Friday, October 30, 2015

The Best Defense

Defense in Armada is a difficult thing.  I consider this good game design.  If defense was easy, the game would take too long and frequently end in ties.  So, I'm glad that generally speaking offense outweighs defense.  Still though, playing some defense can give you an advantage in the game.  Dead ships don't get to shoot, so keeping your ships alive just one more turn can give you the firepower to win.

The inverse of the above statement is that dead ships don't shoot back.  So, realistically the best defense is to kill the opposing fleet before they can even shoot.  This isn't always possible, but it does inform your target priority.  The increased firepower of Wave 2 (looking at you Ackbar) does seem to make one shot kills of small ships significantly more likely.  Take the opportunity when it arrives to kill a ship before it can attack, but you can't rely on this as your only defensive plan.  

When the game was just played at the starter level, the Imperial player could generally just spam Engineering commands and make his ship very difficult to kill for the Rebels.  At that stage, the best defense was constant repairs. When the Wave 1 ships came out, this became more difficult.  A ship being ganged up on could have its Engineering abilities overwhelmed.  Ships could recharge 3 shields a turn, but that couldn't keep up with the damage output of concentrated fire.  Wave 2 has provided some new options for this strategy in Redundant Shields and Projection Experts.  It's actually conceivable to have a ship recharging 7 or more shields in a turn.  Impressive, but that can still be outstripped by damage output AND it only really matters if your opponent is shooting at that ship.  Toying around with Projection Experts is on my list of things to do as I have time for more games.  So, while Engineering can be a viable defensive strategy it is one that can be overwhelmed. 

Advanced Projectors and Electronic Countermeasures are interesting defensive upgrades for the ships that can take them.  Both of these upgrades are great against the right opponent and near useless against the wrong one.  Advanced Projectors is probably the single best counter to the Demolisher title and Gladiators in general.  They lack accuracy and the ability to take XI7 Turbolasers, which means you can often soak the big hit and counter attack.   ECMs are more useful against Rebel gun lines who often can generate and accuracy with their long range fire.  Both can be countered though.  XI7s neuter APs in a big way and an Intel Officer can make ECMs of limited value as well.  These upgrades will save ships one game and do nothing the next.  Neither are reliable enough to be the best defensive option.  

For some ships, speed is the best defense.  Many players deploy all of their ships at speed 3 and never slow down. Moving fast can make it hard to gang up on our trap their ships.  Speed is also one of the best defense against bombers and other squadrons.  While moving at speed 3, it is really tough for squadrons to get more than a single salvo at a ship.  I've had trouble with this strategy as while I can zip past my opponent, I typically have moved so quickly that I diminished my ability to shoot back as well.  This strategy can cut both ways as you can zip to safety, but be out of position to mount any kind of attack.  When I use speed as a way to defend my ship, I often treat it as disengaging, knowing that I have diminished my own firepower.  

What is my personal best defense?  The opposing fleet.  

I don't rely on Engineering commands, I rarely take upgrades, and my ships tend to putter along at speed 2 (with a banked Nav token for emergencies).  My preferred defensive strategy uses the opposing fleet as a defensive asset.  My experience has shown me that the best way to kill a ship is to gang up on it.  Conversely, I can keep my ships alive if they only take fire from one ship at a time. This makes Defense Tokens much more effective and gives Engineering Commands/Tokens more potency as well.  How does the opposing fleet help with that?  If you and I were playing a game, as we are deploying I'm planning how I can maneuver to cause your ships to get in each other's way.  I'm flying at one of your flanks and using your close ships to obstruct the fire of your further ships and limit your maneuver options.  Most players don't leave themselves room to turn to react to their opponent.  They end up having to fly around their own fleet to bring their firepower to bear.  I actually fly my ships really close together, but stagger them in such a way that I can react in either direction to my opponent's movement.  If you can get your opponent to be in their own way, you've already won.  
The rear Gladiators are trapped behind the lead.  Forcing poor shots and a predictable activation order.
The far Assault Frigate is effectively out of the fight.  It is too far away to shoot, and can't turn into the fight as its own fleet is in the way.
Treat your opponent's fleet like they are terrain and use it to your advantage.  In my experience, that's the best defense.  


  1. Totally agree : maneuvring , movement plannig and flexible placement as the best posible defense.
    In the other hand I think your somewhat understimate Electronic Countermeasure , with the incoming big shooters (ISD, ackbar+MC...) and increased probability of obtaining accuracies (i.e. home one...) a guaranteed brace can be the diference (even if an intelligence officer burns it after use) between destruction and one more turn of shooting (or at least forcing another heavy barrage on same ship) makes ECM look as auto-include in anything worth the cost (70+ points?)

    1. I agree - played against Ackbar and Home One tonight. My poor VSDs had to take 7 red dice to the face just from the Assault Frigates, never mind the MC80. With an accuracy to prevent brace, there is no way to mitigate that damage.

      The Rebels have a big advantage that they have more ships that can take ECMs and greater speed to get out of the fight (the best defence IMO).