Friday, May 5, 2017

Armada is Near Perfection. Why Are We Unhappy?

Hello everyone.  Worlds is over, we just watched Norm Weir and his highly tuned Rieekan Aces list take top place and give us a brand new World Champion.  And for some reason, I can't sleep, so why not do something productive and write a nice hot take on what I think, having not been at or playing in Worlds.

Well, I know why I am unhappy.  I am stuck here at home, thinking about tactics and strategy, while other players went and played 5 to 7 games of Armada without me.  I went and re-read my World's Pre-Action Report from last year, man I put a lot of thought into that.  I didn't get to do that this year.  But enough about me, and not playing.  Store Champion Season is upon us, and there's plenty of games out there to play.

No, we need to talk about the elephant in the room, and that is that there are a lot of people unhappy with the World results, specifically the list compositions for the Top 2 / Top 4 / Top 8, etc.

There's a lot of squadrons, a lot of Rieekan, and everything kinda looks similarish.  And is that a bad thing?

First off, we haven't actually seen an Imperial list win Worlds yet.  Closest we came was 2015, when a GenCon Special lost its Round 5 Swiss streamed match to a guy running "Worst Commander Ever" Garm Bel Iblis, 3 Assault Frigates, and a bunch of A-Wings.  When I was thinking back on Worlds past, I said to myself "Oh, yeah, the winning Commanders are definitely Rieekan and Screed."  Nope, it was Garm in 2015, courtesy of Jonathan Reinig.  This was great!  The Sky Was Not Falling.  Squadrons were viable like I had been saying all along!

The bogyman of Demolisher was gone!

Going into Worlds 2016, on the other hand, we had no idea what to think.  What was good?  The Clonisher was a known threat from back in Wave 2, but it had already been solved by the time regionals rolled out thanks to Rieekan.  And we weren't in Wave 2, we were on Wave 4!  Hell, we hadn't really seen any tournaments with Wave 4 ships in them to make any real predictions on what we would even see.

And for that, well we saw Josiah Burkhardsmeier pop out into the top spot with Dodonna as his commander, defeating two Rieekan Ace builds in the elimination rounds to secure himself the World Championship.  We admired his list for how well it was put together.  We admired the skill of play that got each player there: "there was some impressive squadron play in that game!"  And we really didn't see anything more out of the Y-Wing swarm from JJ.  He retired it and began to chase the next big thing in his next tournament.

And that brings us to today.

Again, we had an excellent player, with a well put together list win a close game.  Hell, this game was probably the best game played on an FFG stream to date, as it wasn't readily apparent who would win until near the end of the final round.

But it was Rieekan vs Rieekan.

Squadrons were placed and moved with utmost care.  An overlapping Gallant Haven paid the price when it allowed enemy fighters unmolested access to its rear arc.  Ten Numb splashed damage across entire squadrons.

But it was Yavaris vs Yavaris.

Dramatic maneuvers were made to save or doom ships.  Some were intentionally crashed into others to get them into just the right spot to keep them safe from worse fates.  Admonition found itself trying desperately to get into position, hampered by Second Player activations, and a flagship it just couldn't quite kill.

But it was 3 flotillas vs 3 flotillas.

Were these lists really one and the same?  No, certainly not, though they did share some similarities.  Yes the Commander was Rieekan in both cases, and I'd have to watch the stream again to confirm, but it didn't feel like Rieekan's ability really did too much in either of their favor.  The objective being played, Superior Positions, is actually not the best objective for Rieekan, as dead ships can be farmed for more points.  The squadrons being used, and the support for those squadrons, were significantly different.  Yes, Ten Numb was in attendance for both, but one side had Biggs Darkligher and the other Gallant Haven for defense.  One side had Luke Skywalker and VCX-100's to mess with strategic objectives and let Yavaris fly free, while the other had Intel available to avoid getting bogged down in a big furball, and not be able to bomb ships or reposition.  One side had Admonition, a close quarters brawler, while the other side had Gallant Haven, a long range squadron pusher.

We had been given a game that was everything I had always seen as the best parts of Armada.  A slow, deliberate thinking game.  With each decision, each flow in the game being important to the final result.  Excellent squadron play.  Inspired flying.  People going into the game with a plan and a strategy that was the culmination of 2 days and 6 matchups there at FFG, and countless hours prior perfecting their craft.

Was it exciting to watch?  Maybe not the most exciting match, no.  I was actually disappointed it went to time, I would have liked to see what Round 6 would have brought, and a little perk up in speed could have helped.  But it was exactly what Armada is.  Exactly what I was hoping it would be when I was watching the 2015 finals worrying that Demolisher was going to destroy squadron combat and objective based play forever.

So am I unhappy?

I am unhappy that I am not there.  To share in the breakfast the morning before.  To play in the tournament itself and write my own treatise on what I think my horribly cobbled together fleet will do.  To only be able to enjoy the brotherhood that our little slice of gaming provides us from the wrong side of a computer screen for this go-around at least.

And to be honest I'm a little unhappy that something out of left field didn't pop out and win the whole thing.

But that's okay, because Armada is pretty much what I always wanted it to be.  And we've got a new Demolisher to hate.  We've got to find Rieekan's Rieekan, as it were.  And think of how cool it'll be if you're the one to do it.


  1. Main ideas of the lists was the same- Admiral, Tallon, Yavaris, 3 flotillas to get 5 activations etc. Same concept with different "finishing touch". I thing it's a bad sign that meta is so narrow. Don't take me as malcontent- I am very happy with the game and I think that next wave will change much. Just hoping to watch more diversified fleets at Worlds '18 final game (incl Rebel AND Empire fleet ;) )

    1. That's up to the players more than anything. Will people be willing to try to find a counter? Or will they settle into GroupThink and keep doing the same bullshit. It wasn't just the top 8. The whole tournament sounds like it was flooded with Rieekan. The game only changes if people try something different.

  2. I love the squadron game but I have to admit if 3/4 of the top armies are all the same that's a red flag. No the sky is not falling because we don't have that issue in the community I play in so the tangible impact of this result on my gaming life Is zilch

    1. I think we would see more diversity if Flotillas were not the default ship. Need a carrier? Need an activation? Need a Lifeboat? Take a flotilla. Start counting Flotillas as part of your squadron complement and you would see diversity.

    2. That would be an overcorrection that would make squadrons irrelevant. There are better solutions. I have faith in FFG.

    3. Maybe a better solution would be to have MORE flotillas, or maybe not flotillas but other ships in that point value that could do different roles. Fingers crossed that the Hammerheads will give that option to the Rebels.

      Imperials are in a weird place. It costs them 5 more points per activation, and their previous squadron synergy from Wave 2 seems to have been forgotten. Hopefully the carrier will be a cheap(er) way for them to push a lot of squadrons at once, and give them back some of the options they had.

    4. I definitely agree that more competitors in the flotilla price point would be handy. Hammerheads might be that for Rebels. Sloane+Rhymer should be a way to hammer flotillas & cut the rebel activation advantage down without necessarily just copying it.

    5. Although, what with FFG basically saying the Hammerheads are ramming/close range ship, it may be just another pawn for Rieekan. Imagine a Garel's Honor with Rieeken!! Ouch... Hopefully not, but it's something to think about. Also, I think Overload Pulse with Sloane will be a brutal combo as well, forget boarding troopers! That could also see Raider IIs have a resurgence.

  3. I was up quite late in my fine zone to watch, and thought it was a great game.

    I don't believe it is possible to give users choices in list building while making everything equally competitive. When players want to have the best chances to win they will eventually come to identify those optimal choices and take advantage of them.

    No surprise, why is this a problem? If you want perfectly equal chances then just roll dice, because even chess give an advantage to White.

  4. I do not understand what people are freaking out about. If there is a meta there is a counter. And that counter is thinking outside the box

  5. ... I am actually insulted by your unhappiness. You got to go to a World's. You have the chance center to go again. You have those experiences. You have something I don't and want and yet you are unhappy. Some of us who want to attend would have to spend a lot of money to pay for that.