Star Wars: Armada Wave 1 - Empire Review


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Posted by Craig on Jul 3, 2015

The Wave One expansion to Star Wars: Armada brought two things to the majority players: the chance to finally play the game for those who didn’t think they’d be happy with just a Core Set and wanted to save on shipping by buying in to the entire line, and variety for the Imperials. No longer do those of you who bought a Core Set have to be content with flying your VSD forward and sending TIEs to the slaughter, because now you can fly two VSDs forward. There are a few other surprises that actually fit the Imperial vibe very well and at least bend (if not break) the game pretty far toward the Empire for the near future.

The Victory Star Destroyer adds new upgrades which mainly benefit other Imperial units. It’s a duplicate of the ship in the starter, but it’s still hard to temper the fun of rolling out two VSDs for the first time. In the same way we root for David but still think it’d be fun to get our Goliath on, there’s a certain satisfaction in hearing your Rebel foe mumble about the challenging variety of ships and tactics that just got blasted into dust by Imperial guns while you smile and nod, knowing you didn’t need to search for a reason to feel better about what just happened because the pile of dice you just rolled was bigger than the ship it destroyed. Then the Gladiator arrives and it gets better.

The Gladiator Star Destroyer is a perfect mix of goofy industrial design (“Cut the wedge in half, reverse the two halves and put a rectangle between them? Brilliant!”) and rapid destruction. Just when the Rebels had almost perfected their outflanking strategy, along comes an Imperial ship that flies as fast as a Nebulon-B or, if employing the Engine Techs upgrade, a Corvette. Another evil upgrade allows the GSD to move and then fire, making it the only ship capable of doing what everyone freaked out about not getting to do the first few times they played Armada, which is so cruel that it fits the Empire perfectly. Add the Gladiator to your fleet and watch as the Rebel player’s carefully crafted flight path is intercepted by an avalanche of dice to…well, any hull zone will do. The Rebellion must return to the drawing board, while the Imperial strategy of “fly forward and roll piles of dice” chalks up another victory. “It’s not the Gladiator that’s broken,” you declare, watching them frown at the debris of their fleet, “it’s your spirit.”

What about the fighters, you ask? More good news for the Empire, who continue to stick with basic ‘rithmatic while watching the Rebellion try to solve Laplace Transforms. Each of the four different squadron types fills a distinct role, allowing the Imperials to continue breezing through the stars while the Rebellion struggles to come up with a viable fleet. The basic TIE horde from the Core Set gains Mauler Mithel, a TIE ace that damages enemies just by engaging with them - a perfect fit for their face-smashing stratagem. Combined with Howlrunner, the horde of Core Set TIEs can keep most Rebel squadrons at bay long enough for the Empire’s big guns to secure a win. But if that seems too vanilla, the Empire has more options in its hangars, including a bomber ace that changes the role of squadrons completely.

There’s a reason Major Rhymer was never in any of the movies: the good guys needed to win, and they can’t if Rhymer’s in the battle. This ace’s ability allows all nearby squadrons to attack ships at close or medium range, instead of their normal range of one. That’s all squadrons, not just bombers. No longer do squadrons need to fly into the path of enemy ships and try to stay close; Rhymer allows them to park in the center of the map and lob dice at circling capital ships once they’ve dealt with Luke’s pitiful little band, and a couple more Imperial aces have taken on that task.

Darth Vader leads the TIE Advanced Squadron, flying what looks like a smaller TIE Bomber that actually fits on any of the three-ship stands, unlike its similarly-winged cousin. True to his big-screen legend, he packs a punch and can take one, which might make him the perfect partner for Tie Interceptor ace Soontir Fel, whose ability is to draw fire or punish Rebels for choosing other targets by either damaging them or using his Counter ability.

The Wave One expansion continues the Imperial philosophy of bringing the biggest guns, pointing them straight at the enemy and not sweating the details. Upgrade cards provide insidious combinations, all focusing on bringing or increasing the pain, but overall the Empire gets to relax and focus on dice instead of diagrams once the battle starts. They’re fun in the same way playing as the Ogre in that classic game. is fun. Fun because no matter where Rebel ships go, you know they’re going to end up on the wrong end of a giant pile of dice, and you get to roll them.

“There’s no finesse. No cosmic ballet of interlocking fire or synergy of varied roles.” These are things losers say, and the Empire has no room for losers. You’re in command now, Admiral.