Ok so wow, two posts about minis games in a row. I know right, am I turning into http://brutalefficacy.blogspot.co.uk/ or what?
The answer is no, I am not, he has a beard and heritical opinions related to the movie Dune.
I am however enjoying these Star Wars based minis games of space ship conflict. So, while I craft a different post about a new RPG you’re going to have to make do with something written about the second of Fantasy Flight Games (https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/products/star-wars-armada/) entries into the Star Wars themed space ship violence category.
First things first, lets talk about what makes this different to X-Wing Minis. The main difference is one of scale, Armada (as the name might suggest) takes place at the fleet scale, we’re talking Star Destroyers & Mon Calamari Cruisers, swarms of fighters and the ‘small & fast’ ships being the CR-90 Corvette and Nebulon B Frigate.
The second most noticable difference is cost, where as the X-Wing Minis game base set comes in a very reasonable £29.99 the Star Wars Armada base set costs a mighty £79.99 (once again it is available and in stock at our preferred FLGS Leisure Games) and really, you need two sets to get a proper game out of it. But lets be clear here, what you get for your money is absolutely worth the price of investing.
Finally, as Armada has been out for less time than X-Wing there are fewer expansions available, but in keeping with the theme these expansions are more expensive.
Now these three things are the obvious superficial differences, if you look at the actual game mechanics and how it plays there are lots of differences there are well. With that in mind, lets take a look at…
The Rules & Mechanics
Armada is played over six rounds (where as X-Wing is played ‘to the death’) with each round consisting of 4 phases:
Phase One: Command Phase, each ship is assigned command dials.
Phase Two: Ship Phase, players take turns attacking with and moving their ships, this includes making use of the command dials.
Phase Three: Squadron Phase, players take turns either moving or attacking with their squadrons.
Phase Four: Status Phase, tokens are flipped back over, cards are untapped and the initiative token is flipped over.
In each of these phases different things happen and, as we have come to expect from Fantasy Flight, each thing that does happen serves to really bring the theme to the forefront of the experience. We’re now going to take a look at those things in depth.
Each ship has a Command Rating, this is the number of face down command dials you assign to the ship at the start of phase one in turn one, one of these dials is spent each turn and in the command phase you get to place new dial at the bottom of the command stack. This means that big ships with high command skills like the Victory & Imperial Star Destroyers (with their command ratings of 3) have 3 of these dials, so when you assign a new command dial in phase one of turn two you actually won’t get to use this command until phase two of turn four. The smaller ships, like the CR-90 and Nebulon B have command ratings of 1 & 2 respectively, this means they don’t have to plan too far ahead and can play a much more reactive game. This is a great mechanic, it brings home the feeling that you are playing on a much bigger scale than before, the ships are massive and it can take a while for an order to be acted on.
Command Dials can be set to one of four options:
At the start of this phase the first player (determined at the start of the game) picks one ship and activates it, they take the first command dial off the top of the stack and reveal it, they can then choose to spend the dial for a powerful effect or to keep it as a token (tokens can be spent later for a slightly lesser effect, each ship can have tokens equal to its command score).
If you have and Engineering dial then you can repair your ship, regenerate shields and remove damage cards, if you have a Squadron dial to spend then you can activate squadrons equal to your ships squadron value and they may both move and shoot, finally a Concentrate Fire dial allows you to add one extra die (of a colour you are already rolling) to one attack.
If you have stored tokens for any of these commands you also spend those tokens as you reveal the command dial.
After deciding what to do with the command dial we move onto firing. Each ship get to make two attacks, by default these attacks have to be from different firing arcs. Another key difference here between X-Wing and Armada is that the capital ships have 4 firings arcs with different weapons and shield ratings in each arc. In order to attack another ship you check for range and line of sight and assuming you are in both you then get to attach.
Here another big difference appears, there are actually 3 colours of attack dice in Armada, Black, Blue & Red, these relate to three range bands; so at long range you can roll only Red dice, at medium range you can roll Blue & Red dice and at close range you can roll all three kinds. At this point in X-Wing you would roll your evade dice, in Armada you don’t get evade dice, capital ships are too big to really dodge lots. Defence in Armada is handled by tokens, each ship has some combination of the available defence tokens, these being:
Evade – At long range you cancel a die completely, at medium range you can force a re-roll, at close range it has no effect.
Redirect – Allows you move damage to an adjacent shield arc.
Brace – Half the damage you take (rounding up).
Contain – (Large Ships only) Cancels critical hits.
You can spend more than one of these tokens and combine their effects.
The first time each turn you spend one of these tokens you flip it over, in the status phase it flips back, however if you are under heavy attack you might need to spend these tokens a second time, you can do so but the cost is that you have to remove the token from play.
Each ship also has an anti-squadron dice type and you can make one or both of your attacks against fighters, you attack all squadrons in the fire arc that are in range of the dice colour you are rolling. It is worth noting that most capital ships are terrible against squadrons.
After attacking you then must move your current speed. Each ship card has a chart that shows its ability to turn at various speeds, this is expressed as clicks of yaw. Another major difference to X-Wing is how this is used, the movement tool in Armada is like a big articulated snake with clicking joints which you set and move your ship along, unlike in X-Wing you can pre-measure your movements.
Back in the command phase, if you had a Navigate command you can increase or decrease your speed by one as well as add an extra click of yaw to one joint on the movement tool. If you have a navigate token you can also spend that to increase or decrease speed by one, but you do not get the extra yaw.
Once you have moved your ship your opponent moves one of theirs. You keep going like this until all ships have been activated. You then move on to the…
After all the ships have had their turns you move on to Squadrons, starting with the first player you pick two unactivated squadrons and they may then move or attack (but not both), then your opponent does the same. You keep doing this until every squadron has activated.
There are a couple of things to know with Squadrons, any squadron within range 1 or another squadron is considered engaged and may not simply fly past it (barring special abilities etc), squadrons also have a 360 degree fire arc. Although pretty much all squadrons can attack ships, ones with the Bomber keyword are much better at it. When it comes to moving a squadron may move anywhere it wants within the distance dictated by its speed.
One cool thing with the squadrons, first of all they are using not to scale models otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see the fighters next to the capital ships, but they have these cool sliders on the bottom, one end red and the other blue, the initiative token has the same colours on it and when a squadron has acted you push the slider through, it is a great quick method for counting the number of squadrons you have left to act.
Squadrons can also be unnamed squadrons (like X-Wings or TIE Fighters) or they can be a named ‘Ace’ Squadron such as ‘Luke Skywalker & Red Wing’ or ‘Howlrunner’. The named ones cost more points but have cool special abilities.
Once all the squadrons have moved and/or attacked you move to the…
Here you flip defence tokens back over, un-tap special cards and generally do any other admin that needs doing. You then flip the initiative token over and move the turn counter on by one space and start again from the top.
So that is how it plays, as for the rest of it…. The models are the same pre-painted very high quality output you would expect from Fantasy Flight (only ships are painted, squadrons are not but you could easily paint them if you want), there is the same massive number of tokens you get in all their games, the ship bases are very well done with independent wheels on each face for tracking shield totals and solid, well built stands for the ships to attach to. The movement tool is awesome to use but is subject to wear, however you can purchase replacements.
The game is expensive, no doubt and I thought long and hard about if I should buy it or not, what helped was a friend of mine deciding to get onboard at the same time, that meant I could focus on one faction (Rebels in my case) rather than having to invest enough to buy both sides.
When it comes to building a fleet, you have similar mechanics to X-Wing, each ship has a base cost and then a number of upgrade slots you can fill:
Clearly there are a lot more options for upgrades, which makes sense as these ships are much bigger, you also get more points to play with, current tournament play calls for 400pt fleets & you cannot spend more than 1/3 of your points on squadrons.
Also you must has an admiral and the ship they are assigned to must be marked as your flagship. The admiral is a commander upgrade, you may only have one but they bring a unique ability that has a very powerful effect on the game.
Finally you have to include objectives in your fleet, there are three categories and you have to pick one from each. The objectives set the narrative for the conflict as well as introduce objectives and other special rules, these make sense as you are playing over 6 turns and the likelyhood of wiping your opponent is pretty low.
Another thing that is well done in this game is the ships and squadrons really emphasise the tactics of the two sides, Imperial ships tend to have very powerful forward fire arcs and lots of hull points, they are often slower and somewhat ponderous but get in their front arc and they will punish you for it. Rebel ships tend to be smaller, faster and rely more on their broadside arcs for damage, Rebel squadrons are also generally better than the Imperial ones as well. So you tend to end up with Rebel fleets fielding more smaller ships and squadrons with Imperial fleets fields smaller numbers of much more dangerous ships.
As I mentioned earlier there are expansions available but they are fewer in number than for X-Wing, however they are very nice. The base set comes with 1x CR90, 1x Nebulon B, 1x Victory Class Star Destroyer and basic Rebel & Imperial Squadrons (both regular and hero pilots of X-Wings and TIE Fighters). There are a number of extra ships available, including two large base ships, the impressively intimidating Imperial Star Destroyer and the much sleeker Mon Calimari Cruiser – Home One (flagship of Admiral ‘Its a Trap’ Ackbar).
I may do a follow up where we look at some of the ships in detail, however for now I think I’m done and you might well be as well. Thanks for reading.