Monday, 14 December 2015

Star Wars Armada by Fantasy Flight Games core game Unboxing

When I was  young lad I had the Star Wars toys, figures, and ships, walkers, pretty much all of it, and the ships where my favourite, I spent many an hour hurtling around with my X-Wing in one hand and my TIE fighter in the other using quotes from the film and playing space battles in my mind.  Fantasy Flight Games released X-Wing the miniatures game which brought me back to that again, with beautiful scale fighters dogfighting, and all the quotes came back out.... "Stay on Target", "I have him now", "Red five reporting in".  It is a great game, fast and brutal. 

When I saw Fantasy Flight Games where doing a fleet battle game, with the big star ships, Star Destroyers, Corvettes, Nebulon-Bs, Mon-Calamri cruisers, and tiny little fighters, my interest was piqued.  Being an admiral on the bridge of a Star Destroyer... who would not want to do that, again more quotes to use in gaming "intensify forward firepower", the battle of Endor, where the fleets clash is great motivation.  I am a fan of naval history, so big lumbering startships instead of quick snub fighters really appeals.  There are still fighters in this game, but they are squadrons on small bases instead of individual ships.



Fantasy Flight Games say......
Rebel and Imperial fleets fight for the fate of the galaxy in Star Wars: Armada, the two-player miniatures game of epic Star Wars space battles!
Massive Star Destroyers fly to battle against Rebel corvettes and frigates. Banks of turbolasers unleash torrential volleys of fire against squadrons of X-wings and TIEs. Engineering teams race to route additional power to failing shields. Laser blasts and explosions flare across the battlefield. Even a single ship can change the tide of battle.
In Star Wars: Armada, you assume the role of fleet admiral, serving with either the Imperial Navy or Rebel Alliance. It’s your job to issue the tactical commands that will decide the course of battle and, perhaps, the fate of the galaxy.
 
So lets take a look, see what we get inside and what the games like....

First thing you will notice is this is a BIG box, certainly when compared to X-Wing. Do prepare yourself though, there is a LOT in this box, so you will not be up and playing in minutes, give yourself plenty of time and some peace to enjoy it....
The first thing that greets you when you take the lid off are the ships, safe in their own plastic storage section. And a thick wrapped packet with the manual.  When you open this there are a fair few bits in that package alone.  Being Fantasy Flight Games you know a lot of them will be tokens, and you will be right there are a lot!, all the usual high quality.
 
 Three large sheets, full of tokens, bases, dials, range rulers and all sorts! don't be overwhelmed it will all start making sense,
 I love the scenery in this set, the asteroids, and debris fields, and the great looking Space Station.  There is no reason you can not use these in your games of X-Wing as well to add some variety to your games.
 You can see the firing arcs on the ships bases, being capital ships you have forward, broadside, and rear arcs, and you can also see not every ship has the same arcs.... the Star Destroyer has a huge front arc, and smaller side arcs, the Nebulon-B has very wide side arcs, but small front and rear arcs.  I really like the fact that the arcs are different, adds a lot more thinking to the roles of each ship.
 These are dials for your fighter squadrons, on one side they have the special character icon, and plain on the other so you can decide who you want to use.


You can see the parts that go into making command dials, and defence tokens here.  When you get into the manual that has a nice section about assembly and shows what each token is for it will make a lot more sense.  Like the recent Star Wars X-Wing The Force Awakens Starter Set the rule book are broken up into two.  You have a learn to play booklet that guides you through assembly, and then the basics of playing your first game and where to go from there, all full colour, with helpful diagrams to help you learn.  The other book is a detailed and concise overview of all the rules, all laid out in alphabetical order.  Using this you can find out exactly what you need to if there is a query whilst playing, its very handy to keep next to you whilst playing as a reference guide for the rules.

The books are great and A4 sized, so I keep mine on my shelf now so I can just pick it up for easy reading.

Once you have digested all the rules and tokens, you see how much else is in this box. Its full of bits and pieces, cards and dice.

In a bag are all the parts to make the manoeuvre tool.  This is one of the most innovative features of the game. Once assembled, and the tokens popped into it, it acts as your movement guide.

Depending on the speed of your ship you can adjust the manoeuvre tool a certain amount of clicks one way or the other at each join up to your speed dependant on the ship of course, a CR90 can be zinging around a lot easier then a lumbering Star Destroyer.  You do not pre-plan your movements in this game, though you still need to think ahead as you fire BEFORE you move.  Once assembled, it feels fine and the clicks are solid in it.
These are your command dials, nice and easy to assemble.  Ships have different command values, which is how many dials you assign to them, a CR90 has 1 dial meaning you get to refresh it every turn so you are always able to react to what you need to and get the right command for the right job. 
At the start of each turn you put a new command into your dial and place it ont he bottom of the stack.

The Nebulon-B has two command dials, so you are planning two turns ahead, and the Victory Star Destroyer has 3 dials, so you have to plan carefully with it.  Each turn you top command dial which could be any of 4 commands.  Navigate lets you change your speed by one and increase your yaw (amount of clicks on a zone of the manoeuvre tool) by one as well.  This command lets you get around a bit easier.  A Squadron command lets you activate fighters within a certain range of you out of the squadron phase. 
Each ship has a squadron rating showing more many squadrons it can affect with this command.  This allows them to move AND fire, where as normally in the squadron phase they can only move OR shoot.  This command can give that edge and early strike if played at the right time.  The Engineering command lets you do certain things to repair your ship dependant on the amount of engineering points it has.  Some ships have plenty, others... not so much.  With this command you can use the points for different things, removing a damage card, putting a shield back up or moving a shield from one zone to another.  Each of those options have a different cost providing flexibility, though it is rare you will have enough engineering points to complete all you desire, so it does cause some hard challenges, which I really like.
The last command you can issue is the Concentrate Fire command.  This allows you to add an extra dice of any colour involved in the attack.  This is the command you want if you to try and put your enemy down. plus lets me yell (only when shooting from the front) "Intensify forward firepower!"

When you reveal a command dial, you can either use it there and then, or if you wish you can trade it in for a token that sits on your command that provides a lesser effect of the dial, but can be stored and used when needed.

You get a handy card sized reference for what you can do with the dials and tokens, two copies of it so you and your opponent can both have one.  I found this to be really helpful as it saved on flicking through the book.

You also get a copy of the card that tells you how defence tokens work.  When you are attacked and hit in this game you do not roll any defence dice.  Ships have inbuilt defence systems you can use, ranging from redirect where you can send the damage from one shield zone to another, or Brace where you half the incoming damage.  You can see the different kinds below.  Each turn when you use one you flip it over to its exhausted side, if you want to use it again you can but you must discard it.  At the start of each turn you ready your defence tokens again.  I love the theme of this, yelling commands like BRACE for impact! redirect to the starboard shields, it feels thematic, and leaves you lots of tactical options, do you use them early, or let the odd bit through to save them for another salvo.

The ship bases take more assembly then those in X-Wing, but are a lot more functional and really cut down on the number of tokens on the table.  You attach the shield dials to the underside of the base so you can always adjust the dials to reflect the amount of shields remaining in each zone.
 
 
You get a bag of dice, 3 different colours of dice.  These are used for your combat and reflect ranges.  Black dice being close range, and having the potential for critical and hit on the same face.  Blue dice are for medium range combat, and Red for Long range.  You can fire all available dice for your range when you fire, so firing at close range you can roll all black red and blue, whilst firing at long range only Red.
  The Range ruler has a nice visual reminder of what dice can be used at what range.  The dice a ship throws are displayed on its store card, and also on the base of the ship so you can always see easily.  There are three main symbols on the Dice, the damage symbol which is familiar to X-Wing players, the Critical symbol, and a new one that looks like a weapon sight.  This is the Accuracy symbol. 
When attacking and you roll an accuracy symbol it does not cause damage, but you can spend it to select an opponents defence token they can not use.  You can sides with double hits on, or a hit and a critical, so the dice can be deadly in this game.  One issue I have with it, like most Fantasy Flight Games is that there are not enough dice in the core set, yes you can remember and roll an extra one, but for the price it would be nice to have more dice.

Each Ship in the set gets two differing cards for it, one for each version, which differ in points, stats and available upgrade slots.  This provides some options, and tough tactical choices.
These cards are an unusual size, "Tarot" sized cards.  They do need to be big though to provide all the information you need for each ship.  you get a list of the ships different command ratings, speed, and yaws (clicks on the tool) for its manoeuvre.  you also get a layout of the amount of dice fired from each of your ships four arcs, and how many shields you start with in each arc.  You also get your hull points.  and anti squadron fire, which represents your fire against squadrons, so small lasers.  You tend to only get one or two dice for anti squadron fire, but when you choose to do it you do get to fire at all squadrons in arc and range of your firing hull zone with it.
When you receive a hit in a zone with no shields damage goes to the hull.  When you have the same amount of damage cards as you have hull points your are destroyed.

The art on the cards is great and neat, easy to read, and the back of them are very nice as well

The game works in four main phases....

The first phase sees you plan commands for your capital ships. you load up your dials.  Ont he first turn of the game its the full amount of dials, but in subsequent turns its only ever one.

The second phase lets your Capital ships do their thing. You take it in turns activating one ship a side.  You reveal your top command dial, complete the command, attack and then manoeuvre. Capital ships may attack from up to two of their four hull zones, you can either fire at capital ships or squadrons.

The third phase is the squadron phase. Squadrons get to either move or shoot in this phase, which is in contrast to if they were activated via a squadron command earlier in the turn.  If a squadron moves into certain range of another it becomes Engaged, and can not break off unless it has special rules to do so. so they must fight it out to the death.  This to me represents the fact a squadron of fighters that close would not be able to just withdrawn without being bounced, so it adds to the strategy you can use, you can try to lock down their fighters to stop them going for your ships.
You get a standard squadron card that tells you its damage against squadrons, ships, and any special ability's they have.  You only need one card for how ever many squadrons you have as damage fro them is tracked on their own individual bases.  You also get an "Ace" pilot for each side, Luke for the Rebels, and Howlrunner for the Empire, that add extra abilities and have their own defence tokens as well.
 
Ties for example are weak in hull points, but cheap, Xwings are strong and have the potential to do more damage to capital ships due to their bomber rule which feels thematic as they  fire proton torpedoes.  Fighters have a nice little toggle on their bases to show if they have been activated or not.

The last phase is almost a rest phase preparing for the next turn. retuning defence tokens and spent crew options to normal.

 You get a good sized selection of upgrades to add to your ships,  if they have the corresponding slot available to them, they range from things like support teams, to hanger bays, all sorts of things to personalise your fleet.

You also get Admirals, you must have one in each fleet, for the Rebels you have General Dodonna, and for the Imperials Grand Moff Tarkin.  These add abilities to your fleet, and must be on a ship designated as your Flagship with the appropriate provided token.  Other waves will come with different Admiral upgrades providing more flexibility to your forces, and this combined with the upgrades allow you to tailor your force to your own personal play style.
To track damage you have your damage deck.  When you are hit and your shields reduced you just spin the appropriate dial down by 1 on your ship, but when you are hit with no shields you suffer a damage card face down.  A critical effect gives you one face up, and these can be both devastating and thematic drawing your more into the game.  Blinded gunners means you can not spend your accuracy tokens, compartment fire means you can not ready your defence tokens.  I can just imagine the alarms going off as the crew are working to contain the fire, yelling for updates from the bridge.  it really adds another element of storytelling to the game.
 
Now for the bit you have all been waiting for, the ships..... these things are stunning!
You get the Victory class Star Destroyer, the Nebulon-B frigate, and the CR90 Corvette.  The rebels get 4 squadrons of Xwings, and the Empire gets 6 squadrons of TIE Fighters.
 From every angle it looks great, and is mounted on its own class sized base, so far ranging from small ship, to large ship, with the Victory class in the medium ship base scale.

 Even underneath it is highly detailed.
Not a sight you want to see approaching you, but when you get down to tabletop level it looks fantastic.

When you get in close, you can see the amount of detail on the model, and the painting is top notch.



 The iconic shield generators of a star destroyer are modelled perfectly.

 
Its high enough quality to be sat on your shelf when you are not playing as a display model.
Fantasy Flight games have listened to their customers who wished that the engines on the ships in X-Wing had engine glow effects, and they have answered that for Armada by providing the ships with a nicely painted engine glow.  This receives a big thumbs up from me.
The Rebel Nebulon-B frigate is again, highly detailed, and well painted.  Seen in the Empire Strikes back, and Return of the Jedi, another ship that is instantly recognisable to any fan.  I do have a slight issue with the model though, the rear section has a droop in it, due to the packaging, its easily fixable with a bit of heat, but it still would be nice to not have to do this.  This is not a problem I have found in the expansion pack Nebulon-B

The model is again well painted, though the rear section does look like it could do with another wash just to dull it down a bit.

The CR90 Corvette is a tiny ship, but then it should be compared to the other ships, its a Star Wars classic, as its the first ship you see in A New Hope.

Again, it has the engine glow on them as the other ships do.

the detail is as with the other ships superb,

The Fighter squadrons are a little let down, in the fact that they are not pre-painted like the other ships, its not as important due to the fact they are more representative markers, and are moulded in a plastic appropriate for their faction.  the TIE fighters had a little warping, but once on the table top you don't really notice it, or the fact they re unpainted due to the fact they are tiny.

Small as they are they easy to tell apart as they have the classic iconic shapes we are all used to, and I have seen some people paint them to make them look fantastic.  ITs not needed, but if you are a dab hand with a brush it can really increase their look.

The last thing we have are the mission cards.... now this game works differently from most war games I have played where you roll to see what mission you play.  Here you pick one from each of the red Offensive missions, yellow Defensive missions and blue Navigation missions.

You do this at list building stage, so you pick the best missions to suit your play style and fleet, then when the game begins, player 1 picks from player 2s selection.

This makes fleet building important, also do you want to try and have less then the required points value to "bid" for first player? so you attack and move first? or be second player and react, but not have choice of which mission it is.

This system is great, and adds another level of tactical depth to the list building. as you choose the best for you, but must also be aware of what other missions are out there.
 
Overall the game is great, its not hard to learn, but has huge depth, and customisation with other ship expansion packs and upgrade cards.  The rules are well written and presented, and the ship models are excellent.  The price is somewhat on the high side, but you do get a lot in the box, and if you are Star Wars fan you will certainly have plenty of fun with it, its thematic, and nostalgic for Star Wars fans, and a solid fleet game for non Star Wars fans as well!
 
You can pick up your own copy of Star Wars Armada for the RRP of £79.99 from your local Game store that you can find here, then you can join the Empire or Rebel forces in their fight for supremacy, or freedom depending on your point of view.
 
stay with us to see the game in action tomorrow as we roll out the learning scenario for a battle report.