Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Imperial commander review: Admiral Screed

It's time to review the monster that absolutely dominated the meta in wave one: Admiral Screed!

They all laughed when I said I wanted to be an admiral and also the Terminator! Well who's laughing now?
  • A ship can only use Screed's ability once per activation. Not once per attack, as I sometimes see players believe it to be. So if you're getting more than one attack with a ship, you need to consider whether to use it on the first attack or save it for the second. If you need to keep track of whether you used it or not, I'd recommend using some kind of token or tapping and untapping Screed's card to keep it straight.
  • You need to spend a die before flipping another die to a side with the crit icon. Spent dice are removed from your pool and have no effect, so choose your sacrifice wisely.
  • You should note that black dice have additional hits on their crit sides and so are extremely good recipients of this ability.
    • Yes, you can (and should, when possible) use Screed's ability this way. There's nothing in his text stopping you from flipping a die to a side with a crit icon and another icon.
  • You can use Screed's ability on any one attack, so it can be used against a single squadron if that's a necessity. This is often better used with 2 dice-flak that includes a black dice where the critical icon shares a face with a regular hit icon.
    • On that note, it's mentioned in the Armada FAQ that Screed is capped to once per activation, so you can use him once per opponent's activation if your ship makes an attack with two or more dice during that activation. Currently there are only two ways to do this is on a ship:
      1. Quad Laser Turrets and Agent Kallus - your ship attacks with one blue die, adds another die (assuming a unique squadron was the target) and you can use Screed to spend one die to flip the other to a side with a crit.
      2. Salvo tokens - so long as your ship will be rolling 2 or more dice with its salvo attack, Screed can be used to flip a salvo die to a side with a crit.

It's fairly obvious that Screed loves including ships in his fleet that have crit-triggered effects. For example:

You still got it, ACMs! Ignore the haters.

Because Screed can guarantee crit icons, crit upgrades become much more efficient when used on his ships. Black crit dice upgrades in particular absolutely love Screed's ability. The reason for this is fairly simple: black dice crit sides have an additional hit added on. This means that you can usually keep the total damage at the pool at least equal while using Screed's ability - 2 black dice with single hits showing get converted by Screed to a single black dice with hit+crit showing, for a total of 2 damage either way, but with the crit enabled. Given black crit upgrades add extra damage (in one way or another), getting them to fire off adds total damage to your attack on top of whatever numerical advantage they bring to your damage pool. Screed obviously does best when spending a blank die to flip a blank black die to a hit+crit; adding 2 damage and getting a black critical effect to trigger is pretty dang good.

Because Screed tends towards using black critical effects, it's easy to also equip Ordnance Experts to his ordnance-equipped ships to increase your overall damage and increase your chances of being able to use black crit upgrades on each of your attacks. For example, if your Gladiator attacks out the side arc with 4 black dice where 2 can be rerolled, you've got a pretty good shot at generating the crit you want naturally and you can save Screed for the 2 red 2 rerollable black dice attack out the front. Even if you get critical results without Screed's help, Ordnance Experts will let you reroll two dice with blanks (preferably) and hit results (if there aren't enough blanks) to fish for higher damage and Screed can fix your dice pool if it turns out worse. In short, Ordnance Experts doesn't replace what Screed does, they paradoxically augment one another and Screed allows you to go crit-fishing with a safety mechanism should you need it. If not, he still lets you take some risks and walk away with potentially much higher damage or at least saves you for no real damage lost.

That feeling when you go crit-fishing without Screed and it backfires.

Screed isn't as useful for getting non-black crits, but that's not to say he's pointless. It's just if you're using him to flip a blue or red die to a crit side, you usually won't be adding any damage to the pool unless you rolled a lot of blanks and/or accuracy results to squish together. Plus generic crits (and XX-9 Turbolasers, which aren't picky about crit color) and blue crits (some exceptions, like Heavy Ion Emplacements) generally aren't as impactful as black crits. You can always add some in to a Screed fleet leaning on black crits (Assault Concussion Missiles and Heavy Ion Emplacements are a match made in Hell for your opponent), but the bread and butter for Screed has always been black crits.

A quick side note on Screed: just because he can guarantee a crit icon doesn't mean he can guarantee a crit happening. Your opponent has possible opportunities during the Spend Defense tokens step to remove crit dice (example: the Admonition title, Captain Bruson), reroll crit dice (example: evade tokens at close and medium range, Lando), or use a Damage Control Officer to tell you that you don't get to choose any crits to resolve even if the crit icons do stick around. Be aware of these counters and do what you can to overload or circumvent them.

Screed is looking for anything that can host punishing crit upgrades, and the Empire has a number of good options.

Raiders are the cheapest option for delivering crits, and you get your choice of Raider-Is for ordnance and Raider-IIs for ion cannons. Typically Raider-Is aren't a great choice for black crit upgrades due to not having quite enough dice for the upgrades to trigger reliably, but Screed doesn't care. Even a Raider-I side arc has barely enough dice to get black crit upgrades to fire (black+blue), allowing you to double-arc and fire off your black crit upgrade first from the side arc and then come in with the much stronger front arc second after your target has been softened up by the critical effect. Raider-IIs can already fairly reliably deliver blue crits but Screed lets you leave the weapon team at home to save some points, which is welcome. With a con fire dial, you can also trigger blue crits from medium or long (on Disposable Capacitors activation) range out of your side arc and then hammer in with the front arc similarly to how the Raider-I does it at close range. It's rude to roll in one blue, add another blue, and then squish them together into a blue crit to trigger HIEs on your first attack (for a total of 1+3=4 damage) and then bring your front arc in after that for another 3 blue.

Gladiators are the classic Screed ship, especially Demolisher. I'd go so far as to state every Screed fleet should have Demolisher in it due to how well it synergizes with Screed for delivering black crits. With the generous black dice out the side arcs and ability to attack once after moving, it's very easy to consistently deliver a black crit upgrade nearly every round beginning on round 2. Depending on how you build your fleet, Demolisher can be the tricked-out star player or you can run it a bit less upgraded as a serious but secondary threat, but you need a very good reason to not bring Demolisher with Screed.

Kuat ISDs and VSD-Is. These two ships are heavier combatants and have the ordnance slot in common. The Kuat is easily the more "deluxe" version of the two and I'm assuming that the VSD-I in question has the Harrow title with Engine Techs to give it the speed it needs to actually deliver the goods. Either way, both have front arcs that, with Ordnance Experts (and/or Leading Shots for the Kuat), have a pretty good shot at delivering a black crit normally but a side arc that is otherwise iffy. Screed helps there and helps improve their overall damage even if that's not necessary.

ISD-IIs and VSD-IIs. These are similar to the preceding entry, only focusing on their ion cannon upgrade slot. Screed makes equipping a blue crit upgrade instead of Leading Shots more palatable, as you can depend on triggering that crit at least the once per activation and even if your red dice don't behave very well you can always throw away a blank red die to flip another die to a crit side, so Leading Shots' loss isn't felt as keenly as it would be normally. The ISD-II has the advantage of being the better all-around ship, but the VSD-II is cheaper and can equip Disposable Capacitors so your mileage may vary. Both of them can pull off the Quad Battery Turrets trick of adding a blue die at long range and then using Screed to turn it into a crit, triggering their blue crit upgrade from downtown.

Onagers. Onagers love getting cheap dice-fixing and they want to trigger their superweapon crit. This is especially true if they're bringing the Superheavy Composite Beam Turbolasers, as you'll either want to get the guaranteed red crit to trigger it or add more crits to further twist the knife. Screed helps a lot here and he loves having access to a cheaper source of long-ranged harassment to help his bread and butter small ships.

Interdictors. The Interdictor is similar to the VSD-II in that it's looking to use its ion cannon blue crit (usually HIEs) as consistently as possible and can equip Disposable Capacitors. Otherwise, it's got some upsides and downsides compared to the VSD-II option. The upsides are it doesn't really lose out on anything by not taking Leading Shots, which it didn't want anyways. It can bring Targeting Scrambler, which is a godsend for friendly nearby black crit ships that get into trouble at close range, as well as other experimental retrofits to give your typical brute force Screed fleet some sneaky tech options. The downsides are Interdictors are expensive once you layer on all the upgrades they want and their base damage output without critical upgrades is poor. They'll be relying on other ships to really drive home the damage rather than doing much themselves, especially with Heavy Ion Emplacements, which is great early on but poor once shields on nearby enemy ships are drained.

Fleet building
Because Screed does nothing for squadrons and prefers at least a couple cheap ships to get multiple uses of his ability and whatever crit upgrades they brought, he tends towards MSU style fleets. Failing that, LMSU hybrids where one bigger ship leads several small ships. His ability doesn't do anything for squadrons and his preferred ships aren't dedicated carriers, so he also prefers no squads or light squads in his fleets. Gozantis can help with commanding squads and/or supporting your combat ships, but Screed does literally nothing for them unless they use a con fire dial (in which case he can squish two dice together to make a crit die, which is underwhelming and often unnecessary), so make sure they've got important jobs to do before including them.

One issue I see in a fair number of Screed fleets is little to no long-ranged punch. If your whole fleet is close-ranged knife fighters, then any enemy ship that can get past you is going to survive and there's nearly nothing you can do about it. Putting a little extra damage into tough foes early or enough damage to push over crippled enemy ships later on can be more helpful than superfluous close-ranged ships.

Otherwise, Screed fleets are pretty straightforward. Deliver crits, crush your foes and see them driven before you. The right mixture and type of black dice crit ships combined with other elements will depend on your meta and personal preferences.


  1. Why would you not put the Overload Pulse on the Avenger ISD? Both have ion slots, with the II model being probably more deadly, where you would lose 1 of the blues for a blue crit (wouldn't need accuracy). Then your ISD exhausts all the tokens and the defender can't burn them all in the same attack, forcing a bunch of damage from the red and black right on the chin. Was this not how it works in tandem, or was there a rule clarification that put this out? Not trying to be sarcastic, just a very new player who at first glance thought this would have been a great combo... but I've been wrong before. Also, do you roll the attack pool, then pick which dice to toss and which to turn crit. Or do you have to lose the 1 die before the roll?

    1. Re: Overload Pulse Avenger
      Because the defender gets to spend their defense tokens prior to the attacker choosing and resolving a critical effect, the defender's defense tokens will be spent prior to the Overload Pulse exhausting all of them that weren't already exhausted. Don't feel embarrassed - this is a very common misunderstanding in Armada and it comes from the fact that FFG doesn't really spell out the attack sequence and what order all the particulars resolve in so it's easy to come to an incorrect conclusion. The specifics are in the rules reference guide section under "Attack" on page 2, if you want to read up a bit on it. I'm not a big fan of the "two different rulebooks" approach FFG uses to teach its games, if you couldn't tell ;).

      Re: Screed's ability
      Screed's ability is used during the "resolve attack effects" step after your initial attack roll, so you get to see how your first dice throw works out prior to deciding if(and how!) you want to use Screed's ability.

      Hopefully that helped answer your questions! If you had any remaining questions, let me know.

    2. Ahhh I see now, and makes sense. Yeah, I can't say I got much help from the FFG instructions, most everything I learned was from trial and error. Thanks for the help, you rock!

    3. I must say that now when You get the Starhawk with 6 defense (2x Brace + 2x Redirect) tokens the overload pulse makes sense to use.

    4. If you know you're specifically playing a Starhawk, yes - the Starhawk is an ideal target being a big chunk of points, unlikely to have a Damage Control Officer (...usually), and slow enough to have trouble running away from getting ganged up on.

      That said, you still don't know for sure if you'll be playing a Starhawk most of the time and I still hesitate to recommend it.

  2. Is there a rule of thumb for how many combat ships to include with Screed? I feel like three is too few (maybe an ISD, Demo and Raider) and four is where you want to start. Curious on what it would depend. Thanks!

    1. It really depends a lot on the rest of the list but generally I'd agree that it should be at least 3 in a normal 400 point game. I'd feel better with 4+ but sometimes 3 is enough.

  3. Thanks for the response. Absolutely it depends on a lot but I do enjoy the theory going into fleet crafting. I'm pretty weak at fleet building but for the three ship listed above with heavy crit upgrades and a light fighter screen might have something going. I don't know if you can fit an ISD with upgrades in a 4 ship plus fighter screen. I tried a two gladiator/two raider list that was fun but super hard to pilot correctly. Screed is probably my favorite admiral. Keep up the good work!