Wednesday, July 10, 2024

We Were The Playerbase We Wanted To Be


It was December 2016, and I had just been diagnosed with a particularly aggressive cancer.  My prognosis frankly wasn't great, the particular cancer that I had been diagnosed with had a 5 year survival rate of just 40%, and I was looking at about a year of particularly harsh treatment designed to just about almost kill me.  The idea of course was that if I only barely didn't die, that the cancer that was inside my blood and bone marrow would not be nearly so lucky.  If I could survive five rounds of this treatment, it might just be gone for good.  "There's a lot of aggression on both sides" I joked.

I tried to keep a positive view of things.  If everything went according to plan, and I responded well to the chemotherapy, I'd be recovered in just 7 months and back to work.  Sure, if things didn't go according to plan, I'd need more treatment.  It wouldn't stop at chemotherapy, I'd need new bone marrow transplanted into me to replace my mutated, cancerous ones.  I'd need to be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of my life to keep my new immune system from identifying my own body as foreign and attacking it.  These drugs would slowly destroy my liver and kidneys, and make me more susceptible to infections.  And that's just what happens if I live, because the worst case is that the treatment kills me either from an infection while I have no immune system, an internal bleed while I have no platelets to stop myself from bleeding, from organ damage while I have no red blood cells, or from the chemotherapy drugs just hurting one of my organs just a bit too much.  

A black cat with a yellow ribbon around her neck

But why think of that?  7 days of treatment and I'm in recovery.  14 days of recovery and I'll get back enough of an immune system to get out of the hospital.  4 more treatments and I'll have killed the cancer.  Add 2 months to recover, and I'll be back to work in late June, maybe July at the latest.  And I'll be back with my cats.

My cats were with my inlaws you see.  They were a potential disease vector for potentially novel illnesses that as someone without an immune system I couldn't be exposed to.  One cat was a gray and brown kitten tabby kitten just barely 1 year old.  The other was an all black cat that I had gotten as a high school senior, and had come with me from South Florida to college in Ohio and now on to Pittsburgh.

This is a story about me, my childhood cat, the miniatures game Star Wars: Armada.  It is about death, dying, community, and dignity.  So join me one last time for one final blog post.

My Cat

Psyche was rescued from the Palm Beach County Humane Society as a kitten in 2001.  I have no idea what she was doing before I adopted her, but when I first met her she hopped into my arms out of her cage, climbed onto my shoulder, and nuzzled my neck.  She leaped out of the loft that was my bedroom we were keeping her in for quarantine, with 4 days left of the week before she was supposed to meet her adopted sister Artemis (a tuxedo colored short hair cat). She was indisputably my cat.  I bought her food and toys with the money from my part time job, and she would sleep on my chest and purr to fall asleep at night.

When I went to college I had to leave her behind.  Instead of staying in the dorms, the first chance I got I rented an apartment that was cat friendly.   My mother shanghai'd my sister into driving her (and Artemis) 24 hours over 2 days to that apartment so they'd be with me again.  She was with me from my first marriage, and first divorce.  She was there when I joined the fire department, became an EMT, and got a job at the hospital emergency department.  She was there for Artemis having her kidneys fail, and me trying to make her comfortable at home because I had no money for any additional emergency veterinary care.  She was there when it was only the two of us in a small apartment, growing lonely and sad.  She was there for a new kitten, Athena, who seemed to bring back some pep after Artemis left her.  

And now, when I was at my sickest, she was somewhere else.

I heard from my in-laws that she had developed a strange snaggle tooth.  When they took her to the vet to get it looked at, the vet told them it wasn't just that tooth.  Her whole lower jaw had a squamous cell carcinoma, and that tooth and several others were no longer connected to bone and had been removed.  The cancer was very aggressive, and she was an old cat.  It didn't make sense to treat her.  

But she was still very much alive and eating, and not in any apparent pain.  If she could still eat, she could just keep on going, but we were cautioned that if she stopped eating she would not get better, and should be brought in to be put to sleep.



Weeks turned to months.  I got better in the ways my best case scenario said I would.  My cancer was no longer detectable by the end of the 2nd round of treatment.  After the 5th treatment, the doctors told me I was in "Total Metabolic Remission", and that if I made it to 5 years out without relapsing, that it would effectively be like I never had the illness.  I bought a condo with my wife, and we got ready to move into it with our cats.

The day before we were due to move in, Psyche stopped eating, and lay down in a dark corner of my in-laws basement to await the inevitable. She never saw the inside of my condo.

I took her myself to the vet, to say my goodbye.

Persephone (left) and Athena

Star Wars: Armada

Years ago I wrote an article on what it meant to me to be a member of the Star Wars: Armada community.  The game was young and in its infancy.  Only one World Championship had happened, and I had never been to one yet.  I hadn't had cancer.  Psyche was still alive and health.  I hadn't made the many friendships I would make over the years going to live Armada events.

In it I asked a series of questions for the community at large.  About the people we wanted to be, and about the community that we could become.  I encouraged us to "Fly Casual", an ethos that I hope I managed to live up to.  I became one of the "elder statesmen" of Armada that I had hoped we would create, running the Vassal World Cup, adding shmitty and Truthiness to our writers at Steel Strategy, then merging with Cannot Get Your Ship Out and making Blissfully Ignorant Games and our Unnamed Armada Podcast.  I went to multiple World Championships, US Championships, Regional Championships and Store Championships.

I saw our community go out of their way to teach new players some of the more difficult parts of the game.  I saw us put together tournaments without official support so that people from around the area could get together outside of the dedicated tournament season.  I saw people rise up on the pedestal with me, and while I might not have, to quote Mr. Baggins, "liked less than half of them less than half as well as they deserved" I don't think any single one of them didn't add to my opinion of Armada as the best community in gaming.  I even heard FFG employees describe us as such on more than one occasion.

I saw first hand the community get together to help me out when I was sick, and help others of our group that needed assistance when their needs were greatest.

We did it.  We became the playerbase we had wanted to be.  We were the community we could be proud of.  We were full of the best miniature gaming had to offer.

Flights of Fantasy and an Atomic Mass

When Atomic Mass Gaming took over Armada, it came as a shock.  But I told myself that I would look at it with cautious optimism.  After all, Armada had a 10th expansion planned, and AMG was a small company that didn't have a bunch of board games to develop and a history with miniature games.  Yes, it wasn't good news, but the prognosis was good.  Yes we were in the middle of COVID, and it was a new company.  But if everything went right, we'd have an 11th expansion announced in a year, two tops.  X-Wing was winding down, and the Clone Wars era ships had barely been mined for content yet.

Things were going to be okay.

Some people said that this was the end for Armada, but we'd had doom and gloom before.  We had joked so many times that "Armada was dead" and it kept on going on.  We'd gone months or even a year with nothing new being announced, and we were used to that after all.  AMG would right the ship, and we'd be playing Armada again in 2021 once this whole COVID thing worked itself out.

5 Stages of Grief

In 2023, after Worlds, many of the community could see the writing on the wall. Lead by Snipafist, we held an "Irish Wake" for Armada, going to a local bar and toasting the game and telling tales of all the good times.  Of players we remembered and hadn't seen in a long while.  Of games we almost nearly won except for the role of a single die.  Of moments of sportsmanship.  Of making horrible mistakes that cost us a game or a whole tournament.  

We remembered what the game was like at its best, and what it meant to us.

The 5 stages of grief are often shown as happening in order, but they actually can happen in any order.  While acceptance is considered the final one, it's certainly not true that you will never feel anger, or sadness after accepting that nothing can be done.

The Old Cat

Armada was an old game.  It could have survived if it still sold plastic.  Sure, it didn't make economic sense to produce new content.  But as long as it sold plastic spaceships there's no reason it has to die.


The End

Armada was the best game I've ever played.  For 8 years, it has been a part of defining who I am.  I have met so many people, and made so many friends.  Some of them are friends to this day, and while we have become friends due to Armada we continue to be friends after it ended.  Some of them were just friends for a short time, and went their own ways.  It has been with me through a second marriage, being cheated on, and a second divorce.  It was with me when I was sick, and when I got better.  It encouraged me to travel to new places, and meet new people.  It encouraged me to be a writer, and a podcaster.  It was with me when I went back to school and became a nurse.  It was with me when I got yet another cat, to keep Athena company.  It was with me when I met the love of my life.

 I am the happiest I have ever been.  Armada is a not insignificant reason why I am where I am today.


Why I am who I am today.


It means more to me than a game about plastic spaceships should.


Fuck you AMG.  You fucks managed to fuck up so hard you killed the game that couldn't be killed.


As for the community, I'll see you all some other time, in some other game perhaps.  Just please bring the same energy to those games that you brought to Armada.  I'll be doing the same.  Until then...

Fly Casual.


  1. Yup. All this. <3

  2. Apart from the cats, divorces, and cancer, this is also my story.

  3. Beautiful. Thanks for this, and for everything
    Fly casual

  4. Long time listener, first time caller. Have been following you guys from over here in Australia, and it has been a wild ride over the years. Thanks for all the entertainment and good times. Fuck AMG, soooo Stupid. May the Force be with you! - Mr Pr1mem1n15ter

  5. Amen. Fuck you AMG for killing this game. To all of those who I met through this game, fly casual. But not *too* casual. ;)