Mr. and Mrs. Oak Try Out SW Armada
Hallo there House, I’m here to drizzle more Maple Syrup all over your Paincakes. July 1st was Canada Day, after all!
The Thuloid wrote an excellent review of Star Wars: Armada in late June, and this post is intended to be supplemental to that write-up, to show how it works in practice with a couple of total newbs. I’ve only really ever played WH40k on a table-top, so this is my first step into a much larger world.
First, a confession: I was weak. I fell for a Facebook advertisement saying that the SW Armada Core boxed set was on sale for a “Price Too Low to Advertise”. Being a sly bastard, I kind of sold this to Mrs. Oak as though this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. She was won over by my silvered tongue, she allowed me to pursue this lead, with full knowledge that I had already taken a flamethrower to my hobby budget for this month.
So I packed up my family (Mrs. Oak and Colin, our Dachshund) and trucked off to the (notso) distant Metropolis of Vaughan, with the intent to go outlet mall shopping which was “Totes open on Canada Day” (it wasn’t, damn google). It also turns out that the deal that was too good to be advertised probably could have been, as it only worked out to be 37% off the regular box. I pulled the trigger anyways. Because I’m weak.
On the way home, I started gabbing about how fun this game should be, about how it should be relatively simple to pick up, and you don’t need to know a single thing about Star Wars in order to play it effectively, and it was around the dog park that Mrs. Oak caved: “FINE! I’ll play it with you!”
Within 2 hours, I had read up enough of the rules and assembled all the ships, and we were good to go. I had a few beers on ice, and Mrs. Oak had a nice cuppa tea, her head full of teeth smiling across the table.
I explained the rules all the while disclaiming: “It really is quite simple,” reassuring her (and myself) that after the first turn it should be pretty straight forward, and the fun will kick in. Neither of us were disappointed.
The mission we set up was the tutorial mission, and I pared down the rules even further, by not implementing the “Squadron” command for this particular mission. Neither of us did this during the Command phase, because I wanted to keep things perfectly clear as we manoeuvred our little ships around the table top. In terms of objectives, it doesn’t get much simpler than “Last Man Standing Wins”. This suited Mrs. Oak just fine.
The first turn took about 15 minutes to get through. I had run my Tie fighters out in a bit of a screen, to prevent the X-wings from doing death-star trench-run type shenanigans against my lone big guy, the Victory-II. Mrs. Oak went the opposite, sending her ships hurtling towards the centre of the table, likely to confuse my gunnery on the front arc. Nothing’s in range in the first turn, and we move on to Turn 2, which is when the hurt begins.
A mechanic that kind of proved interesting even in the first turn, is that if you don’t want to use your command issued to the ship for that particular activation, you can save it for later. This adds a bit of a twist, but careful consideration really needs to be given to which orders you give and when, because it can be a long time before much needed repairs can be executed on a Star Destroyer if you don’t plan well ahead, as I quickly learned in Turn 2.
The Rebel ships unleash their first barrage at medium range against the Victory II, bringing down the shields on the front and one of the side arcs. You need to be clever with your defense in this game it seems, as you have limited tools in your toolkit. The V-2 has the ability to transfer some of the damage to an adjacent shield. Both of the rebel ships made full use of extra attack dice provided by the Concentrate Fire order, wracking up enormous damage despite the formidable Imperial defenses. The V-2 in return batters down the front shields of the Nebulon B, and starts to work on the Corvette which is on another arc. The Corvette has the ability to dodge at medium range, and Mrs. Oak makes me re-roll a two-pip hit dice. The re-roll was a miss.
The fighters meanwhile, are dancing an incredible dance clogging up the space now immediately adjacent the V-2. The TIE fighters intercepted and engaged the Red Wings, destroying two outright, but losing two squadrons in return.
Turn 3 starts to show you the full potential of this game, and the value of proper navigation. The Neb B scoots past the gigantic V-2 on the side arc, but much to my dismay the Side arc of the Neb can hit the rear of the much larger ship, and the REAR arc can now shoot the FRONT hull zone. My rear shields go down, and I redirect as much as possible, brace for impact (halving incoming damage) but the hits land home, and a Critical hit causes me to lose (permanently) one of my defensive tokens. I’m also down to 5 Hullpoints, and my shields are *completely* down. In return fire, I’m able to knock a hullpoint off of each of the smaller ships, but nothing is as effective as the front arc… I’m simply not able to kick back the same amount of firepower when they’re “Concentrating Firepower” in such an effective manner.
The squadrons meanwhile, continue their duel at the centre of the table. The X-wings are proving more than capable matches for TIEs, with any attack against them resulting in a kill. It’s becoming apparent to me at this point that the Imperials need to make good use of the Squadron Command (which we’re not playing with in this game for simplicity) in order to get the jump on the superior squadrons of the Rebel Alliance.
After Turn 3, Mrs. Oak realizes that there’s a way to increase her maneuverability and change her ship speed (The Navigate Command). “This changes EVERYTHING!!!”
Full Disclosure: I might have glossed over this detail at the onset of the game… swear it wasn’t intentional.
She orders her Corvette and Neb B to hit the gas and go hard to starboard. Meanwhile, I also hit the gas and wonder how it is that I’ll ever be able to maneuver this whale of a ship around, and still get enough command points to engineer my way back to health enough to combat these two ships… Unfortunately I wasn’t anticipating taking the kind of beating I did in T3, so it would be until T5 before the commands start rolling in to repair, but by then the much more maneuverable Rebels had turned around completely and closed in for the kill. The corvette, which had been jinking the long range fire put out by the Victory II scored the last hits.
Mrs. Oak is victorious in the first table top game we’ve ever played together.
SW Armada is fantastic. It was amazing to be able to pick up a core set of rules within an HOUR and play a game through to completion, with good detail and reasonable accuracy to the rule-set. The defense mechanisms are hardly laborious to figure out, and attacking is simple enough. The most difficult thing to master would be making best use of Commands (particularly if you play the lumbering V2 ship like I did) and figuring out how to maneuver your ships effectively to maximize your firepower. I would have done better to leave my ship at a speed of 1 for most of the game to try and achieve more time on the front arc, where my damage output is doubled, but Mrs. Oak did a great job of trying to keep me on the side.
You definitely get a feel of how lumbering these ships are, and I’d suggest never underestimating things that boost your manoeuvrability.
Mrs. Oak had a great time. When I asked her what she particularly enjoyed about it she provided this short list:
- Beating the Oakenhawk (fair enough!)
- Orchestrating attacks – she wasn’t so big on the other elements of strategery involved, but liked it when things were simpler, like: “My lasers make you dead.”
- Not much of a learning curve. Within 2 turns we were cruising, not referring to the manual very much, and it really, really helped.
When I asked her if she would play with me again, she had to think about that a bit more. I get it. Table top gaming isn’t exactly her favourite thing, but she had a good enough time that she might consider it in about a month, or when I get insufferably excited about a new toy again, whichever comes first.