Review: Star Wars Armada, Wave 2
However, I hope this won’t colour your experience or your impressions of Wave 2, even though I, a completely inexperienced Armada player, blew up your space ship. And also a lot of your TIE fighters. Obviously I didn’t do great, being new to the game and a little overwhelmed, yet I still seem to have shot a lot of things. How do you feel?
Quinns: I feel like a man who’s been waiting six months for the Imperial Raider, and then you blew it up before it had fired a shot. So much for continuing our coverage of Star Wars Armada, which started with this written review and this fun Let’s Play.
Paul: That’s great. Here’s a thing I have strong feelings about straight away: fighters. We both decided to a mix of both base set and Second Wave fighters and, boy, did I see the difference. My rebel scum took the Millennium Falcon into battle, which proved to be a great asset as Han’s ship needs more than one enemy squadron to be engaged, can move and shoot and does some pretty nasty damage. He got all up in your grill several times and, to me, felt hugely powerful for such a small ship of just twenty-six points.
So did your guys, too. Boba Fett was a jerk who caused damage just by parking next to you, and then you had the Hounds Tooth which handled like a space van but was very dangerous and then got more dangerous as it took damage. I was really worried about these special squadrons, because they seemed enormously powerful to me. Enormously.
Quinns: Well, this is the nuts thing. At Worlds I was lucky enough to have a chat with James Kniffen, the lead designer on Armada, and I asked how he went about designing a new ship. He explained that he simply chooses a Star Wars character or ship from the stories, makes sure it’s power and stats are evocative of its role in the canon, and then slap an appropriate point cost on it.
When Wave 2 was announced I wondered how Han Solo and IG-88 would fit into the existing squadron minigame. The answer? Who cares! This is a game about fielding the Millennium Falcon because it’s the god damn Millennium Falcon, except this time it’s the size of a fingernail. It’s about fielding a swarm of TIE Fighters because you like the noise they make.
That’s what Wave 2 felt like to me. More toys!
Paul: And this is a big wave, isn’t it? There’s all these wee fighters and those two support ships, but also the *serious capital ships* that Armada was always going to be about. I put Admiral Ackbar on a big thing that shoots a lot and you drove around in an Imperial Star Destroyer which, worryingly, proved to be incredibly fast, like a really angry slice of pizza. The fastest triangle in space. It was ridiculous. I was hoping it would crash.
Quinns: Yes! That’s the other thing. Wave 2 adds the first “Large” ships to Armada, which are so preposterously huge as to make the doubled-up playmats of this epic game seem small and manageable. Not only do these Large ships fit snugly into Armada’s ecosystem of big ships preying on smaller ships, which prey on squadrons, which prey on giant ships, they’re fun! They’re toys! The Imperial Star Destroyer rolls TEN DICE from its front arc. TEN.
Paul: You know what my favourite bit was? I got to have Lando. I put him on one of the frigates and used his special ability, which was to make you re-roll all of your attack dice at a critical moment. But then Lando sort of… he just goes. He leaves. Lando, one of my favourite Star Wars characters, is a four point, one-use card. Yet I still like the idea that he’s on the bridge of that frigate, that he points out the window, goes “Oop, crikey, watch out for that,” decides this is all far too risky and then immediately climbs into an escape pod and leaves. Forever.
Quinns: Yep! Like Infinity, Armada is always seducing you with its majesty and seriousness, and then immediately making you laugh as terrible dice rolls and weird card interactions create bizarre scenes. Darth Vader’s TIE fighter exploding on the first turn. A tiny frigate performing a deep space handbrake turn to park directly in a Star Destroyer’s blind spot. And yes! Lando Calrissian taking an escape pod out of your ship and then it immediately crashing, implying he was the pilot and left his crew looking at a still-spinning chair.
But Paul! I’ve used you. I taught you Armada so you could tell our audience, with a fresh pair of eyes, what a fun game this is. Now that’s done I’m going to have you sent to the brig so I can review the new releases proper.
Imperial-class Star Destroyer Expansion Pack
This is it! The big dog. The top triangle. The Imperial Class Star Destroyer has the same design philosophy as the Victory Class from the core set, meaning it’s preposterously dangerous from the front and a galactic joke if you can get behind it. But bigger. Meaner. Triangularer.
Just about every single stat has been increased, including its TIE Fighter-dispatching Squadron value and even its speed. Because in Star Wars’ very first scene we see an Imperial Class chasing down Leia’s Corellian corvette, they had to make this thing fast. Paul wasn’t lying. It’s an angry, fast pizza slice that wants to smear its searing hot cheese all over you. And by searing hot cheese, I mean lasers.
Imperial Raider Expansion Pack
And we also get this! A dinky little baby Star Destroyer! Awww. You just want to tickle it under its chin. You shouldn’t, though. Like a grumpy cat, the Imperial Raider wants nothing more than to obliterate you at close range.
As such, the Imperial Raider has plenty of anti-squadron dice and lots of short range black dice, but it also represented an interesting puzzle for the design team. Fast, maneuverable ships are a hallmark of the Rebel side. How would they make an Imperial small ship feel unique? Their answer was to make it so that the Imperial Raider can turn on a dime in a way that Rebel ships can’t, but gets less maneuverable the faster it goes. Lovely!
MC30c Frigate Expansion Pack
Meanwhile, the Rebels get a glass cannon. The MC30c torpedo boat is probably the most and least fun it’s possible to have in Wave 2, depending on whether you can keep it alive for long enough. It’s got plenty of black dice and the speed to get up close and use them, but not the shields or defense tokens to stay alive at close range. You need to use it like a commando, getting it behind the enemy where it can let rip.
Feel like going all-in? Why not use the cards included in this pack to give it more guns, a special crew, a faster top speed! Go crazy! And then watch your opponent freak out and reduce it to space paste on turn 2 by shooting at its giant, exposed butt.
Home One Expansion Pack
Home One is as calm and dignified as the MC30c is fiesty. The Rebels’ first large ship is Admiral Ackbar’s stately barge. All of its attack dice are on its sides, so it wants to sail past the enemy or, ideally, between them, at which point it becomes far more dangerous than even the Imperial Star Destroyer.
With the actual Home One title card it improves the aim of every other ship in the fleet, which creates a risk/reward proposition. You want to keep it safe, but you also want to deploy its ferocious armaments. So you want to get it close. Or do you? Oooh.
Rogues and Villains Expansion Pack
Finally, we get a giant box filled with no less than eight of the best and coolest ships from the X-Wing Miniatures Game. The Millennium Falcon, Slave One, the Hounds Tooth, Moldy Crow and all sorts of other… well, rogues and villains.
And they’re great! They’re just great. Wonderful, cool little ships, all with cool little rules, flitting around and inflicting a damage here or saving a squadron there. A lovely box of spice to shake over your Armada table.
Can you guys tell that I love Armada yet? Look, I got Matt to play Armada for the first time too. Matt, wasn’t it great!
Matt: Oh my goodness I’ve never been so tired. I didn’t understand that the Imperial ships were weak from the rear, put my entire fleet into first gear, and gently cruised my lovely spacethings into a minefield and had a bad time. Still, I very much enjoyed the slower sense of pace in comparison to X-Wing, watching these massive chunks of mental lug around the table with a momentum that gives everything a real sense of weight. I also can’t deny the massive appeal of getting to roll about eight dice at once while the blood drains out of your opponent’s face. Big ships means everything matters, everything hinges on disaster or success. I’ve no idea how Quinns plays it with a hangover, but it it’s pleasingly heavy in more ways than one.
Quinns: Exactly! Ach, it’s so good. I can’t wait to get back to my collection.