a bit better so that we could focus on experiencing the game. Of course my understanding of the system and its mechanics was very basic but allowed me to pick a few interesting things that I have not experienced before in other systems.
First one is Activation sequence. It was completely new idea for me as I was used to the I-go-you-go systems where one player completes all moves and actions with his force and then second player does the same with his. It was very intriguing to see how the mechanics of activation one ship at a time is going to impact the game and the perception of the ever changing situation.
In addition, the ships have between 1 and 3 command dials that mean the player may need to plan the sequence of activation up to 3 turns ahead! That requires some skills in anticipating how the game would flow and creates interesting interaction between smaller ships that can adapt quicker and bigger ones that may have limited options to react to the new situation.
Second interesting thing I noticed was that in Armada ships shoot first and then move. Again, that creates a very intriguing dynamics where one needs to plan the positioning and activation accordingly. The initial idea being to allow the enemy ship to float into the firing range first, shoot at it and then move to a better position afterwards.
Another very interesting aspect of the game is the addition and interaction between squadrons and ships. I find it very intriguing that while squadrons add a new dimension to the game, they do not count towards the victory conditions. If you lose all your squadrons you are still in the game. But if you lose all your ships it is over!
In addition, squadrons can be either activated by the ships during the activation stage but can as well act independently. However, if they do so they can be activated after all the ships and can either move or fire. That really adds to the variety of options for both players, also because of different types of squadrons available and different roles they play in the game.
I must admit that the huge number of options that was already revealed when I read the rules was quite overwhelming. However, it only added to the anticipation and spiced things up. It would not come as a surprise then that I immediately reached with my memory to the times when I was reading every single book I could get about naval battles during World War II, in particular on the Pacific Ocean. I expected not only to experience the space battles as depicted in Star Wars movies but also imagined that some of the historical encounters between enemy fighters and bombers trying to reach the capital ships of the enemy fleets will also take place.
Preparation and Fleets
It was the first game for me and second for my friend Jimmy so we wanted to keep things simple. On the other hand we wanted the experience to be rich and varied. Jimmy suggested then that we should play with 400 points worth fleets straight away. I was a bit concerned I may be a bit slow in commanding large force but I agreed anyway. To make it a bit easier, however, we decided to play without commanders, objectives, obstacles or upgrades. We still considered to be more of a demo game but with larger amount of elements. I think it was a good idea because on one hand we had quite a lot of different things to command but on the other we could focus on the fundamentals of activation, movement and attacking sequences.
When we discussed two factions in Armada, Rebel Fleet and Imperial Navy, I somehow assumed I would command the Rebels. It was due to the fact that from what I learned from Jimmy and from quick check of the available ships, they seemed to prefer the more maneuverable warfare, with smaller but more agile ships. Fortunately for me, Jimmy had his eye on angry triangles. :) He also took time to prepare the fleets for both of us, doing a great job of balancing what he had available at the time with what he knew I may would like to command.
Here are the compositions of both fleets:
Imperial Class Star Destroyer
2 x Victory Class Star Destroyers
5 x TIE Fighters
2 x TIE Bombers
3 x TIE Interceptors
1 x Firespray
MC80 Assault Cruiser
MC30 Torpedo Frigate
6 x X-Wing
2 x B-Wing
2 x Y-Wing
As you can imagine I approached the game with very little knowledge of the abilities of each ship and squadron so I wanted to make it as simple as possible. One of the things that I learned is that Imperial ships are very dangerous in their front arc while Rebels may usually favor broadsides. In addition, the Imperial Star Destroyers are quite tough but generally slower while Rebel ships could move faster and potentially react quicker.
We both had similar amount of squadrons but it seemed to me that the Imperial Navy focused on intercepting and destroying the Rebel fighters. While the Rebels had more Bombers and more flexible X-Wings able to perform anti-squadron and anti-ship duties. I also quickly looked at the Squadron Command values for each ship to see how many I can potentially activate and that also determined the way I decided to deploy the fleet.
This minimum amount of knowledge already sparked some ideas and the best way to test if they are actually of any use is to apply them in the game!
|Deployment of the Fleets.|
My plan was to spread the fleet so that the MC80 Assault Cruiser and four squadrons would be deployed in the middle. As the slowest of the ships I thought it would be the best to keep it in the center to so that it would float to one or another flank as required. I attached B-Wings to it as the slowest of the starfighters and added two squadrons of X-Wings as an Escort.
I also wanted small but fast ships on the flanks. I was not sure yet how to divide them so I started with MC30 Torpedo Frigate on the left flank and followed with CR90 on the opposite side. Only when I noticed the Star Destroyers being deployed on one side I reinforced the left with Nebulon-B Frigate. The idea was to use the speed on the left to move to the side of the Star Destroyer while occupying it with the main threat from the MC80. At the same time CR90 was to turn left and outpace the enemy, hopefully leaving them too far to concentrate fire on a single Rebel ship.
When distributing the squadrons, I kept two X-Wing on the right to tie up enemy starfighters and do as much damage as possible. The remaining X-Wings on the left and both Y-Wing squadrons were to assist with the outflanking maneuver, hopefully being able to reach enemy ship before the TIE fighters would intercept them.
|Rebel Fleet attempts to outflank the Imperial Star Destroyer.|
The more maneuverable Rebel Fleet attempted to seize the initiative and use their speed to outflank the Imperial Navy. It was a risky move because some of the ships had to cross the dreaded front arc of the Star Destroyers. However, if they did that while at the maximum range of the Imperial Ships then there was a chance that the damage would not be crippling.
While the fast MC30 Torpedo Frigate and Nebulon-B Frigate increased their speed to race forward, the MC80 Assault Cruiser also baked to the left and floated towards the meeting point. Associated squadrons covered it flank with X-Wing awaiting the opportunity to engage enemy squadrons.
CR90 Corvette also increased the speed and moved away from the grave danger of meeting not one but two Star Destroyers. However, Imperial Navy sent their squadrons forward and both X-Wings and Corvette started early fire exchange with TIE Fighters. Although outnumbered, X-Wings engaged the enemy as the supporting anti-squadron fire from the CR90 Corvette helped to swing the balance to the Rebels.
Decisive Fire Exchange
|Flag Ships engage!|
MC30 Torpedo Frigate miscalculated the distance and flew into the range of fire too early. That grievous mistake was swiftly punished by the Imperial Star Destroyer and Rebel Ship was quickly turned into a ball of fire.
However, it temporarily diverted the attention of the Imperial Capital Ship from MC80 which engaged with all the guns blazing. Nearby Nebulon-B Frigate added some firepower too and when Y-Wings started bombing attacks the shields were already dis-activated.
At the same time the Rebels were winning the exchange of fire when four X-Wing squadrons and CR90 Corvette joined forces. They also opened the path for B-Wings to add to the bombardment of the Imperial Star Destroyer and the capital ship of the Imperial Navy was finally brought down.
|Remaining ships and squadrons from both fleets.|
Despite such a heavy blow the battle was far from over. However, the advantage in the fight between squadrons allowed Rebel fleet to destroy all but one Imperial star fighters. X-Wings and Bombers could then focus their fire on one of the Star Destroyers and it also went down eventually.
But not before CR90 Corvette was destroyed when it foolishly turned towards the enemy in a crazy attempt to sneak in between two enemy ships. Also Nebulon-B Frigate was shot down after it collided with MC80 Assault Cruiser. Clearly the Rebel commanders risked a bit too much in bringing down the enemy capital ship.
Both fleets disengaged after only a single ship was left on each side.
Aftermath and First Impressions
I would like to thank my friend Jimmy for a fantastic introduction to Star Wars Armada! The experience exceeded my expectations and I enjoyed the game enormously. I have no doubt it would have not been possible without his effort to prepare the game for us. While without many mandatory components such as obstacles, objectives or commanders, it already provided unparalleled experience.
You can check how excited we were after this game by listening to the podcast Jimmy and I recorded right after the game. Here is the link:
Make sure you check other Jimmy's podcasts too!
I had a fantastic game! Then we had a lot of fun discussing our newly acquired experiences while recording the podcast and I am truly honored to be a guest on it! After all it is quite unusual to have one with a new player :) But the biggest surprise came after when Jimmy simply decided that Christmas came early and presented me with this fantastic gift:
|Christmas came early this year!|
Thanks a lot, Jimmy! You do know how to introduce new players to the game :) I hope writing blog posts about Star Wars Armada will be a good start to thanking you for all you did to make this experience as great as possible.
I really like how our fleets performed during the battle. Imperial Navy is super dangerous if you let the Destroyers keep your ships in their front arcs. I don't want to think what happens when you let the squadrons reach your ships in addition. That's why I greatly enjoyed our squadron engagements too because it also had important consequences for the development of the situation.
But what is even more important is the coordination of each single element in the fleet that seems to make it successful. We only scratched the surface of the possibilities this game offers. However, even in these simplified conditions we could experience quite interesting dynamics. For example, I started with one more ship and having the initiative allowed me to better decide which ship and when is activated. But as soon as I lost MC30 Torpedo Frigate it immediately affected the balance between two fleets. Suddenly, I had the same number of activations but more fragile ships and moving them firsts was not necessarily better option.
I definitely didn't use squadron activation from ships well and relied more on their own movement. That proved to be tricky because the starfighters can be quite vulnerable. It was probably thanks to a bit better protection and good anti-squadron abilities of X-Wings combined with the support of CR90 Corvette that helped me to prevail this time.
Another important thing I realized during that game was also the fact that ships would float anyway. The fact that the elements are not stationary is very important aspect of the game and the one I need to get used to.
That is why I am very interested in learning how to maneuver the ships and how to use Navigation command and dials to change the speed accordingly. In fact, I also noticed that I didn't use dial tokens at all which is yet another very important aspect of the game. One can collect some of them in order to boost particular action but in order to do so it is important to anticipate the flow of battle well.
After the game I could not stop thinking about it and about the fleets. Not a surprise at all! I started looking for some more sources to learn about the game and I have already found some good material to read. However, I also noticed that there is a huge focus on upgrades for the ships. While important aspect of the game, it is not what I would like to start with now.
I would like to focus on building a fleet that has more ships and quite a variety of squadrons. Although MC80 Assault Cruiser was the only ship that survived the battle I find it very expensive and I would prefer to learn how to use a fleet with the small ships only. Somehow I think it would emphasize the speed and maneuverability because they have smaller bases, can fit in between narrower gaps, maybe avoid being shot at too.
My aim will be to try and build the fleet that is flexible and can adapt to the situation with maneuvers and positioning. That is why I would like to try to get a good combination of number of ships and squadrons. As my understanding is that the absolute minimum to construct a fleet is to have a commander, objectives and ships I would like to start there. Plus squadrons as I have already mentioned.
I imagine that it will be quite rewarding to learn how to position obstacles well, deploy the fleet accordingly to the scenario and maneuver it in a way to maximize my own strengths while denying the same to the enemy. Hopefully I will be able to learn more soon!
Thanks for reading!