Star Wars Armada: First Game, First Impressions

Last night I managed to play two 180 point games of Armada with my friend Yik and it was a lot of fun! The game is officially released today and I’d like to talk to you about it, just in case you’re considering buying in. Hopefully tomorrow or the day after I will post an article about what happened in both games I played, but for today I’d like to give you my first impressions of the game.

When someone asks me, “do you want the good news or the bad news first?” I always want to hear the bad news. So let’s start with what I didn’t like about this game.

After playing two games, we realized that we are missing out on the complete “Armada” experience. In this, there are definite parallels to playing X-Wing. With only the core contents (Luke vs two TIEs) you get one limited version of the game. When you have many list options and have a battle between two well tailored 100 point squads, it’s something much more dynamic, deep and fun.

What’s so bad about that you ask? Well an X-Wing starter box will cost you $40 while an Armada one is a whopping $100. Be warned, for that $100 you don’t get the complete game experience! This will be a very expensive game to play, make no mistake about it.

When Wave 1 hits, if you want to buy one of everything, you’re going to be dropping around $200.  Some people are considering buying a second core set because of the news that when wave 2 hits, the point limit will go up to 400 points per side. So, you’re looking at spending $300 – $400 on Armada to start and then probably $150ish every wave. That’s not cheap if you play other games.

Do you know what is cheap though? FFG not giving you the required dice to play the game after you gave them $100!!! I gotta say, it really bothered me. I felt used and dirty inside.  Every time I had to roll 4 dice when an X-Wing attacked, there were only 3 to be had. I’d always dead pan the question to Yik, “where’s the other die?” and then continue to play. Not having that die breaks the rhythm of the game as you have to start remembering die faces when doing re-rolls and it really takes you out of the game when you feel like a sucker.

Why did I feel like a sucker? It’s the price point. In X-Wing I didn’t mind the lack of dice as two core sets made sense. I was a sicko and even bought 3 of them because I wanted to run a TIE Swarm. It was good value for the money and I didn’t mind spending it. I have incredibly fond memories of playing that game in it’s early days and I never felt ripped off, only bright eyed, bushy tailed and happy 😀

However, for $100, I want that little extra glob of plastic goo so I can roll like a normal person when my X-Wing shoots! FFG, please treat me like a valued client and not some junkie that will buy whatever Star Wars drug you’re peddling!

Another issue we discovered was that if both sides play well, you can’t kill the Victory Star Destroyer in 6 rounds as the Rebels. Now mind you, we were just playing death matches which is not how the game is played, but still, it would have been nice to blow stuff up! At 180 points, there didn’t seem to be enough firepower on the board. This is similar to my point of not having the complete experience, but I really wanted stuff exploding all over the place and didn’t get that fix like I get with games of X-Wing.

Lastly, and this is a nitpick more than anything, the big domes on the tops of Star Destroyers are shield generators and that symbol is called the “Defensive Retrofit.” Pretty cool huh?

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You know what’s not cool? Not being able to put that friggin card on a Star Destroyer even though you can see the generator on the bloody model. Come on man, how could you let that go design team guys? Just change the symbol for the upgrade or something. It’s pretty counter intuitive and silly in my opinion.

Other than feeling like I’m being swindled, I really enjoyed playing Armada. There is a lot to master in this game. It has many nuances and incredible depth of play with list/objective building options. When we played last night, we didn’t use objectives or asteroids. If those aspects of the game were included in our matches, they would have created a much more strategic play experience and changed the game considerably. When I think about board position, objective selection, list building and the initiative bid I get a sense that Armada will be a deeply strategic game.

Since we only worried about flying around and shooting each other, we both got a good sense of the different ships. Each ship felt very unique.

The fire arcs on the frigate made presenting it’s large sides a scary proposition since they are incredibly weak. The Corvette was fast and could react well with it’s orders since it could be given a fresh command dial every round. Both Rebel ships loved to stay at long range and away from the dreaded forward arc of the Victory.

The Victory felt like a slow and lumbering ship. It was chomping at the bit to get someone into range 1, but it rarely happened. High engineering scores and squadron command made the ship feel like it had a large crew in comparison to the rebels. For example, we discovered a synergy where you could complete your move in one turn as the Empire player. If you give the Victory the Expanded Fighter Bay card and,

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select the squadron command along with a token from Tarkin, you can move and shoot 5 of your TIE Fighters and get all but a measly TIE activated in your turn. The only thing is you must keep everyone together as the TIEs need to be in range of the command. That’s not so bad as it feels like the TIEs are escorting the Victory.

From what I’ve seen, there is more strategic depth to Armada than X-Wing. There are very nice touches and details to the game with lots of moving parts like initiative bids, different missions to be played and list synergies and strategic builds. Will you run a carrier list, a big brute with some support, or a fleet with a lot of different smaller ships? There are objective cards to counter and hinder each type of list and certain lists work better when you have initiative. Now mind you, this is all stuff we talked about after looking at the rules when our matches were over, so don’t take my word as definitive. My first impressions and insights into the game might be wrong. However, I’m not wrong about the cheap dice trick though! Really FFG?! You just couldn’t resist, you just couldn’t give us three extra little globs of plastic and had to try and shake us down for more cash!? *shakes fist at FFG’s greed!*

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Personally,  what I’m looking forward to most is Team Epic Tournament play! It should be a more rewarding play experience than the X-Wing Epic play and have the look and feel of a pitched battle. What I enjoy with Team Epic is you get to hang out with a friend all day and play “teams” which is much more relaxing than 1 vs 1. Besides, if he’s really good, you can just ride his coat tails to glory and then say you did it all yourself behind his back 😛

I’d need to play Armada for months before “figuring it out” to the level I have with X-Wing. Still, from what little I’ve gleaned, I rather like the game. I’m also excited to repaint all the tiny X-Wings and TIE Fighters so keep your eyes posted here as I will definitely throw up an article or two about that.

Tonight I’m off to play the final game of my game groups Imperial Assault campaign. When you consider all the cool stuff FFG is releasing for Star Wars, you just can’t help but get excited! However, all these games take time and money! If there is one thing you should take away from this article, it’s that Armada will take lots of your time and even more of your money so be aware of that before buying in. If however, you do want to keep playing X-Wing, Imperial Assault and Armada all at the same time, bend over and grab your ankles, it’s going to be one hell of a ride!

 

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3 thoughts on “Star Wars Armada: First Game, First Impressions”

  1. Good to hear another positive review. We play our first game Sunday. Can’t wait.

    Can’t wait for that Imperial-class Star Destroyer either, heh. She’s gunna be a beast!

    1. I kind of wish they put an Imperial-class Star Destroyer and a Mon Calamari Cruiser in the starter box but FFG is trying to squeeze every dollar out of this game, so unfortunately we have to wait until wave 2.

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