Background: FFG’s Star Wars ARMADA might be my new easy Starship combat game. I love X-Wing Miniatures quite a bit, and I don’t regret investing in it. However, I feel that the many waves that have come out for that game have compromised the tactical feel somewhat. The ship miniatures keep getting bigger and bigger, and the light single ship fighter feel started getting lost when they started jamming larger, multi-crewed ships in the same tactical system being used for fighters. That’s not a severe criticism, you can buy the ships you want and scale X-Wing the way you want it and have a great time with it. With that said, X-Wing is still (at the heart of it all) a WWI fighter plane game for single cockpit fighters. The bigger vehicles make it clumsy. I think it’s appropriate to have a second game system that focuses on big, lumbering platforms– the big ships firing the big guns and launching fighter squadrons (which are tiny clusters of fighters of X-Wing sized fighters) at each other. That’s the kind of space-fight I like to see, and I haven’t really seen an accessible game at that scale since the old days of Full Thrust or Silent Death. Sure, I know, there are other options out there (5150 Star Navy comes to mind, I’ve heard good things..) but I haven’t played them, or a game like, in quite a few years. FFG’s Star Wars Armada is rooted deep in the Star Wars verse, that is true; but it still has the “big fleet” feel, combined with dirt simple mechanics I can teach to kids, and that’s what I’m looking for right now. The Star Wars element is nice, not for me necessarily, but it does provide sort of a common cultural experience everyone can enjoy.
Yeah, that’s the ticket… THAT’S a space battle!
With all that said, I’ve been getting into the game by jumping into the deep end over the last year. I’m still learning the nuances. We ran a much streamlined version of the game at camp this year and I think it’s a winner. I currently own six Imperial Destroyers, the Imperial fighters that came with the standard game, The Rogues and Villains pack (which are single ships that don’t seem to fit the notion of fleet operations, but you have to jam the Millennium Falcon & Slave 1 in somewhere, I suppose) , Two Rebel fighter squadron packs (plus the ones that come with the base game), two Home One MC80 Star Cruisers, three MC30C Frigates, 2 ea of Nebulon B Frigate and CR90 Corellian Corvettes, two Assault Frigates and one Imperial Assault Carrier pack. I know, this isn’t a balanced collection. I way overbought, but I’ve been finding some great deals from people who are piecing out their games on Ebay.. getting 2 Star Destroyers for 20 bucks, for instance. Unfortunately they didn’t come with the paperwork I need to make it useful for a game, but I didn’t know that going into it.
So with that said, and it was a lot, I pre-ordered the Fourth Wave of Star Wars Armada. Armada “waves” are smaller than X-Wing miniature “waves”, judging by experience. So expect maybe two ships a wave. Fourth Wave is two ships, the Imperial Interdictor and the Rebel Liberty. I couldn’t get an idea of scale from the ads on Miniatures Market, so I assumed the Interdictor was a giant “Dreadnought” style ship like Vader’s command ship in Empire Strikes Back. It’s not that at all– more like a variant of the standard Imperial destroyer. The Liberty is a classic “big gun” Star Cruiser for the Rebel Alliance.
The Imperial Interdictor Expansion
As I said, I thought this was going to be just a giant Star Destroyer at first glance, but it’s actually a variant of the Star Destroyer, albeit a smaller, less armed and armored version. The Interdictor has one or two special variants on board that turn it into a specialty ship– namely the gravity well projectors. In essence, what makes the Interdictor not just another Star Destroyer (but weaker) is this card right here (or left here technically). The Interdictor has an experimental system for messing with the gravity well that ships teleport into and out of in the Star Wars universe, and it has the ability to stop ships cold (speed zero) when deployed. This is a pretty neat trick. Now, I just got the package last night, so I can’t tell you how I’d play this thing, but my instincts say don’t overbuy this ship– one will do, protected by another star destroyer close by or a couple of fighter squadrons– this ship would be easier to take out than a standard Star Destroyer. I could see this being a fun thing to pull on your victims (friends) in a big, multiplayer game. In a two player game it might be a little obvious. The Interdictor is a quirky specialty ship, and I’m glad I got one– but only one.
The MC80 Liberty Star Cruiser Expansion
The MC80 Liberty type Star Cruiser appears to be exactly what I was expecting– a giant honking capital ship for the Rebels, with lots and lots of hitting power, decent expansion cards and great defense. Accordingly, a high point cost as well. The Liberty ship class is designed for striking power (forward) instead of broadside, like the Home One. It is less armed and armored on the sides and will need to keep its face to the enemy, so to speak. Liberty comes with a ton of great upgrade cards as well, which will add to flexibility and features of this hull. Again, this showed up last night when I got home– so I haven’t even taken it out of the box yet. My instinct would be to use this to lead an assault into a line of destroyers with some MC30C frigates or Nebulon B frigates in tow to keep the return fire un-concentrated. Like the Interdictor, I’m glad I just have one of these.. the Victory is less specialized than the Interdictor but it’s so powerful in a forward rush that it’s kind of overwhelming. Of course the proof is in playing it.
Wave IV has a couple of great ships in it, but not anything you would want mass quantities of either way. I’m still really digging Armada and have high hopes of continuing with it. I would like to see a decent update on how to play the game with multiple players, and new ship hulls that aren’t necessarily fighters or giant ships. If the next releases are all mid sized (about the size of an Imperial assault carrier in size) that would be fine with me.
There’s a bunch of stuff that is either forthcoming, or I haven’t picked up for some reason. The Rebel Transports look okay, but they will probably be the last thing I pick up– the scale is a little small to make them effective in a fleet game (but then again, I bought Rogues and Villains, so you never know). I am interested in getting at least one Gladiator class destroyer.
The upcoming Wave 5 has some nice ships– I like the Phoenix Home and Imperial Light Cruiser.