So I have been nearly silent lately and I’m sorry for that. I burned myself out on creative writing, so I’ve been carefully putting the pieces back together on some of my RPG stories before concentrating on new projects. When I looked at my publishing schedule I realized, oh shit, it’s been over a month since I last wrote to you guys! So, I wanted to keep you in the loop on one of the things I’ve been up to.
So, in honor of Star Wars opening on this date back in 1977, I wanted to write a review of the Star Wars – Armada
miniature war game I’ve been playing.
‘Dear Words for the Internet,
I never thought it would happen to me…’
I never saw myself playing a tabletop war game. I’ve always been about tabletop RPGs and storytelling games, but painting miniatures and measuring out attack distances never seemed like fun to me.
For those not in the know, tabletop war games revolve around the use of miniatures, distance, and combat rules to simulate a battle. Each piece generally represents a unit, ship, or vehicle, and using the force you put together, you fight against a player using a different army.
War games never really appealed to me outside of the good standby’s in my life like Axis and Allies, or Memoir ’44. Stuff like Warhammer especially left me feeling out of the loop, since it was a property I didn’t really like too much, and the players I’ve met in the past have been a bit… over enthusiastic to put it kindly.
It’s not like there hasn’t been Star Wars tabletop games in the past either. Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), the company that makes Star Wars Armada, also makes Star Wars: X-Wing. The games are the same concept but on vastly different scales.
Armada focuses on large fleet battles, pitting huge capital ships against one another while backed up by waves of fighters. X-Wing focuses on small-scale dogfights between a few individual fighters. The large fleet combat was enough to pique my interest and finally convince me to make the plunge and buy the starter set.
‘Well that’s the real trick, isn’t it? And it’s gonna cost you extra. Ten thousand, all in advance.’
‘Ten thousand!? We could almost buy our own ship for that!’
One of the things that always put me off about war games are the investment to actually become competitive. Stories abound about players needing to spend hundreds of dollars to actually be able to participate in tournaments. That doesn’t include paint or other accessories to make your models customized and stand out either.
As my wife is unhappy to remind me, I already have several expensive hobbies. If I was going to get into this, I had to make sure that I’d play it.
I bought the core set for ~$66 on Amazon.com. The core set comes with everything you need to play a beginner match, and includes a Victory Star Destroyer for the Imperial ship along with six squadrons of TIE Fighters. The Rebels get a Nebulon B Frigate, Corellian Corvette, and 4 squadrons of X-Wings. It’s not enough ships to allow you to play tournaments, but it’s enough for small skirmishes.
Luckily, everyone I’ve introduced the game to has loved it. I’ve already had two friends buy the core set to build their own fleets, and several others are planning on buying expansions to add when they play with my starting stuff.
All told, I’ve probably spent about $130, and feel that’s more than enough to be competitive. I also bought a little bit of paint to spruce up the fighters since they’re unpainted and I’m anal retentive.
‘We won’t get another chance at this, Admiral.’
‘We have no choice, General Calrissian! Our cruisers can’t repel firepower of that magnitude!’
Gameplay focuses around large scale combat between capital ships. I think that’s what sucked me in. I’m weak when it comes to Star Wars fleet stuff, so a game like this, I really had no chance.
The large ships are the center of the turn system, with each getting special abilities for defense, and commands used each turn to give them powerful bonuses. You can select something like concentrate fire, which gives bonus die for an attack, or repair, which allows you to heal damage or fix shields.
Each ship is divided into hull zones, and has shields for each zone. Port, starboard, bow, and stern all have their own shields and weapon values, so lining up your shots while not exposing your weak points become huge. Most of the large ships don’t turn on a dime either, so you need to set your approach up in advance.
Range is also a determining factor, with certain ships being great at close range, but having little long range power, and vice versa.
‘Pardon me for asking, sir, but what good are snub fighters going to be against that?’
Each ship gives you a certain point value, and up to 1/3rd of your fleet can be made up of fighter squadrons. This is a good thing, because it keeps fighters numerous enough to change the tide of a battle, but not overwhelming to the point where it slows down gameplay.
Each squadron is like its own little ship. They have health, deal damage, and need to attack targets in range. Unlike big ships however, they can dart in and out of combat with ease, turning on a dime and covering large distances. The only issue being that they have to engage enemy squadrons they’re within shooting distance of, allowing players to tie up enemy squadrons with interceptors and prevent bombers from swarming your fleet.
The core set comes with X-Wings and TIE Fighters. The X-Wings are excellent dogfighters and useful anti-ship bombers, but are expensive and rather slow. TIEs get the advantage of bonus attack die when several squadrons are grouped together on one target, and while they are cheap, they are also paper thin in hit points.
The starfighter expansions, both Rebel and Imperial, add more bombers, interceptors, and escort fighters to the mix. Like I said earlier, I liked having the extra choice of fighters so much that I bought two sets of the Rebel fighters.
Unlike the capital ships, fighters come unpainted, so of course I needed to buy paint. …What has happened to me.
‘The odds of successfully surviving an attack on an Imperial Star Destroyer are approximately…’
I can say that I would easily recommend this game to friends. Most of my friends have already started purchasing core sets or expansion sets (all of them Empire, bunch of wusses.) Since I’m the only primary Rebel player, I’m definitely not short of enemies.
If you have a friend that might be interested, maybe see about splitting the cost of a core set to give it a try.
If you’re like me and love tabletop games, Star Wars, and fleet combat, I’d say then just make the plunge.
Overall it’s a fun game, and one that gets more rewarding the more you play and add.
Now I just need to wait for the Mon Calamari cruisers to come out at the end of the year…