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Posted on Apr 4, 2016 in Front Page Features, Games PR

Star Wars Armada – Game Review

Star Wars Armada – Game Review

By Rick Martin

Star Wars Armada  Game Review.  Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games Designer: James Kniffen and Christian T. Petersen Price  $99.00 for the Starter Set $15.00 and up for additional ships.

Passed Inspection: Beautiful miniatures. Exciting game play. Fairly easy to learn and lots of advanced rules. Perfectly captures fleet actions in the Star Wars universe.

Failed Basic: Some components are difficult to put together and tend to fall apart during game play. Rules are not always clear. More layouts needed to speed learning of ship and squadron information.

The Admiral sat overlooking the crew pits on the bridge of the Eviscerator, a Victory Class II Star Destroyer.  His crew had engaged a Rebel task force of a Corvette and a Nebulon B frigate.  The two Rebel ships launched their complement of X Wings but they were soon outnumbered by the multitudes of Tie Fighters that the Imperial ship scrambled.  The high quality of experience provided by the endless conflicts since the Clone Wars, plus the exceptional training offered at the Imperial Academy had honed his crew in to a fine fighting machine.  The frigate had already been destroyed and now the Rebels were down to one Corvette and a hand full of X Wings.  This fight would soon be over.  Suddenly a flight of five X Wings broke through the screening Tie Fighters and accelerated towards the bridge of the Eviscerator.  The Admiral clutched his command chair’s arms as the crew involuntarily ducked – the Rebel fighters launched their proton torpedoes as the Admiral and the bridge crew stared in disbelief.

Star Wars Armada is a game which focuses on capital ship actions in the Star Wars universe just as X Wing, also by Fantasy Flight, focuses on individual fighters and other smaller ships (See the Armchair General Review By the way, upon playing X Wing many more times since I wrote the review, I need to update its score to a solid 90% with all of its new expansions.).  Each ship is one capital ship or a squadron of fighters.  Each ship or squadron has two data cards which gives important stats for two different versions of each.  For the starter box, one version of the X Wing squadron can be Luke Skywalker’s squadron while the Tie Fighter squadrons have a generic side and a side commanded by an Imperial Ace pilot.  Also included in the starter set is a Corellion Corvette aka the CR90, a Nebulon-B Frigate and a Victory Class Star Destroyer.

Each capital ship is rated for speed, maneuverability, firing arcs and weapon ranges and power, shields rated by arc (fore, aft, port and starboard), number of fighter squadrons it can carry in its hangers, special commands, defensive options, anti-fighter battery strength, shield strength (if any), modifications or special commanders and damage control/engineering levels.

Each fighter squadron is rated for its speed, number of fighters in the flight, capital ship attack strength, fighter interception attack strength and any special weapons carried such as proton torpedoes.

Special characters which can be added to the ships to give special abilites include Luke Skywalker, Lei Organa, General Dodonna, Grand Moff Tarkin, Wulff Yularen and others.  Booster ship packs such as the Imperial Star Destroyer includes Darth Vader while the Mc 30 C Rebel Frigate includes Lando Calrissian.

To help track capital ship shield strength, the beautiful miniatures fit in to a base which has a shield dial for each arc.  When a ship is hit and the shields take damage, the dial for that arc is turned to reflect its current strength.

A double sided stick (ala Wings of Glory) shows the range of the ships weapons on one side and fighter squadron speed on the other.  A unique, bendable capital ship movement tool allows the players to plot speed and ship maneuvers based upon the capital ships data card.  This allows the players to pre-plot speed and maneuvers without resorting to keeping a paper log ala Star Fleet Battles.

The starter box is literally filled to the brim with goodies – not only the miniature ships but also status tokens, data cards, dice, bases, counters for asteroid fields, star bases, rules, and the list goes on but the box is perfectly designed to hold all the items securely.

Expect to spend at least on hour upon purchasing the game to put components together.  The only problems I had during this phase was fitting the miniature Tie Fighters and X Wings on to their squadron bases.  The posts were a little to short and since a dial on the base tracks the number of operable fighters in the squadron, the posts take a lot of twisting during the game.  Since the posts are a little too short, the whole squadron tends to come off the posts during game play and take forever to put back together.  This design flaw should have been spotted during testing and it’s a shame that this tends to disrupt the game so much when the damn things come apart.

The dice are color coded based upon chances for hits, critical hits and such.  The range ruler shows what color of dice can be rolled at a given range.  Each ship is rated for the color of dice it can roll based upon the ship’s weapon arc.

The rules are fairly easy to learn but some of the writing is a little too convoluted and the player finds himself flipping between the starter rules and the rule reference book a little too much.  For example, the rules on Special Commands need to be completely re-written in order to clarify how they work.  Also more charts needed to be included to show what the different ratings on the ship’s data card represent.  With FAQs on Fantasy Flight’s own website plus on-line videos, the rule issues are soon resolved and a huge star ship battle can be played in less than 2 hours. The rules issues non-withstanding, the rules and game play are much better than Wizard of the Coast’s own Star Wars fleet game which didn’t feel much like Star Wars.  I re-wrote the rules to that game and distributed them freely back in the day to game stores to hand out when people purchased that game.  The only thing that the Wizards of the Coast Star Wars fleet game had over Armada was that they also included ships from the Clone Wars. (Hint, hint Fantasy Flight – how about some Venator Class Star Destroyers and Jedi Fighters to add to the game?)



Game play is rather straight forward with each turn played out like so:

1) Command Phase in which players use very innovative command dials to pick their commands.

2) Capital Ship Phase in which players reveal their commands, then attack and finally move their capital ships.

3) Squadron Phase in which players move and attack with their fighter squadrons.

4) Status Phase in which players perform updates to their defense plans, upgrades and such.

The rules are filled with subtleties which add to the strategy of the game and can really only be learned through experience playing. For example, the use of command tokens as opposed to playing commands from the command dial can greatly increase your options during later, more difficult turns.

The game plays very fast and captures the feel of starship and squadron combat in the Star Wars universe.  A large deck of critical hit cards provides nail biting tension as engines are damaged and crews panic or weapon systems get knocked off line.  Each game plays differently and with all the options to modify ships and crews, many surprises can occur in each game and, as in the last game I played for this review, underdogs can come out on top.  For example, our Corellion Corvette was in trouble but its superior speed let it snipe at the Victory Class Star Destroyer which had destroyed my Nebulon B Frigate in one massively dramatic attack.  The Star Destroyer had been hit pretty hard by the Rebels X Wings and, after taking several critical hits was down to one hull point and had no forward shields.  The Corvette was also down to one hull point.  The Star Destroyer attacked and all of its attacks missed. The player in control of the Star Destroyer was unable to contain damage which knocked his front shields off line.  In the last turn of the game, the Corvette sniped at long range at the Star Destroyer and got another critical hit!  The Imperial ship exploded and the Corvette lived to fight another day.

The starter set is packed with scenarios and tons of goodies.  The booster set with the Imperial Star Destroyer features sculpting of that iconic ship which is simply stunning.

I can hardly wait to build up my collection and plan to play tons of Star Wars Armada – the force is with this fine game!

Armchair General Rating:  93 %

Solitaire Rating: 2

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!