Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Overlapping, or "demolition derby in space"

Despite becoming a Chicagolander through osmosis occurring over more than a decade, I was born and raised in northwestern rural Illinois (where my high school mascot is a pretzel) and let me tell you city slickers that demolition derbies are awesome. Just a whole bunch of the most junked up barely functional cars all smashing into each other and driving around with pieces hanging off and smoke blowing around as they throw mud all over the place and get into loud crashes while the crowd screams until there's only one quasi-functional car left standing. If you've never been to a demolition derby, I highly recommend it. And with that said, on to the article...

Oh man, 137 is really getting taken to Pound Town.
Overlapping, or "ramming" as it is more commonly referred to when it's ship-on-ship overlapping, is one of the elements of Armada that is rarely completely understood in all of its ramificiations early on by newer players (gotta practice those dad jokes!).

Before I go any further, I'd like to address the fact that some players are extremely salty about overlapping in the game. The argument is that space is 3-dimensional and so it's stupid for ships or squadrons to actually get in one another's way unless ramming is intentional, which should be difficult to pull off (as your target can try to avoid you in 3 dimensions) and dangerous. I can't dispute that it is a little unusual from the perspective of a space battle, but the simple fact is Armada is a 2-dimensional approximation of 3-dimensional space combat. We're constrained by the fact that the table itself is incapable of holding two objects in the same physical space and therefore some kind of rule is necessary to resolve incidences where two things want to be in the same place at once. FFG also likely realized that some players would want to be able to ram ships and decided to just roll everything together. I think it works just fine overall.

One other preliminary note: I've encountered some players who believe overlapping may only be done when it is unavoidable. That's completely incorrect. You can overlap deliberately all you like. Overlapping deliberately can be extremely useful and I'll talk a bit more about that once we've cleared the rules section which is coming up.

Rules discussion
The overlapping section of the rules reference guide (and the Armada FAQ) informs us how to deal with overlapping and I'm copy-pasting what it has to say below. The rules text itself will be bold and italicized and my commentary will be in regular text.

If a ship executes a maneuver and its final position overlaps one or more squadrons, move any overlapped squadrons out of the way and finish the ship's maneuver. Then the player who is not moving the ship places the overlapped squadrons, regardless of who owns them, in any position around that ship so that they touch the ship that moved. He can place those squadrons in any order, but he cannot place them outside the play area. (this last bit was added in the FAQ).

I would also like to add summarize relevant bits about ships overlapping squadrons from the FAQ:
  • If at all possible, squadrons must be placed so the maximum number of them are in contact with the ship. You can't deliberately space them out so later placements aren't able to be placed in base contact, should there be a large number overlapped.
    • Exactly how this is to be enforced when they're placed one at a time is left unclear, but I would assume that some shuffling about and squeezing together would be allowed, in such circumstances it's important to note which nearby squadrons were not overlapped, as they could not be moved about.
  • Overlapped squadrons that can't be placed in base contact with the ship must be placed in base contact with a squadron that is in contact with the overlapper.
  • The shield dials and little plastic prongs that frame the shield dials count for overlapping squadrons just like they count for overlapping other ships and obstacles.
Let's provide an example of all these principles in action. A Raider-I comes crashing into the middle of a dogfight between X-Wings, Y-Wings, and TIE Fighters, overlapping all of the squadrons I've marked with blank bases:

You can barely make him out there, buried under pissed-off squadrons.
The 6 overlapped squadrons would be temporarily set aside, leaving us looking at this:
The Rebel player would then need to put the 6 overlapped squadrons in base contact with the Raider in whatever order they pleased, trying to fit in as many squadrons touching the Raider as they could and then placing any leftover squadrons in base contact with other squadrons in base contact with the Raider. Please note that none of the non-overlapped squadrons are in base contact, themselves, so they're not candidates for "contact buddy" and they need to be placed around when it comes to getting those 6 overlapped guys in there. The end result might look something like:

I left the overlapped squadrons blank to make it clear where additions were made. There isn't room to get a squadron into base to base contact between the Y-Wing and TIE Fighter on the right and it's impossible to get 3 squadrons in base-to-base contact with the Raider's back-left and rear hull zones due to the placement of the back-right and left TIE Fighters, so the Rebel player chose to put the two overlapped TIE Fighters in the rear, and placed his X-Wings and Y-Wing in the front hull zone and in base contact with placed friends in the front hull zone. This was a good decision when it comes to weathering the dogfight, but may cause some trouble when that Raider unloads with flak next turn...

Other items of note:
Placing aside squadrons is somewhat subjective process. In general, I find the best way to do it is to set aside the squadrons that are clearly going to be overlapped prior to completing the maneuver, but leave the "iffy" squadrons where they are. It will become clear once the ship attempts to slot into its desired location whether the "iffy" squadrons are overlapped and they can be removed with some help from the other player.

If it's unclear whether the ship will be able to fit into its desired end position, it gets a bit more complex (and we're getting to the ship-on-ship overlapping soon): I'd recommend using some kind of  flat token or marker to keep track of where the squadrons in question are, then seeing if the ship will fit, and if it does, proceed as above. If it does not, then try to get the squadrons back where they were as best as you can. If any squadrons have a very important position (it is engaging squadron A but barely out of engagement with squadron B, at distance one of ship X, and at blue flak range of ship Y), then make sure to verify those with your opponent prior to using the marker so that if the squadron will need to be returned to its location, its position is easier to get just right.

If a ship executes a maneuver and its final position would overlap another ship, it cannot finish its maneuver normally. Instead, temporarily reduce its speed by one (without changing the speed dial) and move the ship at the new speed. This process continues until the ship can finish its maneuver, even if that maneuver is to remain in place at speed "0." 

The wording here is a little awkward. Effectively, what the rules reference guide is saying is "if you would overlap at your current speed's setting on the maneuver tool, keep moving back one step along the maneuver tool until you finally find somewhere you fit." The reference to speed can cause some players to mistakenly think that the speed dial is in some way affected by this when it is not.

Then deal one facedown damage card to the ship that moved and and the closest ship that it overlapped.

The part I want to highlight and repeat here is important. The damage card is dealt to both the overlapping ship and the closest ship that it overlapped. This can result in some paradoxical situations, which I'd like to illustrate with another example. Let's say your speed 4 CR90B is trying to get into an iffy position to line up an attack on an enemy Gozanti by hopping over your own ships but ends up overlapping the Gozanti accidentally. Here's how that would work out:

Okay, so we can see the poor CR90 underestimated where the shield dials would overlap and can't fit at the speed 4 joint. It then moves back to the speed 3 joint and won't fit there either. It moves to the speed 2 joint and again will not fit. It moves back to the speed 1 joint and fits successfully. The CR90 will now take a facedown damage card and it needs to determine which other ship will take a facedown card as well. It has 3 candidates in this example and I'll explain why they do or don't qualify:
  • The Gozantis do not take the damage because they are not the nearest ship that was overlapped compared to the CR90's final position.
  • The GR-75s do not take the damage, because even though they are the closest ship to the CR90's final position, they were not overlapped during its maneuver.
  • The HMC80 does take the damage because it is the closest ship to the CR90's final position that was overlapped during its maneuver.
This result may surprise some people because they would think "well this whole problem would not have happened in the first place if it hadn't been for the initial overlap with the Gozantis, so therefore they should take the ramming damage!" That's true, but that's not how the damage from overlapping rules work. Be careful when you're performing a risky move like the one above where you may end up smashing your own ships due to a Rube Goldberg machine of failure.

If a moving ship or squadron overlaps an obstacle token, it resolves an effect depending on the specific type of obstacle token that it overlapped.

We covered how this works back in the obstacle deployment article.
  • If a ship temporarily reduces its speed, its speed returns to the number indicated on the speed dial after it finishes executing its maneuver.
This is the bullet point for "no, for real, you don't actually do anything with your speed dial when your ship overlaps another ship, why did we write this so confusingly?"
  • Even if a ship does not change its position as a result of being at speed "0," it has still executed a maneuver and resolves any effects of overlapping obstacles and/or another ship.
Speed 0 maneuvers (a favorite of this blog) are still maneuvers and if it turns out you overlapped a ship and didn't move anywhere, you still rammed that ship and you still landed on wherever you started, potentially triggering obstacles all over again. Being stuck ramming something and landing once more on a debris or asteroid field is a very bad place to be.
  • If a ship must execute a maneuver at a reduced speed due to overlapping another ship, it is allowed to overlap the maneuver tool in its final position.
This is a huge deal and is occasionally missed, so please don't overlook it. When you overlap a ship and move back along the maneuver tool, your ship can overlap the maneuver tool at its earlier joints. This is the only time ever ships are allowed to overlap the maneuver tool.

It's also important to note that you don't get to break this rule for where you're "supposed" to land, going the speed that's on your dial. Even if it's obvious that there's absolutely no way you can avoid overlapping at your current speed, the original regular speed destination must be done in good faith following the "no overlapping the maneuver tool" rule that is otherwise always in effect.

Time for another example picture!
The speed 2 Raider overlaps the GR-75s at speed 2 and so retreats to the speed 1 joint where it overlaps the maneuver tool. Note that the speed 2 landing zone would be a legal maneuver without the GR-75s present. This is a sneaky maneuver because it not only deals 1 ramming damage to the GR-75s and none to the Raider (as the GR-75s are flotillas and the Raider is not), but it also sets up the Raider for a double-arc next turn. I like to use Raiders for examples because I love Raiders but also because they're very maneuverable and flak-capable ships and thus likely to be overlapping something or another throughout the course of a game when it benefits them.
  • A squadron cannot be placed so that it would overlap another squadron or ship.
Squadrons don't share table space just like ships don't share table space. Remember that ship shield dials count for overlapping, so squadron bases cannot go underneath shield dials despite physically fitting there. When it comes time to move a squadron and you're not sure if it will fit near other squadrons/ships or not, mark its starting position so you can return there and try a new move if your original move is illegal because you overlap something at your planned destination.
  • Ships and squadrons can move through other ships and squadrons without issue.
This is a reminder that in Armada, ships and squadrons don't get dragged across the table from point A to point B, they get picked up from point A and dropped at point B and so can hop over intervening models without trouble provided they can land at their destination.
  • If a squadron is placed on an obstacle as a result of being overlapped, it does not resolve the effects of overlapping.
Being placed due to being overlapped is not moving and so doesn't trigger any effects that are movement-triggered, like the space station healing damage and using the Strategic Keyword or Mauler Mithel's ability or the like.
  • A ship's shield dials and the plastic portions that frame them count as part of the ship's base for purposes of overlapping, but squadrons' activation sliders are ignored.
For ships, the shield dials and shield dial frames count as the ship's base for both overlapping and placing in base-contact purposes but squadron activation sliders are purely a play aid and don't count for overlapping. Feel free to spin those squadrons around whenever you like so the tabs cause minimal trouble.
  • If a ship overlaps another ship while moving, it has not executed its maneuver until it resolves the effects of overlapping that other ship, including being dealt damage cards.
In short: if you overlap another ship and the damage card would destroy you but you would land on the station, turns out you're actually dead. A bunch of exploding ship debris bounces off the space station, moments too late to help.

Pictured: how not to do it with your own ships.
That's all the rules covered and I've already mentioned a bit of gameplay advice, but there's a little more to discuss in the way of overlapping tricks available to you.

A friendly game of bumper cars
Sometimes it's better to ram your own ships than the alternative. For example, if a ship won't be able to adequately slow down and is heading into big trouble (a trap set by the enemy, a bad obstacle, flying off the table), it can be better to park a ship (particularly a flotilla, as only the flotilla takes ramming damage when involved in an overlap with a non-flotilla) in its way and suffer the damage rather than the alternative.

It doesn't always need to be such an apocalyptic situation, but sometimes if you deployed poorly (due to something like Superior Positions or Solar Corona or just due to being out-deployed), it can help to just keep a crucial ship held back without having to slow down to speed 0 and leave it vulnerable. That's easily worth 1 flotilla hull point to see how the enemy battle line develops so you can react accordingly without floating into bad times in a round or two.

Just be sure to have a plan for next round that makes it all worthwhile - when done poorly this can result in a doomed ship still being doomed and not doing much of value to compensate for the ramming damage dealt to your flotilla and the weird position part of your fleet is now in.

Cheat your way through shields
Some ships, such as MC30s, have an awful lot of shields compared to their low hull values. When in doubt, you can chip away at them fairly effectively through ramming. This can be the sort of thing that comes in handy when setting up an attack for next round or with some help from other bumper car buddies to do it all without throwing attack dice. Speaking of which...

A note on extra maneuvers
You can overlap an enemy ship more than once per activation if you're allowed to perform an additional maneuver from an effect like the grav rift slingshot in Rift Ambush. This can allow you to double-ram an enemy if necessary, but be aware of the damage you're doing to your own ship!

The space station
Keep an eye out for some guilt-free ramming opportunities against ships near the space station. Provided the ramming ship isn't 1 damage card from death, you can ram the opposing ship, take 1 damage, and then land on the station to heal the damage.

It needs to be stressed that the damage from overlapping is applied upon finding the final position of the overlapping ship. The healing from the station (or other effects from other obstacles) are applied once the maneuver is completed. That means the damage from ramming happens first and the healing happens afterwards, so if you're one hull point from death, you can't exploit this trick.

Finishing blow
It's not uncommon to bring an enemy ship down to 1 hull after your attacks are complete. Ramming is a great way to finish them off when you are in such circumstances.

Flotilla crash landing
Because flotillas are uniquely vulnerable to collisions with non-flotillas (as the flotilla takes damage but the non-flotilla does not), it's quite appealing to crash land into them with flotilla-hunting corvettes. The ideal situation is to overlap the flotilla to deal it one damage earlier in the round, have the flotilla activate but be going too slow to escape from overlapping the corvette and so it will overlap it once again during its maneuver, and then either attack the flotilla to finish it off next round or find a means of overlapping it once again while your corvette busies itself going after more important prey.

Setting up double-arcs
As demonstrated in the Raider example earlier, being able to land on the maneuver tool once you backtrack due to overlapping can set you up for a double-arc when it otherwise would have been impossible moving normally.

Lesser of two evils
Sometimes smashing into an enemy ship and staying in a better position is superior to wandering into guaranteed death. It's been a little while since I provided an example, so it's time for another picture!

The Raider above attacked the Ackbar HMC80 and is doing its best to make a getaway at speed 4. If it's trying to avoid overlapping, the best it can manage is the course I show above. That's a super dead Raider (at least 8 dice coming its way soon) barring an extremely unlucky HMC80 or activation advantage for the Raider and the HMC80 has already activated and there's nothing better to activate first. So... a lot of things need to go right or else that Raider is hosed. Not great. Conversely, it can deliberately overlap the HMC80:

...which will leave it going fake speed 1 and remaining in the front arc, where the HMC80 has only 3 intrinsic dice available. I'll take 1 hull damage to me and the HMC80 and 3 dice versus no hull damage and 8 dice any day of the week. The HMC80 may ram the Raider in turn, but at least the Raider will continue to deal damage and inconvenience the HMC80 rather than getting casually murdered.

Anticipating overlapping of your own ships
All the tricks I recommended you use to your benefit can be used against you in turn, so don't let them catch you by surprise. The only other thing to add to this header is keep an eye out for circumstances where you can trap an enemy ship by moving a ship into its flight path and forcing it to overlap you, preferably while also making it land on a damaging obstacle it was expecting to jump over. Preventing an enemy ship from turning (particularly broadsides ships at a crucial moment) can be game-clinching all by itself, but getting anything stuck on an asteroid field is also great.

Overlapping enemy squadrons
If there's a huge unavoidable bomber cloud ahead of your ship and it still has fairly healthy shields, it can be worth landing on as much of the blob as you can. The displaced squadrons will need to be placed around your overlapping ship rather than concentrated in one hull zone. For ships without redirects, this can help prolong your life expectancy substantially. For ships with redirects, it will decrease the pressure on your redirects at the very least. This is also a great opportunity for smaller fighter coverage groups to gang up on the spread-out displaced squadrons to at least achieve local superiority in gunning down some enemy squadrons that are lacking backup for the moment.

But wait, there's more! If there's a big pile of squadrons dogfighting somewhere and you're pretty confident your opponent doesn't have (m)any squadron commands queued up on ships in range and you do, don't be shy about belly-flopping a ship into the furball to displace squadrons all over the place. Although your opponent will have control over where the displaced squadrons go, the chaos of the furball dispersing often causes problems for squadrons that intended to simply attack (and not move) during the Squadron Phase, which can be exploited.

Either of these two tactics can produce opportunities to get a lot of flak attacks in, sometimes double-arcing a squadron or two, but be very careful that you're not biting off more than you can chew.

In short, the basic principle of maximizing the value of displacement against squadrons is "look for situations where enemy squadrons actively want to be concentrated in one specific area and then overlap them to spread them thin." Even though your opponent gets to choose where the overlapped squadrons are placed, the overlapping ship (and other nearby ships and squadrons) can result in those squadrons being placed in non-ideal locations.

Anticipating overlapping of your own squadrons
The final squadron shenanigan is a pretty basic one that's been useful for B-Wings since the wave one days, and that's to anticipate overlapping against enemy ships. If you've got a pretty good idea as to where an enemy ship is going to wind up, either because it has a medium or large base and/or is slow and/or unmaneuverable OR if the enemy ship is strongly telegraphing what it intends to do (Demolisher attack runs when handled recklessly often fall into this category), your own bomber squadrons can function as mobile minefields, awaiting an enemy ship to land on them where they then get placed (hopefully) in the front arc so they can continue this trend. When done well enough against an ideal target (slow and medium+ sized base) you can even ignore the need for squadron commands because the target will be overlapping your bombers constantly and those bombers will keep getting placed into the front arc.

Be careful of relying too strongly on this tactic in the wrong circumstances, though. If a fortuitous navigate command will throw everything into disarray, you need a better plan. It also works better with smaller numbers of heavy bombers (hence the B-Wings comment) - a full-on bomber swarm is simply going to take up too much space and will by necessity need to be placed around the flanks when the front gets full and thus will need some extra help to keep up with the target.

Final thoughts
Overlapping is one of those little nuances in the rules that doesn't immediately reveal all of its secrets to you, but when used well in the right circumstances can absolutely decide the course of a game. I hope I've been helpful in shedding some light on the matter! Go smash into some ships!


  1. New player and need some help. A friend and I played a game the other day and our 2 ships collided. Neither of us were able to move in a manner that would let us clear each other. So, as a result, we spent the remainder of the game with the 2 ships (Victory ISD and an MC75) locked up. Is that how things should have gone? Did we interpret things incorrectly?

    1. Just wanting to make sure I'm clear: your VSD and MC75 just kept ramming one another when it was time to move during their activation and then moving back to an earlier maneuver tool joint (usually 0) repeated on subsequent activations until one of them died, basically?

      In which case, yes. Lower-speed larger-base ships can get stuck in a trap like that. It can be pretty much impossible for a speed 2 ship to escape a situation like that and depending on the situation even a large ship going speed 3 (like the MC75 could do) might get stuck as well. It can be advantageous to set up a situation like this but it's not always desirable, as you experienced.

  2. That was essentially the case. We collided on turn 4. Neither he or I could get to a maneuver dial within the next 2 turns to try and get ourselves clear before the game ended. I just wanted to make sure we hadn't done something wrong.
    Thank you!