Sunday, 10 August 2014

Star Wars: Armada - Initial Impressions

Fantasy Flight Games

"Hey there FFG fellas... What Star Wars related schnizz you been up to?"

"Oh, this and that, ya know..."  "We've been getting Rebel Aces and Wave 5 ready for the boat. We've also done some work on our 'Age of Rebellion' role-playing game..."

"That all sounds super fly..."

"Fa reel...Oh, and we've only gone and announced 'STAR WARS mudder funkin ARMADA'!!!"

Fantasy Flight Games

You've got to admit, this looks rather awesome. 'Epic' scale is a logical progression from the dog-fighting fun of X-Wing and I wouldn't be surprised if we ultimately see the release of ground / planetary assault level rules to complete the pantheon in the not too distant future...

Some annoying ne'er-do-wells on the FFG Forums are voicing concerns as to whether Armada will be able to successfully 'co-exist' alongside our beloved X-Wing. Certainly, the fact FFG are successfully steam rolling their way through our wallets like nobodies business, is beginning to cause an issue ;)

But no. That's just ridiculous talk. This release will have it's detractors, sure, but I think ultimately it won't divide the X-Wing community. I'm pretty confident the majority of people will play both systems, happily switching between the two as and when suits. And those that don't, well, that's their prerogative.

Ever since I first started gaming all those years ago, I admired systems that catered for and rewarded players seeking an immersive experience; The ability to create epic, linked story lines, be that through small skirmishes right through to epic global conflicts.

For one magical period in time, Games Workshop delivered this gaming utopia in spades - From 'Kill Team' to 'WH40k' through to 'Epic 40k', ably supported by games like 'Battlefleet Gothic', 'Inquisitor', 'Necromunda' and 'Aeronautica Imperialis' - If the creative gamer wanted to zoom in and out of gaming systems at will, all tied together within an epic universe, he had the tools at his disposal.

And when it comes to epic universes, it doesn't get any bigger than Star Wars...

Fantasy Flight Games

But what can we glean from the press release?

- You are the Fleet Admiral, issuing tactical commands to your capital ships and waves of supporting star fighter squadrons
- Aside from directing your fleet's movement and coordinating it's fire, you'll also need to sustain it's defenses and ensure you remain focused on achieving your overall battle objective
- Games of Armada are fought over six rounds, each of which is broken into four phases: 1) 'Command Phase': Players secretly assign commands to their ships 2) 'Ship Phase': Capital ship movement and combat 3) 'Squadron Phase': Fighters are activated to move and attack 4) 'Status Phase': Players ready their exhausted defense cards and flip the initiative token, then the player with the initiative increases the round count

- Like X-Wing, strategic movement is critical and understanding your ship's capabilities and limitations when navigating, will play an important role
- Guided by your ship card's movement chart, the maneuver tool is used to determine both the available distance a ship can move and the degree of lateral movement it can make as it traverses this distance. The angle of sideways movement is defined by the number of 'clicks' the maneuver tool is turned at the corresponding joint
- Importantly, capital ships fire before they move. So when you set your ship's course you are looking to set yourself up with a good shot in the next round

Fantasy Flight Games

- Each capital ship has a command value. At set up, players build there initial 'command stack', planning several moves ahead based on four available commands at their disposal: 1) 'Navigate': Your ship's speed and maneuvering  2) 'Squadron': Order nearby squadrons to move and attack early 3) 'Repair': Recover shields and repair hull 4) 'Concentrate Fire': Increase the firepower of a single attack
- Larger, more powerful ships, have higher command values but are therefore required to plan up to two or more turns ahead. This may also mean they are potentially slower to react to the ebb and flow of the battle around them...

Fantasy Flight Games

- Capital ships are divided into four sections, each with it's own fire arc, shield raring and attack value
- Ships can perform up to two attacks, either directed against the same target or against two different targets. However attacks must originate from two different hull sections and within their relative fire arcs and range bands

Fantasy Flight Games

- Each section of your capital ship has a hull rating, defining how much punishment it can take before it starts taking damage
- Protecting the hull are banks of shields, helping to deflect incoming enemy fire. These shields must be carefully managed through the allocation of defense tokens

Fighter Squadrons:
- Fighter squadrons operate to their own set of movement and combat rules and provide fleet commanders with the ability to quickly deploy forces to exploit weaknesses in the enemy line
- Capital ships don't use their primary weapons when attacking fighters, instead they have to use their anti-squadron armament, which is typically much less effective
- Fighter Squadrons have a 360-degree arc of fire
- Fighter Squadrons can be led by skilled pilots such as Luke Skywalker, who provide the squadron with added benefits, such as the ability to bypass capital ship shields...

Fantasy Flight Games

- The core set comes with twelve different objective cards, one used per game
- These objectives help define the narrative of the battle and ensure that it's not just the enemy fleet that commanders need to be mindful of

Fantasy Flight Games

The Miniatures
- The core set comes with three pre-painted capital ships; A Nebulon-B Escort Frigate and a CR90 Corvette for the Rebels and a Victory-class Star Destroyer for the Imperials
- The set also includes ten unpainted fighter squadrons; four X-Wing and six TIE Fighter

Fantasy Flight Games

So, expect the next few months to be a-buzz with fan chatter on everything from 'Scale rage!!!' through to 'When can we expect to see the Death Star?!'

The game certainly presents some interesting considerations and possibilities. At an RRP of around $99 / £60, it's on the more expensive side when compared to the X-Wing core set. But to be fair, Star Wars: Armada looks like it's packing quite a bit of resin and a large quantity of gaming components.

We can obliviously expect future expansions to bring us more capital ships, with a Mon Calamari Cruiser and the larger Imperial-class Star Destroyer likely to be on the cards. And like X-Wing's 'gotta collect em' all' ship releases, where upgrade cards are interchangeable across the factions, this is where Star Wars: Armada will ultimately demonstrate how much longevity it may have as a game system...

Fantasy Flight Games
Let's not mention the Executor-class...
Fantasy Flight Games

It will be interesting to see how many different types of fighter squadrons are released and how these may be bundled up. How will B-Wings, TIE Bombers and A-Wings effect the game for example? Equally, can we expect to see ships like the Millennium Falcon, Imperial Shuttles and Firesprays? I'm pretty sure, we'll also see in game 'scenery' beyond the usual asteroid fields; Space Stations for example or even celestial phenomena...

Obviously, at this early stage of the announcement, there are a load more questions than answers (some more sensible than others...):

- How big will the play area be? I'm guessing it will be the same as X-Wing's 3 x 3 so as to not piss off anyone that has already bought a game mat! But this size would also seem to tally up with the size of the Armada range rulers... (I play games of X-Wing on both 3 x 3 and 6 x 4 so anything goes would be good)

- Fleet Point Limits? The VSD comes in at 85pts. This would suggest the point limit is higher than X-Wing's standard 100pts per side, to allow players to pick additional capital ships, fighter squadrons and upgrades etc. 300pts may be a likely starting point then?

- How many core sets should I purchase? Er... I think this all depends on value for money and overall game experience. For example, X-Wing's core set is cheaper by comparison and for the beginner, plays better with the additional ships a second core set provides. I think we'll also have to consider what the expansions bring to the game i.e. will FFG release expansions of the ships found in the Armada core set, but with different upgrade cards?

- Additional Factions? It was gonna come up at some point ;) I very much doubt it though, certainly not until the game has been up and running long enough for FFG to really know the game's commercial stability. And even then, I still doubt it.... Hutt fleet anyone? Prince Xizor and his Black Sun fleet...?!

- Linking X-Wing and Armada? The fan boyz will all ready be considering this, but will FFG release some sort of 'campaign level' rules / PDF that will provide players with a formal way of linking the two game systems?

- The Jump to Hyperspace? It will be interesting to see if Armada operates a 'reserves' rule, where ships can be held back to come onto the table in later rounds of play. This would provide an additional layer of tactical consideration and is one many table-top game systems operate to great effect.

We could go on...

Ultimately, FFG will drip feed more information to the screaming masses over the coming months, starting with Armada's premiere at this week's Gencon.

Until then, get some overtime in, take the missus out for dinner in an attempt to soften the impending blow and stock up on some additional card sleeves... Including those x-large tarot size ones for your ship cards.

Cheers ;)

1 comment:

  1. This is fine work TUZ... wow! You did great man!
    I would like to have you as part of my new little modeling and gaming group.


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