Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Importance of the "Trailer"

One of the key constraints in games of Armada is the 6 turn limit.  You are not left with a lot of time to maneuver before or after key engagements.  This can lead to a situation where an opposing ship survives its initial engagement with your fleet, but none of your forces are in a position to finish it off.  This has lead me to start detaching a ship in my fleet to act as a "trailer" with the specific job of finishing off any ships that survive the initial pass with my fleet.

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.
While the above is a generalization and doesn't happen in every game, it happens enough to be useful.  I've actually found that I really like this flow as it just feels "right".

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.
Let's take a look at an example of what I'm talking about.  I attended 3 Massing at Sullust events and used the same fleet for each.  My fleet consisted of 2 Assault Frigates, some A-Wings, and a Salvation titled Nebulon-b Support Refit as the Trailer.  Here are some pictures of how the games would typically flow:

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.

Turn 3 would usually see my battle line engaging the opposing fleet.  I can activate the Salvation either early or late in the turn depending on which gains me an advantage.

Turn 4 and the Salvation still isn't in range to shoot.  But that's the plan.  By this point the engaging ships should be low on shields and defense tokens.

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


  1. I really like this concept. I too found that as an Imperial player against Rebels, it was too easy for the opponent to navigate out of trouble after taking a battering from my VSDs. At the same time, I noticed that my Gladiator was taking most fire in my battle line. By keeping Demolisher 'in reserve', you tie up quite a lot of points but it lets you reach out and smash a damaged enemy ship.

    I think the Raider-I with assault proton torpedoes or ACMs could also fill this role going forward.

    1. Yeah, I have a list that uses this concept with a naked Gladiator I and it works just fine. A little expensive, but it has the firepower and mobility to make it work. I actually found that the Salvation title wasn't always necessary and a stock Nebulon probably could have worked too.

  2. I love Salvation for this role, though I usually don't set up my trail ship a full range ruler away, but set mine up on the inside of the line, and have it move slowly forward. I'll have to try it your way and see if it improves my results, as what I find is it draws some fire on turns 4-5 and usually trades itself for a line ship (which is okay, but not ideal).

    1. I have tried the inside of the line as well and found this to be a better arrangement for me. It required a lot more patience, but the benefit was in having the movement of the Salvation perpendicular to my battle line gave me some better choices in where to apply my firepower.

  3. New MC-30 scout frigate seems a solid substitute for old salvation as trailer , double boardside turbolasers and credible side shielding allow it to be included near the line -as rearguard or covering positions-, being more able to kite than forward oriented nebulon, and its impresive arrange of black dice torpedoes can almost assure than any badly damaged enemies are transformed in space debris. More expensive pointwise (11-18) but double potential impact in number of turns.

    1. I agree. Having the shrimp at the rear of your fleet also allows it to get into a good position as needed at the front or back of the fleet due to its high speed and hard hitting armament.

    2. I do think the MC-30 makes a great ship for the end of the battle line, but the Neb still works for a detached ship. By having the Neb approach at an angle perpendicular to my battle line it eliminates just about any escape route my opponent might try to use.