Monday, 25 September 2017

5 Reasons to play Star Wars Armada

In the down season from Epic Armageddon I thought I'd take a few minutes to talk about another awesome game system that I'm obsessed with, there's always room in the cupboard for one more system right! With that in mind here's 5 reasons why you need more plastic crack in your life: 


1) Deep strategic play - I’m someone who goes back decades with tabletop gaming, I’ve played an array of systems and recognise that every game is different. Some games a quick and tactical, knock out a game in less than an hour and move one, Armada is not that game. I was someone who loved 7th edition Fantasy because every game was determined by a solid movement mechanic, Armada is much more like that. In Armada there are advantages to going first and advantages to going second, there’s advantages to more activations and advantages to less. Turn order is determined as part of list design so there is no randomness involved. It comes down to this basic principle, you can invest heaps of points making your Imperial Star Destroyer akin to a Death Star but if your positioning is rubbish you’ll never get to fire those big ass cannons, these mechanics are why I love me some Armada.

2) Great variety in builds - I always worried that with only 2 sides the game would stagnate quickly because I came from a Warhammer universe background. What I’ve discovered instead is a wide variety of ships and squadrons with so many usable options that I’ve played at least 1-2 games a week and never felt that it was the same game. The missions help heaps with this too, they are essential to the way every match plays out as opposed to many systems where missions feel kind of tacked on.

3) Amazing game balance FFG has done a brilliant job right from the start recognising issues with balance and taking steps to balance things out brilliantly. Mostly they do this with the new waves bringing out gear and ships to fill gaps but recently they hit us with an errata that solved pretty much any remaining issues in balance.

4) Amazing competitive circuit – Tournaments certainly aren’t for everyone but if you’re keen on the competitive side of things the Good Games stores and other local games stores run regular comps at all levels. There is at least one per quarter plus store champs, regional champs and national champs every year which cater to everyone’s needs. The best bit is that the entry fees are always cheap ($10-15 for the regular events) and you get freebies just for coming.  


5) Solid price point for buy in Some players have talked about being turned away from new games because of the expensive buy in, coming from a GW background I think many players have a warped idea of expensive! But not everyone is made of money so here’s a basic idea. Armada stuff comes in “waves” of new ships, the earlier waves are available from online shops much (Book depository/Amazon etc) much cheaper than in the stores while the more recent stuff is comparatively priced in either venue. A pretty comprehensive buy in price for an imperial admiral would look something like this (from Amazon AU$):

  • 1 x Starter set ($105.00)
  • 1x Squadron set 1 ($29.00)
  • 1 x Squadron set 2 ($26.00)
  • 1x Imperial Raider ($26.00)
  • 2 x Imperial Assault Carriers ($52.00)
  • And I couldn’t find a Gladiator star destroyer on Amazon for some reason but you can get one in store for $50 or cheaper online.  
So all up you’re looking at around $300 including postage to get your hands on enough ships and squadrons to build something competitive and to give you a few different options to experiment with. Another $100 would get you everything else for imps that’s not on this list and you would spend about that again when they release a new wave 1-2 times a year. The only thing you would lack are certain upgrade cards that only exist in Rebel packs which is why ultimately most players end up playing both teams but for our purposes that starting price is realistic, you don’t need every single card just to play socially, proxy for a while until you decide whether you want to dive in or are just happy with the toe. There’s no hidden costs like terrain and tables etc because that’s all covered by the core set.

      And one bonus reason: It’s Star Wars – I mean we all love our GW created universes no doubt but there’s something so incredibly satisfying when you blow up the big fat ship at the centre of the enemy’s fleet. Sometimes it doesn’t happen and some games are all about the little explosions on the periphery but damn its good when a plan comes together…. Just saying.

      If you’re still interested check out some of the awesome bat reps online, there is an amazing series produced here in Aus that are well worth watching. This one has Admiral Akbar going up against Darth Vader and is a classic example of how amazing our game is. Hopefully you start thinking about what you want in your stocking this Christmas… 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Let's make Epic great again! Castle Assault 2017

Letting loose the dogs of war...

Note – This is largely a stream of consciousness, if you don’t feel like a long read skip straight to para 5…


First things first, check out the army gallery here... it's absolutely worth it. 

I’ve been someone who has really loved Epic Armageddon since my first into game. In that game some Imperial guard I borrowed got absolutely reamed in 2 turns by a well refined Orks list run by a mate of mine who graciously pointed out every mistake I made at the end of the game, I took notes. One thing I took away from that game however, the thing that has defined my experience with Epic from that point is that the balance in this game is garbage. This is a paradox which I have been unable to reconcile with fact that I’m also a highly competitive gamer who will inevitably invest much time and energy building, refining, practising and generally getting gud with any system that I play.
      If you’ve been following the adventures of the Australian Epic scene you have seen this scenario played out over and again, in no small part due to my own fault. What I learnt in that first game is that you might want to run a company of Leman Russ battle tanks because they are so cool but in reality a selection of smaller cheaper formations will probably crush that unit because of odd rule mechanics like clipping assaults where a unit like shining spears can jump out shoot that company of Russ with shiruken pistols in FF and somehow make all the tanks explode because they are so inspired…
      In tournaments we have seen this played out over and again, Cancon being taken out by my Squat force that was deemed so bad the entire race has been extinct since, Castle Assault being stomped by Feral Orks where I absolutely min/maxed the hell out of a list abusing orkeosaurus, and again at Cancon this year where the Eldar we had only kept out by the skin of our teeth took the inevitable win with massive activation spam. The result I realised was that the highly competitive players of the Aus scene had essentially dug their own graves driving away many new players through our own efforts in breaking a game which was fragile to begin with.
      All our efforts to restore balance to the game met with failure, any attempt to gain traction in the quagmire that is Taccoms just led to massive frustration with the intransigence of an elite few and if anything that forum has pushed more players out of our game than any other factor. The attempts to balance internally though composition systems at out comps also didn’t take well so we reached a point where I personally thought we were pretty stuck. I found myself less and less interested in the competitive side of Epic and watched as even the efforts of our most passionate advocates couldn’t stop the stagnation, then came Castle Assault 2017…
      I didn’t make it to CA17, I was shattered at that fact but it clashed with another major comp on my calendar and I was caught between a rock and a hard place. I saw the lists when they first came out and sadly with only a couple of days lead before the event I didn’t have the time to do a full write up but the first thing I noticed was that there was no bullshit lists in there, no orkeosaurus, nothing with more than 12 activations, no Biel Tan at all either. In fact there was a beautiful spread of lists and races and I actually struggled to call a winner straight up. It seemed that though all the efforts to enforce balance from the top down had failed the community had developed a solution that I had never considered, they decided to just stop being dicks.
      It actually made me wonder how much the meta is impacted by the presence (or absence) of the most competitive players. I know that when I’m going to any given comp I’m looking at whose on top of the food chain and trying to predict (and therefore counter) what they would run. Given that I wasn’t going this year and that this year’s Cancon winner was the TO it cut down the pool of such uber-competitive players to a much smaller group and those that did come brought really balanced and quite friendly armies.
      The link to the lists is here and I would encourage you all to check them out, the final results saw the closest finish that we have had in years, a far cry from the typical result where one player is so far ahead of the pack that the last round is really irrelevant. Spoiler alert we ended up with marines taking the crown which is amazing just of itself. But the most exciting bit was still to come, when the winner was announced and in the following days the response was universally positive…. There were no cries of “yeah but he only won because of the list” or anything of the nature. People were genuinely happy with the results after having genuinely enjoyed themselves for the weekend, it was so refreshing for their not to be controversy.
     It is my sincerest hope that CA2017 has set a new standard for play in Australia, the solution is simple, don’t turn up with a hideous concoction of game breaking gimmiky crap, turn up with something that everyone would enjoy playing against and if you win, so be it. This is a community driven game and we have so long forgotten that, it is really easy to point fingers at lists and Taccoms forums and blame our shortcomings on overseas groups but ultimately if we want the game to improve it’s up to us.
      Here’s to more results like this, more new players joining up to our glorious game and a bit more inspiration for anyone who is involved.