Star Wars: Armada Wave 4 Review
on Aug 31, 2016
While most of the gaming world had its eyes turned toward the super-sexy, sleek dogfights of Fantasy Flight’s groundbreaking X-Wing, the company released another Star Wars space battle game. And, it turns out that it’s actually the better game. Armada is a more innovative, more advanced game than X-Wing but it is also at a different, more strategic scale. This is the game you go to when you want something more than the hot-dogging thrills of fighter-jockeying; this is where you go when you want to be in command of an Imperial Star Destroyer and its crew along with its various weapons, defense, and navigation systems. It’s a game of capital ships lumbering toward each other in a more naval style, with Mon Calamari Cruisers blasting through TIE Fighter screens to get into broadsides against the typically more powerful Imperial ships. C90 Corvettes dart around the starfield, Imperial Gladiators barge headfirst into Rebel lines, and the whole time you are hoping that you can steer these things true.
There have been a couple of waves’ worth of add-ons released to date that have fleshed out the ship lists for each side, but with the new wave 4 I feel like FFG has practically released a set that feels, in aggregate, like more of an expansion to the game. There is a clear theme running through the Imperial Interdictor and Gozanti Assault Carriers and the Rebel Liberty and Transports- support. These are ships designed with fleet synergy in mind.
This isn’t a new concept to the game- there are plenty of upgrade cards and effects that benefit other ships in your fleet. But these ships feel more specialized and role-focused than anything prior. For example, the Interdictor is a sort of experimental Star Destroyer (from Timothy Zahn’s classic but now jettisoned Heir to the Empire series) that you can outfit with a wicked Grav Well projector that yanks ships out of hyperspace and holds them at a dead stop or that can move obstacles after setup. It also has the new Contain order token, which nullifies a critical effect. I’m particularly fond of the new Admirals this set comes with that mess with enemy ship speed and copy enemy commands. This is very much an electronic warfare/countermeasures ship, and it’s a fun one to run even if it is quite sluggish- not one to rush up to the melee, either.
But the big Rebel ship in this wave IS one that you will want to use as a offensive spearhead- it even looks like one. The support Rebels needed prior to this release was big guns, big shields and big hull. And the Liberty delivers. With seven forward dice, this thing can truly go toe-to-toe with the baddest Imperial ships out there. And it’s got great upgrades- Spinal Armament and High Capacity Ion Turbines add additional dice to the front/rear and sides, respectively. Crix Madine gives you a little more maneuverability by adjusting yaw for friendlies. The Chart Officer is fun, she counters the effect of an obstacle overlap- but if you do, you discard her. So I guess she gets relieved of duty for the mistake.
Both big ships are around 100 pointers, so they are expensive both in game point values and in terms of your IRL wallet. The two smaller blisters are interesting because they introduce another new concept- flotilla ships. These are bases that have two instead of one ship on them, and running with the theme they are also primarily support craft. The Gozanti Assault Carriers come from the great Rebels TV series along with the nefarious Agent Kallus, and I’m always happy to see stuff from this part of the SW canon hop over to the tabletop. They’ve already appeared in X-Wing, but their Armada incarnations are obviously much smaller in scale. These little ships have some awesome coordination capabilities with fighters, so if you like running a heavy TIE build, you’ll want to pick up a blister or two of them. A Jamming Field upgrade makes it harder for your fighters in range to get hit and a Suppressor title card disables defense tokens. And Agent Kallus gives your fighters a bonus against unique squadrons, which means you have an advantage over Luke, Han, Wedge and so forth.
The Rebel Transports are sort of the wildcard in this lot- it is a total support ship with practically zero combat effectiveness. This makes it one of the more difficult- but potentially useful- ships in this wave. The base model has no weapons, but the combat retrofit has at least one blue die on the front and back. All of the upgrades, crew and titles afforded this flotilla-class ship are all about repairing damage, jamming electronics, providing rerolls, obfuscating targets and so forth. They are a fragile asset so they need to be escorted and protected to make the most of their abilities.
In sum, these ships are definitely more for advanced players looking for a little more depth, more specific support options and countermeasures. I think players new to Armada could probably hold off on diving into this wave, at least for a little while, because these are slightly more complex fleet choices. I’m a casual player myself so I have zero interest in the current meta, what the net builds are, what is winning at tournaments or whatever so I’ve been completely satisfied with just one each of the big ships and one each of the flotillas- although I’m thinking about adding another of each flotilla because I love how they fill out the look of your fleet on the table.