Saturday, September 26, 2015

Quicker, easier, more seductive....

After the first large tournament reports came out for Star Wars: Armada a big deal was made that many of the top finishing lists were playing with few to no squadrons.  Of course, the Armada community jumped to conclusions as quickly as most internet discussions do.  It became assumed that fleets made only with ships were much more powerful and the only way to be competitive in a tournament setting.  Some anecdotal evidence was presented supporting and countering these claims, but the question remains.  Are squadron free ships more powerful in Armada?  

I've gotta go with Yoda on this one.  They are quicker, easier, and more seductive.  Let's look at why that might be the case.

When I was initially trying out lists for the Armada tournament at GenCon, I had 2 Assault Frigates and 7 squadrons.  I liked the mix of firepower that it gave me.  However, I was getting beat by being out activated, so I tried out 3 ship builds with no squadrons.  That made me nervous that someone would "crack" squadron builds and have me at a disadvantage, so I opted for 3 squadrons of A-wings.  Cheap, fast, and useful for both anti-squadron and anti-ship work.  It ended up being a good compromise for me and I was able to win most of my games leading up to GenCon.

As folks were setting up for Nationals I noticed that there were a LOT of squadron free lists. I had expected to face Rhymer based builds and Yavaris/Gallant Haven combos, but there were only a handful of those squadron heavy lists.  As the tournament progressed and many of the top fleets showed to be squadron free or squadron light it became pretty apparent why.  I ended up talking this over a bit with the winner and he had reached some similar conclusions to me as to why it might be easier to win without squadrons.
  • Command Dials -  By eliminating squadrons from your list you eliminate 1/4 of the choices on your command dial.  It is much easier to make certain that you have the right command queued up when there are fewer to choose from.  I know the winner said he further simplified things by only ever using Navigate or Engineering.  I don't think I ever used the Squadron command myself.  One less thing to think about, one fewer potential mistake to make.
  • More Activations -  Having more activations than your opponent is a definite advantage.  It is certainly not insurmountable, but it is a very real advantage.  There is a flow to the game that having more activations lets you take advantage of.  Setting up last/first double activations or delaying the movement of a ship until your opponent is forced to move into your range are all much easier to setup with an activation advantage.  Fewer squadrons means more points for ships and more activations.
  • More Health - Someone on the FFG forums referred to this as 'Motti Scale' or something.  The idea that aside from just having more activations, more ships meant more resilience and made you less likely to get tabled.  In that tourney I tabled two of my opponents.  Both were playing squadron heavy lists that made it easy for me to take out all of their ships.
  • No Wasted Upgrades - If you bring Howlrunner, Fight Controllers, or even Tie Interceptors you've spent points on your fleet that are only effective at killing opposing squadrons.  If your opponent doesn't bring squadrons they effectively have a points advantage in the game.  When playing squadrons, it is important to get the opposing squadrons out of the way, but many players over invest in this and it hurts them when they play a no-squadron list.
By eliminating or reducing the squadrons in your fleet you can really simplify your games.  I really believe this is why we have seen low-squadron lists perform so well in early tournaments.  A simpler to fly fleet is less prone to mistakes and makes it easier to capitalize on your opponent's mistakes.  So yes it is quicker and easier, while the early success makes it more seductive, but I don't think it is inherently more powerful to play without squadrons.


  1. Accurate (IMHO) description of the low-squadron success to present....
    It is to se if "Rogues and Villains" yourself spoiled for good will alter heavily this scenery...... Some of the additions (namely firesprays and in a general sense squadrons with "rogue") aparently make no-squadron lists obsolete
    but will this take us to new low-squadron concept (i.e. a trio of YT-2400 as "upgraded A-Wings") to keep at bay enemy squadrons or
    "intel" will take us into a full escalation where we include full squadron flotillas to the 1/3 hard limit?
    Interesting times indeed

  2. Agree with this analysis. The sad fact is that ships just give a lot of relative advantages. For fun games I love to use squadrons, but in a tournament - mostly ships all the way.

    (I tend to bring 3 TIEs just to bog down any enemy fighters - not too much wasted against a no squadron list)

  3. My intention is to follow this up with some ideas on how to incorporate squadrons in light of the potential difficulties. My thinking is that both the new squadrons and the 400 point fleet limit will open up some opportunities for squadrons to shine.

    1. I would DEFINITELY be interested in your thoughts on that. I love squadrons and want them to work better!