Monday, July 31, 2017

Checking it Twice: Starting the Turn

So it's been a bit of time, yes.  Sorry, job got me busy and then it's been a crazy week of trying to cobble together a fleet for last Saturday's store championships (hey look I had writeups done too!) followed by my other usual weekly activities and then next thing you know it's been almost two three weeks since you did a real article.
He's so disappointed in me! This sucks!
Anyways, the start of the turn!
Before we begin, let's do a quick refresh on the 4 phases of the turn:
1) Command Phase - Setting up everything for this turn, next turn, or the turn after that (depending on how heavy your command stack is!).  VERY generally, this is what we're talking about here, along with the VERY first part of....
2) Ship Phase - back and forth activations of your ships and the other guys ships.  Push squadrons, repair damage, concentrate fire, speed up, slow down, make pew pew noises (the guns don't work as well if you don't make the noises).  This is going to get its own individual breakdown for each ship (this is the next part of the checklist, published sometime in 2030 apparently based on my schedule...)
3) Squadrons Phase - did your squadrons not get activated? Fire or move those lazy jerks! If they're Rogue, they're only half lazy and get to both fire AND move (in whatever order you wish, they just need to wait to do it now).  I'm not doing a checklist here, as each set of 2 squadrons you activate is KIND OF (lean into it as heavily as Craig Biggio used to) an activation, which I'll talk about in the next series for this thing.  See point 2 above for my timeline of getting to this.
4) Status Phase - Untap, undo, flip the initiative token, finally kill Rieekan's one ship, and THIS is when Konstantine gets to use his ability.  See that Yoda shaking his head gif above? Yup, I'd use it again here if I didn't want to get boring.  (Actual side note: I have no major feelings about him, but he's a doofus in Rebels and Eric hates him, so the jokes are gonna start piling on!)
I've never seen an incompetent smirk before today.... (SpongeBob meme) OuR fIrSt CaTcH oF tHe DaY
So today we're talking "start" of the turn.  This is going to break down into 3 easily digested bits, to which I'm sure I'll over-talk about them all, haha.  And we'll go in order of easiness, too! The first thing I'm going to mention only has application for half our readers, to which I'm sorry (not sorry, stop being part of space fascism).

1) Do I need to trigger the Pelta's ability this turn?
Easy to understand, easy to determine if you can or not.  If you have the token, you can discard it (or the card!) to trigger the Pelta's special ability.  And listen, I'm not gonna tell you how to listbuild, but the Pelta is not a cheap ship to cram into a list.  You CAN bring 2 of them, but.... why? The upgrades have different goals and want different fleets.

If you're running Shields to Maximum!, I'd be triggering it every turn you possibly can, especially with Task Force Antilles Hammerheads. (Hondo, a Comms Net flotilla, a Vet Captain on the Pelta, and taking a token first turn lets you get it every turn from 2-6.  Or take Raymus Antilles and Ahsoka).  The ability to heal damage from EVERYONE for the cost of one Engineering token is phenomenal, especially on the multiple Rebel ships that stay alive specifically because of shields.  I'll be updating the Pelta article soon enough (need more experience with Wave 6 and the group of them working together) with this all.

If you're running All Fighters Follow Me!, like I said in my Pelta article, it's 2-3 times a game.

And if you're running Entrapment Formation, I'd guess it's probably an every turn thing as well, but I don't have as much experience with this one.  I played it a bunch when it came out, then I realized I could have speed "4" B-wings, and well, you know what happened then.
Murder happened then.
So what this question is more accurately asking is "Did you remember to trigger your Pelta this turn?" Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  Dump the token/card turn 6, or card this turn if you expect to explode slash badly need that Engineering token to actually engineer.  I WILL say that recently being in close range of a non-Avenger ISD without Leading Shots, I had my Pelta survive and scoot away.  Don't count on your opponent to NOT bring Leading Shots or NOT to roll well.

2) What people/officers/commanders are triggering this turn?
So great, one question down.  Now for the reason I was all handwavey up at the top. If you read the Pelta cards, they all trigger at the start of the Ship Phase.  Hondo triggers at the start of the ship phase too (so when you don't have a token on your Pelta, Hondo jumps out an airlock giving you the finger and the correct tokens on the way out)
I mean, he's not wrong
Tarkin is the Ship Phase (so dials are set), Tagge and Garm are start of the round (so dials are after), and Captain Needa and Admiral Titus are start of the first round/game.  Lot to take in here, but take a look at your stuff (and the other guy's stuff too!) and see what's going down this turn.  Or who's getting to use some special powers and what they're doing.  These are not things like Intel Officer or Vet Captain who will be triggering when the ship goes; these are things that need to happen at the start of the Ship Phase (AKA the "start" of the turn).  Guys that have to activate when you start or else they don't get to.

And because he's a big stupid jerkface who makes writing articles very difficult, Konstantine is the Status Phase at the end of the turn.  So if you have Konstantine as your Admiral (cough cough you shouldn't cough cough), you're going to need to check for him then.  I don't have a Status Phase Checklist planned, because "untap your stuff, kill Zombie Rieekan's ship/squad" is both relatively simple and not something you forget (and I haven't played an opponent yet who refused to let me untap something that I forgot to do at the end of last turn.  If you have that guy in your gaming group, I'm sorry.)  So if you're using Konstantine (Biggs....) then remember to use his special powers in your list at the right time.  I'll ask you to write your own Konstantine Checklist article, but I'll go with the easy joke that the first question on your checklist should be something along the lines of "Am I drunk enough to think this Konstantine fleet is a good plan?"
You want "Willing to watch or perform in the Holiday Special" levels of inebriated.
3) What's my plan for this turn?
So before we begin, I'd like to blame this section right here for the delay in this article.  I was able to speed through parts 1 and 2 quite easily, and then I spent LITERALLY an entire week trying to edit this and fix it and make it better and blah blah blah (seriously, every night i'm sitting at my computer, unsure what or how to write).  Finally, my friend Matt told me Thursday night to just start with the first part, fix that, get that right.  When that's done and good and you're happy with it, move on to the next.  So, thanks Matt!

The first thing I'm going to talk about here is the obvious.  In Armada, there's basically 2-3 ways to win the game.  Let's talk about them all quickly.

First, we have the Objective win.  This isn't your easy ones like Most Wanted (blow up his stuff!), but I'm more referring to things like Fire Lanes or Intel Sweep or Sensor Net.  You do things with the fancy objective tokens, collecting them for points like a leprechaun collects gold.
Fun fact: this is Nick Sobotka from The Wire.  I am just starting Season 4, no spoilers please.
Second is the Killing Stuff win.  Blow up the other guys stuff.  Not hard, it's why I think most of us got into this game.  Some of us want to do it with 6 B-wings, some of us want to do it with 4 Raiders, and some people want to watch the world burn (Avenger Boarding Troopers).  What's really fun is combining these two ways of winning together (the Fighter Trio of Precision Strike, Fighter Ambush, and Superior Positions all do this by providing extra points when your squadrons hit the other guy's ships!)

But there's a 3rd consideration that you need to have and take into effect.  And let's go to the standard Patton quote that I've trotted out too often!
I want you to remember that no bas**** ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bas**** die for his country.
So while blowing up the other guy's ships is important, not letting yours get blown up is importanter.  Well, more accurately, not letting MORE of yours get blown up or more POINTS worth of yours get blown up is importanter.  You can certainly kill all 3 Hammerheads that your MC80 is facing, but with Ackbar on your Doom Pickle that's worth more than all 3 of them combined.  That's not the best trade for you.... unless his Commander was on one of those Hammerheads, too? There's a lot to take in mind.

So with all of that said, the commands you give your ships are what allows you to either mine the objectives for points (commanding squadrons to send 2 VCXs out to grab those Intel Sweep tokens, or to throw Fire Lanes tokens under enemy TIE fighters that are stuck in place) or blowing up his stuff/not letting yours get blown up (VERY generally, Concentrate Fire/Engineering).  To be vague, the game is really 2 things: maneuvering to be in the right spot to throw dice, and then throwing those dice.  Everything else is just window dressing.  Some of it's FANCY dressing (External Racks, Leading Shots, the Demolisher title) and some of it's the dressing you get on the salad at McDonalds (looking at YOU, Overload Pulse).
Image taken from Bell of Lost Souls, where someone actually put this together.

So here's where we hit the meat and what I was leading up to.  When you assign commands to your ship, you want to be asking two different questions, and both of these make up your "plan" for the turn(s) you're assigning.

1) Why are you assigning the ship that command?
2) How does assigning it that command help you to win the game?

With regards to the first question, sometimes it's as simple as "I badly need to get out of this ISD's front arc as quickly as possible, so Navigate and run like your life depends on it (hint it does)."
What's the sound of one R2 unit screaming?
But sometimes (often) it's not that easy.  Do you need to throw your squadrons forward to get the alpha strike on his? Do you need to repair a crit that's really hurting you by being face up? Do you need to throw an extra dice on that Avenger bearing down on you, with those Boarding Troopers in its hull, waiting to empty themselves into your MC80, their undead faces ready to melt yours apart.  Wait, that was World War Z.  Still, Boarding Troopers are scary.
More fun than Death Troopers as so many people I hated died.  But Death Troopers was good too!
Anyways, zombie digressions aside, choosing the proper command may be obvious, or it may be a bit harder.  And that's why I have that second question in there, and that's what helps you choose (and where we're about to spend a bunch of time with me blathering.  I'll try to include more fancy pictures!)

2) How does assigning it that command help you to win the game?
So the main part that I want to stress right here (and what I spent a lot of time this last week editing) is that defaulting to easy commands is bad.  Yes, Yavaris does GREAT work at pushing squadrons and having your 3 B-wings attack twice each (6 black and 6 blue dice into an ISD face? Well if you insist....).  But there comes a point when you can either push squadrons with Yavaris or you can get outta town before you die.  Recognizing WHEN that point happens is part of the game, but you CAN check ranges at any time.  If you're just out of red range of 3 Arquitens this turn, putting either a Navigate for next turn or an Engineering to deal with their attacks is not a bad plan.  Yes, Yavaris is not pushing squadrons, but you know what else it's not pushing? Up daisies.
See, the lesson here is don't tempt Doc Holliday.
There's a lot of this that I do in games, and I'm trying to NOT do that.  Yavaris commands squadrons turns 2 until death, Salvation concentrates fire a bunch until i realize that I've overextended it and I try to Engineer for 2 turns but it usually ends up dead anyways... CR90s default to navigation (because why not? It keeps them in the fight and stuff!) Flotillas push squadrons at speed 2 because i need something to push squadrons and oh crap I've overextended myself again and it's dead.  Poop.

Default commands are GOOD, but do NOT just default to them all the time.  The problem I think I (and maybe several of you run into) is that some of the best titles (Defiance, Jaina's Light, Yavaris, Salvation on the Rebel side; Demolisher, Avenger, Interdictor for Imperials) can be used every turn.  And if I've invested points in them, why WOULDN'T I want to get more use out of them? I paid for it already, clearly I need to throw more money in the pot to win the hand!

Let me give you the words of advice I once heard on a warm summer's eve on a train bound for.nowhere. I met a man who (pointless diversion deleted).... Know when to hold them, know when to fold them, and know when to walk away.
I suggest also knowing when to run.
You're going to get value out of the title, yes.  You put it on a ship and added upgrades to it so it'll help you either kill things or get the objective or something like that.  But the easy example here is Demolisher.  You DON'T use it after the move on every time.  Sometimes you fire both arcs when you start the turn into my MC80 giving me a very large sad.  And that can be a smart/correct choice! Remember the ways of winning, either by killing stuff or getting objectives.  How does what you're doing this turn either kill the other guy's stuff, get you objective points, or keep you alive (which prevents the other guy from getting points himself!)  But don't necessarily do the same command every turn, as that gets predictable and can lead to death.

Look at your ship in the context it's in and see whether it's bound to live this turn, bound to take a bunch of damage, aimed to set up something else, etc.  Choose your command based on all that context and where it's going to go, where your opponents are/are going to go, what turn it is, what command you might have queued up for next turn (if you're on a command 2+ ship), etc.  There's A LOT to take in here, and I can't claim that I've addressed it all.  I can't even ask Eric to do this, as this is a lengthy diatribe and would require several articles.  I'll get to talking about it soon enough (as I already volunteered Eric for deployment, and he valiantly took that on, haha) but let me finish this first.
Make checklist, check. Add new things to checklist, check.  Man, I'm on fire today!

The best thing I can say right now about choosing the proper command is that since you can measure ranges at all times, you can look and consider where you are in relation to where your opponent is.  PLEASE keep in mind that if you spend 20 minutes looking at every ship in relation to where things are, your opponent is going to A) first ask you to move it along B) demand you move it along C) start hitting you until you're ready to start the turn.  Take a minute (handwaved number), evaluate where your ships are and where your opponent's are, but just a minute or two.  Look at each ship individually and in the context of your overall fleet.  What does THIS SHIP ACTUALLY want to do this turn? How does what it's doing help the fleet win this game? If the flotilla is durdling in the back, that's KINDA helping (activation delay is helpful, yes), but it could also be pushing squadrons or navigating to be in range to push squadrons next turn or concentrating fire against a squadron in its arc.

Planning out a turn is NOT an easy skill to learn, and I do NOT claim I have mastery of it.  But a basic understanding of what to do with your stuff when is the first GIANT step for you getting better at Armada.
One small step for man, one giant leap for dad jokes.
The related point to that is that you need to objectively look at your ships and determine if the course you're about to lay out for them will result in their death or not.  As I mentioned above, for me, Yavaris has often pushed squadrons from turns 2 until death.  But a smarter plan instead of firing off 3 B-wings turn 4ish or 5ish (as it's about to die) MAY be Navigating to get Yavaris out of danger.  I'm not saying "Don't points trade" but I AM saying "Do you need to points trade, when you can just kill his stuff and escape instead?"  We all know that tabling your opponent feels great, as does trading your Yavaris for his Avenger (and that's a great trade I would make any DAY).  But I'll point out that Eric won Adepticon 2016 by blowing up one ISD (out of the 3 his opponent brought) at the top table.  There WERE 2 other ISDs left, but because Eric kept any of his ships from getting killed by those ISDs, he earned a win that got him the fancy medallion.  Staying alive is a good course of action too, and while it may not LOOK like it results in stronger wins, you're denying your opponent points, which is a much bigger swing than you'd think.
Well you can tell by the way I use my stick, I'm an Evade Tokens man, no time to quip
I've talked a LOT about this plan section, and I could expound on that in a future article, but realistically I have a lot more ideas of articles to do and things to fix/update.  If it's demanded, I can expand on it and talk about it more at length (it may need examples of in-game decisions and such...), but if you have questions about anything related to the point I'm trying to convey, let me know.  I'll try to help, but it's a new thought I've been having for a while.  I used to default to those standard commands because whatever.  I'd LIKE to think I'm cured (I'm not) and this is me now:
I am Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!
BUTTTTTTTTTT in actuality this is more probable:
I am Mrs. Nesbitt!
So, we've hit the end of the "start of turn" checklist, and it wasn't that painful, shoehorned in Neil Armstrong dad jokes aside!

1) Did you remember to trigger your Pelta this turn?
2) What people/officers/commanders are triggering this turn?
3) What's my plan for this turn?

So the easy memory there is: People, Pelta, Plan.  THAT'S rememberable by everyone.  I'd love to have an Imp-only example for usage instead of the Pelta, but currently I can't think of anything.  For them (and for those of you not bringing Peltas!) it's just a matter of People and Plan.  Next time: individual ships and the meat thereof.  Stay tuned.