If you are a regular reader here at Concentrate Fire then you know that I am a big proponent of flying your fleets in formation. Formation flying allows you to easily concentrate the firepower of your fleet and create overlapping firing arcs. The more that I have played Armada, the more I have found this to be true. Keeping my fleets in tight formations was winning me a lot of games and creating challenges for my opponents.
However, as my opponents gained experience they started flying much more cautiously near my formations. I found that in many cases they were able to have damaged ships escape form the kill-zone that I had created. By keeping my ships in a formation, I had concentrated firepower, but I was left without ships in position to finish off these stragglers. So, I started using a ship specifically tasked with engaging late in the game and cleaning up what my battle line couldn't finish. So, why was this necessary? and why did it work?
In Armada I've found that many games follow the same basic flow (I'm actually stealing these phases form the Rebel Alliance Sourcebook):
- Close - There typically isn't a lot of shooting in the first turn or two of the game, although objectives can change this. Instead these early turns are often spent setting up when and where the real fight will take place. Formations are set, squadrons are positioned, and some command tokens are stored.
- Engagement - I find that I throw most of my dice during turns 3 and 4. This is where you will have most of both fleets able to fire and start moving into the ranges where some real damage is getting done.
- Break - After the initial pass, ships that are still in good shape are often doing their best to turn and keep the enemy in their fire arcs. Those that are beat up are usually trying to create space and get some repairs in. The nature of the movement tool makes it difficult for heavier ships to get all the way turned around at this point. Sometimes the last turn or two can have no shots fired at all as admirals choose to preserve their ships.
I also found that enough enemy ships were surviving the initial pass that I need to change some tactics to make sure I was in position to finish them off. First, I tried changing the movement of the main portion of my fleet to see if I could set myself up to be in better position late in the game. What I found was that I was then not in the best position early in the game.
While I was thinking about this issue, I was also working to find the best use for "filler" ships that I had in my fleet. I had been using a CR-90 with my 2 Assault Frigates as a source of extra activations and to grab objectives. While this was really useful, there were games when my 3rd ship wouldn't fire a single shot. This seemed like a waste of potential. The combination of these two issues brought about the creation of the "trailer".
So, what is a trailer?
- An inexpensive ship that gives you an extra activation.
- A ship that is not part of your main formation, but not a flanker.
- A ship that you hold back to engage until later in the game.
- A ship that is there to finish off the heavily damaged opposing ships.
I would set the Salvation up at least one full range ruler away from my battle line.
Early on I would bank a Navigate token and then move the Salvation towards the battle at speed 2. This was I could vary my approach as needed.
Finally, the Salvation is in range to shoot. Hopefully those 2 VSDs are beat up enough to finish them off. If not, It can burn its Nav token and speed past them.
This strategy worked really well and over the course of 3 Sullust events, my trailer was there to gain several kills that my battle line was out of position to attack. Nebs can be fragile, but with that later approach to the game it never took enough firepower to matter.
I think the imperials can employ this strategy really effectively as well. A GSD or Raider hanging out behind the VSD/ISDs could definitely clean up any ships that snuck past the front of the big boys. A small mob of squadrons (especially with rogue) could also be effective in this role, but they don't give the advantage of the spare activation.
The real key for me was patience and I think that is the hardest part of this strategy. Generally, when I build my fleets and choose upgrades I look for options that will benefit me for the whole game. Bringing a ship that I only want fighting on the last 2 turns worked against that tendency. However, it proved to be effective and that patience really paid off. I think that this strategy will continue to be effective