Saturday, June 4, 2022

Dumpster Fire the Faction: Musing on Building Republic Fleets

We here at CGYSO and Blissfully Ignorant Gaming have talked a bit on the blog as well as on the podcast about the relatively lower opinion of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in the larger Armada community. By now, you’ve probably heard all the usual complaints: they lack dice fixing, the Jedi squadrons are overpriced, their nav charts are terrible, their admirals are lackluster, they need a bunch of token management, etc. A lot of those notions have some truth, but the whole picture is greater than the sum of the individual parts. At the end of the day, GAR is a very different faction that just does not play like the other three factions. It is not a faction designed for flash, dramatic maneuvers, or big alpha strikes. I’ve found GAR as a faction to be a spiritual successor of Biggs and Shmitty’s infamous Garm “Dumpster Fire” fleet that won GENCON a few years back. It is a grinding, plodding, and ruthlessly efficient faction. It has seemed to work best for geek and I by going for a death by a thousand cuts and a fairly minimalist approach to fleet building. We’ve started to have some good success with our fleets, so today, I’m, WE’RE, geek is here helping too! going to share some of our lessons learned.

Live footage of geek "helping"

Fear the Reaper Pelta

Let’s start with possibly the craziest realization: the Pelta is the Republic’s best ship. Stop laughing. I’m being serious. No, really, stop laughing. Look, I get it. The Pelta is notorious from its time as the Rebel’s only source of Fleet Command. It has a lot of detractors. It’s a slow ship at a time when closing the gap on Onagers is a prime concern. What the GAR Pelta has, though, that the Rebel Pelta does not, is an absolutely bonkers level of efficiency. The base chassis is a sub-50 point ship with a brace, evade, and an engineering value of 4. The first time I had Demolisher, formerly one of Armada’s most feared bogeymen, just bounce off a Pelta like it wasn’t even there, I was in a bit of awe. Here was one of the most maligned ships in the game, getting hit with a hit/crit (which would have triggered APTs from Demolisher) and three hits on Demolisher’s black dice. One evade and one brace later, it was just two damage, which the Pelta proceeded to repair in its entirety with the very next activation. The ratio of toughness to cost on the Pelta’s base chassis might very well be the best in the game. It is MUCH harder to kill one of these buggers than it might seem at first glance. 

The Pelta has two very solid titles, and it brings the all important Fleet Support slot for maximum token shenanigans. I think the most critical choice, though, is in the Support Team slot, as it provides two important options for supporting your fleet. And you know what the best part is? Neither choice involves Engine Techs. That’s right, me, Truthiness, the speed demon himself, is telling you to forgo any more speed on GAR Peltas. That’s because both Projection Experts and Fighter Coordination Teams provide something better for your fleet overall. Projection Experts helps you export the Pelta’s native toughness and efficiency to the rest of your fleet. The native engineering of 4, combined with Parts Resupply giving a steady stream of tokens, means the Pelta can reliably hand out 2 shields every turn without losing any of its own. It’s a great way to make the Pelta’s presence felt despite its slow speed. This Parts Resupply and Projection Experts build is probably the default loadout I would consider for a Pelta. That said, Fighter Coordination Team is a solid choice, especially if you are bringing ARCs and/or Ahsoka in her squadron form. ARCs need a bit of help getting to the fight and repositioning, and FCT just does the job better than Hyperspace Rings. With Ahsoka, FCTs allow you to use a somewhat cheesy tactic of generating extra shots outside of Ahsoka’s actual activation. It’s nowhere near the level of Moralo, but it’s still a cute little tactic that can be hard to shut down when you use obstacles to prevent Ahsoka from getting tied down.

Ahsoka and Anakin, the perfect team

You might be tempted to start loading up the Peltas with upgrades like a Christmas Tree. After all, a Pelta with the TB-73 title, Projection Experts, a Defensive Retrofit, and a Fleet Support has to be good right? Not exactly. Once you start sinking upgrades into the Peltas, that efficiency starts to drop. That’s something I’ve noticed that is actually pretty common across all GAR ships and brings us to our next point.

Only Take Upgrades You Absolutely Need

GAR has some wonderfully efficient base ships. Beyond the Pelta, the Consular is a very cheap skirmisher, the Acclamator is probably the best or second best value for a medium ship in the game (the CIS Muni has a solid claim for first), and both Venators are solid value for their cost. The problems start when you load them with upgrades. Take a good hard look at that Venator 2 you loaded up with XI7, SPHA-Ts, Zak, Ordnance Experts, Thermals, and the Tranquility title. Ask yourself: “is this thing going to contribute its equivalent points?” At the end of the day, that SPHA-T Venator is probably only marginally less effective without Zak, XI7, and OE. Save the points to invest elsewhere.

Upgrades are like Crypto for GAR: an illusion of usefulness

You can find examples of this all over the fleet. An Acclamator 2 with nothing more than a Defensive Retrofit is an incredibly efficient hull, bringing just as much front arc firepower as the Venator, but with a huge discount. A naked C70 Charger supported by IF has an amazing navigation chart and flexible battery alignment. It can kite and broadside to avoid closing if needed, and then zip in for a solid double arc when the opportunity presents itself. This ties into Truth’s statement about the efficiency of the Pelta. The most efficient GAR ships have minimal upgrades and let you win the game through sheer force and exerted firepower and not crazy upgrade wombo combos. A big part of this loss of efficiency when stacking upgrades comes from the faction’s relatively poor options for dice control. They have a lot of rainbow batteries (meaning red, blue and black all in the same arc), making color based options like Ordnance Experts unappealing. They have no Ion Cannon upgrades to speak of, so Leading Shot isn’t a choice. Buying Linked Turbolaser Towers on every ship adds up way too fast and only helps a single die. Rather than just making GAR a bad faction, though, I think it just means you need a different approach. Speaking of force and firepower…

Death by Papercut

Armada can often be a game of haymakers throwing big dice pools. Demolisher and Avenger used to be the embodiment of that. The Onager and Patriot Fist are two of the current boogeymen. It can lead to the conclusion that you need a haymaker to be effective. GAR just doesn’t do haymakers. Because of their inefficient sources of dice control (and the fact that it would require several high cost-upgrades at a minimum to get them there), GAR doesn’t get nearly as much out of their investment in a haymaker approach. It needs to use the second, less traveled path of success: death by paper cut. The reason I like to compare this faction to Shmitty’s old dumpster fire approach comes down to this approach to dealing damage. The dirty secret of Armada is while you can throw a lot of points at mitigating or powering through defense tokens, they’re actually pretty useless if a ship is taking damage from lots of different sources all at once. Squad heavy fleets are successful largely because of this fact. A brace is useless if you’re only taking one damage at a time. It’s not even all that great when you’re taking 2-3. Redirects burn out quickly when you are dealing with the small amounts of plink damage. This is the first part of what I mean if you hear me say “embrace the grind” with GAR. Persistent damage in small chunks while leaning into the raw efficiency of your ships pays dividends over the course of the game.

Grinding gets you wonderful things like coffee! Everyone loves coffee!

There are generally two approaches I think you can go to implementing this maxim. The first is leaning on the Venator 1 with Intensity Firepower. You’ll generally want to do this if you have a more ship heavy approach. Plain and simple, Intensify Firepower is the most efficient means of dice control available to GAR. It’s a method that also likes to leverage as many smaller dice pools as possible. That means double arcs, small ships like the Pelta and C70, and it means just accepting a “good enough” on larger pools like the Acclamator and Venator. Yes, there will be some frustrating whiffs, but the goal is to leverage the efficiency of your hulls to just bring more dice and more things your opponent has to kill to make the pain stop. If you lose a small ship, oh well, you’ve only invested 45-55 points. You’ve got more of them. The relentless tick of damage that comes from Intensify Firepower is a great way to play GAR and leans into their strengths. The Venator-1 DEFINITELY isn’t a brawler like a Kuat, so you’re going to want to lurk back with it and use the native red dice until it’s time to zoom through, hit them with the black dice once, maybe twice if you’re lucky, and then keep on trucking out of there before your Venator explodes.

The second approach is a more traditional squadron-focused one. There are a number of ways to do this, including Plo, Luminara, or Yularen, but they all attempt to leverage the traditional strength of squadrons in overloading defense tokens. Again, though, GAR is a little different. You don’t have any fast bombers, with the mighty Y-Wing being your fast at a whomping three. Your really nasty bombers are the ACR-170s, which I absolutely adore, but need additional help getting to the fight. Neither choice reacts well to needs for rapid repositioning, so you need to be methodical in your approach. Use obstacles to keep them from getting locked down, spread out where you can, don’t be afraid to take some hits on the way in. You have the hull to slug through.

Aethersprites and V-19 belong together.

In either approach, squads or ships, that efficiency and grind will allow you to fight and beat some of the tankiest combos in the game; Agate Starhawk or Wat Tambor Prov can take one shot, yes. But what about the other 4-5 ship shots coming right afterwards or the other 6 squadrons you’re slinging? You aren’t going to one shot anything. But over 2 rounds of applied, persistent pressure onto a target, it will die. Persistence is the name of the game. Even the much maligned Aethersprite (which I actively hated when it was released), has a place. However, there is one squadron that I think you should always take, and that is….

He is the Chosen One

Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight. Let me first start by saying I am not really a fan of playing Armada without squadrons in the modern game. There was a time I was a hardcore squadronless players. Today, there are too many very dangerous squadrons in the game, and some brutal combos that harshly punish players that forgo squadrons. It was always a fringe way to play, but it is especially hard now. The good news is a squadron screen is more viable than ever to slow down opposing squadrons and possibly kill some important ones in the process. Until recently, GAR struggled to make light or medium screens that could really justify their investment. Kickback and Axe together are a solid combo for slowing down incoming damage and prolonging the squadron fight. What GAR lacked, however, was offensive anti-squadron firepower that could remove key pieces of an enemy squadron wing.

Is this the obvious picture to put here? Yes. Do I care? Nope.

Then we got Rapid Reinforcement 1, and with it, the monster murder ace that is Anakin Skywalker in a Aethersprite. We have a lot of nicknames for this version of the Chosen One, from “Splashakin” to “Deltakin” to “Murder Ani” to “Little Orphan Ani”. I go with Danni vs Yanni, but I’m also me. The real take away, though, is this new Anakin fills that offensive gap in GAR squadron wings. There are a lot of different combinations of GAR squadron wings that I like, but Anakin is in every single one of them. At the lower end of the points spectrum, such as Anakin, Axe, and 2 V-19s, Anakin fills out that lower end squadron screen very well. If you want a little more investment, you can add in a second Aethersprite alongside Anakin. Anakin and Ahsoka in particular pair extremely well. You can’t trigger Anakin’s splash ability more than once in the turn, but Ahsoka bouncing around to get Anakin to take additional shots synergizes well with his Adept 2. Finally, on the high end of the points investment, you can take that smaller screen and just tac on some bombers of your choice. My current preferred approach is Anakin, Kickback, Axe, a generic Aethersprite, and four generic ARC-170s for exactly 134 points. It’s a nasty, durable ball that can punch back quite hard. I’ve been running Danni, Ahsoka, Axe, and Kickback for 80 in several fleets of my own. Anyway, the point is Anakin is a phenomenal new tool that is useful in every single Republic fleet. Use him.

Gold? Nah, Go for Silver

I don’t have a clever segway to introduce this one (you’re off the blog now then), so I’ll just state the thesis right up front: Clone Captain Silver is the best officer available to the Republic. Period. End of story. There is no competition. He might not look like much, but Silver provides something that GAR largely lacks: flexibility. The most obvious benefit to Silver is the ability to leverage Surprise Attack as first player. Throw him on your flagship and it doesn’t matter that you had to deploy at a reduced speed. Caught in an Interdictor’s G-7X Grav Well? Stuck it, Imps, speed 3 here I go. Surprise Attack is a pretty common red objective these days, so being able to disregard one of the major downsides is pretty nice. Just put him on your flagship and you’ll never have to fear Sam Simon’s double Interdictor speed zero trap ever again.

Use Silver and you can make this happen. Don't you want to blow up Interdictors?

The less obvious benefit to Silver is just the natural command flexibility he brings. I have often found myself wanting to adjust speed while doing other commands on many ships. Silver lets you do just that at least twice in a game. You can even go all the way down to zero with absolute confidence that you can jump all the way up to speed three on a dime. First player and don’t feel like moving into that kill pocket? Pump the brakes and stay put knowing full well you can activate it first in the next turn. I especially love him on a squadron-focused Venator, adjusting speed on the fly, while still pushing a ton of squadrons. 

Build for Your Admiral

Biggs and I have had some disagreements in the past about how to approach incorporating your commander in fleet building. He likes to build the core of the fleet, and then look at what commander best fits it. I’ve always approached it as starting with the commander, and building out from the strengths of that commander. While Biggs’ method has its virtues (especially with Separatists I think), GAR absolutely needs the latter approach. All of GAR’s commanders are quite specialized, requiring you to consider their needs from the start. Plo fleets must commit to winning the squad fight, or at least finding a way to keep their squadrons moving and bombing. Luminara fleets must build around forcing multiple shots into the same ships. Yularen fleets must be built to leverage both the bonus to squadron tokens and the ability to repair friendly squadrons. Tarkin must be built to leverage his fleetwide token generation. The only real generalists are Bail and Obi Wan, but I think both of these work best in very specific fleets as well. Bail likes to have fewer ships so that you can leverage his limited amount of bonus dials in more important spots. Obi Wan, meanwhile, probably wants a good number of ships so that he can maximize his damage mitigation. The point is, GAR needs to consider the needs of their commanders. There is no plug and play option if you want to be successful. 

Good fleet-building is one of the hardest aspects of the game; and our articles are very general with respect to this; “bring ships with a redirect with Obi-Wan!” Thanks, John, great help. But focus on the efficiency we’ve talked about and what those commanders are doing and how to best leverage their ability to help you win games. Keep building and keep trying and you’ll get the list to a state where it’s getting there. It will also give you practice with GAR, which is also important to winning with them. All 6 of the GAR Commanders have worth and we’ve made good lists for all of them, so it isn’t a matter of the commander being bad so much as your list needing refinement. Speaking of list refinement….

Deployment and Objectives Have Extra Importance

Last but not least, are deployment and objectives. To say these are important is a rather obvious statement. After all, these considerations are always important in Armada. To say they’re especially important to GAR is a bit like saying “water is important to life.” The thing is, some life can go without water longer than others. In this analogy, GAR is the fish flopping around on the deck desperately trying to get back to the water and the other factions are camels. That’s because of the one indisputable fact about GAR: they absolutely suck at steering. They’re what happens when an engineer looks at the Victory and says “yes, that is the perfect amount of yaw.” Exhibit A is the Acclamator, which has a single joint of yaw at any speed. Exhibit B is the Venator, which only has the luxury of two joints of yaw at speed two, one at each joint. Exhibit C, the Pelta, has the same speed two chart as the Venator, but can’t go as fast. The newly arrived Victory adds Exhibit D as it brings the OG terrible navigation into a new faction. The only ship that can steer worth a damned is the Consular (which, to be fair, has an absolutely amazing chart).

Want a good nav chart? Great! wanted durability too? Nah, can't do that.

Rather than trying to make your navigation experience better by strapping expensive Engine Techs to Peltas, or taking Bail to go crazy on navigate commands, geek and I have found it better to just embrace that horrible navigation. This is the second part of what I mean when I say “embrace the grind.” Your navigation is going to suck. Accept it. Once you accept that reality, you can adapt in other ways. Deployment is the most critical way of compensating, which can often be aided by objectives. Short answer: do not take any objective where your opponent controls the entire battlefield of deployment. Long answer, read on! This can, and is a whole article in and of itself. Luckily, Snipafist did a write up on the Deployment aspect of the game, which has remained very relevant. I highly encourage you to read it. Objectives help by allowing you to concentrate the fight on your terms. Surprise Attack, Contested Outpost, Doomed Station, and Capture the VIP are some examples of objectives that allow you to force the fight to a certain point on the board. This allows you in turn to avoid some of the pitfalls of your terrible nav charts. As first player, under no circumstances should you be picking objectives that give your opponent a significant deployment advantage. Don’t even think about touching Solar Corona or Superior Positions, no matter how much you think you can leverage them or avoid their downsides. The initial positioning for GAR is immensely important.

Related to that, this is not us saying “never navigate” but understand WHY you’re navigating and where you’re navigating to. Your sides are solid, even without SPHAT, so getting a double arc is very helpful for keeping GAR ships trucking on the damage output. Speed 2 is a great spot for using a navigate once or twice with a Venator, but you should definitely be repairing more than you think with GAR.  Their shields and hull are fine (Rebel larges win the award for best shields, Imps for best hull, but second place in both of those isn’t bad I swear!) but where GAR really wins is tankiness.  They have several upgrades (Implacable, the aforementioned Projection Experts) that will allow you to regenerate shields quickly.  Combine that with great Salvos and your opponent may not WANT to shoot these ships you’re bringing, resulting in you actually living longer than you think. Position them well and you can keep your ship navigating and engineering right where you need to the whole game.

Oops, sorry, wrong Grand Army of the Republic. What were we talking about?

So there you have it, geek and I’s attempt to make a “bad” faction into something fun and competitive. We hope that helps you address some of your GAR problems. Once we got deeper into this faction, it really did become enjoyable in a way distinctly different from the others. Hopefully this gets on the path to that same kind of enjoyment. Until next time, happy gaming!

Imperial commander review: Moff Jerjerrod

I've been flirting with this article for a while but its time has finally come: the Moff Jerjerrod (Jerry to his friends, and we're all friends here, right?) review!

Slow your roll Vader, some of us haven't had an article yet!

Thursday, June 2, 2022


John remembered! And is up watching Netflix and posting this from his phone hooray!

The classiest Google search for a commander none of us are featuring, of course.

Hit the jump for some fun lists.