Thursday, September 10, 2015

Master and Commander - Rebel Admirals

In Star Wars: Armada the selection of an Admiral for your fleet is no small task.  Some prefer to select the admiral first and then build the fleet around them, others choose the ships and decide who is best to lead them.  Either method can be effective, but the choice should not be taken lightly.  Let's take a look at the options the Rebels have to lead their fleets to victory.

General Dodonna

The Rebel commander at the Battle of Yavin.  He found the Death Star's weakness in the plans brought by R2-D2.

Found in:  Core Set

The Good:  Crits in Armada are brutal and Dodonna let's you search for the most damaging option.  He is also the cheapest admiral in the game.

The Bad:  His ability is nullified by the Contain damage token and without help only works when shields are down.

Best with:  Dodonna doesn't have a particular set of ships he works best with.  Mostly he is taken to save points.

Combos with:  Dodonna's Pride and Luke Skywalker both allow you to sneak crits in through shields and use his ability earlier in a game.

Verdict:  I wasn't big on Dodonna's ability before the Contain token arrived and now I like him less.  His real strength is being cheap, but I don't think he is enough less than the other choices for an ability that is spotty at best.  I can't see myself using him again, the Rebels just have better options.

Mon Mothma

A senator from Chandrila, she is the leader of the Rebel Alliance and eventually the New Republic.

Found in:  CR-90

The Good:  Removes the only real weakness of the Evade token.  Can keep your ships fighting for longer.

The Bad:  There are some ships she provides no bonus to at all.

Best with:  A swarm of CR-90s.  Corvettes may be fragile, but she can keep them alive long enough to do some real damage.

Combos with:  Engine Techs can help your ships stay at the optimum range to keep Mon Mothma's ability working.

Verdict:  She can be a really frustrating admiral to play against.  Evades are great at nullifying small attacks at long to medium range.  She still won't help you if you stray in close to the front of an ISD, but being able to use Evades at all ranges really keeps just one or two accuracy results from completely shutting down your defenses.  She can also be a nice counter to Screed as she can force the re-roll of a black die he turns into a crit.

Garm Bel Iblis

He first appeared in the EU novels by Timothy Zahn.  Garm was a former Correllian senator who founded one of the three groups that combined to form the Rebel Alliance.  He is considered a great leader and tactician.

Found in: Assault frigate Mk II

The Good:  Command tokens are great for allowing a turn with a burst of actions or providing flexibility at key moments.  Garm is the Rebel's only way to get command tokens spread to your entire fleet.

The Bad:  He doesn't d much for Command 1 ships and if killed before Turn 5 gives up a huge benefit.

Best with:  Command 3 ships like the Assault Frigate and MC-80.

Combos with:  Upgrades that need a command to trigger like Engine Techs or Defense Liaison.

Verdict:  Garm is my favorite of the Wave 1 admirals.  I've been surprised at how little he sees play, but he can be game winning in the correct fleet.  At Nationals I think I was the only player to use him and a couple of my opponents left with a new respect for what he could do.  Unless you are playing straight CR-90s he will always be worth the upgrade over Dodonna.  Those 5th turn tokens provide and excellent array of tactical options late in the game.

General Rieekan

The commander of Echo Base on Hoth, he oversaw the evacuation and defense of the transports.

Found in:  MC-30

The Good:  You can always get that one last action out of a ship before it goes away.

The Bad:  You have to be losing a ship for his ability to mean anything.

Best with:  A fleet of powerful but fragile ships like the MC-30.

Combos with:  Short range firepower and high-risk maneuvers.

Verdict:  The general is an interesting option.  He costs the same as Mon Mothma, but rather than keeping ships alive he allows for one last blast.  You will definitely want to go second with him as it will spoil your opponents plans most often.  As the first player, you always look for that early activation where you can kill a ship before it activates.  Rieekan takes that away, which seems tactically useful.  Still, I'm not sure how often it will be really significant.  I can easily imagine whole games where his ability doesn't come up.  He values a high risk, high reward strategy and I think I would prefer the more consistent Mon Mothma for the same cost.

Admiral Ackbar

Commander of the Rebel fleet at the Battle of Endor.  He was once a slave of Grand Moff Tarkin, so it is amusing that they share the distinction of being the most expensive admirals in the game.

Found in:  MC-80

The Good:  Extra red dice are always welcome.  Used on a couple of ships he provides tremendous value when compared to Enhanced Armament.

The Bad:  He is expensive and the firing arc limitations can make your fleet more predictable.

Best with: Assault Frigates, MC-80s and MC-30s can really benefit from the dice as the favor a broadside playstyle already.

Combos with:  Just about anything else that enhances firepower.  You can stack Enhanced Armament for more dice or use Gunnery Teams to take advantage of his bonus more than once per turn.

Verdict:  I'm really glad they made such an iconic character have such a fantastic ability.  Ackbar will really see his fleets using a specific playstyle more than most other admirals.  Fortunately, strafing with broadsides is already a tactic that was very effective before he showed up.  He is very much worth his very high cost.  While I've read some folks getting excited about stacking his ability with Enhanced Armament and Concentrate Fire orders for maximum dice rolling, I'm excited that his boost is large enough you just won't need those things and can spend your commands on other orders and use upgrades to boost attacks in other ways.  I foresee myself using him quite a bit, if only to keep saying "It's a trap!!!"

Overall, I can see myself building fleets to take advantage of both Ackbar and Mon Mothma's abilities and then using Garm when a more general purpose (or less expensive) admiral is needed.  I think Rieekan and Dodonna just aren't as good of options as the other Rebel admirals, but I am willing to be proved wrong.

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