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I recently bought the Fantasy Flight Games “Star Wars Armada” starter box set.
There have been a lot of other posts on the net about the game, so I will keep my thoughts short and sweet and add a few pics.
The box is not too big (about the same size as the Lord of the Rings LCG starter box) but is a lot deeper. On opening I couldn’t see why it needed to be so deep. Half the box is empty air. The three painted ship models look good, but only take up the space at the front of the box in a clear packaging to help sell the game. Underneath them is just space to store more models I guess.
Other than this everything else apart from three sheets of card tokens came bagged (pre-prepared) which was a nice touch. there are quite a few bits and pieces to snap together. Three ship bases need to be put together using the cards and card tokens to form shield dials and ship armament.
I liked the fact that there were snap close plastic bags for all the pieces.
It took a good hour to push out the tokens and figure out how to assemble the ship stands and the little plastic fighters. The most fiddly part was getting the base components for each fighter squadron together. You have to angle the clear rod that goes into the base just right as it is shaped (it’s not that obvious). Making the 10 stands of X-wings and TIE fighters was a bit of a pain and you need to be careful not to snap the stands or fighter wings.
Other than that the next most pain was assembling the plastic measuring tool. You need to make sure it snaps together so it can’t fall apart then add in some card counters on each section to denote the range. You use this tool to move your ships. Ships speed and navigation orders help determine what distance and turns you can make to your ship.
Once assembled, you get a “starter scenario” diagram and explanation which helps you set the game up ready to go.
Playing a couple of games solo soon showed me some strengths and weaknesses. The big Imperial Destroyer has three Command dials. You need to set each of these and stack them up, one is revealed each game turn. The smaller Rebel corvette only has one of these. Bottom line is that you can give a fresh order to the smaller ship each turn, but the bigger ships need to have their orders given two or three turns in advance.
This made for a nice tactic – the powerful ships need careful thought, the small ships are more reactive.
I used the smaller corvette to accelerate to full speed and go behind the big Imperial Destroyer. In the end, game 1 ended with the Rebel Escort ship being killed by firepower from the front of the Destroyer.
The Fighter squadrons seemed to take each other out. The Corvette fired into the rear shield arc of the Destroyer for three turns and killed it, winning the game for the Rebels. Bottom line, keep away from the big Attack dice of the front of big ships and get into the rear arc to hit weaker shields if you can. If you can keep at long-range then you will suffer a lot less damage.
The game encourages you to think ahead as moves need to be planned out if you are to win.
I quite enjoyed the game, though didn’t get much enjoyment from the fighter squadrons which IMHO serve to slow the game down by taking the action away from the big ships.
Here are my reservations….
In the UK the game is selling at around £59 plus – about US 90 dollars. You only get three ships plus the fighters. That’s not really enough to keep the interest going. For what you get n the box, the price of the game is at the top end of what I would want to pay for what you get. To get a good 300 point game would need two or possibly three starter boxes (you will be able to get all the ships separately but the price of each ship is high). The Imperial Victory Destroyer is about £25, the Rebel ships about £15. One solution is to get two starter sets between two mates and split the forces and components between each person.
It would have been nice to get a 3 foot square game mat to play the starter game on and for the price I was surprised there was no poster style mat.
Apparently it is something to do with the licensing of the game. You can buy game mats for about £27 (cough…)
The other thing I found silly was that you need four of the blue dice for Attack rolls sometimes. The starter set comes with only three of each colour (black, blue, red). The black dice are only used if you choose the cheaper Victory I version of the Destroyer which lack the range of its later mark (73 points versus 85 points). Adding one more blue dice would not have broken the bank at this price point.
I am now a bit on the fence with this game. For an “Armada” game you will need to spend a lot of money on expanding this game. I am not sure I want to do that. Also, the game components seem a little clunky. I don’t really like the plastic Command device. Having to use up to three of these per ship makes for a stack of plastic.
Other than this (!) the overall game mechanics are quite solid. There are only 6 turns in a game (so it seems) which means the game is over quickly, say no more than an hour. This seems to be par for modern games – a cross between a board game and a wargame and with less time required to reach a suitable outcome. You kill the enemy, you win….
I have yet to see how balanced the game is between the two forces. The command dial mechanic keeps the big “slow” ships on their toes while the smaller ones can dart about and change commands each turn. For example, would you want to take 6 Rebel Corvette ‘A’ (264 points) or 3 Imperial Victory Destroyers (255 points)…?
Will this game be a passing fad or turn into something still played in five years or more? Time will tell…