Friday, May 22, 2015

Armada Objectives - Part 1/3 (Assault)

Armada's Objective system is the most defining feature of the game, coming from the world of "100pt build, 75 minute rounds" X-Wing Tournaments.  It makes the game more than just an increase in the scope of combat, from small snubfighters nimbly dogfighting, to large capital ships engaging one another across vast distances of space.  It changes the fundamental building of the game from; "Will I be able to destroy the enemy's ships with this build?" into "Will I be able to do enough damage to the enemy and meet my objective."

But with that said, it just isn't being talked about enough.  There is a lot of discussion on how certain builds will do certain things (blow up other ships) well, but very little being discussed about the other aspect - objectives and how to play around them.  Furthermore, objectives have two sides - on one hand you have the "Second Player", who knows one of three objectives that they selected will be used, usually giving them a significant advantage for going second.  On the other hand, the "First Player" who must chose from his opponents objective, playing their game effectively, and suffers a disadvantage in order to act first.  I'm going to cover a few topics related to these objectives, from the point of view of both sides.  For this, the first installment, I am going to cover the Assault Objectives.

Opening Salvo:

This objective has two key features.  The first, allowing each player to roll 2 extra dice to open up the first exchange of shots (2 Red for first player; 2 of any color, at any rage for the second player).  The second is a direct change to the way scores are tallied, adding half fleet cost of each damaged ship (has a damage card).  This gives an advantage to players that are able to damage, but not destroy outright, their opponents.  Note that this does not affect squadrons, just ships.

Second Player:  

The second player would chose this to give them an advantage if they have several ships with a high squadron to ship ratio or with a large number of inexpensive ships.  It also has synergy for them with ships that have critical effect upgrades - since they can add whatever dice they want at whatever range, they can add the correct colors to ensure that their salvo has a chance to inflict the correct critical effect.  Consider an opening salvo with Admiral Screed and a Gladiator with Assault Concussion Missiles - Screed can guarantee a Black Critical Effect, which adds 2 extra damage... and all at Red range.  It even works without these abilities.  Go Blue and have a better chance of preventing key defense tokens from being used on the initial attack, or go Black for better damage outcome.

First Player:

Aside from the obvious reason to pick the objective (everything else is far, far worse) why would you give that advantage to the second player?  Your best bet for picking this objective is if your build is high in shields, and high Engineering Values on your ships.  The extra points at the end of the game mean that you can get away with damaging an enemy even if you don't finish it off, so structure your engagements in that fashion.  Like second player, your build is benefited most if you have a lot of inexpensive ships, and a high squadron to ship ratio.  Unlike the second player, you don't have the benefit of any critical effect synergy, or the ability to use anything but Red dice (5/8 chance to hit, 3/4 average damage), though Salvation gets a murderous first shot.  You do get first activation so you can choose which ship would most benefit from the very first opening salvo.

Both Players:

Squadron superiority and Engineering commands are key for this game.  BOMBERS or even just a spare squadron can keep ships honest, hitting unshielded arcs and claiming 1/2 points for the end game.  Ships that are capable of repairing hull damage (engineering 3 or better) are also key, being able to deny opponents their points even after they score a blow or two past your shields and fly away.  Throttle up - hit the opponent hard enough to draw blood and get away before they can crack through your shields and tokens.  Don't be afraid to ram an enemy medium or large ship with a smaller ship, or an already damaged ship on late turns to get some free points at the end game.

Advanced Gunnery:

This objective has two key features as well.  First is the ability for players to fire out of the same hull zone more than once in a single turn, with the second player being able to target the same target both times.  The second is the fleet cost of the objective ships destroyed being doubled (just the ship, not upgrade cards).  This gives advantage to upgrade heavy ships, high hull / defensive ships, and ships capable of taking advantage of the double arc shot.

Second Player:

The obvious option for this is Admiral Motti and Victory Star Destoryers (II), but the Rebel faction can make use of the Assault Frigates broadside capabilities as well.  With Wave 2, the MC80 and ISD become the new prime recipients of this objective.  The key is to bring a force that will be able to focus down your opponents ships, while providing enough defense for your own to keep your objective ship alive.  You don't want to even let a Nebulon B near this objective, much less a Corvette, as they just don't have the staying power - no matter how tempting Salvation is.  Squadrons are also good here - they are still worth their base points and not doubled, so utilize them to soften up a target before double-shooting it.  The key here is you don't want to make an objective ship of anything that can be destroyed easily.

First Player:

Any medium or large ship without Gunnery Team is upgraded by this objective - even ships with Gunnery Team can benefit, as they can now double shoot the same ship if they can hit two different arcs.  Again, anything that helps with survivability of the objective ship is key (Motti / Defensive Retrofits).  Maneuvering defensively with your first activation may be necessary, especially if the last maneuver of an enemy put you dead-to-rights in the "good" arcs.  Squadrons or rather anti-squadron dice could be a benefit with this setup, since you can try to get your point advantage tanking with your ships and stripping the enemies fighter screen out of the sky, though this is a common objective choice for Squadron-less builds.

Both Players:

The two main ways to approach this objective are a close range slugfest or long range duel, based on the objective ships.  Make sure you can identify which the opponent is going for, and react accordingly.

Most Wanted:

In this objective, the second player chooses, after deployment, one ship from each side.  This ship gets an extra dice thrown at it whenever it is attacked attacked by ships.  (Late Edit Note:  Squadrons do nothing per FAQ errata).  Also, just that ship has it's ship cost doubled at the end of the game, but not any upgrade cards equipped.

Second Player:

If you are playing this objective, you should have an objective ship already built in mind specifically for this run, and there is really only one effective way to approach it.  Make something cheep and fast, and try to keep it away from the fight (Corvette B at 39 points naked), or make something that can take a few hits, but will be hanging way back at the outskirts of the battle (Assault Frigate set up with boosted comms).  Consider making the ship in question your flagship, since upgrades don't matter for bonus points.  Also select the biggest, nastiest thing your opponent has, that you'll actually be able to shoot at.

First Player:

Much as with Advanced Gunnery, pick this if you think you will be able to tank / evade no matter what your opponent chooses as your objective ship.  You cannot chose which of your ships the objective will be, so you cannot have an obvious target.  Because your opponent likely built their list around keeping their Wanted Ship safe, only go for it if you are certain it is a viable option.  Either your opponent has ceded local superiority to you (they went the corvette evade route) or they are going to try and mix things up.  If the former, focus on keeping your objective ship safe with screens and defenses, and work on picking up other points as the opponent presents them.  If the later, engage their ship if practical, but don't be afraid to pick up easier points elsewhere.  Because you go first, you have an advantage with moving your objective ship out of enemy arcs, or hitting their objective ship first if they drop it somewhere it has no business being.  Having last activation is especially good here, as you can drop a ship by their objective ship, and shoot it before it can run away.

Both Players:

Be ready to bug out with your objective ship if you need to do so.  A saved maneuver token or timely command can get your the sudden speed or yaw you need to get out of harms way, or even present a better arc (with full shields).  Engineering will only do so good when facing an extra dice of damage every attack thrown your way, but every little bit helps.

Precision Strike:

Finally we get to an objective that involves victory tokens, and not just extra points for destroyed ships.  The key points of this objective is that Second Player gets a free Concentrate Fire token for all of their ships, and all ships and BOMBER squadrons can spend a dice with a hit symbol on it to flip a facedown damage card faceup (once per attack).  Finally, after a ship or squadron performs an attack, the attacker gains 1 victory token for each damage card dealt faceup or flipped faceup during that attack.  This is the "obviously Rebel" objective, as they have more fighters with the BOMBER keyword, and make less use out of alternative critical effects.

Second Player:

This hinges on getting past shields and doing critical damage.  Dodonna's Pride is an obvious option, but you need more punch than just that.  Wave 2's new Assault Proton Torpedoes do much the same thing, and will always go through.  Maximize squadrons with BOMBER ability, like X-Wings, and B-Wings.  Focus on a single target at a time to strip shields, do damage (preferably with Critical Results), and flip that damage for bonus objective points.  Ensure your own ships have enough shields and defense tokens to weather a crit or two without suffering a faceup card.

First Player:

You have shields, you have the ability to do critical damage, and you have BOMBERS.  And more importantly you are very sure that you can deal with a large enemy squadron cluster that will be bearing down on your ships.  A smaller, greater numbers of ships will also be helpful, as there will be less hull, and more chances to flip cards with more attacks.

Both Players:

Be ready to pounce on any ship that finds itself without shields or with damage cards already dealt. Getting one damage dice across onto an enemy in that scenario is a solid 15 points at the end of the game, even if it is a sub-optimal shot.  Don't be afraid to hold some bombers in reserve to take advantage of a sudden breakthrough.  Major Rhymer and Admiral Chirpy both allow for extra flexibility in this.  Building at least one ship for squadron command is likely a good idea.  Don't be afraid to ram a larger ship if you'll have more activations and playing from behind - you will get more chances to flip the face down card especially if it is one that flips face down again.

Wrap up:

That's it for this article.  Feel free to discuss strategies and list building ideas in the comments.  Next time I will discuss Defense Objectives; Fleet Ambush; Fire Lanes; Hyperspace Assault; and Contested Outpost.

Edit:  Part 2 - Defense Objectives is up HERE.

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