Armada Unleashed 2: Playing Around

Space Cthulhu eats a VSD handing me an undeserved win.

Space Cthulhu eats a VSD handing me an undeserved win.

So I just got back from the LGS where I played several games of Armada.  So far I’ve only played as the Rebel Alliance and I doubt I’d have much interest in playing the Imperials so that suits me.  Even if the Imperials do suit my “Subtle is a smaller sledgehammer to the face right?” mentality.  First I’m going to talk about how the game plays, then I’m going to run through how I feel about these decisions and mechanics.

How it Plays

So the basic mechanics of the game are, you set everything up, including your stack of commands, your ships, your fighters, your defense tokens, your turn marker, your initiative marker, your scenery, your deployment markers, everything.  Each turn you flip over the top marker in your command stack (on subsequent turns you pick a new command to go on the bottom) and start activating your ships.  When you reveal a command you can choose to convert it into a token that has less power than the command dial but can be banked up and spent later, a ship can bank up as many tokens as it has command points.  This gives large, lumbering ships some flexibility by letting them store more tokens, at the cost of having a lower chance of having a useful dial command on any given turn.

Large ships activate alternately, with the ship activating, then moving, and special commands being used throughout the turn.  This can give you some interesting combinations.  Longer ranged ships can activate earlier in the turn without issue, closer ranged ships like to activate later to increase the chance of getting shots in.  Ships then move in a more flexible manner than in X-Wing, you don’t commit to a move until you’ve had a lot of time to measure and prepare (outside of tournaments) and ships like the CR-90 Corvette can really dance around the field.  Both firing resolution and movement resolution are very simple, without the opposed dice rolls, and reactions, and re-rolls that can drag out the X-Wing sequence, there’s a roll, a defensive reaction, MAYBE a re-roll, and move on.  Just simplifying a step makes life a lot easier.

During large ship activation you can use dial commands or tokens.  These use the same icons but commands are better than tokens.  For example the Concentrate Firepower command gives you an extra dice, the token gives you a re-roll.  The squadron one is where the game gets interesting.  An Escort Frigate has a squadron value of 2.  This means that it can activate 2 squadrons with the command, or 1 without.  Those squadrons can move and shoot, or shoot and move, during the frigates activation.  Quite spicy.  The other commands let it repair or manage damage, or adjust it’s speed and maneuver batter.  This is the only way to change speed without upgrade cards.

Fighters that aren’t activated by large ships activate at the end of the turn.  They can move or shoot.  This severely limits their ability to engage the enemy, though depending on their role it lets them still contribute.  Fighters can roll a lot of dice against other fighters but generally only roll one dice against capital ships and only hits count (hits and criticals if you are a bomber, which the X-Wing is).  Fighter Squadrons are highly specialized and the Ace squadrons are even more so.  Luke Skywalker can skip shields and start chipping away at a ships hull right away, Howlrunner makes other fighters do even more damage just by being there.

Fleet building is an interesting challenge.  There’s a couple of real wombo-combos so far, Grand Moff Token… erm… Tarkin leads the pack by handing out tokens each turn to his ships.  The Rebels can build lots of crit combos around their ships using Dodonna’s ability to select a certain critical hit out of four whenever one is played.  This can be brutal as critical hits are just that, critical.  They do immediate and sometimes catastrophic damage to a ship.  Others can give ships added capability, like additional attack dice, or special abilities on crits.  There’s already a lot of depth in the game even with just the starter set, once Wave 1 arrives at the end of next month things might get silly.

This would be a lot better for me if the Corvette hadn't gone from out of range to here in one turn.  It died shortly thereafter.

This would be a lot better for me if the Corvette hadn’t gone from out of range to here in one turn. It died shortly thereafter.

My Reactions

Ok, this game has a LOT more depth to it than X-Wing.  Movement is more fluid, damage resolution is quicker, but turns are longer as there’s a lot of measuring, planning and thinking going on.  Ship movement is neat.  Having to plan on firing before you move is awkward, and it’s meant to be.  I like the mechanic but it is going to take a LOT of getting used to.  As a Rebel player I had a lot of trouble getting both my ships in range to do something in the same turn.  I expect this to be somewhat easier as the games get bigger, 2 on 1 matches are a bit rough as I have to move a ship that is dealing with the only Imperial ship on the table.

Firing resolution is very fast, as it should be.  Once an attack is planned, executing it shouldn’t be a huge to do, and sometimes in X-Wing it felt like it was with dice being modified, re rolled, etc, to what felt like an excessive extent.  While that CAN happen in this game, it isn’t the norm.  Yet anyway.

The integration of fighters into a battle is going to be a very interesting thing to watch.  I love fighters and I plan on using them heavily in a fleet, having to use a fighter command to get the most out of them is a REALLY neat idea, with the current lack of dedicated carriers and general dearth of them in the Star Wars canon it ought to be interesting to see how this plays out.  There’s a lot of things you want capital ships to do and purely shepherding fighters isn’t always one of them, of course once a fighter gets into combat it can generally be left alone.  Another neat mechanic is how fighters engage each other.  Once fighters are in range they lock up and must shoot at each other, they cannot move.  This means that one sacrificial lamb can jump into a throng of enemy fighters and tie down the whole striker force.  Tie being the operative word, at 8 points each a TIE squadron can very easily tie up many more points of Rebel fighters on a key turn.  Pre-empting this will be a major tactic in getting your own bombers onto the target.  Of course that means you have to spend your precious fighter activations on your interceptor to get it there.  See what I mean when it comes to complexity?

Movement is what this game turns on.  Having to fire, then move means you HAVE to think a turn ahead, and having to move first can mean getting hit on the chin at times.  I don’t think it will be quite as extreme once wave 1 comes out but there were times when I had ships roll into range and get alpha’d by a well prepared Victory I.  That hurts.

The turn before the previous pic.  That's how fast movement can be.

The turn before the previous pic. That’s how fast movement can be.

The gameplay is fun, it feels faster than it is, this game is an hour-eater.  It has the flow and scope of the kind of epic battles you see in the movies, and it’s easy for me to see what I’m looking forward to and what I’m worried about.  I’m looking forward to big battles with lots of ships zooming about, pounding each other while wings of fighters slash and fence between them.  Escorts charge in to harass major ships, while the big brutes hammer each other, ocasionally venting their wrath at an escort that has drifted out of place.

What I worry about is people saying “Ok, for 400 points I can build a mammoth ISD, park it in a corner for 5 turns, vaporise anyone with the temerity to come near me and have enough fighters and fast escorts to nip out on the last turn and deal with any pesky objectives”.  Currently most of the ridiculous combos are offensive, and make demolishing ships easier, not harder, but it only takes one wonky card to tilt the balance and that is a worry I have for the game, especially with even bigger, harder to kill ships on the way.

Still the gameplay is excellent, engaging, fun and did not disappoint.  10/10 for gameplay, 8/10 for box contents.

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About Corelin

An Eve playing Fool who occasionally writes about the shenanigans he and his minions get up to.

Posted on March 29, 2015, in Armada, Fantasy Flight Games, Miniatures, Reviews, Star Wars and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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