Star Wars: Armada Wave 1 - Rebels Review


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Posted by Craig on Jun 17, 2015

What now feels like a long, long time ago, Star Wars: Armada was announced, and most of us either thought, “Sweet! I’ll finally get to command a Star Destroyer and obliterate the Rebellion,” or…well, I’m not sure what the comparable Rebel reaction would be. “Surely the Falcon will be in one of the expansions,” perhaps?

When the Armada Core Set hit stores, Rebel fans got to field the CR90 Corellian Corvette, a blockade runner famous for not outrunning a Star Destroyer shortly after the opening credits, and the Nebulon-B Frigate, renowned galaxy-wide for being the place where Luke got his bionic hand. These two flimsies faced off against a Victory-class Star Destroyer, the junior version of the ship we’ve all waiting been for, as if the Imperials didn’t deem the contest worthy of their A-team. We assembled ships, gathered tokens, rolled dice, and something strange happened: the Rebels won most of the time. Clearly, the game wasn’t complete with just a Core Set, we thought, and rightfully so, but the first stirrings of strategic depth were felt, too. Those stirrings have now become a rumble, and the Rebels’ true viability reveals itself with the Wave One Expansion.

The same versions of the Corvette and Nebulon-B found in the Core Set are available in Wave One, but with a twist. Half the cards accompanying each ship are from the Core, but the other half offer new commanders, upgrades and special titles to modify their craft’s uses. Continuing the mix-and-match of the Core Set, some cards can be used by either Rebel or Imperial forces, some are Rebels-only and some restricted to a single ship type. Where Imperial upgrades focus on creating dreadnoughts, the Rebellion’s cards are meant to craft unique members of an integrated team. Alliance ships not only need to maneuver around the deadly Imperial guns to emerge victorious, they need to fulfill their specific role - either directing or protecting fighters, enabling better repairs or taking critical shots.

FFG’s web site hails the Assault Frigate Mark II as the ship “for admirals who want to battle the Empire’s Star Destroyers on more even terms,” but those admirals had better understand exactly what that means to use it wisely. The AFII is sturdy and can pack a punch, but if you fly it into the teeth of the Empire, it’ll meet the same fate as its smaller brethren. This puts a spotlight on the overall game design. The AFII must still keep its distance, but it can out gun star destroyers at that distance and I applaud the designers for not simply creating a “Rebel Star Destroyer”. Its upgrades allow outfitting for a variety of roles, expanding Alliance strategies further. And just when the Rebel player’s brain is about to melt, along come the squadrons.

Finally, the embodiment of happy memories for Star Wars fans. Rebel fighters have two Death Stars and a Super Star Destroyer listed amongst their kills (“Intensify forward firepower!” “Sorry, sir! It’s two Command dials away!”) and Wave One gives them many ways to add to their tally, almost to the point of overload. The alphabet soup of squadrons features one basic and one ace card for the two A-, B-, X- and Y-Wings included in the pack, and their proper use requires the same thought expended on Alliance capital ships, and then some.

It’s no coincidence the X-Wing is the choice of expert cinematic pilots, since it out-guns the A-Wing in Armada squadron battles and does the same anti-ship damage as the Y-Wing, making it the easiest choice for beginning commanders. Time will tell if it keeps its top spot, but there’s not currently a compelling alternative for a one-ship fleet. The B-Wing does more anti-ship damage, you say? It might, if it weren’t too slow to ever reach an Imperial ship. Don’t believe me? Watch RotJ again. They never fire a shot. I think most are still in hyperspace trying to reach Endor, and the game replicates this lethargy. And A-Wing pilots should be embarrassed their slower B-counterpart can cause just as much damage to TIEs. Does that, and the lack of the X-Wing’s Escort ability, make the A-Wing worthless? What about that muddled mix of the two, the Y-Wing?

Much like capital ships, squadrons appear this way at first glance. Overpriced, overlapping and overwrought, Rebel squadrons demand the same exertion of brain power as their capital counterparts if the Alliance is to succeed, but if they’re viewed as part of the greater whole, their use comes into focus. While the Empire employs a Mensa-like trifecta of fielding the biggest ships in the game, flying straight ahead and rolling piles of dice, the Rebel Alliance has to craft the perfect synergy of capital ship role selection, mission objective choice, precise flying and fighter complement if they’re to succeed. This elusive combination is why early Wave One games are full of Imperial victories and why, despite myself, I’m now more excited to play as the Alliance. The spark of Rebellion is out there, and I’m ready to turn the tide.