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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Star Wars Armada: First impressions and first game report


Horribly phone pix because the good camera is already packed!


Last weekend my wife and I managed to play a game of Star Wars: Armada amidst the chaos of packing and moving.  It was a blast!

Now let me state that I had no intention of getting into this game.  Oh, I wanted to - the models are beautiful! But the price tag - US$99 - for the core set was just way out of reach.  And then each ship beyond that in the base was another $30-$40.   And I thought GW had cornered the market on games priced out of my reach!

The problem of course is that you aren't buying just the model. You're buying the model, and the cards, and the unique base (why don't the sell the base separately?  Right, because then you could use your own miniatures) and the cards - did I mention the cards?.  I hate the "collectible" aspect of both X-Wing and Armada and I largely ignore it.  (I do like how the Arturi Campaign game starts with basic ships and adds cards as the campaign progresses; I don't like flying a ship well and having it one-shotted by some card combination that I haven't heard of).  My research did lead me to read some re-caps of games that showed that the CCG aspect of Armada was similarly tainted.  However - from what I read it wasn't nearly as bad as X-Wing.

Nebulon B and Victory collide while the corvette
heads around the flank
So two strikes right off the bat kept me from ever seriously considering buying the game.  Maybe if I won the lottery.  Which I don't play.

But then Cool Stuff ran a special right before Christmas.  And what a special it was -- all of the Armada ships were on sale, which was nice, but the kicker was the core set was $39.99.  Whoa.  You could only buy one, but then I found a seller on Amazon who was offering it for $45. 2 for 1 deal?  Plus other ships at 40% off?  How was I to resist?

So I succumbed. :-)  And I'm so glad I did because this is a GREAT game. I love Full Thrust and it will always be my go-to game for fleet actions.  But Armada is definitely in a close second at this point. The unique turning ruler and the order chips, while fiddly, obviates the need for written orders.  Firing before moving adds a really nice strategy element to it.  And fighters are easy, fun to use and not overpowered.

Best of all - you can get a really great game with just the core box set.  Which is exactly what we did.  I took the Imperials with 6 Tie Fighter squadrons and a Victory class Star Destroyer.  She took the Neubulon B and Corvette with 4 X-Wing squadrons.

Rebels flanking the Victory
I was quickly introduced to the Rebel "conga line of death"  as the Rebel ships, with their faster speed and better maneuverability, quickly flanked my Star Destroyer.

In the meantime, my overwhelming fighter superiority (ha!) was dwindling rapidly and I foolishly allowed one X-Wing squadron to lock up 4 TF squadrons.  The X-Wing was lost, but it tied up my fighters for a full turn.  It was about here that I realized that while I had 6 squadrons I only had 18 Ties -- compared to 20 X-Wings!  And my Ties died in droves (as they should).

While I got in some good shots with my Destroyer, damaging both ships, they quickly worked around the flanks to my rear and I was in trouble (6 damage out of 8) by turn 4.  In fact, if I hadn't gotten a lucky critical hit on the Corvette which prevented it from firing through an asteroid field, that would have probably ended the game.  But in my one moment of inspired Admiral-ship, I slammed on the brakes, hid behind an asteroid and tried desperately to repair.   This led the corvette to overshoot my position on turn 5 and park itself directly in front of the Destroyer's overwhelming forward firepower.  Boom! went the corvette.

But it was too little, too late.  The Nebulon B's turn was up but with 3 X-wing squads behind me (one still at full strength) I had Xan roll for their hits first.  Sure enough - 2 hits were enough to end the Victory - and end any chance I had at victory.
X-wings about to put proton torpedoes right up the tail of the Victory

The mark of a good game is how you feel when you lose and what you talk about afterward.  If you feel like you lost capriciously due to vague rules or insane powerups/combinations, then you feel a bit betrayed and you talk about the problem with the game.  But if you lose and still enjoyed yourself and want to play again right away -- that's a well-balanced game.  I was quite proud of my maneuver with my damaged Victory hiding behind the asteroids -- and can't you just see that as a scene from a Star Wars movie?  (or given the quality of recent movies -- a scene in Clone Wars?)  And Alexandra really liked that all the data about a ship was right on the bases so that you didn't have to look anywhere else.  We both liked the turning gauge and how it allowed you to figure out the best maneuver for your ship to take at any given moment.

I'm glad I have the second core set because I really want to try running the Imperials with a second ship.  As it was with the single Destroyer I felt a bit like a tank in a city with no infantry support - easy prey!  And I picked up a few more ships (a Corvette for $5 as an add-on item on Amazon!) during the sale so I'm looking forward to trying those out.  But I'm in no hurry as the core set gives a great game.  Which is good -- because at the astronomical pricepoint of adding new ships, it's probably not going to happen until the next sale.  (I really want an Imperial Star Destroyer but $40...yikes).

And I do wish they sold the bases separately -- how great would it be to run Battlestar Galactica / Star Trek / Babylon 5 crossover battles?  It took them a while to do it with X-Wing so I'm hoping that they will do it for Armada eventually (my fear, though, is that for Armada you also need the shield tokens to attach AND more importantly they come in 3 different sizes.  Even with X-Wing they only offer the basic fighter size bases)

So a big thanks to whoever at Cool Stuff or FFG was able to offer such a great deal on the core set, if only for a limited time.  If your goal was to get new players into the game, you succeeded!  We can't wait to play this one again -- once we get unpacked from our move. :-/