Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Why play Armada? What makes it unique?

This topic was our very first request received for an article topic and for something so elementary I hadn't even considered it. Given we're focusing on articles for newer players, this kind of article is for the newest of the new players: those who haven't even played Armada yet!

So, what would I consider the defining elements of Armada as a miniatures game?


Prepainted ships: Ships are ready to play a few minutes from being purchased. If you’re artistic, you can prime them and paint them with your own color schemes, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

Ease of tracking game information: Squadrons have a tab on them to indicate whether they’ve activated or not (just push the tab in!). Ships have shield dials on every arc that can be rotated up or down as those arcs gain or lose shield points. A lot of the information that other games would require writing down on a piece of paper and tracking throughout the game is done using the actual game components themselves, which removes the need for a lot of book-keeping from you and the need to ask constant questions from your opponent.

Note the squadrons have a hit point tracker and activation tab built into their bases

Note the shield dials in the different arcs, the prepainted ship, and the command dial discs (we're getting to those soon!)
Alternating activations: Players each activate one ship or a pair of squadrons during the appropriate phases and then play passes back to their opponent. This keeps play going back and forth with little down time between players, so engagement in the game remains high. It also adds an extra tactical element of trying to get the most value from activations done at the right times, as earlier activations can open up options for later activations that weren't present initially in the turn. Choosing the right order to activate things in and anticipating your opponents activations is essential to good play and always an interesting challenge.

Command dials: All ships get to prepare a special action at the start of their turns that resolve when they activate. For all but the smallest ships, these new commands are added to the bottom of a stack, which means players will need to anticipate the orders their larger ships will need one or even two turns ahead of time! This rewards a good read of the game state and clever planning - does your Imperial Star Destroyer expect squadron dogfighting to begin on turn 2 or turn 3? When should it slot in its squadron command? When does your Nebulon-B expect it's going to need to change speed to slot in its navigate command?

Shoot, then move: Unlike most miniature games, Armada uses an “attack and then move” system (rather than “move and then attack,” which is the default for most other games). This subtle change carries very interesting repercussions: generally players are trying to anticipate where enemies will be next activation and trying to set up their firing arcs accordingly and/or maneuvering to avoid getting caught in those arcs!

Inertia: Ship speed remains constant unless a special command is given to change it. Although every ship is different in terms of its maximum speed and how it may maneuver/turn at different speed values, ships “feel” like they’re moving through space where their speed will remain constant unless an effort is made to change that.

Strategic gameplay: With alternating activations, command dials, “shoot, then move,” and inertia all added together, the end result is a strategic game experience where anticipating the game state in a turn or two is rewarded, as is changing the tempo in unexpected ways with a daring move or a sudden departure from an expected plan.

Commanders: Each fleet is led by a commander who gives a special rule to the entire fleet. This means that even though there are only two factions (Rebels and Imperials), a Rebel fleet commanded by Admiral Ackbar will use very different ships and squadrons than one commanded by General Dodonna. This allows for a substantial amount of customizability and variety. It's not uncommon for people who come from other miniature games with numerous factions to assume that Armada gets stale with only two factions, but due to the unique commander bonuses, that is not the case as each commander is effectively their own sub-faction.

Upgrades: Each ship can be outfitted with various upgrade cards to change how it behaves on the table. Given each ship has a minimum of 4 upgrade slots (counting the "title" slot, which has no icon) and often many more, this creates a lot more variety and interesting fleet decisions than you might initially think as ships combine different upgrades together to behave differently than the "base" model. A Nebulon-B with the Yavaris title is going to want entirely different upgrades (bent towards commanding squadrons) and behave quite differently from a Nebulon-B with the Salvation title (bent towards turbolaser sniping from downtown), for example.

Star Wars: The game just looks and feels extremely Star Wars, so if you’re a fan you’ll feel at home!