Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Fighting Fleets: Flushing Flotillas

First off, I'm back and thanks to all the folks who wished me and the missus well on the birth of my son! He was born November 13th in the early morning and we're super glad to have him. Mom and baby are both doing great and the lack of any serious complications has been wonderful.

Look at this big bald doof holding this weird thing with a blue hat.
Speaking of small things and awkward transitions, it's time to talk about flotillas. Specifically, how to get rid of them (wow, this transition is weird and kind of sinister if you think about it too hard). Let's get to the plastic spaceships part!
Why do flotillas need to die?
Flotillas are a common feature in many Armada fleets nowadays, and for good reason. They provide a cheap activation and are surprisingly resilient under the right circumstances. They're cost-effective at commanding squadrons (even if the individual squadron command isn't terribly impressive) and their support/debuff upgrades can be helpful, especially when used at the right time and place.

Although dropping a flotilla won't be as consequential in most cases as dropping a combat ship, it's still denying the enemy fleet a ship on the board (and thus an activation) and depriving the opponent squadron commands and/or support abilities they may have been relying on. Provided you attack "right" to overcome the flotilla's defenses (we'll get there, I promise), it's often much easier to destroy a flotilla than a combat ship as well, even light combat ships like corvettes.

Okay, but why do we need an article about it?
"Need" is a bit of a strong word here, but the short version is that flotillas can be frustratingly difficult to destroy without the right tools (strategic planning) or in-game approach (tactical planning). This article will be a bit on the short side because of its limited focus, but hopefully it helps!

How are flotillas generally used?
It will vary depending on the fleet and your opponent, of course, but as a general rule, you're not going to find flotillas in the thick of it. Flotillas, being support ships with little anti-ship firepower(and in the case of the unarmed GR-75, none at all), don't want to be on the front line. You can usually find them on the flanks and/or lurking behind combat ships - anywhere they're more difficult to get at while still supporting their fleet. Flotillas in general need to walk a fine line between their desire to be able to impact the game and their desire to be safely away from danger. Too much one way or the other and they run the risk of easy destruction or near-complete irrelevance.

Let's talk about defense tokens and flotilla survivability
Before we get any further, it's important to briefly cover the defenses we're looking to surmount on a flotilla: one scatter token, one evade token, 1 shield in every hull zone, and 3 total hull.

Anything that intends to stick damage to a flotilla needs to reckon with the scatter token in one way or another. You could throw a 10-damage attack at a flotilla and, without an accuracy to lock down the scatter, all that you succeeded at doing is making your opponent flip over a piece of cardboard. It can be annoying to say the least. We'll cover different approaches to deal with the flotilla defensive suite below, but it's important to start with a baseline.

Strategic tools for dealing with flotillas
Fast combat corvettes
Speedy combat ships offer you one way to get to where flotillas don't want you to be by engaging them on the flanks or coming after them the turn after you take some shots at your opponent's combat ships and jump behind them, where the flotillas are hiding.

Accuracy-generating tech
This comes in a lot of possible forms (Captain Jonus, the Home One title, H9 Turbolasers), but anything that can guarantee you an accuracy result is golden against flotillas and the kind of thing it's generally handy to have on a ship or two regardless. Being able to make the scatter a surefire non-factor pays off handsomely against flotillas.

Defense token hate
Specifically Intel Officer and, in a more passive sense, effects like the Suppressor title or the Planetary Ion Cannon objective that allow you to exhaust defense tokens as an additional effect, sometimes outside of combat. These types of effects are not as effective as accuracy-generating tech, but they're a solid second place because they allow you to overheat flotilla defense tokens much more quickly if you just have to brute force your way through them.

A quick note on Gunnery Team
Gunnery Team deserves a special mention because flotillas are often found hiding under the skirts of friendly ships, which gives your combat ship a conundrum about whether it's worth wasting its good arc attack on a serious enemy ship or a support ship that might just scatter everything away anyways. Usually the correct choice is to go after the serious combat ship, but it can give the flotilla a chance to slip away for good, which is frustrating. Gunnery Team simply says "porque no los dos?"

You're gonna need other players to lift you up though, your opponent probably won't.
In short, you can slap the enemy combat ship and then take a pot shot at the flotilla as well without too much extra trouble, and that can really pay off when executed well.

Flotillas are combat-shy support ships that aren't keen on a frontal charge against enemy ships. For that reason, if your meta sees a lot of flotillas, objectives that punish more defensive enemy fleets (like Contested Outpost or Intel Sweep) and/or punish fleets with fewer gunships (like Fire Lanes or Opening Salvo) can put the screws to the flotilla spam.

Tactical considerations against flotillas
When to ignore flotillas
Keep in mind that flotillas no longer prevent a fleet from being tabled if they're the only ships remaining on the board, so sometimes the answer is to simply ignore them and gun for the "real" ships to threaten a fleet knockout. The rest of this section assumes that in your situation it's worth going after a flotilla (it often can be, but not always!).

Identifying when it's a waste of time to attack flotillas
You only get so many attacks in a game of Armada and each ship only gets the two each round, so it's important to identify when it's worth spending one of those attacks on a flotilla. Throwing away attacks on flotillas that could've been spent productively is a frustrating experience - seeing an enemy flotilla with an exhausted scatter and evade and no damage on it at the end of a round is a clear indication something went wrong with attack allocation. I'd like to offer a pair of dos and don'ts as general-purpose guidelines below.

Don't: attack a flotilla only once with smaller attacks or attacks that are unlikely to have an accuracy result
For example, sending a single Y-Wing after a flotilla that you don't have any other attacks lined up against is a fool's errand - the flotilla will scatter the Y-Wing attack and simply not care. Even with a heavier bomber like a B-Wing you're relying on generating an accuracy (25% chance) plus damage on the black die (75% chance), which will only happen 18.8% of the time - it's not worth it if that's the only attack you're sending that round. This can also be applied to all-black dice attacks (like a Gladiator-I's side arc) that can't generate accuracy results and attacks with very few blue or red dice overall.

Do: attack a flotilla multiple times in one round
If the example Y-Wings and B-Wings had friends dog piling on the same flotilla, the math changes very quickly, as the scatter would overheat rapidly and be discarded, making it easy prey. If the example Gladiator-I was double-arcing the flotilla, the flotilla would need to pop its scatter for good on the second attack to stay alive. It's not a great use of a Gladiator spending its entire activation just to blow up one scatter token, but if circumstances dictate that's the best use of your Gladiator that round, then make it count.

Don't: attack a flotilla at long range when you have better options
Time for a bit more probability: an ISD-II attacking at long range with 4 red dice has a 33.5% chance of generating an accuracy result naturally. Normally, you can get a few damage to stick to most anything with that kind of long-ranged salvo, but a flotilla is going to be particularly durable against it. 2/3 of the time, it will simply scatter the attack. When you manage to generate an accuracy result, it will still use its evade to remove the best damage die of the attack and will frequently walk away with only one or two damage having been inflicted (and in some particularly bad-luck instances, none at all!).

Do: attack other ships at long range, save your anti-flotilla attacks for medium range
Of course this advice can be overridden if you're able to get several long-range attacks in on a flotilla in one round and it's the best target for that (often it is not), but in general you're better off focusing on non-scatter ships at long range. Once you get to medium range, attacks on flotillas become a lot more potent - you get to add in your blue dice now, which will usually create a larger attack pool and blue dice are twice as likely to produce accuracy results as red dice (to lock down the scatter) and evade becomes worse at stopping damage the closer in you get. Medium and close range are where it's at for shutting down flotillas, particularly with beefier attacks.

Those are the basics, but it obviously helps substantially to have some of the anti-flotilla tools I covered earlier at your disposal to make these calculations easier and diminish your chances of "wasted" attacks. Accuracy guarantees, for example, make a number of attacks against flotillas much less risky and more likely to draw at least some blood.

Remember that when a flotilla is overlapped by or overlaps any other ship, the other ship involved in the collision only takes damage if it is also a flotilla. This makes flotillas ideal ramming targets as it can be done without damaging the rammer, each face-up damage card is 1/3 of the flotilla's hull value, and scatter defense tokens do nothing to stop the ram damage.

To get full value from ramming flotillas, you can manipulate the order of activation sequence to destroy them without firing a shot. It will take one or two rounds total to pay off, but can be done. Here's the ideal method for doing it:
  1. Activate your ramming ship prior to the enemy flotilla activation. Complete your attacks and then ram the flotilla, making sure to land in its flight path as obstructively as possible.
  2. When the enemy flotilla activates, unless it can crank its speed up to 3 (and even then, it won't be enough to escape well-positioned and/or larger enemy ships), it will be stuck overlapping your ramming ship, dealing it another hull damage.
  3. During the subsequent activations of ramming ship, it can finish off the flotilla with another ram while making its attacks on other targets.
You can shorten this process to a much more appealing one-round KO:
  • A second ramming ship (even another flotilla, if you need it!) can also do the trick, but be careful not to over-dedicate your resources to killing a cheap flotilla and be extra careful not to accidentally ram your original ramming ship instead.
  • The Garel's Honor title on a Hammerhead Corvette inflicts a face-up damage card when it rams an enemy ship, which you can use to potentially pull a Structural Damage (for an extra damage card), especially with Dodonna helping you fish for it. Structurals are 8 of the 52 crits in the deck, so you've got a 15.4% chance inherently of pulling it and with Dodonna it goes up to nearly coin-flip odds of 48.7%.
Don't needlessly throw dice away
It should be noted that this is different from the earlier advice which came down to "don't throw attacks away." Specifically what I'm referring to is two similar things:
  1. Remember the attack sequence and do not preemptively add dice from things like concentrate fire or External Racks in your initial roll prior to the correct timing window and use them only if needed then. It's easy to overkill flotillas, you don't need to hurt yourself by using your dice-adding effects earlier than you should and when they're not necessary.
  2. If you've got a flotilla double-arced and your original attack contains no accuracy icons, assess the odds of getting an attack to connect with the second before nonchalantly fishing for an accuracy with your concentrate fire die on the first. For example:
In the example above, the CR90B has the Gozanti double-arced and has a concentrate fire dial to spend. Let's assume it rolls no accuracy results with its front salvo of 3 blue dice. If it fishes for an accuracy by adding another blue die, it has a 25% chance of getting what it wants. Conversely, the side arc attack of 2 blue dice has a 37.5% chance of generating exactly 1 accuracy result, which is higher. It's generally better to go with the concentrate fire dial on that one. Worst case, you get two attacks that need to be scattered or else the flotilla is in big trouble and the scatter is discarded for good. All the CR90 needs to do in this example is stick 2 hull damage to the Gozanti and then it can finish it off with a ram, and the side arc with a concentrate fire dial offers reasonable odds at doing that.
Final thoughts
Because the scatter token is so instrumental to a flotilla's survivability, attacks against flotillas can be very binary - either the flotilla takes a pounding (often being one-shot at medium or close range) or nothing happens except a piece of cardboard gets flipped upside down on the sidelines. A lot of this article, both the strategic and tactical elements, comes down to "so how exactly are you handling that scatter token?" Provided you have a plan for taking care of the scatter token, using your attacks wisely, and have a plan for getting attacks into flotillas, they can be handled. If you don't, you're going to struggle. Hopefully I was able to help!

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