Star Wars Armada is one of Fantasy Flight’s biggest game releases of 2015, an epic miniatures game of Tactical Fleet Battles in the Star Wars Galaxy. The problem is there are so many gamers out there who are more than ready to pass up on another collectible miniatures game. I mean it was the same with the Blogging Team at Gamesquest, with members of the team not wanting to get their hands burned with this one. Having only played a couple of games of the X-wing miniatures game and not investing into the franchise, I had no such fears.
Having queued for the original Star Wars film in 1977 for hours upon hours, in one of the coldest winters ever seen in the UK and then having to fight my way back home through a blizzard after the movie and meeting George Lucas in an elevator at a London Book fair, only to ask him if he knew where the toilet was! (not my proudest moment) you would think I would be all excited about the Star Wars games. Well X-wing is a fine game, but it was not something I could really get my teeth into, there was no sense of grandeur.
Wings of War…To X-Wing to Star Wars Armada??
The Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game is built on the old Wings of War system, adjusted for the Star Wars universe. Like Wings of War, the miniatures are hand painted and being a collectable game, expansion after expansion pack has been released. In the X-Wing Miniatures Game, you take the role of squad leader and command a group of merciless Imperial or daring Rebel pilots in furious ship-to-ship space combat. Recreating Star Wars space battles from small engagements of only a couple of crafts, to large conflicts where multiple squadrons clash. It is fast, frantic, fun and to be blunt, fiddly.
So just like about everyone else, I was expecting the same with Star Wars Armada. Having read through the rulebook, theorised about and played the game, I’m impressed, very impressed. Armada has that grandiose feel to it, Fantasy Flight have managed to slow the combat down without over-complicating and sacrificing game time.
Yes Seriously… Star Wars Armada is Not, I Repeat Not, an X-wing Variant!!
While X-wing is a game of tactics, Armada is a game of strategy. Even before an encounter has happened the strategic planning takes place, with each player having 160 points for the basic scenario or more for other campaigns. With those points, ships are amassed, generals, heroes, specialised equipment and commanders are recruited. The player who starts with the lowest cost build goes first, a privilege that I am not quite sure gives you the best advantage.
The fleets are then lined up against each other and a note here on the models, they are stunning. The Victory-class Star Destroyer looks so ominous due to its sheer size, thankfully it moves like a plank of wood in a canoe race, while the racing Corvette and Frigate of the Rebel Alliance are as graceful as greyhounds in full stride. Besides the capitol star-ships, you are also equipped with squadrons of either the swarming TIE fighters or the very powerful X-wings. The attention to detail shows on these models, with the base of the stand containing all the information that either player needs to know. The Capital ships have a shield dial on each side, as well as front and back, while the squadrons have a health dial and a colour slide to indicate when the unit has completed its maneuvers for the turn.
The base game comes with two booklets, a how to play and reference guide. For experienced gamers this is a really easy affair and I don’t think beginners are going to find it that difficult to learn either, especially with all the demonstration videos that are out there! Playing the game is where you pick up the rules and gaming mechanics quickest. You quickly realise that a quick and dirty tactic is not going to win you the game, you have to plan out all your commands to success or watch your ships get blown out of the galaxy.
Manoeuvre Tool…Click, Click, Click is So Cool!!!
There are a few unique features in Armada over X-wing to make note of, firstly the manoeuvre tool has a number of joints representing movement speed and on the Capital ships they have a movement graph indicating how many clicks they can move dependant on speed. This does away with all those movement templates, it is all on one clicking multi-jointed stick. The second is the command dials where you have to predict what you are going to need in future turns, the bigger the ship the further in advance you have to predict your fleet commands.
Command Dials…In Space only Asteroids Hear You Scream!!
The Command dials have four actions or commands available to the capitol ships,
- Navigate – to change the speed and manoeuvrability
- Squadron – this allows squadrons to attack out of the squadron phase, although they have to be in range of the capitol ship.
- Repair – recover shields and hull damage – which is based on the engineering value assigned to the ship.
- Concentrate Fire – gives the ship an extra die for one attack.
If you are unable to use the command that turn, you can store it as a command token to be used in the future at about half the effect. Also some of the personnel cards allow you discard these tokens to perform enhanced actions. The Victory-class Star Destroyer will start the game with three of these command tokens, each placed on top of each other, so after the first turn the Imperial player will be selecting commands for three turns in advance. Smaller capitol ships will have less, but any mistimed commands can have disastrous results.
Each capitol ship will have a speed dial to indicate how fast they are moving and defence tokens, that allow them to evade strikes or divert the damage to adjacent shields. It all allows for the space where your models are to be free of clutter and your cards and tokens looking like a dashboard of an Admiral’s monitor.
Game play comes down to this,
- Command phase – players select their commands.
- Ship phase – capital ships attack first and then move.
- Squadron phase, players take turns moving or attacking with their squadrons.
- Status phase – readying defence tokens and flipping over the initiative token.
It is a case of rinse and repeat until ten turns or however many turns you have allocated to the scenario. The sequence of play is pretty brisk and although it can get a bit crowded at some points during the game, it is over before you want it to be.
Wargamer Verses The Unrepentant Yugioh Player…No Chance!!!
My opponent has been Mike Fazakerley, a seasoned war-gamer and board-gamer, so it was good to get his opinion on what is basically a war game. On our first encounter we only had one core box and there are only enough ships to comfortably do a 160 point scenario. The Imperial forces struggled with the Star Destroyer hopelessly out-manoeuvred and with four squadrons each, the powerful x-wings just blew the Tie-fighters into oblivion. Just when it seemed like a total rout, the Star destroyer blasted the Nebulon-B Frigate before it could get out of range. It was enough to steal the victory. When Mike got his core set, we played a 300 point objective, 2 Star destroyers with nine Tie-fighters won the day, with the swarm ability of the Tie-fighters making them the mvp of the day, however, with one Star Destroyer getting nuked it was a very close affair. Games last about two hours, but this can be reduced with accomplished play and the number of turns allocated to the scenario.
Star Wars Armada Summing-Up…The Good, The Bad and the Downright Expensive!!!
I have found Star Wars Armada to be a fantastic gaming experience, the quality of the models and gaming components are superb. Gameplay is very enjoyable, however, in a 300 point objective, it became fiddly to use the manoeuvre tool, as you have to mark the position and move a number of ships and squadrons out of the way to be able to use it. With one core set, there are insufficient blue dice for the X-wings, they use four in squadron fights and you are only supplied with three. Also the table space for a full scale objective needs two large tables to be played out (6 x 6 foot). Lastly, the cost is quite high, the core set is triple the price over the X-wing: Miniatures game. The expansions which bring in more Capitol ships for each faction are expensive too – this is an expensive game, especially for what Fantasy Flight are touting as a collectible game.
If you are able to overlook the costs involved, then I highly recommend Star Wars Armada. A collectible war-game with stunning models and a very neat and easy game play, that is fast, engaging and will keep you coming back for more.
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Paul Matthews is a Sales Manager for Gamesquest Ltd, as well as a part-time Board game Demonstrator and Blogger. After several years playing Yu-gi-oh at Tournament level, his latest passion is all things board gaming. Besides playing board games, Paul is a part time author and enjoys reading and archery. Paul has a Degree in Humanities Psychology/Counselling and several Life-skill Degrees in Parenting, Horse Management and Ecommerce.