Ground Command - Star Wars: Legion
Friday, January 18, 2019
How I'd make an Armada 2.0
There's been a lot of talk and anxiety lately about the future of Armada. Are we getting the axe like Runewars? Where the heck is the SSD? Is there any content in the pipeline? Obviously only FFG can answer those questions. Call me an optimist, but I don't think FFG is done with Armada by a long shot. Today, I want to examine the final trending topic: Armada 2.0. Now don't get me wrong, I freaking love this game. Probably to an unhealthy degree. However, I think we're getting to the point where we can clearly see some structural issues. FFG has tried to patch them up a bit, but there are somethings organic to the game that would require a restructuring to fully address.
There are two things that strike me as problematic. The first is the power of a last/first activation. It's as old as the game itself. Demolisher has been clobbering people since wave one with activation advantage. It's something that they've been trying to address with things like Pryce, Bail, and Strategic Adviser, but it really just kind of feeds the problem. It's unfun to have your ships just deleted with no counterplay and nothing you could really so.
Second is the flexibility of squadrons. This wasn't always the case. Wave one was squadron hell. It wasn't until wave two brought us Intel that things got moving. In hindsight, Intel was an overcorrection. Wave one gridlocked squadron play so badly that bomber wings weren't worth taking. Today though, the opposite is true. Medium and light wings aren't worthwhile because they don't slow down bombing attacks and they just get eaten by the larger ball. Then add in things like All Fighters Follow Me,.Fighter Coordination Teams, and Squall, and you've got a recipe for squadrons being entirely too good at moving around the board and delivering consistent damage.
Imperial two ship has brought both these issues to the forefront. Imperial squad heavy builds have been utterly dominating Regionals to date, largely by exploiting both of the above mechanics. So how would I fix it? This is what I would do if I was king for a day:
1) Kill Demolisher and Yavaris and bury them in a deep, deep grave
Man, I do not envy anyone trying to balance the very first upgrades in a game. Get abilities and point values right is rough. Demolisher and Yavaris are key examples. It was probably hard to see back then, but nowadays it's obvious they are just far too powerful and far too limiting on the design of the game. It hurts the base ship too, because both ships are lackluster without the titles. A Gladiator with last/first hurts pretty good, but Demo has and always will take it to another level. It's large ship damage for the cost of a small ship. Yavaris just kills the hell out of Rebel squad design space. Double dice bombers have to be very carefully crafted and Ace abilities have a high risk of being abused by the double tap. While I was at it, I'd murder pretty much anything that allows any squadron to attack more than once in a turn. That includes Adar and Jendon. Straight linear boosts to squads, such as Flight Controllers, are great. Multiplicative ones are not. I would probably turn Yavaris is something like flight controller for bombing. Demolisher could be some kind of super Engine Tech. Either way, their current abilities would be the first things I toss.
2) Delete Strategic Advisor, Bail, and Pryce
Small ships rely on activation advantage. As such, Strategic Adviser has made running small ship MSU uncompetitive by halving the cost per activation of the most powerful activations in the game. It's little wonder large ships are a staple of competitive lists. Mediums get the worst end of this stick as at least smalls can be cheap filler to help boost the large ship's activation count. It's easy to see where FFG was going with these upgrades since MSU was big for a short while. However, these upgrades didn't fix the problem. They just shifted the scales toward larges. It was a bad idea to let a large ship compete with small ship activations, because they are capable of far more powerful activations. Pryce and Bail don't so much disrupt last/first advantages as they just replace it with a trump card. They don't actually fix the underlying problem of last/first being so valuable. Bail and Pryce could still have a place to just mess with activation mechanics. Strategic Adviser, though...bleh.
3) Intel grants Grit to nearby friendly squadrons
Imagine this: HWKs and Jumpmasters just gave friendly squads at distance one the Grit ability. You can still break away from bombing runs, but positioning matters. This splits the difference between wave one squadron play and the current squadron play. It makes squadrons less flexible, and gives medium wings a good purpose, but also stops two Interceptor Aces from locking down everything for the critical turns of the game.
4) Introduce some kind of overwatch or counter mechanic for ship to ship fire.
Before SA, flotillas, and Pryce, large ships felt like they were hurting because they could never really have any meaningful counterplay to the little gnats zipping around them. You can't just kill SA, Pryce, and Bail without addressing the underlying issue: you have to devalue last/first. The only real way to do that is introduce some kind of counterplay. I've heard an overwatch mechanic, ala Legion, suggested, but I don't think it works well with Armada's mechanics or feel. Counter is the best thing I can think of. Imagine this: your opponent has out activated your large ship and goes to activate first the next round. Instead of getting away clean, though, he has to trade fire with your large ship on the way out. I'd tie this counter mechanic, whatever form it took, primarily to large ships, since they're the ones most prone to losing the activation fight.
5) Bake Damage Control Officer into Contain.
Special critical effects are a big part of why huge damage spikes are so prevalent. Nuts to needing an officer to cancel those things. The catch here is that I'd significantly limit the number of contains out there as a result. The only bigger ships I would let keep it are ones that currently have two contains: the SSD, MC75, and the Interdictors. After all, I just gave a bunch of you a counter ability. I'd also let the Liberty continue to get it with the Endeavor title. Finally, I'd let the Hammerhead keep it since it would be cool for one small ship to keep the resilience of Contain.
6) Up the cost of flotillas by about 5-10 points, remove the hard cap but keep the tabling rule
This is just a preference call. I just dislike hard caps on ship choices. The tabling rule has been the most important thing to limit flotillas in my mind. We would just need to revalue flotillas to make them more accurately costed for their value and I think we'd be fine. Do you really want a unarmed ship for 23-28 points over a 39 point Hammerhead just for the activation when we've devalued last/first advantage?
7) Back it all up with an app
For the life of me, I will never understand the complaints about FFG updating point values via an app. This is such an incredible tool for balancing the game. A lot of abilities are perfectly fine, but just need a points tweak. Imagine if we could bump Brunson up to 7 points and Derlin down to 5? How about reducing Leia and Tarkin? Or VSDs? I will be forever jealous of X-Wing's app until we get one. Playtesters will never be perfect. I playtesters Brunson, Pryce, and Grint. If you asked me then, I thought we got them right. In the wild? I wish I could jack up the prices on the first two and drop points on the last.
Incoming Transmission From: Truthiness at 18:35
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Great article. These are all really good suggestions. I also like one that was mentioned in a previous SC article (I believe) that suggested that base-to-base contact for a lot of the squadron area effects would speed up the game.ReplyDelete
Call me crazy, but if it's a new edjtion, what about B2B contact, with hexagonal bases? Flat edge to flat edge, and it clearly marks off who is touching whom, with no fiddly trickery about how you space your squads to deny room.Delete
That's a great idea. Add one more rule that 'if two squadron's bases are not touching a squadron can insert itself into the gap so that it touches both,' to avoid weird blocking hackery.Delete
I did an article on that a while back. I think it's worth considering, but would be a bigger change than I think FFG would be looking to make.Delete
The most important thing for me to fix is the squadron mechanic. The Range 1 thing of most abilities slows the game down considerably and makes the exact positioning of squadrons uber-important, to the detriment of the play experience. Instead of engagement and abilities working in Range 1, I'd reduce it simply to Range 0 (i.e., touching), but maybe allowing chains. This would open up new design spaces. One, abilities would potentially touch far fewer squadrons (talking Intel, Rhymer, etc.), which means you can a) reduce their points and b) reduce their prevalence, and on the other hand, you get interesting decisions: profit from abilities by staying close, but be in danger of getting engaged more easily. This would allow you to see the state of the squadron game without measuring, which, with five to ten squadrons clustered around, is a major pain in the ass.ReplyDelete
I like this idea.Delete
This makes it vastly harder for interceptors to engage bombers and still take advantage of ace abilities.Delete
Yeah, I mean this is no thought-out new system. My point is that all "Range 1 of X" abilities really slow down the game.Delete
One option I think would be interesting is having flotillas activate before any ships in their own phase.ReplyDelete
All your forgetting is making new faction boxes at like 50-60$ for starting instead of the 100$ Core box. I feel like they want to make it playable outta the box though sticker shock is a thing.ReplyDelete
Absolute agree. That's something I've seen a lot of requests for. There's no reason both couldn't be made available. Having a self contained game when you're getting into as a group is great, but trying to join an existing gaming group should have an option as well.Delete
I don't know what to think. You are all alright, good suggestions and ideas, especially for squadrons, but it means to reboot the entire game.ReplyDelete
The matter is not the game, but the players. I play Armada for fun, even for turnaments (store, regional and national), but I'm so borred by players who cheat with rules to get the best or perfect combo, like having 7 flotillas before the update, or Sloane with Avenger, these kinds of boring fleets, fleets that every players try because they only want to win. No imagination, no crazy fleets or fluff ones.
The guys don't play for fun, I hate. These are the problem, not the game.
Please give the Assault Frigate a reason to exist ...ReplyDelete
Damned, you ignore Arquitens my friend lol. Arquitens is the worst. If you want it to be a bit efficient in the game, you have to build your whole fleet around him (Vader or Jerjerrod needed, otherwise you are in big troubles). Its cost is too high, its price is unbalanced. Moreover, it's a flanker but its flanks are so narrow, and it is so hard to move with it.
That's generally why I like the idea of an app or some kind of online living rules, especially for points. You can make little tweaks like this to give life to ships that are otherwise perfectly fine other than cost.Delete
RE: No. 5 Counter-fire, I think it could work to simply change one of the resolution timing/mechanics; when you fire on a ship, it may choose to fire back. Still takes one of its two attacks from its own attack phase and just allows it to drop that attack into a counter in another ships attack phase.ReplyDelete
I reckon that's basically what you're talking about anyway - this wouldn't change any mechanic in the game except the timing of attacks.
The balance-point of whether that should only be allowed for true Capital ships, or also apply to frigate/corvette sized ships would be interesting to play with.
RE: No. 5 Counter-fire :ReplyDelete
More than allow counter-fire or some alert position. Maybe we could juste split the ship phase into two phase : a first shoot phase and a second navigate phase.
So you can't shoot & go. If you shoot, your opponent will shoot you too.
But you can always outplay your opponent with your navigation skills & go behind him to shoot with your front arc when he will shoot with his back arc.
What do you think about it?