Thursday, 21 August 2014

Star Wars Armada Impressions

Thursday, August 21, 2014

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Alright, so let's talk Star Wars Armada. A lot of people have been expecting FFG to release a capital ship focused starship combat game for some time and now it's finally here. Or announced at least. Seeing as X-Wing is fairly low complexity and is very much aimed at the casual gamer (as well as the hardcore!) I was a little weary that Armada might scale back on complexity as well, possibly loosing parts of what would make it interesting to me. However, after having read about it and watched Team Covenants demo game I have gone from cautiosly optimistic to fully rabid gundark! Ok, maybe not that far, but it has certainly availed most of my fears. Check out the video:

After the initial announcement I was surprised to see quite a bit of confusion and some angry rants over at BGG by X-Wing players who didn't understand the difference between the games and/or who thought FFG was just after a quick money grab. I guess having people not understanding the difference might be down to the fact that there are a lot more X-Wing players out there than people who play large scale starship combat games like Full Thrust or Firestorm: Armada. Still, I almost found it a little annoying that people expected a Star Trek Attack Wing when this was clearly something more ambitious. As you might have gathered the adherance to scale that FFG made such a bid deal about in X-Wing has gone out the window with all the ships being "relative scale". However, they still look right-ish so I don't really have much problem with it.

Box contents.

As some of you already know I'm a great fan of spaceship combat and even though I haven't played a fraction of all the games I want to play I'm always on the lookout for new stuff. You might remember my Wanted: More Spaceship Gaming article from a couple of years ago. That article is still relevant today as I have yet to find the "perfect" game. Of course, that will be very difficult as it depends on what I'm after at the moment; something rock hard like Attack Vector Tactical, or something much softer (and wetter!), like Firestorm: Armada. I'm mostly on the hard side of the fence these days but I know I will have trouble finding people to play those kinds of games with.

Now, while Armada is certainly not of the hard variety it still has enough interesting features to make me want to play it. Let's make a nice bullet point list to break it down:

  • Momentum. While not as detailed as in some other games we do have momentum to the ships and you will only be able to accelerate or decelerate by using a special order for it. Your momentum also decides how much turning you'll be able to do using the funky bendable stick. Simplified, sure but also very simple and quick!
  • Order planning. The larger the ship the longer you'll have to plan ahead. For the Victory SD in the core box you will make a stack of three orders of which you will use and then add one each turn, basically forcing you to plan three turns in advance all the time. The Nebulon B has to plan two turns in advance while the corvette can pick its order every turn. This is very cool! This basically combines written orders with ponderous command structure and/or ship design. Something I don't think I've seen before (although I'm sure it's out there).
  • Maneuvering. Fire arcs and range plays a big role and there doesn't seem to be a cookie cutter "always best" solution to every situation (like range band 2 in 1st edition of Firestorm: Armada). It all comes down to the ship firing and what it's firing at.
  • Fighters being interesting. I love how fighters and EXO armours are proper pieces in Lightning Strike and can be both upgraded and personalized as well as be a threat to almost anything on the table in the right circumstances. Armada seem to be doing something similar where fighters are more than simply tokens and you can have aces and properly screen your ships etc.
  • Customization. If X-Wing is anything to go by Armada will have a similar card system for putting your fleet together. I like how this system is very easy for the new player yet still rewarding for the veteran, trying to squeeze every bit of firepower out of his force!
  • Ease of use. While I'm not adverse to writing orders or having a datacard or tokens to keep track of FFG have become better and better at integrating this kind of stuff into their game hardware. In armada almost all the info tracking needed is done with various dials and tabs on the bases of the ships. Lovely!

All these things combined make for a game that I find highly interesting. Of course there are still a lot of things
that we don't know and I'm sure my thoughts on the game will change over time, but at the moment I'm pretty stoked! The Star Wars setting is probably the thing I care the least about, weirdly enough. I certainly don't dislike it but there are certainly other settings or concepts that I would find more interesting. Star Wars is also a bit limiting in that the number of factions are low as well as the number of different ships available. Still, it's perfectly servicable and I'm not complaining. I just find myself almost a little surprised that what I'm looking forward to with Star Wars Armada is the mechanics and not really the Star Wars bits. Hehe!

Image courtesy of Dice Tower News.
 The first wave will consist of the core box, which contains one Victory SD, one Nebulon B and one corvette plus a number of fighter stands, and separate releases of the same ships plus two more ships, similar to how X-Wing was released. The two additional ships will be the assault frigate mkII for the rebs and the Gladiator class SD for the imps. Both designs from the expanded universe, but I have no problem with this. While Star Wars fighters from the EU often look a little wonky and don't fit in all that well, the capital ship designs are usually a lot better and I quite like both of these. It seems like the frigate will be a larger ship for the rebs while the Gladiator will be about half the size of the Victory class. There will also be a pack of fighters for each faction and I'm happy to see that these will be a mix of different fighters including Y, A and B wings. Cool! You can see the frigate and some fighters below:

 Love the B-wings! Oh, and I REALLY hope the fighters are easily
detachable for painting. 
Image courtesy of Team Covenant.
Interceptors and TIE bombers for the imps, and the Gladiator SD looks pretty spiffy! Image courtesy of @twarnken.

So there you have it! I think Armada has a lot of potential and I'm eager to read more previews and hear more impressions from Gencon. While I really enjoy X-Wing I've always been more of a cap ship kind of person, and just imagine the kind of campaigns you could do by combining Armada, X-Wing and Imperial Assault! It would be teh awesome!! Haha! Well, that's all for now.

I'll be back later with Infinity news...

10 kommentarer :

  1. I'm in the same camp with you. Excited to see the mechanics, not so with the Star Wars setting. Not really a fan of much from the expanded universe yo be honest. I am surprised by the Assaukt Frigate, if I had had to speculate I would have expected Mon Cal ship for the rebels.

    1. agreed RE setting. Why don't GW do something cool like this with Battlefleet Gothic? Why why why? Do they not want to make money or something?

    2. Hey Angus and Knight!

      I don't really mind the Star Wars setting myself, but would have prefered something else. Can't blame FFG though as the license is such a fantastic money maker them. :)

      As for the EU ships, I think it's even more accute in this game than in X-Wing and FFG wanted to get people used to the idea of buying EU ships from the get go. How many capital ships do we see in the movies? Two star destroyers and four rebel ships? That's not even enough for the first wave!

      I read somewhere that the EU designs will never measure up to the originals as they're mediocre creations designed by people with mediocre talent, compared to the great Ralp McQuarrie. I think this pretty much nails it as pretty much all EU designs are from video games or comic books and now we're "stuck" with them! Still, I kind of like the assaul frigate... but it suffers from lack of detailing! Compared to the Nebulon B it looks to be in an entirely different scale. All those large flat surfaces make it look a lot smaller than it is supposed to be.

    3. Oh, and regarding BFG. I think that ship has pretty much sailed. We might get something similar to Dreadfleet some time but nothing that will come close to what once was. Still, to me there are a lot more interesting settings for space battles available to snap up by a crafty game designer.

      I wouldn't mind something flashy but also reasonably hard, like the Expanse Series by James S.A. Corey, where spaceship battles are more about spaceships than boats but still bend the rules enough to make it exciting for the general public.

  2. I'm fully on board with Armada. I wasn't expecting it and am very excited for it. I'm also not that keen on the expanded universe. I have no problem with it as the universe indicates that there'd be a lot of ship design but there's nothing stopping "canon" only games amongst friends. For example, I don't think I'll be getting any EU ships for X-wing. Partially because there's enough selection with OT ships and partially because I don't want to buy a million ships but I also don't want to have armies that are always one-of-everything.

    1. Hey Tyler!

      It might be harder to avoid the EU ships in this game compared to X-Wing (see above) but I also feel that the EU cap ships designs are overall better than the fighters, although perhaps marginally.

      I did get the Mouldy Crow for X-Wing and I'll definitely get the YT-2400 (a favourite of mine!) and perhaps a Headhunter or two, but might skip the rest. For me it's not so much the non-iconic designs but rather that I don't feel the need for many more ships, or cards. Although I've entered (and won!) a couple of tournaments that's not really my thing so I have no interest in being competetive beyond my immediate circle of friends.

      Right now I'm really looking forward to trying the campaign for the transport and Tantive IV as I've heard they're pretty good! :D

  3. I love the demo game. Wasn't that excited for Armada, but you changed my mind!

  4. Add me to this list of people saying "ooohhh...shiny!"

    1. Yeah... I'm fearing that I'm about to get a bit Star Wars-heavy! I have a decent X-Wing collection and have more or less settled on offloading my Descent 2 in favour of Imperial Assault. And then there's this. Oh, and the LCG that I've invested in.

      Although, seeing as I'm pretty happy with my X-Wing collection at its current state I might put that on the backburner and focus on Armada instead, and maybe just get the occasional ship if there's something I really like. Hmm...


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