Monday, March 20, 2017

Armada objectives: yellow objectives, wave one

We've arrived at the final article of the wave one objective reviews, which will focus on the yellow objectives! Yay!

If everyone just stopped fighting for a moment, they'd realize the space station doesn't even work.
Contested Outpost

Notes/clarification:
  • Because of the obstacle deployment order (starting with the second player), this means that the second player will deploy a total of 4 of the 6 obstacles because they deploy the final two (the last of the 5 "choose and deploy" obstacles and then the space station).
    • This means that the second player can set up a harmful objective (debris, asteroids) cutting off an approach to the station and then deploy the station itself. Just be very careful about making sure the "screening" obstacle isn't too close to where the station will be, cutting off your preferred station deployment area and making you regret being too clever by half.
  • By deploying regular obstacles close to distance 5 of your table edge, the first player can cause issues with setting up the station exactly where you want it. Try not to make it obvious exactly where you'd like the station to go with your earlier obstacle deployments or else you run the risk of getting blocked by the first player's second (and final) obstacle deployment.
  • Don't forget that the station itself is effectively a weird-shaped objective scoring area and no longer obstructs anything or heals ships/squadrons. This can be a disastrous thing to forget at the wrong moment.
  • The End of Round condition tends to prefer high-Command ships that don't mind camping the station for a few turns, moving very slowly.
    • If you set the station just barely beyond distance 5 and then set up a station-camper ship going speed 1 directly below it and remain speed 1 going straight ahead, you will be able to hit the station on every turn but the 6th. This is extreme best-case thinking, mind you, but it is something to be aware of.
    • I find many players using Contested Outpost often have a plan to contest the outpost for the first 3-4 turns and then afterwards the station is hanging out there with no friends as the second player's ships have moved out of range. Try to have a plan for hitting the station every turn if you can, even if it means just sending a spare flotilla around to ping the station on turns 5 and 6 if nobody else is around.
  • In situations where the second player has more total deployments, particularly squadron deployments, you can use the space station as a bit of a trap. Many Contested Outpost games play out by the second player's fleet setting up around the space station and the first player's fleet setting up to come attack that cluster of ships which means that the first player will often use their first deployment to point something big and mean at the station. The second player can play into this idea by using their first deployment on a ship to guard the station and then buy time with squadron deployments. The hope is that the first player will continue to deploy their fleet as though the big fight will be taking place around the station and then once the second player has exhausted their squadron deployments, the second player's remaining fleet can deploy to the side of the expected combat zone to come in and roll the first player's fleet's flank. The station-guardian ship is going to need to hold out until help arrives, so keep it repairing as much as you can so it will last until at least turn 3. Sneaky!
    • I should note that as I eluded to in the note above, the main issue with Contested Outpost is it can make the second player's deployment and overall plan fairly predictable. Be careful about making the game too rote - a first player that knows exactly what to expect from you is a first player who has at least some advantage over you.
What kind of fleets should consider using Contested Outpost?
Slower defensive-minded fleets prefer Contested Outpost or Fire Lanes (we're getting there next!) for their yellow objectives, as they both allow you to score a lot of points while you patiently wait for the first player to show up and stop you from winning - if the first player is taking his time, then all the better! What differentiates Contested Outpost from Fire Lanes is it plays better with ships that have strong front arcs, as you'll be moving forward towards/onto the space station to keep scoring points from it and your opponent will want to get to the space station ASAP, which incentivizes them to come at it quickly (into your front arcs). Therefore, it's generally been seen as more of an "Imperial objective" due to Imperials having stronger overall front arcs as well as access to the very cheap but high-command and front-arc-heavy VSD, which loves babysitting the space station. Rebels can certainly build into it nowadays with a fleet using more Nebulon-B Frigates and Liberty MC80s, though.

Carrier fleets can also get some mileage from Contested Outpost when Fire Lanes or Fighter Ambush aren't their cup of tea. The only hope a non-carrier fleet generally has of getting those bombers handled is to combine the power of their fighters with flak from nearby ships to try to turn the squadron mini-game around or at least do enough damage to minimize your squadron superiority. With Contested Outpost (or Fire Lanes), the second player continues winning until the first player stops them. This can cause the squadron-on-squadron dogfighting to happen on the second player's terms, which makes a bad situation worse for the first player.

Fleets using a Grav Shift Reroute experimental retrofit upgrade (currently available only to the Imperial Interdictor Cruiser) can yank the station deeper into their side of the table, making getting to it even harder for the first player. So long as the second player can keep hitting the station scoring button consistently (I'd recommend a cheap support flotilla slowly traversing the station in the rear of the table), it's really hard for the first player to contest prior to turn 4 due to the distance he needs to travel and the inevitable angry ships in the way causing problems.

What kind of enemy fleets are disadvantaged by playing Contested Outpost?
Other slower defensive fleets hate playing against objectives like Contested Outpost or Fire Lanes, as it forces them onto the offensive to stop the second player from winning and it's not something they do well.

Low-Command fleets (like numerous small ships) generally don't do a good job of contesting the space station and will instead rely on just destroying ships nearby so their Command 1 or 2 ships can get the points.

To a lesser extent, fleets with numerous side arc ships (like Rebel Assault Frigates and HMC80s and Imperial Arquitens Light Cruisers) don't much like Contested Outpost insomuch as they have a hard time actually contesting the space station; they'd rather move perpendicular to it than straight at it and would also rather attack at range than get too close. Just be aware that if you're sitting your station-guardian in range of a 2-3 side-arc-ship conga line of overlapping fields of fire death, you're going to have a bad time very soon and may need a backup station guardian.

Carrier fleets are generally reticent to devote one of their few combat-worthy ships to camping the space station until their bombers have mopped up most enemy ships nearby. This is a bit of a mixed bag as it means the second player tends to have a bit more time to milk the station for points but it makes any second player station-guardian ships the clear targets of bomber aggression.

Winner of the "TL;DR" award 6 waves running!
Fire Lanes

Notes/clarification:
Brace yourself, bullet points are coming! This is the most complex objective in the game, so there's a lot to cover.
  • Remember to place the objective tokens after obstacles are deployed.
    • This can result in some interesting situations where you can potentially screen the objective tokens from your opponent due to obstruction, just be careful to not leave them too close to the obstacles or your opponent could reposition the tokens to the other side of the obstacle and make YOU obstructed and not him.
  • There is no restriction on placement of the objective tokens relative to one another.
    • Yes, you can and should place all 3 tokens in one tower of power in one place.
    • Yes, you can place your tower of power inside an obstacle if you wish, although I don't recommend it.
  • When the first player moves objective tokens, he does so within distance 1-2. That means the token in question must be completely within distance 2 of the distance ruler compared to its initial placement. It's still a fair ways but not too much.
    • This typically means that the tower of power gets turned into a triangle of tokens oriented around a center point where the initial tower was.
    • Some opponents may move the entire tower hoping to contest just that.
    • In general this means you should try to keep the tower just outside of distance 4 of your player edge. Your opponent generally will try to move the tokens closer to him so he can contest them earlier and if you start them off closer to him, then it gives him the option to start fighting you for control of them earlier.
  • The End of Round scoring condition works like this:
    1. Choose one of the objective tokens that you haven't resolved yet.
    2. Check ranges and add up the total number of dice from batteries from all ships at range of that token.
      • It's important to keep in mind that this is just the base battery dice of the ships. Any "add" effects such as Ackbar or Slaved Turrets or the like do not get added to attacks against Fire Lanes objective tokens(as they are not part of the battery armament of a ship). Because Modification cards that add dice to a battery armament (such as Expanded Launchers or Enhanced Armament) increase the dice on the base battery armament of the ship, they do get added to attacks against Fire Lanes objective tokens.
      • Obstruction does count, however, so if your attack would be obstructed, remove one die.
      • If you're double-arcing a token, you get the total number of dice at range from both arcs (note it says from hull zones).
    3. Whoever has the most dice going against that token gets a 15-point victory token unless there's an overlapping issue (we're getting to that!). Then move on to the next token and repeat the process from step #1 until all 3 tokens have been resolved.
      • Yes, this does mean that a single ship can use its same arc against every single token in one round, as each token is resolved separately.
  • If any token is overlapped, unless it's overlapped by both players' squadrons and/or ships (in which case nobody gets it), the token's victory token is instead awarded to the opponent of the overlapper.
    • Be on the lookout for ways to make this happen. Some examples: 
      • Place enemy squadrons overlapped by an enemy ship on top of objective tokens.
      • Force an opponent to land on an objective (by blocking him in with another ship or messing with his speed in some other way).
      • Use a Strategic squadron to sneak an objective token under/in the path of an enemy ship.
  • You can score a ridiculous number of points from an uncontested Fire Lanes. If you win all 3 tokens each turn for the whole game, that's an obscene 270 points. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the first player to come in and stop you as quickly as he can. Fire Lanes can make enough points that it can be worthwhile for a single ship to simply orbit the tokens, harvesting points all game if it has nothing better to do.
What kind of fleets should consider using Fire Lanes?
We survived! Congratulations! Oh, we need to talk more about Fire Lanes still? Bear with me, it's worth it!

Fleets that can play on the defensive and have longer-ranged stronger side arc ships love Fire Lanes. For this reason it was considered until very recently a "Rebel" objective, as no Imperial ships really met the criteria. With the Arquitens out now, however, Imperials can run Fire Lanes as well. Why all those qualifications? Basically Fire Lanes cares only about the number of dice you can put into tokens and the ability to hopefully cover 2-3 of the tokens with a single arc but without putting yourself at risk of landing on them. Front arc ships (like VSDs and ISDs) can contest Fire Lanes tokens with their front arcs but sooner or later they run a real risk of overlapping them as they move towards them and at the very least will slip past them with their best arc and have to make do with their mediocre side and rear arcs. Side arc ships like Assault Frigates can orbit the Fire Lanes tokens to keep pinging them for victory points while also presenting their other side arc to potential interlopers and obstructing shots at the tokens that would happen through them in some cases. It's quite good, and hopefully the example below clarifies how it works.

Here you can see that the first player has spaced the three tokens as far apart as possible into a triangle. The second player's Assault Frigate in its initial position can still attack all three of them (two at medium range for 4 dice, one at long range for 3) and after a speed 2 move it still has all of them covered in its side arc facing its table edge. At no point does it risk overlapping any of the tokens and it presents its other side arc towards the enemy. Way to be, little space potato!

Other than that, fleets with Strategic squadrons can reduce the strain of having to choose between moving your ships where they threaten the enemy better or where they earn Fire Lane points better by simply moving the objective tokens to the most convenient spot (also, preferably into your good arcs and out of enemy good arcs or under enemy ships/squadrons!). Strategic squadrons used with Fire Lanes are absolutely nuts and make an already-great objective for the right fleet even better.

What kind of enemy fleets are disadvantaged by playing Fire Lanes?
Similar to Contested Outpost, slow fleets don't like playing Fire Lanes because it can take them until turn 3 or 4 to start contesting the Fire Lanes objectives, which gives the second player a huge lead on victory points that can be hard to reclaim.

Shorter-ranged fleets can struggle against Fire Lanes simply because they have a harder time putting enough dice on the targets without overlapping them. The good news for most shorter-ranged ships is they tend to be faster, so they can get to the Fire Lanes tokens more quickly, but they run the risk of getting too far ahead of the rest of their fleet and singled out and destroyed. In general, I find shorter-ranged fleets generally prefer to try to destroy the second player's objective-pinging ships as quickly as possible and then try to minimize the relative points loss by devoting a cheaper ship (like a Raider or CR90) to weaving around the objective tokens, pinging them for only a die or two in most cases but winning through being uncontested.

Carrier fleets can't use any of their squadrons to contribute dice towards contesting the Fire Lanes tokens, and rely only on their (generally mediocre to poor) ship batteries to do so, which can mean they have a hard time contesting the objective tokens if any second player ships are nearby. However, it's similar to Contested Outpost in that it gives a first player carrier fleet's bomber squadrons a clear target - any second player ships orbiting the Fire Lanes tokens. Otherwise, it's a great objective to make carrier fleets squirm and particularly fun against the Rebel unarmed GR75 Transport flotillas because they can't contribute any dice at all.

Who is ambushing who, exactly?
Fleet Ambush
Notes/clarification:
First and foremost before we get to the swarm of bullet points, we should really clarify exactly where the ambush zone is. It's frequently misunderstood, but the below diagram spells it out precisely:
Special thanks to the Star Wars Armada Wiki for this helpful picture!
  • Both players must abide by the "deploy all ships before squadrons" restriction, even the second player. Neither player can deploy any squadrons until all their ships are on the board.
  • Every odd-numbered first player ship deployment (1st, 3rd, 5th, etc.) must deploy within the ambush zone with no part of the ship outside of it. If the first player wants to stay close to the rest of his fleet, he can deploy the rear of the ship slightly outside of distance 5 and within the ambush zone and he's doing okay.
  • No first player squadrons or ships can be deployed overlapping obstacles in the ambush zone. This gives the second player an incentive to clutter up the ambush zone with obstacles during obstacle deployment as it limits the options for the first player's ambush deployments. In general, this means placing them towards the side of the ambush zone facing the first player so the ships need to start a little closer to the second player.
  • Because squadron deployments don't care about deployment zones, only about being within distance 2 of a friendly ship, the first player can deploy his squadrons from ships within the ambush zone, potentially starting them extremely close to the second player's fleet.
What kind of fleets should consider using Fleet Ambush?
My big problem with Fleet Ambush is you should never consider using Fleet Ambush unless you're 110% sure no opponent will get more benefit out of it than you will. That's a rather tall order all things considered. Specifically, there are two types of enemy fleets that love choosing Fleet Ambush: carrier fleets and short-ranged small ship swarm fleets, particularly Imperial fleets with a Demolisher Gladiator. Allowing the first player to attack and potentially destroy one of your ships on his first activation before you get to do anything means your objective choice actively diminished your odds of winning the game, contrary to its purpose.

Otherwise, aggressive and/or longer ranged fleets generally prefer Fleet Ambush because it allows them to hopefully pounce on the ambushed ships and destroy them prior to dealing with the rest of the enemy fleet. You may notice that this also includes carrier fleets and small ship swarms with Demolisher. Effectively I'd recommend avoiding Fleet Ambush altogether (in our community it's gotten to a point where the saying is "friends don't let friends bring Fleet Ambush"), but if your fleet has a strong response to both "what if tons of bombers on the first turn?" as well as "what if Demolisher fleet?", then maybe. Just be very sure about it because it is for my money the easiest objective to turn around against the second player. Overall aggressive shorter-ranged fleets should usually choose Hyperspace Assault (for an MC30 or Gladiator, often) and carrier fleets should usually choose Contested Outpost, Fire Lanes, or Fighter Ambush.

What kind of enemy fleets are disadvantaged by playing Fleet Ambush?
Slower fleets can have a hard time getting the two halves of their fleet to reconvene quickly, especially if the second player litters the ambush zone with obstacles that the regular-deployed ships want to navigate around.

Fleets with little to no squadron coverage can find their ambushed ships eaten alive by bombers beginning on the first turn if they're not careful.

So many decisions!
Hyperspace Assault
Notes/clarification:
  • Remember that you deploy all obstacles like normal before Hyperspace Assault has any effect on the game. So you won't know what exactly is Hyperspace Assaulting until after obstacle deployment.
  • The second player must set aside one small or medium sized ship and may set aside 1-3 squadrons. It's perfectly acceptable to not set aside any squadrons if you'd rather not.
  • Because the Hyperspace Assault ship isn't deployed and doesn't exist until later, its speed dial isn't set and no command dials are assigned to it (yet). Be aware that if your commander is on the Hyperspace Assault ship, they have no effect on the battle until they show up.
    • This also means that any ships and squadrons that are Hyperspace Assaulting don't get deployed normally, so they don't help pad your number of deployments. Be aware that you're putting yourself at a bit of a deployment disadvantage by using Hyperspace Assault.
    • You can use Rapid Launch Bays to carry additional squadrons within your Assault ship along with the squadrons traveling outside the ship normally. This can get a little silly and it gives up a substantial number of deployments (example: a VSD with 3 squadrons in the Rapid Launch Bays and 3 traveling with it is 4 deployments worth of miniatures you won't be getting, so be careful).
  • In general I recommend placing the 3 objective tokens fairly evenly spaced in a line across the middle of the table near your opponent's deployment zone. Distance 4 or 5 from your opponent's side is usually sufficient and about distance 4-5 horizontally apart (sometimes more) helps to get good coverage.
    • Be careful of Strategic squadrons messing with your objective tokens, though! A savvy opponent can use his Strategic squadrons to strand your hyperspace ship. In those cases it may be preferable to set your tokens a bit further away to prevent them from being easily tampered with on the first turn.
  • Your decision point for jumping in your Assaulting ship happens at the very beginning of the round starting on the second round.
    • If you don't Assault in, you can move each token to within distance 1 of its current position, which is a bit of a shift but not a huge one. Try not to wait too long or you may get left behind!
    • If you do Assault in, you must deploy your ship and squadrons at distance 1 of the token, meaning at least a small portion of their base(s) must be at distance 1. This gives a lot more leeway than you'd think.
      • You can position your ship however you like so long as it is at distance 1.
      • Once the ship is deployed, you must set its speed dial.
      • The ship will then need to have all of its command dials set in the upcoming Command Phase.
  • Because you are second player, your ideal Hyperspace Assault deploy positioning should try to put two enemy ships at range of an effective attack, preferably by double-arcing at least one of them. This "forks" the enemy into needing to decide which ship gets to avoid a serious attack but leaves you in range to punish the remaining ship. This is even more effective if the first player would otherwise not want to activate either of those ships first (as he has some other ship elsewhere that really wants to go first) and now you're putting him in a tough spot of having to choose which of three high-priority activations will be his first. A good example of doing this is the picture below:
Things are looking bad for Team Triangle.
What kind of fleets should consider using Hyperspace Assault?
Any fleet with a small or medium ship that has sufficient muscle can benefit from Hyperspace Assault and the options are pretty variable. Just a smattering of recommendations would be:
  • MC30 Frigate, usually a Torpedo MC30.
  • Gladiator-class Star Destroyer, preferably the Demolisher or Insidious for extra harassment potential.
  • VSD-Is are surprisingly decent Hyperspace Assault options as starting behind or perpendicular to enemy ships makes it much easier to keep on target than usual.
  • Nebulon-B Frigate with the Yavaris title, and 2-3 B-Wings it can double-tap upon being deployed.
The important element is the Hyperspace Assault target needs to have the possibility of doing significant damage in one activation to make the threat real. It helps to also be durable enough to handle a shot or two by one of its intended victims prior to that ship booking it. Targets like CR90s and Raiders just aren't durable enough or hit hard enough to make Hyperspace Assaulting them worthwhile.

In general, I see Hyperspace Assault a lot more in fleets with dedicated torpedo ships like MC30s and Gladiators as they are ideal Hyperspace Assaulters: you only give up one deployment to put them in hyperspace, they do substantial amounts of damage, they like instantly popping into short-range, and they can tolerate some mediocre attacks coming at them from short range before they get to attack.

What kind of enemy fleets are disadvantaged by playing Hyperspace Assault?
Fleets with a strong preference for activating a specific ship first (example: Demolisher once it's lined up an attack run) will usually need to accept a "piece trade" when your Hyperspace Assault ship shows up and this messes with their usual hopes of grabbing a free kill from going first.

Carrier fleets can struggle to know where to devote their bombers if they're scared of a Hyperspace Assault ship showing up and eating their carriers. This is a very real fear against Torpedo MC30s with H9 Turbolasers assaulting in and just eating through enemy flotillas like potato chips. Normally enemy ships are coming from mostly the same area and so bombers know where to be and can change targets without much trouble. The Hyperspace Assault ship doesn't play by those rules.

Slower and less maneuverable fleets can struggle to dislodge a persistent attacker who starts turn 2 or 3 in the rear of their fleet and remains there, chiseling away at their defenses.

Final thoughts
This wraps up our wave one objective reviews and we saved the most complex objectives for last. If you have any comments or questions, please don't be shy!

2 comments:

  1. I know this post is several months old by this time, but I only recently found your blog. Great blog by the way, I've learned a lot so far.

    I have a question regarding Fleet Ambush as the first player. The only restriction it gives, it that on odd numbered deployments, ships must be placed in the Ambush zone. It's doesn't state the even numbered deployments must be in the normal zone. Couldn't I deploy everything in the Ambush Zone? Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks!

      Because there are no instructions on how to deploy in the ambush zone outside of the times you are specifically required to deploy in the ambush zone, you can/must only deploy your odd-numbered deployment ships in the ambush zone. Even-numbered deployments are deployed as usual.

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