Sunday, June 3, 2018

Imagining an Armada 2.0


With no news for Armada in some time, there isn't a whole lot to talk about. I could do some battle reports on my continuing adventures with Raddus (which I may still do), but otherwise I haven't had anything particularly good to talk about. Meanwhile, our friends over in the X-Wing community are being treated to a brand new edition of their game come this fall. That has invariably led to speculation in the Armada community centered around one question: what would an Armada 2.0 look like?

I'll start by saying I'm reluctant to see big changes to Armada. Despite some slight tweaks here and there, we have a remarkably well balanced game even seven waves in. Those tweaks would become even easier with an X-Wing style app that can adjust upgrades and points on the fly. Added point granularity would also be an obvious improvement. X-Wing doubled their points to 200. An 800 point Armada would have similar room for points flexibility.

Those are easy and simple changes, though. I'm here to talk about systemic changes. And there's been one complaint that has reached my ears more than anything: squadron play. Namely, squadron play has become increasingly tedious and complex, resulting in some very slow games. From what I've seen, it's typically the biggest complaint of those that no longer play the game, or have taken a step back. The Finals match this year is emblematic of those complaints. The finalists only managed five turns in over three hours of play, largely because of the slow squadron play. So how could an Armada 2.0 fix this?

So much skill, but oh so sloooooww
The biggest slow down in squad play right now is checking all the various interactions. Am I at distance one of Howl and Dengar while engaging only this one target so I can bypass escort? Am I in range of Jan and Toryn and have escort cover? What's the perfect place for Mauler's splash? Then you add in considerations like Intel, Grit, Swarm, Snipe, Relay and so on. It's gotten to be a bit too much in my opinion. What if all (or most) squad interactions were reduced to base to base contact? Credit goes to Party Potato for sticking the idea in my head and giving me the inspiration to deep dive into the topic.

The idea is simple, but the ramifications are considerable. The goal is to make all the range checking go away and speed up gameplay. Want to be engaged? Move into base to base. Want to shoot a ship? Move into base to base. No need to check the distance on your theoretical final position. If the end of the range ruler touches whatever you're going for, boom you've got it. That in and of itself makes things easy and fast. The question then becomes about all the various interactions.

First of all, there would have to be some refinement to squadron speed. Since squadrons are currently based around their speed plus distance one for their attack radius, it makes sense to increase most speeds by one. The current speed three would become more or less become the slowest feasible speed. Imagine trying to get speed two B-Wings into base to base contact with...anything. Not really going to happen. This makes for an easy adjustment, though. All existing squadrons up their current speed by one. B-Wings become speed three. Y-Wings and X-Wings become speed four. TIE Fighters become speed five. The only question would be what to do with current speed five squadrons, but I honestly think they'd be just fine as is. Does it really hurt A-Wings and Interceptors if TIE Fighters amd TIE Bombers are now the same speed? Not really.

Now for the really fun part. It's time to cut some keywords. I think Intel and Grit can just go away. There would no longer be the threat of a Scatter squadron shutting down a giant glob of bombers or blocking two sides of a ship. A well spread out bomber force would be hard to entirely tie down without a significant investment. Engaging even two squadrons at once would be hard. Three would be near impossible unless the other player piles in. You would have to line up multiple squadrons along the side of a ship. By the same notion, however, a medium squadron wing could actually do something. You can find those one or two squadrons you absolutely need to lock down and force them to fight you. 64 points of TIE Fighters could individually engage every squadron in a typical 8-count Rebel ball and force them to fight their way out for at least a turn, likely two.

The question, then, becomes what to do with Jumpmasters and HWKs. I don't want to add any more keywords, so perhaps the answer is in other key words. Strategic is the main attribute I think would be most appropriate. In doing so, I would recommend just removing it from VCXs and Lambdas, thereby decoupling the currently interlocked abilities of Strategic and Relay (both of which work fine as is without an undue amount complication for the squad game). It also has the added benefit of making squadron heavy fleets choose one of those two benefits they want for the points. Do you want to be objective oriented, or do you want to extend your command range? You only get one per squad. That might mean you need to increase the Relay values to make them worthwhile (or maybe just take away numbers entirely with the Relay nerf?), or they might never see play.


Would you use these? 

Escort and Swarm would possibly need to be reworked, but I can see it working fine as is. They'd be slightly less valuable, but that just means you can adjust the points of those squadrons to reflect that reduced value. For escort, you could effectively create a wall preventing an opponent from getting into base to base contact with your bombers. Even if they do jump your bombers, you can jump in and force those squadrons to swap over to you for future attacks. While we're on the topic of Escort, Biggs would need a new ability. How about a super escort? For example: if a friendly squadron in base to base contact is attacked, you may resolve the damage as if you were the target of the attack.

With the devalument of Escort and the elimination of Intel decreasing the need to target specific squadrons, I think Snipe could also just go away altogether. E-Wings could morph into something else altogether. Their extra speed is already a good distinguisher from the X-Wing, as is their lack of escort. They could morph into something akin to a Rebel TIE Defender: a premium all-arounder that mauls the hell out of other squadrons. Saber Squadron would need something else, but I don't know enough about the story behind the squadron to really offer a solution.

Cloak could remain unchanged and be of incredibly more value. No more Intel means slipping out of engagement means a lot more. No more engagement at distance one means you'll slip out of engagement much easier. Pair that with a slight point decrease and Phantoms might actually see the table.

Then there's a whole bunch that were never that complicated and work just fine with base to base. Bomber? Yup, that's good. Heavy? Check. Counter? Yup. Rogue? Uh huh. Relay and Strategic add an interesting aspect to the game that I'm not keen to change. And there's loads more one offs that would need to addressed. How do Mauler and Ten Numb shake out? What about Norra? Jendon? Ketsu? All of their abilities could be tweaked or reworked to be impactful. The main thrust here is to simplify things. I'll do some test games to see how it works and report back. If any of our readers out there have stopped playing Armada (such as our flood of recent Legion arrivals), I'd like to hear why. Was the complexity and/or the perceived slowness of squad play part of your reason for stopping? Do any of these changes sound like they'd bring you back? Give us your take in the comments below.

7 comments:

  1. Cross-posted from FFG forums:

    Definitely refine squadron play. I agree with fewer keywords, and fewer interactions for squadrons -- clever interactions should be *ship* things. Probably reduce squadron maximum to 25% of list points from 33% as well.

    On the other hand ... this will be controversial -- I think all squadrons should be able to move/attack in the squadron phase. It has always seemed silly to me that slower, lumbering capital ships can outrun squadrons. If you go to move/attack, then you eliminate that issue ... and also allow the "squadrons only attack in base-to-base" mechanic that you propose. You'd have to refine squadron commands -- perhaps give them an ability to have a squadron either move or attack, not both, but not count as an activation (squadrons still activate in the squadron phase), or make it so you can only activate squadron keywords when activated with a squadron command (generic squadron phase is then plain moves/attacks, no special abilities), or allow engaged squadrons to disengage using a squadron command, or something like that.

    I'd like to see more command dial options -- for example, a "command" command on the dial that activates certain ship keywords. Make planning and selection of commands harder with more interesting choices.

    Stacking of certain abilities should be reduced -- make hard choices, not just shut your opponent down completely ("nope, no defense tokens, in fact throw them away").

    Maybe ... not certain on this ... drive fleet mix. Max number of large, medium, small base ships by type (Flotilla limitation is a step in that direction). That encourages combined arms; avoids spam.

    I'd favor objective and tournament scoring revisions, too (also controversial). First -- rebalance scenarios objective points. Victory should be based on meeting scenario objectives first (not a scenario objective point + ships destroyed, which often minimizes the use of the scenario objective, or allows selection of objectives with no scenario points); ship points destroyed is then the tiebreaker (unless the scenario is specifically a "destroy ships" scenario). See Legion objective structure for the improvement. Second, tournament scoring is then not a split of 11 points based on MoV, added up -- it's simply win vs loss. Tie breaker can then go to objective points or MoV or something like that.

    Those changes might bring me back to Armada.

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  2. Strategic is a very strong keyword, and I was starting to get tired of it. It throws off the balance of objectives, which were already wonky and had only about half ever get used. With Strategic, you're incentivized to do stuff like the Fish Farm fleets. Thankfully, Relay took a hit, and flotillas took a hit, which made token farming with Strategic less efficient. But, if you could get Strategic on its own specific squadron, I'd be worried.

    That's why, maybe Intel should stay, but should be reworded. In a Base-to-Base version of the game, Intel could be the keyword that says "When you end movement, you may choose any number of friendly squadrons in base to base contact with you, and place them up to distance 1 from their current location, even if they are engaged." It becomes the squadron nudger, and not the squadron trivializer.

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  3. As far as Armada 2.0 in general, I think the X-Wing-style app is the way to go. For instance, Tarkin, Leia, pre-Wave 7 Interdictors, and Phantoms would have gotten a lot more play if their points had been slightly dropped through such an app.

    I like your ideas for Intel, Grit, Strategic, and base-to-base contact for engagement, but I would prefer to keep Snipe in the game. That would actually make it more likely that we would see E-Wings other than Corran Horn on the table (I also personally like them as a natural counter to Sloane-counterballs, which is prevalent in my local meta). I think the base-to-base contact change would improve E-Wings similarly to how it would improve Phantoms.

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  4. An app that allowed them to tweak point costs and abilities would be a great addition to the game! Then we wouldn't have to worry about constantly checking the FAQ for most recent errata and clarifications, they'd all be right there. I also feel that there is a really good balance in the game right now, especially after the last nerf, the only issue was it was too close to worlds to give people enough time to get comfortable with newer lists so the majority of top players just dropped back on Raceholes.

    The tournament structure is really good, I feel. It encourages engagement and for people to actually play the game. If you want to win at tournaments you need to win and win big. If it went to a pure win/loss like Legion or some other games, it changes to a defensive game where you don't play to win, you play to not lose. While that can work for elimination play at worlds or other high level tourneys, it makes the game boring and stale at the local level

    I feel if they go to a 2.0, I agree that the only real gameplay aspect they need to look at is squadrons. I really like that idea for getting rid of Intel and separating Relay and Strategic.

    Some objectives could be tweaked also so the really common ones (Most Wanted, Solar Corona) aren't taken as much and lesser played ones at least get included in lists.

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  5. Hmm, how do you speed up the squad game. I do not know if making everything move into base contact should be the answer. It makes sense based off of other games mechanics, so why should it not work here. I feel there should be a bit of game testing to make it viable.

    I think another viable option is possibly fleet composition or squad composition requirements. potentially on X number of unique's or for every 2 squads 1 unique. Z-95's would make a great comeback.

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  6. I have a couple of thoughts. If we go to the base-to-base thing I would include a new rule: "When an enemy unit touching a squadron moves, the squadrons owner may chose to place that squadron on the board touching the enemy unit if this move would be shorter than the movement speed of the squadron."
    Yet to be decided would be:
    Does the squadron get to make a normal move after that if they have not yet activated (I think no, call that their move-per-round)?
    do we open up attack then move for non-rogue non-ship-activated squadrons? (I think move then attack would still be off the table)
    Do we instead just allow them to declare that they wish to remain base-to-base if their movement speed is equal or higher (to avoid "picking")

    This allows squadrons to "stay on target" when attacking ships as well as making it harder to engage in mechanical shenanigans which I think would really benefit the thematic flavor of the game.
    Doing this would also reduce the need to mess with the keywords already in place.

    Another change I would consider (but not advocate as I have not thought it through) Is switch to a All-ships-move then All-Ships-Fire system like X-Wing uses. This would pretty well muck up Gladiators so consideration there would be needed. I know why Armada is the way it is but if games are taking too long that could be a solution.

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  7. Put a stop watch restriction of 30 sec per squadron, when a player starts activating squads with a ship.
    So if an ISD activates four sqds, from when the playser says I'll activate the first squad, he/she has 2 minutes to resolve all four activations.
    So if the last squad acivated only reach to move into position and the time is up, no attack die is rolled, to bad you wasted time overthinking the positioning of your squads.

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