Sunday, November 15, 2015

Armada: Getting value from your upgrades

You think that SSD didn't have a gameplan?

One of the most difficult skills for a player to develop over the course of their career is the ability to min-max.  Thankfully, I've played competitive RTS, FPS and TCG games for the majority of my life, and this skillset eventually poured into GW games on the table-top.  Despite all the crap I give GW, one of the things that the company does right most of the time is giving players the option to completely design their army lists.  For those of you that might not be familiar with GW games, each army gets an army book and they can pretty much customize their units in any way they want given a certain points limit.  Unfortunately, GW doesn't really make the most balanced games.  This means that some units and upgrades are much more cost-effective than others while some are just utterly useless in competitive play.  The only positive thing about this is that after many years of playing this game system, competitive players tend to have a pretty good eye on filtering hundreds of different units, upgrades and items into something formidable that is workable in a competitive environment.

When one builds a list, you have to have a purpose in mind.  You can't just go put models on the table and say:  I want to win the game.  Great, you want to win, but how?  What does your list do well?  Where does it falter?  And how do you maximize the chances that you can consistently apply the strengths of your lists while minimizing the weaknesses?  This game, like many other table-top games is a game about points.  Whenever you spend points in this game, you want to maximize the chances the points you spend help you win the game.  Well, how do you know which ships and upgrades are good?  Good is completely subjective and dependent on too many things:  These things can include the mission, asteroid placement, player playstyle, opponent, time limit, you get the point.  The question you should truly be asking yourself is:  What ship and upgrade will fit most with what I'm trying to accomplish.

There are FOUR keywords I want you guys to apply when asking yourself which ship or upgrade you should take to maximize your chances of succeeding in your objective.


I'll explain:  Power reflects how powerful the ability is and represents the overall impact the ability has on the battlefield.  Consistency is how many times the ability will come into play in the course of the game.  Difficulty is similar to consistency, but represents how often your consistency can be hampered by something your opponent can do (to negate, counter, denial).  Lastly, we have price.  Price is last on the list because it should be the last thing you think about after analyzing everything else.

The best way to do this is give you guys a proper example.  Let's look at something I've been raving about forever:  XI7 Turbolasers.  In terms of power, it's very powerful:  It severely weakens Redirect and makes most of the damage go directly to the ship's hull.  It's incredibly consistent:  Almost every ship in the game have Redirect or even multiple Redirects and this occurs on every shot you take, which also stacks with other effects (like Ackbar's +2 red and Gunnery Team).  There is nothing in the game that can currently negate its effect, so it's completely unanswered by the enemy.  Lastly, it's only 6 points.

From here, you look at someone like Lando Calrissian.  Sure, he's in another slot, but let's just say you have a officer slot available and you have the points to buy either.  His ability is not bad at all, since you're essentially forcing your opponent to re-roll one or more of his attack dice.  However, he's inconsistent because of his conditional trigger and you can only use him once.  He only activates during the Spend Defense Token Step (really specific) and you to discard him so he's gone for the rest of the game.  At least he doesn't have much difficulty getting his ability off since there's no way to negate it.  From here, you can compare that despite being cheaper, XI7s are almost always going to be the better buy.

Another example I can throw out is Advanced Projectors.  For 6 points, this is pretty much in the middle of the pack right alongside XI7s.  It's a defensive boon, and has a very powerful effect because it gives you incredible mileage from your Redirect.  Is it consistent?  Of course it is, because your ships will be shot at and almost all ships have the ability to Redirect.  The caveat here is the difficulty.  If your opponent is shooting at you with XI7s, it will completely negate the fact you even have this card equipped.  At this point, the 6 points you pay is for nothing.  For this, I would take a real hard look at your current meta.

In conclusion, in order to truly min-max in a game like Star Wars Armada, you want to capitalize on what will work and minimize on what will not work.  There is a lot of ships, squadrons, named pilots, abilities, and upgrades out there, but it's up to you to filter them out for the purposes of your list.  Find out what you want to accomplish, and then gear your fleet out to fulfill that purpose.  The general rule of thumb here is to stay away from upgrades that will not fit under your gameplan first and foremost.  Once you eliminate those, look for upgrades that are powerful based on your needs:  Running a lot of squadrons?  Look for things that benefits squadrons.  Looking for raw damage?  Look for damage buffers.  Next, look for consistency:  Things that will allow the power of those upgrades to truly shine over and over again.  Avoid cards that you can only use once, or have a specific conditional effect unless its something you intend to do often, and is part of your overall strategy.  If your opponent has a way of negating either the power or consistency of your upgrade, think even harder to see if its still worth your time.  Lastly, this is a game about points.  Is the upgrade worth it to you with all things considered and how does it compare to option B of similar points?  Here's where you go back to to the beginning and think about the purpose of your list again.  Then the cycle starts all over.  This is why despite all my time playing, 75% of that is actually army design and list building.

I love it.

PS - Preload those Battlefronts boys.  I'll be uploading tons of gameplay footage of Squadron Battles to my Youtube channel in the next couple of days.

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