Welcome, stranger, to my menagerie of thoughts after the GenCon North American championship. This document is somewhat organized into four sections: list section, game insight, the GenCon batrep, and closing thoughts. With an Admiral whose strength is maneuvering, it will be difficult to describe the small choices in positioning with text. There will be a few pictures along the way to colour your journey.
Part 1: List Selection
My approach to list building was to be anti-meta. I will not deny it; my list is very easily countered. Reeiakan aces and being second player against more than two ships will give me fits. I have been tinkering with the Imperial two-ship archetype since the release of Wave 2 and I feel that it coalesced for GenCon. Without further adieu, I present my list and building philosophy below.
Faction: Galactic Empire
Commander: Admiral Ozzel
Assault Objective: Precision Strike
Defense Objective: Hyperspace Assault
Navigation Objective: Superior Positions
[ flagship ] Gladiator I-Class Star Destroyer (56 points)
– Admiral Ozzel ( 20 points)
– Demolisher ( 10 points)
– Admiral Montferrat ( 5 points)
– Ordnance Experts ( 4 points)
– Engine Techs ( 8 points)
– Assault Proton Torpedoes ( 5 points)
= 108 total ship cost
Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer (120 points)
– Relentless ( 3 points)
– Wulff Yularen ( 7 points)
– Gunnery Team ( 7 points)
– Boosted Comms ( 4 points)
– Electronic Countermeasures ( 7 points)
= 148 total ship cost
1 “Mauler” Mithel ( 15 points)
1 Darth Vader ( 21 points)
1 Major Rhymer ( 16 points)
1 Soontir Fel ( 18 points)
1 Firespray-31 ( 18 points)
1 Boba Fett ( 26 points)
1 Dengar ( 20 points)
My ISD originally was outfitted with Support Officer and Avenger. It was a last minute change to go with Wulff Yularen and Relentless. However, after the event I missed the Avenger title and could do away with the Relentless title. In the future, I could potentially go to an 8-point initiative bid for Avenger, however, I would consider that risky. If I went for the Avenger title, I would also consider dropping the ECM to increase my initiative bid to 15 points. I would be concerned removing the ECM as it is another workhorse in the list, extending my very limited HP pool and survivability. I have tested with an ISD-I carrier build (six squadron activations every turn!) and 12 squadrons, but found the ISD-I’s firepower and longevity lackluster.
My squadrons are also something I experimented with extensively. I would have replaced my Firespray with two TIE Bombers but I forgot to pack the squadron card. Keeping the Firespray turned out to be the right choice and I did not suffer from having one less squadron deployment. My ‘super friends’ were a reaction to getting beaten up badly in the Livonia MI regionals by Reeiakan aces list. My generic Jumpmasters kept getting sniped when I needed them the most. The solution was a durable Intel ship – Dengar. I tried different ratios of aces-to-generics and found that I generally needed the more durable aces. Win the squadron battle, win the game.
My initiative bid was somewhat carefully crafted as well. From experience, a typical Rebel list bidding on initiative will go 4 to 6 points. A traditional 3 ship Imperial carrier will bid around 8 to 9 points. A list that really wants initiative will bid upwards of 14 and can go as high as 25. There was no way I could compete with a DeMSU bid without gutting important upgrades or squadrons, so I settled on 10 and hoped no one with a three ship list would do 11. I have previously cut upgrades on the ISD (I don’t dare touch the Demolisher setup: it’s perfect) but found performance rapidly falls off.
Another subtle switch was putting Ozzel on the Demolisher. This was to hedge my point losses. The weakest part of the list is actually the ISD. I dislike having the rest of my list working overtime to recoup a 168-point hole. I can lose either the Demolisher or the Relentless and still be ok for fleet functionality and points lost.
Red and blue objectives are obvious, however, the Hyperspace Assault choice is another hedging maneuver. If I had initiative, I would always take first player. However, if my opponent outbid me, it was likely they were flying some sort of DeMSU. I chose Hyperspace Assault to hide 3 squadrons and the Demolisher until my ISD was threatened. It would present my opponent with a difficult choice: do you save the ship threatened by my Demolisher double arc or do you activate the ship with double arc on my ISD to try to cripple it?
I love presenting my opponent with difficult choices. That is why I missed having the Avenger so much. There’s nothing quite like revealing a squadron command on the Avenger with a full complement of heavy bombers in range. “Are you going to brace?” becomes an evil, evil question with every shot.
Part 2: Game Insight
The primary topic I want to talk about is Quynh Nguyen’s concept of tempo (article link here). He talked in great detail about objectives that create tempo, such as contested outpost, fire lanes, and intel sweep. These are objectives that force your opponent to fly into you and with clever setup, give you the ability to dictate when and where the fleet engagement will occur. The tempo advantage presented comes from being second player and controlling your objective choices. Tempo is doing things to force action.
The design of my list encourages me to be first player, so to press my advantage, I want to choose my opponent’s objectives that do not generate them tempo. I wanted to see if I could generate tempo from some sort of upgrade card combinations. There are three: Major Rhymer, Demolisher and Admiral Ozzel.
The threat range that Major Rhymer generates is massive. I often sacrifice Major Rhymer to bait my opponent into engaging him. I have control of when I send Major Rhymer in to start bombing runs, which forces a condition that my opponent must answer. Where Major Rhymer is dictates where the squadron battle will occur, which is a form of squadron tempo.
Demolisher is another well-explored form of tempo generation. The threat range on Demolisher again is more than the length of a range ruler. Admiral Ozzel further helps the Demolisher in this list, allowing it to move at Speed 1, sometimes with Engine Techs, until the moment to strike is right. Once the Demolisher engages, my opponent must react to it.
The tempo that Ozzel generates is a subtle point. While Motti offers raw survivability through additional hull points, Ozzel offers survivability through avoiding dangerous range bands using speed control. Defense tokens in Armada can easily become overwhelmed through multiple damage sources, so controlling how much damage you receive is vital to ship survival. Wulff Yularen enables maximization of Admiral Ozzel’s ability. An ISD at Speed 1 or 2 has full access to all possible speeds allowing for very erratic movement. A well-timed Speed 0 hard stop or Speed 3 dash can catch an opponent in a poor position to force an engagement with the ISD earlier or later than expected. Having the control of when the engagement occurs is a form of tempo.
Part 3: GenCon Batrep
For brevity, I will not be attaching my opponents’ lists in the report: they can be found on the official FFG Armada forums.
First player, precision strike
Brian had a double durable MC80 with a CR90 and B-Wings Akbar list. My thought here is to just pile damage on the MC80s and they’ll eventually drop. I opted to go for the Liberty first because I expected him to key in squadron commands turns 2 and 3. I guessed correctly and got very, very lucky scoring a Disengaged Fire Control critical with the Demolisher’s first APT shot on the Liberty. The Demolisher was going at Speed 3 with Montferrat, so it avoided a full Akbar broadside at close range! Remainder of the game was then merciless and brutal.
First player, dangerous territory
Francois is such a great guy and I was really happy to meet him. I knew of him as a friend of mine, Victor, was his teammate during the Worlds 2015 Team Armada event.
Francois had a squadron-less, five ship Akbar list. I don’t remember his other objectives but they frightened me so I went with Dangerous Territory. I placed my first two obstacles close to me and on opposite ends of the deployment area. He placed 3 in-line near the middle of the board close to his deployment zone. My third obstacle was placed in a corner close to his deployment zone.
My plan was to pretend the objectives do not exist and dismantle his fleet. In addition, I wanted to use the objectives to trick him into splitting his fleet in deployment. That plan worked and he deployed his Admonition in position to capture my third obstacle’s objective. However, for 15 VPs, I effectively removed the MC30 from the game!
I got super lucky again and landed another Disengaged Fire Control on his TRC CR90 with the Demolisher. That CR90 later went to collect an objective token, denying itself yet another volley onto the ISD. Four TRC shots avoided due to a lucky crit, which probably would have made the difference taking down my ISD.
Francois had an opportunity to block my ISD for a turn to allow the Admonition to catch up by sacrificing an AFMKII. He instead opted to unsuccessfully outrun the massive ISD front arc. After the game he admitted to the mistake and the deployment error that separated his Admonition from the rest of his fleet.
Second player, precision strike
I was caught off-guard from Phil’s massive 14-point initiative bid in a triple AFMKII (Intel Officer, TRC, ECM, Gunnery Team, ouch!) Akbar list. Losing first player against a list that can dish out huge amounts of damage was terrifying. However, he only had 4 A-Wings so I chose Precision Strike. In my mind, the worst case scenario was that I kill the 4 A-Wings and take a 6-5 victory.
Being first player, Phil set up his first AFMKII in one corner. I immediately set down my Demolisher in the opposite corner. That forced him to either split his fleet or take the 5-6 loss. He chose to split the fleet. While every volley hurt, it was just one ship’s worth of firepower short of bringing everything down. I played a dirty maneuver with the Demolisher, parking it in the front arc of all three AFMKIIs.
I eventually lost the demolisher, but traded for two AFMKIIs and his A-Wings. My bombers did work and the Relentless held long enough to clinch victory.
First player, superior positions
This was the most entertaining game of Gencon for me. Austin is a brilliant strategist who is not shy about dishing out New Yorker trash talk. He had a two Raider, loaded Screed-caddy GSD, Demolisher, Rhymer, and six Firespray list. Absolutely devastating to unprepared players. Only a 6-point initiative bid, however.
I set up roughly in the middle of the board while Austin positioned himself to round the board edge. His goal was to dismantle whichever ship I sent in first to engage him with his activation advantage. The match turned in to a game of chicken. Austin kept trying to bait me in to charging forward in to him with my fleet. I kept trying to get him to turn the damn corner. It was a battle of patience and endurance.
Once Major Rhymer started a bombing run on the rear of a Raider, Austin’s hand was forced and he committed to taking down my Major Rhymer. He succeeded but I pinned down his squadron sprays just outside of close range AS support from his Raiders.
Admiral Ozzel and Wulff Yularen worked hard to get my ships turned and facing Austin’s fleet to catch it after it rounded the corner. The Relentless snuggled in between two obstacles and dropped to Speed 1 as Austin’s fleet entered range. My Demolisher and Relentless lost most of their shields after engaging into Austin’s fleet. However, at the top of round 6, my Demolisher activated, destroying his Demolisher and Raider before booking it.
First player, superior positions
I first saw Jeff at the Livonia MI Armada regionals (by the way, won by Mac, a Torontonian). His brother managed to 10-0 me with his Reeiakan super friends list (at the time I was trying GSD-I/ISD-I with regular bomber Rhymerball). So naturally when I saw the YT2400 variant of the Reeiakan super friends list, and the objectives it was packing, I started thinking of strategies to mitigate my loss. I was quite high in swiss standings so barring a complete 1-10 blowout for Jeff and one other individual at table 2, I was likely to make it to the final two.
If I recall correctly, Jeff had a 9-point initiative bid. This was the moment in the tournament when my initiative bid paid off. From testing, my meta-mates and I discovered that my list crumbles to a 3-ship carrier list with first player. However, I speculated such a list at the time was unlikely bid more than 8 to 9 points. My intuition was validated and I seized first player.
Gallant Haven and Jan Ors were so tough; I couldn’t draw away his fighters from the Gallant Haven nor could I snipe Jan. I lost the fighter engagement heavily. I hid Soontir, Dengar, and Rhymer from the first engagement in some asteroids. I sent them to their doom as required, just long enough to stall Jeff’s squadrons. Boba over-committed but got bailed out by Dengar, spending the remainder of the game floating to the station on 2 hull for a coffee. He even managed to find a CR90 on his way to score a VP token!
Demolisher got chipped to death by all the rogues after downing the Yavaris and doing some damage on the Gallant Haven. The Relentless finished off Galant Haven and sprayed down 1 HP Dash, Han, and Jan with Gunnery Team. At this point of the fight I threw in Dengar to tie down some YT2400 and kept Soontir floating at the rear of the ISD to protect against giving up Superior Position tokens. The ISD sped up to 3 and ran from the remaining YT2400 before the game ended.
Finished with 44 out of 50 points in swiss.
Second player, precision strike
This was almost a complete mirror match. When I met Dong, I felt his mannerisms and personality were very similar to my own – just the way he quietly made snarky remarks and his comments about why he was flying the list he had. So I thought, how do I win against myself as second player? If I keep my squadrons in a ball, his Dengar-Mithel combo will dismantle me. He has first player so he will dodge my arcs and outlive me with Motti. He also has a stronger bomber complement over mine.
Yik always wins against me by controlling speed and hiding squadrons in obstacles. In the last game we played, Yik used obstacles to sneak Nym by and land 3 blue crits in a row on my ISD. Painful!
During obstacle placement, I tried to think where I could place debris and asteroids to hide my squadrons while my ships advanced. The result was an upside-down, inverted ‘L’ facing me. Mauler Mithel cannot splash down on targets he is not engaged with, and obstruction prevents engagement. If I was going to win the squadron war as second player, I would have to bait Dong’s Mithel into carrier range and blast him down at any cost.
My Relentless and Demolisher stacked heavy squadron commands. The Relentless did a hard stop second turn. This was crucial as it shifted the likely place of engagement closer to my deployment zone. Dong had anticipated the engagement being higher up on the board and positioned his ships for a flank. If not for Ozzel and Wulff, that scenario might have been my doom.
The speed zero maneuver, coupled with a Rhymer, Boba and Firespray bombing of Dong’s Demolisher, forced his Mithel to splash. I was amused by his reluctance to splash Boba, as it would leave Boba in auto-damage range on Mithel (Boba is worth all 26 points, honestly). I countered with everything I had, including AS fire and squadron commands from the Demolisher (this baby does have squadron value 2!) and Relentless. This proved quite effective, in addition to Dong throwing his fighters in to the furball just to tie down my Starfighters.
My ISD began to square off with Dong’s Demolisher and ISD. With some additional speed control, I positioned my ISD outside of his medium range. My bombers flew from the furball to resume putting pressure on his Demolisher. With some sustained fire, his Demolisher went down. My ISD took a huge volley before speeding up again with Ozzel and getting behind Dong’s ISD. My Demolisher flew in and landed the killing blow on the ISD.
10-1 for Canada
I shook hands with everyone present, got my picture with Alex Davy, and then went back to my hotel room to eat a sandwich. I was so hungry.
Part 4: Closing Thoughts
GenCon was amazing! It was my first time there and will certainly not be my last. I have already booked my hotel for next year. All the events there were so much fun, from trying board game prototypes, to meeting online board game reviewers, to the exhibitor hall, to the tournaments, to the cosplays, to the shows, everything.
We went as part of Yik’s bachelor party and did many events together. Notably Nerdlesque and the local escape rooms were stellar. I was sad that I had to sell my ticket for True Dungeon to play in the final round. I was certainly not alone and without a support group, however. As some of my opponents may have noticed, sometimes hooligans would stop by our table to cheer, jeer, taunt, and resupply food and water. I apologize for my friends’ uncouth behaviour. I think next year I would do the Thursday flight to leave Friday open for the big events.
The Armada tournament itself was intense. Every opponent was exceptionally skilled; any misstep could have cost me a game. My list did everything I expected it to do. I was lucky at the right times and unlucky at the right times too. Across the event, there were four occasions when my Demolisher rolled two blanks and two regular hits after the Ordinance Experts re-roll! My myopic Relentless also whiffed basically every long-range shot. However, I can’t complain about the Disengaged Fire Controls criticals when they occurred.
I think my mindset and attitude were crucial. Before every game I would make sure that I was in the correct head space. I reminded myself to respect every opponent, to maintain discipline and composure, and to be calm. It wasn’t always easy, but during many of my matches I felt like I was “in the moment” and the cacophony of the convention around me did not exist – there was nothing but the Armada table (queue zen Buddhist chime sounds).
Toronto has a vibrant FFG gaming community, in large part due to several community-builders who shoulder the responsibility of getting people out on game nights, teaching new players, organizing and running events, and more besides. Victor in particular, is the chief advocate for Armada in Toronto. He’s constantly brewing new creative lists and providing demos to prospective players.
Why do I mention this? I know that it’s because of these efforts we have a strong group of players in the Toronto Armada community. We constantly talk shop, play hard fought games, and grow together as a group of friends. When I signed up for Armada at GenCon, I thought I would have a strong showing because of my community. I definitely wanted to win, but less so for myself and more for the Toronto community as a whole, who I feel deserves some respect and would celebrate my win with me.
Lastly dear reader, if you’ve made it this far, I’ll let you in on a little superstitious story. We in the 416 believe that whoever owes Carlo (our Toronto Armada Regionals champ) money, will win a tourney.
It all started when we took a trip to the Michigan Regionals. Our friend Mac was a little disorganized – he didn’t bring any money and kept wanting to eat at all these sketchy American diarrhea chicken outlets. Carlo ended up bankrolling him for the day in exchange for the promise of Mac’s Regional dice if he won. Guess what, Mac went on to win the Michigan Regionals!
A few weeks later, Carlo and I booked vacations to Montreal for the Canada Day weekend and the Quebec Armada Regionals. While eating breakfast at a café, I received a panicked Facebook message from Carlo saying, “Where are you?! They want to start the event. I paid for your registration. I’m trying to delay them until you get here. Hurry up!” I madly drove across the city without a GPS to the game shop, directions scrawled on a napkin. Since I owed Carlo the registration fee, I ended up winning the Montreal Regionals! Our theory is now two for two.
Thus, the legend was born…
So before I drove to Indianapolis with my friend Josh, I borrowed $1 from Carlo “for luck.” I also did this as a throwback to the 2002 Salt Lake City Games where both Canadian Olympic hockey teams won gold after burying a Loonie under the ice. The result of borrowing that Loonie from Carlo is described above.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed my batrep. I look forward to meeting you at 2016 Worlds or wherever our paths may cross.