Updated: Sep 17, 2019
Good Afternoon and welcome to a brand new segment right here on Unboxed. From The Other Side of the Table is a series of reviews from my long suffering gaming partner Dave. No doubt this segment will be filled with lies about how I cheat or flip the table with frustration, or how, somehow, bizarrely, every card in every game has the flavour text "Dave Dies". Anyway, I digress, just remember readers, I love you all and Dave is the enemy!
Star Wars Armada
As a long time gaming buddy of Chris’s, I have finally been entrusted with producing some content for his blog. Bwahaha, your reputation is now in my hands Chris!
So for this the first review I’ve decided to cover Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) Star Wars Armada. In the main I will focus on the base game, but forgive me if I mention some expansions later.
Star Wars Armada covers the big ships of the Star Wars universe. Here you will find the Star Destroyers, Mon Calari starships and other big Star Wars universe ships. The starter set comes with a Victory class Star Destroyer for the Empire and a CR-90 corvette and a Nebulon-B class frigate for the Rebels. All of these are nicely pre-painted to get them on the table quickly
Those of you familiar with the Star Wars universe may be aware that the smaller fighters play a part too, and they are not forgotten here with 4 squadrons of X-Wings and 6 of Tie Fighters also coming as part of the core set. The fighters are not painted, however they don’t take much work to get them presentable.
In addition the set comes with rules, unique dice (like most FFG games), articulated movement ruler, card terrain, unit, objective and upgrade cards.
Armada plays over 6 turns and features attackers playing an objective mission. Three of these missions are picked as part of the fleet. The player with the lowest points in their fleet has the initiative and picks to be first or second player. The first player then picks one of their opponents three objectives to play. As such, if you want to guarantee the objective played, you have to sacrifice things in your fleet to do so.
Fleets are formed from ships and squadrons, of which there are normally two versions available. In addition there are a series of upgrade cards, which can be added to the ships to improve their guns, command facilities, defensive abilities, handling etc.
Armada has alternative unit activation. The turn sequence takes a bit of getting your head around, as rather than the usual move then shoot, Armada runs on a shoot then move system. This is one of the many rules in the game that rewards an admiral that plans ahead, as it is easy to end up with no targets, or drift into range of an unactivated ship.
Another way the game requires planning is that you have to set a ship’s command at the start of the turn. Some of the bigger ships require you to set commands a turn or two in advance, this requires further planning. This can be negated to a degree by the upgrade cards for a points cost!
There are 4 commands, concentrate fire, navigate, repair and squadron. These improve shooting, movement, repair and supporting squadrons respectively. You can use them during that turn or take a token to use later at lesser effect.
Shooting is done in the usual FFG way with unique coloured dice. Black do the most damage, but are short ranged. Blue are the most accurate with a mid-range, while Red trade accuracy for range and also have a chance of doing double damage. Ships have different combinations of these dice in different arcs, and can shoot from two arcs a turn. They also have an anti-squadron value, or point defence guns they can shoot at squadrons.
Once shooting has finished, the ship then moves at its set speed and manoeuvrability using the articulated ruler. The turn then continues ship by ship until all ships have activated. A game is normally played over 6 turns.
Once the ships have activated, squadrons then take it in turn to activate and can move or shoot something in range. Squadrons at range 1 of another enemy squadron are engaged and can only attack each other until this is no longer the case. This makes the squadron command very important, as squadrons activated with it not only attack in the ship phase (allowing you to preempt your opponent), but also get to move and attack that turn.
So how does the game play? Well out of the core box I found the game to be a bit unsatisfying. The Rebels don't have the firepower to easily kill the Victory class, while if they get caught at close range they can easily lose a ship. Meanwhile the X-Wings tend to beat the Tie Fighters. This turns the game into a dogfight with the fighters, while the Rebel capital ships run away from the Star Destroyer. If a capital ship is lost, the Rebels generally lost, otherwise they win. This disappointed me as both X-Wing and Imperial Assault played well with just the basic box.
What redeemed Armada for me was when I bought the wave 1 expansions. Not only do the expansions for the ships from the core set bring an additional ship and upgrade cards, but also there are 2 new ships (The Gladiator class Star Destroyer and the Assault Frigate). The extra Imperial ships make evasion harder for the Rebels, but gives them access to some extra firepower. This makes the game much more interesting and improves the tactical challenge. At this point, ship activation becomes vitally important as well, with your activation order being the difference between delivering a successful round of fire and ending up helplessly out maneuvered, or worse taking a concentrated volley of fire. This, I feel, is what really helps make the game. Also the extra fleet builds and upgrade cards help to design a good fleet.
The final element is the Imperial and Rebel fighter expansions which add bombers, fighters and interceptors to the game. Here anti-squadron defence becomes more important as the bombers can be very destructive. Hence you need to have a plan to deal with them, be that your own fighters, or a ship's with a good anti-squadron firepower, and this is another thing to factor into fleet design. Interceptors add the counter rule, which means they can attack anything that attacks them. This makes them great for screening big ships from incoming waves.
So in conclusion, Star Wars Armada is a great space combat game, but you need to have more ships than you get in the core set to properly appreciate it. Like all FFG games, there are a plentiful supply of expansion packs to satisfy this need, and cause you to wonder where this month’s wages went! All in all it’s a good, tactical game for all, and due to the background, Star Wars fans are likely to appreciate it even more!
About the Author
Dave is a wargamer and board gamer who has been gaming for over 20 years. His main war gaming interests include Flames of War, Team Yankee and Star Wars Armada, but also plays a wide variety of other games.