There's 6 distinct factions for Firestorm Armada and each one has its own unique playstyle. Unlike GW-style games, there's no special rules that makes each and every unit play differently. Stuff like Lance weapons, Melta weapons or Holofields doesn't exist in FA. What's unique about the game system is that each ship's stats (including weapons) is what separates it from other another of its class.
This is probably best done through example:
Check out these two Cruisers. One is from the Sorylian Collective and the other is from Aquan Prime. Before we talk about each individual stat, let's look at what each stat stands for.
- DR - Damage Rating - How much damage a ship can take before it suffers hull damage.
- CR - Critical Rating - How much damage a ship can take before it suffers critical damage.
- MV - Movement - How fast a ship moves in inches.
- HP - Hull Points - How many "health points" a ship has before it's destroyed.
- CP - Crew Points - How many crew you have to pilot the ship. If this reaches zero, your ship is derelict.
- AP - Assault Points - How many marines you have to defend your ship or attack other ships.
- PD - Point Defense - How many anti-aircraft/anti-torpedo guns you have. These are your counter-measures.
- SH - Shields - If your ship has any shields, these are how many saves you get to make.
- MN - Mines - How strong the mines are on your ship.
- FW - Flight Wings - How many planes your ship can hold.
- Fleet Tactics Bonus - How much you get to add to your 2d6 roll at the start of each turn to signify who goes first.
- Command Distance - This is your unit coherency. If one of the ships in the squad moves outside this range, it will lose the ability to link fire, assist in PD or benefit from squad-based cards..etc.
- **Both are Medium-sized Capital-class ships** - Medium ships means that you can be hit on 4+ whereas a smaller ship can only be hit on 5+. Capital-class ship means that certain cards or abilities work on you, but it's not really utilized right now.
- Cost - How much each ships cost.
- Restrictions - Each faction is different; this shows how many you can have per squad and what its special conditions are when building a list.
Now let's look at the weapons before we start putting things together:
- Range Band 1-4 - RB1 is the weapon's power from 0-8" in range, RB2 is 8-16", RB3 is 16-24" and RB4 is 24-32". This is the effective range of your weapons.
- Starboard - The weapons on the right side of your ship. The Sorylian Cruiser has a 8 at RB2, which means at 8-16", you roll 8 dice to hit against enemy ships. All arcs have 90 degree coverage.
- Port - The left side of your ship
- Fore - The front of your ship.
- Aft - The back of your ship.
- Fixed - You can only shoot with this weapon if the base of your ship covers your target's stand directly in front of you (if it's the Fore). This applies to all other directions as well. It's basically a 1.5" width straight line so your ship has to be lined up to its target basically.
- Torpedoes - How strong the torpedoes are on your ship. Torpedoes at 4 means you get 4 dice to attack with at whatever RB range it's listed under. If it says Forward, that means Torpedoes can only be fired from your Forward arc. If it says Any Arc.. then well, it's from any arc.
From this, you can compare how each and every ship compares to each other:
- Both the AP and SC Cruiser move at the same speed, so they're both pretty speedy at MV10".
- The Aquan Cruiser is more durable than the Sorylian Cruiser from average damage dice, but the Soyrlian Cruiser is harder to crit.
- In terms of crew and assault capabilities; the AP Cruiser has less crew and less marines compared to the Sorylians. If the ship catches on fire or gets decompressed, the Aquan Cruiser has a higher chance in going derelict because of the smaller crew. In addition, the ship is also significantly weaker when launching assaults or receiving assaults. Ship to ship assault is where Sorylians excel at.
- When it comes to PD, both ships are the same. The big difference in the last 4 stats is that the Aquan Cruiser comes with a MN rating of 4 and the Sorylian Cruiser doesn't come with any. This means that the Aquan Cruisers can literally fly by a group of ships and drop down mines that can explode and do damage. This is another layer of tactics that the Sorylian Cruisers don't have access to.
- Where do the Sorylian Cruiser shine? Look at its damage output compared to the Aquans. The Sorylian Cruiser is hitting with 8 dice at RB2 compared to the Aquan's 4 from its Starboard and Port broadsides. The big difference here is that the Aquan Cruiser can shoot in all directions with all its weapons with zero limitations to arcs or fixed directions. This is to symbolize the faction's ability to wage war in 3-D space with guns and torpedoes blazing from all sides.
- Not only can Aquan Torpedoes shoot from all directions as opposed to the Sorylian's forward, but they're equally powerful at RB1 vs. RB2. This means the ship is designed to run towards the enemy, fly into the midst of the enemy fleet while dropping mines and shooting in all directions. That is how it's best used rather than the flying beatstick that is the Sorylian Cruiser.
Now that you guys can read ship stats, go ahead (scroll down to the faction FIGs) and look into the other factions and check out their ships. You don't need to buy an army book, everything is available online because Spartan Games is cool like that. That's what I did when it came to choosing a faction. Not only is their stuff online for easy to read/easy to print availability, but active support means that they can be changed at any time depending on the metagame. No more "sucks to be you" things like the CSM Chaos Spawn hanging around until the next codex.
Oh, and this place rocks for army stats and organized resources. It's called Fathoms Reach. That's where I go for all my ship stats and research.