Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I Hate Blanks....

While Star Wars Armada is a great game, it is also a dice game.  Which means there are just times when the dice will hate you.  Or at least it feels like they hate you.  In reality, I am rational enough to know that over the course of a game or several games your rolling will average out.  Still, in the small sample size of those crucial rolls, gamers always have the perception that the dice come up worse than they should.  

In the case of Armada this shows up in the form of the dreaded blank.  Both red and black dice have 2 blank sides, leaving you with a 25% chance of rolling one on a given die.  Compared to many games it is pretty forgiving to only have 25% of your rolls be potential failures.  For me though, it seems like they come in clumps.  And really, even when I beat the average and roll one blank in 5 dice it can be frustrating.  So how do we deal with the dreaded blanks?  Fortunately there are several ways.  Having some tricks to compensate for blank results in Armada can go along ways towards improving your firepower.

There are a three ways to deal with blank results in Armada.  There are the standard re-rolls, but Armada is somewhat unique among miniature games in that there are several methods of modifying dice results from one facing to a more favorable facing as well.  Aside from that, you could build a fleet solely of CR-90b corvettes and never roll a blank again.

Re-Rolls - Being able to re-roll poor dice results is a pretty standard convention in miniature gaming.  Armada provides several ways to do this and breaks with convention by allowing you to re-roll the same die multiple times if you have multiple sources of re-rolls.  

  • Concentrate Fire Tokens - These tokens are a good source of re-rolls in a pinch, but it can be tough to get a reliable supply of the tokens.  Tarkin and Garm can both give you tokens throughout the game, as can Wulff Yularen and Raymus Antilles.  However, you may often be tempted to use their abilities for other tokens, making them less reliable.  Veteran Captains can get you tokens as well, but again is unreliable.
  • Leading Shots - This upgrade is a really reliable source of re-rolls, although it is only available to a small number of ships.  It is featured on ships that roll lots of blue dice, but blue dice typically don't need re-rolls as they have no blanks.  The cost of 4 points is a bargain, but they require that you discard a blue die, which won't be blank, to trigger the effect.  I like this card on MC-80s, VSD-IIs, and ISDs as they roll a large pool of dice and can benefit the most from the unlimited re-rolls.
  • Darth Vader -  Everyone's favorite Sith Lord is another strong source of re-rolls for the Imperials.  Rather than spending a die like Leading Shots, Vader allows you to use your defensive tokens as an offensive resource.  This ability is really strong later in a turn, when you have a ship that you know won't be shot at, but can be worth it at any time.  I think Vader will turn out to be a great asset.
  • Ordnance Experts - While limited to only working on black dice, Ordnance Experts will be able to make black die heavy ships like the MC-30 and Gladiator extremely reliable in their damage output.
  • Squadrons - While I am mostly considering ship to ship combat, there are a couple of important squadrons that have re-roll abilities.  The Imperials have several squadrons with access to Swarm.  This makes those squadrons very reliable damage dealers.  The Rebels have access to Keyan Farlander and Dash Rendar who both improve the reliability of their damage output through re-rolls.

Modifying Dice - Sometimes, even multiple re-rolls just aren't enough.  Sometimes, you just want to reach over and turn the die to the facing that you need.  Well then, Armada is totally the game for you.  I've never played a game that allowed so much direct manipulation of dice results.  It's fantastic and knowing you can do it takes so much stress out of rolling.  Still, not all sources of dice modification work on blank results.  Many, like H9 Turbolasers or Warlord, require you to give up valuable hit and accuracy results.  I am most interested in those that work on blanks.

  • Admiral Screed - He is one of the most popular Imperial Admirals for good reason.  The ability to pull up a crit whenever necessary makes so many other upgrades extremely reliable.  He is at his best with black dice, where even with one blank he can increase your damage output.  He requires that you spend a die, so with reds, you need to blanks to get the most out of him.
  • Sensor Teams - This upgrade works much like Screed, but for only one ship.  It allows you to spend a die to turn a blank to an accuracy.  It really works best on ships that roll a lot of red dice.  Like Leading Shots, the cost of the upgrade is reasonable, but there is the added expense of spending a die.
  • Turbolaser Reroute Circuits - One of my favorite upgrades of Wave 2.  They let you turn blanks to either a crit or even a double hit!  The cost of spending an Evade token doesn't seem too bad as sometimes you know you won't be shot or you are too close to use it anyways.  This is great on ships with multiple Evades.  This is a seriously great card.
  • Home One - While the Imperials have 2 different admirals that allow for mass dice manipulation, the Rebels get Home One.  This title has a stronger effect than H9 Turbolasers, but costs 2 points less.  Don't feel like you need several ships to take advantage of it.  It is well worth while even in a 3 ship fleet.  It works on every attack and unlike most of the other upgrades listed here it doesn't have a per use cost.  It does require you to bring an MC-80 and doesn't even help the ship it is on, but wow is it worth it.
None of these upgrades is part of any really killer combo (okay, maybe Screed) nor will they give your opponent nightmares by themselves.  What they do is make your dice more reliable, which keeps the pressure up on your opponent.  Mitigating bad rolls and reducing the amount that luck swings your dice rolls helps make the game more about your skill level.  If you hate blanks as much as I do, I suggest you give them a try.


  1. Totally agreed - bad dice have a habit of coming up at the wrong time! Anything that can mitigate that risk is a good thing. My only problem with sensor team is the spending of a die - this means it is only really useful on e.g. a VSD at close range to get more from the black dice.

    I love the idea of Vader's ability, and can't wait give him a try when wave 2 lands. Have you tested Vader yet? Has he helped turn the tide for the Empire on a crucial turn?

  2. I haven't had a chance to try out Vader yet, but I have fleet built and ready to go with him as the Admiral. I should hopefully get to use him soon.

    1. Sounds good, hopefully you can share some thoughts / ideas after the battle!