Monday, March 13, 2017

Armada objectives introduction

For my next few updates, I'm going to be examining the objectives available in wave one and explaining why you would or wouldn't take them in a given fleet. Before I get much further into that, though, it seems proper to have a short discussion about the role of objective selection when designing your fleet.
And we're nothing if not proper!
First and foremost, let's talk about being first player. Specifically, being first player is awesome. It can present some mild difficulties in obstacle deployment (you get second choice), fleet deployment (you have to make the first deployment with no knowledge of your opponent's formation yet), and the first 2-ish turns of the game as you need to start activating ships earlier than your opponent (telegraphing your intentions), but once serious combat begins (often turn 3 unless both players are barreling towards one another) being able to activate the ideal ship first in every Ship Phase as well as activating the ideal pair of squadrons first in the Squadron Phase is quite advantageous. You have a Gladiator or MC30 that's double-arcing an enemy ship? That one goes first, does a bunch of damage, and then glides away (hopefully). You have a ship that's absolutely doomed unless you activate it first so it can run away? Well, you can if you need to. Being first player is swell.

So what's a second player to do? A good portion of the answer is "make up for this disadvantage with your objective suite." A well-chosen objective suite can not only mitigate but, in some cases, surpass the first player advantage. Conversely, a poorly-chosen objective suite leaves you at a decided disadvantage against the first player - the objective chosen by the first player won't be able to help pull you out of the "second player hole" sufficiently and it will be an extra burden for you.

For this reason, I encourage players designing their fleets to give serious consideration to their objectives so as to not disadvantage themselves. Should you find you can't choose an objective of a specific color that gives a benefit to your fleet, that's a fine reason to undergo a mild of redesign your fleet so that you can strengthen your objective suite. There are a few influencing factors behind what type of objectives you'd select based on the rest of your fleet:

1) Does your fleet have a preference for going first or second?
Fleets that bid for first player or second player by deliberately not spending their full allotment of points so they can claim initiative (and thus choose who goes first or second, giving themselves their desired play order) have an interesting interaction with objectives.
First player bid: These types of fleets generally want to consider what kind of objectives they want as a "backup plan" to punish opponents who have an even stronger bid than they do (as first player bids are nearly always larger than second player bids). If I have a 10 point bid for first player, what kind of objectives would generally trouble someone running fleet archetypes with an even larger bid?
Second player bid: These types of fleets will be relying strongly on playing to their objectives and so their objective consideration is perhaps more important than that for any other fleet design. In general, they're looking for objectives that score additional points - they're giving up a small number of fleet building points in order to make it happen, so it should have a payoff for them that they can consistently exploit.
Everybody else: For those who build close to the 400 point maximum, it's less clear-cut and will depend more on some of the other considerations below...

2) Does your fleet have any troublesome matchups?
Objectives can help you handle things that give you trouble, and even though a smart opponent won't choose a hard-counter objective, this can leave them deliberating between remaining troublesome objectives. Depending on the bad matchup, you can sometimes even use all three objectives as different means of disadvantaging the same kind of fleet. This isn't altogether different than the considerations under "first player bid" above, insomuch as you're trying to consider throwing hurdles in front of fleet types that give you trouble (with the first player bid objectives identifying larger bids as trouble for it), and I'll cover "silver bullet" uses for objectives in the reviews later.

3) What kind of things does your fleet do well?
This is the last major consideration for objective choice. If you're confident your fleet can benefit more from objective X than an enemy as first player could, it's definitely worth considering. A good example of this would be the red objective Most Wanted (which we'll take a closer look at later) - if you have a cheap flotilla in your fleet, it's a great Most Wanted recipient and you should be able to confidently choose a much more attractive opponent ship as its partner, getting the upper hand from the objective. Conversely, Most Wanted is a bad choice in a fleet full of more expensive ships as you can't be sure your opponent will bring a target of similar or greater cost but you know for sure that whatever you choose for Most Wanted is potentially catastrophic for you.

In short, you should be able to always have a good answer to the question "why are you using (objective X) in your fleet instead of one of the other objectives of the same color?" By the end of the objective articles, I hope to help you make good objective choices that will provide you with a satisfactory response!

You can find links to the objective articles themselves in the Armada Basics index, or go straight to them below:

Red (assault) objectives, wave one
Red (assault) objectives, wave five
Blue (navigation) objectives, wave one
Blue (navigation) objectives, wave five
Yellow (defense) objectives, wave one
Yellow (defense) objectives, wave five