Saturday, March 25, 2017

Building an Imperial fleet on the cheap: the $250 challenge

One concern about Armada is the cost of entry. I cannot deny that miniature wargaming overall can be an expensive hobby (especially compared to more "compact" entertainment, such as video games or board games). One thing in Armada's favor is that so far as miniature wargaming is concerned, it's much cheaper than a lot of the "large scale" competition such as Warhammer 40K, Warmachine/Hordes, or Flames of War (not to say it's bad to enjoy any of those games as well).

This short article's goal is to get newer players to a reasonable 400 point Imperial fleet at a cost of $250 MSRP or less. Why Imperials? Because that's the faction I'm most familiar with. I'm sure John can present a good plan for the Rebel scum when he gets the time, but for now you're stuck with me 😉. This can be the start of an Imperial-only fleet or it can be the first Imperial fleet you build into (maybe you are going for both factions and you'd like to start Imperial or you went Rebel already and want to bulk out your Imperials?).

Why $250? Its a fairly round number. It's less than the cost of a gaming console but is still a good-sized investment. It should be enough to get you by for some time. I will note that you can find individual components cheaper online or perhaps at your local game store, but whenever possible I encourage you to buy your gear at the store where you play - that's how they keep their lights on and their doors open so you and your buddies can play there!

So let's get down to it!

Definitely not this many triangles though.

When it comes to cost of entry, the first big hurdle is the $100 core set. It's basically unavoidable, as the core set comes with numerous things each person needs to play: the deck of damage cards, the obstacle tokens, and the wave one objective cards cannot be found anywhere else (short of eBay, which is unreliable and the costs are quite high). The core set is a fun way for two different people to play around with the basic rules of Armada but it's unfortunately impossible to "split" unless you are only ever going to be playing against that other person, which is very limited. For that reason, the first $100 of our $250 budget is going into the core set.

Past that, I consider it mandatory to buy another dice pack. Being limited to only three of each color of dice is quite problematic and can make it impossible to resolve situations where larger pools of dice are involved, especially with extra dice added from concentrate fire, modification upgrades like Expanded Launchers, or objective effects like Opening Salvo or Most Wanted.

Okay, so I'm already $110 in and I need a guiding vision for the fleet. My big first consideration here is I want a fleet that uses the Victory-class Star Destroyer from the core set. It's silliness to try building a 400 point "on the cheap" starter fleet that doesn't use the ship we get in the "can't avoid buying it" core set. Assuming I'm starting with a VSD, the best commander options are Grand Moff Tarkin (who comes in the core set), Admiral Motti (who comes with the separately-packaged VSD), or Moff Jerjerrod (who comes with the Arquitens Light Cruiser). I also want a selection of ships that are very easy to expand off of for when we want to bulk out our options more and try other commanders, so in general it would be ideal to avoid doubling up on ships or squadron packs early on. I want newer players to be learning lots of different elements of the game, seeing what they like and don't like, and being able to cheaply progress outward bit by bit towards other archetypes that interest them without having to make another big $250+ investment all in one go again. Finally, the fleet in question is going to have to use upgrade cards available only from the items purchased themselves - no snagging cards from eBay or borrowing from friends - those are perfectly acceptable things to do, but we can't assume that everyone can or wants to do either of those right away.

That's a lot to keep in mind! My choice for commander for a fleet using a VSD is Moff Jerjerrod. I chose Moff Jerry because he's a good fit with numerous Imperial ships that are fun to fly early on and because he's very good at "fixing" poor maneuver situations / poor maneuver ships, which is beginner-friendly and very favorable to the VSD. The Arquitens pack also includes some great cards besides Moff Jerry and they're quite helpful across a number of different fleets. The main thing I ask you to keep in mind with Moff Jerry is when he deals damage to a ship to use his ability is you choose which arc takes the damage - generally you should deal it to your shields whenever possible. It's a common misunderstanding that the damage goes to your hull but that is incorrect!

Moff Jerjerrod giving me his "why haven't you written an article about me yet? You talk about me constantly!" face.
Beyond that, here's my recommendations for purchases. We'll get to the fleet in a moment:
  • Armada core set $100
  • Extra dice pack $10
  • Arquitens-class Light Cruiser $20
  • Raider Corvette $20
  • Gladiator-class Star Destroyer $30
  • Imperial Assault Carriers (Gozantis) $20
For a total cost of $200 MSRP, we'll be able to build a 400 point fleet that will be good for learning the basics of ship usage and comes in under the $250 budget by $50 (pre-tax) with lots of room to build out (we'll get to that later).

Below is the fleet I recommend building with these additions. Keep in mind that it's using only the cards available from the core set and additional expansions purchased, so some of the ships won't be kitted out as well as they could be, but they're still pretty good!

Faction: Galactic Empire
Points: 400/400

Commander: Moff Jerjerrod
Assault Objective: Most Wanted
Defense Objective: Hyperspace Assault
Navigation Objective: Superior Positions

Gladiator I-Class Star Destroyer (56 points)
Demolisher  ( 10  points)
-  Admiral Montferrat  ( 5  points)
-  Engine Techs  ( 8  points)
-  Assault Concussion Missiles  ( 7  points)
= 86 total ship cost

[ flagship ] Victory II-Class Star Destroyer (85 points)
-  Moff Jerjerrod  ( 23  points)
-  Minister Tua  ( 2  points)
-  Gunnery Team  ( 7  points)
-  Expanded Hangar Bay  ( 5  points)
-  Electronic Countermeasures  ( 7  points)
= 129 total ship cost

Arquitens-class Light Cruiser (54 points)
-  Reinforced Blast Doors  ( 5  points)
-  Dual Turbolaser Turrets  ( 5  points)
= 64 total ship cost

Raider-I Class Corvette (44 points)
-  Ordnance Experts  ( 4  points)
= 48 total ship cost

Gozanti-class Cruisers (23 points)
-  Comms Net  ( 2  points)
= 25 total ship cost

6 TIE Fighter Squadrons ( 48 points)

Card view link

Okay so let's break the fleet elements down bit by bit without being too verbose about it:

First off, it's the full 400 points. If and when you want to lose some points for a bid for first player, please feel free to remove some upgrades you may not like if that's important to you. The objectives are pretty easy to use with the fleet and they're all wave one objectives too.

The Gladiator has the ever-present Demolisher title as it's easy to use and still quite strong. There's a good argument to be made for taking the Ordnance Experts from the Raider in order to make the Assault Concussion Missiles more reliable and to increase the Demolisher's average damage. I leave that up to you, but removing them from the Raider does diminish the reliability of its flak.

The VSD-II is Moff Jerry's flagship and Minister Tua helps keep it alive by giving it access to the Electronic Countermeasures. Its primary use is as a gunship trying to abuse Gunnery Teams but issuing the occasional squadron command to help move the TIE Fighters around. When in doubt, issue it repair commands! Practicing with the VSD-II is a good way to get the general principles of using its larger more expensive cousin, the Imperial-class Star Destroyer.

The Arquitens Light Cruiser provides a long-range skirmisher option for a new Imperial player which should be very satisfying when playing against sneaky Rebels. It helps teach you to use long-ranged side arc attacks from early on and it has a number of upgrades we are using across the fleet (Moff Jerry, Minister Tua, Reinforced Blast Doors, Dual Turbolaser Turrets).

The Raider-I is a cheap support corvette that requires some practice to get the hang of (I highly recommend checking out the linked article). It's best when used alongside a slower heavier ship like your VSD or Arquitens to help keep enemy fighters away and to punch at ships trying to sneak around your flanks.

The Gozanti-class Cruisers flotilla is a cheap additional ship for your fleet that can help command your TIE Fighters but is also quite helpful at passing out command tokens to your Command 2+ ships, particularly your flagship VSD-II. This is a great starter for learning about how flotillas work and the value of a cheap extra activation.

The 6 TIE Fighter squadrons come in the core set and don't require buying any new squadron packs yet! Sweet! Their primary duty is to keep enemy squadrons off your fleet. Don't be reckless with them - try to use them to engage enemy squadrons near your fleet so you can keep giving them squadron commands and supporting them with your flak.

The basic goal is to use the VSD and Arquitens at long to medium range as artillery pieces with the Gozanti and Raider largely in support roles and the Demolisher Gladiator as your "heavy cavalry" finisher that can rush in and smash face when necessary.

Considerations for purchases past the starter fleet above 
  •  If you want to expand your squadron game, the Imperial I and Imperial II squadron packs are worth considering once you've gotten the hang of using the TIE Fighters and/or want to include a bomber presence in your fleet. 
    • For a bomber fleet, you'll want at least 2 of the Imperial I packs for enough TIE Bombers and Major Rhymer.
      • The TIE Advanced and TIE Interceptors can also add some more nuance to your squadron game.
    • For more variety and access to the multi-role TIE Defender squadrons, you'll want at least 1 Imperial II pack.
    • The Rogues & Villains pack ($20) is best split with a Rebel friend if you're going Imperial-only (so your "share" is only $10). It's a good way to get an Intel squadron and access to the bounty hunter aces. One buy is a good bet and you may wish to consider more if you want another Jumpmaster or want to stock up on Firesprays for a Rogue bomber wing.
  • The Imperial-class Star Destroyer is a popular if expensive acquisition at $50 and brings a lot of oomph for a lot of points. If at all possible, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the XI7 Turbolasers (only available from the Nebulon-B) and Leading Shots upgrade cards (only available from the CR90 or Interdictor, and I'd hold off on the Interdictor early) from a Rebel friend or online, as those upgrades are good standard inclusions for the easier-to-use ISD-II.
  • Buying additional maneuver tools ($8 each) in order to assemble them at under-speed-4 configurations can be helpful once you've completed more high-priority purchases. A speed 4 maneuver tool can be difficult to slot into ships when they're close to other ships. I'd recommend a speed 2 maneuver tool as soon as it's financially feasible and then consider a speed 3 and speed 1 if you find you'd like some more options past that.
  • Past that, doubling up on cheaper ships (Arquitens, Raider, Gozanti) can be useful if you find you enjoy the taste you got of them with the starter Jerjerrod fleet. It's easy to fit duplicate small cheap ships into most fleets and their $20 price tag is pretty affordable.
    • Once you're comfortable there and/or if you're just dying to run some more copies of heavier ships, picking up an extra Gladiator or VSD can be helpful too, but I find it's easier to fit duplicate small ships into most fleets so they're generally more useful as purchases earlier on.
      • The VSD purchase might be more of a priority if you're dying to get your hands on an Intel Officer, Admiral Motti, or Flight Controllers upgrade card, though.
  • The Corellian Conflict campaign expansion adds a lot of new unique options for your wave one squadrons as well as new objective cards. I wouldn't prioritize it right off the bat, but it's a lot of fun content for not much extra money once you have a few wave one squadron packs.
  • The final thing to consider is buying (or trading for) some individual upgrade cards from your buddies and/or eBay. There are some cards that thus far only come with Rebel packs (like the XI7s and Leading Shots I mentioned above) just like there are some that only come with Imperial packs. There may come a point where you're dying to get some Flechette Torpedoes on your Raiders and you'd like to get your hands on some without having to buy a Pelta, for example.
Hopefully that helps aspiring Imperial commanders get started without a huge investment!


  1. Leading Shots also comes in the Interdiction pack, which allows a true Imperial access without having excess rebel ships. It is am expensive buy, however.

    1. My bad, you are correct! It is expensive and not a purchase I'd recommend early to new players, but that is correct. I'll go fix that...

  2. Hi Eric

    I'm only just getting into Armada but have been browsing your blog for about 4 weeks. Fantastic content and this article is no different. I'm keen to try out a fleet similar to this and see how it works. In your experience has Moff Jerry made a huge difference to the movement ability of the fleet?

    1. Thanks!

      Moff Jerry greatly improves the maneuverability of most fleets. For the starter fleet I created he's an "often" use with the Arquitens and VSD, and a "sometimes" use with the other ships. Being able to change the first joint of your speed to a 2-click joint allows for a lot of maneuver choices, particularly with VSDs (where he triples the clicks of yaw at speed 2) and Arquitens (where he allows for yaw prior to the final joint, greatly improving their destination choices). He's a lot of fun.

  3. I appreciate what you guys write, and I'm learning a lot from it. I also appreciate that you guys write in a way that's appropriate for kids. My 9 year old is reading the squadron articles now, and he's understanding a lot of details.

    You don't swear, you don't make inappropriate jokes, and you write at a clear level for the kids. Thank you.

    1. Thank you!

      We try to keep it at worst PG-13 and normally we prefer PG. When we're out amongst ourselves we certainly aren't shy about using the occasional curse word or making an inappropriate joke, but we don't really feel like doing those kinds of things makes our articles any better or easier to understand and if anything it would likely make them worse.

    2. Thank you! (Not trying to steal Eric's thunder, but as the guy writing a LOT of the squadron articles), I try to keep from cursing as much as possible, but my day job doesn't lend itself to that benevolent of an environment/mouth. If you ever see any curse words or anything, I promise I can remove them with a quick email or comment (I can make an even more terrible pun without them!); just let me know.

  4. Skip the extra dice: pool dice with your opponent, of course. :)

    Great stuff here. Enjoying reading as I'm learning and playing Armada.