By Andrew Dodson on August 15, 2014 at 7:14pm
Fantasy Flight Games really isn't messing around with its "Star Wars" games this year. In 2012, Fantasy Flight first came out with their "X-Wing Miniatures" game, which allowed players to build fleets of fighters and dogfight it out right on the kitchen table. Since then, they've released dozens of expansions, giving players access to more ships and more abilities and more ways to bring "Star Wars" to life. The game is fun, simple, and elegantly designed; you can pick it up and start playing in less than 15 minutes. Each game has the potential to be completely different from the last, but still, after playing a few rounds, you start to think about the other ships of the "Star Wars" universe, about how small an "X-Wing" is. And about how big some of the other ships are.
That is where "Star Wars: Armada" comes in. On the surface, the game appears to be very similar to the "X-Wing Miniature" game, but it is on a much larger scale. Rather than controlling a Tie-Fighter or X-Wing, you now control entire squadrons of fighters. And right behind them, you control the capitol ships of the "Star Wars" universe, massive bulks of star ships, designed specifically for war.
If you're familiar with the "X-Wing Miniature" game, then the rules for Armada are going to seem really familiar. You still make hidden commands on little spinny discs. You still use a laser blast ruler to determine if an enemy is in range. And you still have access to different cards that give your ships and squadrons different abilities.
Movement has changed, though.To account for the huge mass of the capital ships in the "Star Wars" universe, Fantasy Flight devised what I'm going to describe as a "bendy-movement-ruler-thing."
Once you determine how far you want the ship to move, you strategically place out the bendy-movement-ruler-thing, allowing you to maneuver between obstacles and bring ships into range of your firing arcs.
That's right. Arcs. Each capital ship is divided into four sections, each with its own weapon power, shield rating (which clicks down as you take damage), and its own arc. Unlike the "X-Wing Miniature" game, there is no pilot skill to consider, and capital ships always fire before moving. They are also able to fire from two different sections of their ship, which makes strategically maneuvering your ships into the heat of battle that much more important. If only one section of your ship is facing an enemy, you're going to deal less damage. At the same time, however, if the opponent can only see one part of your ship, you only risk that one section taking any damage.
Once the capital ships have had their go, the fighter squadrons buzz around the battlefield. Being as small as they are, they are able to go through the capital ships to get to their target. They also have a 360 degree firing arc, making them threats from wherever they are on the map. Also, due to their size, they're difficult to shoot down with the capital ships' turbolasers, so you have to rely on your own squadrons to deal with that menace, otherwise you'll spend the entire game getting stung by a tiny, untouchable swarm of fighters. And no one wants that.
As expected from Fantasy Flight, the rules seem air-tight, and the pieces look beautiful. It has already been revealed, however, that the price tag for the base set of Armada is going to be $100. This has stirred up some controversy, as a lot of would-be fans are not sure if the game itself is actually worth $100. In the core set, you get three pre-painted capital ships (two rebel and one imperial) and a bunch of plain, unpainted fighter squadrons. This early in the game, it's really hard to tell if Armada will be worth it. It is certainly big and has that look of a high-quality Fantasy Flight game, but at the same time, it doesn't look like it differs that much from the "X-Wing Miniatures" game (which I really enjoy, look for a review in the near future), which makes it hard for me to want to invest in it.
As we saw with the "X-Wing Miniature" game, we can probably expect to see a ton of expansion capital ships popping in on shelves after the game is released, which is currently set for early 2015.
It does provide an interesting opportunity to do a massive "Star Wars: Armada" game, but it boils down to "X-Wing Miniatures" when squadrons become engaged and if any ship gets boarded, you can jump to the just-announced "Imperial Assault" to do a ground-unit tactics game. In conjunction with the "Star Wars" RPG game (also by Fantasy Flight), you have a recipe for a $1,000-gaming experience that would probably be worth it.
Big thanks to Jen Carman (@Thren98), who was up at GenCon this year and was able to snap a few pictures of "Armada" being played.
Star Wars: Armada