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Friday, February 5, 2016

Star Wars Armada - Token Commanders: Firepower and Flexibility

By Patrick J. Doyle

 There is a basic principle that holds true for starship combat games, and that is the importance of concentrating firepower on a single target. Concentration of your firepower requires maneuvering into the right range with the right ships facing the right direction, while simultaneously denying your enemy those same advantages. I will discuss one way to accomplish this goal.

Once we have established the importance of concentrating firepower (i.e. putting dice on target) and how maneuvering can allow you do that, we will drill down and discuss what I will classify as a Token Commander, or a Commander that allows you to issue additional command tokens to your ships. Two of these commanders are Grand Moff Tarkin for the Empire and my personal favorite, Garm Bel Iblis.

I am not attempting to make the case they are “THE BEST” commanders and that you will always win by using them. There is no “auto-win” fleet list or tactic. There is only list building, planning, attention to detail, and improvisation when the plan goes sideways. I am suggesting how you can use this type of commander if it fits your style of play. You will still have to practice with your list and match it with your plan. Admiral Akbar is certainly another good way to put dice on target, but he comes with his own advantages and disadvantages that we can discuss at another time.

Concentrate!…Focus Firepower!
Concentrating firepower is especially important in Armada. Why you ask? Unlike some other games, in Armada, a ship’s offensive capabilities do not diminish as they take damage. For example, in Federation Commander (one of my personal favorites), damage reduces the ship's capabilities across the board as they take damage. Power systems, speed, weapons, and secondary systems all get reduced as the ship takes damage, resulting in a less and less capable ship.

While critical hit cards are often painful, they rarely reduce the raw firepower of a ship. Most of the time, at least in my experience, once I’ve done a critical hit or two to a ship, it is often well on its way to blowing up in the next round. The bottom line is that in Armada, to reduce the firepower of an enemy force, you need to blow up enemy ships. Most of the time merely damaging a ship just doesn’t cut it.

The key to destroying an enemy ship before they destroy you is to focus as many dice on target as possible (extra dice, re-rolls, dice mods, all these help). Anything that spreads out your firepower among enemy ships will hurt your chances for victory. Poor maneuvering or poor placement during set up hurt your ability to concentrate firepower.

 After spending all this time talking about the importance of concentrating firepower, I am now going to seemingly switch gears and talk about maneuvering. Excellent maneuvering is your vehicle to getting your ships into a position to concentrate firepower, while hopefully denying that same opportunity to your opponent. Therefore, good use of the Navigation Command serves both an offensive and a defense role.

In theory, if you set up your starting positions well and make good use of Navigate Commands during the first couple rounds (while your opponent is moving predictably while trying to bank Concentrate Fire and Squadron tokens), you should enter weapons range in a better and less predictable position than your opponent who maneuvered normally while taking commands for the purpose of banking tokens.

This position advantage can translate into doing more damage to your enemy and taking fewer hits yourself. The specifics of how the opposing formations are set up and the capabilities (upgrade cards) within the enemy force will all play a role in getting to an advantageous position.

 Using Navigation commands does a few specific things for you. First, it may allow you to maneuver out of the enemy’s best firing arc, or minimize the amount of time you spend there. Second, you’ll have more control of the range between you and your enemy. Finally, if you think ahead and you plan your movement well, you may be able to hit an opponent with 2 firing arcs, thus gaining more firepower than a Concentrate Fire command, putting you on a path to destroying the enemy ship sooner. This gets you points toward victory and reduces the amount of damage that your force sustains, prolonging your ability to keep shooting. Positioning your ships to put dice on target for as long as possible, that’s the goal of good offensive maneuvering.

Combining this philosophy with the use of inexpensive Weapons and Defense Liaisons provides you with additional flexibility at key points in the game. If you find that you are already in an ideal position to fire, use a Weapons Liaison to spend a token to change your dial to the Concentrate Fire command. You score a little extra damage and use the banked Concentrate Fire token to re-roll a die if necessary. What your opponent will interpret as luck when the dice start rolling is really your better planning. This is what I call, “Making your own damn luck!” Let him whine about bad dice while events proceed according to your plan.

Using Token Commanders allows you to bank tokens and select Navigate commands to gain a
positional advantages over your opponent instead of spending the first couple rounds selecting commands solely for the purpose of banking a variety of tokens. This frees a ship from being tied to commands that offer no immediate benefit and gives you greater flexibility later in the battle. Good use of the Navigation command improves your offense and defense by increasing your chances of hitting targets with 2 firing arcs or avoiding enemy fire. Furthermore, these advantages are built into the game rather than requiring expensive upgrades, making it highly efficient and simple.

Combining Token Commanders, and Liaisons are great for making use of the Navigate Command for better positioning while giving you the flexibility and tokens to alter your command at a key point in the battle. Follow on articles will discuss details about maneuvering, firing arcs, initiative, missions and more.

About the Author: Patrick currently lives in the Norfolk, Virginia area and is a big fan of starship combat games. He is the four time National Champion for ADB’s Federation Commander and author of the Federation Commander Tactics Manual. He placed 5th at the Armada World Championship and took 1st place in the Armada Team Tournament during Fantasy Flight Games Championship Weekend in 2015. 

For more information about Armada by Fantasy Flight Games:

For more information about Federation Commander by Amarillo Design Bureau:

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