I’m guessing everyone who cares about it heard Fantasy Flight’s announcement of a new Star Wars minis game: Star Wars Armada. It looks very similar to X-Wing but featuring massive capital ships in battle instead of fighters.
So the question is, does Armada actually approach combat from a new angle or is it just a cash in on the popularity of X-Wing minis and the well-refined flightpath system already in play?
I was very excited to get a chance to try out Armada at the show and I am happy to report that the game is excellent. While there is some overlap with X-Wing the game is uniue enough to stand on its own, and it really captures a more strategic view of space battles.
Since the scale is much bigger here, movement is a lot less precise. Squadrons of fighters just have a range, and when moved can be placed anywhere in the circle that they can reach; facing is unimportant for attacking.
For the capital ships themselves, the movement is still more precise, but with more flexibility. In your “planning” phase you set orders, but the orders are more generalized – you basically focus on one particular aspect of combat. You can change your speed, focus on your squadrons, increase your attack, and… um…. A fourth thing I can’t remember.
In an interesting twist, with the very large ships you’re actually setting up your orders a few rounds ahead of time – to capture the idea that your ship is huge and it takes time to put your orders into action. So the game focuses on planning ahead and not split-second reactions.
The actual movement of capitals ships reinforces this. You don’t pre-set a maneuver at all; instead, each ship has a limited ability to turn based on the speed they’re going. The movement template has joints at each movement level that can be made straight, or clicked up to 2 positions in either direction. Each position is only a slight degree off to the side, which means again, you have to plan ahead where you’re going to move your ship so you don’t accidentally fly it off the edge of the map. You can’t just do a sharp turn or pull a U, you have to slowly pitch to one side or the other, and you’ll need to think about when you need to adjust your speed so you can pull around in time.
Another interesting element of the movement template is that you’re not limited to simple turns. If you click your first joint to the left and the second to the right, you can sort of “strafe” the combat field as you move forward, allowing you to adjust position without losing your target. It’s a very clever system that makes capital ships feel like enormous, slow-moving behemoths.
Attacking again has similarities to X-Wing but a few differences as well. You have dice with hits, crits, and misses, sure, but plenty has been added to further reinforce the massive battle feel.
There are 3 colors of dice – black, blue, red – which have slightly sides. Black I believe is more likely to hit. The catch is, your range limits which dice you can use – at the farthest range, only red dice are allowed.
Both fighter squadrons and capital ships have colors of dice – which, incidentally, are different based on whether they’re attacking fighters or other capital ships – assigned to their various firing arcs, so while the Star Destroyer may have 3 red and 3 black dice on its forward guns, it can only use the black dice if it gets in to close range. Again, if you think about the scale of the battles, this really makes sense. It’s not just “long range” anymore it’s extreme range. It also allows the system to adapt attacks – an X-Wing squadron will put the hurt on a TIE squadron, but can do very little against the Star Destroyer unless they really gang up against it. Capital ships can hit other capital ships pretty hard but have less of a chance of hitting the tiny fighters zipping around them.
I also said “various firing arcs” – each capital ship has up to 4 firing arcs. Because they’re capital ships and their guns point sideways and back, not just forward. So, each round a capital ship can take up to 2 shots, but they have to be in different firing arcs. This means that you can fire your main guns at that opposing Star Destroyer and at the same time take out some of those pesky TIE squadrons harassing your sides. It also means that if you can position your ship correctly you can line up 2 firing arcs against one big capital ship and really unleash the broadsides.
Also a change is that no defense dice are rolled – which is good, because there are going to be a lot of attacks every round. Instead, each ship has defense tokens with various effects – half damage, force a re-roll, redirect damage to another part of the ship – stuff like that. Defenders can choose to spend those tokens or not, because they can only be used once per round. Then, replacing the “focus” eye of X-Wing is an accuracy icon which lets the attacker prevent the use of one of those defense tokens. It’s a pretty easy, straightforward system that leaves players in control of their actions.
Like X-Wing the ships have different commanders (or squad leaders) that can be used to build unique fleets, and ships also have upgrade bars to add additional abilities. We didn’t see any of those in the demo.
The components are, as to be expected, fantastic. The same level of detail applied to the X-Wing minis can be found here, and those large capital ship miniatures are just beautiful. There are a lot of innovative component designs here as well – capital ships have dials on each side to track shields, and squadrons have both a hit point dial and a clever marker that can be pushed in to indicate they’ve been activated already. The round colors alternate so you don’t have to re-set every squadron at the end of a round.
Basically, Armada is a fantastic game system so far. At a hefty $99 price tag the game is hard to swallow; but for what you get in the box, the price is fantastic. I don’t think I personally could afford to maintain an X-Wing and an Armada squadron, but I’m seriously considering selling of my X-Wing minis and jumping onto the Capital ship bandwagon instead. Seriously. I loved it.